Bubbles surge from froth. Hot pan, hot pan. Do the bubbles carry infection, disease, bad vapour, the sickness unto death? We shall find out. We coax some bubbles into a bubble-container box, and cart it to the bench. We have apparatus on the bench, with which we can apply all sorts of tests to the bubbles. Testing is overseen by our captain. He deters the sort of larking about to which we are tempted when we get to test things with the apparatus on the bench. Our captain has a Bjorn Borgish air. He is glacial in the midst of pandaemonium.
When we complete the bubble tests it is clear that infection is present. And not just present, virulent. Thank heaven for our suits and serums! Our captain raises one Roger Moore eyebrow, a signal, we know, to cool the pan and diminish the bubbling. This is duly done, but done ineptly, and there is an escape of gas. The gas is more toxic than the bubbles. Hooters are activated.
We gather in the field as per our drill. There are cows in the field, munching vegetation. We have already tested the vegetation and passed it with bright flags, as we do, and so we know the cows are safe. Our captain counts us. He counts the cows, too, for no apparent reason. It is the same number of cows as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow. Surely our captain knows that?
Perhaps he does not, anymore. This may be the first sign. Diligent in his duty, our captain was the last one out. We were all gathered in the field, in our designated rectangular patch, while he was still inside. He must have breathed in some of the gas. And those cufflinks he sports. So elegant, so chic, yet so sharp at the edges! Could a chance swipe of cufflink have rent a rip in the bubble box? Might our captain have swallowed an escaped bubble, or even the whole sample?
He has counted us, and he has counted the cows, and now he is counting the clouds. Poor captain! The gas and the bubbles are ravaging his cranial innards. Synapses are snapping in all the wrong ways, or snapping at the wrong time, or not snapping at all. He flaps his arms as he carries on his imbecilic counting. And now we can see bubbles coming out of his ears!
We round upon the nitwit who muffed the pan-cooling. We berate him for the catastrophe he has caused. He is infuriatingly insouciant, leaning against a cow and lighting a cigarette. It is like berating Noel Coward. But what is that poking out of his breast pocket? It looks very much like a green cardboard triangle as carried by the Communists in at least one Mickey Spillane novel. Could it be there is a traitor in our midst?
Our captain is now counting the birds in the sky. Somehow he has managed to get them to keep still for him, in mid-flight or -swoop or -dive, as he counts. At least his derangement has not atrophied his captaincy of the elements! We can take advantage of the stillness to subjugate the Bolshevik. And we do.
Later, in the canteen, our captain congratulates us on our quick wits. He still has bubbles pouring out of his ears, but he has stopped counting things for the time being and seems more like his usual self. He has suggested we lay him out on the bench and test him with the apparatus, so we will do that after teatime.
The most curious thing about the whole episode is that the number of cows in the field seems to be getting progressively fewer. I have counted them over and over again, in fact I am still counting them, but each time I count, there is one less cow to be counted. And yet the birds are once again in motion in the sky above, the Commie is bound and chained and tethered, and the bubbles are pouring out of my ears, too, just as they are from our captain’s, and I am flapping my arms, huge energetic flapping movements, flap, flap, flap.