Prince Dobalob Builds a Zeppelin (Part Seven)

Prince Dobalob and his flock of hens are blimping their way to the treehouse, where disaster awaits. That’s why Part Seven desperately needs illustrations. See if you agree!

Why is this called Part Seven? If you are asking this question, that probably means you missed the beginning of this story. And some of the middle, too.

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Prince Dobalob’s Zeppelin (Not the blimp!)

From the back of the passenger basket, the Prince called forward to Annabelle, the clever hen.

“Where did you learn to fly a blimp?”

“I have many skills, but you know that already.”

Annabelle deftly steered the blimp toward the treehouse while Bianca and Conchita served seedcake canapés to the cowering capybara. Bond had hitched a ride and was perched confidently on the rim of the passenger basket above the drawbridge.

The door had opened and shut flawlessly and the drawbridge had simplified the entry from the uneven earthen floor (currently littered with straw from the not-so-gently used bale steps) up to the enormous red velvet cushion that covered the floor of the passenger basket. The drawbridge, now shut tight, secured the basket. As the blimp hovered near the treehouse entrance, the driving hen and the parakeet concentrated on lining up the shut drawbridge with the treehouse front porch. Bond flew across the gap with a measuring tape, secured the ends, and gave a thumbs-up signal to Annabelle.

Annabelle, in turn, instructed Bianca and Conchita to lower the drawbridge. She turned to the nervous Prince and said “Be careful when you exit, the drawbridge isn’t– ”

But the frightened and portly Prince lurched to the opening, peered over the edge (his first mistake) and then spun and lurched back into the basket (his second mistake). Bianca and Conchita followed him back into the basket in time to witness mistake number three. He spun around and took a running start toward the drawbridge and leapt across it toward the treehouse door. Because the hens were no longer holding the drawbridge steady, all of the spinning and lurching had slightly shifted the alignment of the blimp with the treehouse. There was now a gap between the drawbridge and porch, spanned by a large awkward brown rodent, hanging on with his toes on each side. Eight toes on the bow, six on the stern, to be exact. As the blimp drifted from the treehouse in a slight breeze, the capybara’s eyes bulged wider and wider. The gap opened wider and wider and the Prince stretched out his legs wider and wider, until he was hanging on with only fourteen great big toenails. The three hens looked out over the scene, their eyes wider and wider, too. Bond left his perch above the blimp basket rail and landed on the big brown rodent head. The Prince did what everyone does when a parakeet lands on their head. He flinched. Then he fell, but not before another enormous red velvet cushion with gold braid materialized beneath him. A few minutes later, the chatty group was enjoying tea and seedcakes on the ground beneath the treehouse, the stunned capybara trying his very best to grin and follow the conversation. It isn’t easy to enjoy seedcakes with a brave smile pasted over your humiliation.

*****

My dearest Dobby;

The girls are SO excited about my party! I’m sure you are, too! They would like to show you the luncheon menu. When do you think you will have a moment to look at it with them?

Love, Mommy

Ugh, he knew better than to read his mother’s notes on an empty stomach. In fact, since he knew his mother only wrote bothersome notes, why did he read them at all? Why couldn’t she just text him? Or phone. But, no, he didn’t want her phoning with this kind of request. That would force him to think of an excuse on the spot. And he supposed it wouldn’t matter how she contacted him, it was the annoyance factor of the message itself that was the problem, after all. At least with a letter, he could claim he hadn’t received it, that he had lost it, forgotten about it, eaten it, used it to make a paper airplane. there was no end to the excuses when the asker was not standing in front of you. The letter fluttered down and fell into the mud puddle the Prince had been enjoying when Bond had dropped off the note.

“That’s a new one to add to the excuses list,” he said to himself.

A small noisy dust cloud was making its way toward him, butterflies darting out of the way. He straightened up and sniffed in that general direction. Yes, Annabelle was in the lead, Bianca and Conchita close behind. They looked determined, but not angry. Annabelle snatched up the letter from the mud puddle and quickly read it. She dropped it back into the mud and exclaimed “I’m sure that silly menu will change one hundred times before the party, anyway. And none of the changes will include seedcakes. So, are you going to talk to Rodney about the blimp basket modifications, or not?”

The Prince sighed. What was the purpose in changing something he didn’t really want to see, ever again? He would never admit how frightened he had been at the moment the drawbridge had snapped and dangled, leaving him stretched between the blimp and treehouse, a pudgy gangplank for the hens to cross. No, he would keep that to himself, and he certainly hoped no one would tell Gari about it. Meanwhile, he would have to repair the damaged blimp. He was not known as a great thinker, but he had come up with an alternative plan for the ridiculous flimsy vehicle. Anyway, he had been onto the way to– what? He looked from one hen to the other but they were already scratching and pecking at the ground. The silly things had such short attention spans. Now, where was he going? Oh, yes.

“Shall we go to the hot springs?”

The hens stopped scratching and looked over at him, heads cocked, wings akimbo. Why, oh why could he not remember that hens don’t bathe in water? Hens do not swim, hens do not stand around in the rain. Hens do not dabble, hens do not walk directly through deep puddles.

“The sandbox has been completed,” he said, unconvincingly.

Could it be true? The Prince had been promising to build a sandbox at the hot springs for several months, now. It had been a while since they had gone out there, after all, there wasn’t much in it for the fussy hens. The sandbox had been discussed, designed, but never executed. Or had it? Annabelle turned her head to look him over with the other eye. The Prince looked sincere. What’s more, there was a glint in his eye. Then he hopped around in a circle, wagging his head and wiggling his ears. The Doofus Dance! It must be true, then. Annabelle looked from one to the other.

“Let’s go swimming, then! The girls and I will perform a final inspection on the sandbox!”

The funny flock of friends headed off toward the hot springs. Prince Dobalob refused to answer any of their questions, so they speculated, guessed, and jumped in and out of conclusions along the dusty path. The hot springs had appeared as warm muddy depressions at the same time as the other magical places, but the oozing warm mud holes were only of interest to capybaras. As they approached the springs, the path firmed up and the plants took on a tropical look. Ferns and flowers and clumps of bamboo lined the path and gigantic shade trees grew closer and closer together. A small stream joined them to one side of the path and bubbled and splashed the huge skunk cabbages with their bizarre stinky floral statements. The path took a sharp turn into an open meadow, and in the distance, where they expected to see only the muddy springs, stood a white gazebo festooned with colorful fish shaped wind socks! A short white picket fence drew their attention and the playful hens dashed over to inspect it as the capybara stopped to graze on the perfect green grass of the meadow. The landscape specialty platoon of Shetland sheep had been very busy.

As the hens clucked and scratched, the capybara munched his way across the meadow, taking inventory of the design items he had spent so long discussing. The gazebo adorned with wind socks, meandering stone paths, white picket fences: check. Sandbox: check. Field of millet, raspberry patch, dandelion border: check. For the springs, an adjacent hot shower, clean towel storage, and a freshly planted buffet. Mesmerized by the sun, the hens had flopped to their sides in the hot sand, and so had missed the spectacle of the approaching blimp. The Prince grinned as the repaired blimp with the new patchwork balloon gently and expertly landed in the meadow. Bond launched himself from the edge of the rewoven basket and fluttered toward the capybara. The Prince waggled his horse-like head but the little budgie managed to land on his ear anyway.

“Get off!” The Prince hopped and spun, stopping when the budgie flew to a nearby branch.

“Have you brought the picnic? Is everyone here?”

“Yes, almost everyone fit in the basket with the food, but some of the larger animals are on their way. The new Segways are handy now that the pathways have been improved. There is still the problem of the seedcakes, though. We couldn’t get them without tipping off the hens to the surprise picnic,” said the budgie.

“Happens every time. Not much to be done about that.”

The hens, meanwhile, had noticed the activity and ran to help unload the picnic items from the big basket under the blimp. The Prince, on the other hand, had retired to his mud hole.

*****

The beaver, the mountain beaver, the vole, the flying squirrel, and a handful of naked mole rats finished picking through the snacks as the guinea pig cleanup crew moved in for the gleanings. The hens followed to remove the serving trays, napkins, and tablecloths but Bianca sat down on a matching egg-shaped gingham cushion and surveyed the rodent assembly. She glanced over her shoulder at the distant lolling, mud-covered capybara.

One by one, she made eye contact with each rodent while removing a clip-board from her satchel, and putting on a rhinestone encrusted pair of reading glasses.

“As you can see, the blimp problem has been retired. Let us hope it is not resurrected. Rodney, can you summarize the ideal process for zeppelin construction for us?”

“Only up to a point. The Prince is quite vague about his requirements, and until I am certain of his goals and objectives, I’m afraid we have little to go on. I do know he intends to fly it to Queen Bonnie’s birthday party. That means the zeppelin must be capable of flying to the Palace of Schist, which means crossing over the alligator moat protecting the entrance. The Prince intends to fly it himself, so the controls must be user-friendly, as well as having discreet remote-control capability.”

“Well, then, we don’t know much, do we,” said the hen.

“Excuse me,” said the vole. “I happen to know that the Prince is hoarding recyclables. He has boxes of umbrellas and old license plates stashed under his bed. When I asked him about them, he winked and told me they were for a special project. I would like to recommend we encourage him to use them on this project so they aren’t around to inspire him to start something else– something that could be even worse.”

“Excellent!” said the hen. “That is very good thinking! I’ll make a note of it. That is exactly the kind of information we need to be aware of. Any known distractions or concurrent projects can set up our Prince to be an adversary instead of our primary client. Moneypenny, I see you nodding. Did you have something to add?”

“I could use some help monitoring princely activities. I can’t intercept internet orders and text messages while I am providing palace security, updating the websites, and maintaining the servers. Is there a platoon of naked mole rats available for an IT Internship?”

“The landscaping platoon is available, if we can recruit our Youth Brigade to tend the berry patches for them,” said Hamish.

“Excellent!” said Bianca. “Kipling, do you know when Bond’s report is expected? Any news on recruiting? Will he be bringing back any new staff? We need to post messengers wherever the clean-up staff works. I need evidence of diversions immediately, and anywhere there is a mess, The Prince is nearby.”

“Bond has recruited the Budgerigar Hens Gymnastic Team, but it is only temporary. They can only claim to be on tour for 14 days, but I think that is long enough. They need to wrap up some last-minute investigations at The Queen’s Palace and then they fly over.”

The little vole looked around and was about to comment, but the group had effectively, and suddenly disbanded. Part of the group went silent, others artificially busied themselves, others started random conversations. He quickly turned to look behind him, and saw that the portly prince had left his mud puddle and was loping across the pasture toward the group of co-conspirators.

“Never turn your back on a capybara,” said Conchita.

As The Prince approached the group, his gait changed from a slow ramble to a playful trot. Near enough now for optimal dramatic effect, he spun a couple circles, threw in a jig, and waggled his head, to complete his Doofus Dance. Wiggling his ears hippo-style, he flopped over on his side in a tiny mud puddle created by a recently overturned jug of lemonade. Wrinkling his nose, he sat up and sniffed at the puddle suspiciously.

Annabelle caught the eye of Kipling, and the portly butler nodded and approached the sticky capybara.

“Such a happy Prince we have here! What’s up?”

“Gari just texted me from his villa on the Riviera and has invited me to join him there! How soon do you think we can be ready to leave? I think we should take the convertible, don’t you? Are there any seed cakes left?”

The hen turned back to the group so the Prince wouldn’t see her grin. Likewise, the group stifled a sigh of relief. This lucky invitation would give them a head start on planning, and they might even be able to start construction before the Prince’s return. Rodney headed back to his workshop, an army of Naked mole rats scampering in his wake.

To be continued . . .

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The indispensable Cast of Characters:

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This story needs illustrations! Select an event from this story (how about the blimp?), draw a picture of it, and send me an email. I’ll reply so that you can attach a digital copy of your masterpiece to it. I’ll add it to the story!

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