When we last left Monty and his loyal toucan, Harold, they were being summarily ejected from a spaceship on their way back to England from a galaxy far, far away—or, at least, Northern California.
Unfortunately, the ship didn’t quite come to a complete stop before the pilot pressed the eject-o button. Monty found himself clinging to Harold’s legs as the toucan desperately flapped his stubby wings, squawking something about his plumage being meant for show, not for use.
Together, the hapless pair plummeted through the flimsy roof of a tent into—into a form of arena.
Monty turned to Harold. “Old chap,” he said hoarsely, “I don’t think we’re in England anymore.”
Still miffed at being used as a flotation device, Harold ruffled his feathers and turned his back on his master while Monty took a slow turn around the room, trying to figure out where the devil they might be.
Music, like no music Monty had ever heard, throbbed through the room. A gaudily decked pair pushed past him, moving in a strange sort of rhythm. They were dressed in the oddest sorts of costumes, all feathers and sparkles and a rather alarming quantity of face paint. They were all lunging and swinging their hips and waving their arms about in a rather intense way.
And why were they all wearing numbers on their backs? Was it in case they forgot their own names?
Monty looked about for someone who might be able to tell him what was going on, but everyone appeared to be jabbering away in a language foreign to his ears.
“Hallo?” he called. “Bonjour? Salve? Χαῖρε!”
He even contorted his body into an Egyptian hieroglyph, but no one seemed to speak Ancient Pictogram either.
Wait! Someone was glaring in his direction, muttering something about “illegal dance steps”. The words didn’t make any sense, but, by Gad, at least the chap spoke English—of a sort.
Turning his back on Monty, the man went back to his low-voiced argument with the female beside him. Both man and woman had the blondest hair Monty had ever seen, browned skins, and alarmingly white teeth.
The female was rather fetching, for all that, at least what he could see under the rather violently applied face paint, which appeared to include some sparkly bits on her cheekbones that flashed when she moved. They were flashing quite a bit at the moment. (As was her bosom, although Monty found it incumbent upon him as a gentleman to pretend to ignore that.) As Monty approached, the lady wrenched her arm from that of the gentleman beside her, sending a shimmer of sparkles drifting to the floor.
“For the last time,” she hissed, “I will not perform the Bogo Pogo!”
What was this Bogo Pogo? Clearly, a carnal contortion of the most depraved and deviant sort.
The anguish on her fair—if overly made-up—face tore at the cockles of Monty’s tender heart. None of his affair, and all that, but still, one couldn’t stand by and watch men in strangely shiny knee breeches molesting innocent young women.
Leaning forward, Monty tapped her on her bared shoulder. “Madame,” he said, in a low voice, “if I might be of any assistance, my sword–”
Where was his sword? Blast! He must have lost it somewhere on that peculiar, rudderless ship. Instead, he seemed to have an odd stick thingy with a button that emitted, when pressed, a strong, red light. Not much use that.
“My toucan and I stand at your assistance,” Monty amended quickly. He essayed a bow. “Lord Montague Moylan-Hazwell, at your service.”
“Who is this tosser?” demanded the man, with a sneer that might have been rather more villainous if his eye-black weren’t starting to run.
“I, sir,” said Monty loftily—but was rudely interrupted by a woman, garbed in a sober suit of black with no sparkles to be seen, who waved a sort of board with a clip on it in the air in Monty’s general direction in a rather menacing way.
“You must be Contestant #32. You’re late! Come with me at once!”
With Harold clinging to his shoulder, once again, Monty found himself being hauled away to part or parts unknown.
Over his shoulder, he cried, “Fear not, fair lady! I shall return.”
He only hoped it was a promise he might keep….
Monty was summarily marched off to a chamber of torture. He knew that it was so for there were round lanterns (how did they get the candles to stay that way?) suspended all around a large mirror. The lanterns shed a harsh light upon a series of arcane implements, undoubtedly the brainchild of the Inquisition, set out on a table in ominous array.
“I shall reveal nothing,” Monty declared bravely.
The woman cast him a jaded look. “Trust me,” she said. “It’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”
She tossed him a pair of curiously spangled breeches and a shirt so slippery it slid right through Monty’s hands.
“Put these on.” She seemed rather determined, so Monty put them on, although the breeches had rather bizarre fastenings and the shirt appeared not to fasten at all.
The woman in black—obviously a High Inquisitor of some sort— fixed him with a particularly piercing stare through her strange, tilted spectacles. “Where’s your partner?”
Monty grabbed Harold by the feather. They went down together or not at all. “This is my partner.”
The woman gave him a strange look. “Right. Whatever. You’re on the floor in five.” She gestured another woman forward, a woman wearing a long, white coat. What acolyte was this? “Andrea? Take over.”
Monty found himself being pressed into that oddly shaped chair in front of the table with the bulbous lights and the array of small implements of torture. Monty gathered the shreds of his courage. He might be wearing a shirt that bared his chest to the naval (rather a good thing he hadn’t neglected his calisthenics during his sojourn in India), but he was still British, blast it all, and he would not be broken. Rule Britannia and all that.
“Whatever it is,” he declared boldly, “I shall tell you nothing.”
“Honey,” said Andrea, pushing him back in the chair. “You wouldn’t believe the things people tell me.” She unscrewed one of the ominous jars and began—painting Monty’s lips with rouge?
Hmm. Not an altogether unbecoming color….
“I’ve heard it all,” Andrea said wearily. Monty flinched as she brandished a dark wand in his face. Was the torture about to begin? “Hold still. I’m just doing your eyes. Hey, has anyone told you that you have great eyelashes?”
“Well, Aunt Tropey does say I have the family lashes,” Monty said modestly. He considered for a moment. “Unfortunately, she seems to want them back.”
Somewhere, a bell sounded, and a voice rolled out from above, booming something in that strange, foreign language.
Funny, Monty had always imagined the voice of the Lord speaking English and sounding rather like the Pater in one of his more moralizing moods.
“Darn it,” said Andrea. “This’ll have to do. Break a leg!”
And before he could ask her why she wanted him to commit indignities upon his own person—was it a means of avoiding conscription in the army of a foreign power?—she had pushed him out into a form of pen, a bejeweled, bedazzled, and decidedly grumpy Harold perched on his wrist. Harold appeared to be wearing a form of spangled pettiocoat.
“Don’t ask,” he squawked.
But before Monty could ask anything at all, he felt yet another urgent tug on his arm. It was the fair-haired lady, her headdress in disarray, her spangled bosom heaving.
“The competition’s been fixed,” she said. “They’re about to blow the whistle. Come with me!”
And she pulled him through a door into—
Where do Monty and Harold find themselves now?
I must confess to being a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see Monty tango—I rather suspect he’d look pretty dashing with a rose between his teeth, don’t you?
Do you watch those ballroom dance shows? Or do you have another guilty viewing pleasure?