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Lancelot

The one-armed kangaroo



C
hapter One
A brave Knight


It was winter in Australia. The beaches in the south of the continent were empty. Further inland, where gentle hills and rolling meadows dominated the landscape, an icy cold wind blew. The sky was grey. Heavy clouds rolled down upon the meadows, almost touching the tip of the grasses. A kangaroo was tangled up in a barbed wire fence, separating the paddock from the forest. It had been trapped in there for several days, its eyes closed as if it was asleep. To its feet, a baby kangaroo - or joey - lay curled up in the wet grass. The joey was freezing and very, very hungry.

“Hungry,” it whined, the wind carrying away its cry for help before anyone could hear it.

In the distance, a car pulled up. Its shiny bonnet together with the blinding headlights looked like the face of a greedy monster. The joey was scared, trying to hide in its mother’s pouch.

“Mummy,” it cried, stretching its little arms. The mother would not hear it. The Joey could not reach her pouch without her help. It ran off instead. It dashed through the wet grass but tumbled over its own legs and fell on its nose. Two giant hands picked it up. A voice said:

“Don’t be afraid. I will not do you any harm.”

The Joey looked up and saw a strange face. A mouth so flat, it was impossible to imagine that it could suck a teat. A nose so small, there was no way it could sniff a mother’s warm pouch. And the ears were not on the head they were stuck on either side. How terrible, thought the joey, not knowing that this was the face of a human being.

“I am the farmer,” said the human being. “I am the owner of the paddock. Don’t be afraid, poor thing. I’ll take you home. My house is warm and my wife will give you a bottle of warm milk.”

The farmer put the joey on the back seat of his car. Wrapped it up in a woollen blanket and drove off. The Joey was unable to move, could not kick its legs or wiggle its arms. Helpless, it glanced through the rear window, looking for its mother who became smaller and smaller the further they drove.

“Mummy,” it cried, “Wake up.”

“Don’t worry,” said the farmer, patting the joey’s head.

The blanket felt soft and warm. Soon the joey closed its eyes and fell asleep. It dreamed of curling up in its mother’s snugly pouch.

As the joey woke up it was sure it had latched on to its mother’s teat. It started to suck. But there was an unfamiliar taste. And no milk was flowing. It opened its eyes and was stunned to see another strange looking creature, the farmer’s wife.

“It believes my finger is a teat,” said the farmer’s wife.

“That’s good,” said the farmer. “It means the little bugger is hungry.”

“I prepared some warm milk for you,” said the farmer’s wife to the joey. “Be a good boy and drink.” She put the bottle in its mouth. The milk tasted good. The joey was so hungry; it forgot to be scared of the farmer’s wife. Still, it kept an eye on her, wondering if it could trust her, while it greedily sucked the bottle.

“We should give it a name,” said the farmer’s wife.

“How about Lancelot?” suggested the farmer. “Lancelot was a noble and brave knight. And this little bugger is very brave.”

“Sounds wonderful,” said the farmer’s wife, smiling. “From now on your name shall be Lancelot.”

“Lancelot?” Lancelot asked himself. “Why are the saying Lancelot all the time. It must be the stuff I’m drinking.”

The milk was delicious. Warming his stomach, appeasing his hunger.

“Yummy! Lancelot tastes yummy,” said Lancelot to himself and scratched his tummy. “I could drink another bottle of Lancelot. Right now.”

The farmer’s wife put Lancelot in a pouch she had made, using an old blanket. She hooked it on the wall behind the wood heater. The warmth crawled slowly and steadily into Lancelot’s body. He felt safe. He curled up, his mind at ease.

 

Chapter Two
Grumpy-Head

 It was spring. The days had become warmer and Lancelot grew into a handsome kangaroo. He had forgotten the incident at the fence and also forgotten his mother. Nothing was clearer to him than the fact that the farmer’s wife was his mother. Her name was Emmy. Of course the farmer was his father. His name was Bill. Lancelot had grown out of the woolen pouch. He was big and brave enough to sleep in the laundry on a bail of straw. Like any other kangaroo he slept in the afternoon and stayed up all night. He had also learned how to eat on his own and did so mainly at night. He loved apples, pear, apricots and even melon which Emmy sometimes gave him when she felt like spoiling him. But first of all he ate grass, like any other kangaroo. There was an abundance of grass on the farm. In the garden around the house, and in the horse paddock.

Sometimes, Lancelot was full of mischief. He did naughty things like eating the leaves from the rosebush, growing under the kitchen window.

“How can it possibly grow if you chew up all its leaves?” Emmy told him off, after she had caught him red-handed.

And sometimes he sneaked up to a horse from behind, to give it a fright:

“Boo!”

The horse trembled. “You little devil. Don’t you dare to give me such a fright.”

“Let’s play,” Lancelot demanded.

“I am in no mood to be childish,” the horse said.

“Grumpy-head. You are a grumpy-head.”

“Go away.”

“Play with me. Play with me.”

“Get lost!”

Alarmed by the bickering, the other horses in the paddock came running at a gallop and formed a circle around Lancelot.

“What’s wrong with you?” Lancelot asked. Now he was scared. “Aren’t we supposed to be friends?”

“Not when you give us a fright,” said the brown horse.

“We horses are sensitive creatures,” said the black one.

Neighing they bared their enormous, yellow teeth. Lancelot cringed, jumped between their legs and hopped away as fast as he could.

ISBN 978-0-646-50399-8

COPYRIGHT Adrian Plitzco

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