of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved
the cat ambled along the cracked pavement of Postleton East, his paws
in his metaphorical pockets. The still evening air was redolent with
a connoisseur's scents; heady dustbins which exuded the decay of fish,
dust-tasting grass between the flags - the sharp, weeks-old tang of
the next street's tomcat; it would be quite a while before he
showed his whiskers on this bit of territory again. Ho-de-hum, Coddy
thought, something new would be nice, mind.
Two seconds later the
peace of the area was destroyed by the galloping of earnest feet. Codswallop
streaked up a swaying lamp-post and watched three boys panic past, their
eyes and mouths wide open and their arms outstretched. At this rate
they'd cover the hundred miles to the coast in a couple of hours or
so. That was, if the police didn't grab them for indecency. The cat
pondered. The ways of humans were inscrutable; there were much more
amusing ways of passing time, especially on a chilly October evening.
He thought of getting down and then he froze. The hair fluffed out all
along his back and made a bogbrush of his tail. "Eeeeeyoww!" he screamed.
A familiar yet unbelievable
Fiat pranced up to Olwyn's close and stopped, with a little "poot!"
It sat, wheezing slightly. Olwyn gave the dashboard a gentle pat and
eased herself out of the car. Codswallop continued to wail; never mind
what Olwyn said when she tried to coax him down, he wasn't going to
take anyone's word for it. Gertrude might well have an outgoing nature
and a trusting, graffiti-enhanced face, but Codswallop knew that cars
weren't supposed to sidle up and try to rub themselves against you.
He wasn't stupid.
in Postleton West, Bes looked from Drivula to Ra, and then at the large
object before them which used to be Jerry Flick. "Bryarus isn't going
to be pleased," he said.
Ra cackled and folded
his skinny arms. "I wanted to see if I still had the touch. Well, the
boy was empty-headed; and we do need a kettle. This one'll be big enough
for us all, even Bonasus." He jerked his head at the erstwhile Jerry.
"The boy seems happy enough as he is."
"Well, he can't exactly
make a complaint, can he?" said Drivula.
Ra gave a crack of laughter.
"It won't do him any harm. I'm not changing him back yet, anyway."
Bes sighed and shook
his head. His wide beard bristled. "Bryarus really won't be pleased,"
he said and turned to Drivula; "and did you have to tear the boy's clothes
off? How're we going to explain this lot?" He waved his stocky arm at
a pile of soiled clothing in the corner.
She scuffed at it with
the toe of her boot and shrugged: "Well, I wanted to see what he looked
like underneath... I know," she brightened, "we can take this stuff
round and dump it in the church yard! Jumble!"
"Except this," Ra was
firm about his kettle. "It's a work of art. We can tell Bryarus we bought
it. Come on, let's try it out."
the west end of the shopping-mall, Arkwright's car purred to a halt
in front of the brass-fitted entrance to "G. Barney & Loophole, Solicitors
and Estate Agents". Cicely raced out of the passenger side and pounded
the knocker with feverish hands. "Is it all ready?" she asked as the
door swung open. "It's got to be done quickly."
"Yes yes, Madam; everything
is in order," the white-haired gentleman beamed over his half-spectacles
and ushered them into his office. He was the G. of Barney & Loophole.
"I arranged the details myself, as you wished. Would you like to cast
your eye over the contract, Sir?" he handed some papers to Arkwright
and pulled a chair near to his desk for Cicely.
"Oh," she said, glancing
at the darkening window, "can't we just... I'm sure it's perfect." She
sat forward on her seat and tugged Arkwright's sleeve. "Hurry up; Bryarus
may suspect. I don't think he does, but I wish this was over."
"Your brother, Madam?"
G. Barney frowned. "Tut. This firm would never be a party to Underhand
Dealings; naturally he knows, does he not? - he will have had time to
lodge a complaint." He whisked a spotless handkerchief out of his jacket
pocket and took off his glasses to polish them.
"Of course, of course,"
Cicely flushed slightly, "I placed the notice of intent, just as you
said. But I don't want him to change his mind now. It's going to be
so much better for everybody-"
"I say, this is a super
document," Arkwright had finished reading; "The figures are so neat
and the wording-"
"Never mind that," his
fond fiancee snapped, "can we sign it now?"
"What? Oh, yes. It's
exactly as we specified."
Cicely grabbed it from
him and started to scrawl her name at the bottom. "So what is my dear
sister doing, I wonder?" Bryarus' quiet voice behind her caused Cicely's
pen to jerk wildly and scoot across the page.
She jumped around in
her chair and stared with horrified eyes at the man in the doorway.
"How - how..." she said, and gulped. Then a light came into her eyes
and she lifted her chin: "Too late to object now, Bryarus; it's all
She pushed the paper
across to G. Barney, who was looking at Bryarus with a vague frown in
his eyes. "Tsk," he said, "I must have forgotten to shut the door. Must
be getting old."
Bryarus slipped a grin
toward him. "It was shut all right; but we have our methods. Now then,
Cicely; what's all signed?"
"The museum. It belongs
to Arkwright's firm, now."
Bryarus glared and jerked
toward her, his hands raised in fists. He checked himself. "Nonsense,"
he said, a harsh edge to his voice, "there's no way you can sell part
of our property without my consent."
Cicely hunched her shoulders.
"That's all you know, stupid." The estate agent looked from one
to the other. "Indeed," he said, "the time for complaints is past, Mr.
Watts. If you will look at these title deeds, this clause here, you
will see..." He stopped and his Adam's apple rode silently up and down
his throat a few times; he had just spotted two blonde beauties who
undulated in from the dark hallway and gazed at him hypnotically.
His eyeballs were too
frantic to notice details, such as the vulture which flew in after them
and peered into his drawers.
Bryarus went white around
the lips; he leaned over the desk and twitched the deeds from G. Barney's
nerveless grasp. He peered at the ancient, crabbed handwriting. "What's
the bloody thing say?"
He got no response;
Isis had slid onto the old man's lap and was gazing into his eyes, whilst
Nephthys massaged his temples. Min and Djehuti grabbed the paper. They
tried to read it upside down, and back to front. Min squinted at the
writing. "Is strange hieroglyphs, no?" he whispered. "All run into each
other; is anarchy."
"Indeed this script
is -ah- unusual," Djehuti scratched his bald head, "but where is the
-ah- beauty? What god would -ah- invent an art form so unworthy?"
Bryarus turned to his
"Hah," she was saying,
"that contract's watertight; the deeds state that any owner can sell
the place on behalf of any other owners, provided it's to their advantage
and they haven't made an official objection. I just had to put a `notice
of intent' in a newspaper."
"What newspaper? I never
saw it. Well?"
Cicely blushed and mumbled:
"The Tristan da Cunha Gazette." She lifted her chin and pointed to the
contract. "Take that to any lawyer and he'll tell you; it's all okay.
There's nothing to specify which newspaper." She patted her fiancÚ's
arm with reverence. "I know I'm right; Arkwright studies mortgages and
things for a hobby. He found it for me. Didn't you, dear - Arkwright!"
Her voice sharpened as she turned to look at him: "stop gawking at those
- those - hussies. Oooh!" She slapped him.
The sound merged with
a wild cackling from the desk. With eyes dilating in horror, Cicely
turned to confront a large vulture. It glared back at her and from its
beak protruded a piece of parchment paper. The bird flew onto the top
of the door. Every eye was now upon it. Hathor spread her wings; she
opened her mouth, lifted her head, and swallowed. Her neck made earnest
gobbling motions and Bryarus found himself straining to swallow in sympathy.
He winced. Hathor gave one last gulp, looked down on them all, made
a derisive noise and flew out of the window to the sound of shattering
Cicely took a deep breath
and turned to Bryarus. "Horrible bird," she said. "Anyway, we've finished
here. The contract's been signed, and there's not a thing you can do
about it, brother dear. Good-bye." She stuck her nose in the air and
arose to make a grand exit, when he said:
"Hold it; what contract?"
He was grinning.
"The museum sale, of
course." She looked uncertainly at him. The estate agent cleared his
throat. "Ahem. The contract seems to have disappeared, Madam." His eyes
shifted under hers and he took his spectacles off again to polish them.
"An accident, I'm sure, but - the bird..."
Cicely sank back into
her seat. She paled, and then flushed. "No," she whispered, "no. Oh,
but how silly; what does it matter? It's been signed, so the sale happened."
There was a pause. The
estate agent shook his head sorrowfully; the man could see his commission
evaporating. He looked hopefully at Bryarus. "I don't suppose; you wouldn't
care to; no no, of course."
Bryarus shook his head.
"'Fraid not, Barney old chap. In fact I'm going to register a very firm
objection to any sale of the museum whatsoever, in writing now, in front
of all these witnesses. Let's get on with it."
Cicely bit her lip,
grabbed Arkwright and stormed out. "You'd just better think of something
else, that's all," she snapped at him.
"Actually," her fiancÚ
was thoughtful, "I think there might be... I think I saw something about
tax and public buildings; hmm."
a lamp-lit room, in another part of the country, a jeweller thwacked
his hammer in a calculated arc onto a geode. The stone split neatly
in two with a sigh, and its colourful crystals glittered like tears
in the lamplight.
A "pop" sounded behind
the jeweller and he turned to see a squat, wrinkled Bedou-type with
a foot problem. The little man drew himself up proudly and said: "Hah!
"What are you doing
here? this is private! Hey, Alfred!" the jeweller peered around angrily
for his assistant.
The little man stamped
a huge, roughly-sandalled foot, and winced. "THY DOOM, mortal, prepare
to meet thy doom. O Watts, and spawn of Watts-"
"Watts? Who's Watts?
Al-fred! Where are you?"
"Do not think you can
escape so easily, Watts, scum of the-"
"Look, get out of here."
The jeweller sighed wearily. "My name isn't Watts. Go away."
The little man paused
uncertainly. "Not Watts?"
"No. Get out."
"Not even a little bit?"
"NO! For the last time
- Hey, how did you get in?"
The little man jumped
up and down and swore: "Bloody WACERFOU! Fail me again and the wrath
of Haroon shall fall-"
Black Maria made jubilant noises all the way home; it reverberated to
the sound of feet thumping out the rhythm to an ancient Egyptian victory
song. Heads turned in query as it dopplered past the evening market
stalls in West Square.
Bryarus looked out of
the windows and felt in his pocket for his stone; he stroked its reassuring
warmth. Many of the stalls sprouted signs which begged passers-by to
"Buy your ArtofF war-toys here" or informed them that "We have the best
antique pograp Shrines in town."
Spouters' Spot was busy;
a man in a luminous green jacket defied the gathering darkness. He stood
on a box, exhorting his audience in resounding tones: "Yea, brothers
and sisters, eternity is yours! See the light through the mercy of "pograp";
bow your heads before His might. God hath set his shimmering thumbprints
upon the meagre earth, to point our faltering footsteps on the Way;
and He hath made these giant greennesses of His to move, that we should
marvel and speak His name!"
As the Black Maria finally
drew to a halt outside the Watts' house and rocked back on its springs,
Bryarus could hear a commotion in the building. He raised his eyebrows
and said: "Sounds like more trouble; you lot had better go up to my
room. I'll be up in a minute."
He followed the sounds
to the kitchen. A pungent smell, redolent of wild spices, permeated
the air and Cicely's voice rose high and indignant: "-My kitchen! All
this mess. And what are you using, for heaven's sake?"
The familiar, ideal-homes
kitchen that finally broke upon Bryarus' gaze was misted with a pinkish
haze. Bes, Ra, and Drivula stood defensively in front of the cooker
and an enormous copper spout protruded from behind them. It was this
which was regularly puffing out the colourful fog. Cicely stood in front
of them, stamping her foot and trying to wave them out of her way. "Which
of my beautiful pots are you ruining?"
"Your kitchen is
fine," Ra tried to explain, "we wanted to try a little experiment with
wine. The pot-" He spotted Bryarus at this point, and flushed.
Bes and Drivula looked
at each other.
Cicely sniffed. "Get
them out of here," she said, "they can cook their evil concoctions outside
but not in my kitchen." She brushed past him and called out:
"Arkwright! Just look what they've done. It's the last straw!"
Bryarus glanced at the
culprits and said mildly, "Well? What have you been up to?"
They shifted uneasily
and Bes said: "We got this kettle, see-"
At this point, Bryarus
Did see. "Wha-, how?" he gasped. The vessel stood revealed; a
superbly crafted, hunched figure of a boy, in copper. He was crouched
on his knees, his arms bent behind him as if to protect his backside.
They formed a curious double handle, necessary in a kettle so large.
His face gazed upwards with an expression of surprise accentuated by
the mouth, which was loosely open. It looked as though Jerry Flick didn't
know whether to like being a kettle or not. Bryarus shuddered when he
thought of drinking whatever might come out of that spout. The lid rested
where the shoulder-blades should be.
Bryarus finished examining
the kettle and cleared his throat. "It-it's a trifle unusual, isn't
it? Where..." he looked at their faces, and closed his eyes. "No, don't
answer that. I don't want to know. Anyway, have you quite finished in
Cicely and Arkwright
stood just inside the door, clutching at each other for support. "I
say, what an awful thing," Arkwright whispered to his betrothed. "Is
She shuddered. "Of course
not," she said. "Oh, everything is so h-horrid." she started
to sob; loud, unattractive sounds.
Arkwright looked at
her in alarm. He was feeling alarmed about a lot of things which were
connected to his loved one at this time. Those cosy evenings discussing
their future - interest rates and mortgages, property and the patter
of tiny invoices - seemed to belong to a different era.
Bryarus also felt disturbed.
It wasn't often that he saw Cicely cry, and he didn't like it. It wasn't
a pretty sight, but it also reminded him of a time before they had learned
to hate, when she had shared toffee-apples with him and he had taught
her to climb trees.
"Come on, guys," he
said and jerked his head at the kettle, "let's get this out of here."
he turned to the still-sobbing Cicely and put out a hand to her. He
continued in gentle tones: "We'll get out of your hair; from now on,
we'll spend more time in my room. Come on, old girl."
"Oh, go away; just go
away," she said, and pushed his hand off.
He shrugged, and waved
the trio through the door with their burden. "We'll have to grab some
cushions from the lounge; not enough chairs upstairs," he said as he
"What?" Cicely shrieked,
"Don't you dare; Bryarus! They'll get ruined in your - your - muckhole!"
"Oh, very good, Cicely!"
he called back; "Muckhole; you're coming on well. But we won't be hurting
your precious cushions. Anyway, we can replace or wash them, can't we?"
Meanwhile, Bes and Drivula
were busy denuding the lounge of its cushions. Bes muttered: "What if
the wine is awful? What're we going to drink then?" Drivula winked at
him and slipped over to the drinks cabinet. Strange things happened
under her cape, and then she giggled all the way up the stairs.
Apep was moping around
in Bryarus' room when the other gods piled in. He had been slithering
around the room and was now a rainbow of powder-colours. His head flopped
from side to side along the top shelf of books and his tail crushed
a few cardboard pyramids. Every so often he would pick a book out with
his mouth, lay it on top of the others and leaf through its pages. Nostalgic
sighs rippled along his length.
"What's up, Apep?" Bes
"Oh, who cares? None
of you lot. I knew ssome beautiful women once, we sshared deliriouss
passion... and now where are they? Ah, Ssheila; oh, Gwendoline." The
serpent glowered at Bes and his body quivered. "Sseveral thoussand yearss
I've known you, and ssince when did any of you bother about my feelingss?"
The others piled in
and Apep slithered away.
Ra staggered proudly
in with the kettle and laid it in the dust. It sizzled vaguely.
"What can we drink out
of?" he asked.
"Well," said Bryarus,
"there should be some mugs in the loft, in a-" A shriek echoed from
downstairs and cut through Bryarus' words. He froze and the hair prickled
on his scalp. "What?" he said, and then he glanced at Drivula. Her expression
of innocence sent him pounding down the stairs; he skidded into the
sitting-room. Cicely and Arkwright had pressed themselves hard against
the wall. They were trying to claw their way through it. Before them
stood the drinks cabinet, leaning toward them with a brown blob still
fizzing over its polished surface.