"If someone were to come up and ask me..." Florentina Mudshark mused to herself one day as she was saddling up for her latest raiding expedition to The Village, "......what I thought was the most important invention ever known to human kind - then I would be extremely surprised, because I am not the sort of person who tolerates that kind of behaviour from total strangers!"

"However, " she continued, "in the unlikely event of this occuring, I would undoubtedly put in first place the "Acme" All-Purpose Combined Rotary Chimpanzee Slicer and Bottle-Opener, closely followed by "Bracegirdle and Popplethwait's Cold Weather Wizard Repellant" (especially now it comes in a handy stirrup-pump!) Oh, and not forgetting the humble Yak Cart!! Truly a boon to Mudshark kind, without which we would be spending an unfeasibly large proportion of our time on returning our empties! But, as I have indicated, no peasant would be foolish enough to approach Florentina Mudshark and attempt any form of communication, thus rendering the situation entirely hypothetical!"

Though she knew it not, Flo's remark was to prove prophetic...

Meanwhile, Gregori Mudshark was also indulging in the hedonisitic lifestyle which yak-carting had brought to The Family. In his youth, Gregori had been well known as a menace to all right-thinking Mudsharks, and fence posts, as he whipped his sleek racing yak along the rutted lanes and converted sewage outlets of The Village, but nowadays he was of more sedate mein, and his current yak a fine pedigree specimen admired (and, it has to be said, much coveted too!) by the general populace of the miserable collection of hovels through which he regularly strutted his funky stuff (Gregory was such a wag when it came to ostentatious displays of conspicuous consumption!).

But sometimes Gregory pined for the old days, and felt that his life was occasionally lacking a little in exitement Imagine then, his delight, when, in his new guise as Model Citizen and Friend to the Underclass, Our Hero pulled his mighty yak to a halt one day, to let a party of orphaned children and cute furry pets cross the road, (instead of ploughing through them and seeing the excitement which this event brought to their little faces), and into his cart, wholly unbidden, leapt a wild-eyed peasant woman, armed with a deadly handbag and sharpened umbrella!

"Tak me tae the end o' the road, wid ye?" the interloper commanded, "Ah'm late fur mah appointment wi' mah aromatherapist, ye ken"

Gregori could barely conceal a whoop of delight! It had long been his ambition to be hi-jacked.

"Righto! Cuba, did you say?"

The peasant woman scrunched up her face, turning a visage which already looked as if it could do with a good ironing into one which bore a more than passing resemblance to Peep's Sunday-best t-shirt

"Eh? Fit's aat yer saying, loon? Come awa' noo, I'm late!"

Gregori tried not to look disappointed. "Are you sure you wouldn't like to go to Cuba? I'm told it's very nice this time of year?"

The redoubtable lady gave his a swift bout of encouragement with the soft end of her handbag. "Fit way wid ah be wintin' tae ging there? Ah come fae The Bro..."

The Bronx?" thrilled Gregori, "..the very heart of lawless Nearly-New York?? Yes! Yes! The screeching of tyres amist a hail of bullets as crazed dope addicts leap to their death from crumbling, rat infested skyscraper, landing on children and other shady characters below and splattering them into a million gory, slimey, pieces....."

"Fit are ye on aboot, - ah come fae the Broch

Gregori froze. "By Gustav's improbably large capacity for free booze!" he declared, "I may be a wild, reckless thrill-seeker on a one way trip to oblivion, stopping at No Good, Big Trouble and A Bad End on the way, but even I have my limits!!" He pondered the long list of evils and miseries which had come forth to beset mankind from this foul hell-hole..

"Fish fillets... fish filleters... and (o, Guardian Traffic Wardens of the Mudshark Clan protect us!) ... Dudley Mudshark!! Gegori knew when he was beaten. Sadly, he passed the signpost marked "Cuba, 4,286 and a half miles", and turned left down the way labelled "End-of-the-Road, half a mile and turn right"

Meanwhile, Florentina had troubles of her own to contend with. Ever since Sylvia had staged a coup and seized control of the village Cheese Shop, Flo had found herself a trifle over-supplied with the stuff.

"Just popping in for a morsel of Old Amsterdam," she would inform Sylvia cheerfully as she entered the dim and pungent interior of the shop (reflecting as she held her nose that the place wasn't called the Green Cheese Shop for nothing!")

"How much was that, again?" Sylvia would enquire, in a vaguely threatening manner, wrapping both ends of her titinium cheese wire securely round each fist and tugging professionally

"Erm... well, maybe a ...pound...or.. six?... Sixteen pounds, yes that should keep us going through the night, what? Are you sure this stuff is properly mature?"

"It doesn't stay up all night drinking, smoking and dancing the lambada to the dulcet tones of Hot Cakes and the Inevitable Bacon* if that's what you mean!" countered Sylvia morosely

Transaction complete, Florentina struggled back to her yak-cart, staggering slightly under the weight of sixteen pounds of Old Amsterdam and a quarter ton of Peruvian lentils. "Poor old Rosie," she thought, looking at her beast standing quietly in a handy parking spot, calmy browsing on the meter "....the old girl is definitely getting past it, I don't know how much longer she can do the cheese run"

But Florentina was reluctant to put Rosie out to pasture just yet, because whereby her sedate manner ensured that the short trip from the Towers to the Village and back tended to take the best part of a day (or possibly even a week, depending on whether or not Flo got sidetracked at The Fin), this self-same bucolic nature meant that Rosie could be relied upon to squeeze out past the other yaks tethered nearby without indulging in the traditional bite to the haunches which would start one of those hilarious stampedes that made yak-carting such an entertaining pastime. On this day, burdened as she was with the cheese Florentina was more glad than ever of this attribute as she tugged Rosie's reins and her loyal yak eased her considerable haunches cautiously towards the next yak in line, until they were just touching, haunch to haunch. Flo sighed with relief as this tricky manouevre was accomplished without incident, and was just preparing to set off when a sudden and resounding THWACK produced a squeal of surprise from the startled beast, and Rosie leapt fully six feet into the air, performed several complicated ballet movements with both pairs of legs, before returning earthwards to land in exactly the same spot.

Amidst the general confusion, Florentina gave thanks the the dry cleaners was just around the corner.

She turned to see what had caused Rosie's uncharacteristic alarm, and saw a Vile Peasant with his hands on Rosie's considerable rump, the slap he had administered to this region being the souce of the panic.

"Ye ken yer beast's affa close tae yon inther ane?"

Two things occurred at this point: Florentina became aware that a Vile Peasant had dared to speak to her! A Mudshark, accosted in the street by a common pleb!!! But breeding will out, and in response, Flo rose magnificently to the challenge. "I could," she thought, attempt to teach the creature the error of its ways. I could reason with it thus:

"Indeed, my good man, I am very much aware of the position of the nether quaters of my fine yak. This is a highly trained animal, a beast whose pedigree and lineage is such that, could yaks speak, she certainly would not deign to enter into conversation with either of us. Every day, my yak and I make our trip to the Village, and over the years, we have honed our exiting technique down to a fine art. We have a communication which is almost telepathic, and we are able to perform feats of maneouvring which can only be dreamt of by lesser mortals and their beasts. I appreciate your good intentions in trying to alert me to a potentially dangerous situation, but I feel I should bring to your attention the fact that your method was not the most well-thought out. Had you applied some more reasoning to the situation, you would have seen that, far from preventing an accident, your precipitous actions were much more likely to be the cause of disaster, by distracting my attention at a crucial moment. Perhaps you will bear this in mind in future, and also, I should be very much obliged if you pass on the gist of this conversation to your fellows, in order than they too might cease and desist from unhelpful directioning and signaling to yak-carters of The Village"

Pausing but scarcely an intake of breath, Florentina dismissed this nonsense, pulled out a gun and shot the Vile Peasant dead. Blowing on the smoking end of the gun, she smiled to herself.

"Eat your heart out, Harrison Ford!"

Humming a merry tune and content with her good deed for the day, she made her way homewards.....

Sadly, Rosie-the-Yak was so traumatised by these events that Florentina was required to "retire" her " ("...what is in these burgers, Flo.. unusually chewey texture, what?.." said Monty some days later). Florentina just smiled, as well she might, for a new beast had come into her life. Monty, ever the generous and attentive spouse had presented her with - not a yak this time, but a gleaming, white, mythical beast.. a graceful creature, ennobled by the addition of a single horn on top of it's elegant head.

"A unicorn!!" sighed Florentina "It's just what I've always wanted! Oh Monty, you are so good to me... get out the postman suit and the axle grease... it's party time tonight!" She leered at him knowingly, and Monty grinned in return.

..If the stupid woman thought the beast was a Unicorn, that was alright by him......

* It's a made-up band. It's a long story. Don't ask! Just get yer ass (or yer yak, or whatever herbivore you fancy) back toMudshark Towers

Or read some more of the Family's dubious exploits