Copyright ©2004 Some Sort of Dog
"This is a crazy idea," Helvetica grumbled. "What if we get stuck in this damned tunnel of yours? My tits are squashed against the wall, so God knows what yours must be like."
"They're a bit milky," Valentina admitted. "Only another twenty yards, then we go up the steps to the clock tower."
The passageway was lit by a row of dim and dusty bulbs, each swinging on the end of a short length of twisted electrical cord. There were maybe a dozen more, then there was a wooden door visible at the end.
The lights flickered.
"Oh no, don't let the lights go out," said Helvetica shrilly. "Not now! Bloody hell, what's that noise?"
"Music?" Valentina had stopped crawling and was fumbling with a panel on the wall. "Help me get this thing open."
Dust and spiders billowed down as the two of them pried the wooden panel from its place on the wall. Light flooded in through a dust-caked window. Valentina craned her neck to see out of it and down below into the quadrangle.
"Trombones!" she announced, turning quite pale. "They're all playing trombones."
"Who are all playing trombones?"
"All the girls! The whole school. There must be a couple of hundred of them down there, marching up and down."
"What about the teachers?"
"They're down there, too." Valentina surveyed the scene gravely. "The computer must have flipped, or something. All the girls are marching around the quad. The teachers are shouting orders, to stop them crashing into the Spitfire."
"Into the what?"
"It's a Spitfire. A plane. My little brother had a picture of one, and you can tell by the shape of the wings."
"But what's a Spitfire doing in the quad?"
"It's where the fountain used to be, right in the middle. It's kind of on a stand with its nose up in the air."
"Shit! That must have happened when the lights flickered. That's what happens when the Fuckh Machine makes a Big Change."
As if at a signal, all the trombones stopped playing simultaneously.
"Come on," said Helvetica. "Let's do something about this clock before the machine screws up something really important."
It took five minutes to get into the stairway leading up to the clock, then a further twenty minutes while Valentina went back to the school restaurant to steal some treacle.
"What took you so long?"
"I forgot the spoon. Then somebody saw me and I had to come out without it. We'll have to use this instead."
"A wooden spoon?"
"I found it outside the Sexual Chemistry lab. It's only burnt a little bit round the edges. It's a bit big but it will hold more treacle, so it won't take us so long. When did it strike last?"
Helvetica's hair seemed to stand on end. "Didn't you hear it? A quarter of an hour ago?"
"I wasn't listening for it. Maybe it struck and I didn't notice." She levered the lid off the treacle tin with a ten pence piece and plunged the spoon into the goop. It came up, glistening golden in the watery sunlight, strings dangling as Valentina waved it in the air. Then she climbed carefully up the steps and thrust the spoon deep into the bowels of the clock, letting the treacle flow into the workings. She repeated the process with some abandon, scraping the wooden spoon round the bottom of the treacle tin. Then for good measure she dropped the spoon into the gears of the clock.
"Did it work, do you think?"
They sat and waited for it to strike again. It wasn't even ticking.
"I think it's worked."
It was just after the trombone lesson which, of course, involved the whole school and always made the girls over-excited, far too excited to be going into the last class of the day. As it happened, I had the First Form for Sexual Chemistry. It was only a short period so I usually allowed the girls to write up their notes. Chattering, they filed into the Sexual Chemistry laboratory and stacked their trombones in the rack just inside the doorway.
"Settle down, please. You all have something to be getting on with. I want to see your last experiment written up in your notebooks, handed in to me at the end of the class. Any questions?"
There weren't any. By now, the girls knew that any questions would be greeted with a wall of ridicule and a request for hundreds of thousands of lines.
"The heading the title of the experiment is 'The Production of Lube and Steam'. That's L U B E, and Steam. Steam as in roller, or engine, or bakery, or laundry, or heating, or iron, or radio, or Newquay beer, or drice."
The class fell silent, apart from the scratching of pens and the clatter of drawing instruments. They were a good class, this First Form.
The lights flickered but they didn't go out completely.
The quadrangle clock almost struck twenty-three, and four of the girls checked their watches.
A low-flying aircraft thundered over the school.
Miss Cassowary came into the lab. "I'm leaving now, Miss Gruntworthy," she announced, twirling her knee-length black hair with one hand while she smoothed her scarlet latex catsuit down her lithe body with the other.
"Leaving? You can't leave, just like that, in the middle of term!"
"I can, miss. I am only imaginary, after all."
"Oh. I suppose so, in that case. When are you going?"
"I thought I'd catch the 1713 from Borcester. It's locomotive-hauled and I only need another five Class 47s and I'll have the whole lot." She produced a notebook from somewhere and thrust it towards me, tapping with a nail on one page. "Maybe it's a good thing I'm leaving when I am, they're changing over to HST125s next week. Nice and powerful, and great sound effects, but you know how smoky those old Paxman-Valentas are and Molly Malone says we're supposed to be saving the planet. Did you hear there's a steam special coming this way on Saturday. You could take the girls down there, you get a lovely view as it storms out of the tunnel and takes the reverse curves into Fillamore Deepleigh. Non-stop, of course. The plan was for one of the preserved rebuilt Spam Cans to be in charge oh, I just love that three-cylinder beat but they said there'd been a problem with its middle big-end unusually for a Bulleid and they might have to substitute it with a B1. You know, an Antelope...?"
"Thank you, Miss Cassowary." I held up my hands, feeling as if I was trying to stop a runaway train. To my surprise, she stopped, presumably short of steam. "I hope you have a pleasant journey and I thank you for all your sterling efforts here over the past months and years. If you're really imaginary, I assume you won't be taking up another teaching post...?"
"No. I'd thought of becoming a deep-sea fisherperson. Anyway, I'll be off, then." She took my extended hand in a limp grip then made her way to the door. She selected a trombone from the rack and played a few mournful notes. Then she blew out the spit valve and replaced the instrument with reverence before leaving, closing the door gently behind her. A short while later I heard the gentle throb of a taxi as it pulled away up the drive.
"Thank you, girls!" I said, clapping my hands three times. "That's enough. Sit down and get on with your work."
"Is she really leaving, miss?"
"She's lovely, isn't she, miss?"
"And we love trainspotting, miss!"
"But ... you're girls!"
Arabella had her hand up. "Please, miss?"
It was time, I knew, to move on, before something really unpredictable happened, as if it hadn't already. "Not now, Arabella, thank you."
"But, miss. Is it true what Miss Cassowary said, about the preserved Light Pacific being replaced on the Special?"
My hair stood on end, not for the first time. "The what? On the what?"
"The steam train, miss. Of course, it would never have run through Borcester non-stop, not in the old days."
I gazed at her blankly. What was the girl talking about?
"It would have had to stop for water, miss. It couldn't have picked up at the troughs."
"It wouldn't? Oh, of course not, no."
"You don't know why, miss, do you!"
"Don't be silly." I rapped on the desk with a ruler. "Open your textbooks and turn to page...."
"Miss Gruntworthy doesn't know", Arabella persisted. "Anyone else?" She pushed her safety goggles up on to the top of her white helmet and peered around the room, looking over the tops of a pair of half-moon spectacles which, eerily, I had never seen her wearing before. She pointed at a girl who was waving her hand. "Yes, Eglantine?"
"There were no troughs on the Southern, miss," the girl parroted, talking to me for some unfathomable reason.
Another girl took it on from there. "So Southern locos didn't have scoops. They didn't need them."
"They all used to stop for water at Salisbury, miss...."
"Rubbish!" I shouted. "Absolute rubbish! Stop spouting gibberish or you'll all be writing a billion lines each...."
The class subsided. Hands were lowered. The girls looked so crushed that even I felt sorry for them.
"Thank you," I said. "I'm sure you're as disappointed as I am to see Miss Cassowary leaving. She will be sorely missed. But we have to move on, put it behind us, wipe the slate clean, draw a line in the sand...." Arabella had her hand up again and I pointed my ruler at her gratefully, as I was fast running out of clichès. "Yes, Arabella?"
"Miss, if Miss Cassowary leaves, who's going to teach us weird stuff and everything?"
"Yes, miss. And everything."
Surreptitiously I slid my The Guardian Every Teacher's Handy Desk Diary out from underneath my women's magazine and opened it at the timetable page. There, amid all the crossings-out and smudged alterations was an entry under First Form for Tuesday. Sure enough, it said Weird Stuff & Everything (Cassowary). Which was quite a relief, actually, although we would need to allocate another teacher to the subject from next Tuesday onwards. It didn't seem to be a particularly demanding class, apparently dealing only in totally useless and irrelevant facts.
As the silence lengthened, the girls were still staring anxiously up at me, their blue protective overalls stretched tight across their mountainous breasts, their white safety helmets all worn at the same jaunty angle, their eyes apparently magnified by their glinting safety goggles.
The clock failed to strike three. In fact, it failed to strike anything, which was even more worrying, especially to the four Girls who could normally Hear the Clock. Their faces screwed up in anticipation, then when nothing happened they became agitated and stressed, fidgeting in their seats for five tense minutes until it became clear that nothing was going to happen, and they slumped dejectedly with the attitude of girls who weren't going to be the only ones to know when it was time for classes to end so they could adjourn to the school restaurant for their tea. In fact, they might even be the only ones not to know.
"Nearly tea-time," I told the class in an effort to keep up their spirits. "Let's just finish off these notes. Oh, fuck it, let's go to tea now!" And so saying, I rose from my seat, adjusted my clothing and picked up my books. "Never mind the notes, I'll mark them next week sometime."
Wondering, the First Form stuffed their books into their bags and followed me to the door. Arabella and Barbarella were closest to me, plucking at my sleeve.
Arabella spoke. "About the antelope, miss...?"
"Antelope? What about it?"
"Who's going to be in charge of it this year? Feeding it and that?"
"Feed...? You don't feed an antelope! It's to stop chemical things working."
"Of course we have to feed it, miss. It eats grass and stuff." Barbarella's face was earnest and shining, even when she removed her goggles and rubbed her eyes. She tucked her trombone under her arm. "Can I lead it on parades and stuff?"
"We don't have parades," I snapped. "Anyway, lead what?"
We streamed around the corner and crossed the road to the restaurant. There on the grass verge was a kind of wire mesh cage attached to steel posts twenty feet tall. Inside the cage a pretty but quite startling animal was mooching around with a morose expression on its face. It spied Barbarella and came scampering over to press its wet nose through the wire. It had ridiculous pointy ears that stuck out a totally unnecessary distance sideways and a pair of so over-the-top curly horns; all of which gave it the appearance of having been designed by a committee of schoolgirls.
"W-w-what is it?" I stammered. But at the same time, I knew with an icy certainty exactly what this mythological beast was. In that case, I thought, what was an anecdote? And if anecdote wasn't right, what was the damned word?
The thing bounded away with every appearance of joyousness, then returned to shyly say hello to Barbarella again. It liked her. Antelopes must prefer girls with extremely dangly breasts. I sighed and capitulated.
"You can be in charge of it," I told Barbarella. "What's its name, anyway?"
"Don't know if it's got one, miss. Dennis?"
"No, we can not call it Dennis. Who ever heard of an antelope called Dennis? We're not going to call it anything. It doesn't belong here. Is it a boy or a girl, anyway?"
"It's got balls," Arabella observed. She was on her hands and knees with her face close to the wire.
Well, at least, it wasn't about to get itself pregnant, although I was somewhat concerned about St Cat's being probably the only girls' school in the county or even the whole country with a pet antelope. Although having said that, it would make a stirring sight marching at the head of the girls on parades. Not that we ever had any parades, of course.
"Can it come into the restaurant with us, miss?"
"Certainly not, it's unhygienic! We can't have pets in there with all the food. Say bye-bye to it now. It will still be here when you come out." I crossed my fingers behind my back, and prayed for Divine Intervention.
"Did you notice anything strange outside the restaurant, Tee?" Helvetica asked.
Valentina, sprawling on her bed, sat up, although she didn't stop picking her nose. "Only that gazelle thing in the cage, why?"
Helvetica scrambled off her bed and stared. "You saw it? Why didn't you mention it?"
"Why didn't you?"
"I just did."
"Yeah, but that was just now. We came out of the restaurant five minutes ago and you never mentioned it then."
Helvetica looked down at where her feet presumably were. "I thought if you didn't mention it, then it must have always been there."
"So did I. What is it, anyway? What kind of animal has horns like that?"
The girl Gabrielle, who lived on a farm, was plodding past on her way to the bathroom. Her trombone was tucked under her arm in the approved fashion. "If you're talking about the school mascot, it's an impala, actually, Aepyceros melampus, a one-of-a-kind antelope. The St Cat's Antelope," she said. "I thought everybody knew that."
"Schools don't have antelopes," said Helvetica. "Not girls' schools. How long has it been out there?"
Gabrielle frowned uncertainly. "For ever. That girl in the First Form with the dangly tits? She's its handler this year. She always leads it when we have parades. It marches at the front."
Helvetica had turned pale. " Barbarella Sinkinson? How long did you say she's been in charge of the school antelope?" she enquired cautiously.
"She always has." Gabrielle was edging away.
"But ... but the First Form has only been at St Cat's for a month! Did Barbarella bring the antelope with her when she came?"
"I don't know ... I...." Gabrielle was looking confused and worried by all this questioning.
"And what's all this about parades? We don't have parades. We're a girls' school, not an army."
"I didn't say we'd ever actually had any parades," Gabrielle admitted. "I only said that Barbarella marches at the front with the antelope when we do. Which we don't. Excuse me," she bleated, and fled from the dormitory.
"Something's gone wrong," said Helvetica. "Are you sure the treacle stopped the clock?"
"Of course it did!" said Valentina indignantly. "Treacle always stops clocks. Have you heard the clock strike since we stopped it?"
"Not exactly. But I get this weird feeling every quarter of an hour, as if I should be able to hear it but I can't hear anything." She dug in the drawer of her locker and took out a portable radio. "I'm going to listen for the time signal." She turned it on, and after she hit it a few resounding blows, tinny music filled the room.
"How will we know if the clock is set to the same time as the radio? It was five minutes fast. Or maybe it was slow?"
"It'll be neither if you've treacled it. But we ought to get a funny feeling around about five o'clock, anyway."
"...your news bulletin at the top of the hour. An exciting item of news from the City about a merger of a number. Of. Companies First Great Western, the CocaPepsi Group, The US Marine Corps and Microsoft, a computer software giant. The new consortium will be known as the Ford Motor Company and will produce a massive range of best-selling. Chocolate products meanwhile in ... sport Real Madrid have announced...."
"Have you felt anything yet?" said Valentina.
Helvetica impatiently shook her head and pointed at the radio. "Listen! Did you hear that? The Fuckh Machine told us there was no Ford Motor Company at the moment, but the bloke on the news just said it's just been formed. So it sounds like the Fuckh Machine's on the case. Okay, it's making chocolate, but that's better than nothing."
"Who's going to eat Ford chocolate?"
"Same people as drive Cadbury's cars? The only thing: if the machine has only just invented Ford chocolate, that means the treacle didn't stop the clock properly. We'll either have to put some more in there or talk to the machine again."
It was Valentina's turn to shake her head impatiently. "Naah! That stuff on the news must have happened ages ago. The clock's only been stopped for a couple of hours. I bet as soon as the clock stopped, the Fuckh Machine crashed. So in a couple of days, when we start the clock again, everything will be sorted."
"Vets? One thing's been worrying me. How are we s'posed to get the clock going again?"
"Easy. We just take the treacle out." Unusually, Valentina sounded slightly unsure of herself.
"Just like that? You must've poured a gallon in there. We'd never be able to get all that lot out even if we started now."
Luckily Barbarella Sinkinson wasn't too heavy, apart from her tits. I say luckily because when we came out of the restaurant, stuffed with the specialité du jour, somewhat memorable steak and kidney pudding and two veg followed by spotted dick and lumpy custard, Barbarella wanted to ride the antelope.
"Absolutely not!" I told her. "Whatever next?"
It took quite a while to catch the animal, which bounded around its cage with a big grin on its face until Arabella Mason-Dixon lassoed it and reeled it in, to the cheers of fifty or so girls with their faces up against the wire fence. Then there was a lengthy discussion about saddles. Half of the First Form was of the opinion that antelopes didn't wear saddles, while the other half plus most of the older spectators declared that a girl couldn't ride such a narrow animal without embarking on a succession of orgasms of ever increasing intensity. God knows how they knew. I was tempted to shove the First Formers aside and try it for myself but the antelope wiggled its ears and shot me what I could only interpret as a warning glance so I resumed my post as gate guardian just in time to see Trisha O'Halloran and Doris Bloggs struggling into the cage through the narrow gate, laden down with riding equipment and harnesses and trombones and stuff. "Tack", I believe it's called, as long as you exclude the musical instruments. They wore jodhpurs and coarse knitted sweaters and their hair was scraped back in pony tails.
"'Scuse me, miss," they said as they pushed past and approached the beast, which didn't appear to view their arrival wholly with pleasure. But Trisha walked up to it boldly and began whispering in its ear, whereupon it settled down and quietly developed a hard-on while they all clustered round, strapping leather stuff to it.
When the throng dispersed, the antelope was kneeling down on the grass and Barbarella was astride its back, waving her trombone triumphantly in one hand while she clung to the reins with the other.
"Yee-hah!" she cried experimentally. The antelope ignored her magnificently. Barbarella bucked her backside a few times, without noticeable effect upon her steed, although her tits did flop out of the bottom of her skirt a depressing sight, I always find.
"Let's lead him around the cage," Arabella suggested. "He might be okay when he knows we're his friends." She tugged at the harness. The antelope farted. The First Form giggled. The sound seemed to reassure the antelope. It grinned around at the girls, then suddenly leaped vertically several feet in the air, with Barbarella clinging on for dear life with one hand, still brandishing the trombone in the other.
"Let's play a tune for it," said Arabella. "Make it feel like it's on parade!"
And all the girls, inside the cage and outside, raised their trombones to their lips.
Now I'm tone-deaf, so they say, but even I have to admit it was a fine, stirring noise, all those trombones in unison, or harmony, or maybe even both. There must have been nearly a hundred of them blaring away, a sound which so appealed to the school's new mascot that it fell into a kind of lolloping trot round the perimeter of its cage with Barbarella perched proudly on top. Well, it wasn't so much of a trot, really, more of a bounce, but after Barbarella had fallen off the first few times the antelope came to a docile halt for her to remount, scratching at the ground with a front paw, or hoof, or whatever antelopes have instead of feet. Eventually the two of them seemed to form a kind of precarious partnership.
Fair enough, I thought. If ever she became bored with leading the antelope at the head of the parade, Barbarella could ride the thing, although we'd certainly need to be doing something about her bra.
It was slow progress, crawling along the passageway in the direction of the clock tower. Down below in the quadrangle, the wires that kept the Spitfire from falling over in a noisy heap were twanging in the wind. The girls complained as they shuffled across the dusty floorboards.
Helvetica was in the lead, carrying Valentina's trombone as well as her own, because Valentina was burdened down with a tub of SuperCream, although she suspected it wasn't called that any more. Behind Valentina came Arabella, who had only come along because of Barbarella, who in turn had to be there because of the antelope, which had insisted on following the Third Formers and nobody really knew how to discourage it from doing anything it wanted to do. It had its own bed in the First Form dormitory now, and neither the First Form nor the antelope seemed troubled by the smell.
The mascot was wearing the uniform that Clit had made up for it. It consisted of a tightly-fitting sort of tunic with a hole for its head to poke through, tastefully decorated with rhinestones and sparkly things. Round its neck was a big frilly collar and on its feet it wore two pairs of knitted white bootees. Luckily it didn't seem to appreciate how utterly ridiculous it looked. It could only make its way along the cramped passage by lowering its head until its chin was practically scraping along the floor, although its horns were still brushing the ceiling. It made little noises of protest but it couldn't turn round and go back because firstly there wasn't room and secondly Barbarella was close behind it, prodding its bottom with her trombone.
The same thing was happening to Barbarella because Maisie Perkins was crawling along at the rear of the column. Her finely tuned nostrils had detected the tub of SuperCream from twenty yards away, and Valentina had decided that she might as well come along as they could SuperCream her and it wouldn't go to waste.
"How much further?" she wailed, kneeling on her nipple for the umpteenth time.
"Oh, shut up!" Helvetica yelled back. "We're nearly there! Although I can't imagine why we didn't just get a ladder and climb up it from the quad."
Valentina snorted. "How could we all get up a ladder? Five of us. Six if you count that thing."
"It could have stayed at the bottom of the ladder to make sure nobody would bump into it and knock us off."
"Oh, yeah? You'd trust an antelope to do that?"
"Barbarella could have stayed down there with it. And Arabella could have stayed down there with both of them."
"It doesn't matter, we're all here now," said Valentina, lugging the SuperCream tub and placing it in front of her on the floor. "Let's get up these steps to the clock. Careful, everybody."
It wasn't easy, climbing the creaking wooden steps of the clock tower, but at least there was enough headroom now so the antelope could get its chin off the floor and toss its head.
Up in the tower, there was just enough room for them all to sit in a circle around the clock mechanism, staring at it with interest and total lack of comprehension.
"What is it?" said Maisie. The other First Formers, including the antelope, looked scornfully at her before turning to Helvetica to find out what it was.
"It's the school clock. You know the one that strikes every quarter of an hour?"
Barbarella and Maisie looked blank. Arabella and the antelope nodded wisely.
Helvetica continued before the awkward questions could start. "It's stopped at the moment, which is why you haven't heard it for a while, and why it's not ticking. And it's not ticking because Valentina poured treacle into it."
None of the First Formers apparently found anything strange about this explanation. Presumably they thought that pouring treacle into clocks was a normal enough activity.
"And we've got an hour to get it out so the clock can start again." Helvetica looked around at her audience, daring any one of them to speak.
Valentina spoke instead. "Why have we got all these kids up here anyway?"
"Arabella's here because Barbarella's here, and Barbarella's here because he's here." Helvetica nodded in the direction of the antelope, unwilling to speak its name, assuming it had one. "It wouldn't have come if it hadn't wanted to." She glowered at Maisie. "But I don't know why she's here."
"She's here because she smelt the SuperCream," said Valentina.
"Yes, but why did you bring the SuperCream? Why do we need SuperCream up here?"
"To get rid of the wooden spoon, of course." Valentina pointed into the mysterious non-workings of the clock. It's too far in there for any of us to reach it, with the size of our tits. So I'm going to use the SuperCream to set fire to the spoon. And the spoon will set fire to the treacle."
Helvetica gasped. "You're going to set fire to it? A fire? Up here? You'll burn the whole school down!"
"Nah, it'll just be a little fire, and as soon as the clock starts, the Fuckh Machine will take over and everything will be all right again."
"That's rude," said Barbarella. "You used a naughty word!"
"It's okay," said Arabella. "She's talking about the Fuckh Machine."
"What do you know about the Fuckh Machine?" Helvetica demanded fiercely.
"How would I know? I'm only in the First Form. I don't even know why we've suddenly got an antelope at school...."
"He's mine!" Barbarella cried.
Helvetica broke in hurriedly. "It doesn't matter why he's ... it's here it's here, and it doesn't look like it's going anywhere. Maybe it can piss on the fire," she added under her breath.
Valentina was levering the lid off the SuperCream tub. She held the tub over the clock. Nothing happened. "It might take a minute or two," she said. "It's a bit cold up here."
Maisie Perkins cleared her throat politely. "Valentina, could you ... like, rub some SuperCream on my boobs?"
"You don't want to make them even bigger!" Arabella snorted.
"Just a teensy bit bigger." A crafty smirk appeared on her face. "It will warm up the SuperCream, won't it? You want it warmed up, don't you? My boobs are nice and hot." She unbuttoned a number of buttons on her blouse and spilled a foot or so of cleavage out into the open.
"Oh, my God!" said Helvetica.
Valentina grinned. "The kid's thinking! Let's try it!"
"Just a little bit. A handful. Crawl over here so you're close to the clock."
Maisie squeaked with excitement and crept closer, squeezing between Valentina and the antelope, propping her trombone against the wall and ladling both breasts out of her bra.
Splat! And again, Splat!
"Rub it in yourself, then lean over the clock so it's closer to the spoon."
Maisie massaged her breasts for a couple of minutes then did as she was told: bending from the waist to lower her danglers over the edge. Her nipples crept closer to the greasy gear wheels.
"Not too close," Valentina warned. "If it suddenly starts, you don't want to get them caught in the works. You'll stop it again."
Silence fell, broken only by spasmodic grunts from Maisie. "Shouldn't they be getting hotter by now?" she asked.
"Aren't they?" Valentina sounded surprised.
"No, they're getting colder."
"Give it a minute. Look, smoke! It's the spoon! It's working!"
They all chirped with excitement as the tendrils of rising smoke got thicker, until there was a familiar whooomph and a flicker of flame lit up the inside of the clock. Almost immediately there came a crackling sound as the treacle dripped on to the flames. A satisfying glow now bathed the clock chamber.
"It's okay," said Valentina, peering into the little inferno. "It's all metal, so it can't spread and get out of control."
"They're getting warmer now," Maisie reported.
"You'd better get your tits out of there," said Helvetica.
Reluctantly, Maisie leaned back and hauled her well-Creamed boobs over the edge out of danger. She sat down and they flopped into her lap.
Not a moment too soon.
There was a heavy clonk from inside the clock, followed by a whirring noise. Then came the sound of a great spring being released and a moment later it began a ponderous ticking.
"It's working!" Valentina clapped her hands together.
"Has the fire gone out?" said Helvetica.
"Nearly. Just a little bit of treacle still burning but it's nearly all gone. Let's just give it a few minutes in case it stops again."
They all sat around, nobody saying a word. The lights flickered once, twice, three times, and Helvetica, Valentina, Arabella and the antelope exchanged significant glances before looking away and staring innocently into space.
Valentina held up a finger. "Listen! What's that noise outside? It's...."
"Water!" said Helvetica. "The fountain in the quadrangle! Have a look. Arabella, there's a window back there, down the passage."
Arabella clumped down the steps and crawled away backwards disappearing from sight round the corner. A minute or so later an excited yelp reached them.
"What is it?"
Arabella's distant voice announced, "That plane's gone! There's a sort of waterfall thing there instead."
"You know there's supposed to be a fountain," Helvetica told her sharply. "The Spitfire's only been there a couple of days."
"Yeah, but it was such a nice aeroplane," said Arabella. "And it's gone now."
"It's worked," said Helvetica. "We'd better get back and find out what else has changed. Come on, let's get down and out of here! All the rest of you go first, then Valentina, and I'll be at the back." They clambered down without incident. Then, as Maisie crawled into the passage followed by Barbarella, she stopped, looking at Valentina. "I suppose you've noticed it, too?"
"You mean the trombones have all gone?" said Valentina.
"Yeah, but the antelope hasn't!"
"So we went straight to the IT Laboratory, miss," said Helvetica. She had a thick wad of computer printout paper on her knee and she tapped it significantly with a finger.
So far, Valentina hadn't said a word, which was ominous. Even more ominous was the tub of Something on the floor between her feet.
There were just the four of us in my office, Helvetica and Valentina in straight-backed chairs in front of my desk while I reclined in my revolving chair with my feet on the stained green leather top.
"Why have you brought that thing in here?" I demanded in a whisper.
"It keeps following us everywhere," hissed Valentina. "It came up into the clock tower, and it wouldn't go with that Sinkinson girl back to the First Form dorm."
"We can't have it in here!" I insisted.
"It's not our fault," said Helvetica. "It's got those enormous horns, we're not going to argue with it."
The door opened and Miss Labia came in with a saucer of milk which she carefully set down in front of the school mascot. Then she opened a pack of chocolate chip cookies and spread them out on the floor. "I suppose you want coffee?" she sneered at the three of us humans. Without waiting for a reply she left, so I didn't know if she was going to bring us any or not.
It gave us a chance to pursue our hushed discussion of the antelope. "Why is it wearing that absurd costume?" I asked.
Helvetica shrugged. "Doesn't it always dress like that?"
I'd only ever seen it outside, in its cage, and it had been fairly conservatively dressed on that occasion if, in fact, it had been wearing anything at all apart from a saddle and harness. "Why has it come to the school at all? Schools don't have antelopes. Not girls' schools, anyway."
"I think you invited it, miss," said Helvetica.
"Me? You'd better explain, young lady, and it had better be good."
"You know the Fuckh Machine, miss? It accepts voice commands now? Well, it was telling us that just after it taught itself to accept voice commands, you had a class in the IT Lab and you were talking about Sexual Chemistry, and you shouted at the class, like you always do, 'You must always have an antelope!'"
Her voice went all squeaky when she quoted me. "I don't sound like that," I told her sternly.
The girls shrugged and made no reply.
Valentina broke the silence. "On the other hand, it might have been when we were showing one of the First Form how to print out lines on the computer? We took her down to the IT Lab and gave her some lines to type out. I told her to type, 'Miss Gruntworthy Always Says You Must Always Have An Antelope.'"
"Ridiculous! And what happened?"
"She did, and then she printed them out. But we think the Fuckh Machine saw what she was typing and thought you meant it."
Miss Labia came back in at that moment and distributed a fistful of coffee mugs before playfully chucking the antelope under its chin and asking it if it knew who was a pretty boy, then. If it did, it wasn't saying. She left, and we sipped in silence for a while.
"Fucking hell, this is amazing coffee!" I blurted, setting the girls blushing prettily.
"It's always been good, miss," said Valentina.
"It's always been total garbage," I corrected her. "I usually have to force it down."
Helvetica disagreed. "No, miss. We've had some before and it's always been excellent."
"You ought to ask Mr Maybach Q Zeppelin X about that!"
"Oh, come on! You must have heard of Maybach Q Zeppelin X, Chairman of the Board of Governors? If you can't remember a name like that you ought to write it out half a million times. Not forgetting the capital letters."
Helvetica gasped at the severity of this sentence. "But miss! The Chairman of the Governors is that Admirable bloke. Mason-Dixon?"
I'll say this for her, it was a nice try. She was nothing if not convincing, so much so that a chill descended on my spleen. I fumbled for the words.
"He's not dead or anything, miss," said Valentina. "He was here last week when we had those pictures taken in our new school uniforms."
"But that was...." I stopped. Helvetica had opened out the great stack of computer paper and was running a fingernail down the list of whatever it was all about.
"I've got it!" she shouted. "It's on the list of default anomalies."
"Talk English, child!"
"The Fuckh Machine, miss. It got in such a muddle that it asked us to stop the clock for two days, like we told you? When we started it again and the computer rebooted itself to its most recent most stable configuration, it gave us this list. There's too much here to read, but what it means is that it's got things working by throwing out some of the worst anomalies. Like Mr Maybach Q Zeppelin X and the Spitfire and the trombones. In fact, it said those were easiest because they were all connected. That Japanese St Cat's, as well, that's all gone. It was only there to get Maybach Q Zeppelin X excited."
It was disappointing news about the gurls of the Greater Asia D-cup Gurl Sphere. A nagging thought came to me. "What about the Admiral? If he didn't die, doesn't that mean he wasn't looking at photographs of his little nieces?"
"No, miss. I mean yes, miss. His little nieces, Arabella's little sisters, were only there to kill off the Admirable, miss...."
"Wanking, miss," Valentina elaborated.
"To kill off the Admirable so Maybach Q Zeppelin X would have to take over as Chairman of the Governors. Now the machine has got rid of Maybach Q Zeppelin X, the Admirable didn't need to ... to...."
"To ... jack-off to pictures of his little nieces any more."
"Does that mean there won't be any little nieces coming to St Cat's next year?"
"We don't know, miss," said Helvetica. "It's all in the printout. There's so much in there, though, we're going to have to leave it with you to make a choice."
"There'll be a kind of fork in there, where you'll have to make a decision one way or the other. Whichever path you choose, a different set of things will happen. We'll still end up sitting here drinking coffee, but there'll be lots of other things that have changed. Like Ford Chocolate."
My eyes had wandered to the three-inch thick stack of printout paper. This would be worse than reading lines! "Ford ... Chocolate?"
"Ford don't make chocolate any more, miss. I don't know what we're going to do; it's the best chocolate you can buy."
"If they don't make chocolate any more, what do they make?" I asked.
"Cars," said Valentina with a disgusted shrug.
"But there's millions of cars. Why do we need more?" But it wasn't the kind of question I could expect Third Formers to answer.
"Anyway," Helvetica returned to her narrative, "you know I said you've got a choice of two different courses of action you can take, and you've got to take one of them? So one might have Admirable Mason-Dixon as the Governor and the other one will have your American guy, Maybach Q Zeppelin X?"
"He's not my ... and Ford Chocolate or Ford cars? What about it? It's an easy enough choice. No contest."
"Both choices have got..." she lowered her voice "...an antelope in them."
"You don't mean...?"
"Yes, you said we always had to have one, so now we can't get rid of it. It's in both choices and it's here to stay. It'll be kind of like having a school cat."
"Only with horns," Valentina added.
As I buried my head in my hands a movement over by the window caught my eye. The antelope had finished off its cookies and milk and had ambled over to the armchair, climbed into it and settled down with a heavy sigh, its skinny knees and elbows hanging over the arms of the chair like an octopus in a pint pot. I supposed it must have had a long day. It closed its eyes, one at a time. It really was a very pretty antelope, as antelopes go, although its horns were a trifle excessive. I held out my hand for the printout. "Okay, I'll read it this afternoon."
"You won't forget, miss? It's important."
"I won't forget. I don't forget things."
Valentina said, "Can we be excused from the big parade tomorrow, miss? You said we could."
I didn't remember excusing any girls from the big parade, to be honest. "What big parade is this, then?"
"Oh, miss!" Helvetica snorted. "You can't have forgotten, we're parading up Borcester High Street."
"Parades aren't for anything. It's just a parade, that's all."
"Up the High Street," Valentina added. "To the Town Hall, to have luncheon with the Mayor."
I inclined my head towards the armchair. "Is that thing in it?"
"Of course. Parades are what antelopes do."
Miss Labia barged in with three more mugs of excellent coffee. "Eleven thirty outside the station. The entire school: nobody excused."
"Except us," insisted Valentina. "You promised, miss."
"No I didn't. What are we wearing?" I demanded.
"The usual," said Miss Labia. "Micro-skirts and white blouses. Form Heads to wear the appropriate pashminas. Staff in top hats. Antelope handler in full riding equipment...."
I stared at her, suddenly aware of something new. "Why, Miss Labia. You're ... you're beautiful!"
Miss Labia blushed prettily.
"Would you like to be SuperCreamed, Miss Labia?" Valentina asked. "We've got loads left."
"You'd better not, Vets," said Helvetica. "We've got to get our clothes ready for tomorrow, especially as you're Form Head."
"What about Sally Chung?" I demanded sharply.
Helvetica pointed at the printout. "All the measurements are in there."
"Measurements? You mean the latest up-to-date measurements?" I opened the wad of paper at random. "In here?" The closely-typed text was rambling on about grand pianos and deep-sea fishermen.
"Near the end," said Helvetica. "Sally's not in there, 'cause she left school and went to live at the fish and chip shop in the village. It was all for the best, miss. She can't move without her wheels."
I wasn't really absorbing any of this information as I had found the measurements and settled back to read them. They seemed pretty much as I'd expected, except that in addition to the Long Dangle bust measurement there were now two extra bust sizes, listed as Supported and Minimised. The differences between each of these were enormous, often by something like several feet. Of course, I was fully aware of the difference in size between a girl on the Dangle Table and the same girl with her ScatBra pulled all the way in, but surely there was no need to publicise it in this shamefully blatant manner. As far as I could tell, there weren't any averages listed but it was pretty clear that if the whole school wore its bras on their tightest setting, the average measurement would be below fifty inches, a ghastly state of affairs.
Helvetica saw what I was reading. "We needed those extra bust measurements because of the parades, miss. Girls with hundred-inch busts can't march."
"Sacrilege! It's shameful, shameful!"
"It's just the inches that are smaller, miss. Our boobs are still just as big when we get them out."
"Get them out now!" I commanded, wiping my upper lip with a handful of industrial paper towel.
"You'll see them tomorrow, miss. After the parade."
"I will? What, all of you? The whole school are going to get their boobs out after the parade? But that's shameful. Shameful!"
"The mayor likes it, miss. He always says he can't believe how much bigger our boobs are when we get them out."
"Nonsense! I know the mayor of Borcester and I'm sure he wouldn't stoop to making an entire girls' school expose their breasts to him. Would he?"
Valentina gaped at me. "You know he does, miss. You and Miss Mountains an' Miss Lundberg an' Miss Cassowary an' everybody! We all get our tits out, every month. That's why the parade is when it is, a couple of days before we all start our periods, so we're extra big. Unless we're pregnant, of course."
"Oh, of course!" I thumbed hopelessly through the printout and glanced at Helvetica. "Is there anything in here about the parade?"
"I didn't see anything, miss. It's an ancient school tradition, after all."
"An ancient school tradition that is just about to take place for the very first time? We've never had a parade before. We've never had an ... an antelope ... until now."
The girls looked confused, but not half as confused as I felt. Maybe there would be something in the printout, in the very small print, just one line. I'd surely find it when I read through the document more thoroughly. Then all I'd have to do would be to choose the other fork. Parades would surely be in the 'wrong' choice, anyway. So when I made my choice between grand pianos and deep-sea fishermen ... no, I'd write them down, make a list.
"Thank you, girls. You may return to your classes now. Will you be taking that thing with you?"
"Why, miss? He's just as much yours as ours."
"But I don't want ... oh, get out!"
They gathered up their coffee mugs and the tub of SuperCream, which was probably called something else by now, and left the office.
No time like the present, I thought, and taking a large sheet of paper from the drawer I drew a line down the middle of it. Here we go.
At that moment the antelope woke up and sneezed three times, the third sneeze being so violent that it ejected the animal from the armchair and dumped it on the floor in a rattling heap of horns and hooves and elbows. It sat up with a mournful look and my heart melted.
"Come on, then, boy!" I urged.
It came clattering across the floor and sat down beside my chair. It had short, coarse hairs, not at all like a dog, but it seemed to enjoy being stroked between its sideways-pointing rabbit-sized ears. It licked my hand.
I wiped off the slimy mess with industrial paper towel and told it to be a good boy and sit still because mummy had lots of interesting things to do with this big wad of paper from the computer. I'm sure it understood every word.
|Choice 1||Choice 2|
|The Admirable Mason-Dixon||Maybach Q Zeppelin X|
|Grand piano repossession||Greater Asia D-cup Gurl Sphere|
|Deep-sea fishermen||Safety helmets|
|Miss Cassowary not leaving||Trombones|
|Old-style school uniforms||The Spitfire in the quad|
|ScatBras with proper sizes||New bra sizing system|
|Ugly Miss Labia||Beautiful Miss Labia|
|The antelope||The antelope|
In fact, I couldn't finish reading the stuff at the end of Choice 2 as its excesses became worse and worse and worse. As I glanced at the last few pages a number of frightening words came leaping out at me: ImpregnaPants Type XXXIV, Lube & Steam, Lady Ted's. Then there was the inexplicable Badger Infestation. And the truly horrendous-sounding Snap-in-Half Epidemic, Explode! and Terminal Orgasm. Confronted with all those horrors, having an affectionate antelope hanging around the school seemed positively reassuring.
With a shudder I made a third list containing things I wasn't too sure about, making sure to avoid any mention of that weird stuff.
|Arabella Mason-Dixon's little sisters|
|Big Asses (arses)|
"There!" I said triumphantly to the antelope. "No doubt about it at all which I choose. Absolutely no contest! Labia!"
I stood up and strode to the doorway, the antelope clopping contentedly in my wake.
"Labia, I need to use your computer for a while."
"This is nice," I said to Smegs. We were sitting in the sunshine on two of a row of wooden chairs facing towards the front entrance of the school. Most of the remainder of the school staff had departed with some urgency, in twos and threes, walking with extreme care then accelerating steadily in the direction of the nearest toilets.
"Where have they all gone?" Smegs wanted to know.
"Nurse's liver paté," I explained. "At the Parade Breakfast."
She seemed to know more or less what I was talking about, although she frowned with concentration. "We never used to have this trouble."
"We never used to have parades, so we didn't have Parade Breakfasts."
Smegs's expression cleared somewhat. "I wondered why I didn't remember having any before. How long have we been having parades?"
"As far as I know, this is the very first."
"Then what's all this stuff about parades? Why did we have to eat Nurse's liver paté instead of a proper breakfast?"
"It's traditional. We've always done it that way. Anyway, you didn't have any paté. Nor did I."
"What about Clit?" Smegs inclined her head in the direction of the school corsetiere, sitting at the extreme end of the row with her nose in the air.
"She's miffed about the bra sizes."
"Who isn't? What about them, anyway?"
"She'd spent about six weeks changing over to a new system: A-cups, B-cups and stuff? Now it's all changed back to the excellent ScatBra sizing system."
"You mean the one that nobody could understand?"
"Nobody except me. Yes. But we're going to be teaching the system to all the girls as part of maths, so there'll be no excuse for not understanding it."
"If she's miffed," said Smegs, "why is she out here watching the parade?"
"She makes the antelope's costumes." I craned my neck towards the end of the building. Not the end by the Sexual Chemistry Laboratory and the school restaurant where they had disappeared five minutes earlier: the other end, round the back of the bra facility and Maternity. "I wonder where they've got to. I hope it hasn't escaped or anything again."
"You mean the damned thing has escaped before?"
"I suppose it must have done."
"But you said this was the first parade. How can it have escaped before."
"I didn't say it had escaped. I said escaped or anything. Maybe it's just stopped for a piss."
Smegs sighed heavily. Away in the distance came the slightly uneven beat of the bass drum. Gaining in confidence and regularity it was evidently coming closer until a flash of colour appeared at the end of the road. But instead of turning in our direction, they headed off into the woods. "Where the fuck are they off to now?" Smegs enquired wearily.
The parade had almost vanished behind a thicket of bushes. Nothing was visible apart from the tips of the antelope's horns and the lid of the grand piano.
"I think they're paying a surprise visit to Sally Chung in the Wendy House," I said.
"Chauntaille, the Wendy House was destroyed two years ago."
"This isn't the same one," I said with a hint of desperation. "It's a Portacabin in the woods. Sally Chung lives in it when she's not staying at the fish and chip shop down in the village. There still seem to be one or two anomalies," I ended weakly.
Smegs dragged her fingers through her hair. "I'll say there are. I wish that bloody computer had never been bloody invented."
"We'll get it right soon. I'll get Helvetica to do something about it tomorrow."
"You mean you still trust that overgrown child with the whole future of the planet?"
"It's not the future so much as the past," I said, reaching across and disentangling Smegs's binoculars from around her neck. "They're on their way back," I was able to report when I got the wretched things into focus. I can just see the antelope's costume. It's being pretty well-behaved, actually, considering this is its first time."
My heart swelled with pride as the parade approached, led by the school mascot with its handler Barbarella Sinkinson, closely followed by the bass drummer, of necessity the Sixth Former with the smallest bust. Sadly, her suitability in this respect was not quite matched by her sense of rhythm, but you can't have everything and, anyway, when she stopped hitting her drum she was able to pick up the beat, more or less, from the sole trumpet blaring away a yard behind her head.
"Whose bright idea was it to have a marching band with no trombones anyway?" said Smegs.
"We've done away with trombones," I pronounced with a shudder. "They're unnecessary."
"So we've got one bass drum, one trumpet, eleven snare drums, fourteen cymbals and forty-seven triangles."
"That's right," I confirmed after some nifty work on the fingers. "Including Barbarella, that's seventy-five. Then there are the four penny whistles, the eighty kazoos, then the thirty-nine electric guitars and four girls carrying the generator, and the piano player and six girls to pull the piano trailer. That makes two hundred and nine, plus Sally is two hundred and ten. All present and correct. Okay?"
"It's not okay at all! This is a marching band. It's supposed to have trombones and horns and lots of trumpets and an oompah. What kind of marching band has electric guitars that need a generator? And a grand piano?"
I had to agree, the grand piano was an unconventional choice. It was mounted on a two-wheeled trailer with a T-shaped handle on the front so it could be towed by six girls. As it bounced along on its springs it made the task of the pianist more than usually difficult, perched on her revolving stool and hitting fistfuls of notes whenever the keyboard came approximately within reach. But hey, we had no shortage of grand pianos at St Cat's; there were dozens of the damned things. The band had even wrecked one completely when three of its girls turned left and the other three turned right during rehearsals. Since then, the instrument had been tied securely to its trailer with about a hundred yards of thick rope. When not in use, the piano was shunted, on its trailer, into one of Jeremy's lock-up garages.
Smegs hadn't finished. "Why do they all have to have an instrument? The entire school? Is this some kind of soft liberal equality thing?"
"They're very big-breasted girls," I explained carefully. "Busty girls can't march and swing their arms. So we give them something to do with their hands, and they're all right. Shhh, let's watch them go past."
They swung by, six abreast, the antelope in its little orange tunic and its bootees and the bow around its tail bucking and prancing along at the head of the formation, restrained by Barbarella with her extending dog-leash. "Good boy! That's nice!" she encouraged it whenever it decided that leaping and springing wasn't getting it anywhere so it slowed to a walk. The bass drummer waved gaily to us, causing a mild disturbance to the beat and a great rebounding of tightly-brassiered bosoms as the girls tried to change step. But already the head of the column was disappearing round the corner to the right, heading for the restaurant and the ex-playing field.
"God, where are they off to this time?" said Smegs.
"They're going round again. Another lap."
"I think it's because there's nobody giving orders so they don't know how to stop. Maybe we need a drum-major. Never mind, though, they'll stop when they get tired. It will be lunchtime soon anyway. You're lucky they're only marching round and round the school. We might have all been down in Borcester, marching round and round the Town Hall instead of enjoying a civic luncheon with the mayor."
Smegs considered that for a moment. "That would have made some sense, at least. Better than marching round in circles up here. But I suppose the mayor would have had them all naked in his chambers?"
I was surprised. How did she know this? "Naked?"
"You must have heard about him? Dirty old sod can't keep his hands off girls. It's been all over the local paper. C'mon, let's go and find something to eat. And some of Miss Labia's coffee."
"They'll sleep well tonight," I predicted after four cups of excellent coffee. The band was still parading round and round the school. On its most recent circuit it had somehow diverted into the quadrangle, an adventurous manoeuvre which could easily have ended in disaster when the antelope stopped in its tracks to take a drink from the fountain. But at that moment the clock silently struck thirteen, galvanising the beast into action. It resumed its progress with a mighty bound, almost yanking Barbarella off her feet. "Wait for me!" she squealed, setting off with her breasts bursting forth from her brassiere and digging in her heels as the mascot unreeled the full twelve yards of dog-leash. An unseemly tug-of-war ensued until the bass drummer found her sticks and began laying down a cool groove which was taken up by the trumpet then the rest of the ensemble, so that they all got in step and passed from view in remarkably good order, heading for the exit in the corner of the quadrangle, the same way they had come in.
"They've turned left," Smegs observed, leaning out of the office window. "They're going round the other way."
"It will make a change."
Miss Labia came in with two more mugs, her lovely doe-eyes shining. "Oh, Miss Gruntworthy! What a beautiful sight they were" And so musical!" She pirouetted from the room.
"What have you done to her?" said Smegs. "Her face is different."
"I think the Fuckh Machine wanted to make her more beautiful. I don't mind, it's an improvement. She's ever so nice now, too, just like a real secretary. I was wondering if I might even risk letting her have that huge bundle of letters that got lost when she was on holiday. It wasn't all the mail that came to the school, I only hid the ones with brown envelopes. They're always bills."
"They don't have to be bills, they could just as easily be money, school fees from parents. St Cat's could go broke and it would all be your fault."
I wondered uncomfortably about that one for a moment or two, when I felt a great load lifted from my shoulders. "The Fuckh Machine can work it all out. Maybe it already has, by making Miss Labia so much nicer that I'd tell her where the brown envelopes are hidden and the school wouldn't go broke."
The sound of the drum and the wail of the trumpet had moved round to the front of the building, the side away from the quadrangle. We could hear it vibrating through the walls.
"I'm going to do something about that band," Smegs decided. "We can't have them marching around all day. They've been out there all morning. What about their classes?"
"I haven't looked in the timetable. It must say something about it." I found the timetable on the desk. "Here you go." I shoved it in front of her face and watched while she read it, her face changing through a whole range of emotions and hues.
Garage to park trailer
Refuel and return to store
Animal husbandry Feeding
"The antelope gets to rest!" Smegs screeched. "Oh, thank you very much!"
And she stomped out of the office. The beautiful Miss Labia passed her in the doorway.
"Where's Miss Mountains gone? I've brought some more coffee."
"That's okay. I'll drink it."
"I never want to walk anywhere, ever again!" Helvetica moved an experimental leg, groaned and lay back on her bed.
"And I never want to dooby-doo another note on a kazoo," said Valentina. "How many times did we go round and round?"
Gabrielle had just limped into the dorm from the bathrooms. "Twelve times. Eleven clockwise and once the other way. And the once the other way was running!"
Helvetica sniffed. "That was ol' Mountains's fault. She came out and tried to get in front of us, but the harder she tried the faster we went."
"It was that First Former's fault," Valentina moaned. "She's supposed to be in charge of that rotten goat thing but as soon as it started galloping all she could do was run after it with her ridiculous tits dangling round her kneecaps, shouting, 'Good boy! Come on! Wheeeeee' at it. So it just went faster. Whose idea was it to put her in charge?"
"Whose idea was it to bring an antelope to the school?" said Helvetica, but then she remembered her pivotal role in the arrival of the school mascot and lapsed into glum silence.
Gabrielle got down on the floor and did some press-ups, not too many. "Before you ask," she said, "I'm warming down." She got up and examined her face in the mirror before extending her inspection downwards to her bust which was barely touching the glass. "I'm big enough. And if I'm not, I can get SuperCreamed."
"It isn't called that any...."
"I'm going to apply for the job," Gabrielle persisted. "Listen." She cleared her throat comprehensively. "Par-ade! Prade! Hup-ten-SHAH!"
Helvetica clutched at her wardrobe door. "For God's sake! What are you doing?"
"I'm practising to be sergeant major. We need one, don't we? The only reason we did so much marching was that nobody told us to stop. Not until Miss Mountains came out and got in front. Then she shouted, 'Par-ade!'" Gabrielle took a huge breath, causing her bra to creak like a very creaky bra indeed. "Prade!"
"Not again! We were there, remember? And we heard you the first time."
"Maybe she's right," said Valentina. "If we'd had somebody to tell us to halt, we'd have been finished hours ago. What instrument do you play, Gabs?"
"Triangle. Fourth triangle."
The girls exchanged glances. "They'd never miss one little triangle," said Helvetica.
"Have they advertised for a sergeant major?" said Valentina.
Gabrielle looked apprehensive. "Not exactly. In fact, no, they haven't. I was thinking I could go and see Miss Gruntworthy."
"I've got a better idea," said Helvetica. "If you ask ol' Grunt, she'll flap around like an old hen and she still won't make a decision. We can tell the computer directly."
"It's called the Fuckh Machine no, don't ask and it controls everything."
Gabrielle's eyes opened wide. "Everything in the whole school?"
"No. Everything! Just about everything in the whole world! All we have to do is tell it you are the sergeant major and it will make all the arrangements automatically. But you mustn't tell anybody."
"You mean it alters reality?" said Gabrielle, who caught on quickly. "And they let you tell it what to do?"
"Sort of. Can you hear the clock striking?"
Gabrielle looked anxiously at Valentina. They'd been through this conversation about the non-striking clock before. "'Course not!"
"Well, there you go. Anyone who can hear the clock can make the Fuckh Machine work." Helvetica nodded to Valentina. "We can both hear it but I'm better at telling it what to do. A few of the other girls can hear the clock, too, but I don't think they know about the Fuckh Machine. Even Miss Gruntworthy can hear the clock, but she's useless at computers so when she wants anything changed she asks me."
Gabrielle was anxious to get down to business right away. "How soon can we tell it I want to be sergeant major?"
"How about now?"
"How big is your bust, Miss Labia?"
She blushed prettily and hung her head. "Thirty-four," she admitted.
"Shameful," she said. "Shameful!"
I looked at her sternly, wondering if she was taking the piss. Her face radiated innocence.
"Would you like it to be bigger?"
"Oooh, yes, please! How big can I have it? Not as big as the girls, of course...."
"Oh, of course...."
"And I don't really want it floppy, like yours. Nice and firm and rounded. Say maybe about forty-four and a half?"
She seemed to know pretty well what she wanted.
"We ought to be able to do something about that for you," I said, beaming magnanimously at her like the Tit Fairy.
"Oooh, thanks! But ... I don't want implants. And I don't want any of that stuff the girls are always making, the stuff that burns spoons."
"We won't need any of that," I promised, crossing my fingers behind my back. "I can program the computer so you'll have bigger breasts instantly. And nobody will ever know because they'll think you were always that size."
"Gosh!" she beamed. "When?"
"How about now?"
"Oh, wow! That's great! And you can really do it on the computer?" She was dragging me from the room into her outer office and forcing me with surprising strength down into her typist's chair.
"We-ell, yes, I could. But it would be better if I did it on one of the computers down in the IT Lab. They're much more powerful. They've got Megahertz," I added confidently. I rose from the seat and headed for the door. "It's all right, you don't need to come. In fact, there are one or two bits of mail for your attention. In the cupboard in my office, a bunch of brown envelopes with a rubber band round them. Just start sorting those out, then in a little while the lights will kind of flicker and hey presto! Before you know it you'll always have had huge tits! Do you want them to be forty-fours with or without a bra?"
"And a half. With. So when I bend over they'll be much bigger, although I don't want them hanging round my knees. I'll leave it to your judgement, headmistress!"
"Wow, thanks!" And I fled before she could find the overdue mail. I knew when she'd found it: I heard her wail of dismay as I bolted down the stairs.
As I headed in the direction of the IT Lab, the confidence drained from me. I really needed help with this. I wasn't even sure how to access the damned Fuckh Machine anyway. Hadn't Helvetica Bold said it listened to voice commands now? I didn't know what to say to it. I'd feel stupid standing in the IT Lab talking to a computer monitor. Besides, I wouldn't have put it past Helvetica to have said the machine accepted voice commands just to embarrass me in public.
I stopped in my tracks and diverted up the stairs that led to the girls' dorms.
Typically, they weren't in there. It was with some annoyance that I discovered from a helpful Third Former that Helvetica and Valentina had gone down to the IT Lab with Gabrielle. And when I angrily demanded the reason, all I got was a long-winded explanation about clocks and sergeant-majors. I awarded the wretched girl a hundred thousand lines and stalked out.
Sure enough, the three of them were huddled round a monitor, with Helvetica seated in front of the keyboard.
"What's going on here?"
"Ah, there you are, miss. We were wondering where you'd got to."
My hair rose on end and my spleen began to itch. "What do you mean?"
Helvetica pointed to the screen, although I couldn't see it because Valentina's bust was in the way. "The machine said you were on your way down. Something to do with Miss Labia's bust?"
Bloody hell, it even hears private conversations now! Although when I thought about it, we had been standing next to Miss Labia's computer at the time.
"I might have been," I ventured. "And what do you think you're doing?"
"Just making Gabrielle sergeant-major so the whole school won't have to march round and round for hours on end. The machine agreed it was a good idea."
I stared at Gabrielle. Near the cuff of her long-sleeved white shirt was an elaborately embroidered badge with the school crest surmounted by a crown, being worn by an all-too-familiar-looking antelope. She showed it to me with mingled pride and apprehension.
"Nice badge," I said, wondering if I needed to salute her or if that only applied to commissioned officers.
"Thanks, miss." Her bust seemed somewhat larger than usual but I thought it would have been rude to comment. I tore my eyes away from her freakish areolae.
"So, does this mean that Miss Labia has already been enlarged?"
Helvetica shook her head. "Not yet. It's asking for more details. What car do you drive, miss?"
"Me? I don't drive a car, girl! You know I don't. My bust is too big."
"No it isn't. It says here you've got a Ferrero Rocher 360GT. A red one. But that doesn't sound quite right. Valentina says they're chocolates."
It sounded like a stupid name for chocolates to me. "How fast do they go?" I demanded eagerly.
"Depends how greedy you are," Valentina smirked.
"You can have it if you want it, miss," said Helvetica. "All I've got to do is type a Y or tell it 'yes'. Only you'd better be careful not to leave it outside in the sun."
"Let's leave that for a while," I said, surprising myself and the girls with my decisiveness. "Miss Labia wants a 44˝-inch bust. In a bra, of course."
Helvetica droned at the machine for a minute or two then looked down at the screen. "It's working on it now. Okay, it says it's done."
The lights flickered two or thee times, then the door burst open and an angry-looking badger hurried through, looking neither to right nor left, disappearing up the corridor towards the classrooms. I could understand its ill-temper: someone had dressed it in a miniature Santa Claus outfit complete with two pairs of shiny scarlet wellington boots. The place was becoming overrun with luridly-dressed non-domestic livestock.
"What was that all about? Where is it going?" I asked.
"God knows! I only give the orders. Okay!" Helvetica glanced at the screen again. "Only twenty-seven major collateral amendments, a few thousand minor ones. And we've still got the antelope," she added unnecessarily, as the beast unfolded itself from the floor beneath the computer bench and shook itself like a dog. Then it lay down again, all without saying a word. I supposed it must have been tired after the parade.
I began edging away. "I'll go and see if Miss Labia's all right. It must be nearly...."
The clock struck deafeningly, quite a few times, although Gabrielle appeared not to notice. It was time to leave. As I blundered up the sloping corridor towards the classrooms, the badger came thundering down in the opposite direction. It was now towing a gaily-painted two-wheeled cart, filled to overflowing with kazoos, triangles and tambourines. I ignored it splendidly and went on my way, roughly elbowing aside the giggling girls who followed the ghastly apparition, collecting up the scattered musical instruments. It was only a minor collateral amendment, after all.
"It's all taken care of," I bellowed as I swung into Miss Labia's outer office.
"I suppose you think this is funny," she fumed, and I choose the word carefully. I looked her up and down. Her blouse was unbuttoned all down the front, revealing the fact that she wore no bra. Apart from that there was nothing particularly unusual.
"What happened?" I asked her.
She dissolved into noisy sobs. "I w-was typing away replies to all those letters...." She looked at me with reproach.
"Get on with it!"
"I had the window open because it was hot in here. Suddenly the lights started flickering...."
"How else could they start flickering if not suddenly? Lights can't start flickering gradually, can they?" I stopped, as she seemed anxious to say something. "Well?"
"And I got so hot I had to loosen my blouse and take off my bra!"
"Goodness me!" I sat down to enjoy this tale.
"Then this cream came flying through the window!"
"Do you mean cream, or Cream? Because it's probably not called that any more...."
She seemed to want to speak again, so I let her.
"It hit me in the ... the chest! Right here!
"Well? What about it?"
"At first I couldn't scrape it off, it was so sticky. I got a couple of handfuls off and threw it in the waste paper bin. Then I scraped some more off with paper, but it got hot and started to smoke. So I threw that in the bin as well. Then it caught fire."
"How did you put it out?"
"I poured the coffee on it."
"You daft bat! You don't deserve bigger breasts!"
"You said there wouldn't be any cream and stuff. You said it would just happen."
But I was on my knees in front of the waste paper bin, inspecting the evidence. I fished out a scrap of charred paper. "What's this?"
"It's the paper I used to wipe it off. One of those letters you lost."
"'...Promise to pay the bearer...' It's money! This is students' fees you've set fire to and tossed in the bin. Misappropriation of school funds ... misuse and abuse of Sexual Chemicals ... profligate waste of school provisions; to whit, coffee ... wilful damage to school property. Have you anything to say before I fire you?"
"I only wanted bigger breasts! Everyone else here has got them, why not me?"
I felt a prickling behind the eyeballs. The poor woman. Only thirty-fours. I dipped my hand into the waste paper bin and dredged out the soggy, burned letters, placing them in a heap on the floor. The bin now contained a chilly sludge of cream, or Cream or whatever it was called this week and coffee.
"Make another pot of coffee," I told her.
Without a word she got up and went to the cupboard, busying herself with mugs and coffee and milk. Neither of us said a word for the next five minutes, although Miss Labia may have sobbed a few times. Finally she poured me a steaming mug-full.
"Have one yourself," I said. All compassion, that's me.
We sipped in silent appreciation then I told her to put her mug down. "Now open your blouse," I said.
Then I picked up the bin and taking a generous handful of the gloop I applied it to her shamefully, shamefully small breasts.
At that moment, the lights flickered, quite suddenly.
"I am not making her a bra!" Clit stormed, around the edge of her door.
"You've got to, I promised her one."
"Well, you can make it, then."
"Oh, come on, Clit! Please!"
The door opened another two inches. "What size is she?"
"I don't know. You're the expert on that kind of thing." I lied, as I'd already measured Miss Labia from every possible direction.
"Oooh, you liar, miss!" Helvetica hissed, smothering a grin.
The door opened enough to let Clit's head poke out. She saw the secretary and her eyes grew big. One hand flew to her pudenda and I sensed victory.
Suddenly the door opened all the way, a bony hand came out and seized Miss Labia by the upper arm and yanked her into the bra facility.
"Now fuck off!" said the bra maker, slamming the door as soon as her prize was safely inside. We heard the bolts being pulled across. There seemed to be twice as many as before. And chains; I could definitely hear chains.
"There was nothing else I could do. I took the two Third Formers by the elbows and escorted them away across the quadrangle. The clock silently struck three, which made quite a pleasant change. But then it started to rain.
"How would you like some toasted crumpets, girls?"
They frowned at each other. "Crumpet?"
"And coffee. And maybe some cream cake?"
Valentina shook her head. "It's not called that any more, miss."
Helvetica placed a hand over her friend's lips. "Cake, miss?"
"Cake. And coffee."
They shrugged. "Why not?"
"Come on, then!"
We hurried indoors and up the stairs.
Of course, as it was still only October, and unseasonably warm, there was no welcoming fire burning in the fireplace, so we couldn't toast crumpets, but it didn't really matter as I didn't have any crumpets anyway. There wasn't any cream cake either, but we made some coffee and carried the mugs into my inner office. The antelope was curled up in the armchair again so we all made ourselves comfortable on the floor.
"Right, what happened?" I asked, lowering my voice so as not to wake it up. Unnervingly it was undressed. Someone must have taken its clothes off. I shook my head to dispel the image. "What happened?" I said again.
"It wasn't us," said Helvetica. "As soon as the machine tried to make Miss Labia's boobs bigger an imminent badger warning came up on the screen, and the machine said it was going to shut down for ten minutes to de-badgerise and re-initialise itself. Apparently badgers always use the same pathways and it's against the law to stop them."
"Never mind the badgers. What about Miss Labia's tits?"
"The machine came up again in ten minutes, then the lights went like on and off a few times, then it reported OK and said it was sorry but everything was all right again."
"Again?" I asked, horrified. "It hasn't been all right for years! Do you know what happened? A great dollop of cream came through the window...."
"Please, miss, it's not called that...."
"This was cream, not Cream, or SuperCream or anything else. And it hit Miss Labia on the chest." I indicated my own chest in case they were in any doubt.
Helvetica narrowed her eyes. "Did it make them grow?"
"Not per se, no. She wiped it off straight away."
"What with? Industrial paper towel?"
"No. for some reason, she didn't have any. She's a Methodist."
The girls accepted my explanation without question. "So what did she use?"
"Money. Well, letters and things. Cheques, bankers' drafts and things."
"Nothing. She threw it all in the bin."
"What happened then?"
"What do you think happened?" I stormed at her. "It caught fire, of course! So she had to pour the coffee on it."
They exchanged significant glances. Valentina spoke. "But they did grow, didn't they! That's why Miss Clit's got her now. And why you had to make this coffee yourself."
Helvetica looked steadily at me. "So why did they grow? What did you do?"
Silence fell. I could feel three pairs of eyes boring into me. Turning round I could see that the third pair belonged to the antelope, now wide awake and obviously interested.
"I rubbed it on her chest."
"Coffee and money and cream?"
"It worked!" I insisted. "The lights flickered, then they grew, right there in my hands."
"The lights flickered?" said Helvetica. "About ten minutes after you left us in the IT Lab? That was when the machine finished debadgerising itself and came back online. It was the Fuckh Machine that made Miss Labia's boobs bigger. You can't make boobs bigger by rubbing them with coffee and money and cream."
Valentina and the antelope nodded in agreement.
Helvetica had a point, I could see. It was pretty obvious that you couldn't enlarge a woman's breasts by rubbing them with such a mixture, although I still had a number of misgivings about the way the cream and the money had spontaneously ignited. I got up and fetched the waste paper bin from the outer office. "We'd better have this analysed anyway," I said as I placed it on the floor. There was an immediate kerfuffle as the antelope tried to get at the contents of the bin. Its horns prevented it getting its head right inside, but that didn't stop it trying. Clang! And again, clang! The stupid animal raised its head then butted downwards, failing to reach the sludge of cream and coffee and charred paper with its tongue. Frustrated, it gave up and bounded away to my desk, charging repeatedly at the modesty panel with its horns. It was going to do serious damage. "Can't you stop it!" I screamed at the girls.
Valentina spoke sharply to it. "That's enough! What do you think you're doing? Sit! Sit, and stay!"
To our surprise, the beast sat down, shamefaced, hanging its head.
"That's a good boy! Let him have some milk, miss," said Valentina.
"Milk? I don't give milk!"
"Out of Miss Labia's fridge. And bring him some cookies, too. He likes cookies."
I slunk away, feeling even more useless than usual. Headmistress of a renowned high school for growing girls, here I was, taking orders from a couple of thirteen-year-olds, feeding the school antelope. I set down the saucer of milk and the plate of cookies in front of the creature, which was now gazing up into Valentina's eyes with longing.
"Waa-aait for it!" she said. "Go on, then!"
The antelope pounced on the food with enthusiasm.
"We can't have this thing hanging around the place all the time," I said, while its attention was elsewhere.
Helvetica shook her head. "We've got it, and the machine can't get rid of it. It's not like a badger. But there might be a way we can have it just as a pet. We'll just stop having parades."
"But ... we can't stop having parades! They're traditional!"
"It's all very well for you, miss, you're a grown-up. We're only thirteen, so our boobs are ten times as big and heavy as yours. It's cruel, making us march round and round all morning, bashing on triangles and going dooby-dooby-doo into kazoos."
"It gives us tits-ache," Valentina added.
"But I thought you enjoyed marching round the school. I know I would!"
"You could still have your traditional parades, miss. Let Barbarella march round with the antelope. And maybe Gabrielle, too, so they'll know when to stop. And the girl with the drum."
"And the trumpet," Valentina added. "And maybe the grand piano and the guitars. But not the rest of us. We can all sit and watch them march past."
"The other instruments are all gone, anyway," said Helvetica. "The machine told us the badger took them away."
"Where did it take them?" I demanded, remembering the angry animal hauling its little cart. "Those triangles and kazoos cost money."
"The school will get the money. Things like that usually fetch a good price."
I felt my ears prick up. They felt as big as the antelope's. "Sell them?"
"Why not?" Helvetica drained her coffee much and stood up. "Will it be okay if we go back on the computer again, miss? We've still got some anomalies to clear up."
Children these days spend too much time sitting in front of computers, but it keeps them out of mischief. "Go on, then. Don't make things any worse than they are. No more badgers, either."
The antelope watched them go, then licked at its empty milk saucer. It looked at me with reproach.
"Come on," I told it. "Let's go and find Jeremy. You haven't met Jeremy, have you?"
I didn't really expect an answer but one lives in hope.
We clattered down the stairs and out through the big double doors. Jeremy was outside his workshop in T-shirt and shorts, polishing the grand piano which he had pulled out of its garage.
"Hi, guys!" he greeted us, eyeing the antelope up and down. "So, this is our latest addition to the staff? Hang on, buddy, I'll just finish polishing this lid and I'll get you some cookies and milk. Are they using this tomorrow?" He indicated the piano with a thumb. "Only I've got a buyer coming to look at it tomorrow afternoon. That's why I'm polishing it. So if it's on the parade tomorrow, it would be nice if they could try and keep it nice and clean."
"Does it have to be this particular piano? We've got plenty more."
"No, he wants this one specially because it's on a trailer. He's got six daughters," he added as if that explained everything. He flicked critically at a mote of dust with his yellow duster.
It occurred to me that the piano probably wasn't officially school property. Certainly it was always being repossessed by the deep-sea trawlermen.
"It's okay to sell it," said Jeremy, reading my mind. "If it wasn't our property, those fish blokes couldn't exercise distraint."
"I wouldn't bank on it." But I hoped we'd get a good price for it, regardless. It would help to make up for all the cheques and money Miss Labia had so negligently burnt. "When you've sold this one, would you like to sell some of the others?"
"Oh, sure." He brushed his hands together, before disappearing into the building and emerging two seconds later with a saucer of milk and a tray of cookies. The antelope, which had wandered away in search of some fresh grass, came trotting back and began eating daintily. "He's a pretty boy," said Jeremy, scratching one of its horns with a fingernail. "D'you think he'd want a mate?"
"Don't you dare!"
Jeremy sighed. "No chance, anyway. There's no way we'd be able to get hold of a female impala in this country. Matey-boy is just going to have to learn to play with himself. Coffee? The kettle's just boiled."
Jeremy's coffee had always run a poor second to Miss Labia's, before Miss Labia's had miraculously turned into the nectar of the gods. But what the hell? Maybe we'd have time for a quickie before I had to go back and do some work. I followed Jeremy into the workshop. The antelope followed us, ducking his head just the right amount for his horns to clear the doorway. He'd learned about doors.
"Does he drink coffee?" Jeremy asked.
"Why don't you ask him?" I suggested, unhappy with having the beast following me everywhere. It was beginning to cramp my style.
"Coffee, boy?" Jeremy poured hot water into two mugs and stirred them. The antelope wagged his tail. I wondered if we might be able to trade him in for a school dog. Plus a cash adjustment, of course. Jeremy found a saucer and poured most of his coffee into it. "Careful, boy, it's hot."
At that moment the electric fan slowed down, the radio crackled, and the lights flickered.
The antelope lapped at its coffee. It seemed to enjoy human food and drink. No doubt it would happily tuck into steak and kidney pudding with two veg, followed by spotted dick and custard.
Jeremy started mixing himself another mug of coffee. "So, as I was saying," he said. "She's arriving this afternoon."
"You weren't saying anything," I corrected him. "Who's arriving?"
He jerked a thumb at the antelope. "His mate, of course. From Borcester zoo. We could have had a choice of five, but they said they're sending us the prettiest one. They'll make a lovely couple, bounding around the old sports field."
The coffee mug slipped from my nerveless fingers. "You wha-at? A female antelope, coming here? But you said...."
"Isn't one enough? They could let us have two or three if we wanted them. We could have guided tours round St Cat's, bus up from Borcester, a welcoming committee of girls hang garlands of flowers round the visitors' necks, they can feed the antelopes, maybe even see a badger, a quick look round the school, a tune from the school band, then back home for tea." He picked up the broken mug and dropped the remains in the rubbish bin, then busied himself refilling the kettle.
How could he be so matter-of-fact about it?
"You d-don't f-fancy a fuck, do you?" I enquired politely.
Jeremy looked at his watch, but he needn't have bothered.
The quadrangle clock boomed out the hour, its silvery tones echoing across the meadows. Through the window I saw the cattle truck entering the school gates from the main road. It weaved its way through the woods and the antelope moved across to the window, pressing its nose against the dusty glass.
Then it looked back over its shoulder at us, and I swear it had tears in its eyes. Maybe it didn't; maybe it didn't even have shoulders, but it was visibly moved by something.
"Come on," said Jeremy. "Let's wander over there and find out what's happening."
We came out into the sunshine, past the grand piano on its trailer. Things may have changed, but some things were unchanging.
A group of possibly fifty or more St Cat's girls girls of all ages and sizes were pouring out of the main doors of the school and practically tumbling down the steps to meet the truck which had just pulled up in front of the building. They carried garlands of exotic flowers. God knows where they'd got them. And they gathered round the front of the truck, waiting more or less patiently, but by no means quietly, for the occupants to open the doors and get out. For some reason, the driver and his mate didn't seem tremendously keen to dismount and confront this welcoming committee.
I suppose the sight of fifty or so yelling, topless schoolgirls with tits swaying down somewhere below their little waists could be fairly daunting.
Ah, yes, I forgot to mention that the girls were innocent of shirts and bras.
"Oh, that's so disgusting!" I said, squeezing Jeremy's arm with indignation. "Where are their bras? Where are their blouses?"
He looked at me in some surprise. "Welcoming committees are always topless. It's a school rule."
We had approached the truck, and presumably the presence of a couple of adults lent some backbone to the driver and his assistant. Slowly, both doors opened and the girls stopped screaming and fell back. They formed a pathway for Jeremy and me and the antelope to pass through and confront the driver.
"Whay-up, Norm!" Jeremy greeted him.
The young man looked apprehensively down at the girls. "What's this lot?"
"It's okay, they won't eat you! Well, they will if you ask nicely. Have you brought her?" He nodded to the back of the truck.
"We brought two," the driver said. "Where d'you want them? You got an enclosure or summat?" He stared at the school antelope. "Is that one tame?"
"Of course!" Jeremy scratched the antelope's nose. "We can just open the back of the wagon and let them out, they won't run away."
"You 'avin' a laugh, or what? They'll be back in Borcester before we are!"
"They won't, trust me! They'll go wherever this one goes. He's been expecting a new mate. He'll think it's his birthday, getting two! Right, get out and let the girls put the flowers round your necks."
The driver climbed nervously down to the ground and the nearest girls swarmed round with their garlands. Meanwhile, the driver's mate, a youth of somewhat tender years, was surrounded by maybe ten girls with a combined bust measurement in excess of fourteen yards. In all probability this was a new experience for him. They piled flowers around his neck and I suspect there were at least ten eager hands fondling his boyhood. Needless to say it took something like five minutes before we were able to progress round to the back of the truck and for the crew to release the big door that hinged down like a big flap to form a ramp leading down to the ground.
Two animals were secured inside, smaller than our own example. No sooner had they caught sight of him, they looked daggers at one another and began straining at their ropes. Eventually they were untied and led down the ramp to meet their new lover. They stood together a few feet away from him, their heads bowed, blushing prettily, or so I imagined.
"Aaaah!" sighed the girls, hanging a garland round our antelope's neck and then doing the same for his new girlfriends.
Up on the steps I saw Helvetica and Valentina watching the scene. I excused myself and edged out of the crowd towards them.
"Well, I suppose you two are responsible for all this?"
Helvetica nodded. "Pretty good, huh? Happy endings all round."
From up here on the steps the scene had assumed a new perspective. The truck was revealed as a kind of horsebox, the crowd of girls was by no means as intimidating as it had appeared from ground level. In fact there didn't seem to be nearly as many of them now.
"The dirty little buggers!" said Valentina. "They're shagging that bloke with the hair in the back of the lorry. We told you it was happy endings all round, miss. Oh, congratulations, by the way!"
"On your engagement," said Helvetica. "You mean you didn't know? You're engaged to Jeremy again."
That 'again' sounded ominous, but I supposed it was good news in a way. I looked down at Jeremy who was stroking the two new antelopes' ears and offering them cookies from his pockets. The driver had now disappeared as well as his mate, along with another dozen or so girls. My Jeremy was being comfortingly faithful to me, which was just as well, as it saved me the trouble of busting the bastard's head if he climbed into the back of the truck for a monster gang-bang.
"Look at them, aren't they sweet?" Helvetica said as Jeremy led the two lady antelopes away in the direction of the school restaurant with the St Cat's mascot gambolling along behind, possibly wondering which one he was going to mount first.
Yes, happy endings all round. No doubt there'd be other things to worry about. The clock struck the quarter-hour, nice and discreetly, and the girls grinned at me in quiet triumph. Obviously they were proud of their programming skills although Valentina no doubt thought it simply meant that the last of her treacle had worked its way out of the clockwork.
Below us, in the woods beyond the antelope truck, I noticed a badger trotting steadfastly on its way between the trees, towing a two-wheeled cart behind it. A figure bearing a remarkable resemblance to Miss Labia was perched proudly on the cart, a whip in her hand, a pink safety helmet at a rakish angle on her head, her breasts bouncing dangerously inside what appeared to be a bikini. Three small girls scampered along behind, whooping encouragement.
Okay, maybe there were still one or two minor collateral amendments, but we were getting there. I held out my arms to them.
"How about some crumpets, girls?"
"Okay, miss," said Helvetica.
We came down the steps and strolled along the road before turning in towards the quadrangle. From the Sexual Chemistry laboratory came the sound of a muffled but nevertheless exhilarating explosion, and a dozen giggling Fourth Formers came spilling out. One of them brandished a wooden spoon with a four-feet-long handle and only a very small fire blazing at the opposite end.
I sighed happily. Everything seemed to be almost back to normal.