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  1. #1
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    Default Chapter 17 - 9am

    SEVENTEEN

    I was still reeling from Melba’s suggestion that I sit in a kissing booth and sell use of my lips for a pound a time when Francois Devine revved up the man cruiser’s mighty engines and engulfed me in fumes. The last thing a gentleman rendered insensible by a swimming pool floor, then rendered insensible by a rugby player and then rendered confused and border-line insensible by the threat of kissing, needs is to be rendered insensible by toxic fumes. I coughed and spluttered, using my handkerchief to block out as much as possible but failing owing to the fancifully lacy construction of the “hankie” – a bequest from my louche Uncle Justin but cheaper than buying new ones whenever the old reliables become too thin to retain what Doctor Flapjack calls “unusually adventurous mucus”. I bumped into Melba as I exited the cloud and pretended that was exactly what I had planned to do all along.

    “Ah – Melba – here you are at last” I said, placing the entire blame on his shoulders and hoping he wouldn’t notice.

    “I’ve been here some while, Dennis Brent, including during our recent conversation. Are you feeling all right, old man?”

    “Precisely” I said with a firm nod. I then checked a piece of paper I drew from my pockets – actually a receipt from the pharmacist for two tubs of cavity soothing gel (the non-exfoliating kind this time – my previous prescription was incorrect and lead to more irritation than an entire series of “Doctor Who Confidential” <g>) – and pretended to be following a previously scripted plan.

    “I must go and check that Francois Devine is on top of this” and scurried off to the man cruiser’s cabin.

    “Did I catch you with the exhaust?” asked Francois Devine when I climbed aboard, evidently smelling slightly of harmful gases.

    “Briefly” I confirmed. “But I had my handkerchief so it only requires a basic apology by return of post.”

    “I shall add it to the tally chart. I think that puts you two up for this calendar month. I must give myself feedback.”

    “You must” I agreed.

    “I’ve arranged for the tent to be pitched outside the town hall, chaps, so if you could drive us there, Francois Devine” said Melba who had somehow managed to get in to the man cruiser and take up residence on the back seats. He soon became distracted by the home entertainment system – a free upgrade so Francois Devine claimed but I’ve never been convinced he didn’t get seduced by a smooth tongued salesman. That would explain the child seat and fold out Disney console if nothing else. He only went in to get the engine refitted after those appalling men borrowed it and when he got back the old crate had been expensively spruced up. He took a slurp from the newly installed drinks delivery system – a long and durable straw attached to a barrel in the boot – and suggested a pompous route to the town hall. I offered a much more sensible route and he snorted derisibly. Melba chipped in with a suggestion that we go round the ring road so Francois Devine and I made our peace and laughed at Melba until we found we’d reached the town hall on computerised auto pilot and none of us knew which way the man cruiser had gone.

    “Roll up, roll up” called Melba a few minutes later as I sat on a rickety stool and waited for my first customer. “Come and get a kiss – only a pound. What else can you get for a pound these days?”

    “Five Mars bars from Tesco” shouted a passer-by.

    “Can you?” replied Melba.

    “This week only.”

    “Brill.”

    It went quiet outside. After a minute or two I snuck a look out through a flap and saw that Melba had deserted me, presumably to Tesco for cheap chocolate. I fumed. Francois Devine was elsewhere, trying to find somewhere to berth the man cruiser so I was basically just a man in a tent with no one outside the tent knowing why I was inside the tent, or indeed that anyone was in the tent, for any purpose. This wouldn’t get The Memo won so I rolled up a copy of The Telehistorical Trajectory from my satchel to use as a megaphone, stuck it through the flap in the tent and shouted to the eager proles.

    “Attention. Kiss Dennis Brent for one pound. Form an orderly queue. No jostling or you will be ejected. Fireworks are not permitted in the kissing booth. Roll up. Exact money only.”

    Nothing happened so I repeated the message. And again. And again. I was getting pretty cheesed off with the whole affair when suddenly I was aware that I was choking on a pound coin that someone had dropped down my megaphone. I coughed it up, pocketed it as our first charitable earning that wouldn’t have to be returned and puckered up.

    “I couldn’t believe it when I heard” said a voice from the tent door. A worryingly masculine voice at that. I gripped my satchel and prepared to defend myself with the harsh and unforgiving buckle if my worst fears were realised but dropped it in amazement when in came Brian Creswell – my old co-manager of science fiction merchandise and memorabilia store, Outpost Bendaton. We had become firm chums before he left me – I later discover he’d been offered an executive position at Dapol – and to that day I’d never understood why spending time cataloguing “New Adventures” novels with Brian Creswell felt so different from spending time cataloguing “New Adventures” novels with Francois Devine or any of my other close professional colleagues. My chest went a little peculiar when Brian Creswell let some fresh air into the tent (any other explanation is beneath contempt) and in the confusion he leant over and kissed me on the mouth. I was so disgusted I couldn’t speak but in my eagerness to push him away my arms somehow became entangled around his waist and he became over balanced and toppled on top of me. Naturally, given the unfortunate series of mishaps and self-defence manoeuvres, I hadn’t had time to prise our lips apart but I assure you it was the very next thing on my to-do list when…

    “Dennis Brent” cried Francois Devine when he stuck his head through the flap having berthed the man cruiser and joined me for our joint fund raising effort. “This is beneath the pale” he said coldly.

    “I think you’ll find you got that wrong, mate” said a passing prole.

    “And I think you’ll find that after you look it up in a dictionary of phrase and fable, you’ll be apologising by return of post” he quipped back. He then returned his attention to Brian Creswell’s lips and their proximity to mine.

    “Is this gentleman bothering you?” he asked. Brian Creswell shook his head (slightly so as not to release his lip-lock). “In that case, are you bothering this gentleman?”

    I waved my hands, shook my feet and even attempted to grip Brian Creswell’s jacket and yank him off. Francois Devine misunderstood this like a fat head and was all ready to leave me earning the hardest pound since that freighter crashed into planet Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs when I broke free and uttered a single word.

    “Help” I cried.

    “Usual rates?”

    “Yes.”

    “Cowabunga” he cried and suddenly there were three of us tussling on the floor of that kissing booth.
    Dennis, Francois, Melba and Smasher are competing to see who can wine and dine Lola Whitecastle and win the contract to write her memoirs. Can Dennis learn how to be charming? Can Francois concentrate on anything else when food is on the table? Will Smasher keep his temper under control?

    If only the 28th century didn't keep popping up to get in Dennis's way...

    #dammitbrent



    The eleventh annual Brenty Four serial is another Planet Skaro exclusive. A new episode each day until Christmas in the Brenty Four-um.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    West Sussex
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    Default

    Melba is definitely getting a bit suspicious. In my mind's eye I see a denouement featuring a number of Moffat-style flashbacks....
    Bazinga !

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