Well the the rough draft at least, it still has to be edited by my mate Pam...
They ate breakfast together in a cool, stone floored kitchen. Great sizzling slabs of bacon, fried eggs and buttered toast accompanied by steaming hot cups of tea. Stanley cooked himself seconds but the boys were stuffed.
While they sat and Stanley busied himself at the ancient stove in the corner they chattered about what to do, where to go, the obvious stumbling point being that they had no idea within 50 miles of where they actually were at present. Stanley sat down around the table with them bringing a great pile of fresh toast and the tea pot, and joined in. "See now" he said, while liberally buttering a round of toast. They watched, fascinated as he bit off the corners and began to trim down the sides unevenly with his teeth, not entirely sure of what it was they were supposed to 'see'. When Stanley was happy with his molar machinations he held up the remainder of the toast, and with butter running down his fingers, declared "that's Devon that is" pointing at his masticated marvel. "Yoir 'ere", he pointed vaguely to some point in the centre, "Cornwall's thataway, Barnstaple's up 'ere on the coast, and Dartmoor's over in that direction. That be a nice drive", he said contemplatively, "but you don't want to be gettin' lost up there". And promptly popped the entire county into his mouth.
"Or else", he said over his shoulder, as he stood to clear the dishes, "you moight want to stay 'ere for a day or two".
Breakfast was free gratis, there was something so simply friendly in the gesture and the manner that it was offered that brooked any suggestion of offering payment. They washed the dishes together and tidied away the plates and then retreated into the bar. They lit cigarettes and Stanley found a pipe and packed it. "What would we do?" asked Derek.
"Well, here's a thing, do you fish?"
""Not much" said Colin, "but where".
"There's fish in pond" said Stanley, "and I've got rods you can borrow"
"Sounds good to me", offered Derek glancing out of the window onto what was becoming a beautiful day, "a lazy day".
And Stanley sealed the deal with the offer of a packed lunch.
They pottered around, Derek and Colin collected the few glasses from the previous evening and cleared the fire while Stanley made for the kitchen. He came back with a brown paper bag containing doorstop cheese and onion sandwiches and a stone demijohn which he filled to the brim with cider. The fishing rods, although so far unnoticed, had been obvious all along, pushed over the low beams of the bar. He brought them down and shook one gently dislodging cobwebs and dust, it was all set up ready to go with a float and hook held on to the spool of the reel.
"There's only two" said Colin
"That's roit" said Stanley, "Oi aint got time to be arsin' around fishin' av Oi?". "Oi've a business to run, now bugger off and enjoy yornselves!"
And so they did.
They sat on their sleeping bags on the gravel down by the pond and idly whiled away the morning. The little floats on their lines never so much as bobbed nor twitched, not a sign of biting fish. They neither knew nor cared what they were fishing for and only vaguely hoped that whatever it was that it liked cheese. The first few attempts at casting in had been a failure as the bread that they had originally used to bait the hooks had fallen off in transit, but when they experimented with little lumps of cheese from the sandwiches it stayed put and landed with a soft plop to sink below the sparkling surface.
The morning was warm and hazy, the caravan - now a dusty grey - sat amongst it's own meadow of tall grass where butterflies flitted amongst wild poppies and fennel and the only sound was the soft drone of the occasional bee. The stone flagon was soon opened on the premise that the pub was only a few minutes away if they should run out and the temptation, which they succumbed to, was to simply lean back and doze. Derek sat up to take a swig and peered out across the pond. He saw the rusty truck roof and it's three snow white occupants lazily sunning themselves, and a thought occurred to him: If he were a fish, then the submerged nooks and crannies of the truck would be a fine place to be. Momentarily enthused by his own genius he reeled in his line, replaced the cheese with a fresh lump and stood to cast out.
He took aim and watched the cheesy morsel on the hook arc through the air, it looked to be a good shot and he waited for the plop, but there was none. Instead the line landed on the roof of the van and stayed there held briefly but calamitously by the insubstantial float. Just long enough in fact for the nearest of the ducks to take an interest, reach out its neck and gobble up the cheese.
"Bollocks" he muttered. Not initially registering the extent of the problem.
He gave the line the slightest of tugs and was vaguely alarmed to see the ducks head move fractionally towards him. He pulled a little harder and the duck, eyes open now, extended its neck in his direction.
He gave Colin a dig in the ribs with his foot, "washamara?"
"Erm, we may have a problem"
Colin sat up, "why are you pointing at that duck with your rod?"
"I'm not pointing you tosser, we're attached"
"Ah" grinned Colin "then yes, I'd say you do have a problem".
At around this point the duck stretched it's wings and uncurled onto it's feet. It had so far been gazing at them without appearing to be overly concerned, but as it began to move so its head began to swivel against the tension of the line. It decided to pull back. Derek was still talking to Colin and hesitated momentarily before compensating for the sudden movement by his feathered adversary in this little tug of war. They looked over and saw the duck, clearly distressed now, decide that enough was quite definitely enough. With a flap and an ungainly waddle it made for the water. Unfortunately it made for the water in the wrong direction. Its dash and Derek's slow reactions flipped it up over and onto its back, where it flapped around like a wild thing, quacking up a thunder, spilling white feathers into the air and the other two ducks into the pond. Somehow it found its feet and, making the connection between the boys on the shore and it's own discomfort, tried once again to exit in the opposite direction - with similar results.
They both looked on, mouths open, at the commotion on the tin roof until at last Colin said "drop the rod, drop the bloody rod".
But Derek didn't think that was a good idea, an instinct told him that the rod would float and that the poor fouled foul would only drag it around the lake. "No!" he said without explaining.
"Well cut the line"
"No we have to get the hook out!"
"Oh yes right, of course, and the cheese? - do you want the fucking cheese back too?"
"We can't let it run around with 20 yards of frigging fishing line hanging out of it?!!"
And after a long pause, Colin agreed, "Guess not" he said, "unless you fancy a unusual kite".
They quickly came up with a rudimentary plan while the duck's thrashings ebbed and flowed atop the van. The route to the right around the pond offered the shortest distance from van to the bank, so Derek started to let out some line. For a moment the commotion ceased as the duck, given scope to manoeuvre, slipped over the side only to start a cacophony of quacking complaint as soon as it hit the water and its progress was again impeded. They both set off down the bank, Derek slowly but surely retrieving the line and towing the struggling duck ashore.
It took an age. They got it to within a yard of the bank where, on inspection, a ragged hole in its beak and the offending hook were clearly visible. Fearing to cause further damage Derek simply held it there while Colin edged towards it in the shallow water. It eyed him warily and scooted from side to side, he put his hand around the line and inched towards the beleaguered bird and wrapped one hand around it's neck.
The duck must have thought that this was the final stroke in some devilish plan to end its life. It thrashed his arm and face with it's wings making an awful din, it's neck was surprisingly slender under the thick white feathers. Colin was sure it must surely do itself a damage when suddenly Derek appeared by their side and held down first one and then the other of its wings, still keeping a firm hold of the rod. Colin quickly wrapped his free arm over Derek’s hands until the duck was held in the crook of his elbow, its neck still held in his hand.
Together they retreated up the bank.
"There, that wasn't so bad was it" said Colin to the duck.
The duck stared back at him balefully as if to say, "No? Well you fucking try it then".
"Hold it up” said Derek, and Colin did.
Derek approached slowly, not knowing if the mangled mandible caused the duck any physical pain or not, but not wishing to alarm it further. He got within inches, and reached to swap his hand for Colin's around the creature’s neck. In the instant that Colin released his grip the duck's neck sprang forward and it attached itself to Derek's face, biting his top lip fiercely with its beak.
"Trust you to catch a homosexual duck" said Colin.
"not phuffin phunny" phaid Derek.
Derek slowly reached up, wrapped his fingers around the back of the ducks head and gave it an experimental tug. It stayed fast, and brought tears to his eyes. What's more there was the unmistakable bitter taste of blood in his mouth.
Colin lowered his head and peered at them both. The duck appeared to have Derek in a death grip, there was a steady drip of blood down his chin and a very determined look in his feathered friend's eye. He motioned upwards with his hand and lifted the duck to accommodate Derek as he slowly rose form a crouching positions.
"I think it's a stand off" said Colin
"puff" said Derek
"Twat" offered Colin
"nooo puff" said Derek and pointed behind him in the general direction of the pub.
It took a considerable time and much discomfort, (for Derek), to negotiate their way to the pub. Each slip or misplaced step, and anything that the duck mistook for a further threat on its wellbeing, was accompanied by a muffled complaint from Derek.
When Sydney emerged to Colin's shouted, "Syd....Syd!!" he was greeted by a very strange sight indeed. There in the front door was a boy, holding a duck, holding another boy holding a fishing rod, by the top lip.
"Don't want none o you circus types 'ere" he said, stifling a laugh.
"Just help me get this frigging thing off his face"
Stanley came for a closer look. He saw the jagged hole and the hook still connected to the line and immediately understood what had happened, though not exactly how the duck had become connected to Derek's face.
"Oi thought you were going to fish", he said, "not duck, that's a different sport altogether". And then added. "Don't look too happy do 'e"?
"He's had a bit of a rough day" said Colin
Stanley thought for a moment and then with an "Oi'll be back in a tick" went off to the kitchen. He came back a few moments later with scissors and a teaspoon and knelt on the floor to examine the full extent of the predicament. He was not overly concerned with a steady but slow drip of blood from Derek's chin, he was in no imminent danger of bleeding to death. Slowly he reached out and circled the line in thumb and forefinger a yard from the protagonists faces. They both followed his movements with a wary eye to see what he had in mind. He brought this hand up towards them, slowly, ever so slowly and nipped the line twixt finger and thumb six inches from their faces. The scissors, in his other hand appeared stage right, moving again very slowly, so as not to startle, where they opened fractionally and then closed on the line with a soundless snip. Stanley put the scissors down and held the rod and nodded at Derek who released it so that he could put it gently on the floor.
The feathered fiend evidently thought that the scissors had been wielded with a more sinister purpose and crapped over Colin's elbow onto the floor.
So far so good. With the steady solemn hand of a surgeon Stanley retrieved the spoon from his breast pocket. Holding it by the handle he offered it inch by inch towards the beasts beak where a slight gap, the width of Derek's flattened lip, was evident between the upper and lower bill. Ever so gently he tried to introduce the spoon into the gap but the duck, sensing a threat to the quid pro quo, immediately clamped down harder on it's hostage. Derek let out a startled groan and the drip of blood increased to a small steady flow.
Stanley retreated and stood up, scratching his head he muttered "Well Oi don't know, Oim flummoxed".
Just at that moment a child's voice from the vicinity of the doorway chimed in, "Stick a pencil up it's arse!".
Those who could, being Colin and Stanley, turned to look. A tiny befreckled urchin with a flop of blond hair stood all of four feet tall in the doorway. The ragamuffin wore baggy short trousers, a threadbare t-shirt and incongruous oversize carpet slippers. He was grinning from ear to ear obviously enjoying the show and repeated his advice again, "a pencil, up the arse".
"The duck's arse?" asked Colin solemnly.
"'Course" said the child equally seriously, "don't be darft".
So far Derek had been unable to declare his feelings about the antics of the past hour, due in no small part to having a large aquatic bird attached to his lip. It hurt, it hurt like hell. After an initial numbness every small movement hurt and bar having the bird instantly and painlessly removed, Derek's next requirement for a relatively happy existence was for everyone to be quite, quite still. He would happily feed through a straw until the duck slept or even passed away. It is a common syndrome for captives to build up a rapport with their captors over time, an empathy based on shared perspective. He had become certain that his lip was being held hostage by the duck, it being convinced that some mortal blow would befall it the moment it let go. And so they were balanced, precariously. The child's suggestion of introducing something into the duck's bottom filled Derek with horror. He had stared long into that beady black eye, he had learned to admire the stubborn will of his assailant and knew full well that an anally offended adversary would exact a terrible toll on his lip.
To make his point understood by the group Derek very careful raised his right arm and extended the index and middle fingers.
"Shame" conceded Stanley, "it sounded loik a good idea to me".
"Anywise Tom, where's yorn pa?"
"Oim ere" said a bigger version of the child.
"Get moi bloody slippers home you little sod", and cuffed his son around the head raising a puff of dust.
"Aw da', oi want to watch" said the boy, and retreated behind his father and stuck his head out from behind the jamb of the door.
"Looks loik yor in a roit pickle"
And before anyone could explain, or indeed utter a word, the Wurzel Gummage figure produced a (well used) handkerchief from his shirt pocket and dropped it over the ducks head.
Deprived of it's view, and consequently of any impression of immediate danger, the duck lessened and quickly relinquished it's grip. Derek who had been unconsciously pulling away, stumbled back, tripped and sat back on the floor. Now unimpeded, blood welled up in his lip, covering his teeth and ran off his chin in a steady stream giving him the appearance of a startled but well fed vampire.
Stanley worked quickly. He put his hands under the handkerchief and with a deft flick retrieved the hook outwards so that the barb did no further damage, "take he round the back and let the poor little blighter go" he said to Colin, who did.
Later they sat around the fire chortling over mugs of cider. Closer inspection had shown the cut on Derek's lip to be deep but only a quarter of an inch long and had stopped bleeding almost immediately when, much to Derek's dismay, Stanley had dabbed it with iodine. Drinking cider was fine, but he had to be careful when he laughed. They amused themselves conjecturing on Natty's demise and decided that he had stopped to tie his shoe lace, or dropped his lighter, but he'd obviously stooped too low, too close to the pond and been dragged by the nose to a watery grave by the duckfiend.
By common consent they retrieved their sleeping bags and spent the night on the bench seats in the bar. They left the next day, with a packed lunch, waving from the car to Stanley who stood smiling, hands on hips, in the doorway of the "Sign's in Cellar".