Sunday, 22 November 2009

Chapter 28 - Where's David Bowie (and do we really care?)

The band had decided to open their set with an old 'Boom Penguin' favourite, 'Boom Meringue', which had been Number One for twelve weeks in 1981, knocked off the top spot by Adam and the Ants, which Boom didn't mind because he rather admired Mr Ant's style and big frilly blouses.

'Are you sure?' said Honeybun, when they had spent a testy evening thrashing out the playing order. 'It's a bit ballady to be kicking off a concert with.'
'It's perfect for the atmosphere I want to create,' said Boom. 'I want to go in quietly, build up the tension. Make the audience concentrate on what's happening right from the very start.'
'Yeah,' said Dave, who hadn't said much up to this point as he'd been making googly eyes at Mrs Miggins. 'I mean, the return of 'Boom Penguin' has got to be on a par with the great historical events of the century, hasn't it? Like the fall of the Berlin Wall.'
'I don't think so,' said Honeybun.
'It will be though,' said Dave, determindly. 'Everyone will remember where they were when they heard that 'Boom Penguin' was back in business.'
'I remember where I was when Elvis died,' sighed Mrs Slocombe.
'You weren't anywhere,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'You weren't even an egg.'
'Okay,' said Mrs Slocombe, 'I remember where I was when my grannie told me where she was when she heard that Elvis had died.'
'And where was she?' asked Mrs Miggins, who felt it better to get it out of the way now, or they'd never hear the last of it.
'In Woolworths, buying a tea cosy,' said Mrs Slocombe.

So 'Boom Meringue' it was. Honeybun didn't object to the song itself; she rather liked it with its soulful strings and building crescendo, but she felt that something more lively, more raunchy would have been a better idea to put an audience in the mood. Something like 'Sonic Boom,' maybe.

The arena was full, the crowd was high. Someone had started off a Mexican Wave with Salsa Dip, and a chant was developing, increasing in volume with every voice that joined. (I guess it would, though, wouldn't it, that being the nature of how noise works. There's a bit that'll hit the delete button when I start editing.)

'What are they chanting?' asked Bob, as he, Stix and Dave loitered in the wings, waiting for Boom to take his position on the opposite side of the stage.
'I'm not sure,' said Mrs Pumphrey, hoiking up her bustier and wishing she'd used a tad more toupee tape to keep it in place.
'Sounds like 'BOWIE!BOWIE!'to me,' said Mrs Miggins. 'That's rather odd, don't you think?'
Mrs Pumphrey glanced at Mrs Slocombe. Unfortunately, Mrs Miggins noticed the glance, because she was an astute old bird and things like suspicious glances laced with a ribbon of guilt rarely got past her.
'Oi!' said Mrs Miggins. 'Less of the 'old' if you don't mind.'
'Sorry,' said the author.
'Now, you two,' said Mrs Miggins, 'what have you been up to? Why are the crowd chanting 'BOWIE!BOWIE!?'
'Er,it might have something to do with the fact they are expecting David Bowie to appear,' said Mrs Pumphrey.
'And why would they be doing that?' asked Mrs Miggins, folding her wings across her chest and tapping her foot impatiently on the floor.
'I may have inadvertently typed the letters 'D.A.V.I.D.B.O.W.I and E, rather than B.O.O.M.P.E.N.G.U.I and N when I was using 'Ticket Wizard' to create the tickets,' said Mrs Pumphrey.
'That was rather long-winded,' said Mrs Miggins, who'd caught on to the gist of the dilemma pretty early on in the explanation.
'We need all the words we can get,' said the author.
'And what do you mean 'inadvertently'?' said Mrs Miggins, choosing to ignore the author as she felt she was raising her head a little too high today. 'It sounds like a deliberate act of sabotage to me.'

Mrs Pumphrey hung her head in shame, because sabotage hadn't been her intent at all. She was a chicken with a good heart; all she ever wanted was to do her best.
'I'm sorry,' she said, in a tiny, tiny voice. 'I thought it might help, well, encourage people to buy tickets. For the fund.'

Mrs Miggins sighed. She peeped around the flats at the side of the stage. The audience was growing restless.
'Well, you've certainly achieved good ticket sales,' she said. 'I suppose I'd better make an announcement and hope I get off the stage alive.'

And she strode onto the stage with all the confidence a chicken with an over-whelming sense of impending doom could muster.

'Thank you!' she called, tapping the microphone so it made that squealy, whistling noise. The sound engineer winced. He wished people wouldn't do that. Microphone tapping was a particular irritation of his.

'Thank you, ladies and gentlemen,' she said again, and the audience began to hush in anticipation of the introduction of their hero, who appeared to be David Bowie and not 'Boom Penguin.'
'Thank you all for coming to this benefit concert, which as you know is to raise funds to save Much Malarkey Manor from being demolished by housing developers,' she continued. Not that it is going to be razed to the ground now, thought Miggins, but she didn't think it a good idea at this point to reveal the audience were victims of two deceits and not one.
'Never mind that,' shouted someone from the front of the audience,'bring on Bowie!'
'Yeah!' shouted someone else. 'Bring on Bowie!'
'Shut up, Mrs Slocombe,' hissed Mrs Pumphrey. 'There is no Davie Bowie, remember?'
'Isn't there?' said Mrs Slocombe. 'Who've we come to see then?'
'Boom Penguin,' said Mrs Pumphrey. 'And Pepe the Magician and us.'
'But I see us every day,' said Mrs Slocombe. 'And I don't like 'Boom Penguin.' Didn't like them when they were around for the first time, so I'm hardly going to like them now they're old and raddled, am I?'
'But you've been canoodling with Steve 'Stix' Stubbins for the last three weeks,' said Mrs Pumphrey.
'Have I?' said Mrs Slocombe. 'How exciting!'
'Betty, did you take your pills this morning?' said Mrs Pumphrey.
'What pills?' said Mrs Slocombe.
'Oh Lord,' sighed Mrs Pumphrey.

'Bring on Bowie! We want Bowie!' the audience began to chant. Mrs Miggins was losing control. How was she going to break this news to them? She took a deep breath.

'THERE IS NO DAVID BOWIE - IT'S BOOM PENGUIN!' she yelled at the top of her miked up voice.

The audience fell into a sudden and eerie silence.

'WHAT?' shouted the troublemaker down the front.
'BOOM PENGUIN?' shouted someone else. 'THEY'RE CRAP, THEY ARE.'
'Mrs Slocombe!' hissed Mrs Pumphrey. 'Don't make me get out the beak muzzle.'

'Booooooooooooo!!' went the audience.
'Oh tiddle,' said Mrs Miggins, or words to that effect. 'We're dead.'

But then something quite wonderful, nay quite beautiful happened. From deep in the orchestra pit, the sound of a lone string lifted into the crisp November night sky. It was joined by another, and another, and on the stage a puff of dry ice began to swirl its way around the base of the lunar module. And then, ever so slowly, (mostly because the stage hand winding the crank handle was a weedy type and it took him a few turns to get the mechanism going), the door to the lunar module dropped forwards to form a runway onto the stage. Blinding lights emitted forth form the back of the module, highlighting a lone, shadowy figure. The mist grew, twisting and turning into the air, filling the wings with smoke and making Mrs Miggins cough a bit.

Bob, Stix, Mrs Pumphrey and Mrs Slocombe all held their breath. Mrs Miggins coughed a bit more. Pepe looked up to the skies in vague irritation because his pirhanas were growing edgy with the wait and if there's one thing you don't want when you're performing a dangerous escapology trick from a tank of water, it's edgy pirhanas.

Before he'd uttered a single lyric from 'Boom Meringue,' Boom Penguin, Rock Star Extraordinaire, had entranced the audience.

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