Professor Humperdink III

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Reception party

Staggering away from the burning wreckage of our aeroplanes, battered, bleeding, dirty, excited, scared, desperate for a drink, and on fire. Fatty beats the last of the flames from his head and shouts that, because his hair has been burnt off, his collection of nits, lice and rare hair-bugs have been fried to a crisp. I remind him that, although he might be hairless, he is filthy, hot, angry, and drunk. which is perfectly normal for a master chef, so nothing has really changed, except that he no longer trails yards of greasy, matted, stinking, parasite-ridden hair, which some people might think is an improvement. Fatty says that anyone who thinks that crashing and burning improves anything must be stupid.

This is true and I blame Juan for leading us into the ground. But Juan says he wasn’t leading, besides, he adds, following someone who isn’t leading is as much as a waste of time as leading someone who isn’t following, and, he reminds me, unnecessarily, just because someone is in front, it doesn’t mean they’re leading, not only that, he says, jumping up and down on his flaming bagpipes, it wasn’t his fault he crashed; just before his aeroplane was released from The Lion, Fatty clambered aboard, so, when the aircraft was free, they were too heavy to fly.
After, unwisely, extinguishing my smouldering sporran by beating it with my Lochaber Axe, I tell Juan, in a high pitched voice, that I was not following him, but, seconds before we were released from The Lion, Albert, George and Rory jumped on board my aircraft and then, rather discourteously, expressed mistrust in my abilities as a pilot by hurling abuse and screaming at me to get out of the cockpit. Fortunately, when The Lion’s aircraft clamps open, we immediately fall into a spinning tail slide, which, to my satisfaction, gave my passengers something to really scream about, and they really do scream, but then they attempt to take over the controls and I have to throw them out of the aeroplane. This is all so distracting that, before I can take control of the aeroplane, my first priority, obviously, is to take control of my nerves, which I do with the hip-flasks that I keep for such occasions. As all Agents know, in emergency situations, Vintage Glenlossie, Glenlivet, Fettercairn, and Dalmore Special Reserve alleviates unnecessary concerns, in fact, I feel so alleviated that, after vomiting over the side of the falling aeroplane, I some time waving my arms above my head, rocking from side to side, bellowing great grand aunt Euphemia Humperdink’s famous hymn, ‘Hallelujah, Here I Come’.
Even though I'm seeing double and my aeroplane flips upside down, and my vision is obscured by the smoke rising from Juan's wrecked aeroplane and a certain amount of wind-blown vomit, I would, I assure Juan and Fatty, have made a perfect landing, however, as I grab the joystick, I am attacked by Sally, Juan's pet snake, who must have been sleeping under the seat. Making a perfect landing while being strangled by a giant anaconda is very difficult and explains why my aircraft is now a crumpled heap of charred metal and why we are being followed by angry, singed, anaconda.
Juan says that he wondered where that snake had got to. I remind Juan that, when we were in the Sudan, we were meant to rescue Sally, but we didn't, so the Agent Rescue Service must have rescued her. Fatty says that, if Sally has been hibernating for a long time, she is probably hungry, so, although it is a pity that Albert, George and Rory aren't here, he will give Sally their portions. Juan says that that's a good idea and, he adds, it's good that Albert, George and Rory have gone because we have spare food to give to Sally, and we don't have to hear any more of Albert's mad theories, we won't have to put up with Rory's weird nervousness and, best of all, we don't have to see any more of George's stupid birds.
I concede that Rory's academic reputation is substantially lower than that of the mould on old fecal matter deposited by the insect that consumes the excretions of the creature who survives on dung-beetle droppings, George can only paint birds, and Albert is actually as dim as a pickled firefly, nonetheless, I remind Juan, George is a famous artist, Albert is an internationally recognised genius and Rory is a renowned academic, and Juan should feel privileged to travel with such august company, in which, I add, I include myself. I think this satisfactorily corrects Fatty and Juan's opinion but, disappointingly, nobody is listening to me as American warplanes are flying overhead, Sally and Juan are rolling on the ground, wrestling, and Fatty is shouting that he will have to get more food as we have guests. I tell Fatty not to worry, and I explain that the soldiers who are approaching us are just the reception party, they won't be staying for dinner.
When the soldiers start shouting at us to put down our weapons, I feel that I should tell them that Fatty is only carrying a carving knife because he is a chef and it is a necessary part of his trade, and his necklace of human bones is purely ornamental, and my blunderbuss is normally clogged with filth, so it is perfectly safe. When I indicate this by pointing it at the soldiers so they can see down the barrel, they look nervous and shout louder. To reassure them, I feel I should explain that, generally, I only use the blunderbuss as a baton or for drain clearance, but not necessarily in that order, as this can cause problems, as I discovered when I last conducted the 1812 Overture; when the time came for the cannons to fire, I jumped in the air and made a particularly exuberant gesture to the artillery commander to fire the cannons but, annoyingly, nothing happened. I had forgotten that, before the cannons can go off, the fuses have to be lit, and there is a delay while the fuses burn down, however, I pound my music-stand with my blunderbuss, trying to make up for the absence of cannons by creating loud, banging, cannony, sounds, but this causes the blunderbuss to fire.
Although low-grade critics criticised my performance, the noise of the music-stand being smashed, together with the sound of the blunderbuss firing, is an appropriately loud and alarming sound, and certainly in sympathy with the theme and spirit of the piece, and, indeed, improved it. Because of Beethoven's deafness, I want to remind the approaching soldiers, he could only hear loud noises, in fact, in fits of rage at his condition, and jealous of people who could hear well, Beethoven deliberately composed music containing sudden, loud, noises, in an effort to damage the hearing of his audience, so, as far as he was concerned, the noisier, the better.
Unfortunately, immediately before coming on stage, I used the blunderbuss to unblock the musician's toilet because Oscar, the third bassoonist's pet otter, was stuck in the U-bend, as a result, when the blunderbuss fires, it discharges a barrel-load of fresh, ottery, sewage into the face of the first violinist, then, in the confusion, I forget that the fuses are burning, so when the cannons fired I yell in surprise, fall off the podium, and crush the first violinist's Stradivarius into very small bits of bent wood, this was also unfortunate, at least for the first violinist, but I console myself with the thought that, with one less Stradivarius in the world, my own Stradivarius increases in value, so it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good, as great uncle Albert used to joke, every time he returned from looting a hurricane-torn city.
In my esteemed opinion, the roar of cannons, pandemonium amongst an orchestra and the screams from a horrified audience blend perfectly with the startling and unique crunching sound created when a Stradivarius is mangled, this, together with the agonised wailing of the first violinist, is the perfect accompaniment to the overture and, I have no doubt, Beethoven would have been both humbled and in awe at my improvements to his work, if he could hear them. However, before I can explain this properly to the soldiers, they start shooting.
It occurs to me that the soldiers are scared of Sally, this is perfectly sensible, Juan believes the snake is sweet tempered and docile, but that is only after she has eaten someone, at all other times she is an evil tempered killer. As I dive for cover, I shout at Juan to knock Sally out, because she is scaring the soldiers, but he can't reply because his head is inside Sally's mouth. In normal circumstances this would be amusing and we would stay and watch, but, as we are under attack, we don't have time to fool around and I knock the giant anaconda over the head with a barrel of Vintage Knockdhu Private Reserve, this make the snake woozy and she relaxes her jaws enough for Juan to extricate his head from the anaconda's mouth but, as I had to rescue the barrel from Juan's burning wreck of an aeroplane, the barrel was smouldering and the burning embers set fire to Juan's galcoit, Fatty says that it's lucky that he brought a large piece of cloth, and he proceeds to smother the flames with an American flag, and I am not sure that the soldiers will enjoy seeing their national flag being used to put out a dirty foreigner. Fatty assures me that the soldiers won't mind at all because, although the flag is the 'Stars and Stripes', it is not the official national flag because it doesn't have the right amount of stripes, and the stars are all wobbly, so it is perfectly legal to burn it. This is lucky because, although Juan's galcoit is extinguished, the flag catches fire.
Fatty waves the burning flag around, but this just makes it burn more. I can see that the soldiers are getting angry, so they would not get the wrong idea and think that Fatty was burning their flag out of disrespect, I want to explain to the soldiers that Fatty was actually treating the flag with as much care and respect as he would treat an accidentally over-cooked steak. If it was a second-rate steak or for a low grade customer, he would just let it burn. Fatty would only attempt to rescue a first-class steak, and, when the soldiers see Fatty throw the smoking flag to the ground and urinate on it, they should realise that Fatty is not insulting their flag, but, in fact, by quickly putting out the flames, Fatty is actually demonstrating his deep respect for an honoured, world-class flag, but I don't get the opportunity to explain this to the soldiers because the barrel of Vintage Knockdhu catches alight and explodes.
I have the good sense to hide behind Fatty and Juan burrows under Sally, but the soldiers all fall over and a lot of them are hurt. Fatty says that we need a doctor and it's a shame that I killed Rory because, although Rory was afflicted with strange obsessions and peculiar fears, he was a good surgeon. I remind Fatty that Juan is also a surgeon but, in this instance, he won't help because Juan believes that anyone stupid enough to get in the way of a bullet doesn't deserve medical treatment and, anyway, he specialises in attending to the continued well-being of beautiful, wealthy, healthy, women, he has no interest in tending to ugly, poor, injured, men. But I am hurt that Fatty thinks that I murdered Rory and explain that there were originally four parachutes on board, I threw mine away because it was taking up space, and replaced it with a barrel of Vintage Duff's Defiance Founder's Reserve, but when Albert, George and Rory left the aeroplane, I assure Fatty, they each had a parachute, or rather, there were three parachutes, so they would have had one parachute each, but Rory was nervous and worried that his parachute wouldn't open, so I let him have two parachutes, just in case. Fatty says that he is not sure this was a good idea. I tell Fatty that Albert and George didn't think it was a good idea either.
Feeling that we should do something, I tell Juan to stop stealing things from the wounded soldiers and give them proper medical attention, he does so, but reluctantly, until I remind him that, in America, people have to pay for medical help. Juan says that the soldiers are probably poor because they don't get paid very much, so it isn't worth saving them. I tell him that, because they are soldiers, the government will pay for their medical care and, in America, doctors get paid huge amounts of money, so it is worth it. Juan immediately starts working like a demon barber; to motivate Juan, I can always rely upon his instinctive greed, Juan's enterprises raise vast sums, his memoirs sell in their millions and a lot of people pay Juan a great deal not to appear in his memoirs, and yet, the prospect of earning more money energises the man like a cattle-prod enlivens a limbo-dancer.
Fatty points to the sky and says that he can see Rory and Albert, or Rory and George caught in the hot updraft rising from our burning aeroplanes. They appear to be in good condition but they are probably stunned by the fumes rising rising the steaming whisky. This is an excellent sight, I just hope that they can get down quickly because we are gaivishly behind schedule and we have to carry on as fast as possible. Although we are sorry that Albert, or George, didn't get the parachute, we are happy to see that George, or Albert, did get the parachute; to celebrate, I hand out hip-flasks of Vintage Glenkinchie, Auchentoshan, Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain Special Reserve, we offer toast after toast to the hospitality of our American friends, salute the bravery of the armed forces of the United States and drink to the health of President Washington. Fatty waves the Washington Cruiser ensign, to show we are friendly, and as an appeal to heaven, Juan and I inflate our bagpipes and, blasting out 'The Stars and Stripes Forever', and old Francis 'Hoppy' Hopkinson's famous lost song, 'Befuddled, I Fall' at full volume, then, remembering the urgency and seriousness of our situation, we link arms and, yelling with excitement and fear, we stumble around in terrified confusion, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink's Diary