The time between the third and seventh full moons of a lion’s life is critical for both its physical and psychological development. Ability to learn is at its peak during this period—a cub would absorb everything. Where some animals would just see a tree with leaves after a second of observation, a lion cub is able to observe each leaf’s orientation, subtle differences in colour on the bark, and little bugs parading up and down the tree. It would even be able to observe the pair of sparrows on the second highest branch having a domestic squabble. In this particular instance, it was an angry female sparrow who was scolding her partner about his constantly wandering eye when ostriches were present.
Kineosho did not observe this, however. He was too busy playing with a cabbit he had found behind the bushes. He whacked it with his paw and watched it roll off in the funny way cabbits roll until it wound up in one spot just bobbing to and fro like an upside down pendulum with rabbit ears.
Viddi was up much earlier than Kineosho that morning—she had secretly watched Master Wu and the League of Domino mice perform their ritual morning exercises. She had also seen them depart at dawn carrying an antique wooden trunk on the back of a large bird. She spent an hour wondering what was in the trunk before she dozed off hanging from a branch with her long left arm. The thumb from her short hand was still in her mouth as the last remnant of her pensive pose.
She tilted her head forward to bow when her dream transported her to being the main attraction in the League of Domino Mice performance. She pictured herself doing some of the complex rhythmic gymnastics she had witnessed earlier that morning. Viddi swung from the branch as she dreamt of twirling up to the top of the pyramid. Then she gripped the branch with her teeth and hung with limbs and tail spread out wide as she fantasised about carrying three mice on each of them. Master Wu was sitting on the very end of her tail, applauding in awe.
Viddi began to swing around the branch with her teeth, in preparation for her final dismount in the dream. She swung around once, twice even faster, and then a third time even faster still. Her momentum was intense. It was just about as intense as Kineosho’s last strike of the cabbit, which was hurtling towards Viddi. In fact, had it not been for the chain of events that happened immediately afterwards, the moment when the hurtling cabbit was accelerated forward when Viddi’s feet hit it would have been a moment clearly remembered as an intensely poetic meeting of imagination and reality.
The hurtling cabbit continued to hurtle through the air with the tremendous momentum it had gathered from Viddi’s kick. Little animals watched it from the ground. “Is it a bird?” a little badger asked its mom. “Is it an insect?” asked another enthusiastically. “I don’t know,” replied the mommy badger, looking confused, “. . . it looks like a flying cabbit to me.”
As the flying cabbit was about to reach the fastest speed any cabbit had ever experienced, it found itself being suddenly lifted and shaken violently by its left ear. It had managed to get itself hooked onto a low flying eagle’s talon who was trying to get it off by swinging it fiercely from side to side. The eagle flew higher and higher as he flapped his wings harder trying to get the cabbit off. The animals below looked on in awe as the flying cabbit became smaller and smaller.
Back on the ground in the meantime, the shock of kicking the cabbit at the peak of her dismount had woken Viddi up instantly. Dizzy from her mad spin, she had released the branch from her jaws and went flying through a forest of branches yelling her signature Eeeep! Eventually, she landed on the head of the fat platypus. The platypus was not happy.
He became even unhappier when Viddi applied her own traditional pain remedy by vigorously rubbing his head. Confused and highly irritated, the platypus started quacking, not even sure if that was the sound he was meant to make. The deranged quacking attracted a flock of ducks that had been flying above. They descended immediately and all began to quack in total discord around it.
A plump female duck aggressively scolded Viddi and pecked threateningly at her hands, which were still furiously rubbing the platypus’s head. Viddi retreated with tears in her eyes, overwhelmed by the noise and a little embarrassed at the number of animals that had gathered around to see her little accident.
“Quack, quack?” asked the plump female duck to the platypus after the cacophony had settled down a bit.
“Quack?” said the platypus.
“Quack quack!” replied another duck.
“Quack, quack!” said the platypus.
“Quack, quackity quack?” asked a smaller duck.
The fat platypus tried to move. “Quaaack” he groaned as he strained to move one of his fat webbed feet. When he succeeded, the ducks looked at each other in silence and then turned their attention back to the platypus.
Suddenly, each duck thumped a foot on the ground in unison and yelled “Quackity!” The platypus looked at them and began breathing heavily as he lifted his other foot forward and landed it securely. “Quack!” exclaimed the ducks, this time thumping the other foot on the ground. The platypus moved. “Quackity!” exclaimed the ducks again after that, each thumping their left foot once more. For the next two hours, the chanting and foot thumping grew louder and the forest echoed with rhythm. The gap between the duck’s Quackity! and Quack! grew increasingly shorter as the platypus moved faster.
By the time the platypus was close to the riverbank, Master Wu had returned with the League of Domino Mice. Curie told him how Viddi had fallen on the platypus and what happened thereafter. Master Wu looked at the platypus and the ducks, and twirled his long white whiskers whilst shaking his head, bemused at the spectacle.
Moments later the platypus reached a small crater filled with twigs and leaves next to the riverbank. By this time, the frenzy of rhythm was intense. The Quackity! Quack! Quackity! Quack! seemed to be perfectly synchronised with the thumping feet. Even the spectators had started clapping along to the beat. At the height of the frenzy, the platypus raised his front webbed feet and let out an enormous grand finale Quaaaack! before he collapsed into the crater. The ducks thumped their feet in cheer as did the audience in support. Everyone was happy. But mostly the platypus—he was ecstatic. He was tired, but ecstatic. In the space of a few hours, he had found his home, new friends, and a renewed sense of purpose.
Master Wu sighed as he looked at the platypus. “Our destiny always has a way of finding us. It never ceases to amaze me that there is no escape,” said Master Wu, fondly patting Viddi on her head. Not quite understanding what Master Wu was going on about, she smiled and wasted no time in asking what had been on her mind all day: “What in the box? What in the box?”
Master Wu laughed. “Come!” he called out to Griffon and Curie. They all walked back to the clearing where the platypus had been vegetating. “Thank the Baobab he’s moved on—he was really beginning to reek quite badly!” He sniffed the air and paused a moment before yelling out: “In line! Box! Fall back!”
The League of Domino Mice quickly assembled, brought the antique box to the centre of the clearing, opened it, and took out several paw-shaped imprints and a large broom made of straw.
“What that? What that?” asked Viddi excitedly before anybody else could even open their mouth.
“We take these out to the very far edges of the forest and make track imprints away from here to send nasty poachers on the wrong trail. The broom we use to wipe out our own trail . . . it’s been working for years,” Master Wu explained proudly. “They’re not too bright thankfully!” They all laughed.
That night the forest exchanged stories about almost everything that had happened that day. They spoke about how the mice had made a large circle with the prints to fool the daft poachers, how amazing the platypus’s choir was, and how Viddi’s funny collision had started everything off. Everyone had been so caught up with the day’s events that they had forgotten all about the flying cabbit. It had been having an adventure all of its own since it had been picked up by the eagle.
Besides being the fastest cabbit that had ever lived, it had also become the highest-flying cabbit of all time. The third record it broke, however, was the one that made history across species. After being hooked to the eagle’s talon for a couple of hours, the mad shaking and flapping finally dislodged it. The cabbit plummeted to the earth, cabbage-end first. Then it happened: it became the fastest object to ever hit a large beehive directly.
If cabbits could feel anything, this particular one would have been in trouble. Fortunately, it did not feel a thing as it smashed into pieces when it hit the hive.
The first reaction of the bees as their hive was sent flying towards a peculiar sheet was not pleasant. In fact, they went bonkers. The first reaction of the poachers, who were resting in the tent that the hive had fallen on, was even more animated when they realised what had happened. They ran. The bees followed. They ran through the bushes. The bees followed. In their anxiousness, the poachers ran in a completely different direction to the trail that they had been tracking. They had not been to that part of the forest before and they did not care. They just wanted to get that swarm of bees away from them. Shouts and screams accompanied every sting until there was a large splash, and finally silence.
The poachers had run through some pretty dense forest and wound up jumping off a low cliff into a river. They kept as much of themselves as they could underwater until the bees eventually buzzed off. They had run quite a distance and the hobble back to their campsite by retracing their own steps was a soggy, painful journey.
Dinner finished early for everyone that evening. The birds, the bees, and all the animals were very tired after a rather eventful day. The poachers were tired too. They picked out their bee stings after much cursing and went to bed, praying that the next day would be a less painful one.
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