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