There's No Business Like Show Business - Part 1
(From Here to Paternity)
Written by Norma Williams - Illustrations: Sadie James
Henry goes for a walk on the wild side and lives to regret it; Barry has a surprise for Brenda; Zanti makes a bid for the big time; Clancy joins the family, but it all goes a bit flat; Henry continues his relentless quest for friendship at any price and so we meet Gordon and Jeremy, two very camp followers; and finally, Tracy learns to her dismay that if you cross one Weasel with another Weasel you get - even more Weasels.
"…Dens are usually nest of former prey taken over by Weasels and may contain the remains of food from several days meals…"
from The Mammal Society Website - http://www.abdn.ac.uk/mammal/weasel.htm
"Hello, she's followed you home again."
George peered through the wire into the dark veggie garden. Through the murk the figure of a small portly weasel could be seen. It was Tracy and it was obvious that she was expecting a not-so-happy event.
"And you can come back," snarled George to Henry who was sliding backwards towards his box.
"Hello," George said again, "there's more of 'em out there now… yes, she's brought her father with her this time."
Henry gave a moan of terror and shot into his box.
"Shove off," George screeched into the night.
"We ain't goin' anywhere," came Wayne's Brummie whine. "You ferrets are gonna pay fer this. Our Tracy was a good girl," he added piously, "until she took up with your brother."
There was an awkward silence while Tracy tried to look like a good girl.
"Me ankles is all swole up," she moaned.
"Well it's nothing to do with us," snapped George, "what about that musical idiot she was gadding about with on holiday?"
"He ain't 'ere is 'e," said Tracy grimly, "but your 'Enry is."
This sentiment - seldom voiced in the human world - has changed the course of many an unsuspecting man's life.
"We'll be back," said Wayne menacingly. "You 'aven't 'eard the last of this."
"You can 'elp look after the kits, too," said Tracy spitefully.
And they flitted back into the shadows, silently, except for Tracy who plodded along in the rear, puffing slightly.
"Oh brilliant," said George, "now we're going to get lumbered with a litter of Weasels."
"I quite like kits," said Gilly, who likes everyone.
"Not these you won't," said George, "they'll rip your throat out."
But then Henry, with one of the sudden about turns favoured by the very, very dim said he quite fancied fatherhood. He said he would enjoy living in the woods with a family. It would be fun. He was fed up with Mother, she was a dismal old bat, and was always fussing, he was fed up with Gilly and Sid too because they were always watching television and he was fed up with George because he was always telling him what to do.
"Oh listen to yourself, Henry," said George true to form. "You're a ferret, not Robin Hood. You were born in a backyard in Tamworth and you won't last five minutes in Bog Wood. If your in-laws don't kill you then a diet of bug eyed bunnies will."
But once Henry gets an idea into his head he beats it to death with a short stick, and his brother and sister watched as his small determined, misguided figure followed the Weasels down the track towards the Wood.
"He is really, really going to regret this," said George with relish.
Mother said she was so proud of Henry she could cry. They would miss him, she sniffed.
"Probably not for very long," said George.
Next morning Mother came down the garden with the food and stared sadly at the little dish with "Henry" written on the side.
"You can leave his breakfast," said George casually, "he's back."
Mother said what did he mean "back" and George said "back" as in "come home" - Henry was waiting by the car he added, he wanted a lift to hospital.
"Hospital" screeched Mother what did he mean, "Hospital?"
George said she'd better go and have a look and added that he'd had more intelligent conversations with slugs.
The little adventurer was sitting miserably on the step of the Land Rover. He'd had the worst night of his life, he said. He looked as if he had, too. His fur was on end, one eye and all his teeth were black and his feet appeared to be covered in treacle. He wanted to go to hospital to get cleaned up, he said and he wanted something for his nerves, too. George began to snigger.
What was on his feet? Twittered Mother in a panic.
"It was Weasel poo," said Henry sadly. You could not get it off, it set like concrete. "They did it everywhere," he added. Hadn't Tracy looked after him?
He hadn't seen much of Tracy, he admitted. She'd been out all night with a big ginger weasel from the next village. When questioned she'd said that Ginger was her cousin and they'd been visiting Auntie Ada Weasel in Hoppy Woods. When Henry had said he'd never heard of Auntie Ada Weasel, Big Ginger had poked him in the eye.
What had turned his teeth black?
"It was the food," said Henry.
How could food send his teeth black in one night?
"It was tarmac," said Henry sadly. Apparently at dawn they'd all trooped off to the A5 to go hunting. They sat by the side of the road, he explained and waited for something to get squashed. It was usually hedgehog. Or rat. It didn't really matter what it was, once it had been run over by a 38 tonner speeding for Burton-on-Trent it all tasted the same.
George was now laughing so much he couldn't stand up.
Henry continued miserably that when they'd got back to the Den, Wayne had played "Strangers in the Night" for two hours on the bongo drums, and Henry had decided to come home.
Gilly said perhaps it would be a very good idea to take Henry to hospital. Someone could have a Little Chat with him and do something about his talent for deeply unsuitable friendships.
So Henry was driven to Town and the surgery, where the girls kindly washed his feet and cleaned his teeth. Then he was taken into the consulting room for a Little Chat with Paul who told Henry that he must stay away from Tracy - Paul had once met someone just like her in Benidorm. Women, he added grimly, were nothing but trouble, Henry should make a nice quiet little friend instead. He added that whatever Tracy was hatching in her fat little tummy, was nothing to do with Henry as ferrets cannot mate with weasels and anyway, according to the surgery records, Henry had been neutered on 28th January 1998. Henry said would that make a difference? And Paul said, "trust me, I'm a doctor."
Mother was quite cross with Henry. She had enough to worry about, she said, what with the County Show and everything. Her nerves were bad too. It was her own fault, said George; she shouldn't get drunk and show off. She always regretted it. What had happened was this - after a night of drunken debauch with her horsey cronies at a "Grab a Granny" night in a low sort of club in Town, Mother had boastfully entered Zanti for the County Show. In the cold light of day she had tried to rip up her entry form - only to find that her friends had already posted it. She must enter, they had said, with evil glints in their eyes, they would not miss it for anything. She would do well, they added unconvincingly, and they were all coming to watch. It had not been too bad at first, because the Show had been six months off, but now it was only two weeks away and she was terrified.
"What shall I do, George?" she sobbed. "Make a prat of yourself as usual," said George. The ferrets were all coming to watch too, he said. They didn't want to miss it either.
Then there was Barry and The Egg.
Tracy wasn't the only one who had come back from holiday with that little extra something. When the ramp of the trailer had been lowered they had discovered not only Barry - who had a silly grin on his face - but also a young, female buzzard. Her name was Bronwyn, smirked Barry, and she was his little bit of fluff. At this Bronwyn screeched with laughter said he was awful, and dug him in the ribs whereupon both birds collapsed with the giggles. When George had asked, "what about Brenda?" Barry had gone very quiet and shuffled his big feet about in the dust. Bronwyn had asked who Brenda was. Barry had said shiftily that Brenda was this old bird who lives in the Wood. George had say yes, Brenda was this old bird who lives in the Wood, and who happens to be married to Barry.
It had all gone very ugly - Bronwyn had smacked Barry round the beak and she said she was going back to her Mother in Wales. Barry had looked quite relieved as she flapped off, then he looked into the back of the trailer and saw the egg. He had gone into an immediate panic and begged Mother to help him. It was not just an egg, he sobbed, it was Family. So the Egg was carefully placed into the incubator, but this had been designed for chicken eggs and they could not close the lid. Barry's despair increased until they thought of the airing cupboard… so they carefully carried the Egg upstairs and placed it on a pile of clean laundry. The Egg was now warm enough, but, as everyone knows, incubating eggs must be turned regularly - normally the mother bird does this and a charming sight it is too, but in this case the mother bird was winging her way South across Birmingham heading for the Brecon Beacons, and Mum.
Jim said he'd heard of women hatching eggs down their jumpers, perhaps Mother could do this. He was joking, but Barry had shuffled over and pulled open her shirt with his beak in a very familiar manner and peered down. She could do it, he crowed, there was plenty of room there, no one would ever notice and she could do the turning when no one was looking. Warming to the idea he added that she must not trot round like she normally did - the Egg would not like it. He had cheered up no end, promised to come to the house and do a nightshift with the Egg, and had then flown unsteadily off to Bog Wood to make his peace with Brenda.
He proved an unreliable relief egg sitter. Most of the time he forgot all about it and when he did remember he got it wrong. The end came one day when Jim was sitting happily in the bathroom with a copy of Farmer's Weekly
and his reading glasses. Barry had crashed through the window, smacked against the opposite wall and landed stunned on the carpet.
"Do something about that blood bird," yelled Jim and stamped off in a temper saying that he would Never Go Again and would be on the All Bran for months now and he hoped she was glad. After that Mother was stuck with the Egg 24 hours a day. She adopted a strange, gliding, gait, sliding her feet along the pavement and keeping her knees still. The village watched with interest. Horace of course was never at a loss to explain the grisly workings of female plumbing.
"'Twill be piles," he said complacently from his seat in the pub car park. "All these 'ossy womin get piles. Stands to reason," he added, "tain't natural."
Zanti was schooled and polished ready for the show. She quite approved of the Egg. "It makes her keep her bum still," she explained to the ferrets as they watched lazily in the warm sunshine. And Henry made a new Friend.
Clancy was the stopcock toad. He had lived a safe, if rather dull, life for about ten years down the drain in front of the house. The only threat to his safety was the stopcock and everyone was very careful not to impale him when the water was turned on or off. His diet must have consisted entirely of flies, and quite a lot of them, because he had grown to the size of a dinner plate. He was safe and happy in his own little way, until Henry, in search of a new friend, pushed his nose down the drain and enticed Clancy into the big world above with the promise of excitement and adventure. They made an odd couple, Henry trotting energetically about, and Clancy throbbing along after him - he was not very fit nor was he built for speed. He was also hideously ugly, dark brown, clammy and warty, resembling nothing more or less than a cow pat on legs - he even sported his own cloud of black flies. Now the yard has a constant traffic of bicycles, cars, tractors, horses and cows all of which move considerably faster than a toad, and poor Clancy was always batting on a sticky wicket. Sure enough, as Zanti ambled across the yard one day there was a squelching sound, she said, "whoops," and looked down. A green ooze was leaking from her big steel shod front foot. "Sorry," she added apologetically.
Mother removed the remains of Clancy with a hoof pick and decanted him into the muck bucket. She offered to conduct a little service in the vegetable garden, but Henry was very cross and inclined to sulk. What was the point he said huffily of making new friends new friends when Other People let big fat horses tread on them.
Jim said perhaps Henry should get a faster friend next time.
"And something a bit prettier," suggested Gilly, who hadn't taken to Clancy.
Jim said, yes it would be nice to meet one of Henry's friends without wanting to vomit.
"Something with fur on," suggested Mother helpfully, "something nice and fluffy."
Henry said all right, he would go and find something fast and fluffy, and he added heavily, he hoped it would make them happy. Jim said that it sounded all right to him, he'd like one too, perhaps Henry could find two of them.
He was to regret these words bitterly.
"Weasel populations are very resilient…" The Mammal Website as before.
"We haven't seen Tracy for weeks," said Gilly.
"You're about to see her now," said George, who was perched on his log, "she's coming up the lane at a heck of a rate of knots." He squinted into the sun, "hello," he said, "some thing's chasing her."
Tracy reached the ferrets' house at a dead run, dashed inside, slammed the door and flattened herself against the wall panting. Three dull thuds sounded as her pursuers bounced off the wood.
"What is it?" asked Gilly in alarm, she jumped onto the log and looked down, and said, "Ohhh," in wonder.
Glaring up at her were three tiny babies. Tracy's babies. Henry was completely off the hook, they were All Weasel - the size of a child's finger, bright ginger, and furiously angry.
"Don't let 'em in fer gawd's sake," pleaded Tracy… but, too late… Auntie Gilly had opened the door. The kits charged in and leapt on Tracy. One grabbed her tail and bit it, hard, and the other two fastened themselves onto her head and began to chew her ears.
"Gerroff, gerroff, gerroff you little sods," yelled the proud mother, batting at the kits with her paws. One of the babies fell off and began to shriek. The other two jumped down and attacked it. All three began to shriek. It made Gilly's fur stand on end. George jumped down and deftly kicked each baby on the backside - they flew through the air, bounced off the wire and landed in a heap in the litter tray where they fell into a deep sleep. Tracy was impressed.
"You're good with kits," she said.
"They look sweet when they're asleep," ventured Gilly, cautiously.
"Trouble is the buggers wake up again." Tracy was obviously finding motherhood something of a challenge.
"What are they called?" asked Gilly.
Tracy stared at her.
"They're called Weasels," she said.
"No, their names," persisted Gilly, "what are their names?"
"How should I know? Oi, you," she clipped a kit round the ears, "what's yer name?"
The kit shifted slightly, snored and made a mess in its sleep.
"You have to give them names," explained Gilly patiently.
"Me?" said Tracy blankly. She paused, looked shifty, the said, "I know that." There was a long, long silence then she said, "they're called Diesel, Teasel and Weasel."
"You can't call them that," said Gilly appalled. "They aren't proper names, and you can't be called 'Weasel Weasel'."
"If you know so much about it, you give 'em names," said Tracy crossly.
"Perhaps you need to get away from them for a while."
"I keep tryin' to get away from 'em," said Tracy, "but they always catch me up. They can't 'alf shift."
Gilly looked shocked.
"I was hopin'…" said Tracy, looking more like her old cocky self.
"Not in your wildest dreams," said George quickly.
"Ohhh, look, they're waking up," said Gilly.
"Right," said George, "get 'em out of here."
But… he was speaking to thin air. Tracy had gone. She had gone even faster than she had arrived. They saw her flying down the track to the bend just before Bog Wood, where the figure of Big Ginger flitted out of the hedge to join her. They shot into the wood, two crows flew up and cawed in alarm, then there was absolute, total silence.
"Oh spiffing," said George. "Lumbered!"
"I don't think I can cope," said Gilly nervously, looking at the still groggy babies.
"Attilla the Hun couldn't cope," said George. "We need someone with no brains and plenty of room…" he suddenly cheered up. "Come on you lot," he said to the kits. And they all trotted off towards the house. Gilly in front, then the babies, and then George bringing up the rear, with his large hairy back foot hovering round the skinny weasel bottoms in front of him.
Henry stamped into the house. He had made some new friends he said. He hope they would approve, he added, a bit pointedly, they were fast and fluffy, there were two of them as requested, and, he added rather strangely, they were happy too.
"That's nice darling," said Mother, "I can't wait to meet them."
It was about this time that strange things had begun to happen in the house. The cats got terrible headaches. The T.V. went on the blink; things moved in the night; the sugar and milk turned a funny colour - it didn't taste any different, but it certainly looked different. Mother denied any involvement with dark forces and the mystery remained until one morning when she was putting on her make up, a voice from somewhere above said, "That's right duckie, slap it on." There was a giggle, then an answering giggle. Mother reached for her lipstick. The voice came again, much louder this time, "Pink" it squealed, "Pink at 'er age. Someone thinks she's seventeen again." Shrill, catty laughter rang out.
"There's someone in the rafters," said Mother peering up.
Henry trotted in. "Yes," he said, "it's my new friends, Gordon and Jeremy."
"I can't see them."
Henry said they were difficult to see because they were black and hanging upside down. It helped, he added kindly, if you put your head on one side and squinted.
Her screams brought Jim into the kitchen.
"He's got two bloody, bloody bats."
"They're fluffy and fast and there's two of them." Henry was understandably aggrieved, "just what you wanted."
"They'll get in my hair," wept Mother.
The larger bat - it was Gordon - said with a sniff that he wouldn't touch her hair with a bargepole. It was a horrible style and a tacky colour. It needed a good cut and a rinse before he's go near it.
"That told her," he said to Jeremy.
"It did, Gordy, it did," said Jeremy creepily.
"And they're happy," said Henry, sticking up for his two new pals.
"They don't seem very happy," said Jim.
"Or merry, or something like that," said Henry, screwing his face up trying to remember.
"Ohhh, get him, silly tart," shrilled Gordon - he was obviously boss bat - and Jeremy sniggered obediently.
Realisation dawned on the humans.
"The word wasn't 'gay' by any chance?"
"That was it," said Henry in triumph, "that was the word - 'Gay'."
Mother began to sob, "We've been eating bat droppings for a week… we'll probably die."
"Oh great," said Jim, "just what every household needs, two maladjusted, incontinent bats."
The arrangements for the show went seriously downhill from then on, along with Mother's grip on reality. None of the new tenants in the house could be evicted. George had installed the baby Weasels in Mother's underwear drawer and was busily training them for a life of crime.
"Where's the mommy Weasel?" Mother had asked disapprovingly.
"Done a runner," said George briskly, and trotted off, the young Weasels scampering after him.
Nor could they get rid of the bats. All bats are protected - Gordy and Jerrers more than most. They knew it too.
"We'll probably have to give them the house and a car soon," said Jim gloomily. "They've got more rights than we have."
George was in Bog Wood.
"Fancy a day out?" he asked casually.
The Bog Wood Fox looked at him suspiciously, suspecting a trap.
"Is this one of your tricks, Ferret?"
"No, no, no," said George, looking hurt, "just a day out with some friends; and lots of food of course." He chuckled innocently.
"Hamburgers?" asked the fox, interested in spite of himself.
"Loads," said George blandly.
"And hot dogs?"
Just for a moment George's expression changed.
"Just open the car door when I say," he said confidently, "and you'll get all the hot dogs you can handle."
The Egg was due to hatch on the day of the show and Barry was growing anxious. He followed Mother everywhere, cunningly disguised as a chicken with half a rubber glove on his head and a feather duster (pale pink) strapped to his rump. Mother told the village that Barry was her lucky mascot. No one believed her.
"She was in t'surgery t'other day," said Horace with relish to his cronies in the pub. "She was askin' what would 'appen if she ate bat droppin's. She be meddlin' with things she shouldn't, I reckon."
The County Show was going to be an absolute disaster. They could hardly wait.