'I'm not allowed to dally with customers. This isn't the best job in town, but you're not losing it for me,' snapped Ginger. 'Fish stew, right?'
'Oh. Right. Sorry.'
He flicked backwards through the pages. Before Deccan there was Tento, who also chanted three times a day and also sometimes received gifts of fish and also went to the lavatory, although either he wasn't so assiduous about it as Deccan or hadn't thought it always worth writing down. Before that, someone called Meggelin had been the chanter. A whole string of people had lived on the beach, and then if you went back further there was a group of them, and further still the entries had a more official feel. It was hard to tell. They seemed to be written in code, line after line of little complex pictures . . .
A bowl of primal soup was plonked down in front of him.
'Look,' he said. 'What time do you get off-'
'Never,' said Ginger.
'I just wondered if you might know where-'
Victor stared at the murky surface of the broth. Borgle worked on the principle that if you find it in water, it's a fish. There was something purple in there and it had at least ten legs.
He ate it anyway. It was costing him thirty pence.
Then, with Ginger resolutely busying herself at the counter with her back to him lighthouse-fashion, so that however he tried to attract her attention her back was still facing him without her apparently moving, he went to look for another job.
Victor had never worked for anything in his life. In his experience, jobs were things that happened to other people.
Bezam Planter adjusted the tray around his wife's neck. 'All right,' he said. 'Got everything?'
'The banged grains have gone soft,' she said. 'And there's no way to keep the sausages hot.'
'It'll be dark, love. No-one'll notice.' He tweaked the strap and stood back.
'There,' he said. 'Now, you know what to do. Halfway through I'll stop showing the film and put up the card that says “Wy not Try a Cool Refreshinge Drinke and Some Banged Grains?” and then you come out of the door over there and walk up the aisle.'
'You might as well mention cool refreshing sausages as well,' said Mrs Planter.
'And I reckon you should stop using a torch to show people to their seats,' said Bezam. 'You're starting too many fires.'
'It's the only way I can see in the dark,' she said.
'Yes, but I had to let that dwarf have his money back last night. You know how sensitive they are about their beards. Tell you what, love, I'll give you a salamander in a cage. They've been on the roof since dawn,- they should be nice and ready.'
They were. The creatures lay dozing in the bottom of their cages, their bodies vibrating gently as they absorbed the light. Bezam selected six of the ripest, climbed heavily back down to the projection room, and tipped them into the showing-box. He wound Throat Dibbler's film on to a spool, and then peered out into the darkness.
Oh, well. Might as well see if there was anyone outside.
He shuffled to the front door, yawning.
He reached up, and slid the bolt.
He reached down, and slid the other bolt.
He pulled open the doors.
'All right, all right,' he grumbled. 'Let's be having you . . .'
He woke up in the projection room, with Mrs Planter fanning him desperately with her apron.
'What happened?' he whispered, trying to put out of his mind the memories of trampling feet.
'It's a full house!' she said. 'And they're still queueing up outside! They're all down the street! It's them disgusting posters!'
Bezam got up unsteadily but with determination.
'Woman, shut up and get down to the kitchen and bang some more grains!' he shouted. 'And then come and help me repaint the signs! If they're queueing for the fivepenny seats, they'll queue for tenpence!'
He rolled up his sleeves and grasped the handle.
In the front row the Librarian sat with a bag of peanuts in his ,lap. After a few minutes he stopped chewing and sat with his mouth open, staring and staring and staring at the flickering images.
'Hold your horse, sir? Ma'am?'
By mid-day Victor had earned tuppence. It wasn't that people didn't have horses that needed holding, it was just that they didn't seem to want him to hold them.
Eventually a gnarled little man from further along the street sidled up to him, dragging four horses. Victor had been watching him for hours, in frank astonishment that anyone should give the wizened homunculus a kindly smile, let alone a horse. But he'd been doing a brisk trade, while Victor's broad shoulders, handsome profile and honest, open smile were definitely a drawback in the horse-holding business.
'You're new to this, right?' said the little man.
'Yes,' said Victor.
'Ah. I could tell. Waitin' for yer big break in the clicks, right?' He grinned encouragingly.
'No. I've had my big break, in fact,' said Victor.
'Why you here then?'
Victor shrugged. 'I broke it.'
'Ah, is that so? Yessir, thank'ee sir, godsblessyousir, rightchewaresir,' said the man, accepting another set of reins.
'I suppose you don't need an assistant?' said Victor wistfully.
Bezam Planter stared at the pile of coins in front of him. Throat Dibbler moved his hands and it was a smaller pile of coins, but it was still a bigger pile of coins than Bezam had ever seen while in a waking state.
'And we're still showing it every quarter of an hour!' breathed Bezam. 'I've had to hire a boy to turn the handle! I don't know, what should I do with all this money?'
Throat patted him on the shoulder.
'Buy bigger premises,' he said.
'I've been thinking about that,' said Bezam. 'Yeah. Something with fancy pillars out in front. And my daughter Calliope plays the organ really nice, it'd make a good accompaniment. And there should be lots of gold paint and curly bits-'
His eyes glazed.
It had found another mind.
Holy Wood dreams.
- and make it a palace, like the fabulous Rhoxie in Klatch, or the richest temple there ever was, with slave girls to sell the banged grains and peanuts, and Bezam Planter walking about proprietorially in a red velvet jacket with gold string on it
'Hmm?' he whispered, as the sweat beaded on his forehead.
'I said, I'm off,' said Throat. 'Got to keep moving in the moving-picture business, you know.'
'Mrs Planter says you've got to make more pictures with that young man,' said Bezam. 'The whole city's talking about him. She said several ladies swooned when he gave them that smouldery look. She watched it five times,' he added, his voice rimed with sudden suspicion. 'And that girl! Wow!'
'Don't you worry about a thing,' said Throat loftily. 'I've got them under contr-'
Sudden doubt drifted across his face.
'See you,' he said shortly, and scurried out of the building.
Bezam stood alone and looked around at the cobwebbed interior of the Odium, his overheated imagination peopling its dark corners with potted palms, gold leaf and fat cherubs. Peanut shells and banged grain bags crunched under his feet. Have to get it cleaned up for the next house, he thought. I expect that monkey'll be first in the queue again.
Then his eye fell on the poster for Sword of Passione. Amazing, really. There hadn't been much in the way of elephants and volcanoes, and the monsters had been trolls with bits stuck on them, but in that close up . . . well . . . all the men had sighed, and then all the women had sighed . . . It was like magic. He grinned at the images of Victor and Ginger.
Wonder what those two're doing now? he thought. Prob'ly eating caviar off of gold plates and lounging around up to their knees in velvet cushions, you bet.
'You look up to your knees in it, lad,' said the horseholder.
'I'm afraid I'm not getting the hang of this horseholding,' said Victor.
'Ah, 'tis a hard trade, horse-holding,' said the man. 'It's learning the proper grovellin' and the irreverent-but-not-too-impudent cheery 'oss'older's banter. People don't just want you to look after the'oss, see. They want a'oss-'olding hexperience.'
'They want an amusin' encounter and a soup-son of repartee,' said the little man. 'It's not just a matter of 'oldin' reins.'
Realization began to dawn on Victor.
'It's a performance,' he said.
The 'oss-'older tapped the side of his strawberry-shaped nose.
'That's right!' he said.
Torches flared in Holy Wood. Victor struggled through the crowds in the main street. Every bar, every tavern, every shop had its doors thrown open. A sea of people ebbed and flowed between them. Victor tried jumping up and down to search the mob of faces.
He was lonely and lost and hungry. He needed someone to talk to, and she wasn't there.
He spun around. Rock bore down on him like an avalanche.
'Victor! My friend!' A fist the size and hardness of a foundation stone pounded him playfully on the shoulder.
'Oh, hi,' said Victor weakly. 'Er. How's it going, Rock?'
'Great! Great! Tomorrow we shoot Bad Menace of Troll Valley!'
'I'm very happy for you,' said Victor.
'You my lucky human!' Rock boomed. 'Rock! What a name! Come and have a drink!'
Victor accepted. He really didn't have much of a choice, because Rock gripped his arm and, ploughing through the crowds like an icebreaker, half-led, half-dragged him towards the nearest door.
A blue light illuminated a sign. Most Morporkians could read Troll, it was hardly a difficult language. The sharp runes spelled out The Blue Lias.
It was a troll bar.
The smoky glow from the furnaces beyond the slab counter was the only light. It illuminated three trolls playing - well, something percussive, but Victor couldn't quite make out what because the decibel level was in realms where the sound was a solid force, and it made his eyeballs vibrate. The furnace smoke hid the ceiling.
'What you havin'?' roared Rock.
'I don't have to drink molten metal, do I?' Victor quavered. He had to quaver at the top of his voice in order to be heard.
'We got all typer human drink!' shouted the female troll behind the bar. It had to be a female. There was no doubt about it. She looked slightly like the statues cavemen used to carve of fertility goddesses thousands of years ago, but mostly like a foothill. 'We very cosmopolitan.' 'I'll have a beer, then!' 'Ana flowers-of-sulphur onna rocks, Ruby!' added Rock.
Victor took the opportunity to look around the bar, now that he was getting accustomed to the gloom and his eardrums had mercifully gone numb.
He was aware of masses of trolls seated at long tables, with here and there a dwarf, which was astonishing. Dwarfs and trolls normally fought like, well, dwarfs and trolls. In their native mountains there was a state of unremitting vendetta. Holy Wood certainly changed things.
'Can I have a quiet word?' Victor shouted in Rock's pointed ear.
'Sure!' Rock put down his drink. It contained a purple paper umbrella, which was charring in the heat. 'Have you seen Ginger? You know? Ginger?' 'She working at Borgle's!'
'Only in the mornings! I've just been there! Where does she go when she's not working?' 'Who know where anyone OF
There was a sudden silence from the combo in the smoke. One of the trolls picked up a small rock and started to pound it gently, producing a slow, sticky rhythm that clung to the walls like smoke. And from the smoke, Ruby emerged like a galleon out of the fog, with a ridiculous feather boa around her neck. It was continental drift with curves. She began to sing.
The trolls stood in respectful silence. After a while Victor heard a sob. Tears were rolling down Rock's face. 'What's the song about?' he whispered. Rock leaned down.
'Is ancient folklorique troll song,' he said. 'Is about Amber and Jasper. They were-' he hesitated, and waved his hands about vaguely. 'Friends. Good friends?' 'I think I know what you mean,' said Victor. 'And one day Amber takes her troll's dinner down to the cave and finds him-' Rock waved his hands in vague yet thoroughly descriptive motions '-with another lady troll. So she go home and get her club and come back and beat him to death, thump, thump, thump. 'Cos he was her troll and he done her wrong. Is very romantic song.'