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The din from the party could be heard before she even rounded the corner. Ruby heard shrill laughter and raucous music and plates crashing and excited talking, sounds that she had never experienced in her life. And then she smelt the smell… the sweetest, most heavenly smell lofted over the sky and into her nostrils. The Warts once again pinched their noses dramatically, hating the smell of anything sweet. When Ruby rounded the corner, she saw a whole village of different animals. There were turtles, and squirrels, porcupines and kangaroos; there were koalas and lizards and guinea pigs too. They were all talking excitedly, and it was like walking into an enormous, mad zoo where somebody left all the cages wide open. To the side, the Squirrels and Guinea Pigs started stamping their feat in hoedown, and began manically line dancing, stopping half way to cover themselves in hay and laugh hysterically when it got into their noses and tickled unbearably. A huge, long table, spread out a quarter of mile long, was covered in all manners of baked goodies imaginable. There were cream pies, fruit cakes, chocolate chip biscuits and scones dripping in whipped cream and strawberry jam. There were Pavlovas and strudels, puddings and apple pie; meringues and cupcakes and butterscotch fudge to try! Instead of a civilised affair, it was a root-tootin’ , teeth rotting, outrageous revelry.
The noisy, chattering animals were occupying every last seat from one side of the long table to the other. From off in the distance, a little voice shouted “OVER HERE!” Ruby walked for what felt like an eternity towards the voice, before she saw the only empty spot on the whole, mile-long table; next to a huge, fat Kangaroo.
“Hello little one, I’m Missy Marsupusial.” Out of the Kangaroo’s pouch popped a small Koala, who blew Ruby a kiss with his comical lack of lips.
“Get back down there, Herbert!” Missy scolded him. “If anyone sees you, we’ll be disqualified!”
“Sorry, my love!” Herbert sheepishly said, and ducked back into the pouch. Ruby was bemused at this huge Kangaroo who carried her husband (a miniature, smooching Koala) around in her pouch. She tried not to stare, for fear of being rude. On a giant podium in the distance, a tiny white mouse raised a giant megaphone to his mouth and squeaked.
“Ahem. Welcome to another special Sundae Sunday festival, Mammalians, Aves, and Amphibians! It’s wonderful to see all of your corpulent faces here again! Remember the rules: All food is to go into MOUTHS ONLY. Anyone concealing food in hidden pockets or body folds will be instantaneously disqualified. And, while I’m here, I’d like to send a special welcome to our new friend, the belle of the ball, Ruby, who arrived on cloud nine this morning!”
All eyes turned to Ruby, and the motley crowd bellowed and whistled and clapped riotously. Ruby felt her face grow red and hot by the unexpected attention.
“Ok, gastronomes, I hope you’ve left room for dessert! On your marksss. GET SET… GORGE!”
And just like that, utter disgusting chaos ensued, with cream and cake and pastry flying everywhere. The din from the munching and slurping and burping and belching was deafening, with all the animals desperately trying to finish what was in front of them. Missy Marsupial was shovelling down food with her tiny hands into her mouth at breakneck speed, gulping it down vigorously without chewing. She very deftly shoved some into her pouch for Herbert to eat, then returned to shovelling into her own mouth. One by one, all around them, animals fell back in pain, bursting at the seams with cream and pastry and sugar. Tongues lolled out of sugary mouths, and eyes rolled back into stuffed faces. Ruby stared wide eyed at this outstanding chaos, absolutely befuddled and thrilled by this display of gluttony and excess.
After a few minutes and a more than a few casualties later, a loud horn blew, and the white mouse yelled out:
“CAKES DOWN, FRIENDS AND FIENDS!”
All of the desserts were either consumed, or smashed, or thrown, or sat on. What was once such a delicious display was now just one huge, brown sticky blob, and none of it was in the least bit appetizing looking any longer. Ruby realised that she didn’t get a chance to eat anything in the violent chaos, but it she didn’t really mind. She had never seen such hilarious hedonism in her life.
An overwhelming wash of murmurs and mumbles and groans fell upon the stuffed-full animals, who now had gloobs of messy blobs stuck in the fur, and were lying flat on their backs, unmoving and breathing heavily, with some snoring very loudly. The judge, a huge ugly sow wearing a pink ribbon, walked up and down the giant long table, carefully examining the leftovers with a snort. Ruby had realised this was some sort of eating contest, but it seemed utterly ungoverned and lawless, and merely an excuse to gorge. The sow stopped in front of Missy Marsupial, and scratched her big warty head. Missy’s table was almost inexplicably licked clean.
Herbert poked his head out again.
“Have they decided yet?” He whispered loudly to Missy Marsupial.
“Oh, for pouch’s sake Herb, get down!” Herb and his large black rubber nose disappeared in a flash.
The sow snorted something in the tiny mouse’s ear, and stepped back.
The mouse unrolled a massive script, cleared his throat, and read in his high squeaky voice:
“Hear ye, Hear ye
The heavens rain down ye cookie!
They give us thine cake, as much as we can take!
From strudel to snickerdoodle, we’ll eat night and day
But always leave room, for another hot fudge sundae!”
The animals erupted into rapturous applause, stamping their feet in the cream and mush, and throwing giant handfuls of it at each other with sniggers and hoots.
“Quiet!” screeched the mouse.
The animals froze, with smiles plastered on their lips, some paws and claws still clutching fistfuls of pie, ready to throw at the back of the head of another unsuspecting animal.
“And the supreme ruler of sweets, the Lord of Lamingtons, the Grand Master of Gluttony, the Champion of Chocolate…. isssss…. MISSY MARSUPIAL!”
The ensuing cheering, applauding and heckling was deafening. Ruby couldn’t believe those sneaky Australian natives had gotten away with such obvious cheating!
Herb popped one beady eye out of her pouch to see what was going on, but flew straight back in, fearing his wife’s wrath.
Missy hopped to the podium, and accepted her award; an ironically giant four-tiered mud cake covered in rainbow sprinkles. Because MORE dessert was exactly what she needed, Ruby thought wryly. Missy held her prized plastic plaque close to her heart. The two suns were high in the sky now, and glinted off the shiny plastic and put a twinkle in her eye.
“I’d like to thank my husband Herbert, who couldn’t be here today.” Ruby saw a foot kick against Missy’s pouch, to which Missy swatted at surreptitiously. Then Herbert squashed his face up against her pouch skin, so you could see the outline of his fat face, making it a Herbert-shaped pouch. Ruby was so amazed that their obvious ruse remained undiscovered by the other gormless animals.
*In actual fact, the winners of the Sunday Sundae Festival Eating Contest always cheated; with each naughty animal introducing new and ingenious methods of underhanded mayhem and mischief each time. Apple pies have been concealed in giant fake afros; Pavlovas have been shoved under armpits, turtles have hidden entire wedding cakes inside their shells. A pelican once hid twenty hungry hamsters in his beak, and demolished an entire Christmas pudding (with custard) in ten seconds flat. All of this for a plastic plaque, MORE cake, and bragging rights (which, for these animals, was the ultimate prize*
But the bizarre truth behind this strange festival was a strangely pragmatic one. Every time a new guest to the Land of Empyrus floated in on an early enchanted Sunday morning, the heavens opened up and covered the whole land in whatever delicacy matched the guest’s character. Since Ruby was a sweet girl, a thousand types of sugary desserts layered the ground.
The citizens of Empyrus didn’t know what to do with this excess of food, which was far more than they needed, so after a series of late-night meetings over the years (which inevitably ended up an unruly mess, with the Fox trying to bite the Rooster’s bottom, or the Hamsters playing inside tractor tyres, and bowling the tyre right into a group of animals, so they flew off every which way like bowling pins), they finally settled on a food-eating festival. This bore the duel purpose of celebrating the new guest, and finding something useful to do with the food.
Needless to say, the streets were abandoned, save for a couple of drunk Frogs chasing a tumbleweed, when a sour -faced child dropped in. Nobody wants to feast on a banquet of lemons and unripe pineapples soaking in soy sauce….