'Quick!' said Larry. 'Hide the sponge!'
'Why?' said Mick.
'It's the Sponge Police!' said Larry.
'Madeley and Finnegan!' said Mick, as he shoved the sponge under the cushion on the sofa, whilst Larry answered the door.
'Evening all,' said PC Mould, the male half of the male-female legal duo who stood on Larry's doorstep.
'It's the morning, you klutz!' said WPC McGully, the female half (who for some reason had a Brooklyn accent), then hit her male colleague over the head with what appeared to be a soft rubber truncheon.
'I could have you arrested for that,' said Mould.
'I'd like to see you try, dumb-ass!' said McGully.
'Excuse me,' said Larry, 'but aren't you supposed to be--'
'Button it, limey!' said McGully. 'I'll get round to you in a minute!'
'I do hope you are not disparaging the English,' said her male crime-fighting partner.
'Aah disparage schmisparage,' said she. 'Now shut yer pie-hole and arrest this idiot!'
'But it would be physically imp--'
Thwonk! - with the soft rubber truncheon.
'I am arresting you,' said PC Mould, in that accent of all policemen everywhere about forty years ago, 'for the possession and inappropriate usage of a large purple bath sponge. You do not have to say--'
'Yada yada yada,' said WPC McGully. 'Now what's it to be, Sponge Boy? Are you coming down the station willingly? Or are we going to have to drag you there by your short'n'curlies?'
'It's a fair cop, guv,' said Larry, as he offered his wrists for handcuffing.
'You ain't so dumb,' said McGully, as PC Mould did the honours with the cuffs.
* * *
While PC Mould and WPC McGully escorted Larry to the station, Mick shuffled his bottom round on the sofa and tried frantically to think what to do. He extracted the sponge from under the cushion. It was indeed large and purple, as deduced by the Sponge Police, and it had that monkey nut shape favoured of bath sponges.
He held the squidgy bathroom accessory close to his face. What could they have done that was so wrong? Yes, it was large and purple, but when did such physical characteristics become felonious? And as for 'inappropriate usage'...
'Oh sponge,' said Mick, to the sponge; 'why dost thou vex me so?' He turned the sponge round in his hands. 'What secrets do you hide?' He poked it. 'What tales do you have to tell?'
The sponge didn't speak.
Mick put it on the seat beside him, screwed up his face and considered his options. He considered them to be thus:
1. Eat the sponge.
2. Blame everything on Larry.
3. Hire inordinately expensive legal council to put forward a watertight plea of ignorance with respect of the illegality of the hue and dimensions of the sponge, and insanity in the matter of the alleged 'inappropriate usage' of such.
He sat there, for what seemed like a very long time indeed, bottom-shuffling like a crazyperson, mulling over the possibilities, squeezing the sponge and sweating like a penguin at a fire-breathing convention.
'Oh what am I to do?' said that man to the large, purple, squeezed-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life sponge. 'How can I save my friend and I from a lifetime of incarceration, for a crime we neither intended nor understand?'
But the sponge was keeping tight-lipped, as usual.
* * *
While Mick sat there bottom-shuffling, sponge-squeezing and sweating like a polar bear on a Carribean cruise, Larry was keeping as tight-lipped as the sponge, except for the occasional 'Where's my solicitor?,' 'You can't keep me here, you neo-fascist pigdogs!' and 'Milk and two sugars please.' Mould and McGully, however, were not for turning (but not in the same way as Maggie Thatcher, obviously).
'Now we can either do this the easy way or the hard way,' said PC Mould (who had by now ditched the accent-of-all-policemen-everywhere-about-forty-years-ago and had moved into the personality of 'Good Cop').
'Easy way please,' said Larry.
''Ang on, I haven't told you what it is yet.'
'Sorry, go on.'
'Easy way is, you spill the beans, confess to everything, go down for twenty years and your friend gets off scot free.'
'And what's the hard way?'
'We beat a confession out of you, you skinny-assed punk!' said WPC McGully - in, it has to be said, a less than pleasant manner.
'Hmm,' considered Larry, a ruminative finger on the ripe-for-squeezing pimple on his chin. 'What's the third option?'
'There is no goddamn third option, you winy English motherfu--'
'McGully!' said Mould. 'I'm sure he just needs some time to remember all the pertinent facts. Am I right, Mr. Lampshade?'
'I shall not be depressed--'
'I mean oppressed, by the totalitarian regime.'
'I can't see any totalitarian regime. Can you see a totalitarian regime, WPC McGully?'
'Sing, you fucker!' said McGully. 'Sing like a goddamn canary, or my friend here will rip out your tongue, baste it with taco sauce, roast it on a medium heat for 20-25 minutes and serve it to you on a toasted bagel!'
'If I don't have a tongue,' said Larry, 'how can I... "sing like a goddamn canary?'
'Why you little--'
'Lower your soft rubber truncheon, WPC McGully!' said Mould. 'Violence is not the answer.'
'It depends on the question, Mould! Now let me at the little ass-wipe!'
There was a bit of a tussle, in which truncheons were swung and coarse and unpleasant intentions were expressed, but eventually Mould managed to calm McGully down and stand her in the corner, while he sat down opposite Larry, put his chin in his hands and fixed him with a piercing gaze.
'Speak to me, Larry Lampshade,' said PC Mould.
'Well...' said Larry.
'What?' said Mould.
'I do have one question...' said Larry.
'And what would that be?' said Mould.
'When is the tea and doughnuts arriving?'
'Why you little--'
PC Mould suddenly amended his view on the non-necessity of violence.
* * *
Several hours later there was another knock at the door. Mick was still sitting on the sofa. He was as drenched in sweat as a snow leopard during a stint as 'Head Potato Checker' at Spud-U-Like. He answered the door.
'It's me!' said Larry. 'Larry! They can't pin nothing on us, Mick! We're free!'
'Fanfafdig!' said Mick.
'I have to ask,' said Larry; 'why are you are speaking funny and your cheeks are bulging out like those of a squirrel preparing for a nuclear winter?'
'Oh ib dufd--' Then Mick coughed and spat out bits of chewed up purple bath sponge at Larry.
'What a friend you are, friend Mick!' said Larry, as he took Mick by the shoulder and led him back inside the house.
Later, as they sat round the kitchen table, drinking peppermint tea and eating dried prunes and Special K, Mick turned to Larry and said...
'So what exactly are we supposed to have done with the sponge then?'
'Don't ask,' said Larry. 'Except to say,' he continued, 'that it's apparently illegal and punishable by death in twelve European countries.'
'Twelve,' said Larry. 'Or thereabouts.'
'Tambourines and toasted teacakes!' said Mick.
'Exactly!' said Larry.
And that was that.
[ FIN ]