The driver had been fighting mud slides, flowing torrents and boulders for four long hours and he knew he needed a rest. The thing about these long unbending rutted muddy crevasses was that they were so treacherous. It was always the same this time of year. There was another way of course, but that meant a detour taking at least twice as long, and that would not do. His clients paid him to get to their destinations as quickly as possible, and he was proud that he’d never let anyone down.
The rain increased in intensity and in all the mud his concentrating was waning, but there wasn’t far left to go. He sighed wearily as he looked backwards. What a mixed bag he had picked up.
He pulled on the reigns and the two centipedes skidded to a muddy stop outside the giant pumpkin. The doors opened with a squeak and the assorted passengers he’d picked up filed off one by one. After he’d checked nothing had been left behind he fed the centipedes some highly noxious smelly goo, pulled out a ball of sheep’s wool given to him by his mother, wrapped himself snug as a bug in a rug and entered the land of nod. If only he’d followed the assorted ragamuffin mix of characters his life may have changed from the boring, predictable path he seemed to be following so successfully.
Biscuit, as usual, lead the way. She had a nose for such things and was as excited as anyone about the endless possibilities which were assailing her. Her first priority, however, was to add yet more liquid to the first tall blade of grass she encountered. She’d barely finished before she was off like a rocket. Why, even now she could smell alluring scents pulling her nose along faster than a whippet after a rabbit. Food? Oh yes!
Behind Biscuit was the Captain. His joints felt like they’d been filled with cement yet he limped towards the entrance with a speed that belied his age. He liked to be out front, feeling it was a good example to the others. ‘Come on, come on’ he ordered as he opened the thick slatted door. From within came a welcoming hazy light throwing strange shadows across his gnarled face. ‘Quick march, we haven’t got all day you know.’ He spoke with a public school boy accent despite the fact he’d grown up somewhere north. He held the door open with his cane and stood waiting for the others. With his free hand he twirled the ends of his moustache. His feet tapped impatiently.
‘Oh I do love an adventure’ said Explorer.
‘Yes, yes, move along now.’ The impatience had transferred from his feet to his tone.
Explorer stopped just as she was about to go through the door and pulled her camera out. As she pointed it high above her head the rest of the gang crashed into her. Flash! Biscuit yelped and ran for cover, knocking over the Doll. She rolled into a puddle and squealed with outrage.
If the coach driver had taken just five minutes to watch them as this unlikely looking crew bickered, his life would have been immeasurably enriched. For starters, the sight of them all lying in a crump on the floor getting cross with each other was enough to warrant stitches, the random flashes highlighting faces in various contortions with a daft looking dog running loopily for cover would have taken him beyond sanity. Yes. If only.
Once they finally made it into the lobby the Captain made his way to the reception which looked like it was made of the purest dark cocoa bean chocolate. He resisted the temptation to run his tongue along it.
‘Ah good man, would you be so kind as to check us in, we are awfully tired and in need of a good rest.’
The giraffe looked down on him and studied his face, as if trying to figure whether the tepee was edible or not. Deciding it looked distinctly unnatural he warbled with a sing song voice from deep down his neck ‘Dat not be a worry my man, whom ‘as made de booking?’
The Captain was no more surprised at the giraffe’s accent, emanating as it did from deep within the Congo, or the fact that the giraffe could talk. No, for this was normal for the group who had made such a spectacular, if painful, entrance.
‘Quite. Quite. I believe you will see we have pre-booked. Look under the RB Gang.’
The giraffe looked down what seemed like miles.
‘Dis is more difficult wid each passin day. I dink I’m in need of de glasses’ he reverberated through his mouth. He picked up what looked like binoculars, strapped them to his head, and searched through his leaves of ciphers. A smile broke across his somewhat long face. ‘Ah yes. We ‘ave bin expecting you mans. Plis follow de hippo, ‘e will lead you to de mans rooms.’
The following morning saw Vector the Jester entertaining the various pumpkin guests. The night before he’d been so down that no one had really noticed him. But now, with full sun light bathing the pumpkin’s interior and power to his magic box he was in full flow. The children squealed with delight as he produced parodies of their features and characters. Even now a baby was dancing, and Jester was busy with a smile the size of a water melon.
Other children were, not surprisingly, mesmerised by the Doll. Gone was the outrage and mud from the previous evening. In fact anyone who saw her was captured by her beauty and no matter how well someone knew her, there was always another facet to find and be mesmerised by. It was as if the unfathomable depth of her beauty and colours inspired awe in those who really knew her.
One child who looked as if he was about to regurgitate chocolate milk shake was however making Doll very nervous, and she gently and nicely inched towards the safety of a high up chair.
Biscuit had no such qualms, for she was busy licking every child’s face for any remnants of the sugary breakfasts they had all enjoyed. And what a feast it was. So far she’d found a number of Smarties tucked away in seams and pockets, licked strawberry and raspberry ice cream from a cheek and had been unable to contain her unbridled joy when she’d found a half chewed doughnut. She made a beeline for the chocolate milkshake kid as if guided by an unseen food radar.
In the background The Writer found the whole scene idly amusing and was wondering how he could tie it into his tale. He’d been writing non stop this morning, as if he’d eaten the equivalent of writer’s jet fuel. He was sipping at his ice cold orange, watching the scene unfold from under his australian cork hat. He swatted at an imagined fly as he laughed at Biscuit hovering up any and every edible remains. He looked over at the Prince and saw that his friend was looking a little uncomfortable.
‘Strewth mate, you look like a barber speaking at a bald convention.’
‘I can’t see Cheeky’ Prince replied.
Prince was feeling a little uncomfortable, as he much preferred wild open places. The more barren and remote, the more he felt at home. It’s not that he didn’t like people, far from it, for he loved hanging with the RB Gang. It was just that he felt as if he’d been cooped up for weeks. There was no doubt about it, the travelling was getting to him and he longed for hills, blue lakes and clear skies.
The Writer looked around the room knowing that Cheeky could not be far away. Sure enough, he saw him, running to a hiding place with what looked suspiciously like the Captain’s tepee.
‘Don’t worry mate, I’ll get him for you.’
He put his pad in his pocket and nimbly made his away around the assembled throng of children, careful not to step into what smelt like chocolate milkshake. After neatly sidestepping Biscuit’s unerring approach he made his way towards where he’d last seen Cheeky.
Cheeky was, well, a cheeky monkey. To be truly truthful he was a Hamadryas Baboon but most people didn’t know the difference. As The Writer approached he could see that the monkey had seen him coming. It was clear that Cheeky was busy assessing his options for escape, but before he could move The Writer stretched out his long arm and caught him just as he was about to swing across the ceiling using the chandeliers.
‘Come on Cheeky, time to give the Captain his hair back.’
Cheeky protested his innocence, but knew he’d been caught.
It was lunch time, dinner time as northerners called it, and the RB Gang was assembled.
‘I’ve worked out a quicker way to get to where the sun rises’ said Explorer excitedly.
‘I’m all ears’ said Prince, ‘especially if it doesn’t involve being caged in a coach for the rest of my life.’
Explorer could barely contain her excitement, for she was jigging up and down much the same a three old does when he sees the pile of presents but is not allowed to open them.
‘As long as it doesn’t involve dynamite, sticky tape or ladybirds’ said Doll. If you looked carefully you could still see a scar on Doll’s face from the last of Explorer’s great ideas.
‘No. No. I’ve got it all worked out. It’s brilliant! I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before.’
They knew better than to trust her fully, for her ideas were always so, well, fantastic. But the truth of it was that they loved her all the more for it. It fell to Captain to give the nod.
‘Ok Explorer. What is it this time?’
‘Well. Being with the children this morning gave me the idea. In fact it was the moment they started to fill the balloons with helium. The way it rose so majestically into the air..’ Explorer looked up and away as if entranced.
The rest of the RB Gang looked at each. They had seen this look before, and knew they were off on another adventure.
Biscuit, The Explorer, The Writer, The Prince, Cheeky the Monkey, The Doll, The Captain, and last but not least, Vector the Jester. A motley crew who go under the name of the RB Gang are on their travels. What will they get up to?