From circus clown to Cessna pilot – almost
A sample read from The Life and Times of Freddie Fuddpucker by Peter Blakeborough
Freddie Fuddpucker had a predicament. His last five employers had all fired him in less time than it takes to cry ‘Down tools, we’re on strike,’ which is what Freddie would have cried if his fellow workers had trusted him enough to make him the union man on the job.
But they didn’t trust him and one even recommended that he apply for a position as a clown with a circus. But the first circus owner that Freddie approached had other ideas.
‘I’m actually looking for someone about half your age,’ he said.
‘But I have many more years of experience than the young blokes,’ Freddie protested.
‘I suppose there’s no fool like an old fool. I’ll give you a trial and you can start immediately.’
Whereupon Freddie Fuddpucker stood up to leave the interview, fell over his chair, picked himself up and opened a cupboard door to leave the room. Realizing his error he recoiled in haste and fell over the manager’s desk, sending stacks of papers, ornaments and bits of telephone flying in all directions.
‘On second thoughts,’ the manager said, trying to stay calm amid the chaos. ‘I think we can safely say that you have failed your trial period of employment, given that it was for a position as a clown. You are a clown, but not of the type we really need to employ, so why don’t you fly out of here before we sue for the damage you’ve done?’
‘Fly,’ Freddie muttered to himself as he hurried out through the correct door, then being held open for him. ‘Fly. Yes. I could fly an airplane. It would be easy and I could travel the world. The world could be my oyster.’
He knew several pilots who had told him how easy it was to fly. One even once said, ‘Any fool could do it.’ Freddie had also buried one or two unfortunate pilots while he was in the undertaking business but he was confident that he was clever enough to avoid being taken under himself by an airplane.
The first question facing Freddie was how he would go about learning to fly. He had to plan this carefully to keep the cost down. As he peddled home on his bicycle, wobbling to avoid all the snappy little dogs that considered him the neighborhood enemy, an idea came to him. He would charter a small plane for a flight to Wellington and he would observe everything that the pilot did. That way he would soon learn what to do. The pilot might even let him take the controls for the return journey.
For cash to pay for the flight, he could sell some of his mother-in-law’s antique furniture and jewelry. Next week she would be away visiting family in Australia and Freddie knew where she kept the key. It was time the old bag did something to help her son-in-law.
The more Freddie thought about the idea the more he liked it. It was a wonderful opportunity to travel as well as add another line to his growing CV, whatever that meant. It was years since Freddie had been north of the Skycity Casino or south of the Mercer Tavern. There had never been any incentive to go anywhere else and in any case both establishments always took all his cash anyhow.
Preparations for Freddie’s flying visit to Wellington went according to plan, apart from one or two odd incidents like the diamonds that slipped through his fingers in the dark and the old piano sliding off the back of the truck on the first corner. That was nothing really and there was still plenty of money left to pay for the flying and a luxury hotel in Wellington.
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At Ardmore Airfield Freddie propped his bike up against a hedge and approached a man in a pilot’s uniform.
‘I need to go to Wellington in a hurry,’ Freddie said, trying to sound important.
‘This Cessna will get you there pretty quick and it’s only three hundred dollars an hour.’
‘I’ll take it,’ Freddie replied quickly.
‘Got your logbook and license with you?’
Freddie saw an unexpected opportunity. He had to think quickly.
‘No. But everyone this side of the black stump knows old Freddie Fuddpucker. However, there is one thing you could do for me.’
‘Oh. What’s that?’ the pilot asked, thinking he had heard the name before but not realizing it had been on the court page of the newspaper.
‘Show me where everything is and how it all works. You know. In case it’s just a bit different to the other Cessnas I’ve flown lately.’
‘Sure.’ The pilot opened the door and launched into an explanation of the cockpit and controls.
When he had finished Freddie thanked him.
‘Now I’ll be on my way, up above the terrain to stay, until I’m down Wellington way, where I’ll land beside the bay. Ha ha.’
‘Listen, mate. I’m a pilot who’s too busy to listen to a poet. So just give me nine hundred dollars and I’ll start it up for you while you get your gear and do your flight plan.’
Fuddpucker ran to his bike and padlocked it to the fence. His great moment had arrived. He would soon be a professional pilot flying the nation’s airways and making money as though it was going out of fashion. He ran back to the Cessna as its engine ticked over awaiting his magic touch on the controls. He reached inside to give it a few more revs so that the engine would be warm enough for a quick take-off, but as he pushed the throttle forward his foot slipped on the wet grass and he fell on the throttle.
The Cessna roared and leapt forward. Fuddpucker made a grab for the door handle and missed. Lying face down on the grass he listened to the sound of the aircraft racing across the airfield. Opening one eye first, as though that would give him an option on which eye to believe, Fuddpucker saw the Cessna lift into the air in time to miss another aircraft by inches. He shut both eyes and waited.
The Cessna circled near the tops of the buildings, straightened for a moment, and dipped toward the road and into the path of a semi-trailer. Fuddpucker opened his eyes again in time to see a wing ripped off by the trailer. The Cessna cart-wheeled into the ground, making a noise like a large tin can being kicked along a street and then there was a huge explosion. And Fuddpucker’s travel plans were permanently disrupted.