Book of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 9.

Codswallop 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.

Back 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."

In 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 signed."
        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 sister.
        "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 glass.
        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."
        Cicely brightened.

In 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! Infidel, prepare-"
        "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-"
        He disappeared.

The 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 here?"
        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 that yours?"
        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 followed them.
        "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 asked.
        "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.

Go on to Chapter 10
Book of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved