May 29, 2014 – They say that the beginning is a good place to start when recounting a tale.
The limousine that Dumpling Longfeather arranged on our behalf arrived at the house sharply at 10:00 AM. We were already waiting at the end of the driveway with our suitcase and passports. Mom stood with us holding a very contented Violet. It was a glorious sunny morning, the kind which makes for great adventures.
The driver stepped out and came around the back of the car to put our bag in the trunk. He held open the door and one by one we hugged Mom and Violet and climbed inside. I was the last one.
“Remember what I said,” Mom instructed, her voice starting to fill with emotion. “Be careful, have fun, and come back in one piece!”
I assured her that all would be fine. I held back the tears that threatened to hold my feet in place as I said goodbye. When the driver closed the door behind me, we all pooled to the window, faces pressed against the glass to get the last glimpse of Mom and Violet waving farewell.
“Bon Voyage!” They shouted as the car turned the corner and our house disappeared out of sight.
No one spoke. We sank into the back of the buttery leather seat. Anticipation had already taken a toll and we hadn’t yet left our town. Sawyer reached out for my wing, and then for Peaches’ and soon the entire flock was linked in solidarity, prepared for whatever was still to come.
The ride to the airport took less than thirty minutes. The limousine slipped effortlessly into a parking space marked for private jet travel. He took our suitcase and put it on the curb, tipped his hat and wished us a safe flight. We walked as a pack – 17 of us in all, into the building in search of our terminal.
We settled into a lovely waiting area marked A-7. A young woman called reminders into a microphone, such as “Ladies and gentlemen, please have your boarding pass and passports in hand when your flight is called”. We double and triple checked our paperwork. It was all there. Peaches and I dangled our feet over the seat, laughing at how silly we must look.
Since there was over an hour wait before our flight, Wilma suggested that perhaps we should pick up something for Violet in the gift shop. We agreed to get her a token from every stop along our route. I thought this was a grand idea but not so much when Wilma suggested that Sawyer and I be the ones to go and make the purchase. Wilma wanted to stay behind and take a nap and the others were engrossed in watching planes take off and land from the runway next to ours. I wanted to be engrossed, too! But then I remembered that Violet should be here enjoying this trip with us, and readily set off to buy her something nice.
Sawyer and I were not in the gift shop more than ten minutes when a nice man with a trimmed silver mustache approached us.
“Pardon me for the intrusion, Mademoiselles. Would you happen to be the Fowler party?”
The badge on his shirt said that his name was Toulouse and he had a charming accent.
“We’re chickens,” Sawyer replied, “and chickens are fowls, so I suppose we are the Fowler party.”
“Very well,” he replied, gesturing for us to go ahead of him. “This way please. I will take you to your private jet.”
“Wow,” Sawyer mouthed as the two of us sprinted to keep up with the long legs of Toulouse.
“Did you already board the rest of our party,” I asked as we reached the gate.
“Oh, yes! There is quite a group of you already on the plane. In fact, you are the last two passengers. We are leaving a bit earlier than expected. The pilot will be lifting off shortly.”
He led us through a back door of the aircraft and gestured for Sawyer and me to take the first seats we came to.
“Please,” Toulouse directed. “Buckle your seatbelts. Once we are in the air, I will be back to bring you a drink and perhaps something sweet to eat?”
“Oh, yes,” Sawyer and I replied in unison. We’re always open to free sweets.
“I wonder how the others are doing,” I said turning to look out the window.
“I know,” Sawyer replied. “I wish we could say hello, but I can’t see over the seat in front of us.”
Then we remembered that Dumpling Longfeather charted this plane for us, so the only other passengers on board would be our clan.
“HELLO FAMILY!!” We called joyously.
“BONJOUR!” a melodious echo returned from the cabin.
The engine started to growl and the plane lurched forward. Something sounding like a backwards whistle percolated through my ears and I needed to swallow. Sawyer reached over and held my wing. Within seconds the jet was barreling down the runway, its nose lifting into the wind; the body following suit. We peered out the window and watched as the landscape below withered into meaningless shapes.
“WHOOOO HOOOO!!” I hollered at the top of my lungs. “I’m finally flying!!”
Sawyer laughed, sharing in my jubilance. The plane leveled out and the noises present at start up, faded away as if in deference to the clouds. I was enchanted, lost within the magic of it all.
“Hap…,” Sawyer said softly, breaking my trance.
“I was just thinking. Why do you suppose the others answered, ‘bonjour’ when we called out hello? They speak English in Nova Scotia, don’t they? So why did they answer us in French?”
“Maybe Toulouse taught them a word,” I suggested.
“I don’t know… something doesn’t seem right.”
Sawyer sat up in her seat and called out for Peaches and Waffles. Toulouse was at her side a moment later with a plate of sliced fruit and crepes.
“My apologies, Mademoiselle, but this is as close to your order as I could manage with what we have in flight. Perhaps I could offer you a glass of champagne to go with your goodies?”
Sawyer was having no part of his chit-chat.
“Toulouse,” she said leaning forward to make sure he heard her. “What do the other passengers look like? Do they have beaks and feathers like the two of us?”
“Vous êtes si drôle, petit! You are so amusing, little one! But of course not! You are the Fowler party, no? The others, they are, how do you say… human beings, like myself.”
Good Lord Almighty! Please don’t tell us that we got on the wrong plane!
“Where are we headed to, Toulouse,” I asked in strained voice.
“Why, Paris, of course and then a train ride to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence!”
“Is that in Canada,” Sawyer inquired, now visibly agitated.
“No, not at all,” he laughed making his silver mustache stretch across his face like an icicle slowly surrendering to a winter’s sun.
“We are headed to FRANCE!”
I do believe the entire plane heard us because they started clapping and singing a robust version of “La Marseillaise”.
“But we are supposed to be on a plane to Nova Scotia, Canada,” Sawyer howled, grasping Toulouse by the cuff of his navy blue jacket.
“I am so sorry, Mademoiselle. There must be some misunderstanding. If you are not the Fowler family, than we must have left our true passengers behind in New Hampshire. Oh my,” he said making a ‘tisking’ sound with his teeth. “My boss is not going to be happy with me. Not at all.”
And with that, he turned and walked away.
Sawyer’s eyes were as big as trashcan lids. I tried to calm her down, but inside I was about to toss my crepes. I sent a text to Charlotte and hoped she would receive it. I’m so glad that I gave her the extra phone before we left for the gift shop. A few minutes later I received a return message.
“HAPPY FEET! You are going to be the death of me!! We are on our plane headed to Nova Scotia. We searched the entire airport for you before we left. Peaches is in hysterics thinking that you were kidnapped. Text Mom and tell her you’re all right. We called her when you went missing and she’s a wreck! See if you can get a flight to Canada when you land. Gracious, Happy! This is not a good start to our vacation!”
Sawyer wanted to speak to the pilot and demand that he turn the plane around, but I told her it would be better if we landed safely in France and then figured out what to do. I sent Mom a text and ordered Sawyer a Pina Colada from a sweet woman named Colette. She returned with a full bottle of champagne.
“Bottoms up!” I said to Sawyer as I poured her a glassful.
“We’re off to the City of Lights!”