Ernest takes a ride

By Joan Stimson

Ernest the elephant had an ambition. He wanted to ride on a red bus.

Each day Ernest looked out from his enclosure. The buses went by exactly on the hour. "The three o'clock is the bus for me," thought Ernest. "Everyone will be taking a nap after lunch." Then he made his Plan.

One morning Mr Wainwright found a new notice in Ernest's enclosure.

Throw cash, not buns. Am saving up, signed Ernest Elephant.

Mr Wainwright was shocked - but the visitors loved it. In just one day Ernest became rich. That night Ernest went to bed early, but he was too excited to sleep.

"Tomorrow," he kept thinking, "I shall ride on a red bus."

Ernest was too nervous to eat breakfast. He was too jittery to take lunch. He was beginning to think that three o'clock would never come. By five minutes to three Mr Wainwright and the animals were snoring. HEAVE! By two minutes to three Ernest had clambered onto the boundary wall of the zoo.

It was a real struggle, but Ernest made it. At exactly three o'clock the red bus arrived at the zoo. Ernest dangler his trunk over the wall, right by the bus stop.

EEEK! The bus driver screeched to a halt. Ernest had attracted his attention all right. His trunk was blocking the road! The bus had an open top, which lined up perfectly with the zoo wall, and Ernest stepped very gently on board. Then he settled comfortably into six or seven seats.

The bus driver had got over his surprise, and he was beginning to feel quite important. He was looking forward to telling the other drivers he'd picked up an elephant!

The bus conductor was beginning to feel nervous. What if the elephant didn't have the fare? But he needn't have worried. Ernest had plenty of money. He handed it over with a note:

RETURN TRIP TO THE ZOO-KEEP THE CHANGE, Signed Ernest Elephant.

The red bus drove through the country and into town. Ernest saw all the sights- the shops, the churches, the parks and the factories. He'd done it at last!

"I'm riding on a red bus, I'm riding on a red bus," hummed Ernest happily.

Every few minutes the bus stopped. An old lady got on with her dog. A young boy got off with his hamster. But there were no zebras, monkeys, seals or hippos at the bus stops. There was no sight of Mr Wainwright's friendly face. Ernest began to feel homesick- homesick and hungry. At exactly four o'clock the red bus pulled up outside the zoo. Ernest got up from his six or seven seats, and stepped gently back onto the zoo wall. Thud! Ernest was back in his enclosure. Mr Wainwright and the animals had stopped snoring. They were beginning to stir.

"It's great to be home," thought Ernest, and nuzzled his trunk into Mr Wainwright didn't need a note to know what Ernest wanted. Mr Wainwright could read Ernest like a book. Ernest wanted his tea!