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8

Strange Local Customs.

However, no sooner had Calorie pulled away, leaving the three travellers under a bus shelter, than it started raining cats and dogs and anvils. It was a very unpleasant turn of meteorological events, and within a moment, Sage, Dredly and Greta were up to their ankles in disgruntled dogs and cats hissing, barking and attacking each other. Accompanying this sudden cacophony were the intermittent yelps and squeals of cats and dogs unlucky enough to get hit by an anvil. Dredly looked out from under the shelter at the short dash to the terminal and safety.
“Shall we wait ‘til it passes or make a dash for it?” He asked.
“Just go for it. I’m desperate for the Duty Free store!”
“Er, guys... I’m not so sure about this...” Said Greta slowly.
“Oh come on. What are you - a man or a mouse... Or an old woman... Or a polar bear...?" Sage’s admonition trailed off with a whimper.
“Let’s go!” Dredly shouted and dashed out, holding his suitcase over his head. There was a thump and a squeal as a dog bounced ungraciously off the case, and he had to kick a path through the irate animals to get to the terminal. But he finally made it unscathed. Turning, he saw the others following. Sage had decided not to put his case over his head and paid the penalty, for as he desperately struggled to untangle a cat from his hair, a Jack Russell desperately struggled to impregnate his leg. However, once he had punted the yelping Jack Russell across the road and thrown the cat onto the head of an unsuspecting business traveller, Sage, too, hopped into the shelter of the terminal. Greta was not so lucky. Even at the very moment when she was on the threshold of safety, tragedy - or rather a two hundred pound anvil - struck. There was a loud, sickening, crack and Greta fell into Dredly's arms. Fortunately, he tottered backwards through the doors and into the lobby, out of the rain. Unfortunately, he had a thousand pound polar bear lying on top of him. Fortunately, Sage, with his unlikely ox-like strength was able to pull Greta from Dredly's chest before he was crushed by the weight. Unfortunately, they now had a polar bear with an anvil injury.

It is raining cats and dogs and anvils in one of the humor books at Dredly.com
“Looks bad! What are we going to do?” Asked Sage, gently cradling Greta's head in his arms.
Dredly stood up and looked around at the crowded terminal. There was only one thing for it.
“Is there a vet specializing in polar bear cranial injuries in the house?” He shouted at the top of his voice.
A hundred people turned at once and cried,
“Why, yes!”
Greta was lucky that they had arrived at the airport at the same time as an international delegation of thalarctos maritimus experts. Within moments, she was receiving the best attention in the world.
The large team of specialized vets revived her after a short argument about methodology and found that there was nothing worse wrong than a nasty bruise and mild concussion. They gave her some tablets and then left her with fond farewells to go to their conference. After Sage and Dredly had waved them away, they entered the main terminal foyer.
“I think you should get back into that disguise.” Said Sage, turning to Greta.
“Yeah, like... Good point - don’t want to seem conspicuous...” She then tried to effect the change, but nothing happened.
“What’s wrong?”
“I can’t... Seem to... Do it...” Greta replied through teeth gritted with the strain. Suddenly she puffed loudly, unable to strain any more.
“Must be the bump on the head, isn’t it! This is almost as annoying as being Belgian! What am I going to do now?”
Dredly looked at the nine foot bear, who stood there in now ill-fitting granny clothes, looking for all the world like a big bear in a bad disguise. He realised they had a problem on their hands.
“We’re never going to get her through like this!” He exclaimed, shaking his hands in gesticulatory frustration.
“I know what we can do!” Shouted Sage.
“What?” Greta’s face was full of expectancy, the tip of every hair looking eager to hear the plan.
“Let’s... Eat!” Sage looked as though he’d just said something that solved all their problems, something that followed logically from the previous conversation, something useful, something that wasn’t a crock. Greta’s face fell, the hairs wilted, and she bowed her head.
Dredly broke the silence.
“And that’s your plan?”
“Well it's... It’s an idea... I mean I hadn’t formed a strategy about what to eat or where to eat it... I thought you guys might help me with that part.”
“Maybe we can come up with a plan while we eat?” Dredly suggested, and since they hadn’t stuffed their faces for at least half an hour, it was decided that it was the best move.

Oh but how they were spoilt for choice! There was everything from expensive fried English food to expensive fried American food! They went for the English choice. Once the purchases had been made, Sage looked dolefully at the one sausage and nineteen chips on his plate. They had cost him ten pounds.
“I’m glad I didn’t bring my sheep now.” He said sadly.
“Why?” Asked Greta.
“‘Cos if this is how badly they fleece us, the sheep wouldn’t stand a chance.”
However, despite the cost, the saturated fat must have helped Dredly's brain, because as he was tucking into his pie and chip (a meal worth at least tuppence of the twelve pounds he had paid for it), he had an idea.
“I know how we can get you through customs, Greta. It’s a simple double bluff. Now, anyone in the position of trying to smuggle a badly disguised bear onto a plane is bound to look a little nervous, right?"
“Right!” Greta and Sage both assented.
“And that’s just what these airport people are trained to spot - people looking nervous.”
“Yeah...” Greta sounded a bit more hesitant.
“And this is my point, you see. They have sniffer dogs that find the drugs and all that, but they’re only brought in after the guards have spotted someone looking nervous. That's all the men are trained to look out for. They aren’t trained to spot polar bears. I mean, why would you bother training people for that? No one expects to see a polar bear in an airport, so they aren’t trained for it. So my plan is this: We walk through customs as if having a badly disguised bear with us is the most normal thing in the world. The guards won’t be able to spot Greta, because they haven’t been trained for it, and they won’t think there’s anything wrong, because we won’t look nervous. We claim she’s our grandmother, and we’re Scot-free!”
“I guess it’s the only idea we’ve got.” Said Greta. Sage nodded and it was agreed they would try the plan after a few hours in the arcades.

Albert with a cup of tea and a haddock stuffed up his cardigan in one of the humor books at Dredly.com
Once they had played every game in the place – with Sage impressing many bystanders with his skill at House of the Dead and extensive lexicon of profanity when his character finally got torn to pieces - they collected their tickets and boldly went to the check-in.
“Remember, don’t look nervous!” Dredly whispered to the others.
“I’ll go through first.” Said Greta. “It’s the last thing they’ll expect.”
She wandered up as nonchalantly as possible and presented her passport. The woman and man behind the desk looked at her carefully from beneath their shiny peaked caps.
“Hello... Madam?” Said the woman.
“Hello.” Greta replied, trying to sound as un-bearlike as possible.
“So, you’re going abroad then?” Asked the man. Seemed like a strange question to ask at the outward-bound side of passport control, but perhaps that is the art of airport security personnel - to put suspects off guard by asking them banal questions.
“Er... Yes.” Greta replied, “Going abroad, yes, that’s right. Me abroad, that’s what I’m going to do... Be completely... Abroad.”
“You don’t look much like your photograph, madam.” Said the woman, eyeing her suspiciously.
“Er... I had a terrible journey here and... Er... I have a bit of a medical condition... Sort of a body hair problem - makes me look a bit like a polar bear. It’s called Merkin’s syndrome - it’s not very contagious...”
“Well, thank you very much, that will be all!” The woman said quickly, dropping the passport as soon as Greta had mentioned contagion. Greta took the passport and wandered through. Sage stepped up to the desk.
“Hello, sir. You going abroad for business or pleasure?” Asked the woman.
“Oh... Er...” Sage looked at Dredly for help. Dredly shrugged his shoulders - did going to America to potentially thwart an evil plot count as business or pleasure?
"Pleasure!" Sage blurted suddenly, but his response fell on deaf ears. The man and woman were looking carefully at Sage's T-shirt.
"Nice, isn't it." Sage sounded jovial. "Picked it up when the 'Dead played London a few years back on their 'Without a Net Tour'. It's signed on the back by a bloke I met in the car park... He wasn't in the band or nothing... He was just there, y'know... Er... Great gig... Yeah... Padstow..." Sage trailed off. His Cornish joviality had been replaced by nerves. They weren't eyeing the T-shirt with appreciation after all.
"So you and your friend there..." The Customs official pointed at Dredly, "You're both Grateful Dead fans, are you?"
"Yeah, we're Deadheads all right."
Sudden silence fell. Planes stopped for a moment in the air and everyone in the airport waited for the woman’s response.
“Right, search them!” She cried and at once, Sage and Dredly were surrounded by half a dozen guards with guns.
“What? What’s the matter?” Sage looked scared.
“Silence thou harbingers of evil!” Screamed the woman. “You are fans of the Grateful Dead and we all know what that means!”
“That we’ve got good taste?" Sage ventured.
“NO! It means that you are drug-peddling hippies whose sole aim in life is to corrupt our youth.”
“Why should we bother when you can do it so well yourselves?” Dredly asked.
“Silence!” She cried, slapping Sage.
“Hey, why d’you hit me? He’s the one who...”
She slapped him again.
“Do you know what we do with drug-peddling hippies ‘round here?”
“Leave them free to lead lives of spiritual and physical fulfilment?” Sage suggested.

Her reply was wordless, but simply consisted of the slapping sound of rubber against skin as she pulled on a pair of worrying looking surgical gloves.
“Oh no! No no!” Dredly backed away slowly.
She stalked towards them, unscrewing the top from a jar of Vaseline. They backed up against a wall. They were hemmed in by the wall, the woman and five burly, salivating security guards, who were all far too moustachioed for Dredly's personal liking.

“Stop!” Screamed Sage suddenly, and with such force that the woman did stop in her tracks. “We won’t have to pay for this will we?”

 

 

What dark secrets are Sage and Dredly hiding? Where are they hiding them? And how far will the Customs officers delve to find them? Does anyone really want to think about that?

Find out in the next throbbing chapter...

"IT'S NOT HOW BIG IT IS..."

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