One Man and His Snail

17

"By the powers invested in me, I now pronounce you man and wife. You may now kiss the bride."

On the grassy slopes of May, on a sunny day, Ratbreath and Angel were joined in holy matrimony. They were now man and wife, or, alternatively, tramp and trampette. The crowd assembled on white spindle seats rose to their feet, cheering, as Ratbreath took his wife into his arms and kissed her.

Adam had arranged it all, obviously. He'd hired the minister to do it, the chairs, and the food and everything else for the reception. He stood clapping in the front row next to his transvestite lover Freddie, with whom he linked arms with. He was wearing a red rose-patterned ball gown for the occasion, with his long hair curled and sloping down his face. Adam smiled at him, and looked forward again, where Angel and Ratbreath were walking back down the aisle, children throwing flowers. He felt his stomach twist more than a little as Angel grabbed Ratbreath passionately and snogged him, but he looked back to Freddie and promptly lost himself in his eyes. It was no good to be jealous, he told himself, he'd just have to be happy for his happiness. Still, he couldn't help but feel a little pain watching him. He could only hope that kind time and a loving man would dispel it.

There had been lots of people invited. Angel and Ratbreath's estranged families were there, both looking equally stunned and confused. There were old school friends, old friends that had been forgotten in general, and tramps that had come from all over the country to attend the wedding.

Along the row a few seats was Suzy, standing with her grandfather. She was still working as a part time tour guide, but was trying hard to get a new and better job. She wasn't sure how she was going to tell her grandfather this… but she decided to take a come what may attitude. He would just have to actually hire someone this time, instead of forcing his grandkids to work for bags of frozen chips.

Buggins had a whole seat to himself, though it had a sign on the back with the words don't sit on me! just in case. He'd put a bit of weight on since they'd returned from the now non-existent Tate Modern, which might have had something to do with all of the new good food Adam brought whenever he visited.

He visited a lot. It was completely bizarre, after twenty years of solitude, to suddenly have all these people on your doorstep. It unnerved Ratbreath a little, but Buggins wasn't complaining; it was a whole lot more interesting than before. Suzy came round sometimes too, telling funny stories of some of the people she'd shown round London, though, as she said, "I've never had to show someone like you around again, thank goodness!"

It had been a very contenting six months. The police had lost their trail (partly due to the aid from Detective Privates) and the three college students who had given them such grief never travelled along his motorway again.

When Adam had dropped them off back at his old spot on the M25, Ratbreath quickly put his Bin back into its place, snugly between the two cedar trees. It even seemed to emit a relieved sound of contentment as it slid into its spot. He asked Adam a favour, for another Bin. Adam swiftly got it him, and him and Angel painted it up, Suzy coming round to help as well. They installed it, feeling like a crowd unveiling the next new greatest monument, next to Ratbreath's old Bin. The two Bins sat side by side, and seemed to get along very well. A Bin watcher even came to observe them, saying that it was very rare two Bins connected so easily after such a short time. Bins were loners and introverted by nature.

The wedding party moved down the slopes, down to the newly weds home, where Adam had prepared the reception. He had cleared a space under the canopy of trees, where a dance floor made of wooden tiles was laid out. He had also hired a DJ, and got in some catering companies. For some reason however, he wouldn't tell Ratbreath who they were. He just said it was a surprise, and had involved a lot of work.

The music was playing as they came down onto the dance floor. Angel had to hold up her huge white dress as she descended, lest it trip her up. Ratbreath held her hand, wearing a suit made of furs from the animals he'd caught. They had stitched it up together.

The smell of barbecue wafted through the trees, and Ratbreath sniffed the air in anticipation. "Mmn," he said, "smells nice. I ought to thank Adam again for this."

"You've already done that fifty times Francis. He said if you did it again he'd lop your head off, remember?" his beloved bride said.

"I know, I know." They came onto the dance floor, and the DJ cut the music.

"Good afternoon ladies and gents, tramps and trampettes, are you ready to PAR-TAY?" The wedding party gave an almighty cheer. "The first song is for our wedded couple, so onto the dance floor, you two! You're dancing first!"

"I haven't danced in years," Ratbreath murmured under his breath to Angel apprehensively.

"You're not expected to," said Angel just as quietly. "You just pretend you can. I'll take the lead," she winked at him.

The others cleared off the dance floor, and Ratbreath and Angel took centre stage. The music floated out from the stereo system, pumping some popular slow love tune. Ratbreath put his arms round his wife's waist, and they slowly travelled across the dance floor, his head pressed lovingly on her shoulder.

After about a minute of this, he got bored- and decided to spice things up. He removed his hands from her waist, took one of hers, and spun her around and around. She started dancing wildly, tossing her new husband up into the air, catching the beat that was played by no music box or stereo, only their own hearts.

The crowd stared in shock and amusement as the wedded couple danced like they were at a rave, banging their heads and break dancing on the floor. "Only Ratbreath…" muttered Suzy, and she walked out onto the dance floor, wearing a long gothic styled black dress with fresh nets. Adam came next, his lover Freddie with him. They both got down onto the floor and spun around on their hands, almost giving some of the prissy looking relatives of Ratbreath a heart attack when Freddie's dress flew up. Soon most of the wedding party joined in, the elderly relatives, shocked beyond belief, running for the hills. They thought they'd been invited to a wedding, not the loony bin annual party.

The songs went on and on, the wedding party grooving to all the latest tunes, hobos tap-dancing on the floor, doing whatever dance they felt like doing. They let the groove carry them away.

There came a shout from through the trees, from where the barbecue smells drifted. "Oi mates, come get somethin' off the barby!"

Cheering, the wedding party headed off to the barbecue, all hanging behind the bride and groom respectfully. In between the trees, popping up like metal mushrooms were barbecues, with men in chefs hats turning the meat over with their tongs. One of them looked oddly familiar. Before Ratbreath could place him however, the man looked up, and recognised him. "Crikey!" he cried, "we've met before, haven't we? You were with that young Sheila when we were fighting the Italians in the Tate Modern."

"Oh," said Ratbreath, as it all flooded back to him. This was Big Ted, leader of the Australian mafia. He felt a jolt in his legs, trying to urge him to run. Why had Adam hired the Australian mafia to do the catering? Was he mad?

"Oh, blimey. Don't worry, I know whatcha thinking. Don't worry, we're not into the mafia stuff anymore, we're the Australian Catering Company now! After all the casualties at the Tate, I decided we just couldn't keep going like that any more, so we threw our guns in, and picked up tongs to fulfil our true mission in life." The Australians all cheered, waving their tongs in the air.

"Well… that's good," said Ratbreath, unsure what to say to the ex-crime boss. "What about the Italians though? You still hate those guys even if you're not battling them?"

Big Ted's face changed to one of hate as soon as the word 'Italians' left Ratbreath's mouth. He kind of wished he just pop it back in. "Those Italians are Sheila-beating, kidnapping, murdering thugs. We could never like them. They're shadow puppets as well, if you'd believe it, I'd tell you that they've changed from the Italian mafia to the Italian Catering Company just to rival us! It's unbelievable!"

"The Italian mafia… has turned into a catering company?"

"I told ya it was unbelievable," said Big Ted, nodding sagely.

A thought struck Ratbreath's mind, Adam had told him he'd hired two catering companies. "Oh no," he muttered, "what were thinking Adam?"

Even as he said it, the tinkling sound of Italian music floated through the air, and the Australians ears pricked up, a growling noise starting up in the back of their throats. Several sleek looking cars pulled up, and the Italians jumped out, pulling hot pizzas and pasta from the boot and unfolding tables to lay out their dishes. They caught the smell of barbecue, and looked towards the Australians, the Australians looking back.

Ratbreath put his head in his hands. 'My wedding reception is going to be ruined,' he thought miserably. 'Did Adam… plan this?' The idea was a terrible one, but, when he thought about it, he realised it could very well be true.

Big Ted walked up to Little Tony. "So," they said together, "we meet again."

Ratbreath buried his head further in his hands. If there was any sand nearby, he would have happily plunked his head in that instead.

The food went flying, pizzas and barbecue zooming over the wedding guests heads onto the opposite ex-mafias. The bosses were shouting at one another, hitting each other round the head with their thick fists. The wedding guests were running.

A shot rang out.

But it wasn't a shot of violence, but one to call all to attention. Adam stood on one of the Italian's tables, a pizza in his hand. "Noble Italians and Australians!" he called, "why must you fight, when together, you could make something beautiful? Here in my hand I hold the creation of your two cultures! Come look!" He held down the pizza, and the masses of the mafia stopped fighting and crowded forward, curious.

"What is it?" one cried.

"Barbecue flavoured pizza," said Adam, and indeed it was. During the fight, some chopped up pieces of steak and bacon had flown over to the Italian tables and landed on one of the pizzas. Or at least, this is how it seemed. Adam cut the pizza into two bits, and handed half each to the two bosses. Looking apprehensive, they accepted them.

Big Ted and Little Tony bit cautiously into the pizza, looking ready to pull their faces into an expression of disgust. But as soon as the taste hit them, they grinned from ear to ear. "It tastes… amazing!" said Little Tony.

"Crikey!" cried Big Ted, "I never knew you guys could make anything so tasty!"

All at once, they were looking at each other in a different light. Looking shy at first, but then decided, they shook hands. "Truce?" said Little Tony.

"Truce," said Big Ted. "I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship." The Italians and Australians mingled together, tasting the pizza, and then, one by one, started clapping each other on the back, shaking hand, exchanging friendly punches. Soon what would have been a war zone was a place of wild cheering and singing. They took the Australian and Italian national anthems, and started mixing them together, deciding it would the theme tune of the Australian- Italian catering company.

From inside the crowd of happy foreigners, Adam came up to Ratbreath.

"Ah," said Ratbreath, "I get it, you were planning to get them to truce all along. That's what you were up to. But there's one thing I don't get… why did you want them to make up?"

"Their battle grounds include the land around my house. They like jumping over the fence and trying to drown each other in my duck pond. The high fence isn't just for fangirls, you know." He winked at his friend.

"Fair point," said Ratbreath, inclining his head. "But did you really have to do it at my wedding?"

"Hey, I did provide all this stuff, and I let you stay at my house for all that time. I thought you wouldn't mind paying me back a bit. You don't get anything for free, you know. It's a dog eat dog world out there."

"I never knew you were such a business man," said Ratbreath.

"You don't get to be the head of the Gay and Lesbian Monthly magazine just by being an incredibly gorgeous gay male. Well… not completely," they laughed.

"Anyway, I better get back to the party. Have you seen Bu-"

He was interrupted however, when a large group of drunken hobos swelled around him, singing joyfully. "Heya Ratbreath! Congrats!" said one, an exceptionally short tramp with a bushy moustache.

"Rusty!" cried Ratbreath in recognition, his eyes glittering, pulling the hobo into a one-armed hug. "I haven't seen you in years! But where's Dusty?"

"I'm right here, doll," said a woman from the crowd, her red hair piled up into a mop on her head. "We heard'ya were getting married- you shoulda' told us straight away, sweetie. I'm so happy for'ye!"

"I'm so pleased to see you both," said Ratbreath excitedly. "How're things in Southampton?"

"Oh, you know, not too bad," said Dusty, shrugging her shoulders. "Beggin's pretty good, and ol' Rusty here managed to get us into that swanky soup kitchen down near the harbour. Eh, Rusty?" she elbowed him playfully.

"We're about to have a Bin-race Ratty, you wanna join?" asked Rusty.

Behind the hobos, Ratbreath noticed, they were pulling their wheelie Bins behind them. "Alright," he said, "I'll ask Angel too. She just graduated to her Bin a few months ago."

The race was assembled on the motorway before the slope, more than twenty hobos lined on the road, motorists blocked by the obstruction honking furiously at the hobos, but too frightened of them to actually get out and complain.

Ratbreath pulled his Bin to the starting line, Angel after him. Suzy bounced behind them, eying their Bins with envy.

"I wish I could compete!" she sighed.

"You can ride with me," said Angel kindly.

Suzy eyed the amazon woman hesitantly. "Um, okay…" she said.

All the hobos bunkered down into the Bins, waiting on the whistle to go. Ratbreath sat chatting to Suzy when one of the hobos approached and passed over Buggins.

"This little guy is so cool," said the hobo, downing a whole bottle of whisky, and swaying on his feet. "He beat me at Go Fish eleven times! In a row! Man…" he wandered off, looking absent, while Buggins slimed up the Bin to Ratbreath, smug.

Drunk people are awesome, Ratty, he said. Invite these guys more often.

"What, so you can take advantage of the inebriated?" Ratbreath asked.

Off course, said Buggins.

A loud voice, magnified by a loud speaker, echoed out across the motorway.

"Alright, are we ready?" cried Adam, standing on a podium. "Three… two-"

"Hold on tight," whispered Ratbreath, and Buggins clenched hold of the side of the Bin.

Oh, don't worry about me. Just make sure you don't fall off. Though it was hard to tell, Ratbreath was sure that Buggins had just given him a small snail wink.

"-One… GO!"

The hobos from behind shoved hard, and the Bins trundled forward, picking up speed as they started down the hill. They sped down, out of the control- no steering. Dusty and Rusty span backwards, and collided with another hobo, crashing into a tree. The tramps at the starting line erupted into cheers, motorists turning and staring with bug eyes at the event.

As more and more hobos fell by the wayside, the cheering grew louder- exploding into sound. They were racing down now- from behind him, he heard Suzy yelling in exhaltation.

"Oh yeah!!!"

The wind whipped around them, Ratbreath's hair flying, Buggins by his side, staring bravely forward. They flew on, down the motorway, on and on, without a care in the world.

The End

A/N- And that's all, folks. I know not many people read this story, but I'm grateful for any of you who managed to slog through the whole novel. This was originally written for the National Novel Writing Month, so the whole story was actually written in just a month. Originally I planned to write something deep and meaningful, but then I decided just to write something silly and just have fun. And I did; this was a lot of fun to write. And I know the story may be a little strange in places, and maybe the jokes aren't always funny, but I enjoyed it. Hopefully, a few of you might have as well. The actual idea of this story came from when I was only twelve, and the mean boys at school used to tell me that I lived in a wheelie bin on the side of the M25. :P So you see, if you put your mind to it, you can even turn nasty negative things like that into creativity. I guess, if there is a moral to this story- that would be it. Oh, and that you can't even trust college students. Make sure to watch out of the blighters. I, personally, always keep my eyes peeled when I'm around them.