The Danté’s wonderful annual holiday in New Caledonia, France d'outre-mer served the purpose, as Phil put it, ‘to recharge being French’. They not only caught up with old friends, but they were joined by their daughter Mish on furlough from the RAAF.
The brilliant blue skies and beaches were perfect. They delighted in swimming, shopping and la délicieuse cuisine française of Noumea then journeyed inland to La Foa and la brousse. Father and daughter successfully went deer hunting, with all dining on venison, stargazing and storytelling with the local bushies, Les Caldoches. They were the tough French Néo-Calédoniens, who like Australians were often descendants of the original penal colony. The three also visited the restored Fort Téremba on the sea and enjoyed French films at the Cinéma de Jean-Pierre Jeunet in town.
It was heaven…but heaven is fleeting, for they were to face hell…they were going to get…the treatment…
Their two ‘children’, the white miniature poodle dogs Franco and Ciccia avoided la quarantine by spending the time being spoiled by their friends and next-door neighbours, the town’s Council Rangers Auntie Tory, poodle nanny extraordinaire, and Uncle Doc Sanford. By all accounts, they had the time of their lives with lots of treats and fun and games. Best of all, the pair wore their tan coats with Council Ranger shoulder patches that they were awarded by the Council when they found a lost child and were made honorary Rangerettes. Tory walking them on her beat became a well-photographed tourist attraction with the locals applauding them.
However, when the Danté’s came to the Sanford’s to bring them back home, the poodlerazzi’s reaction was cool…Ciccia turned on her death ray,
Oh, did you two have a lovely holiday? Did you have a wonderful time together whilst you left us here? Have you noticed we are not happy to see you? You have seen NOTHING yet!’
Fran picked up their poodle’s expressions.
‘Didn’t you two have a wonderful time with Auntie Tory and Uncle Doc?’
That is NOT the POINT!
Things really began as soon as they all returned to their home.
Ciccia gave Phil and Fran a vicious look,
She turned her head and spent the rest of the evening giving portraits of the Sphinx and acting as French as Phil’s Auntie Tatie. Phil often speculated whether his Aunt had come back to Earth without her memory in the form of Ciccia the Poodle in a My Mother the Car type way, as both were loving, but didn’t suffer fools gladly.
Is thee speaking to ME? Pour quoi?
In contrast, Franco began perpetual whining and wouldn’t leave Phil’s side as he looked up to him with a pathetic expression,
How could you betray us? Are you going to leave us again? Are you going to put us down?
The Poodle Treatment had begun…
‘The Royal Poodle Shakespearean Dramatics Company’s season has commenced…’, warned Phil.
Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit…
‘I’ll cheer them up’, Phil whispered to Fran.
Their children’s ears raised…
Phil began doing his impression of Elvis dancing and singing Hound Dog. He failed miserably as the poodles doubled down in their behaviour…Franco’s whining became howling, Ciccia’s indifference turned into contempt,
Looking at the expressions of ‘the children’, Fran laughed hysterically. Ciccia gave her a disapproving look.
Dementia is never funny…
‘Maybe I should’ve sang Teddy Bear?...Plan B!’
Phil smiled like a clown and bounced a ball.
Franco put his head on the floor and whined, Ciccia looked at Phil coldly,
Go fetch yourself...
Ciccia gave Phil the same look Tatie did when she showed her disdain and stalked off,
Do not ignore the fact that I am ignoring you…
Though the Sanfords had informed the Danté’s that their guests had eaten well, and they had some food before their return, Fran cut up and warmed their favourite chump steak chunks as Phil excitedly sang,
Poodles want some…dog food, Mama!
Poodles want their fav-our-ite treat…MEAT!’
Fran placed the plates in front of the poodles, they ignored it.
Franco kept up his whining. Ciccia gave a snark of triumph,
Masters of the House,
We always get our way,
We will ignore your chump steak today…
Fran literally grovelled on the floor to the pair, begging them to eat.
Ciccia showed her disdain,
‘Please eat something…’, Fran repeated, ‘We had to see our friends and Mish…you two like Mish, don’t you? We didn’t mean to hurt you…please forgive us…’
Dieu pardonne, nous non.
Phil used his expertise.
‘Poodle parade! Fall in!’
He emptied the box of Franco’s former squeaky chew toys, and surrounded Franco's dish with his mates Ernest Borgnine, Piggy-O, Moo Cow and Kevin Rudd.
Franco showed interest, but not his usual greedy kill-crazy Humphrey Bogart in Treasure of the Sierra Madre expression, taking turns staring at each of them lest they steal his dinner. Ciccia raised her ears in thought; she could see through Phil’s scheme.
Be strong! Do not give in! Do not enjoy yourself! We are teaching them a lesson!
Phil laid down on the kitchen floor holding the little pig toy named Kevin Rudd, ‘they’re so much alike’, he said when naming him. Phil began making the former squeak toy dance as he sang the musical opening to The Bullwinkle Show when Bullwinkle J. Moose in top hat and tails did a high kicking dance.
‘Da dah da dahhhh da da da, da da dahhhh da da da…’
Franco! Fight the urge!
But Kevin Rudd is dancing…
Franco stopped his look of interest then lay on the floor and continued his period of loud mourning. Ciccia was ecstatic, giving a look of triumph to Phil.
Ha HA! Formidable! Sic Semper Tyrannus!
She turned her back on the Danté’s.
‘Oh, please eat something!’, Fran begged.
Phil tried his usual approach when Franco was hesitant in eating. He moved his chair over and placed his foot by the side of Franco’s plate of chump steak chunks.
‘Mr. Foot is hungry! Oh boy, Mr. Foot thinks this chump steak looks delicious!’
Ciccia turned with an expression of horror,
Do not give in! Never surrender! Be strong!
Franco pretended to bite Phil’s shoe, then ate the beef chunks one at a time to keep Phil’s Mr. Foot from eating them.
Franco! What are you doing???
Her look of horror changed into anger at Franco for letting the side down, then she gave a sneering look to Phil; she resembled Tatie before she’d strike like a Queencobra...
You are not going to try that on ME, are you? Go ahead…put Mr. Foot there…guess what will happen…
Phil picked up Ciccia’s plate and pretended to eat the beef chunks.
You are a major disappointment…
As he did when Mish was an infant in her highchair, he picked up a piece of steak and made jet engine noises.
‘Here come the Hawker Hunters!’
Ciccia raised her ears.
As Fran watched in a combination of interest and embarrassment; Phil shot the pieces of steak by Ciccia making jet engine and machine cannon noises as Ciccia would eat each piece. He began singing John Edmond’s Green Leader, a stirring tribute to the Rhodesian Air Force’s raid on Zambia, where he had been at The Sharp End on the ground with the RLI in Operation GATLING. Ciccia ate each flying piece,
‘Fight anywhere (Chomp! Chew Chew Chew gulp)
And everywhere (Chomp! Chew Chew Chew gulp)
Speed…and courage and a prayer (Chomp! Chew Chew Chew gulp)
Seek and strike (Chomp! Chew Chew Chew gulp)
Strike from above (Chomp! Chew Chew Chew gulp)
Do it for (Chomp! Chew Chew Chew gulp)
The ones you love…’
At last her plate was empty; Franco gave looks of disappointment. Ciccia looked embarrassed,
I can resist everything except Hawker Hunters…
For the rest of the evening Franco the Pathetic sat whining in Phil’s lap whilst sulky smooth Ciccia behaved like the Sphinx beneath the kitchen table. Fran was on her knees under the table trying to reason with her until,
Ciccia fragrantly and flagrantly broke wind as she maintained her comportement d'une femme française.
The one who smelt it dealt it…
Fran banged her head on the bottom of the table then ran to open all the windows to remove the stench; Phil and Franco valiantly fought laughing.
Once back on her feet in the fresh air, Fran exhaled deeply in her wifely whinge that Phil believed was taught at Wife School to announce to all and sundry that she was fed up. She stalked off to the parlour; Phil lost his temper.
‘Now look what you’ve done! Happy now?’
Franco’s eyes darted from side to side, Ciccia ignored Phil, but Franco eased up on his whining.
From the other room Fran scolded her husband.
‘You’re sounding exactly like your father! I don’t like it!’
Phil picked up Franco and hugged him.
‘I’m so sorry, I love you Franco, you too Ciccia.’
Even though something crawled up inside you and died, Phil thought.
When frustrated, Francesca would play her keyboard. She began a well-known bit of classical music used as a cliché for tragedy. Phil knew of it as the beginning of Spike Jones’ I Was a Teenage Brain Surgeon. He walked into the parlour with Franco’s front legs wrapped around his leg as he sat on top of his shoe. The music fit perfectly.
Reading her husband’s mind, she announced,
‘Élégie…by Jules Massenet…’
Frustrated that her ignoring them was being ignored, Ciccia made a grand entrance into the parlour well accompanied by the music. She literally had her nose in the air.
‘See any good flying saucers lately?’
Do not worry. They will soon be here to return you where you really came from…
‘Don’t make fun of the children! They’re sensitive…and so am I when you act sarcastic like your Dad.’
Phil thought that her playing that tune was certainly the pot calling the kettle black.
Ciccia walked under another table with her backside to them.
‘I give up, Phil! They’re diabolical tonight.’
‘The Poodles of Fu Manchu…’
* * *
‘Time for bed.’
Phil barked out orders,
‘Poodle parade! Stand to! Night patrol out!’
The trio went to the backyard for ‘patrol’ and doggie toilet then returned.
Once Phil got into bed, Franco jumped up on the bed and whined with new energy.
‘They are not sleeping here, Phil! They have their own baskets!’
The whining grew louder still; Phil left the bed, produced a quilt, and prepared to spend the night on the couch holding Franco. As he covered Franco with some excess quilt, Ciccia hopped on top of Phil’s feet with her ears up and staring at the bedroom. Phil also covered Ciccia was some excess quilt.
Fran stormed out in her crossed arms dominatrix pose,
‘All right…you can come back to bed…’
‘Me too?’, whined Phil.
‘Mmmmmm…Yes, you too, Phil.’
She prepared places for the poodles to sleep on towels on top of the bedspread and tucked everyone in. Ciccia and Franco gave Fran a kiss of forgiveness, the war was over.
‘Oh, you two!’, Fran laughed.
The poodles wagged their tails.
Ciccia ran to Phil and licked him, they both told each other,
She returned to be tucked in. When Fran tucked Phil in, he slightly licked her cheek.
‘Don’t do that again or you’ll be a basket case and sleep outside!’
Everyone suddenly knew who was in charge…
Phil whined; Ciccia gave him a look of disapproval,
You heard her, Big Daddy! Straighten up and fly right!
Once their two pet humans fell asleep Franco looked at Ciccia,
I think they learned their lesson…
Sometimes they are so disobedient, but you cannot help loving them…
Copyright Notice: Lyrics © John Edmond. From the song The Green Leader Theme on Troopie Songs Album. Thanks a million, John, you still are the Troopie Troubadour as well as a gentleman! Cheers!
Author Notes: I am the author of three Extra Dimensional/Ultraterrestial military science fiction novels MERCENARY EXOTIQUE, OPERATION CHUPACABRA and WORK IN OTHER WORLDS FROM YOUR OWN HOME! as well as two travel books THE MAN FROM WAUKEGAN and TWO AUSTRALIANS IN SCOTLAND (all from Lulu.com). I live happily ever after with my wife in paradise (coastal Kiama, NSW Australia).