'Piggy Lander Goes Missing'
This book is being written for children aged about 10 - 13.
It is supposed to be humorous, and I started writing it after I read something in the newspaper about Joe Bugner, the former Australian and UK Boxing Champion. (I'll tell you more about that at the end.)4>
Please feel free to print it out.
I suggest you copy it and paste it into 'Word' or a different program where you can change it to a smaller font size and so save paper.
Although I will write the rest of the story later, I think what I've written so far ends in a reasonably satisfying way.
I hope you enjoy it.
For adults, teachers, writers, children…
I've added some notes at the end of the story about its possible problems (it may be too 'politically incorrect') / plot / how the text can be used in schools and writing groups / and more.
'Piggy Lander Goes Missing'Peter E. Taylor ©2006
"OK, who’s missing?" called Mr. Peacock. "Thirty of you got on the bus this morning and now there’s only twenty-nine."
"‘Test-Tube’ Turner fancies Miss Grogan - does that mean he’s ‘missing’?" said Jimmy West, in a flash. The class cheered and watched Peacock to see if he’d blush.
"Damien’s missing his lunch, Sir, and I know who ate it!" added Glen Healy.
"Ruth’s missing a brain!"
"Someone will be missing some teeth soon!"
The insults and witty comments continued as Mr. Peacock looked heavenward. Never again would he offer to take any class by bus to the museum. Or anywhere else.
"We’ve lost Piggy Lander," reported Paul Stanley.
Mr. Peacock took a very deep breath.
"Well, get out and find him, all of you. Back in five, or else! Got it?"
Most hunted in the museum, but the boys of ‘The Black Shirt Gang’ were sent to loop round Melbourne and Hope Streets. They didn’t have to go past Fish Lane. Ned pointed to a boy lying, giant seal-like, on his stomach with his head over the gutter.
"Being sick? You’re supposed to be on the bus! -Peacock’s getting a seat nice and hot for you. I wouldn’t want to be in your trotters. I can smell the bacon frying already!"
Richard sighed heavily and rolled to his feet. How he hated being called ‘Piggy’ - but, unfortunately, everything about him truly was round and both the Miller twins could fit in his jacket at once. Should he tell them about the taxi? The driver had slowed, then thrown a small package down the drain. Or should he say he was ill, as they imagined?
When Piggy appeared, Peacock exploded. "Get those legs of yours moving faster, Richard Lander, and on to this bus immediately. If you’re not on here in ten seconds flat, I’ll keep you running round the oval ’til they look like cocktail sticks!" ‘Pretty Boy’ Peacock was pretty mad alright. "Sit down there by the window, in the seat next to me! Don’t say a word, or move a muscle, or I’ll ..."
"Use him instead of the heavy roller on the cricket pitch, Sir?"
"Too nice! I can think up nastier things for people who keep us waiting. Now, we’ll have a quiet journey to school!" replied Mr. Peacock.
Richard was grateful that Peacock had stopped the ‘Pig’ jokes. He knew he had to expect one or two. It wasn’t easy trying to lose weight. His mother always sent him to school with half a shopful of sausage rolls and doughnuts - enough spare to share with most of the class if he wanted to. How embarrassing too, when his mother dropped him off for the lightweight hike. It had taken him three attempts to lift his rucksack off the ground and his teacher had made him leave half the food in his desk.
When the bus stopped, Peacock leaned over Richard and whispered "Make sure you’re early for all my lessons. You’ll never be missing again. Got it?"
Peacock's message was fully understood, but the package down the drain seemed far more important. He’d tried so hard, but he couldn’t quite squeeze his arm thin enough to reach the bottom. Now he stared up the road and waited impatiently for his sister, Sally. Richard lunged at the car door.
"Got to go," he panted, "back to the museum. Side street – Fish Lane. Turn round, Sal. Please! I’ve got to get it ...the package!"
"Slow down. Slow down. Start again slowly!"
As Richard told her what he’d seen, Sally also became curious and they were soon back at the drain. "It’s still there!" whispered Richard, stretching. "I’m so close, ...but it’s no use!"
Sally smiled. She tied the rear of the car to the grating, then used the jack to lift the car and the drain-cover with it.
"Sal, you’re a genius!" Richard said, and struggled into the gap.
"I’ve got it!" he panted, and slid the parcel into his pocket.
As they drove away, neither could wait to see what was inside. Paper flew like confetti as Richard ripped the covering. Inside was the most expensive watch he’d ever seen - pure gold, with diamonds around the edge, and obviously worth a fortune.
"There’s someone’s name on it!" he said. Sally stopped the car. ‘John Cando’ they read together. "That’d be Johnny Cando the racing-car driver - there can’t be many people with that name."
"Yeah. I saw in the ‘Courier’ that his house got burgled when he was away at practice for the Grand Prix. Maybe they couldn’t sell it with his name on it."
"It'd be fantastic if I could give it back to him myself," said Richard. "If I told him about all the photos I've got of him on my wall, I'm sure he'd autograph one of them for me. How good would that be? Can we find out where he lives?"
"He’d have an unlisted phone number," said Sally, and it was true. The phone book in the roadside booth proved useless. "No. Wait!" She thumbed through the pages. "When we get home we’ll phone his ‘Lawson Racing Team’."
"I don’t know what Mum and Dad would do if they found we’d got stolen jewellery in the house," said Richard. "I reckon we should keep quiet. They’d make us hand it in to the cops straight away, and they’d just say 'Thanks! Good-bye!' and I’d never meet him. Let’s phone now!”
“I’ve no cash,” said Sally.
“Nor’ve I. We’ll take Blackie for a walk later and use another public phone. Let's get moving.”
“Dad would like to meet him too, wouldn't he?” said Sally. “Handing it in would be far safer."
"Yeah, I know, but ...but the cops ...I might not see him that way. We can give Dad a surprise, and tell him and Mum when everything’s arranged. Let's just see if we can contact him first. Please."
"I don't like this, but I guess we can try," said Sally.
Later, Richard and Sally went walking. Sweating all over, he completed the number ‘...three...six...one.’
"Welcome to the Lawson Racing Team. Can I put you on hold, please? …Now, how can I help you?"
"Hello! You don’t know me," Richard started nervously. "I’ve got John Cando’s watch. The ‘Courier’ says it’s worth ten thousand dollars. I wish I had ten thousand dollars. I’d like to set up a meeting with Mr. Cando. Is he there? ...No. You can’t phone me back, I’m calling from a public phone. I’ll contact you again tomorrow..." The money had run out.
Richard trembled as he slowly replaced the receiver. He hadn’t said things the way he’d planned.
"Well, that was dumb, you great idiot! I can't believe you said that! I thought we agreed that you were just going to say 'My name is Richard Lander. I've found Mr. Cando's watch and I'd like to give it back to him personally.'?? Simple! What happened to that? They'll think you're trying to blackmail him! Oh boy. I don't know what we're going to do now!"
Blackie the Labrador looked sorry for him. In silence, the three slowly strolled the long way home.
"We’re back!" called Sally, putting her head round the lounge-room door. Mr. and Mrs. Lander were watching the end of ‘The News’. "What’s new?" she asked.
"Not much," replied her Dad. "Politicians making promises, the Kiwis flogged the Poms, sunny tomorrow ...oh, and someone’s been trying to get ten-thousand bucks out of Richard’s favourite racing driver who got robbed. They want to swap it for his watch. People like that should be locked up for years!"
Richard was in the hall. He’d heard every word. It felt as though boiling water had just been poured all over him. He hadn’t meant it to sound as if he wanted the money.
After rushing up the stairs, he thrust the watch under his mattress and then got into the shower. He stared at a spot on the wall. The drops of warm water felt wonderful - as though they were about to rain brilliant ideas and a new plan on him. Sally broke the spell by hammering on the door. "Come on out of there! You whales might like cold water, but I don’t!"
"Fat and happy - that's what I say!" said Mrs. Lander, overhearing Sally's comment. "We're one big happy family."
"I'd be just as happy if I were a few kilo's lighter!" replied Sally. "I'm getting to be the same shape he is. We all are!" She banged on the door again with her fist.
"Thanks for your help today!" Richard whispered, patting his sister's shoulder as they passed. With his head hung down, he sauntered back to his room to think and worry. It would be a long night.
The smell of bacon and sausages beat the alarm clock in heralding the next day. Richard pocketed the watch and hoped no one would notice it.
"I thought everyone might need extra ‘brain food’, so I’ve done double helpings of eggs and sausages." There was hardly a speck of china visible as Mrs. Lander loaded the plates. Richard needed brain food, but was glad she wasn’t having one of her usual cooking sessions, also wanting to feed growing limbs and build strength.
"Mum! Do you really think I should be eating all of this...?" he tried, but Mrs. Lander cut him off.
"You’ve got to eat well to keep well - that’s what I say." It was hopeless. She was already in a world of her own, packing ‘little nibbles’ into every available air pocket in his bag.
"Only two days left ’til the holiday! Isn’t that fantastic?!” said Paul Stanley, as Richard entered the gate. “We’re going fishing. What’ll you do? Join the training camp for sumos? Or get starved at the ‘Health Farm’!"
Richard tried hard not to show his anger. They would tease him more if they realised how he felt.
"Actually, I’m thinking of going on a diet!" he announced, spinning round. "It might take a while but ..."
"Like how many light-years? I suppose we could all help, though. What have you got in your bag for us?"
Richard wrapped his arms tightly around the flaps as the Miller twins tried to look inside. "Get out, you rotten little maggots!"
"We’re only trying to help you, Piggy. There’s the bell! We mustn’t be late, must we? We’ll just take care of these doughnuts for you. You know they’re very bad for people who are trying to lose weight!"
Should he have told them about his plan to get thinner? Richard now wondered if he’d get a single crumb himself. Just to ensure that he’d survive, he stuffed a bag of chips in one pocket, some chocolates in another, and put two muesli bars inside his jacket. Carrying a ham sandwich in each hand, he munched his way to the last science of the term.
Richard reckoned his food was safe during another hour of fun. Test-tube Turner never seemed to have a clue what was happening. Why hadn’t he been sacked?
I thought you’d like to try glass bending," Mr Turner announced. "You’ll need heat-proof mats, tongs, and Bunsen burners. I’m going next door to collect the glass and the matches."
Jack Fisher catapulted a paper pellet at Richard’s behind.
"Yeowwwwch! That hurt! You’ll pay for that!" Richard snapped. He picked up the pellet, ripped the band from Jack’s hand, and thrust them into his pocket. There he found the bag of chips and ate a couple of handfuls while he watched more missiles being fired from several directions, littering the floor with spent ammunition. A final burst pinged off the windows as Mr. Turner opened the door - but, as usual, he saw nothing and set up a demonstration.
As the Bunsens were lit, people pocketed the matches so that Turner had to leave the room again to get more.
Instead of waiting, paper and plastic rulers were lit and carried around the room like Olympic torches. Richard laughed and ate more from his store.
Charred fragments on the floor were doused with water and trampled. Smuts drifted to the ceiling then gently spiralled down through the toxic haze in a black rain that left clothes, bodies and books with zebra streaks. There was a lot of coughing and spluttering. Some students flung windows open and hung their heads outside to get fresh air.
A group clustered tightly round Mr. Turner so that he couldn’t see what was happening at the back.
The smell drifted through the corridor towards ‘Sam the Man’ Saunders, the Deputy Principal, who immediately quickened his pace and burst into the laboratory.
"What on earth is going on in here??!! Who and where is your teacher?" he bellowed. Convinced that the people in a huddle at the front were up to no good, with his fingers acting like pincers around the back of their necks, he peeled off students two at a time until he discovered Mr. Turner.
"Oh! It’s you!" Sam gasped. "I should have known."
"It’s OK, we were just getting to the exciting bit!" reassured Mr. Turner, looking at nothing in particular.
While Sam Saunders was sorting out what was happening at the front of the room, the students at the back hid the evidence of their activities.
Sam strode around the room, poking a few boys in the ribs with his twisted, nicotine stained finger.
"Sit up! Shut up!" he growled. There was instant silence. He pointed at the partly burnt remains of the paper, his eyes vanishing into cracks in his screwed up face. "Filthy, revolting, disgusting people!"
Unfortunately, Richard had not managed to clear up all the chocolate wrappers under his table and Sam saw them from several metres away.
"You’ll do, Lander! Get to my office - and take your bag with you!” Sam Saunders followed Richard and threatened the class not to dare to disturb him again.
Richard had often let classmates take the blame for disturbances. Now they were delighted that he was going to get punished - but who would he squeal on?
Richard thought of the pain he’d experience if he dobbed on them - and hated to think what Saunders would do to him if he didn’t provide all that he wanted to know.
Sam Saunders’ office desk was a sea of end of term reports. "You can see," he started, walking slowly towards Richard, "that I am a very busy man. " Sam’s eyes appeared to look straight into Richard’s brain. Richard shuffled backwards, uncomfortably, until his back hit the office wall. There was no escape.
Sam the Man kept coming closer. His breath smelt of stale smoke from 40 cigarettes a day mixed with the stench from a mouthful of rotten, decaying teeth. He couldn’t have brushed them for at least three weeks - and he must have eaten buckets of garlic for breakfast, dinner and tea. If he breathed on a plant from five paces away, it would have to immediately curl up and die. Richard could see this was true - there wasn’t a single green leaf in the room.
"You were responsible for that mess. Don’t deny it! You know that eating in class is forbidden. The chocolate wrappers came from you, didn’t they? I know there were others, but it was you that I caught. Turn out your pockets! Start with your jacket."
This was what Richard feared. He did so very slowly, hoping to avoid revealing the elastic band and pellet, and Johnny Cando’s watch. He started on the inside pocket, pulling out his ...notebook, ...comb, ... . Saunders squeezed the jacket.. The muesli bars followed.
Like a conjurer, from his trousers, he produced dirty tissues, something sticky wrapped in paper ... "I don’t usually eat in class. I’m trying to lose weight, ...but the chocolates were melting and if my jacket got coated in chocolate then my mother ..."
"Shut up, boy! I’ve had enough of your class and its noise, rubbish and carrying on. Now, show me the rest of your pockets and start telling me exactly what was going on. With names! Who was burning paper?"
Richard pulled out an empty chip packet. "We’d run out of matches so ... so ..." His intestines were in knots. The phone rang. He was saved! But for how long? When Saunders returned, should he get revenge on the Miller twins for stealing his food? Or Jack Fisher? He should tell the truth, but Jack was noted for violence - and absolutely no one would dare dob in Gavin. Richard knew he couldn't run away from anyone and kept frowning and thinking.
"I’ll be back, and we will talk some more!"
While Mr. Saunders turned towards his desk, Richard rapidly transferred the watch, elastic band and pellet to the inside pocket that had already been searched. That was very close!
Mr. Saunders was obviously being asked by a parent to investigate something. Richard could tell Sam was finding it very hard to appear civil.
"Stand against the wall outside and wait!" Sam slammed the door behind Richard. The minutes ticked by, and Richard still couldn’t decide what to say.
Eventually the bell rang for the lesson’s end, and the door opened. Richard could hardly believe his ears when Saunders said, "I don’t have time to continue with our little chat right now. Filthy, disgusting child! I will not find a single scrap of rubbish around the buildings, or grounds, when I arrive at school tomorrow, will I? Now, get to your next class!"
"Yes, Sir! Thank you, Sir!" Richard retreated, keeping as much fresh air between them as possible.
Nothing could possibly go wrong in English. He would plan out what he was going to say in his phone call in the evening. Richard was sure that they’d watch a video to while away the last few hours of the term, however, instead of seeing his normal teacher at the classroom door, there stood Mr. Peacock. Peacock! And Richard was the last one to arrive!
Mr. Peacock leered at Richard as he entered, and Richard smiled back sheepishly. The other pupils were dying to ask what had happened in Sam’s office, but they daren’t say a word when ‘Pretty Boy’ Peacock was in charge. He had a sense of humour, ...sometimes, ...but it wasn’t worth pushing your luck when he was looking mean. And he was looking mean.
"I have lots of reports to write. I am not in a good mood! Understand?! Got it?!" Peacock stared at a few individuals in particular. "Mr. Starr’s ill. I can’t stand wasting time, so we’ll go through some parts and figures of speech. If I ask Belinda ‘What will you do in the holiday?’ ...Belinda will answer..."
"That’s a question, Sir."
"Well done! You obviously understand what you have to do. Let’s try another. ‘As cool as a cuecumber’?"
"A simile, Sir.”
"Very good! Now tell me some proverbs."
"A rolling stone gathers no moss."
"A sitting hen grows no feathers on her belly."
"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."
"Don’t think Turner would see Miss Grogan if she was in a bush! His eyes wander so much I bet he never manages to look into hers."
"I heard that! ... You ..."
"Think you’re clever, don’t you? ..." Peacock smiled slightly.
"OK. No more!"
"Command, Sir." Most of the class could see that he was softening up, and decided to keep going. Peacock was starting to enjoy the lesson too. Richard, however, was in dreamland - gazing out of the window and still trying to work out what he was going to tell ‘Sam the Man’ as well as the Lawson Racing Team. He hadn’t heard a word in the last ten minutes.
"Jimmy West. Go and jump in the lake!"
"Richard Lander." Peacock guessed, by the way Richard jumped, that he’d absolutely no idea what was going on. It was time for some fun. "Stand up!" he yelled. If Richard answered ‘Command’, he would overlook the fact that he had been staring out of the window. Richard, however, instantly rose from his chair.
"Come and stand here!" Peacock pointed to a spot beside his desk. Richard hurried to the front. "Well?" Richard looked blank. "Get out of my room and face the wall outside!" What would happen if Sam found him standing there? Richard started trembling. He’d never been thrown out of a lesson before. A tear trickled down his cheek. Which would be first, being sick or wetting his pants?
A few in the class giggled. They were sure that Peacock was not as mad as he sounded, and would make Richard squirm even more. As Richard left the room, Peacock raised a finger to his lips. Minutes passed that seemed like hours.
"Get back inside! Stand by my desk!" Peacock ordered sternly. Richard wiped his eyes while he pretended to blow his nose. He tried to stand still, but his legs wouldn't stop trembling.
"Well? What do you have to say?"
"Nothing. Nothing, Sir!"
"Nothing? Get out!" Peacock roared louder than ever. The whole school must have heard him. Sam Saunders would find him for sure. This was the worst day of his life. Richard’s heart beat twice as fast as usual, pounding in his ears. He turned his back once more and reached for the door-handle. "Go and sit down!" He looked surprised but grateful, and started to return to his place.
Richard still had no idea why he was being marched around and made to look a fool. He thought it was because he had been daydreaming. The class were now laughing loudly. What had he to do to stop the torture?
"No! Get back here! Now, Master Lander, why did you leave the room?"
"You told me to, Sir."
"I told you? Do I usually just tell people to do things in that sort of voice? What did I do?"
"You shouted loudly!"
"I know I did! In the English language we call it ...?
"An order!? You ordered me to go!"
"The word we use in English is a... . Tell him someone!"
"All you had to say was, ‘It’s a command’. You won’t forget what a command means will you? Could it be that you were you not listening to my lesson? ...Or are you deaf, daft or both?" Richard heard the class still sniggering. He felt an enormous idiot. ...An idiot that wanted to shrink so small that he could vanish through the cracks in the floor and never be seen again.
"I have saved some special information for you, now that you are awake. You are still awake and listening, aren’t you?" Peacock turned and smiled at the class. He was building up to the climax of his dramatic performance. "Sid Logan is ill, Richard Lander. You will take his place and play for the school Third 15 Rugby Team in the game against the staff tomorrow!"
"Yes. And you will be there!"
"Command, Sir." Richard was hopeless at sport. He couldn’t really want him to play. The whole school would laugh if he tried to run ...or actually ended up with the ball. Peacock must still be on his English exercise.
"You understand?! You will be there!"
"Command, Sir." The staff always won. It was an excuse for bullying kids, and the kids weren’t strong enough or daren’t do much to the staff. Peacock would try and elbow him, knock him to the ground and accidentally on purpose walk on him, kick him or crush him. Perhaps he really was serious! That would be just what Peacock would enjoy.
"It’s lunch-time. Go and phone home and tell your mother to get your sports gear washed and ironed."
"Forget the ‘Command, Sir!’..."
"Command, Sir!" The class were now laughing with Richard instead of at him.
"And get this into your thick head! Y o u a r e g o i n g t o p l a y! ...Give me strength! ...And don’t be late, you buffoon! ...You blithering idiot! ...Or I’ll...I’ll ...you’ll ...you’ll regret it for the rest of your life!" Mr. Peacock wished he had stopped the lesson at the first proverb. He grabbed his books and swept, cursing, out of the room. "Why do I have to put up with such a half-witted bone-head? Stupid great nincompoop! Time-wasting pea-brained numb-skull!"
After litter collecting through the lunch-hour, Richard schemed feverishly in music, and wrote the script for his next phone call in geography. By the time Sally picked him up, all was ready.
"After what happened yesterday, I don't want to know what you plan to say this time!" said Sally. "It's your last chance. If you can't arrange to meet Johnny Cando and hand the watch to him, you'll just have to get rid of it. I've had enough!"
Early that evening, they tried again.
"Hello. I’m the person with the missing watch belonging to Mr. Cando. He will be given more information tomorrow at 6.30 am. He must wait in the public phone booth in South Pine Road, Everton Park."
"Don't you care if they think you’re a crook? Don't you realize what could happen to you? And me too? Just where do you think you’re going to ring from?" asked Sally. "They can trace where calls come from you know!"
"I’m not really going to ring him," said Richard. "That’s just to get him there. I thought I might walk along the road at that time and give it to him ...and explain everything. It’s a bit scary though."
"Is that all? Scary?! You must be mental! What would you say to the cops if they searched you and found it before you got close? Do you think they’d believe you? Just get rid of the thing and let’s go home!"
"OK. I’ll plant it," said Richard.
"Better be quick then. The place will soon be crawling with the undercover mob watching everywhere and everybody. They’ll be cruising in cars, hiding behind hedges, looking out of cracks between the curtains in houses... . Have you got it?" asked Sally, already looking around nervously.
Richard pushed it deep into his pocket and they set off to find a good hiding place. As Blackie led the way round the corner, however, they could see police already knocking on doors in Pullen Road.
"Let’s get out of here fast!" said Sally, and the three set off towards the Shopping Centre.
"That’s it! I’ve got it!" Richard’s eyes lit up. He darted into KFC and ordered a take-away meal. "Can’t waste the meal," he said, "but what we need is this!" He buried the watch under paper beneath the fries. "Finger-lickin’ good idea, eh Sal?"
"I hope so!" she replied. "Let's get moving."
All appeared quiet as they returned towards the spot where Richard planned to meet his hero. Beads of sweat stood on their foreheads. They jumped at every rustle of leaves and nervously peered at windows. Was each step really being watched by someone, somewhere? It was.
A uniformed officer the height of a basketball player appeared from a driveway.
Richard’s stomach sank and he squeezed his knees hard together to stop them knocking. He was so pleased it was dark because he was blushing from the top of his head to his toes. Sally grabbed the box, hoping it wouldn’t rattle. She slid her hand under the lid, pulled out a cold, soggy, greasy fry, smiled, and offered it to the policeman.
"No thanks, I’m on duty," he said, and looked both of them up and down. "Hmmm." He stared at Richard’s belly. "You don’t look like a desperate crim who could make a fast getaway. Hmmm. And you don’t look as though your brother has showered you with diamonds," he added to Sally. She smiled and clutched the box tighter. "Go home quickly. There might be a dangerous jewellery thief around here.”
"We will!" said Richard, and they kept walking towards the phone box. He took the box back and sat on a garden wall.
"Phew. That sure was close! Go inside and pretend to look in the directory, or make a call, or something." Sally did. Richard gave a quick glance up and down the road. He bent down to stroke Blackie, then poked the box behind the gatepost and tipped it out under a bush. "It’s gone. We’re safe now. I was going to leave the box too, but that copper might remember us."
It was great to feel free. No one would have any reason to link them with the watch. Richard sighed deeply, knowing for certain that he would have a better night’s sleep.
"Y’know," said Sally, "all this nervous energy I’ve used up makes me feel like a gourmet feast. You owe me a visit to ‘The Odd Couple’ on the way home!"
"Yeah. Thanks heaps, Sal." Richard looked in his wallet. "No problem. ‘Odd Couple’ here we come! I might just force something down myself too. The diet can start tomorrow."
"Or the day after tomorrow."
"If Mum’ll let us."
"And we don't feel hungry."
The queue of people waiting to be served filled the shop.
"Give me your money, and find us somewhere outside to sit," said Sally. "There aren’t many places left. Try with that bloke in the corner."
Richard started to pull two chairs from beneath the table. "Mind if we join you?" he asked.
The figure pointed for him to sit down. He looked about the same age as Richard, but even heavier and more rotund. "Sorry there’s not much room," he said. "I’ve got to go on a diet soon, but I can’t help eating. By the way, I’m Tim."
"We know how you feel," agreed Sally, and placed two heaped plates on the table. "Mum feeds us like crazy. Says she’s '... got to look after us'. But then we eat more when we’re worried. And when we’re happy. And..."
"I’m like that too!" said Tim. "I eat when I’m happy or worried."
"Done a lot of worrying then, have you?" Richard joked, then regretted what he’d just done, and quickly added "Sorry! I shouldn’t have said that. It’s just that I try to laugh about my size - ’cos everyone else does."
Sally tried to ease the situation. "I’m worried this dear little brother of mine, who makes all sorts of stupid plans, is going to get me into serious trouble."
"I’m working on this plan to meet someone special. Someone very special. Someone that I really want to meet. ...And then I kept the school bus waiting, and the teacher wants me to play rugby against the staff - and I know he’ll try and maim me!"
"You can laugh at my size - I’m used to it too," reassured Tim. "I’m so large I can’t even fit into my old-man’s car. I really worry about him when he’s going away. He’s leaving for a big race in South America tomorrow, and he can’t think straight. Not since we got robbed."
Sally had a coughing fit in her napkin.
"Robbed? Race?" spluttered Richard. "Your old man - I mean, your father - he’s not Johnny Cando by any chance, is he?"
"Come with us!"
Tim could hardly believe what he was hearing as Richard’s story unfolded. They walked towards the phone, hoping the watch was still by the gate. What would they do if the police were standing on guard?
"It’s all clear!” said Richard. "Phone your father while I find the watch. Don’t tell him or the police the full story. If my father gets to know I’ve had stolen property at home, he'll go crazy. Just say I found it by the wall. All right? Do you think he’ll autograph something for me? I've got posters of him all over my walls, cut pictures out of the newspaper ..."
"I’ll play it the way you want - and I’m sure he’ll do something for you."
Richard leaned over the wall. Tim could see by the way Richard was beaming from ear to ear, that he’d got the watch back, and Tim immediately phoned home.
"Dad’ll be here in three minutes. What shall we tell the police?"
"Just that I found it while we were walking along. Sal and I should be home by now. May be they’ll understand. We don’t want our names in the papers. I want to pretend we weren’t even here."
"Here’s Dad!" called Tim, as he ran towards the stopping car. "Dad, meet Richard and Sal. Richard saw your watch under a bush, by this wall, as we were passing."
"That’s fantastic! You’re wonderful! We’d better let the police know."
"We’d be grounded if our parents knew we were so far from home," said Richard. "Tim’ll tell you. I can't believe that I've really got to meet you. You've no idea how much I follow all that you do, and all the photos of you that I've got everywhere!"
"That’s terrific to hear you’re a supporter. Thank you!"
"Can you give Richard your autograph?" asked Tim.
"Sorry, I’ve nothing on me to write with, have you?" Richard and Sally’s faces fell. Neither had they. "I’m really thrilled to get the watch back! Tell you what, here’s my card with our home number on it - but keep it to yourself and don’t tell others what it is. Phone me when I get back. Then, if you want, I’ll take you for a fast drive round the test track in one of our two seater sports cars. Maybe the Cobra. And the family too. If you want to, that is. I don't like being personal, but you might have to lose a kilo or two first. They're a pretty tight fit. Anyway, we’ve got to go too. Keep in touch, and thanks again!" Tim and his father were gone.
It had all happened so quickly. "Wow!" was all that Richard could say.
"Pretty nice Jag he was driving!" said Sally. "I can see how Tim couldn't fit into anything smaller though. What about that offer of a ride?"
"I really do want to lose weight. I will! No more snacks or chocolates from tomorrow, for a start. I can't wait! I'm so excited! But then I've got to play in that rotten game. I'm so worried I feel hungry again already!" Richard sighed. He smiled as his fingers twisted the business card around in his pocket.
"Don't you think you should tell Mum and Dad about everything?" asked Sally.
"I don't know!" said Richard. "I guess I should, but I'll have to think hard about exactly what I'm going to say. I usually find it easier to think while I'm eating, so it might take a bit longer without chocolate! I'll also have to work out how to get Mum to cut down on the meal sizes! That won’t be easy either!" he added, fingering Johnny Cando's card again for inspiration and good luck.
"You’re very late, and you look exhausted!" exclaimed Mr. Lander, when Richard and Sally finally appeared.
Richard collapsed on the sofa, then suddenly sat up. "I need to get fitter!" he announced. "Tomorrow morning I’ll start my exercise programme and go for a walk before breakfast."
"Maybe we should all go," said his father.
"I’ll stay home and cook something special," said Mrs. Lander. "You’ll be hungry by the time you get home."
"Mum, I really need to lose a bit of weight!" Richard sighed. He knew that she’d still want to keep serving the same sized helpings. Moreover, she was already searching the cupboards for ‘energy food’.
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