12 November 2004

Munchbean and the caterpillars

I must thank my friend Vanita van Tito for this tale. Unluckily for her she was a victim to this terrible scam while on her travels, and still bears the scars to prove it. It took her a long time to be happy sitting under a tree again, I can tell you.

Munchbean was a monkey, and a mischievous little fellow at the best of times. He lived in a tree, which sat out alone in the middle of a forest clearing. As with most other trees, Munchbean's was home to a whole host of creatures. In particular, it was host to a huge family of Fidgety Grubs. These little black caterpillars are covered in prickly spikes, and despite having quite a pleasant demeanour, they do like to munch on everything and anything. And Munchbean had learnt how to train them.

In fact, he'd devised a little plan. His tree was a regular stopping place for weary travellers, and with the caterpillars at his disposal, he'd found a way to launch an ambush. A bit like a monkey highwayman, you could say.

One afternoon, at about half-past three, a traveller came by the tree and took shelter under it's outstretched branches. As he was gently drifting to sleep, he heard a crack, and woke abruptly. He looked up to see a swarm of black prickly caterpillars launch themselves at him. They nipped and bit as he was overwhelmed by their number. And then Munchbean dropped to the ground!

"Give me all your money and I'll call them off!" he shouted.

The traveller searched his pockets and withdrew his money purse. The monkey took it gleefully and told the caterpillars to leave him alone. The traveller took flight immediately, nursing all the small bites that covered his arms.

These shenanigans happened many times to unfortunate passers-by, until, by Royal decree, a search party was sent out to ambush the ambusher.

Lady Ermine Ramsbottom led the party, and formed the bait. She sat underneath the tree and waited, fully protected by armour-plated longjohns and undergarments. As the caterpillars dropped down, she sat quietly, happy to let the caterpillars chew to no avail. And then she waited for Munchbean to show his face. Eventually he landed, and as if by magic three huge armed guards jumped out and seized him.

The ambush was a success, and Munchbean's threat to all travellers was extinguished. However, Lady Ermine was in awe of Munchbean's prowess with controlling the Fidgety Grubs, and asked for clemency from the Queen. Munchbean was only a monkey, after all, and after paying back his stolen money to the travellers twice over, he was ordered to set up a travelling caterpillar circus.

And so it was that Munchbean's Peculiarly Fidgety Circus became a huge success. He travelled the world to packed audiences, who were totally in awe of the death-defying stunts. Of particular note was his Caterpillar Wheel of Death, which held everyone in a state of disbelief.

If only you could have seen that act!