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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
Ian & Mac Travel Stories -
Where Are the Flamingos?


“I like these train rides, Mac. It gives me time to catch up on all the sleepless nights.” Ian yawned and stretched until his claws popped open on his paws. “That’s better. I’ve got a pain in my neck though.” He rubbed the muscle. “I must have slept wrong.”

Mac turned and looked back at the train. “These trains are different than the ones in Scotland. Look how sleek the engines look. Our trains are a tad old fashioned, at least the ones up in the Highlands.” He glanced at Ian and saw him licking his lips. “You’re hungry, right?” Ian nodded. “Train station garbage cans have a lot of half-eaten foods. People buy a sandwich and then notice their train is about to leave and into the rubbish it goes. It’s a total waste of food. I say we start there.”

They spent the next hour rifling for something to nibble and they found quite a pile. Hiding behind a huge stack of newspapers, the raccoons ate their fill unseen. The morning sun filtered through the windows. With full bellies the two made their way outside. People were just starting to drive into the city for work. Ian and Mac were forced to hide in trees until the rush hour ended. Only then could they climb down and start their adventure.

“So, this is Barcelona. It’s very Mediterranean, isn’t it?” Ian took a deep breath. “I smell the sea.”

“Duh, Ian. It’s the Mediterranean Sea. Use your head.” Mac shook his back and forth in disgust. “We should head that direction.” He pointed south. “A lot of people sit by the sea and eat. Even though we’re not hungry, it never hurts to have a stash.” They trotted down the street on all fours, avoiding people and speeding cars.

“I remember my dad teaching me a song about Barcelona. He said it was an old war song, or something like that.” Ian tried to remember the words and the tune.

“Oh? I suppose you want to sing it to me?” Mac sighed. “Come on then. I’m listening.”

Ian opened his mouth and the tune flowed from it. “I’m one of the nuts from Barcelona.”

“Stop right there, Ian. Is this one of those stupid songs? Nuts from Barcelona?” Mac plopped himself on some grass growing around an elm tree.

“It’s not a stupid song. My dad sang it to me all the time when he was rocking me to sleep in the tree tops. Do you want to hear it or not?” Ian gazed at Mac.

“All right. Sing.”

“I’m one of the nuts from Barcelona, I plink-a-dee-plonk, I casa bionk. I dance-de-dance with fine Polona, she shake-a-de-hip, I get-a-de-pip.”

“Ian. Stop right there. Enough. Enough. It doesn’t even make sense. What sort of song is that? Let’s just get going. You can sing yourself to sleep tonight.” Mac ran ahead, not wanting to hear one more note. After half an hour of silence, Mac stopped and looked up at the buildings. “Look at those balconies, Ian. I’ve never seen anything like that before. They’re decorated with colors and stones and glass and mosaics. Aren’t they lovely?” Ian was still pouting and refused to answer, however, when Mac wasn’t looking, he snuck a glance upwards. They strolled past an unfinished cathedral with tall spires and decorative design. “Let’s rest in here. It’s quite hot. My fur is beginning to wilt.” Mac led the way through the fence into the stone structure. “This is quite unusual. I must say the people here certainly know how to spice up their buildings. Look at the design of this church. There are twists and spirals and squares and all sorts of shapes and sizes.” Ian ignored him and stubbornly refused to look. Mac found a shady spot and lay down. “Ah, this is the life, isn’t it.” He rolled on his side and saw the frown on Ian’s face. “Still angry about what I said? Ian, I’m sure the song brings back lots of fond memories of your father, but I just thought the song was a bit odd. I didn’t mean to insult you or your father.”

“What is this place called?” It was the only thing Ian could think of to say.

“Read that sign over there. Sagrada Familia. It’s in Spanish and I don’t read Spanish. I wonder how our bull friends are doing.”

Ian lay on his back next to Mac, put his arms under his head and looked up at the spires of the cathedral. “I’m sure they’re fine. They are probably in a field of poppies, resting and enjoying themselves with the local cows. This place is very tall. Look how the steeples reach for the sky.” Ian yawned and then curled up in a ball.  “Let’s take a nap.” He fell asleep immediately. Mac joined him and their soft snores echoed through the unfinished cathedral.

A few hours later, when the sun was shining in an afternoon sky, Ian opened his eyes. “Mac.” He shook his friend, who woke. “We must have dozed off. I feel better, not so dragging.  What else is Barcelona famous for? Hmm.  I remember now, flamingo dancing.” He scratched his arm. “Flamingo dancing, how interesting. They have flamingos here in Spain? I’ve never seen a real flamingo before and I had no idea they danced.” Ian stood and leaned against a stone pillar. “Are you ready for another adventure?”

“Yep.” Mac crawled out of the space into the sun. “There are a lot of people here, but there are a lot of bushes, so we’re safe.” They ran from bush to bush until they found a deserted side street.  Hunger rumbled through their bellies.

“When are we going to eat? I am craving some fish and chips.” Ian’s tummy let out a loud squeak.

“They don’t have fish and chips here. It’s Spain, not Scotland, but that does sound good. You’re not getting homesick already, are you, Ian? We’ve only been gone a few days.”

“Me? No. I love this place. I can’t wait to see the flamingo dancers.”

“Flamenco, Ian, Flamenco!”

“That’s what I said, flamingo.” Ian shook his head back and forth. They wandered around for several hours, their noses twitching in search of some food, any food. Their tails dragged behind them; each step moved with less energy as the early evening hours crept upon them. Suddenly Ian’s nose picked up the scent of roasting chicken. Immediately his ears stood straight, his tail pointed to the sky. Drool foamed from his mouth. “Oh. Oh. Oh. I can’t believe it. Food, glorious food. Do you smell it, Mac?”

Mac’s drowsy eyelids opened wide. “I do. It smells like,” he sniffed the air, “chicken and it’s coming from that building. It’s a restaurant, El Toro del Casa de Familia.

“I don’t care what it’s called. We’re going there and we’re going right now.” Ian grabbed Mac by the paw and pulled him across the street. They ran around to the back door and stood behind a garbage can. You start here and I’ll go over there.” Ian jumped on top of a pile of old food. “Mac, there’s roasted chicken skin that’s crispy and crunchy and cooked carrots and onions and oh, I’m going to die; my favorite thing, garlic. I’ve never tasted anything so good.” He crammed his mouth with the food. Mac didn’t say a word. He was too busy eating tomato sauce covered sliced beef and beans. After filling themselves, they collapsed on the ground near the rubbish. “In about an hour, I’m going to want something sweet. How about you?”

“Sure, Ian.” Mac let out a loud burp. “Whatever you say.” The two napped for a while. Mac opened his eyes. “What’s that noise? It sounds like the ground is shaking.”

“It’s coming from inside the restaurant. I say we go in and find out.” Ian didn’t wait for his friend. The raccoon ran to the door, pulled it open and darted inside. Mac followed. They hid in the darkness. In a whispering voice, Ian said, “I’m going to go and see what all that noise is. Do you want to come?”

“Yes. I’m staying with you.”

They tiptoed up a flight of steps and onto a platform. All the lights went off, throwing them into total darkness. “Where are we? What happened? From the side of the stage a guitar strummed. “What’s going on?” Ian’s gaze darted back and forth. “Who’s playing the guitar?”

Just then the lights went on and a woman with flowing black hair and a bright orange and yellow dress with a frill came dancing onto the stage, clapping her castanets. Ian and Mac, half blinded by the bright lights, had no choice but to stand still and let her dance around them. Both raccoons covered their heads and hoped they wouldn’t get stepped on. Around in circles she swayed to the beat and music, tapping her feet on the ground. She seemed to be in some sort of trance and didn’t even notice Ian and Mac. A few minutes later a man came out from the other side of the stage. He was dressed in a black suit with a white shirt and his frills swayed back and forth as he moved towards the woman. The two of them danced together, their feet moving so fast that Ian and Mac couldn’t keep track of where they were. They didn’t utter a word until the man stepped on Ian’s tail. “Ouuuuuuuccccccchhhhhhhh!” He screamed so loud that the room suddenly went silent. All eyes turned to Ian.

Mac grabbed hold of Ian’s paw and the two ran down the steps and out of the restaurant. “Ian, you clout. You could have gotten us killed!”

“What do you mean by that? I could have gotten us killed?” Ian folded his arms across his chest.

“Yes, you! Did you see the look on that flamenco dancer’s face? She was horrified.” Mac sighed.

“She was horrified? She was? What about me? It was my tail that got stepped on, not hers. Stupid flamingo dancer.”

“I don’t think she’s stupid; I don’t think she’d ever seen a raccoon before. She probably thought we were giant rats. Her feet sure moved quickly, didn’t they? Ah well, we’re safe now, though I am a bit disappointed we didn’t get anything sweet.” Mac sat with his back against a rickety wooden fence behind the restaurant.

Ian joined him. “If we wait long enough they’ll bring some out. There’s nowhere else for us to go. It’s pitch black and I have no idea what sort of animals wander around the streets of Barcelona at night.” The two curled up under an old, grease-stained cardboard box and fell asleep. When they woke up in the wee hours, and just as Ian had said, the rubbish bins were full of slices of rhubarb and peach pies, cream-covered chocolate cakes and pieces of juicy melon. They ate until they could eat no more and then headed down the street. “Which way do you think it is to the sea?”

Mac looked at the stars. “That way. Wait. If we were in Scotland, the sea would be to the west, but we’re in Spain and I’m not sure if these are the same stars or not.”

“Mac? Even I know they are. Duh! I don’t think you’re quite awake yet. You’re not thinking straight. Now, which way?”

“That way.” Mac pointed to the top of a hill. The two plodded onwards, keeping their eyes open for wild animals. When they reached the sea, Mac was relieved. He’d only guessed the direction. “As much as I don’t want to do this, I’d say we should get on one of these small boats and sail away.  If we head east, we’ll come to France.”

“That sounds good.” Ian noticed the first signs of dawn’s approach. Seagulls squawked and cars began to move down the quiet streets. “There’s a boat and it’s a tour boat. We’re in luck. I’m pretty sure it’ll go east and not west.” They jumped on board and collapsed from exhaustion down in the hold. “Goodnight, Mac.” The gentle rocking lulled them into a peaceful sleep.


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