Dyspepsia, Spookie and Chuck took a bus, train, plane, boat and husky dog back down to the South Pole.

When they arrived, Dyspepsia realised she hadn’t told Mummy where they were going! So before she got in the spacecraft, she sent her a quick text-message on her mobile.

At the South Pole. Bound for Mars. See you in 18 months.

The launch team were all ready for them, and a big yellow crane hoisted the spacecraft over the microwave beam. As soon as it felt the energy, its jets started firing a searing hot blue flame and the craft rose smoothly and gently, going up up up into the sky.

Spookie And Dyspepsia’s Mission To Mars was on its way, but it was a very long eight months before they got to where they were going.

To start with, Chuck saw himself as a sort of daddy figure, with only a little girl and a cat for shipmates. So he thought he was in charge and started giving orders, even though Dyspepsia was the captain. Gently but firmly, Dyspepsia had to put him in his place. Since that was the bottom Indian in the totem pole, he was none too pleased about that.

The upshot was that, four months into the journey, they weren’t speaking to each other. While Dyspepsia and Spookie played Scrabble to pass the time, Chuck sat all on his own, on the opposite side of the flying casserole dish, and played solitaire with the cards he’d brought with him.

Since they were no longer on Planet Earth, going round once every 24 hours, there was no day and no night, no morning and evening, so they could get up and go to bed just when they pleased. But Dyspepsia said they’d simply go to pieces if they did that, so she set her alarm clock to make them all get up at the same time. This meant there was a queue for the shower each morning. (When I say “morning” you know what I mean.)

Since there was a limit to the amount of water they could carry, it wasn’t a very good shower by American standards. So very soon Chuck gave it up as a bad job and made do with a daily rubdown with surgical spirit. Which put him back to sleep for another two hours.

This suited Dyspepsia and Spookie, because they weren’t finding him very good company. Also, they could make as much noise as they liked when playing Scrabble without having to put up with deep sighs coming from the other side of the spacecraft.


Then one day (I say “day” although it was dark outside the whole time) Dyspepsia noticed Spookie glowing, and she unwisely said so. Now curiosity killed the cat, don’t they say, and Spookie was no exception. She was itching for a glimpse outside the spacecraft and she reckoned she’d manage a few seconds in space if she held her breath.

So pop! she went through the side of the spacecraft.

Almost immediately she stopped glowing and found she couldn’t get back in again. There she was, clinging by her claws to the outside of the giant casserole dish. As you can guess, her claws didn’t have much grip. Any minute and she’d float away among the stars, and twinkle ever after.

Dyspepsia begged Chuck to do a spacewalk and rescue her. In spite of being so grumpy, deep down inside he was a nice guy, so without a word of complaint he put on a space suit and soon came back through the airlock with Spookie under his arm.

It took a long time to revive her. Dyspepsia had to cradle her in her arm and feed her sips of mango-and-passionfruit smoothie until at last she got her breath back enough to purr.

After that nasty scare, they all got on much better. They forgot their sulks, and Dyspepsia and Spookie let Chuck play Scrabble with them, though they were apt to argue over the spelling of words like “colour” and “behaviour”, and whether “prioritise” had a zed in it (which Chuck called a “zee”).

So Chuck taught them how to play poker and they got on much better with that. They only played for matchsticks. They’d spent the rest of their pound coins on last-minute essentials like cans of Dr Pepper and salsa dip for the Doritos, so the spacecraft was a money-free zone.

…to be continued.