On this particular Monday morning, Moose and Goose (private investigators and solvers of tricky problems) were sitting in their office, each sipping a cup of green tea, when the phone rang.
Goose answered it, “Hello”.
“Is that Moose and Goose?”
“Yes”, said Goose.
“This is Sammy,”
(At this point, its worth knowing a bit about Sammy. He is a very successful entrepreneur in the town, who owns several of the businesses there. Full name, Sammy Seagull. Most people assumed that was just a nickname, but Moose and Goose were among the very few people who knew that Sammy was, in fact, a seagull… Don’t ask. Its too complicated to explain.)
“and I have an emergency situation. Are you available?”, said Sammy
“Yes”, said Goose, waving his hands at Moose as he switched on the speakerphone.
“The situation is like this”, continued Sammy urgently.
“I own a luxury confectionery factory, which makes really rich and gooey cakes for the cake shops and cafés in the town. One gooey thing we make a lot of is custard. This morning we started to make a batch of our best, most expensive, deluxe vanilla custard, but something has gone wrong.
By mistake, we have added super rich, stupidly expensive, very slow-release vanilla pods. This happened an hour ago, and we have another three hours before the custard sets solid, and we get no further flavour out of the vanilla pods.
The problem is that these special pods need a week before the flavour is properly released. We are three hours from wasting a great deal of money because, as I said, those vanilla pods are stupidly expensive.
Don’t worry about your fees. If you can help, I’ll pay whatever you ask. What do you say?”
“Of course we’ll help”, said Moose. He looked worriedly at Goose thinking that neither of them was an expert on custard-related emergencies, but had tried to sound confident in front of Sammy.
“Great. I’ll call the factory to let them know you are coming”, finished Sammy.
Flinging their jackets on, Moose and Goose dashed from their office, grabbed their bicycles, and pedalled like mad across town to the confectionery factory.
The chief food technician met them at the main gates and they ran into the custard mixing room.
“The custard will need to be sealed, stirred for several hours a day, kept cool most of the time, but regularly warmed for several hours a day. And all of this for a whole week”, explained the food technician in a rush, who had also introduced himself as Albert in the middle of all that.
“If we stop the stirring, warming, cooling, sealing, the custard will set solid and go off, and those vanilla pods were stupidly expensive”, added Albert. “We don’t have the right equipment in the factory to do all that here, and it would take too long to make it or order it in.”
Moose and Goose started asking lots of questions.
“How much custard are we talking about?”
“Approximately 2000 litres”
“How about keeping it in the stirring bowl where it is now?”
“We can’t seal the stirrer properly. The stirrer will also need servicing, which means we would have to open it up to get to the machinery. Once the custard is sealed, it must not be unsealed any time during the whole week. Any air getting in will ruin it”
Moose and Goose went for a walk back into town to discuss the situation and come up with some ideas. They walked past several shops and offices, including a new one called The Insomnia Clinic.
Stopping at a café, Moose ordered two cups of tea, while Goose got out his notepad to write down notes from their brainstorming which was about to happen.
“We need to do the following things”, said Moose, counting off his fingers one by one.
- seal the custard
- keep it cool
- warm it up regularly
- stir it regularly
- for a whole week
- without ever breaking the seal on the custard
“Now how could we do that?”
The ideas started flowing, with Moose and Goose describing their thoughts quickly. (Everything was written down. In a brainstorming session, all ideas are good ideas, and no idea is a bad idea. You never know which silly idea might lead you to a better idea.)
- a big plastic bag
- an alarm clock
- a big paddle
- a sink
- a bucket with a motor
- just like they crush grapes with their feet to get the juice out
… and on and on they went
Suddenly, Moose sat up straight in his chair. “Water beds”, he muttered. Goose looked at him.
“What happens when a person gets on a water bed and rolls around?” asked Moose.
“It stirs up the water inside the bed”, answered Goose, and Moose nodded in agreement.
“Who would roll around on a bed more than most people?” Moose continued
“Um, clowns, dogs, people with hiccups?” suggested Goose, but Moose shook his head.
“No, people who can’t sleep”, said Moose dramatically.
“Ah yes, and what happens to the water in the bed when someone lies on it for a few hours?”, continued Goose. “It warms up”.
Moose and Goose both sensed they were on to an interesting idea here, and they bounced a few more thoughts around before deciding it would be worth investigating more closely how water beds worked. In town there was a large furniture shop with a bed section, and they hurried straight to it.
Moose and Goose asked the shop assistant about the biggest water bed they had on display, peppering him with questions.
“How do you fill it?”
“We use a pump running from the sink”.
“How do you empty it?”
“Switch the pump into reverse”.
“How much water does it hold?”
“A lot. Over 1500 litres.”
Goose took his shoes off and jumped onto the bed, rolling around. Moose felt the bed and confirmed that, yes, the water was stirred about.
They turned again to the assistant, who had managed to introduce himself as Simon. “Simon, we are interested in buying this big water bed”, said Moose, pointing.
“We can have one delivered next week”, said Simon, helpfully.
“Nope, we would like one right now”, said Goose.
“But we only have this one on display. All the others are in the warehouse and couldn’t be delivered before next week”, spluttered Simon.
“That’s ok. This one would be fine. We want it. How much would it cost to buy it, empty it, and carry it to another address in town?”, said Moose. “No need to gift wrap it”, he added.
Goose and Simon went off to sales desk to sort out the details. Meanwhile, Moose dashed off to the Insomnia Clinic, ready to make someone there a very strange offer.
After explaining to the receptionist he had an urgent message, Moose met the manager of the clinic.
“Sammy Seagull, a local business person, is interested in making a donation to your clinic”, explained Moose.
“What kind of donation?” asked Gladis (whose name was on the door, but Moose had missed it).
“A big water bed”.
Gladis had been expecting Moose to say some amount of money, so this came as a surprise. “Oh, unusual, but yes, we could use a bed. The one we have is rather uncomfortable. When were you thinking? Next year?”
“Um, no”, said Moose, “We were thinking more like within the next hour, for a month or so.”
Again, Gladis was taken by surprise. This was not in her plan for the day. “Ok, let’s think. How big is the bed?”
“Six foot square”, answered Moose with his arms wide.
“Right. Just a month? Are you serious?”
“Deadly serious. This is a pilot project we may want to repeat.”
“Ok, we can clear out some space in Room 2 which will take about half an hour.”
“Excellent. See you then”, said Moose, hastily, as he ran from the clinic getting out his phone. It was now Sammy’s turn to be confused.
“What?” screeched Sammy, after Moose’s hurried explanation of the solution he and Goose were proposing. So Moose tried explaining again, more slowly.
“So”, mumbled Sammy, “you have told the Insomnia Clinic that I am donating a water bed to them? Do they know why? Do I know why?” He made a confused clacking noise.
Moose continued, “There is no need to tell the clinic everything. We are not trying to trick them. We really are donating a water bed for them to use”.
“I can’t see we have any alternatives nor any time left to think of some”, sighed Sammy. “This idea is better than no idea. I’ll call the factory and let them know”.
Moose dashed back to the clinic in time to see Simon, the shop assistant, deliver the empty water bed using his own car (for no extra charge). This was the most interesting day he’d had in ages, and he wanted to see what was going to happen next.
As Simon set up the water bed in Room 2, Albert arrived from the factory, looking flustered. Sammy’s explanation had not made much sense, especially the bit where he had said not to mention the word “custard”. The ‘stuff’ (as Albert now called it) was following in a tanker, and it was due in 15 minutes. There was very little time left to get it sealed.
“Where is it to go?” asked Albert, and Goose pointed at the empty water bed. “Is it clean? I mean, really clean?” demanded Albert, who had decided this was all nuts but he might as well go along with it.
Moose and goose looked at each other. They had not thought of that. “Boiling water”, said Albert. “We need lots of boiling water”.
Goose dashed out and bought every kettle he could find in the nearby kitchen shop, while Moose filled and started the clinic tea kettle. Each time a kettle boiled, it was poured into the bed, which was sloshed around, before being emptied again. They kept doing this until the tanker arrived, and reversed into the clinic’s driveway.
The pump was attached immediately and loud slurping noises drowned out any conversation for the next few minutes. The water bed filled up. As it reached maximum capacity, the pump was switched off and the bed was sealed. Everyone stared at the bed.
“There’s a bit left over”, said Albert, pointing to the tanker. Moose was about to say there was nothing they could do, when Simon suggested “Water pillows”, digging some out from the back of his car. “We normally include these for free with the water beds. Just fill them up with water like the bed.”
Two kettles later, the water pillows were clean, really clean, and were filled up with the remaining custard.
Gladis, the clinic manager, came back in just as Albert left with the tanker. “Yellow?” she said in surprise, before dressing the bed with sheets. Lying down, Gladis closed her eyes. “Yes, very comfortable. This will be fabulous”.
“How often will the bed be used?” asked Moose, worried that the bed might go cold and still for too long.
“Oh, every night”, said Gladis. “We have lots of clients who can’t sleep and want our help. We will have someone on this bed every night being studied”. She pointed out the video cameras arranged around the room.
One week later, Moose and Goose, Albert (and his tanker), and Simon (who had noted when they were coming back) returned to the Insomnia Clinic. Gladis was expecting them since Moose had advised her that the, ah, ‘water’ needed changing every week.
She was very happy with the bed. It was the most comfortable bed they had ever had in the clinic. Their clients all loved it. They still couldn’t sleep, but at least they now knew it was not because of an uncomfortable bed.
“One thing was odd though”, said Gladis, “some of the clients complained they could not get to sleep because all they could think of was trifle”. Moose, Goose and Albert all looked guiltily at each other.
When Gladis left to answer the phone, Albert unsealed the bed and squirted some of the contents into a (clean) china teacup. He sat looking at the cup for a while, sniffing it, as an aroma started to fill the room. A rich, warm, creamy smell of vanilla. “Yes, yes, yes”, said Albert.
He pulled a felt-covered wallet from his coat, unfolded it, and picked out a (clean) silver spoon. He dipped it into the teacup, scooped up a tiny dollop of the custard, and gently touched the custard with his tongue. “Oh, mmmmmm”, he whimpered, and licked a bit more. “Mmmmmmm, mmm, mmmm, and mmmmm”, he mmmed.
Albert put the whole spoon in his mouth and started crying. The others watched in silence.
“Is it ok?” asked Goose, worriedly. Albert nodded, unable to speak for a few moments.
“It is Perfect Custard”, said Albert quietly. “I’ve heard rumours of such a thing. Some people claimed to have made it, but they could never prove it. As far as I know, no-one has ever succeeded in achieving Perfect Custard, until now. We will make the front page of the Confectionery Gazette. We will be famous. Our custard éclairs will bring people into this town from far away.”
He rushed out to the tanker and hooked up the pump. Everyone helped squeeze out the last drops from the bed.
As Albert left past the reception desk, talking on his phone with Sammy, he stopped and handed the phone to Gladis. Sammy asked Gladis if she would be happy continuing with the cus, er, water bed and, of course, she agreed. Sammy said they would be back that afternoon to refill the bed.
That left Moose and Goose standing by the empty bed, with Simon, as Gladis came in looking happy but puzzled. “What is all this actually about?”, she asked.
Moose and Goose looked around. “Can you keep a secret?”, they asked, and Gladis nodded. “Do you have four clean cups and four clean spoons?” Again Gladis nodded, thinking this was not really the answer she was expecting.
Moose unplugged one of the water pillows left by the bed, and squirted some of it out into the cups. Gladis was about to ask something but Goose held up his hand and said, “Wait and sniff.”
A lovely aroma began to fill the room again. Gladis was intrigued “Is it coriander? No. Lemon? No. Vanilla? Yes”.
They all had a taste, and Gladis cried out “Perfect Custard!” As a keen cook, she knew how good this was. “Is there any more?”
“Well”, said Moose, “you take this pillow, and we’ll take the other pillow”.
(from The Moose and Goose Stories)
by Chris Gathercole
published: 30 September 2011
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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