Friday, August 28, 2009

Chapter 4 "The Castle"

Question to Madeleine: Which job does Madebonne choose?

Answer: Polish the Queen's jewels and ice the wedding cake.

Madebonne started hopping around with excitement. They had just missed their train back to Brooklyn and she needed to get a job as quickly as she could so that they could get back home. She looked down into her pocket at her mom. Did she look a little fishier? Linda the Penguin kept reading jobs from the Help Wanted section of The Daily Castle.

“…braid the royal horses manes, tune the violins, make the wedding tea, fluff the pillows on the royal beds…”

“I’ll do anything. I’ll polish the Queen’s jewels, I’ll ice the wedding cake” shouted Madebonne. “Let’s go!”

Linda folded the paper, agreeing that there were plenty of jobs to choose from. They went back to the ticket counter and asked one of the penguins for directions to the Castle.

“It’s simple,” one of them answered. “Take the elevator over there by the portrait of the Queen. Push the button marked ‘castle’ and it will take you right down to the basement where they are taking job applications.”

“Thank you. We’ll be back soon with our fish rubles” said Madebonne and she and Henry and Linda and her mom the goldfish headed over to the portrait of the Queen.

“Madebonne, you go ahead and call the elevator” said Linda as she waddled her way across the waiting room. “We don’t want to miss any of the good jobs.”

Madebonne and Henry bounded across the room toward the portrait of the Queen. It was a huge portrait and the Queen looked down at them sternly. Madebonne saw that she was covered in jewels. There were at least two rings on each one of her fingers, bracelets wound up her arms from her wrists to her elbows, her neck dripped with golden starfish and diamond moons, and her earrings were the size of apricots. Her hair was piled on her head in endless curls and was encircled by a golden crown with sparkling rubies dancing in the light.

Madebonne took a deep breath. That would be a lot of jewels to polish! Henry gave her a nudge and Madebonne realized that she needed to call the elevator. She looked around but didn’t see an elevator door anywhere near the portrait of the Queen. The wall was perfectly smooth on both sides of the portrait. Madebonne ran back to Linda who had waddled half way across the room.

“I can’t find the elevator” said Madebonne. “I looked everywhere near the portrait of the Queen but it isn’t there.” Linda kept waddling ahead.

“Did you call the elevator?” she asked.

“I just told you that I can’t find the elevator” said Madebonne. “I didn’t see a door or an elevator button or anything.”

“But did you call the elevator?” asked Linda again.

“How can I call the elevator if I can’t find the elevator button?” asked Madebonne. She stopped and gave a big huff of frustration. Linda kept waddling along.

“Just go call the elevator and you’ll see it” said Linda. Madebonne looked at Linda as if she had lost her hearing and then stomped away. How was she supposed to find an elevator that wasn’t there? She grumped her way back to the portrait of the Queen and looked around again. Madebonne ran her hands over the walls but they were completely smooth. No elevator. Maybe it was hidden behind the portrait. Madebonne lifted the corner of the frame and peered behind the painting. Still nothing. She looked behind a chair, she checked the floor but there was no elevator in sight. Madebonne was out of ideas. She stood in front of the portrait of the Queen and stared and stared. The Queen stared back.

“Excuse me your highness,” said Madebonne to the painting, “where is the elevator?” The Queen lifted her hand to her ear. Madebonne jumped. The portrait had moved. The Queen looked at her expectantly and kept her hand held to her ear. Maybe she hadn’t heard what Madebonne had said. Henry circled around with excitement.

Madebonne stepped a little closer and cleared her throat. “Your Highness,” she repeated a little louder, “where is the elevator?” The Queen leaned a little closer. “Maybe she can’t hear very well,” whispered Madebonne to Henry.

“The elevator” she said louder still. “Where is the elevator? ELEVATOR!” she finally yelped. Suddenly the wall disappeared and the elevator doors opened. Madebonne couldn’t believe her eyes. She turned and looked for Linda who was waddling up behind her.

“Did you see that?” said Madebonne.

“I told you to call the elevator” said Linda. “Easy as pie.” And she waddled through the doors.

“Let’s go.” Madebonne and her mom the goldfish and Henry got on and pushed the button marked ‘castle’ and they were on their way.

The elevator dropped so fast that Madebonne’s hair flew up into the air and then just as suddenly it stopped. The doors opened and before their eyes they saw the castle basement.

There was hustling and bustling in every direction. The wedding preparations were in full swing. All kinds of things were being carried past them: trays of food, baskets full of flowers, heaps of fabric, carts of shoes, musical instruments, and everything in a rush, rush, rush. They stepped off the elevator and pinned themselves against the wall so that they wouldn’t get swept away in the crowd.

“Excuse me,” said Linda trying to catch someone’s attention. “Excuse me, do you know where the job line is? Hello! Excuse me!” But everyone kept rushing past without a moment to stop to give them directions. Madebonne looked around wide eyed. Suddenly she spotted the frog from Section Green hopping by.

“Hey frog!” Madebonne shouted through the crowd. The frog stopped hopping and looked around.

“Hello there tadpole,” answered the frog. “What brings you to the castle?”

“We tried to take the Penguin Express back to Brooklyn but only penguins ride for free and we didn’t have any fish rubles to pay so we came to the castle to look for jobs so we can make enough money to buy some tickets” blurted Madebonne.

“Bummer” said the frog. “Well, see you later.” And with that he started to hop away.

“Wait!” said Madebonne chasing after him. “Could you tell us where the job line is?” The frog stopped hopping.

“It’s over there,” he said pointing a webby toe straight ahead. “But the line is three hours long.” Madebonne looked crestfallen.

“Three hours! I can’t wait that long.” Madebonne sat down with a plop on the floor. This was getting to be a very long adventure and she hadn’t even had lunch yet. Her stomach growled.

“Since you’re a tadpole I’ll give you a tip. They need help in the kitchen and the pastry chef is my uncle. The frog family is in charge of desserts” he said proudly puffing out his chest. “I’ll take you over there.”

So off they went in search of the kitchen with the frog. The hallway was waxed to a high sheen so Linda was able to slide along on her belly while the frog hopped and Madebonne skipped and Henry jumped along. They went down corridors and up stairs and around corners and suddenly Madebonne began to smell the most delicious smells. The frog pushed open two shiny metal swinging doors and hopped into the biggest kitchen that Madebonne had ever seen. Her stomach let out another loud growl. A woman stopped dead in her tracks in front of them. She was very tall and dressed head to toe in white with a white apron and a huge white puffy hat on her head.

“I hear hungry people,” she said looking around.

“Hello Chef” said the frog. “These are new workers for Uncle Pinetop in the pastry shop.”

“Oh, no,” said the Chef. “They look hungry. Take them straight to the royal tasting table. I have seven courses about to come out of the ovens and they need to be tasted before the royal wedding feast. What are the new tasters names?”

“I’m Madebonne and this is my cat Henry and my mom’s friend Linda,” said Madebonne.

“Frog, show the new tasters over to the tasting table. We have work to do,” said the Chef.

“Sure thing Chef,” said the frog. They headed over to the royal tasting table on the far side of the kitchen where twenty royal tasters were groaning in pain.

‘What’s the matter with them?” asked Madebonne with a twinge of alarm.

“They have been tasting the Chef’s food since breakfast” said the frog. “The new tasters were supposed to arrive before lunch but there was an emergency and they had to be sent to other jobs.”

“What kind of emergency?” asked Linda.

“Not sure. I think someone lost the royal baby or something,” said the frog. “Well, gotta hop. See ya, tadpole.”

“Bye frog,” said Madebonne as he hopped away. Madebonne, Henry and Linda took a seat at the table as some of the tasters were wheeled away to the recovery room. The Chef came over with the first course steaming in a huge pot. She set the pot on the table and ladled soup into their bowls then rushed off to get the second course. Madebonne took her mom out of her pocket and dropped her into her glass of water, then she took her butterfly phone out of her pocket and called her Fairy Godmother to let her know that they had missed the Penguin Express to Brooklyn.

“Oh dear,” said The Fairy Godmother. “I’ll have to adjust this spell. I was hoping you’d be home by lunch.”

“I’m not sure when we’ll be home,” said Madebonne. “We had to get jobs at the castle as Royal Tasters to pay for our train tickets. Who knows how long this will take.”

“How is your mom acting?” asked The Fairy Godmother.

“She’s still doing laps,” said Madebonne peering at her mom through the glass.

“That’s a good sign,” said The Fairy Godmother. “See if she will eat any of the food you are tasting.” Madebonne dipped her spoon into her soup and held it over her water glass. Her mom swam to the top and drank from the spoon.

“She likes the soup,” said Madebonne. The Fairy Godmother sighed with relief.

“Great. Now I have to get back to this spell.”

Madebonne said good-bye and her butterfly phone fluttered back into her pocket. She picked up her spoon and dug into her soup. It was the most delicious soup she had ever eaten and tasted just like Halloween. Her stomach purred happily. Before she had finished half of her bowl, the Chef was back with spaghetti tornadoes, followed by trout lollipops and rice a la King. They tried steaming pot bellied crab crackers, chicken teapot crumpets, avocado and juniper berry seaweed rolls, sugar snap beef cakes, cock-a-doodle doughnuts, turkey flap jackets and chocolate volcanoes. Just when they thought they couldn’t eat another bite the new group of royal tasters arrived.

“Thank you Madebonne” said the Chef. “You are a very good eater. Please come back and try my food anytime.” She handed Madebonne, Henry and Linda the Penguin each a slip of paper marked:

Royal Taster - please pay in full ………….3 Fish Rubles

Linda tucked the slips under her flipper. “That’s nine fish rubles altogether” she said.

“That’s it?” squawked Madebonne. “We still have to earn eighteen fish rubles before we can buy our train tickets. We’ll never catch the next train.” She picked up the water glass and slumped her way down to Uncle Pinetop’s pastry kitchen in search of another job.

When they got to the top of the stairs that lead down to the ovens, Madebonne inhaled and her lungs filled with a sugary sweetness that made her nose flutter with delight. From the top of the stairs they could see all the way down to the pastry kitchen. There was so much activity going on that it looked like an ant farm. They headed down and were met at the bottom by Chef Pinetop.

“You must be the tadpole my nephew told me about” said Pinetop.

“Oh geez, not this again” grumbled Madebonne.

“Speak up tadpole,” said Pinetop a little crisply. “Are you here for a job or not? I have a lot of baking to do before the wedding.”

“Yes, sir,” piped up Madebonne. “I’d really like to ice the wedding cake.”

“No, no, no. Icing the wedding cake is skilled labor. But I do need crankers on the ice cream machine, the cake pans need buttering and I have one spot left taking the pits out of the cherries.”

“What pays the most?” asked Madebonne. Chef Pinetop puffed out his chest indignantly.

“Ice cream crankers sounds like the job for us” said Linda quickly. “I am good with anything frozen and Madebonne and Henry help make the ice cream every Thursday night at home.”

“Perfect” said Chef Pinetop and he lead Madebonne, Henry and Linda towards the ice cream station. As they crossed through the pastry kitchen, they passed a courtyard filled with scaffolding. Madebonne stopped to take a look. She poked her head out the door and saw to her amazement that the scaffolding was surrounding the wedding cake which rose forty feet into the air. The icing looked like fluffy snow drifts and on the side of each tier, yellow and green flowers were being painted by hand. It was the most beautiful cake that Madebonne had ever seen.

“As you can see,” said Chef Pinetop, gesturing towards the wedding cake, “only the top three tiers need icing. We are waiting for the royal acrobats to arrive to finish up. They are very skilled at working in high places.”

“I can work in high places,” said Madebonne excitedly. “My dad is an acrobat and he taught me how to stretch” And before Chef Pinetop could say a word, Madebonne stretched all the way to the top of the cake balancing the glass of water with her mom the goldfish on top of her head. Chef Pinetop was very impressed. He had never seen a girl stretch forty feet in the air. Madebonne snapped back down to the ground and Chef Pinetop handed her a bucket full of icing and an icing roller.

“My, my, my, tadpole” said Chef Pinetop. “I had no idea that you were certified in skilled labor. Grab this bucket of icing. The Royal Acrobats will be along shortly. I’ll take Linda and Henry over to the ice cream station and then check back in on you in a little while.”

Madebonne couldn’t believe her luck. She kissed her friends good-bye and stretched to the top of the Princess’s wedding cake. From the top of the cake she could see for miles in every direction. She set down her mom the goldfish, her bucket of icing and let out a sigh of happiness. She would make eighteen fish rubles in no time and they would be on their way back to Brooklyn.

Question to Madeleine: Where is the Royal Baby hiding?


  1. Of course it is lost in the stables and swapped out for a foal.

  2. The names of the food they tasted are fantastic!