Tuesday, August 16, 2005


"Hurrah for the holidays!" enthused Purvis, idly throwing a sharpened stick towards Dennis's eye.

"Bogging holidays," grumbled Figg, "getting in the bogging way of whatever it is we do when it isn't the bogging holidays..."

"Don't talk nonsense, Horace," said Beetroot, who was under the mistaken impression that she was talking to the film star Horace Goldenrod, "the holidays are the best time of the year! Why, just this afternoon we're going to Wigginsford-on-the-Sands, which while it isn't actually the seaside has the world's third-largest artificial pebble beach!"

"That's true," confirmed Greebo unnecessarily, "and I'm sure we'll have a marvellous time!"

"Look out, Dennis," said Tailor, much too late to be of any use as Dennis, blinded by the sharpened stick, blundered into a ditch and knocked half his head off on a jutting rock. Everyone chortled.

"Somebody pull him out, before he goes and drowns himself," laughed Purvis, kicking Dennis's elevated backside for good measure.

"Yes, and hurry up about it," added Greebo, realising that the people who gave the orders were less likely to have to do the actual work. She reinforced this reluctance to do any heavy lifting by wandering off down the road towards their home.

Since Tailor had no arms or legs, and Beetroot was busy asking a butterfly for its autograph, believing it to be the popular musician Greaves Poltergeist, it was Figg who had to haul Dennis from the muddy water in which he was buried up to his neck in the opposite of the usual way. Complaining all the while about the bogging effort and inconvenience he was being bogging put to, he dragged Dennis's insensible body after their siblings.

Back home at lunchtime, while Mother patched up Dennis's injuries, Father doled out generous helpings of roast beef and yorkshire pudding to the other children, and ordered them not to eat it. "You can't eat if you're going swimming this afternoon!" he barked, pouring gravy on his own plate of food before throwing it in the bin.

"But we're not going swimming this afternoon, Emily," protested Beetroot. "Wigginsford-on-the-Sands doesn't have actual water on its artificial beach. There are just men who throw buckets of blue paint over the holidaymakers every few hours to simulate tidal waves."

Father swore vigorously for the next fifteen minutes, without ever pausing for breath or repeating himself, while he retrieved his dinner from the bin and ate it. The others ate up too, discussing the relative merits of two modern composers among themselves while they did. Tailor considered that Ventura's use of deliberate atonality gave his pieces a predictability that Venezuela's more conventional work was spared, while Figg felt that the only bogging thing worse than bogging deliberate atonality was the bogging tuneful drivel that bogging Venezuela came out with. Greebo, having never heard of either composer, forcefully expressed the same opinion as the last speaker, and Beetroot, addressing everyone else at the table collectively as Ventura, speculated peaceably that perhaps everyone was free to hold their own opinion on the subject.

Only after everyone had finished eating did Tailor notice that Purvis had turned into a goat. A ten-foot-long, stuffed toy goat with fluorescent green horns and seven eyes. Casting their minds back, the children realised that the transformation had happened gradually over the previous fifteen minutes, starting with the head and spreading gradually downwards. "That explains why he didn't say anything," observed Greebo, quite some time after the others had come to the same conclusion without feeling the need to voice it.

"It's still queer that he should change into a goat like that," mused Tailor. "Perhaps we should cancel our trip to the artificial beach and see if we can change him back?"

"We're not calling off the trip!" Father screamed from the bathroom where he was trying to wash the taste of potato peelings and old boots from his mouth (he had eaten the entire contents of the dustbin, not sure which bits were his lunch and which weren't). "I've already bought a car for us to drive there in!"

"We've already got a car, Father!" Tailor called back. Father resumed swearing, cursing and lamenting his needlessly dented bank balance.

"What ho," said Dennis, limping into Purvis's bedroom where his brothers and sisters were gathered. Mother had fixed his head as good as new, but had accidentally reduced the length of his right leg by three inches in the process. "It'll grow back," he added cheerfully. "What's been going on, then?"

Figg and Tailor gave surprisingly contradictory accounts of what had happened at lunchtime. Dennis was able to piece together the most important details by discarding the version of events which seemed less plausible - Tailor's otherwise reliable narrative featured several people whom Dennis knew had not actually been present, and Figg's digressions on the subject of Father's bogging waistcoat coming to life and eating all the bogging muesli, Dennis soon realised, were based on a television programme they had watched the night before. Interestingly, Figg and Tailor were both mistaken as to the identity of their sibling who had been transformed into a goat - they both assured Dennis that it had been Greebo, who was sitting cheerfully on Purvis's bed in plain sight, reading a religious text.

"You know, I remember Purvis saying something about goats last Christmas," recalled Dennis. "Didn't he say he wanted to be one?"

"No, he said he bogging hated goats," countered Figg rather more aggressively than the situation demanded, "and if he ever bogging turned into one, he'd kill him-bogging-self."

"Let's go and see," suggested Beetroot, restraining Figg from taking a meat cleaver to Dennis's groin. She took the cleaver, which she thought was the racing driver Gerhard Grantley, back to the toy cupboard it had come from, and then led the way to Greebo's bedroom, the window of which looked out on the garden of six months previously.

1 comment:

small one said...

Remind me to ask you for a bedtime story some day, says Jemfo