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Sacred Rose and bull guard
‘Astropup and the Sacred Rose’
Dedicated to Teddy and Ernest Wallace in Australia
Read by Richard Scott.
Story by Bertie.
Proofed and audio edited by Jana Elizabeth.

This is Astropup,

In a previous episode, I told you how my friend, the parrot, dated Polly from the Planet of the Lizards. They met over the intergalactic net. Not that Polly was a lizard herself. She was a parrot who was being held captive by a family of lizards. The parrot rescued her from her gilded cage, and we escaped back into space. So now there were four of us onboard our ship. The parrot was totally smitten by Polly, and he was busy making wedding plans, but it turned out that she was resistant to his charms. In fact, the ‘Love Match Made in Space’ was not working out well at all. 

The parrot did all he could to charm and amuse Polly. He called her “My dear hen-friend.” He preened her plumage. He even offered to play Japanese Scrabble with her, but she picked up one of the game pieces in her claw and shook her beak. 

“Perhaps you could tell me a story?” she suggested. I woofed my support for this excellent idea because, when I am not sleeping, I myself wile away the endless space journeys by composing my memoirs, which you are now hearing.  

The parrot took up her suggestion and spent three days (measured in Earth time) recounting how he became president of the World. His angle was slightly different from my version of the story. According to him, his term as President was a huge success. I’m not sure how much of the tale Polly heard because she had her head on one side and her eyes closed, but he didn't seem to notice that she was dozing.

At the end of his story, when he had described how the people of the world begged him to take a job as emperor for life, he refused the crown three times - an episode that I must have missed. He asked her. “Would you like to hear another chapter of my remarkable biography?”

“No thanks,” she said. “I almost died of boredom listening to the one you just told.”

“Hmm,” he said. “I shall try a different literary form. He took a pencil in his beak and contemplated. After some time - at least two of my sleeps - he had composed a poem. 

“Polly, my love, you are, you are,
Brighter than a shooting star. 
Ablaze of multicoloured perfection
Sweeter than the fruitiest confection. 
But you play harder for me to get 
Than the hardest shelled puzzle yet. 
More mysterious than the most cryptic crossword clue.
What a brilliant find, for a genius mind, are you!”

While he was reciting his little heart out, Polly pretended not to be paying much attention, but I do believe that she was pleased with the parrot’s poem and flattered, because, for several hours, she laid off complaining. But when he asked her if she would like to play 3d chess, she replied,

“It is plain that you do not understand me or female birds in general.”
After this rebuff, our parrot seemed to lose hope. He spent long periods lost in thought. “Are you sulking?” asked Polly. At first, our parrot appeared not to hear the question until she squawked it again, only louder - and right in his ear.

“I said, are you sulking?”

“Why on earth would you think that, my dear?” replied the parrot, shaking his head.  

“Because you have been silent for a full ten minutes. A first in my experience.”

“I was wondering,” said the parrot, “what I could do that would please you?”

“Well,” said Polly. “A genius-level brain shouldn’t have trouble figuring it out, but I shall help you. I like flowers. In particular, I like roses, red ones.”

“But we are in the middle of space!” protested the parrot. “There are no roses here.”

“All I want is a single red rose. Is that too much to ask? Are my tastes extravagant? Are you calling me unreasonable?” fired back Polly. 
“No, no, no, of course not, I would never mean to imply any such thing, my dear. Oh, look.” he was examining the space charts. “There’s a planet with a rose on it, and it’s only a million light-years out of our way.”
“You see, what you can find if you only look,” said Polly.

At this point, Marlow put in a word, “Ah, hum, I think I should point out, Polly, because my friend the parrot is a little shy to explain this, that a million light-years would take us 50 million years to travel, which is quite a detour.”

“But a second in the eternity of love!” she replied. 

“Ah-Ha!” exclaimed the parrot. “Never fear, Polly, my dear!”

“I don’t fear,” replied Polly, but the parrot took no notice.

“It just so happens that in precisely 13 hours and 4 minutes time, we will be passing the entrance to a wormhole that leads directly to the planet where there is a rose ready and waiting to be plucked. We’ll be there in no time!”

There was no holding back the parrot on his Mission of Love. 

We entered the wormhole in space, which is a direct but uncomfortable way to travel, as gravity goes up and down and all over the place, and we’re thrown about a fair bit. I was sick, and the parrot nearly puked on Polly, but fortunately missed his beloved, or she might have had even more to say than usual. 

At the end of the wormhole, we travelled onward for a few more Earth hours until our destination came into sight - a beautiful green and pink orb! 
“By the way,” said Marlow, “what’s this place called?”

“The Planet of the Holy Cows,” said the parrot. 

“Well, Holy… !” exclaimed Marlow. “What a peculiar name! I hope they have nice flowers there..”

The parrot merely said, “I shall be back shortly with a rose for my dear Polly.”

“Hang on,” said Marlow. “You can’t go wandering around a strange planet on your own. You’d better take Astropup with you.” 

“Yes, sir!” I replied. “I shall guard our comrade, the parrot with my life.” On this occasion, he seemed quite touched by my dogged loyalty. 
As soon as I set my paws down on the grass, I was glad that I had volunteered for this mission. The air was damp and fresh with a hint of wild rabbit or something similar on the breeze. What a delight! This was a heavenly place, with fields, and hedges, hills, clumps of bushes, pink-tinted streams, and trees full of blossom, and we could hear the twittering of bird song - although the parrot was too focused on his mission to notice his fellow-creatures. He looked at the compass strapped to his foot. It was pointing up the hill. He fluttered, and I trotted on upwards.  

We began to come across cattle nibbling on the grass - black and white cows, swishing their tails. They must have been the Holy Cows.  
“Who owns them? Who milks them?” I asked. 
“They are entirely independent,” replied the parrot. “And they only make milk when they need it for their calves.”

We carried on climbing up the hill. Eventually, the parrot said,  
“The next field is where the rose grows. I have come to fetch a rose for my love that is unique and special, which is why it is guarded by three bulls with golden horns.”

I did not like the sound of that, and I soon saw the animals he was talking about. And unfortunately, they saw me. These bulls were the size of Earth Elephants and stood on hind legs wearing helmets with their golden horns sticking out. They were carrying nasty looking weapons that were something like a cross between a gun and a baton. As we approached, two of them began to stamp and snort at me. They did not seem to notice the parrot who sneakily fluttered overhead.  

“Uh oh,” I thought. “These are the biggest, scariest animals I’ve ever seen, and that includes the space sharks.” For a moment, I froze and pointed my nose towards them. Then they charged, and I turned and ran with my tail between my legs as fast as I could, heading for a clump of trees which was the only cover I could see.  

Normally we dogs chase cats, squirrels and the like up trees, and all we can do is jump and woof at the trunk. I don’t suppose you have ever seen a dog actually climb a tree because normally we can’t. But in this instance, the only case I know about in the whole of canine history, I, a dog, shot straight up that tree. I was that scared! I just ran at it, and up I pounced like a cat. Soon I was hugging a branch for dear life as one of the bulls head-butted the tree. The whole ground shook, and the tree leant backwards and creaked. Whoo! I fell to the ground. Seeing as I am not actually a cat, clinging to branches is not my thing. I fell out of the tree and landed in a thick hedge. I was stunned for a moment and ‘came too’ soon enough to scramble into the thicket. My fur was full of thorns and twigs, but I kept going deeper and deeper into the undergrowth. I could hear the bulls snorting, but ever farther away. It seemed they had no desire to trample through the trees.

I hid deep in that thicket, trembling until darkness fell. It was a small planet with short days, and I did not have too long to wait. Finally, I crept out and made my way downhill towards the place where we had parked the space ship, half expecting to find that it had lifted off, leaving a shallow crater where it had stood. But my loyal friends had waited for my return. I was overjoyed to greet them, yapping, to jump up and lick Marlow’s face and nuzzling the parrot. For the first time, I saw that even Polly was happy.

And that’s where we leave Astropup, the Parrot, Polly and Marlow for now.  

And we’re delighted to dedicate this story to Teddy and his younger brother, Ernest, who lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. They listened to our stories recently on an 8-hour road trip. Teddy is going halves with his mum, Adele, to support us on Patreon, which is a very generous use of his pocket money. Thank you, Teddy. We really appreciate your support!

For now, from me, Richard, Goodbye!

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