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Book Extract: Oh, Little Town of Brothelingham

I haven’t settled on a title for this book yet, and I change the working title as I go along.

Be that as it may, this is an extract. It is the 4th book in the Comic fantasy series, The Mining of Lif .

Igneous Rockfellow applies for a license 

Igneous’ mother died during childbirth and his late father used to be a tenant on the Gottlaid family estate, Judysear’s wealthiest poultry farmers.

As a young boy, Igneous would tinker with his “little toys”, as his father called them, in the kitchen of their cottage.

After his father died, young Igneous stayed on as a tenant, paying for his keep by doing odd jobs around the farm; including the design of a motorised conveyor belt to aid in egg-sorting.

When the owner of the estate, Fritz Gottlaid, passed away after a rather serious attack of migraine, brought on by a rather nasty kick in the head from one of the horses, the distraught Widow Gottlaid got rid of most of the horses and turned the stables over to Igneous, who promised her he would have his “Horseless carriage” on the road within twelve months.

He probably would have, too, if it weren’t for the continuous interruptions from Frau Gottlaid insisting that Igneous show her how a push rod worked.

Eighteen months after receiving the grant, he filed a patent claim and applied for a road licence, a legal requirement for all vehicles using the Queen’s highways.

As the only wheeled vehicles currently in use were coaches and wagons, and the fee varied depending whether the vehicle was drawn by horse, donkey or ox, the licensing clerk was somewhat in a quandary as Igneous claimed his carriage utilised, “None of the above.”

Following a brief description of his steam engine, a thoroughly confused and rather dubious clerk referred Igneous’ licence application to, “Higher authorities.”

The person in charge of vehicle licensing, Mister Dick Turpentine eyed the application form suspiciously.

‘So, ‘ow fast d’yer reckon this contraption of yours goes, Mister Rockfellow?’

Rather boastfully, Igneous replied,

‘Ah! She flies like the wind, sir. Like the wind.’

The maximum speed of one of the posh new mail coaches was around fifteen kilometres per hour. And this was on a good road, mind you.

Dick Turpentine had seen the effects of things that flew like the wind after discovering several items of ladies undergarments in his garden shed.

More accurately his wife had discovered them.

Being a licensing officer did not, in Mrs. Turpentine’s opinion, give her husband the right to collect licentious material.

‘Honest! I ‘aven’t a bleedin’ clue ‘ow they got there,’ wailed a bemused Dick.

‘Well they’re not mine, that’s for sure. Only a tart would wear something like this!’ yelled Mrs Turpentine, waving the offending items under Dick’s nose.

‘Yes, love, you’re right. You’d never fit into those itsy-bitsy things. Besides, even if you could you’d catch your bloody death, you would,’ Dick tried to explain.

‘Are you saying I’m fat?’ Mrs. Turpentine accused.

A simple ‘No’ might have sufficed, but Dick, desperate to extricate himself, foolishly added, ‘Of course not, love.  Er…maybe they would fit. Why don’t you try them on, then?’

‘Oh, yes? So now you’re saying I’m a tart?’

Things could only go one way after this.

After setting about him with a garden fork and doing untold damage to his cucumber patch, she banished him to sleeping in the garden shed.

Matters did not improve much over the next few days.

Mrs. Turpentine hosted an embroidery and needlework group every second Wednesday of the month. It was during a discussion concerning the best type of thimble to use to avoid the inconvenience of little pricks that Mrs. Turpentine could no longer hold her peace.

‘And talking of the same,’ she began.

Over dinner that evening, one member of Mrs. Turpentine’s needlework group, Edith Slitebottom, revealed to her husband, Wilfred, “In the strictest confidence”, that Dick Turpentine had been cheating on his wife.

The evidence of this affair she described in detail, with several glances at her husband to check if he knew what a peephole brassiere was.

Relieved to find that he hadn’t the foggiest idea, she relaxed, and then made a mental note to enlighten him at the earliest opportunity.

Although Sergeant Wilfred Slitebottom had shown interest, it was mainly due to the report of a recent theft of washing from the line of local schoolteacher, Miss Charlotte Demure.

Wilf was an old copper who knew how to join the dots and in this case the picture they revealed was not an affair between Dick Turpentine and Charlotte Demure. Especially as Dick had mentioned over drinks at their local, “In the strictest confidence”, that he had been suffering from Brewers Droop.

Although it would have made shocking news had an affair been revealed, even more disturbing was the thought that Dick Turpentine might not only be stealing but also wearing ladies underwear.

Fortunately, for all concerned, several other local residents handed in various items of clothing and two bed sheets at the station, explaining that they had blown into their gardens from goodness knows where.

Remembering the dreadful storm of a few weeks back, which saw a potted petunia crash through his greenhouse, Sergeant Slitebottom put two and two together.

This saved Dick Turpentine the ignominy of being labelled a pervert and Miss Charlotte Demure got her washing back. Well, most of it at any rate. One or two items of underwear were never recovered.

It was a few weeks later that Dick revealed to Wilf, in the “strictest confidence,” that he was no longer sleeping in his shed and his “problem” had somehow sorted itself out.

Anyway, back to the licensing department…


© Douglas Pearce 2012

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