Here’s a short story about your new favourite boy-band:
1. Pre-Apocalyptic Complacency
They were called The Babies, but they weren’t babies. They were pre-schoolers: four years old to a man. Duck was the heart-throb, a golden Ganymede in dungarees. Then there was Ruud the rebel, the delinquent, the separatist of eternity. Neither a pretty boy nor a pariah, Larry wrote the songs and the boys sung them with a song in their hearts, which Larry had authored too. It wasn’t clear what Master Thomas’s role in this outfit was, but everybody knew that Duck, Ruud and Larry would not go on stage without their fourth brother Baby. They were called The Babies and the world loved them tenderly in its final, oblivious days.
2. Literacy Crisis
Larry squinted at a chaotic arrangement of wiggly black markings on a discarded document.
“It’s Greek to me, boys” he said.
“Don’t grieve yourself Larry” said Master Thomas. “None of us is a scholar”
“Fellas” said Ruud, “I wouldn’t trust a bunch of words on paper even if I could reads. Y’ask me, we’re better off not knowing what horse muck is written here. The letter killeth.”
“…And the spirit giveth life” said Duck, with a handsome shrug.
“You said it brother baby”
And with that The Babies trilled out a seething spiritual, all about bald, blind Samson and his thirst for demolition. Better to be blind than to be a dupe, the song seemed to say. Better to be illiterate than a puppet on a writingman’s string.
3. Time for a Treat!
A pin-striped adult with a monstrous gut strutted into the room. One hand held a red lollipop, which he licked with a vexing air of self-satisfaction; the other twiddled in his pocket. Great beads of red saliva plopped on to the floor as he pulled the lollipop stick in and out of his mouth.
“Can I have a lollipop?” said Duck.
“Haw. No.” said the man, smirking.
“Why not?” asked Duck.
“Maybe I’ve not got any more. Or maybe I don’t want to give you one”
The Babies fell into a conference.
“What do you reckon my hearties?” said Master Thomas, “reckon we should press the issue further, get us some well-deserved lollipops?”
Ruud pulled out a tiny switchblade from the elasticated waist of his junior jeans. “I plan on slashing his pockets and seeing what falls out”
The other Babies nodded solemnly. “Slash him, Ruud” they said, “see what falls out”.
The insolent adult was looking at a magazine with a picture of a naked lady on the cover, and producing a laugh that was identical to his earlier guffaw, as if he were somehow withholding lollipops from the ladies in the magazine too. While he chortled, Ruud slunk up with an assassin’s gait. In one swift slash he filleted the adult’s blazer pocket, and a cornucopia of sweets fell out: bangers, fruit swagglers, fizzy colins, corn whups and the real prize: tens upon tens of lollipops. Ruud squirreled the confectionary into a shiny satchel and left a horrific surprise in the adult’s trouser pocket.
The Babies crept into the adjoining room to gorge on their loot, and everyone patted Ruud on the back and called him a true soldier. Ten minutes later a weak scream came from the doorway where the adult had been. Ruud snickered softly.
4. Do You Know Your Enemy?
There was a short interval for the sponsors’ messages. The audience brooded in their seats and The Babies were brought some refreshments. Lemon squash and two custard creams each. In his artery-blue armchair, the chatshow host squirmed and sweated into his makeup. He kept looking over his shoulder towards the backstage area and wincing. He pulled at his collar. “Do you mind if I smoke boys?” he said. The Babies all shook their heads. Except for Ruud, who held no quarter with smalltalk.
“Welcome back folks” said the chatshow host. “Don’ t worry. The Babies haven’t left the building.”
A genial babble of laughter and applause followed, but the audience was as still and silent as a jury.
“Well” said the chatshow host, “you boys sure like custard creams, right?”
“I’m going to square with you, Henry” replied Duck, “the way you’re sitting cannot be good for your sperm count.” Duck pointed his pudgy forefinger at the tense legs of the chatshow host, which were crossed tightly above the knee.
The audience laughed. But their laughter was cruel and sarcastic. Small diamonds of sadness welled in the eyes of the chatshow host.
“So” said the chatshow host. “So” he said. “So. So. So”
“So” said the chatshow host. “Everyone’s been talking about how you boys helped to bring that sex trafficking gang to justice. Perhaps you could tell us a bit about that.”
“Henry” said Master Thomas. “This is a light entertainment show.”
“Of course” said the chatshow host. “Of course. Of course.”
“So” said that chatshow host. “Err. Larry. What’s your favourite colour?”
Larry exhaled. “That’s a toughy Henry. I’m a fan of the old classics. Navy Blue. Forest Green. There’s a lot to be said for the old classics.”
The chatshow host warmed to the theme. “How about red? Do you like red?”
“Give me a break” said Larry, spitting on the floor.
A quietness followed, like the quietness inside a vacuum-packed chicken carton.
After a while, the quietness was broken by a pealing noise that seemed to originate from inside the nose of the chatshow host.
“Hey Henry” said Ruud, “how’s your sister doing?”
At this the chatshow host began to smile but then his face exploded into sweaty, messy tears. He put his face in his hands and his hands in his lap. From where The Babies were sitting, the audience’s tutting was deafening. A sound of synchronised bootfall on metal flooring could be heard.
“Oh no” said the chatshow host. “Help me boys. Help me.”
“I’m sorry” said Master Thomas “If you’d let us know before, our people could have got you out.”
The chatshow host shuddered convulsively.
Four men in bullet-proof playsuits marched on to the studio floor. Smooth black carapaces covered their faces. One of the carapaces opened to reveal a nasty man. “Come with us” he said and held out the hand that wasn’t resting on his sub-machine gun.
Like a naughty but weary boy, the chatshow host took the hand of the guard and allowed himself to be led away. His trembling had ceased but a periodic sob made his gizzards vibrate.
“God speed you” said Duck.
Now the audience seemed happy and relaxed. They all turned to one another in a congratulatory manner. A young woman with a powerful haircut hailed The Babies.
“Hey boys, how about a song?” she said. And everyone else cheered, saying “A song! A song!”
Larry trod down slow and hard on the dying fire of the chatshow host’s abandoned cigarette. He clicked his finger and combed his quiff. He stared the audience right in its eye.
“Go fuck yourselves” he said.