Wonka presents duffel.., p.1
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       Wonka Presents - Duffel Again, p.1
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Wonka Presents - Duffel Again
Wonka Presents

  Duffel Again

  Copyright 2015 Madeleine Masterson

  A Forward by Wonka:

  When I suggested to Wonka, we run another Duffel story and do it for Easter, he insisted on reading it through first, and checking my pictures.

  ‘I like it being set at the seaside,’ he pronounced to me, ‘and you have brought Sam back – as I suggested.’

  I thought that had been my idea and the cat had been his…….

  ‘And! You have called the cat Sheba, just like she is in my Christmas Story!’

  Wonka’s Christmas Caterol did indeed tell the story of Sheba, back in 2013, and pondering on how to bring her back to life as it were, knew just where to put her; right here in our new Duffel Again story.

  ‘Will it do?’ I waited on tenterhooks for the approving look.

  ‘More than.’ Wonka responded and licked his paw in readiness for the big read.

  Once more, the memory of my Dad’s voice hovered, as me and my brother would sit either side, cuddled up for one of his Duffel stories. It made me smile every time to think we weren’t the only ones now listening up. Sitting at the table I looked over at Wonka. He was bathed in a stream of sunlight, and looked the business.

  ‘If you are ready?’ He said, ‘Then I’ll begin!’

  Duffel shuffled slowly forward. He had landed, it seemed, in rather a conspicuous spot. And noisy. The sound of Take That was blaring out of the amusement arcade opposite and seagulls raked the sand and pavement for scraps. The sea, making its own reassuring in and out roar, lay over to his right, and there were people everywhere.

  ‘Whatever you do Duffel, don’t make yourself known and try to blend in with your surroundings.’ These words of advice, spoken to him by his mentor, back in level two, made Duffel roll his eyes and smile. Had he been some cool alien kind of guy, who lands on earth and immediately (alright could be a bit violently) sorts himself out, gets clothes gets a car gets –

  ‘Scuse me mate!’ A large lad now stood right in front of Duffel, and poked at him. Duffel realised that he was being given a leaflet and not, thank goodness, being invited to respond in any way whatsoever. He glanced at it and caught the word FORTUNE before stuffing it into his pocket. Now where is the building called the Palace Theatre he wondered. This was where his mentor, Mr Watkins, had told him to go to. Within ten minutes of landing.

  Giving himself some time to think, Duffel took the leaflet out of his pocket disturbing some other contents as he did so. Also nestling in the large duffel coat pocket was a mobile phone, a key and some small change. Named after the very coat he was wearing, Duffel took stock. His mission, here on earth, and indeed at the seaside, was to rescue an animal and take it back to level two.

  ‘You did such a cracking job with Sam, as soon as I heard of this project I thought of you Duffel!’ and then ‘Long Story short!’ Rattled out Mr Watkins, ‘Cat belonged to someone who ended up here rather suddenly!; Cat still there and pining.’ There meaning here, thought Duffel remembering the rather snappy conversation.

  It turned out that Sheba, a rather nifty looking black and white cat was still here but had wandered off, adopting, as cats do, a new family.

  ‘Oh yes’ continued Mr Watkins ‘I had a special note from Francis, our super- vet, saying –‘ he stopped to read out from the little post card. The card had donkeys on the front and a little ark on the back. All in all, a superior card and handwritten too, none of your printed rubbish thought Mr Watkins when he received it: it read;

  Please see that Sheba is reunited with Owner as a matter of urgency.

  Francis A.

  ‘It’s all in here Duffel!’ Mr Watkins tapped a notebook labelled with the cat’s name: SHEBA, and a reference number. ‘Should be a doddle and you’ve got 8 hours!’.

  So far so alright thought Duffel breathing in and smelling the salt in the air, and set off along the sea front in what he had figured out was the direction of the Palace Theatre. He had checked his watch which was set to earth time and said 1 pm. Now duffel coats in winter are quite the thing but not as yet in vogue for the summer months. This was attracting attention and more than this, Duffel was boiling hot. The final instruction from Mr Watkins passed through his mind. ‘On no account take the coat off Duffel! It has all your equipment inside and is essential to the whole task!’

  Never one to go along with instructions if they clashed with his needs, Duffel took the coat off and slung it over his shoulder. Of course the other big plus to the coat was it had the power to make Duffel and whoever was with him, invisible. For now, Duffel was very visible, a sweaty and hot young man passing by the heaving amusement arcade with its loud music. The gulls cried overhead and the smell of chips and candyfloss made his tummy grumble. Before he could make that all important choice between savoury or sweet something happened.

  ‘Ah here you are! I have been expecting you,’ and Duffel was being ushered into a doorway and just had time to note the dusty sign through the condensation on the window, to the left of the archway; it read MADAME FORTUNA.

  ‘This,’ the old lady said excitedly, in a foreign accent that Duffel could not place, ‘ entitles you to a half price reading!’ and the leaflet that he had half a minute ago still been clutching, was now being waved in front of him. He opened his mouth to say he could not possibly have his fortune told (after all he knew most of his future already) but instead found himself sitting down on a small wooden chair with this coat slung over the back of it.

  ‘Good choice!’ exclaimed Madame Fortuna, for that was surely who it was, ‘you have wisely picked the crystal!’ and with that she directed Duffel’s gaze to the large clear ball of glass on a small stand now centred on the round table.

  It had all happened so fast, that Duffel who liked to consider what he was saying before he said it, finally spoke.

  .’Look I really don’t have time for all of this right now –‘

  ‘Oh!’ exclaimed the fortune teller ‘ I see a man standing right next to you, giving you instructions, about…..about a cat? Yees, a cat, here it is now QUICK, ‘ her voice rose ‘it is fading!’ and as Duffel could not help looking into the crystal ball, he thought for a moment he saw a small shadow there, and then that was replaced by a sign that read – and then that was gone.

  ‘Look I must go, very sorry Madame Fortune, but there is a cat and I need to find it fast…’ with that Duffel got himself back outside the little parlour and heading into the crowds. Actually it didn’t seem so busy now and several of the seafront stalls were pulling shutters down. ‘How long was I in there for?’ wondered Duffel, it had seemed to be minutes. He set off at a brisk pace, heading for the Palace Theatre, which according to his small map of the area, was smack bang opposite the beach, and a café called SEASIDE SNAKS.

  This was where Sheba had been sighted, sloping in the back entrance and made welcome by the usherette. She, the usherette, had worked at the Palace since leaving school in the fifties, and had held most of the jobs going. Starting as a cloakroom attendant and building up to office manager, yes she had seen it all, and was wearing the tea shirt. It had ‘I am an Employee of the Palace Theatre!’ emblazoned on the front, and in smaller detail it announced how long the Palace had been there for – just over 150 years. Coming up to the horrid sounding retirement, Edna had made a decision.

  ‘I cannot,’ she said to the Manager, ‘bear to leave this theatre and all the magic of my years here – I will stay on as usherette!’

  The Palace Theatre still had a large auditorium and old fashioned seating with a screen shrouded in heavy curtains. Still open, despite the advent of the modern cinema, the faithful customers were all
known by name and shown to their seats by an usherette. Films were interspersed with live entertainment and currently, the legendary Ken Dodd was making a one night only appearance. Edna was a long- time fan of his, catching every single show at the Palace and had a signed photo of him with his unforgettable feather duster. She was even now, setting out his dressing room just as he liked it. A single rose in a delicate china vase adorned the small window sill, and the scent caught her in mid tidy; ‘ah,’ she breathed it in through her nose and relished the natural heavy perfume. Breathing out again she glanced out of the window; not much to see, as there was a high wall opposite but between that and the back entrance, a small garden with roses of course, and a hydrangea too. ‘And a cat!’ noted Edna, spying Sheba in the bush of blue flowers. Sheba knew that this woman was on her way to let her in, and sidled up to the back door.

  As soon as Edna opened up, she sprang in and was rewarded with a big bowl of fresh fish. None of that silly old cat food from the shops, not when Edna had a good friend at the local chippie. Munching her way through some choice haddock, Sheba did not give her previous Owner a minute’s thought. On that other level, said Owner was working her way through a large tissue box, and looking forward to a successful mission by that young lad, whatsisname. Talking of which…

  Duffel had now paused in mid stride, on route to the very same Theatre, where Sheba was tucking in. ‘Oh no.’ He had glanced at his watch to check the remaining time (two hours – where had the other six gone?) and then had that sick feeling. He had left his duffel coat with all the means of magic slung over the back of that chair in the fortune teller’s kiosk. With no time to lose in carrying out what should have been a straightforward mission, Duffel jogged back up the seafront to where he thought the kiosk was. ‘Before the fish and chip shop? Or was it by the amusements?’ and as he walked up and down feeling more and more anxious, something caught his eye. It was a sign in a really small doorway. It read CLOSED; and to the left Duffel now stared transfixed at another sign. This one announced that Madame Fortuna, would give readings by appointment only, and showed a picture of a palm, a crystal and herself holding up a pack of cards.

  In times of trouble, Duffel’s mentor on the next level had always recommended the deep breathing coupled with a positive thought. Duffel recalled the session and how he and another lad had spent most of it in fits of the giggles. I wish I had listened now, he thought and tried to remember the trick to solving problems like this one. Without his magic coat, and staring at a closed sign. As he pondered on this, he noticed a bit further up what looked like a passageway and someone from the chip shop going up it with a bag of rubbish. ‘Could it be…..’ Duffel waited and then casually walked up the passageway and found himself nicely at the back of the row of shops.

  ‘Whatever you do Duffel, do not go making yourself look conspicuous! The words of Mr Watkins suddenly came to mind and Duffel recalled asking Mr Watkins to ‘say again in English…’ which didn’t seem so funny now. And possibly, he was standing out rather, a strange lad hanging around the back of the shops. As he thought this, he heard a burst of loud music as one of the back doors opened. Where to go? A high brick wall sheltered the small passageway to the back and it came to a dead end to his left. Another brick wall with a nasty row of broken glass on top. Any minute now, one of the shop assistants desperate for a break would come out of the open door and spot him. Duffel leaned against Madame Fortuna’s back door trying to see through the beaded curtain and suddenly found himself falling inside as it swung open! Perhaps I have a bit of magic left on me he thought happily, and in the nick of time too; the voice of one of the amusement arcade helpers boomed round the passageway singing along to Elvis and his blue suede shoes.

  Ken Dodd had now arrived, courtesy of his special chauffeur driven car, at the back entrance to the Palace Theatre. Edna had greeted him, and they exchanged the small talk of the theatre circuit. SOLD OUT, emblazoned across the boards out front, advertised this one night special. After all, this entertainer was practically a national institution and packed them out in seaside resorts up and down the country.

  One thing his loyal fan base did not know about though, was his allergy to cats. Luckily, he was not averse to feathers otherwise his main prop, the magnificent feather duster, the famous tickling stick, would have died a death years ago. As it was, the minute he sat down in the little dressing room, a volley of sneezing broke out.

  ‘I’ll shut that window,’ and Edna did so closing it firmly, securing it down and turning up the heating. Even in the middle of summer, it could be cool in the Theatre, and she had worked hard to make this room cosy and welcoming. Leaving Mr Dodd to have his accustomed rest before the show, she hurried off to the kitchen to make the first of his organic teas. Sheba, who had popped in through the very window that was now closed, settled down in the back of the wardrobe, and shortly, both she and Mr Dodd were having their afternoon siestas.

  In the meantime, Duffel was saying several prayers of thanks, to all those ancients in charge of situations like this one. He liked to picture it like that old film about some Greek hero, what was the film now?…Jason and the Argonauts, that was it. Anyhow, all the Greek Gods were perched on their palace wall in the clouds making a wind happen here or a storm there. Safer to picture this that imagine Mr Watkins rounding on the admin team and telling them to ‘get a move on!’ because Duffel’s mucked it up again!

  No sooner had he pounced on his coat still slung over the back of the chair, and noted a slight movement in the Crystal Ball also still on the table. The shadow of a dog? Surely not….

  ‘You say you saw someone breaking into Madame Fortuna’s?’ to Duffel’s horror, through the bead curtain covering the frosty glass on the back door, was the outline of a community policeman. Now this brought back memories of another CPO, on another errand. That one had ended up felled by a tree branch, allowing him and Sam to make their way home. What could he do this time? Thinking of time, Duffel glanced at his watch; one hour left.

  ‘We need some strong magic to get us out of this one, and I do wish Sam was here to help me….’ Saying this out loud, Duffel pulled on his coat and waited for the CPO, still with his hand on the door and talking to someone, perhaps the shop assistant from five minutes ago, to come into the kiosk. He felt at a loss and closed his hand on the hanky in his pocket; it had been Sam’s good luck charm when he was lost down here on earth and Duffel had been presented with it by his happy Owner for rescuing him; the door opened, slowly at first as the CPO fairly new to this job had read somewhere ‘to go steady’ and ‘no sudden moves!’

  Duffel waited.

  Two things happened then; the first was the bark of a dog, like a warning bark from just outside the kiosk, and the second thing was that Duffel clad in the very coat that had given him his name, had vanished. That is, he had vanished from sight, but not the kiosk. The magic seemed to have kicked in at extra strength giving Duffel his best chance of a successful mission. Sidling past a very jittery CPO, who had kept quiet up to now about his fear of dogs (what would his mates say?) Duffel got himself out into the passageway and face to face with Sam! Sam had leapt up and put both paws on Duffel’s chest snuffling and yelping in happiness

  ‘I did wish for you Sam, and here you are!’ Duffel was so caught up in his happy reunion that he forgot although he was invisible, he could still be heard. To the incredulous policeman, already shaken up by his excursion into an empty kiosk (anyone could have been lurking there, he later told him Mum as she made him a nice hot mug of cocoa) all he could see was a dangerous dog with his paws up in the air and a voice from nowhere on about missions and levels and such like. Like most people, the policeman, CPO Piper, embellished this scene until it resembled something out of Dr Who. For a long time afterward, none of the force opted to patrol this dark corner of the seafront unless there were two of them.

  ‘We must get a move on Sam, I’ve lost a lot of time t
hanks to Madame Fortuna!’ and they both raced off, back up the seafront and heading towards the Palace Theatre, Duffel still invisible and Sam not. Luckily it was now early evening and the crowds were thinning. CPO Piper, intent on doing his duty followed from a safe distance and talking into his mobile as he trotted behind, brought his Mum up to date.

  ‘Huge dog, never seen anything like it…..Great Dane? No, more like a massive Rottweiler it was.....tea? I can’t think about tea Mum….must go!’

  Sam had been sent to hurry Duffel along, and of course rescue him if need be. It just happened to coincide with Duffel’s wish, but then magic worked like that, good proper magic that was, and not your cheap stuff. Luckily, Mr Watkins had pulled out all the stops, in view of the special card from Francis, he daren’t get it wrong. On earth, Sam had been a nanny dog, kind and loving and nurse to all the kittens and cats that came his way, so sending him on this mission was not as daft as it seemed. A dog to rescue a cat? In this case, yes.

  Duffel and Sam rounded the corner of the Palace theatre, and CPO Piper, stopped for a moment to look at the Billboard out front:

  *********ONE NIGHT ONLY*******

  The One and Only

  ******KEN DODD*****

  With his special Happiness Show

  All ages welcome! Special rates

  For U/E, OAPs and Children

  All Edna could hear from the dressing room was a gentle snoring noise; opening the door slowly, she moved into the room with his cup of tea. Time to get ready for the evening ahead, and on with the show!

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