Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Long Bank Holiday

There was the promise I’d made myself that my weekend would be quiet. Then there was the reality…

Months of stripping, studying, travelling, writing, and dancing, had finally brought the Chipster lower than a midget mud wrestling pit. He was lower than I’ve known him in a long time. Even his weekend thong hung limply around his lithe waist. He needed a break from the world and all of its troubles. He needed to stop wiggling his hips for just a few days and give his genitalia a few moments alone. He needed, in other words, a bank holiday.

Saturday provided a moderate salve to the great man’s troubled nerves. He relaxed, began to read ‘She’ by H. Rider Haggard, and occasionally looked up to see which team had gone down in the various struggles against relegation. Much the same pattern had been repeated on Sunday, which he spent sat in his favourite armchair and watching Chelsea lose their Premiership crown in an exciting 1-1 draw with Arsenal.

Sunday night, Gabby woke me up. I’d knocked myself out after overdosing on an episode of 'Antiques Roadshow' followed by the snooker.

‘Chip! Come quick,’ she urged. ‘You must come see this…’

And just like that she was out of the room, faster than a thong can snap.

I threw on a bathrobe and walked casually to the door, unwilling to raise my heartbeat for anything or anyone.

Outside in the corridor, I found Gabby kneeling over a young goat which she was rubbing around its beard and forcing to lick her face by pushing her chin to its muzzle. The last time I’d seen her so excited was backstage at the Christmas panto when I’d caught her rubbing Jeremy Beadle’s beard in a similar fashion. I shuddered as I remembered how I’d been forced to save the poor man from licking her face too.

‘Isn’t he adorable?’ she said, looking at me with a face glistening with animal moisture.

‘Oh no,’ I said. ‘No, no, no, no, no…’

‘No?’

‘You’re not bringing that in to my flat,’ I said and tightened the belt around my robe as though I was tightening my resolve. ‘You’ve got to learn that you can’t go buying every animal that takes your fancy, believing you’ll find it lodgings with Wales’ number one male exotic dancer. What would the neighbours think?’

‘But it’s not mine,’ she protested and then looked at me sourly. ‘You’ll never forget that Jeremy Beadle incident, will you?’

The fact is that I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. But that’s not what had me stumped.

‘Not yours?’ I repeated, having assumed that any stray animal that turns up in North Wales is somehow linked to Romania’s answer to Gerald Durrell.

She spluttered her laughter. ‘What would I do with goat?’

It was a question I thought best not to answer.

‘So what’s it doing here?’ I asked, looking down the row of doors leading to the other flats on our level.

‘I think he escaped from market,’ she said. ‘Poor thing must have come looking to keep warm.’ She turned the animal around. ‘You see farmer’s mark?’ she said and pointed to its back. ‘Must mean the poor thing was going to be sold.’ This only precipitated another round of muzzle licking which, to be honest, was not pretty to look at.

I turned my attention to the flanks of the animal and what looked like star drawn in a deep red marker pen.

A cold draft welled up my professional channels.

‘Bring it inside,’ I muttered. ‘I don’t think we should discuss this sort of thing in the open.’

Gabby face lit up and she quickly herded the goat into the flat. I was glad to get the door closed.

‘But why draw star on goat?’ asked Gabby as she settled with the animal before the fireplace. ‘In Romanian, we write lot numbers for the auction…’

But I was too busy inspecting the animal to answer.

‘That looks remarkably like a pentagram,’ I finally said as I ran my hand over the shape. The ink was still wet and on close inspection didn’t so much look like ink as it resembled congealed blood.

‘This is blood,’ I said when the realisation struck me.

She hung her hands on his hips and frowned at me.

‘You fooling? You fooling with poor Gabby? What reason somebody draw star in blood on little goat?’

I said the words that had been bothering me since I’d seen the shape on the animal out in the hall. ‘Devil worship?’

Gabby fell silence. I would have even sworn that the room temperature dropped but I looked down to see that my robe had fallen open again.

‘This animal has been taking part in some dark ritual,’ I explained. ‘It’s managed to escape from some coven of Satanists. Who knows what evil uses this poor animal’s blood might have been put. A real-life version of Rosemary’s Baby might be taking place in this very building.’

I didn’t have time to complete that thought. At that very moment, there was a loud knock on the door.

I refastened my gown and went to door.

It was Mrs. Tunpipe from two flats along. She’s a heavy set woman, more girth than height, who works at one of the local universities. The high colour of her cheeks distracts somewhat from the pitch black bonnet of hair that lies thickly across her head. It makes her look like a spent match, though the analogy doesn’t like up to the reality. Unlike a spent match, Mrs. Tunpipe can flare and then flair again...

‘Ah, Mr. Dale,’ she snapped somewhat skittishly. ‘I was wondering if you’ve noticed a young goat wandering around?’

‘A goat, Mrs. Tunpipe? Why would a goat be wandering around?’

‘None of your business why it’s running around. If you’ve not seen him then I won’t be keeping you.’

‘No, no, I can’t say that I have seen a goat,’ I lied. ‘I’d remember if I had. Don’t often see goats wandering around these days.’

At that moment, Gabby gave a squeal followed by a loud bleat.

‘Archibald!’ cried Mrs Tunpipe and elbowed her way into the flat.

I caught up with her as she breached the main room.

‘Look here,’ I said grabbing her arm. ‘You can’t go barging into somebody’s flat uninvited.’

She pointed the goat which was now in Gabby’s arms. ‘You’ve stolen my goat,’ she said. ‘Give him back!’

I fixed her with my most inquisitive eye. ‘Your goat, Mrs. Tunpipe?’

‘Yes, he’s my goat,’ she replied. ‘And I demand that you hand him over.’

‘You not taking goat!’ said Gabby from floor.

‘He’s my goat,’ replied Mrs. Tunpipe. ‘You have no right to keep him here.’

‘And you have no right to sacrifice him to dark lord of underworld,’ answered my Romanian angel.

Mrs. Tunpipe’s face darkened. ‘Don’t go sticking your nose in what doesn’t concern you,’ she said and turned to me. ‘You might tell your little illegal visitor to our shores that we believe in privacy laws in this country and you can’t go stealing other people’s property.’

‘I don’t believe they were drawn up so you can practise dark masses in rented accommodation,’ I answered.

Crimson flooded her cheeks. ‘Then this is not the last you’ll hear of this,’ she hissed and turned to the door. ‘But I warn you now, Mr. Dale. The next time you hear a knock, don’t be surprised who you discover has come to visit.’

She left us with the front door shaking the pictures on the walls. Archibald the goat gave another bleat.

‘Well, that’s that,’ I said, looking to Gabby. ‘When Satan comes calling, you can answer the door. I won't be here.'

'Why?' she asked. 'Where are you going?'

I paused at the bedroom door. 'I'm going back to work.'

'But what about your holiday? I thought you needed a break.'

I looked at the goat. 'That's a small sacrifice I'm willing to pay,' I replied, leaving the ambiguity of the words hanging in the space between us.

6 comments:

Jan Tregeagle said...

Devil Worship, I thought they only did that in Wrexham? Or maybe thats just my relatives.

Captain Chaos said...

I have heard rumours about Flint....

Chip Dale said...

Look Jan, this is no laughing matter! I tell you now that they're among us. I've heard rumours about Flint too, but they're supposed to be running amok on Anglesey.

You have been warned...

And Captain Chaos, if you're really a super hero, then surely this is the time for your to show us your stuff. Captain Chaos: we need you!!!

Captain Chaos said...

Sadly I am currently recuperating my super powers after a week long stay in Glan Clwyd hospital.. I fear that welsh kryptonite was used against me…. Never fear, as soon as my powers are back to normal, Captain Chaos will be at your service..

Jan Tregeagle said...

I can only suggest attempting to grab yourself a Barghest or Kirk Grim. They can be found in most English towns. However there is a possibility they might portend your own death too...

Short of that there are several other options:

Reynardines- I'm not sure how they'd help but they do have a rather elegant style to match your white suit.

Tiddy Mun could help but they are a bit weak. Same for Brownies and their assorted kin.

Bean Si are as likely to kill you as any devil worshippers.

A Leanashe might help your English classes but would be of no practical use. And the loss of years off your life might be inconvenient- we wouldn't want the world to lose such a thong as yours at an early age.

Fear Gorta are rather too anti social.

Rawheads will just get drunk and wreck the kitchen. Same for the Pech.

Perhaps a Morholt. If you can get one from Ireland.

Shony might help? Do you think a storm would be of any use? If so they're the people to call.

Baobhan would probably kill you rather than the Devil worshippers.

Your best option is probably to give Guy of Warwick a call. I wouldn't be much help having sold my soul to the Devil anyway (what can I say? I couldn't take the fish anymore.)

Chip Dale said...

Jan, that's a most helpful list, though it's taken me nearly 24 hours to research all those names. How you can carry that sort of knowledge around with you is a miracle. I'm glad to have you in my corner.

Unfortunately, the whole episode has convinced me even more that all these things are the products of bored minds. There's nothing darker, more mysterious, or likely to scare the life out of you than a librarian when she's at a loose end on a Sunday.