Foodge had been along every aisle in Buntings. Eventually he found his way to the help desk. Foodge couldn’t help thinking how Buntings rhymed with something, never mind. The assistant suggested he went to the toilet as he was so fidgety as he hadn’t had any alcohol or cigarettes. “Yes I can see them young lady but I have Korsakoff psychosis and am really difficult to manage” replied Foodge.
He had quite a long list, so handed it to the assistant who smiled and handed it to her off sider. “I think you’ll struggle a bit here mate. Skyhook? Do you really need two? We had one in stock but an acrobat bought it this morning.
Five Fallopian tubes. We don’t stock them ‘ere, but ‘arrison’s Prosthetics may have some sort of substitute but I reckon they sell ‘em in pairs.
Left ‘anded ‘ammers have gone outta style, what with carpenters gradually adapting to the more traditional right-handed tool.
Blinker fluid…don’t stock it anymore, try Repco, it will be one aisle over from the Elbow Grease.
As for the Heavy Duty Clutch Belt, that’s not normally a DIY job unless you have your own Heavy Duty Clutch Belt Buckle, but they’re bloody dangerous.
Repco should stock sparks for spark plugs. We used to stock boxes of Inertia, but never seemed to shift ‘em.
Make Up Air sounds like a specialist air conditioning item, or perhaps a beauty aid.” The assistant grinned.
“We can’t sell a new Hydraulic Automatic Nanode valve, but we can recondition an old one, if you can bring it in, undamaged.”
“I suppose I need a special Hydraulic Automatic Nanode Valve Puller or Extractor?” Foodge was exasperated.
“Of course, they’ll have a couple under the counter in Tool Hire. Just ask them for a HANd Job.”
Foodge considered a HANd job but he thought she said a MANdjob and now that she was a born again O’Donnellist he thought that may be a bit rude even though it gave him a chubby. The more things change the more they stay the same.
“I think you better leave Sir. There is something bulging in your pants”
“That’s just my pant bulger, I brought it from here” cries Foodge
“511 to security, we have a problem…”
Poor old Foodge, didn’t even get a sausage from the sausage sizzle…
Foodge’s nightmares continued unabated. Every night, between three and four Granny would be woken by his thrashing and groaning. It was always the same dream; Foodge’s disembodied head in a box. Every time Granny gleaned little bits of additional information before Foodge slipped back to a slumber punctuated by snores, coughs, obstructive episodes and loud farts. Sometimes Foodge replied in Spanish. Occasionally he’d stand up and try to micturate behind the tall boy. One time he was as randy as all hell, but every time he had no memory the next morning. Granny spent the hours between Foodge’s dream and dawn pondering the meaning of these dreams.
Foodge has experienced a reasonable day, that is, until Father O’Way arrived in a pretty summer dress with his hair tumbling over his shoulders and his old navy tattoos on display for all to see. “Call me Mother O’Way!” He gushed.
“Mother O’Way!” Merv erupted. “Mother Fucking O’Way…how about Get Outta the Fucking Way?”
“When did this change occur?” Ventured Foodge.
“Yesterday’s episode.” O’Way was coquettishly twirling his longish grey hair between her fingers.
“Christ, talk about one dimensional characters, what about Mrs O’Way?” Merv quickly poured a second glass of Crème de Menthe.
“It’s over, she’s an extreme heterosexual, a homophobe of the highest degree!”
“So she’s available?” Merv rubbed his hands together.
“I don’t care what happens to her.” O’Way sounded quite melodramatic.
“What is the Church’s position on all of this?” Foodge had managed to pry his eyes away from the train wreck known as Mother O’Way, and pour himself a South Seas Island rum.
“The Bishop is way cool with this.” O’Way had located a compact in his purse and was busily caking powder on her nose. “He thinks this turn of events to be rather modern.
“What about Gordon O’Donnell?”
“What about Gordon O’Donnell?” Everyone turned to behold Gordon’s wonderful visage (actually he looked like an old derro).
“Oh, well, your majesty, ah, I mean your honour, um, what are your thoughts on Father O’Way becoming Mother O’Way?’ Foodge stammered.
“I’m the sort of chap who wouldn’t care one way or another, but, when he’s got such a beautiful looking sheila, and, bear in mind, that it took me months to get this pair together, and, the fact that he’s only doing this for dramatic effect…I don’t approve!”
O’Way was crestfallen. “What do I do now?”
Gordon put a comforting arm around the Father’s broad shoulders. “The missus hasn’t seen you like this?”
O’Way shook his head.
“Let’s keep it our little secret. Perhaps you can frock up when she’s on a weekend away?” Gordon looked around the bar. “It is our little secret! Know what I mean.”
Merv and Foodge nodded enthusiastically, not wanting a bolt of lightning through their skulls.
“I’ll have a word with the Bishop, if he’ll listen to me.” Gordon had a twinkle in his eye.
Hung. “I thought you were writing another episode?”
Big. “Err, yep, suppose so.”
Hung. “ You know, you mentioned Foodge’s head in a box.”
Big. “Yeah, I did mention that.”
Hung. “Well, get going!”
Foodge was at his usual place behind the coffee machine busily bringing her up to a full head of steam in readiness for the anticipated influx of customers.
Hung. “Hang on. You’ve started nearly every episode in the last few months with Foodge at the coffee machine.”
Big. “Well, so what, it makes the writing easier.”
Hung. “You know that I’ve been in strife with the Fictional Union of Characters!”
Big. “Wasn’t that the Union of Fictional Characters?”
Hung. “Yes, but they renamed themselves to get a better acronym.”
Big. “Well, FUC certainly has a ring to it.”
Hung. “There are regulations around the use of two dimensional characters in stories. You’re running a risk of only using a two dimensional character in a one-dimensional plot thereby undermining said character’s dimensions. In effect they can simply disappear.”
Big. “I’ll try again.”
Granny was woken in the middle of the night by Foodge’s groans and flailing limbs.
Hung. “That’s better already.”
“Come on, darling, you’re having a nightmare.” Granny soothed.
Foodge managed to pull the pillow from his face. “I dreamed that my head was stuck inside a box.”
“What, like a disembodied head kept alive by a mad scientist, as in the movie, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, or like someone had smashed your head into a box?”
“Dunno, I could still feel my limbs.”
“That could be phantom sensations.” Granny pondered.
“Does it matter now?” Foodge turned over to try to get back to sleep.
“It sort of does. Could you hear anything?”
“Yes, there was a humming sound behind my head, you know, pumps and so forth.” Foodge pulled up the duvet, even though it wasn’t particularly cool.
“Yes, umm, those two fellows that pop in occasionally, um, Hung and Big M.”
“What did they say?’ Granny was becoming anxious.
“Something about two dimensional characters and one dimensional plot lines.” Foodge suddenly started snoring loudly.
Granny didn’t get back to sleep, but sat up wondering what all this meant.
Foodge was back at his usual station behind the bar. Merv slipped a middy along the bar. “Get that into you, it’ll put lead in yer pencil.”
“Love a stout, especially first thing in the morning.” Foodge skulled the dark liquid.
“It’s Granny’s new Porter.”
“What’s a Porter?”
“It’s essentially a type of stout.”
“Right.” Foodge pushed the empty glass along the bar, which Merv quickly refilled (the glass, not the bar).
Foodge raised the glass to his lips but his eyes were transfixed by the most beautiful face he’d seen in his life. She really was a long cool woman in a black dress (as the song goes). She was tall, slender, slightly athletic, with black hair, emerald eyes and pale, almost alabaster skin. “Morning!” He blustered, with the glass still in front of his face.
Merv was just as enchanted, but somehow, maintained some composure. “Good morning, madam, can I be of assistance?”
“What a darling man.” She enthused. “I’m hoping that you can help me.”
“Yes, yes.” Foodge and Merv leaned forward.
“I’ve lost my husband.”
A flicker of hope flared in Merv’s heart. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“No, he’s not dead, he really is lost. I haven’t seen my Alexander for months. He said he was coming to the Pig’s Arms to help out for a week or so and hasn’t been back.”
Merv was slightly crestfallen. “Alexander you reckon? Never ‘eard of him.”
“You may know of him as Sandy?”
“Doesn’t ring a bell.” Both Foodge and Merv shook their heads.
“He sometimes dresses as a priest and claims to be from the Generic Brand Church.”
“Oh, of course, Father O’Way, or FOW as we sometimes call him.” Foodge motioned to the coffee machine.
“Thank goodness, no, I won’t have a coffee, I wouldn’t mind something stronger…perhaps from the top shelf.”
Merv picked up on the hint and decanted from the South Sea Islands Blue Label.
“You know that he’s not really a priest, he just dresses that way to avoid the risk of becoming a one dimensional character. The problem is that we all run that risk in the Fictional Character Industry.”
Foodge nodded carefully, as it took his brain a little while to catch up. “You don’t think we’re all characters in some sort of fiction?”
“That’s like Descartes’ Brain in a vat idea, where some evil demon has placed a brain in a vat of nutrients and connected the nerves to various inputs to make the person think they are still alive.” Merv postulated while pouring Mrs O’Way a second drink.
“Yes, I was dreaming about this only last night, that I was a brain in a box.” Foodge motioned for a third Porter. Merv quickly obliged.
“We can’t be just fictional characters, because we’re here all of the time, talking, moving, eating and drinking. I can’t see how someone could make all of that up?” Merv wrinkled an already much troubled brow.
“Do you ever have people who seem to wander in for what seems to be minutes? They often have outlandish descriptions of themselves or their experiences.” Mrs O’Way sounded like she was on to something.
“Yes, we do.” Foodge looked slightly comical with a beery moustache. “Big M and Hung would be the primary candidates. Hung seems to appear and disappear at will while Big M always claims to have travelled by steam train.”
“That’s exactly the sort of character I’m talking about. Almost like ghosts trying to manipulate the living.” Mrs O’Way was interrupted by a tall man, who planted a kiss on her cheek.
“I hope you aren’t telling tales out of school, darling!” Grinned O’Way.
Foodge’s deep slumber was interrupted by an urgent need to micturate (no, not through the railing). He was interrupted mid-stream by a tap at the window. He struggled to ignore it but came a second and a third tap. He gave his local member a good shake and opened the window, just in time for the fourth tap, actually a small stone, to hit him in the forehead.
Foodge looked down at the Pigs Arms car park, which was barely lit by a single incandescent bulb. It was sufficient to illuminate a tall figure, obviously male, clad only in a ‘too small’ white hospital gown with no ties and, unfortunately, no underwear. “Mr Merv, watcha doin’ out there?”
“What am I doin’? I’m escaping”” Merv replied sotto voce. “You know what they wanted to do?”
“D’you know what that is?” Merv was squirming.
“They wanted to chop me nuts off.”
“Well that doesn’t sound right.” Foodge turned to go back to bed.
“Can you let me in?”
“Oh, of course.”
It seemed like an eternity to Merv, but Foodge eventually appeared at the car park exit. “Come on in, old chap.”
Merv nervously looked around then darted through the door. “Quick, turn that light off, I think the cops are already onto me.”
“Why would the Pleece be after you? You weren’t admitted under an order, you were a voluntary patient.” Foodge did seem to know something about the law.
“Why was I manacled to the bed then?” Merv thought he’d won the argument.
“I think that Nurse Mervette may be responsible for that.”
Merv started crying again. “Don’t mention that name.”
“Come on Mr Merv, I’ll make you a cup of chino.”
“Let’s get something stronger.” Merv was already behind the bar pouring two Double IPAs.
Of course, all of this activity had woken the household. Granny, Manne and O’Hoo suddenly appeared. “Yay, Mr Merv’s home, yelled O’Hoo. Let’s have a party!”
“I’ll put the wedges on.” Yelled Manne.
“Where’s the good Scotch?” Granny was ebullient.
“Sit down Mr Merv, I’ll take over.”
“No you won’t, O’Hoo, you’d be the worst bar tender in Australia.” Granny pushed Merv out of the way and started pouring.
“Come on you lot, the cops will take me liquor licence if we get caught.” Merv remonstrated.
“Actually, Mr Merv, you are entitled, under the Liquor Act of 2007 to have a private party.” Foodge was just showing off, now.
“Oh, yeah, of course, I used to go to a lot of ‘private parties’ in my youth.” Merv finished his beer and reached out for a second.
“There is one thing for which Pleece do take a particularly dim view.”
“What’s that, mate?”
Foodge looked down at the gap between the hem of the gown and Merv’s Private Region. “Wedding tackle on display, with, or without orchids!”
Foodge had tried his best. He’d contacted Janet with the offer of acting as mediator between her and Merv. She seemed fixated on the word ‘mediate’. “Mediate, mediate, you couldn’t mediate at a piss up.” Foodge had absolutely no idea what this meant. He was under the gun, coffee wise, so went back to brewing.
FOW had been listening in between pouring glass canoes and operating the EFTPOS. “Sounds like it’s over, but she may be happy to speak to a man of the cloth.”
“What cloth?” Foodge was as sharp as a bowling ball.
“You know, a minister, such as myself.” FOW pushed the bottle of South Sea Islands Irish whiskey along the bar for Foodge’s Famous Irish Coffee, which had become popular amongst the Night Duty Nurses.
“Oh, I don’t know, I think she’s a Callithumpian.”
“You know there’s no such religion as Callithumpian?” They were interrupted by Big M asking for a tray for the Irish Coffees.
“Youz aren’t Callithumpian, are you? We’ve had no end of trouble with back home.” Big M interjected.
“No, mate, just chatting.” FOW replied, as he replaced the whiskey bottle on the top shelf.
Foodge grinned. “See there is such a thing!”
“Whatever.” This wasn’t a battle worth fighting over. “Are you going to take Granny to see Merv?” Granny had responded to her favourite nostrum and was in fine form brewing a batch of Granny’s Pale Ale.
“Yes, indeed. I was hoping to give Merv some good news regarding Janet, but I think I’ll be hooking him up with a Family Solicitor.”
“Can’t you handle stuff like that?” FOW was wiping and stacking a bunch of trays.
“I’ve never handled a divorce, all criminal law, me!” Foodge hasn’t appeared in a court for three years, which may be more of a reason. “Oh, here’s the lady herself. How’s the brewing going , Granny?”
“The wort has been boiled, cooled and pumped into a fermentation tank. It just needs to cool down by a cuppla degrees then I’ll toss in some yeast. I heard youz talkin’ ‘bout Merv and Janet. Any hope?” Granny nodded to FOW who slid a canoe across the bar.
“Well, she doesn’t want to talk to me. Father wants to talk to her, but I don’t think it will help.”
“No, them Callithumpians keep to themselves. Very intolerant of other faiths.. I wouldn’t bother.” Granny skulled her drink and nodded for a second, which followed the first one quick smart.” I’m going upstairs for a shower, are you still happy to take me to see Merv?”
“Yes, O’Hoo will take over while I’m gone.”
The hospital visit went as hospital visits usually go. Twenty minutes of driving around looking for an overpriced parking spot. Then ten minutes of trying to find the ward. At least that gave one time to try to acclimatise to the smell of disinfectant, which failed to disguise the smell of urine. Eventually they found the ward where they were pleased to see that Merv was no longer manacled to the bed.
Merv had assumed that MRI-Brain was some sort of brain biopsy so had been getting worked up over the idea of a big needle, or blade, going into his brain. The nurse had allayed his fears by telling him that it was a brain scan using big magnets and shit. The scan, according to a verbal report, was unremarkable, which is medical speak for normal. He’d eagerly conveyed all of this to his visitors.
“So, what’s the next step, son?” Granny was stoic, but in reality was pretty worried.
“Well, they’re considering an orchidectomy, which seems odd, because we don’t grow any flowers!” Merv exclaimed.
“No, well that sounds good, love, we’ll push off, I’ve still got wort that needs my attention.”
As they wandered through the maze of hallways and tunnels Foodge whispered to Granny. “Why do they want Merv’s orchids?”
“I suspect it’s just some medical thing.” Granny replied, nodding knowingly.
Written by Shoe – Direction and Photography by Mark.
“Granny can’t be all that deaf,” Mark was remarking.
“I’m not going as Death,” Granny hollered. The cellar’s a long way. From is even longer by the time Granny climbs the stairs after a few quiet ones.
“Fancy dress,” Algy explained to Big M, “They’re holding an Allusion to celebrate we’re all in a better place.
“There’s a row of them in a big wooden box,” Foodge heard Granny screech as he walked in.
“I’m all done in, Uncle Merv.”
Merv set down a steaming cup of milo on the bar. Foodge expelled the breath of a man of all reason. Foodge was a season of reason. No-one dared ask. Foodge was likely to recount. He might recount his entire latest judgement. Foodge never came away from any trial without a good 40-minute obiter.
“Come to think of it,” Shoe said aloud. She thought she was only thinking it. “Foodge comes away from every trial like a man glued to postal mail.”
She wrote it down. Benj, new proprietor of the bookshop suggested, “Like a George the Fifth?”
So unnecessary. Overstatement of an adhesive. Strictly speaking, it had been used before.
“If we could make them a little less corny.”
Mark was remarking.
“Not again,” Yvonne groaned. Yvonne could barely breathe for fear if she stopped holding her breath in anticipation, Shoe would say nothing more, write nothing, least of all think.
Mark had it in hand. He placed the bar bill down on the, well, bar.
“I can’t read all these zeroes,” Shoe animated. “You can’t expect me to pay this as penalty. Three quadrillion billion five thousand and thirty two million…”
“That’s a heart starter,” sibilanted Big M. Big sibilanted in the face of all emergencies. He knew where to toss a vowel in for good effect when needed.
“Here’s a how-de-do,” Veronica Lake said. Ms Lake is new to that beer-soaked chook-squirt-stained establisment. Everyone remembers the Mexican chooks imported from, well, close to the truth.
“This is what comes of putting drinks on tick in an ever-expanding consciousness series sense,” Foodge interrupted, “I’ll take the case.”
The Pigs Arms was relatively quiet. Foodge still manned the coffee machine, FOW the bar, with O’Hoo acting as cellarman and Manne the cook. Everyone doubled as ‘Bar Useful’, picking up plates and glasses, wiping tables and putting glassware and plates through the appropriate washing machine. It was Foodge’s turn to start the episode. “It’s quiet.” He observed.
“Yep.” Replied FOW, absent-mindedly.
“D’you think Merv will ever get out of the lunatic asylum?” Foodge was completely deadpan, drained by the week’s activities.
“Mental Health Unit.” FOW was pretty deadpan, too.
“Oh, that’s right, he’s not a lunatic, just mental.”
“Yep, just mental.” FOW was polishing the good wine glasses with a fetid rag.
“D’you think he’ll ever get out?”
“Well he will, one way or another.” FOW mused.
“D’you think Granny will ever get out of bed?”
“Well, Florence Nightingale took to her bed for decades, but I doubt Granny will do that.”
“D’you think we’ll ever see Mervette again?” Foodge screwed up his pale, pallid face.
“I doubt we’ve seen the back of her.”
“I’ve seen too much of the front, let alone the back.” Foodge pushed a macchiato across to FOW.
“D’you think we should ring him?”
“Who?” FOW was still pondering the significance of Bishop Bishop’s recent visit.
“Merv, of course.” Foodge had his phone out. “Can’t find the number for Callan Park.”
“He’s not in Callan Park, it was sold thirty years ago. He’s in the Mental Health Unit of the Inner Western Cyberian General Hospital.”
Foodge was soon onto the MHU, as they like to call it.
“Can I speak to Mr Merv?” Foodge sounded a little too desperate.
“Who’s Mr Merv, a patient or staff?”
“Well, I don’t think he’s got the smarts to be staff, although he’s passed a Numeracy and Literacy Course, so I guess he’s a patient.” It’s easy to see why Foodge is one of the most sought after private dicks in Inner Western Cyberia.
“Oh, yeah, he’s the bloke who fuc..I mean, had relations with his twin sister. I’ll put you through.”
“It seemed like an eternity until Merv’s voice came on the line. “Hello Janet, is that you? Forgive me darling, I’ll do anything.”
“It’s me, Foodge.”
“Oh shit, I mean, hello Foodge. How are things?”
“Well, you’re not here, but I suppose you realised that, Bishop Bishop’s been and Granny’s taken to her bed. How are you?”
“Aside from being strapped down to a bed and being injected with major tranquillisers, pretty good. What’s wrong with Granny?”
“Can’t get her out of bed.”
“She does this now and then. I supposed you’ve never encountered it. We used to give her a couple of Bex and she’d be up like an unwanted priapism. When they stopped making Bex we used to grind up a couple of Aspirin in a little folded paper packet. Give it a go.”
“Thanks, we’ll try it. Is there any hope for an early discharge?” Foodge failed to notice the double entendre.
“They reckon they need a semen sample, then I should be right to go.”
“Who said that?” Even Foodge thought it an odd pathology test for a mental health unit.
“The nurse. You know what. She’s real tall, shoulders like boulders, traps like an ox’s hind leg, looks vaguely familiar….oh, hang on, she’s been at me again!! Merv started to cry uncontrollably.
Foodge hung up and rang the Pleece. They confirmed that Mervette was still at large, whereabouts unknown.
“I’ll tell you whereabout she is. She’s at the Inner Western Cyberia Mental Health Unit. If you pull your truncheons out of your collective bottoms you might catch her!” Foodge angrily slammed the phone down, smashing the glass. “Oh shit!”
It had been a busy morning, what with the Night Nurses enjoying their first post lock down get together. It all went swimmingly until Big M knocked over a bottle of Shiraz, which managed to contaminate everybody’s uniforms. He had no excuse for the sudden lack of balance; he was only five pints in. Mark managed to steer him towards the door. “It’s orright, I’m ketchin’ the 3801” Big M slurred.
“That’s right, buddy, just wait for that big steam engine to pull up, then you’ll be on yer way.” Mark soothed as he dumped Big M onto the bus stop seat.
Foodge had been at the coffee machine all morning. He was desperate for a piss, I mean, micturition, so turned to ask Merv or Mervette to man the coffees. He suddenly realised he was alone, with a group of thirsty concreters bearing down on the bar. “Manne, Granny, O’Hoo, anybody??”
“O’Hoo popped his head around the corner. “What’s all of the yelling about?”
“Mate, I’ve been abandoned with a phalanx of thirsty tradesmen bearing down on me.”
“Well, you know that I can’t pull a pint!” O’Hoo tried to stand his ground but the concreters had made it to the bar. “Oh, fuck.” O’Hoo started pulling Trotters Best, all half beer and half foam.
“We aint payin’ for this shit.”
“All on the house.” Mumbled O’Hoo.
Thankfully Granny arrived on the scene. “What in the name of Gordon O’Donnell are you doing?”
“Tryin’ to help.” Muttered O’Hoo as he passed another half arsed pint across the bar.
Granny slipped behind the bar to expertly pour a couple of pints. “Okay youz blokes, happy hour is over so there’s no more free piss.” She quickly checked each tap. “O’Hoo, IPA and Stout need to be replaced, oh, and by the way, thanks for stepping in.”
O’Hoo raced to the cellar, where he was most at home. Foodge tugged on Granny’s sleave. “I’m desperate for a wee wee.”
“Hold onto yer water works for a minute. Where the bloody hell is that barmaid I’m payin’”
“Well, um, you can probably hear her.” Foodge was either going to have to hold onto his knob or micturated in the sluice.”
From the back of the pub. “Merv!”
Granny located the source of the noise and tore open the storeroom door. She was horrified by the sight of a shaved, four legged, gorilla. She suddenly realised it was Merv and Mervette butt naked enjoying a conjugal visit. She was so angry she could barely speak. “Pull yer fuckin’ pants up and get outta my sight!”
Granny wandered back to the bar. “Are you still desperate for a Jimmy Riddle, Darling?” The sight of her lover had calmed her somewhat.
“Not now.” Foodge answered guiltily.
“Oh, Gordon O’Donnell help me.” Pleaded Granny.
“What can I do, dear?” Gordon appeared in the doorway of the Gents, busily trying to pull up his fly.
Granny’s eyes misted over as she tried to put her arms around Gordon, but finding nothing but air. “Now, Granny, you know that us supernatural beings don’t like to be touched. I’m aware of the problem and I’ve summoned my best man for the job.
Father O’Way suddenly appeared. “Where shall I start Granny, oh, perhaps I should deal with the smell of piss behind the bar?”
Foodge had decided to step up to the plate, as the Americans say, on account of Mr Merv being away on ‘family business’, so had thrown himself into cleaning the coffee machine. “Bloody filthy.” He muttered to himself, suddenly realising that a pin striped suit wasn’t ideal for such a job. “Merv should have a filter on the water inlet, no wonder Pigs Arms coffee tastes like pool water.”
“How did you learn to overhaul a coffee machine?” O’Hoo was enthusiastically purging air from one of the beer lines.
“When I was training to become a barrister I accidently went to a barista’s course.” (I know, this joke never gets old).
“So you’re a barrister /barista?” O’Hoo now had a steady flow of Trotters Best.
“Yes, there’s probably a televisual show in that.” Foodge now had coffee grounds all over the bench. “I’m going to have to get new seals and a filter for this.” Foodge ignored the brown stains over the front of his white shirt and took off.
“You couldn’t pull me a pint of one of those, couldja love?”
O’Hoo looked up from the taps to gaze at one of the strangest looking women he’d ever seen. She was tall, well muscled, may have once been quite attractive but the broken nose put pay to that. She was wearing an odd get up, gold boxing shorts, a pink singlet with ‘Barmaids do it standing up.’ Scrawled across her ample bosom and dirty running shoes. She reminding him of someone, but couldn’t place her. “Christ yer a beaut lookin’ sheila!”
“Christ yer a silver tongued bastard. Now what about that glass canoe?”
O’Hoo nervously pulled a pint which resulted in more head than beer. “Move over, love.” She expertly pulled two pints, pushing one along to our inexpert friend. “Cheers!” She downed the pint like Bob Hawke at a cricket match. “What’s yer name, handsome?”
“O’Hoo, but most people call me O’Hoo.” O’Hoo downed his pint. “ I don’t normally drink before ten!”
“Well, it’s passed five somewhere in the universe. I’m Mervette, but me friends call me Merv.” Mervette pulled a second round of Best. What the feck has happened to yer coffee machine?”
“Foodge, our resident barista is halfway through servicing it. Went orff to get spares.” O’Hoo felt a warm glow, not just from the alcohol, but also in his nether regions. “Anyhoo, what are you doing here?”
“I’m from the Inner Cyberian Bar Staff Agency. A woman named ‘Granny’ rang for help.”
Almost on cue Granny emerged from the cellar, pointing a bony finger. “You must be Mervette, we spoke on the electric telephone.”
“Hello Granny, yep, you can call me ‘Merv’! Do you want a sherbet?”
“I don’t normally drink before ten, but it must be after five somewhere in the universe.” Grinned Granny. “Do you like wedges?”
“I feckin’ love ‘em!”
The two women sat down to a bowl of wedges and another round of beers while Granny discussed her own range of beers, as well as the usual brewery -bought stuff such as Wretched Pilsener, Three Ex Bronze, and so on. Suddenly the back door slammed as Foodge re-appeared with a bag of coffee machine bits. “Who…what…Merv in drag?”
“Ah, that’s who she reminds me of.” O’Hoo nodded sagely. Hoping that no one had noticed his stiffy.
“Oh, Mervette, this is our resident barrister, barista and the love of my life, Foodge.” Granny blushed.
Mervette stood up and delivered a finger-crushing handshake. “Call me Merv.”
Our three intrepid travellers found themselves abandoned on a container terminal in Cadiz, which wasn’t so bad because Foodge spoke fluent Spanish.
It was soon revealed that Foodge didn’t speak Spanish at all, but some weird dialect of Italian that most Italians don’t understand (Big M here: don’t ask, I don’t know anything about this). Foodge reverted to shouting at the locals in English, which didn’t work, either. They did seem to get quite agitated when he yelled. “We’re from Wasted Seamen!” While pointing out to sea.
Father O’Way was seen to quietly pray, and then addressed the small gathering of locals in fluent Spanish. There was plenty of nodding and pointing towards town. “Si, si, Padre…” One chap chatted away into his mobile then a small car seemed to appear out of nowhere. The three were motioned into the car, which quickly sped off towards the outskirts of town.
“Christ, Father, I thought speakin’ in tongues only happened in the bible days.” Wes enthused.
“No, my son, it still happens today, especially if one is schooled in Hebrew, Latin and Greek at the Seminary. It makes modern languages pretty easy to pick up.” O’Way laughed.
The three soon found themselves in front of a sepia coloured hotel in a sepia coloured streetscape. Foodge thought it rather romantic. Like being in a black and white detective film. The others recognised it for what it was, a run down dirty pub in a run down dirty part of town. “It is still rather quaint.” Enthused Foodge. “Las Armas Cerdos!” O’Way ushered them through the doors, still cranky that the friendly taxi ride had cost him a hundred American dollars.
“Ah, welcome my American Amigos.” Gushed a tall chap with a crooked nose and cauliflower ears. “I am Mervyn, the proprietor!” A trio of ‘Cerdo Amarga’ (Porcine Bitter) crossed the dirty, stained timber bar.
Foodge quickly took up the challenge and skulled a litre of beer. Wes and O’Way were more genteel so took the time to introduce the group and explain that they weren’t American but Australian. Their conversation was interrupted by a dulcet voice, which seemed to emanate from the cellar.
“Mervyn, Mervyn, are the Americans here yet?”
“No, La Abuelita, they’re Australians.”
“Australians, ooohhh, so sexy, I’ll be right up.”
Foodge was mesmerised as the most beautiful face framed by long grey hair appeared behind the bar. He gasped and couldn’t help kissing the back of her proffered hand. “La Abuelita, I’m Foodge.”
“La Abuelita, no, we use English here, you can call me Granny.”
“Granny, of course, you remind me of someone.” Foodge still stood there holding her hand.
“Oh, I hope not, but surely such a handsome man would have a lover back home?” Granny took her hand back to fill another glass for Foodge.
“Oh, um, err, ah, well no.” Foodge’s ears had turned red. He downed the second drink like it was his first.
Neither Wes nor O’Way commented. After all, what happened in Cadiz, stayed in Cadiz. “You don’t seem to know, my Carino?” Purred Spanish Granny.
“It’s just that I was, um, err, ah, seeing, um…no.” He gulped.
O’Way interjected. “We were hoping for accommodation and dinner?”
“But, of course, Padre, you shall dine with us. Just wait and I’ll prepare some tapas to tide you over until dinner is served.” La Abuelita couldn’t take her eyes off Foodge, nor could he, her. “You shall all stay in the family apartment.”
The tapas and the meal that followed were exquisite. Fresh local seafood, local red wine, and, of course, Granny’s Bitter by the litre. The exhausted trio were exhausted so Granny quickly showed Wes and Father to a small bedroom with two narrow beds and an en suite. “Where am I sleeping?” Foodge felt like he’d been forgotten.
“You shall sleep in here!” Granny led him by the hand into an enormous bedroom with a king sized bed and an en suite the size of a dining room. “You bathe and then sleep.”
Foodge went ahead and showered and popped on his best PJs. He was somewhat surprised to find La Abuelita in the bed with a ‘come hither’ look in her eyes. ‘Oh, well.’ He thought, I am an International Man of Mystery. What followed can only be imagined. Certainly unsuitable for the high minded intellectual that frequents the Pigs Arms.
Foodge woke with a start. He was still entwined with La Abuelita. “Foodge, Foodge.” She purred. “It’s wonderful to have a real man in my bed again.”
“La Abuelita, it’s wonderful to be in bed with such a wonderful lover.” Foodge playfully nibbled on her ear.
“La Abuelita! Who the fuck is Lar Ab you Liter?” Inner Western Cyberian Granny retorted.
“I must be in a parallel universe!”
Granny’s angry wrinkled face dissolved to be replace by O’Way’s. “Yes, indeed, now get back to nibbling on my ear!”
Wes’ face popped up over his shoulder. “You didn’t think you’d leave me out,. I love them tattoos on yer bum.”
“Gordon O’Donnell, save me” Foodge pleaded.
Foodge suddenly found himself in Granny’s bed back at the Pigs Arms. Gordon O’Donnell was stood at the foot of the bed. “It’s all OK, Foodge, just a dream.” Gordon winked as he slowly disappeared.
Granny was knocking on the door. “Foodge, Foodge, it’s passed ten, you’ve almost slept in!”