Pinniped is looking purposeful these days. He's going around with a real spring in his waddle.
Reconstruction work on this somewhat dilapidated pier has temporarily halted, however. Attempts to shore up the superstructure with large blocks of ice appear to have failed. By the morning following their installation, they have mysteriously disappeared. Pinniped has now developed the concept of a 'seasonally-adjusted asset', which lasts throughout the holiday season and then conveniently melts when the punters go home. Work will recommence as soon as he finds a building material that melts when it's cold and freezes when it's hot.
In the meantime, a number of attractions have been added to the pier for the delectation of those customers who are unconcerned by its blatantly unsafe condition. Pinniped seems to be completely undeterred about the small number of visitors to date. These number three, and comprise a man from the council who issued a writ, the chap who delivered the vanishing ice and an inquisitive dog. None of them actually paid for admission.
If anything, the isolation is making Pinniped more and more resolute. He has taken to tying a silk band emblazoned with a fish around his head (no small achievement using flippers). He swears vengeance against the BBC, and has declared an intention to confront the h2g2 administrators head on, whatever that means. He now refers to himself as a 'tycoon-type mega-mogul' and says:
I didn't get where I am today by balancing fish on my nose for a shower of keyboard-tapping pedants with an over-active legal department'
'Hi there, Lion. What do you think of this new poster? This ought to bring in the crowds, don't you reckon?'
'I think you might be missing the point, Pinniped. Aren't all penguins nude? And I think these are the wrong kind of laps.'
A bored and haggard-looking reindeer walks past, wearing fish-net stockings. It steps away smartly as it notices a suddenly incandescent seal.
'Put me down at your peril, Lion'
'You're always putting me down, but I'll get my revenge. All those smug little researchers, elbowing me out of their precious conversations with their smart-a**e elitism. I'll get you all back someday soon!'
Pinniped is trying hard to appear menacing. Perhaps he doesn't know that I heard about the incident in the Lighthouse Bar. One of his penguin-bodyguards said that Pinniped got what he asked for.
'They're clever people, some of them, Pinniped. They like to spar verbally. If you can't match up, maybe you shouldn't go there.'
And maybe I shouldn't have said that...
'It's the BBC'
whispers Pinniped. His voice is frosted with contempt and glacier-slow.
'They breed elitism. And they destroy the innocent'
I know that he's talking about Pingu. I was shocked myself when I saw the guy. Pinniped had hired him as a celebrity MC for the Revue, typically heedless of the reticence of the agent. The claymation figure that turned up was not the bright and confident young character that we knew from the television. Ravaged by fish-juice, he had declined too far even to smooth the thumb-prints from his skin. 'Mnnurrr-Mnurr', he croaked flatly. He never said anything else, although now and again an outsize plasticine tear rolled down his cheek. Even these would move in a series of unsatisfactory jerks. His continuity was shot to pieces, and he was rarely even lighted properly. Pingu was a shadow of his former self.
'How could they do this?'
continues Pinniped, in the same terrible, slow whisper.
'How could they turn a poor, innocent kid into a star, and then abandon him?'
And at this moment I know that the little seal really will have his revenge. The BBC is destined for a cataclysmic confrontation with one very dangerous aquatic mammal.
I have to calm the atmosphere somehow, and I remember Pingu's co-star, a seal himself.
'There was Robbie'
I say, tentatively.
'He's been looked after, I guess.'
Perhaps I shouldn't have said this either.
'Oh yes, Robbie's doing OK'
The comment tails off into an angry silence. In spite of the tension of the moment, I find myself wondering why Pinniped interchanges the fauna of the two poles so casually. Perhaps it's just the privilege of an anthropomorphised avatar.
I'm a seal, not a s**ding avatar'
barks Pinniped in fury.
I take a few paces backward. He has adopted his 'get off my floe or die' posture, and I doubt that even David Attenborough would have stood his ground.
There is nothing for it but to watch from a safe distance for a while, and wait for Pinniped to regain his composure. The Spell-Checker wanders past, and makes another entry in the Dictionary of English Improvements:
Monotor : someone assigned to watch paint dry
It is now several hours later, slightly deranging the vibrant immediacy of the narrative's stylish present tense. Pinniped's anger has subsided into despondency. He lies there supine, belly to the sky and flukes spread in a pose suggestive of surrender. I suddenly notice that he is welling up. I am truly dismayed.
'You are also a truly pretentious and a thoroughly p**s-poor writer'
he remarks, thought without much conviction.
'I do it for Knitbunny'
I say wistfully.
Pinniped sighs and turns over.
'It doesn't matter any more'
'What's wrong, Pin?'
I mean it to be affectionate, but it sounds terrible. That it goes unchallenged speaks volumes about Pinniped's attitude of resignation.
The little chap gazes at me for a long time before he speaks. Finally he says, very simply:
'I've run out of money'
'Pinniped, you never had any money. You only acted as if you did. What you really mean is that you've run out of self-belief.'
This is really good, I think to myself. This is the scene where the faithful amanuensis spurs the fallen hero to one last valiant effort against the odds.
Pinniped farts softly, and falls asleep.
To be continued...