Unable to walk across the bridge to the zeppelin, Caplin remains tied up in cargo nets. As he breaks loose from the dungeon window, Sylvia hangs on and they dangle underneath the zeppelin. The extra weight causes the zeppelin to drop slowly toward the moat.
Seriously, what kind of person starts reading at Part 37 of 40 parts? Redeem yourself and start at the beginning. The cast of characters won’t help you now, we’re too far along. Recommended snack: Watermelon, not those puny seedless ones, get a gigantic seed-filled one. Soundtrack: Watermelon in Easter Hay Bonus: Don’t miss the links!
The zeppelin inched its way sideways toward the plugged up window. The cargo net bridge drooped in slow motion toward the moat below. The roosters began to wake up, rub their eyes, sit up, and look around. Bianca looked at Dobby in terror. He reached into his waistcoat, pulled out a couple boxes of seed cakes, and tossed them over to her. He pointed to Percy and signaled for her to talk to him. She handed Percy the seed cakes and explained the situation while he distributed them among his flock.
Rodney noted this new complication and signaled to Cu to cross over and chew. They continued to reel in the cables and soon they heard Sylvia shouting to Cu. Caplin was waking up, too. Rodney and Gari stopped reeling and Dobby hollered out the window at Cu.
“Is Caplin able to walk, do you think?”
“Mom says he’s kind of snarling at her. Clicking is what she said, kind of what we do, but louder. He seems to think she’s kidnapping him.”
“Oh, great,” said Dobby. “I guess they never met. Okay, let’s not accidentally let him loose. Don’t chew any cargo net or ropes!”
“I’m getting ready to chew on the parts of the window frame that hold this end of the cargo net bridge. How is mom supposed to come across with no bridge? It’s already sagging and I think it’s going to fall down on this side,” said Cu.
“Is there any rope showing,” said Dobby? “Can you tie off your end of the bridge to Caplin’s package? Then it won’t drop too far and if she can keep hanging on to him, she’ll come across with him.”
“No, I don’t see any rope,” said Cu. “Wait a minute.” The squirrel spoke to his mother for a minute, and then they saw the end of a piece of rope stick through a lower corner of the window. Cu grabbed it and tugged and tugged until he had enough to weave in and out of the bridge and Caplin’s cargo net. He tied off the end and gave Dobby a thumbs up. He set to work, squeezing under Caplin’s bulk to reach the window bar nubs hanging up on Caplin’s net. Cu chewed rapidly and moved to the next nub.
The roosters had stood up and were now watching from Newt’s interior. Sali and Tix had lost interest in Conchita’s games and watched intently from Dobby’s couch. Rodney sent Bianca back to the roosters to explain about ballast and move them to the couch recently vacated by Gari. Everyone waited for Cu’s signal to start reeling in cable again.
There was a sudden cracking sound and Caplin dropped like a cannonball! Suspended from both winch cables, front and aft, he swung back and forth underneath Newt like a bungled up hammock. Sylvia hung onto the swinging capybara. She was on top at first, but her extra weight spun her around to the bottom, the cables twisting slightly. Cu grabbed onto the loose end of the cargo net bridge as it dropped down. It was still attached to Newt, but it had completely unfurled and swung dangerously close to the now snapping alligators. He let out a squeal, scrambled up and leapt through Newt’s window.
“We’re dropping,” said Annabelle. “We need to lose some ballast, and fast! I’ll try to move us away from the moat, but I don’t see any fencing or anything that would keep the alligators in. I can’t land with a capybara and porcupine dangling under the hull, anyway.”
Sure enough, the zeppelin was sinking slowly and steadily. Rodney and Gari continued to reel in the cables of the hammock, but it was clear there was no way to get Caplin and Sylvia into the zeppelin from their position beneath it. Cu raced around the zeppelin, opening doors and hatches, looking for something.
“I need some rope! Do we have any?”
Gari looked around him and picked up a pile of pastel silk aviator scarves and tossed them over. Cu grabbed them and scrambled back out the window and carefully descended the dangling bridge. The capybara/porcupine hammock was still swinging, but not as widely as before, and there was a considerable gap between it and the dangling bridge. Cu carefully tied a couple scarves together and then to the bridge itself. He rolled the end of the gossamer scarves into a ball and when his mother swung close, he threw it toward her. And missed. He tried over and over again, missing each time.
Above him, Dobby moved to the snack cupboard and peered into its depth. He reached in and pulled out a huge watermelon.
“Holy Toledo,” said Rodney. “Get rid of that thing!”
“I can’t walk around with the zeppelin swinging like this,” said Dobby. “Hey Percy! Can you come here? Can you mind the controls at this end? I need Gari to chuck these watermelons out that side of the zeppelin.”
Percy strutted over, fully aware that Bianca was watching every move he made. Gari thrust the winch control unit at him and quickly showed him how to operate it. Percy nodded and gave him a thumbs up, almost dropping the heavy unit. He set it onto a nearby chair and stood by, watching for signals from Rodney.
Dobby had two watermelons out, now. Gari maneuvered one toward the center of Newt’s salon and looked out the window. He moved forward one more window, nudged the huge watermelon up and out the window. Conchita, Sali, and Tix watched out the window and cheered as it bonked an alligator on the nose. It let out a bellow. The melon split open and the gator tossed his snout so that it ended up on the bank of the moat.
Meanwhile, Cu gave up tossing scarves to his mother. He gathered up the fabric in his mouth, waited for the hammock to swing close, and jumped, landing on Caplin’s big nose. Hanging tight, he ignored the clicking beast and laced the long scarves through the cargo net hammock. Sylvia tugged on the scarves, pulling the dangling cargo net closer and closer until they could be tied together. She motioned to Cu to climb back up while she continued to tie the nets firmly together. Finally the hammock stopped swinging and steadied. She checked all her knots and slowly and carefully started to climb up.
Halfway up, she heard a cheer and a splash below. Hanging on tightly, she looked down in time to see the first broken watermelon head for the moat’s edge. She blinked, not quite certain what she had just seen, but a second glance confirmed that there were some very angry alligators below. She continued her ascent but did not look down again.
Percy’s rooster friends were now pushing watermelons down the aisle in Newt’s salon to where Gari was stationed at the window. Dobby continued to pull gigantic watermelons out of the snack cupboard, and Rodney continued to holler at him for bringing them. Conchita discovered that Cu had joined his siblings and everyone was cheering at each watermelon drop. The alligators were furious, now, but several of them had stopped to eat them, and the moat water ran red with the deep red juice.
Nobody noticed when Sylvia appeared at the window and clambered into the salon. She sat down on the end of Dobby’s couch and looked around at the crazy scene. Annabelle was working with levers and wheels, trying to get the zeppelin to move up and away from the alligator plagued moat. Naked mole rats above checked gears and pulleys in order to move the wing-like rudder and adjust the upper ballasts . Rodney was in front with the winch, signaling to Percy at the back, and hollering at each emerging watermelon. Conchita, the little squirrels and Gari were at a window across from her, tossing melons and cheering. Bianca was tending to the groggiest roosters, guiding them as needed to offset the oddly tilting zeppelin. Her Prince was pulling more and more watermelons out of the snack cupboard as fast as the livelier roosters could push them down the aisle.
“Mom! When did you get here?” said Sali.
Everyone turned to look at Sylvia. The little squirrels, Conchita, Bianca, and Gari all ran to her and the zeppelin lurched from the sudden unbalance. They quickly returned to their positions as Dobby turned green and stopped pulling watermelons for a minute.
“We’re really unstable, now,” said Rodney. “What did you do under there?”
“Cu was amazing,” said Sylvia. “Not only did he rig up a ladder for me to climb up, but it’s attached to Caplin. As you continue to reel him in, he’ll come up on this side of Newt’s hull. If you can get him far enough up, we’ll be able to land this thing. If you can get him way up, we can try to haul him in through the window, but more likely we’ll have to get him down after we land. It’s totally unbalanced but being able to land is a good trade off.”
Rodney looked at Cu and threw him a rare smile. “That’s good thinking! I really had no idea how we were going to land with them under there. Caplin could probably survive a water landing, but I thought that it might be kind of rough on your mom.” Cu looked at him suspiciously, but Rodney chuckled. “Just kidding.”
Dobby had his head back into the snack cupboard and pulled out yet another watermelon. “Only three more after this one”
“Holy cow,” said Rodney. “it’s a good thing I told you to go easy on the snacks!”
Cheers went up as Gari tossed another watermelon out the window. The little squirrels, rather than terrified of the alligators, were laughing at the sight of the hungry gators eating dozens of watermelons. Rodney and Percy continued to reel in cable and Sylvia coached from her viewpoint at the window. Too much slack on one end or the other meant constant monitoring so that Caplin’s cargo net package came up smoothly and centered on the window. When she saw that Dobby had emptied the cupboard of watermelons she called him over.
“You better get over here. He’s close enough that I can hear him clicking. I don’t think he’s too happy. He probably still thinks he’s been kidnapped.”
“He’s probably just furious that all those watermelons were wasted on alligators,” said Dobby. “I’ll talk to him. But I have to move slowly. Bianca, get ready to send some roosters back here if we start to tilt and need ballast. Hey Annabelle, did losing those snacks help get us any higher?”
“Yes, but it’s rising back up slower than molasses. I’ve been talking to Rodney about adding some wings or getting a little battery operated booster for emergencies. Or a team of crows or something. But thanks, that helped us clear the moat. We were awfully close to a water landing down there. Sorry about that, Sylvia.”
“That’s okay,” said Sylvia. “I climbed on top of Caplin. They would have gotten him first. My quills are effective against just about anything, but I don’t want to be a guinea pig with regard to alligators.”
Dobby approached the window and Sylvia scooted over a bit to make room on the couch. Bianca sent a couple of the larger roosters back to the snack cupboard.
“Caplin, Dobby here. We just rescued you. You were kidnapped!”
“I know,” said Caplin. “the little twit climbed on top of me, left me to the alligators! Where did she go? Did she fall off? That would serve her right.”
“Hah! She’s the one who rescued you, you numbskull!” Said Dobby. “You want to talk to her? She’s right here. Her son helped, too. Did you see the squirrel? That’s Cu, and you can thank him, too. Rodney helped, and Annabelle, Bianca, Conchita, and Percy. Even Gari helped.”
“You and all your so-called friends are in it together, obviously. If you rescued me, why did she tie me up in this net?” Said Caplin. “And why am I still dangling under this, this thing. Whatever it is. Get me out of here. I intend to call my superiors at the Guardiã Principale and have you all arrested! My own brother! I should have known you would betray me some day.”
Dobby looked at Sylvia and grimaced. “Now you’ve met my brother. What do you think? Shall we drop him back down?”
“Cu would be happy to chew up that cargo net he’s wrapped up in,” said Sylvia. “Or if you can come up with one more watermelon we could toss it down to him, he’s probably hungry.”
One of the roosters approached the couch where Dobby and Sylvia were discussing Caplin.
“Bianca said we should try to remember what happened but we can only remember bits and pieces of the day we spent with Queen Quartz. She gave us juice— it was delicious, but it made us forget everything. I don’t know if I will even remember today.”
“Day?” Said Dobby. “The day you spent with her?” He looked at Sylvia and shook his head. “What do you remember? Can you tell us about Caplin?”
“Caplin? You mean the big fat capybara? He was in the dungeon with us,” said Dewey. “Why were we all in the dungeon? Do you know? If you can find the capybara, maybe he knows.”
“Why don’t you go back and sit down with the other roosters,” said Dobby, rolling his eyes. He turned back to Sylvia. “That went well. How are we doing?”
“Oh-for two. If we had known what we were getting into, we probably would have called the Guardiã Principale. But considering what Caplin just said, we would have been arrested for kidnapping. I think we won that round, so maybe one-for-two,” said Sylvia. “But we got that point for being clueless, not finesse. If we get out of here safely and don’t scrape up Caplin too hard when we land, we might even the score.”
“And then,” said Dobby, “It will be too late for me to return to mother’s party after we drop off Caplin and deal with his wild accusations, so I think I should get a point for a stunningly original excuse for missing the party. “We’re a little tied up,” excuse the pun.”
To be continued . . .
The alligator-deficient Cast of Characters:
This story needs so many more illustrations! Select an event from this story (how about a pile of watermelons?), 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!). Someday, I will start putting together the glossary. Do know what gossamer means?