Reads: 37

8

Sprinkledust, the Indestructo and the Tramp-oline

 

As the first rays of dawn broke on the horizon, and the sky turned a deep mystical blue, the professor’s pride and joy began to take shape. A shadowy silhouette graced the field behind the barn. On that field, cabbages grew everywhere, except on a long, narrow strip down the centre of the field, which had been freshly flattened by a big, heavy object. At the end of the field was a huge wide ramp, some six hundred metres away, and behind that was thick woodland. With the increasing light, that shadowy silhouette turned into a yellow aircraft with what looked like two big hairdryers on each wing, four wings, ship sails, and a small space at the front for two people to sit. The name Indestructo was painted on the side in the professor’s jagged, shaky handwriting. He tapped the aircraft twice, propped a ladder against the side, and began climbing into the cockpit.

“How safe is it, professor?”

“I repair it every day,” he called down to me, beckoning me to climb up. “Come along, Hill. We don’t have all day.”

I took careful steps up on each ladder rung, which was a struggle in my adult’s heavy flying suit, and when I reached the top, I crawled over the fuselage and into the hole to join the professor, who was wearing his crazy helmet and silly goggles, just like he had been when he crashed the Magnipoopifier. The idea of another disaster gave me the chills. He then placed a slightly smaller pink helmet on my head and adjusted the strap, and then he whacked me twice on the head really heavily.

"Now, no touching the controls or buttons unless I say so,” he said. “I’m watching you, Hill. Follow my instructions, or you could get us both killed.”

I suddenly wanted to jump out, but before I could change my mind about flying, the professor had pressed a button, and those two hairdryer engines coughed into life. What sounded like a hundred farts suddenly kicked a smelly gas out of the plane’s exhaust pipe, and it wafted into our faces.

“Blek!” I said, feeling like throwing up.

“She's powered by a mixture of petrol and rotten eggs," said the professor. "A slight bit of smelliness doesn’t harm a great inventor., and the sulphur from the eggs gives us extra speed. You see that long lever? That’s the throttle. Advance it all the way, Hill.”

I touched it and we lurched forwards.

“All the way, not a little bit!” yelled the professor. “We need speed to take off!”

He elbowed me in the side and I moved out of his way.

“Take hold of this,” he said, pointing to a joystick. He then started pumping some kind of handle up and down, which farted more smoke out of the back and made us hop over the field. “When I say NOW, Hill, you pull the joystick back. Do you understand?”

“Of course I do!” I yelled at him, trying to make myself sound tough and brave, but inside I was melting like an ice-cream.

“That’s the spirit, boy! When faced with the possibility of death, you look your fear in the eye and say, Blobalobalob! I won’t break down and sob! We’ll make fear wet its pants.”

I saw a dial and the needle reached 40, then 50 and 60. The needle turned faster to 70 and then 80, and at 90 I saw the ramp quickly hurtling towards us. 

We reached 100, then 110. “Now, Hill!” barked the professor, and I eased back on the joystick. We went up the ramp and tilted to face upwards. I saw the sky and the clouds. We lifted, then dipped slightly. The professor pushed a button which changed the shape of the wings. We dipped some more and I shielded my eyes when I saw the treetops coming. I felt tree branches snapping against the wheels, when suddenly, with the movement of the wings, a giant pole and a magnificent, massive white sheet shot out of the sail. We immediately lifted and gained height quickly, I and felt my stomach rise into my throat. The professor elbowed me out of the way again.

 

“Another successful takeoff,” I think he said, as the sound of the engines drowned out my hearing ability. I saw Hamley town in the distance, and several villages and coloured fields dotted on the landscape as the sun rose. It was a great feeling to be above the ground, but at the same time, I felt like we could crash at any moment, riding this untrustworthy yellow tin can bee.

“Where are we going, professor?”

“Another field! Experiments!”

“Don’t we have parachutes?”
“What?”

“Parachutes for safety! Parachuting!”

“Parrot shooting is a cruel game, Hill. I never harm birds.”

As soon as we had reached a height of about six hundred feet, we started to go back down. The professor hit a button which folded the sail away and angled the wings straight again. We banked and glided to a speed less than 80, then 70 came, and we hit 60. “Hold on!” he cried. 50, 40, the needle on the dial sank. We touched down in a cornfield and I let go of the side, falling on to the professor, who applied two brake pedals with his feet, and we skidded to a stop, turning left and right. He lifted his helmet from his covered eyes and he grinned.

A group of about ten or twelve people, all dressed in tattered clothes, thick scarves and hats were rubbing their hands together in the distance, standing next to a small camp fire. The professor led the way over to them holding a big jar of that red powder that he had made in the barn, and in the other hand he carried a bucket of food and drinks.

“The amazing things you can do with Sprinkledust,” he said. “I think this is my finest invention to date. Do you see these tramps? They can’t afford to travel on the bus or the train, in an aircraft, in a taxi, or in anything. It takes them a long time to walk and wobble and stagger to where they want to go.”


“You brought a load of tramps to a field?” I said, feeling utterly bewildered.

“Well, of course I did! This magic red powder will change tramps and improve their lives forever. Just you watch, Hill!" He turned to address the tramps: "Gentlemen, I have gathered you here today for a special reason. Are you ready to witness a miracle?”

The slightly drunk, smelly, sick and freezing cold tramps grunted in half-agreement. Most of them were barely awake. The professor handed them that bucket filled with food and drinks, which they all gladly rummaged around inside, grabbing their breakfasts. Then he walked past the traps one by one, giving them a peppering of Sprinkledust on their clothes. The tramps starting sniffing the red powder, looking confused. Then suddenly, their faces lit up with delight.

The Sprinkledust made the entire ground become like a jelly trampoline, and it seemed to change the tramps’ mood. They were happy, and one by one, they began jumping up and down and hugging each other. One tramp fell asleep standing up, and he fell face first towards the field. However, instead of splattering against the ground, the tramp bounced and bounced along, repeatedly falling over. The rest of the tramps all started bouncing and bouncing, moving like gigantic grasshoppers, travelling five or ten metres at a time and giggling with joy.

 

"Do you see?" said the professor. "One smell of this and it gets rid of their unhappy feelings. It makes them feel like a kid again. No, don't you smell it, Hill! I need you perfectly serious and sane."

There was a main road next to us, and I saw a big country pub with a car park and a garden filled with benches and umbrellas. The tramps crowded together and aimed themselves towards the pub. They bounced over the field gate and followed the road in a pack, until they got to the pub. The pub landlord opened the door and couldn’t believe what he was seeing as the tramps bounced inside, one by one.

“I call it the Tramp-oline,” said the professor. “It takes the tramps wherever they want to go, free of charge. Now they don’t need to take a bus, and they have more money in their pocket to spend on what they like.”

“Perhaps we should give these tramps what they really need, professor. Such as a home, or warm clothing, or extra cash, or jobs.”

“By science, you’re right, Hill!” shouted the professor, hopping up and down. “We need instant body warmers. Perma-therma pants.”

“Perma-therma pants?” I said. “Are you serious?

Just then, Wernie Walker got out his ancient scribble pad and made some notes. Then he bundled me back into the Indestructo and we took off with three or four heavy bumps across the cornfield. The professor deliberately aimed the joystick at the ground, and I screamed as we plummeted towards the earth. To my complete surprise, the Indestructo just bounced off the jelly-like ground and hurtled us skywards. I checked but there was no damage to the plane.

As we flew, the professor showed me one of his drawings of how, if a plane or the ground is covered in Sprinkledust, crashing into the ground makes the plane bounce back into the air.

 

“Sprinkledust has many uses,” said the professor in a boastful way. “Now, boy. Let’s get you to school before your teachers start asking questions.”

We banked over some villages and flew low over Hamley, to the point where I could almost touch the tops of the houses. The school field came into view and the professor aimed the engines downwards, spraying leaves off the trees and causing a heavy thudding noise against the wheels. I took off my flying suit which was covering my school uniform. The professor performed an uncontrolled descent and asked me to kindly ‘get out’ of the plane, to which I called him a miserable old bread cake, but fortunately the deafening noise had drowned out my voice, and all he probably heard was 'dead steak'. The professor didn’t dare stop the plane and switch off the engines, so when we were doing about ten miles per hour, I climbed down the ladder, and about three feet from the school playing field, I let go of the ladder and fell, rolling to a stop.

The professor gave me a salute and then he accelerated away without saying goodbye. He used the hill on the school field to bounce and take off. I got to my feet and put my bag on my back. I crossed the field and returned to the main school buildings, where some of the students were leaning their heads out of the windows, trying to catch sight of Wernie Walker’s Indestructo. Seeing my face in a window's reflection, I quickly straightened my sticking-up, electrified hair from the punishing wind and adjusted my tie. The Indestructo banked and accelerated away over the town.

My watch read just after nine o’clock. I was already late for the morning roll call.

 


Submitted: December 23, 2021

© Copyright 2022 Richard C. Parr. All rights reserved.

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