Bad Day At _Paul_And_Land_ Chapter 17 (AKA One)

Chapter One

It was hot, too damned hot, in _Paul_And_Land_. The sun was as high as hippopotamus’ eye and not a breath of wind whispered through the happy streets. The population were resting, not surpringly, alongside fans with pitchers of chilled water on hand. The landlord of the _Paul_And_Land_Arms_ was doing steady trade, his brow bathed in perspiration, as many of the local folk, aware of his hissing air-conditioning system, sought to feel the cooling kiss of chilled air.

And this being a national holiday in _Paul_And_Land_, the place was rammed. It was Tuesday Weld, not to be confused with Sheffield Thursday or Girl Friday. Or indeed Friday on my Mind Day. Mr Singh, of Mr Singh’s 24 hour Convience Store and Off-Licence, now open late on Sundays, had his doors and windows open, a small fan c/o Argos (Richard Branson Land Branch, pre-space travel) attempting to pull what small pockets of cooling air existed into the shop.

Some of the young people of this place, had taken to wearing skimpy garb and a certain number, eager to show off their ink, had even de-vested. Some of the even younger young people had decamped to the Richard Branson International Swimming Lido and Leisure Centre, over the Sunny uplands. Indeed, the 11:34 bus from outside the Big School had been overflowing with towels, swimming clobber, goggles and large inflatable rubber tubes as the even younger young youngsters sought the cooling effect of hippy boy’s waters. Stop making up your own innuedoes, what do you think this is, The Frankie Howard Show?

Meanwhile, high on the sunlit uplands, reminiscent of a very poor poor remake of a poor Greek Art House Movie “The Four Horseman of the Acropolis”, four desperate horseman mopped their foreheads and looked down on our happy town. All four horses were black and their pale riders (A Sheffeel joke), ‘Mad-Boy’, ‘Kid’, ‘Red’ and ‘Blackheart’ licked their lips at the sight of the _Paul_And_Land_Arms_. Yes, even the horses were licking their lips at the sight of the_Paul_And_Land_Arms_ as it meant a brief respite from the hard riding of their hard riding riders. Maybe they could even find some grass and buttercups to fill their grumbling tummies, poor old horses. Even horses have allusions: the steed on which ‘Red’ rode had had a succesful career in International Bank Advertising, ‘Mad-Boy’ sat astride a black horse shamed of it’s present rider whereas ‘Kid’s’ mount just didn’t have a clue – plucked from the obscurity of a milk round and thrust into the limelight of very bad stuff. Poor old horse, every morning ‘Blackheart’ kicked him. Some would say he deserved it for mixing with the wrong crowd but he was only a horse, after all it was his rather simple rider that had dragged him into this miserable life

And so, drawn on by the thought of hitting the Sasparilla, these four desperados rode down from the Sunny uplands and into town. At the sight of Mr Singh’s shop ‘Mad-Boy pulled his horse up, proclaiming that he was going for cigars. Climbing down from his shame-faced horse, ‘Mad-Boy’ gazed about paranoically. He was big on paranoia, was ‘Mad-Boy’, everyone was out to get him and, in his reckoning at least, the best form of defence was attack. So that’s what he did, constantly, and in this shop he saw yet another opportunity to be defensive. He strutted in like he owned the place and shot a gaze at Mr Singh, a long hard gaze from cold, hard and very cold, hard eyes. Mr Singh, on the other hand was as warm and friendly as ever and greeted the stranger like a long lost friend. Even though there was no please in the question, Mr Singh handed the stranger his cigars

A further question was snarled at Mr Singh to which he replied that no sir, he was not a Muslim, he was a Sikh and his wife a Buddhist. This confused ‘Mad-Boy’, outside of his own stunted brain, everyone was a Muslim and as Mr Singh continued to tell him that his three sons were Greek Orthodox, Anabaptist and Aetheist his brain almost exploded. His temples throbbing, ‘Mad-Boy’ turned on his heel and struck a match to light his cigar. Mr Singh reminded him that he wasn’t supposed to smoke inside the shop because of European Legislation. At this point, ‘Mad-Boy’ saw red, blew a gasket, split his trousers and threw the still burning match into the display of soap powders before stalking out. The cardboard boxes caught flame and from the back of the shop a small voice hollered that “I’ll put out the potential inferno, Mr Singh”. It was little Cheerful Charlie, as he was known; one because he short in stature, two because he was Cheerful and three because he was from Warrington. As you do

True to his word, little Cheerful Charlie, doused the blaze like some latter day Kurt Russell or even Gordon McQueen. Or was it Alexander. Or Steve? What? This is confusing. Nevertheless, the young fella me lad was in Mr Singh’s 24 hour Convience Store and Off-Licence Emporium purchasing pop and out of date doughnuts for his pals at Miss Lennox’s Home for Straifs and Ways (she wasn’t big on spelling, but she can knock up Chicken Broth can Miss Lennox). Quick as a wink, Charlie was on it. Like a tiny aforementioned Kurt Russell, he shot those flames down without a care in the world for the back-draft or whatever. Doughnuts do have their uses, it would seem, as they blocked the oxygen of oxygen to the flames and, simple chemistry here, the raging pyre of soap powder slowly fizzled out.

Wiping his brow, once again rather like some minature Kurt Russell, little Cheerful Charlie sashayed to the counter. A ten from Len, or Maurice. What a mover, if my walnuts could crack, you’d be eating walnuts. Thank goodness they haven’y gawt tha likes a tha in _Paul_And_Land_ (that’s Miss Lennox talking, by the road. She can’t be doing with the likes of Len from ten or anyone associated wth the number ten actually. We digress).

Just imagine, Don Giovanni, “a one from Don” or Clive Woods (what a fine sportsman) from Clive, a nine. Or Ford Cortina, the little known Italian American radio star of the early thirties, “fromma Cortina, a fourteena”.

Where the flip were we? Oh yes, little Cheerful Charlie, nice lad, trousered in ragged trousers, buying stuff for his pals. We shall continue..

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, ‘Mad Boy’ had caught up with the three other vagabonds (careful use of language there) as they approached the _Paul_And_Land_Arms_. As they arounded the final corner on their journey however, they were halted in their tracks by _Paul_And_Land_’s most grandiose building. One after another, they tipped back their Stetsons and stared in wonder at the magnificent edifice. “That’s some place”, said ‘Mad Boy”, jealousy coursing through his alcohol and nicotine encrusted veins, “I’d sure like to know who lives in that joint”.

At this point, or that point, or some point who should walk up but Little Cheerful Charlie, his arms overflowing with doughnuts and Mr Singh’s home branded Tizeresque drink. Mr Singh claimed that the stuff was made out back of the shop but everyone knew it wasn’t really. One, because out back of Mr Singh’s shop (now open late on Sundays and public holidays including, you will note with some interest, Tuesday Weld) was actually open to the public and two, because everyone had seen the stuff being delivered by a large truck all the way from Blackburn. Or was it Blackpool? Nevertheless, Mr Singh’s home branded Tizeresque drink was not made out back of the shop however no-one in _Paul_And_Land_ wanted to offend Mr Singh by calling him a big fibber. And his wife was a Buddhist which, in terms of _Paul_And_Land_ at least, was a pretty cool thing, pretty cool indeed. Unlike the weather and certainly unlike the four horseback riders staring at _Paul_And_Land_’s fanciest gaff.

Talking of which, as we were, and the four desperados out front and the approach of the heavily doughnut laden Little Cheerful Charlie, if you recall. And Mr Singh’s home branded Tizeresque soft drink but let’s not go down that route again. No, let’s not Marjorie. Hang on a minute, who the buggery is Marjorie? And what has she got to do with the price of fish in Fleetwood, that’s what I’d like to know. Well, it’s as plain as the nose, or chin, or something like that on your face. Marjorie off of ‘To The Manor Born’, that’s the kind of house we’re talking about but Marjorie didn’t live here in _Paul_And_Land_. One, because she wasn’t real (it was an actress, honestly. Sorry to burst a few bubbles there but life can be cruel at times) and two because somebody else did. And Little Cheerful Charlie was about to spill the beans. Metaphorically, so to speak. He had no beans, only doughnuts and Tizeresque soft drink. If he’d had beans, he could of spilled them but only if he’d have had a tin opener, which he didn’t, so we’ll stick to the metaphorical if you don’t mind.

Right, enter stage left, followed by a bear, Little Cheerful Charlie (his arms now aching from lugging those doughnuts all over the place). And ACTION! Charlie, I’ll lead you in with the last line. ‘Mad Boy’ has just said “I’d sure like to know who lives in a joint like that…” and we’re rolling.

LCC: I can tell you who lives there gentlemen.

BH: Oh yeah, you grubby little individual, and who might that be then? Come on spill the beans.

LCC: I don’t have any beans, sir. Or a tin opener. But I know who lives there. I do!

(BH, K, R & MB exchange glances. LCC recognises MB from the encounter earlier and a look of fear enters his eyes)

BH: So you live here, eh? Tell me another fairy story, you lying little scrote

LCC: Yes sir, honest I do, with Miss Lennox and all the other Straifs and Ways. Honest! And that man there (LCC tries to point to MB but cannot because of the doughnuts and Tizeresque soft drink) tried to set fire to Mr Singh’s shop just a few minute ago.

BH: (turning to MB) This right Mad Boy? What’s the idea? (winks at MB) You tryin’ to cause some tension?

MB: Me, Blackheart? Cause tension? As if I would. You know I’m a good, law-abiding citizen. (looks at LCC) So who’s the dame? Lennox, you say, what’s her game? C’mon, you better start talkin’ or you’ll be sorry, No-one crosses me and gets away with it.

LCC: Miss Lennox looks after us sir, she cares for us and feeds us Chicken Broth every night. She’s like a a real mother to us all, all us Straifs and Ways. Why there’s Joe and Louis, Muhhamed and Ali and not forgetting Sugar, Ray and Leonard…

MB: Muhhamed and Ali, they sound kinda Muslim (spits) maybe, I’d like to meet these Straifs and Ways, I’ll be in the bar…. (menacing) all day! Now gimme those doughnuts (lunges for doughnuts) my horse is mighty hungry

BH: Mine too Mad Boy. And I guess yours is as well Kid, get yourself some doughnuts Kid and you too Red… (BH kicks LCC and the doughnuts drop to the ground. The bottles of Tizeresque soft drink smash on the pavement and LCC falls among the shards of glass and the Tizeresque soft drink)

(LCC sobs)

MB: C’mon boys, let’s get a drink….

And thats a wrap! No not quite, as the four ride off, Little Cheerful Charlie picks himself up. Tears are burning his cheeks., his ragged trousered trousers, soaked in Tizeresque soft drink, clinging to his boney frame. Only one thought in his mind: he must seek the solace of Miss Lennox.

And cue the Eastenders theme music…