Sir Ralph Beef Wellington and the Incredible Loophole

‘You’re insane Ralph,’ Charlie told him. ‘It’ll never work.’

Two years later and he was half right. Standing on the churning deck in the pouring rain of the South Pacific, Charlie knew the man was bonkers. Crazy. Mad as a lamppost.

But his calculations were correct, apparently…

‘There it is!’ Ralph yelled above the roar of the sea, clinging to a rope. ‘It’s real! I told you!’

Out through the lashing rain and over twenty-foot waves was … a lighthouse.

You know the type – the big, red-and-white-striped things.

‘Ralph!’ he yelled. ‘Ralph, why is there a lighthouse?’

‘So people can see it, Charlie! That’s what they’re for!’ He gave Charlie one of his eccentric, upper-class grins.

‘No Ralph, what I mean is, why would they bother putting a lighthouse here?’ Ralph had mentioned distortions in the space-time continuum, and Charlie had dreamed of crackling blue lightning and, well, stuff. A jolly lighthouse didn’t quite fit the bill.

‘Beats me Charlie!’

Thunder rumbled across the ocean. They dropped the sea anchor and started lowering the dinghy.

‘Tell me what we’re doing here again Ralph?’ Charlie shouted. Rain had seeped into his waterproofs long ago.

‘We’re using the dinghy cos the boat’s too big!’ Ralph called back. The chain clanked away, then stopped as it hit the water. ‘It’d take us more than a day to get round!’

‘No, what I meant was,’ Charlie said, climbing down the slippery ladder, ‘this chrono-thing is fascinating, but what use is it?’

‘What use is it?!’ Ralph dropped into the little boat, his trilby hat completely soaked but still somehow on his head. Charlie slipped rather awkwardly and nearly fell overboard. ‘Charlie, we’re going to make millions! I’ll be a scientific hero in the end of course, but for now-’ he leaned in and grabbed Charlie’s shoulder, ‘-it’s our little secret, and our chance to make our fortune!’

Charlie was glad he kept saying “our”, although his ears kept hearing the word “my”.

‘Now row!’ Ralph declared, pointing to the horizon beyond the lighthouse. ‘Row! Heave! Heave!’

‘Yes thanks Ralph I know how to row.’

‘Just getting into the spirit of things.’

It was daunting. Charlie had stamina, but the waves were big. Really big. Ralph seemed completely unaware, fiddling about with the laptop.

‘Ralph, you sure that thing’s waterproof?’ Charlie puffed, heaving against the water.

He nodded vigorously. ‘One hundred and ten percent! And the satellite phone.’ He tapped the grey block that looked like one of those huge mobile phones from the eighties. ‘Paid a lot of money for the pair of them. If they’re not waterproof, I’ll be damn cross!’

Charlie wondered who’d be scared of Ralph being “damn cross”.

Slowly, minute by minute, they began to pass the lighthouse…

‘You see Charlie,’ Ralph said, ‘as I’ve explained before, our watches are no good for this – not even your phone, which I told you would have no signal in the South Pacific…’

‘Worth a try,’ Charlie mumbled.

‘…because they use their own internal clock, you see? But with this wonderful device,’ he patted the sleek white laptop, ‘we are connected to the world-wide-interweb! So as we cross over the dateline, I can prove it exists!’ His face glowed, almost deflecting the cold wet elements all around. ‘_Chronocavia_, the legend itself! The great gap in time! The incredible loophole!’

He tapped away at the laptop. The 80s phone bleeped away.

‘And now, with a few more rows, I can show that – yes – wait – yes! Yes!’ He jumped with joy, rocking the boat badly. ‘We’ve done it Charlie! It’s Wednesday!’

‘But it was Wednesday five minutes ago Ralph!’

‘That’s exactly what I mean!’

‘I don’t get it Ralph!’

‘We’ve crossed the International Dateline! Backwards! It should be Thursday, but it’s still Wednesday!’

‘Oh right.’ Charlie thought about this, still rowing. ‘That’s quite clever I guess. No wait, hang on, I don’t quite get it-’

‘All we have to do now,’ he proclaimed in a large, dramatic voice, ‘is cross back over the dateline outside the Chronocavia – on the other side of the lighthouse – and it will be Tuesday!

There was silence for a bit as Charlie continued on rowing. Ralph stayed standing up, hands on hips.

‘But I only made those sandwiches this morning.’

‘Charlie, the sandwiches travel with us.’

‘Ah. They won’t disappear then?’

‘Should damn well hope not.’

They rowed on, or rather, Charlie rowed and Ralph stood looking rugged and rather daring. Wednesday was turning out to be just as wet here as Wednesday back behind them.

‘What are you going to do with your riches Ralph?’

‘Oh I don’t know,’ Ralph mused, ‘maybe buy a mansion with gay flamingos serving drinks, you know the thing, the usual. Yourself?’

‘I quite fancy buying a charity.’

‘Buying a – what?’

‘You know. So when they cure cancer, they’d all say I did it.’

‘I don’t think that’s how it works Charlie.’

‘It worked with that Branson bloke and ebola.’

‘I’m really not sure you’re in Branson’s league, Charlie.’

‘Hmm. Well we’ll see who gets their face printed on those ’flu jab syringes first. Then who’ll be laughing, eh?’

‘Certainly not the flu patients.’

‘Exactly!’

‘Well anyway,’ Ralph declared, checking the computer and looking out across the bare sea, ‘we’re about to cross the dateline again Charlie. This is it! Heave! Heave!’

‘No need to shout, I’m right here!’

‘Are you ready for Tuesday?’

‘I’m ready for anything!’

The satellite phone went beeeeeep; the laptop went ping.

‘We’ve done it Charlie! It’s four o’clock on Tuesday! Let’s get back to the-’ He scoured the waves. ‘Charlie, the boat’s gone!

‘What?!’

‘Someone’s pinched it! Look, it’s not there any more!’

‘But how can that – ah, hang on. Ralph, I think-’

‘We only left it five minutes!’

‘Ralph, it’s yesterday. The boat wasn’t here yesterday.’

Ralph opened his mouth, then shut it again, much like a goldfish.

‘So…’ He counted on his fingers, without actually counting. ‘So we can’t get to it because…’

‘Because we left the boat in Wednesday, Ralph,’ Charlie added helpfully.

‘Hmm.’ He thought some more, and suddenly lit up. ‘I’ve got it! We just have to wait here for a day, then bam – the boat will turn up with us in it!’

Charlie looked mortified. ‘A whole day?! I’m cold!’

‘Well we can’t row all the back to Wednesday. It’ll be Friday by the time we get to Thursday.’

‘So what you’re saying is we … we steal the boat back from ourselves?’ It was Charlie’s turn to think. ‘So if we went back round the lighthouse, we might catch ourselves nicking the boat from us?’

‘Charlie, I don’t want to get bogged down in the whys and wherefores of time and space,’ Ralph said with a tired look. ‘I just want to use the Chronocavia to make millions of Pounds Sterling (and other assorted currencies), and be declared “An Heroic Hero And Magician” across the globality of the globe. And possibly live out my dream of being Doctor Who as well.’

Charlie muttered something about being his glamorous assistant.

‘Ahh, time travel,’ declared Ralph, standing over the churning waves as if on a pleasant stroll in Spring. ‘Doesn’t it excite you Charlie? Doesn’t it give you a thrill?’

Charlie said nothing.

‘Charlie?’

Ralph turned round to see Charlie had stopped rowing and was staring, white as a sheet, out into the water.

A long, neck towered out of the water, ending in a bullet-shaped reptilian head. In the gloom, its tiny black eyes looked at them.

It looked distinctly like a dinosaur.
‘Dunno about time travel Ralph,’ said Charlie, ‘but that thing scares the hell out of me.’

Sir Ralph Beef Wellington and the Incredible Loophole

jezkemp

Rotherhithe, London, United Kingdom

  • Artist
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Artist's Description

A comic tale of an eccentric British explorer and his sidekick as they find a loophole in the International Dateline!

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