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Two years passed quickly on the farm. Francis and his friends had adopted a pretty lazy and secure life. They were one big happy family and Francis couldn’t be happier. His parents, Diva and Altiyan, had retired from racing and were presently enjoying their senior time of life by watching their youngest boy, Black Gold, achieve accolades like Francis and themselves, and keeping a close eye on Two Plus Two, their grandson.
Life was normal; well, normal as can be if you just happen to have friends like Tom, the border collie; Silver and Gold the mice; Slippery Sally the 30-foot python; Baaabra the black sheep; Reddy the kangaroo; (who never returned home to his parents); Mr and Mrs Emu and their daughter Emily; Girly, Wellington, Sydney and Melbourne, the kookaburras; and of course, Fredrick the fattest fox in the world.
On a hot summer’s day the friends were enjoying cool drinks from the spring and lazing around under a boab tree. The sound of a truck tooting loudly could be heard in the distance as it raced down the driveway. At once, some of the friends jumped to attention to this all familiar sound two years ago; when the James’s received a letter, informing them of Francis’s trip to Europe.
The friends moved towards the truck when it came to a halt, and waited with bated breath to hear the conversation. Sasha and Ray greeted Mike, as he stepped out of the truck and opened the letter.
“This looks like a letter we received two years ago, when Francis was invited to Europe,” Sasha recollected.
“It does,” replied Mike, “but it’s not from Europe this time; it’s an invitation from the Racing Fraternity in South America.”
“South America?” a surprised Ray repeated.
“What’s Francis going to do in South America?” Sasha asked curiously.
“The letter says: they would like to make Francis an honorary member and a special guest to celebrate their 50th year in horse racing in South America,” informed Mike excitedly.
“Is he racing?” Ray asked.
“I don’t think so, but it does add that Francis is most welcome to bring along some friends,” Mike continued.
“Are they talking about us? Surely they don’t mean the furry and slippery friends, do they? That’s crazy,” Sasha questioned, shaking her head in disbelief.
“Anyway, when do we leave?” Ray asked.
“In the next few days, because we arrive in South America on the 21st December – that’s in two weeks,” Mike confirmed.
The wording of the letter lent itself wide open to be interpreted as is: Naturally Sasha, Mike and Ray would definitely attend, but little pricked up ears in the background interpreted that they were the only friends Francis had, and took it upon themselves to make it possible to accompany him.
An air of dust swept up like a whirlwind as they all took off in hurry to the stables, brushing past Sasha, Mike and Ray; time was of the essence and a trip had to be carefully planned.
“Hey guys! Steady on, you nearly bowled us over,” Ray shouted, knowing they understood what was in the letter.
The friends gathered around in a group, until Tom realised that Francis wasn’t there, and neither was Fredrick; the fattest fox.
“Where’s Francis?” Silver squeaked.
“And where’s Fredrick?” Girly called out in her kookaburra laugh.
“There, over there,” Reddy shouted, “Francis is asleep under that boab tree.”
“I don’t think he’s heard the news,” Mr Emu said.
“I’ll go and wake him up,” offered Girly.
“Maybe, you should find Fredrick while you’re out there,” Mrs Emu suggested.
“Do I have to?” Girly pleaded.
“Yes, you should,” Tom said, “after all, he is part of this family, and he will want to come to South America with us.”
“Hmm, hopefully not,” Girly mumbled, preparing to fly. She soon landed on Francis’s head, waving her feathers above him, so the cool breeze would wake up the snoring horse from a deep sleep. Francis yawned and stretched.
“Come on Francis, time to wake up, we have to talk to you about going on a trip,” she said, frantically waving her feathers.
“O.K., O.K., I’m awake; stop sticking your feathers in my mouth. Now, what’s this about a trip?” Francis asked, graciously rising and walking to the stables with Girly still on his head.
“Tom will explain, but I have to leave you and, unfortunately, I have to look for Fredrick. Have you seen him?” Girly asked.
“Over there, in the spring, next to that tree,” Francis replied.
Girly flew over to the spring, but couldn’t see him till she noticed slight ripples in the water and flew down to take a closer look. It was Fredrick, with his body buried deep in the shallow water and his nose sticking out to catch the air. He had obviously overeaten, again, and couldn’t get out.
Poor Fredrick, she thought to herself, and left him there.
“Where’s Fredrick?” they asked Girly, as she waddled into the stable.
“He’s a little weighed down at present,” she replied, looking quite amused.
“You left him in the water?” Francis asked.
“I didn’t like to disturb him, besides he needs freshening up,” was Girly’s cheeky reply.
“He could drown,” a concerned Emily replied.This was not a good start to the trip. Tom suggested that Slippery Sally would have to rescue him, by wrapping herself around his body and pulling him out of the water. They soon gathered around to watch the procedure, while Tom and Reddy held onto Slippery Sally and pulled and pulled, but Fredrick was held steadfast in the mud and terribly bogged.
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