Today is National Dictionary Day! Here’s another seasonal story to celebrate!
Bang! Whistle! Fizz! It was three days before Bonfire Night and the sound of fireworks at dusk were already a common occurrence in Mulberry Village.
Charlie, Joe, Ben, Sophie and Alice were all very excited about their Guy Fawkes party in the main field this year. They had all spent the last three months busily collecting pocket money to buy every kind of firework possible for the big night. Charlie had seen a very professional box of eighty fireworks including rockets and high flying whistlers; they all wanted to buy it and had collected fifty pounds so far by washing cars, hoovering bedrooms, helping aunties and tidying clothes. They had also collected a few pounds by exhibiting their most magnificent guy in a wheelbarrow outside Mr.Elm’s Veggie Store. ‘Guy’ had been made from a combination of rolled up newspaper and bubble wrap stuffed into an old uncle’s jumper, padded tights for arms and legs and an adornment of blazer, jogging bottoms, hobnail boots and a wonky trilby; all donated by the children’s parents.
Sophie had found an old Halloween mask from last year which they modified with pen to make him look slightly less ghoulish and more ‘mildly alarming’, with his black beard and pursed lips. If anything he looked very amusing sat regally in the wheelbarrow with his trilby perched over one eye. He was a hit with the locals and they would throw 5 and 10p coins into the barrow for fun as they walked past. The children were very proud.
Today was the day they were meant to buy the fireworks at the local toy shop. Everything was in place. Charlie had taken charge of the money collection and rounded everyone up. At eleven years of age, he was the oldest and most responsible one to take the others into the village centre for choosing the fireworks and then carrying them home again.
They all set off excitedly and walked across the field to the nearest bus stop. When on the bus they were bubbling away, chattering and discussing how the bonfire party would be organised. Who would be in charge of the jacket potatoes? Who was going to have the prime task of wheeling Guy to the bonfire? Who’s dad would be lighting the fire and the rockets? As they were chattering, Charlie decided to take one more look in his bag to count the money. It was a mixture of notes and coins and he’d stored them in separate money bags. He found the coins and counted them … £18 all in place.
But then he rummaged around again and to his horror, realised the bag with the notes in had vanished! Charlie frantically tipped everything out of his bag , much to the alarm of the other children, but there was no other bag in there.
“It’s gone! The money’s gone” he whimpered to the others.
Horrified, the other children helped him search the bag and the floor, the seats on the bus, their pockets and bags ‘just in case’. But they didn’t find the money.
Alice took charge. “Right” she said “let’s get off the bus and retrace our steps. Are you a hundred per cent sure you put the notes in your bag Charlie?”.
“Yes” he said woefully “I put the money in just as I was leaving he house an hour ago. I checked, double checked and triple checked after I closed the front door”.
“OK, let’s go and look for it” said Alice.
They all trudged off the bus, a mixture of disappointment and upset over the lost money. They reached the field again and followed the path they’d taken earlier, but nothing was there.
Charlie suggested they all went back to his house in case the money had fallen out of his bag there. With a glimmer of hope they wandered back.
Just as they approached the house, Charlie’s dad was emerging from the side garage in a stomping rage and looking very upset also. He spotted the children arriving and shouted to Charlie
“ Can you believe this? There’s a thief on the loose around here! Someone’s nicked my bike, the strimmer, my remote control helicopter and our outdoor boogie box!”
Before the children could answer, the next door neighbour came out of his garden also looking shocked, squeaking :
“ Mike?! I heard you complaining about your things going missing! It’s happened to me too! My power tools have all gone from the shed! There’s about two hundred pounds worth gone there!”.
All of a sudden, the children’s problem seemed a lot smaller in comparison to what they were hearing. The parents and neighbours congregated in the middle of the pavement, all complaining and moaning in a huddle. It was also getting dark again too. The thief my return for second pickings tonight, they all thought. One parent disappeared to call the police while the others decided how to catch the thief if the police were delayed at all.
The children were quite excited by all the fuss by now as they could see all the grown –ups plotting to corner the criminal. Listening intently to them engaging ideas then throwing them away again, Charlie approached the huddle and made a suggestion of his own:
“ Uhhhm, I’ve got an idea” he said apprehensively
“ Why don’t we use Guy?”
All the parents stopped nattering and turned to Charlie, looking confused.
“ What do you mean ?” Charlie’s dad asked.
“ Well, why don’t we put Guy in our garage tonight to try and scare the thief and stop him in his tracks? He’s really tall when you stand him up, he’s quite broad and he’s wearing men’s clothes. The garage will be dark, so if Ben and I sit behind him and make him move a little at the right time, it will at least make him jump. Maybe I could use my voice synthesiser to make Guy talk too”.
Everyone laughed heartily until they were nearly crying at this image of Guy in the garage, acting as private eye for the night. But in the midst of it, Charlie’s dad thought he may have had a good idea there after all.
“Ok Charlie, you’ve cheered us up loads at least, that’s very funny! I like your idea but you and Ben are much too young to take on some grimy criminal in the dead of night”. Myself and Mike will pick up Guy from Mr Elm’s shortly and if the police aren’t here by night time, we’ll hide out behind Guy and see what happens”.
“ Ohhh Dad” whined Charlie “ PLEASE let me sit in with you? It was my idea after all!
Charlie’s parents were very unsure, so assigned him the task of being whistle blower if the dads caught the thief. Charlie was disappointed about not being on the front line of excitement, but eagerly agreed to be chief whistle blower and everyone dispersed to carry out their respective tasks in the operation.
Within an hour the dads had collected Guy and propped him up on his own large chair in the garage. They leant a pitch-fork in one of his leather gloved hands and a large spade in the other, tilted his hat over the one eye a little more and pushed him forward a little as if he were about to get up. They stood back and admired their work. He did actually look most realistic!
“Well I’d be scared of him Mike!” exclaimed Charlie’s dad.
They laughed and settled down to their plan. The police still hadn’t arrived, so the dads would have to take it into their own hands if the thief came back again. They’d hold off for as long as possible, but if they had to, they would talk and act to frighten him, Charlie’s dad would send a pre-written text to his mum, Charlie would blow the whistle and all the other dads would run out of the house and to the garage where they’d all hold the thief until the police came.
Deep darkness descended on the street, the air became cold and everyone was ready in position for ‘Operation Guy’ to commence. The police had phoned to say they would be there after their next house visit two streets away.
The two dads sat in the back of the garage, starting to shiver. For an hour nothing happened at all. They were getting pins and needles in their bottoms for sit so still for so long.
“Come on, hurry up robber” whispered Mike
“He might be having a night off I expect”mused Charlie’s dad.
Just as he said that, there was a clip clapping of light shoes to be heard walking along the driveway. Was it him? Was it the police? They weren’t sure.
The dads held their collective breath.
Suddenly there was a knock and creak as someone was trying the lock on the garage door. After a few seconds of light rattling the door squeaked open and the shadow of a small weasley looking man in a flat cap could be seen. The dads could only make out a shadow, but it really did look like the chap had such a long nose! Nerves made them want to giggle but they couldn’t. They sat deathly still.
The man had a small torch and shone it onto the smaller tools. He shone onto the rafters of the garage for a better look and he started picking out the things he could carry easily. Spanners, hammers, screwdrivers; they all went into his loot bag. Next he shone his torch near the guy ; the dads sat rigid. Soon, the torch skimmed past and then rapidly returned to Guy as the thief noticed something different ahead. He stopped dead as he tried to work out in the darkness whether the figure was real or not. Looking a little closer, he realised it was that raggy old scarecrow he’d seen in the village that morning and laughed to himself.
“Evening Guy!” he laughed. “ you been brought in from the cold tonight then? You weren’t here yesterday. Don’t mind me while I just borrow a few things will you?!”
“PUT THAT BACK!” growled the guy as he waggled his spade arm at the thief.
With complete astonishment and terror the thief jumped out of his skin and started fumbling for the door. With that, Charlie’s dad sent the text alert, Charlie blew the whistle, the other dads raced out of the house and to the garage door and the police pulled up outside.
Just in time!
Seeing exactly where the kerfuffle was occurring, the police marched straight to the scene and cuffed the thief ready for questioning in the car. Everyone was so relieved they’d caught the culprit and excitedly congregated in Charlie’s house for a run-down down of the evening and a few warm drinks.
The next day, Charlie went for a look in dad’s garage , so proud of Guy and feeling a little sad that after all the excitement, they’d be burning the figure in a couple of days’ time.
As he stood admiring his handy work, something made Charlie look near the floor of the garage, next to the door. There was his pack of notes! How did it end up there? Could the thief have somehow had that too?
Delighted, Charlie picked up the pack, raced to the other children’s homes and they all sped off to the shop to buy their fireworks.
The Bonfire party they had this time was the best ever. The fire crackled, the rockets whooshed, the toffee apples tasted delicious and the sparklers twinkled better than ever.
As for Guy, everyone had agreed, they couldn’t possibly burn him this year as they’d grown so fond of him.
So he sat in his wheelbarrow, watching the fireworks and enjoyed the Bonfire party with everyone else; smiling!
©Tess Egerton 2011