Wednesday, 8 April 2015

A Smack in the Face May Offend

We had enjoyed an eventful stay in Ireland, with one of our number having a close encounter with a Banjshee, and we were just one stop from Michigan on our cycle journey home. We had pulled the 5 different wheeled, three saddled quintracycle off the road and were preparing to sleep under the stars. The encounter with the Banjshee had left our smallest member with a bit of a singing problem.

♫ I'm the man of a thousand faces ♫

"Why have you got a black eye?” I asked looking at Roth's badly bruised face.

♫ A little piece of me in every part I take ♫

"You know we've been using duct tape to, err, muffle the singing during the night?” Roth replied with a question.

♫ I hold the tape for a thousand races ♫

"Seems rude but, well, damn, what else are we supposed to do?” This question to a question thing was getting habit forming.

♫ A different point of view in every speech I make ♫

Roth held up the empty reel of tape. "Ran out of tape. I used WD40 instead.”

♫ Cut me a piece of my divided soul ♫


Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Return

We had enjoyed an eventful stay in Ireland, but we were now working our way back to Michigan. The quintracycle was making great time along the cycle path between Ireland and Michigan.

♫ To dream the impossible dream ♫

"You wonder how long she can carry on like this,” said Roth, referring to Eolist giving the song full voice from the third saddle.

♫ To fight the unbeatable foe ♫

"Well, she finished her folk repertoire by the West Coast of Ireland, and finished Country and Western before the East Coast of the US. She's probably got quite a bit to go,” I replied.

♫ To bear with unbearable sorrow ♫

"Yeah. Prog Rock could take us all the way to Siberia,”

♫ To run where the brave dare not go ♫

"You think this is just a side effect of being so close to a Banjshee?” I knew the answer, but I had to ask.

♫ To right the unrightable wrong ♫

"Yes. But at least it is better than death.”

♫ To love pure and chaste from afar ♫

"You think?” I wasn't sure my ears could cope with a great deal more.

♫ To try when your arms are too weary ♫
♫ To reach the unreachable star ♫

”I didn’t hear anything from her sleeping bag last night, so at least this doesn’t carry on 24 hours a day,” remarked Roth.

♫ This is my quest ♫
♫ To follow that star ♫
♫ No matter how hopeless ♫
♫ No matter how far ♫

I silently held up a reel of duck tape.

♫ To fight for the right ♫
♫ Without question or pause ♫
♫ To be willing to march into Hell ♫
♫ For a heavenly cause ♫

”You may, possibly, be going to hell.”

♫ And I know if I’ll only be true ♫
♫ To this glorious quest ♫
♫ That my heart will lie peaceful and calm ♫
♫ When I’m laid to my rest ♫

”Best pizza ovens anywhere I’m told.”

♫ And the world will be better for this ♫
♫ That one man, scorned and covered with scars ♫
♫ Still strove with his last ounce of courage ♫
♫ To reach the unreachable star ♫

A thought bothered me. “I didn’t know she was a baritone.”

“Who knew?”

Friday, 20 March 2015

The Road Less Cycled

Hard to believe after all this time, the three of us were back on the case. Well, not so much a case as a quintracycle.

"So this was your own invention?" asked Roth.

"It was indeed. Green conveyances with three seats were not easy to come by, so I designed and built one," I replied, "it will be to the bicycle what the Dyson is to vacuum cleaners."

"Strangely coloured and difficult to take apart?"

"No, that wasn't what I meant."

"Five wheels is a pretty strange feature too."

"Much better balance and road holding," I explained.

"I'd have expected them to be all the same size - not one is the same as another."

"Resist that conventional thinking."

"The built-in coffee machine is a stroke of genius," said our previously silent companion, discarding the drained espresso cup like a hamster would discard a sunflower seed shell.

"It doesn't have, does it?" I said. I was puzzled. Then I remembered accidentally ram-raiding Starbucks on our test run. I'm sure they wouldn't mind as we returned the barista to the upright position.

"Where are we?" I enquired.

"Ireland," Eolist said.

"Didn't we start off in Michigan?"


"Isn't there an ocean between the US of A and Ireland?" queried Roth.

Eolist was on a roll with the monosyllabic replies, "Yes," she said.

"Hmm. I'd have expected to have got a little moist on the journey. You know, dampish?" I said. 

"We took the cycle path."

"Ahh. I see," we said, lying.

We carried on cycling in silence, allowing the Emerald Isle to roll gently below our five different sized wheels. The only noise was Roth puffing on the steep hills.

"Not that it isn't a very pretty country, but why are we here?" I asked looking around at the marvellous countryside.

"We're on a quest," said Eolist, "I found this scrap of parchment in a box in my loft. I'll read it to you when we stop for a break."

"Why the quest?" asked I.

"I was speaking with some friends over coffee and spoke about my ghost sightings. And they were all like 'everybody has ghosts, we've all seen them'. So I thought I'd go and find something no one else had seen."

We rode on until the light began to fade and Roth looked puffed out. We sat down on the edge of a wood and lit a small fire. The conversation flowed easily as night fell.

Eolist pulled out the parchment and read from it. It told the tale of a wealthy Irish landowner who had abused his position and power. His lust and rejection by the beautiful, folk musician, tenant farmer's daughter resulted in him throwing the entire farmer's family off their land before a particularly hard winter. Other tenants who tried to take in the farmers family were threatened with losing their homes and livelihoods. The farmer, his wife and daughter sought shelter in the nearby woods. 

None were seen again. Except for daughter, who was found, close to death, still clutching her banjo. Her last words were to place a Celtic curse on the landowner.

One year to the day the landowner was found dead, with a look of terror frozen on his face. Staff reported the landowner had complained of hearing a banjo playing for a day before he died.

Even now, the local people believe that anyone hearing a ghostly banjo will be found dead the next day.

"That puts a shiver up your spine," I said, "I take it this is the myth of the Banjshee."

"And this wood is?" Roth asked.

"The very same one," confirmed Eolist.

Roth adopted a tone of mock offence, "So, in finding something exotic to see, you chose something that would kill us?" 

I joined in, "Yes, and kill us with folk music!"

"Anyway, I shall be wearing earplugs and zipping my sleeping bag up right across the top," I declared. 

"Yup," Roth and Eolist agreed.

We settled down to sleep. Which none of us did.

At 2am, I could hold it no longer. "Guys, I need a pee, " I called out.

There were some dark muttering from the other sleeping bags. I'm sure I heard a Celtic curse or two. Roth finally called back, "I'll keep a watch for a ghostly bint playing a banjo."

"I'm not going to look out for some folk singing, banjo strumming tart until I've had my third coffee," came a voice from the lower end of third sleeping bag. Nice.

I got out and wandered away to find a tree to water. I was in mid-flow when I heard the sound of a banjo playing ethereally in the distance. "New ringtone Mr Roth?" 

"Yeah, you like it? Greatest Bango Hits No. 17 (disco remix version)" he confirmed.

"So Eolist, should you see the Banjshee, are you planning to take a photo or get an autograph?"

"No idea. Why?"

"Because she is standing behind you. I think she is planning to kick off with a little song."

Eolist shot out of the sleeping bag, took a photo and ran past us. Roth and I felt strongly motivated to keep up.

It was an hour later before we stopped running and midday before we felt safe enough to go back and collect our stuff and the quintracycle. With that we set off back to Michigan on the cycle path, which as any seasoned traveller knows is mostly uphill. 

"Why is Roth going red and puffing and blowing?" Asked Eolist, "The quintracycle is very easy to peddle."

I lent over and whispered, "It is for us. I ran out of cycle chain and only had enough to connect his peddles to the driving wheels."

"Genius, " she replied.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Tunguskan Time-slip

Where is Dr Max you ask? The last anyone heard of him was in 2013.

^ HIM ^
Did the fame and the money turn his head? And while we're on that subject, where exactly is the money?

His long term associate, companion, joint feral pizza hunter, cohort, and fellow time and inter-dimensional travel addict, Indigo Roth, was tracked down recently for a comment. He said "Who?" You've got to admire the famous English reserve.

Eolist Petite was also tracked down, although this was a much harder task than finding Roth, as she is very much smaller. She is reported to have said, "He still owes me $20, the tight bastard. Also I don't think he is a real doctor either, the sticking plaster he gave me in 2011 has fallen off."

Will 2015 contain more Max Tunguska adventures that 2014? I predict it may already do so.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Dead Again

A figure stood framed in the doorway. Lightning flashed. 

"Roth!" I exclaimed, surprised. "You were dead."

He stepped inside out of the rain. "I got better," he replied.

"I went to your funeral."

 "I faked it."


 "I wanted to hear what people would say about me after I was gone."

"What did they say?"

"Oh, there was a really nice eulogy. A few snivels then a cough, two belches and a fart."

"Touching, I think. I'm also really glad you went for the burial rather than cremation."

"And someone dumped 17 tons of grapes into the grave."

"Sorry, that was me."


"Well, when someone is ill you visit them in the hospital," I looked for understanding, "Yes?"


"And bring them fruit?"


"Dead is the ultimate in ill, so I thought you'd need a lot of fruit."

Friday, 29 March 2013

Point of Reference

There is no mistaking the smell of an English Pub at opening time. Stale beer and ageing cigarette smoke are a potent mix. Not a-typically music was playing quietly in the background. I could be sure the volume would hike as soon as the landlord eyed some people trying to have a conversation.

Cigarette smoke. Interesting, I must have arrived before 2007.

I walked over to the bar, "Hi, who's this playing on the radio?"

"Kayleigh? Can't stand it. At least it didn't make number one."

1985. I turned to leave.

"Aren't you going to buy a drink?"

"Er, no, not today, I don't think."

"What do you think this is - a free information service?"

"No, do you have a lavatory?" Under my breath I added, "I've been busting for a pee since 1615."

"It's in the corner, over there."

I turned and walked towards it.

"Patrons only," the barmaid announced.

Now that was just unreasonable. Surely this wasn't Berlin in 1942. "I am a patron. I just haven't bought a drink yet."

I left. Trips through time require careful plotting and the use of Temporal Navigation System is nearly essential. Think of it as sat-nav for time machines. "You have passed December 1976, please do a U-turn when possible."

Unfortunately, on a whim, I had changed the Temporal Navigation System to speak Swedish and my laughter at it sounding like the chef from the Muppets quickly turned to panic when I realised I couldn't reset it. So I had resolved to get home by taking little steps through time, stopping, investigating & moving on a little bit more. I've been using my local pub, The Fox and Armpit, as my point of reference. Thankfully, 1985 was a pretty good hit and I only needed a little bit of luck to get close enough to "home".

I walked through the door of The Fox and Armpit and sat at the bar. I looked around. There was no smoke in the air, most of the patrons were nursing the one drink they could afford and using their phones to communicate with friends thousands of miles away, whilst ignoring those in the room. Yes, indeed I was "home".

The barmaid wandered over. "Hi," she said.

"Hello. Can I trouble you for a pint of Witches Broomstick please?"

"That'll be £2.75."

I fished around in my pocket for the money. Damn, it was good to be home.

"If you don't mind me asking, but don't you normally drink with a really tall gentleman?"

"I often do. Hopefully he'll be along later. I expect he's been taken in by the furniture shop's buy two armchairs, get a pizza free offer."

"I saw that. I didn't think most people would be swayed by the offer of a pizza."

"Mr Indigo Roth is quite definitely not most people. You don't get offers like that where he's from."

"Why, where is he from?" Hooked.

"Did you not notice the accent?"

"No, he sounds pretty Home Counties to me."

"He disguises it really well, but he is originally Norwegian. He took loads of lessons to learn how to drop the accent when he went to RADA. Just get him to say gravlaks - you'll see him salivating slightly and his accent will slip."

"He went to acting school?"

"I'm told his characterisation of Calamity Jane was absolutely unforgettable."


"Oh, yes. It was terrible that he got thrown out. Such a waste of raw talent. If it wasn't for his terrible addiction, we'd see him on the West End stage now. He might even have made it to Hollywood."

"Addiction? How awful."

"Lots of Norwegians suffer that way. I think it may be genetic. Hid jars of it all over his dormitory. Turned up on stage reeking of it."

"Booze. My auntie suffered like that. I hope he got help."

"Alcohol, no, no. Goodness no. Much worse than that. Pickled herring."

"But did he get help after he was thrown out of RADA?"

"Yes, they put him on a pickled herring substitute and I think it's a bit more manageable for him now. We just slip him one of these and he is, as they say, a happy badger." I held up a frozen packet and passed it over.

"What do you do with them?"

"Use your imagination."

Roth arrived. "Hi, can I have my usual please?"

The barmaid pulled him a Guinness, and he took a long pull before speaking again.

"Did you see the offer that furniture shop is doing? Awesome. I bought sixteen armchairs." He paused, had another sip, "How has your day been?"

"1615? It was a bit dull to be honest. I left a SIM card in one of the excavated pits at Stonehenge. Might brighten things up for the archeologists in the future."

"Yes, it would." He laughed, took a good chug of stout, then turned a looked at me, "Why is there a frozen fish-finger in my beer?"

Friday, 15 February 2013

A Quantum Of Spinach

"We need to go on a quest, find some mystical artefact and wrest it from the forces of darkness in an epic battle," Roth struck a pose very familiar to those brought up on black and white movies.

"He looks a lot like Errol Flynn standing like that," I whispered to Eolist.

"Yes, Errol Flynn having a pee!"

Roth continued, although frankly I didn't hear a word of it. I'm quite sure I was going purple trying not to laugh through his grand, and I'm sure rousing (if we'd been listening) speech.

"He's going to get the hat and the whip out soon," Eolist commentated.

"Oh oh, Indiana Roth and the Rhubarb of Doom?"

"Wasn't that a Quantum of Spinach?"

"That's Bond!"


Eolist was the first to notice it and once we had, I'm don't understand how we could possibly have missed it. "It's getting awfully smoky in here," she said, "I can barely see Roth."

"I can still hear him though."

"Well, nothing in this world is entirely perfect now, is it?"

"It's not your smoking ghost?"

"No, no, I don't think so. He's been trying to give up. I keep finding nicotine patches all over the house."

"Do you think the Surgeon General's warnings on the packet have finally worried him into giving up?"

"So he can enjoy a longer and more fulfilling life? I think the boat may have sailed on that already, given he has already reached the point in his existence where he should be doing pottery with Demi Moore."

I started coughing, "Where is this coming from?" My eyes watered.

The smoke swirled and a figure appeared.

"It's Jack the Ripper!"

"It's Dick Dastardly, surely?"

The figure before us wore a fine suit and stood with the jacket open. His waistcoat had a Xbox controller wedged into a pocket. Below a scary handlebar moustache was a pipe belting out the skyline of Victorian Sheffield.

He took his pipe from his mouth and spoke, "Don't call me Shirley!"

Continuing he said, "I have come to set you a quest. See that ring over there on the fireplace?"

"The one that has been there doing no one any harm for years?" I asked.

"That one, yes." He paused for dramatic effect. "Put it in the fire."

Eolist picked up the ring and put it into the blazing fireplace we hadn't mentioned before.

"Now pick it out carefully with this poker." He waited until we had the still glowing ring nestling on the end of the poker, "Can you see the elvish writing?"

Eolist and I both struggled to find our glasses and put them on. We looked at the ring. "No," we said in unison.

"It WAS there. I assume if I ask you to go on a quest and dump this in a mountain full of fire, you'll actually be able to see the bloody mountain without glasses?"

Roth appeared, "Did someone say 'Quest'?"

Eolist and I nodded, "He did."

"Fantastic, OK, I'll take the ring, Max, pick up the dwarf. Good to see you Gumley..."

"Oi, who are you calling a dwarf!"