Bobi and Branma Wumble and the Magic Carpets

One very wet day the Wumble Family was bumbling about the house without very much to do. Bean Wumble said,

"Let's go driving!"

His daughter, Bobi, and Branma Wumble said,

"Yes! Let's!" as they fetched the purses without which neither cared to travel.

Bikki Wumble, Bobi's mother, made a picnic and Branpa Wumble had to come out of his barrel and put on shorts, grumbling all the while.

Nobody asked the Wumbles' car, which was used to braving all weathers. Bean packed people, purses and picnic into the car and they set off through the rain - splish - splosh - splu-u-rsh - to the corner - swish - around the corner - slish - slosh - slu-u-rsh around the next. All the gutters were filled with rushing water. All the scurrying people wore streaming raincoats. Bobi and Branma and Bikki wanted to get out and paddle in the gutters but Bean and Branpa said,

"No!" very firmly. So on they went.

Suddenly Branma, who had a sharp eye for such things, cried -

"Look - Bean - stop - there's a sign - it's a SALE!"

The sign read, SALE TODAY OF CARPETS - GREATLY REDUCED. Bobi and Branma exchanged glances. For a long time now, both had wanted a certain object - this could be their chance. They invited the others to join them, but Bikki said it was too cold, Bean said it was too wet, and Branpa was still too cross about having to wear clothes to bother. So Bobi and Branma splashed across the road, under the sign, up the steps, through an archway and into a large showroom, filled with hundreds of carpets.

They examined the stacks that lay on the floor; they burrowed between dozens hung from the walls; they looked at blue carpets and green carpets and floral carpets and red carpets and striped carpets. Then they looked at each other and said,

"I don't think these are the kind."

At that moment they heard a little cough behind them,

"Ah - hm - ah - hm - can I help you Madam, or Little Madam?"

They turned to see a tall thin important looking man who wore his nose in the air and looked down it at Bobi and Branma.

"Well," they said together, "we're actually looking for a Magic Carpet - but we don't see any."

The tall man gave a superior little laugh.

"Of course not Madam - naturally this is not the Magic Carpet Department. Follow me." He led them majestically down a long corridor into a lift, which shot up for what seemed to Bobi and Branma about twenty-four floors, and made their ears pop. They followed along endless echoing corridors, down a narrow flight of stairs, and into a showroom so vast they could barely see its walls and ceiling.

Across one dark corner was a rack and on the rack hung several unusual looking carpets whose colours seemed to glow and glimmer and change before their eyes.

"Here we are," said the man.

"Are you sure these are magic carpets?" asked Branma sharply.

"Certainly Madam." said the man haughtily. "Certainly, and fully guaranteed."

"We wouldn't care to buy without trying," said Branma in her best bargaining voice.

"That will be quite in order," said the man. "Where would you like to go?"

Bobi and Branma put their heads together and whispered.

"Psst - psst - psst," they said, and "Whsh - whsh - whsh." Finally, Bobi said with a tricky look,

"What about the South Pole?"

"Certainly" said the man again. He took down a large white plush carpet and spread it on the floor where it lay pulsating gently.

"On we pop!" said the man. "And my name is Mr. Pingle."

"We don't want you to come, thank you!" said Branma and Bobi rather rudely. "We can manage quite well on our own."

"I'm sorry," said Mr. Pingle "we can't allow carpets out of the store without a member of the staff."

"Oh, very well," they said. But they weren't pleased.

"Now," said Mr. Pingle briskly, "I'm afraid those clothes won't do. Not nearly warm enough." He took down fur-lined parkas from pegs they now noticed in the shadows. A little white one for Bobi, a medium-sized green one for himself, and a h-u-g-e red one for Branma.

"You needn't put up the hoods yet," he said bossily as he showed them where to sit. "Not too near the edge - not too close to the middle," he fussed. "Don't wave your arms - never drop anything overboard - never dangle your legs."

At last he seemed satisfied. He bent his head close to the carpet and muttered a few words Bobi and Branma couldn't quite catch. The far wall of the showroom rolled into the roof, the carpet rippled as it began to move towards the wide opening, rather like a gigantic caterpillar, then WHOOSH - before Bobi or Branma had time to gasp, they were in full flight.

The motion was really very pleasant, a little like being on a furry barge in a slight swell.

"Fasten your safety belts!" commanded Mr. Pingle, and Bobi and Branma discovered that the carpet had sprouted a sort of harness for each of them. Strapped securely into these, they ventured to peer over the edge, but all they could see below were mounds and peaks and valleys of white fluff.

"Whatever's that?" asked Branma. "It looks like mashed potatoes."

"Lemon Meringue Pie" said Bobi.

"Clouds" said Mr Pingle.

Suddenly the carpet tilted forward (Bobi and Branma were glad to be fastened in then) dived through the white fluff, and emerged into a dazzling icy world. Frosty-looking sunlight gleamed and reflected from snowy glaciers. Vast ice fields lay below, threaded with what looked like dark cracks, but which Mr. Pingle said were deep fissures in the ice.

They drew up their hoods until only their noses showed, Mr. Pingle's turned purple, Branma's blue, and Bobi's looked like a little red cherry.

"I - I d-d-don't think we w-want to go down, thank you," chattered Branma. "it's m-much t-too cold. I think we'll turn back please." Mr. Pingle looked rather grim.

"We will if we can," he said. "Our carpet is icing over - the demister button is stuck."

Branma and Bobi suddenly realised that ice had begun to form all over the edges of the carpet - with every ripple there was a crackling sound as their craft grew stiffer and stiffer. Mr. Pingle, who had murmured a few words to the carpet, was still trying to press the demister button.

Very slowly, flapping and creaking, the carpet began to turn, but Bobi and Branma noticed with alarm that it was also sinking lower and lower towards the ice field.

"What can we do?" cried Branma.

"We need something to defrost the demister button," said Mr. Pingle.

Bobi, who always carried a few pencils in her pocket, hurriedly began to rub two of these together - she had heard that Boy Scouts made fires that way.

"I think it will work in a minute," she said.

Just then, Branma gave a shout of triumph and flourished the thermos of coffee she had squeezed into her roomy bag when the picnic basket was too full.

Mr. Pingle poured some of the hot coffee round the demister button. In a few minutes the whole surface of the carpet began to grow warmer, the ice dropped away, and they began to travel smoothly as they gained altitude.

Bobi and Branma and Mr. Pingle stopped shivering after they had shared the rest of the coffee, looking down without regret on the last of the South Pole. Soon they sailed gracefully through the wall of the showroom and landed on the exact spot from which they had taken off. Mr. Pingle was not really surprised when Branma said,

"It's not quite what were wanting, I'm afraid. Have you anything a little warmer?"

Mr. Pingle re-hung the parkas and the white carpet before he lifted down a flowery one in rich tropical colours.

"Here's one that may interest you, Madam," he said. "It could show you a nice hot tropical island."

"Palm trees? Coconuts?" enquired Branma and Bobi.

"Of course," said Mr. Pingle.

"Well, come on then - hurry up!" said Branma and Bobi, jumping onto the carpet.

"Just a moment, Madams," said Mr. Pingle. "I'm afraid your costumes..." He found a little grass skirt for Bobi, a medium sized one for himself, and an enormous one for Branma.

"Make sure we have everything we need," said Branma. "We don't want more trouble."

"I assure you Madam, this carpet is very well equipped," Mr. Pingle said stiffly.

Branma 'Hmphed', and Bobi sniffed, but once aboard the flowery carpet they secretly thought he might be right. As they flew out of the store, Mr. Pingle pressed a button in the carpet and a large beach umbrella popped up and opened above their heads. From the interior of the carpet came the sound of guitars and the scent of frangipani, and the air seemed warmer even before they dived through the clouds and landed on a golden beach, palm-fringed, in the curve of a blue bay.

Bobi scrambled joyfully onto the sand followed by Branma and Mr. Pingle, both looking rather peculiar. Mr. Pingle carefully tethered the carpet to a palm tree before joining Bobi and Branma as they searched for shells. Bobi found a huge cowrie. Mr. Pingle had a dignified paddle. Branma tripped over a turtle. Bobi climbed a palm tree to find a coconut before she joined Branma and Mr. Pingle on the sand, where they sat with their legs sticking out in the sun. Then Branma's face and legs began to turn red and she blamed Mr. Pingle at once -

"It's far too hot," she complained. "Surely you realised we only wanted a coolish tropical island?"

"I'm sorry Madam," said Mr. Pingle. "Perhaps we had better leave."

"I should think so," snapped Branma, now sure that she could see Bobi's nose peeling before her very eyes. She retreated indignantly to the carpet.

Mr. Pingle followed silently and pressed a button in the shaft of the umbrella. At once a tap appeared from which flowed crystal cool lemonade, and a fan began to whirr. This put Branma in a better humour.

By the time they were back on the floor of the showroom, she was willing to admit that they were not sunburnt at all.

"A little longer and we would have been!" she said severely to Mr. Pingle.

Mr. Pingle put the grass skirts away and hung up the carpet.

"Now," said Branma briskly, "what else can you show us?"

Mr. Pingle hardly seemed eager.

"I'm not sure..." he began.

"What about that one," said Bobi pointing. "Where will that go?"

"That - " said Mr. Pingle, "that one goes to the moon and you wouldn't want to do that."

"We certainly would," snapped Branma. "What will we need?"

Reluctantly, Mr. Pingle produced a little space suit for Bobi, a medium sized one for himself, and a gigantic one for Branma.

"Now remember," he told them, "don't walk off the edge of the carpet at any time, or you'll go into orbit."

The carpet was perfectly circular, deep purple with a pattern of stars. Once they were aboard, a transparent plastic bubble rose from the edges until they were completely enclosed.

"We must look like a flying saucer," said Branma.

"Or half a balloon," said Bobi.

"Or a poached egg," said Branma.

"Or a magic carpet with a hood." said practical Mr. Pingle.

Branma and Bobi noticed that instead of rippling forward, this carpet was spinning higher and higher. Suddenly they all shot up and hung from the top of the bubble. They thought this over for a moment.

"Is the moon a very long way?" Bobi asked.

"It is, and it isn't," said Mr. Pingle. "It depends how you go. With our product of course, it's no further than this."

With that there was a bit of a lurch and a bump and, as well as they could through a sort of twilight, they could see that they had landed.

"You may get out for a short while," said Mr. Pingle, "if you put on your heavy boots. But you must come at once if I call. The breathing apparatus in your suits will only allow for a short stay."

It was a struggle to get the heavy boots on in the floating position but they helped one another and at last came down to the carpet-floor, right side up. Mr. Pingle opened a flap in the bubble hood and they flounced out onto the moon.

At first they bounced, bounded and ricocheted about like ping-pong balls, and Branma wasted breath shrieking and scolding Mr. Pingle.

Finally they got the hang of it and with slow giant footsteps that sent up great spurts from the deep dust of the moon, they made toward what appeared to be a huge rock in the distance. They had almost reached it when Branma stopped as suddenly as she could, and by bumping and nudging Bobi, herded her back to the flying bubble carpet.

"That rock smiled at me - and it had a big round eye!" she said.

"Madam," said Mr. Pingle, "you are mistaken. There is no life on the moon."

"Rubbish!" said Branma turning furiously on Mr. Pingle, "I just saw some. How dare you bring us to such a dangerous place! Take us home at once!"

Mr. Pingle muttered to the carpet and pressed a few buttons.

"Five - four - three - two - one - zero - Blast Off!" Bobi added, just in case as, with a swump and a swoosh they spun off the moon and away towards earth.

Always afterwards Branma said she had seen a moon man but only Bobi believed her.

"I'm afraid I have nothing more to show you Madam and Little Madam," said Mr. Pingle when they were safely back in the showroom.

"Surely that's not all?" said Branma. "We haven't tried that blue one." She pointed to a carpet patterned in geometric shapes and signs of the zodiac.

"That carpet is not yet on the market," said Mr. Pingle. "It is still to be tested."

"Where will it go then?" asked Bobi.

"It will take you into Another Time," said Mr. Pingle gravely.

"Then I want it," said Bobi.

"So do I!" said Branma.

"I'm sorry, Madams," said Mr. Pingle. "We could not yet guarantee to bring you back." He paused for a moment, as though contemplating a wonderful idea. Then he sighed deeply. "No, the management wouldn't like it. What a pity. I'm afraid you have tried all our available stock."

"Well I don't think much of it," said Branma. "And I may complain to your employers. Come Bobi!"

"We'll be back to try the Blue Time Carpet." promised Bobi as she and Branma marched away. Fortunately she didn't look back to see Mr. Pingle's face.

Branma and Bobi swept out of the lift, out of the carpet shop, splashed over the wet gutters, and opened the door of the car.

"Ho!" said Bean and Bicki and Branpa, putting away the maps they had been studying, "we thought you were never coming. You've been at least twenty minutes."

Bean started the engine and the Wumbles drove off together in the rain.

Norah Boehme