Thursday 9 July 2020

North, South, East and Best by Dawn Knox

by Dawn Knox


Previously: Eddie and chums are expecting TV travel show host, Ursula Best, and her camera crew on their island. If she gives them her endorsement, ‘Ursula’s Thumbs Up’, their resort is guaranteed to succeed. But if not…

North, South, East and Best

“Did anyone put clean glasses beside the champagne fountain?” Eddie asked.

“Yes,” Babs said, “You told me to do it earlier. #StopBeingBossy!”

“And did you #PutOutNibbles?” Eddie asked.

“Yes. And there’s #NoNeedForSarcasm.”

Eddie paced up and down the line of staff members near the jetty who were waiting for the television crew. Their boat would arrive before the rest of Ursula’s party and set up equipment so they could take some preliminary shots and be ready to film the star’s arrival.

“Did anyone put fresh flowers in Miss Best’s suite?” Eddie asked.

“Yes! Stop fussing, Eddie, we’ve done all we possibly can,” Babs said.

Eddie suddenly gasped, “Suppose she suffers from hay fever? She won’t want fresh flowers in her room!”

“I’ve checked six previous episodes of her programme and she had bouquets in each of the bedrooms where she stayed. Now stop panicking. They’ll be here soon.”

Eddie continued to pace up and down. 

“Eddie! Will you stop prowling! You’re making everyone nervous and you know that new squirrel, Molly, has a weak bladder. Every time you upset her, she needs to take a break,” Brian said. 

“Molly? I’ve been calling her Polly,” said Colin.

“I thought she was Dolly,” said Gideon.

“Will you shut up!” shouted Eddie. He clutched his heart.

“Will you shut up!” said Babs, “you’re hyperventilating again and if you’re not careful, you’ll end up in the medical room for the entire visit.”

“Any possibility of him being locked in there anyway?” Brian whispered to Babs.

“Look! Look!” Eddie hopped from foot to foot excitedly, pointing at the yacht, Ursula’s Best, which was moored in the middle of the bay several hundred yards from the jetty. Members of the crew were clambering into the rigid inflatable boat which bobbed alongside.

“Right,” said Colin, “Remember what we agreed at the management meeting? You’re not in charge, Eddie, we all have a share in the resort. And as such, we want equal rights. You can’t keep taking over and speaking for the rest of us. Oh, and we want the name changed from ‘Eagles’ Rest’ to ‘Three Monkey Island’. And while Ursula’s here, leave the talking to Brian – he’s more diplomatic than you.”

“All right! All right!” snapped Eddie.

Eddie rushed along the jetty as soon as the inflatable boat arrived. A ferret stepped forward and introduced himself, “The name’s Jolyon. I’m senior producer,” he said and before Eddie could welcome him, he added, “If you’d be good enough to go back and join your friends, it’ll leave the jetty clear for my people to get all the equipment ashore…” he made an impatient shooing gesture with the back of his paw. 

Ferrets and penguins carried boxes, tripods and cameras to the beach and began to set up around Eddie and the others in the line. 

“Excuse me…” Eddie called to a hedgehog who was organising a large box of makeup and brushes under one of the beach umbrellas, “Are you ready for us now?”

“Ready for you?” The hedgehog checked his clipboard, “No, sorry, I haven’t got you on my list.”

“So, who’ll be doing our makeup?” Eddie asked. 

“Oh, you don’t get makeup. This is reality TV. You’ve got to look real.” 

“But we’ve been standing in the sun for half an hour. We’re all rather sweaty. Surely you can do something…”

“Look here, buddy! I do as I’m told and I’ve not been told to slap makeup on you! No one asked you to stand in the sun for half an hour and if you think things are hot now… well, you just wait t'il Miss Best gets here!” 

“Eddie!” whispered Brian, “I think she’s coming.”

Raising the telescope to his eye, Eddie watched the diminutive form of a koala, dressed in a pink, floral dress, matching hat and sunglasses climb into the inflatable boat with members of her team. On the journey across the soup, Ursula remained perfectly still, with her head bowed and her shoulders slumped. That struck Eddie as strange because when he’d seen Ursula on her show, she bounced with vigour and enthusiasm. 

Perhaps she suffered from soup-sickness. 

When the inflatable arrived at the end of the jetty, a wallaby tapped Ursula on the arm, making her jump. 

It’s almost as if she’d been asleep, Eddie thought.  

But once Jolyon shouted ‘Action!’ and the cameras were pointing at her, Ursula leaped from the boat, hat in one paw and sunglasses in the other, with her usual vivacity. She hurried along the jetty towards the resort staff, “Dahlings!” she said, “How lovely to meet you!” 

Eddie pushed in front of Brian and after welcoming Ursula, he led her along the line of staff members introducing her to each in turn. 

“So much for Eddie letting me do the talking,” said Brian.

“Wait until he gets to the end of the line,” Colin whispered. “He’ll look a total idiot. He can never remember all those squirrels’ names.”

“And this is… erm,” Eddie said when he arrived at the last three animals.

“I’m Polly,” one of the squirrels said, curtseying deeply.

“And I’m Molly,” the next squirrel said. She wobbled precariously in a curtsey.

“And this one is erm…” said Eddie looking at the last squirrel.

“I’m Dolly. I don’t know why you always forget my name – that’s the third time I’ve told you today!”

“Charming,” said Ursula, “So, we have Polly, Molly, Doodle-all-the-day…”

The film crew laughed uproariously. 

“My name’s Dolly!” said Dolly crossly. 

But Ursula didn’t notice. She was holding her paw to her ear, with a puzzled expression her face. “I’m sure I can hear music… Yes! It’s Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries! I’ve never been serenaded on arriving in a resort! How simply marvellous!” Turning towards the soup, she surveyed its surface. “Is that…? Surely it can’t be a…? Goodness! It’s a Great White Shark!”

Eddie’s knees buckled. 

“Oh, it’s just Chopper,” said Dolly dismissively, “that must be a new piece he’s learned how to hum. Usually, he does Beethoven’s Fifth.

“You’re acquainted with that vicious… predator?” Ursula asked incredulously.

“Chopper’s not vicious! He’s a love. If you ask him nicely, he’ll give you a ride around the bay on his back. It’s just like being on one of those inflatable banana boats.” 

“Really?” said Ursula, “And he’s definitely not dangerous?” 

“Chopper?” Dolly laughed, “No…” she lowered her voice and spoke from behind her paw, “he doesn’t like anyone to know this but he’s lost all his teeth and has to wear dentures—” She slapped her paw over her mouth and stared in horror at the camera lens which was focusing on her. 

“Oh dear!” said Ursula with mock dismay.  “It looks like you’ve just shared his secret with over a million viewers. Never mind! We love a bit of gossip, don’t we viewers?” She placed an arm around Dolly’s shoulders.  “I’m going to ask if I can add a trip around the bay on a toothless, Great-White-Banana-Boat-Shark to the list of delights that the resort of Eagles’ Rest is offering today!” she said, looking into the lens of one of the cameras and batting her eyelashes. 

“Cut!” called Jolyon and immediately, Ursula’s smile faded to be replaced by a frown.

“You!” she said to Eddie, “Book me the shark.” She turned and strode back along the line of staff members.

“Is that all right, Eddie?” the wallaby, who’d introduced herself as Ruby - Ursula’s PA, asked, “I’m really sorry Miss Best’s a bit tetchy this morning. She gets like that when she’s hungry.” 

 “Ruby! Where are you? Oh, there you are. Now, have you checked these people have catered for my very specific dietary needs?”

“D…dietary needs?” Eddie asked, “I didn’t know you had any!”

“Of course, I do. I’m a koala. We’re eucalyptarians.” 

A strangled sound came from Eddie’s throat.

“Well, lucky for you we have plenty of eucalyptus leaves on board our yacht,” Ursula said, her eyes rolling upwards in displeasure.

“But I thought you sampled the food wherever you stayed. I’m sure I’ve seen you eating different food on some of your shows…” He tailed off under Ursula’s icy glare.

Behind Ursula, Ruby looked horror-stricken and mouthed ‘Don’t upset Miss Best!’ She took the clipboard out of her pouch and rummaging in its depths, brought out a food box.  

“Yes, it’s true I sample food wherever I am,” continued Ursula, grabbing leaves from the box, “but my staple food is eucalyptus. However, I shall be expecting a gastronomic delight this evening.”

“Our chef, Luigi, is looking forward to it, Miss Best. He’s preparing something spectacular,” Eddie said, sweat dribbling down his neck. He was finding it hard to suck sufficient air into his chest.

“Really? And what exactly is on the menu?” Ursula asked through a mouthful of half-chewed leaves
“It’s chef’s exceptional Spaghetti Bolognaise.”

Ursula munched in silence for a few seconds, then fixed Eddie with a steely stare, “Well, it had better be good. I’ll have you know I’ve eaten more Spaghetti Bolognaise than you’ve had hot dinners. It’s very ordinary…”

“Ours is very special,” Eddie said, wiping the sweat out of his eyes with a wing. 

Ursula frowned but as soon as Jolyon yelled “Action,” her dazzling smile returned and she became the charming star everyone recognised. 

Despite her lack of enthusiasm about dinner, she appeared to enjoy all the activities the resort offered. She loved snorkelling with Brian on the reef and after Colin’s super deluxe spa package, Ursula told the viewers she’d just had the best massage she’d ever experienced. A brief round of golf had been followed by Chopper’s ‘banana boat’ ride around the bay which she’d adored. Even Eddie had been impressed, although how Chopper had enough breath to hum Ravel’s Bolero, increasing his speed in time with the music as he swam, it was difficult to tell. Eddie was finding it harder and harder to breathe and wondered what had happened to the air on the island. It seemed to be thinner than usual, forcing him to gasp to catch his breath. But strangely, no one else had mentioned it. 

The camera-penguins moved in for close-ups and moved out for long shots, catching each moment of the star participating in everything the resort had to offer until she called out loudly, “Jolyon! That’s enough! I need a rest!”

“Cut!” the senior producer shouted. 

It seemed as if Ursula’s batteries had died. The light appeared to go out in her eyes and she sagged against her PA who led her to the private villa, then quietly let herself out. 

Eddie hovered, not sure what to do. 

“Is she ill?” he asked Ruby, wondering how that would affect their chances of a thumbs up.

“No!” The PA laughed. “She’s a koala. They sleep a lot.” Then growing more serious, "Leave her to wake on her own. She gets very cranky if she’s woken from a nap. By the way, now’s a good time for everyone to rest,” she said with a wink.

But Eddie couldn’t rest. Not now he’d been warned that Ursula must not be woken. He walked back and forth outside her villa determined she wouldn’t be roused by anyone or anything. As he marched, he made a mental note to have someone come to the island to check the air. It was definitely substandard and it seemed to be getting even thinner - if that was possible. And oddly, his heart seemed to be racing too. 

“Why didn’t you wake me?” Ursula asked Eddie when she finally emerged from her villa, dressed in a sequinned evening gown and strappy sandals, ready for dinner, “I overslept. I do so hate to be late.” 

“You’re not late,” Eddie said.

“Then why are you standing there?”

“I came to escort you to dinner.”

“We have to wait for Jolyon and the camera-penguins. Where are they?” she snapped. 

At the sound of her voice, the senior producer and film crew arrived.

“Looking amazing as always, Miss Best,” Jolyon said. The penguins waddled backwards or nimbly side-stepped as they videoed the star from different angles while she smiled and twirled, allowing her sequins to sparkle in the evening sunlight.

“Cut!” shouted Jolyon, “Time for dinner.”

“At last,” said Ursula, “I’m famished.”

“Well, if you’d all like to follow me…” said Eddie. 

“This isn’t the way to the restaurant,” said Ursula as they filed after Eddie along a path into the forest. 

“No, indeed,” said Eddie, panting, “We’re dining al fresco – up the hill.”

“Hill? That’s a mountain! I can’t climb in these heels!” she said, peering down at her feet and then up at the slope. 

“We have a special conveyance for you,” Eddie said, hoping Brian and Colin had finished making it. With any luck, they’d supervised Gideon and hadn’t allowed him access to the nail gun they’d been using to attach a chair to several planks of wood and two poles. Eddie had been very upset with Luigi when he’d insisted they eat outside – especially when he’d learned a climb would be involved. But the chef had been adamant, and, as Brian pointed out, if Luigi went on strike again, there would be no dinner. 

As the path opened out into a clearing, Eddie could see the resort’s staff members waiting with a rather handsome contraption modelled on a Sedan Chair. A swift head count told Eddie that everyone was present so obviously Gideon hadn’t been let loose with the nail gun and if he had, he hadn’t accidentally pinned anyone down. Brian was holding the poles at the rear of the chair and Gideon was at the front, so presumably he hadn’t impaled himself either, although it crossed Eddie’s mind that the pig might have nailed his trotter to the pole. Time would tell. When he and Brian arrived at the dining spot, it would be obvious. 

“Action!” shouted Jolyon and camera-penguins sprang to attention, videoing the chair, the bearers and Ursula’s face. 

“How simply marvellous!” she cooed and with the help of Colin, she climbed on to the chair. 

After a few yards, Ursula’s shoulders slumped, her head fell forward and Eddie couldn’t be sure, but above his own wheezing, he thought he heard snoring. However, when they approached the clearing where Luigi had set up the tables, Ruby bounded forward and nudged Ursula, so when the cameras turned to record her reaction, she was smiling and clapping her paws together in delight. 

Eddie, who’d stopped several times on the climb to draw breath, arrived last. He’d been irritated that Luigi wouldn’t reveal his plans for dinner, other than to assure him it would consist of the best 
Spaghetti Bolognaise anyone had ever tasted. Why it had to be half way up a hill, Eddie had no idea. He suspected Brian, Colin, Gideon and the rabbits knew though. Recently, he’d noticed, they were being rather secretive and as soon as Ursula and her crew had gone, he’d have words with them all. He was in charge and he needed the full loyalty of his staff.

“Buonasera e benvenuti!” Luigi said, his forelimbs spread wide in welcome. 

Ursula stepped down from the chair and looked around in delight, ensuring the sequins on her dress caught the last rays of the dying sun. 

“What a view!” she said, looking down at the bay, “And what a beautiful spot to watch the sunset.”

“Si!” Luigi nodded his head, “Benvenuti to our volcano!”

“To our what?” squeaked Eddie. 

“And is this an active volcano?” Ursula asked.

“Si! Si! Come and see!” he said, beckoning for her to follow.

Why hadn’t anyone mentioned to Eddie there was an active volcano on the island? He tried to follow but his legs wobbled like rubber.

 Ursula put her arm around Luigi and smiled at the nearest camera, “Now, a little bird told me…” she paused, “Actually, it was a rather large, ugly, bald chicken told me… that there is only one thing on the menu this evening… That can’t be right, surely?”

“Mees Best, zat is true. You are about to experience a meal of such magneeficence you will never forget it! And I can show you why.” 

“Well, now you come to mention it, I can smell something rather delicious and it’s not Colin’s Chanel No. 5!” Ursula laughed heartily. 

“Come! Come!” Luigi said eagerly, “I show you zee bubbling crater.”

“Nooo!” wailed Eddie, “Health and safety! You can’t have guests next to a volcanic caldera!”
But no one was listening. 

“I’m going to have to complain to the chef,” Ursula said with mock severity to Luigi. She had her arm around his shoulders and she pouted at the camera. “This is the first time I’ve had to join a queue for my dinner! But then I’ve never been to a live volcano with Bolognaise sauce bubbling in its crater! And I can tell you, viewers, it’s absolutely to die for! Who’d have thought something as ordinary as Spaghetti Bolognaise could be raised to haute cuisine?”

Luigi beamed, his cheeks flushed with pride. 

“Come with me, viewers,” Ursula said and the camera-penguins tailed her to the enormous pot which was sitting over a crack in the rock. 

“This spaghetti is being cooked using heat from the steam that’s coming out of that crack in the volcano,” Ursula said, proudly pointing out the fissure in the rock as if she was responsible for the geological fault. “And then when the spaghetti is ready, a bucket is lowered into the crater to bring up the Bolognaise sauce.” She held out her plate for a camera-penguin to get a close up. “I can tell you, the result is culinary perfection! And, viewers, those naughty folk from Eagles’ Rest have sprung a surprise on me! You’ll never guess what!” She pouted at the camera, “After our meal, the famous rock band, The Three Wise Monkeys are going to perform! Yes! A whole concert for little old me!”

“It seems to be going well,” Babs whispered to Colin who sucked a long strand of spaghetti into his mouth with a slurp and nodded happily.

“By the way,” he said when he’d swallowed his mouthful, “have you seen Eddie? He’s been unusually quiet for some time.”

Babs looked about at the groups of people who were stuffing spaghetti into their mouths and chattering. 

“Oh, no!” she said, putting her plate down, “Quick!” 

Waldemeyer was just in time to grab Eddie’s leg and haul him back as he passed out on the edge of the crater. 

Eddie woke up two days later. 

“Where am I?” he asked Babs and then seeing he was in the medical room, he abruptly sat up, “Has Ursula gone? What happened? Did she give us a thumbs up?”

“#CalmDown,” Babs said, “It was getting in a panic which put you in this state in the first place. No sleep, no food and constant anxiety! That’s a recipe for disaster. No wonder you passed out. And you were very lucky not to have ended up in the Bolognaise crater. Chef would’ve gone berserk.”

“Pleeeese!” said Eddie, “Did we get a thumbs up from Ursula?”

Babs pretended to consider, then appearing to arrive at a decision, she called out, “You can come in now.”

Brian, Colin, Deirdre holding six kittens, Gideon, Waldemeyer, Luigi, the squirrels, including Polly, Molly and Dolly who now insisted on being called Doodle and with Bruno bringing up the rear, entered the medical room. 

Their expressions were glum. 

“Oh no!” said Eddie, “It was a thumbs down, wasn’t it? I can’t bear it!”

Brian sighed deeply. “I’m sorry, Eddie, we tried out best… but Ursula said she found you extremely aggravating and rather overbearing.”

Eddie groaned.

“Oh, stop it, Brian!” said Babs, “#StopTeasing. Eddie’ll relapse.”

“Of course, it wasn’t a thumbs down!” said Brian excitedly, “She loved us! In fact, she gave us a thumbs up with each paw! No one’s ever got two before. And she’s coming back for a holiday next month.”

“We’ve got bookings for the whole of this year!” said Colin, “There are weddings, conferences and holidays! Oh, and by the way, Ursula did say you were extremely aggravating and rather overbearing.” 

“So,” said Babs, “before I discharge you from the medical room, Eddie, we’ve got some demands.”

“Yes, old man,” said Gideon, “things are going to be very different in the future… they’re going to be more democratic.”

“Of course,” said Eddie.

“You know Eddie won’t change, don’t you?” Brian asked as he strolled with Colin and Gideon along the sand towards the jetty, “He can’t help being bossy and taking over.”

“I know. But at least there’s one battle we’ve won. We’ve changed the name of the island,” Colin said. “And there’s nothing Eddie can do about it now that Babs and Deirdre have started their social media campaign.”

They stopped to inspect the newly painted sign at the end of the jetty which read:
Welcome to Three Monkey Island Resort
More Fun than a Barrel of Monkeys

“Yes, but we didn’t win the battle completely,” said Brian, “It was Eddie who renamed our band The Three Wise Monkeys in the first place, against our wishes. So, actually, the new name was chosen by him.

“He seems to get his way about everything,” Gideon said.

“But if it hadn’t been for Eddie, life would’ve been very different,” Brian said.

“That’s true.”

They watched the waves wash up on the shore for a few minutes, taking in the beauty of the beach.
 “Well, shall we go?” asked Brian, “The others’ll be waiting for us to start the celebrations.”

As they headed back up the beach to the party at the champagne fountain, Chopper poked his head above the soup and hummed Rossini’s Overture from William Tell. 

“You know,” said Brian putting one arm around Colin’s shoulders and the other around Gideon’s, “Life is pretty good.”

Colin nodded, “As Babs and Deirdre would say, it’s #Perfection.”

Links to previous stories in The Macaroon Chronicles series
  1. The Macaroon Chronicles Prologue and the Three Wise Monkeys -
  2. #ChickenInCustard -
  3. The Fine Print -
  4. French for Cheese -
  5. Porkies and Espiggy-onage (Lies and Spies) –
  6.  Nearly Death by Chocolate -
  7. Waxing Lyrical -
  8. Seduced by Zeros -
  9. Soup-Legs -
  10. The Year’s Most Popular Christmas Toy -
  11. Holey Night -
  12. Aleema -
  13. Heading Home -
  14. Moore’s the Pity -
  15. Eagles’ Rest -
  16. We Need A Thumbs Up! -
  17. Strike Negotiations -

About the author

Dawn’s latest book is The Basilwade Chronicles published by Chapeltown Books. She enjoys writing in different genres and has had romances, speculative fiction, sci-fi, humorous and women’s fiction published in magazines, anthologies and books. Dawn has also had two plays about World War One performed internationally. You can follow her here on, Facebook here DawnKnoxWriter or on Twitter here 

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