I awoke from my coma in the cold night air of Bendaton. Francois Devine wasn’t actually fanning my face but his rapid-onset wind ensured I was receiving regular gusts of one sort or another. Disgusting though this undoubtedly was, the idea of combining a fanned towel and a bottle of smelling salts as an invaluable tool for the first aider about town is one I have patented and look forward to commercially exploiting once I’ve got the smell of beans out of my moustache.

“Where I am?” I asked, embarrassing all present with my lack of originality.

“Thank goodness you’re awake” snapped Francois Devine between gusts. “I was growing rather tired of your concussed babbling. Is it really true that you had to buy a second copy of ‘Nothing At The End of the Lane’ because you licked all the ink of the pages?”

“I refuse to answer that question as it not only infringes my privacy but it also exposes me to charges of having too much disposable income. I shall merely file this conversation under O for Over and move on with my life. Why aren’t I walking? My legs are moving.”

“You are still lying down” he said smugly.

“And why not? It’s a perfectly respectable position.”

I struggled to my feet, my head spinning like Francois Devine’s stomach when food commercials interrupt whatever trash he won’t admit to watching on his pathetically small home cinema screen. Melba was itching to leave – I’m not surprised as we’d all mixed with common folk and those of us who weren’t soaked to the skin in bean juice would almost certainly have caught fleas.

“Do you chaps want to do me a small favour?” he asked once he’d summoned up all the courage someone as pitifully ordinary as him would ever muster.

“Favour?” scoffed Francois Devine. “Did you hear that, Dennis Brent? He wants a favour.”

“A favour?” I repeated. “I heard that, Francois Devine. He wants a favour.”

We looked at each other and roared. I probably shouldn’t have roared so vigorously with so delicate a head but I couldn’t help it. Melba was being pathetically stupid and that just brings out my amusing side. We repeated Melba’s pitifully naďve remark in a range of derogatory voices and adopted a number of hilarious poses that mocked his stance, his manner and even his gender. When we’d exhausted ourselves mentally, respiratorily and physically we turned back to stare at his beetroot red face.

“I only wondered…” he began but I held up a silencing hand.

“Don’t say any more – you’ll only make us roar again and my head feels as if one more titanic chuckle will cause a rupture.”

“Mine might haemorrhage” added Francois Devine, pointing to his head as if there was some doubt.

“As for my waistcoat…” I continued.

“Mine has already become tested at the seams – I felt altogether too much pinging for my own peace of mind” agreed Francois Devine.

“So it’s probably best all round if you don’t say anything liable to make us roar. Which, on recent evidence, means your not saying anything at all” I concluded.

“Well aren’t you two just the ballyest pair of bally beasts” he swore. “All I wanted to say is that I’ve got my next fund raising extravaganza lined up to start in a few minutes and I wondered if you chaps would like a cut. I’ve organised a ghostly tour of Bendaton cemetery and sold quite a few tickets back at the swimming pool when everyone was in a good mood because they thought you were dead. I was hoping you two would don a couple of white sheets and pretend to be wraiths to scare the sillier members of the tour party but if you don’t want an equal share of over sixty quid then that’s your lookout.”

We didn’t feel like roaring this time. We’d misjudged Melba. He wasn’t asking for a favour at all –he was offering us the chance of a small amount money in return for a small amount of effort. That’s perfectly sensible. Francois Devine and I jotted notes of apology to Melba and popped them in the post box near the baths. We returned and told him we’d do whatever he felt was necessary providing his original offer of an equal share – each – of the money raised would go to us. Then we agreed – in the spirit of charity and because we had no chance of winning if we didn’t – to pool our collective fund raising and win the contest together, thus eliminating the need to split any proceeds and giving Francois Devine and I a 2 to 1 advantage in any votes concerning The Memo were we to win it. We would thus be able to freeze Melba out entirely once he’d served his purpose. And if that isn’t “charity” I don’t know what is.

“OK” I told Melba, “we’ll do it.”

“Really? Top ho” he gasped. “I’ve got some white powder in my car which we could rub your face in to give you a really scary ghostly pallor.”

He dashed off and returned with a bag of flour. Before I could change my mind he shoved a handful of the stuff into my face and begun rubbing it vigorously. I would’ve preferred to have taken my glasses off first (as it did temporarily blind me and cause me to stumble quite badly into the A5912) but it was still better than drowning in beans. The tomato juice that still coated me mixed with the flour to form quite a nourishing paste – I certainly wouldn’t go hungry that night.

“That paste looks quite nourishing” noted Francois Devine, eying my neck like a vampire.

“You’re not licking me for sustenance” I said firmly. “You’ve already eaten a swimming pool of beans – you don’t need to absorb my superficial goodness.”

“I may return to this topic – kindly be aware of that fact – but for now I accept that you may not be mistaken.”

We beamed at each other until Melba threw a sheet over Francois Devine’s head and told him to wail. The sheet had no eye holes and he too stumbled onto the A5912. It is a miracle neither of us was killed that night.

“Just stand behind that grave stone” ordered Melba, “and when I give the cue, pop up and moan.”

I decided to practice. I crouched behind the grave – which belonged to my brother Donald by an amusing coincidence and which was marked D.Brent in a sensible act of cost cutting. It has since become a bit of a local shrine for those who want to visit my grave without waiting for me to die first.

“And cue Dennis Brent” pointed Melba.

“Women got a really rough time in Doctor Who” I said in my best Australian accent.

Melba looked at me with a wrinkled brow.

“I was thinking rather more WOAHHHHHHHOOOOOOO than Janet Fielding” he explained. I was fogged at how he could’ve been so ambiguous in his earlier instructions. I crouched back down behind the grave and was ready to have another try when oncoming noise told me Melba’s tour party had arrived. For the first time since the DWAT Performance Organisation’s highly regarded but tragically unfinished production of “A Christmas Carol” (by Dickens not Moffat <g>) I was going to play a ghost. Hopefully this time I wouldn’t be rugby tackled by a confused season 24 apologist who hadn’t done their homework and mistook me for an actual ghost haunting the Telford Travelodge conference suite. I know what you’re thinking – who believes in ghosts and thinks they can be rugby tackled? I did say she was confused.