Monday, 9 November 2009

Chapter 7 - Across the World, There Was a Boom

His nest was warm. Well, about as warm as a dirt bowl in the ground can get. It was lumpy, too, his nest. If only he could be bothered to drag over a few twigs, a bobble or two of moss; things might be more comfortable then. But it wasn't in Boom's nature to look to managing his own comfort. That was a job for other people. Where was Honeybun, anyway? It was unusual for her to be so late with his wake up call. Walking that stupid chihuahua, probably, Boom snorted.

Boom rose and stretched his wings into the rising sun of a fresh New Zealand dawn. Another day, another attempt to urge the population count of the world's kakapo numbers an inch further away from extinction. It was all very well, reflected Boom as he struggled to lift his stumpy legs across the threshold of his nest, being the chief stud cock in the New Zealand Kakapo Breeding Programme,I mean, the kudos was good and it made for good reading on his CV, but the hours were unsociable and the company could be downright aggressive on occasion.

Take last night, for example. He'd noticed Lola loitering outside the second largest banyan tree by the lake, beneath whose roots she'd made her burrow. She was up for a bit of how's-your-father, no doubt; her intent couldn't have been more plain if she'd hung a red lightbulb outside her door and worn fishnet tights and electric blue eye-shadow. But when he'd sidled up and given her a coy, experimental nibble on the back of her neck, she'd rounded on him like an avian version of Naomi Campbell (only without the leg length).
'Get away from me!' she screeched, really close to his ear, too, which made him flinch.
'What?' said Boom.
'Casanova!' Lola screeched again, and shoved him backwards so he ended up on his back, rocking wildly like a stranded beetle.

Boom struggled to his feet and brushed the dry dust from his feathers. 'What did I do to deserve that?' he asked. He was well off the boil now.
'As if you don't know,' snapped Lola.
'Well, you're right on that score,' said Boom. He waddled over to the lake's edge and peered at his reflection in the still waters. He turned sideways and sucked in his breath. Still a fine figure of a Kakapo. It couldn't be physical revulsion that was causing this unexpected reaction in Lola.
'Well?' he said, turning back to face his detractor. 'Are you going to tell me what I've done wrong, or are we going to end up playing a very dull game of one hundred and fifty seven questions?'
'Ha!' said Lola. 'It's bad enough that you've formed an imprinted attachment to that Slingsby parrot, which, I hasten to add, contravenes Rule 33(b)/sub, sect, 2.5(iii) of the Kakapo Breeding Programme Guidelines 'No male Kakapo shall limit his procreative attention to a sole hen'. But now I hear that SHE is back on the scene.'
'She who?' asked Boom.
'Her. That...that...English strumpet.' And Lola gave a sob and shuffled back into her nest.

Boom remained puzzled. 'What English strumpet?' he muttered. 'I've entertained dozens of English strumpets in my time.' This was typical of hysterical women, he thought. So unspecific. What was a guy to do in the face of so little evidence?

As he wandered away, strains of Mahler echoed forth from the roots of the Banyan tree.

Boom wandered aimlessly for the rest of the day. He made a half-hearted attempt to woo Kimmie Koo, but she was a tall bird and he couldn't really be bothered to drag out his stepladder so they settled on a chat about the retail price index over some coffee and biscotti instead.

And now it was another day and he was still none the wiser as to the identity of this English strumpet despite lying awake and worrying about it for, oh, all of ten minutes last night.

At last, thought Boom. Here was Honeybun. Maybe she could spread some light on the rumour.
'Hello, Boom,' said Honeybun Slingsby. She gave him a peck on the cheek, and when she didn't draw blood, Boom took comfort in the fact that there was unlikely to be any substance in the strumpet rumour because if there was, Honeybun would have ripped off the side of his face.
'Mornin', darlin',' said Boom. Thoughts of the English strumpet had induced the reappearance of his glottal stop. It had been one of the aspects of his personality that had endeared him to his millions of fans, back in the good old days when Boom Penguin,Rock Star, of Boom Penguin, Rock Band, had ruled the world. Made him come over like a cross between David Essex and Richard E. Grant, a fatally attractive combination for many British girls.

'So,' said Boom, 'been for a walk?'
'Scuba diving,' said Honeybun. 'It's Pepe's latest hobby.'

Boom sighed. A scuba-diving chihuahua. He'd heard it all now.
'Have you had breakfast?' asked Honeybun. Boom noticed she was carrying a picnic basket over her arm. He noticed also, that the picnic basket was emitting smells of warm pancakes covered in syrup, and the enticing tang of hot, sweet coffee.
'No,' he said. 'I've only just got up. I was waiting for you,' he added, pointedly, but not so pointedly that Honeybun would take offence and disappear with the pancakes.
'Sorry,' said Honeybun. 'But I'm here now. Let's go to the beach. It's a beautiful morning.'
And she treated him to a huge smile, which rather took Boom by surprise as Honeybun rarely smiled before noon and that was on a good day.

Boom trailed after Honeybun, only half-listening as she chattered about how natural Pepe was as a scuba-diver, how it was like watching a piranha flash and dart amongst the rocks.

'Here we are,' she announced as they reached the ash white sands of the local beach.

She'd already set out a blanket and scattered it with cushions.
She's after something, thought Boom. That's what it is. She's after something.

He waited as Honeybun spread breakfast out on the blanket and poured him a mug of hot, sweet coffee.
Here we go, thought Boom, as Honeybun's face took on the falsely bright expression of a woman who was about to try and get her own way over a particularly tricky matter.
'I've had a phone call,' she began. 'Or at least, you've had a phone call.'
'Me?' said Boom. The breeding centre headquarters hadn't informed him of a phone call. It irked Boom that he wasn't allowed a mobile phone, in case the radiation affected his, well, you know, abilities, but generally the people at HQ were very good at notifying him of incoming calls via the land-line.
'I was at HQ when the call came in,' continued Honeybun. 'So I said I'd pass it on to you.'
'And when did this call come in?' asked Boom, suspiciously.
'Er...Monday evening,' said Honeybun. 'Pancake?'
'Today is Wednesday. Wednesday morning,' said Boom.
'I know,' said Honeybun. 'And I'm sorry I didn't pass the message on immediately. But I needed to turn a few things over in my mind first.'
'Like what?' said Boom.
'Well,' said Honeybun, 'like the fact that the phone call involved news of one Laetitia Miggins.'

Boom spluttered, coughing bits of pancake across the picnic blanket. He took a big swig of coffee and spat that out too, as it was very hot and burned his beak.
'Laetitia Miggins???'
'The one and only,' said Honeybun.
'It's all right, Boom,' said Honeybun. 'I know you didn't contact her first.'
'How?' demanded Boom. What would be so unusual in a Rock Star wanting to get back in touch with his original Rock Chick, that's what he wanted to know, although he didn't dare ask Honeybun because despite her apparent calmness he knew that beneath her cool veneer there throbbed a temper of fire and brimstone proportions.
'I'm paid to know,' said Honeybun. 'It's my job. I'm your manager. I know more about you than you do.'
'Did you speak to her?' asked Boom.
'No,' said Honeybun, 'I spoke to her agent. A Mrs Pumphrey, of Pumphrey and Slocombe Associates. I've never heard of them, have you?'

Boom shook his head and shrugged. 'No,' he said. Laetitia had an agent?
'So what did they want?' he asked. He reckoned he'd discovered the source of the English strumpet rumours.
'They want to know if you'd be interested in re-forming Boom Penguin for a benefit concert to raise money for some cause or another, I don't know which because I stopped listening when the word 'money' was mentioned,' said Honeybun.

Boom stopped breathing. The air around him became still and clear, and suddenly his future had purpose and meaning. Of course! Reform Boom Penguin! Relaunch his career as the World's Greatest Rock Star. Oh yes! Why hadn't he thought of it himself? In fact, why hadn't Honeybun thought of it before? She was his manager, after all; she was paid to do his thinking for him.

'And before you ask,' said Honeybun, 'I had thought about this myself before now, but somehow I didn't think you had the drive and energy to exercise yourself back into your leather trousers.'

But Boom was too excited to feel the sting of her petite insult.

'Back with the lads,' he breathed, slipping into the kind of reverie most people can only dream of. 'Me and Dave, Steve 'Stix' Stubbins and Bob Frapples. What a band!'

And across the four quarters of the world whence they had fled following their shock break-up in the Eighties, ex-members of the Greatest Rock Band that ever there was shivered as they felt the connection form once more with their lead singer.

'Bloody hell,' said Dave 'Shiplap' Chalet, who, being Boom's best Rock Pal, felt the connection the most. 'This can mean only one thing. And that thing is trouble. With a capital trub.'

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