Have YOUR say in the story
Dad’s working on a new magic trick. He’s standing in the garage, surrounded by plywood and black paint tins. He’s got a long black box lying on the table. ‘It’s for your Mum,’ he says. ‘I want to saw her in half.’
‘Could you start with a rabbit?’ I say.
‘A rabbit?’ says Dad. ‘I can’t saw a rabbit in half!’
‘It’s just that rabbits are...?’
‘Shorter?’ suggests Eric. He arrives along the lane, his shoes squeaking. He looks anxious, as if something’s bothering him.
Dad does one of those little jumps that people do when they’re very excited. ‘Eric,’ he says. ‘Perfect timing, I need an audience. Now, can I try the penny behind the ear trick on you?’ Dad reaches into his pocket too fast, and a handful of coins spin onto the floor.
Eric and I grovel under the car, picking them up. ‘You’ve already done it,’ says Eric. ‘Twice.’
‘Have I shown you the floating card?’
‘Yes,’ says Eric.
‘Coin changing into a £20 note?’ asks Dad, pulling a long chain of handkerchiefs from his pocket.
‘’Fraid so, Mr Perks,’ says Eric. ‘And the bunch of flowers, rabbit in the hat, the sword trick and the dove in the cola bottle.’
‘Ah ha! But you haven’t seen anyone sawn in half?’ says Dad.
Eric rubs his eyes behind his glasses. ‘Is that a good idea?’ he says. ‘I mean – how does it work?’
‘If you’d like to volunteer...’ Dad picks up his saw, wobbles it back and forth, and demonstrates just how sharp it is by beheading two cardboard cut outs of footballers that Grandma’s been storing since he was a kid.
The shredded cardboard falls tattered on the ground. We all stare.
‘Tell you what, Dad,’ I say. ‘Why not use one of Tilly’s soft toys? They’re all in my bedroom. She’d never miss it – and if the trick goes wrong it won’t matter.’
Eric squeaks up to the house behind me.
‘What’s the matter with your shoes?’ I ask, stopping outside the front door.
‘I don’t know. I’m sure they were dry when I put them on, but now they seem to be full of water. I don’t understand it. Anyway, that doesn’t matter. I came round because of the castle.’
‘What’s the matter with it?’
‘Here.’ Eric digs in his pocket for the most battered digital camera I’ve ever seen. ‘Look, on the viewfinder.’ He fiddles with the buttons; the screen blinks into life. It shows a picture of a bowl of what might be porridge. ‘No, no, not that one. I took some pictures. I’m sure I did.’
He clicks back and forth. Different images display on the screen: porridge, soup, more porridge and a fuse box. The screen goes blank, then white. Eric taps it against the wall. ‘Ah, here we are...’ It’s a skip full of plywood. ‘Yes, and here.’ A blurry picture of what could be the radiator of a van. ‘D’you see?’
‘I – I’m not sure I do.’
Eric takes off his glasses and cleans them on his t-shirt. ‘The castle courtyard’s being dug up. The middle, they’re drilling into the meteorite itself. There are men and vans and trucks. Like a building site.’
I push open the front door. Grandma’s been baking for the Model Village café again. There are millions of scones laid out all over the floor, cooling.
‘Do you mean, the silvery rock, the stuff that glitters?’ I pick my way around the scones.
Eric stops, staring at the scones. ‘Yes, exactly. The ancient meteorite, the giant one that makes weird things happen here. The thing the castle’s built on. Dad says it’s unstable. He says they shouldn’t mess with it. That’s an awful lot of scones,’ he says, leaning down to sniff them. ‘Wow – delicious! Yes, Dad says it could be dangerous, that people don’t realise how powerful it is. Anyway I wanted to ask your grandma about it.’ He pauses, rubbing his eyes again. ‘I don’t always believe my dad.’
‘Um no,’ I say, thinking of Eric’s mad dad and Grandma, the two weirdest people in the village. ‘I think she’s down in the model village.’
‘That’s a shame. I thought she might let me hold the little meteorite again. The one that landed in the campfire. I could see if I had any powers, while Jacob wasn’t around. You did give it to her, didn’t you?’
‘I did,’ I say. I didn’t really give it to Grandma; she demanded it the moment I got back from the Field Craft Camp. She saw it come down.
Eric squeaks up the stairs behind me. His feet are ridiculously noisy.
‘I wonder...’ but I’m stopped mid-sentence by the sight of Tilly, armed with a cat basket, blocking the top of the stairs. ‘What?’ I say.
‘Mum’s taking me to buy my birthday present,’ says Tilly.
‘But that’s next week.’
‘Yes, but I want it now. After all, there’s not much fun in my life, not since you made a huge hole in the roof of my bedroom.’
‘Hi Eric,’ says Mum appearing behind Tilly. ‘We’re on our way to the BBS Animal Rescue Centre to see whether they’ve got anything suitable.’
‘A pony,’ says Tilly.
Mum’s mouth opens and closes. ‘Possibly not.’
‘A puppy then – I want a Rottweiler or a Germany Shepherd, and I’m going to call it Cuddles.’
‘A dog?’ squeaks Mum. ‘I thought a guinea pig or something small. A couple of mice.’
Tilly doesn’t actually stamp her foot, but it feels as if she does.
‘I want a puppy!’ she yells. ‘And when I get it, I’m going to call it Revenge!’ She scowls at me. ‘And I’m going to train it to eat particular things. Like pants, and socks, and meteorites.’
‘Good!’ says Mum. ‘Well, let’s see what they have at the rescue centre shall we? We might have to make do with a gerbil or something.’
Tilly’s lip juts out so far that you could balance a book on it.
I open the door of my bedroom and Eric and I step inside. ‘Good luck,’ I say to Mum and they vanish down the stairs.
Eric sits on my bed and takes off his shoes while I rummage through Tilly’s monstrous pile of soft toys. He pours what looks like a cup full of water down the basin. ‘See?’ he says. ‘Water, for no reason, loads of it.’
‘Borrow my shoes,’ I say, pulling a blue fluffy monkey named Frizzy McBurst from Bun Bun the pink dragon and tossing them across the room.
‘Are these yours?’ Eric points under my bed.
‘Should be. Tilly’s clothes are in Mum and Dad’s room.’
Eric leans down and pokes at my shoes. ‘It’s just that they’re full of... stuff.’
‘Stuff?’ I say, pulling out a cheetah, a skunk, a blue donkey, a zebra, more Woodland Friends, a unicorn, and something I can only describe as a purple werewolf. ‘Like what?’
‘Like a snail, woodlice, worms… earth?’ says Eric, pulling at them. ‘Oh and they’re glued to the carpet.’
‘What?’ I say stepping over to look. He’s right; they’re brim full of animal life, and I can’t pick them up, not without taking Grandma’s rug too. ‘Mum’ll kill me. Grandma’ll kill me twice. I mean how...’ And I realise. ‘Tilly?’
Eric wrenches one shoe from the rug. A trail of purple threads hang from the sole.
‘It’s not going to make me change my mind,’ I say, yanking more soft toys out of the cupboard. ‘I can’t risk it. Shrinking things is just too dangerous.’
Eric kneels down beside me and trawls through the fur and fluff. ‘Don’t worry. I’m sure she’s got it out of her system. Anyway what are we looking for?’ he says, carefully lining the toys up as if they were real. He strokes a fluffy egg case, laying it between a purple zebra and a nylon snow leopard. On contact with the floor, the egg case pings open, lets out a high pitched siren, and a small alien dinosaur springs up to bare its furry teeth.
‘Yow!’ Eric squeals, dropping it.
‘We’re looking for a kangaroo, monkey thing, with eight arms and a lion’s tail. It’s called Koyo.’
‘It’s not here,’ says Eric, poking his nose into the cupboard.
I sit back on my heels and study the bedroom. Koyo is far too big to hide. Something catches my attention and I see it. Koyo, glued to the ceiling above my bed. A three foot pink monster, glaring down at my pillow; its eyes mad and round and plastic.
‘Eric,’ I point at the ceiling.
He looks up. ‘Oh Tom, I think Tilly’s revenge may only just be starting.’
We lever Koyo and eight neat discs of Grandma’s plaster from the ceiling and drop the soft toy with Dad before heading on towards the castle. Eric’s feet must still be wet because he’s leaving footprints all along the pavement. He doesn’t seem to notice and I expect it to stop, but it doesn’t. It’s as if he’s got a shower attachment in the soles of his feet.
‘Ah – it’s the losers.’
A crowd of holiday-makers part, to show Jacob sitting on a bench set into the wall that surrounds the model village. He’s got sweets and his hand jabs into the paper bag every second to get another and stuff it in his mouth.
‘Morning, Jacob,’ says Eric.
‘Morning, Snot Face,’ says Jacob. ‘Have you thought of a plan?’
‘A plan about what?’ I ask. ‘We were on our way to the castle. Apparently someone’s digging it up.’
Jacob curls his lip in disgust. ‘Archaeologists, nerds, boffins… you don’t want to bother with that. The real issue, the issue at the heart of all the... hearts in this town – all the hearts that matter, that is – is what we’re going to do about Field Craft.’
‘Is it?’ says Eric. ‘I thought we’d discussed this.’
‘We did, but now I’ve got my own plan. A very good, very clever plan.’
Eric glances at me. ‘What kind of a plan, Jacob?’
Jacob sticks another sherbet lemon in his mouth and taps the side of his nose.
I stare at him. I’m trying to work out what’s going on in his head. Apart from sugar and fat, I’ve never really been able to work out much about Jacob’s brain, except that he’s probably got one – or, at least, he’s got one about the same size as the average pat of butter.
‘I’ve been thinking about the Field Craft troop generally,’ he says. ‘I think we need to suck up to Mr Worthy.’
‘Oh?’ says Eric, making wet patterns on the dry pavement.
I notice that where we’re standing the water from Eric’s feet finally seems to be drying up. I’m about to say something when Jacob waves his Field Craft “Musical Moments” badge under my nose.
‘Yes,’ he says. ‘I think we should join him for a sing-a-long. Show him the benefits of just boys, being boys, together.’
‘Ah,’ says Eric brightly. ‘So that’s your plan?’
Jacob shakes his head and lowers his brows. He looks alarmingly Neanderthal. ‘My full plan is too fiendish to discuss in the street. Getting to know the Worthys is no more than a softening up technique.’
With that, Jacob places one end of a grapefruit sour in his mouth and stands up. ‘Bye all,’ he says, turning away. He jangles the change in his pocket and humming Ten Green Bottles forces his way through a family of ice cream eaters.
The smallest child’s ice-cream plummets from the cone and splats on the tarmac.
Jacob doesn’t even stop. Instead, he melts into the crowd.
Eric and I search the Model Village for Grandma, and then, when we can’t find her, walk on and spend twenty minutes staring at the castle. He’s right. Someone’s digging up the courtyard. Noisily, with machinery and drills.
‘Is that right? Is that how archaeologists do things?’ I ask.
‘I don’t know,’ says Eric. ‘I thought they scraped things with trowels delicately.’
‘I think you’re right. We should ask Grandma,’ I say.
We turn home, passing the crazy golf. Today it is filled with families firing golf balls out into the sea. We have nearly reached the Model Village, when our conversation is interrupted by a blood curdling scream.
‘That creature has got to go!’ Dad’s voice. ‘Are you mad?’
We run towards the house.
Dad’s standing on the bonnet of the car, his hammer raised in the air. Next to him, Mum’s collapsed onto a chair, and in front of them both, Tilly’s standing, her face pinched into determination. Behind her, on the floor is a cardboard box.
‘What is it; what’s happened?’ I ask.
‘I got my pet,’ says Tilly, her eyes flashing.
‘And what is it?’ asks Eric.
‘You don’t want to know,’ says Dad, pulling at his collar and smoothing his hair down. ‘It’s not staying you know. Your grandmother won’t allow it.’
Tilly harrumphs, turns, picks up the box and slides back the lid. ‘Eric – Tom. Meet Cutie Pie, my Amazonian, girl, tarantula. She’s come to live with us.’
All the questions from chapter one are still open to answer as well.
Join this conversation! Add a Comment or Picture (jpeg, gif or png)