Prince Dobalob falls in love, nearly wrecks a restaurant, and gets extremely pouffy.
Why is this Part Nine? Where is the rest of it? Did you miss the beginning of the story? I’m still writing the end of the story, and I’m frankly relieved to discover that there is a plot. I was beginning to worry.
And so we leave behind the turtle towing effort. The capybara friends zoomed ahead on their Sport Segways, leaving the butler and the enterprising budgie to follow behind on Gari’s stalwart Exhibition Segway. Lurching into town, Dobby followed Gari and squealed up onto the sidewalk in front of the auto shop. Inside the gaping garage door, an anonymous but animated welding suit worked at a massive bench spanning the back wall. Sparks were a-flying. Gari waited for the welder to turn and acknowledge him, then prudently used a series of hand signals to communicate. Dobby, meanwhile, opened up a couple of little red and white striped bags and is nearly head and shoulders inside the popcorn machine, scooping out fresh hot buttered snacks. Gari turned to Dobby, shooing him back out onto the sidewalk and interpreted the hand signals.
“We’ll discuss your car over lunch. We are going to meet up at the restaurant across the street. Bring your popcorn. Oh, is that one for me? Thanks!”
Not willing to expend an ounce of energy beyond absolute necessity, the capybara chums hopped back onto their Segways and guided them cautiously across the bustling city street, leaving a meager trail of popcorn in their wake, multiple red-and-white striped bags swinging from the handlebars.
The sidewalk in front of the restaurant was lined with busy tables. The windows and doors opened onto the bright interior. Ferns hung in every window and over every table. They spilled out of big brass pots on the floor and topped pedestals separating the sidewalk tables. Bunches of grapes hung heavy on vines overhead, and blooming orchid sconces dotted the walls.
The hungry rodents glided over to an empty table and carried their precious little red-and-white striped bags, now half empty, and plopped their bottoms down on wicker chairs. A burst of butterflies escaped the seats as the portly duo balanced on the dainty chairs.
“I could eat this entire restaurant!” Prince Dobalob was drooling over the nearest fern when the waiter arrived to recite the menu.
“Dobby! Not now!” said Gari, under his breath. He turned to the waiter and smiled.
The waiter unsquinted his eyes and took a deep breath.
“Today’s special is fresh mixed bamboo and dandelion greens, sweet potato masala, petite corn-on-the-cob, a cup of oats, and seasonal fruit: crabapples and sand pears.” He took another breath. “I’ll be right out with your mini-bales of timothy hay.”
Prince Dobalob’s smile turned to pursed lips as the waiter waddled away.
“I was hoping for seed cakes. He said nothing about seed cakes and I haven’t eaten any since yesterday.”
The Prince slowly wagged his head in disappointment. He emptied the last of his popcorn onto the tablecloth and picked through the unpopped kernels. Gari, however, was looking beyond Dobby, and he was smiling.
“Well, hello, gorgeous!”
Our gentlemanly prince immediately stood up and turned to greet “gorgeous,” who turned out to be an extraordinarily attractive porcupine in railroad coveralls and pearls. Her sparkling earrings were a tiny anvil and hammer, and upon closer inspection, the oversized freshwater pearls were strung on what appeared to be vinyl-coated stainless-steel wire cable. Mesmerized by this apparition, he stepped back, barely nudging the pedestaled fern behind him. It leaned ever so slightly away from the table and then silently righted itself. The diners directly behind let out a collective sigh as it returned to the vertical. Our Prince, however, still stunned as he recognized the red and white striped bags tucked into her many pockets, gasped in recognition that this was the welder from the auto shop across the street. He glanced down at her feet, seeing once more the railroad denim cuffs that had been barely visible beneath the welding apron. “Gorgeous” was the mechanic who would be examining his roadster.
Meanwhile, Gari was snatching at the red and white bags, laughing when the mechanic spun and dodged and refused to give up the last few bags.
“Those are for The Prince,” she said. “I think more of his popcorn hit the pavement than hit his mouth!”
Our Prince could not take his eyes off the sassy porcupine. His mouth hung open, his arms dangled uselessly at his side. Gari continued to grab at the red and white bags and she plucked two of them out of a rear pocket and thrust them at The Prince. Misinterpreting her sudden move, he stepped back, cleanly knocking the unlucky fern off the pedestal. It landed with a thud on the table behind him. Silence gripped the restaurant patrons and scurrying waitstaff footsteps converged on the table with the frightened diners. At the Prince’s table, butterflies flitted about the tablecloth. The small pile of red and white striped bags were spilling out popcorn onto the table at a gradual but steady rate, and mounds of popcorn were attaining the angle of repose, causing the growing piles to slough off pieces now and then. Gari was astounded at the spectacle and looked up at The Prince. But the Prince was looking at “Gorgeous” and she was returning his gaze, puzzlement written across her face.
Gari watched the butterflies swirl and flitter between The Prince and the popcorn and the porcupine. He tried to introduce his two friends but could not break the spell between them.
“Prince Dobalob, this is your mechanic, Sylvia. Remember, we saw her welding in her shop across the street? Sylvia, this is my friend Dobby. I’ve talked about him before. Hello, is anybody listening?”
Gari looked down the street and saw Kipling approaching on his Segway. The puzzled waiter turned to Gari and leaned down to speak discreetly.
“I have a waterfront table for two available. Do you think you can suggest they move back there? There are no pedestals there to knock over, you see.”
“Good thinking. We have another friend joining us and would have to move, anyway. I’ll take them around right now. That’s my buddy segwaying down the street, let him know this is our table.”
He righted the spilled bags on the table and the popcorn flowed up and into the bags. The butterflies swooped and soared. The waiter stared in disbelief at the little exhibition.
“I’ve never seen popcorn behave like that!”
Gari winked at him.
“This must be the first time you’ve met Prince Dobalob. It’s always like this: knocking things down, butterflies and magic. I must say the starry eyed business is a first. Let me get them out of here. The mountain beaver coming down the street is his butler, by the way. Best let him order lunch for these two. They clearly are incapable of decisions of that complexity right now.”
Gari picked up the red and white popcorn bags and waved them in front of his friends.
“Come on, we’re moving you to a waterfront table in back. Follow the bouncing bags.”
Gari knew his friend well, for Dobby’s glazed gaze now followed the bags of popcorn and he was able to deftly maneuver him past the other tables and diners and onto the woodland trail that led to the private patio behind the busy restaurant. Sylvia jangled along behind them, multiple sets of tiny tool earrings accentuating her lumbering gait as she followed the friends. As Gari turned the corner, a waiter at a newly cleared table motioned to him. He still held aloft a large circular tray adorned with platters, steins, stemware, and crumpled napkins. Gari hurried to place himself between the surprised waiter and the approaching clumsy Prince.
“I can settle them in if you’ll get started on an order of willow fritters. Thanks!”
Gari set the red and white striped bags on the little bistro table and peered underneath as Gari and Sylvia plopped onto the tiny chairs, gazes locked and loaded. The table was quite substantial below, and the chairs were reinforced well beyond the municipal standard. It seemed safe to leave the Prince to the care of the patio waitstaff, though a small mixed flock of ducks was already making its way toward the princely table, now overflowing with popcorn. Gari hesitated and peered out over the waterfront. More ducks were making a beeline for the table and a few geese were joining the floating flock. Nothing could be done about that, but the popcorn would keep them busy. He left the mesmerized couple and headed back along the rustic path to the street side table.
As Gari rounded the corner, the butler slowed his Segway, looking right and left for his friends, or parked Segways, or an auto shop, or any clue as to the princely whereabouts. Gari waved to him and walked into the street toward the little mountain beaver.
“We have a street side table, you can see the Segways parked behind the biggest of the potted ferns. Dobby is around at a table in the back. I would explain it but it’s easier to show you. Park that thing and follow me!”
By now the waiter had spotted the butler and was signaling him in to a parking space near the other Segways. Sparrows hopped about the table, on top and underneath, pecking at the last of the spilled popcorn. Bond flew down from his handlebar perch to join them.
“Could you please bring an order of wild birdseed and a mini-platter of parsley,” said the butler. He turned to Gari as he handed off his Segway to the waiter. “Have you ordered lunch yet? And where is Dobby? I didn’t catch your drift, what’s going on?”
“Let’s order now. There are four of us, plus Bond. You, me, Dobby and Sylvia. He’s met the mechanic.” Gari rolled his eyes, gestured to the spilled popcorn and the deserted table behind them where a waiter was briskly brushing dirt off the table from the toppled fern. Two busboys struggled to set the gigantic potted plant atop the pedestal. “They had to move after a small incident with the decor. No one was hurt, but it was safer to give them their own table on the private patio.” To the waiter he said, ” Deluxe luncheon for four, two of us at each table. Sparkling apple juice for the, ahem, couple out back.”
The waiter nodded and scurried off to the kitchen. Kipling’s beady little eyes blinked rapidly and his paws opened and shut nervously as he absently watched the retreating waiter. Gari pushed in the chairs, carefully avoiding the flock now finishing off the under-table popcorn.
“Let’s sneak a peek. Follow me through the restaurant: we’ll be able to see them from the kitchen.”
The rodents wended their way through the jumble of tables, chairs, and diners inside the restaurant. An arbor transitioned into a lattice screen, the clatter of pots and pans indicating the kitchen and scullery beyond. Pushing aside two chairs at an empty table adjacent to the lattice screen, they peeped through diamond shaped holes at the scene on the patio.
Sylvia was giggling, the earrings (or maybe quillings is more accurate) danced and jangled, catching the sun and sparkling as brightly as the Prince’s eyes as he watched her. The ducks under the table pushed the popcorn around, eating some, scattering the rest to the geese who had joined them. The popcorn was spilling more slowly from the overturned bags, matching the pace of the poultry below.
“Oh my! So, you didn’t know that rest stop was magically deficient? Was there no sign? It’s in the intermittent zone, so it comes and goes. Still, there ought to have been a notice posted. Did you hear any scraping as you went over the edge? You didn’t get into the water did you?”
The Prince blushed and then pouffed a bit as he regained his composure.
“There was a bit of rubbing underneath and then a clunk when the car suddenly stopped sliding off the shoulder. Whatever made that clunk is what kept us out of the water. I didn’t see any oil on the sand or in the water, but there was a very suspicious little dark trail across the parking lot behind the car afterward. Will you be able to take a look at it today? If the turtles get it here before you close, that is?”
Gari turned to Kipling, in astonishment. Shaking his head in wonderment, he leaned down to whisper to the smaller rodent. It wouldn’t do to be heard from the other side of the screen, though the ducks were creating an effective acoustical buffer.
“I haven’t seen him get pouffy in ages! This is going to be interesting!”
The smaller butler was staring, his beady eyes glittering with the spectacle. The wheels were clacking and whirring as his tiny brain tried to conjure up the last occurrence of this blatant expression of delight. Capybaras have sparse but wiry fur, like a coconut. When they are pleased, their hide gets goosebumps and causes their fur to stick straight out like a bottle brush. This is traditionally done to allow the native fowl to groom the royal beasts, but in civilized company, it tends to accentuate and enhance pleasantries. In this case, neither of the eavesdroppers were expecting to see the mechanic grooming their Prince. Rather, this was a pure expression of delight. Kipling whispered in return.
“I honestly cannot recall the last time I saw him pouf. Of course, I didn’t know him when he was a pup like you did. I’ve always thought he was reserved, you know, a dignified sort. This is remarkable!”
The conversation beyond the screen had continued, and the couple was now discussing the relative efficiency of turtle towing to the preferred hares who also offered vehicle towing service. Surely it wasn’t the subject of conversation that precipitated the pouf, nevertheless our Prince was in a remarkable state of fluff. Embarrassed now to be skulking behind the screen, Gari silently motioned to the butler, and they backed away into the sea of occupied indoor tables and worked their way back to their street side table.
To be continued . . .
The indispensable Cast of Characters:
This story needs illustrations! Select an event from this story (how about the turtles?), 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!
Or, if you’d rather help with the glossary, send me the list of words you had to look up (or should have looked up, but didn’t!). When I finish writing the ending, I will start putting together the glossary.