For three days Biggles had wandered across the desert looking for rescue or at least a bus. It had gotten to the point where he wanted to be captured again. He had escaped from the Iranian secret police three nights before, by simply going outside for a cigarette, while they were watching some obscure Egyptian soap opera. The show was so incomprehensible it featured a young woman wearing nothing but a towel, who seemed to spend her entire life singing about a boy who had run off with a camel driver. Biggles had gotten bored waiting for her to take off the towel. Since he could make neither head nor tail out of, he went for a walk, and after trudging over a sand dune to see what was on the other side; he had become completely and utterly lost. So out of sheer force of habit, he escaped and now he wanted to be caught again as that was his best chance to making it back to old Blighty.
At this moment, he was lying at the top of a sand dune watching a herd of sheep, and he was getting fed up with waiting to be captured. More to the point he wanted a good cup of tea, which was harder to find in this country than a man who wasn’t wearing a dress.
“Oh, fiddlesticks,” Biggles gave up and ran down the sand dune to the sheepherder waving his arms in the air and shouting hallo. The herdsman took one look at the stranger and began shooting at him. Biggles ran straight back up the dune and hid behind a rock. “I say,” he said to himself, “what happened to the Geneva Convention?”
At the bottom of the hill, the sheepherder also hid behind a rock and for several minutes they cautiously watched each other. The herdsman was taking no chances, since over the last two weeks, strange planes had been coming out of nowhere strafing and bombing his herd and he was in no mood for idle conversation with foreigners.
“I say!” Biggles finally called out, “do you know the way to Piccadilly?”
The sharp retort of the rifle coincided with Biggles’ flying cap being knocked off.
“I take it that’s a no,” Biggles picked up his cap and put it back on, to his annoyance he discovered the bullet had knocked off his Snoopy badge. He called out again from behind the rock. “By the way, I’m Biggles, so pleased to meet you.”
The herdsman felt some confusion, as normally people always shot back at this point. A stranger stopping in the middle of the desert just for a conversation, either meant he was a cousin - and Biggles certainly didn’t look like a cousin - or he was an enemy, and Biggles seemed too incompetent for either.
Maybe was he a rug salesman and a good rug salesman was hard to find.
“Hallo, foreigner!” he called out. “Have you carpets to sell?”
“Sorry Mister Abdullah,” Biggles called back jokingly, “I left them in the pickup truck back in Sussex.”
The herdsman, whose incredibly name really was Abdullah, stood up and looked with surprise up the hill. He wondered how on earth the foreigner knew his name, and more to the point where was Sussex. Before too long Biggles was invited down to the camp for tea and sheep’s eyeballs.
Biggles held one of the eyeballs up to his face.
“It’s staring at me.”
“That mean’s it is happy to see you,” laughed Abdullah.
“What about the sheep?” Biggles was nervous.
“The sheep is not happy to see you,” and Abdullah clapped his hands at the absurdity of foreigners.
Biggles put it in his mouth and slowly bit down on it. It popped like a squishy sea polyp and burst open. He shuddered as he swallowed it.
“Rather tasty,” he managed gasping, “I don’t suppose you know where I could find a plane.”
Abdullah looked at him with some anger.
“There have been planes attacking my sheep,” he picked up his old carbine, “do you know anything about this? I only have all these eyeballs, because I took them from the fly blown carcasses of all the dead ones.”
Biggles gagged on the next eyeball.
“No, not a bit,” he lied between retches, as he felt his taste buds turn into maggots “do you have any salt?”
The next day Abdullah showed him how to ride camels and lead him across the desert. The Sun poured down upon the desert with such a villainous heat that at one point Biggles, in delirium thought he was playing County Cricket for Sheffield and would have taken the field to bat if Abdullah hadn’t kept dragging him back on the saddle. Crows circled in the sky cawing incessantly until Abdullah shot one and gave it to Biggles for lunch.
“Aren’t you having any?” asked Biggles as he poked at his fried crow.
“It is forbidden,” grinned Abdullah, “but it is not forbidden to serve it to unbelievers.”
“Pretty sure they wouldn’t serve this at Maxim’s. It could do with a bottle of Chablis.”
“Have you a wife, Biggles of the air?” asked Abdullah.
“Yes, I call her Mrs. Biggles, I seem to have forgot her original name years ago.”
“Is she as beautiful as a falcon soaring above an oasis?”
“More of a vulture hovering over a gasworks.”
“These are things I know not of,” muttered Abdullah. “Is your country a great country?”
“Only when we beat the Australians at cricket,” Biggles crunched down on a wing, “the rest of the time we have to explain the whole Empire thingy, and how the sun never sets - although of course it has, and continues to set with unfailing regularity.”
“Strange is your world.”
“Even stranger is your cooking.”
“There is a hotel near here, where I am told there is good cooking.”
“As long as the television doesn’t show endless reruns of Egyptian soaps.”
Which of course it did, being the same hotel he had absconded from four days beforehand. Oddly the Secret Police never noticed he was missing and were still watching the same obscure Egyptian soap opera - even odder still the girl was wearing the same towel and singing the same song about the camel driver’s boy.
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