The cabin is filled with a gridlock of racks made from stout bamboo poles lashed together with binder twine, and fitted out with black japanned iron hooks, from which dangle rows and rows of puppets - scrawny, angular, goggle-eyed, hairless, and white as winding-sheets.
‘These are my chillun,’ she says, proudly. ‘In a manner of speakin. Ain’t they somethin!’ She beams at her guests, showing snaggly teeth, stained with nicotine, set in a broad flat face. They look back, trying to figure her out.
‘This your barge?’ says Rascasse.
‘Sure is, honey. I had it built for me, years ago.’
‘Who are you?’ says Rascasse.
‘I already told my name - Mustang. You know the theatre barge, in the big marina? That mine, that my company. Waving, not Drowning.’
‘We seen the boat all right,’ says Bim. ‘Not the shows. It’s for little kids.’
She laughs scornfully. ‘Everybody think that: puppets are for kids.’ She gestures towards the dangling puppets. ‘This look like kids’ stuff to you?’
‘Creeps me out,’ says Bim.
‘There you are then,’ she says. ‘Sometime they creep me out too. But, eye of the beholder, innit? Me, I love them all. I have dominion!’ she says, beaming like a searchlight. ‘These here are veterans, from shows in the past. I could’ve drowned them, or burned them, but I keep them for old times remembered. Rest in peace, my bonny boys!’ The puppets sway gently as they hang from their hooks, glass-bead eyes vacant, blind as cataracts.