In this book the reader returns to The Where House. The proprietor, Boney Legge, has invited a powerful psychic hamster, whom he discovered in an alternative dimension, to ‘read’ the DNA of the citizens of Hamster Heath. By this means he is able to access their genetic memory. And by utilization of a huge monitor screen he exhibits the exciting tales of their ancestors for all to see – for a very reasonable price, of course. Here is a HUGE extract….
Chapter Twelve: Surplus Porridge
Following the events of Chester Bogbreath’s genetic memory scan, and the subsequent exhibition of woeful politicking, it was left to Doctor Rambling Bramble to put his scientific brain to good use, and suggest the direction that the next investigation should pursue…
“I say,” he stood up, looking very smart and dapper, as all chief scientists at the Institute for Hugely Important Studies should, “I couldn’t help but notice that with the last two trips down genetic memory lane – one thing led to another. By that I mean that there was a definite logical structure to the subjects.”
He paused to regard the audience. He asked himself the question, ‘Are they keeping up with me – or am I being far too intelligent, and using enormous words when single syllables would suffice?’ He wasn’t sure, so he decided to dumb things down a notch.
“Well Fabian Strangefellow’s history lesson took us all up north, which was wonderful and desperately entertaining by the way: Then that was followed by our wonderful mayor’s northern sojourn that involved a confrontation between the empires of Hamster-Britain and that Imperial Germanic lot. My suggestion is – and I’ll try not to be too scientific as I explain this – let’s carry on with this connection stuff. You know – from North – to North and Germanic Empire – then to Germanic Empire and something entirely new. How does that sound?”
Well it sounded just fine and dandy to just about everyone – even those who didn’t really understand what he meant. But there was a problem…
“ ‘Ere” Boney’s voice boomed over the public address system as he inexpertly held the microphone too close to his lips, “where we gonna find someone who comes from that sort of background in ‘Amster ‘Eath?”
Horatio Horseblanket’s paw shot skyward like a furry rocket headed for the moon.
“I know someone.” He yelled.
Boney was surprised. “You do? But ‘ow’s that possible? All the records for that era were lost in…”
“…The year Swunglo.” Horatio rudely interrupted, but he felt that it was justified on the grounds that he couldn’t be bothered to listen to something that he already knew from his college days at Saint Dunces in Poxford, “Yes we know that. But there is such a thing as family history you know. Centralized government doesn’t know everything: Some things stay within the four walls of the family home – not that you’d know anything about family: You’re a confirmed bachelor after all – even if you do have an android with a multi-talented tool – or maybe because of it. This is a case in point.”
Now had Colin been made of something other than exotic materials, and possessed a brain that was deficient in nano-circuitry of extra-terrestrial origins, it’s quite possible that he might have been offended on behalf of his owner, and cried out something emotional like, “Go to buggery – you total arse-feature!” But the android was made of these things, and was therefore immune to Horatio’s caustic terminology. So he replied, “Oh, that’s great, Horatio. May I call you Horatio? Who were you thinking of inviting onto the stage?”
Horatio didn’t reply immediately. Instead he chose to use a few seconds to consider whether Colin was being genuine, or taking the piss. It had been a good evening so far, and he was feeling generous…
“I,” Horatio stood, turned around in his seat, picked out a well-known face in the crowd, and pointed in its direction, “volunteer our local former police constable – the retired P.C.Bootsie.”
It had taken Bootsie quite a while to make his way from his seat to the sofa on stage. Not because he was old and infirm; but because he was over-burdened with a mixture of dairy and pastry products – thanks in no small part to the vast number of Fanangy’s custard tarts that he’d consumed during the interval – and because it took that amount of time for him to re-engage his semi-dormant brain, and recognize who he was; what he was doing; and why his stomach hurt.
“ ‘Ere, the next time I look at a custard tart,” he said as Sorbresto lowered his considerable weight onto the creaking sofa for him, “either remind me to abstain – usin’ some form of gentle lovin’ terminology; or stick a hat pin in me scrotum. Either would be fine: I aint feelin’ so good.”
But Sorbresto decided to ignore the old twat, and duly went straight to work upon him.
The scene was a wide grassy, valley with shallow hills upon each side – both coated with a carapace of rhubarb trees and small spindly shrubs. A narrow stream meandered through the valley – deflected here and there by outcroppings of a granite-like rock; and flowers abounded like a sea of cheery faces staring up with idiot smiles at a merciless sun above.
Crickets and other small insects hopped hither and thither in the joy of a summer’s day, and predatory creatures fell upon them – to devour them with relish and unbridled savagery.
At the centre of the valley sat a squat rectangular edifice – with roads that led away from it in the direction of the wind’s four quarters. It was largely brick-built, with a low central two-storey building, with a number of small out-houses to the east and west of it, and surrounded by a high wall with four large gates, complete with parapet and narrow towers at each of the four corners. It was, if not in name, a hurriedly-made fortress.
Bootsie, had he been conscious, would have recognized it instantly. It was the product of what became known as The Phoney War, and wasn’t built so much as a serious defensive position – but more as a political statement of intent.
Nothing appeared to be occurring on-screen (save for the aforementioned slaughter) and as of yet the view hadn’t moved closer to the fortress. Interest was beginning to wane amongst the crowd who were finding the sight of insects eating each other in graphic detail decidedly tedious and increasingly emetic.
Since the cataclysm of the year Swunglo, when so many records relating to historical facts about Hamster-Britain were lost – Colin was now the sole depository of any recorded knowledge concerning The Phoney War. As such he felt compelled to share a portion of this information by giving the audience a summary of the situation that they were currently witnessing.
Turning his volume control to ‘fifteen’ again he made a noise that was analogous with a male hamster clearing his throat. Then, tempering the volume once more, Colin explained that during the period that led up to The Phoney War – Hamster France (or Amstair Fronce as it was known locally) had suffered a cultural revolution. All signs of culture had been eradicated by a left-wing government – ably supported by morons that had been bred in a growing underclass. As a result everyone was forced to wear the national uniform of baggy, ill-fitting, arse-showing, sweat pants, with nasty cheap ‘T-shirts, back-to-front baseball caps, and over-sized training shoes. All entertainment was of the crudest kind. Wit was banned. And the only recreation allowed in public was either privates-fondling or soccer. As a result civilization collapsed, and the last-minute installation of an ultra-intelligent, upper-class government came too late to save Hamster French society, and millions fled, whilst those who remained fell into abject despair so deep that some of them never recovered from it.
Into this power/social vacuum marched the Imperial Germanic Empire. With no organized defence the survivors of the Cultural Revolution fell easy prey to the advancing horde. And only a desperate plea from those few who still possessed some form of governmental intellect invited The Hamster British Empire to mount a counter-movement. Soon Hamster-France was effectively divided into two countries – one ruled by the Imperial Germanics: The other, in the name of the Hamster French, by the Hamster British. In between stood The Disputed Ground – a long corridor that stretched the entire length of the country, over which both sides claimed jurisdiction. It was here that a line of ‘forts’ were constructed, but due to a regime of strict political correctness that was running rampant in both empires at that time, these forts could not be so called: They were instead labelled missions And this particular mission belonged to the Hamster British, and was deliberately given the inoffensive, and non-belligerent, name of The Tumplings.
Abruptly the view had altered. Now everyone could see inside The Tumplings. To be more precise they could see inside the Guard House, where Private Caruthers paced the floor in a heavy great coat, woolly socks, thick mittens, and the longest scarf in the world.
“Blooming air conditioning.” He grumbled, “I wish they’d never invented the stuff.”
He flapped his arms against his body in an attempt to keep frostbite from claiming his finger tips. He then took a quick glance out through the window, which was positioned high in one of the corner towers upon the wall. The view showed unbroken rolling countryside as far as the eye could see – which wasn’t very far of course because Private Caruthers was a member of the Hamster British Expeditionary Force, and was therefore a myopic hamster. Striding to a wall-mounted speaking-tube he checked his fob watch, then spoke into the communication system.
“Seventeen o’clock and all’s well.” He announced to some unseen person in another part of the mission.
“Oh, jolly good, Private Caruthers.” A rather ‘posh’ voice responded down the tube, “Keep up the good work. Oh, and by the way – we should have an engineer here any time this year to sort out the air conditioning. Until then – make sure you keep all the doors and windows closed: We don’t want it to explode or anything.”
Caruthers smile was wan as he confirmed his instructions. Then he closed the speaking tube, thumbed his nose at it, and said a very rude word indeed.
Moments later the inner door opened. Another Private – wearing a coat with the name Sullen stencilled upon the left breast – entered whist carrying a huge mug of brown liquid.
“ Here you are, Caruthers.” He announced, “A cuppa tea for ya.”
Caruthers’ mood hadn’t lightened. In a grouchy tone he said, “Ta, Sullen: Is it hot?”
Sullen appeared hurt. “Yeah – course it is.” He replied.
Still Caruthers didn’t move from the speaking tube. “Is it piping hot?”
Sullen regarded the mug in his hand. “Well not exactly piping hot.” He confessed.
“Could it be more accurately described as lukewarm?” Caruthers pressed.
Sullen sniffed at the offending subject of their conversation. “Not exactly lukewarm.” He half whispered – half whimpered.
Caruthers’ shoulders slumped in defeat. “It’s stone-cold isn’t it?”
Sullen tapped the top of the drink with his knuckles. “There’s only a thin coating of frost, Caruthers.” He chanced a smile, but it out came out looking sicker than a plague victim’s vomit. “Once you break through that – well the rest is almost at room temperature.”
Caruthers’ sneered. “Yeah? What room would that be?”
Sullen chewed at his lower lip. “The cold store.” He answered. Then he offered, “Shall I take it back to the galley for a fresh cup?”
“What would be the point?” Caruthers complained. “By the time you got back here again – the damned air con would’ve frozen it again.”
“I could try to stuff it down the front of me trousers.” Sullen offered helpfully.
Caruthers was just about to tell Sullen where he could stick his cup of tea – when he spotted movement on the valley floor beneath the window.
“Hang on – it’s Lieutenant De’ath. Quick – tell someone to open the North Gate.”
When nothing happened, Caruthers and Sullen realized that, with the exception of their immediate superior – Officer Cadet Noogar Pillows, in the Communications Suite – they were the sole occupants of The Tumplings. So raced from the Guard House as fast as their stubby legs could carry them. They then proceeded to dash along the wall; down the stairs; across the parade ground; and finally to the North Gate – where they leaned upon the capstan that lifted the portcullis to recover their breath.
“Where the fluff is everyone?” Caruthers gasped.
“Skeleton crew.” Sullen wheezed. “There’s too many missions, and not enough troops to man ‘em. Our platoon is out on patrol. That leaves just us and the twerp.”
“I don’t understand all this patrolling stuff.” Caruthers had resumed grumbling,
“We know where the Germanics are: We don’t need to go patrolling to find them.”
“It’s called showin’ the flag.” Sullen seemed to know more about the politics of non-warfare than Caruthers, who didn’t really know much at all – and cared even less. “If they think that we’re not really committed to saving ‘Amster-France– they’ll just roll us up, and kick our arses back to Amster-Britain.”
Caruthers didn’t like the idea of being rolled up and having his arse kicked back to Hamster-Britain: He liked living in the extremely clement weather of Amstair-Fronce. He also liked cheeses from the nearby hamlet of Notre Dame du Mamelon Inversé, which he would rather remain close to paw.
“Oh.” He replied – and set about opening the gate.
By the time that Lieutenant Che’at De’ath had consumed three cups of room temperature tea and a fairy cake he was ready to make his report.
Cadet Officer Noogar Pillows had even left the sanctuary of the Communications Suite to join them in the Guard House.
“Well, you see, it’s like this.” Lieutenant De’ath said as he put down his cup and saucer, and addressed his three subordinates, “When I took the platoon out on patrol this morning – well I wasn’t being entirely honest with you. It was nothing to do with showing the flag or anything so esoteric. I was actually on an important mission.” He then lowered his voice until it sounded almost conspiratorial, “A very important mission”
“That would explain the wheelbarrows.” Caruthers interjected before the Lieutenant could continue. “I figured they were hardly regulation issue – not unless you planned on returning with a lot of comatose prisoners, or a few tomatoes.”
“Very observant of you, Private.” De’ath seemed quite impressed – and almost as if to confirm this hypothesis, he sat back, crossed his arms, and awaited further enlightenment.
Caruthers was having none of it. He’d been in the army too long to volunteer anything – even hypotheses: And if the Lieutenant really wanted to out-wait him – then Caruthers was up for it: Much like Horatio Horseblanket – who would be born into a later era – he could out-wait eternity.
Quickly realizing that Caruthers’ bifurcated lips were likely to remain permanently sealed, De’ath turned his attention to Sullen and Pillows.
“Noogar?” he said, addressing the youngster.
“Lieutenant?” The Officer-Cadet smiled nervously and stared blankly at the same time.
“Sullen?” De’ath tried hopefully.
“Sir?” Sullen almost saluted, but thought better of it, and instead wiped his brow with a cleaning cloth, and then tucked it down the front of his trousers.
De’ath had always been keen to stretch the abilities of the hamsters under his command – both physically and mentally. He believed that it made them better, more autonomous, soldiers.
“Would you care to theorize further upon my activities today?” he inquired.
“Not really, Sir.” Sullen replied in a tone that was almost officious. “I’m the Mission chef, Sir: I make porridge and tea. I don’t theorize about nothing, Sir. Show me some washing up to be done, and I’ll figure out much water and soap it’ll need to get it all clean: But when it comes to secret missions and military stuff like that – well I like to stick me head up me arse, Sir. I’m speakin’ metaphorically of course: I can’t bend that far, and I don’t like the smell of me own effluent.”
“By the Saint of All Hamsters!” De’ath exploded at this. Then addressing both Caruthers and Sullen he bellowed, “I don’t know why you two are in the army at all. You seem perfectly happy just make up the numbers. What’s wrong with you – can’t get a job in regular civilian life?”
Both Privates could recognize a rhetorical question when they heard one, and elected to remain silent.
Then it was time for the Officer-Cadet’s ears to feel the lash of the Lieutenant’s wrathful tongue.
“And you, Pillows,” his bellow had developed into a terrifying roar, “you always lock yourself away in the Communications Suite: Why? Are you afraid that someone
will see your little minge-prodder in the showers or something?”
To his credit Noogar Pillows responded well to this vicious jibe. “It’s not that sir.” His young voice seemed pathetic after the stentorian tone of his commanding officer, “I have terribly bad breath, and my ripe anal out-gassings have garnered me a following of very attentive blow-flies. The lads don’t like ‘em sir.”
“The farts, sir: Not the blow-flies.” Sullen clarified the young hamster’s statement for him.
Any tenseness born of anger that remained in the male-hamsterly frame of Lieutenant Che’at De’ath dissipated at these words. “Oh, I’m sorry about that, Noogar,” he said as he patted the youngster’s head, “I had no idea that you carried such a burden. Oh, and thanks for wearing that flowery facemask too: Your halitosis has been entirely nullified by the pleasant stench of chrysanthemums in the filter.”
“And my bowels, Sir?” Pillows’ voice seemed to implore like that of a begging immigrant. “Do they meet with your satisfaction?”
“Can’t say that I’ve noticed anything yet.” De’ath replied as he scented the air with his sensitive rodent nose. “But try to hold it in until we’re all outside again – there’s a good lad.”
For a moment Caruthers wondered if the sudden change of subject had completely emptied the Lieutenant’s head of the mission at paw. He’d been inwardly hurt by De’ath’s choice of words whilst he’d lambasted the two Privates: He’d never considered himself to be someone who merely ‘made up the numbers’: Once upon a time he’d been a career hamster – but things had happened to him that had altered his perspective, and in doing so ruined his military career. Now, if there was a chance of altering the Lieutenant’s opinion of him, he was very enthusiastic to grasp it with both paws. But now he worried: had his commanding officer completely misplaced his train of thought? Surely not? But Caruthers couldn’t take any chances…
“Begging your pardon, Sir.” He said as the Lieutenant began studying the strap that held Pillows’ mask tightly to his head, “But what did you want with a load of wheelbarrows this morning?”
The question seemed to shock De’ath momentarily. “Oh my,” he hissed, “I’d quite forgotten. My memory just isn’t what it used to be. Oh yes – the wheelbarrows…”
Lieutenant De’ath then explained that he’d taken the platoon to steal several barrow-loads of fire wood from under the snouts of the Imperial Germanic Empire troops in the adjoining valley, and that unfortunately they’d been caught in a pincer movement by the entire company that currently inhabited their neighbouring Germanic Empire Mission.
“I only escaped because I’d stopped to visit the lavatory.” He finished.
This was bad news for the three surviving mission members.
“But I’ve prepared enough porridge for the entire platoon,” Sullen complained. “I even stirred in some honey. All it needs is a bit of re-heating.”
But Caruthers was a little more practical. “So it’s our task to free them, huh?”
A light seemed to go on behind De’ath’s eyes. “That’s the attitude I want.” He leapt forward, and slapped the private upon the back. “We push off just as soon as we’ve dreamed up some terribly inventive and meticulous plan. I have a tentative idea of course – but it means passing through The Gorge of Death.”
Even through his thick covering of facial fur everyone could see Caruthers blanche. “The Gorge of Death?” he gulped.
Noogar Pillows had never heard of The Gorge of Death, and didn’t mind admitting it. “Is it really that terrible?” he said finally.
“Son,” Sullen laid a paw upon the youngster’s shoulder, “ even the words ‘The Gorge of Death’ are like a kick in the goolies to the ‘Amster British army. It’s where we last encountered the shock troopers of the Imperial Germanic Empire – and, I can tell ya, it left a bitter taste in our mouths.”
“I’ve read up on the history of The Tumplings.” The doubtful officer-cadet’s eyes went thin with suspicion as he spoke, “But I’ve never found anything pertaining to such an incident. Please elucidate further.”
“No need.” Caruthers grunted as he pushed Sullen aside and made for the store cupboard beneath the stage, “I’ll show you instead.”
It took a little while for Caruthers to set up the ageing movie projector, but finally he was able to call “Lights”; the shutters upon the windows were slammed shut; and the Guard House was plunged into infinite darkness.
Moments later a flickering picture was projected upon a threadbare bedspread that had been hurriedly nailed to the wall. It was in monochrome, and clearly hailed from a time when the construction of The Tumplings had only recently been completed. There were no flower beds or safety rails to be seen anywhere, and the Total Immersion Stench Pit, so popular with common soldiery, was filled with builder’s rubble and sapling stinging nettles. Then the camera-hamster swung his lens about through ninety degrees to include some sort of military ceremony that included a group of smartly dressed soldiers as who were receiving their Corporal’s stripes from an officiating high-ranking officer. Surprisingly a few local dignitaries and a bunch of provocatively-dressed floozies from the village of Notre Dame du Mamelon Inversé had bothered to show up.
“Oi,” Sullen called out over the clickety-click sound of the projector, “that bloke on the end: Aint that you, Caruthers?”
Caruthers’ gaze remained glued to the ‘screen’, but he was well-aware that the eyes of the other two hamsters turned to regard the back of his neck. He could hear their sharp intakes of breath, and the subtle change of odour in the room when they crossed then uncrossed their legs with consternation.
“You never mentioned that you’d once been a Corporal, Private.” De’ath’s surprise was utter.
“Cor – fancy that!” Noogar Pillows added his bit. “Regard how new The Tumplings looks. And look at all those troopers, officers, local dignitaries, and provocatively-dressed floozies. It must have been fabulous being stationed here in those days – even with the might of the Imperial Germanic Empire staring down its sights at you.”
Caruthers’ response was, “Yes – it was. It was wonderful – for a while. In those days the public of Hamster-Britain saw us as heroes: Not the tax-burden that we appear to be perceived as these days. In those days we enjoyed all the luxuries that an outpost of empire could expect: Officers: Modern equipment: Regular mail: Regular bowels: Less porridge. It was a proper army life in those days. We even had a film crew that followed us everywhere. And aspirations too.” He then eyed one particularly attractive provocatively-dressed floozy who seemed to call across the wall of years to him, and gulped, “Now stop the fluffing yakking – and watch the poxy film, will you!”
So sensing that Caruthers would sooner let the past do his talking for him – they all zipped their mouths, and settled down to watch the show.
Corporal Caruthers appeared proud to be wearing his new insignia as, in glorious black and white, he marched his patrol out of The Tumplings in the direction of the
The voice of Officer-Cadet Noogar Pillows rather ruined the fine marching rhythm when the youngster spoke above the soundtrack…
“The hills were all wooded in those days. Now there’s just a few shrubs and a whole bunch of rhubarb trees.”
Although he never said the actual words, the tone of his voice made it sound like a condemnation of the army’s past behaviour.
“It gets cold in the winter. Over the years we used all the wood up.” Caruthers grumbled.
“Indeed,” De’ath’s voice pierced the shadows, “That’s why the patrol was out trying to steal from the Germanic Empire: The weather hamsters have strongly suggested that we’re in for a mini ice-age this coming winter, and our yearly supply of woolly socks was lost when the delivery raft foundered during a typhoon.”
Naturally this news was of the most unwelcome kind, so instead of replying, everyone re-settled themselves to enjoy the ancient movie. Whilst everyone had been talking the view had altered considerably. The party of Hamster British soldiers now approached a rocky gorge through which a stream tumbled joyously, and mosses grew upon every surface.
The younger Caruthers turned to the camera. “This,” he announced, “is the Gorge of Death.”
One of his unseen subordinates asked the obvious question.
“The reason that it’s called the Gorge of Death,” Caruthers swung a careless arm to encompass the gorge that lay before them, “is because it’s very, very, dangerous.”
“Why’s it dangerous?” the same voice that Caruthers quickly identified as belonging to Rifle-hamster Brian Belch, inquired. “It don’t look dangerous. It looks a bit slippery here and there, and I s’pect there’s some pretty dodgy fishes in the water: But we’ve all got inflatable cheek pouches and rifles: I dare anyone to take us on.”
“I could continue with endless exposition,” Corporal Caruthers sighed, “but I don’t believe in telling when I can show you instead. Troop – march on.”
Caruthers and his troop of brave hamster warriors had been steadily climbing up the side of the gorge ever since they had entered it. Now the misty spray from the tumbling stream hid the bottom from their view upon a narrow, rocky ledge path.
“Ooh-er,” said a particularly short-arsed hamster who went by the name of Wetfart
Wilson, “It aint half a long way up here. I don’t like heights.”
Caruthers cast a quick glance over the edge into the chasm below. His expression said it all: He didn’t like heights either. In fact not one of the troops did, and several knees began knocking together, and many teeth chattered like a colony of startled termites.
“Any chance that we can get off back down again, Corp?” Wetfart inquired in a tremulous voice.
“Not our mission profile.” Caruthers snapped at him. “We’re here to patrol up to the edge of no-hamsters land: That’s what we’re going to do.”
“But what if we meet a bunch of Germanic types coming the other way?” Trooper Magnus Ballcock scurried forward from the rear, “They’re bigger than us. If they try to push past – we’ll go tumbling into the abyss.”
Caruthers smirked. “That is exactly why this is called the Gorge of Death.” He told the silent listeners – those present, and those in the future who were watching from the relative comfort of the Guard House. “There’s no passing places. Someone has to give way – or tragedy will surely follow.”
“What are the chances of that, Corp?” Rifle-hamster Brian Belch spoke for the first time in yonks.
“Infinitesimally small.” Caruthers announced with the utter surety of the terminally doomed. “I am more likely to grow a superfluous third testicle – than see the Germanic Empire dare send one of their great gallomping gangs of over-sized morons along this narrow ledge. They’ve got more sense than that!”
Belch accepted this without question. At least he did initially: Then he asked, “What do these great gallomping gangs of over-sized morons look like – exactly?”
“Well…” Caruthers began his ill-considered response. But he never proceeded beyond that point. And the reason that he never proceeded beyond that point was because his entire troop were staring wide-eyed along the ledge, and pointing with fingers that shook so uncontrollably that Caruthers wondered if they hadn’t developed a very sudden case of a particularly virulent degenerative disorder. So, with his eyes, he followed the line of sight that their paws directed – and what he saw very nearly made him poop in his pants.
“Argh!” he yelled incoherently when he spotted a squad of Imperial Germanic Empire Shock Troops goose-stepping along the ledge towards him.
Of course Caruthers had heard stories about how big, imposing, and down right scary Germanic Storm Troopers were. But to see them in the flesh – with their massively over-developed musculature, shiny helmets with spikes on top, evil-looking monocles, huge-bore weaponry, sturdy boots, and damson neckerchiefs, made him blanche. It also made him realize that in a fist fight the average common hamster stood less chance against a full-sized European hamster than he did in a wrestling match with a Great Crested Newt.
“Yikes!” he added to underline his former utterance.
Moments later the Shock Troops were upon them. But much to Caruthers’ relief they didn’t try to just barge past with scant regard for the mental, or physical well-being of the Hamster British: Instead they drew to a halt sharply; made some sort of disparaging salute that suggested that the Hamster British endured short-comings in the penile department; and sloped arms.
The commander of the Imperial Germanic soldiers stepped forward, wiped some of the sweat from Caruthers’ moist, furry, brow, and said “My name is Colonel Manfred Stenchlinger. Who are you being?”
Caruthers swallowed several times before replying with, “Corporal Caruthers. Why
are you on the Hamster British side of the de-hamstered zone?”
Stenchlinger merely looked down his considerable snout at Caruthers, and sneered. But when Caruthers failed to continue with impotent demands for the Germanic soldiers to return whence they came, he said, “I could be asking the same thing of you?”
Now when faced with an insurmountable problem a Hamster British soldier will usually try to slip away unnoticed: But faced with the insolent misuse of illogic a Hamster British solider is apt to get riled.
“What?” Caruthers’ voice rose by an octave, and all his troops knew that caution was about to be thrown to the wind. “What are we doing on the Hamster British side of the no-go area? We’re Hamster British. What sort of arse-holey question is that?” He then added, for effect, “You big tit!”
It was possible to see, even in monochrome, that this was just the reaction that Manfred Stenchlinger sought. “You are wanting a fight, ja?” he laughed mirthlessly. “Step aside little creature: The Sauerkrauts are coming through.”
“Oh no you don’t, sonny Jim.” Caruthers stepped in front of Stenchlinger and blocked his path in the most belligerent manner he could summon – which was pretty belligerent. In fact it was the most belligerent blockage that Stenchlinger had ever encountered, and he began to wonder if Caruthers had been to belligerency classes or had undergone some supra-belligerence hypnotic training.
“Who is going to be stopping me?” Stenchlinger snorted his contempt.
Now it was Caruthers’ turn to wonder. As contemptuous snorting went, Stenchlinger’s attempt suggested that he was a master of the skill, and probably had cups upon his mantelpiece at home to prove it. He felt the fur on the back of his neck bristle. He tried to ignore it, but his natural predilection to belligerence won through.
“How would you like me to shove a bayonet up your arse?” he growled menacingly.
For a brief moment Stenchlinger appeared shocked. It took iron will to stop himself taking a backward step. But he possessed that iron will, and so stood his ground. But he needed time to think…
“Would you be caring to be repeating that outrageous question again?” His already outrageous accent became almost impenetrable.
“Yeah,” Caruthers hissed. Then he did something that so surprised the Germanic officer that he did actually take a backward step. He said, “Comment vous m’aiment insérer une baïonnette vers le haut de votre anus?”
“Amstair Fronch?” Stenchlinger bellowed so loudly that several layers of exposed moss, below in the gorge, withered and died, and was swept away upon the raging torrent. “You are an invading type – and you are learning the language of the defeated indigenous people? That is disgusting upon thirty-two levels. I was willing to overlook your small size, and your stupid Hamster Britisherness: But I am not so thinking that now.”
He then instructed his soldiery to advance upon the tiny Hamster British platoon.
But as quickly as Stenchlinger acted, he wasn’t quick enough. All the while he’d been ranting and raving, Caruthers had been making discrete paw-signals behind his back. Naturally several troopers failed to comprehend at all, whilst others misread the signals, and duly reacted in multifarious ways – most of them rather rude. But just a few managed to both understand their corporal’s meaning and react accordingly – which made Caruthers feel justifiably proud.
Brian Belch scurried forward – just in time to intercept a blow to Caruthers’ head by a phosphorous grenade wielded by one of Stenchlinger’s storm troopers. He did this, not by physical assault – because he would have been hopelessly overmatched – but by living up to his name, and belching very loudly indeed – straight into the face of the ferocious Germanic. Naturally – having been horrendously insulted, and being the recipient of several specks of Belch’s breakfast in the eyes – the grenadier dropped his weapon, and everyone scattered.
For a moment the situation grew tense, but without overt threat from either side, things settled momentarily. Then Stenchlinger’s anger at having one of his troops made to look foolish by a fat, stupid, Hamster British soldier, overwhelmed him – and good sense was swept away upon a tidal wave of revulsion.
“Attack.” He roared only semi-coherently, and then led the charge himself.
But Caruthers was ready for him. He’d already signalled his two bombardiers forward. These were Kenneth and Archibald Badgecock – otherwise known un- affectionately as The Halitosis Brothers.
Even before they came into proper range, the leading wave of storm troopers was quickly discovering that their olfactory senses were more intelligent than their brains. Before they were even aware that the Halitosis Brothers had opened their mouths and inverted their cavernous cheek pouches, their noses were already curling backwards with disgust, and were in danger of blinding their owners by poking them in the eyes with their own whiskers. Then they actually did just that. With whiskers that had been cut short to military regulation length, the soldier’s eyes had no defence against the sharp bristles that now tried to penetrate their corneas. In agony they turned aside at the last moment, and plunged from the ledge like a swarm of overly religious lemmings.
Only Manfred Stenchlinger had the strength of will to disobey his natural reactions – and end the pain by hurling himself to his doom. Through watering eyes he peered at his second line of troops as they awaited his command.
“Destroy.” He heard himself scream. “Tear them apart. Affix their heads to pikes, and be parading them around the picturesque town of Notre Dame du Mamelon Inversé!”
So to the dismay of the cowering Hamster British a second wave of Imperial Germanic storm troopers rushed forward with their rifles raised, and a blood lust in their eyes.
The dismay amongst the Hamster British turned to gut-churning fear as both Kenneth and Archibald collapsed with asphyxia after breathing out for too long. Stenchlinger could see this – though only just, and through a veil of tears – and duly jumped about with glee at the impending dismembering of Caruthers and his puny platoon. But yet again Caruthers had a trick up his sleeve.
“Private Wilson,” He snapped in his best, stiff-upper bifurcated lip, military voice, “Would you care to step forward please.”
Bravely Private Wetfart Wilson stepped forward to face the onslaught alone. Though his knees knocked, and his bladder endured a series of small, but significant, accidents, the diminutive hamster saluted smartly and said “Sir!”
Then in his best parade ground tone Caruthers roared, “Okay, Wetfart – present arse!”
As a well-trained member of the armed forces of the Hamster British Empire, Private Wetfart Wilson did as he was commanded. He turned upon his heel so that he now faced his comrades in arms. He then dropped his thick tweed battle trousers, and bent forward.
By now the attacking force was almost upon the platoon. If Caruthers was going to act – he must act soon.
“Wetfart.” He yelled above the noise of stampeding Germanic soldiery, “You must
also live up to your name!”
Well what happened next might have gone down in the annals of history – had everyone not agreed to keep the events of The Gorge of Death a secret. Wetfart Wilson was a true aficionado of oats in general, and porridge in particular. He also liked to add dried fruits, seeds, and nuts to his hearty breakfast. Then after consuming at least the regulation three full bowls he would cadge any surplus porridge from the canteen sergeant, and slurp upon it whenever no one was looking. As a result of this disgusting habit his guts were in a state of constant turmoil, which often resulted in odorous out-gassings of the most toxic kind. And this is exactly what happened that day upon the ledge above the Gorge of Death.
To the attacking storm troopers it appeared that the Hamster British were using one of their numbers in a feeble attempt at psychological warfare. But they scoffed as they rushed forward. The sight of a furry arse-hole and a pair of dangling testicles weren’t about to put them off their stride. But when the aforementioned furry arse-hole suddenly erupted with a deafening retort, and a deluge of invisible pong-particles assaulted them, the situation quickly altered. Unable to affect their kinetic energy, the storm troopers took the only course of action that was open to them: They swerved. To their credit they swerved in the right direction – but all that brought them up against the side of the gorge with such inertia that something had to give: And that wasn’t the side of the gorge. The resulting physical action/reaction resulted in the entire force apparently throwing itself over the edge by means of rocky momentum.
But even as he toppled from view Manfred Stenchlinger still retained the strength of mind to continue the battle.
“Your Amstair Fronch,” he called as he tumbled off the edge, “Were you learning it from a provocatively-dressed floozy from the picturesque town of Notre Dame du Mamelon Inversé?”
“Yes.” Caruthers rushed to the edge and yelled above the din of screaming storm troopers as they tumbled towards oblivion, “What about her?”
“Was her name Amelie De Pottage?” Stenchlinger’s voice seemed to take an eternity to climb from the gorge.
This shook Caruthers. He wanted to lie. He wanted to deny the Germanic type his pyrrhic victory. But he was basically an honest hamster. “Yes.” He called back, “With very ripe melons.”
“I have been having her,” the wounding words slashed at Caruthers’ soul from the mists below. Then as a final insult Stenchlinger added, “On a regular basis. I think she is pregnant with my offspring.”
This was followed by a loud thump, a splashing sound, and finally silence.
But there was no silence in Caruthers’ brain as he re-ran Stenchlinger’s last words over and over through his mind’s ear on the way back to The Tumplings.
“No one must know of this.” He swore the others to secrecy. “I will keep the film in a safe place, and perhaps use it to illustrate my memoirs one day when I’m ancient and need the money.
“What about Amelie?” Brian Belch inquired as he scurried to join Caruthers.
“Amelie?” Caruthers released the sigh of a dead male hamster walking. An instant later he tore the corporal’s stripes from his battle tunic, and cast them to the ground. Then, as his paw reached towards the camera lens to block any further filming, he added, “I know of no one named Amelie.”
The silence inside the Guard House was palpable. It was broken abruptly by a sudden ‘clacking’ sound as the film ran off the end of the reel – and everyone almost shat themselves.
Whilst Caruthers hurried to stop the projector, Sullen re-opened the shutters to welcome in the light of a perfect summers day outside.
“So you renounced both your rank and casual sex in that single moment?” Lieutenant De’ath displayed his talent for empathy with Caruthers.
“Correct, sir.” Caruthers replied as he wrestled the projector into submission. “When I discovered that my girl dallied with other males – well it fairly made my personal protuberance droop badly. And causing the death of all those Germanic soldiers: Well it cut me into little pieces. I couldn’t handle the responsibility anymore.”
“Yet you stayed – both in Hamster-France, and in the military.” De’ath observed.
“Penance.” Caruthers replied. “For being a twat.”
“Did you see Amelie after that?” Noogar Pillows poked his nose into the conversation.
“To this day I’ve avoided her village like a plague of Hamster’s Arse.” Caruthers answered as he began packing the equipment back into the storage cupboard beneath the stage. “The village cheese maker always brings my brie on a two-wheeled cart these days.”
“Well now I understand why you’re less than keen to revisit the Gorge of Death.” De’ath nodded sagely.
Caruthers paused with the storage cupboard door half closed. “Well it’s funny you should say that.” He turned to regard his superior, “But since watching this old film I think that I can now face it again: Especially if it means rescuing my former platoon.”
The shadows were long and deficient in photons as Caruthers led Lieutenant De’ath, Private Sullen, and Officer-Cadet Noogar Pillows along the ascending narrow gorge ledge.
“With so many new prisoners to guard, their security is bound to be lax.” De’ath theorized. “Getting in shouldn’t pose too many problems.”
Caruthers wasn’t sure that he entirely agreed with De’ath’s logic, but nodded anyway. But he added sensibly, “Getting out could be a bugger though.”
Any further conversation was quashed by their arrival at the top of the gorge, from whence they could see into the next valley. Below them, squatting like a constipated cavy, sat the Mission of the Imperial Germanic Empire. It was clear from its condition that many years previous it had been hurriedly built to a very poor standard indeed. Despite the best efforts of its inhabitants, the mission was almost a ruin, with barely a right angle to be seen anywhere.
“Kind’a makes The Tumplings look real coy.” Sullen observed.
But Lieutenant De’ath wasn’t listening to such frippery: His eyes sought, and found, the holding pen in which an entire platoon of captive Hamster British soldiers protected themselves from the burning sun by huddling beneath a large frilly parasol.
“We gonna wait ‘til dark, Lieutenant?” Sullen enquired hopefully.
“No time for that, I’m afraid, chaps” De’ath had suddenly become his old, highly-efficient, self once more. “Okay – break out the disguises.”
The ‘disguises’ were actually nothing more that ‘props’ from the cupboard beneath the stage in the Guard House of The Tumplings. For many years shows and plays had been performed by the inhabitants of the mission – not only for the benefit of the soldiery, but also any locals who happened to be passing. Or travelling minstrels; story tellers; dispossessed lesbians and hamster-sexuals; drunks; and people who had foolishly managed to get themselves lost in the wide open tracts of central Amstair Fronce.
Now the stage apparel that had entertained so many disparate people throughout the years was being put to a quite different, and remarkably ingenious, new use.
De’ath regarded his small group with a measured eye. The youngster could just about pass muster, but the two Privates were another matter: As wandering prostitutes they were far from convincing. As for himself, De’ath was most grateful that he’d always possessed what many considered was a rather feminine silhouette; and the bags of left-over porridge that he’d shoved down the front of his dress did nothing to spoil it.
“Well if the worst comes to the worst,” he spoke suddenly, and so startled the others, “we can always fight to the last male.”
Then a thought struck: When he’d spoken without warning – all three, apparently ‘butch’, male hamsters had squealed like frightened girls. He then reasoned that if they could squeal well enough to convince him that they all possessed fluffy minges instead of dangly willies – then they could just as easily convince the Germanic soldiers who now guarded their comrades.
“I say, chaps,” he began, “unlike myself – an experienced undercover operative – none of you are really adept at playing female roles, are you?”
This question met with three half-hearted shakes of three furry heads.
“That’s what I thought.” He continued, “But how do you feel about running downhill very fast whilst screaming?”
Caruthers, Sullen, and Pillows looked to each other for support with their respective answers to what seemed, at first hearing, to be quite the most preposterous question that they’d ever heard. But they knew, and trusted, their commanding officer with a passion seldom matched in non-hamster-sexual relationships, and were certain that his reasoning was as sound as a miner’s helmet.
“Well I’m pretty good at running down hill.” Sullen seemed quite embarrassed to confess.
“And I can scream in a most shrill voice.” Pillows was anything but embarrassed. “I picked up three awards for shrill vocalizing at high school, and was the First Year champion at military college. I even beat off some females for the title.”
This was good news for De’ath. His sense of pride in his troops quadrupled. But then his eyes turned to Caruthers.
Caruthers shifted uncomfortably. His toes tried to excavate tiny trenches in the hard hilltop soil. “Well,” he sighed as he made up his mind to speak, “I can still run pretty fast down hill, and I used to scream like a banshee with a poker up its anus when the mood took me. That was a long time ago of course. The mood just hasn’t taken me much recently. Not since that fateful day when I cast aside the love of Amelie De Pottage.”
“I knew you wouldn’t let me down, Caruthers.” De’ath slapped his former Corporal upon the back, “Well it just so happens that although I’m quite nimble on my rear paws – I’m absolutely useless at screaming. It’s all I can do to croak loudly.”
Then, just to prove his point, De’ath bellowed like an angry toad.
“But,” he continued, “I’m very shapely, and with sufficient mascara and lip gloss I can look quite seductive. The point I’m trying to make, chaps – is that instead of infiltrating the mission by stealth, I’m suggesting that we rush them in sneaky kind of frontal assault – with bouncing breasts, and strapped down danglers.”
De’ath’s plan wasn’t only audacious, it was also brilliant. Before long the mission
sentries who patrolled upon the castellated walls became aware of four distraught-looking females as they raced from the surrounding hills, screaming incoherently, towards the rickety main gate. As the approaching females came closer distinct words could be deciphered amongst the otherwise shrill screeching. Some of them were spoken in Hamster British: Others in Amstair Fronch: And, most disconcertingly, in Germanic Kraut. They warned of a massive army of Hamster British Rifle hamsters approaching along the Gorge of Death. They warned of terrible death and destruction. They warned of threats to misalign the private parts of anyone who stood against them, said nasty things, or resisted them in any way – either by their actions, words, or thoughts. Well, as you can imagine, the Imperial Germanic soldiers were disconcerted to a vast degree. Their logical deduction from the known facts, as they perceived them, was unequivocal. Surely the words uttered by four terror-stricken prostitutes could not be ignored? Indeed action must be taken. Allowing for the poor condition of their defences, and the small number of soldiers who now manned the mission because of fiscal cut-backs in the fatherland, only one course of action appeared open to them. So they quickly found the key to the back door, and one-by-one allowed themselves to slip through it in a most cowardly and self-serving manner imaginable. Then they ran for their lives into the surrounding countryside, where they hoped they might disappear and eke out a living by trapping, fishing, or shaving the fur from their private parts and becoming gigolos.
So by the time that De’ath and the others had kicked in the main gate, and freed the captive Hamster British soldiers, not single Germanic soldier remained. Or so they thought…
The platoon had long-since departed with their wheelbarrows full of wood. Only Caruthers had remained behind to pick some blackberries that were growing in the mission garden. He’d shucked off his female garb, and was happy to parade about in his vest and underpants as he filled a large wheeled wicker basket with the luscious fruit. He was about to leave – when he heard the unmistakable sound of foldaway stunt-scooter wheels rolling upon hardwood flooring. Then his sensitive nasal cavities caught the triple scents of high-performance machine oil; Canalboat Number Five; and bratwurst. Following his snout Caruthers discovered a small doorway that led into a subterranean crypt. At first he thought that it might be a heavily disguised cesspit, but quickly discounted this theory because it was completely stupid. Stepping carefully, and as silently as possible in army-issue marching boots, he descended the concrete steps into a stygian gloom. Here the unmistakable sound of wheels upon wood was so loud that he quickly stuffed wadded cobwebs into his ears to ward off industrial noise damage and the inevitable tinnitus that accompanied it. Then he noticed a flickering light gleaming beneath a door. Taking his pistol from its holder, he eased the door open – only to be assaulted by the sight of a youthful male hamster as he rode his foldaway stunt scooter over a series of artificial jumps. Upon these he would perform various ‘tricks’ like heel-clickers, naks-naks, nose-twirlers, and, most spectacularly, a mid-flight willy-wave. And all by lustrous candle light. He culminated the run with a perfect back-flip – before landing safely beside an Germanic officer who not only stood awkwardly as he dunked a bratwurst into a huge flagon of rose hip wine, but who also appeared to have the sort of face that Caruthers would gladly have slapped from dawn ‘til dusk.
“Ach, it is being you!” The officer bellowed as he spotted Caruthers over the top of his tankard, which he quickly passed on to the puzzled youngster – before adjusting his monocle in a most fastidious fashion, and growling. “My men are being chased away, and my mission looted – and it is by none other than you!”
The shock of recognition turned Caruthers’ paws to jelly, and he dropped his sidearm to the hardwood floor, where it clattered alarmingly.
“B-b-b-but you’re dead.” He managed as he unplugged his ears. “I saw you fall to your death. I heard the impact.”
Manfred Stenchlinger hobbled forward. “You are not having so much the luck, Hamster Britisher.” He sneered with a hatred that seemed to permeate the air, and frighten the stunt scooterist. “Sure enough I was falling to my death, but my storm troopers bravely fell before me, and were cushioning my fall. My only injury occurred because I was falling upon the helmet of my sergeant, and the spike was going right up my jacksey. I was always hoping that we would be meeting upon the field of battle – where I could slay you, and grind your genitals into the ground. But it was not to be. We are meeting here – where I am defeated – and you are wearing the dirty underpants.”
Caruthers quickly retrieved his weapon, and wished that he could retrieve his trousers too: He couldn’t take the risk of the mad officer doing something unpleasant. He indicated the room in which all three hamsters stood. “What is this place?” he demanded.
Stenchlinger’s eyes seemed to scan the room as though seeing it for the first time. “This,” he said, “is being the home to my family.”
Caruthers cast a glance in the direction of the young hamster who stood stock-still in a most perplexed manner, and who only allowed his eyes to make any movement. “Is this your son?” he inquired gently lest he frighten the youngster any more than necessary.
“Ja, he is being my son.” Stenchlinger replied as he pulled up a stool and painfully lowered his weight on to it. Then the merest hint of a smirk appeared at the edge of his mouth. “Would you care to meet his mother?”
Caruthers didn’t particularly care to meet anyone else; Stenchlinger had been enough. But he was a very polite hamster, particularly when in someone else’s home. “Is she pretty?” he asked in the time-honoured fashion.
“Ja, I am thinking so.” Stenchlinger now openly sneered in the way that only a truly unpleasant bastard can. “I think you will be feeling much the same when you see her.”
He then called to someone in an adjacent room, “Oh darling, could you be coming into the stunt scooter display room? I am having someone here who is wishing to meet you.”
If Caruthers had thought that his incredulity could be stretched no further – then he was desperately mistaken and utterly wrong. This is because the pretty female hamster who nervously entered the room was obviously none other than Amelie De Pottage herself! Her name caught in Caruthers’ throat, and he almost gagged upon his own oesophagus.
“Bonjour, Caruthers.” She spoke with a voice that indicated infinite patience and the acceptance of the inevitability of fate, and with an accent that would have made Caruthers’ trousers flap if he’d been wearing any. “ ‘Ow are you?”
“Amelie?” Caruthers asked stupidly. Stupidly because the years had done nothing to diminish his former love’s beauty, and she was instantly recognizable – even wearing a crimson caftan and wading boots: And even more stupidly because he was well aware that Amelie had no identical twin, and that, as yet, cloning was merely the product of the fevered imagination of the occasional science-fiction writer.
“Oui, it is I.” she replied gently. “ ‘Ave you come to rekindle our passion after all these years?”
In truth this had been just about the farthest thing from Caruthers’ mind: But now that the recipient of his bodily fluids stood across the room from him, the contents of his underpants began to alter his perception.
“Well…” he began awkwardly.
“Are you my father?” the stunt-scooterist suddenly inquired, and quite broke Caruthers’ train of thought.
“You what?” Caruthers blurted eloquently.
“My mother has often spoken of a Hamster Britisher soldier who put a bun in her oven, then disappeared from the face of the planet.” The stunt-scooterist continued as if Caruthers’ had never blurted. “I have seen several photographs – and they all resemble you to the nth degree. So I ask the question again.”
From the point of view of Amelie’s offspring the question seemed reasonable enough. But from Caruthers perspective it was anything but. The entire situation was growing ever more bizarre with every passing heartbeat.
“I don’t fluffing know.” He retorted angrily.
“I can be answering your question, child.” Stenchlinger dragged himself to his feet.
“And the answer is being nein. Nein, nein, nein! You are being the fruit of my loins – not this half-wit Britisher scum.”
“But I resemble him in so many ways.” The stunt-scooterist argued. Then turning to Caruthers again he added, “Do you not see it?”
So Caruthers studied the youngster. His eyes ran across every millimetre of his slender frame. He had to confess to himself that Amelie’s child did carry certain characteristics that did slightly resemble his own. Then his eyes widened in shock: He recalled the daring stunts that the young hamster had been performing when he’d first entered this strange domain. He had often performed similar nak-naks when he had been young. And the nose twirler was an almost exact carbon copy of his own style. But it was the mid-flight willy-waving that clinched it…
“You have an unusually elongated foreskin!” he bellowed with consternation.
Stenchlinger visibly shook at this revelation. “How are you daring to say this?” he roared denial. “Mien offspring’s willy is perfectly formed, and conforms to normal parameters!”
“Non!” it was Amelie’s turn to cry out in negation – not at what Caruthers had said, but in denial of Stenchlinger’s own denial. “Our son has the wiggliest willy in the whole of Notre Dame du Mamelon Inversé. He can only be your son, Caruthers: Manfred’s todger is outstandingly average. Oh why did you leave me? Wasn’t our love of the truest kind?”
Caruthers’ mental defences collapsed in the face of such passionate argument. “But you were having non-reproductive sexual intercourse with other male hamsters!” he blurted in despair.
“Of course I was, you silly amstair.” Amelie half-laughed – half-cried in reply, “I was at that stage of my life: A final fling before settling down with the male amstair of my dreams.”
“You mean…?” Caruthers couldn’t say the words.
“I loved none of them.” Amelie wailed, “Sometimes I didn’t even take my knickers off: I merely wore very loose fitting ones!”
Well this was one revelation too many for Caruthers. What with all the excitement of the day, and running down a hill whilst screaming, this was all too much for his constitution. And so he fainted.
Night had fallen when Caruthers regained his sentience. He was outside in the
blackberry garden, and seated in a tatty old deck chair. Looking around he could see
his son performing stunts along the walls of the mission. Beside him sat Amelie.
“Bonsoir,” her pearly white incisors flashed in the moonlight, “ ‘Ow nice it is to see you again. Did you sleep well?”
Caruthers had never been particularly adept at waking from a state of unconsciousness with all his marbles intact, so it took a few moments for him to gather his wits about him.
“Ugh, yeah. Where’s Stenchlinger?”
A look of sadness passed across Amelie’s downy face. “Below.” She indicated the doorway into the subterranean home, “Drinking ‘imself into a stupor. It is now three times that ‘e ‘as lost to you.”
Caruthers was numerate so couldn’t understand Amelie’s arithmetic. He said as much.
“Once, half a lifetime ago, in the Gorge of Death.” The Hamster French beauty explained. “Then today when the four of you drove away ‘is storm troopers, and stole the contents of the wood shed. Then finally this evening when I told ‘im that I still love you, and want to run away to The Tumplings with you, and take our son with us.”
Caruthers couldn’t think of anything significant to say, so he said, “Poor Stenchlinger.”
The sad expression returned. “Oui, poor Manfred. ‘E ‘as been kind to me. After I ran out of male ‘amsters in Notre Dame du Mamelon Inversé, he took me in and gave me a ‘ome. All ‘e required in reward was regular sexual intercourse and the application of a soothing balm to his old anal wound. ‘E finds sitting down so very painful without it.”
Caruthers found himself mentally backtracking. “When you ran out of male hamsters?” he raised an eyebrow.
For a moment Amelie appeared puzzled, then a smile appeared. “Of course you are Amstair British: You don’t understand Amstair Fronch ways. A female cannot live alone in Amstair Fronce: She will be branded a lesbian – and ‘ounded out of ‘er ‘ouse and ‘ome. She would ‘ave to go and live in a tent at the bottom of the mayor’s garden. It is not fair, I know, but it is the way of our people. All my ‘usbands were old, and died: The young males ‘ad already scarpered to Marmota España when society collapsed. I ‘ad no choice. It was not a barrel of laughs I can tell you.”
Caruthers was more than relieved with this explanation. In fact he was ecstatic.
“Amelie,” he took the Amstair Fronch beauty’s paws in his, “I’m due to be posted back to Hamster-Britain soon. The phoney war is nearly over. Soon Hamster-France will have a big enough population to run its own proper government. I’m being de-mobbed, and being re-employed as a police-hamster. I was thinking that the police force is always on the look out for naturally talented stunt-scooterists: I could…”
“Bootsie.” Amelie’s delighted scream interrupted Caruthers, “You want to take Bootsie back to Amstair-Britain to be a police-amstair: What a wonderful idea. Can I come to?”
Caruthers’ smile seemed to light up the entire interior of the mission. “Yes, of course you can, my love,” he said as he kissed both of Amelie’s front paws, then started on her shoulders, and was well on his way towards her heaving bosom when he added, “Just one thing though: Who’s Bootsie?”
© Paul Trevor Nolan
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