Wildmouth shot out of his suite on the top floor of the Kola Nut Hotel and bounded down the stairs. His acute lion’s ears had heard the squeak of the letter box. He just managed to stop before knocking Miss Wu over like a skittle.
“Is it for me?” gasped Wildmouth, excitedly.
“No, it’s for Russell!” said Miss Wu, showing Wildmouth the letter, addressed to “Mr. R. Tusks, Head Gardener, The Kola Nut Hotel”.
“What?! Again?!” asked Wildmouth, bitterly. “Jumbo-nose gets more fan mail than me!”
“It’s not fan mail!” said Miss Wu. “It’s some seeds he ordered,” said Miss Wu, seeing the logo of an exotic garden centre on the envelope and shaking it, making a rattling sound.
“Can I have some? I’m very peckish!” said Wildmouth, in his most irresistible voice, which he often used in his rubbishy films. “Surely the silly elephant can spare a few...”
“No! Get off!” said Wu. “Russell would be very cross if you interfered with his private mail! And don’t call him Jumbo-nose!”
Wildmouth slunk back up to his room. Miss Wu put the letter into Russell Tusks’ pigeon-hole behind the front desk, next to another small package that had been delivered the day before. Tusks was away at a botanists’ conference and Miss Wu wasn’t expecting him back until the next morning. She greeted some guests, a party of pelicans, as they came in, but then the pelicans dashed upstairs as Skates, the hotel bellboy stumbled into the lobby with a garden hose, spraying water everywhere. Miss Wu ducked behind the front desk to avoid getting soaked.
“I can’t stop it!” cried Skates. “It’s out of control!”
Skates opened his large beak wide to try and swallow the water, but the hose flicked this way and that like a mad snake. Some pottery ducks got shot down as the walls, carpet and ceiling got alternately squirted.
Skates tried to go back outside, but by now he was entangled with the hose and couldn’t walk. The furniture in the lobby, the table, chairs and cushions sounded like a dull set of drums as the jet of water hit them. Ornaments up on a high shelf were knocked off one-by-one like targets in a shooting gallery. And then the water suddenly stopped...
Miss Wu came back into the lobby: she had crawled out to the patio to turn off the tap to which the hose was attached.
“Skates!” she cried.
“Sorry!” said Skates, preparing to be fired.
“I told you to be careful with that tap!” Miss Wu continued. “You have to turn it gently... remember?!”
They set about mopping up. Skates dried the floor and walls as best he could with some old hotel towels and picked up all the pieces of the ducks and the ornaments. He took the furniture out on to the patio to dry out in the cool evening breeze. Miss Wu dried the hotel guest book with a hair-dryer. She was sad to see that some guests’ names had been washed away.
By the time they had finished it was time for bed. Skates went quietly to the little office behind the front desk, where he had a hammock to sleep in, and Miss Wu went upstairs to her room on the first floor. Neither of them went straight to sleep though. Skates decided to try to fix the broken ornaments to surprise Miss Wu in the morning, so he picked up all the pieces from the floor of the lobby and took them into the office. He got some glue and set to work. Miss Wu did some paperwork, wrote some letters, and made a shopping list for the next day. When she had finished that, she danced around to some old records, read a book, looked at the stars through her telescope. Finally she got into bed and studied some Strawberian irregular verbs.
While Skates and Miss Wu were busy, one of the seeds in Tusk’s letter, which had been soaked with water, started to grow. It took root in the sample of rich, brown super-soil in the other package which one of Tusks' botanist pals had sent him. The monster honeysuckle seedling easily broke through the wet envelope, and crept towards the office’s half-glazed door, attracted by the light. Inside the office, Skates had nearly finished his repair work. That’ll have to do! he said to himself, sleepily sticking a pottery panda’s head on to the body of one of the flying ducks. The plant extended a tendril around the door knob and started to turn it. Skates looked at the clock and, seeing that it was well past his bedtime, yawned, climbed into his hammock and reached out to pull the cord of the light. Suddenly in darkness, the plant let go of the door knob and crept up the stairs, now attracted by the light under the door of Miss Wu’s room.
to be continued
©David Severn 2014