The story continues. I love the idea of puddles going to places.
Shortly after Jack Sprat left and Dame Nettle disappeared into her room to write a wish to the Fairy Godfather, there was a rat-tat-tat-tat on the door. For one brief wonderful moment, Willie thought it was his new family here to collect him. Then he realised who it would most likely be – Doctor Foster.
Jack and Jill hurried to the door to answer it at the same time as Willie. He glanced nervously back at Dame Nettle’s room. Through the wall he could hear the TV show Who Lives in a Castle Like This?
Willie got there first and opened it. As expected, the doctor stood on the doorstep, still dripping, holding his bag.
‘I want to talk to whoever’s in charge here,’ he said in an abrupt tone.
‘Oh, please don’t tell Dame Nettle what we did to you,’ whispered Jill.
‘She’ll get out her whip if you do,’ added Willie.
‘She has a whip?’ said Doctor Foster, sounding shocked.
‘Is it someone about the house?’ It was Dame Nettle’s voice.
Willie turned to see her hurrying towards them with her back bent and feet pointed slightly outwards.
‘Goodness, Mr Sprat works quickly. ‘Come inside. Come inside. Out of the cold. We’ll soon get you warm and dry,’ she said.
‘Thank you. That’s very kind.’ Doctor Foster’s feet squelched as he walked in, leaving a trail of watery footprints on the floor. ‘I’m sorry – I appear to be making rather a mess.’
‘Oh, don’t worry about that. Jack will clear it up. Come and sit by the cauldron where it’s nice and warm.’ She took his bags, pulled a chair out for him and he sat down.
‘I’m Dame Nettle and you are?’
The doctor frowned.
‘This is Doctor Foster,’ answered Willie.
The doctor mouthed his own name and nodded. Willie hoped this meant his memory was coming back. But the bump on his head seemed to bulge more than ever and his eyes still looked wide and glassy. ‘Good heavens, this really is a boot,’ he said.
Dame Nettle beamed. ‘Yes, yes. It’s the real thing. I’ve been in it since my house got flattened by Jack’s giant.’
Doctor Foster looked at Jack and frowned. ‘You have a giant?’
‘No, not him.’ The other Jack – although they look horribly like each other with that black hair and blue eyes. I’m talking about the one who got the Golden Goose, the Golden Harp, almost EVERYTHING. ’
Doctor Foster muttered to himself, ‘This is all a dream.’
‘Yes, live the dream!’ Dame Nettle sat opposite him and drummed her fingers on the table. ‘Let’s not beat about the mulberry bush. You want to buy the boot – I can see that – how much money will you give me for it?’
‘I don’t want to buy the boot,’ he replied. ‘That’s not why I’m here.’
Dame Nettle’s smile vanished. Her chin jutted out and her eyes closed to slits. ‘Then why are you here?’
The doctor looked at Willie and his two friends, and Willie shook his head.
Doctor Foster gave him the slightest nod. ‘I’m just trying to get home – only I can’t remember the way. You see, I banged my head. I don’t remember much at all,’ he said. ‘I’m hoping you might be able to help me.’
Dame Nettle scraped back her chair and stood up. ‘It’s time you were leaving.’
‘What is the last thing you remember before coming here?’ Jack said quickly.
‘I went to Gloucester in a shower of rain. I stepped in a puddle right up to my middle – ’
‘That’s a crazy thing to do. Everyone knows that puddles go to places,’ said Pinocchio.
‘No, they really don’t.’ The doctor smirked at the suggestion and bent closer to Pinocchio. ‘You’re made of wood.’
‘Of course he’s made of wood. He’s a puppet.’ Dame Nettle pulled the doctor up by the arm until he was on his feet. ‘Now, clear off back to Gloucester or wherever it is. You’re making a mess of my nice clean floor.’
‘A talking puppet? I need to go to hospital.’ He just managed to pick up his bags before she frogmarched him to the door, keeping a tight grip on his sleeve.
‘I’ve never heard of Gloucester,’ said Willie. ‘And I’ve lived here all of my life.’
‘Perhaps he’s from another world,’ said Jack. ‘Puddles are mysterious things.’
Dame Nettle took a sharp intake of breath and let go of the doctor’s sleeve. She smoothed the fabric. ‘I wished for a man who could do jobs for me around the boot and you’ve magically appeared. The Godfather sent you to me – he granted my wish! I never expected it to happen so soon! I’m so happy!’
‘Please, I just want to go home, have a hot bath and an early night, and tomorrow go to work as normal,’ said Doctor Foster.
Dame Nettle sucked in her cheeks and said nothing for a moment. ‘Do the jobs I need done and I’ll help you find your way home.’ She pointed to the leather ankle and the hole in the roof. ‘I’d like you to climb up there and mend the broken tiles. That’s your first task.’
‘But I have a head injury. I shouldn’t be going up there.’
‘Take my offer or leave it – that’s the deal.’ She placed her hands on her bony hips.
‘And you’ll help me if I do this for you?’
‘Cross my heart and hope to sleep for a hundred years,’ she said.
But Willie Knew Dame Nettle never kept her promises.
This story is dedicated to Tom Donovan, my nephew.
Story by Kim Donovan. (c) copyright. All rights reserved. Image: pixabay.