Rusty McFerrin and Bub star in: Search For The Palace Of Love

Chapter one: in which Rusty breaks out
“Here Old Ripper. Here.” Guided by quite magnificent nostrils, the prison’s prized sniffer-dog rounded the corner. He sauntered past the masked figure and delicately pawed at the beckoning aromas. Medium-rare. Peppered. Served with the appropriate garnish and a glass of full-bloodied red. Just how he liked it. “Good boy.” The dog turned. But. Too late. The masked figure brandished a canister of sleeping gas. Old Ripper bellowed an odious riposte and passed out.

The mouse nibbled at Old Ripper’s flared snout, enjoying the taste. Old Ripper leapt into consciousness and struck a fierce pose in defence of his million-dollar nose. “Oooo, will you come and take a look at this,” squeaked the mouse to her friends. The award-winning beast stood exposed, wearing nothing but a growing blush. “W,w,where is my coat?” whimpered Old Ripper. “The funny little man with the ginger beard took it,” chorused the mice. “You were out cold.” Old Ripper looked around. He was locked in by the lengthening shadows of the cell bars. Memories of a steak. A figure. And then. Nothing. “Why me!” he howled. “What will I do without my coat?” The mouse leader looked Old Ripper in the eye. “That’s what we want to know,” she said. “Whoever’s heard of a sniffer-dog without a coat. You’ll catch a cold. And then what will you do? You won’t be able to smell.” Stripped of his hobby, his livelihood and his passion, Old Ripper began to sniffle. Naked tears splashed onto the cover of Hello Sailor! Magazine, dampening the headline: Welcome To The Palace Of Love.

“Here comes Old Ripper!” exclaimed the guard. “Is he grooving up slowly?” his colleague replied. “Geez, but look at him Pete,” the guard continued. “The sharpest nose in the west. And a one-dog Krakatoa, with his, er, bowel problems.” Inside the dog coat, Rusty McFerrin began to sweat. He knew he had only one chance. Despite holding a degree in taxidermy, Rusty’s disguise was rudimentary. His fingers and toes poked out where paws should be and the canister of sleeping gas, strapped to the rear of the coat, was visible. On reaching the guards, Rusty unleashed a smell. “That one’s for Old Ripper,” he muttered. “And this one is for freedom. Freedom and The Palace Of Love.” He cocked again and smothered the guards under a feasty blanket. Grabbing a zoot suit from the cloakroom, Rusty staggered into the low-noon sun and wept. He was free from punishment for a crime he didn’t commit. He was free to love again. Rusty McFerrin trotted east to find Bub. And then onwards. To The Palace Of Love.

Chapter two: Bub at the crossroads
With scaly fingers, Bub replaced the lighter, leaned back and sucked on a Black Russian. It had been a long time since he had done that. Bub let wisps of smoke lick at the plush interior of the yellow Delorian and briefly inhaled all space and time. The portly gentleman exhaled with a mawkish squawk. He liked that trick. Resplendent in a gold-leaf waistcoat with accompanying pocket-watch, Bub waited for Rusty and considered the shifting landscape. An army of ill educated, gibbering humans clawed for his title of the Undisputed Prince Of Darkness. Bub was going to let them have it. But not before one, final trip with Rusty.

In the early years, Bub and Rusty had been inseparable. United by a love for humanism and amber-tipped whisky dreams, the pair explored new lands, handing out options to the dumbstruck masses. As the world expanded, their adventures became less frequent. But they still got together once a year. “To prove that hell can still be raised,” Bub used to say. Considering his infinite wisdom, Bub realised that, as a destructive force he was finished. He liked to paint. On Tuesdays he taught the art of motorcycle maintenance at the WI. This road trip would be his final hurrah. And who better to do it with than his old pal, Rusty. Poor Rusty. He could have been a great man. But for one weakness. This was Bub’s thirty-sixth visit to the state penitentiary in three years. This time they had sentenced Rusty to life, for one indiscretion too many.

Bub squealed in a limp manner, as a roughly stitched Alsatian clambered into the front passenger seat. Turning to face Bub, the dog tugged at its hairy belly, revealing a zoot suit. The former Price Of Darkness exploded into a fear-soaked truffle shuffle. “Calm yer bad self!” Rusty exclaimed. “Look. It’s me. I’m sorry my bulbous friend, but the plan has changed.” Bub hitched at his stockings, uncomfortably. Rusty gently patted his companion’s mottled knee and continued. “I’m a changed man Bub. The voices have gone. And in their place grows a dream; so fragile it occupies my every thought and action. The dream is love Bub. I read in Hello Sailor! Magazine, about a place so beautiful that Alph, the sacred river runs through caverns measureless to man. Every year, on February 14th, people gather there to exchange their soul for love. For love Bub. Old Father Time, point your splendid, yellow machine in the direction of Los Vegan and hit the pedal. We’re heading for The Palace Of Love.”

Chapter three: in which Rusty meets an old friend and other such adventures
The morning sun revealed a sprawling service area. Bub eased his pride and joy into the filling station and tickled the slumbering Rusty; whose ginger beard twitched. “We’ve been on the road for twelve hours,” stated Bub. It’s time to get some kippers.” He left Rusty and headed for the café. Bub wasn’t sure. He’d once stayed at the original Palace Of Love. But things had turned sour when he uncovered more than one day of reckoning. By Bub’s reckoning Rusty was pinning his hopes on the wrong day. He ordered some kippers.

In the toilet block, Rusty adjusted his hat and looked at his reflection. “The power of love Rusty. The power of love.” Rusty grabbed the mirror and groaned. Behind him, to his left stood the familiar figure of Holly Johnson. “I thought you had gone!” cried Rusty. “I couldn’t leave you,” Johnson replied. “Not now that you’re on the road to love. I’ll protect you from the hooded claw. I’ll keep vampires from your door. Go to the ho-down in town, tonight. You’ll meet an old friend. Remember Rusty. Make love your goal.” Rusty looked at his reflection. He was alone.

“I think you got gingerness of the brain,” huffed Bub. “Come on big fella,” pleaded Rusty. “I’ve got to find out, this could be a clue to The Palace Of Love. I won’t be long.” Rusty carefully shut the car door and made his way to the ho-down. Inside, couples heaved and wheezed to the beat of Captain Maracas’ Country Kings. Rusty helped himself to a stool and a bottle of whisky. And waited. “Well, if it isn’t my little ole ginger love-maker.” Rusty looked up and fell into the swimming eyes of Babs Beverley. In the Twenties, Bub had played lead banjo with The Beverley Hillbilly Sisters. The group had a minor hit with I May Be A Honky (But I Sure Ain’t A Little Donkey), before disbanding amidst wrangles and rumours. “Rusty,” breathed Babs, “I know a place we can go out back. Follow me.”

Rusty once had feelings for Babs. But not now. He was on a mission of love and The Palace awaited. “Come on old man.” whispered Babs. She led Rusty through the fire escape, down some stairs and out, onto a sea-whipped veranda. “Welcome to New Whitby.” Babs squeezed Rusty’s hand and skipped towards the pier. The confused felon tried to hide his feelings. But this felt so good. They bought ice creams at Crab’s Place and had a fondue under the watchful eyes of the stars. With a swelling bosom, Babs turned to face Rusty. “I love you,” she sighed. But Rusty didn’t hear; deafened by the unholy din of a swooping flock of seagulls. He tried to read Babs’ lips. “Well fuck you?” he questioned. “Fuck me!” the hotheaded Babs retorted. “Well fuck you.” With that she walked away from New Whitby and out of Rusty’s life. Bub was there to console his friend and drive him back to the service area to freshen up.

Chapter four: Rusty denies love again whilst Bub takes a nap.
In the washroom, with trembling hands covering his ashen face, Rusty screamed at the man in the mirror. “Just leave me be Johnson! Go back to Hollywood!” But Frankie’s main man had a penchant for meaningful visitations and continued: “When the chips are down I’ll be around with my undying, death-defying love for you. Remember Rusty, make love your goal.” Rusty squinted at the looking glass through damp eyes. Holly had disappeared in a puff of steam. In the condensation dripped the words, “Café Paris. Ten minutes. Teddie xxx.”

Rusty ordered a bottle of whiskey and perched his bony elbows on the nearest laminated cloth. He had left Bub sleeping in the Delorian and made his way to Café Paris to meet the enchanting Teddie. Twinned to Babs, Teddie was the mysterious foil to her romantic sister. After the demise of the band, Rusty and Teddie had run away to cavort with the Can-Can Circus. Rusty blinked the memories from his mind and repeated Holly’s mantra: “Make love your goal.” All alone, he turned to plead with the accordion player. “Ahh Rusty, you oxidise my soul.” Locating the source of such sonorous sounds, Rusty dived into the swimming eyes of Teddie Beverley, who was now sat opposite him. They ordered food and fell into the old ways. Rusty’s beard began to glow as Teddie turned to face him: “I love you old Rusty.” Our unfortunate friend looked into his lap for composure, instead finding an onion and garlic mist that snapped at his eyes. Teddie’s anticipation was shattered by the sight of her friend’s screaming, bawling face. “I thought the madness had gone Rusty,” she sighed. As suddenly as she had arrived, Teddie left. “Garcon!” screamed Rusty. “I need to bathe my eyes!”

Chapter 5: in which Rusty finally succumbs
Sitting in the kitchen, Rusty removed the towel from his face. He had to go after Teddie. The chef walked past and turned the TV on. “Love is danger, love is pleasure,” sang the tubes. “Love is pure, the only treasure.” Rusty moaned: “Holly, how did you get in there?” “No time to explain,” answered the wraith-like maverick. “You have one chance left. Forget The Palace Of Love and go to The Cavern of Joy. Bub’s outside waiting. Remember Rusty, make love your goal.” Ten minutes later Rusty and Bub were bathing in a red glow. “Well well,” purred Joy Beverley. “If it isn’t my little Rusty nail.” Rusty had a lusty moment as he remembered how the voluptuous Joy used to haunt his teenage, banjo-fuelled dreams. The pair became entangled in a bubbling-hot melee. “I love you Rusty McFerrin. How about it?” Mouth open, on the cusp of love, Rusty’s jaw failed him and locked. Deprived of a reply, Joy deflated and then left.

The battered sign read: ten miles to Los Vegan. “Come on Rusty,” Bub gently spoke. “Forget the Beverleys. It’s the 14th, remember The Palace Of Love?” “But I don’t get it!” cried Rusty. “I was saving myself, ready to sell my soul today for love. But Holly kept goading me. It’s all coming back I don’t…” Bub Sighed, “Easy there friend. Relax, don’t do it…” Bub stepped on the brakes as Rusty leapt from the Delorian, pulling at his hair. “Not you as well Bub, or should I say Holly,” yelled Rusty. “The voices, I can’t stand it. I can’t deny my true love any more.” Bub gasped as he spied the towering, muscular Venus-Fly-Trap. “No Rusty!” he shouted. “Banish your passion for insect-eating plants, there is another way!” But it was too late. “Ohhh, she’s gone all green on me,” whispered Rusty, as he tenderly stroked the plant’s downy roots. The wet, cavernous mouth consumed Rusty in one, frenzied swoop. Bub wiped the dust from his eyes and inhaled space and time.

After witnessing his friend’s leafy demise, Bub walked the short distance to Los Vegan. Rusty had denied love three times and in doing so, saved Bub from purgatory. In Los Vegan Bub met Josephine. Over a sandwich he fell in love, as Josephine explained how The Palace Of Love had been demolished over ten years ago. As the clock crept past midnight, Bub fell into the arms of his future wife. “I love you Josephine,” he whispered. “And it’s not even Valentines Day,” she giggled. Bub hadn’t noticed.

Remember kids, make love your goal.


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