It was a warm, balmy afternoon and Oscar the Owl was delighting in the peace and tranquillity. He had eaten well the previous night, two mice, a shrew and a particularly juicy beetle (always one of his favourites.) He had had a good sleep during the morning, there had been no noisy goings on in the farmyard and even the sheep had ceased their incessant bah-ing. No , without a doubt, he was a contented little owl. If only it could be like this every day, thought Oscar, knowing full well that it was unlikely to be so.
As you will appreciate it did not take an awful lot to make a small owl happy. Food, warmth and quiet, that’s all it took.
In the middle of his dozing he became aware of a distant noise; from down the long lane came the distant sound of a motor engine. It was too loud for a car, it must be a lorry, thought Oscar. Perhaps it’s a load of hay for the cows, or maybe a pile of mangelwurzels for the sheep. (Mangelwurzels, as I am sure you know, are rather like turnips except much larger. They are considered a delicacy by sheep but if you were to eat one I think you might disagree. Oscar certainly did, he thought they were awful.)
The approaching vehicle was getting closer now. The noise of its engine became quite clatter-some and Oscar was forces to cover his ears with his wings, a difficult manoeuvre which left him looking like a little fluffy Buddha. (You may not know what a Buddha is. Well it’s a statue. In some countries you find them all over the place. Oscar had never seen one.)
By now it was not just the row of the lorry that disturbed Oscar’s afternoon, it was the smell. Not an altogether unpleasant smell but a powerful one nonetheless. It was a fishy smell. Fish, thought Oscar, do owls eat fish? He was willing to give it a try.
At that moment his old friend Percy the Pigeon landed on the branch beside Oscar.
“Phew. What a pong. It smells ghastly. What on earth is it?”
“Is it fish?” hazarded Oscar who had never eaten a fish but was interested to try. “Do owls eat fish, Percy?”
“Not if they’ve got any sense” replied his erudite friend. “Fish are mostly found by the sea. You don’t get many owls there, only seagulls and they are big bullying birds with an awful squawk.”
Clearly, thought Oscar, Percy must have had a Bad Experience with a seagull. He was tactful enough not to enquire.
At that moment the lorry came into sight around the corner and stopped in the road outside the house. The driver climbed out of his cab but left the engine running.
“What do you think he’s doing?” whispered Oscar.
“Probably lost his way “ replied Percy. “Perhaps he’s going to ask at the house.”
By now the smell was appalling. It smelt as if a whole fishing boat load full of fish had been emptied into the back of the lorry but when the two inquisitive birds looked more closely they could see that the lorry’s load was a very sticky-looking liquid, grey and jelly-like. It was the source of the fishy smell, a fact confirmed by Oscar who swooped over the vehicle in a small reconnaissance flight. “It’s like jelly. No fish in it but it still stinks of them.”
A mystery indeed. What can it be doing here?” Then the two birds noticed the man walk around to the side of the lorry and press a few buttons on a panel. Nothing happened so he shrugged his shoulders, turned on his heel and walked up the path to the house.
“I think he’s asking directions” muttered Percy. “He must be lost.” Any further speculation was interrupted by a loud grinding noise coming from the lorry. Appalled Oscar and Percy watched the entire back of the vehicle begin to tip up. Slowly it crept higher and higher and then, with a great gloop sound, the grey, gelatinous contents slopped off the back of the lorry and landed on the ground where they spread into a wide lake that stretched from one side of the road to the other.
Just then the driver, who had quite obviously found no-one at home, turned and stared at the lorry with a look of horror. He rushed back to his vehicle, leapt into the cab and started punching buttons on the dashboard. After a certain amount of this frenetic activity the back of the lorry began to descend. As soon it was down the driver started the engine and roared off down the the lane, quite obviously determined to get away from this disastrous spillage. He left behind the glistening, circular lake and peace returned to the farmyard.
“What was that all about, Percy?”
“I don’t think that was meant to happen” replied the pigeon. Even he had been nonplussed by what they had both seen.
Just at that moment they heard a yapping sound approaching from down the lane. It was Buster, the dog formerly known as Yapper, who had been taken out for a walk by his mistress. Now you may remember that Buster was not the most intelligent of dogs, indeed some would say he was stupid but Percy thought that was unkind. “Dogs will be dogs in the end. They may appear stupid to us but they have their reasons.” Oscar wondered what those reasons might be but he was too shy to ask.
Perhaps it was well because Buster then did a very stupid thing, so stupid that even Oscar bewailed the sense of the little yapping dog. He ran straight into the glutinous gloop that covered the road. Never mind, thought Oscar, he’ll come out the other side and his mistress can hose him down.
But no. Buster got about half way across and came to a halt, yapping furiously. He could not move, he was stuck. His little legs could not be pulled out of the gloop that surrounded them. “Help! Yap. Help!” yapped Buster. “Get me, yap, out of here! Yap!”
His mistress appeared. She had been some way behind. “What on earth?” she cried, “Buster, are you all right?” Human beings do ask the daftest questions at times, thought Oscar. Does he look all right?
“I fear” intoned Percy “that our little friend is well and truly stuck.” He huffed up his feathers in an attempt to look wise for, in truth, he had no idea what to do.
Buster’s incessant yapping had attracted the attention of some other animals. Three sheep came through a hole in the fence to see what was going on. They were followed by half a dozen skipping lambs who, oblivious to the danger, all skipped into the same glutinous mess that had its hold on poor Buster. Within seconds their bleats of distress were added to the little dog’s yapping.
Cows came up to see what was going on. Not generally being fast movers they were cautious in their approach to the strange grey pool and stopped before dipping a hoof into the mess. Not so a couple of steers who rushed up from behind and charged straight into the deepest spot. There they came to a halt and finding that they could not lift their legs, stared around them, looking for someone to blame. There being no obvious target they set to to bellow loudly, all adding to the cacophonous din.
Meanwhile Buster’s mistress, who had watched all this with mounting distress, fumbled in her pocket and brought out a little box-like object. She pushed it with her finger and held it up to her ear. Then she started talking. That’s strange, thought Oscar, there’s no-one there yet she’s talking as if there was. Percy noticed his friend’s quizzical look.
“It’s a mobile phone, Oscar. Like an ordinary phone but no wires.”
“That must be magic. Do owls have them?”
“Not as yet, young Oscar but you never know.” No, Oscar never knew. He wished he was as erudite as his friend Percy.
They could hear her talking. “Hubert! There’s a disaster here. Some idiot has dumped a load of glue…”
“Ah, glue” said Percy wisely “That’s what I thought it was.” Oscar wondered why Percy hadn’t said so but he was too polite to ask.
The woman continued “…a huge load of glue all over the road and poor little Buster is stuck in it.” There was a pause while she listened to what was being said from the mobile phone. “What? What? You’re breaking up. I said Buster’s stuck in it. You’ve got to come back home now.” There was another pause, “no, it can’t wait until you’ve finished your tiddlywinks match. COME HOME NOW!”
That seemed to do the trick. She put the little box back in her pocket. By now Buster had stopped yapping and was standing forlornly in the pool of glue, clearly wondering whether his Time Had Come. Oscar felt sorry for him.
“What can we do, Percy? We must be able to help.”
“A tricky problem, young owl but you’re right. I cannot go on with this incessant bellowing and bleating. Just at present, however, I am a little stuck for ideas.”
Oscar gave a little giggle. “So you’re stuck, Percy. Just like those animals.”
Percy did not appear amused. “We have to find that lorry driver. I think he must have pushed the wrong button which emptied the glue on the road. Perhaps he knows the antidote.”
Antidote, thought Oscar? What’s that? He had an Aunty Dot but he was sure Percy did not mean her. She was only interested in going to the Bingo, she’d be unlikely to know anything about glue.
“We must find him. Come on Oscar” and off they flew.
It did not take them long to track down the lorry. It was parked in a lay-by about two miles down the lane. The driver was sitting in his cab, his head in his hands.
“Well, Oscar. Are you going to speak to him?”
“Oh, no.” cried Oscar “ he won’t understand Owl-Speak.”
“Unlikely to know Pigeon-Speak either. Bit of a problem here. It’ll have to be mime.”
They both flew down to the lorry and perched on the bonnet. The man looked up and even they could see that he was surprised at being confronted by these two avian friends. Percy fixed him with a beady eye, hopped up and down once or twice and nodded in the direction of the farm. Oscar tried to do the same but his head kept going right round which made it impossible to convey that they wanted him to return down the lane.
“Keep still, Oscar” muttered Percy between a clenched beak whilst carrying on with his performance “you’re confusing him.” Oscar did as he was told.
Fortunately the driver seemed to understand Percy. “Suppose I’d better get back and see what a mess I’ve left behind” he muttered to himself, not for one moment realising that this strange pigeon could understand every word that he spoke. He turned the lorry around and with the two birds flying escort in front of him, made his way back to the farm.
What a sight greeted him. He was shocked to see the devastation caused by his inadvertent dumping of a load of glue. Buster’s mistress and her husband, Hubert, were standing there and they did not look happy.
“What are you going to do about this, my man” said the woman in a voice that was dangerously high pitched.
“Mm. Sorry, ma’am. It were an accident.”
“Accident? Accident? You seemed to have tipped your whole load on the road. Well? What are you going to do?”
Steady on, Mildred” said her husband. “I’m sure there’s a solution.”
“You’re quite right there, sir. I have a can of special solution in my cab. I’ll have this lot out in a jiffy.” He returned to his lorry and fetched some bricks, two long planks and a large metal container.
“Watch this, Oscar” whispered Percy. “Now you’re going to see something.”
The man laid the planks on the bricks and edged his way across to Buster, carrying the container of solution. He poured the liquid on to the glue around Buster’s legs and with one bound the little dog leapt into the arms of the lorry driver who carried him back to his mistress.
“Just towel him down, he’ll be fine” and indeed he was fine. He yapped with relief and never had Oscar and Percy been so relieved to hear that noise.
In a matter of minutes the driver had released the lambs and the steers, now the pool of glue contained no more captives.
“A satisfactory outcome, young owl.”
“Yes, it is, Percy but what happens to the glue pool now.
“I am reliably informed by the Pigeon Weather Centre that we are in for a deluge of rain tomorrow. That should wash it away.”
The rain did not come until after dawn. Before it did Oscar, on his hunting rounds, came across two fat mice stuck on the edge of the glue pool. Carefully he removed them, taking care not to get stuck himself, and swallowed them down.