The Foolhardy Five

by Gordon Dioxide

There once lived five children who became known as the Foolhardy Five.

They were called the Foolhardy Five because they were foolhardy and there were five of them.

Being foolhardy meant that they were reckless, careless and a bit mad.

The leader was Scarlett. She was brave, overconfident and only ever wore red clothing.

Oliver was strong and sporty, and quite a bit clumsy.

Chloe described herself as a scientific genius, but her family, friends and teachers didn't agree with that description.

Angadoon was the quiet one. He didn't speak much, but when he did speak, everybody listened.

Bartleblink was good at football, boxing, weightlifting, engineering and map reading. She was Scarlett's 9-year-old sister.

One day, they decided to build a zoo in Scarlett's back garden.

It was a very big garden, and, using Bartleblink's excellent woodworking skills, they built 14 cages.

As usual, they didn't plan anything. They didn't plan how they were going to look after the animals and they didn't plan how to feed them.

This is how the Foolhardy Five always operate. They make it up as they go along.

"We need a tiger" said Scarlett.

"How about a zebra?" said Oliver.

"Or a hippo" said Chloe.

"Or all three" said Bartleblink.

"I was thinking more of a cat or a hamster" said Angadoon.

Angadoon's suggestion seemed like the most sensible, so the Foolhardy Five rejected it immediately.

Instead, they caught a bus to the local safari park.

There they found fields full of large ferocious animals roaming about.

All they had to do was free them from the safari park, and take them back to their new garden zoo.

And that's exactly what they did.

They took a zebra, a giraffe, a gnu, a buffalo, a rhinoceros and two baboons home on the bus.

As you can imagine, the other passengers were shocked and terrified at the same time.

One of the baboons jumped onto the driver and started driving the bus. The petrified driver leapt out of the window, and now the bus was zigzagging dangerously down the road.

Scarlett and Bartleblink managed to pull the mischievous baboon away from the steering wheel, and Oliver drove the bus safely on its way.

He didn't know the proper bus route, so just drove it straight back to Scarlett's house. The other passengers didn't mind, as they were just glad to get off the crazy bus.

The Foolhardy Five guided the animals off the bus and into their new zoo.

They named it The Foolhardy Zoo, and that turned out to be a good description.

The animals were furious when they realised that they were trapped in small cages. They preferred the freedom of their old safari park.

They started attacking any visitors, and the Foolhardy Five began to realise that the Foolhardy Zoo was a foolhardy idea.

So they decided to take all the animals back to the safari park.

All the animals except one.

Neil the rhinoceros liked living in the garden, and asked if he could stay.

The children were delighted and decided to keep him as a pet.

Neil was a friendly rhinoceros, not the angry sort you see charging round Africa.

He had a burning ambition to learn to ski. He'd been looking through the house window and watching skiing events on the television.

He thought it looked fun and quite easy.

So he wrote a letter asking if he could join the Norwegian Winter Olympics team, and sent it to their boss in Oslo.

The reply came two weeks later:

"Dear Neil

Thank you for your letter.

Unfortunately your application to join our Olympics skiing team has been rejected as you are South African, and we only accept Norwegians.

Also, it is not ideal that you are a rhinoceros and you don't know how to ski.

Kind regards

Halvard Halvardsen"

Neil was not the sort of rhinoceros to get upset by rejection. He vowed to continue his fight to become an Olympic skier.

So Bartleblink built him a big wooden ski slope in the garden.

Chloe designed what was supposed to be a snow-making machine, which covered the slope in a strange-looking green-coloured ice.

Chloe's designs never quite worked properly, but at least the slope was now slippery.

Being sporty, Oliver assumed that he would be good at skiing, so he taught Neil the basics.

So there Neil was. At the top of the icy slope. With four wooden ironing boards strapped to his feet. Ready to make his first descent.

"Remember everything I told you" shouted Oliver "and off you go!"

And off he went. And over and over he went. Tumbling head over heels all the way down the slope. Gathering speed, faster and faster.

When he got to the foot of the slope, he was going so fast that he couldn't stop.

He smashed straight into the wooden shed, destroying it in the process.

Then he destroyed the house.

Then he destroyed six more houses.

Then he destroyed a police station and a hospital.

Then he destroyed the safari park where he used to live, causing all the other animals to escape.

He was still gathering speed, closely followed by the Foolhardy Five, an angry police officer, an angry doctor and a few hundred happy animals.

On he went, past villages and towns and hills and dales and lakes and rivers.

Eventually he arrived in the mountains of Switzerland, where there was real white snow. That made him go even faster.

However, apart from an out-of-control rhinoceros, there was another interesting thing happening in those mountains at that very moment.

The Winter Olympics!

And suddenly Neil found himself in the middle of the Olympic Ski Cross Alpine Race. Or OSCAR for short.

He was going twice as fast as all the other competitors. It looked like he might win!

The Foolhardy Five cheered him on.

He went flying past the leader Bjarni Bjarnisen, and grabbed his jacket as he went past.

The jacket gave him an official race number.

The Foolhardy Five were on the Finish line, cheering as Neil won the race!

The escaped animals cheered!

The angry police officer and angry doctor cheered!

Even Halvard Halvardsen cheered. Neil had won the gold medal for Norway!

Neil eventually rammed his horn into the side of a mountain and stopped.

Scarlett gave him a big hug. What a hero he was!

He was certainly a hero in his adopted country of Norway. They changed his name to Neil Neilsen and tried to make him eat pickled herring sandwiches.

And the headline in the newspaper the following day was "RHINO NEIL WINS OSCAR".

Here are some questions to see if you've been listening:

1. How old is Bartleblink?

2. What animal drove the bus?

3. What was their zoo called?

4. Why wasn't Neil allowed to join the Norwegian team?

5. What was the newspaper headline?

6. What two animals would you like to keep in your garden?