A Lusty Cup Of Bliss

A Novella.

31. Downwardly Mobile

Dopey Dan was spooked.

A creature he could only describe to the local constabulary as “like the image of Death but with wobbly bits on the chestal area, possibly a lady-type monster” was out to get him for reasons he couldn’t discern.

The police refused to take him seriously since his idea of death certainly wasn’t theirs and so shunted him out the station in a brusque and timely manner, for who should pop into view but Fate herself; her hand wrapped in the tensor bandage, her mind wrapped around killing Dan for good this time.
“I spy!”
Heads spun around, mouths opened wide, Dan hid behind the police.
“With my little eye!”
Fate walloped the three police officers senseless.
“Something …beginning …with” she phrased each word with a step over the prone policemen, “‘rotten little Canadian bastard’!”
Dan ran screaming into the street and onto his skateboard.
Fate zig-zagged over the floored policemen, likewise dashing into the street.

An all-points-bulletin was placed as soon as Fate ran out the door. Sirens sprang to life as police cars whizzed in large arcs around the city in search of what looked like Death with wobbly bits ‘on the chestal area.’

Fate, determined to beat Dan at his own game, jumped on a skateboard of her own. She was much better at it than Dan, taking only seconds to be at an arm’s length from nabbing him by the scruff. Dan squinted at the hulking great chimera bearing down on him, stopped shrieking long enough to duck Fate’s swinging arms, lost his balance and crashed.
Fate sped over his legs and also crashed. She jumped up and thumped him square on the nose.
He was knocked cold.
“It’s about time, don’t you think!?” She pulled him up and was preparing to break his back in a sort of illegal wrestling hold when her pager went off. “Fuck!”
She bashed Dan to the ground and checked her pager.
Dan came around in a most restrained and partial way, aware only of Fate looming hazily over his groggy head. He painfully shambled his shoulders onto his skateboard and tried to make off as Fate tried shutting off her pager.
She caught all this in her peripheral vision and tried booting Dan’s muddled head as he rolled away from her. Glancing back to the pager, at the word “TIME” etched on the display, she groaned…then vanished.

30. Gentlecats, Start Your Engines!

From a beautiful spray of flowers next to his pulpit, the Priest lifted a slim remote control panel and pressed the “Go” button.

Clicking and whirring noises underneath Vinnie snapped his attention to the church and his predicament inside it. Strapped to a motorized toy car in a Super-Creature-Flying-pose and weighed down with flowers and wood glue, lay Vinnie, all doe-eyed and plaintive-like. His mood abruptly changed to terror when the car spun around the foyer of the church.

The alter boy charged with the task of opening doors for Vinnie’s grand entrance had to delay his task to put Vinnie right-side-up. Guests and Bridal party alike heard growing crashing noises behind them as the Priest blustered about with increased insecurity of his abilities to use the remote.

Gwendolyn stepped up to him and sharply whispered for him to stop clowning with it.
In utter panic he let go of all the buttons and levers, dropped the remote on Leo’s feet, hurriedly picked it up again, and hid it from view under his open Bible.

He placed the remainder of the ceremony in God’s hands and tried to relax.

This brief respite was long enough to introduce Vinnie, flower- cat and ring-bearer, to the wedding assemblage.

He was a disheveled horror. Lots of flowers had fallen off, leaving little tufts of pointy, glued cat hair.
He was sweating bullets of panic as evidenced by his unusually wet nose and drool from his stuck-out tongue.
One of his back legs had gotten free in all the thrashing about and it looked as though he were pedaling down the aisle.

A strange and eery silence filled the church as Vinnie was hauled to his fate.
Guttersnipe was in top form.
As Vinnie whizzed by he devilishly picked up the ring, stuck it deep in the cheese of the remaining pizza slice, then whapped the lot back on Vinnie’s rump.
Vinnie screeched at the insult.
A silent gasp rippled through the church.
Glaring daggers wasn’t enough for Gwen, she sent out really angry Cruise missiles.
Guttersnipe returned a retaliatory smirk.

Gwendolyn turned her thoughts inward, praying for an obnoxious TV host to show up with his camera crew and tell her she was being made a fool of on national television, but the sinking feeling in her stomach told her this was all real.

Vinnie scuffed against Leo’s patent leather shoes and ground to a halt.
The priest encouraged Bride and Groom to move aside as he reached forward and picked up the slice of pizza.
Pulling it out and wiping it clean, he handed the ring to Leo’s best man and asked who had the ring.
The best man blushed at the insanity of it all and sheepishly handed it back.
Doris glanced back from the wedding party in Guttersnipe’s direction and flashed a broad smile.
Guttersnipe smiled back.

The priest started in on his ‘Do You Take’ and ‘Do You Promise’ stuff with Leo and Gwendolyn nodding affirmations and gazing lovingly at each other like mountain goats startled by hikers down a mountain path.
Vinnie slowly increased the frequency of his loud popping and hissing noises as he struggled furiously at the tethers holding him in place.

The wedding guests shifted about on their pews, distracted by the cat and now paying attention only to it.

Guttersnipe was on his third can of coke when in burst Brynn McGinn, visor down on his helmet, the thin wail of his scooter heard briefly as the church doors opened and closed.
He clattered down the aisle in search of Guttersnipe.
“Psst! Hey! Psst!” As with the rest of the congregation, Guttersnipe’s head spun round at the noise, but he was the only one who was glad of Brynn’s sudden appearance.
“Hey! Psst! Fella! Thanks for the callydosh, old son, but I didn’t get your fixed address.”
“Shh, shh, shh, shut up and sit here. Shove over, would you, please?”
“Sorry,” said the guest next to Guttersnipe, shifting over a bit.
Brynn removed his helmet, “T’anks, Miss. T’anks, boyo. Loike I was saying…”
“Say it later, just watch what’s happening. Any second… if I know that cat…”

Vinnie let out an enormous howl and spun the motor round with his free leg. Some of the guests started giggling.

It was more than Gwen could take. Lurching forward on her four-inch high heels, she grabbed the remote from the Priest and put it on full blast: first forward then back, now to the left in circles, now to the right. Vinnie was shocked into silence as he sped off the length of the church and slammed into the doors he had entered a few short minutes earlier.

“I hate being a cat! I hate it! I hate it! Is it something I said? Is it because I’m a cat? It is! Isn’t it? So embarrassing! I just hate it!”
As if to answer his questions, Alter Boy hands shot out from behind the doors and whisked Vinnie and motor attachment out of sight.

Gwen flung the remote at the Priest’s feet. His first reaction was to pick it up. He even started to.
“Where were we?” demanded Gwen.
“You may, um, kiss the …groom…I expect,” replied the Priest, straightening up his back.
“Leo,” Gwen said, nodding at him to come closer.
“Do with a kiss, could you?” said Leo bravely.
“Plant one,” Gwen tapped her lips, “Right here, loverboy.”

Standing ovations erupted from the guests. With relief, the priest furtively munched on the last slice of pizza and stopped chewing to smile nervously at the happy couple whenever they shot him a look.

Guttersnipe rose quietly to leave. “Looks like I’m bartending, doesn’t it?”
“Will you be needing a lift anywhere?” asked Brynn.
“Yeah, let’s drown our sorrows for a while at the doughnut store.”
“I’ve only got the one helmet.”
“I’ve only got the one head.”
“Eh?”
“Never mind,” said Guttersnipe, “You wear it.”
Guttersnipe threw Vinnie and attachments into the delivery box on the back of the bike as they lurched into traffic in search of deep- fried ‘yum-yums’.

29. Ready to Rhumba!

The high-pitched scream of a mistimed Honda 150cc Scooter made itself apparent to no one in particular as it pulled upside the church steps.

A bedraggled Brynn McGinn in an oversized crash helmet blazed off the seat and pulled out a cellular phone. He dialed, hung up, lifted the visor on the helmet, better able to see, and dialed once more.

Inside the church a cellular phone interrupted the ceremony of Leo and his “adorable little black-eyed pea” bride-to-be, Gwendolyn Spiggot-Hermes; soon to be Mrs Leo Spiggot-Hermes-Claine. With a possible future with that lot on a tax return, something had to give. Leo’s surname, perhaps.

“Hallo?” whispered Guttersnipe.
“Pizza Hut!”
“Shh, shh, shh, not so loud,” whispered Guttersnipe, “I’ll be right out.”
Guttersnipe quietly apologized to his row of guests as he made a clumsy exit from the church.

Outside he met Brynn, whose wild eyes matched his voice as he let Guttersnipe have it. “
I’m trying to get enough local currency together to get me back ‘ome, now, ‘an the loikes oh that tip won’t get me petrol for a day on this delivery bike.”
“Smart man. Here’s more than your worth if you promise to send me a postcard explaining what it’s like on the outside.”
“Righto.”

Several slices of pizza and slurps of cold cola later, it was time.
“The ring, please.”

Guttersnipe asked the guests in his row if they cared for the last slice. He was glad they didn’t.

28. Dinner For Two

B.K. lowered his bullhorn a moment.
“Is that so awful? A nice cup of coffee, for those who drink it?”
His underling nervously shook his head.
“No,” said B.K. “TALL PEOPLE!”
“This obsession with coffee is ruining the world,” said Maddox to Roger.
“SINGLE CUPS!”
“Yep. That and leaking nuclear submarines off the coast of Norway.”
“That, too.”
“The pulp mills and water dams in Canada destroying sacred aboriginal lands.”
“And using cyanide off the Great Barrier Reef to catch fish.”
“Really?”
“And stupid bloody political thinking resulting in coal plants going up in China faster than Hagen Daaz ice cream parlours in Hong Kong.”
“What could be worse?”
“A revitalized Nazi party. “
“Gives you the chills. “
“A HOT, TASTY BEVERAGE!”
“And the dumping of untreated industrial waste into the rivers of Mexico that feed the broccoli the Jolly Green Giant loves so much. Eeugh!”
“BASTARDS!”
“Absolutely!” screamed Maddox.
“It’s your last! GET ME? No more thirst-quenching beverages. NO! You’ll be feeling a bit weak on account of you being DEAD!! I want them ALIVE!!” shouted B.K. with sudden switch of audience. “ALIVE! So’s I can kill ‘em in a most foul and upsetting manner!”
“God! He’s obnoxious,” said Roger.
“I tell you what,” sighed Maddox with a deep and immediate weariness, “he rates three out of ten as far as his crazy laugh goes. Reminds me of weak and tepid tea made all the worse with big dollops of cold, sour milk.”
“Gosh. The imagination you have.”
“I didn’t ask for it, believe you me.”
“No?”
“No.”
“Well… um. Do… um… do you believe the claim by some tuna manufacturers,” asked Roger, “that they’re dolphin friendly?”
“Ah, there you are!” said a B.K. soldier with outstretched rifle.
“Looks like we’ve been nicked, old son,” said Maddox. “Just when it was getting interesting.”
“Well, at least it’ll shut up B.K. for a while.”

Back at B.K.’s place stuff was happening.

Preparations were underway for an intimate meal. The setting was a small, single room hut, big enough for a table and two chairs, the food delivered to the table through a small wooden window frame, haphazardly cut into the wall opposite the door, facing onto the compound. The kitchen, it seemed, was elsewhere on the grounds.

B.K. stood on the bottom step outside this small room, praising Bembol, his favourite B.K. Soldier, who stood on the top step, his arms limp as B.K. shook them warmly, ingratiatingly.
“You know you are my best interrogation tool, Bembol. It is with great skill that you defeat those who resist you. It makes me proud to have you serve under me. I cannot help but think of you like a son. Go, Bembol. Bembol, who is like a son to me, and do what you do best. Interrogate the enemy.”
Bembol had heard it all before. He took the faint praise and smiled as proud a smile as could be mustered. He had his comrades to keep in mind. As long as he could keep Maddox here, his comrades would have an easy time of it. No early marching drills, no manic sentry duty directly following dinner. It would be an interrogation of unparalleled protraction. Bembol learned that word in school and enjoyed the many inferences it contained: protraction. He used the word with self-assuredness and always with perfect enunciation when around B.K., it allowed Bembol to maintain his high ranking amongst the men. It delighted and sustained B.K. no end to think he had an intelligent right-hand man in the front lines, maintaining and preserving morale in his private army. Bembol was accorded many privileges and responsibilities to help his comrades. Bembol! A definite favourite with both men and leader.

Maddox was tremendously entertained by the attempts to throw him off his guard. The lighting of candles, the placement of a linen napkin on his lap, the complimentary basket of bread rolls…but it didn’t phase him, he knew it was all a crock. You see, the butter was actually margarine. If they’d been serious about tricking, even wooing Maddox for information, they’d have provided full cream, lightly salted butter. He knew he was being prepared for a sucker-punch. He had his plans. He had his timing. These idiots were no match for Maddox’s Ferrari-like tuned mind. Bring them all on, he thought. Bembol quietly entered and closed the door.

“Huh?” thought Maddox.
“Please, no!” exclaimed Jim from a cell a stone’s throw from the dining hut, “Not Bembol!”
“What!? What!?” Roger clamoured from behind to see what Jim was seeing.
“And he’s brought his guitar!” moaned Jim in defeat. He slumped down to the floor, allowing Roger to leap to the cell window to try and assess this new and scary situation.

Bembol sat down and placed his guitar against the wall behind him. B.K. pushed as much of his bulk through the small window as he could and addressed Maddox.
“This is Bembol. Bembol, say hello to our adversary.”
“Hello,” said Bembol as instructed, flashing a warm smile at Maddox.
“A pleasure,” responded Maddox.
“Well, it won’t be for long. Do you know what these are?” exclaimed B.K. as he thrust a medium-sized sack of food at Maddox.

Maddox looked into the sack and pronounced them to be dried peas.
“Wasabi peas. They are Wasabi peas. Do you know where they come from?”
“Japan?”
“Arrgh!”
“I love Japanese food,” added Maddox. “May I?”
“No interruptions!” hollered BK. “I hate Smart Alec’s. Yes, JAPAN! Okay. Here’s a question for you…Why did I give them to you?”
“They’re for my dinner, I expect.”
“No! Ha! Not as smart as you think, are you! They’re for Bembol’s dinner. Pass them to Bembol. Bembol is eating. You are not eating.”
Maddox picked up a dinner roll.
“Not even a dinner roll?”
This caught B.K. off guard but he agreed to it.
“Just one.”
“Two?”
“Nope.”
“Please?”
“No! Well, all right. But just two.”
“Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.”
B.K. wrenched himself out of the window frame and turned to his left, made a sharp gesture with his head and stepped aside.
A B.K. soldier donning a chef hat stepped up to the window with a tray. On the tray sat a large jar of chili sauce, a spoon and a large pitcher of water. Bembol quickly rose to take them from the chef.
“And what, pray tell us, Mr. Smarty Pants, is this lot for!” yelled B.K. from out of view.
“Well, on first impressions, FATSO,” said Maddox mischievously, “I’d have to say more dinner for our dear friend, Bembol. Am I right?”
B.K. flew into a rage. “Seal the area!”
“But the nearest zoo…” said the chef. “Oh!”
The chef threw his hat onto the steps and ran around the small dining room hut with sheets of opaque-blue, bubbled packing plastic, creating an almost hermetically sealed dining area within a matter of minutes.
Maddox was utterly bewildered.
“They’ve wrapped the hut in blue plastic, Jim,” said Roger.
“Cover your ears,” advised Jim, following his own advice. “Worse than the bloody Sirens of old.”
“This is a little something I whipped up just for the occasion, Mr. Maddox,” said Bembol, picking up his guitar.
“Call me Maddox, please.”
“And you can call me Bembol, supreme Minstrel, and breaker of women’s hearts,” tittered Bembol, strumming his guitar.
“That’d make quite a business card, old son,” chuckled Maddox.
“A love song, Maddox, for you from my heart, but please allow me to strum a bit more as I eat my dinner.”
“He’ll eat, then he’ll sing.”
“What?” asked Roger of Jim.
“Allow me to demonstrate,” said Bembol to Maddox.
“Then it’ll be ghastly. Awful. Poor bastard, Maddox,” said Jim.
Bembol strummed. Bembol ate. Bembol finished and began singing. It was the most beautiful voice any of them had ever heard. It was serenading Maddox at close range – a simple, rhythmic chant, soft and low. Maddox was in shock. The guitar playing was also beautiful. Bembol was a man of immense talent.

Maddox was bawling his eyes out. He couldn’t stop. He felt as though his heart would burst if the beauty didn’t stop. So when the lyrics ceased for a moment to allow Bembol a moment to indulge himself in wondrous guitar playing and pea munching, Maddox had a moment to collect himself and meditate; breathing deeply and exhaling. Frantically tantric. He’d defeat this torturous bastard. He’d retreat into the deepest recesses of his soul and hope to God it wasn’t a full scale concert they had planned for him, but his deep sobs were uncontrollable. He was losing to Bembol. What the hell could they have in store for him when he had succumbed? Why such charming torture? But he mustn’t give in. Think bad thoughts. He must think bad thoughts. Rid himself of this beguiling monstrosity. Hellish thoughts were attempted, but to no avail. Such beautiful and imposing music! He must try deep breathing and meditation instead.

No sooner had Maddox started in on his deep breathing exercises than the immense beauty was interrupted by flatulence from Bembol. Bembol apologized to Maddox in the midst of all his chanting. Maddox wailed to Bembol not to worry, that it was quite all right. Then the smell hit him. Maddox clutched at his throat, gasping for air, trying to stop blubbering, trying to calm down through rhythmic breathing. Angelic voices mixed with sulfurous hellions. What kind of horror was this? He lifted his head off the table to plead with Bembol but Bembol looked back at him through a gas mask.
“Sorry, Maddox, It’s my other talent.”
The guitar playing, the beautiful but muffled singing, the wasabi peas and chili sauce munching continued through the night.
Maddox, despite his self-proclaimed intelligence, fell insensible after the third set. Bembol took only one toilet break the entire night.
“God have mercy on his soul,” uttered Jim, barely audible.
Roger couldn’t answer for crying.

The morning brought with it a very angry B.K. Anger directed at Bembol.
“Why did you protract the interrogation? Look at him. We’ll never get anything out of him now.”
Maddox was a crumpled heap in a puddle of tears, staring weakly out of the hut at Bembol being reviled in an indelicate manner.
“Kick him, B.K., right on the bastard’s shins,” murmured Maddox.
“Then fall down a mineshaft yourself. Bastard, you.”
“Release him. And the others. Now!”
Bembol knew this meant a fifteen minute head start on foot then a savage manhunt and death by rifle fire from a speeding jeep. B.K. might be unpredictable in most ways, but his favourite form of killing was always the same.

Bembol had overdone it. He should have made it quick and lied about the resulting cache of information from Maddox. Now his compatriots would have to kill all three men. This would be a sad day indeed. Bembol strained with all his reckoning to figure a way out of the situation. He had no time to lose. He had, in the end, no chance of winning.

27. Part Of The Scenery

At that exact same moment in time, Vinnie was having a dollop of white wood glue applied to his forehead, and a flower stuck to it.

26. Seeing Is Be Leaving

Floodlights!

Big Kahuna froze Maddox in mid-climb over the fence with a deft and surreptitious flick of his finger.
“Get that nuisance!”

Roger was so surprised by this sudden illumination that he fell off the fence and accidentally shot dead a Big Kahuna soldier.

In decidedly John Wayne-fashion, our good guys managed impressive leaps and rolls from the fence to the trees a short distance behind them. In a less impressive display they immediately ran off.

Big Kahuna had been expecting Maddox to pop his face round the plantation sooner or later and so had been in an obsessive state of readiness for the eventuality.
“Uuhnn” This grunt and finger-pointing business meant for his men to charge the enemy.
They did.

With lightning speed the soldiers of Big Kahuna leapt over the fence and made a great show of their own impressive leaps and rolls to the trees into which Maddox and Roger hoped they’d become irretrievably lost in.

Big Kahuna’s soldiers hoped for the opposite.

They really had to thank Maddox for spicing up their otherwise humdrum lives. Due to Maddox they now had access to live ammunition without filling in the appropriate forms, and when they convinced Big Kahuna that Maddox would be noticed from tree huts if someone were in them and saw him coming, the necessity for the construction of tree huts became paramount. Now the men could live out their boyhood fantasies in style, now they could actually be their boyhood adventure heroes. All because of Maddox. The name suited him, they thought, ‘Mad Ox’. They almost revered him. A man with the name of a cow’s best mate. It’d be a shame to kill Maddox. He brought them all such pleasure. And so a pact had been formed, a ritual involving the letting of blood from thumbs and promises sworn in hushed tones. A ritual who’s gist was essentially that, upon Maddox’s capture, they would each line up and shake his hand, thank him personally for improving their lives, and wish him all the best before handing him over to B.K. for ‘questioning.’ First, they had to catch him. Maddox. And the other guy.

“A HOT, TASTY BEVERAGE!” echoed through the woods after Maddox and Roger. “A HOT AND TASTY BEVERAGE ABLE TO KEEP TALL PEOPLE AWAKE FOR AGES!”

These words much more than the bullets zinging over their heads frightened our lads pale. As much as they ducked and dodged through the trees these words couldn’t be avoided.

Roger and Maddox felt the only thing left to do was hide behind a thick, prickly bush and attempt to hold fast to their crazed minds.
It was important to think on their feet, though at the moment they prayed that thinking on their arses was just as good. Knackered. Tongues hanging from their heads, the whole bit.

25. “One For The Money, Two For The Show…”

The rather odd thing about the Tapirs was they stopped howling the minute the bus started up.

Not that it would have mattered any, since the bus was so loud it would drown out even yelled conversations. All that mattered for the Tapirs was that their 59 songs of courtship were not rebuffed by the bus engine. They had not been disappointed.

Since everyone else on the bus enjoyed chatting a lot it became important to make frequent stops in order to hear one another, and because of the Tapir thing, it became important also to converse about a hundred yards from the bus. This fact, and five thousand ‘stop-go’ kilometres of asking directions led to Bob and chums stretching a weeks’ journey to Babylon, the nightclub, into almost a month. Even so, they were a week and a half early for the wedding reception.

Barney, now an honourary Wailer, had become responsible for the Tapirs. He loved them as though his own children. Any subtle change in howling was immediately known to him, and each subtlety with its specific want or need was attended to with diligence and tenderness. Ever since Barney accepted the Tapir task the drummer’s mood had improved considerably and they had since become quite good friends.

It was through Eric, the drummer, that Barney at last got rhythm. Eric taught Barney how to play the drums and all other forms of percussion in the bus – excepting the Tapirs – to such an extent that Barney quite frequently filled in for Eric as he went off shopping for trinkets. Lovely place, Tanzania. And Eric, well, he was a shopper – plain and simple.

“Who’s getting married?” asked Barney, as The Big Day approached.
“Dunno,” replied Eric, “some guy. Never heard of him. Eh, Bob?”
“Whassisname?” asked Barney.
“Leo Claine,” said Bob after careful study of a crumpled cheque he produced from his back pocket, “Dat’s what it say on de money cheque.”
“You mean,” said Barney, somewhat wide-eyed, “you came all the way from Scotland with your payment for the wedding reception in your pocket without first cashing it?”
“Um. Yeah, man.”
“Isn’t that a bit risky?”
“Um. He say we can cash de ting at ‘is bank real easy. And dare a branch in Dar es Salaam. So we say ‘yeah, but de price double’.”
“And he still wanted to hire you?”
“Course, Man. We be de Rusks, nah, man. But…,”
“But?”
“On one condition…”
“!?”
“Dat we play Elvis Presley song all night. He love de man songs.”

The Tapirs erupted from the luggage racks. Bob, Barney and Eric glanced hurriedly at each other, resisting the urge to look over at the bus – perhaps the Tapirs would settle down in a moment. Nope.

“Gotta go,” said Barney. “Pick up on this talk later, Bob?”
“Cool, yeah,” said Bob, “Dem animal like de luggage rack, huh?”
“As far as I can tell they’d rather lie on their backs the way they do than go for walks!”
“Dat’s cute,” said Bob.
“Cute,” agreed Eric.
“Yep, I love them. Love them all.”

Meanwhile on the other side of town a tired looking woman and a rangy cat were trying on bridesmaids dresses. Vinnie the cat had to have his dress drastically shortened, and taken in a bit at the waist.

A twenty minute walk from Gwen’s house, where the bridesmaids were being fitted, was a bank, wherein Guttersnipe had been entrusted with and was performing his duties splendidly as casher-of-paycheques for both himself and Doris.

Having cashed the cheques, he scuttled off to a doughnut shop and got himself a dozen jelly-filled ones to munch on as he swung by the office.

The office was hopping with activity. All of it at Gwen’s behest. None of it actual State business. It was all wedding stuff.

It was down to the wire. All the catering was in place, the church was notified and ready, the reception was to be held at Babylon, Gwen’s favourite nightclub. The dinner was to be held in an adjoining dining hall. Vinnie, the flower girl cat, was to be strapped to a motorized toy car, weighted down with exquisite flowers and sent up to the alter via remote control; which the priest would be in charge of. That would be the cue for the Wedding March. All of it. Gwen thought it the most beautiful piece of classical music in the world and would often weep as she listened to it after a bad date with intimidated men.

Leo hadn’t been intimidated, bless his heart. He wined and dined her ‘til the only dessert she could stomach was a big fat engagement ring. He loved her. Went on and on about destiny and how they were fated to meet. He was handsome and rich and best of all he wasn’t in the spying business. She loved him. She really did. The first man to feel at ease with her. She couldn’t let that go. Still, she felt a bit edgy, a bit nervous. Easily irritated and more than usually trigger-tempered. “Guttersnipe! Come get your cummerbund?” she yelled as Guttersnipe entered the office.

Guttersnipe dipped his hand in the doughnut bag and pulled out his ninth. He nibbled it enough to reveal the jam centre then whacked the entire doughnut into Gwen’s mouth. He then rolled up the doughnut bag and started clubbing Gwen ‘til her hair was a sticky, tangled mess.

Gwen hated doughnuts in her hair. Guttersnipe equally despised cummerbunds, but he grabbed it off Gwen’s table and said “SEE YOU AT THE RECEPTION!”
“What? what? Hey! Guttersnipe, what was that for?” yelled Gwen after him.
“Overtime,” yelled Guttersnipe on his way out. “It’s instead of a vacation. Or is it just because it feels good? I dunno! Ask the flower girl.”
“You can’t come any more,” she yelled back.
Guttersnipe stopped and turned to face Gwen, “Just try and stop me.”
“Wha-!? It’s my wedding, dolt!”
“And I’m the only decent bartender around, Boss Lady, it’s my drinks or warm draught beer sloppily poured by those monkeys at the staff cafeteria!”

Gwen had to agree there was sense to that last statement. Though why he wanted to be the bartender after having given Gwen a black eye, she just couldn’t fathom. Just take it on faith and the assumption that Guttersnipe was a complete and utter fool. There. That made her feel all warm and tingly . Guttersnipe an idiot. She smiled. She felt totally relaxed now. Good old Guttersnipe. Then the thought of getting married two days from now slapped her brain silly. So she got out her hair brush and yelled for one of her staff’s attention to whom she mimed, ‘Coffee – fast!’
“Details, details,” she thought to herself. “Now, what am I forgetting?”

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