Montague Mudshark strode jauntily from the yak stables, the still-smoking gun twirling expertly in his hand, and the single shot echoing yet around the lichen-encrusted stones of the ancient courtyard. "A kindness, in truth, under the circumstances," he noted, philosophically, suppressing the manic grin which had a tendency to break out across his features as he eyed the supple form of the young yak flexing it's biceps between the harnesses of a gleaming new cart. Florentina's protestations that "There's life in the old beast yet!" had cut little ice with Monty , and since, in any case, this was now emphatically and empirically not the case, there was little she could do to argue against his latest acquisition.
With a gleeful holler, Monty leapt into the contoured mahogany driving bench, siezed the leatherette macrame reins and with a swift stab of his toe galvanised the powerful yak into motion and set off in pursuit of the nearest one-in-three gradient. Florentina sighed as she observed Monty disappearing in a cloud of mud. She glanced back over her shoulder into the malodourous confines of the stables. "No use now," she grumbled, "bloody beans have gone cold..."*
Florentina was not the only Family member to witness Monty's departure. As he passed through the main gate of the ancient family abode, hooves thundering and wheels whirling like dervishes (Whatever they are) Peep leapt from within his Neo-modernist Doghouse and braced his haunches against the flying butresses he had nailed there only that morning , but to no avail. The flimsy structure, already weakened from the pressure of containing Peep's collection of malfunctioning machinery (assorted eggwhisks, spider-collecters, Army surplus field kitchens, etc) stood little chance against the Richterian forces unleashed by Monty's precipitous exit, and with an elegant, if exhausted finality, the four walls collapsed inwards, each one in turn, and laid themselves in a neat, I-told-you-so, pile onto which the unhappy Peep flopped lastly, like the cherry atop a knickerbocker glory.
Peep snuffled his resignation. It was time to move. *
Having arrived at this momentous decision, Peep determined to seek the assistance of Dudley Mudshark in his search for more spacious quarters, for it occurred to him that Dudley's hobby of Peasant Evicting would prove useful in this endeavour, and this transpired to be a satisfactory assumption on the Hairy Hound's part. Dudley listened to Peep's sad tale with appropriate gravitas, but inwardly he was already metaphorically rubbing his hands with glee. Why, there was a Peasant Family whose current quarters would prove more than adequate for Peep's needs, and what fun there was to be had, contemplating sending all those tearful peasant children out into the cold, cold snow, with their little red and white spotted handkerchiefs knotted onto sticks and set upon their bony shoulders. Indeed, unless he was much mistaken, there was also an aged grandparent or two to add to the jollity! Dudley carefully put away the baby oil and elastic bands, and the cat collapsed with relief, but there was no time for such niceties now. There was work to be done!! *
Having solved the problem of where, Peep now set to addressing the question of how,( for he was not without a certain native cunning,) and seemed to him that to transport the entire contents of Rumbelows closing down sale he had found in the road one night, returning from a Beer and Baguette night at the Fin might well prove to be beyond his capabilities. It was fortunate, therefore, that he was in a position to blackmail that longtime family stalwart, Gregori Mudshark (of whom, it had to be said, that his multiple nefarious activities rendered him sadly wide open to such tactics), and thus our hairy protagonist set forth (with the negatives) to enlist some aid.
Reaching Gregori's apartments within the Towers was no easy task, however, Well aware of his relatives' proclivities, Gregori took great pains to defend his privacy, and so it was a somewhat dishevelled Peep who finally gained the sanctuary of Gregori's inner environs having run the gauntlet of the bear traps, viper pits and crack Japanese suicide regiment lurking within the deceptive, waving fronds of the ornamental elephant grass . Peep gratefully closed the ancient, iron-studded door on the last of the poison blow-darts and set down his machete with a sigh.
And to think that all this was once turnip fields until that fateful day an unwitting peasant had remarked on the small clump of dandelions struggling to eke out a living between the clinically regimented rows. Gregori was quick to take umbrage, and not at all noted for his propensity to do things by halves, and as far as anyone knew, the unfortunate pleb wandered the undergrowth still. Today Gregori seemed in a distracted mood though, As Peep entered the gloomy depths of his lair, Gregori waved a distracted hand in the hairy one's direction, motioning him to silence as his fingers played expertly over a complicated array of strings and pulleys. Finally he ceased from his task, and turned to Peep with the air of someone who has discovered the secret of...... well - if not quite turning lead into gold, at least of turning beer into vodka
Peep struggled for a while torn between his original purpose and burning curiosity engendered by the extraordinary network of strings and wires stretching to every corner of the room, and outward through the attractive starburst crack in the upper left corner of the rain-blackened window. Gregori relieved him of his misery. " It is my communication network with the outside world," he explained proudly. "For reasons beyond my ken, visitors are rare to my humble abode, and besides, I would probably kill them anyway, so I have invented this unique system of communication whereby I can gain access to the private lives not only of any Family member foolish enough to sign up, but to anyone, any where in the entire world. Global domination is within my grasp!!"
A rare light came to Gregori's eyes as he related his achievement to the stunned Peep. "Not only that, but I no longer have to pay postage! All that is required is a simple length of string to attach each individual member of the Net to the others. There are no electricity charges, messages are sent by my unique 'SHARKOPHONIC' * vibration system. It is entirely independent of greedy, money- grabbing public utilities." Peep sauntered over to inspect Gregori's handiwork. Casually he lifted a well folded piece of parchment lying within the tangle of strings and attachments.
Peep regarded Gregori quizzically. "Yes, well," mumbled Gregori "it's not entirely without its drawbacks!"
Peep wisely held his counsel on Gregori's latest venture, and instead explained the purpose of his visit.
"There's a reel of fishing line in it for you!" he enthused, deciding that the illicit lithographs could be profitable saved till a later date and/or even more straitend circumstances.
"Sounds good to me!" Gregori affirmed, and so, together they fought their way clear of the incoming kamikaze pilots and perimeter rottweillers and set off to discover if Dudley had been successful in securing new premises for the hapless hound.
Meanwhile, as yet unaware of these developments, Montague was exercising his new yak with some enthusiasm. There was no doubt that the paltry 600,000 he had paid for the creature had been a bargain. Or, at least, Monty assumed it would turn out to be so, when he discovered exactly what currency was involved, but in the meantime, the transaction had left him a little strapped for cash, as it were. Still, Monty was a true Mudshark, to the depths of his heart and pocket, and he was not going to let a little thing like bankruptcy prevent him from enjoying his customary lifestyle, it was merely a matter, he had informed the somewhat sceptical Florentina, of
"managing one's assets.... restructuring one's financial profile.... finding a cheaper restaurant..."
To which end, the ever-resourceful Montague had done his research carefully, and now he believed he had discovered the perfect establishment for Binging on a Budget! His cart drew up outside the barnacle-encrusted building, and Monty surveyed his find in satisfaction
ran the legend above the door. The dilapidated stonework was further enlivened with a collection of badly executed drawing depicting various crustaceans undergoing dismemberment and other tortures. Monty clapped his hands in excitement. What a find! And only fourpence ha'penny for all the fishheads you could eat. He sniffed the air appreciatively as the familiar scent of piscean innards and decomposing bivalves belched in a cloud of greenish vapour from the dank hole which gave entry to this secret cavern of culinary delights. Here truly was an establishment which knew the value of good, wholesome home cooking. He couldn't wait to tell Dudley! *
Fortunately, the glad tidings needed not to await broadcast, for on his way back to The Towers, Monty ran into Sylvia Mudshark, returning from a doughty morning's work amongst the Vile Peasants, attempting to persuade these only semi-motile creatures of the wisdom inherent in voting for the Redoubtable Sylvia in the forthcoming election for Village Dictator. Such was the admiration and esteem which was felt for this upright personification of civic responsibility that only scant pressure had needed to be applied to the thumbscrews to engender such promises of support and bloc voting as to make a Rotarian weep with envy.
Thus it was that Sylvia professed herself to be "quietly confident" as to the outcome, and Montague could only concur with such an opinion, having himself been present at the execution of the other candidates. That Sylvia was the woman for the job there was no doubt. It was in her blood. Montague professed himself interested in the policies she would pursue when she attained her position. This was obviously something to which Sylvia had given great thought, for she answered without hesitation: "Chairs." she stated firmly "Chairs will be higher. And pyjamas will be longer. Possibly tartan, but definitely longer." Monty beamed with delight. What a woman! She would definitely have his vote. He didn't know how he would break the news to Florentina, however. *
Peep squeezed the door of his new accommodation firmly closed, and drew a great sigh of relief, listening as the sounds of revelry and philosophy disappeared away down the long corridor without. It was all well and good enlisting the aid of The Family when it came to transporting his goods and chattels, but the plain fact of the matter was that the Wizard's unequivocal correlation between any event involving two or more Mudsharks and BEER ( Mudsharks x X *C2H5OH*where X > 1) had rendered the job somewhat more fraught that Peep had anticipated. Still, it was done now, and apart from a few scorch marks on the walls , the place was beginning to look quite cozy.
Peep breathed in and forced his way through to the space he had allocated for his personal comfort and recreation. Although any sudden move threatened to cut off the circulation in at least three of his limbs, he considered the area quite extravagant, and inwardly experienced a pang at the thought of the beautiful set of damage-repairable screwdriver-cum-blackhead-removers he had jettisoned to accommodate this indulgence. Oddly enough, the new quarters had looked astonishingly spacious when Dudley had applied boot to fundament of the recalcitrant peasants, but now there was a certain crampedness apparent to Peep, and while this in no way displeased the hound, as he had a strongly territorial streak, and felt at his most secure in a defendable position, still, it was puzzling, and he resolved to discuss this dimensional anomaly with the Wizard as soon as they were on speaking terms again.
Peep was already contemplating which stack of used refrigerator elements would make the most comfortable nest for the night, when he was startled into sudden near-amputation by a dreadful wailing and ululating which seemed to emanate from the very walls themselves. Blank incomprehension befuddled his rheumatic brain, and wild thoughts of ghosties and ghoulies sent icy shivers along his hairy spine, but reason soon re- asserted itself as he recognised the din for what it was.
"By Dudley's hairshirt, it's the Massed Ensemble of Mormon Pipers and Clog Dancers. I'd recognise that ear-laxative anywhere!"
Peep bristled even further and began mentally composing abuse and vitriol to visit on the perp of this unwarranted abhorrence. The excitement proved to much for him, however, and he was just about to collapse in a quivering heap when a machine-gun rattle at his front door heralded the arrival of more intrusion. Quickly gnawing off three of his toes, he popped himself free and squeezed past stacks of discounted electrical fittings and flung open his door to the full three inches.
His recently-composed tirade of invective sprang to his lips, but missed its footing and crashed to the floor in an embarrassed heap as Peep was confronted by a vision of loveliness such as he had never experienced in his wildest dreams of carnal improbability. His lower jaw attempted to follow the example of his abortive oratory. Truly, he had never guessed that such creatures walked the earth!
She smiled at him, showing a dazzling array of gaps between her lovely brown teeth, "'....'zitgaun, ba'heid,.." she slurred elegantly, and Peep thrilled to her exotic tongue.
She raised one flaky arm, displaying to greatest effect her fashionably grunge-inspired attire, and wafting a blast of her own, very personal perfume toward Peep's quivering nostrils. "Ah've jist moved in next door, an' ah seem tae huv ran oot o'...." she blinked at the cracked glass in her hand as if she had never seen it before, "....er, cheap sherry?" She favoured Peep with another of her edentulate rictuses. "Gie's a hauf a pint an' ah'll no spit on yer doorstep ony mair." Peep sprang into action and seized his secret bottle from its hiding place behind the pile of "Philosopher's Biannually" magazines. "I've only got Four Crown," he leered, "I hope it's not too.... sophisticated.... for you..." "Ah've goat very suffish......suffff......s...... Ah, bugger it., Ah'll drink onything, y'ken" She snatched the bottled from Peep's hand, and before he could say anything more, she scurried off down the dismal corridor and disappeared as if by magic into one of the distressed doorways. Peep smiled a secret smile to himself. Perhaps he would see more of this mysterious creature. Perhaps she would run out of.... sherry.... again....... (to be continued???).
© 1995 Flo's Got A New Word Processor
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