Dobby made one of those rash internet purchases that mostly occur after midnight. His blimp arrived and his crew of naked mole rats is busily assembling it. Will it be ready before teatime?
Why is this called Part Five? If you are asking the question, I’ll assume you missed the beginning of this story. And some of the middle, too.
Before we follow Prince Dobalob down the path to the naked mole rat workshop, I should probably attempt to explain about the magical properties at the Principality. Otherwise, the blimp assembly progress might seem impossibly unrealistic. In fact, the magic was a relatively new phenomenon, dating back to the time of the Prince’s birth. I don’t mean to imply that there was no magic at all that pre-dated the Prince’s existence. After all, there were the mundane magical accoutrements that are to be expected, such as the pumpkin coaches so popular with the older crowd, the Prince’s deep pockets, and the year ’round availability of corn, watermelon, and blueberries. Since the Prince’s original entrance, though, the weather had been delightful, strangers had been kind, predators had emigrated, and assembly instructions had been thorough and flawless. The magic was subtle, even dodgy at times, but no one was complaining much. Well, maybe Queen Bonnie was complaining but there’s always someone like that. Mostly, the magic ensured that the correct tools were always available, the nuts matched the bolts, nothing rolled under the workbench, and “hand-tighten” was always adequate.
When he came of age, the king and queen had given the prince a very large tract of land, almost entirely forested. His palace was not your typical stone building with turrets and a moat. Rather it was an evergreen topiary: a series of connected open spaces carved out of the original forest. As it was developed, the prince discovered that his land was already inhabited by a variety of creatures. They volunteered to help create a greenery palace that would benefit them all. As he became acquainted with his forest friends, they in turn introduced him to more and more creatures. They all worked together to provide appropriate housing for everyone and then worked to clear a bit of farmland so that they could supplement their diet with fruits and vegetables not available deep in the forest. Over the years the greenery palace became the central focus for all activities. At the same time, the magic had become stronger and more reliable. Flowers bloomed, songbirds serenaded, and butterflies provided a colorful accent to the evergreen backdrop.
We were on our way to the workshop, weren’t we, when we were so rudely interrupted. In fact, the platoon of naked mole rats had nearly completed assembly of the blimp, and the various components were quite recognizable at this point. Several specialized squads of workers had diligently followed the exacting assembly instructions, and some teams could now be seen pushing the units closer so that attachments could be made. The logistics and supply team was now discussing the various aspects of air traffic control and another group was designing the hangar. Still another elite squad was drilling for fire and rescue while others inspected the safety gear.
Prince Dobalob beamed as he oversaw the activity. It looked as if the blimp would be fully operable by afternoon tea! Maybe sooner! Maybe he could take his blimp to the treehouse to fetch the hens and seed cakes! Maybe he could finally determine the true quantity of seedcakes in the hen’s treehouse! Yes! The cogs and gears in the mighty skull churned and groaned with the rapid-fire activity. What a magnificent day this would be!
The platoon leader, a particularly wrinkly specimen, approached the Prince. “Do you think the blimp will be ready by 2:00 this afternoon?”
“Absolutely,” said the platoon leader. “It will be ready sooner than that. Once we tie off the ropes, we can inflate it. If you return in an hour, we can go through the Operation and Maintenance Manual and some safety drills, and we can turn it over to you!”
The Prince’s stomach started churning at the thought of the O&M Manual and the tedious safety drills. He wondered if he would be able to talk to Moneypenny about standing in for him. He knew he could count on Vincent, but the tiny vole was too new to stand up to the naked mole rats, who were sticklers for procedure. It was a double-edged sword, their incredible efficiency. He considered his sweet hen, Annabelle, but she would insist that he endure the orientation. In fact, Bianca would be there, too, taking notes and asking uncomfortable questions. No, it would be best not to involve the hens. Plus, he wanted to surprise Annabelle by fetching her for tea in the new blimp! She would be so impressed!
“May I sit in the basket to see how it fits?” He was also wondering what was in the ballasts. Was it sand or bird seed?
“Certainly, Sir! Follow me, and please be careful of the ropes on the ground.” The platoon leader led the clumsy capybara through the minefield of carefully laid out parts, wads of sticky used tape, plastic bags and foam packing set aside for recycling, and flattened cardboard boxes ready to be baled. The wrinkled rodent looked ahead and behind until he spied a small green flash of color attached to a very loud mouth. “Bond!” he called to the budgerigar. “Could you please accompany The Prince to the basket for size testing? And let me know if the red velvet cushions with gold braid don’t activate properly.” The platoon leader remembered the old days, before the cushions started appearing. He was still suspicious of them and fully expected the magic cushion spell to deactivate on his watch.
As the platoon leader scampered off to oversee the inflation of the balloon, Prince Dobalob and Bond checked out the blimp basket. The budgie flew to the edge rail, and hopped into the basket. The capybara negotiated the set of stairs, pausing when vertigo made the workshop spin. To cover up his malaise, he called to the little budgie. “Come on out here and check these ballasts. What is in them? Could it be birdseed?”
Intrigued, the budgie immediately flew over and sat on a bag. “Can you put just a tiny hole in this bag so we can see?” And then he realized what he had said. Too late, the capybara’s huge chompers sliced across the bottom of the bag and the gash gaped open. Work stopped throughout the workshop as clattering macadamia nuts bounced off the ground like miniature wayward ping pong balls.
The Prince was stunned at the torrent of nuts that poured out of the ballast. Two naked mole rats nearest to the noisy disaster scurried to collect the nuts while another fetched a new ballast bag. When the response time is immediate, there is little time for reprimands or scowling at the perpetrator. The Prince turned around very carefully and tip-toed around the basket, dodging ropes, stopping surreptitiously to sniff the twigs. He kept circling the basket until he realized he had gone around several times without finding an entrance. “How do I get into this thing?”
The wrinkly platoon leader answered, “I’ll get you the ladder!” Then he looked at the flabbergasted capybara and reconsidered. He stroked his flabby pink chin and looked around. “If you can wait just a moment, we will stack up some straw bales for you.”
The Prince considered his hasty purchase. No door to get into the basket? Fine, whatever, they would work something out. “Okey dokey,” he said to no one in particular, examining the other blimp parts in expectation of additional design flaws. Piece of junk, he thought. Rodney was right.
The straw bales were secured into place and Prince Dobalob hopped up, one bale, two bales, until he could see over the edge into the basket. In the bottom was the biggest red velvet cushion he had ever seen. There were no gold tassels, but the cushion dimensions and shape fit the basket perfectly, and an edging of gold piping was just visible around the edge. Gold buttons studded the pillow, and the emblem of The Principality of Bolabod was embroidered at the center. He hopped up to the top bale, put his front paws together, and dove into the basket! Boing! He bounced up and down and rolled over onto his side, just regaining control before he rolled all the way over. As everyone knows, the world would come to an end if a capybara were to roll all the way over. He did not roll, the world was saved, and Dobby chuckled to himself. He felt like a capybara pup again! That dive was spectacular! Gotta do it again! He looked around at the steep, tall sides of the basket. It was so typical of everything he ordered on the Internet: it was as if everything was designed for very tall capybaras or some kind of alien, because the ladders were useless, and so many of the operational devices were not made for big capybara paws at all. He walked around the basket and by sniffing at the walls, he verified the location of the straw bale stairs. To one side of them, he started nibbling at the woven basket fibers. It certainly was delicious!
A few minutes later, he exited his new doorway and bounded back up the stairs. Once more, he leapt into the basket. He bounced over to his custom doorway, and went at it again. He was getting very poufy. After leaping onto the big red velvet cushion a few dozen times, he was startled to discover his hen friend, Annabelle, at the ragged doorway. Wings akimbo, toes tapping, head cocked, a question mark hanging in the air over her head, she did not look amused. “You are late for tea,” she said, turning and prancing off toward the palace dining room. As he emerged from the basket, he looked about and noticed that there were no longer any naked mole rats in the workshop. Dang. There would be no seed cakes left. Still, he galloped off after Annabelle, stopping only to toss her onto his back to ride the remainder of the distance. She protested at first, but soon was cackling and spurring him on. Butterflies fluttered out of the way along the path. He could be difficult, but no one was more capable of inspiring silliness than our Prince Dobalob!
The dining room was full of milling friends, workers, and their families. Some meandered through the buffet, others approached appropriately from the side of the table, still others were seated, each one on a brightly colored cushion, every color but red, which was usually reserved for the Prince. Today, to one side of the great room, a trio of young guinea pigs played a tune on their ocarinas. While “tune” is somewhat an exaggeration, they were having a glorious time, and some little voles were singing along. As the Prince and Annabelle skidded into the room, the rabbits grabbed the larger bowls, the other hens plopped protectively onto the platters, and the duck maid and older guinea pigs took up position under the buffet, but this time the clumsy capybara managed a brisk 360 degree turn without knocking into anything. He beamed while Annabelle straightened her feathers and hopped to the ground, catching the eye of the serving rabbit.
“You may serve the seed cakes, now!” Annabelle hopped onto the table. Prince Dobalob turned in time to see her wink, and he knew she had delayed the serving of the seed cakes until he arrived.
To be continued . . .
The indispensable Cast of Characters: