At the vet
“To the vet?” Bobble did not believe his ears. “What has now happened again?”
“O well”, Elfrida said, “Goldi wanted to nick some food from Flecki and Flecki hit him. So Goldi scratched her and then Flecki bit him. Now both are wounded and need a vet.”
Grumbling, Bobble got up to get the car key. The children had already put the two injured hamsters into a box and waited to be off.
“Claw Lane 15, that’s the quack’s place, I just rang him up”, Bobble growled.
“You’ve got to turn off at the first crossing”, Rosy said.
“I know”, Bobble barked.
“You drive much too fast.” That was Berta. “That is not permitted in city traffic.”
“Well, neither is talking to the driver.”
“You did not indicate when turning off.”
“Shut up!” Bobble scolded. “I’ve got to concentrate on driving!”
“Elfrida, please tell your Dad not to race so, I feel sick!”
“We are there in a moment, Berta, and it’s for our hamsters.”
With a sigh Berta looked at Rosy and at once started to blare:
“You crumble all over the seats of Mr. Bobble! Look, there’s chocolate on the seat. Mr. Bobble, Rosy dirties up your seats!”
“So what. The car’s old. There’s any number of stains.”
Berta did not believe her ears.
“Mr. Bobble, do you tell me I have to expect to be glued to the seat? That’s disgusting!”
“Shut up back there, or you’ll be off!” Bobble had turned round for a moment and thus driven onto the kerbside. The car jumped and they all cried out. Rosy spoke up again:
“Shouldn’t I drive, Mr. Bobble? I think you’re much too nervous.”
“You better tell me if right or left or straight on. No matter, I’ll go straight on, can’t break now.”
“Careful, Mr. Bobble, a Bobby!” Rosy shrieked and closed her eyes.
Much too late Bobble saw Constable Bertrams. Bobble stepped onto the break full power but it was too late. Constable Betrams already had his whistle in the mouth and whistled almost as loud at the screeching of the tires. There was a bang and the whistling constable sailed through the air. The whistling of his whistle died down and stopped completely after another bang. All was very quiet now. Even the two hamsters who had enjoyed a brawl during the drive, where quiet now. Even Berta had nothing to say. Bernie was the first to speak.
“Poor Bobby sailed into the veggie shop.”
Indeed, Constable Bertrams was bedded between celery, cabbages, and potatoes. His whistle had fallen down. Groaning, he got up, took his whistle and staggered towards the car which held the friends.
“Documents!” he said with a gurgling voice and spit out a potato.
“Just a minute, Constable”, Bobble said and rummaged the glovebox. Instead of his licence he only found relics of hamster fodder and started to sneeze. He ripped out a handkerchief and thoroughly blew his nose.
“The driving licence, or I’ll arrest you!”
“A moment, Constably”, Bobble said. “Please hold that, I’m searching on.”
He pressed the dripping handkerchief into the constable’s hand and searched the breast pocket of his jacket.
“What in the world am I to do with this filthy cloth?”
Constable Bertrams was close to vomiting.
“Sorry”, Bobble mumbled, took the handkerchief and threw it into the road.
“Mr. Bobble!” Berta cried out and the policeman put his whistle to his mouth to blow with all his power. Unfortunately the whistle had been twisted when crashing into the vegetables and made no sound. It popped out of his mouth and hit Rosy. Loud howling came from the rear of the car.
“Sorry”, Bertrams grumped. “Didn’t mean it. Now where are the documents?”
“Won’t be more than a few hours”, Bobble joked.
“And won’t be more than a few years before you get out of jail!”
“Oops, you’re in bad spirits, Constable. By the by, there’s parsley at your trunk.”
Constable Bertrams was close to having a fit.
“Drive on”, he groaned. “Get you gone, far, far away. Never return to this crossing.”
He took a few steps backward.
“What a freak, and I almost had found my licence”, Bobble remarked, started the motor and accelerated.
“That’s the reverse gear”, Berta shrieked and Bobble stopped at once.
Tires squeaked and there was a bang. Bobble turned round.
“Now where is that constable?”
Bobble got out of the car and looked around to all sides. Finally the children heard him say:
“Why, Constable, what are you doing on my roof?”
All Constable Bertrams had to say, was very loud and very unsuitable for kids’ ears. He noted down exactly everything and Bobble was permitted to drive on.
“Daddy, what did the policeman mean, you will hear from him?”
“I’ll explain it later, now we have to look out for parking.”
Parking at least worked and they soon faced the office of the vet, Dr. Furbeater. The office was on the 4th floor of a skyscraper but luckily there was a lift.
“It would have taken Norbert hours to climb the stairs”, Bernie said.
Susy carried the box with Flecki and Goldi and when they arrived, Mary with a beating heart rang at the door of the office. There was a short buzzing and the children entered. A fat woman was sitting at a white table, making a call.
“That will be the receptionist”, Susy excitedly shouted and together with Mary stepped up to the table. The fat woman did not take any interest in the girls. The children waited patiently and listened to her phone conversation.
“Uuuh, I said, I’ll never again visit that haircutter. Fancy, he just said that my hair is too thin! You know what I said to him? I just told him…”
“… that it’s our turn now!”
The fat woman looked at Bobble and talked on: “Hold it, Louise, I’ll call again later. Some people are reckless, you wouldn’t believe it!” After putting down the receiver, she adjusted her glasses and looked at Bobble. “Do you have an appointment?”
“My name is Bobble, I rang you up earlier.”
“And what kind of affliction do you have?” she said, giggling over her own joke.
“I want to complain over a certain fat babbler making foul jokes.”
“Now don’t get stroppy, Mr. Bobble, you see that I’m busy.”
“Yes, yes, with your haircutter but believe me: You trouble is not your hair!”
“Clumsy brute! What do you actually want?”
“Two hamsters are wounded.”
“Hamsters! Yuck, I hate rats and mice!”
“Hamsters are not related to rats and mice”, Jenny spoke up.
“No matter, they’re all disgusting”, the fat receptionist said.
“They at least are not sitting at the hairdresser’s for hours”, Bobble grinned.
During this quarrel Norbert had crawled under the table to take a look. The bag of the nagging fat woman looked interesting. Norbert opened it and rummaged. Pity, nothing interesting. He shut the lock again but by this the skirt of the receptionist was caught. When trying the open the lock again, the strap of the bag got entangled with the chair on which the fat woman was sitting. Norbert saw that he was off. In the meantime Dr. Furbeater had heard the noise and opened his office door.
“I do not want to interfere”, he said, “but the next please!”
“It’s their turn, Doctor”, the fat receptionist said. “Them with their mice.”
“Hamsters!” Berta yelled.
“Well, show the patients in”, Dr. Furbeater said.
The fat woman rose to show the children the way, and then it happened: There was a loud ZAP and the fat receptionist was standing in her petticoat. Screeching, she gripped her skirt and raced to the loo to dress again. Chair and bag followed her.
While Bobble almost toppled over with laughter, the children stormed through the door into the doctor’s office.
“Well, what ails us?” the doctor asked, clearing his desk.
“They bandied blows”, Susy said and put the box with the two hamsters onto the desk.
“Bandied blows, see, see”, Dr. Furbeater smiled. “That does happen, especially over food. Luckily I have some of my lunch left, there was a veggie burger with hot mustard but we’ll leave out the mustard.”
Flecki and Goldi by now had scrambled out of the box and curiously looked about them. The doctor broke off a piece of the yummy veggie burger and held it out to them. However, when they started to shove away each other, the piece was taken back. Again and again the doctor held out the veggie and took it back if one hamster wanted to push the other. Every shoving he rewarded with a finger-shake and by and by the hamsters understood. In the end they sat gnawing side by side peacefully and Dr. Furbeater glued a plaster to the wounded spots.
“No bad injuries”, he stated. “Perhaps now they have learned to get along peacefully.”
Satisfied, he turned round to Bobble and darkly said:
“I do not like your trunk at all.”
“That’s due to the hamsters, they always give me a trunk fever!” Bobble grumbled.
“Well, you should do something about it. How about a nice trunk ointment?”
“If you say so.”
“Now, where is it? Ah, I think there it is. Show me your trunk, Mr. Bobble, you’ll be a new man in a moment – er – a new ottifant!”
Dr. Furbeater took a bit of cotton wool and soaked it with brown ointment. Then he rubbed Bobble’s trunk with it.
“What’s wrong, Mr. Bobble?” the doctor asked, terrified.
“My tlunk! Ouch, my tlunk!”
“What’s wrong with your trunk, does it hurt?”
“Yes, my tlunk hults!”
“But that can’t be”, the doctor said, looking at the ointment and then giggled. “Oops, silly me, that was the hot mustard.”
Hastily Dr. Furbeater dragged poor Bobble through the room to a tap. After Bobble’s trunk was free of mustard, they all left the office and walked back to the car. At least Bobble’s trunk no longer itched – it burnt. Rather miffed he started the car and set off with screeching tires.
“Daddy, you’re much too fast”, Elfrida said but Bobble only grumbled:
“I can also throw you out at the next bus stop!”
However, if you are in bad spirits, everything else goes awry. There was a traffic jam at the crossing. Bobble did not wait but just passed the other cars. Suddenly there was a loud bang and something grey was lying on the windscreen: Constable Bertrams!
This time the constable’s speech was very loud and very long. When they drove on, no one said anything any more. In silence they reached their home.
When everybody had gone, Elfrida began cleaning away. At least there were no crumbs on the floor, she thought, because the hamsters had not a crumb left. While collecting plates and cups, Elfrida felt like something flitting through her room. She looked to the stage but Scrubby was sitting on his cigar box, cleaning his fur. Afterwards she listlessly sat down to do her homework but again she felt like something moving in her room. She put away her school books and searched her room.
There! Something small and brown flitted behind her wardrobe. Elfrida fetched a torch and looked under the wardrobe. The torch almost fell from her hand when she saw the mess: about a dozen hamsters were hiding there!
“No, Elfrida.” Daisy sounded a bit sheepish at the phone. “My Dodo is with me, but it’s funny, I also have a few more hamsters than yesterday.”
Elfrida also called the others. Each of them had more hamsters than before. Berta even told that when in the morning she wanted to clean the cage of Robert Luis Carlo, she found that Robert was no Robert but Roberta.
“Elfrida, you won’t believe how cute those tiny, new-born hamsters looked. They had no fur at all. I am a proud mother now!”
“Talking about mother, Berta, what did you mother say?”
Berta hummed and hawed.
“She says, I’m to take the little ones to an animal centre, but I won’t hear about that.”
“Daisy faces the some troubles and I think so do the others. My Daddy’s trunk’s itching for yonks and he can’t scold for sneezing.”
Something had to happen. The next day the children did not meet at Elfrida’s but each pondered what was to be done. One day later they might have called it a hamster plague with no solution in sight. In the end they made a new date with Elfrida because her parents were invited at Mrs. Poobird’s for coffee. Luckily Bruno was staying with a friend and so they all brought all their hamsters. Really, something had to happen because by now Elfrida had 52 of them in her room, Daisy 61, Bernie 43, Susy 49, Mary 47, Rosy 50 and Berta 38.
“Soon they’ll number 500 but I don’t feel like party”, Jenny groaned. “One thing is certain: Winter will come soon and we’ve got to find a warm place for all of them.”
“What for?” Berta asked. “They’ve got a thick fur, can’t they get some place in the Magic Forest? Some cave maybe?”
“Golden hamsters”, Jenny explained, “usually are living in the desert. They would freeze to death in the forest. No way.”
“So we only can hide them at home”, Elfrida said. “But what will our parents say?”
“We’ll know in a moment”, Bernie shouted who was just looking out of the window. “I think your parents are coming home.”
“Quick”, Elfrida shrieked, “we’ve got to hide the hamsters! Daisy, stuff yours into the wardrobe, the others come into the bed drawer or the bathing tub or…”
Bobble entered the room. Astonished, he looked at 340 golden hamsters, closed his eyes and sneezed so loud that the hamsters, frightened, dispersed in all directions.
“What – sniff – does this mean and why is a hamster sitting in our letter box? I went to fetch the mail and such a little bastard was gnawing at an important letter.”
“Er – Daddy, they are only on a visit. We – er – take them home again.”
“To South America where your friends usually spring from?”
“No, Daddy, I think these ones sprang from the desert.”
“Nothing to me where they spring. This evening they are gone, got me?”
“All right, Daddy.”
Elfrida sighed with relief. They had gained some time, but to do what? Bobbled walked down to read his newspaper.
While the children were busy catching the panicking hamsters, a howl of pain came from the living room. Elfrida raced down and saw how her father was holding a hamster at the neck with one hand and his bum with the other.
“Elfrida, this little bastard bit my bum!”
“But Daddy, you should not sit on him.
“That’s my chair after all and no desert, see?”
Bobble handed the hamster to Elfrida and sat down on his armchair after checking that there were no more rodents hidden. When he took up his newspaper, he discovered that half of the paper had been carried away by the hamsters as nesting material. He then saw a hamster climbing around the telly and thought: Enough is enough. He took a heavy sofa cushion and threw it at the hamster. Unfortunately he hit the telly which crashed down. The hamster could escape and took shelter behind the flowers on the window sill. A second cushion handled the flowers, a third cushion crushed the old wall clock.
“Daddy, don’t you see that violence is no solution?”
Panting heavily, Bobble was standing in the middle of the living room. The hamster ran for his life and disappeared into the corridor. With the remote of the damaged telly Bobble ran after him. Followed a loud crash, and the clanking of glass announced that he had hit something. Indeed, when Elfrida stepped into the corridor, she saw the big mirror lay shattered on the ground. It had been a present of Aunt Odilia.
“I always hated that daft mirror”, Bobble grumbled.
He went into the kitchen to fetch broom and dustpan. Spent, he sat down on a kitchen chair but jumped up at once when beneath him there was a loud squeak.
“That’s enough, you little rotten rat…”
“Hamster, Daddy, it’s a hamster”, Elfrida corrected her furious father.
“No matter, I’ll go at him!”
Bobble approached the frightened hamster, glaring at him. The little rodent was sitting on his hind legs, forelegs bent, his whiskers trembled, he looked at Bobble mournfully. Bobble put aside the dustpan and took up the little chap.
“Don’t you be afraid, I won’t harm you.”
“I think he likes you, Daddy.”
“Such a little darling.” Suddenly Bobble was quite fascinated of the hamster. Elfrida knew that now was the time.
“Daddy, we don’t know what to do with him and his little friends during winter time. They will freeze outdoors and we don’t have enough room for them.”
Her father looked first at the hamster and then at Elfrida. He thought this over and said in a firm voice:
“I’ll take them home to the deserts of South America.”
“Syria, close to Aleppo”, Jenny corrected him.
“Aleppo. Their Latin name by the way is mesocricetus auratus. Auratus means golden.”
“Whatsoever”, Bobble grumbled. “I think I’ve got an idea.”
Bobble walked to the telephone and after shooing away a few hamsters he could lift the receiver and dial a number.
“Hello Fred, how are you? We’ve just been with old Poobird. Pity that her cat did not feel well so luckily we could not stay that long. What about your plane, still flying? As it is, I’m facing some trouble.”
As fast as possible, Elfrida raced up the stairs to her room. She had to watch not to kick one of the many hamsters. Storming into her room, she overlooked one of them and kicked him away. Squeaking loudly, the protesting little fur-bundle sailed through the air and landed right in the doll house.
The pet shook and looked about him curiously. The children sighed with relief when they saw that he was not injured. Now however he started to gnaw at the carpet in the doll house. Elfrida snatched him, put him down to the others and said:
“I think my Daddy found a way out.” They all looked at her, thrilled. “He’s just phoning with his friend Fred. The one with the plane, you know.”
“You mean”, Rosy interrupted, “we all should fly far away?”
“Not we, Rosy, the hamsters of course!” Berta gave her a look of reproach.
“Dearest Berta”, Rosy replied, “do you think hamsters can steer a plane?”
“Of course not, every pig knows that.”
“You see, so we have to fly, too. I’m looking forward to take the stick once more.”
“You? At the stick? Poor hamsters!”
Berta made a face.
“Stick indeed, and if you are afraid, you may stay behind!”
“Dearest Rosy, I am not afraid but I’m not tired of life.”
“Indeed, dearest Berta? Shall I tell you how well I can fly? You only wail because you are airsick.”
“If you, my dear Rosy, already at take-off stuff your belly with chocolate, one has to be sick.”
“If I fly…”
The girls interrupted their bicker because Bobble came in. Cautiously he placed his feet not to trample on one of the little inmates. They all saw that his trunk looked quite red and infected. About time that something happened because the trunk itching became worse and worse. Cautiously Bobble snorted into his hanky. This time no hamster panicked.
“All right, Fred will be waiting for us tomorrow morning. We’ll start from a small, closed airfield at the forest edge, there are no customs to make trouble because of the hamsters, or so Fred said.”
“Please, what have the customs to do with our pets?”
“You see, Berta”, Bobble explained, “the customs take care that no animals are imported or exported. Sicknesses might be transported. Mostly they first have to go into quarantine.”
“What should we do in Quaran… What’s its name? We want to go to Aleppo!” Rosy protested.
“There you see that you have no idea, my dear Rosy”, Betra promptly said. “A quarantine is a rectangle.”
Bobbles eyes widened.
“Why rectangle?” he wondered.
“Er, or was that a quadrant…” Berta was not that sure after all.
“Quarantine means that the animals are locked into a special cage. A vet has to state if they are healthy. That might take weeks and we don’t have the time.”
Rosy snorted, Elfrida clapped her hands. She hardly could wait for the start and said:
“Any more smart questions? If not, we should start to pack our things. The hamsters have to go into big cases but don’t forget the air holes. Don’t make them too big or our little friends scramble out to gnaw at the plain.”
“Or worse still: They gnaw at some cables”, Bernie added.
Now the preparations started. Daisy and Susy ran home to fetch more cases. Elfrida had already taken some from the cellar and they began to catch the hamsters. It was quite a job the get the little runaways. When Mary had found the last hamster, it was already dark. Now everything was ready for the next day. Exhausted, Elfrida went to bed after her friends had left. She was a little sad thinking that all those dear little hamsters were carried away now. Of course she knew that it was better to take the hamsters to their homeland. But the things one wished for and the things which were right are mostly something different. With a sigh she took Dolly the doll into her arms and turned to the side.