- Written for Claire by Tom McRae
Somebody even said, "Cuddles would not hurt a fly." That was not true though as he would often sit with his mouth wide open until one flew by then CLACK it was gone. He seemed to think flies were airborne snacks. I was happy as I never needed to buy fly spray ever again.
Of course, as you'll remember, dogs are never safe around Cabomban Green crocodiles. This was a good thing as after the unfortunate affair of Snookums, Mrs Brown's Chihuahua, everybody did what they were supposed to do anyway and took their dogs out on leads instead of letting them run around chasing poor pussy cats.
Mrs Brown's Chihuahua? Well everybody had hated the brute as it was savage. It used to run up mens' trouser legs to bite their noses, chased cats and little children, terrorised all the local Dobermans, and slunk about wherever he liked frightening people. Ah but one day Snookums came by our house when Cuddles was sunbathing. The Chihuahua rushed at him barking and snarling then CLACK! No more problems with a savage dog!
Mrs Brown went to the police but Inspector Lockem told her she'd been breaking the Law by letting the beast run free and anyhow Cuddles had acted in self-defence. The Inspector was president of The Cuddles Club and Snookums had even bitten policemen.
Cats loved my green crocodile and came from all around to sit on him in the sun and purr. They took turns washing him so that he had to be the cleanest crocodile in the whole world. The cats' owners gave him lots of sausages to eat because the evil Chihuahua no longer frightened their kitties and the local postmen gave him 10 kilograms of best steak. Mrs Brown went back to England and was never heard of again.
One day I received a letter in my mailbox from The President of Cabomba.
"Dear Sir," it said. "We have discovered that you have a
Cabomban Green crocodile as a pet. None of our crocodiles are allowed
to be kept outside Cabombaland so we order you to come to our Country
day after tomorrow with the crocodile so we can see whether or not you
are a fit and proper person to look after it. Please take the enclosed
tickets to Cabombaland Airways at once to arrange your free flight.
Jonathan H. Cabomba
P.S. I look forward to you telling me all the news about Brisbane where I studied at University. And bring me twenty tins of kangaroo tail soup please.
A free flight and a chance to see Cuddles' home land, what a wonderful opportunity! Still I worried in case my pet would be taken from me, but maybe he would be happier back home in any case.
It was a very long flight but we were well looked after. Lovely cooked meals for me and raw meat and fish for Cuddles, served by crocodiles who'd been trained as assistant cabin staff. The human air crew were happy friendly people who made me feel welcome. If all Cabombans were like them I was in for a great time. What an adventure!
Much later I woke up to find myself looking down from the plane windows at a lovely green land with lots of water...Cabombaland at last. When we landed at the airport there was a big crowd waiting for us waving Australian, and even Queensland flags. Everybody wore brightly coloured clothes and when one small girl saw us get out of the plane she sat down on a crocodile and came riding over.
Hi there, you must be Tom? Welcome to Cabombaland...I am Jennifer Cabomba the President's daughter. You'll be staying with us in our palace..... Dad says did you bring the kangaroo tail soup ? He couldnąt come 'cos he's busy but will see you later. I am to take you home with me.
Jennifer then looked at Cuddles...."Werd d'ya wan, Parra parra Palace yo."
Cuddles nodded his huge head and stretched out, Jennifer fixed a saddle on his back and told me, "On you get. I'll soon have you home to meet my family."
And would you believe it? There I was riding through the streets on Cuddles' back, my luggage and case of kangaroo tail soup behind me. Why had I never thought of getting him to do this? The petrol money I'd have saved! People waved and cheered as we rode by and I decided I really liked my new dark skinned friends as they smiled their welcomes.
The houses were well built and I looked forward to being invited to visit some of the families who lived in them. We passed by one place where new buildings were going up and I was amazed to see crocodiles shuffling up to the bricklayers with mouths filled with bricks or buckets of cement hanging down. They seemed to enjoy helping the humans do the building.
There were markets filled with lovely vegetables and fruits, many of which I had never seen before, even in Queensland, and everywhere was a feeling of happiness and well-being. I saw no dogs but there were big fat cats galore. I knew I would enjoy my visit to Cabombaland whatever happened with me and Cuddles.
At last we came to a large building set in a green grassy field filled with grazing sheep. "We're here!" laughed Jennifer. "Soon you shall meet my family."
Without even being told Cuddles stopped beside her crocodile at the steps of the palace, two young boys and a little girl came running to meet us. Jennifer explained, "These are my brothers Young Johnno and Chris and my little sister Amanda come to welcome you, please come inside for you must be tired."
A lady stood at the top of the steps, when I came up she gave me a big hug and said, "I am Angelica, Jennifer's mother. You are very welcome in our home. Please come and sit down." I wondered about my luggage but the two boys had taken care of that, one had my suitcase balanced on his head, the other the case of soup. Amanda went up to Cuddles carrying a bucket and fed him some fish from it. He rolled on his back and she tickled his tummy.
At the door stood a large smiling African. It was President Jonathan Cabomba himself and the clock told me I had been asleep for six whole hours.
I jumped to my feet, "Mr President I..."
"No need for all that formality here Tom my friend, just do what everybody else does around Cabombaland, call me Johnno." He shook me warmly by the hand. "Now you have another shower and I'll send my son Young Johnno to bring you downstairs when you are ready."
So it was that an hour later I sat down to a wonderful meal with my new friend Johnno and the family I was already feeling a part of. Angelica cooked and served the food herself and it was gorgeous. First off we had huge bowls of kangaroo tail soup that everybody agreed was really great. (I promised to send more tins when I got home). Next we had a wonderful spicy mutton stew because sheep supplied wool and meat to the Cabomban people, the floors of all the rooms in the house were covered in sheepskin rugs. All too soon we finished with a mixture of fresh local fruits, the children sang some songs for us then went to bed and Johnno called me into his study.
"Sit you down Tom." I sat me down and began, "All right Johnno, about Cuddles."
"Plenty of time for that Tom,. We'll settle that in the next few days but for now please tell me all about what has happened in Brisbane since I was called back last year to become President."
So I brought him up to date with all the exciting things that had happened in Brisbane and also in our sunny State of Queensland. After a few cups of local coffee it was time for bed and despite my long sleep earlier in the day I had a great night's rest. When I awoke next morning Angelica cooked me a luscious breakfast of pancakes and fresh fruit then the children took me for a long walk around the town. Everybody greeted me with smiles and handshakes. How I loved this little country, but I'd still miss my Cuddles when it came time to go home.
We walked far from the town and came to a river. Flowers grew along the bank and the children made some into necklaces which they hung around our necks. On the other side I could see badly built dirty houses with smoky fires all around the place. "That's Eloidaland over there", said Jennifer. "They're a very bad people because of their king and they want to eat up all our crocodiles so we never allow them over on this side."
It certainly did not look like a very pleasant place to live, there seemed to be no fruit trees and very little in the way of food crops.
Skinny cows and goats roamed around and I never heard any laughter coming across the water. We quickly left to get back among the happy Cabombans, but we never knew that we were being watched by unfriendly eyes in the bushes on our side of the water.
Suddenly with fierce shouts six huge men jumped out at us and began grabbing the children, I tried to fight them off but was quickly knocked down and tied up. We were dragged to a canoe hidden on the bank and soon found ourselves captives in Eloidaland.
Suddenly a group of tough looking villains pushed through the little crowd and stood laughing at me waving huge pistols. Up swaggered the biggest man I had ever seen wearing a very ornate army uniform with lots of medals. "Hi you prisoner man, you look at me!"
He shouted as he towered over me. "Me, I am The Greatest of the Great, King Elo of Eloidea and them mans, thair are my polices. Oh how they keep my foolish peoples in order for me and now they bring me a biiiig present, all the children of that baaaad man Jonathan, oh now we shall see, yes we shall."
He waved an even bigger revolver than any of those his police had in my face, "As for you, you shall be my frien' or else. I give you very big work for to do." He jabbered at his thugs in the local language and they cut me free and gave me some dirty water from an even dirtier cup.
I was so thirsty I drank it anyway. "You my frien shall be my official messager. You heear?"
He thrust an envelope into my trouser pocket and his men tied my wrists, gagged and blindfolded me. What now? "You will go back an give dis important lettah to foolish Jonathan from me, the lifes of all them children will be lost if you do not."
I felt myself being hustled into something that floated then we seemed to be travelling over water, I was hustled along on land again then my wrists were untied and I was thrown violently into something soft that scratched my face. I took of the blindfold and found I'd been thrown among bushes on the Cabomba side of the river. Quickly I tore off that gag and staggered towards the town where people quickly got me to the Presidential Office.
"Good Heavens Tom!" Yelled Johnno. "What's happened? Where are my children?" I gasped out my story and put the envelope in his trembling hands. He read the letter, then passed it to me. It was very badly written and would have made anybody's teacher very angry. It said.......
Dear Mr Johnathan Sir,
I have the honour most respectfully beg to inform you that your lovely childrens are now my guests in Eloidaland. To get them back you must meet me tomorrow and sign great agreement making me gift of 300 of your delicious crocodiles. You must also promise for to pay me 300 more every year as well as lots and lots of fruits and sheeps meat. In fact you will also give me 500 sheeps tomorrow as well or else and bananas, and apples, and pineappleses, and things. Me and my polices will come over tomorrow morning with your childrens to collect our gifts, if they are not there we will keep the childrens forever and make them work as slaves with spanked bottoms every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
I hope my letter finds you well and in good health, your obedient Lord and Ruler.
X (His Mark)
I woke in the Palace in my room where a doctor was cleaning and dressing my wounds. As I lay there I began to think about how to rescue the children. What could be done? I noticed all the sheepskin rugs on the floor and suddenly had my great idea. "Please call the President immediately!" I asked the doctor.
A very worried Johnno came to my bedside. "Well, Tom, it seems that I must surrender to that evil king's demands. There is nothing else we can do."
"But there is!" I replied. "Just disguise Cuddles as a sheep and all will be well."
Johnno looked at me sadly. "Oh poor Tom, that terrible beating has affected your brain. How could a huge crocodile be made to look like a sheep?"
"Honestly, Johnno, I am O.K. Please just listen to my plan. We have nothing to lose."
As I told him about my ideas he started looking calmer. When I had finished he started to laugh. "Tom, we can do this thing but I'll need your help. Are you fit enough to help tonight?"
I told him I was, and for the rest of that day and night Johnno and his people worked hard in the field beside the Palace preparing for the morrow. As things progressed I called for Cuddles to be brought over. He walked past me and rolled at Johnno's feet.
"Ah, I was right," said the President. "This was once my pet when he was very small. When I left for Australia I could not bear to leave him behind so I smuggled him past the Customs hanging down my trousers. For the three years I stayed in Brisbane he shared my flat and he grew and grew. Every night when there were few people around I would take him down to the river for a swim. But as I had to work hard at my studies I started letting him out on his own for he always came back."
"One evening two of my countrymen came to tell me my father had passed away and that I was now President and had to leave with them immediately. In all the confusion it was not until we were in the plane that I remembered poor Cuddles. I often worried about him until I heard about your adventure."
So that explained why a Cabomban Green Crocodile was wandering around Brisbane. But we had still work to do. Johnno issued commands to Cuddles and he went straight into action. Doing what? Ah you'll find out when I'm ready.
Next morning everything had been prepared in the big field. There were 300 sheep clustered in the middle, guarded by two sheep herding crocodiles. Over to one side, 300 crocodiles were lined up ready to be taken away. It was sad to see the poor things so full of trust. On the other side of the field a great barbecue pit had been prepared and joints of lamb were just starting to put on in readiness for lunch. Several large bins were filled with ice and bottles of beer. Everything was ready to receive our guests.
"Time for you to go down to the river, Tom," said Johnno. "May God be with us all."
Angelica came running up. "Please, Tom, save my children and our beloved country."
"I'll do my best," I answered as I limped towards the river. Would my ideas work? We'd soon find out.
I got to the river bank with four of the Presidents advisers. We could hear drums beating on the other side where they were trying to organise several large rafts for crossing over.
Three decorated canoes were launched into the river and I could see bad King Elo getting into one of them. Two of his police came along dragging four small children and they also boarded the canoe. Several other police got into the other two boats. Then all started to cross the river followed by the rafts of people who showed no enthusiasm for what was happening.
The canoes reached our bank well before the rafts, and the police got out first waving their pistols as they checked for ambushes. The two in Elo's canoe then stepped ashore dragging the four children. "Oh, Tom, it is good to see you, it was horrible over there." cried Jennifer.
"Shuddup you!" yelled one of the policemen as he cuffed her on the head.
Elo stepped on to the shore as arrogant as ever. "Ah it is my frien, but please, where is Foolish Jonathan and all my gifts?"
I explained. "The President has put all your gifts outside the Palace where it is fitting for a king such as you to relieve what he deserves. After the delivery of the gifts he has prepared lots of roast mutton and beer for you and your people, I and those advisers are to take you there. Please also bring all your people."
By now the rafts had arrived and the people who had crossed on them were standing looking very worried.
"O.K.. O.K. we will follow you, but no tricks or I will break both your arms. I like all the bruises on your face very much."
With those words Elo and his gang swaggered along behind us dragging the children along. Behind them were poor subjects who had been dragged along to witness their king's triumph. Policemen beat them if they felt they were moving too slowly, I felt really sorry for them.
Soon we reached the field by the Palace. Elo roared with joy when he saw the sheep but yelled even louder when he saw all the crocodiles. "Tonight I shall eat very very well," he sniggered. "Foolish Jonathan, I, your Ruler am here for my gifts."
"Give me back my children and you shall have them," said Johnno.
"Ah no, first I must look at my presents and see they are all there." Elo marched up to the sheep just as I had hoped he would. "Now let me count them, policemen bring the children over here beside me. One,two, three, four, eeeeeehhh seven. Kings do not need to count things, you policemen do it for me."
One of the policemen holding the children began to count aloud checking there were three hundred sheep in the flock. As he did so he and the other thug had to move among the animals to be sure the count was correct. The children were dragged along as well. I felt the time had come.
"Cuddles Werd d'ya wan NOW !" I yelled and an amazing thing happened.
There was a great shower of earth below one of the sheep which flew into the air. It was only a sheepskin and below it Cuddles had been hiding all night in a long shallow pit he had dug. Out he rushed knocking one policeman down with his nose and the other with a flick of his tale, just as we had rehearsed it the night before. At the same instant Johnno shouted commands and the three hundred crocodiles rushed into the fray attacking the other policemen.
I shouted to the children, "Run to your father!" and watched with joy as they ran into his arms. I could see Angelica running up to them and I was so happy I did not pay attention to what was happening near me.
I had to think very quickly as he eased the pressure on my throat. "Oh Great King," I whispered, "I cannot shout at all as you have damaged my windpipe. I will tell you the command and you can shout it. He must obey any order."
"Then you will whisper it to me and maybe I will not shoot you later!" shouted Elo.
I whispered the necessary command and he threw me to the ground. He laughed as he yelled, "Cuddles Werd d'ya wan na go", and WE all know what that means do we not?
Before he could fire his pistol Cuddles had rushed at the villain and knocked it far away with one blow of his tail. His jaws went CLACK as he snapped at Elo, who turned and ran. Cuddles ripped out the seat of his trousers and people laughed as he ran, bare-bottomed, to try and escape.
Cabombam crocodiles run very quickly and Elo was soon on the ground with Cuddles ready to eat him up. Johnno shouted a command and Cuddles backed away but kept a close watch on the king.
I became aware of a lot of noise and turned to see King Elo's subjects beating the policemen who had survived the crocodile attack. Elo himself was grabbed by four of the President's guards and rushed off to jail along with his policemen. The Eloidean people began to dance and laugh. It was the first time we had ever seen them happy. "We are free!" they shouted. "Oh Thank you, thank you!"
"As soon as my children and my friend Tom get cleaned up we shall have that feast I have prepared," laughed Johnno. "You Eloideans can celebrate with us. We also have plenty of soft drinks."
And so it was that what had promised to be a tragic day ended in great joy. Johnno promised the Eloideans he would help them make schools and hospitals, and that his people would teach them proper farming methods.
They were a very happy people when they crossed back over the river that night, laden with gifts and with a happy future ahead of them.
The rest of my stay in Cabombaland was wonderful. Johnno awarded me The Order of the Golden Green Crocodile, his country's highest honour. Much more important to me, though. was when he appointed me Uncle to his children. They all thought this was a great idea and I promised they could all visit me in Australia.
What about Bad King Elo and his gang? Johnno decided that their crimes were too serious for him to handle so he flew them to Holland to appear before the World Court of Justice. They remain in prison there as I write, awaiting trial, and I shall be a witness when the case is ready.
On my last day the President called an Assembly of the people. Before that Assembly he told me, "You must realise, Tom, that our ancient laws make it an offence for anybody but a Cabomban to own one of our crocodiles. You as an Australian therefore are not entitled to take Cuddles home with you." I felt very sad and tears came into my eyes but what was this?
Johnno continued, "We, the people of Cabombaland, in appreciation of all your bravery and help, hereby create you an honorary citizen of our Nation so long as you shall live. Cuddles may therefore return home with you, if he so wishes, and we present you with a Golden Pass for our airline so that you and he may come to your other home whenever you want to."
Everybody cheered and we all had another great party, my last for the time being.
Next morning I boarded the aircraft with Cuddles trotting behind me. After another pleasant flight we were soon back home with lots of presents for Claire and our other friends.
And that was the end of our second adventure.
Copyright (C) 1998; Tom McRae
Published with kind permission of Tom McRae, Brisbane, Australia