The last continent, p.30
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       The Last Continent, p.30

         Part #22 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 30

 

  Its not working! said Ponder, tapping the thaumometer as the ship rocked under them. The needles . . . Oow! He dropped the cube, which was molten by the time it hit the deck. Thats impossible! he said. These things are good up to a million thaums! Ridcully licked his finger and held it up. It sprouted a halo of purple and octarine. Yep, thats about right, he said. Theres not that much magic anywhere any more! shouted Ponder.

  There was a gale behind the boat now. Ahead, the wall of storm was widening and seemed to be a lot blacker. How much magic does it take to create a continent? said Ridcully. They looked up at the clouds. And further up. Wed better batten down the hatches, said the Dean. We dont have any hatches.

  Batten down Mrs Whitlow at least. Get the Bursar and the Librarian somewhere safe— They hit the storm. Rincewind dropped into an alley and reflected that hed been in far worse prisons. The Ecksians were a friendly lot, when not drunk or trying to kill you or both. What Rincewind looked for in a good gaol were guards who, instead of ruining everyones night by prowling around the corridors, got together in one room with a few tins and a pack of cards and relaxed. It made it so much more . . . friendly. And, of course, easier to walk past. He turned – and there was the kangaroo, huge and bright and outlined against the sky. Rincewind shrank back for a moment and then realized that it was nothing but an advertising sign on the roof of a building some way off and further down the hill. Someone had rigged up lamps and mirrors below it. It had a hat on, with some stupid holes for its cars to stick out, and it wore a vest as well, but it was certainly the kangaroo. No other kangaroo could possibly smirk like that. And it was holding a tin of beer. Where did you drift in from, curly? said a voice behind him. It was a very familiar voice. It had a sort of complaining wheedle in it. It was a voice that kept looking out of the corners of its eyes and was always ready to dodge. It was a voice you could have used to open a bottle of whine. He turned. And the figure in front of him, except for a few details, was as familiar as the voice. You cant be called Dibbler, said Rincewind. Why not?

  Because— Well, how did you get here?

  What? I just came up Berk Street, said the figure. It had a large hat, and large shorts, and large boots, but in every other respect it was the double of the man who, in Ankh-Morpork,

  was always there after the pubs shut to sell you one of his very special meat pies. Rincewind had a theory that there was a Dibbler everywhere. Suspended from the neck of this one was a tray. On the front of the tray was written Dibblers Cafe de Feet.

  I reckoned Id better get up to the gaol early for a good pitch, said Dibbler. Always gives the crowd an appetite, a good hanging. Can I interest you in anything, mate? Rincewind looked at the end of the alley. The streets were quite busy. As he watched, a couple of guards strolled by. Such as what? he said suspiciously, drawing back into the shadows. Got some good broadsheet ballads about the notorious outlaw theyre gonna top . . . ?

  No, thank you.

  Souvenir piece of the rope theyre gonna hang him with? Authentic! Rincewind looked at the short length of thick string being dangled hopefully in front of him. Some people might say that had a hint of clothesline about it, he said. Dibbler gave the string a look of extreme interest. Obviously we had to unravel it a bit, mate, he said. And some people might pick holes in the suggestion that you could, philosophically speaking, sell lengths of the rope before the hanging? Dibbler paused, his smile not moving. Then he said, Its the rope, right? Three-quarter-inch hemp, the usual stuff. Authentic. Probably even from the same ropemaker. Come on, all Im looking for here is a fair go. Probably its a pure fluke this aint the actual bit thats gonna go round his neck—

  Thats only half an inch thick. Look, I can see the label, it says “Hills Clothesline Co”.

  Does it? Once again Dibbler appeared to be looking at his product for the first time. But the traditions of the Dibbler clan would never let a mere disastrous fact get in the way of a spiel. Its still rope, he averred. Authentic rope. No? No worries. How about some authentic native art? He rummaged in his crowded tray and held up a square of cardboard. Rincewind gave it an appraising look. Hed seen something like this out in the red country, although hed not been certain that it was art in the way Ankh-Morpork understood it. It was more like a map, a history book and a menu all rolled together. Back home, people tied a knot in their handkerchief to remind them

  of things. Out in the hot country there werent any handkerchiefs, so people tied a knot in their thoughts. They didnt paint very many pictures of a string of sausages.

  s called Sausage and Chips Dreaming, said Dibbler. I dont think Ive seen one like that, said Rincewind. Not with the sauce bottle in it as well.

  So what? said Dibbler. Still native. Genuine picture of traditional city tucker, done by a native. A fair go, thats all I ask.

  Ah, suddenly I think I understand. The native in this case, perhaps, being you? said Rincewind. Yep. Authentic. You arguing?

  Oh, come on.

  What? I was born over there in Treacle Street, Bludgeree, and so was my dad. And my granddad. And his dad. I didnt just step off the driftwood like some people I might mention. His ratty little face darkened. Coming over here, taking our jobs . . . What about the little man, eh? All Im askin for is a fair go. For a moment Rincewind contemplated handing himself over to the Watch. Nice to hear someone siding with the rights of the indigenous population, he muttered, checking the street again. Indigenous? What do they know about a days work? Nah, they can go back where they came from too, said Dibbler. They dont want to work.

  Good thing for you, though, I can see that, said Rincewind. Otherwise theyd be taking your job, right? The way I see it, Im more indigenous than them, said Fair Go, pointing an indignant thumb at himself. I earned my indigenuity, I did. Rincewind sighed. Logic could take you only so far. then you had to get out and hop. A fair go, thats what you want, he said. Am I right?

  Yep!

  So . . . is there anyone who you dont want to go back where they came from? Fair Go Dibbler gave this some deep consideration. Well, me, obviously, he said. And my mate Duncan, cos Duncans me mate. And Mrs Dibbler, of course. And some of the blokes down at the fish and chip shop. Lots of people, really.

  Well, Ill tell you what, said Rincewind. I definitely want to go back where I came from.

  Good on yer!

  Your socio-political analysis is certainly work-ing on me.

  Beaut!

  And maybe you can show me how? Like, where the docks are?

  Well, I would, said Dibbler, obviously torn. Only theres going to be this hanging in a few hours and I want to get the meat pies warmed up. As a matter of fact, I heard the hanging had been cancelled, said Rincewind, conspiratorially. The bloke escaped.

  Never!

  He certainly did! said Rincewind. Tm not pulling your raw prawn.

  Did he have any last words?

  “Goodbye,” I think.

  You mean he wasnt in a famous last-stand shoot-out with the Watch?

  Apparently not.

  What kind of escape is that? said Fair Go. Thats no way to behave. I didnt have to come up here, I gave up a good spot at the Galah for this, s not a good hanging without a meat pie. He leaned closer and gave a furtive look both ways before continuing: Say what you like, the Galahs good for business. Their moneys the same as anyone elses, thats what I say.

  Well . . . yes. Obviously. Otherwise itd be . . . different money, said Rincewind. So, since your nights ruined, why not just show me where the docks are? There was still some uncertainty in Dibblers stance. Rincewind swallowed. Hed faced spiders, angry men with spears and bears that dropped on you out of trees, but now the continent was presenting him with its most dangerous challenge. Tell you what, he said, Ill . . . Ill even . . . buy . . . something off you? The rope?

  Not the rope. Not the rope. Um . . . I know this may seem a somewhat esoteric question, but whats in the meat pies?

  Meat.

  And what kind o
f meat?

  Ah, you want one of the gourmet meat pies, then?

  Oh, I see. Thats where you say whats in them?

  Yup.

  Before or after the customers have bitten into them?

  Are you suggesting that my pies aint right?

  Let us say Im inching my way to the possibility that they might be, shall we? All right, Ill try a gourmet pie.

  Good on yer. Dibbler removed a pie from the little heated section of his tray. Now . . . whats the meat? Cat?

  Do you mind? Muttons cheapern cat, said Dibbler, upending the pie into a dish. Well, thats— Rincewinds face screwed up. Oh, no, youre pouring pea soup all over it too. Why does everyone always pour pea soup over it!

  No worries, mate. Puts a lining on your stomach, said Dibbler, producing a red bottle. And whats that?

  The cut de grass, mate.

  Youre tipping a meat pie into a dish of pea soup and now you want me to eat it with . . . with tomato sauce on it?

  Pretty colours, aint they? said Fair Go, handing Rincewind a spoon. Rincewind prodded the pie. It rebounded gently off the side of the dish. Well, now . . . Hed eaten Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibblers sausages-in-a-bun, and Disembowel-Meself-Honourably Dibhalas funny-coloured antique eggs. And hed survived, although there had been a few minutes when hed hoped he wouldnt. Hed eaten Al-Jiblahs highly suspicious cous-cous, drunk the terrible yak-butter tea made by May-I-Never- Achieve-Enlightenment Dhiblang, forced down the topless, bottomless smorgasbord of Dib Diblossonson and tried not to chew the lumps of unmentionable blubber purveyed by May-I- Be-Kicked-In-My-Own-Ice-Hole Dibooki (his stomach heaved at the memory of that – after all, it was one thing to butcher dead beached whales and quite another just to leave them there until they exploded into bite sized chunks of their own accord). As for the green beer made by Swallow-Me-Own-Blowdart Dlang-Dlang . . . Hed drunk and eaten all these things. Everywhere in the world, someone turned up out of some strange primal mould to sell him a really dreadful regional delicacy. And this was just a pie, after all. How bad could it be? No, put it another way . . . How much worse could it be?

  He swallowed a mouthful. Good, eh? said Fair Go. My gods, said Rincewind. Theyre not just any mushy peas, said Fair Go, slightly disconcerted by the fact that Rincewind was staring wildly at nothing. Theyre mushed by a champion pea musher.

  Good grief . . . said Rincewind. Are you all right, mister?

  Its . . . everything I expected . . . said Rincewind. Now, mister, it aint that bad—

  Youre certainly a Dibbler.

  What kind of thing is that to say?

  You put pies upside down in runny peas and then put sauce on them. Someone actually sat down one day, after midnight if Im any judge, and thought that would be a good idea. No one will ever believe this one. Rincewind looked at the submerged pie. Thats going to make the story about the land of the giant walking plum puddings look very tame, I dont mind telling you. No wonder you people drink so much beer . . . [20] He stepped out into the flickering lamplight of :he street, shaking his head. You actually eat the pies here, he said mournfully, and looked up into the face of the warder. There were several watchmen behind him. Thats him! Rincewind nodded cheerfully. Gday! he said. Two little thuds were his home-made sandals bouncing on the street. The sea steamed and crackling balls of lightning zipped across its surface like drops of water on a hotplate. The waves were too big to be waves, but about the right size for mountains. Ponder looked up from the deck only once, just as the boat began to slide down a trough that gaped like a canyon. Next to him, and gripping his leg, the Dean groaned.

 
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