The ventriloquist Claud Plon was out for a spin in his jalopy when he had a prang. He hit a lamppost, the collision with which rent and twisted the bonnet of the jalopy, exposing part of the engine, which belched forth jets of steam.
“Oops!” said his dummy, a puppet called Bonko. Bonko was a sock stuffed with kapok who had a couple of glass beads sewn on to serve as eyes.
“Sorry about that, Bonko, I wasn’t looking where I was going,” said the ventriloquist, “Are you all right?”
“I think I have suffered a whiplash injury,” replied Bonko, who may have been lying, as to the untrained eye he looked perfectly okay.
“Goodness gracious!” said Claud Plon, “We shall have to get you to the doll hospital.”
“Why on earth would we go to a doll hospital?” asked Bonko, “I am not a doll. I am a sock stuffed with kapok with a couple of glass beads sewn on to serve as eyes.”
“Yes, I see your point,” said Plon, “Then what about a puppet clinic?”
“Is there such a place as a puppet clinic?” asked Bonko.
“I have heard tell there is one in Pointy Town,” said the ventriloquist.
“But we are miles and miles away,” said Bonko, “And I fear my whiplash may be fatal, for I can already feel myself succumbing to faintness and a lack of oxygen to the brain, pins and needles, darting pains behind my glass beads, and the gradual oozing of the very life out of me.”
This time Bonko was definitely lying, or at least embroidering the truth. But Claud Plon was both devoted and gullible. It would never occur to him that Bonko might be trying to pull the wool over his eyes, which in the ventriloquist’s case were real, working eyes, not mere sewn-on glass beads. There had been occasions in the past when people suggested that Bonko might be a mendacious fantasist, and Plon had been so inflamed with outrage that he had beaten the accusers about the head with a shovel. Bonko egged him on, urging him to bash and bash and bash until the bashee was dead.
Plon was now in something of a panic. Bonko, who was a fine judge of distance, was absolutely correct that they were very far away from Pointy Town and its puppet clinic. Also, the prang had been severe enough to render the jalopy motionless. Crank it as frantically as he could, it was not going anywhere. Steam continued to hiss from the bonnet.
“What are we going to do?” wailed Plon.
“You had better think of something quickly, because I am fading fast,” said Bonko, “It is as if I am in a long, dark tunnel, and there is an unearthly light towards which I feel impelled to go.”
“Don’t go into the light!” screamed Plon, remembering certain supernatural thriller films he had seen.
“But it is such an attractive light,” said Bonko, “I feel drawn to it.”
Claud Plon could think of nothing but to repeat his shrieked words. At which point the jalopy burst into flames. The ventriloquist and his dummy would surely have been engulfed and burned to a crisp had not a big red fire engine screeched to a halt beside them, bells clanging, and the fire been doused by untold gallons of water spurting from a hose trained upon the jalopy by three heroic firemen. Seconds later, there was further clanging, and an ambulance pulled up, out of which poured three heroic paramedics. They grabbed the ventriloquist and shoved him with skilled gentleness onto a stretcher.
“Never mind about me,” he cried, “Save Bonko!”
But as he cried out a needle was injected into his arm and a fast-acting narcotic coursed through his veins and he lost consciousness.
Claud Plon awoke next day, flat on his back in a bed in a ward of the Hattie Jacques Memorial Hospital. His brain was dizzy, he bore a few singe-marks here and there, but was otherwise as fit as a fiddle. He looked wildly around, but there was no sign of Bonko. He pressed a buzzer at his bedside, summoning an angel of mercy. Plon raved; was not understood; and was drugged back into unconsciousness.
There is, high on a hill in a rustic backwater some miles from Pointy Town, a big grim crenellated smoke-blackened mansion, once the home of robber barons but now a home for the bewildered and befuddled and frankly bonkers. Claud Plon, the ventriloquist and one-time star of the variety theatre, has lived here for twenty years, having been delivered on a stretcher, manacled, at dead of night. In his room in one of the towers, he raves and mutters. He goes barefoot, for the staff have a standing instruction never to allow him anywhere near socks. His simple tunic and trousers are fastened with zips, for it is thought best not to give him buttons, so easily mistaken for beads of glass. He has no visitors.
There is, at the foot of a hill in a rustic backwater some miles from Pointy Town, a rubbish dump. Over the years it has grown as it is piled ever higher with waste, things discarded, things bent and broken, things forgotten and abandoned, big and small, from lollipop sticks to wrecked jalopies. Within this midden, open to the elements, frayed around the edges and still bearing the singe-marks from a fire twenty years ago, there is a sock. It was once stuffed with kapok, much of which has fallen out. It once had two glass beads sewn on, where now there is only one. Sometimes urchins and wastrels and beggars will come trudging through the waste in search of scraps and scantlings. It is said that, when the air is still and the gulls cease shrieking, a voice can be heard, from somewhere in the dump, a peevish, rancorous, cursing voice, spitting with vituperation.
“Let me into the fucking light!” it cries.