Somewhere In the Jungle
Skulking Pepper spots a hulking, dark mass through the jungle leaves. He raises his bat, ready for anything. Creeps forward. . .
Skulking Pepper's toaster recklessly charges ahead, whistling a happy tune. Pepper hisses in annoyance and rushes out after it. "Get back here!"
Skulking Pepper stumbles to a stop when he sees the shape clearly. A piano. The toaster is rubbing up against it like a friendly cat, piping romantically.
Skulking Pepper sneaks forward, wary and alert. The piano does not jump up and attack him, or grow tentacles, or play by itself. He prods it with his bat. The bat does not melt away, eaten by acid.
Skulking Pepper reaches forward and taps a couple of keys. The sound is rich, and perfectly tuned. The toaster repeats the notes.
Skulking Pepper jiggles the bench. It seems sturdy, and without teeth. Cautiously, he sets his bat down, sits on the bench, and tries scales.
Skulking Pepper begins pecking out The Entertainer, slowly. The toaster bounces and sings, ecstatic. Pepper gives it a small smirk and starts into something ragtime-sounding.
Skulking Pepper is improvising, making it up as he goes, but the toaster seems to anticipate each note and sings in happy harmony. The sounds of grenades in the surrounding jungle seem to form a perfect beat.
Skulking Pepper mutters to himself as he plays, not quite singing. His confidence grows, and he adds some entirely unnecessary flourishes.
Skulking Pepper begins to smile his lopsided smile, proud of his hands for remembering what to do after so long without civilized instruments.
calliaphone, pedalling through the jungle with an eyeful of icepack and a bottle half-full of buckfast, hears . . . music? she yanks on the brake, and catapaults herself out of the driving seat.
Skulking Pepper doesn't register the sound of a nearby collision. He's quite occupied with his own jaunty tune, his jaunty toaster, and his jaunty hat. Except that he didn't have a jaunty hat a few minutes ago.
calliaphone's flight path is intercepted by a liana vine, which mercifully chooses her foot to wrap itself around. ensnared, she dangles, upside down. pockets emptying. but she doesn't spill the drink.
calliaphone sighs. it's clearly going to be one of those days. she takes another swig to fortify herself.
Skulking Pepper's toaster pauses in its singing and peeks toasterishly between the trees.
calliaphone decides, if she's gonna be hanging around here for a while, she might as well enjoy it. she begins to sing along with the music. not entirely in tune.
Skulking Pepper's toaster spots someone hanging upside down and whistles in excitement. Its cord wraps around Pepper's ankle and tugs. "Hey, what the hell?" He stops playing and looks around for danger.
Darren, roused from his erstwhile peaceful slumber in the backpack in Callia's cart, pokes his head up grouchily. "chrrp." he says, in tones of must you make that row?
calliaphone, drunk and disorderly, not to mention upside-down, shrugs at Darren, and continues singing lustily. Making up her own lyrics, which would not do badly in Squat Hole.
calliaphone decides now is the moment to accompany herself on accordion. Never mind that she can't actually play the thing. The sound is . . . horrible.
Skulking Pepper takes up his bat and creeps over... AHA! Oh. "Hey, what're you doing up in that tree?"
calliaphone's singing-and-accordion-murdering is abruptly halted (to Darren's relief) at the sight of an upside down fella waving a bat. she resorts to "WAAUGHHHDON'KILLME!I'llGIVEYOUALLMYBOOZE!"
calliaphone adds, pathetically, "i'm not a monster. . ."
Darren chrrps. He sounds unconvinced.
Skulking Pepper drops his bat. "Won't turn down the booze," he supposes.
calliaphone thrusts the bottle of disgusting tonic wine at Pepper.
calliaphone says, "take it take it only please no killing i only jus' got off the boat an' i din't mean to do nothin' wrong an' watch out mister there's a piano-monster about."
Skulking Pepper takes a sniff at the bottle and winces. He balances it on the toaster and reaches to try to set Calliaphone to rights.
calliaphone puts her hands on Pepper's shoulders to stop herself from spinning round. And wriggles as she tries to get her foot free from the vine.
Skulking Pepper growls at the troublesome vine and tries leaning around the little cordian-gal to chew it off.
calliaphone tries to focus on the face of her rescuer, but what with one thing and another, he's a bit blurry just this minute. she says, "uhh, yowch, nearly. . .got . . .it. . .ahaAAUUGHH!"
calliaphone is free. And free-falling. Onto Pepper.
Skulking Pepper tumbles backwards, thwacking his head on a toaster and its bottle of booze. "Augh." His jaunty hat has fallen off.
calliaphone rolls clear, and sits up dizzily. she stares. the guy in the hat has gone, and in his place . . . . "PEPPER?" a hug is launched, complete with accordion.
Skulking Pepper squawks, accordion-hugged. "Hey!" He coughs. "Uh, what were you doing up there?"
calliaphone releases Pepper so he may breathe. And tries to explain, although she's distinctly foggy herself. "i was drivin' an there was this piano-monster singin' an then a vine tried to eat my FOOT!"
calliaphone's explanaation goes on, "but a bloke with a bat interrupted an' was gonna kill me but i talked him out of it 'cause i'm so elegant, an' then i VANQUISHED him because i'm badass!"
Darren puts his head in his flippers, and despairs.
calliaphone finishes up, "and now you're here!" she pauses. "waitaminute, where'd you come from?"
Skulking Pepper squints. "Uh-huh?" He looks back over his shoulder. "Wasn't a monster. Just a piano. Uh, that I was playing."
Skulking Pepper's toaster seems very impressed with this story! It whistles cheerfully and cuddles up to her.
calliaphone takes a moment to absorb this. And then . . . "wait, there was no monster?" pause. "you play the piano?"
calliaphone is cuddled by a toaster. She is thoroughly delighted by this, and snuggles it right back (checking it over for any loose connections while she's about it).
Darren lifts his head up from his flippers. He knows that sound. At the sight of the toaster, he bows, as one professional to another.
Skulking Pepper shrugs. "Yeah. Just found it there, so I was uh. . . testing." The toaster pipes enthusiastically at Darren.
Darren is now deep in conversation with toaster. He appears to be enquiring about its musical training, and discussing operatic preferences. Snatches of aria are chrrped.
calliaphone puts the toaster down so it can talk to Darren more easily. She looks at Pepper. "you actshully played it, or it played itself, like Minnie does?" she gestures to the pianola in her cart.
Skulking Pepper watches the toaster with some interest. He has no idea what those two are talking about. "Yeah, I played it. I don't think it's alive or whatever."
calliaphone says, "wow!" and looks at Pepper with the kind of respect she usually reserves for Magicians and people who can cook.
Skulking Pepper rubs at the back of his neck, awkwardly. "Toaster's good accompaniment," he claims.
calliaphone agrees wholeheartedly. "those toasters are a talented lot!" she says. "Darren's enlisted a bunch of 'em into the GERM Sinfonia, you guys should come solo with them some time"
Darren and the toaster have now turned their attention to Pepper and Callia. Darren is waving his flipper, as if to illustrate the point, while chrrping a snatch of Beethoven's Pathetique.
Skulking Pepper retrieves a cigarette from his pocket. "Oh, you got a toaster ensemble?"
Darren gestures from Pepper, to pianola, and then peers about, as if searching for something, and turns to the toaster."chrrp?"
calliaphone says, "That's how it began. But then the toasters got organised, and started domesticating other jungle creatures. They've got s-trumpets and Letter H's now for brass'n'woodwind."
calliaphone adds, "they had some interrupting cows for a bit too, for the bass section. but we ended up giving them to bishop and merlin as a wedding present."
Skulking Pepper smiles crookedly. "Wouldn't guess those cows'd be very good in group performance." The toaster nods at Darren, somehow, and bounces, whistling excitedly.
calliaphone agrees. "terrible timing, worse'n woodwind. Darren got in a right ol' paddy about it. Still, some of the toasters have developed a nice bass range now, so we're covered, without cows."
Darren, after listening to the toaster for a moment longer, waddles up to Pepper and prods him with a flipper. "Chrrp?" he demands, imperiously.
Darren points, impatiently, in the direction the piano music came from.
Skulking Pepper frowns at the bossy penguin. "What? You want me to play again?"
Darren rolls his eyes, and chrrps in tones of Well what are you waiting for? I'm a busy maestro, can't you see? He points again.
Skulking Pepper gets up, lights his cigarette, and sulks back to the piano. The toaster sings and bounces after him, getting under his feet.
calliaphone, only weaving slightly as the Buckfast wears off, gets up and follows, with Darren waddling beside her.
Skulking Pepper looks back at the penguin, then sits down and surveys the keyboard. The toaster watches its master, then hums a few bars, suggesting. Pepper takes the cue and begins something classical.
Darren bobs his head approvingly, and watches Pepper's technique.
Skulking Pepper is rather less confident and enthusiastic than when he didn't have an audience, but when the toaster boos him, he scowls and picks himself up a bit.
Skulking Pepper's years of practice seem to have survived the harsh jungle environment fairly well!
Darren thinks so too! His beady eyes are narrowed, but it's clear he's satisfied with Pepper's performance. He chrrps occasionally, as if debating the interpretation, but mostly - he just listens.
calliaphone, somewhat less sophisticated, taps her fingers on Cordy's case, and looks wistful. The music is lovely, if only. . . she bites her lip, and humms along, off-key.
Skulking Pepper finishes his tune and turns to look at Darren. Good enough?
Darren extends a flipper for Pepper to shake. And with it, a great deal of enthusiastic chrrping which seems to focus on the subject of regular practise and invitations to Dunbernarding (when rebuilt).
Skulking Pepper awkwardly shakes the penguin's flipper and Uh-huhs cluelessly while the toaster warbles happily in the background. He looks to Callia for help.
calliaphone, still humming to herself, gives Cordy an experimental squeeze, and presses some keys. The sound is . . . not musical, at best. Her face falls.
calliaphone says, "whassat? ohh, i think he's saying you haveta come practise in our music wing. something about not letting good talent rust away in the jungle." she's getting more fluent in penguin.
Darren nods in agreement with Calliaphone. Then he starts chrrping again, his tone scolding this time. And he points. To Pepper. To the piano. Then to Cordy, and finally to Callia.
Skulking Pepper ohs. "Oh. Yeah, okay." He brightens up at the prospect of doing something he's good at. The toaster hops over to peer up at Cordy.
Skulking Pepper stares at the penguin, scratching the back of his head. "Man, I only speak English."
calliaphone shakes her head sadly at the toaster. "it's no good, little fella. Cordy won't talk no more. ever since th'accident."
Darren snorts dismissively (whether this is regarding Pepper's poor language skills, or Calliaphone's reference to "the accident" is anybody's guess). He appeals to the toaster for some sense.
Skulking Pepper's toaster whistles determinedly and bounces over to the piano, looks back and forth between Callia and Pepper. Pepper seems to be thinking it through.
Darren, sighs impatiently, and chrps a snatch of melody - unmistakably from Accordion Joe. He then struts up to Cordy and gives him a firm thwack with a flipper.
calliaphone says, "Hey! Darren, you gotta be careful with Cordy, he's traumatised, see?" But Darren does not appear convinced. He gestures again at Pepper and the piano, illustratively.
Skulking Pepper finally catches on. "Hey, can you play that accordion thing?" he asks Calliaphone.
calliaphone looks up at Pepper, eyes big'n'sad. "not on me own, i can't. folks always assumed i could, an' . . . well, mebbe i let 'em. but the truth is, Cordy did it all. he's the musician, not me."
calliaphone says, "but now he won't do it no more." And, very quietly. "i miss him."
Darren shakes his head at this nonsense, having lost his patience entirely. He chrrps irritably, pointing at himself, the toaster, Pepper, Cordy . . . and including Calliaphone in the group.
Skulking Pepper frowns at the accordion, thinking. He picks a couple of jellybeans out of his pocket. "Dunno how to play an accordion, but they probably got books about it."
calliaphone says, "books? how would a book help? i ain't never met a book that could sing like an accordion." yet.
Skulking Pepper's toaster bounces up to Calliaphone and pipes a single note, encouragingly.
calliaphone glances down at the toaster. "whaddya want, littl'un? you wanna sing with him?" she looks hopefully at Cordy. "g'wan boy, for the toaster?" and gives him a squeeze. but he says nothing.
Darren waddles up to the toaster, and starts addressing it urgently. For those familiar with the pengin-toaster pidgin, the phrases "proper tuition" and "practise" and "not a hopeless case" might emerge.
but anyone else will have to rely on tone of voice and body-language.
Skulking Pepper's toaster pipes again, wiggles metallically, and repeats the note. "Nah, the books tell you how to play the stuff."
Skulking Pepper's toaster whistles at Darren and curls its cord. It bounces over to Pepper, singing enthusiastically.
calliaphone boggles. "Books can tell you . . . " then another thought sinks in, "how to . . . . what, y'mean me?"
Darren does a slow flipper-clap as she finally gets it.
Skulking Pepper's toaster whistles happily. Pepper's hands fidget in his pockets. "Learned some of my piano from books," he says. He looks at the toaster, then suggests, "Uh, you gotta learn some about
Skulking Pepper continues, "machines, right? Before you can make toasters sing or whatever?"
calliaphone frowns, thinking about this. "We-ell, i usually learn by listenin', like. I never was much of a one for books, see. I don't . . . I don't really read that great. Except blueprints."
Skulking Pepper suggests, "Probably someone who could help you?" He glances at Darren. He's seen their music wing, surely someone knows something about accordions.
calliaphone also glances at Darren, who chrrps approval with this idea. And then she glances at the toaster, and, with tentative fingers on the keys, tries to find the note that the toaster is singing.
Skulking Pepper's toaster bounces excitedly and repeats its note, long and ringing. Pepper taps the same note on the piano, and looks over at the accordion's keys.
calliaphone, hands shaking a little, keeps trying for that note. Missing it, and missing it, and then . . . at last. "that's it, that's the same isn't it?"
Darren waves a flipper, as if to say You see? can't play, my flipper. you've got the ear for it. the rest is practise.
Skulking Pepper suggests, "The keys are probably in order." The toaster agrees, with a tinny do re mi.
calliaphone, listening intently, copies the toaster (with several halts and wrong notes).
Skulking Pepper gives her a lopsided smile. "Not so hard, right?"
calliaphone looks up, as she starts getting the hang of this do-re-mi business. She explores a little further. do-re-mi-so-fah. Pause. so-fah-lah-oops-ti-do! And suddenly, she beams.
Skulking Pepper melts, but tries to pretend he's not doing so. The toaster cheers enthusiastically.
Darren, head bobbing happily, chrrps encouragement in the form of Brahms' Czardas. Callia, excited, tries to play along, but the result is music porridge.
calliaphone stumbles to a halt, looking lost. Darren, for his part, looks contrite. He may have gotten a little carried away there.
Skulking Pepper's toaster suggests something simpler. It begins a few notes of Mary Had a Little Octopus.
calliaphone looks up, curious. She's not sure she knows that tune, but . . . it's definitely simpler than the Brahms. With much clumsy hesitation, the tune emerges under her hands. And the beam returns.
Skulking Pepper sits back on the bench, lighting himself another cigarette, and lightly plays along with Calliaphone and the toaster.
calliaphone starts playing the tune over and over. Each time, getting surer, smoother, more definite with the rhythm. Her foot starts to tap. Oh man, this is something else!
Darren's head continues to bob, and his chrrping remains positive, but something in his eyes suggests he really hopes she learns a few more tunes pretty soon. Or at least, the rest of this one.
Skulking Pepper smiles over at her. "You pretty much know how already, huh?"
calliaphone, getting bold now, follows the toaster all the way to the end of the rhyme. And when she's repeated it so often her fingers ache, she gives up playing, and just begins to dance.
Skulking Pepper plays something lively for her. He's a sucker, after all.
calliaphone's dancing is not like any other kind of dancing on earth. It lacks, shall we say . . . finesse. But makes up for it in enthusiasm. She whirls and whoops, and backflips - because SHE CAN.
Skulking Pepper pauses to applaud. The toaster cheers her on with enthusiastic theme music!
calliaphone is finally running out of steam. She pauses, mid-whirl, to hug Pepper, and catches up the toaster for a snuggle.
Skulking Pepper closes the keyboard cover and leans on the piano. The toaster cuddles up happily. What a wonderful day!
calliaphone settles down beside the piano, hugging the toaster, and Darren (who's somehow muscled in on the act like he always does when there's hugs in the offing), and offering Pepper her hipflask.
calliaphone says, "i owe you guys. that was . . . i never thought i could . . . you . . ." and finishes up, simply"thankyou."
Skulking Pepper offers Calliaphone a cigarette. "Just have to play for us when you get good," he compromises.
calliaphone lights up with a wistful smile. "lesshope it don't take too long then." and she puffs gently, as her eyes grow heavy.
Skulking Pepper stretches out on the bench. All that playing made him tired. His legs hang off one end, and his head off the other.
calliaphone is already asleep, and Darren not long after.
calliaphone wakes, humming the Mary-Octopus theme softly to herself. For a moment, she's baffled as to where she as, and why she's humming such a peculiar tune. But then,
calliaphone finds the toaster, still snuggled under her right arm (and Darren under her left), and looking up she spies Pepper, spark-out on the bench. And she smiles.
calliaphone gets up quietly, setting the toaster down beside the piano. She picks up still-mostly-asleep Darren and carries him back to her cart, popping him in the back where he burrows down into blankets.
calliaphone rescues one of the spare blankets, and trots back to Pepper with it, dropping it over his slumbering form. Then she's back to her cart and into the driving seat. Engage the gears, chocks away. . . .
calliaphone doesn't really throw the chocks away. It's only a pedal cart, after all. But she does make a noise like a propeller engine (softly) between her teeth as she pedals into the jungle.