Book Excerpt – Almost Dead In Suburbia

almost dead2


Not Really Dead

‘Eighty-three,’ the squeaky voice called out.

Thirty-three heads dropped to stare at the numbered ticket each person clutched for dear life.

‘Nope,’ said a voice from behind.

A heavy sigh was the response from the woman sitting two seats away.

‘Dammit!  – An erudite outburst from the back of the room.

There was also a small cheer.

Someone got up and disappeared beyond the temporary partition for a few minutes; then reappeared, all smiles, holding on to their prize and giving a fleeting look at the poor sods that remained before making a beeline for the exit.

And so it went on.

Funny that, thought Ralph, we’ve all been here the best part of an hour and yet every time the secretary or tea lady or whatever she was entered the room and called out a number, every single person looked at his or her raffle ticket.  You would think after sitting in the same position for so long everyone would remember their ticket number.

His reaction was no different from the rest of them.  His head went down just like theirs every time the tea lady (he had decided to go with this option) walked across the grubby black and white linoleum floor, stood in front of this small gathering, and recited.

The response was usually the same.  Nope, Sigh, Dammit and a small cheer.

There had been one other respondent previously sitting in the chair directly behind Sigh.  He alternated between ‘crap’ and ‘shoot’, but had left in a fit of pique after having his number called out while he was not in the room.  Leaning forward, he had tapped Sigh on the shoulder, and as she turned said in a hoarse whisper ‘I’m just popping into the corridor for a smoke.  I’m dying here without a ciggy.  Wave if my number’s called, okay?  I’ll be able to see you through the glass.’

She nodded dumbly.  Trouble was Crap/Shoot was in such a rush to have his ‘ciggy’ that he forgot to tell her his number.

When he returned, leaving behind a cloud of smoke, Sigh beckoned him over and whispered.

‘You forgot to tell me your ticket number, dear.’

Crap/Shoot mumbled ‘Shoot’,’ and when Tea Lady reappeared he enquired about the last couple of numbers.

Because there are certain  rules of narrative fiction that while not written on paper, are so old they are almost certainly carved in stone, so naturally, one of the numbers had been his.

A few words of pleading, followed by a brief, heated outburst containing several more colourful expletives, did not produce the desired result: that of being bumped up the queue.

Losing his temper with Tea Lady wasn’t winning him any friends amongst the others in the room either.

She would not budge.  He had missed his turn, and that was that.  She tore off another raffle ticket which she handed to him and indicated with steely grey eyes that he should take his seat once more.

Crap/Shoot nearly had a fit, screwed up his ticket, then unscrewed it and tore it into little pieces right under Tea Lady’s nose.

Her response appeared practised.  ‘Security,’ was the call.  Tea Lady didn’t even raise her voice.

Crap/Shoot stormed off in a rage, banging into the metal waste bin as he turned, and hurting his right knee in the process.

Seems it’s true: smoking is bad for your health, Ralph thought.  Then, just as he felt the impulse to smile, he received a murderous glance from Mr.    Crapshoot and quickly rearranged his expression into the one that said, ‘I’m a moron just like the rest of us here.’

Forty-seven minutes and eighteen seconds later Tea Lady called out number ninety-two and Ralph leaped out of the plastic seat, went into the available cubicle, handed over his receipt and was issued with his new passport.

When was that, he wondered?  He couldn’t remember.  It wasn’t important.    Not any more, anyway. Dead people don’t need passports.  So why had he been thinking of the passport office?

Then he got it.  The raffle tickets.  He imagined wherever it might be he was heading to would have a similar character who would call out his number when it was time for him to ‘go’.  But go where?  That was the question he was waiting to be answered.

Ah, here it comes, the tunnel, the bright light.  He had heard or read something about people who claimed they had died and afterwards . . . what was the term? Came back to life?  Resurrected?  Anyway, all had said that this was how it was.  For some reason he felt that the opportunity to confirm the story to anyone would not present itself.  Unless, of course, he found a way to communicate from the ‘other side’.

He began moving towards the bright light.  Not too far now, he thought, although there was no real sense of distance.  The light just seemed to swell around him until he became immersed in it.  His final thought before crossing over: Hey, just think, I get to meet God!  From a self-confessed atheist this was quite ironic.

There was a flash and, he was back in the real world, whatever that was.  The tunnel had gone, the bright light had vanished, and he was standing outside a suburban house at the scene of an accident.

At first glance it looked as though an ambulance had rammed into a car as it was reversing out of a driveway.

What the hell!

Then he realised where he was, and what he was looking at.   The car was his, the house was his and the unfortunate victim lying on a stretcher by the damaged blue BMW was him.

Oh, no! I’m dead!

Copyright© Douglas Pearce


Book Extract – Identity: Cry Sies!

Identity: Cry Sies.

The almost familiar country of Sarfricar is about to get a New President, and he’s a Manchester United Supporter! Run for the hills!

A satire of South African politics

Chapter 4

Dr. Wilson Diba was in his sixties when finally released from prison.

Arrested at the age of twenty-three for riding a bicycle without any lights, his initial sentence should have only been five years hard labour. The pro-government press felt this was quite fair as the crime happened during daylight hours. It would have been ten years had it been dark.

As Sweatow was usually shrouded in smoke from the innumerable coal fires that burned constantly the term ‘daylight hours’ was a moot point.

Wilson was busy studying to be a lawyer. Of course, this was impossible for a Blick person in Sarfrica, as they could not practice law, by law.

‘An’ if theys carnt practice, theys carnt get better, hey!’ remarked the Minister of Law and Order, Mr. Vas ‘die voet’ Flock.

To avoid any form of suspicion Wilson usually wrote “second-hand shoe salesman” on any government form that required him to reveal his profession. It had to be second hand because the assumption was that any Blick found in possession of anything new had to have stolen it. It also helped that he never had any stock in trade about his person.

Wilson attended university at Fort Hair and would cycle the 72 kilometres to ‘varsity’ every morning.

The morning of his arrest Wilson was about to crest the top of a steep incline.  He emerged from the perpetual smog bank in Sweatow and immediately went through a speed trap.

Within twenty minutes, he arrived, handcuffed, and blindfolded at Joan Foster’s Happy Circle Police Station.

The following morning he was due to appear in court.

Having a good idea how these things worked, and being a “smart Blick”, Wilson thought it best to confess to his crime and hope that he would get away with a fine.

However, when he addressed the desk sergeant, a charge of aggravated assault was added immediately. Misunderstanding the officer, Wilson politely asked, in perfect Inglish, ‘Excuse me?’

The sergeant, convinced that one of the station’s Alsatian dogs had spoken to him, ran screaming from the charge office.

After eight hours at Joan Foster’s Happy Circle Police Station Wilson was finally able to convince someone that he was prepared to make a full confession.

However, somewhere along the line, his court appointed attorney, who did not acknowledge a word of Inglish, incorrectly translated Wilson’s written confession from, ‘ Riding a bicycle without lights in a non built up area,’ to ‘Knowingly and willingly trying to blow up the Parliament buildings.’

The five-years went out of the proverbial window and Wilson received a life sentence.

Wilson had an interesting time whilst incarcerated, although it was not all spent inside. He spent the first five years of his sentence outdoors digging the route for the M2 West highway.

A cursory enquiry soon revealed that the charges were erroneous and relatives began a campaign to secure Wilson’s release. The original charge of ‘Riding a bicycle without lights’ was also found to be without substance as Wilson had had a set of bicycle lights in a canvass bag he was carrying; the batteries were nearly flat and he had intended to buy new ones in Joeberg.

Wilson Diba became an icon symbolising the inhumanity of Sarfrican law and the desperate need to supply Blicks with dynamo driven lights for their bicycles.

The person responsible for initiating the worldwide awareness campaign for Wilson’s release was his mother, Mrs. Beauty ‘Ma’ Diba.

She first approached the You Knighted States.

As they had recently enacted their own Civil Rights Bill and had lots of money, she believed this would be a good start.

She was thrilled when she received a letter from the President of the YKS, Richard Nicksome.

He wrote:


 Hi Y’all.

   I am sending you a crate of Automatic Rifles. We call them the Peace Maker. When Wilson gets out the joint give me a call.

Yours sincerely


And, he was.

As the years went by Wilson’s fame spread far and wide. People around the world added their voice to the call for his release.

Universities all over the place bestowed upon him honorary degrees and doctorates.

One such being from the University of Pleese Yorself in Finland that awarded him an honoury degree in entomology, convinced, as they were, that after so long in prison he must have an intimate knowledge of most forms of creepy-crawly. The Dean having seen the film Papillon, no doubt

Then it happened. On a glorious Monday morning Wilson Diba walked out of Joan Foster’s Happy Circle Prison a free men.

The guards had all clubbed together to buy him a going away present and in an emotional farewell they presented him with a tube of Dark and Lovely hair dye and two new batteries for his bicycle lights. The prison warden had even approved the purchase of two slightly used bicycle tyres out of petty cash. Wilson had never ridden a bicycle with tyres and he did not mind signing the petty cash chitty one bit.

Wilson’s personal guard, who had brought him a cup of tea in the same tin mug with a hole in the bottom for thirty-three years, even on his last morning, was weeping inconsolably.

‘I loves that bleddy Ca…Blick, I really does.’

Wilson stepped out of prison pushing his bicycle to a tumultuous welcome from seven family members and one reporter from the Stark newspaper.


    Prior to being sentenced to prison, Wilson had belonged to a Sweatow jazz band called the All Night Clubbers. After he was locked up the rest of the band members gigged ceaselessly for over thirty years to raise funds to launch a political campaign to get Wilson elected as the first Demographic Blick President.

To attract attention to their cause they blew up Muckdonalds’ fast food outlets across the country. No-one died because of the explosions, but apparently, by preventing people from eating at these places many lives were saved.

The All Night Clubbers received the Noble Piece Prize for “Services to Humanity”.

Wilson became Sarfrica’s first Blick President at a glittering inauguration ceremony at Jean Foster’s Happy Circle Prison.

Wilson chose the venue for nostalgic reasons and an array of world leaders, attended, including a bemused President George Brush senior from the Y.K.S.

Asked for his feelings about witnessing such an historic event he replied,

‘Y’know I never realised that he was Blick. Is that legal over here?’

Ten years later Sarfrica was beginning to realise its potential as a true powerhouse on the world stage. Foreign investment began to flood the country and major inroads were made towards the alleviation of poverty.

The country was strong and getting stronger.

So famous had the country become that millions of well-wishers from north of the country’s borders came to congratulate the Sarfricans; most of them stayed.

Twenty years on Sarfrica was almost back to square one. Almost. They still had Demography.

Copyright© Douglas Pearce

Book Extract…

I haven’t posted here in ages, but my Altered Ego, the Ark, did a post over here

about sailing off the edge of the world and during a further conversation it brought this to mind.

From the fantasy novel, The Nine Amendments.

Undertaker, Isack Knewtun is having dinner with Captain Blithely. He is sailing to Sunniclimes….

Isack, who fastidiously avoided most things to do with the Church, didn’t seem to think excommunication sounded too bad until  Captain Blithely explained that although they were only planning to throw him out of the church, it was the six-storey drop from the bell-tower that would have been the problem.

‘Ah, I see your point. What about the prayer and the circle thing?’

‘You prob’ly know that when the wardens mark you for excommunication they make the sign of a cross, like an ‘X’. Three crosses and that’s a strikeout. The sign of the circle, or nought, ‘spossed to counteract it. Mr. Winky’s little prayer is sort of forun. Means, Please keep me out the sh—’

‘I think I understand,’ Isack interjected. ‘We were talking about your brother, Captain.’

‘Oooaargh that we were. Well then. ‘Parrantly one of their lot had come a cropper while convertin’ the ‘eathens up in the jungles of Wethafkarwee. Are you familiar with the place in question, Mister Knewtun?’

‘I know of it, but have not visited the country.’ Isack’s idea of well-travelled was having visited all the cemeteries in and around Port o’ Bill.

‘Visited. Right. Doubt it’s the type of place you’d choose fer a visit. Those what ‘as visited, as it were, didn’t return to tell the tale, oooaaargh. In fact, none that I’m aware of even had chance to send a postcard.’

‘Yes, I had heard it to be rather foreboding.’

‘Oh, I wouldn’t know nothing ‘bout bodin’, Mister Knewtun, I’m only a simple ship’s captain. What I do knows is that it is a very portentous place where they ‘ave very interestin’ culinary ‘abits. Sometimes involvin’ visitors.’   Blithely pulled on his pipe in a sagely manner and finished the draw with his familiar phrase.

‘Good gods, cannibals!’ Isack exclaimed. He was aghast.

‘Aye, caninballs, Mister Knewtun, caninballs. So’s you can p’raps understand the C-word’s urgency on settin’ off on their rescue mission.’

‘I can indeed, Captain. What an awful business. Very rum,’ Isack added for maritime effect.

‘Oh, sorry, Mister Knewtun, where’s me manners. Pour us all a drink there, Mr. Winky, if y’please.’

‘Aye, cap’n.’

Winky got up to oblige.

Isack had never drunk rum from a tankard before and certainly not one that was full to the brim.


‘Don’t worry about it, Mister Knewtun. There’s plenty. Wonderful cleanin’ properties. Removes encrusted salt and loosens up the barnacles a proper treat, it does. On the ship too, fer that matter.

‘Where was I? Anyways, they was in such an ‘urry they wouldn’t let any of them poor sales-ladies off the boat ‘afore they set sail. Said that although this was a rescue mission, the girls would be able to help the C-word with other positions of missionary work. They also took with ‘em several tools of their trade, includin’ one hundred fully armed and caparisoned soldiers. My brother was not an ‘appy man, I can tell you, Mister Knewtun.’

‘Doesn’t seem as though he had much choice, Captain,’ said Isack sympathetically.

‘Oh, ‘e ‘ad choice all right. There’s always that, Mister Knewtun. The choice ‘e was offered was, relinquish control of your ship to the servants of the Mighty, or swing. So he relinquished. For a while, at least. Well, the ship landed at Wethafkarwee and they found their warden. Some of ‘im, anyways, so I ‘eard. But the wardens of the C-word reckoned that as they was already there they might as well do some convertin’. Can’t say fer sure what they converted them Fkarweans into but it was probably similar to the conversion undergone by that unfortunate T-word warden.’

Isack noticed a look of disgust and contempt on Blithely’s face when he said C-word. A look suggesting that while not condoning cannibalism, it had even less respect for the Church.

Although Blithely didn’t ‘hold none fer foruners’, at least the Fkarweans didn’t invade Judysear and force everyone to worship their god, which just happened to be a five-toed sloth called ‘OO-OO.’ And of course, they had to eat something, he supposed.

‘They set sail shortly after their convertin’ and ‘eaded ‘ome. But what Fkarweans was left was proper…you know, like when you ‘as too much to drink.’

‘Er…drunk?’ Isack suggested.

‘The other word.’

‘Ah,’ Isack nodded, eyeing his own drink cautiously.

‘So they sets off in pursuit and gave chase, forcing my brother to alter course. Those little canoes o’ theirs can go right fast with enough motivation.

‘Well, my brother pointed ‘is ship at the horizon and hoisted ev’ry sail ‘e ‘ad, believing they wouldn’t give chase to the edge of the world, like. But they did. Meanwhile, them wardens was screamin’ blue murder, knowin’ full well that my brother was set on sending ‘is ship off the edge, if necessary, rather than fall into the ‘ands of the Fkarweans.  ‘E wasn’t about to let anyone make a whore’s derves outta ‘im.’

‘But that’s an old wives’ tale. Surely your brother knew the world is round?’

‘Not ever ‘avin a wife, young or old, ‘e was in two minds about what shape the world is. Flat or round, made no difference to ‘im, long as the water didn’t fly off.

‘But the Chur…sorry, Mr. Winky, the C-word, knows it’s flat and they’ll sail right round t’prove it. That’s about the time they got all the sailors t’mutiny and key-holed me brother, Mister Knewtun.’

‘I’m dreadfully sorry, Captain Blithely. Truly I am,’ said Isack.

‘S’okay, Mister Knewtun, Fkarweans got all but one of ‘em anyways. Found the poor wretch washed up on a beach a ways up the coast. Tha’s ‘ow we was able t’piece together the story. Died shortly after, ‘e did. Boat drifted ‘ome on its own a few days later, and at least my brother was already diced.’

©Douglas Pearce 2013


In The Pub. Why White Men Can’t Jump.

I know I have posted this piece before but it still makes me laugh…and I wrote it! I wonder what that says about me? Shrug…Anyhow…

Here’s Bert and Alf…

images (3)

 Why White Men Can’t Jump.

“I had an odd dream last night,” said Alf.

”Really?” Bert asked.

‘Yeah. I dreamt I woke up and found I was black,’ Alf said.

“Y’mean like a coal miner?” Bert asked.

“Don’t be daft. I mean Black,” Alf relied.

“Ah, with the capital,” Bert nodded. “What was it like?”

“It were cool.”

“You mean you were wearing a short-sleeved shirt or something?”

“No, not cool. Cooool,” Alf drawled.

“Did you have the hair?” Bert enquired.

“Course! And I got to say, Yo!”

“Yo? What’s that then?” Bert asked.

“Dunno. But all those Black blokes say it. You know? It’s Yo this and Yo that. You’ve ‘eard ‘em on the telly, right?”

“Like Wesley Snipes, you mean?”

“That’s the feller,” Alf acknowledged.

There was a significant pause as each man took a thoughtful sup of their beer.

“I wonder what it means?” Bert asked.

“What? Alf asked.


“Dunno,” Alf replied. ”But I said it a lot in my dream.”

“You’d think the string would come off, wouldn’t you?” Bert ventured

“Probably why they all play basketball, I suppose,” Alf opined.

“Sidney Poitier didn’t,” Bert said.

“Well, obviously, he was an actor and . . .”

“Neither that French footballer, Thierry Henry,” Bert added.

“Yeah, him too I guess,” Alf conceded.

“Never could stand basketball. Stupid bloody sport,” Bert said.

“Wonder why you don’t get many white blokes playing then?’ Alf asked.

‘Ah, because white men can’t jump, that’s why,” said Bert, international sports fundi.

“But you do get a few of them. I’ve seen ‘em on the telly. They ain’t much good either,” Alf said.

“You know what you call a white basketball player?” Bert asked, with a smirk.

“No, what?”

“A Yo-Yo!”

“Sod off, Bert. It’s your round.”

The Ark

copyright©DSP 2012

P’kaboo Facebook Page

the red ant

It’s finally up.  I was scared for years of putting a page up for P’kaboo because… I know Facebook.  It’s like a spiderweb.  Once you’re in there, getting out is not so easy.  And who wants to look at a dead abandoned page?

Now, for the Facebook Share Contest in which we all are hoping to get 50 shares on each of the 7 chosen novels, of course I had to put the page up.  Here it is:

And many many thanks to Marie, from Kvenna Rad, for putting content up there.  She’s been busy as a bee, doing everything from updating the header pic and avatar to keeping the flow of ideas happening.  And Paul from Bookseeker Agency, our partner in UK, created the collage of titles that is now the page header.  (Image above)

We did already have the P’kaboo Book Club going, for quite…

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Book Extract


From the fourth book (work in progress) in the Mining of Lif series.

At a young age, Probly Bettys made a promise: If he had to go through life with such an odd name he would definitely make a name for himself.

He would have made the promise to his parents, if he’d known who they were.

Probly was an orphan, left on a church doorstep in a wicker basket with his name, “The Nipper is Probly Bettys” written on a scrap of card pinned to his nappy.

The church, The Economical Order of Little Fishes, was one of many offshoots that sprung up after the collapse of the Church of the One God.

At first glance, one could be forgiven for thinking the Economical Church of Little Fishes looked very much like a fish n’ chip shop, and in truth it did sell fish and chips. Also the occasional meat n’tater pie and bang-up mushy peas

(The shop sold a lot of pies, actually. Occasionally they contained meat).

But there were clues as to the true nature of the ‘shop.’

Such as, the wooden benches set out in rows facing the deep-fat fryer.

These had been liberated from a much larger church a few blocks down the street.

Then there were the religious pamphlets, cleverly disguised as menus, and said to contain secret spiritual messages.

And of course the dead give away…

‘The Church Coughers. Or, ha ha, the Methylated Spiritualists, as I sometimes like to think of them. My boy, never forget they are part of our salvation,’ explained Reverend (self-ordained) Dribbly Tailgater.

‘I thought we were supposed to be their salvation, Reverend?’ young Probly asked the first night he had been on kitchen duty.

‘Of course, of course. That’s what I meant,’ Reverend Tailgater replied, colouring slightly.

Probly looked out the shop’s back door into the alley at the line of elderly, expectorating derelicts queuing for ‘slurps’: a “highly nutritious bowl of soup and bread”.

A prerequisite of receiving their only meal of the day was that each derelict had to hand in a minimum of one empty bottle, for which they received a penny per bottle.  Ostensibly this was to help the “poor unfortunates” rid themselves of the scourge of drink.

It wasn’t difficult to see the flaw in this argument.

Probly’s first duty of every morning was to take the empty bottles to the small factory two doors away. Here, the glass bottles were pulverized and then by some magical process made into new bottles.

Probly did not understand the process but he knew it was called recycling. He guessed it had something to do with the forty or so child-peddled static-bicycles that turned the large belts which powered the jackhammers.

The money that The Economical Order of Little Fishes received helped, amongst other things towards the purchase of Reverend Tailgater’s holy water. Something he called “The finest single-malt ever distilled. Ah!”

Many years later, the fish and chip business began to flounder. Mainly because of a complete lack of flounder. A freak tsunami destroyed Judysear’s entire fishing fleet, leaving the industry high and dry.

The Economical Order of Little Fishes switched to eggs. This made the country’s foremost egg farmer, Frau Gottlaid, very happy. And rich. But it devastated Reverend Tailgater, who although extremely depressed, put himself on a course of self-preservation. Beginning with pickling several of his internal organs with ample quantities of his holy water.

For Probly Bettys, this was the last straw. Un oeuf was un oeuf.

He decided to become a missionary and spread the word of the ECOF to those less fortunate souls who had not discovered the Good News about fish, the humble chip, mushy peas and other spiritual matters.

The Royal Society of Veteran *Plorers, or RSVP, was, that very evening, giving a lecture: “Freeca: The final frontier. Guest speaker, Arvid Deadrock.”

Probly held the invitation pamphlet (which stated that booking confirmation was not essential) with a feeling verging on rapture.

Freeca, he thought, a beatific smile on his lips. Land of mystery, intrigue, fabulous riches, (“Diamonds? Ha! Got ‘em lyin’ all over the ground. And gold! Even the bleedin’ Hippos ‘ave gold fillings, let me tell you.”) Strange animals and exotic birdlife.

And also, the Tsetse fly, innumerable other poisonous insects, several highly venomous snakes, treacherous jungles and one or two of aforementioned strange animals that would think nothing of taking a pseudo-religious half-wit like Probly Bettys as an hors d’oeuvre.

However, as much as these thoughts banged on the mental door of common sense, the happy, evangelistic travel-brochure of the mind would not allow admittance.

Probly attended the lecture and missed almost all of it. Oh, he was there. Front row, in fact. However, as his mind was still in ‘travel-brochure’ mode it automatically ‘switched off’ whenever phrases such as, “Bloody savage little bastards”, and “Quite lethal in actual fact, old chap. Bit ‘im right in the meat n’ two veg. No sir, he died. Couldn’t find a single blighter who’d volunteer to suck out the poison. Dashed shame, what?”

And because much of the lecture was regaled with such tales, Probly walked out of the auditorium feeling somewhat bemused. Though not disillusioned ….

There was a cheese and wine party in the foyer.

Probly spied Arvid Deadrock amid a small gathering of adoring, chaste young women from the Church of The Ironclad Knickerbocker: Glory-be!

Or the K.G.B. as they were affectionately known among religious circles.

Deadrock had the cunning, calculating look of a Big Cat. A Big Cat whom, if he played his cards right was soon going to get his hands on the kitty. Or at least, a kitty.

‘Excuse me, Mister Deadrock. Might I have a word, please?’

Probly’s interruption may have earned him the ‘Glacial Look Of The Year Award’ from Deadrock, but it also inadvertently saved a lisping young woman from complaining the following morning that she was “Thaw”.

Probly was well-known for his attempts as proselytising, and the women, who also knew a thing or two about Reverend Tailgater, excused themselves politely and drifted away.

A short while later, in the cigar lounge of Deadrock’s gentleman’s club, Probly sat comfortably ensconced within the folds of a worn leather chair pleading his case for a place amongst the plorer’s next expedition to the Dark Continent.

‘So, young feller m’lad. Interested in the Back Passage are yer?’ Deadrock asked, in reference to the name given to the route to Freeca.

He held Probly with the same riveting stare that had caused the occasional simian to drop, mesmerised from a baobob tree.

‘Er … I am looking for a position as a missionary, actually, sir,’ Probly ventured.

‘Ah! Missionary position. Good man!’

Then he frowned, bringing his eyebrows together to form one thick band. It gave the appearance of a hairy caterpillar clinging to his forehead.

‘No place in the ranks for a giggle-oh, what?’

‘What?’ Probly said, completely thrown by Deadrock’s remark.

‘No wimmin, y’see. Can’t have memsahibs clutterin’ up the place, stringin’ pieces of … of, er … string, about the place.’

‘String?’ Probly echoed.

‘Right. String. Twine or whatever it is they use to hang their … their … smalls.’

‘Small what, sir?’

Probly noticed a fine sheen of sweat form on the man’s face. His somewhat scruffy handlebar-moustache began to twitch.

Deadrock pulled the meerschaum out of his mouth. He’d been biting it so hard he almost removed his dentures at the same time.

‘Lishen, yungsh fellah,’ Deadrock protested, while pushing his false teeth back into place, ‘Enough of this malarkey, d’yer hear? Y’want the job or what?’

‘Well, yes, sir. I do.’

‘Good. In that case, we’ll be leaving on the mornin’ tide, day after tomorrow. And don’t be late. We won’t wait for tardy risers. Understand? No time for slackers. Got it?’

‘Yes, sir. Got it. Thank you, sir.’

Deadrock relaxed. Then, after a few thoughtful sucks on his pipe, he leant forward, adopting a conspiratorial tone.

‘So, tell me young fellah m’lad. What’s it like?

‘Like, sir?’

‘Bein’ a giggle-oh, what?’

‘Er … funny?’

*Plorer. And adventurer who came back as opposed to an ex-plorer who didn’t

Copyright© DSP