Bagenders – The Breaking of the Chair

Season 2, Episode 7

By Lady Alyssa and Random Dent
Disclaimer: JRR Tolkien owns all the characters, apart from the ones we made up.
Rating: R-ish (lots of bad language; Gandalf’s naked shins)
Feedback: yes please, please or else it means we have to work.
Story notes: The concept for this episode is based on ’24’ but it doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen it because neither have we.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My name is Istar Gandalf the Gre- the Whi- the Grubby. And this is the worst day of my… well, okay, the worst day in the last few months.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

20:00

Gandalf shifted his weight in the chair. It creaked. A lot. The rest of the Fellowship looked over at him. He leered back at them.

“I think it may be time for some more duct tape.”

Gandalf’s chair had been in a state of imminent collapse for a number of weeks now. A new chair had been ordered, but was conspicuous in its absence. So the current heap of cloth, cushion, blanket, deckchair and uncontemplatable Stuff was being shored up with large amounts of duct tape. Pippin, on his turn to tape up the chair had got somewhat over enthusiastic and had taped the stuffed auk to the stuffed hedgehog to create a bizarre hybrid.

“It’s not my go to tape again.”

There were other murmurs about it not being their go from everyone. All attention focused on Legolas.

“I think you haven’t done the taping for a while.”

“No.”

“That’s unfair! You make us do it.”

“I am the major breadwinner of the house. Thus I have slightly less domestic responsibility.”

“I’m sure Aragorn earns more than you do.”

“Fine. I am the secondary breadwinner of the household. This brings rights and privileges that I am exercising.”

“You haven’t done any taping for aaaaaaaaaages. Your go.”

“I am an elf. Duct tape is plastic and unnatural and I will have nothing to do with it.”

“We don’t care if you tie it back together with string, it’s your go.”

“Isn’t it Gimli’s turn? I haven’t seen him tape it back together for a while and he’s really good at it.”

“Och, it’s time I was going to work, I think I can hear a car outside, that’ll be my lift.” Gimli hurried out the front door into the suspiciously quiet street.

“Well, I suppose that means it’s Legolas’ go again.”

There was a pause as Legolas ignored them.

“We’ll sing.”

A brief look of worry flashed over Legolas’ face before he regained control. “Trying to intimidate me will not work.”

Merry and Pippin looked at each other and took a deep breath. “And Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii will always love youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu aaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii will always love youououoououoooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuu…”

Legolas tried to ignore them. He tried to put his fingers in his ears. But it was no good. He got up and picked up the duct tape, at which point Merry and Pippin ceased singing. Outside there was the distant sound of dogs howling, babies crying and car alarms going off.

There was an art to the duct taping of the chair. It involved isolating areas of structural weakness, covering them in duct tape and, (and this was most important) making no physical contact whatsoever with either Gandalf or the chair itself. Sam had accidentally brushed the back of his hand against an outlying part of the chair and had developed a strange rash and fungal infection that had taken weeks to clear up.

The distasteful task completed Legolas returned to the sofa.

“Why can’t you tape it back together yourself?”

“Can’t reach.”

“You could stand up.”

“I can’t. It’s bad for me. I’m legally dead you know. I really should be lying down.”

“What about using magic?”

“It is an affront to the dignity of a wizard to use his powers in the service of DIY.”

“And using your powers to pin people you don’t like to the ceiling’s fine?”

“That is using magic to wreak vengeance on mine enemies.”

“And Social Workers.”

“If they are not in league with the dark powers then I don’t know who is.”

“Will you all be quiet? I’m missing the gardening.”

Since it is a foolish man who gets between Samwise and tv coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show, peace descended for the time being.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

21:00

There was no warning. No portent, no premonition. It just collapsed. There was a relatively restrained crash, since much of the body of the chair was made up of soft furnishings to muffle the sound. Gandalf tipped backwards as the chair collapsed, leaving his feet stuck up in the air. The Fellowship as one turned to look at him and then turned back to the tv.

Silence reigned for a few minutes. Gandalf neither moved nor made a noise.

Frodo looked over to him nervously. “Do you think he’s ok?”

“Yes.”

“He hasn’t moved.”

“He rarely does.”

“What if he’s dead?”

“He’ll get over it.”

“Should we get him up?”

“That would involve touching him.”

Gandalf’s feet waved ineffectually. “You will help me up.”

“No.”

“We have to do something, I can see his shins and that’s disturbing.”

Aragorn looked over. “We could lasso him. Drag him up. I’ll get some rope.”

Frodo and Legolas both opened their mouths to say something then caught each other’s eye. There was a shared thought – ‘he’s going to do this anyway, whatever we say. Let’s save our breath for sorting everything out when it all goes wrong. Because it will go wrong.’ Aragorn strode out of the room towards the shed, and returned with the garden hose. He swore and strode out to the shed once more, this time returning with a length of rope.

Aragorn assumed John Wayne stance. The difference between this and how he normally stood was slight, but noticeable to the trained observer. He formed his lasso. He swung the rope twice round his head, accidentally looped it round the light fitting, fell over and dragged the light fitting off the ceiling. The room was plunged into darkness.

“Bollocks.”

Legolas turned the standard lamp on. “Aragorn, please reassure me that you will get a trained electrician to replace that and not attempt to do it yourself.”

Aragorn looked shifty, a difficult feat when you’re wrapped in rope and live electrical wire. “Of course Legolas. Could someone turn the switch off?”

Aragorn was freed. Sam took the rope of him and gently dropped a loop round Gandalf. By dint of much heaving the rest of them managed to get him upright.

Frodo looked at Gandalf concernedly. “Are you alright?”

Gandalf concentrated on looking pitiful. “I’ve had a shock. I need… a large brandy.”

“Oh, good, you’re fine then.”

Gandalf was installed on the sofa, and since they had the slowest reactions in this field Legolas and Aragorn were left sitting on the floor. It was either that or share an item of furniture with Gandalf. Relative normality was restored, but with mood lighting.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

22:00

“Come on. Pyjamas on.”

“Frodo. It’s only ten o clock. We’re all grown up.”

“Yes, but I don’t think there was a single night last week when any of you got a full eight hours sleep. You’ve got to make up for it.”

“Frodo, we’re all old enough to decide that for ourselves.”

“Just listen to yourself, grumpy and argumentative. That’s because of lack of sleep.”

“It’s not faaaaaaaaaaiiiiiirrrrrr.”

“I’m not going to make you go to bed just now, cocoa and biscuits first.”

The hobbits filed out of the room. Frodo turned to Aragorn and Legolas. “You too. I know you haven’t been sleeping much.”

“I’m an elf. He’s part elf. We don’t need that much sleep.”

“You’ll feel better for it.”

“What about Gandalf?”

“He has naps all day.”

“Look, we’ll have the cocoa, just let us stay up and watch the tv…” Aragorn trailed off as he caught Frodo’s expression.

“You can have until the next adverts.” On cue the next set of adverts started. “There see, you’ve seen some more tv. Now, Pyjamas.”

Aragorn and Legolas gave in. There were being treated like children, but at least this meant they were going to be fed biscuits.

A few minutes later they all appeared back in the kitchen. Legolas’ pyjama choices were hidden beneath his treasured full length Edwardian dressing gown. The hobbits were all dressed in sensible pyjamas – Merry’s had Star Wars designs on them, Pippin’s had the Simpsons and obscene slogans, Sam’s were striped and sensible and Frodo… looked like a short version of Noel Coward. Aragorn, to annoy Frodo, was dressed in an elderly and distressed pair of boxers, a dishelved t-shirt and hiking socks.

Frodo handed out mugs of cocoa and a plate of chocolate digestives. These were eaten in companionable silence.

“Now, teeth.”

“It’s twenty past ten. This is ridiculous.”

“So, you think oral hygiene is ridiculous do you?”

“No, I think treating us like children is ridiculous. Even Pippin can clean his own teeth perfectly well.”

“Just because I take an interest! Just because I care! You think it’s fine to belittle me, to mock my attempts to look after you all!” Frodo seemed on the verge of tears.

“Um, sorry Frodo…”

“You won’t even clean your teeth for me!”

“Yeah, um, sorry, we’re all going to clean our teeth now, aren’t we?” Sam gave a meaningful look to the rest of the Fellowship, who all nodded.

They trooped upstairs and crowded round the sink, elbowing each other and dropping toothpaste on each other.

“You’re not going to tuck us in now, are you?”

“No! Half of you are bigger than me. It’d be undignified.”

“Goodnight Legolas.”

“Goodnight Aragorn.”

“Goodnight John-Boy.”

“I heard that, Pippin.”

“Goodnight Merry-Ellen.”

“Pippin, stop it.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

23:00

Frodo slunk out of the bedroom as soon as he was sure Sam was asleep. He made his way down the stairs, carefully avoiding the creaky floorboards. In the kitchen he opened a cupboard and moved aside some tins. He pressed part of the panelling and it slid open, revealing a stash of junk food. Frodo had realised long ago that if he wanted sweet things to stay uneaten they had to be somewhere where Merry and Pippin couldn’t find them. He took out two bags of popcorn and headed for the sitting room.

He threw one of the bags of popcorn into Gandalf’s lap and settled himself on the other sofa in front of the tv.

“And now on Channel 4, the Director’s cut of “Braindead” with lots of extra gore.”

Frodo grinned. Everything had gone according to plan. Watching films with the rest of the Fellowship was not fun. Merry and Pippin gave a running commentary, Legolas disapproved and Aragorn constantly asked who people were and what they were doing. Sam was fine, but couldn’t be trusted not to accidentally tell another member of the Fellowship.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

00:00

Frodo had fallen asleep in front of the tv. He’d had a hard day, and however entertaining the film was he’d got warm and comfy on the sofa and had nodded off. Gandalf had prodded him with his staff a couple of times, but he’d just mumbled and turned over.

Gandalf was satisfied that Frodo was deeply asleep and got up, leaving the tv going so that any member of the Fellowship making a late night bathroom dash would assume that he was watching it.

His first port of call was the kitchen. He opened the fridge. There were three types of milk in the fridge. Unpasteurised organic full fat milk for Aragorn, who didn’t hold with having it ‘mucked about with’. Organic goat’s milk for Legolas. A huge four pint bottle of semi-skimmed was for the hobbits – Sam liked semi-skimmed, and Merry and Pippin added Nesqik to it as a matter of course, even when they put it on their cornflakes, so never noticed. The bottle of semi skimmed had barely been opened. Gandalf opened it and drank. And kept on drinking. He stopped just at the point where there was a dribble in the bottom that was almost, but not quite, enough to put in a cup of coffee.

Then he started hunting round the house moving things. Aragorn’s hammer was moved from lying on a shelf in the garage to being balanced precariously on top of the central heating boiler. The bookmark in Legolas’ copy of ‘Orlando’ by Virginia Woolf was moved from page 134 to page 95. He ventured into the shared laundry basket, retrieved selected items of Pippin’s clothing and strew them about the landing. He turned on the light in the understairs cupboard. He chewed on the end of a ball point pen until it split and then put it back into Merry’s pencil case. He gave all the non-stick pans in the kitchen a quick wash with a metal scourer. In the upstairs bathroom he poured a small amount of Legolas’ fiendishly expensive shampoo down the sink. He then spent some time outside in the garden moving Sam’s newly planted bulbs around.

Then, satisfied that he had created enough potential mayhem to make his life at least a little bit interesting, Gandalf returned to the sitting room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

01.00

Some non-specific soft porn was playing on the tv. Gandalf, however, was ignoring it. He was grovelling inside the depths of the remains of his chair. He found what he was looking for – his copy of ‘Das Schloss’. While Gandalf projected an image of being a dirty old man with no other interests apart from porn and violence, he did have a finely honed intellect. An intellect that he had no intention of letting atrophy, but at the same time he had no intention of letting anyone else find out about this. They might start expecting him to do things and Legolas might start talking to him. The less time he had to spend talking to a poncey git who felt he was more at one with the universe than everyone else the better.

Sometimes Gandalf felt guilty for making Frodo look after him. After all, Frodo had been though a lot. Then he remembered exactly how much pain he’d gone though on Frodo’s behalf and how much of a little bastard Frodo had been when young and felt that this was appropriate payback. As for Aragorn, Merry and Pippin, yes he did make their lives a misery, but he felt sure that they’d make their own lives a misery without his intervention. He just ensured that they did it in an amusing fashion.

Literature kept his mind occupied. All the better that it was gloomy literature on the essential futility of human existence.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

02.00

Frodo mumbled and seemed to be about to wake up. Gandalf sat on his book and turned his attention to the tv. However, it had ceased to be soft porn and had turned into a documentary about puffins. Gandalf was prepared for the Fellowship to think that he was a pervert, but not that much of a pervert. He flicked the remote and managed to find some repeats of Buffy just as Frodo sat up.

“Ismdf. Bed. Night Gandalf.”

Gandalf made a non specific leering noise and kept his eyes on the television. When Frodo had left Gandalf unscrewed the head of the stuffed auk and extracted a bottle of single malt whisky. One of the things that Gandalf did not fake was his drink problem. Sometimes it was nice to have vadko between him and the rest of the universe. Because after you’d drunk vadko balrogs held no terror, and Maurice the green dancing okapi agreed. But sometimes a nice single malt was rather more civilised.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

02:00

“Laaarrrrrifuuggggginlooooooooooooovvvvveeeeeeeyou.”

Gandalf heard the sound of a woman in distress. A drunk woman in distress. It was his duty to investigate.

“Larrrrryfugggggginseeeeeeeexxxxy.”

“Wannnnnnnnnaaaahayouuurbabies.”

Ah. Multiple drunk females.

“Lllllaaaaaaarrrrrwaupanshagme.”

Gandalf got to the front window, and was again grateful for Frodo’s insistence on net curtains. In the front garden were four drunk girls, obviously at the end of a night out. And all, very obviously, underage. They were yelling up at the windows. Along the street lights were coming on and windows were being opened.

One seemed on the verge of tears. “Llllllllllaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrymine.”

Gandalf wondered why they looked so familiar. Upstairs Legolas had been awoken by the noise and was making his way downstairs, closely followed by Frodo and Sam, who was holding a frying pan in a belligerent manner.

“What is going on?”

Gandalf pointed out of the window. Legolas peered though the gap in the net curtains, then leapt back and pressed himself against the wall. “Ohmygod.”

“What’s the matter?”

“It’s Them. They live behind us. They want my body. Pippin told them my name, where I work and that I’m single.”

“Lllllllllllaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrs! Lllllllllllllllllllllllllaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrs!”

“At least he only told them your work name.”

“The one that makes me sound like a Swedish porn star.”

Gandalf leered. He felt this was expected of him.

“We have to do something. They should be at home in bed.”

Gandalf leered again, since he just couldn’t let that one pass.

“I am not going out there.”

“I’m going out there.”

“Frodo, no!”

“Get ready behind the door and shut it as soon as I’m through. Under no circumstances let them inside.” They stood behind the door. “Wish me luck. Now!”

Legolas and Sam pulled the door open, Frodo leapt out and the door was slammed behind him. The girls had leapt for the door but were too drunk to make it in time.

“Go home.”

“N’want Lars.”

“Go home, or I shall go and fetch your parents.”

“No. Lars. Lars. Lars. Lars.”

“Fine.” Frodo turned and walked off. A few minutes later he returned, followed by a middle aged couple in nightwear.

“Lorna. Andrea. I hope you are ashamed of yourselves. And you, Stephanie, Nicola, what do you think I’m going to tell your parents?”

“Verysorry Mrs. Stewart.”

“Home. The lot of you. Now. And don’t think you’re not going to school tomorrow, because you are, understood?” She turned to Frodo. “I’m so sorry about this Mr. Baggins, what on earth must you think of us…”

“It’s no bother really, we were all young once, we’ve all had a little too much to drink. But could you talk to them about, um, following my housemate around? It’s starting to upset him.”

“You mean the blond gentleman?”

“Yes, um, they seem rather keen on him.”

“Oh, yes, I’ll talk to them about it. Thank you for being so understanding.”

“Oh, anytime. Goodnight.”

Frodo turned and went inside. He and Sam helped a trembling Legolas back to bed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

03:00

T’was the night before Wednesday and all through the house, nothing was stirring, not even a mouse because if Frodo had even the merest suspicion that there was a mouse in his house he would have had the whole place covered in traps, poison and finally fumigated.

Out in the garden though, there was movement. A black shadow moved along the garden fence, a creature bred for the sole purpose of killing, wearing a collar saying “Fluffikins”. It was currently looking to expand its territory, and here had come across a new garden with a very odd scent. It jumped off the fence.

It moved with caution… something was wrong here, very wrong. There didn’t seem to be anything else moving round the garden – no mice, no hedgehogs, not even any squirrels. Fluffikins had a very bad feeling about this. About thirty seconds later this feeling was confirmed as Fluffikins triggered the catapult. He was caught round a paw and flung high into the air. He landed, feet first and unscathed three gardens away. He was furious, and set to attacking the first thing he saw – unfortunately, a much prized garden gnome.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

04:00

“Msnnnnnn fooooddddd… msnnnnnn foooooood… neeeeddd foood…”

There was a low grade chuntering coming from the upstairs landing, coming closer to the stairs. Then there was a series of muffled thumps, almost as if a four and a half foot tall person had fallen downstairs. There was a brief scrabbling at the foot of the stairs and the chuntering continued.

“Neeeddd fooooood… mssssnnnnnnn foooood…”

There were some more thumps as the small figure bounced off the walls in the hallway, heading for the kitchen. It paused in the doorway.

“Marmalade.”

Pippin headed towards a cupboard, opened it and produced a jar of marmalade. He opened the jar and stuck his hand in, scooping out great handfuls to eat. However, as he got towards the bottom his hand became stuck in the jar.

“Msssssssn?”

Pippin licked the outside of the jar. Then he shook it. This, though, did not make the glass taste of marmalade.

“Mysn. Bed.”

He tromped back upstairs again dripping marmalade from the jar and leaving orange handprints on the walls.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 05:00

Merry’s alarm clock went off very, very quietly. He leapt out of bed and silenced it, then looked over at Pippin with trepidation. Pippin, however, was sleeping peacefully, in a starfish position on top of the laundry heap his hand wedged into a jar. Merry relaxed – Pippin had evidently already gone on his sleep-eating excursion.

Merry slipped out of the bedroom and slunk downstairs. As he was half way down the stairs he heard the front door open as Gimli came home. Merry retrieved his books and pencil case and went into the kitchen in search of caffeine.

“Och, morning. How’s the Open University course going?”

“G’d.”

“Yes, self improvement is a wonderful thing.”

“Y.”

“I’ve always said you had potential, young hobbit.”

“Sdfn.”

Merry looked at the toaster and looked at the slice of bread in his hand. Cooking was far too taxing at this time in the morning. He ate the bread, poured himself a glass of water and picked up a jar of coffee granules and a spoon.

“Mind if I join you?”

Merry shrugged and walked into the sitting room. He sat down heavily on the sofa, turned on the tv, spread his books across his lap, and took his pen in one hand and a spoonful of coffee granules in the other.

“Why don’t ye record the programme?”

“Ismnd.” Merry indicated Gandalf, still asleep on the other sofa, since he had no interest whatsoever in programmes about economics.

“You mean he’d record over them? That’s not proper behaviour for a wizard.”

Merry looked at Gimli in confusion, and ignored him.

“Have ye no got a better pen?”

Merry focused blearily on what had been his best pen, now chewed almost to oblivion. He threw it in the bin and got out a pencil, incidentally covering part of the sofa in black ink. He started concentrating in earnest on the tv.

At 5.30 Legolas awoke, took off his sleeping pyjamas, put on his pristine white tai chi pyjamas and went out into the back garden. The first four and a half minutes of Legolas’ routine was the normal, standard moves. Then there were the ones he’d invented himself. Then, since he was worried about his personal safety there were the high speed fighting manoeuvres, developed through years of orc fighting, bar brawling and getting Aragorn out of trouble. He finished with a perfectly executed flying turning kick that squarely hit Aragorn’s brick-built barbecue. The barbecue exploded in a cloud of brick dust.

“Whoops.”

Merry and Gimli came out to investigate.

“It was an accident.”

“Och, you hate barbecues.”

“I still did not do that on purpose. I assure you.” Gimli and Merry looked unimpressed. “I am going for a shower.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

06:00

Frodo awoke. He always made sure that he was up this early to make sure that everyone was ready and sorted out before going to work. It was a nice, relaxing start to his day, pottering around the kitchen before anyone else was awake, making breakfasts and packed lunches for the rest of the Fellowship while listening to the radio and submerging himself in the joys of one of the easier forms of domestic drudgery.

However, in the past few weeks, this had been disturbed by a sleep-deprived, food-deprived, caffeine crazed hobbit demanding the recently invented meal of ‘Preliminary Breakfast’.

This morning Frodo had tried a new tactic in dealing with Merry, pretending that he didn’t exist. As a result, Merry was now sitting on the worktop dipping a banana into a jar of peanut butter and eating it while attempting to carry on a somewhat one-sided conversation at double speed.

“Andthenofcoursetheknockoneffectto thetigereconomiesinthe- isthatmarmalade? Haven’thadmarmaladeinagescanihavemarmaladesandwichesforsecondbreakfastpleasepleaseplease? ”

“No, it’s not marmalade, and you can’t have marmalade on your sandwiches for second breakfast because there isn’t any.”

“Oh. Canihavepepperoniinstead?”

“Yes, you can have pepperoni. Why don’t you go upstairs and see if Pippin’s awake?”

Merry bounced off the worktop and ran up the stairs. There was a crash as he fell over the laundry on the landing and the sounds of doors opening as other members of the Fellowship came out to investigate.

Frodo breathed a sigh of relief and resumed his task of sandwich making. Two loaves of bread later, it was complete and he jammed the sandwiches (and several pieces of fruit) into the correct plastic boxes and left them in the fridge for their owners to collect as they went out to work. With a few minutes to spare before he had to start on the breakfasts, Frodo poured himself a cup of coffee. Bugger, not quite enough milk again.

“Merry? Do you want to go to the shops for me?”

There was a clatter on the stairs again, followed a few seconds later by the appearance of Merry at the kitchen door.

“Youknowmilkisadyingindustryveryeconomicalynonviablewanttoknowwhy?”

“I don’t really care why, Merry, just go to the shop and get me two pints of semi-skimmed.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

07:00

Legolas was finishing his muesli and his conversation with Gimli, who was about to go to bed, when Sam and Pippin came downstairs for breakfast, the latter with the marmalade jar still stuck to his right hand, but as he had been given neither coffee nor food, he probably hadn’t noticed yet.

Legolas gave Pippin a confused look, but decided he didn’t want to know and so didn’t ask. However, Frodo did.

“Pippin, you do know you’ve got a half-empty marmalade jar stuck to your hand?”

“Oh? Really?” Pippin lifted his hand up to his face and looked at the jar as if it was some new scientific discovery. He tugged at it ineffectually, then, realising it was futile, decided to try licking marmalade off his wrist instead.

“Oh for goodness sake, Pippin, give it here.” Frodo pulled Pippin out of his chair by one arm and attempted to remove the jar with the use of brute force alone. Being that he was only one Hobbit of relatively slight build, this wasn’t a lot of brute force and he enlisted Sam and Merry’s help.

When Aragorn came downstairs a few minutes later, Merry was holding on to Pippin’s waist, Sam was holding on to Frodo’s waist and the two pairs were attached in the middle by the jar on Pippin’s wrist and Frodo’s grip on it; all four Hobbits were attempting to move in different directions. Aragorn took one look and decided he really didn’t want to know.

“So, um, Legolas, how are you this morning.”

“I’m fine Aragorn, how are you?”

After another few minutes of pulling, the Hobbits decided to give up and have breakfast while they waited for a better solution to present itself. Breakfast was obviously much more important.

Breakfast is, as everyone knows, the most important meal of the day and Frodo never took his culinary responsibilities lightly. The first course consisted of cereal for the Hobbits and salted porridge for Aragorn. There was then an intermediary course of toast, assorted rolls, croissants and fruit, before the fried items were served. Well, fried items for the Hobbits, but because Aragorn had expressed concern over his waistline, which everyone else in the house referred to as his ‘beer gut’, his was grilled. However, he did have one weakness: fried bread. This lead to the daily ritual of foiled attempts to steal fried bread from the Hobbits, for Hobbits do not give up their fried bread lightly.

Breakfast finished, attention was turned back to Pippin. However amusing it may have been, letting him go to work with a jar wedged onto his hand wasn’t really on. Aragorn came up with the solution – the jar was filled with cooking oil, the Aragorn held the jar and a suspended Pippin over the bath until eventually Pippin fell off.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

08:00

One by one, they left for work. Legolas had left first, while everyone else was still eating breakfast, then Aragorn went, driving off at speed before anyone else could ask him for a lift. Sam usually walked to work and left at varying times, depending on where he was working that day, and Merry and Pippin usually took the 8.12 bus.

On their way to the bus stop, Merry and Pippin passed a group of girls in short skirts, high heels and school blazers. As usual, they whistled their appreciation, and were given their customary single-fingered salute, although with less enthusiasm than usual from some of them, who looked like they were probably too ill to be sent to school, but were going anyway as a punishment. Out of sibling solidarity, the other two girls were bouncing up and down and singing.

Back in the house Frodo relaxed and sat down to watch some breakfast tv. He always allowed himself half an hour to rest his mind between dealing with the Fellowship en masse and facing the rest of his day. When he felt that he had sufficiently recovered he phoned the company dealing with Gandalf’s non-existent chair.

“The chair has been dispatched and should be with you at some point this afternoon.”

“Are you sure? Mr Grey is a very old man, a very, very old man and since his other chair broke he’s been having real difficulties standing up and sitting down. He’s all but stuck in that chair all day now.” Frodo decided not to mention that for Gandalf, being stuck in the chair was a matter of choice.

“Yes, sir. It should be with you after 1 o’clock this afternoon.”

“You’re really sure…”

“Yes, sir, I’m really sure.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

09:00

“Goooold Fingaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!”

Frodo was mopping the kitchen floor. In deference to the possibility of delivery men, or Sam skiving off work to watch the Chelsea Flower Show, he was fully dressed. However, he was bored, and so had resorted to Shirley Bassey karaoke.

“He’s the man, the man with the Midas touch-”

Frodo was sliding across the floor, using the mop handle as a microphone stand. Suitable dramatic gestures were being made to the words. Since this was not the first time he’d done this he was actually making a decent job of cleaning the floor at the same time. The pelvic movements were a little on the disturbing side though. As the song came to its climax he leapt onto the kitchen table.

Frodo stopped. He’d mopped the whole floor. Now he was on the kitchen table. This meant that if he wanted to leave the kitchen he was going to have to walk on the damp floor and dirty it again. Bugger.

In the sitting room Gandalf was watching ‘Kilroy’. The current topic was “My Partner’s Life Has Been Taken Over By Science Fiction”.

“Well, she spends all her time on the internet, writing these weird stories-“

“About Science Fiction?”

“Yeah, um, mainly like Star Trek and Star Wars.”

“Do you know why she does this?”

“I think it’s cos, like, she’s attracted to Captain Picard. I mean, she made me shave my head and start wearing lycra…”

Gandalf gave in and turned the television off. Chat show mayhem was good, but slightly portly middle aged men in skin tight lycra was too disturbing, even for him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

10:00

The kitchen floor dried, Frodo turned his attention to cleaning the bedrooms. Legolas’ room and the room he shared with Sam got a full going over, with every speck of dust chased out of existence. The door to Gimli’s room got polished. In Aragorn’s room Frodo picked up everything off the floor and dumped it on the bed so he could hoover.

Then it was the turn of Merry and Pippin’s room. Frodo stood in the corridor, preparing himself. He took a can of air freshener in his right hand, and a can of fly spray in the other and started unconsciously humming the theme to “The good,the bad and the ugly”. There was a pause. Then he kicked open the door, emptied both barrels into the room, slammed the door and leaned heavily on it.

After recovering he went back downstairs, and was about to start hoovering the dining room when he saw the spider. He froze. It didn’t matter that the spider in question was about two centimetres across and entirely harmless, in his mind it transformed itself into an enormous dripping fanged monster. He screamed, leapt onto a chair, then onto the table and finally wrapped himself round the light fitting, still screaming. The light fitting couldn’t take the weight and dropped off the ceiling, dropping him back onto the table.

The sound of screaming coming from the next room was disturbing Gandalf. He turned to look at the source of the noise, saw that it was Frodo and tried to ignore it.

“Her! Her! Geeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaagh!”

Gandalf paused. Her. It was another sodding spider. He pressed the mute button on the tv and turned back to see of he could see the spider. Ah, there it was, motionless on the carpet. He grabbed his staff, lashed out and killed the spider, then wiped the spider corpse off on one of the sofa cushions.

“It’s gone Frodo.”

Frodo gingerly opened his eyes. “Gone?”

“Gone.”

He shakily made his way to the sofa and sat down. “I could do with a cup of tea after that.”

“So could I. Put the kettle on Frodo.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

11:00

To the casual observer, it looked as if the wheelchair was making its way up the hill by its own power. But then, to the casual observer, it would also appear that the wheelchair was talking, or rather, swearing to itself because language issuing from it couldn’t possibly be coming from the bearded old man sitting in it unless he was a very skilled ventriloquist.

“-Fucking bastard, why can’t you fucking walk, or at least give me some fucking help pushing the fucking wheelchair, the only reason I take you out is because if I don’t the fucking neighbours’ll think I’ve fucking killed you, you’re fucking heavy, you know that.”

“Gwaihir said I was light.”

“Gwaihir was a fucking giant eagle, not a fucking Hobbit.”

Inside his head, Gandalf made comments about Frodo’s sex life, or lack thereof, but because he knew what was coming next, he kept his mouth shut.

Frodo’s monologue had declined into a series of muttered swear words by the time they reached the top of the hill. While Gandalf could occasionally be helpful, for example, when it came to killing spiders, most of the time, he just got on Frodo’s nerves. Sometimes, when it all got too much, Frodo felt that he had to express his annoyance to Gandalf, and he usually found that the combination of swearing and violence worked for him.

At the crest of the hill, to a casual observer it would appear that Frodo stumbled, let go of the wheelchair and helplessly watched it roll down the hill with an expression of horror on his face. However, the closer observer would have noticed that there was nothing for Frodo to have stumbled over, and the expression of horror was rather overlaid with one of glee.

Gandalf reached down to pull the brake lever, only to find that it had been unscrewed. This was his own fault though, as he had tried to prevent earlier walks by jamming the brakes on to make Frodo’s life that little bit more difficult. By the time he was half way down the hill, Gandalf had resigned himself to his fate. It was at least six months since he’d last died.

Unable to steer, Gandalf hit the wheelie bins outside one of the houses and was catapulted over them into a flowerbed. Frodo rushed down the hill after him, the horrified expression starting to slip, and seeing no one else around, dragged Gandalf back into the wheelchair and carried on towards the shops.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

12:00

“-And who’s fucking idea idea was it to move so far from the fucking shops?”

As the walk to the shops continued, so did the tirade of invective against the world in general. Once the Co-Op came into sight and there were more people in hearing range, he turned it into an internal monologue as sometimes it was useful for people to see him as helpless, loveable, and generally inoffensive despite his ‘problems’ and he didn’t want to do anything to damage his reputation. However, it was a very long way from the new house to the shops for a small person pushing a wheelchair – he’d applied for a driving license, but the DVLA didn’t think that someone as heavily medicated as Frodo should be allowed to be left in charge of a vehicle. The rejection letter had been most disappointing, it had even gone as far as to suggest that he shouldn’t even go out on a bike.

Frodo pushed the wheelchair up to a lamppost just outside the Co-Op and attached both Gandalf and the wheelchair to it using a very long bike chain. When he was satisfied that no one as going to steal the wheelchair and the Gandalf couldn’t escape, Frodo went into the shop.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

13:00

After a trip to the shops which was actually quite uneventful and not worth talking about, apart from the bit where a small child took one look at Gandalf and started screaming, which isn’t even that funny and happened to Gandalf a lot, Frodo made some lunch for himself and Gandalf.

While Frodo never really fancied cooking at lunchtime, he felt that there was still an art to preparing instant food. Carefully he pulled the lids off the two pot noodles (spicy curry flavour for Gandalf, chicken and mushroom for himself) and added boiling water to the fill level – not higher, not lower, but exact. Then came the scrunching action to make sure that all the powder from the bottom of the pot didn’t go sludgy and as a final touch, the addition of a sprig of parsley because these things matter and he was sure that Gandalf really did appreciate it even if he didn’t express it any way other than hurling abuse.

Frodo gave Gandalf his pot noodle and then sat down in front of the tv. Fortunately his attention was almost entirely focussed on the tv and he didn’t notice when the chemicals in the pot noodle dissolved the parsley. He looked at his watch. Twenty past one and still no sign of the chair.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

14:00

2.10: Doctors – Mac is surprised by someone he thought he knew.

Well, Frodo wasn’t surprised. When you’d spent as much time watching daytime tv as Frodo had you learned to predict the twists and turns.

2.35 Suspiciously early arrival home of Sam.

2.40 Coverage of the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show.

The two above facts may well be connected.

As Frodo had already seen more than enough gardening programmes for one week, he decided that this would be a good time to phone the electrician about the light fittings.

“What do you mean, ‘not until next Tuesday’? I’ve got two broken main light fittings, what am I supposed to do in the meantime? … No I cannot just tape a torch to the ceiling! … Yes, I know candles are atmospheric, but they’re also a fire hazard… Yes, okay. Tuesday afternoon will be fine. Thank you.”

Frodo hung up and swore quietly in the general direction of the phone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

15:00

When the kids tv started a little after three o’clock, Frodo and Sam decided that they probably had something better to do. Then they remembered the chair.

“You said it would be delivered this afternoon when I phoned earlier.”

“Yes, sir. It will be delivered this afternoon, just later this afternoon, probably towards five o’clock, there are a lot of deliveries scheduled for today.”

“But you said any time after one.”

“Five o’clock is after one, sir.”

“But it will be here today?”

“Yes, sir, it will be delivered to you later this afternoon.”

“Um, thank you then.”

Frodo put the phone down.

“So, Sam, is there anything that needs doing in the garden?”

“No, all the plants are planted, the weeds are weeded out and I watered it last night and it doesn’t need watered again yet.”

“Oh.”

“Is there anything you need help with around the house?”

“No, cleaned the whole place from top to bottom this morning.”

“Really? All of it?”

“Except Merry and Pippin’s bedroom. Maybe we could go and clean it, it would be easier with two of us.”

“Yes, we could.”

“Yes.”

“Let’s play backgammon then.”

“Good idea.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

16:00

“So I won that one, so that means it’s 194847 games to 214382.”

“Everything to play for.”

“Yeah, there was a point in 1890 when you were ten games ahead of me.”

“Should we try phoning up about the chair again?”

“No, Frodo, they said it would be here by five and it’s only just gone four now.”

“They said it would be here by five, and that implies before, five is the latest point at which it will arrive. I just want to make sure that it is going to get here, that they haven’t forgotten us, or couldn’t find the house.”

“I’m sure if they can’t find the house they’ll phone and ask for directions. Why don’t you go and watch Countdown, you always used to like playing it.”

“But it’s too easy…”

“Play it in elvish then.”

“But you can’t play it in Elvish, there’s a different number of letters and they don’t all transliterate properly-”

“Then it’ll be nice and difficult.”

“Alright then.”

“I’ll put the kettle on. Gandalf? Do you want a cup of tea?”

“Fuck off!”

“I hate it when he pretends to be more stupid than he actually is.”

“Yeah, but you what happens when you say anything about it.”

“‘Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards’, and then he pins you to the ceiling or makes your underpants shrink.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

17:00

“I was told that the chair would be here by five o’clock at the latest and it’s almost a quarter past now and I still don’t have a chair-”

“I’m sorry, sir, but they’re running a bit late today, I’m sure they’ll be there soon.”

“You’ve been telling me that all day. I’ve been messed about, kept in the dark, I had to change my plans to stay in all afternoon waiting for it.”

“I really am sorry, sir, if you would just stop shouting-”

“I AM NOT SHOUTING! I demand to speak to your supervisor!”

The doorbell rang and Sam went to answer it.

“We’ve had the most terrible service from you, I’ve got half a mind to ask for my money back-”

“Frodo…?”

“And I think I shall be reporting you to both ‘Watchdog’ and to Trading Standards. Mr Grey is a very old man and he needs-”

“Frodo.” Sam tugged on Frodo’s sleeve.

“Shut up Sam, this is not the time. And he needs this chair-”

“Frodo, the chair is here.”

“Because he’s… Pardon?”

“The chair’s here.”

Frodo paused, and took a deep breath. “I’m very, very sorry. Goodbye.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

18:00

Aragorn, Merry and Pippin arrived home at the same time. Aragorn opened the door and stopped. Something was wrong and he didn’t know what. Pippin paled.

“I… I… can’t smell cooking.”

The three of them looked at each other worriedly. If it was six and there was no smell of food in the house it generally meant that Frodo had been Sectioned again, and when Frodo wasn’t there everything went horribly wrong.

“Hello? Is there anyone in?”

“Ah ha! That’s not part C, it’s part U turned on its side.”

Aragorn, Merry and Pippin looked at one another. Maybe Frodo had lost it again, but hadn’t been sectioned yet.

“Have you got the screwdriver? I can’t find in, oh, no, here it is, Gandalf was sitting on it. I’ll go out to the shed for another one.”

Sam? He wouldn’t just look for screwdrivers if Frodo needed to be sectioned. Unless of course he needed to be sectioned too. Aragorn momentarily considered what life would be like with two insane housemates, but then remembered that this was very unlikely – Sam just wasn’t the insane type. He decided to approach the situation with caution and tact.

“Um, Frodo?”

Aragorn opened the living room door to see bits of chair and many small screws and assorted bits and pieces strewn across the room.

“What?”

“Why isn’t there any tea?”

For a second, Frodo looked shocked. He never neglected his domestic responsibility when he was in a normal frame of mind. He was about to apologise when he stopped himself.

“How dare you! How dare you assume that I will always be here to make the tea when you come home from work! You all just take me for granted sometimes.”

“No we don’t. Sometimes you’re in the loony bin.” Pippin received a hard stare from Sam for this comment.

“So that’s all I am to you, is it? A loony who sometimes provides you with food? What would you do if I decided to stop making your meals altogether?”

“Eat more kebabs.”

“Well if that’s the way you feel about it, why don’t you just phone for a bloody pizza!”

“Good idea.”

Frodo looked as if he was in imminent danger of exploding.

“What Pippin meant to say,” said Aragorn, “is that since you’re busy putting Gandalf’s new chair together, he’ll take over the arrangements for dinner. Didn’t you?”

“Er… yes.”

“Does this mean we still get pizza?” asked Merry.

Aragorn’s answer was interrupted by Gimli coming down the stairs.

“Morning everyone, is breakfast ready yet?”

“No there isn’t any sodding breakfast yet, and no one’s getting any until I finish putting this chair together.”

“Och, give me the screwdriver, I’ll have a go.”

“Do you want the instruction booklet?”

“What would I need that for?”

Gimli set to work on the chair. Within three and a half minutes the chair was up and running with Gandalf sitting in it, control in hand, making full lecherous use of the vibrate function.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

19:00

When Legolas arrived home a little later, the living room was still covered in the chair’s packaging and empty pizza boxes, but Gandalf had moved on to making the chair go up and down.

“Evening Legolas, want some pizza?”

Legolas looked at the cold, congealing substance in the bottom of the box Aragorn was offering to him and shuddered.

“You really think that I would like to eat a half-cold pizza where I can see the fat rising to the top of it. And what exactly is that on top of it anyway?”

“It’s their meatily supreme extra meat topping, with chilli.”

Legolas tried to edge away from the box. Legolas was a great believer in slow food, and refused to eat anything that came with a ‘if it’s not there in half an hour it’s free’ guarantee. Elves didn’t approve of food that took less than an hour to prepare, although they made an exception for muesli.

“I think I’ll just make myself some toast.”

Equilibrium had returned to Gandalf’s world. He finally had his chair back, well, it would take a few days for the new smell to wear off and the Gandalf smell to settle in, but it was more or less his chair. He had already managed to hide four cans of Tennents, a bottle of gin, all the remote controls and certain small personal items belonging to each of the other members of the Fellowship in the storage compartments in the arms and the auk had been installed over his head. Everything was as it should be.

He drew a deep breath. “Well, I’m back.”