Punderland by Richard Cotton

The high pitch buzz of my alarm clock woke me. Feeling the top of my head where the man with the hammer was thumping I regretted having all that beer over the weekend. Sitting up on my left elbow I glanced out through the partly open curtains. The sky was a dull gray with thick rain clouds. There was a road hammer pounding away just outside my house making the head ache hurt more and then there was the still buzzing of my alarm clock. 

Turning and pressing the off button to quieten the damn thing I felt like death warmed up. It was going to be one of those days I said to myself. Carefully getting up I shuffled down the stairs one at a time making sure I held the stair rail tightly. Getting a bowl out of the cupboard I filled it with some cereal and milk. The kettle whistled as it told me it was ready to make the one cup of tea that sat in front of me. Taking a chair I sat there looking at the clock to the left of the cupboard full of tin foods. It was ticking too loudly for my liking. Then I noticed that I was reaching eight thirty five. I left the bowl and tea to sit on the table and rushed to the small corridor that led to the front door. I bent down and picked up the brief case full of my important documents that I was going to need for that day. I unlocked the door with the keys that I had picked up form beside the phone where they stood. I closed the door and locked it slipping the keys into my brief case as I did so. 

I walked down the short gravel path to the gate, which groaned when opened. I would oil it one day. Turning onto the path to head for the nearest bus stop I noticed that the day was chilly, which would help, I hoped, wake me up. From afar I could see there was a small queue there. Mostly business men and children going to school, mixed with the odd lady with a pram. One or two turned and glanced as I approached them, some tutted, which I ignored as this was early morning and some people were grumpy then. I reached the shelter and had a quick look at the digital wrist watch on my left arm. I then noticed that the damn bus was running late again, due to them rotten road works. I didn’t want to be late again as I was already close to being demoted. 

Then when I looked up again I saw a large red double-decker bus drawing up to a stop. The doors hissed open and the queue shuffled onto the bus. I kept my eyes on the young lady in front of me making sure I didn’t tread on her high heels. She brushed her blonde hair back as she stepped up onto the bus. She turned to look behind herself and gave a short giggle. She pulled the ticket stub out and made her way down the bus. I approached the driver and slowly reached down into my black suit trousers pocket only to find that I still had my stripped pajamas on. I turned to try to leave the bus, but the doors where already shut. I turned back toward the driver. I felt a spinning sensation as I did so. It was like I had just drunk another pint of beer there and then.

“Here is your ticket to Punderland sir,” I noticed that the driver spoke with a slight Jamaican accent.
“Sorry I wanted to go to Sunderland,” I said curtly.
“Look man just take a seat. I’ve got to get a move on as we are late already.”
I turned to see if I could get off, but the bus was moving, yet it wasn’t a bus any more. The bus had turned into a boat. The floor was now decking. The road was water and the boat was sailing towards a coastal town which was getting closer quickly. From here I could see a green leafy arbor that the boat was heading for. The boat slowly edged its way into the narrow harbor. There was a wooden pier that stood out slightly. This was where the boat was tied up. Glancing around I noticed there was statues placed neatly around the harbor with three benches. The gang plank was slowly lowered by the captain of the boat.
“There you go man. Enjoy your stay,”
I walked slowly down the wooden plank not knowing what I was letting myself in for. I walked around the harbor into the large town.

“Where are you heading mister,” I heard a gruff voice ask.
I looked around to see who had spoken to me, but all I saw was a sandy brown Labrador male dog. He was sitting patiently. I thought he was there with someone else. So who had spoken to me I wondered. There were people, but they were some distance off. This left the dog that sat in front of me. The next thing I did made me feel slightly silly, but I had to do it.
“Err. Excuse me, but you didn’t just speak to me didn’t you,” I asked the dog?
“Yes I did. What else did you expect your guide dog to do?”
I watched as the dog’s lips moved forming words as it did so. This was one strange day. Now there was a dog talking to me.
“What is it you do then?” Still feeling silly at asking.
“I’m here to guide you around Punderland. That is why I’m your guide dog.”
“So where do we go from here then mister guide dog?”
“That depends on what you want to do first sir.”
“I need something to drink. It might make me feel better.”
“Right, follow me to the best coffee house in Punderland,”
I followed the dog as it trotted off towards what looked like to be the most expensive coffee shop in the town. Outside the place I could see some tables over which there where large umbrella’s to keep the warm sun off the people who sat at the tables with their dinners and teas. The guide dog led me to an empty chair at one of these outside tables.
“Sit here mister,” It said pointing its nose at the chair.
“Right. You sure this is the best place to get a cup of coffee?”

“It’s one of the finest,”
So I sat on the white chair next to the short metal table. Glancing around I noticed that the others were drinking some odd stuff. Then I saw the waiter next to me. He was a few inches shorter than me and had all the normal clothes for a waiter.
“What does sir require?”
“Please can you bring me a cup of tea?” Looking to the guide dog to see if it agreed.
It just nodded.
The waiter turned and headed back into the coffee shop. Looking across the road from where I sat I noted a tall slim man covered in a copper outfit. He had a tall copper hat on his head too. He stood with his arms crossed behind his back, watching me. A half hour passed before the waiter returned. He placed a mug onto the table top. Looking at it I noticed the there was a letter T inside.
“Excuse me, but all this mug holds is a letter T,”
“Sir that is what you asked for. A cup of T.”
I then looked at the table to see if there was anything else out of place. It was then I noted the salt shaker. I picked up the tall glass salt pot to look at the white stuff inside. But as I did so I felt a sharp pain in my shin. This made me let go of the salt pot. It flew up and down onto the ground. Looking down to see what had hit me I saw a square black thing that I swear looked just like a car battery. The next thing I knew the tall copper man was standing next to my table and had reached out to me.
“I am putting you under arrest sir,”
“What for?”
“For assaulting a battery,”
“What!“ I said incredulously. “Where are you going to take me?”
“To the station sir,”
The copper man slipped some cuffs onto my wrist and we headed down the path. At least the guide dog was still with me. As we walked I noted that we were heading for a large brown brick building. It looked older than the ones surrounding it. On the side the words police station were emblazoned in blue words. The copper man pushed me through the two oaken doors. Inside I noticed that the reception desk was behind thick glass. Behind this stood two more copper men. Both built like brick shit houses. “What have we here then P.C Copperhead?”
“I arrested this man for assaulting a battery sir,” He snapped a crisp salute.
The taller of the two men with short brown hair turned to the older copper man with short gray hair.
“Corporal Punishment,”
“Yes Inspector Problem”
“It looks like we’ve a nasty little man here and his guide dog. It is said he assaulted a battery what do you think we should do?”

“How about the cat-o-nine tails sir,”
“Oh that sounds just right for what he has done,”
I watched closely as Corporal Punishment walked out of the reception area out into the back rooms. He returned minuutes later with what looked like a medium sized tabby cat, but the most unusual thing was that it had nine tails.
“What sort of punishment do they call this?” I asked the guide dog.
“Oh you wait till they get the cat going,” It paused. “Then you will find out,”
“Get it going!”
I watched as the corporal tugged one of the cats’ tails very gently. I was amazed as the cat started to talk.
“Listen to my tale of paws with claws. It was a time of cats and dogs. There was water and cogs falling from the sky.”
My ears started to hurt as the tale went on with puns coming with speed. But as it finished, Corporal 

Punishment pulled the next tail. After he had done it nine times my head rang with pain. Inspector Problem had got closer to me.
“Now consider yourself lucky. You got off lightly. Now leave and don’t get into any more trouble or you will find the next time we will be harder on you,”
I turned on my heels and left the station smartly. The guide dog close to me as I did so.
“Quick I need the nearest inn,”
“I take it you mean a pub mister,”
“Yes I do,”
“I had to make sure as we have inns and outs here too,”
I groaned as my head spun with the pain. 
“When we go into this pub you will have to watch out for the peas and cues,”
I let the dog lead me into a smaller brick building down the street from the station. Looking at the sign I saw that it read ‘What’s yours’. Trust the pubs in Punderland to have strange names. Going into the pub I noted that the bar room was full of Green peas still in their pods. Glancing to where the game room was I saw lots of cues playing pool. Each cue tipped itself up to the table to hit the balls across the table. I carefully made my way around the peas to reach the bar, which was made out of iron.
“What can I get you sir?”
My mouth fell open at the figure behind the iron bar. It was a tall square piece of grass with cricket pitch markings on its surface. After getting my senses back I spoke to the figure. 
“What is there to drink landlord?”
“Spring water, Iron brew, Screw driver, Steel bitter and a brass Larger,”
“Hmm. I think I will try the Larger please,”
The landlord picked up a tall thin glass. It placed this under the taps on the bar spun the top. A thin golden liquid bubbled out into the glass tuning it frosty. He placed the glass in front of me. I looked at the liquid with an eye to see if there was anything strange about it. But I could not see anything wrong with it. I picked up the glass to have a sip. To my surprise it was good to drink.
I glanced over to my left on seeing a green pea pod pick a pint glass up. It was strange watching it happen.
“I love these places. I have a tender part inside of me for this land,”
I looked down to the guide dog, which was sat to the right of me. 
“What was that about?”
“Oh that’s just a mushy pea,”
I felt a sudden surge in my blood pressure.
“That is the last straw,”
“No that pub is just down the street on the right,”
At that I walked out of the pub and started down the street for the harbor.
“Wait you haven’t seen the c yet,”
That was more than I could take. I placed my hands over my ears and closed my eyes in the hope it would all go away. I felt giddy again. The world started to spin quickly. Then I heard a buzzing noise. I slowly opened my eyes to see I was in bed. The sound was that of my alarm radio going. I was back in my own room. How did that happen, and what was going on. Was I dreaming? Glancing around those were my posters, wardrobe, the rainbow curtains. It was all there and was mine. I stood up shakily. Stumbled over to the window. The day looked bright and clear. I pulled the curtains open. Looking out down on to the road outside my mouth drooped open. As down there I saw a beach front. There was lots of letters c rolling up onto the peas sunbathing.


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