This story is a fantasy based not too loosely on fact. Like the lives of most of its readers, it contains no sexual acts. When the story stops, you are allowed to carry on thinking. If you are incapable of thought, go and find some pictures of women with computer-aided tits.
It was late afternoon when I rang the doorbell of Naismith's period cottage in Sussex. His battered and dusty four-wheel drive vehicle was outside, negligently parked with one wheel run up on to the rockery. For a long while there was no reply, although the bell jangled loudly enough to rouse the dead. I was preparing to scribble a note and shove it through the letterbox when a door slammed somewhere in the house. A few seconds later the front door opened and a rumpled Naismith stood there, blinking at me. It seemed to take several seconds before recognition dawned.
"Vincent! I'm so sorry. I wasn't expecting ... I was asleep. Just flew in this morning..."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realise..." I made as if to leave but he stepped back, holding the door open, and I walked through, stumbling through a clutter of junk mail and newspapers just inside the doorway. "Been away long?"
"Couple of months." Naismith was striding down the hallway into the room he used as his study. It had always been my favourite room, with its views across the rolling close-cropped lawn to where the yellowing sun had already dipped behind the South Downs. "Been down under. Australia. Coffee?"
His voice drifted through from the kitchen as I strolled over to the window. Someone had been looking after the garden all through the early part of the summer. "No Mrs Thing?" I asked. Naismith was more or less helpless without his housekeeper. To judge from the domesticated sounds reaching me, he seemed to have discovered the art of making instant coffee; or perhaps not, as he came in carrying one mug and one bone china cup and saucer, which he offered to me.
"Had a bit of an accident earlier, this is our last mug. Cheers!" He raised the mug in a toast. "What time is it?"
"About six. Maybe a bit later."
"I'm still operating on Aussie time. Just about ready for breakfast. Well, what brings you out to Darkest Sussex?"
"I was just passing really. Made a slight diversion when I saw the signpost." We both knew I was lying.
"It's great to see you, even if it is through bleary eyes. We'll have to get together one of these days when I'm up in town." It wasn't quite a dismissal, but it wasn't far off it.
I took a sip of coffee. Naismith seemed to have the uncanny knack of turning instant coffee into industrial slurry. "Two months down under? Anything interesting?"
"Half a dozen assignments. Officially I was covering the end of the Ashes Tour. Not just the cricket, more a bit of background. A different angle on things. But before I went out I had a word with my other Editor; you know, the weekend mag? He suggested I might like to do a spot of investigative journalism."
"Hardly your line, I shouldn't have thought... ?"
"Not really, no. But this involved an Australian TV soap."
That sounded more like Naismith. "Earth-shattering stuff?"
"Fairly, yes. You know that soap, 'Visitors?'" I knew it - another of those indistinguishable Australian soaps beloved by schoolchildren and out of work ne'er-do-wells. It seemed to be broadcast five or six times a day. He droned on: "It's on our TV at lunchtimes and it's repeated again at four fifteen in the afternoons. Apparently at the moment we're running about two years behind the Australians with the episodes, but here it's on every day instead of three days a week, so we're gradually catching them up."
I could feel my eyes starting to glaze over. "And your assignment was to find out the alleged plot?"
Naismith looked puzzled. "Not really. The paper knows that, although it only leaks what's due to happen when it's absolutely necessary. No, the thing was, a couple of years ago, there was a bit of a disturbance down under when the show's ratings suddenly rocketed for no reason. A whole bunch of kids, hundreds of thousands of them, were rushing home from school specially to catch the show."
"Oh, really? Good news, surely?"
"There was a good reason, it seems. Not a very PC reason, unfortunately. It was a girl."
"One of the cast. Dawn, her character's name, although she was played by a young actress called Maybellene McKendrick. She suddenly achieved remarkable popularity." He drained his mug and put it down. He seemed not to notice the appalling taste, although he did have a pained expression as he picked several scraps of grit off his tongue. "Apparently, this young lady - she was sixteen at the time, but her character was supposed to have been eleven - was a bit of a late developer. She..." He indicated what he meant with his hands in front of his chest. Now, being two years behind, we're just about to reach that point in the story over here, which is why the Ed sent me off to find her. His idea was that he would be able to whip up a bit of interest in this country; get people interested. If he could help turn Visitors into a cult thing in this country, he could get a few pictures of Maybellene on to his Page Three, wearing not very much."
"And your part was to find her as she is now, and get an interview and a picture."
"More or less. So that's what I did."
"You found her, of course? Not too difficult, I'd imagine?"
"Eventually. It wasn't easy. But I found her, all right! Oh, yes, I found Maybellene!"
I was interested despite myself. Perhaps it was because Naismith seemed suddenly so animated. He jumped up and opened his briefcase, producing a fat scrapbook or photo album. And there, among dozens of clippings from papers and magazines, were literally hundreds of photographs of an extraordinarily pretty young girl.
"These were taken before she joined the cast of Visitors. She was just sixteen when she got the part of Dawn, and as you can see, she fitted the role really well, as Dawn was supposed to be about eleven." He pointed to a shot of Maybellene standing next to a much taller girl. "Maybellene plays her younger sister in the show, you see, although actually she's a year older. Anyway, she got the part, and an excellent contract built-in. She was assured of a job for a number of years, personal appearances, a singing career, the lot. All she had to do was avoid doing anything outrageous."
"You know the sort of thing ... she was supposed to be eleven, in a fairly high profile TV soap, so she couldn't really be seen to have boyfriends in private life. For quite a few years, she wouldn't be able to go to nightclubs, drive a car, get married ... In return, though, the rewards were quite substantial for a young actress at the start of her career. Unfortunately, nobody even thought to mention the most outrageous thing she could have done." He turned a page. "It happened quite quickly." Another page. "That was in August, this one was two months later."
"Let me see those," I said, studying the pictures closely. Without a word, Naismith handed me a large magnifying glass, a sort of Sherlock Holmes kind of thing. It helped. In those two months, the girl had developed a quite remarkable bust. "It must be the camera angle," I said.
"That's what I thought. It isn't." He flipped over a few pages. Every picture showed Maybellene as a extremely shapely young woman. "These were all taken during October. It was around this time that Australian males started to take an unhealthy interest in Visitors! And other males around the world, too. The producers managed to disguise things as well as they could, but it wasn't all that easy. They couldn't wrap her up like an Egyptian mummy, after all. Not that it would have made much difference if they had. She was still growing. Here she is in the Christmas Special."
"Hmmm. I see!"
"Exactly. She was supposed to be eleven, but suddenly she needed ... apparently ... an E cup brassiere."
It was a meaningless code to me. "Is that big?"
"It's rather bigger than average, yes. You know about vital statistics?" I nodded dumbly. "She's less than five feet tall, and not really at all plump. Just well-built. She measured 41-24-35 by Christmas. That's quite chunky for such a short girl. Her 'sister' in Visitors wasn't at all happy about the situation, naturally. From being a flat-chested baby-face, in just four months, Maybellene had turned into a voluptuous and very attractive young woman. By the February, she looked like this!" He turned the last page with a flourish.
Clearly, Maybellene was by then wholly unsuitable for the role of an eleven year-old. Although I am no expert, I'd guess her bosom wasn't forty-one inches any more. "What happened?"
"They wrote her out. Sent her off on a long holiday with her aunt Clara in the story. Of course, the punters went mad. Kids had been rushing home from school, dads were making an excuse to get home early from work, sales of blank videotape cassettes had doubled. The Japanese went barmy. Visitors was very popular there, and once Maybellene started developing, they loved it to bits. Then she was gone ... Of course, this was all two years ago. My assignment was to find Maybellene. And as I say, I found her."
You know how it is when Naismith gets on to one of his hobby horses. He does tend to go on a bit. At first, I was beginning to wonder if it was me with the jet-lag, not him. I mean, the old eyes were really glazing over as he described all the places he travelled to in search of this Maybellene girl. Names like Wagga Wagga, Zigga Zagga, Bugga Bugga. I almost nodded off a few times, and each time when I came to with a start, he was still boring on. The fizz of two more newly-opened beer cans jerked me awake.
"Cairns. You know Cairns?"
"It's not a him, it's a place. Way up the right hand side of Australia, North Queensland. Imagine..." he looked around for something to demonstrate his point. "This beer-mat." He picked it up and flapped it in my face, then to my astonishment he took a bite out of it. "The Great Australian Bight," he said, ripping another jagged chunk out of the other side. "Gulf of Carp ... Carp-en-taria," he slurred carefully, laying the no longer circular mat on the table and stabbing it with a finger. "Australia. Up there, Indonesia, New Guinea, stuff like that." He dismissed the rest of the world with an airy wave. "Down here, all together, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney. Up here, Brisbane. And all the way up here, best part of a thousand miles further on ... Cairns."
So he had come to the point at last. "And that's where she was? Cairns?"
His brow furrowed. "No. Don't rush me. Her family were up there, though. Remarkable people. All women. Remarkable." He took a long swig from his beer can. "Remarkable. Where was I?"
"Maybellene's family. Remarkable women."
"You know them?" he asked, startled.
"You were telling me about them." I hadn't had as many cans as Naismith had - he called them 'tinnies' - but I'd had too many to drive tonight. With deep gloom I realised I was going to have to bed down on Naismith's settee, or more likely, listen to him droning on until he finally fell asleep when the dawn came up like thunder.
"Tits like fucking watermelons," he said out of the blue, punctuating it with a hiccup. "Maybellene's mother ... and her sisters ... Sister ... Eighteen."
She's got eighteen sisters?"
His expression clouded, and faint panic came into his eyes. "No, only five. Who said she had eighteen? Did I miss any?" He held up five fingers and laboriously ticked them off. "There was Kerralene ... she's two years older than Maybellene ... Then Charmelene, then Maybellene herself, and her two kid sisters, Terylene and Valvolene." He didn't sound too sure of the names of the youngest two. "And the mother, of course. Madge. Did I say tits like watermelons?"
"That's right. Tits like fucking watermelons."
He was quiet so long I wondered if he'd fallen asleep. I took the opportunity to stand up and head for the bathroom.
"Tits like fucking watermelons," he repeated as I left the room. He was still talking when I got back, talking to himself. "The mother was telling me," he said, seeming hardly to notice when I sat down opposite him again. "They're all huge, all the family. Madge, her name. The mother."
"No. Madge McKendrick. Just as big as the rest of them. Even the youngest ones. Big tits. Anyway, she was saying she'd been getting worried when Maybellene had reached sixteen without growing the family tits. Not worried, really, 'cos the girl had got that great job with Visitors, but worried in case she missed out altogether. Little Maybellene still had a flat chest, but both her younger sisters had theirs already. They all lived in this kind of shack affair, a few clicks out of Cairns. Kays ... Kilometres..."