The Node Bulletins: Number Four
Tajikistan, 5 July. Flatpole disappoints me. Yesterday, we abandoned our expedition vehicle, the tyres having been stolen during the night. It seems that they are much prized by the locals as camp-fire seats. Thoroughbrace tried to keep us going on wheel rims – an excruciating experience. This misfortune led to our first need for Flatpole’s linguistic talents, into which I should have inquired more fully at the outset. She has revealed that her claimed command of French and German runs to ‘bonjour’ and ‘guten Tag’ respectively. If that is her idea of mastery, I shudder to think what her alleged smattering of a number of oriental languages might amount to.
The woman is habitually bellicose and did our cause no good today when, during an interview with prospective porters, she felled one poor chap who commented, I thought rightly, on the excessive length of her beard. Pugh waded into the ensuing fray and I was hard-pressed to restore goodwill. My own party is difficult enough without the burden of fractious natives. Thank God for Ridley Gannett, who remains strong and silent, especially the latter, as his throat problem persists.
Our group seems to be splintering. Flatpole and Pugh spend much time together and have little to do with the rest of us. Last night they disappeared, taking Flatpole’s curious sleeping bag and not rejoining us until dawn. Pugh has developed a marked stoop and I wonder how much longer he will be equal to his duties. Our hardships are exacerbated by the loss of our vehicle; an event that caused animosity between Flatpole and Thoroughbrace. She insisted that we had no further need of a technician, his riposte concerning her interlocutory skills being unrepeatable.
My leadership qualities are being tested, but I remain quietly confident.
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