of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved
Hartman slumped at his desk. He turned his head to gaze from the sloping
attic window, across the roofs - a jumble of tile, slate and corrugated
iron. A few chimneys crumbled grandly and smoked with verve; some of
the roofs steamed and were softened with little worlds of moss.
He had resisted efforts
to move the council offices to lush premises, away from the edge of
Lower Postleton, on the unusual grounds that it would be a waste of
public money. The truth was that he would have missed his lunch-time
nip down to Marco's, where the old tramps hung around. These men had
taught him about Life, Humanity, and Sucking Eggs; the least he could
do was to buy them the odd pint.
The fight over Lower
Posleton's existence seemed never-ending, he sighed to himself.
Hugh Brightson looked
up from the paper which littered his desk, and grimaced at his superior.
"Improvement Committee?" he asked.
Derek shook his head
and wrinkled his nose in disgust. "No," he said, "this time it's personal.
Miss `Keep it clean' is trying to get rid of the museum; she wants us
to start charging her brother tax on it." He mimicked a falsetto: "Are
you not aware that it contains a shop? Ew, ew, ew." His voice dropped
again, and he ran his hand through his hair until it stood up in brown
spikes. "And the dreadful thing is, she's right."
Hugh twiddled with a
pencil and frowned in abstraction. "She owns it, too, doesn't she?"
he asked at last, his eyes beginning to twinkle. His boss nodded. "So
she'd have to pay half. Well, sir, how long has that shop been there?
Must be going on for fifty years or so, surely?"
Derek bounced his fist
on his desk and yelled: "Back-dated tax! Of course! Hugh, you're a genius."
He began to stab at calculator buttons, muttering: "Let's see, there's
the tax for... And then, compound interest on the unpaid... Add a bit
for avoidance... Wow!" his eyes answered Hugh's twinkle with a gleeful
light. "This should get her to lay off for a while. I wish I could see
her face when this bill thumps through her letter-box."
opened her bedroom door, stumbled through it, and put her foot straight
into a yawning crocodile's mouth. She stared into the long reptile's
unwinking eyes, and her throat constricted; after working the glottis
up and down for a few seconds, she managed a squeak of: "Help?"
The crocodile jerked
a little, and the upper jaws inched down. "Gerr ogh," it said.
Olwyn sprang backwards
and tripped neatly over her own feet. The crash brought the twins out
of their room, each clutching a leg of their latest disrobed victim.
He was snoring, but he whimpered vaguely every time his head bounced
over a bump. Isis dropped her trophy, and clapped her hands. She said:
"Oooh! A real Nile crocodile!" She turned shining eyes toward her sister.
"Nephthys - it's been ages; shall we try..." Nephthys nodded, and threw
down the limb she was holding. They advanced toward the reptile.
It backed away, twitching
slightly. It flexed its jaw a few times, and spoke: "Sheemsh to be shtill
working. Shuper," it said, "jusht bloody shuper. You shtep in a chap'sh
mouth and then attack him. Not even a `Hello, how are you, what'sh your
name,' oh, no. Well, I'm ash well ash can be exshpected, thank you,
and the name'sh Cronshpyke. Pissh off."
"Oh," said Isis, and
stopped. "not a real Nile crocodile. Oh, well."
Olwyn looked up in despair.
"I've done it again, haven't I? Perhaps frogs were better than crocodiles
"It wasn't you, Olwyn,
dear," said Nephthys, "it's Ra, you see. This is what comes of mixing
magic styles." She raised her voice: "Ra! Come here!"
The god wandered along
the corridor, scratching his balls. His thin fingers crackled as he
rubbed rheum out of his eyes. "Oh," he said, and cackled with mirth.
"I see. My lock of hair did it again, eh?" He looked around at the accusing
stares of the three women, and wiped the spittle off his chin. "Well,
don't look at me like that. He ought really to live in a river; plenty
of fish, and-"
"Ugh! Fishsh," said
Cronspyke, "shpoilsh the complexshion, you know. Shtick to herbsh, vegetablesh-"
Bes' guttural tones
rolled out of a bedroom door nearby. "What's that? Someone wants cosmetic
advice, do they?" He popped into the corridor, and tripped over the
snoring body. He scrabbled to his feet, and looked down. "Isis," he
said, "I wish you'd tidy your toys away."
Cronspyke's voice grated
louder: "-Not coshmeticsh, no! The shkin needsh..."
Min popped his head
out of the kitchen, grasped the situation, and ducked back in. He re-emerged,
clutching two bottles of sparkling, purple wine. "Is time for Cordial,
yes?" he said, and upended one of the bottles into Cronspyke's gaping
Ten minutes later, they
were all sitting on the floor around Olwyn's slime-pool. Cronspyke had
been partially stuffed into the pond, and the frogs sat on his head
"I didn't know that
crocodiles really could cry," said Olwyn.
"Alwaysh mishunder -
hic - undershtood, that'sh ush," he replied.
"It'll have to be the
Creek. So, how do we get him down the stairs without frightening the
"Let's go, get some
more Cordial," Bes said, and they all surged into the kitchen.
flopped out of one of Olwyn's many bedrooms, and into her sitting-room.
He yawned, scratched his head, and picked up the morning newspaper which
dangled from the letter-box. He collapsed into a chair and started to
read. "Beetles on the moon?" ran the headlines. He stiffened. "Strange
object appears... Tidal waves in Titicaca..." Bryarus' eyes slid away
from the page.
He looked up to see
Ra staggering past under a crocodile. A luminous, orange, fake-fur rug
wrapped itself around the reptile, with a fetching hood-and-cape effect;
scaled feet scrabbled against the god's back, and a toothy snout drooped
over his forehead. A lizard-like eye stared at Bryarus with a desperate
appeal, and dribbled tears over Ra's hair.
Bryarus looked away.
He choked, and glanced back; yes, it was still there. He cleared his
throat, and spoke casually: "Unusual headgear, Ra."
The god swayed to a
halt, and wobbled. "Ha! Fooled you!" he said, and swivelled his eyes
upwards. "See, Cronspyke? What did we tell you?"
"It'sh shtupid," the
crocodile's voice grated back, "orange! Ugh. Clashesh with my complexshion..."
Bryarus closed his eyes.
Omigod, he thought, they've got talking crocodiles, now. Well, that
was Ra's business. It could stay there. He washed his hands of the crocodile.
His eyes fell back to
the newspaper: "Moon wobbles in orbit... Strange tides rise in Mediterranean...
Riot in Observatory over reports of beetle..." He felt a fizz of hysteria
bubble up from his stomach.
"Ra," he said with a
calm desperation, "get Khepri down off the moon."
Black Maria drove back to Bryarus' home, to an internal fanfare of ancient
flutes and oboes playing under a wild chant. Gravel sprayed in the Watts'
drive as it slid to a halt and disgorged a selection of gods, a bouncing
drinks cabinet, and the odd luminously-dressed crocodile. Everybody
surged around the house to the creek, and Cronspyke dipped a toe in.
"It'sh a bit cold, ishn't it?" he said.
"Oh, you'll get used
to it; there's always Bonasus' turds to keep you warm," Bes waved a
hand at the fields.
"Talking of whom," said
Bryarus, "where is the shaggy chap?" he cupped his hands around his
mouth and yodelled: "Cordi-ordi-ordial! Cordia-al..."
A thundering shook the
earth, and the bonnacon powered along the bank toward them. He skidded
to a halt, panting, and stuffed his tongue in Bes' ear.
evening, the Folk Club reverberated through Lower Postleton. Marco squidged
against his counter and scratched an ear. Bits of cobweb and plaster
rained down onto his head and mixed with the dandruff, as feet above
danced to the enthusiastic beat. Arlo and Tansy entered the cafe with
Olwyn and Bryarus. They were followed by a vampire, a straggling line
of gods, and a large puce rat. Marco sniffed and jerked his head at
the rat. "Dog?" he asked.
"No. She's a rat," Arlo
"Okay. Club's started."
Marco waved a thumb upwards, to where another patch of plaster was giving
up the struggle. "Wanna beer to take up?"
They grabbed a barrel-full,
climbed up what remained of the decrepit staircase, and staggered into
the club room just as the climax of: "Fishing from the bottom of the
sea-ea..." wailed to a close. The singer sprang down from the small
A thunder of applause
shook the floor and somebody squealed: "Aaagh!" as he fell through the
hole in the corner.
Someone yelled after
him: "Bring some more beer when you come back up."
Djehuti wandered over
to the stage and tapped the microphone curiously. Someone called out:
"Oh yeah, song! Song! Come on mate, spit it out."
Djehuti looked around
with raised brows. He beckoned to the twins, who let go of the new,
slightly used young man that drooped between them and danced over to
the god. They whipped out their double-flute and sistrum. The young
man slid to the floor and began to snore.
Ra sidled up to Bryarus
and whispered: "You'd better stop him; he'll probably show off, and
then he gets carried away... Mind you, the quality of what he
Creates like that isn't as good as-"
A long, sweet flute-note
interrupted him, and the sistrum began to rattle delicately. Bes laughed
and flipped out the museum drum; he tapped its heavy voice into life
and then the wild music started to roll along. Djehuti's voice rose,
wordlessly. One minute it rippled, light as moonlit snow; the next it
sank to an earthy mischievousness. The power of it built up and up,
The air popped and a
blue-and-red clad gnome appeared at the singer's feet, with a small
harp in his arms. He shuffled forward and fell off the stage. "Urkle,"
he said, and "Spanggg" went the harp. The crowd cheered and clapped
a storm of sound.
"-See? I warned you,"
Ra shouted into Bryarus' ear. His voice was disgusted. "Look at the
distorted, pathetic object he's Created. Ha!" He wiped spittle from
his lips and turned away from Bryarus. "I can do better than that."
He clambered onto the
stage and unzipped his trousers. Drivula looked, and sniffed. "I've
seen better meat in a black pudding," she said.
Ra ignored her and started
pumping away with his hand, an earnest expression on his face. "Oh yes
- yes - wey-hey!" he yelled, and two gnomes popped from his fingers
onto the floor, their arms and legs tangled in a clinch.
"Ooh, look at them!
What are they doing?" Nephthys was gurgling with laughter.
The gnomes broke apart,
blinking in confusion. One wore a bell on her pointed hat; it tinkled
as she stood up and smoothed her neat skirt. The other one propped himself
on one elbow and glowered up at everyone. "Oh shit," he said, "not again.
Rat twitched her whiskers
in disgust. "See?" her voice echoed into Olwyn's head. "that's
how he Creates. And you want me to go back to him? He even Created himself
"Neat trick," said Olwyn.
The applause died down;
an elated Djehuti opened his mouth for another song. Bryarus launched
himself across the room; he grabbed the god by the ankles, bringing
him down with a crash. "For heaven's sake," Bryarus shouted up to the
musicians, "play something simple! Something to dance to - anything
- only, no more Creation, okay?"
The music of the gods
changed to a compulsive, slow rhythm. Bryarus felt his brain throb;
he wanted to laugh and cry. He got up off the god and his feet danced
him back to Olwyn. He grabbed her and twirled her to him. She was so
warm against his body; so smooth and soft, in whatever this silky material
was that slid between their thighs. He held her close, and her flushed
face laughed up into his. Her eyes sparkled...
His arms tightened around
her; her hips moved against his body. her eyes widened, and it was his
turn to blush; something stirred between them, crawling from groin to
Bryarus' feelings were
mirrored in her eyes. There was surprise; then embarrassment, followed
by pleased fear; and finally alarm, which reached epic proportions when
the swelling crawled up to his chest. That was the moment when Bryarus
threw caution to the winds, let Olwyn go, and clutched himself. Uraeus
slid from between them, fell to the floor, and slithered off across
"Thanks, Ury," Drivula
called after him, as she grabbed the confused Bryarus and pressed close
to him in a slow shuffle. "That'll teach you, fella, to make it with
her on the dance-floor," she muttered into his ear with a click of her
Min gave her a wink
as he swept by. Olwyn was moulded to his body; her eyes looked like
startled green sapphires. She was giggling faintly.
Drivula slid her partner
into the dark corner and they fell down the hole. "Damn," she said.
"Gerroff," he yelled,
his voice muffled by yards of vampire skin. Drivula picked herself off
the winded Bryarus and unstuck him from the floor.
Marco stopped picking
his nose and said: "More booze already? Okay. Beer or Cordial?"
The night degenerated
into images of drink and dancing. Wild music pounded the air, until
Bryarus and his party finally staggered away.
The twins examined the
body that they had brought with them. He hadn't moved since they'd arrived.
"I think he's all used up," Isis said, and stirred him with a foot.
"Pity. I quite liked this one."
Nephthys sighed. "Yes.
His little whimpers were so sweet... Still," she brightened, "I think
that cute vicar is giving in. He'll be our priest yet." She nodded at
Isis and stepped over the body.
An hour later, Marco
fumbled up the stairs. The young man still snored and spluttered by
the door; three gnomes lay pillowed on his stomach. Marco shrugged as
he switched off the light. Live and let live, that was his motto.
a van, parked miles away on the Wold, an engineer hunched over a radio
receiver and twiddled knobs. He listened intently and switched to yet
another frequency. He scratched his head; he could make nothing of it.
All he could get from the various "bugs" which Bes and Kraphedd were
supposed to have planted were flopping noises, choking sounds, and the
rush and bubble of water. They weren't the sounds he expected; secret
discussions, whispers of intrigue...
They were exactly right,
however, for Postleton East's bedsit-block toilets.
was dinner-time, up at Phelonia Hall. Several rats slid silently under
the heavy table and lurked hopefully. All they needed was for someone
to lose his temper; food usually fell from the sky at such times. There
was cold consommé this evening - they liked that. The signs were hopeful;
the air was heavy with displeasure.
An unaware Jarrold Effingham-Luton
scowled above them. The quiet colours and majestic proportions of the
walls failed in their task of encouraging a peaceful digestive process;
even the candlelight, winking off crested crystal and silver, couldn't
attract the usual smug smile from E-L. Emily picked at her food, at
the other end of the polished table, and said nothing. She was not the
only one. Arkwright was there, too, in his capacity of E-L's nephew.
"Dammit!" E-L finally
exploded, "someone's got to squash these upstarts. They're churning
out more and more of the stuff - and Rupert keeps showing it!
Wittering on about `public demand'; pah! Can't have any old street-kid
thinking he can up and make television. Anarchy; it'll breed anarchy.
Next thing, everyone'll be doing it. Arkwright!"
His nephew jumped, and
choked on his asparagus. "Yes, E-L?" he said.
"Your fiancee - her
brother owns the museum. I wanna buy it, get those sods out of there;
they'll come begging to me for work, then. You get over there, and work
with Cicely on this. She wants rid of the place, doesn't she?"
"Yes, b-but, well, I've
kind of broken it off, there's been so much strange-"
"What?" E-L half rose
out of his seat, and slammed his hand down on the table; a Spode plate
leapt from it and smashed itself to death on the floor, in a splatter
of cold consommé. "Broken it off? Well, you can bloody well mend it
again, or you'll get nothing more from my estate. Ouch! Ow!"
He jumped, and looked down at the consommé which dribbled over his shoe.
"And," he yelled, "get these bloody rats out of here!"
next morning, Bryarus picked the mail off the mat, and ambled into the
kitchen to tackle a plate of cereal. He shovelled some into his mouth,
rubbed his eyes while he munched, and then turned to the letters. He
grunted, and stopped chewing. One for Cicely from the council - what
was she up to this time? Oh, and here was one for him. He tore it open,
stared at it, and choked: "What the hell; how can I-" Cereal sprayed
everywhere as he jumped to his feet. "Cicely!" he yelled.
Cicely appeared at the
kitchen door. Her mouth was primmed up. "Bryarus," she said, "stop shouting
like that. The neighbours-"
"Sod the neighbours!"
"-This is your fault,
you've been at them again, haven't you? Don't look so damn innocent,
this tax bill's got your stamp all over it!" Bryarus shook the paper
under her nose.
Cicely looked smug,
and removed a speck of fluff from her skirt. "Well, it's only right
that you pay something, after all, it is a shop..."
Her brother's jaw was
set in a hard line. He looked at her coldly, and spoke in even tones:
"Well, Sister dear, I hope you enjoy your victory. Here's your
letter." He thrust her mail into her hand. "You'll have to celebrate
in a tent, though; this house'll have to go." He stalked out of the
room, slamming the kitchen door behind him.
Cicely stared after
him with her mouth open. What did he mean? She shrugged, and opened
her letter just as the doorbell rang; she scanned the page while she
hurried out into the hall.
Bryarus had opened the
door to a huge bouquet of roses which appeared to stand there on top
of Arkwright's legs. "Dearest," Arkwright said, peering around the roses,
"I just came to apologise - I didn't mean-"
"Yours, I think," Bryarus
threw over his shoulder at Cicely, and he turned back toward the stairs.
His head thumped with contained fury. This fancy accountant must have
thought up Cicely's latest wheeze, he thought; he reached into his pocket
to feel the comforting lump of geode. It seemed to throb in time with
his brain. If only something would take these idiots out of his life.
"Oh, Arkwright, darling,"
Cicely began. And then her eyes caught the meaning of the words in her
hand, and she yelped: "Arkwright! My God, look at this; the council;
I can't possibly afford-" Something swished along the hall. Arkwright's
eyes widened. A naked man appeared from behind Cicely and ran toward
them in clodhopper boots and glasses.
The man was yelling
something; and then he saw Arkwright's flowers and horrified expression.
The nude disappeared into the sitting-room with a hand over his mouth.
The muffled cry of: "Ah, but; her lover - he has come back! Non,
non; say I have not ruined all?" wafted from him. Arkwright threw the
flowers at Cicely. Cicely screamed.