Chapter 7

Take Off



After a wakeful night Elfrida woke up, feeling whacked. It had been noisy indeed because the whole body of hamsters had wanted their nightly wanderings. All night the pets had scratched at the box and tried to get out. Her first glance was at the hamster-cases. They were gone! Elfrida jumped up and started to race out of her room when she collided with her Daddy.


“Oh, good morning, Miss”, Bobble said. “Looking for the hamster-gang? They are all sitting in the car already. I’ve been packing for the last two hours.”
“Swell, Daddy”, Elfried retorted. “I’ll just take some breakfast and we can be off.”


She ran down the stairs to the kitchen and took nothing but a tiny bit of toast. If you are excited, you cannot eat much.
Then she took a decision, ran back into her room, took her darling doll and said:


“You stay here. Within the past days I more than once rescued you from becoming nesting material for the hamsters.”
“Elfrida, where are you?” Bobble was impatient.
“I’m here!” Elfrida shouted, ran down the stairs and boarded the car.


Arriving at the airfield, the others were already waiting for them. They all were very excited, only the hamsters did not mind. They slept as deeply as could be expected of nocturnals by day. Fred owned a single-engine sports plane which once a year he took out for a longer trip. Fred all the time stressed how important it was for a pilot to keep in practice. So he liked to take this flight.


Now the cases with the hamsters were stowed in the rear of the vessel, then the children could board. Bernie who would have liked to sit in the front, was pushed aside by Rosy and Rosy took her seat beside Fred. Bernie wanted to protest but Rosy winked at him so that he understood: Rosy just insisted on the front seat. Now everyone settled down as comfortable as possible. Bobble for instance was lying between the cases and took a nap.
Take-off was without trouble and after a few minutes they had reached their flight height as Fred stated. They all looked down thrilled. Except Berta who peered at the floor. When the plane dropped for a moment, they all shrieked but were soon back to normal. An air pocket, or so Fred explained.


“O my, how did we get caught in there?” Berta asked, terrified.
Rosy snorted with amusement and said: “My dear Berta, you really do put the world’s silliest question.”
“Only because for an exception there is something I do not know, dear Rosy, you need not throw your weight around. Do you know what an air pocket is?”
“Sure, a pocket in the air.”
“I see, dear Rosy, and how does it get there?”
“Er, perhaps some thieving magpie lost it...”
“And please how can anything not visible have a pocket?”
Rosy thought desperately but had no idea. In the end Bernie got her out of the jam:
“If I remember correctly, an air pocket is a current or better a swirl. That makes the plane sag a bit.”
Fred grinned and said: “Not so bad, Bernie. But now prepare for touch-down. Rosy, please stop eating. Berta, you need not clutch the seat so. In case we crash, that won’t help you much.”


Berta grew paler than she was anyway and Rosy began to put away the remains of her food. In the distance a huge, light brown desert landscape could be seen. The plane descended and a narrow road came into sight.


“That’s our landing strip”, Fred explained. “We are about two kilometres off Aleppo.”
“Landing strip?” Berta snorted with disgust. “That’s nothing but a country road. It’s not even asphalted. Is there nothing better for us?”
“Not if we are smuggling animals into the country, Berta.”
“Now, my dear Mr. Fred, I won’t have anything to do with smuggling. Moreover I want some regular airport.”
“That’s what I like”, Rosy interfered. “All the flight she’s sick but always well enough for nagging.”
“Will you stop quarrelling? The pilot has to concentrate on the landing.”
Elfrida shook her head over those two pigs.


Slowly the plane’s nose came down and they all held to their seats. In the vessel’s rear, in the cargo area, the shifting of cases could be heard. Bobble lamented over something and a jolt went through the plane. Now the flight was finished and the vessel rumbled down the landing strip. It was so loud that talking became impossible.


“Hold on!” Fred yelled and with another jolt the plane came to a standstill.
When they alighted, they saw that they had landed right in sandbank. The plane was stuck.
“We once have been on Rømø”, Elfrida reported. “My father got stuck in the sand with his car as well.
“My Mummy once landed in a ditch. The car had to be hauled out with a crane”, Susy said.
“Our car at that time was to be towed out”, Elfrida continued, “but my Daddy said he would do it himself. Anyway, when after a time it became dark...”
“All right, all right”, Bobble interrupted. “We’ll get the plane going somehow. Just let us free the poor hamsters. They’ll certainly need fresh air.”
Hastily the cases with the hamsters were carried out of the cargo zone and opened but nothing moved inside. Elfrida tilted over the first case and the hamsters came tumbling out. The little pets blinked a little and sniffed at bit. Then they fell asleep again.
”Well”, Jenny sighed, “they really are no day animals. They’ll only wake up when it gets dark.”


In the meantime Fred and Bobble were busy shovelling the plane free but they proceeded slowly. The children used the time to take care of the sleeping hamsters. With the cases they built a small town, then streets and gardens were laid out. When they had finished, the little pets were taken into the houses, and the hamsters seemed to feel quite at home. That is, after a short inspection they fell asleep again. All the time Fred and Bobble had not succeeded to free the plane. By now the sun was in noon and the heat unbearable. They decided to take a siesta in the shade of the plane. There was enough water and they also had food. Only Rosy made a face when taking out her beloved chocolate. The desert heat had made a brown mash of it. No one commented this, it was too hot for talking. It was even too hot for sleeping so that they only dozed a little. After some time Bernie pointed at the new hamster town and said:


“Look at, Hamsterton is waking up!”


Indeed, the hamsters had started moving. Slowly the sun was approaching the horizon, by and by it cooled down.


“All right”, said Bobble. “Let’s go on with the plane. You all come here to give a hand!”
Together they tried to push and pull the heavy plane. By try as they did, the vessel did not move.
“It’s to no avail”, Daisy lamented. “If we had one or two people more, it would work!”
“But where will we find them?” Susy wondered. “Aren’t there camels in the desert or something like that?”
Fred scratched his head.


“Some Beduins will come along here, I’m sure, but I’ve no idea if they’re friendly to us. Better no one knows that we came in without permission. The sooner we’re back in the air, the better.”


While the children took a rest, wondering how to go on, Elfrida looked over to the hamster village. The pets were clearly content and now and then glimpsed at the children like wishing to thank them. Elfrida had an idea:


“Yea, that’s it! The hamsters will help us!”


“Too much sun on your head or what?” Mary did not understand what her friend was talking about.
“It’ll work, Mary, and I have a plan...” They all sat down beside Elfrida and listened. “We’ve got hundreds of hamsters, so we have to solve the problem of harnessing them to the plane. To make a bridle for each of them would first take too long and second we don’t have the material. So we’ll trick them and I’m sure our pets will like it. Fruits and veggies are rare in the desert and much desired by the locals. Luckily we’ve taken along enough. In the cargo area I’ve seen lots of ribbons. We’ll fasten apples and carrots to them and fasten those ribbons to the plane. What are the odds that the hamsters come running to carry away the yummy stuff? If they do so, they drag at the ribbons fastened to the plane. If so, we’ll push and pull along and try once more to get the plane going.”
“Well, my Goldi is very strong”, Mary said. “He’ll pull the plane out of the sand all alone.”
Susy laughed and said: “What are the odds that my Flecki is faster?”


They all laughed and Fred walked to the cargo area to fetch all the things necessary.


In the meantime Bernie came with fruits and veggies. Now the ribbons – they numbered 62 – were fastened at the chassis of the plane. At the end of the 62 ribbons apple wedges or yummy carrots were fastened. The hamsters had noticed that something was going on. It looked just cute, hundreds of hamsters sitting on their hind legs and watching. Hamsters are not over-clever but their smelling sense is very sensitive. One after the other soon came to take a look. When the little rodents discovered the dainties, they fell on them, trying to carry them off.
“Ready to push!” Elfrida shouted and now the children pushed at the rear and the hamsters pulled at the front.
“It works!” Bobble cheered. “It’s moving!”


The heavy vessel step by step was drawn out of the sand. The hamsters pulled with all their strength and soon it was done. The plane was back on solid ground.


“I can’t go on!” Rosy fell down on the sand, panting.


Berta, Susy, and Mary lay down beside her. They all were completely exhausted but suddenly Bernie shouted:
“Hey, they’re still pulling. Quick, or the plane is back in the sand!”


Open-mouthed, the children watched how the hamsters in their struggle for apples and carrots did not give up but pulled and pulled at the plane.
“Jenny, your knife!” Elfrida shouted and ran after the hamsters.


Jenny understood at once and ran as well. When they reached the hamsters, Jenny cut the ribbons as fast as possible while Elfrida shooed back the hamsters. Luckily the ribbons were not thick and Jenny was very quick with her pocket knife. Shortly the plane stopped, just a step from the next sand drift.


“Pooh, what a near thing”, Elfrida gasped, wiping her sweat.
Her friends were standing in a distance, cheerfully clapping their hands so that the hamsters ran away in panic.
“Well, well”, Jenny smirked, “the little pets don’t like loud noise.”
Now it was farewell. Once again the children walked to the little hamster town to distribute their last supplies. Nobody felt well when for the last time they fondled Dodo, Scrubby, Goldi, Flecki and all the others. However, they were much comforted to see how much at home the hamsters felt at their new home.


“Now they no longer need to be afraid that someone sits down on them”, Bobble grumbled and they all laughed.
By now Fred and his plane were ready for take-off but something happened which was close to disaster: Fred yelled and fell to the ground. Bobble was first with him and when Elfrida came, she heard her father say:


“O my, I don’t like that.”
“What’s wrong, Daddy?”
“He was bitten by a snake, we have to take him to hospital at once!”
“But where? We don’t know anything here!”
“He must go to the hospital, we’ve got to fly him there, no matter how.” Bobble looked about him, asking: “Did any of you fly any time?”
They all looked at Rosy.
“Yes, I did”, she answered. “So may I?”
“You’ve got to take him to hospital, he was bitten by a snake”, Elfrida explained.
With all haste they scrambled into the vessel. Fred was carefully laid down in the cargo area, while Rosy tried to get familiar with the instruments.
“Fasten seat belts”, she said. “Might get bumpy.”
“You bet”, Berta mumbled.
“Did you say something, dear Berta?”
“O no, dear Rosy, it’s just... I don’t like to fly.”
“Perhaps it’s the last time, ha ha ha ha!” Rosy cackled while Berta paled all the more.
The motors began to drone. Louder and louder became the noise until the plane slowly started to roll. Rosy was in her element.
“Aha – that’s what the switch is for!”
Berta crouched in her seat.
“This should be the control for starting and landing flaps.”
When Rosy switched it, the lamps went on.
“Oh, all right, it isn’t, it will be this one.”
Berta closed her eyes, when Rosy worked at the control.
“Gosh, that was the wiper!”
“Rosy, please! We approach a high sand dune. We’ve got to take off!”
“Ay ay, Daisy, I’m doing my very best.”


Rosy tried the next control and really the vessel took off. Swerving, they passed the high dune and slowly gained height and speed.
“Not that bad”, Rosy croaked. “Let’s see if I find the autopilot. So, the altimeter is for height control. Fuel indicator is okay. Aha, this will be the autopilot!”
She pressed a button and with the children shrieking, the plane shot straight upwards, higher and higher, up to the clouds.


“Well, well, not all things can work”, she grumbled. “It was the height control after all. Aha, that will be it!”
Berta was crouched in her seat and praying.
Rosy pressed another button, the plane’s nose came down a bit and the flight became smooth. The thundering motors became less noisy and for the first time Berta’s whimpering could be heard clearly.
“Now don’t you fuss”, Rosy scolded. “Flying is less dangerous than car driving.”
“Not if you are at the stick”, howled Berta.
“Okay, if you think so. I’ll stop doing anything!”
Rosy folded her arms. The plane dropped its nose and went straight down.
“No, please, please, take the helm, you are a good pilot!”
“Good? Just good?”
“The best, the best of all!” shrieked Berta.
“Thank you for the honest praise, dearest Berta. It just had to be said once.”
Whistling happily, Rosy steered the vessel towards home while her friends were sitting in their seats, quiet as mice, waiting for the touch-down to come.
“O dear”, Rosy suddenly said, “I think I’ve got to report at the tower.” She pressed a control at the microphone and shouted: “Rosy for tower, Rosy for tower!”


There was a lot of atmospheric noise as an answer. She turned a control and repeated her message. Now at last there was a reply from air control.


“Can hear you. Tower here. Flight Rosy, identify!”
“Well, not really. What business is that of yours?” Rosy nagged into the mike.
“Repeating: Flight Rosy, identify, please!”
“Repeating: Not really, it’s Mr. Fred’s plane, no rental fly!
Rosy got rather peeved. Before the tower could answer, Berta groaned:
“They ask you to identify, that is, tell them who you are.”
“Please name destination and reason of your flight”, the tower came in again.
Rosy cleared her throat.
“Well, the reason were the hamsters and the destination their new home.”
Berta rolled her eyes, while air control did not give up.
“Where do you come from, where do you go to, Flight Rosy.”
Rosy pointed backwards, saying:
“We’re coming from there and want to take the other direction, that is there.”
“Flight Rosy, please state your height and coordinates.”
“Well”, Rosy said, “I’m 3 feet 11 inches and the other thing I haven’t taken along.”
“Roger, Flight Rosy. Are you and experienced pilot?”
“No, dear Roger, I’m at pre-school.”
For quite some time there was nothing from the loudspeaker until air control came in again.
“Flight Rosy, if I get you correctly, that is an emergency?”
“Why, yes, Mr. Fred had been bitten by a snake and now I’ve got to fly.”
“Snake? You have snakes on board?”
Rosy looked at Berta and replied with a grin:
“In a fashion...”


By now the airport was in sight and it could be clearly made out that all over the place red cars were waiting.


“I think they prepare for a crash landing”, Bernie shouted. “And now they make a foam carpet!”
“Funny”, Rosy said. “Did something happen there?”
“Tower for Flight Rosy”, came the voice once more. “Put your landing flap on 30° and reduce propulsion.”
“How in the world am I to reduce a propeller?” Rosy asked, leaning heavily on the stick.
The plane dropped at once.
“Pull up, Flight Rosy, go to 45° with the landing flaps and lower the gear.”
Rosy scratched her head, trying several controls. Now the place side-slipped left and while the loudspeaker roared about pulling up – starboard, the plane approached the ground.
Elfrida sitting at the left window, could see how the fire fighters jumped out of their car.
“Hold fast!” she yelled. “We’re landing!”
There was a short, loud bang but they saw that they still were in the air.
“The fire engine lost its roof”, Bernie stated, looking backwards. “It’s a cabriolet now.”
“Flight Rosy, where are you going?”
“To the hospital”, Rosy replied.
“If you go on like that, you’ll be there soon”, the control said. “Switch off the motor!”
Rosy looked for the off-switch. The big black one looked nice but she somehow got caught in the stick. The plane darted right, directly towards the tower.
“Flight Rosy, peel off, peel off!”
The very last moment the vessel shot past the tower and there was quite some clatter.
“They’ve lost their windows”, Bernie grinned.
“Flight Rosy, Flight Rosy, motor control is rightmost on the panel!”
While the plane turned into a curve, Rosy flipped the switch. Immediately the motors died down until nothing but some low bubble could be heard.
“Well, how was that?”
“Rosy, take care, you’re flying at some building!”


Elfrida pointed ahead where a huge glass dome was emerging. Rosy tried to pull up the plane, but too late. The vessel crashed into the glass dome, glass splintered, pillars collapsed, there was banging and screeching. When the plane no longer moved, Bernie risked a glance.
“I think we touched down in the airport restaurant”, he stated.
Rosy let down the side window and shouted:


“You won’t believe it, a cream cake it sticking to my window! Yummy!”


As to Fred, he soon was better. The airport doctor stated that the snake-bite had not been dangerous. However, the press cheered on the hamster story and wished to publish the adventure. In return they paid for the damages at the airport. Only Berta thought it a pity that Rosy was not sent to jail for a few days.


Elfrida cleared her throat and breathed deeply. Telling such a long story was quite exhausting.


“Well, that was the whole story, now let us think what sort of pet we’ll take this time.”
“What about a raven or crow?”
“Not really, Jenny”, Daisy said, “it’ll take much too long to teach them speaking.”
“Perhaps Professor Hasty can build a roboter for us?” Bernie hopefully proposed.
“Pity, he’s on holiday”, Susy replied. “He cannot help us.”
Rosy had been quiet but now she cried:
“What about a talking parrot?”


That was it! The children decided: A parrot it was to be.