A Purple Cow


I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one.

They helped the Controller of CI5 out of the borrowed horsebox and round the side of Doyle's house into the garden.

"Just hang on till moonrise, sir," Bodie said soothingly. "Might want to do a few leg warm-up exercises meanwhile."

Cowley gave him a sour look and helped himself to one of Doyle's petunias.

"Water in the lily tub," Doyle told him, "and if you need it, the compost pile's behind the trellis."

"That what's been stinking the place up?" Bodie asked with interest. "I thought you'd forgotten to wash your feet again."

"Got a fresh load of manure from the mounted police stables yesterday," Doyle explained. "Hasn't had time to settle down yet. Sir, not the lobelia, they're a bit toxic--oh well," he added philosophically, "too late. Let's get on with it."

"Spiteful sod, that Willis," Bodie remarked as they went into the house. "I mean, bad enough casting spells on the Old Man to keep him away from the budget conference, but he could at least have turned him into a purple bull."

"You just fancy yourself in a red cape and those tight... See if you can find my crystal dish," Doyle instructed, rummaging in a drawer. "I think it's in the fridge."

Bodie extricated a bowl of bean sprouts. "This it?"

"Yeah." Doyle unearthed a heavy silver spoon. "Empty 'em into something else, will you?"

"Turn them into something good?" Bodie asked optimistically. "Need to keep my strength up. Ice cream?"

"The magic's for work, you know," Doyle told him sternly. "Oh, all right, give it here, then. He still hasn't signed that expense chit." He made a couple of passes with the spoon, then gave it to Bodie. "Wash 'em both up when you've finished, and don't go scrubbin' the enchantment off."

"Where did you get them?" Bodie asked curiously, admiring the delicately faceted crystal and the intricate moulding of the spoon as he carefully rinsed them at the sink.

"Legacy from my Nan--she thought I'd inherited the talent. Can't usually do anything with 'em, but her residual magic keeps the bean sprouts fresh. Think a guitar will do instead of a fiddle?"

"Dunno. You're the wizard. That ice cream was fantastic--real strawberry taste!"

"Yeah, the spoon often perks flavours up." Doyle took a plate of leftovers out of the fridge.

"Here, what are you doing with the sausages?" Bodie demanded indignantly. "I want those for later!"

"Bribery and corruption. Go and charm Mrs Woodhouse at number 22 into a loan of Yorkshire Ripper and I'll get hold of Moggy-Next-Door."

When Bodie returned with the silky-haired little dog tucked under his arm he found Doyle sitting at the kitchen table, staring down into the crystal bowl which he'd filled with an amber-coloured fluid.

"Do you scry at weddings too?" Bodie sniffed. "You using that Glenlivet I got you for your birthday?"

"Yeah," Doyle said apologetically. "Wasn't gettin' anywhere with water, but the spirits are bein' quite helpful. Trick Nan passed on. Hello, Rip." He patted the Yorkie's head. "You been a good dog, then?"

"Barbara says she'll be glad to see the back of him for a couple of hours. He's been subverting her Rottweiler obedience class. Says he should have been called a terror, not a terrier. How are you going to get him to laugh, then?"

"Give him a sausage. He'll wag his tail; that's close enough. It's all symbolic anyway."

"Symbolic of what?"

"Forces," Doyle said vaguely. "Ideas. Morphic resonance. Energy focussing. If I was really good at it like my Nan we wouldn't need any of this carry-on, just the basic magic, but the ritual's like stepping stones. Landmarks."

Bodie looked dubious. "Hope it'll work. If Cowley doesn't get to the budget conference we could lose half the year's funding to Willis's mob. So what did you see in the malt?"

"Interestin'," Doyle replied. "It's functioning like a radar dish. And guess who's hoverin' about up there waitin' to intercept the Cow?"

"Willis? Got a chopper, has he?"

"No." Doyle grinned. "We already knew he was a swine. Now he's gone the whole hog. Turned himself into a pig and got a pair of those experimental wings from somewhere. Job for you, mate. On your broomstick!"

"I hate broomsticks," Bodie groused. "Nothing to hang on to properly."

"Tried to convince Cowley to get 'em fitted with handholds," Doyle said, "but he claims all this supernatural lark plays merry hell with the budget as it is. He'll probably be moaning about me requisitioning the whole quarterly magic appropriation for tonight. You've got a lovely seat on a broomstick, though, sunshine--well, it's a lovely seat anywhere." He patted it affectionately.

"Feels effeminate, broomsticks, somehow," Bodie complained. "Like riding a woman's bike."

"Stereotype, that is. Got very potent phallic associations, broomsticks," Doyle assured him. "Right up your alley."

"Not mine, thank you! Quite enough having you up my alley every other night."

Doyle handed him the spoon. "Solid silver, this. Good as a silver bullet if you use it right."

"Be a pleasure," Bodie said grimly. "Been waiting for a chance at the bastard. I'll sizzle his bacon for him. Give us a kiss for luck?"

"Berk!" Doyle obliged. "Sure you don't want me hanky to wear as a favour?"

"Not after I saw you wiping off motor oil with it. Rather have one of your horrible socks."

Doyle took a last long, thoughtful look into the scrying dish, smiled to himself, then followed Bodie out into the garden. The smell from the compost was terrible. "Lobelia," Doyle murmured. "Knew they'd upset him." He held out the bowl of Glenlivet. "Here, sir, this'll set you up. Shouldn't mix moos and booze, but it probably can't hurt for once."

Bodie hauled the broomstick out of its parking spot, straddled it and swept off into the dark sky with a war cry of "Sooey! Here, piggy-wig!" Doyle and Cowley waited with bated breath until an agonised "Oink!" shattered the night and a stunned boar crash-landed at their feet, a pair of pink wings detaching and melting away.

"Gave him a hell of a ding at the end of his nose," Bodie triumphed, leaping off the broomstick and handing Doyle the spoon.

"Ah, well, a bit of rhyming transformation, then--" Doyle gestured with the spoon. "Now it's a ring at the end of his nose. He'll have fun gettin' rid of that. And we'll just keep him in this shape till the budget conference is over, shall we, sir?"

"Mooo!" Alpha One approved. There was a light of whisky-fuelled vengeance in his eye. He lowered his head and charged Willis, heaving him up and over the trellis where he landed with a malodorous SPLAT.

"Oh, very nice, sir," Bodie congratulated him. "Who says you don't give a toss? Perfect poke in a pig, that was. And very humane--we know he'll be happy in the compost."

"Could've crumpled a horn, sir," Doyle reproved. "Nearly gave us a short sharp shower, too. Look, the moon's rising: let's get on with it."

He placed his guitar on the ground.

"On three, sunshine," he told Bodie. "Remember the words?" Bodie rolled his eyes and muttered something about eggs. "One, two, three!"


Doyle threw a sausage to Rip to keep him busy. He dropped another onto the guitar strings, and Moggy-Next-Door pounced, drawing forth a discordant twang. A haze of sorcery puffed around the garden.

"Now, sir!" Bodie urged.

With a mighty effort, the Cow jumped towards the moon.

They watched until his dwindling silhouette was too small to see, then Doyle tossed the last sausage to Rip, checked that the tail-wagging mechanism was engaged, grabbed the dish and spoon, thrust the dish into Bodie's right hand and seized hold of his left. "Run!" he ordered.

They hurdled the discarded broomstick and double-timed back into the house.

"That should do it." Doyle leaned out of the window. "Give us a bark when you see him coming back down," he told Rip, "and keep an eye on the pig, and I'll see you right." He started to put the spoon away, then caught Bodie's wistful eye and conjured three replacement sausages into the dish. "He'll be about an hour round trip, I reckon. Should be his usual sweet self when he lands. Better have the rest of the Glenlivet handy. Hope his clothes get turned back too."

"Maybe he'll be dressed in leather," Bodie speculated. "I could use a coffee." He switched the kettle on.

"Have to be black," Doyle warned him. "Gave the last of the cream to Moggy. Should have thought of that before...no, don't suppose he'd've fancied bein' milked."

"No point keeping a cow and mooing yourself." Bodie finished the last sausage. "I mean, why buy milk when you can get a purple cow? God, that broomstick gets me all muddled, don't know what I'm saying."

"Excitement of gettin' hitched," Doyle suggested casually.

"You what?"

"Jumped the broomstick together, didn't we?"

Bodie smiled with sudden happiness. "Think that'll be enough to hold us? There's the Hoover as well, you know." He spooned instant coffee into mugs, added water, put sugar in one, borrowed the spoon and stirred them both. "Thought I'd never get you up to scratch!"

"Well, it's all that moonlight. Always was a romantic." Doyle sipped his coffee. "Had a shufti while I was whisky-gazing: don't see anythin' better than you loomin' up in me future."

Bodie shook his head bemusedly. "Think Willis would sell us that ring?"

"Flog his ring for a shilling? In a pig's...nose." Doyle swallowed more coffee. "Mmm, that's very nice. Never tried the spoon with coffee before. Tastes like best fresh-ground. Wish we could have gone along with the Cow. Like to see the moon close up."

"Over the moon already. Honeymoon." Bodie gave him a look of deep contentment and slid an arm round his waist. "Try and wangle a few days if the Old Man's feeling grateful when he lands. Probably cow us into submission though."

"Get 'im to ruminate about it." Doyle's face creased into a tender, chip-toothed grin. "Finish your coffee, sweetheart, and we'll go and have a bit of the old conjugals."

"Let's take the spoon with us while the magic's still working," Bodie suggested. "Got a couple of ideas."

They made passionate purple love till the Cow came home.

Ah, yes! I wrote the `Purple Cow'--
I'm sorry now I wrote it!
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'll kill you if you quote it!

(Verse by Gelett Burgess)

-- THE END --

September 1999.
This version has been re-edited.

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