Mr Crankshaft owned a Mini car. This Mini was no ordinary car. Its blue paint gleamed. Its chrome glistened. Its windows and headlights sparkled. Mr Crankshaft’s Mini was, to him at least, a jewel among cars - his prized possession.
Late one summer afternoon Mr Crankshaft returned to the car park after shopping at the Pullemleg Supermarket, and froze in horror. Someone had carelessly backed a car into his precious, immaculate Mini!
“Where’s the muttonhead who did this?” stormed Mr Crankshaft, staring about wildly. But the cowardly muttonhead had sheepishly disappeared, taking some of the paint from the Mini with him and leaving behind a bent bumper, a smashed headlight and some ugly dents and scratches.
“This is an outrage!” roared Mr Crankshaft. “Such things should not happen. Someone should do something about it. I will do something about it!”
“Yes dear,” soothed Mrs Crankshaft, “I’m sure you will.”
Later that evening Mr Crankshaft went out to his garage, where he thought and thought. Eventually he picked up his pen and wrote out this newspaper advertisement:
“Are your cupboards cluttered with old gumboots?
Allow me to take them off your hands.”
He read this aloud, then hastily reworded it:
“Allow me to take them off your feet.
Deliver to 40 Sunflower Street, Pullemleg,
or phone 49226 for free collection.”
Soon Mr Crankshaft’s garage was overflowing with gumboots of all sorts, shapes, sizes - and smells, while his less-precious, not-so-immaculate Mini was parked beneath a pine tree and covered with a car cover. Meanwhile Mr Crankshaft spent every moment, when he wasn’t collecting or stacking gumboots, in the Pullemleg Public Library gathering ideas and making plans. Then one day he set to work in his back garden … His neighbours raised their eye-brows and waggled their tongues. Soon the rumour had spread about town that Mr Crankshaft was building a gigantic barbecue and would be inviting the townspeople to a great feast. Everyone waited eagerly.
One clear morning a thin wisp of smoke was seen drifting up into the blue sky from Mr Crankshaft’s garden.
The townspeople sniffed the air in anticipation, wondering what tasty treats they would soon smell sizzling. Sausages? Steak? Poultry? Pork?
What was that REVOLTING smell?
Mr Crankshaft was barbecuing gumboots!
Everyone dashed inside, hastily slamming doors and windows.
Meanwhile, Mr Crankshaft adjusted the clothes peg on his nose and carried on throughout the day industriously melting gumboots, and processing them in his ‘Rubberdud Tub’.
This was an ingenious rubber-mushing machine which he’d made from a big old washing machine. When ready, the glubbery rubber was plucked from the Rubberdub Tub and squeezed through a wringer, emerging in thin sheets which Mr Crankshaft neatly stacked. At the end of the day Mr Crankshaft stacked the very last sheet of rubber, straightened his back, smothered his fire and removed the clothes peg from his nose.
At last! All the townspeople burst thankfully from their houses, raising their eyes to the clear sky and their noses to the pure air.
Early next morning Mr Crankshaft emerged from his house wearing welding goggles and wielding a blow-torch, and set to work on the stacks of rubber sheeting, cutting and melting and fusing and shaping. Day after day his work continued, and the people’s curiosity grew. But now he had shifted everything back to his garage to work in secret, and they could only gaze at the closed garage doors and wonder.
Then several weeks later, another advertisement appeared in the Pullemleg newspaper:
“To the residents of Pullemleg, you are
cordially invited to be present at 40
Sunflower Street at 10am on March 10th
to view my incredible invention.
Mr Clarence B. Crankshaft.”
Long before 10am on the morning of March 10th, Sunflower Street was crowded with curious spectators.
The Mayor was there with his gold chain, and the Councillors were there with the Mayor.
At 10am exactly, Mr Crankshaft’s garage doors opened. Everyone stood on each other’s toes straining to see.
With a triumphant toot, Mr Crankshaft’s incredible invention rumbled out of his garage. Everybody gaped and gasped. It was a car. But what a car!
Mr Crankshaft climbed from the driver’s seat and bowing courteously to His Worship the Mayor and the Town Councillors graciously invited them to be the first passengers ever to ride with him and his wife, in his unique, entirely original, personally manufactured, incredibly contrived, new car.
“I doubt we will all fit in,” remarked the ample Mayor dubiously.
“Seconded!” echoed the equally ample Councillors, equally dubious.
“You will in this car,” claimed Mr Crankshaft proudly, opening the doors wide and ushering them all in.
“Will you look at that!” cried the townspeople in astonishment. “A car that stretches!”
“That’s not all it does,” promised Mr Crankshaft mysteriously, closing his car door and politely advising his wife and the Mayor and Councillors to fasten their seat belts. “Now for the bumpiest road in town.”
“Not Rattlebang Road!” protested the Mayor and Councillors, wishing they'd done something about repairing the potholes, and each thankful he had ample cushioning where cushioning is most required.
“What could be better?” beamed Mr Crankshaft. “Here we are,” and he drove at top speed into Rattlebang Road.
“Woops-a-daisy,” giggled Mrs Crankshaft and the Mayor and the Councillors as they all bounced merrily up and down, and from side to side, and to and fro.
“Well,” enquired Mr Crankshaft, “any complaints?”
“No, no,” cried the Mayor, “carry on Crankshaft. I haven’t had such fun for years. What a capital car! Wheeee … Oh, oh! Watch out my good fellow. you’re steering straight for THAT CONCRETE WALL!”
“Correct,” replied Mr Crankshaft, accelerating smartly.
“We're doomed!” shrieked the Mayor and Councillors, burying their faces in their hands.
“Nonsense,” boomed Mr Crankshaft.
“Help!!” screamed the Mayor.
“Seconded!” yelped the Councillors.
“Bounce - OFF,” cried Mr Crankshaft triumphantly, as the car met the concrete wall and bounced back, coming to rest with no more jiggle than a jelly on a plate.
“Incredible,” stuttered the Mayor and Councillors, sitting up shakily and pinching themselves to make sure they were still there.
“I told you so!” beamed Mr Crankshaft. “Would you believe this car can also float on water?”
“We would, we would,” gushed the Mayor and Councillors.
“Would you believe it can also float on air?”
“That, I am not sure about,” said the Mayor, shaking his head. “Especially not with all our weight aboard.”
“Then I shall fly you back to Sunflower Street!” decided Mr Crankshaft, pulling a lever before anyone had time to protest. There was a hiss of air, then slowly the incredible car swelled up and rose into the sky.
“Helium,” explained Mr Crankshaft. “You may find that your voices alter.”
Soon they were hovering above the incredulous upturned faces of the waiting crowd in Sunflower Street.
“Wonderful!” squeaked the Mayor. “Now let’s go down.”
“Oh dear,” stammered Mr Crankshaft, turning pink. “I know there’s a very simple way to do that, but I’m afraid - I’ve - hmmm - forgotten.”
“Do try to remember my good man,” implored the Mayor. “I've a dinner appointment, and my stomach will grumble if I’m late.”
“Let’s wind down the windows,” suggested Mrs Crankshaft. “A cool breeze may help you to think more clearly.”
“The WINDOWS. That’s it! you’re so clever, my dear,” chirped Mr Crankshaft. “We just wind down the windows but not too fa
a ar ar ar ar
ar ar ar ar ar!”
Down plunged the car, up, down, up, down, up, down, up down like a rubber ball until finally it came to rest with one last brubbery shudder.
The Mayor and the Councillors and Mr and Mrs Crankshaft all looked at each other and laughed delightedly.
“On behalf of myself and my Councillors, I would like to thank you Clarence, (may I call you Clarence?), for such a jolly good time,” beamed the Mayor, “and congratulate you on your remarkable invention.”
“Seconded!” applauded the Councillors.
“Hurray!” cried the townspeople, crowding around.
“The first-in-the-world uncrashable car!
It’s so stretchy and comfortable,
It can float. It can fly.
It can bounce very high.
It’s so safe. It’s such fun.
It’s the very first one -
The word’s first incredible, uncrashable car!”
“Tell me, Clarence, (it won’t go any further),” whispered the Mayor, “what secret ingredient, what miraculous material. Did you use to construct this incredible car?”
Mr Crankshaft smiled to himself, remembering how the Mayoress had given him a pair of the Mayor’s own gumboots.
“It’s called recycling,” he answered solemnly.
“Could I order a car for Christmas?” asked the Mayor eagerly.
“That depends,” said Mr Crankshaft slowly. “I’ve used my entire supply of one vital ingredient, but if I think about it for a while, I may be able to solve the problem.”
Next day another advertisement appeared in the Pullemleg Daily Post:
“Is your hot water bottle wearing out?
Replace it today. I will take it away.
Deliver to 40 Sunflower Street, the Pullemleg,
Or telephone 49226 for free collection …”
© Janet Slater Bottin
Read our interview with Janet Slater Bottin.