THE DENIZENS, INHABITANTS AND HANGERS-ON OF....
*apparently it is customary only to use the feathers in some other quarters, but residents of the rather draughty Towers find the whole goose provides much better insulation
**As explained previously in "Christmas at Mudshark Towers", the Family have a ruggedly independant approach to the calendar. And..er... time in general. Suffice to say that although mornings have been totally abolished, breakfast has been increased accordingly to make the system work.

***This was a recently added month, and there were moves afoot from certain quarters to have it declared null and void forthwith.

**** Florentina was not usually a woman to use such strong language, but when pressed she could cuss with the best of 'em
*****not the fizzy malaria-cure favoured by some,but Florentina's special herbal tonic, invented in a moment of culinary inspiration upon discovering that "Mr Muscle Oven Cleaner"could not be legally flushed down the drains
******weddings, funerals, unofficial birthdays, evenings spent enjoying salacious rumours about the wives of the local political non-entities, etc....

******* apart from a novelette, three volumes of erotic poetry, several cruel and unusual recipes involving bivalves and and lot of nonsense about turnips from Florentina, most of which Dudley had sensibly learned to disregard
********with one notable Necromantic exception, the Family had taken the new feast of Dead Di Day to their communal bosom, and intended to make the most of this new opportunity for good cheer and barbed comments
*********those of you who said "teen spirit" go and stand in the corner immediately!

**********alternatively, the 3rd of Kevin, 21,715




in

"What do you call a Welsh Undertaker?"


It had been a long wait, but summer had finally come again to Mudshark Towers. All the signs were there; the piranhas in the ornamental fishpond, freed from icy immobility were gaily leaping in the air and snacking on the noses of passing family members; the roses were failing to produce large and fragrant blooms, as was their habit every year, but the elephant grass was more than adequately taking up the slack and was springing up quite spectacularly.

Which was more than could be said for The Wizard

. "Oh, come along now dear," chirruped Harriet Mudshark cheerfully, "It's summer - and you know what that means"

"Too right," came the muffled voice of His Wizness from somewhere underneath seventeen layers of goose-stuffed* quilting "... crowds of wailing peasants, gnashing of teeth, wrist-slitting music. Post-modern-ironic newspaper editorials. Ugh!"

Harriet smiled. "How very touching of the Vile Peasants to celebrate your birthday in such a fashion!"

"But it's not my birthday any more!" sobbed the distraught necromancer, "Four hundred years - and now this!! Henceforth the ninety-third of Garibaldi** will be remembered only as....."

The distraught Wizard's voice tailed off underneath the quilts, and several of the captive geese honked in sympathy (or terror) Just at that moment, Peep poked his bristling face through the door, exotically attired in his traditional Court Jester garb of oversized baggy trousers held up with recycled bungees, matching gravy-stain pattered tie and deely-boppers.

"Yo Wiz, " he greeted the disconsolate heap underneath the honking quilts His deely-boppers nodded vigorously as he flopped enthusiastically onto the pile, raising a cloud of feathers and obscenities from the Wizard who just happened to be directly underneath.

"Doing anything for Dead Di Day this year?" Fortunately, the honking drowned out the Wizard's reply



Somewhere down the winding corridors, past the fossilised arboretum and just downwind of the drainage ditch, Florentina Mudshark was also aware of the arrival of summer. Flo did not need to check the calendar. It would have been pointless anyway, due to the aforementioned idiosyncrasies of the Mudshark year which ensured that no-one was at all sure whether it was January, Garibaldi or Snork-Wildly-At-Dudley***

"But there is always one sure sign that the balmy months of summer have arrived," intoned Flo, "and here they are. The long-lost relatives"

Such was the delightful aspect of The Towers during the summer months that relatives from other parts of the globe, not blessed with such remarkable weather, were wont to turn up on the ancient concrete doorstep with the intent of enjoying a vacation at the Family Home, and this year was no exception. Florentina beamed at the two dripping individuals who stood before her enjoying the light summer shower.

"By Igor's new carpet "**** she exclaimed "If it isn't Rufus Mudshark and Marjorie "Big Marge" Mudshark!"

The pair looked over their shoulders uneasily "If it isn't us, " whispered Marge urgently to Rufus, "then who is it?"

Rufus and Marge exchanged worried glances and shrugged, but before they could ponder this problem further, Flo had slapped a turnip-vodka and tonic***** into their hands and slapped them on the back heartily. Faced with the choice of drinking the potion, or explaining their presence, Rufus and Marge leapt into action

"We have come," they pronounced breathlessly and instantaneously, "from the ends of the Earth, from the very boiling pits of hell, from a land where the pitiless sun beats down on bronzed, naked bodies sipping exotic cocktails with nifty little umbrellas in..." Marge nudged Rufus rather sharply at this point and he continued; "... from the baked, parched clay of foreign climes. From the furnace-like fury which is only abated by modern air-conditioning and refrigeration (another nudge from Marge), from the searing heat of the deserts and shopping malls. From the scorched dust and stifling heat..."

"But mostly, " Marge smiled winningly "from the Army"

"You'd better come in then, " sighed Flo, kicking their sodden piles of medium-weight clothing over the doorstep.

"We like it here at The Towers, don't we Rufus?" Rufus shook one foot and a small lake ran out of his shoe

"Oh yes, we like rain. It's so...." Marge removed her hat and squeezed a sizeable quantity of liquid out to join the ever-growing flood on the floor. A family of newts took up residence.

"....wet.."



Rain it may have been, but, reflected Alexi Mudshark, it was so much more... lightweight and summery.... than the rain of previous months (Olive-and-Sundried-Tomato-Ciabatta through to The-Edicts-of-Nantes). It demanded something more lightweight and summery in the overall sartorial scheme of things, he mused. In fact, for some time now, Alexi had been contemplating updating his image.

"Brown brogues and corduroy trousers with leather patches may be fine for formal occasions****** , " he opined, "..but of late I have felt something stirring within me which needs to be given fuller expression. I feel it incumbent upon myself to set an example to younger Mudsharks, and to this end I have decided to make a fashion statement!"

Florentina, whose advice he had sought on such matters, being somewhat of an expert in clashing colours herself, ran a critical eye slowly upwards and downwards over Alexi's appearance. The black suit, waistcoat, shoes and socks gave her no cause for criticism, but the lurid grey-on-grey striped tie caught her attention immediately.

Alexi coughed nervously. "Its not ....er....too... flamboyant, is it?"

Flo beamed. "Absolutely not, Alexi! Welcome to the wonderful world of accessorising!"



Dudley Mudshark looked at the date circled in his diary. He tapped his teeth with a pencil and sighed. The fortieth of Formby had been the last date for submissions to his latest pamphlet, but the day had come and gone without any contributions whatsoever.*******

"The rest of The Family don't actually call it Formby, you know, " his spouse Sylvia informed him, lifting her visor and laying down her chain saw momentarily. "I...er.. think that particular month is known as....."

"Yes, yes, " grumbled Dudley "a mere technicality. Obviously what's missing here is motivation... inspiration..."

"...something to write about..." agreed Sylvia, starting up a lethal-looking band-saw with a mighty yank of its cord.

"I think," announced Dudley solemnly "that we shall have to visit Foreign Climes in order to regain our inspiration. I think I need to experience the Low Life....er.... Countries...for a little inhalation...er... inspiration."

Sylvia glowered. "You know I don't approve of that place!" she snapped "They sell strange, pungent products with hallucinogenic properties"

Dudley pondered this for a moment. "Yes, but so do you, my little compilation-of-thirties-novelty-songs-CD!" Sylvia snapped her visor shut. "Just give me a hand with this cheese."

Dudley quailed visibly. Inspiration was one thing. The "Old Amsterdam" was quite another!



By a very curious coincidence, Florentina's thoughts were running on not dissimilar lines, but unusually for her, she was in a state of some agitation. Looking firstly down one stygian, gloomy corridor, then another, her demeanour was that of someone with a guilty secret whose conscience would give her no respite. Satisfying herself that no-one was around, she pulled from her pocket a small packet containing a measured amount of dried, pungent plant-matter. She sniffed it cautiously and groaned.

"Good stuff here, " she whispered "The best. But if Sylvia ever finds out......"

Just then, Alexi hove into view, and Florentina hastily stuffed the package back into her pocket.

"All hail The Mudsharks!" Flo greeted the Scribe

"Chip Roll!" he returned, then enquired rather bashfully: "Ahem.... notice anything...er..... different?"

Florentina studied him intently. In keeping with the festive nature of the approaching Day of Celebration********, Alexi was attired in a veritable cornucopia of lightweight casual clothing. His purple suit sat jauntily over an electric green shirt, and red, spangled braces supported a robust pair of chequered trousers. Peeping jauntily beneath, Florentina could just make out a pair of elegant pink socks. But there was something else! Florentina squinted more closely, and then it hit her.

"The tie!" she exclaimed "Alexi, you've bought a new tie!"

Alexi nodded proudly. "And not just one! There was a special offer on - Buy four gross, get another four gross free!" Florentina was impressed.

"But Alexi," she cried, "do you realise what that means?"

Alexi beamed. "Yes, I've saved enough to buy another four gross!"

Florentina almost cried with delight. Why, here was a man who understood things as Monty never did.

"But do they go with the shirt?" worried Alexi

"Absolutely!" Flo reassured him. "Orange goes with anything"



In retrospect, the turnip-vodka and tonic had probably not been a good idea. Rufus and Marge were unused to such perils, having led a sheltered life playing with sub machine guns. Marge in particular had suffered from the effects of Flo's generosity with the bottle ("..got to get rid of it somehow..") She had become convinced that she was being followed by a deadly enemy. She saw them in every nook and cranny; in every dusty corridor; in the very food and drink itself.

"It's true!" she wailed, "I am being stalked. Hounded even. Pursued unto the ends of the earth by..... The Onion of Doom!" "Are you sure?" enquired Rufus.

"Of course I am!" she snapped "Look!" Rufus stared at the greasy concoction which Florentina had assured them was "Tripe and...er... vegetables"

"It's way past stalking, whatever it was!" shuddered Rufus



Florentina finally made it back to her dusty apartment and ran swiftly to the self-emptying commode without even stopping to greet Monty, who was engaged in the delicate process of trying to book a restaurant in the Low Countries before anyone discovered who he was.

"Last night's curry got its running shoes on, Flo?" he enquired sympathetically, hearing the repeated flush. "It's been through me like a dose of turnips too!"

"Damn, damn, damn! It won't go down!" cursed Flo, returning with the now-sodden packet of herbal substance.

Monty's eyes lit up. "Hey, what's that... smells like....

" "Pizza." agreed Florentina gloomily. "Wouldn't you know it, I got talked into buying pizza herbs from a rival supplier, and if Sylvia finds out....well... lets just say it's extraordinarily hard getting those neck-braces in fashionable colours!"

Monty looked disappointed. "But I've been smoking it for a week! No wonder I've got a craving for pepperoni!

Just then, Peep arrived unannounced. "I've arrived!" he announced. What's that?" he drooled "..smells like...********* "

Florentina gave him the dripping packet.

"Here, " she told him "I've washed them for you already, all you have to do is sprinkle it on your pizza.."

Peep grinned. "I'll get some cheese from Sylvia!"

Outside, the light summer downpour had stopped. A considerably more insistent precipitation had taken its place. Peep crossed the paddy-fields in front of the main gate, and was surprised to see two rather damp and dripping figures heading down the track.

"What -ho," he barked "More long-lost relative?"

"Greetings" dripped Rufus and Marge. "We come from a land of permanent sunshine, and hot weather, and sun, and dry clothes and... and... searing, baking heat and sun and blue skies and sweltering temperatures ...

(".... sweltering temperatures.." sighed Marge wistfully, squeezing a few pints from her hair)

"... and... and... dust and desert and very little rain..."

"...very little..." agreed Marge

"How awful!" sympathised Peep

"Yes" said Rufus and Marge mournfully. There was a short pause.

"Right, bye then, lovely-visiting-you-hope-to-see-you-again-soon-must-be- going..."

Rufus and Marge set off at a cracking pace down the be-puddled track which led away from the towers, being careful to avoid the more alligator-infested ones. Peep stared after their swiftly retreating forms curiously. Odd pair, he though. But what was that following them? He squinted his eye against the lashing rain.

"You know, I could swear that looks like a giant... onion!" he mused "Oh well, could be worse. Could be a tomato" With a shrug, he turned and headed back to the Towers. Somewhere, just behind him, was a faint chuckle and the silhouette of a huge, red fruit.....


Flo Mudshark, 13th August 1998 **********


Grab your galoshes and sou'wester and splosh back to Mudshark Towers. Don't leave any puddles on the floor!

Alternatively, as long as you're not daft enough to be using Internet Explorer (yech, spit), you could look at the pointless-but-funky intro pages I slaved over in order to make this episode of Mudshark Towers more exciting. Just because I decided not to use them is no reason for you not to gasp at my ingenuity.