Granny was getting concerned, perhaps discombobulated. No one had heard from Foodge, Wes and O’Way since Foodge had sent that stupid Carrow Wack inspired Stream of Urine. Micturating over the handrail indeed. Merv was lazily wiping horizontal surfaces with a dirty rag to ensure COVID compliance. “Merv, are you busy?”
“Flat out like a lizard drinkin’?” Merv laughed quietly to himself. “Why?”
“Have you heard from the Boys?”
“What Boys?” Merv had lost interest in his work so stood there wondering what to do with the rag.
“Foodge, Wes and Father.”
“They’re hardly Boys (with or without capitalisation).”
“The Hardy Boys?” Granny is a touch deaf.
“Anyhoo, ‘ave you ‘eard from Foodge ‘n’ Co?”
“Not since the ‘Stream of Unconsciousness’ thingy. Why?” Merv hadn’t bothered to read Foodge’s Kerouac Inspired whatsaname because it sounded like shit.
“I’m worried about them.” Granny had poured herself a Lady’s Waist of Trotter’s Best.
“I’m not.” Merv tossed the rag behind the bar.
“Why not?” Granny skulled the dirt brown concoction then poured a second.
“I’m tracking ‘em, or, more to the point, tracking Foodge.”
“How, I mean, why?” Granny had moved on to a pint of IPA.
“I placed a tracker in his toiletries bag.” Merv had already anticipated the next question so fired up his laptop and placed his reading glasses on the end of his nose. “Let’s see, now, it only switches on twice a day, to conserve power, ah….okay, it gave a position a couple of hours ago. They’re in Cadiz, which is odd. They should be somewhere way further south. Either the ship’s got mechanical trouble or they’ve been thrown orff.” Merv suspected the latter but went checked on the whereabouts of MV Wasted Seamen, which, it turns out had already rounded the Cape. “It looks like the wasted Seaman has left them behind!”
“Wasted Seamen??” Granny was slightly intoxicated. “What would sailors be doing wasting…”
“Did you want to send a message?” Merv had adopted the attitude of a parent with a small child, which was Granny to a Tee when she was on the sauce. “Seeing as we know where they are, or, at least where Foodge’s toiletries are.”
“Oh, yes…I dunno, I just want him back.” Granny dissolved in tears.
“You want him back? I can organise that.”
“Can you really get him back?”
“I can probably get them home by the end of the week.” Merv was already typing an email to an old mate in Spain.
“So you could have got them back earlier, I’m guessing!” Granny had taken an accusatory tone.
“Of course.” Merv didn’t look up from the laptop.
“No one asked, besides, I thought they were enjoying the thrill of the journey. Hold on, I’ve got a reply. An old copper mate lives in Spain. He’ll track ‘em down easy enough and pop them on a freight plane. They’ll be in Inner Western Cyberia by Thursdee arvo.” Merv slammed the laptop shut. “Another pint, dear?”
Foodge’s Kerouac ‘Stream of Consciousness’ inspired Container Ship Travel Blog.
05:37 Awoken by distended bladder. Tripped over doorstep and hit head simultaneously. Disorientated so micturated through railing into Mother Ocean. Managed to urinate over dressing gown hem. Returned to bed.
07:00 Ship’s horn announces change of shift. O’Way, Wes and myself tumble out of our bunks, ready for a hearty seamen’s breakfast. We hang back a bit to allow the night shift to eat first.
07:48 The ship’s cook invites us to clear the tables and help with the washing up. These chaps are wonderfully generous with sharing the workload.
08:12 Us three perambulate around the passenger deck. The feel of the ship rolling over the swell is marvellous, especially now that I’ve stopped vomiting!
08:28 Met some other passengers. All colourful characters, replete with tattoos. One even has an eye patch. I asked him if he was a pirate, to which he replied. “Do you want me to cut you?” Such wit, such humour.
10:12 Wandered down to the galley for morning tea. A little disappointed that there was just an urn with tea bags, instant coffee, sugar and no milk!
Some of the crew…
10:37 As we walked back to our cabin we noticed that a smaller ship was quite close, perhaps half a nautical mile away (yes, it’s all nautical miles, knots and fathoms here). A small boat had been lowered into the water and sped towards us. A sailor dropped a rope and the fellows in the small boat tied a large package to it, and sped off. It must have been a surprise for the Captain because the sailor quickly hauled it up and stowed it in a lifeboat. These chaps are full of shenanigans.
11:03 O’Way tells us that he has a migraine and needs to lie down in a darkened room for a few hours. I offered to sit with him, but he claims that my constant talking is causing the headache. Ungrateful!
12:37 Just finished lunch, and again the kitchen team were keen for us to help clean
Turn left, no right…
up. Wes was allowed to use the dish washing machine, while I scoured pots and pans. The Filipino cook kept calling me ‘tulala’, which I take to be a term of affection. He didn’t look very happy when I started calling him tulala!
13:04 Wes and I managed to find the recreation room. The library shelves have very few books in English and the video library seems to be full of romantic comedies, such as, ‘Dallas does Debbie’ and ‘Two Girls, One Cup’. Such silly titles.
14:05 Wes and I were confronted by the same sailor who we had watched stow the package in the lifeboat. He was very excited and shouted in some sort of foreign language. Must have been hard of hearing so I shouted back. “Don’t worry, we won’t say anything about the Captain’s surprise!” He turned and took off towards the prow, or bow, or whatever the sharp end is called. Foreigners do seem to understand much better when one shouts.
16:23 O’Way staggered back out onto the deck. He seemed to look better and put this down to a visit from Gordon O’Donnell, who had blessed him. Wes suggested that if Gordon was such a great bloke, why doesn’t he get us home. “He is! Was the short answer from O’Way.
20:35 After another meal and the galley, and another session of me being called ‘tulala’, we’d decided to take to our bunks early doing crossword and the like until lights out.
05:43 Awoken by distended bladder. Tripped over doorstep and hit head simultaneously. Disorientated so micturated through railing into Mother Ocean. Managed to urinate over dressing gown hem. Returned to bed….
Merv and Granny discuss life, the universe and everything.
Written by Big M
“Can I getcher anything, love?” Granny carefully approached Merv who was spread out on the Chesterfield doing leg raises with his crook leg.
“Nah, oh, yeah, some Panadol Osteo, and top up me South Sea Island Scotch, thanks, love” Merv had been doing leg raises religiously, twenty every hour.
“Here you go.” Granny had the capsules in her grubby hand. “Here. Flush it down with this.” As she proffered a generous tumbler of scotch. “Do you think we need to talk about the elephant in the room?”
“Hell yeah, why do you think that dwarves don’t exist?”
“I was wondering about yer interest in dwarves, you seem to know a hell of a lot more
about them than a grown man should!” The old girl was already getting heated up.
We might be small but we still count…
Merv swivelled around and plonked his leg on an Ottoman. “You first, Granny, why don’t you believe in them?”
“Well, they’re like fairies and elves, no one has ever seen them!” Granny stood her ground.
“Yeah, no one’s ever seen fairies and elves, but there’s dwarves everywhere.” Merv took a generous sip. “ There’s an achondroplastic dwarf down the road.”
“What, that little bloke?”
“Yes, he’s an actual dwarf!”
“No, he’s married to the florist.”
“What, the big tall streak of misery?”
“Imagine them in the fart sack!” Granny started to giggle. “Well, what about you bein’ the expert on dwarves?”
“I’m not an expert, I got talking to a few of them when I was a copper. A big bastard was bullying them all, so some of us coppers used casually drop into the café they hung out in, and, we used to chat and learned a bit about them.”
“Is that all? Here was I thinkin’ you had some sort of weird fetish.”
Can’t you see I’m busy…
Merv’s phone rang. “O’Way here, we’re fucked, absolutely fucked. It turns out that DFAT is completely unaware that we’ve left the country, and, as we are acting as agents for a foreign power, we could be charged under foreign incursion legislation.”
“Hold on, hold on, you mean yer there illegally?”
“Yep, we left Australia on a Papal plane, never went through customs or filed a visa. England can regard us as foreign combatants. The MI5 bloke twigged to it. He reckons it was deliberate, to get us to perform some sort of act of aggression on English soil, so become mercenaries.”
“So are the Tykes gonna fly you back?”
“Nah, can’t trust ‘em. We’re boarding a container ship that will get us to Sydney in about forty days. Paid in cash. No questions asked.”
“Where’d you get the reddies?”
“Had ‘em in my briefcase. I never travel anywhere with less than twenty thou
Did you say readies…
American. Been stuck before. American cash does wonders! We’ll be ditching our mobiles, might be able to make a radio call, or something…”
“But what about the paedos?” Merv was hoping for a refill, but Granny didn’t get the hint.
“You wouldn’t believe this. The Tykes were sending us to protect ‘em, not arrest ‘em. I never would have thought in a million years. Is Granny there? Tell her I’ll get Foodge to call her before we ditch these phones.”
Granny was visibly shaken, but still climbed the stairs so she could have one last conversation with her Foodge before the blackout.
“So, Wes, how are you settlin’ into the Old Dart?” Merv drained the glass and motioned to Manne for a refill. “This bloody knee’s still givin’ me curry.”
“Well, I think I’m settling in OK. Walked straight into a job in paediatrics at the local NHS. Of course, havin’ a Federal Pleece paedo check on file didn’t hurt.” Wes polished off the rest of his Yorkshire Pudd, while a very buxom barmaid pushed another pint across the bar.
“Paedo check? If the Federal Pleece can check to see if you’re a paedo, then why don’t they do it for everyone, then round up the paedos and shoot ‘em?” Merv had never heard of such a thing.
“Nah, they just check to see if you’re on any state or Federal pleece data base for anything related to kiddy fiddling. All health care workers, ambos, teachers, volunteers and such forth have to get one.” Wes was wondering what sort of technology was being used to retain so much barmaid bosom in so little blouse.
“Orright, clear as mud.” Merv was thinking that in his day they’d take ‘em out to the bush and shoot ‘em, not put ‘em in a database. “Excellent thinking regarding the paediatric job. I guess that’s where they’d target. Have you had any dealings with Foodge?”
“No, Foodge thought he was onto a paedo ring, so went to Belgium to infiltrate the European Paediatric Society meeting. I think he’s getting paediatricians and paedophiles mixed up.” Wes was getting some promising signals from the buxom one.
“I’ve bloody well explained the differences to ‘im a ‘undred times”. Whoda thought Foodge had been to uni? Merv was propped up on some pillows on the battered old Chesterfield in the Gentleman’s bar. “Any more wedges, Manne?” Manne nodded and disappeared into the kitchen. “What about O’Way?
“O’Way has taken to it like a real private eye. He’s diarised every meeting, catalogued
O’way grows in stature
information, surveillance photos pinned up everywhere, computer logs of recordings. He’s actually having dinner with some high up tyke, a bishop or cardinal or summit.” Now the buxom one was pushing a note across the bar. “How’s everything else going?”
“An agency sent a bloke around because they’d heard that we needed a new character. Dunno his name. Viv reckons Wilma, Hung One On sort of agrees and Big M thought Wilmer sounded more masculine, not that anyone would presume anyone’s gender in this modern world. Granny is pining for Foodge and worried that he might root some European sheila. Manne and O’Hoo are the only one’s workin’, but it’s worrying having a serial masticater or like, Manne in both the kitchen and bar. It’s put me off havin’ sour cream with me wedges.”
Wes couldn’t believe what was in the note. “Ah, oh, we’re breakin’ up…losing the satellite link, feckin’ mobile phone…”
Merv had endured a torrid time with his ‘blown out’ knee. He’d been to the GP, orthopaedic surgeon, MRI, and then physio. He’d hoped that a quick arthroscopy of the knee would fix it, but, no, now it’s all knee brace and physio exercises. Maybe he’d have an arthroscopy when all this fails, he pondered. Just then the phone rang. “Hello Mr Merv.”
“Ah, Foodge, we’re all wondering ‘ow you an’ O’Way were getting’ on in the Old Dart?” Merv bent down to adjust the Velcro on his knee brace.
“Well, it’s all plain sailing over here. I doubt they’ve ever had a paedo here in England, well, except Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris, and Eric Gill, but he was a famous artist so doesn’t count.” Foodge enthused. “How’s the knee?”
“Painful and tedious. Can’t run or lift. Have to wear a kneebrace and do stupid feckin’
I see the problem with your knee…
exercises. How’s O’Way settling in?” Merv sat heavily into the old Chesterfield.
“I’ll put him on.”
“It’s O’Way here. Can’t talk. Too much going on. Have managed to infiltrate the tykes. They’re a tight bunch. Can’t get a word out of them. Foodge has joined a Gentleman’s Club. He’s hopeless. He’s lapped up all of the usual guff because they have free Scotch and cigars for new members. I’ll pop him back on.”
“Did you hear that? Free Scotch and cigars. How could these folk be harbouring paedos?” Foodge took a drag on a stogie.
“Mate, you don’t think they’re trying to bribe you with cheap booze and tobacco?” Merv took a sip of South Sea Islands Scotch (it seemed to enhance the pain killers).
“No, no-one escapes eagle eyed Foodge. O’Way wants to say something.”
“Merv, O’Way here, Foodge has no idea of what he’s doing. Way out of his depth.The
Oh, book him Danno…
only thing protecting him is his complete ignorance and ineptitude. I think I’m pretty safe, because I haven’t really managed to get anywhere, but Foodge wanders around talking about paedos at the top of his voice. I’m not sure, but I think we’ve been followed a couple of times.” O’Way was nervously twitching the Venetians. “We either need to withdraw or get backup.”
“There’s no-one here we can send.” Merv was secretly pleased that his knee prevented him from helping. “Hey, what about me nephew Wes? He’s built like a brick shit-house, he can fight like a threshing machine, and hasn’t even had a cameo in an episode for years.”
O’Way ruminated for a few minutes. “Yes, Wes, I met him once. Unforgettable. He’s a nurse, isn’t he?”
“Yes, male nurse, can drive just about any vehicle. Used to work in an abattoir, so he’s good with a knife. He’s been to Bali, once, so he’s an international traveller.”
“He sounds like he possesses useful skills, plus we can get him to snoop around some of these London hospitals. Merv, so you feel comfortable with recruitment? Usual deal, Leer jet from Sydney to London. Five thousand pounds a week, plus board. We also provide a very generous hosiery allowance!”
“Granny won’t be what?” Granny (obviously) roared from the landing of the Mary McKillop Memorial Staircase (somehow the naming of things has gone all Catholic).
Foodge looked up and started wringing his plump little hands.” Err, um, ah, um…happy?” Which was hardly a revelation as Granny was rarely happy.
“It was rhetorical!” Granny waved a bony finger at our hero. “Why won’t I be happy?”
“Oh, Christ, I mean, God, I mean Crikey, I’m going to vomit.” Foodge lurched forward, managing to spray his entire stomach contents into the fireplace, which didn’t really help. It’s not like you can burn the stuff.
This time Father O’Way spoke up. “The London trip is being financed by the Vatican, highly sensitive, and they specifically require a single male for the job. When the personal characteristics of the agent were forwarded to me I immediately thought of Foodge. I mean, he’s highly educated, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of criminal law with detective skills that put Holmes to shame. This comes from the Pope himself, with Extreme Unction.” O’Way had no idea what unction was, ordinary or extreme, but thought it added gravitas when working for the tykes.
By this stage Granny had descended the stairs, and stood in front of the Good Father. “So yer sayin’ that this is gonna be a priestly type of excursion, vow a chastity and all that?”
You are kidding me right!
“Err, yep, that kinda sums it up.” O’Way mopped his brow with a linen hanky that the Pope had given him. “We need someone with intelligence and decorum. Someone who can rub shoulders with the common man, chat about current affairs in a Gentleman’s Club, then enjoy theological discussions with the Bishop.” O’Way felt like he was losing his way. For all he knew Foodge could be a Freemason.
“So what youz are sayin’ is that I’m not goin’, but neither are any other sheilas?”
“Absolutely!” O’Way almost heaved a sigh of relief. “No sheilas, I mean birds, I mean ladies at all.”
“So who’s goin’ with him, Merv?”
“I just ruptured an anterio-posterior crucio-menisceal ligament.” Merv gestured for someone, anyone to get another bag of ice.
Granny nodded to Foodge who ambled off sullenly to the ice machine. “Well, we couldn’t send Manne, on the basis of him being a sexual deviant.”
“It was only internet porn, Granny!” A voice came from the kitchen.
“What about O’Hoo, he’s always lookin’ for extra work, unlike the rest of youz, plus he really is a detective.” Granny’s face lit up. “That way youz can try and work out where yer dragon tattoos come from.”
This was an excellent idea, as Big M had forgotten about the tattoos, and, for that matter, O’Hoo!
“The problem with O’Hoo is that he isn’t allowed into England, or, should I say, back into England.” Foodge piped up.
“That’s true, Granny, I can never set foot in England ever again.” O’Hoo was pulling a Piglet Pale Ale. “Well, not since the incident.”
Big M was uncomfortable with the way this episode was heading. Well, more of a
Big M seems upset…
collection of paragraphs, than an episode. Anyhoo.
“What incident?” Granny gasped.
O’Hoo tapped the side of his nose. “Need to know basis.” Enough said.
“Enough said.” Replied Granny, suddenly experiencing déjà vu, or whatever they say in France. “What about you, O’Way?”
“Well, agh, err, um, look there’s a dwarf!” O’Way tried to sprint towards the exit, only to find himself face down on the putrid carpet, thanks to Granny’s almost imperceptible foot work.
“Ah, the jokes on you O’Way, because there’s no such thing as a dwarf!” Granny looked triumphant.
“Actually there is, and plenty of different types; achondroplastic, hypochondroplastic, Laron, Hypophophataemic rickets, there’s a long list…” Merv was warming to his favourite topic.
Anyone for cricket…
O’Way hadn’t realised that Merv had a penchant for dwarfs, or had chosen to forget. Regardless, he’d been hoisted by his own petard, so to speak (Actually he hadn’t but Big M like to get this into conversations, along with ‘damp squib’, and ‘chance would be a fine thing’, which he didn’t understand, either). Petard or not, O’Way sat there rubbing his shin. “I couldn’t go, I’ve got Church business to attend.”
“I thought that this was a mission for, and on behalf of the Pope, hence the Mother Church Herself.” Granny smiled. “No, that’s it, yer goin’”
Merv had endured a shit house morning. He’d run to the gym, full of the lightness of running, or whatever that quote was, hit the squat rack, gone too heavy, too early and had his right knee collapse from under him, which wasn’t the purpose of doin’ squats! He’d bludged a lift from one of the young blokes and hobbled through the yard to the rear entrance, only to hear O’Way’s dulcet tones. “I said it’s a paedo job!”
“Yes, Speedos, everyone should have a pair!” Foodge was just pushing a Cup of Chino across the bar as Merv hobbled in.
“Morning Father, how’s the Church of St. Generic Brand goin’?” Merv tried to push himself in between Foodge and the expensive Eye Tallion Expresso machine.
“Dunno, I’m here on behalf of the Church of Rome, with Extreme Unction.”
Hey man, smoke this…
“Oh, shit.” Merv quickly crossed himself. “Spectacles, testicles, wallet ‘n watch. Now what does Holy Mother Church want with our own Foodge?” Merv had assumed that the good Father was trying to co-opt Foodge into summit. He was clever that way.
“Promoting sales of Speedos!” Foodge piped up.
“Not Speedos, paedos.” The Father gestured for something stronger than a chino.
“So the church is selling paedos?” Now Merv was confused.
“Fuck no!” The good Father downed half a pint of Trotters Pilsener. “They’re forming a special task force of Paedo Hunters to root them out, for want of a better word.”
Merv now had a pool of water forming under his knee from condensate on the bag of ice balanced on top. “Foodge, old son. Can you throw us a towel?”
“Throw in the towel? No, I’ll be a Paedo Hunter until the end!”
Christ, Foodge, why is everything a double entendre for you? A towel, the cotton thing hangin’ up!”
“So, if I’m to become a Paedo Hunter will I get a gun?” Foodge was finally making himself useful and had mopped up the ice water and started to help Merv to one of the lounge chairs where he could elevate the knee.
“Of course you won’t get a fucking gun, you can’t be trusted with tooth picks.” Which was true, Foodge had endured a previous episode with toothpicks. Let’s just say the magistrate was lenient.
“Let’s just say that the London trip has two aspects. You will be on a fact-finding mission as a Private Detective learning about English detection methods. That’s the cover. The other, secret, aspect is looking for paedos. You’ll be liaising with MI5’s Paedo Branch, and no one else. Do you understand?”
“Yes, so I assume that I’ll be getting a special Paedo Hunter Badge, or MI5 Paedo Officer ID?”
Merv has a fag…
“No, Dopey Dora, it’s fucking secret!!” O’Way had ducked behind the bar to pull a second pint. “Oh, and we expect you to travel alone. You need to maintain the façade of the swinging PI, man of the world, type of presentation.”
A small smile crossed Foodge’s pale lips. “So Granny can’t come?”
“Of course she can’t come. She’ll fuck the whole thing up!” Father O’Way finished his second pint. He certainly wasn’t used to drinking this early. Normally he waited until nine, or even ten.
“Yer goin’ where?” Granny pointed a gnarled finger in Foodge’s face.
“Lunn Donne.” Foodge retorted.
“Lunn Fucking Donne!”
“No, London England.” Foodge wasn’t comfortable with this sort of swearing before lunch, or at least before a few beverages.
“London Fucking England!”
“No, just London in England. I don’t think London copulates with England.”
“Don’t get smart with me, Boyoh!”
“I’m not being smart, or even half smart.” Foodge replied, which was true, Foodge was neither smart nor half smart. Half measures worried Foodge. One could be a wit, which was thought to be a great thing, whereas a half-wit was a pejorative word for idiot. Describing someone as smart was high praise, but half smart implied cheekiness, not half wittery.
Trotters Ale cures all ills…
Emmjay, Hung and M hadn’t accounted for Granny’s reaction when they’d decided to send Foodge to Britain to be Special Envoy, or Chief Photographer or whatever the fuck they’d planned.
“Well, it’s by special request, from…you know, certain people, well connected people.” This wasn’t completely true, but the invite involved a firm of solicitors.
“Special Fucking People! Royal Fucking People. What about our relationship?” Granny had let go of her aggressive tone and had moved into the looking crest fallen, just about to cry stage of the argument.
Foodge started to panic. Are we going to have a long chat about our relationship? Is she going to expect me to talk about my feelings? He suddenly realised that Granny couldn’t have a passport because she’d never travelled further than Milson’s Point. “Granny, I may have failed to convey all of the, err, ah, implications of the invitation, I mean, as my, err, partner, I mean, love of my life, you are, um, my plus one, my, other half…”
“Oh, Foodge, that’s a different matter.” Granny was suddenly coquettish. “When’s this trip takin’ place?”
“Soon, my love, very soon.” Foodge’s voice had taken on a soothing quality. “It may be difficult to organise during the Lock Down, but there are always strings that one can pull.”
Just the two of us…
“Oh, goody, I’ll have to get all new underwear and nighties. Shoes..no, leave room for purchases. I guess I can always use the empty space in Foodge’s port. Oh, and I better get my passport out of the safe…”
“Passport?” Foodge gulped and had become noticeably pale. “Won’t it need to be renewed?”
“No, I’ve always kept it up to date, just in case. Don’t you?”
Foodge thought for a second. His passport did need renewal. He was well and truly hoisted by his own petard. Granny had already raced up to her room. Merv’s disgusting visage suddenly appeared across the bar. “Sounds like you need a drink, old son.”
Make it a double!” Foodge collapsed onto a stool. “You won’t believe what I’ve done.”
“I do believe what you’ve done, you was ‘opin’ that Granny wouldn’t have a passport an’ you’d get away to the Old Dart for an ‘olidee.” Merv was already sounding like a Cockney Publican.
“Was it that obvious?”
“I don’t think she knew, but you was ‘oisted by yer own petard.” Merv was unaware that the narrator had just said that on account of him not being part of the last scene.
“What will I do?” Read a few lines ahead sounds good.
“Well, aside from killing yerself…”Merv was already pushing a second canoe across the filthy, stained bar. “Nah, only jokin”, I reckon you’ll ‘ave a hard time getting’ outta the country at the moment, plus the Poms won’t be real welcomin’.”
“No, Mr Merv, it’s official business, you know, top people involved, movers and shakers.” Foodge drained the second pint of Trotters Best. “ This will involve intelligence, planning and courage.” All three were on short supply at the Pigs Arms. “There is one urgent matter to attend.”
Big M had reached a heightened, or perhaps, lowered meditative state that can only be achieved by feeding garden waste through a mulcher. Hehated enjoyed this simple mindless task because it suited his intellect, as well as his vast horticultural skills. A nagging thought repeatedly interrupted his meditation. It was something he had read some months back. He had paid all of the bills, emptied the recycling basket, and watered the baby lettuce. Oh, shit, what was it? Must be some fuckin’ trick question, or somethin’ Mrs M wanted. He ruminated. Something about the Pigs Arms….Ah, Mr Merv retirin’. “Oh shit.” He yelled.
“What’s wrong, Dear?” Mrs M yelled back. “Did you cut your finger off, again, or see a snake, or get the cord on your shorts caught in the mulcher, or fall off a ladder….?”
“No, it’s Merv. Get me best suit, and brogues, and that new Fedora….Oh, wait, I’m not Foodge. Can you book me a fourth class ticket on the Flyer?” Yelled M over the sound of the mulcher.
“Probably not!” Mrs M had already lost interest.
“Why?” Yelled M, as he dragged the mulcher back into the garage.
“It’s not 1937, and there is no flyer, and you can use your Opal Card.” Mrs M knew exactly what was happening, so was already getting her handbag and car keys, knowing that the next question would be something about being driven to the train station.
Twenty minutes later Big M found himself firmly ensconced in an oxymoronically named ‘quiet car’ heading towards Sydney at speeds of up to seventy kilometres per hour. Not three hours later he found himself in the Gentlemen’s Bar at the Window Dressers’ Arms, Pig and Whistle. “Barkeep, a pint of your best.”
Merv was about to turn around and face the arrogant sod when he suddenly recognised the voice. He turned around anyway. “I’m not yer fuckin’ barkeep!” Then grinned. “Gib W, I mean Big M, I’d forgotten who was writing this episode. How the hell are you?” He crushed Big M’s soft nurse’s hand in a vice like grip. A glass canoe quickly followed.
“I’m already enjoying my retirement.” Mumbled M through a foamy, hoppy moustache. “Always thirsty work, commuting.” As he pushed the empty canoe across to Merv who picked up on the hint and proffered another foamy treat. “Anyway, I’m not here to talk about me, I’m here to discuss this rumour about YOUR retirement!”
“Ah, well, that’s difficult.” Merv looked around furtively. “It’s not me that I’m tryin’ to get retired, it’s Granny. I thought that if I sold my share of the pub she might retire.”
“Granny, why Granny? I mean, she’ll work until she drops.” Big M was already looking at the bottom of his empty glass.
“Therein lies the problem.” Merv was pretty pleased with himself for getting one of those high faluting words in, like heretofore, and such. “She’s bloody exhausted!” A third canoe was paddling across the heavily stained timber bar.
“I know the feelin’.” M was as unsteady with his words as his legs, but eagerly skulled another half pint.
“I’ll bet you don’t. It’s bloody Foodge. He’s at her all of the time. Like a boy of fifteen. Early morning, mid-morning, lunchtime, afternoon delight….that’s just a warm-up for the evening!”
“I always thought that our dear Private Dick was pretty backward in the use of the wedding flute. Especially after Granny gave him those anabolic steroids that turned out to be oestrogen.” Big M noticed that the bar had become relatively quiet.
Granny had appeared at he bottom of the stairs. “What mischief are you causin’?” As she pointed a bony finger at M.
“Ah, oo, um, er. No mischief. Um….this new Pale Ale is good, I mean really good….ah, great.” Big M stared into the bottom of his glass and started to tremble. He couldn’t help himself as he started to laugh uncontrollably. “Pftt…..Foodge….a demon in the sack!”
Soon everybody, including Merv was laughing.
“All right you lot…SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Granny was livid. “How dare you laugh at one of the finest Private Dicks in the country?”
The mere mention of ‘Private Dick’ fed the laughter like trying to put out a fire with petrol. Even the Bowling Ladies were tittering from the Ladies bar.
Granny turned on her heel and marched straight back up the Errol Flynn Memorial Staircase.
“Oh fuck, now we’ve done it!” Muttered Merv. Fuck, what will we do now?”
“The best thing we could do is try to work out what’s going on.” Came a quiet voice from the end of the bar. Manne had crept in with a big basket of eggs, having recently taken over the care of Granny’s chooks because she was too busy. “I mean, Foodge might have some hormonal problem.”
“Yes, yes, of course!” Big M picked up on it straight away. “Yes, too much testosterone, or some other androgen. Did Foodge go to an endocrinologist after the oestrogen overdose?”
“Yeah, but he said there was nothing to be done, ‘cept for a powerful placebo.” Mumbled Merv as he wiped over the taps with a dirty rag.”
“Have you ever seen Granny wait? She’s hardly very patient” M mused over a forth pint. “Would she buy steroids?”
“Nah, not after the oestrogen business.” Merv pulled a tray of steaming glasses from the washer, setting them on the bar to cool.
“Has he been to another doctor?” Big M was scratching his head, struggling to finish the episode.
“No, he hates the doctor.” Reckons they’re charlatans, unlike the legal profession.” Merv winked.
“No one else has become horny?”
“Well I can’t speak for anyone else, but there haven’t been many opportunities.” Merv blushed.
Manne shook his head. “Not since Granny caught me with nudies on me phone.”
“We need more help. Where’s Emmjay?”
“Queensland.” Merv was placing the glasses into the bottom of the refrigerator.
“Costco, no at home.”
“At ‘ome with ‘er recuperatin’ ‘usband.” Merv grunted as he realised that the IPA keg was empty.
“Well they’re dispersed across the country as per usual.” Merv was trying to get Manne to pick up on some non-verbal cue about the empty keg. Manne was busily trying to balance an egg on its apex.
“Fuck, we’re on our own?” M slumped over the bar.
“Couldn’t you just measure Foodge’s testicle level?” Manne had given up on his egg-balancing act.
“Of course, great idea. How would we do it? Total urinary steroids. No, too much pissing about. We probably need some blood. How would we get, say, ten mls of blood from Foodge?”
“I could punch him in the nose, then save all of the tissues.” Manne said in earnest.
“I think we need something subtle.” Big M mused. “More subtle than a punch in the nose.”
“You remember Foodge thought he was about to be knighted last Liz’s Birthdee?” Merv’s brow was crumpled in concentration.
“Yep, but what’s that got to do with the price of mullet?” Big M was getting exasperated.
“Well, we tell him that we was doin’ ‘is family tree, and the Royal Family want a blood sample because they think he is a distant member of the royal family, like Liz’s third cousin, four times removed, or summit!” Merv’s brow finally relaxed.
“Yes, yes. I’ll get some needles, syringes, blood tubes, et cetera and away we go!” Big M seemed to sober up at the thought.
Big M was surprised to find O’Hoo out the front putting a lick of paint on the old cast iron down pipes. “Didn’t you repaint those last year when you renovated the front of the place?” Big M thought himself quite observant.
Vivienne had asked for a third part. Big M assumed she meant Part Three of the story about Merv’s non-retirement and Foodge’s testosterone levels. Oh, and the fact that he and Manne had venesected Foodge under the pretence of the Royal family wanting to check his DNA. It seemed that the best thing to do was to get down to the pub and find out what had transpired. Now, traditionally Big M’s stories allude to the fact that modern electric trains travel at about half the speed of old steam trains, such as the 3800 series hauling the Newcastle Flyer. We won’t go there, we’ll just assume that Big M finds his way to the Pub.
“Yeah, but the Western sun in the arvo’s plays havoc with metal paint, plus the atmospheric pollutants….”
Big M quickly tired of O’Hoo’s overly long explanation so pushed through the main door into the Gentlemen’s Bar. He was surprised to find the place empty. Unusual for mid-morning. He was considering pulling himself a Trotter’s Ale when the ugliest, most contorted face popped up from behind the bar. “Hello Merv, how’s it hanging?”
“It’s hangin’ to the left, which means I dress to the right. Why are you askin’ about me trouser seams ‘n’ dangly bits?” Merv unconsciously adjusted his meat and two veg.
“It’s just a saying. How are you?” Big M had settled onto a stool after dusting the seat with his hand.
“Oh, me? Full o’ the joy, you know.” Merv was already pushing a canoe across the battered bar. “Try that, it’s a new Double IPA, or IIPA as Granny likes to call it.”
“Interesting taste, bitter and sweet at the same time.” Big M was swirling the ale and sniffing it, then taking small swigs and inhaling through his mouth at the same time. “Galaxy and Mosaic hops….plus something else?”
“You’re a pretentious prick, aren’t you?” Merv pulled no punches. “I don’t know what fucking hops are in it.”
“I take it you’re not in a good mood?” Big M was pretty sensitive to emotions, being a male nurse, and all that.
“Well, Foodge is upset so Granny’s angry, so I’m angry!” Merv pushed another IIPA across the bar, in spite of his emotions. Publican’s reflex, perhaps.
“Why all of the upset?” Big M downed half the glass.
“Two things, one, those bloody blood tests went straight to Foodge’s specialist, and, two, Foodge spent thousands on, what he calls, ‘regal apparel’.
“Who would have thought that such a clever plan could go so wrong?” Big M pondered.
“Yes, well, us three are in the shit! It turns out that Foodge went and ordered three pairs of shoes from the cordwainer, two sets of tails from his tailor and matching top hats from the only hatter in Sydney. He’s up for tens of thousands.”
“Buy surely he can just take the stuff back?” Big M was quite ignorant in these matters.
“Take ‘em back, they’re all bespoke!” Merv gave the beer taps a wipe with a dirty rag.
“Bespoke?” Big M was clearly struggling with the core concept. “So, something to do with bicycles?”
Merv slammed his huge hand down on the bar. “Bespoke means custom made, no fucking returns, you dunce!” Merv wanted to call him a dumb cunt, but didn’t like that sort of swearing. “Foodge can explain the rest.” Merv nodded to a figure, bent over, shuffling along in an old dressing gown.
“I’ll just start with a Trotters best thanks Merv.” Foodge plonked himself on the stool next to Big M. “I’m glad you’re here, Big M, we need to chat. Merv, can you get Manne, too?”
The four men settled into the lounges in front of the fireplace. “I think we need to clear the air.” Foodge started. “Granny and I are very hurt, on a number of levels. One is that people are discussing our sex lives.” Foodge levelled his gaze at Merv who squirmed in his seat. “The second is that certain people have made assumptions about my health.” It was Big M’s turn to squirm. “The third is to exploit my Royalist tendencies. I know it is a weakness of mine, but my father, and grand father were Knights of the Realm.” This time Manne was on the receiving end of a searing gaze. “Granny and I have discussed this at length, and we feel that we can forgive if apologies are forthcoming.”
The three all blustered words of apology at the same time. Foodge quietly nodded at each of them. “Are you all sure? Mr Merv?”
“Absolutely, not another word, I mean, I won’t even notice any, er…um, noises.” Merv spluttered.
“Well, no, of course, only operating on information received, er, um.” Big M’s face reddened noticeably.
“Are you sure? No more salacious stories published at whatever website you use?” Foodge stared at Big M with his best cross examining look.
“No, of course, no stories, um, nothing.” Big M wished he was on the Flyer.
“Manne, no more grand schemes around my proclivities?”
Manne had no idea about ‘proclivities’, but quickly nodded. “No, sir, I mean your Honour, sir.”
“Well then a toast, Granny.”
Granny was already bringing a bottle of South Sea Islands Champagne with five glasses. Foodge expertly opened the bottle and decanted the flat yellow liquid into the dusty glasses. “Here’s to honesty.”
“To honesty!” They repeated.
Big M quietly steered Foodge away from the group. “Are you willing to share what happened with the blood tests?”
“Well, you may remember that I was on a high strength placebo?” Foodge took a second to finish his glass. “Well, it turns out that I was on testosterone patches, and that your subterfuge alerted my endocrinologist to that fact!”
“So, you’re OK?” Big M mumbled.
“Yes, just a matter of weaning down the dose and hoping Granny doesn’t get worn out.” Foodge winked.
Later, as Big M departed for the arduous journey back to Newcastle, Granny eye’s followed him up the road. She shook her head, laughing. “Christ he’s a dumb count!”