Some of you already know Garibaldi Rous from Capybara Madness. Dobby has fallen in love with Gari’s friend, Sylvia, and we get to know her better this time. Prince Dobalob does a little shopping.
How did we get to Part Twelve without you? Did you somehow miss the beginning of the story? This isn’t a bad place to jump in, but good luck sorting out the characters. Recommended snack: Popcorn
“You never told me about your blimp,” said Gari.
“You owe me a root beer float. Hey, there’s the place where we got the corn. Shall we stop?”
“We’ll stop on the way home. The blimp. Quit changing the subject.”
“Okay,” said Dobby. “I ordered a blimp on the internet, and it came and it was a piece of junk so I stuck it out in the garden. End of story.”
“You left out a few details. Why was it a piece of junk?”
“Because it was a blimp?”
“Okay. I’ll ask Rodney next time I see him.”
“Rodney wasn’t there!” Dobby knew Gari wouldn’t let this go and now he’d blown it.
“Gee, Dobby. Wasn’t there when? What happened that Rodney didn’t see? Something happened, didn’t it? I hope it was funny, because then I can ask again in front of Sylvia. We can go there right now.”
“You wouldn’t!” Kaboom! The truck hit a bump in the road and the Segways in back of the truck jumped and rolled forward. “Did you have to bring those things now?”
“It saved me a trip to town. I had to bring them in eventually. These all need work.”
Dobby’s phone burped. He picked it up and stared at the screen. “It’s Caplin! He never texts. He must be on leave.” He scrolled, texted a reply, scrolled some more. “Hey, what’s the name of that restaurant we ate at? The one with the ferns.”
“The Fern,” said Gari.
“Oh, it had more than one fern. Don’t you remember?”
“That’s the name of the restaurant. The Fern. You’re right though, it had more than one. Maybe they should change it to The Tipsy Fern, in honor of the one you knocked over.”
Dobby shot Gari a warning glance. “Well, Caplin is coming through town and wants to meet us for dinner. Is that going to work?”
“That sounds great! I haven’t seen Caplin in ages.”
“Neither have I. We should have gotten that corn. Caplin loves corn.”
Kaboom! The truck hit another bump in the road and again the Segways in back of the truck jumped and rolled forward and slowly back. Dobby turned around to look at the Segways behind them. “You secured those things, didn’t you?”
“Never have before. You know, I do this all the time. It’s what I do. Unlike you I have to work for a living. It’ll be fine.”
Kaboom! The truck hit another bump in the road and once again the Segways in back of the truck jumped and rolled forward and then slowly back. Gari turned to his friend, grinning. “Just relax, we’re almost there. Most of us aren’t as accident prone as you are and we can push it a bit more.”
Dobby closed his eyes and Sylvia’s face appeared. It was fuzzier this time as his memory faded. The earrings were little tools, but what were they? An axe and a machete? A moon and a star? A sickle and a hammer? He pictured her walking away in those overalls, bags of popcorn in the pockets. He was starting to get nervous. He would no doubt see her again today. Would he knock over something important in her shop? Blow the whole thing up? He made a mental note to avoid standing near the welding tanks. He felt the truck swerve and stop, heard Segways knocking around behind him once again. When he opened his eyes, her face was still there, but this time she was motioning him to roll down the truck window.
“Hi! I didn’t have time to text Gari, but I can make it for lunch.” Sylvia was met with a blank stare. It was as if Dobby had seen a ghost. “That is, if the invitation is still open,” she said and thrust a red-and-white striped bag through the open window at him.
Gut instinct kicked in as he eagerly snatched at the bag of popcorn. “Thanks! Uh, yeah. Lunch, yeah.”
Gari was outside the truck, behind her. “I have to unload these Segways, but let’s talk about lunch. Dobby’s brother Caplin is meeting us for dinner at The Fern, so let’s think of something else for lunch.” He was already walking around to the back of the truck and was fiddling with the tailgate. “All of these need minor tweaks of some sort. Plus, I have too many at the villa right now. They ought to be here so you can rent them out.”
Sylvia turned back to Dobby. “Caplin is your brother? You’re kidding me.”
“Why? Do you know him?” The Prince sighed. Well, this could be the end of it right here. His brother was– assertive. Overbearing, even, and so bossy! Everyone admired him, of course, but he did take himself rather seriously. Dobby figured it was way too late to pretend they weren’t related, and he had to see this thing through.
“I’ve never met him, no, but everyone knows who he is. He’s kind of, um, well, anyway he comes through here every once in a while.”
“That’s okay, I understand. He’s a little over-bearing. He left home a long time ago.”
“So, let’s do a picnic lunch down by the river. There’s a nice alligator-free zone by the bridge.” Sylvia pulled a stubby pencil from the quills behind her head and dug a little notebook out of her coveralls. “Any requests? Besides popcorn. Though I guess we could just pig out on that. Don’t tell my kids, though.”
Dobby shook his head. “Is that deli any good? I can have them put something together for us. Is it just the three of us, then? No kids? They in school?”
“Yeah, they eat at school and won’t be home until later. Let me get my picnic basket. They will pack it in there for us. Save a bag, you know.” Sylvia was looking at him, cocking her head. “What are you looking at?”
“I was looking at your earrings. I couldn’t remember what they were. But these are different. They’re birds. I could swear you were wearing a hammer and anvils or something yesterday.”
She chuckled. “You’re funny. Nobody notices that stuff anymore. They were wrenches. Look, I gotta go sign for these parts. Might even be your new oil pan. Anyway, I can stop for lunch any time.”
Gari was still taking the Segways into the shop. Dobby grabbed the nearest one and helped walk it in. The door burst open, nearly knocking him over and the delivery guy stepped right out into him. Dobby’s hat flew off as he spun around out of the way. As he stooped to pick it up, Gari came back out through the door and almost tripped over him. “I’ll trade you this picnic basket for that Segway,” he said. “Give me a couple minutes and I’ll walk down to the deli with you. What the heck happened to your hat, dude?”
Dobby glared at him. “A big clumsy oaf just stepped on it.” He turned the hat around in his paws. The back was smashed in, the band was twisted up, and there was a big three-toed footprint across the front. Ruined, at least ruined by princely standards. “Does this town have a haberdashery?“ He shoved the hat on top of a potted topiary boxwood by the door and scowled at it as he accepted the picnic basket.
“Yeah, there’s one about three doors down. It’s on the way to the deli. Why don’t you check it out while I finish up here?” Gari glanced at the empty truck bed and tried to guess what Dobby would find in town to fill it up. One new hat wouldn’t fill it. He sighed and went back into Sylvia’s auto shop to fill out the paperwork on the Segways he had brought in.
Gari emerged from the auto shop at the same time as Prince Dobalob stepped out of the haberdashery. He was wearing a brand new Panama hat, a new yellow double-breasted linen waistcoat over a crisp white dress shirt, and a tropical print tie with multi-colored parrots perched on banana trees. He was surprised to see no other bags or boxes. He was also surprised to see no picnic basket. He started to call out to his friend about this when several clerks followed the Prince out the door with bags and boxes and Dobby motioned them toward Gari’s truck. Dobby paced impatiently while Gari walked leisurely down the sidewalk toward the deli. One more clerk emerged and handed Dobby the empty picnic basket.
“What took you?” Behind him, the haberdasher clerks carefully arranged the bags and hatboxes in the back of the truck.
“I had to check the security settings for the alligator-free zone before we have a picnic down there, said Gari. When we see Caplin, remind me to ask him about that, okay?”
“When did alligators start to be a problem, anyway? We never had to worry about that when we were kids. Is that a new thing, or what?”
“Pretty new, I guess. All of that stuff started happening at about the same time: alligators, leaky magic, disappearing roosters, big changes all at once. You know about Sylvia’s kids, right? She took them on after the alligators moved up into the river right by the bridge. Nobody knows for sure what happened but all of a sudden, their parents went missing and they were orphans. Nobody talks about it in front of them. Sylvia’s the only parent they’ve ever known, they were so little. But when the alligator-free zones were created, that was one of the first. It’s never been recertified, so I want to make sure Caplin takes a look at it. But you’re right, things have changed since we were kids.”
“Wow.” Dobby went silent as all of that sunk in. “Wow.”
They had reached the deli but Dobby was still lost in thought. Gari grabbed the picnic basket and handed it to the clerk.
“Fill it for three for lunch. Generously.” He turned to Dobby. “Any special requests?”
“Seed cakes?” he said hopefully.
The clerk laughed. “Seed cakes? Not today, sorry!” He chuckled to himself. “Haven’t seen a seed cake in years. Anything else I can do you for?” He turned to Gari. “Where did you find this character?”
“We were school chums. He visits now and then but we don’t often come to town. He’s from the North.”
“Well if he can get seed cakes up there, let me know. I could sell them here and retire next week.”
Gari turned and noticed his friend had wandered off. Noticing him in the cookie section, he grabbed a grocery cart and arrived in time for The Prince to clear a shelf into the basket.
“I was up late last night snooping around your pantry and there weren’t any cookies. Totally unacceptable. What kind of inn are you running?”
Gari stared at him. “You cleaned out the donut truck this morning!”
“Yeah, and your staff had eaten most of them by the time we left the villa. Which reminds me. One of your rose bushes looked pretty gnarly. You should replace it. Is there a nursery around here?” Dobby was heading toward the gourmet cheese section. Gari followed with his overflowing shopping cart. He caught the eye of the grocer who motioned to a clerk to send over an empty cart. He visualized the truck already full of packages and contemplated renting a U-Haul.
“Gari!” Dobby was holding open a freezer door and had his head inside it. “They have corn flavored ice cream!”
“You know that will melt before we get it home. If you want it, we should come back for it after dinner. Get practical!”
Gari finished loading the truck while Dobby stared off into the distance. “Why don’t you go get some popcorn and see if Sylvia is ready for lunch. I’ll return this cart and pick up the picnic basket and meet you at the shop.” Gari didn’t want Dobby walking past any more shops. He was getting pretty hungry.
Dobby meandered toward the shop door, wary now as he spotted his crushed hat atop the little shrub. If he was at home, Conchita would have already added googly eyes and a corncob pipe. He missed his hens and the carefree days at his little palace. Then he remembered his mother’s approaching birthday party and was suddenly happy to be on vacation.
He peered into the shop through the window, carefully opened the door and walked in. He looked around the shop and saw no one so he walked back to the work bench. Like Rodney’s shop, it was organized and tidy with tools hanging up on pegboard and a clean but stained workspace with the patina of many projects. Unlike the millwright’s workbench, there was a cash register and boxes of receipts. Rodney didn’t have to track expenses.
“Hello? Can I help you?” Sylvia had rolled out from under a car on a little dolly and was looking his direction. As he turned around her face brightened with recognition and then darkened. “Oh, hi Dobby! I didn’t recognize you from behind. You’re all dressed up! Aren’t we still going to have a picnic?”
He was confused for a minute and then looked down at his spiffy new linen waistcoat and parrot tie. He didn’t really dress for occasions, he just wore what he liked. He blushed when he considered that most people would probably wear a t-shirt with words on it. Princes simply do not dress like that. He looked at Sylvia’s oil-stained coveralls and wondered if he should have bought the Hawaiian silk shirt with the turtles instead. He had nearly convinced himself to go back and get it when Gari burst into the shop with the picnic basket.
“Let’s go! Hey, Sylvia, were you going to grab a blanket? We wouldn’t want Dandy Dobby here to get his new togs dusty.”
“Ah! New clothes, that’s it. Very nice!” said Sylvia. “Let me wash up a bit and I’ll be ready to rumble.”
To be continued . . .
The indispensable Cast of Characters:
This story needs illustrations! Select an event from this story (how about the topiary with the broken hat?), 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.