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Sunday, 7 September 2014

McCluskey's Story/Peak Peril: Part 6


“Is that McCluskey?” said the voice in the tube.
“Yes, Chef!” said McCluskey. “I’m sorry about the chocolate!” 
McCluskey explained how he’d been attacked by brigands in the shadows of the Chilly Peaks and how the condor had appeared and made off with the luxury yak milk white chocolate the chef had ordered.
“Well, that’s bad luck, but what am I going to do? There’s a rumour going round the palace about the chocolate and the Emperor must have heard it by now. He’ll be mad if it doesn’t materialise,” said the chef.
Just then the condor appeared out of nowhere again and perched on the blimp’s landing ski. The receiver in the tower ducked down below the window, and pressed a button to call security as the bird flapped it’s long, broad wings to balance itself. A siren started wailing.
“I don’t feel like this now,” said the condor, dropping the chocolate into the blimp basket. “Can I exchange it for a lettuce?”
“What’s going on?!” said the chef’s voice from the tube. “Who’s that?”
Guards appeared in turrets, on walls and roofs and at gates, their armour and helmet glinting in the new day’s sunlight. A strange-looking defence-apparatus came towards the condor, aiming to shoo it off the Imperial Palace premises - with force if necessary.
“Stop!” shouted McCluskey. “It won’t do you any harm! It’s just a bit hungry that’s all!”
 McCluskey let go of the speaking tube, and sprinkled some vinegar on the last lettuce and gave it to the condor.
The strange apparatus came to a halt and the guards watched as the condor crunched the lettuce and swallowed it.
“Got any more?” asked the condor.
“That was the last one, I’m afraid. . . ” said McCluskey. 
The guards raised their weapons ready to attack. The apparatus tensed on it’s long, wiry legs. 
“Don’t shoot!” cried McCluskey.

Terrible, nerve-racking seconds elapsed. The guards gripped the ends of their arrows with their fingertips.
“I’ll bring some more lettuce next time!” said McCluskey.
“OK, don’t forget,” said the condor.
“There’s some other leafy things you might like,” said McCluskey, still eager to encourage the bird away from meat-eating while it’s enormous beak was so close. “There’s cabbage, kale, spinach, rocket and loads of others. They’re all tasty and good for you!”
“OK,” said the condor. It flapped it’s enormous wings and the guards took aim.
“Wait!” Wait!” shouted McCluskey, leaning out of the blimp basket.
The guards held their fire as the condor took off, making the blimp shake.
“I’ve got it, Chef! I’ve got the chocolate!” shouted McCluskey into the tube, as he watched the condor fly off into the distance.


Meanwhile, back in their stinking hideout in the shadows of the Chilly Peaks, the brigands poured rum on their cornflakes. They were still fed up about not getting the chocolate.
“I had it in my hand!” said the leader. “I’ll get that condor if I see it again!”
“What about that pigeon?” said one of the men, and the rest of the crew sniggered.
“Yeah,” said another, “the pigeon that decorated your coat!”
“Splat!” said another.
“Don’t cross the white line!” said another.
The leader scowled and banged his fist down on the table. The men all froze and looked at him.
“Well,” he said, smiling wickedly, “I’m glad it was the pigeon, and not the condor!” 
And they all laughed heartily.




End of McCluskey’s Story/ Peak Peril


© David Severn

Sunday, 31 August 2014

McCluskey's Story/Peak Peril: Part 5


McCluskey was determined not to let the brigand leader have the yak milk white chocolate, but when the angry, hairy, guano-stained bandit climbed into the blimp’s basket the smell was unendurable.
“Here! Take it!” said McCluskey, trying not to breathe.
“Ah-ahhh!” said the brigand, grabbing the chocolate. “Well done,  Sonny Jim!”
The brigand jumped back onto the plank and held up the chocolate:
“Look at this, men! The absolute pinnacle of luxury! The acme of good taste! An epicurean masterpiece! Sweet perfection!” he shouted.
“Hooray!” cried the brigands on the deck of their craft. “Quick, bring it back here and let’s share it out!” said one.
“As for sharing, I think I shall have a bigger portion,” said the leader.
“All right! Hurry up!” said one of the men.
“Let me see. . . “ said the leader. He felt the number of squares through the chocolate’s paper and foil wrappers with his thumb. “So that will be twenty-eight for me and.. none for you lot!”
The brigands jumped onto the plank and lunged for their leader. “Mutiny!” shouted the leader, trying to hold the chocolate up out of reach of the grasping brigands.
Out of the murky, pre-dawn sky came the condor. It swooped down on its enormous wings and took the chocolate in its talons, leaving the brigands tottering about pathetically on the plank.
“Hooray!” cried McCluskey.
“Come back, you thieving, overgrown crow !” shouted the leader.
The brigands were surprised when the condor did come back, swooping in and knocking them off the plank like a bowling ball hitting ten pins.
“Strike!” shouted McCluskey.
The brigands screamed and snorted as they were left dangling - hanging on to the plank by their fingertips. McCluskey opened the throttle of the blimp and coasted up and away. When he was at a safe distance he looked back and saw the leader was back on top of the plank, pulling his mutinous crew back up one-by-one, giving each one a reproachful look as they slunk back to their craft.
Now free, McCluskey opened the throttle of the blimp and headed at full whack to the Imperial Palace. The Chilly Peaks were now lit up by the sun.

When he arrived he lined up the blimp behind another craft that was waiting at the tower above the deliveries chute. He could hear the receiver shouting through a megaphone to the pilot of the craft in front:
“Potatoes?! The docket says “tomatoes”, not potatoes!”
“How are you spelling “tomatoes”?” said the pilot.
“T-O-M-A-T-O-E-S,” said the receiver.
“Just a minute,” said the pilot.
McCluskey looked at the clock - he was already late, but this was making it worse.
“Not P-O-T-A-T-O-E-S?” said the pilot eventually.
“No, that’s potatoes!” shouted the receiver. “You’d better come back later with the tomatoes the Chef ordered!”
“So you don’t want these potatoes?” said the pilot.
“No, not today, thank you!” said the receiver. “You can try the Fish and Chip Studio, on the next mountain, they might want them.”
“Thank you,” said the pilot. The craft’s motor whirred as it slowly moved away from the tower.
“You’re late, grocery blimp!” shouted the receiver, as McCluskey moved forward.
“I know! I’m sorry!” shouted McCluskey. “I got lost in a magnetic storm and nearly eaten by a condor! Then I was bombarded with fireworks and then nearly crystallised! And then I was attacked by brigands!”
“Three hundred lettuces, isn’t it?” said the receiver, unsympathetically.
“”I lost some on the way,” said McCluskey.
“How many have you got left?” said the receiver.
“Two,” said McCluskey.
“Two hundred?” said the receiver.
“No, ... two,” said McCluskey, anxiously.
The receiver froze for a moment, just blinking, and then he put down his megaphone and spoke into a tube. When he had finished speaking he put the tube to his ear.
“You’re in luck, grocery blimp!” said the receiver. “Chef says President Bunny isn’t coming after all, so we don’t need the lettuces.”
“Phew!” said McCluskey, relieved.
“Chef says one lettuce will be fine this time,” the receiver said. He held out a large net and McCluskey threw one of the lettuces into it. “And Chef says what about the yak milk white chocolate? You’ve got that, haven’t you?”
“Err... no, I lost that as well,” said McCluskey. “The condor got it.”
The receiver shook his head and spoke into the tube again.
“Chef wants to speak to you,” said the receiver, extending the tube out from the tower towards the blimp with a long stick. “He’s not very happy!”

To be continued.



© David Severn

Monday, 25 August 2014

McCluskey's Story/Peak Peril: Part 4


The brigands’ dirty craft drew nearer to the grocery blimp. McCluskey could see them on the deck. They all had twisted hair and knotted beards. They smelt really bad.
“Give us all your valuables!” shouted the leader, gesticulating with a rusty cutlass.
“I haven’t got anything valuable!” said McCluskey.
“Arr... they all say that!” shouted the leader, and all the brigands roared with laughter.
“I deliver groceries!” pleaded McCluskey.
“Groceries!” shouted the leader. “Well, we’ll have your bottles of champagne and your tins of caviar then!”
“I’ve only got lettuces - and I need those. The Chef at the Imperial Palace is waiting for them.”
“Lettuces?!” said the leader. “We don’t like lettuces!”
The brigands all jeered and grumbled.
“Surely you can do better than that?” said the leader. “I’ll bet you’ve got something special for the Emperor. Some chocolate perhaps? We know he’s got a sweet beak. You could give it to us and we’ll let you go on your way with your nasty lettuces!”
There was more cheering from the deck.
“I haven’t got anything!” said McCluskey.
“Hand it over, Sonny Jim!” said the leader. “Come on, we haven’t got all day you know!”
McCluskey was determined not to let the brigands have the yak milk white chocolate. He took one of the lettuces and threw it at the stinking craft. The brigands all ducked and laughed, pretending to be frightened. 
McCluskey threw some more lettuces at them.
“Arrgh, I’m hit!” cried the leader sarcastically, holding his hand to his head. The brigands howled with laughter. The leader picked up one of the lettuces and tossed it up in the air. As it fell, he swished his cutlass back and forward through the air energetically, leaving a neat pile of shredded lettuce on the deck.
“Now, come on Sonny Jim,” he said darkly, “let’s have it!”
McCluskey was determined not to relinquish the chocolate, but watched helplessly as the brigands extended a plank from their craft and the leader stepped up onto it. 
“Get the chocolate out, Sonny Jim!” he said. “I’m coming to get it! There’s no guarantee that I won’t slip and accidentally cut your ear off, but the chances of that happening may be less if you hold the chocolate out so that I can take it easily and concentrate on balancing!”
“Don’t look down!” cried one of the brigands, causing a great laugh from the deck. Without turning around, the leader made a rude gesture towards his crew.
“Don’t fall off!” cried another brigand. More laughter.
The leader wobbled on his high-heeled boots and flung his arms around.
“Shut up, you fools!” he shouted, annoyed. “You’re putting me off!”
“Don’t wet yourself!” cried a third brigand. Huge laughter ensued. Even McCluskey couldn’t help sniggering. Before the leader had chance to act on that advice, a pigeon flew past and got him with a streak of the white stuff.
“Gnah!” shouted the leader, lunging at the dirty bird with his cutlass. “My best jacket!”
Uncontrollable laughter ensued.
“Stop laughing, you filth!” shouted the leader, “you’re shaking the plank!”
But the leader was a hard nut, and he edged along the shaking plank to within a yard of the blimp’s basket.
“Give me the chocolate!” he demanded. “I’m going to eat it all myself - that’ll show those wretches whose boss!” 
“It’s way past it’s sell-by date!” bluffed McCluskey.
“I don’t care!” said the leader, “so am I!”
“It’s gone mouldy!” bluffed McCluskey.
“I like a bit of mould!” said the leader.
“There are ants crawling around in the grooves between the squares!” bluffed McCluskey.
“Don’t mind!” said the leader.
“It smells awful!”
“I’ll hold my nose!”
“It’ll taste really bad!”
“I’ll be the judge of that!”
“Err. . . “ McCluskey couldn’t think of anything else to say to deter the salivating brigand leader, who now lifted a leg to climb into the basket.

To be continued.

© David Severn

Saturday, 16 August 2014

McCluskey's Story/Peak Peril: Part 3

When the blimp settled again McCluskey got up dizzily. He found there was a large hole in the side of the blimp-basket, and a lot of lettuces had fallen out. He estimated there were about a hundred left.
I hope that’s going to be enough! he thought.
McCluskey quickly patched up the hole with some cardboard and sticky tape and took his seat at the controls. 
However, instead of hurrying along to the Imperial Palace as he intended, he became mesmerised by the sight of his new surroundings. The blimp had been blown into a realm of crystals, which sparkled like a million diamonds. Fantastic multi-faceted shapes towered and extended in every direction. As he gazed in awe, he saw clusters of crystal forming and growing in fascinating slow-motion.
Then, after a long time, McCluskey glanced down at his controls and saw there were crystals growing across his dashboard,  and the floor was covered in a glittering crystal carpet. As he checked his instruments and grappled with the controls, crystals grew up his legs. He realised he would soon be covered in them, and twisted the joystick to try and get away. However, the joystick was stuck and made a crunching sound when he forced it.
I’m going to be late! thought McCluskey, still thinking about his delivery, but actually it was getting much more serious that that. The crystals had now reached his knees and were invading the blimp-basket’s windscreen. 

McCluskey pulled the joystick as hard as he could, smashing the crystals. The motor groaned with the sudden exertion, but the blimp barely lifted, and the crystallization continued. McCluskey opened the window and threw out lettuces until he could feel the blimp getting lighter, and soon he was high up above the crystals below, while those that had grown in the blimp basket began to recede and vanish.
“Phew!” said McCluskey.
He then counted the lettuces: there were now only about twenty left.
I wonder if that’s going to be enough? he thought.
He looked at the clock and saw he was now way behind schedule, and set a course for the Imperial Palace, where Emperor Peng Win’s chef would be waiting.
McCluskey took a short cut through the shadows of the Chilly Peaks. It was a risky thing to do, as he had heard about people being ambushed and robbed there. . . A dark, messy craft drew up alongside and a voice shouted incomprehensibly. He could hear other voices in the background jeering and laughing wickedly. Fearfully, McCluskey put on his shellphones and listened to the translated shouting:
“Sweater or we will honk you out of the wide blue yonder!”
McCluskey adjusted the shell phones:
“You have no choice! Hand over your stuff and we may spare your life!”
Oh, no! Brigands! thought McCluskey.


To be continued.

© David Severn

Saturday, 2 August 2014

McCluskey’s Story/Peak Peril: Part 2



“I’m not food!” said McCluskey. “I’m not tasty at all. In fact I’m not even edible!”
“I fancy a salad,” said the condor, now at the side window. 
Wow! thought McCluskey. It must be this magnetic storm. Everything’s gone haywire - even this bird’s eating habits!
“You’re in luck!” said McCluskey, throwing a lettuce out. The condor swallowed it whole.
“Got any more?” asked the condor.
“Err.. yes, I think there’s another one...” said McCluskey, knowing in fact that he had about three hundred lettuces on board.
“Any more?” said the condor again, after swallowing the second lettuce. “Got any dressing?”
McCluskey located his emergency bottle of vinegar, happy to cater for the bird as long as it remained vegetarian.
McCluskey fed lettuces one-by-one to the condor, which took a swig of vinegar in between each of them. Eventually the condor said it was full. McCluskey was relieved to see that there were still about two hundred lettuces left - maybe it would be enough.
“What’s for pudding?” said the bird.
“Don’t look at me like that!” said McCluskey anxiously. “I’m not sweet! Not sweet at all, rather bitter in fact!”
“I can smell something sweet,” said the condor.
McCluskey knew what it was. It was a bar of luxury yak milk white chocolate, the Emperor’s favourite, which the Chef of the Imperial Kitchen had added to the lettuce order.
“I can’t smell anything,” bluffed McCluskey.
“It’s a sweet, buttery kind of smell,” said the condor.
McCluskey made sniffing movements with his short snout and said, “No. I can’t smell anything like that.”
“Can I have it?” said the condor.
“Have what?” said McCluskey.
“The white chocolate!” said the condor, lifting one of it’s big feet from the landing ski to stretch it’s talons, causing the blimp to rock again.
The Chef is not going to be very happy about this! thought McCluskey, reaching for the chocolate, but then there was a loud bang and the blimp shook as the condor suddenly took off. The air was now full of bursting fireworks, and McCluskey saw the condor flying off into the distance, where it disappeared behind a mountain.
As the impromptu firework display continued, McCluskey, fearing for his life, tried the joystick again and found he could steer the blimp. Using all his pilot’s instincts he dodged the rockets, aerials, cherry bombs,
chrysanthemums and peonies that exploded all around him.
The fireworks display went on far a few minutes until climaxing with a huge explosion that knocked McCluskey to the floor of the basket and threw the blimp out of the Chilly Peaks mountain range altogether.


To be continued


© David Severn

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Kola Nut Hotel: McCluskey’s Story/Peak Peril

Part 1


After he left the Kola Nut Hotel, where the giant creeping plant was temporarily subdued,* McCluskey, in the grocery blimp, flew on towards the Imperial Palace with his cargo of lettuces. He took a short cut through the Chilly Peaks to make up for lost time, but suddenly a magnetic storm blew up and he lost his bearings. McCluskey looked anxiously at his goldfish compass, which wasn’t lined up to north as it should have been. He saw the hands of his clock switching from one random time to another; five-past-two... ten-to-five... half-past-twelve. The needles of the dials on the grocery blimp’s dashboard also flicked from side-to-side erratically. He thought he could navigate by the stars, but when he looked out of the blimp’s window he found the sky was obscured by swirling clouds. The windscreen wipers did an elegant but squeaky tango across the front window.
McCluskey tried to turn around, but he found the magnetic storm had affected the wire connecting the joystick to the rudder, which swung from left to right. He tried to switch off the engine, but that didn’t work either and the propellor kept turning steadily.
So, powerless to do anything, he sat and watched as the blimp zigzagged forward, getting further and further off course into a region of the Chilly Peaks he wasn’t at all familiar with.

McCluskey was wondering what would happen if he was late with the lettuce delivery, when he saw two narrow parallel beams of light ahead, like the headlights of a car. He jumped when he saw that the beams were being emitted from the eyes of a night-flying condor. The gigantic bird had seen the blimp and was now gliding towards it. McCluskey could see it’s long, wings with their broad, purply-brown feathers like the fingers of a giant glove. He could see it’s pink, shaved-looking head and it’s fluffy collar of white feathers. He could see it’s terrifying, meat-eating beak as it got nearer and nearer. Although McCluskey knew he could never outrun a hungry condor, he instinctively grabbed the joystick. The blimp still did not respond, but it rocked and creaked as the condor flew right up and perched on one of its landing skis. The condor flapped its wings to balance itself, and the blimp’s basket was filled with bright light as it looked in through the windscreen, salivating.


to be continued

*Creepers Sleepers

© David Severn 2014