The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles

BOOK: The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
13.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


The Last

of the Really Great




New York Toronto London Auckland Sydney Mexico City New Delhi Hong Kong

For Blake
and Emma, Goeff, Jenny, Kim, Tony, Frank, Herb, Dad . . . and all the other kids around our house . . . for their love, patience and help.

No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher. For information regarding permission, write to HarperTrophy, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.

ISBN 0-439-16592-X

Text copyright © 1974 by Julie Edwards. Cover illustration copyright © 2000 by Hilary Zarycky. All rights reserved. Published by Scholastic Inc., 555 Broadway, New York, NY 10012, by arrangement with HarperTrophy, a division of HarperCollins Publishers. SCHOLASTIC and associated logos are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Scholastic Inc.

12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 1 2 3 4/0

Printed in the U.S.A. 40

First Scholastic printing, October 1999









It was a crisp, sunny October afternoon and Benjamin, Thomas and Melinda Potter were visiting the Bramblewood Zoo.

They hadn't particularly wanted to visit the zoo, but Mrs. Potter had been very firm about it.

"Daddy has been working extremely hard," she had said, "and I think he needs an afternoon of peace and quiet. Here's some money. I suggest you go to the zoo."

There was no arguing with Mrs. Potter in this mood. So the three children had dutifully taken the bus from the stop at the corner of their street and had ridden through the pretty university town of Bramblewood as far as the zoo.

Although it was the end of October and very cold, the sun was shining brightly from an unusually clear sky. Only a few clouds on the horizon gave a hint of possible rain. Late autumn leaves blew along the pavement and rolled in through the main gates of the zoo as if inviting the children to follow.

On this lovely Sunday the place was crowded with

visitors and there were popcorn sellers, balloon vendors and a man pushing a yellow cart piled high with toys. Children yelled happily as they scampered to the rides and to the animal cages.

In spite of their early reluctance to venture out, Benjamin, Thomas and Lindy had to admit, now that they were there, that the zoo didn't seem a bad place to visit after all.

"I want to see the tigers," Tom announced.

"I want to see the donkeys and the ducks," countered Lindy.

Tom scoffed.
can see a donkey or a duck, and you don't have to go to the zoo for it. That's just a waste of time."

"I know, I know," Lindy replied. "I just feel like seeing a donkey and a duck today. I don't know why."

"Oh, look—if we're going to spend the afternoon trailing around, looking at animals like that . . ."

"Well, we're not," Ben interrupted firmly. He was used to his younger brother and sister squabbling with each other. "We're going to see the elephants first. Because I'm the oldest and I'm in charge. C'mon."

The children visited the elephants and then the lions and the tigers. They slowly moved on to see llamas and leopards and rhinos and reindeer; crocodiles and hippopotamuses and brown bears and polar bears. They watched the performing seals and Lindy saw three ducks and twelve penguins, which made her very happy.

Tom suggested that they visit the aquarium. They wandered through the dim corridors whose only light came from the many illuminated tanks in which turtles, sharks, eels and other underwater creatures were to be seen. It was gloomy and damp inside.

Lindy was very glad when Ben chose to go to the reptile house. Bu
t she clung tightly to his hand
as she gazed at the cobras and rattlesnakes and a giant python.

"I'd love one of those for a pet," Tom said enthusiastically.

"Ugh! I think they're gross. Really
Lindy exclaimed.

"You just say that
'cause you're scared of them."

"No, I don't. They're not my favorite things. But I'm not scared."

"Then why are you sucking your thumb?"

"I like the taste."

"Cut it out, you two," said Ben. "What shall we do next?"

Lindy announced that she was tired, cold and extremely hungry.

The children bought a bag of delicious, sticky- looking doughnuts and three cups of hot, sugary chocolate. Carefully, they carried the steaming mugs to a bench that caught the late afternoon sunshine and which was close to a fenced yard containing two large, disdainful-looking giraffes.

Lindy had no sooner sat down than one of the giraffes spotted the doughnut she had in her hand and immediately undulated towards her on spindly legs, looking as though his knobby knees would buckle beneath him at any moment. The animal lifted his long neck over the wire netting and brought his face to within inches of Lindy's—just as she was about to take a large mouthful of her doughnut.

The giraffe and the child gazed at each other with serious concentration for a moment. Then Lindy solemnly said, "No," and moved herself and her doughnut farther along the bench out of the giraffe's way.

"That's really an extraordinary animal," mused Ben as he watched. "Imagine being born with a long neck like that. Imagine being able to reach the tops of trees quite easily."

"I'd like that," said Tom. "You could see the world from up there."

"I like giraffes a lot." Lindy spoke with her mouth full.

"If you could have any animal out of the zoo, which one would you like to take home?" Ben suddenly asked.

"The python." Tom spoke without hesitation. "Gross," said Lindy. "I'd have a penguin.
hat would you have, Ben?"

"Mm, I dunno." Ben thought about it as he sipped his hot chocolate. "I'd like something unusual. An orangutan, perhaps. Or an anteater. Maybe a gorilla."

"You'll excuse my butting in," said a voice immediately behind the children. "But if you're looking for something
unusual, have you ever considered a Whangdoodle?"

The children spun around.

Sitting on the grass behind them, knees drawn up almost to his chin, was a small man. He was holding a rolled umbrella made of clear plastic.

"I beg your pardon, sir," Ben said, "
you say something?"

"Yes, I did. I said,

have you ever considered a Whangdoodle?


The little man got up slowly. He had a round cheerful face with bright blue, sparkling eyes, and the few hairs still growing on his balding head were long and grey and flying in all directions. He wore an old brown sports jacket and a blue-checked shirt with a purple, yellow-spotted scarf tied in a casual bow.
He had shabby brown trousers and old, but highly polished shoes.

Ben said, "Excuse me, but I don't think I've ever heard of a Whangdoodle, sir."

The remarkable-looking gentleman smiled, leaned on his umbrella and crossed one small foot over the other.

"That's not surprising. It's an extremely rare creature. In fact, I believe there's only one left in the whole world."

"What does it look like?" Tom asked.

"Well now, I've not actually seen the Whangdoodle myself," countered the stranger. "Although I do hope to one day."

"Then how do you know about it?" Lindy wanted to know.

"Ah—that's a long, complicated story," he replied. "Here we are chatting away, and I don't even know your names."

Tom tugged at Ben's sleeve. He was suspicious of the stranger and wanted to warn Ben that they should be leaving immediately and heading for home.

But Lindy was already cheerfully giving out information.

"My name is Melinda Potter. Everybody calls me Lindy."

"How old are you, Lindy?"

"I shall be eight on December third."

"Which means she's seven," growled Tom.

"Ah, but of course." The stranger turned to him. "And how old are you, young man?"

"Ten. My name is Thomas Potter."

"And I'm Benjamin Potter," Ben offered. "I'm thirteen."

"What about you? What's your name?" Tom wanted to know.

The stranger placed a hand on his forehead. "Goodness me, what is my name? It seems to have escaped me for the moment." Lindy giggled. Tom nudged Ben hard and jerked his head as though to say, "Let's get out of here."

"But it's really of no importance," continued the man. 'What
important is that this is a most pleasant afternoon, and, if I'm not mistaken, it is only two days before Halloween, is it not?"

Lindy gave a little hop of excitement.
"Do you know what I'm going to be when we go trick-or-treating?" she asked.

"Let me see if I can guess." He looked thoughtful. "Snow White? Or possibly Cinderella?"

"No. I'm going to be a lion," she said proudly. "And very ferocious I'm sure you'll be. What about you, Thomas? What are you going to be?"

"I'm going to be the Hun
chback of Notre Dame."

"And you, Benjamin?"

"I haven't quite decided yet. I don't know whether to be Dracula or Frankenstein."

"Well, I just hope I don't bump into any of you in the dark. I think I would be very scared."

"Maybe I'll change my mind and go as a Whangdoodle," Lindy said brightly.

The little man chuckled. "What a good idea."

"You know, I really don't think there is such an animal," Tom blurted out. Ben actually thought so too, though he was too polite to say so.

"I assure you that the Whangdoodle exists," said the man. "Look it up in your dictionary when you get home."

"What does it look like?" asked Lindy.

"That's sort of hard to describe. It's a little like a moose—or a horse, perhaps. But with fantastic horns. And I believe it has rather short legs."

"Where does it live?" inquired Tom.

"Oh, far, far away. Which is a good thing, for if it were here, it would be in a cage like all these other poor animals. I do so hate to see things in cages, don't you?"

"Then why do you come to the zoo if you don't like it?" asked Lindy with her usual candor.

"I come to study the animals. I'd prefer to study them in their natural environments, but I just haven't the time."

Ben suddenly remembered to look at his watch. "Gosh, we're late. You'll have to excuse us, sir, but we have to go now, or we'll miss our bus."

The little man took a large watch from his pocket. "Yes, it is late," he said. "And we'd better hurry, because it is going to rain."

He unfurled his umbrella with a flourish and opened it over his head. Large yellow butterflies were painted all over the clear plastic.

"Allow me to escort you," he said, and walked briskly towards the front gate of the zoo.

Lindy fell into step beside him. "I
your umbrella," she said admiringly.

"I bought it because it's cheery and it makes people look up. Have you noticed how nobody ever looks up?" The man's voice was suddenly irritable. "Nobody looks at chimneys, or trees against the sky, or the tops of buildings. Everybody just looks down at the pavement or their shoes. The whole world could pass them by and most people wouldn't notice."

Ben and Tom discovered that they were looking at the pavement as he spoke. Quickly, they lifted their heads to the sky, only to get wet faces, for it
was beginning to rain. They also bumped straight into Lindy and her escort, who had come to a sudden halt.

"This is where the bus stops, isn't it?" asked the stranger. "Ah, here comes one now. Very good timing, that. I hate to waste time, don't you?"

Visitors from the zoo were running for the bus or for their cars. Umbrellas seemed to be popping up everywhere. People who didn't have umbrellas went scurrying by with newspapers on their heads or their coats buttoned up tight.

"You see what I mean," said the man. "None of them look up. Ever." He helped the children onto the bus. "It has been a great pleasure meeting you all. A most happy afternoon." He waved a red handkerchief as the bus pulled away from the curb.

"Goodbye. Goodbye," he called after them.

There was a sudden terrifying sound of rubber tires skidding to a stop and the blaring sound of a car horn. Tom, Ben and Lindy turned quickly in their seats and looked out of the back window of the bus. The little man was standing in the middle of the street, apologizing to a taxi driver who had nearly run him down.

"I'll bet he was looking up," grinned Ben.

The bus turned a corner and the scene disappeared from their view.

BOOK: The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
13.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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