Originally published a year or so ago as part of a series on Shortbread Stories.
Psychotweeter Part Eight: A Garnet the Size of the Bunfettle Arms.
Update: Caz is trapped in a nineteenth century oil painting by or in the style of Dutch master Dirk van Spittle, along with Sibella’s mother. Jules is about to be injected with a powerful sedative and wheeled along to Room Eight. D-lister is still over yonder on the other side of the loch, naked and emotionally wrecked. The damage is likely to be permanent, unless he has immediate, radical brain surgery. More of that later.
“Come along Sibella. Is the syringe loaded? Good. Then let’s get on with it. Quickly now. I’ve got a dickie back and I can’t hold her for long. Fire it straight through the clothing and into the upper left quadrant of the large gluteal muscle, if you please.”
“Aaargh!” said Jules , who was pinned firmly to the ground in a headlock.
“Keep still! A valiant struggle, but you aren’t doing yourself any GOOD!” panted Young Archie Bunfettle, as Jules made a vain attempt to escape from his grasp. “Hurry it up, Sibella. She’s getting agitated.”
“Don’t do it Sibella! Can’t you see that it’s wrong? Help me, please! Sibella! Sibella!”
“No. You must join the others now.” Sibella raised the glass syringe and narrowed an eye as she squeezed the plunger until a tiny droplet of Chloramphexadrine Super-double-concentrate glistened at the needle’s tip. “Where exactly is the large gluteal muscle Young Mr Bunfettle? ”
“It doesn’t really matter Sibella. Anywhere will do, so long as it’s not the face. Just get on with it.”
“Very good Young MrBunfettle. Right you are Young Mr Bunfettle. I’ve got the bathchair right here for after Young Mr Bunfettle.” Sibella flexed her arm and grimaced as she took aim.
“Nicely done, Sibella. Tighten the restraints, and let’s move.”
“What about the people in the painting Young Mr Bunfettle? Shouldn’t one of us keep an eye on them?”
“No Sibella. Your mother can handle things from her end. By the way, did you remember to clean out the deep fat fryer? It really smells terrible when I switch it on.”
“Of course Young Mr Bunfettle. And I syphoned all the old fat into the tank in the cellar, just like you said. What are you going to do with all that stale fat, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“It’s going to be converted into bio-fuel, so that I can get the machinery working again.”
Meanwhile, deep in the painting, Sibella’s mum was holding forth….
“I remember, when I was a girl, there was none of this technology nonsense. We didn’t even have shoes. We’d run around in our bare feet until the skin on the soles got so thick we’d to slice it off with cheese wire. It looked like we were wearing platforms! Remember those? From the 70s? Although they were popular in the 1940s as well. People forget that. Same with Fair Isle twinsets and cable knits. I remember many a winter evening when my dear mother would spend the dark, lonely hours sitting by the fire surrounded by arcane pattern books and hank upon hank of hand-spun wool, clicking away like a demon till her arthritic fingers could take no more. All because she wanted me and my seven brothers kitted out properly head to toe in matching Fair Isle outfits, right down to the underwear. The Fair Isle trousers were lovely and cosy, only they did tend to stretch rather after a wash. My brothers said they ‘bagged at the knees’. We had to wash everything in the burn, you see, and then hang them up on the trees to dry. None of your new-fangled ‘machines’ and ‘bumble dryers’. She was a dab hand at scones as well. You can’t beat a good girdle scone, made the old-fashioned way. And when I say ‘old-fashioned’, I mean ‘proper’. Because everything old-fashioned IS proper. Which goes without saying, only I always DO say it because most people are too tiresomely thick to understand without me spelling it out in an incredibly tendentious manner. Hence me spelling it out in an incredibly tendentious manner. Anyway, where was I?”
Caz sat with her back against a tree, eyes closed. “I’ve got a banging headache and I’m losing the will to live,” she thought, “but I mustn’t give up. Where is Jules?”
“Where WAS I?” nagged Sibella’s mum.
“I don’t know. Being incredibly tendentious or something. You should get in touch with Vivienne Westwood. I’m sure she’d know how to stop Fair Isle trousers bagging at the knees.”
“ That is the first time I’ve ever heard someone actually say ‘pshaw’. I’ve always wondered how it was pronounced. Well, not always, but it perhaps crossed my mind one time when I was extremely bored, waiting in some godforsaken housing scheme in the dead of night for a bus that never came. Or in the interminable ten items or less queue in Tesco, waiting behind a mitten-wearing pensioner with coupons and a purse full of coins and a tiny mouse that they’re trying to prevent anyone from seeing.“
“Don’t mention it. Pshaw. That wasn’t me saying ‘pshaw’ again, by the way. That was a sneeze.”
“I must say I think you’ve got a really shitty attitude though, even for an old person. In fact, now I’m thinking it through, being an old person makes it worse, if that’s possible. And I suppose it is. Because anything’s possible. After all, Hitler was a vegetarian, and look where that got him. Dead in a bunker at forty two or whatever. You should learn stuff and develop and evolve and all that kind of thing as you go through life. But it has to be the right kind of thing that you learn. Not like Hitler, obviously. Look at the Dalai Lama! He’s evolving all the time. I follow him on Twitter. It makes me feel like a better person, scrolling through all those tweets about mindfulness and compassion. I’ve even popped a few in my Favourites. Anyway, you’re on Twitter as well, aren’t you @Sibellas_mum? What are you doing that for, if you’re so anti-anything new? Not that Twitter’s new any more, comparatively speaking. But you don’t seem interested in much beyond the Bakelite phone, the wind-up gramophone and the dirndl skirt. Why am I talking so much? What’s wrong with me?”
“You’re suffering from involuntary intra-pictorial verbosity, just like me. It’s a compulsion to spew forth all the garbage in your head, immediately, and with no regard for anyone unfortunate enough to be within a hundred yard radius. Anything at all that pops into your head also pops out of your mouth, and you have no control over it whatever. And Hitler was fifty six when he died, by the way.”
“OMG. It sounds just like Twitter, only without the technology. I’m starving by the way. I could murder a Twix. Only it’ll go straight to my bum and I’m worried about fitting into my size ten skinny jeans. Well, they’re size fourteen really but I switched labels. I think you’re the most boring person I’ve ever met and I wish you’d shut up. I’m also a bit scared of you but I don’t want you to find out in case it makes you attack me in some awful, not necessarily physical way. In fact a psychological attack might be far worse. What am I saying?!”
“Exactly so. That is why I ended up with a Twitter account and ‘handle’, against all my better instincts. I don’t like you but I’ll knit you some Fair Isle trousers. You’ll never have to worry about a waist band cutting in again. ”
“Stretchtastic. But I think I’d rather drink my own wee. I’ll invest in some extra-strong Spanx, instead. How can I stop this? Is there a cure? How did I catch it in the first place?”
“I’ll tell you in a minute. The good thing is that nobody who’s not in the picture can hear you.”
“Was that a double negative? I don’t think I follow…”
“Oh never mind.”
Meanwhile….on the far loch-side, D-lister stands up, and stretches his arms skywards towards the rising Full Moon.
“Hear me o spirits of the loch. I SAID HEAR ME, OK? Kelpies and monsters and that. I know you’re in there so stop ignoring me. I call upon you to bear witness to my transformation, both spiritual and physical and whatever, at this very place, which I hereby anoint with my own blood. Actually I won’t. That’s a bit much. If there was someone else here I’d use their blood, but as there’s not we’ll just have to manage without. I wish I hadn’t said that now. I think I might have a touch of involuntary intracranial verbosity actually. It’s not intra-pictorial because I’m not in the picture. And I never have been, and never will be. Story of my life really. But I’m not angry and slash or bitter. Oh no! Oh dear. Anyway. Let’s crack on. I was once a D-list celebrity, clutching desperately on to the last vestiges of fame through my carefully-cultivated Twitter fan-base. Against all that I held dear and right, I made myself appear to be a genuine salt-of-the-earth person, a human being ‘ just like them’, while at the same time clinging determinedly on to shallow ambition via the coat-tails of other more successful celebrities in the hope of better things. It was the finest acting performance of my career to date. Now I am transformed. I….”
Meanwhile, back at the Bunfettle Arms….
“That’ll be her for the night Sibella. We can check on her again just before dawn, and give her another dose.”
“Right you are Young Mr Bunfettle. Will you be wanting your supper now, Young Mr Bunfettle?”
“Yes indeed Sibella. I think I’d enjoy a bowl of Crème du Barry and a couple of Bath Olivers, followed by some triple vintage port and a large cigar.”
“Crème du –?”
“Cauliflower soup. That white stuff in the fridge. It’ll heat up nicely in the mike. But don’t let it boil, will you? I’ll go down to the cellar and fetch the port.”
“Will you be putting the old stale dirty fat from the deep fryer on to your machinery when you’re down there Young Mr Bunfettle?”
“Not tonight Sibella. Tomorrow, perhaps. I have to convert it into bio-fuel first. Thank you for all your help today by the way. You’re a marvellous assistant.”
Sibella beamed. “Thank you Young Mr Bunfettle.”
“There’s no need to curtsy.”
“Oh! THANK you Young Mr Bunfettle.”
“Don’t mention it. Till first light then. Good night Sibella.”
“Goodnight Young Mr Bunfettle. Oh! What about your Crème du Barry and your Bath Olivers Young Mr Bunfettle?”
But he was gone.
Sibella slipped along the dark corridor and then, after a quick glance over her shoulder, fetched a pair of night vision goggles from the top drawer of a late 19th century armoire at the top of the back stairs that led to the old servants’ quarters. Standing on an early Georgian milking stool and stretching up, she raised the heavy iron-framed skylight and propped it open, and then gazed out through the goggles to the far side of the loch, where D-lister was metamorphosing into a horrifying - ……
More about that in Psychotweeter Part Nine.