by Scott Malcomson
DATELINE: LYON (FP) Today, noted
high-altitude French balloonist Cheri Popeur declared her intent
to try once again for the world
high-altitude record. Ms. Popeur's unusual methodology, as
recorded by the cameras of Furball Press, have earned her the nickname "Rubber
Rat", but the French aerialist insists her critics are wrong.
"In zees manner have I
avoided much unnecessary weight," Ms. Popeur stated in a pre-flight
interview. "Ze gondola
weighs nearly a quarter-tonne, ze required cables and supplies
almost as much --- wiss my method,
I am capable of ze much higher heights wiss less requirements of
The "Rubber Rat", who hails from Marseilles, says she picked up her amazing talents entirely by accident. During a trip to the Orient two summers ago looking for a lightweight bamboo gondola, she claims to have been abducted and made the object of an ancient Indonesian fertility ritual involving dark magics and rubber-tree sap, from which pure latex is formed. Rescued by the Malaysian authorities moments before she was to be sacrificed to Kali (as the story goes), she retained an elasticity meant to please an actual manifestation of the goddess.
Whether true or not, indisputable is the fact that Ms. Popeur's attempt last winter to break the world record for ballooning altitude was shattered --- as was she --- by overexpansion of helium gas in the upper reaches of the atmosphere. This time, she expects that a somewhat lower volume of gas will do the trick. "I must say, ze experience of ze going --- how you say --- *bang*, it was most exhilarating, but alzo disconzerting. If I had not re-formed and manually inflated myself when I did, rubber or not, I might not have made it back alive! Now pardonez moi...I have ze flight to make."
We wish the Rubber Rat luck and safe journey...but, as our readers have come to know, whether she succeeds or not, she will certainly bounce back to try, try again.