The Battle of Barney's Bawls
by Norma Williams
There is nothing more exciting than a new addition to your family, so when the vets rang and asked us to pick up a large albino hob called Barney, we all piled into the Land Rover and set off for the surgery as fast as we could.
"Paul sound a bit stressed," said Mother.
"He sounded desperate," said Jim.
"He looks desperate," remarked Ted.
Paul was standing in the car park, his face was red, one leg in plaster and he was looking at the Senior Partner's Range Rover which had a large dent in it. The surgery door was smashed and loud crashing sounds could be heard from inside.
"Come out you little swine," howled Paul, hobbling towards the steps.
The crashing sounds got louder, a pill bottle whizzed through a broken window and bounced off the injured Range Rover.
"I've got to pay for that," moaned Paul, "and the roof. Apprently we aren't covered for ferrets. It would be alright," he added bitterly, "if a wildebeest or an elphant fell off the roof... but not bloomin' ferrets."
"How on earth did he fall off the roof?"
"He didn't," Paul said sulkily, "I did. I was chasing him and I fell off, straight on top of the boss's truck."
"How did the ferret get on the roof?"
"Oh Gawd knows, straight up the chimney probably, he's like greased lightening... he's been round Woolworths twice, he's made a nest in the pic 'n' mix... we've had the police round and all sorts..."
"Well I think you've frightened him," said Mother with a sniff.
"You catch him then."
They opened the door and peered round. The surgery was littered with glass and pill bottles and there was a strong smell of angry ferret. Sitting on top of the drugs cupboard was a large albino hob. He was holding a brown bottle - his next missile - and he glared down at them.
"Would you like to come home and live with me?"
"No, I wouldn't you mad old bat. Push off and make someone else's life miserable. Do you know," said the ferret angrily, "do you bloomin' well know what he wants to do to me," he pointed a trembling paw at Paul, who was trying to hide behind the dog biscuits.
"It's a routine procedure," came Paul's muffled voice, "you won't feel a thing."
"You have it done then," said the ferret. "I was born with two and obviously I need two."
"You'll smell much nicer," encouraged Mother.
"Are you saying I smell?"
"A tiny, tiny bit ferrety perhaps..."
"Oh don't say that..." moaned Paul, "you'll set him off again."
The ferret began rummaging in the drugs cupboard again, he pulled out a bottle and peered at the label.
"Acey, promey, whatdoyoumacallit... and Immobilon, immobilon.." he muttered
"Grab him," screamed Paul, "he could wipe out half of Staffordshire with that lot...
At that momment the senior partner appeared from behind. He was wearing a cunning expression and carried a huge net on a stick. He swung this at the ferret, missed, raised himself with some difficulty, swiped again and captured Barney who began to spit and tear at the net. The vet gave a scream of triumph.
"That's for my Range Rover you little *******."
Then he fell flat, hit on the head with 500 mls of descending horse tranquilliser.
They drove home with Barney, semi-restrained in his net, gnawing at the bars of the carry box.
"Well, he can't have his operation today," said Mother, "he's far too upset. His blood pressure must be right up."
"He can't have his operation because he's crippled both vets," said Ted, and they pulled over to let the ambulance pass.
"We'll bring him back next week."
"That's what you think," said Barney.
Barney settled in very quickly, all things considered. When not threatened with surgery to his dangly bits he proved to be a sleepy, smelly, little chap. He doesn't bother with the usual ferret things, playing, digging, and what have you. Not to put to finer point on it, Barney's a total slob. A diet of toffee whirls, sherbet fizzes and warm Cornish pasties hadn't done much for his appearance or his figure, but it was what he was used to, he enjoyed it and wasn't pleased with his new, restricted menu of dried ferret food and water.
"Is this it?" he demanded, staring down at his little crockery dish.
"Where's my pudding?"
"What's pudding?" asked Ted
"What's pudding? What's bloody pudding?" roared Barney. "I'll tell you what pudding is, it's what she shovels down herself after she's had a decent meal. Oi Tubby," he yelled, spying Mother tottering down the garden. "Where's the proper food? I can't live on this rubbish." He kicked the dish, screeched with pain, and began swearing again
"Gawd I 'ate 'umans," he moaned. "If they're not stuffing you down smelly rabbit holes, then you're being pushed into pipes and told to run like the clappers. I was quite happy living wild," he said sadly. "I was fending for myself, and doing very nicely thank you until that bloody vet turned up. I thought it couldn't get any worse until I met 'er..." He glared towards Mother who was innocently picking runner beans.
"I thought you lived in Woolworths," said Ted.
"That's wild enough," said Barney indignantly. "It's bloody dangerous in the pic 'n' mix when the kids get out of school. You need your wits about you, greedy little swines they are..."
"What happened to the rabbit job?" asked Ted
Barney looked a bit shifty.
"Got a medical discharge, on account of my phobia!" he replied.
"No. Rabbits," Barney shuddered. "Bloomin' dangerous, rabbits. I kid you not. I went down this 'ole, and fetched up down the back end of this 'uge great ginger buck. I bit it on the bum, as you do, and it clouted me with its great big dirty feet, then it set the kids on me. I just got back to the carry box, shot in and slammed the door. I was surrounded by hundreds of 'orribly smelly rabbits, all floppy ears, bulging eyes and twitchy noses. I didn't come out for a week, and when I did I got the sack. I thought things couldn't get any worse, but then, I 'adn't met 'er 'ad I? She keeps wanting to cuddle me, bloomin' disgustin' it is, hands everywhere... Oh watch out, here it comes..."
Mother trotted up.
"Would Barney like his tummy tickled?"
"No I wouldn't, you horrible old trout. Why don't you go and grope one of your own species?"
"Oh who's a little Mr Grumpy boots today then?"
"You've got to get me out of here," said Barney desperately. "I'd rather be pushed down rabbit holes than speed any time with her. Gawd she's ugly..."
Just at that moment Wayne wandered past. It was late autumn and he was beginning to find the dustbins very interesting, and the compost heap was all nice and ripe with oozy bits which had fermented over the summer and which would be very useful in a new batch of alco-pop. He began to firk busily, and soon found a nice slimy piece of rotted cabbage. He hooked it out with a claw, picked off a fat maggot and gave his prize an appreciative sniff, then a lick.
"Oi!" said Barney
Wayne jumped and turned round, hugging his cabbage to his chest.
"Get me out of here," pleaded Barney. Wayne looked at him suspiciously.
"Why should I?"
"Because they're trying to cut me whatnots off that's why," said Barney bitterly.
Wayne sniggered coarsely.
"You'll be two stone lighter then, won't you," he cackled.
"If you'll help me," said Barney in a wheedling voice, "I'll get you all the booze you could ever drink, and dirty great big piles of sweets, toffees mainly, all different colours and stuffed with additives..."
"Where's all this then?" asked Wayne, his eyes going very narrow.
"Have you ever been to Woolworths?"
"They've gone," screamed Mother, "all my ferrets have gone! I'll never see them again."
"Yes you will," said Jim grimly, "they're on the telly."
The 'bongs' of the 1 o'clock news sounded and the newsreader, clutching a sheaf of papers and looking very serious appeared.
"And for our lead story today we go to Market Street in Lichfield where a gang of... er..." he peered at the autocue and said incredulously, "weasels... bloody weasels... is this a wind-up?"
The camera switched to the Lichfield branch of Woolworths. Outside the shiny front door was a gang of Bog Wood weasels, twelve ferrets, Sid, Barry, and the moles and Gordon and Jeremy, the bats. They were all carrying banners, and while Barney's had stuck to the task in question (in large red letters it said "Save Barney's bawls") the others had wandered from this point.
Ted's banner said "I like sweets".
The weasels said, "Alcoholics are people too, buy me a drink".
Alice's said "Tom Jones owes me two million pounds in kit maintenance". (When questioned on this amount which seemed excessive Alice did admit that she was lying, but thought it worth a go). Sid had followed his own agenda with "join your local library today". Whatever had been written on the bats' banner, we shall never know because the police had confiscated and burnt it. Barry's banner, rather sadly, just said "HELP".
Barney proved to be a natural interviewee.
"And we'll go live to Lichfield now," said the newsreader, through gritted teeth. "Hello, Barney, can you hear me?"
"Too right I can hear you," said Barney, scowling at the camera. "How would you like your whatsits chopped off?"
The newsreader shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
"Well... I suppose... It's possibly for the best in your case... perhaps?"
For the bloody best," howled Barney. "He..." he pointed towards Paul who had hobbled up to see what all the fuss was about, "he's got a bloomin' great knife and he's goin' to hack about at me thingies... and you say that's for the best..."
Most of the men watching began to squirm, and someone shouted, "It's a shame" and "Leave him alone". A little old lady whacked Paul on his bad leg with her walking stick. "You cruel sod," she shouted, and turning to the camera she began to chant:
"Save Barney's bawls. Save Barney's bawls."
The whole town took up the chant, and Barney was lifted up and carried down Market Street in triumph. The procession passed Paul and Mother who were cringing in the doorway of Dorothy Perkins, where Barney turned with a grin of triumph and made a very rude gesture towards them, then the procession passed on and into McDonald's where the little old lady treated Barney and the weasels to a slap up meal, and then the whole town went to Yates Wine Lodge and got very drunk indeed, and everyone agreed they hadn't had so much fun since the Town Hall burnt down.
After that The Sun got hold of the story and that really, there was never any chance of Barney having his operation. He came home to live at the farm on the understanding that his whatsits would be left where they were and that once a week he would be taken to Lichfield for a Big Mac and all the pic 'n' mix he could eat. Paul's leg eventually got better, but the Senior Partner's Range Rover was never the same and the newsreader had to take a fortnight's sick leave with his nerves. Barney's been voted the most important citizen in Lichfield (after all what did Samuel Johnson and Erasmus Darwin ever do for anyone), and the 25th September is now Barney's Day when everyone goes out and has a bawl.
So if you want to visit Barney, please come. He can be seen any day lying fast asleep, flat on his back with his legs apart (he's a well made little chap). He's also smelly, fat and probably has blocked arteries, but he's blissfully, blissfully happy.
First Published Spring/Summer 2006