Chapter 23. Losing you.
When you’re on the road again you should have a code that you can live by. You can call it the Highway Code and make sure it is available from all good bookshops. When travelling on Uranus such a code would be totally useless, as the highways and byways and blokes who sing my ways, just don’t exist.
The cool tunes shrilled from our travelling quartet were much more straightforward. If Hanny says do it then that’s what they do. Sadly even large breasted sex goddesses make mistakes sometimes, and as a result the band had passed way out of the known territories and into bandit country.
It was a simple error that could have been made by any female. Hanny said they were heading south while all along they were heading east. I know it should be possible to approximate east and south based on the position of the Sun. Let’s face it though; there are parts of Uranus where the Sun doesn’t shine.
Hence they were at a loss.
Well, lost really.
The land they entered was cold and barren like the smile of a Tory. There were rocks and trees and plants and things and the Sun began to turn red. They were going through a hot desert which is not nearly half as nice as going through a hot dessert. For a start rice pudding, when served piping hot with blobs of strawberry jam, is a lot more entertaining than getting sand in your sandals in the Sahara. A baked Alaska is far more delightful than a cold Alaska, despite the Polar Bears. And apple crumble with custard is far more preferable to a smack on the Gobi.
There is only one type of creature that could live in this sort of environment, Ogres and Trolls.
Actually that’s two types. This reminds me that there are three types of Maths teachers; those that can count and those that can’t.
I’m sure this sterile land could even support Fire Dragons; Gremlins would probably cope with the isolation too. Even Imps, given a little support, could thrive here. In fact there is no doubt several more creatures that would survive in this sort of environment.
Peter assessed the landscape and decided it would be suitable for many different types of life form, depending on the sort of camping equipment they used; preferably something designed by one of those ex-Special Forces types with automatic moisture collection points, a wind-up electrical supply and self-contained honey pot.
“Ogres we can do without!” said Steve.
“I’d rather not meet any Trolls either,” said Hanny. “They aren’t too fond of Fairies at the best of times, and in recent years they’ve come to hate us even more.”
Steve pondered the lovely red spangles on Hanny’s boots then asked, “Why’s that?”
Hanny felt it appropriate to describe the shenanigans that had taken place between the Fairies and the Trolls. King Innocent had made some spurious comment relating to equal opportunities for all inhabitants of the planet, comments which had filtered back to the land of the Trolls.
The Trolls liked the idea.
The implication being that Trolls would be able to take on other more stimulating jobs rather than spend all day under bridges shouting ‘Fol de Roll, I’m a Troll’ and scaring the shit out of unwary travellers, or hanging round the Interweb looking for an opportunity to spout their fascist political opinions or religious ideologies.
“Not that there is anything inherently wrong with taking on such a task in life. – Far from it. There are many, many tasks that have to be carried out by a nameless army of semi-skilled nobodies, but that is not to say that they are wasted lives. Indeed many a high flying pilot has spent his early days cleaning out toilets in order to get a solid grip on reality,” declared the King during a lunchtime interview with the Mudslinging Brownie Press of Uranus.
“Fol de Roll, I’m a Troll” is not quite the challenge that stimulates everyone.
An opportunity arose to test the Kings mettle when the erstwhile bestest Pixy friend of the Kings, the infamous Crumbly Buffoon, lost his job in the Pixy Phactory by slapping one of the junior Pixies. Crumbly, being the wet buffoon, came off worse as the Junior Pixy happened to be a martial artist, totally au fait with Karate, Jug Jitsu, Aikido, Manga and Origami.
Well, this led to many a kerfuffle, shuffle, muffle and duffel coat wearing indignations. Even the curtain twitcher’s felt the reverberations of the outcry down the back alley where nobody goes.
So the King in his benevolence (and to divert attention away from this scandalous scandal) decided the job of the replacement would be advertised on the Open Market.
So the Kings best mate, Lord Chalfont, ensure there was a stall at the Open Market, at which point they could advertise the Post as head of Pixy Therapy at the Pixy Phactory, a Post that would attract a salary of Umpteen Gazillion Gigots. People came from Far and Wide and other places too, to look at the advert. Most gave a derisory snort as they knew the Game was fixed by the Fairy and Pixy Elites. Most living things understood this was only Doublespeak and that the job was already lined up for Crumbly´s inbred friend Bongo, John’s son. This was the normal course of events as they were all related and ensured jobs for the next of kin. Even Bongo, with his face like an identikit paedophile and his shock of bright red hair, was guaranteed a cushy post with the Pixy´s and Fairy´s. In fact when the dice are stacked in your favour it is possible to get to be a Head of State despite having the intellectual ability of a Hermit Crab.
Unfortunately one of the Trolls took the advert literally.
The Troll race, as in the race that makes up the Trolls rather than the annual fun run, has not evolved much. Their Social skills compare well to the meeting of Nuns and Pimps. And so Gusset, a Troll who stated his address as Under the Bridge, Across the River, In the Middle of Nowhere, asked for and completed the application form. In the section which asked for an explanation of ‘what you can bring to this job’ Mr Gusset had written ‘ A tin of beans, some mushrooms, a deckchair, some chopsticks and a recipe for pancakes’.
At first Innocent believed it to be a spoof application from one of his courtiers. Realising it was a genuine application Innocent went into a panic.
“Don’t panic you majesty,” said Lord Chalfont. “What we’ll do is invite all the candidates in for an interview then give the job to the best candidate, which will be Bongo.”
“Won’t it look suspicious when just the two turn up?”
“Don’t worry sire, I’ll get at least five applicants on the day to make it look like we’re taking the application seriously, then we’ll give the job to Bongo.”
“But Bongo is a total Fuckwit!” screamed the King.
“Could you let me know how that makes him any different to most of your other appointments?” enquired the cocky Chalfont.
The King paused to ponder as it had been some time since anyone had paused or pondered in this tale.
“Will we get away with it?”
“Sire you have just appointed all of your immediate relatives to positions of responsibility within the government, and you’re opening up a new job for Crumbly Buffoon as the Head of Political Politicking, just because you like him; of course we’ll get away with it!”
So that’s the way it went.
Gusset turned up to meet Bongo and the other candidates; there was Susie, one of the Banshees; a cross eyed Imp with one leg called Ervious; and a Ghost called Ovachance.
The day was gruelling for all of the candidates; apart from Bongo, who sat with Warwick Hunt sipping chilled white wine and playing travel scrabble.
Gusset gave a superb interview, as did the Imp and Susie. Unfortunately the ghost didn’t have a chance from the very beginning. At the end of the day, when there’s nothing left to say, and your almost ready for the radio, Lord Chalfont decided to debrief the candidates.
“Ovachance you were shit and I don’t know why you turned up; actually I don’t even know if you did turn up; or was it that you arrived and I couldn’t see you; anyway your application was transparent; and you’re too ephemeral to hold down such a job; and I’ve run out of bad excuses so just feck off back to wherever you came from and that.. Susie and Imp Ervious; you gave good interviews but I can’t see how you can make a long term commitment to the post as you’re both unfeeling bastards with as much empathy as a slug on a lettuce. Gusset, you did well though on this occasion you are in second place. If Bongo turns the job down then it’s yours for the asking. See my secretary on the way out to get your travel expense forms sorted. Bye now!”
With that they were ushered from the office.
Ovachance made his claims for a late appearance, Susie and Imp Ervious got three bob for turning up and Gusset was given a wooden spoon, a packet of Everton Mints and an umbrella for rainy days; though he pointed out it’s hard to get wet hanging round under a bridge, except when the river floods, in which case an umbrella is feckin useless.
Gusset was far from happy.
He was also far from home.
He had prepared. Yes it was possible that maybe an image consultant could have been useful, along with a change of name (“Frederick of the Bridge” looked so much more happening!) He knew he was more than capable to do the job; it dawned on him it had been a total stitch up. Why not just give the job away rather than waste everybody’s time?
Returning to the bleak lands of the Bleakland, where we are presently based in this travesty, Gusset began a revolutionary movement. Initially it was quite entertaining to see him spinning right round like a record baby, as he completed his motions. Some of the older Trolls said it was a load of old crap, though the younger Trolls, who saw their future as part of the greater union of Uranus, were quite taken.
The Central Committee of the Trolletariat passed many a motion and soon had enough movements and motions that were seconded and thirded and got a fourth passage too. Then by some twist of fate a random twist in the bowels of time deposited a copy of a little red book in the lap of Gusset. It explained the thoughts of those Great Marx Brothers, Freddo and Karlo, and emboldened the Trolls to march on Setebos.
“I’ll never join a club that would have me as a member!” they chanted.
“No such thing as a Sanity Clause!” they jeered.
“We’re going to live forever or die trying!”
“If you don’t like our principles, we have others!”
“Quote us as saying we were misquoted!”
They became brothers in arms as they marched on the capital. Innocent felt the City was in dire straits. In Setebos they began to call it the Green Revolution as most of the Trolls copied Gusset’s way of dressing in Lincoln Green.
Chalfont began to worry.
On its own a disgruntled Troll was nothing to worry about; give him a bigger bridge to hide under and he’d soon be back on top. Now it looked like all of the Trolls on Uranus were involved in some sort of mass disobedience and that was a different kettle of fish. No Trolls meant travellers had nothing to fear when crossing rivers or ravines by rickety rackety bridges. They would eschew the Government controlled Bridges, which were of magnificent structure and put together by teams of Civil Engineers from The Lanchester Polytechnic. How those Engineers ever began working for the King of the Fairy’s is not told in this tale, though it could make a three part series all by itself.
We digress as a blatant way of filling more pages in this tragedy.
Lord Chalfont wanted travellers to be faced with a choice of Tolls or Trolls. The Trolls were meant to scare people into using government crossings and thus paying exorbitant taxes; not that this had any affect on the three Billy Goats Gruff.
Bridges without Trolls could lead to roads without Tolls which could lead to bogs without Rolls.
Or Hills without moles.
Or Mints without holes.
Or goals without poles.
Or horses without foals.
Or managers without roles.
Or women without souls.
This would not do.
Too many poor rhymes in too many lines.
The Trolls were pushing their luck.
Lord Chalfont decided it was time to act…
He starred in a play called ‘Mac Death’ which featured an idiot who over-ate Hamburgers and Beef burger Butties until it felt like his tummy would explode. “Is this a Dagger I see before me?” asks Lady MacDeath. “No it’s a scalpel to cut open your husbands tummy to allow the trapped gas to escape.” The play went on for several more Acts but it just wasn´t funny. The Critics, being Brownies, loved it. They praised Lord Chalfont for his performances. “Nobody could play a better fat bastard, except maybe Warwick Hunt” chimed one critic. “As Chalfont munched on that Beef burger Buttie I was licking my lips” declared Elizabeth Brownie. “I thought the acting was wooden and the plot a load of old shite” said another who rapidly disappeared.
When the play was over Lord Chalfont decided to do something about the Troll problem.
Warwick Hunt was summoned to Chalfont’s chamber. The fat monster Hunt oozed into the room with all of the subtlety of a turd in a swimming pool.
“The Trolls. Go and wipe up that Gusset and his immediate followers and get the rest of the Trolls back under those bridges and archways as soon as possible! We are losing money and that is all that counts. I reckon this disruption has cost sixty six gazillion Gigots so far and that could ruin my holiday with the Carob, Ian!”
Hunt knew that his boss loved to spend time out in the Ocean with the Carobs, so he strode forward with all the zeal of a Seagull on Felixstowe Promenade.
Then it was done.
The Troll Spring was crushed in the jackbooted heel of the Thing that was Half Lard Half Man – Warwick Hunt. Gusset appeared to slip and get an ice pick through his skull, a common accident amongst revolutionaries. The Other leaders were taken away and tortured by sitting in a Vegan Restaurant for Days on end until they died from over exposure to self-righteousness.
At this point Hanny finished her tale, only to realise that Steve and Greg had fallen asleep. Peter was looking glassy eyed, the magic in his underpants sending him back into the dream time.
“Idle bastards!” shouted Hanny, slapping each in turn.