The Trashmen vs. Skrillex – Surfin’ Bird/Bangarang mash-up…
The door of the Airstream opens with a creak, hinting at inefficient home-made WD-40 oiling the hinges. There is an accompanying whiff, akin to stale ale.
“Enter,” summons a low voice.
Justin Time, now a skin bag of mostly knocking knees and chattering teeth, is hauled in front of the great oak desk within, between Luke and Corporal Punishment.
Four strangers sit at the desk. An imposing Oriental General with a monocle and clipboard. A rotund, ginger-whiskered Captain tucking into a pot of tea and a large cream bun. A young and skinny Lance-Corporal in a knitted scarf and mittens, arms folded sulkily, as if he wishes he was elsewhere…
…And an exquisitely beautiful Afro-Oriental female officer in khaki fatigues, who rises to her feet slowly. While at the same time Justin drops completely to the floor and prostrates himself, as if he is hoping it will part and swallow him whole…
She speaks only one word, and with it, the fate of all in the room is apparently clear.
“Tea?” she says sweetly.
“Not a drop of it, you loathsome spawn of Hell!” Justin shouts, slightly muffled by the rather nice Persian carpet.
“Three sugars, please,” Luke beams.
“Black,” says Carvery.
“White, no sugar,” says Ace. “You’re sweet enough to keep me going.”
She smiles and nods, and turns to the large, gleaming chrome vending machine. Another one of Crispin’s high-end refreshment models, no doubt…
“Corporal Punishment?” she asks, over her shoulder.
“I’m a giver, not a receiver.” Carvery shakes his head.
“Hot water only if you please, General Domina, Ma’am,” Corporal Punishment acknowledges gratefully.
“Not much fun you can have with that,” Carvery tells him. “Maybe inflict a few minor scalds and blisters… You need to get out more.”
I jump as she addresses me. I’m still wondering how to get that little diary out of Carvery’s pocket without him noticing.
“Um,” I reply, wondering if my bladder can handle any more liquids today, or whether I should just wait for the next Sloe Gin Sling to cross my path, which would be preferable. “I could perhaps just nibble a sugar-lump…”
She nods, and proffers the bowl.
An immaculate set of tiny vintage engraved silver sugar-tongs perch on top of the sparkling white and brown cubes.
“Thank you,” I murmur, helping myself to a lump. The tongs spring back and forth between my fingertips, suggestively. “Do you mind? I just want to admire these for a moment…”
“Justin Time,” the monocled General Sunny-Jim interrupts, fortunately distracting everyone from my budding plan. “You have been brought before us to face the outstanding charges of flying carpet theft, distribution of counterfeit One Thousand Yard Stare Masters Degree certificates, and absconding without leave. And also charges of defamatory statements about our patron broadcast by you on Panic Stations FM, abusing your position on the field hospital radio. Do you have anything to say in your defence?”
“Yes,” Justin tells the carpet.
“Silence, when you are addressing the General!” bellows the ginger Captain. A glacé cherry vibrates, stuck in his moustache.
“As I thought,” the General continues, turning the page on his clipboard, while Lissima Domina serves the tea. “Insolence and insubordinance as well. Do you deny the charges?”
Justin chews the carpet, but says nothing.
“The General asked you a question, Mr. Time!” roars the Captain, rattling the teacups.
The spotty Lance-Corporal stuffs the ends of his woolly scarf into his ears, and pouts.
“I…” Justin peeps.
“Prisoner’s non-co-operation duly noted.” The General writes neatly onto his pad. “It appears we have reached an impasse. The options for your admonition facing us include collective forfeit, whereby the entire barracks is punished for your misdemeanours and you are thrown upon their mercy…”
“Hear, hear,” bumbles the Captain, slurping some of his tea from the saucer, having swirled it around to cool it down.
“Or you are handed over to General Lissima Domina for detention at sea and automatic loss of all flying privileges, for an indefinite period until your behaviour can be seen to be fully reformed…”
The carpet barely muffles a gulp. Back in her seat, General Domina merely smiles coyly at the mention of her name.
“…Unless our patron, Mr. Crispin Dry, has alternative suggestions of merit?”
A hopeful eyebrow is raised from the cut pile underfoot.
But Crispin’s expression is as gray and stony as it has ever been. Even my heart sinks on Justin’s behalf.
“I have complete faith in the military justice system, Sunny-Jim,” Crispin replies, curtly. “Although I suspect that a woman’s touch is often more effective than wire wool and soap.”
Where have I recently seen wire wool and soap? I look down at my back-to-front field hospital scrubs, unable to place them already in my memory…
But the sight of the little silver sugar-tongs in my hand triggers something…
The coded diary! In Carvery’s pocket!
Now – if only I can recall which pocket he has it in… because I’m sure there’s also probably still something in one of the pockets that I wouldn’t want to be poking at with anything metallic…
“Give me the wire wool and soap!” Justin’s voice rises from the floor. “Mercy!”
“How dare you address superiors with suggestions for your method of torture!” The Captain is puce. “Lance-Corporal Pikey, I order you to throw your beaker of weak lemonade over the prisoner at once!”
The still-sulky Layabout Pikey picks up his brimming plastic cup, and tosses it across the desk, where it rebounds off the back of Justin’s ear with a satisfying bonk and a splosh.
“Now what am I going to dunk my pink wafers in, Uncle?” Pikey demands under his breath.
“I tend to agree with Mr. Dry,” General Sunny-Jim muses, poring over his notes. “So if you will wait a moment while we thrash out the finer details… I’m sorry. Detail the finer thrashings.”
And he beckons to Crispin Dry and General Lissima to peruse his clipboard.
Now, I’m thinking, sidling closer to Carvery. Now, now, now…
“Don’t you have some information to negotiate with, Justin?” Ace mutters meaningfully.
“Mmph?” says the fluff on the carpet.
“Yeah,” Carvery grunts, winking at Ace. “Something to do with the Six a.m. Lounge withholding their chemical capabilities, wasn’t it? Or was it the Nine a.m. Lounge withholding their brewery capabilities? I’m sure one of them might offer you asylum.”
“That is what he is afraid of, Mr. Slaughter!” Corporal Punishment agrees. “The asylum is generally agreed to be worse than the confining to the solitary, with the wire wool and the soap!”
Now… now… now or never!
“Sarah…” a warning voice interrupts my thoughts. “You are going to need considerably bigger forceps than those, if you are going where I think you’re going with them.”
I drop the little silver sugar tongs with a gulp, and kick them swiftly under the desk.
“What forceps?” I ask.
Damn it all, already!
Carvery’s amber gaze is as deadly as usual.
“One cartridge, remember?” He taps the stock of Mrs. Frittata’s shotgun.
“Permission to speak!” Justin shouts into the carpet.
“Silence!” The glacé cherry is fired abruptly from the Captain’s whiskers, whereupon it sticks neatly to Corporal Punishment’s khaki lapel.
But Justin leaps upright, and lunges for the shotgun.
…And I swear Carvery just grins and hands it to him…
“Say hello to my widdle friend!” shouts Justin.
“Hello, Widdle,” obliges Lance-Corporal Pikey, through a mouthful of pink wafer.
Carvery and Ace both look at me automatically, and to the floor beneath my feet.
“Not even a puddle big enough to paddle in,” Ace remarks. “She must be sobering up.”
“I will be leaving now!” says Justin, waving the shotgun and backing towards the door. “And you will not be following me!”
There is a series of mechanical clicks, as both Generals, Captain Mainlining and Lance-Corporal Pikey all draw their weapons from beneath the desk. The Captain’s bayonet neatly impales an iced cinnamon roll, as he levels it above the tea service.
The skewered pastry oozes sugar syrup menacingly onto the French polish.
“That might be inadvisable, Mr. Time,” says Crispin, straightening up. “As you can see, it appears you have only brought one cartridge to a bunfight.”
Justin lets out a yell, and raises his weapon, trying to pick a target as he jerks it back and forth.
“Fuck’s sake.” Carvery reaches into his pockets and fumbles around. “Where is it… here, hold this…”
…And he drops the little leather-bound diary right into my astonished hand.
“Dude,” Ace says. “I’m sure I read somewhere that you shouldn’t Taser an armed man.”
“It’s not for him.” Carvery finds his Taser. “He’s just stepped off the carpet onto the floorboards. We need a bigger widdle puddle…”
“Corporal Punishment!” I gasp, and throw the tiny book. “The pictograms – catch!”
The Taser contacts stab into my throat, like the bite of a soulless vampire…
…Every muscle in my body spasms, and the last cocktail I drank leaves via the emergency exit.
The gemstones in the clockwork hand clamped around my wrist immediately light up, and everything else slows down…
I see Justin looking down at the puddle seeping under his feet, and losing his footing on the polished floor… I see Ace diving in to give him a rugby-tackle followed by a wedgie, and Luke reaching out to grab the shotgun barrels and point them harmlessly towards the ceiling as he disarms the rickshaw pilot…
…And Corporal Punishment’s long-fingered ebony-black hand closes in mid-air around the little diary, which he opens curiously…
I am still on my feet – how?
The stones on the clockwork hand glitter like disco-lights, and with a rush of pins-and-needles I feel the Taser charge rushing down my arm towards it, followed by a blissful numbness. But it still won’t let go, hugging my carpals like a bulletproof jacket.
“Guys,” I say, feeling light-headed as I watch Ace and the shrieking Justin wrestling on the floor. “Why are you playing in my wee-wee?”
The door to the Airstream bursts open, and a figure is outlined against the daylight to be greeted by the impromptu floorshow.
“Gooood,” the newcomer approves.
“That’s more like it, Homer,” Luke greets him. “You look like a great big weight has been lifted off your lap…”
“Ah, it appears I now have a sister,” says Crispin, as Homer steps inside, over Justin’s kicking legs.
“An ugly sister,” Lance-Corporal Pikey notes.
“…I told you it didn’t seem right swinging around on a dead white fella,” Luke adds.
“It did upstage the dead white fella part,” Carvery muses.
“Really, Mr. Dry,” Captain Mainlining remarks, lowering his rifle and retrieving the sticky bun from his bayonet. “A woman shouldn’t be running around the camp like that. Put some clean clothes on him, somebody.”
“What?” I ask vaguely, my head still up in the clouds. I look down at myself. “It’s only pee…”
Lance-Corporal Pikey reluctantly parts with his woolly scarf and mittens, which Homer accepts graciously.
“I find this plan of action to be satisfactory,” Crispin announces, checking the clipboard again. “Do you, General Lissima?”
“Quite satisfactory, Mr. Dry.” She re-holsters her firearm.
“I don’t know what’s bothering you, man,” Luke tells Justin, as he returns the shotgun to Carvery with the final cartridge still intact, and picks up his cup of three-sugared tea once more. “Your wife seems like a perfectly reasonable lady. I told you she couldn’t be worse than mine.”
Homer is managing to fashion a sarong out of the woolly scarf, and has put the mittens proudly onto his knobbly gray feet.
In the meantime, I notice Corporal Punishment turning the pages of the little replica of Mr. Dry Senior’s diary, his lips moving silently as he reads…
…YES! He understands it!!
“Mr. Time,” General Sunny-Jim announces, standing up along with the others. “You will accompany General Lissima Domina to the docks, to begin your detention immediately.”
“Never!” cries the mutinous rickshaw pilot, as Ace jerks him to his feet, holding him by the elbows to face the officers.
There is a whip-crack, and a giant, familiar-looking, sucker-covered tentacle lashes out across the desk and coils around the gibbering Justin Time’s neck.
“He’s the same whenever we have to go home,” Cutthroat Liss smiles, while giving her husband an intimate squeeze.
Luke’s teacup drops onto the floor, and his eyes pop in alarm.
“Hey, Justin,” says Ace. “If it’s any consolation, I know what you’re going through. I think I’ve had her sister.”
Original ‘Full Metal Jacket’ trailer
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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