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Chapter 4

Where is Professor Hasty?

Next morning all children were still rather sleepy. With closed eyes Elfrida stumbled into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet lid. Her head was heavy and her eyes did not want to open. She bedded her head on the washbasin and dreamt about her warm, cosy bed. Now Bruno plodded into the bathroom half asleep. When he blinked a little to check the situation, he saw Elfrida lying with her head on the washbasin. Immediately he was wide awake. Cautiously he crept to the washbasin, turned the cold water on and saw that he was off. Elfrida woke up with a jerk. All she wanted was revenge and she ran out into the corridor. There Bruno was lying. He had slipped on one of his toy cars.

Ha”, Elfrida cheered, “harm set, harm get.”

Vengefully she thrust herself on the wailing Bruno to slaughter him, when their mother came up the stairs.

Have you gone nuts?” she cried. “Go frolicking elsewhere. Right after breakfast you are out, you hear me?”

But, Mummy, I’ve got a date with my friends.”

So you may, Elfrida. Just take Bruno along.”

So it happened that Bruno marched merrily beside Elfrida when she met her friends at the Magic Forest bus stop.

I thought you wanted to leave your brother at home”, Daisy said grumpily.

I did, but my mother had a different opinion.”

I don’t see the fun of it”, Daisy grouched, and Bertha added: “Promises have to be kept, my mummy always says.”

Right”, Daisy retorted. “So send him back!”

I can’t”, replied Elfrida.

Then you’d better both stay here”, Daisy nagged on.

That was enough for Elfrida.

You listen now, you’ve got your problems, I’ve got mine. How would you like it if I got off with you that way?”

Daisy had no answer to this. Embarrassed, she murmured: “Sorry, but I didn’t sleep much and I had trouble with my parents. They rumbled that I’ve been out last night.”

Anyhow”, Bertha insisted, “a promise has to be kept and you said that Bruno… Aaah, take that monster away!”

Did you know that snails can go over razor blades?” Bruno stood in front of Bertha and held out a grapevine snail.

Bertha, I think he likes you”, Daisy laughed.

I would like it if he hated me”, Bertha shrieked.

Bruno looked at her sadly.

Oh… Er, I didn’t mean it that way”, Bertha stammered.

Well, you should make up for your words”, Jenny proposed.

Bertha was sorry for the sad Bruno and made a momentous remark: “Bruno, how about telling me something about your little naked – er – friends?”

Bruno was all smiles and started: “Snails belong to the gastropods. They prefer to live at damp places, under stones, in the earth or the water. When moving they leave a slime trail. On this mucus they creep on their sole. Movement takes place by means of expanding and extracting muscles in the foot.”

Wonderful, Bruno, that was very interesting”, Bertha groaned, but Bruno continued, unpertubed:

Ramshorn snails belong to those robust snails settling even in polluted water where many other animals no longer feel comfortable. Though living in the water, ramshorn snails are lungsnails. A skin flap works like gills so that the ramshorn snail seldom has to come to the water surface to get fresh air. It feeds on algae and dead plants which it grazes with its radula.”

Now Bruno crammed a handful of candies into his mouth and Bertha interrupted him once mores: “Thank you, Bruno, now I’m in the know!”

No, one snail species is missing, that is the grapevine snail, a land-living lungsnail, which buries her clutch in the earth. The grapevine snail is a delicacy. Its consumption is said to be strengthening. Today it is forbidden to go on wild living snails. Like the grapevine snail, the smaller garden snail belongs to the grove snails. The big red and the big black slug are not so popular. When the weather is damp you may find them in hundreds. They pitch into the vegetable gardens and of course the gardeners…”

To the general relief the bus was now arriving.

Sorry for being late”, the driver said to the children. “There was a traffic jam at the crossing.”

What happened?” Rosie curiously asked.

Oh, I think it was the fault of Elfrida’s father.”

What?” Elfrida cried. “Not again!”

Yes, I could see it clearly”, the bus driver said. “Your father’s car was directly in front of me. In the middle of the crossing stood a policeman and he suddenly started to shout at your father. It was something about dachshunds and mud puddles.”

Muddy feet”, Elfrida corrected.

That’s it. However, the policeman did not want to let your father pass until he just drove around the bawling policeman. He almost made it, but then the policeman bit into the fender of the car and let not go. It took quite some time until two colleagues of that madman came and dragged him away. Any idea what that meant?”

Nooooo!” answered a chorus.

The bus stopped and they got out quickly and ran to the beach.

Elfrida was the first to reach the lighthouse where the professor was living and rang the bell. Nothing happened and also after several trials nobody answered. The friends were at a loss.

Perhaps he’s gone on holiday”, Jenny said with a shrug.

Or gone to get new spare parts”, Bernie guessed.

None of them paid attention to Bruno who was digging in the sand near the lighthouse.

We still have some time left”, Elfrida soothed her friends, “till Mona and Moyo will arrive. Until then we have to try… Ey, Bruno, what did you find there?”

The children got moving again and ran to the place were Bruno was digging in the sand.

But that looks like the tail fin of a jet.” Bernie was thrilled.

I think it’s just irresponsible of a grown up man like the professor to leave his garbage about on the beach”, Bertha ranted.

This does not look like garbage”, Elfrida stated. “Look, it’s not at all rusty. Come on, let’s dig together.”

It was a long, hard work. When the tail fin lay open they noticed to their astonishment that a complete plane was buried in the sand.

Oh, how ghastly!” Bertha suddenly cried out and they all looked at her terrified. “Just look, I have ripped my fingernail!”

My, what a pity”, Rosie grunted with a grin, “And I did not take along my manicure set.”

Angrily, Bertha dug on and the next moment she shrieked again and ran away.

Well, what it now?” Daisy asked impatiently.

S-something m-moved there.”

In the sand?”

N-no, b-behind window!”

Elfrida summed up the situation at once and shouted: “Hurry up, we’ve got to dig on or we may be too late!”

Now they doubled their efforts and after a while the cockpit of the plane lay open. They could see now what Bertha had seen: Professor Hasty was in the cockpit. He was lying in the plane and it was clearly to be seen that he still was breathing.

We’ve got to get him out there, or he’ll suffocate”, Jenny cried desperately and banged her fists against the glass of the cockpit.

No use”, Bernie said, “that’s safety glass. We can’t break it.”

What can we do?” Elfrida mused. “The professor obviously cannot open the cockpit from within and we cannot open it from the outside. How thick may this glass be?”

9 millimetres”, Bruno said, interestedly watching some mussels.

And how can we open it?” Elfrida hopefully asked.

Several ways”, Bruno answered. “There is a rectangle lever to open the access from outside and a round level to open it from inside. Some planes have an aft entrance to the cockpit and some have a cockpit where from outside 8 screw nuts have to be opened to get into the machine.”

Everybody just stared at him. Embarrassed, Bruno pointed at the mussels and said: “Over there are more of these.”

I found a rectangle lever”, Jenny shouted. “Do help me, I can’t manage alone.”

Elfrida, Daisy, Bernie, and Jenny pulled at the lever and with a ‘plop’ the glass dome sprang open. They all looked at the professor who lifted his head a little and drew in the fresh air.

That w-was a n-near thing”, he gasped. “A thousand thanks!”

Thank my little useless brother. Sometimes he really knows what’s what. But what happened, why have you been buried in the sand with your plane?” Elfrida asked the professor who with shaky legs now got out of the plane.

I w-wanted to pay a visit to my brother in Australia, b-but something went wrong.”

Soon they all sat in Prof. Hasty’s lab and told him why they had come. Of course the professor was willing to help them with the ‘readjustment’ of the magic bottle. Elfrida took the small bottle out of her bag and handed it to him. Then our friends said good-bye and walked back to the bus stop because the time became short. Certainly Mona and Moyo had already landed in the Magic Forest and waited for them. Luckily it did not take long until the bus arrived. The children got in and set off to the meeting with their alien friends.