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Animal Turns For some time now I've thought it might be a good idea to put together a collection of my stories that feature ani...

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Taking the Tablet!




My grandson was stilll not convinced that Packham had properly understood the nature of the virus in the last story "The Walrus and the Aunteater", so I decided to  have one last go.  I couldn't see much humorous potential in this, but it turned out I was wrong!





In the warming rays of the mid-morning sunshine, Packham stretched out on the decking.  A gentle breeze played over his fur, happily keeping him from getting too hot.  

This was definitely Packham’s favourite spot to snooze.  In the distance he could hear the bleating of the sheep and the goats as they grazed in the field beyond.  Behind him came the insistent quacking of one or more of the small ducks as they bickered and bustled around the yard. Geese honked with annoyance whenever anyone got too close to them, which was most of the time, and hens clucked and pecked contentedly just about everywhere.

 It was the usual background noise at TURN Education and he normally found he could doze peacefully through it all, except for this morning.  Amidst the bleating and the quacking, the honking and the clucking, he could hear a regular set of growls, each growl followed by a dragging noise.  Packham debated whether to look up and see what was causing it but decided he was happier dozing and not knowing.

After a short while, the growls and dragging came steadily closer to where Packham was sunbathing.  He felt something being dropped beside him, followed by a short ‘woof’ that could only come from India.  Packham opened one eye and stared, with a degree of annoyance, at his companion.

“Wha’ you want?”  He murmured, sleepily.

“Brought you something” India replied.

Packham made the effort to open his eye again and looked at what lay at India’s paws.  It was a magazine, or, more accurately, what was left of a magazine after it had been dragged out of the house and across the yard by a Labrador.

“Not interested, can’t read” Packham dismissed the offering and tried to go back to sleep.

“You don’t need to read it” India explained, “it’s a picture”

Packham opened both eyes and yawned loudly.  Stretching all his limbs as far as they would go, he reluctantly sat up and regarded his young companion.

“Picture?  You’ve woken me up for a picture?  You know how much I need my mid-morning snooze!”

“It’s important” India pushed the open magazine toward Packham, “you see that thing there?”  India’s nose touched a picture of a round object covered in little spikes, the whole thing was displayed in a disturbing mix of purples and dark blues.

“Ooh, that looks nasty” Packham’s nose twitched in disapproval, “what is it?”

“That,” said India, triumphantly, “is what’s causing people to be ill.  It’s called a ‘virus’”

“A ’virus’?”

“Yep, Flynn was just telling me about it” India looked very superior.

“Not a walrus?”

“Absolutely not!”  India smirked.

“What’s a walrus, then?” Packham was not convinced.

“Oh, for goodness sake!  Hang on a minute, but get ready to run, ok?”  India trotted off back into the house.  

“Run?  What do you mean, ‘run’?”  Packham shouted after her but no answer came.

He was just about to settle down to resume his snooze when he heard a major commotion break out.  Seconds later, India came bounding out with something metallic in her mouth.  She skidded to a halt in front of Packham and lowered her prize carefully onto the decking before him.

“See that picture there?  That’s a walrus!”  India panted.

Packham could see a large gingery-brown creature with ripples of fat, huge whiskers and even larger tusks.  The whole appearance was quite startling and made him jump back.  Back in the house, the dogs could hear another conversation taking place.

                “MUM!”

                “What?”

                “India’s run off with my iPad!”

                “SHE’S WHAT??”

“Oh no, you haven’t taken Flynn’s iPad?  You’re going to be in so much trouble!”  Packham warned.
“It was the only way I could show you what a walrus looked like.  Flynn had been showing me”

“Oh, Flynn had been showing you, had he?”  Packham asked huffily.  He liked to think that Flynn confided only in him.

                “INDIA, WHERE ARE YOU?”

“I told you, you would get in trouble” Packham smirked.

                “PACKHAM, COME HERE THIS MINUTE!”

“Ha!  Not just me, then.” India giggled, “come on, we’d better make a run for it”

“Bottom of the field” Packham panted as he and India bounded away, “we’ll hide under the hedge until this all blows over”

Moments later they were safely tucked under the hedgerow, peering cautiously through the branches to see if they could spot anyone in the distance.

“So, where does Maxine come into all of this ‘virus’ thingy?”  Packham asked, in a way that implied he wasn’t all that interested really.

“There is no ‘Maxine’, you silly old dog!  You misunderstood.  It’s a ‘vaccine’ they’re looking for”

“’Vaccine’?  What’s one of them?”  Packham hated being in the wrong.

“Well, you were mostly right before…” India began.

“See!  Told you!” Packham responded, smugly.

“It is about putting a little, harmless, version of the virus into you, sort of.  That way your body knows how to fight it if the real thing comes along.”

“The Aunties!”  Packham nodded.

“No, it’s nothing to do with Aunties but I’m not really sure what does it”

“Hah, now who’s silly, eh?”

“But, I think you’ve got like these little super-hero type things in your body and when something nasty turns up, they fly in and get rid of it for you”

“I think I preferred the idea of Aunties” Packham huffed, “what about if you’ve already got this virus inside you?  What can they do about that?”

“Well, you know those sticky-up things we saw on the ‘virus’?”
 
“Yes, I didn’t like the look of them” Packham shivered.

“Well, they think if you could gum them up, somehow, that might stop the ‘virus’ making people so poorly.  That’s what they’re trying to find, something to do the ‘gumming up’, I think” India frowned as she tried to make sense of it all, which isn’t easy when you’re a dog.  “I know we’re involved.”

Packham turned to look at her, “What, you and me?”

“No, silly!  Labradors”

“Labradors are involved in finding something to stop this virus?”  Packham asked, disbelievingly.

“Yes, because Flynn said that Research Labs around the world were working on it”

“Well, I suppose that does make sense.  We are highly intelligent.”  Packham thought it over for a bit before continuing, “I still don’t see how people catch this virus.  I mean, it’s easily as big as the walrus.  You would see it coming from miles away!”

“Ah, no, that’s where you’re wrong!”  India shook her head, vigorously, making her ears flap wildly.  “Flynn explained that to me.  That picture shows what the ‘virus’ would look like if it was really, really big.  Actually, it’s so tiny, you can’t see it, which is why it can creep up on people and get inside them”

“Gosh! Makes your fur creep to think about it, doesn’t it?”  Packham looked around, warily, as if expecting a spiked blue and purple thing to come bounding out of the branches around them.

“Yeah, you can see why people have been keeping a long way from each other, can’t you?”  India nodded, “because you never know who might have the ‘virus’”

“Can’t be a lot of fun being people at the moment”

“No, there’s a lot to be said for being a Labrador right now” India agreed. “Especially if you’re a Research Lab helping them find a cure”

                “PACKHAM! INDIA! WHERE ARE YOU?”

“But, perhaps not exactly RIGHT NOW!” Packham ducked down as low as he could and tried to blend into the hedge.

“We can’t hide in here forever” India said, glumly, as she tried to shuffle down into the leaves and twigs.

“Oh, I don’t know.  We could give it a try” Packham whispered, “anyway, I don’t see why I’m in trouble, I haven’t done anything wrong!”

“Well, I wouldn’t have had to bring you those pictures if you hadn’t gone on about Pandas, Walruses and Maxines” India grumbled.

“I don’t think I was that far wrong, really” Packham suggested, rather optimistically. “Hey, you know how you could get out of trouble, don’t you?”

“How?” India asked, suspiciously.

“You could tell them…”  He started to giggle uncontrollably, “…you could tell them you were just taking a tablet for the virus!”  Packham roared with laughter and ended up on his back with all four legs pointing upward, tail wagging furiously.

“Boys are just so silly!”  India snapped, but couldn’t stop her tail wagging too.

You can find a lot more of Philip's fiction in the brand new book 'A Dubious Undertaking and other stories' available now for just 99p - and FREE on Kindle Unlimited :-)

Sunday, 24 May 2020

The Walrus and the Aunteater


Packham and India

 My grandson wanted a sequel to 'A Panda Called Mick ', so this is it. Being of an orderly mind, he wanted Packham to understand what was really going on this time, which is something of a tall order for a Chocolate Labrador but we've given it our best shot ;-)


 
Packham and India were racing each other across the field to try to be first to grab the, rather battered and distinctly smelly, tennis ball that had just been thrown for them.  Packham was first to it but skidded on the wet grass and missed it by inches. India, just at his heels, grabbed it from under his nose and galloped on with her tail in the air.

“Ahg god ther gall, Ahg god ther gall!” She said, triumphantly, in a sing-song voice.

Packham, who had been chasing after her, stopped suddenly and sat down.  He regarded her with a frown and then, tipping his head to one side, he said, quite politely, “Pardon?”

“Ah gaid, Ahg god ther…oh” India dropped the ball at her feet and continued, “I said that…”

But Packham had sprung up and whipped the ball from in front of her.

“Hah, hah, ha, hah, hah” He laughed in a sing-song way, “Nah, Ahg god ther gall”

“That’s cheating!”  India scowled, “It’s always the same, boys always cheat!”

“No, ee gon’t!” Packham retorted; his mouth still full of tennis ball.

“Do!” India shouted back, “anyway, I’m not sure we should be out here.  Not with the…” She looked all around her, carefully, before saying in a whisper, “not with the Panda about”

“Ah” Packham stopped cavorting around and sat down in front of her.  He dropped the ball at his feet and quickly placed his right front paw on top of it, when he saw India about to lunge forward. “I’ve been having a conversation with Flynn about that and I’m not sure I was absolutely right”

“You’ve been having a conversation with Flynn?  Did you have much to say to him?”  India asked, sarcastically.

“Well, all right, I was listening to Flynn then.” Packham admitted, “He doesn’t speak Dog, but he told me all about it” he added, importantly.

“I assume it doesn’t involve a Panda?”  India asked with one raised eyebrow.

“Well, no” Packham said in a low voice and stared hard at the ground, to avoid India’s gaze, “it doesn’t.”

“So what it is it then?  An invisible antelope?  A gorilla?  Perhaps it’s a gnu?” India sniggered.

“No, it’s none of those things”

“And you were listening properly this time?” India’s eyebrow was still firmly raised.

“Well, yes, only there was some important scratching that I’d got to do and I’m still looking for that dog biscuit that I’m sure I dropped in the crate, you know.  But I think I got most of it.”  Packham took a deep breath and tried to remember everything he had been told.  “It’s like this.  You know when you were a pup and you had to go to the vet’s and they stuck things in the back of your neck?”

“Oh, don’t remind me!” India lay down on the ground and covered her face with her front paws, “that was awful.”

“Well, you remember that you didn’t feel very well for a day or two afterwards?”

“Yeah, I don’t know why?” India nodded.

“Well, Flynn says that it’s because of a walrus.”

“A walrus?” India was astonished.

“Yes, they give you a little tiny version of this walrus that would make you really poorly if you caught it normally.  It’s called Maxine.”

“This tiny walrus is called Maxine?”  India now had both eyebrows raised.  “Why would they do that?  Sounds like a horrible thing to do to a puppy!”  She said, indignantly.

“Ah, but that’s the clever bit!”  Packham said, proudly showing off his new found knowledge, “what happens is, there are these helpful things inside you, called Aunties, that are really good at fighting things like walruses, and when they come across this little tiny walrus…”

“Called Maxine?” India suggested.

“Yes, called Maxine…then they can quickly jump up and down on it and kick it out.  So, they learn how to beat it when it’s tiny, then if the bigger version ever gets in, they’re ready for it!  Cool, isn’t it?”  Packham grinned.

“And these helpful things, these Aunties…?”

“Yes, they’re great.  They use their bodies to fight the walrus.”  Packham explained, “Auntie bodies, you see.  There’s a lot of them and they’re all really helpful.  There’s Auntie Bacterial, Auntie Biotic and Auntie Histamine for a start off.”

“So, like Auntie Jody who comes to help Mum?”

“Exactly” Packham nodded vigorously, “and look how helpful she is.  She wouldn’t have any problems with a walrus now, would she?”

“I shouldn’t think so” India agreed.

“But, if you don’t have this Maxine, and we haven’t got one at the moment, then we’re all at risk from these walruses and that’s dangerous because they’re…”  Packham realised that he was definitely getting out of his depth here.

“Aunt-eaters?” India suggested.

“Brilliant!”  Packham said, much relieved, “yes, Aunt-eaters, very good!  Where did you get that from?”

“I think I heard Flynn mention them when he was reading one of his wildlife books” India mused, “you know, I think I was happier when it was invisible Pandas we had to worry about”

“It’s not a problem” Packham said, reassuringly, “as long as people stay away from other people, then the walruses can’t get close enough to get in there.  The trouble is that no-one’s had the little tiny Maxine walrus, because there isn’t one, yet, so our Aunties aren’t ready for them”

“So, our Aunties are all sitting around knitting and drinking tea and things.  Then, if the walruses get in, they don’t know how to deal with them and might get eaten?”

“Exactly!” Packham beamed at this student, “you’ve got it!  But most of the time, the Aunties are more than a match for the walruses and they win.  It’s just that, sometimes, very occasionally…”

“They don’t?”
 
“No, they don’t” Packham agreed, shaking his head, sadly.

“Well,” India sat up and scratched her left ear, enthusiastically, “I’ve heard it all, now!  You’re sure you’ve got it right this time?”

“Absolutely! If you think about it, it all makes sense” Packham said confidently.  Seeing India scratching had set him off and he started to do the same, which meant that his front paw moved away from the ball.  India saw her chance and leapt forward.

“Ahg god ther gall, Ahg god ther gall” She sang, happily.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake!” Packham grumbled, but pretty soon the two dogs were chasing and tumbling over one another, all thoughts of walruses, Aunties and invisible Pandas long forgotten.


You can find a lot more of these stories about Packham and India in the new collection 'Animal Turns' available in paperback and Kindle editions.  All profits from the sale of this book go to support the work of TURN Education C.I.C..  To find out more about TURN (and the roles of Packham and India) please follow this link: