King of the Undies World

This is the text presented at SWET’s Sounds and Events fiction reading on October 6th. It comes from my current novel King of the Undies World. The text comprises a chapter from early in the story.

Dramatis personae

Sir Hades Gousset – The famous underpants magnate. He’s big in underpants. He’s king of the undies world.

Persephone Gousset – Wife to Hades, doting mother to Victoria and a fearsome left hook.

Victoria Gousset – Daughter of Hades and Persephone and currently in a bag.

Hilda Titanium – Personal assistant to Sir Hades. She wears sackcloth … not for religious reasons but because if she doesn’t men injure themselves.

Davinia Flay – Professional baddy, ice queen and the brains in Maul and Flay business partnership.

Jeremy Maul – Professional baddy, and disgusting part of the Maul and Flay business partnership.

Mickey Mouse – Professional mouse. Makes a small cameo appearance in the piece — don’t blink or you’ll miss him.

The story so far …

Heiress Victoria Gousset demanding proper attention and her own lingerie company within the underwear empire of her distant-but-controlling father has kidnapped herself. However, her plan was not fool proof and she found herself kidnapped for real. And then kidnapped again and again. She is now in the hands of Maul and Flay who have arranged to exchange her for a huge ransom in Disneyland, Paris.

Now read on …

Disneyland was glad to see all its visitors. It sang and chirruped and danced around. It whooshed and whirled and did the whirligig. It blew kisses and bubbles and the minds of the happy families that crowded there.

Persephone proceeded through the crowds with the million squillion spondooliks in a large overnight bag which she dragged on a flatbed trolley. A million squillion needs a mighty big bag, one about the size of an oil tanker, and no such bag was to be found on the face of this earth.

Hades had pointed this out to the kidnappers, who had conveniently provided an email address: The kidnappers responded to put as much cash as possible in the biggest bag they could find and send the balance by PayPal.

Persephone spoke into the cuff of her sleeve: ‘I’m approaching the exchange point. So far so good.’

‘What’s she doing?’ asked Hades of Hilda Titanium in their secret control room, which was in fact a plastic elephant on the Dumbo ride. Persephone had liked the idea of installing her husband on the Dumbo ride, where, if he didn’t get airsick or elephant allergy, he could watch the proceedings without being able to interfere. She had paid the operators to keep the ride in the air for a full hour so her husband couldn’t get out.

‘She’s speaking into her sleeve.’

‘Why’s she doing that?’

‘I imagine it’s because that’s what people in films do in situations like this.’

‘Isn’t there supposed to be a microphone in the sleeve when you speak into it?’

‘Yes, indeed. I don’t suppose she realises that. She says, by the way, that she’s approaching the point of exchange.’

‘How do you know she said that if there’s no microphone in her sleeve?’

‘I bugged her hat. I hid a small camera in there too, which is live streaming to the mirror in my compact. Look. And I am listening by means of a fake babelfish inserted in my ear.’

‘You cunning devil. Can we communicate with her?’

‘Oh yes, I have a microphone cunningly hidden inside a banana, which streams to a speaker hidden in the mouth of her fox fur. All I need to do is hold the banana to my mouth. People will think I’m eating the banana or talking to the banana or having sex with it. No one will guess I’m speaking out of the mouth of a dead fox draped on a middle-aged lady pulling a million squillion spondooliks on a trolley in the middle of Disneyland, which we wouldn’t, under any circumstances, want people to think.’

‘Oh. You mean the banana in your bag? The one with “Do not eat” inscribed on it in black eyeliner.’

‘That’s the one. How did you know I had a banana in my bag?’

‘Sorry about that. I was feeling a bit hungry and went looking in your bag for a hand towel to swallow, you know, to fill the hole. Saw the banana, and thought, hello, that’ll do nicely. I ate the hand towel as well, just to be safe.’

‘Eat your own bloody hand towel!’

‘I did. I ate it this morning. That was the problem.’

Persephone, meanwhile, had arrived at the swap spot, which was a fake bench thing. It was a safe bet that the bench was fake because it was in Disneyland. Disneyland is a fastidiously crafted, immersive fantasy world, which meant the bench was, if anything, a bench immersed in a fantasy of its own existence. She laughed hideously and insanely and twitched until the family sitting there ran away and she made herself comfortable, parking her trolley alongside and arranging her furs about her with fastidious care, looking in the process like a mad old mother bear preparing to do things to people for porridge-related-offences, which, in a sense, she was.

Appearing like a pall of death at a kiddies picnic, Maul and Flay emerged from the crowd. Maul had a large holdall on his shoulder, which was struggling. A small child passing too close skidded and upended in a pool of his drool. Her father turned on Maul as if about to remonstrate but seeing in Maul’s slobber a presentiment of his own messy demise, thought better of confrontation and whisked his daughter away to the medical facilities to be de-salivated.

‘Here they come,’ said Hades.

‘Here they come,’ said Persephone’s fox stole. The microphone secreted in the banana was now lodged in Hades’ epiglottis, which had the potential for great embarrassment for the rest of his life.

Maul and Flay had already thoroughly surveyed the area looking for signs of ambush or double cross and had found none.

‘I spy with my little eye,’ said Maul, ‘something beginning with t.’

‘Two clever bastards,’ said Flay, ‘for bringing Madam Gousset in on the deal as a restraining influence on Monsieur Gousset’s capacity for extreme and impulsive violence.’

‘Uncanny. Got it in one.’

‘Let us continue with twisting the world around our little finger.’

‘I haven’t got a little finger. I only have a sausage.’

‘That’ll do.’

They took seats either side of Persephone, and the bench’s little fantasy existence suddenly became hideously real.

‘The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plane,’ said Persephone carefully while pretending to ignore both Maul and Flay.

‘The trains in Bahrain go mainly down the drain,’ responded Maul equally carefully.

Persephone couldn’t help asking, ‘What kind of security phrase thing is that?’

‘A fucking brilliant one,’ said Maul. ‘I thought of it myself. While having a dump.’

‘Incredible, I’m sure,’ said Persephone. ‘Do you have my daughter?’

Flay replied, taking charge before her colleague sent the whole deal the way of Bahrain’s trains. ‘Of course. She’s in the bag.’

‘How do I know she’s alive?’

‘The deal didn’t specify dead or alive,’ said Flay.

‘How do I know that’s my daughter in the bag and not a decoy?’

‘Don’t you know your own daughter when you see her? What kind of mother are you?’

‘She didn’t look like a bag before you got her.’

‘The name of the person in the bag,’ said Flay, enunciating very carefully, ‘is Victoria Gousset.’

‘Yes, that’s my daughter. No doubt about it. I’d know that name anywhere.’

‘OK,’ said Flay. ‘This is how it works. Maul will put his bag on the trolley next to the loot. He will then casually pick up the identical bag containing the money and saunter, just as casually, away. You will wait until we are out of sight and then take your trolley, exit the park and go away.’

‘Identical bags?’ The one with the money is blue and the one with my daughter is pink. You didn’t say before that the bags should be identical.’

‘No one will notice. This is Disneyland.’

‘Fine. Let’s go for it.’

‘Now!’ barked the fox round Persephone’s neck. ‘Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Last one to put the boot in is a sissy!’

‘That’s funny,’ said Persephone, ‘my fox sounds a lot like Hades today. It usually sounds like Hilda Titanium talking into a banana.’

The air was abruptly full of screaming. The kids were screaming, the mums were screaming, the dads were screaming; the grandparents, nephews, nieces, cousins, uncles and aunts were screaming; the delicious roast chickens in the restaurant on the main drag were screaming. I mean, you have to hand it to the French. What they don’t know about cleaning up dog poo on the streets of Paris they more than make up for in sheer fucking civilization. Where in the world can you walk into a tacky, vacuous money-sucker like Disneyland and sit down to dine on an entire half a roast chicken for a couple of euros? Especially the 16 elephants from the Dumbo ride were screaming with the sound of the jet engines installed in their bottoms as they swooped in low over the crowd, firing salvos of peanuts from their trunks. In the lead Dumbo was Hades Gousset and Hilda Titanium, in the others, 30 specially trained psychotics from private violence contractor YellowWater, all armed to the teeth with shotguns, machine guns, big guns, all clad in bullet-proof vests, stab vests, nice woolly vests, wearing night vision goggles, day vision goggles, diving goggles, goggle-eyed goggles, and generally all kitted up and ready for a privately funded and very professional rumpus.

A micro-nano-mite of an inkling after this development registered with everyone in Fantasyland, a barrage of flares and smoke bombs went off turning the air into an exploding marble pudding of orange, red, green, yellow and purple and adding mayhem to the chaos.

The Dumbos flew directly into the thick smoke, unswerving in their mission of rescue and retribution, while Mickey Mouse himself appeared from nowhere and dived into the fray in damsel-saving idiom.

— And that’s it for this sneak peak of the story. If you want to know what happens next, you’ll just have to buy the book when it comes out.

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