The Custard Tart’s Revenge (part two)

Read part one of The Custard Tart’s Revenge here…


Barty and I brought Teen back to earth with a muffled thump of their crepe-rubber soled platform shoes. I reckoned they couldn’t be more than four foot ten in their stockings, but the shoes gave them an extra four inches at least.

‘Now,’ I said, patting them on the shoulder. ‘Don’t let it go to your head. I don’t want to hear of you trying out Caz’s persuasion tricks…’

Teen turned pink around the edges, like a partially boiled shrimp. I peered at them in their tinted goggles and ratty tee-shirts, and tried to imagine them using their wiles on our potential investors, but gave up the attempt. Still, Caz had been a Teen when she joined me and Barty. How long ago was that? Long enough that Caz’s personality had rounded out considerably, and now she was irreplaceable. Who knows? Maybe the Teen would be equally as important to our development.

‘Caz,’ I draped my arm around her neck, pulling her in tight. ‘Have we got a spare pair of SpeedySteam StoveTM (Patent Pending) guns?’ I pointed to her attachments.

She lifted her arms and gazed, astounded at their presence, at the Strap-on SpeedySteam Stoves strapped to each forearm. They looked like Gatling guns with added oxygen tanks. Lethal in her hands, and no safer when they were unattached and thrown into a corner.

‘No,’ she said. ‘Just these.’ A look that might have been fear – or heartburn (not surprising, after the custard tart; I had insisted we eat it, we weren’t going to waste those ingredients) – crossed her face. ‘I’m not sure it’s safe, Chef.’

‘Well, we have to do something. What was that exciting idea you had before we went and collected Teen?’

She perked up and rolled her shoulders, settling down into her liberty bodice like a mother duck sitting on her ducklings.

‘I thought…’

Teen tapped me on the arm. ‘Can I borrow her things?’ they asked.

Caz rolled her eyes and stripped the guns from her arms. ‘Go for it,’ she said. ‘They’re armed and dangerous, I warn you.’ Teen nodded, gingerly took the SpeedySteam Stoves and strapped them to their own arms.

‘So, as I was saying,’ Caz said. Barty picked her up and moved her to one side.

‘Here,’ he said to me. ‘Try this.’ He pointed his nozzle at my ever-ready goblet and it fizzed with..

‘What’s this?’ I asked. ‘Champagne? Where did you get that?’

‘Excuse me!’ Caz shouted into Barty’s one working ear.

He ignored her. ‘I found this extra button, look…’ He turned his left arm elbow-out and pointed to a small nubbin, almost hidden away under the wine filled tubes. ‘Makes anything fizzy. You want to push my button, Caz? Get fizzy?’

Caz snorted and fisted away his hand. ‘Don’t you hover over me like that.’ She turned away, muttering, ‘Fizzy. I’ll give you fizzy’.

Teen looked up, alert like a puppy that’s scented a new bone. ‘Fizzy? Can I borrow those too, Chef?’

‘Go for it.’ I nodded to Barty, who scowled, but stripped the pistols from his arms and passed them to Teen. They grinned at the three of us, and scurried away to play with their new found toys.

Barty sighed. ‘Were we ever that thrilled with ironmongery, Chef?’ he asked.

I sighed back. ‘We must have been, or how else did we get here?’

Caz sighed, making the full threesome. ‘We used to play those games, didn’t we? Get wet and make bubbles?’

Our glances ricocheted one to the next and we stopped sighing. ‘We certainly did, Caz,’ I said. ‘And we’re not too old to make more, are we?’

It’s a sad fact that the older you get, the less antiquated you feel. Until your bones crackle, and mine had started to do that a while back. The memory of Caz, Barty, me and the bubbles was a perfect, small moment in time, but for all my fine words, there was no way I was getting down on my knees to do that again.

I snapped my head from side-to-side to free up my synapses and breathed in sharply.

‘Caz. That idea of yours?’

She opened her mouth, and her pearly teeth triggered more memories. I pushed them away. Now was not the time to think of Caz’s tooth tricks. I brought my attention back to the present as she took a step towards me and rolled her shoulders, preparing to expound on her stupendous plan to get us out of the mire.

A shriek broke the tension in the room.

‘The Teen.’ I shifted Caz to one side, plucked Barty’s hat from the table, pushed it into his astonished hands, and raced into the kitchen. The Teen was precious, both for their potential meringues and because their mother was the VIP who would mire us further if we did anything to damage their moppet.

‘My mother loves fluffy things,’ Teen said, a propos of nothing, I thought until I looked at the table. Barty skidded to a halt beside me, his hat clasped to his head. Caz ambled through and sidled up to my other side.

A circular pink and white duvet enveloped the table. ‘I think I might have gone a bit overboard.’ Teen poked a corner of the inflated confection, which bounced back at him. ‘Can you give me a hand to cream it?’ they asked Barty. He coughed a little, but nodded.

Teen moved to the top edge of the blanketed table. ‘This one,’ they waved an arm, armoured in one of Caz’s SpeedySteams. ‘made the meringue. This one,’ they waved the other arm, wrapped in the tubes and spigots of Barty’s wine gun, and grinned. ‘will be the creamy one. The fizzy, creamy one.’

They nodded at Barty, their little face settling into serious creases. ‘On my mark, swivel the meringue. I want circles of cream…’ Teen pushed three buttons in sequence. ‘One. Two. Mark!’ They hit the green button on their mark and a gush of white exploded from the barrel of the wine gun, expanding as it sped towards the circle of meringue on the table.

Barty held the delicate meringue between his fat thumb and forefinger and moved it sideways. He squinted, timing his movements to the speed of the cream heading towards him. The cream swirled over the meringue, like snowdrifts in the mountains, smoothing out any imperfections, leaving a pristine landscape.

Teen passed a bowl to Caz. ‘Would you do the honours for me?’ they asked. ‘I’m somewhat encumbered, and these need to go on top of that, then we can roll it up.’

Caz took a handful from the bowl and broadcast the crumbled walnuts, sowing them over the surface like seed corn. She scooped a fingerful of cream and lapped at the glossy froth. ‘Champagne?’ she asked Teen. ‘It’s delicious.’

Teen nodded, their eyes shining. ‘It was still in the wine gun and I didn’t want to waste it.’ They clapped their hands, gleefully hopping from foot to foot, and waved at the three of us, encouraging us to take the corners and roll it into a fat sausage. They brandished the SpeedySteams. ‘Brulée time!’

‘NO!’ Caz, Barty and I shouted. The pistols blurted flame, and we waited for the smoke to clear.

The meringue sat on the table, gleaming and golden.

Magnificent.

Massive.

‘Made in heaven,’ Caz murmured. ‘By an angel,’ Barty added. ‘By me!’ Teen beat their puny fists on their chest. ‘I did it!’

I raised a finger in admonition. ‘You did. Now we just have to get it to the venue in one piece. It’s a fraction larger than we planned.’

Caz pricked her ears. ‘That plan of mine…’ she said.

‘A flatbed?’ Barty said for the eighteenth time.

‘What?’ Caz bridled at the implied insult. ‘You’d prefer wrinkled sheets?’

Teen frowned. ‘What?’ they asked. ‘I don’t get it?’

I shook my head. ‘Don’t mind them. Caz, Barty means the truck.’

‘Oh,’ she said, flushing under the twin headlights of Barty’s goggled sneer. ‘Only, you know… they’re Egyptian cotton. They take some ironing.’

Barty sneered again and Teen looked at me, confused. I shook my head again, pursing my lips. Not worth going there.

‘Caz. Why did you order up a flatbed?’

‘Look at the size of that thing!’

‘Caz.’ I rolled my eyes. ‘Later. Why did you order it?’

‘No,’ she said, in that faux-patient way she can have sometimes. ‘I am talking about the MERINGUE! That monstrosity over there!’

‘You talking about my amazing confection that’s going to save your skin?’ Teen raised themselves on tiptoes and pushed their face forward towards Caz. She curled her upper lip and ran her tongue insultingly across her top teeth.

Teen stormed over to me. ‘Are you going to let that person talk to me like that? I’ve saved this miserable team, and she’s talking like my meringue is rubbish!’

‘That’s life, Teen.’

‘Not my life,’ Teen stripped the guns from their arms and threw them on the floor.

‘Hey,’ Barty yelled, leaping forward to pull his wine pistols from the steaming heap. ‘Don’t do that to my guns.’ He pulled them over his arms, caressing the tubes as he wound them round his wrists. ‘Are you okay, darlings? Did the nasty person throw you on the floor?’ he cooed. ‘Daddy’s got you. You’re all safe now.’

Caz kicked her SpeedyOvens where they lay. She’d never liked them and wasn’t about to change her mind.

‘I’m going back, and I’m taking the dessert with me. I’ll tell my mother how you treated me,’ Teen said.

‘Bye.’ Caz turned on her heel and walked out of the kitchen. Barty followed her, still fondling his guns.

‘Not a good idea, Teen. You could have had a place in this team, but I’m not sure anyone will back me in that any more. You can make a good meringue, I agree with you there, but you possibly need a little more maturity. Still. You want the flatbed to move the dessert? I can help you get it loaded?’

Teen sniffed. ‘I can do it myself. And don’t call me Teen. I don’t like it.’

What? The whole time they’d been here, they’d not said a word about their name. What was wrong with Teen, anyway? The name, although, now you mention it…

‘Firstly, you weren’t first choice, you were just the only ones who’d do it for the money. So I don’t see how you get to think you are so special. Secondly,’ they ticked off on their middle finger, ‘MY NAME IS CUSTARD! Because I’M SWEET!’ they shouted into my face.

Oh no.

We’ve been up against the Custard tart’s revenge.

And we’ve lost.

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