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Chapter 16



“Shouldn’t we relax a little in front of the telly?” Flecki proposed and ran into a large room facing the kitchen. An old armchair, decorated with many fringes promised cosiness. A remote was on the arm-rest, opposite the armchair stood the TV.

“Let’s watch soccer!” Hamstilidamst took the remote and got a slap on the paws by Flecki.

“It’s I who found the remote. Moreover soccer’s daft and mean.”

“Why mean?”

“Mean and unfair. Again and again you can hear about a football player stepping into an offside trap. All alone and offside he is caught in a trap. Why does nobody take pity in him? Why does nobody care?!”

Hamstilidamst did not know an answer to this and Flecki switched on the TV. Up and down she zapped. The mayor leaned forward, watched and smiled. Then there was a crash and a bang.

“Mayor fell off the armchair. That’s only your silly zapping!” Goldi scolded.

“Not my fault. I’m looking for something… Ah! There we are!” Flecki cried and glanced at the screen where a woman was painting a wall. The chief engineer found fault with her way of holding the brush and received a look like daggers from Flecki.

While the female on the screen after every stroke of the brush told some story or other, the hamsters began to be bored. Goldi gnarled: “That chick’s a sleeping pill! Why don’t you zap on?”

“That’s Emmi the interior decorator, that’s not boring at all… Hey, give me back the remote, you knocker!” Screeching, Flecki fell on Goldi.

Just when Botchy tried to separate them, Sasy shouted: “Ey, look out of the window! Look who comes padding through the gate!”

In a trice the hamsters had joined Sasy on the back of the seat and saw the old lady slowly walking into the garden with her heavy purchases.

“Retreat”, the chief engineer barked, scrambled down the armchair, stumbled over the mayor and ran on, passed the kitchen and to the staircase.

After the complete troop of hamsters had struggled up the steep stairs and just wanted to race through the ajar door, they bounced back. A tired man with bruises at his head stood in front of them. He leant at the door frame and looked quite helpless. His glance fell on the hamsters and somehow he seemed to be relieved. The little animals however did not mind him but passed him one by one. Downstairs the front door slammed. Vim van der Slampe decided to go back into his room first. Perhaps it was better to know what really had happened in his room before he met the owner of the house again.

First he examined the bed and found one foot of it broken off. A clamp had come loose and the screws were lying on the carpet. No problem, the truck-driver thought, opened his tool-kit and got out a screw driver. While he fastened the clamp he noticed that one of the hamsters watched him closely. With his little paw this hamster pushed a missing screw beside the bed post so that the puzzled man only had to take and screw it in.

“Hamstilidamst, fetch the map. I think we now should try to show the guy what’s what.”

Hamstilidamst shook his head. “The map’s in the rucksack and the rucksack’s in the van and the van’s in the truck.”

“Hum!” That was all the chief engineer could think of. He considered going to the mayor to coordinate further steps but his sound hamster brain told him that in his present state the mayor was not much of a coordinator. Anyhow, he had just laid down to sleep.

“Hey, folks, do come here. We’ve got to talk things over.”

“Shall I wake up the mayor, Boss?”

“No, Tuffy, no need. Let him sleep.”

“What’s the matter?” Dasy and Sasy asked when all were assembled around the chief.

“Briefing. As you certainly know our mayor knows nothing. However, we’ve got to get to this McShredder Castle.”

“Just a minute”, Flecki remarked. “If this mayor-airhead doesn’t know anything because his noggin’s empty, why should we go to fetch this McShredder? It was the mayor’s idea, not ours. I’m not going to risk my fur such a dunderhead.”

The hamsters were in a fretful mood and the group was close to splitting in two parties when Tuffy proposed to wait and see. If the mayor’s state did not better they still could discuss what to do. This proposal was carried unanimously.

In the meantime Vim van der Slampe had finished the repair of bed and curtain-pole. He more or less could explain that he might have slept restlessly and fallen out of the bed, but why he had switched on the kettle and smeared the carpet with green paint, he could not explain. However, he had some ideas when seeing one of the hamsters running about with the lid of a paint tin. Time was ripe to clear up some things and so he snatched the sleeping mayor and scrutinized him.

“You’ve got quite a bump, my pet, and the lid is gluing to your paw. Let me have a look!”

Cautiously he tore at the lid, turned it and tried to get if off the hamster paw.

“Quiet, my pet, in a moment you will be free from this bad, bad lid!”

Slowly the mayor now opened his eyes. What was the matter? A giant had gripped him and certainly his last hour had come.

“Pleh!” The frightened hamster courageously jumped down from the hand of his rescuer and then lay dizzily on the floor.

“Now really, completely unfit”, Sasy commented. “No body control, a limp of a jump. He should join our dance group, that would pep him up!”

Under the eyes of the shocked truck driver the mayor bobbed up and grinned around. “All right, people, just came down a bit askance, ho ho!”

“Glad to see you awake, Mr. Mayor, we just voted that we’ll wait and see until you’re better again.”

“Ha, of course I’m fit like a fiddle, dear Tuffy. What’s the matter, and who is that frog there?”

“That’s only Trample who fell into the green paint”, Tuffy explained while Tealeafy consoled the sobbing Trample.

“Yes, yes, I remember now. Well, my dear chief, what did we decide?”

“Either we go home or we tell that big guy there where to take us.”

“All right, my dear chief, do so. In the meantime I’ll go to the sauna to see if some biscuits are left so that we, er, have enough supplies!”

“That’s like him”, Flecki scolded, “nothing but munching…”

“Flecki, have you got some pen with you?”

“What kind of question is that, chief? Of course I always take along something for painting.”

“Fine”, the chief engineer answered, relieved, “then we now write down the name of the place we have to go to – on one of the bathing sheets!”

“How do you spell Dunollie?” Tuffy asked and curiously looked at Botchy.

“Er, ahem, well – does somebody know how Dunollied is spelled?”

Nobody answered the loud question of the chief. Flecki looked at the ceiling, Sasy and Dasy excitedly talked about Highland dances. Hamstilidamst tried to scratch off some of Trample’s green colour, Tealeafy and Tuffy examined the carpet and Goldi looked after the mayor who made for biscuits.

“Why don’t we take the other town – close by?” Goldi asked.

“Just so”, Flecki cried. “It’s name is Oban, I’ve heard that clearly!”

“All right”, chief Botchy decided. “Flecki, be good enough to write this, er, Oban on a sheet!”

Followed a long discussion about writing down 'Oban'. Flecki said the word was not pronounced with a normal English 'o' like 'open', but short like 'oven' – or something like that. And Botchy remembered their friend Jenny who had to learn Hamstish because her language somehow was backwards or the other way round – or something like that.

Finally Flecki wrote down both for a choice, mixing everything up a little, and had not the faintest idea what this meant to the Dutch truck driver.

'N-A-B-O O-V-E-N' she spelled and proudly looked at her artwork. She took a step back, bent her head askew and sat down in front of the paper once more. Slowly she painted a big arrow pointing upwards. “That should do”, she said happily and as she was so delighted on her work she quickly sketched some waves to show that Oban was at the seaside.

His jaw dropping, Vim van der Slampe watched what was happening at his feet. A hamster being able to write! Carefully he kneeled down not to injure one of the little animals, took the loo paper and looked. Again and again he studied the word and the picture. Vim van der Slampe put down the sheet of paper again and fell onto the bed. He was breathing heavily and wondered if he was in his right mind. Then he remembered all the monkeyshines of the hamsters aboard the ship and realized that these were very special hamsters. His brain worked. What in the world did these clever animals mean by ‘NABOOVEN'?

Suddenly he had an idea and started to interpret the loo paper sheet: the word, the northward arrow, waves like the sea…

“Na boven"1!" he cried and laughed. "How in the world do you know Dutch?! Waves, the sea – you want to go up to the coast – na boven!"

There was a general nodding from the hamsters. Now he’d got it – or so he thought. The little rodents wanted to go northward through the Highlands and to the northern coast. Of course, therefore they had brought rucksacks and their van! Should he… Was he to… Van der Slampe thought of the Highlands and that he always had wanted to see them. His colleague, Ruud Kloetsack, had told him that there was nothing more beautiful. So either sitting in this sad room for the next days or looking for adventure. He made a decision.

“Hamsters, pack your belongings. I’ll go to Mrs. McKenzie and tell her I have to leave. Perhaps she can give us some supplies.”

In fact it took the old lady a few minutes until she comprehended what her guest tried to tell her. Anyway she was deeply moved because he had emptied the whole pot of her self-made broth. Someone at last appreciated her cooking! By the way, now Vim van der Slampe did not understand what she was telling him. However, the outcome was rather a nice supply of self-made biscuits, self-made cake, and self-made jam which the driver immediately took to the truck. He stowed away the dainties and rummaged for his street map of Great Britain.

With an expert look he realized that the tour to the north coast would require a stopover. 400 kilometres, he thought. If we start at once we’ll arrive in the darkness, so we’ll take a break over night. He was angry on himself because he had boasted to the hamsters that they should pack and they would start at once. Well now, he thought, putting aside the map, they are tiny animals and if I tell them that we leave tomorrow, we’ll leave tomorrow. Okay, I’ll tell same… No matter. Lowly swearing to himself, the truck driver returned to his room and faced the hamsters.

“We will leave tomorrow, today it’s too late!”

With big, sad beady eyes twelve frustrated hamsters looked at him. Even Goldi stopped gnawing the biscuit he had nicked from the mayor.

“It’s like this, we’ll arrive in the middle of the night, and that means…”

Flecki put a paw to her face and Taty began to whimper sadly.

“It’s like this, we’ll have to made a stopover and that would be…”

Goldi stepped right in front of the truck driver and goggled at him wet-eyed.

“That would be… It’s like this, we can’t…”

Now also Dasy and Sasy were standing there, tightly entangled, sobbing and whimpering far louder than Taty.

Fifteen minutes later they all were sitting in the truck and Ferry Road was already behind them. They approached the junction to the A90 which led to the famous Firth of Forth bridge.

“Phat scene”, Goldi laughed. “You saw how the guy almost wept? Another few minutes and he had carried us to old McShredder with his bare hands.”

“As I always used to say”, the mayor summarized, who had recovered from his pot accident, “it’s always a matter of peace, charity and tolerance. We’ve shown this human that also hamsters have feelings which should not be offended and I would like to stress…”

The mayor stopped, his eyes widening.

“Border-control, hide quickly!” he shouted and panicked by running in circles.

“Nonsense! That’s only the guy collection the admission fee”, Hamstilidamst soothed him. “Everybody passing the bridge towards Scotland has to pay. The way back is free.”

Soon Vim van der Slampe steered the heavy truck to the M90 leading to Perth. The truck had created a small traffic jam which now broke up. One car after the other overtook them, delightedly watched by the hamsters. First mountains came into sight in the distance. When the sun began to set they reached Perth and were back on the narrow A9. At this time of the day there was not much traffic. Vim van der Slampe threw a worried look out of the window and turned to the hamsters.

“You can see, it’s getting dark. I don’t know this area and with my big truck I don’t want to go on. At the next town we have to look for an overnight stay. I’m looking forward to my cosy bunk. The sleeping chair on the ferry wasn’t very comfortable, you know.”

Of course he received no answer, but in the back mirror he could see how excitedly the hamsters whispered and discussed. A few kilometres behind Ballingluig the driver turned off and drove on in a long bend. When a short time later they reached a street named Atholl Road, he slowed down.

“Pitlochry”, he shouted and the hamsters wondered. “Here we’ll stay overnight.”

Vim van der Slampe searched and found a good spot. He turned off at a sign pointing out the way to the railway station. By now it was quite dark and in the spotlight he could see a bridge. The driver did not follow the road to the station but drove straight on, passed a colourfully lit building and reached a side road. Here he stopped and turned off the motor. He looked about him and saw that trees were all around. Here they would spend a quiet night.


[1] Dutch = upwards