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Once Upon a Wish – Chapter 4

Chapter 4

shoe-1519804__4801Willie, Jack and Jill pushed the trunk over the top step and ran after it as it bumped down the rest on its own. The trunk landed on its side on the grass. Quickly, they heaved it back upright and dragged it towards a blackberry bush not far from the staircase. Tick Tock donged again, warning them of trouble.

They hid behind the bush and looked through small gaps. Willie watched the boot’s door swing open and Dame Nettle march out. She stood on the raised platform, looking in all directions – scowling.

The estate agent started to thump on the inside of the trunk. Willie’s insides flip-flopped.

‘We’ll let you go if you stay quiet for a wee minute,’ he whispered. ‘Starting from now.’

The banging stopped.

Pinocchio followed Dame Nettle outside. ‘I told you it wasn’t Mr Sprat. It’s dwarf miners. Their tunnels stretch for miles underground.’ As he spoke his nose grew.

‘See his poor nose – that always happens when he lies,’ said Jill. ‘Oh, I hope she doesn’t look at his face.’

Luckily, Dame Nettle didn’t. She spun on her heel and headed back inside. ‘Tick Tock, if you don’t stop donging at the wrong time I’ll chop you up and turn you into firewood,’ she shouted.

Pinocchio hurried after her.

‘Leave the door open,’ she said to him.

Willie glanced at Jack. He held a hand to his forehead and said, ‘Phew – that was close.’

Jill kneeled beside the trunk. ‘Are you okay in there?’

‘I stayed quiet as you asked. Now, please let me out,’ the man’s muffled voice begged.

Willie squatted down and spoke into the keyhole. ‘There’s one more thing – you’ve got to promise to go straight home.’

‘And not come back,’ added Jack.

‘Come back! Do you really think I want to see you lot again?’

Willie turned to the other two and they both nodded. He slowly lifted the lid.

The estate agent sat up in the trunk and took several gulps of air. He had a bulging red bump on his forehead and his eyes were unusually wide. ‘Where am I?’ He frowned. ‘Who am I?’

Willie and Jill turned to Jack.

‘It seems that bump on his head has made him lose his memory,’ he said.

‘We hit him with the lid!’ Jill covered her mouth with a hand.

‘Sorry. We didn’t mean to hurt you,’ said Willie. ‘You should have ducked.’ He thought again how odd it was for an estate agent to wear a stethoscope around his neck.

‘Your name is Mr Sprat and right now you’re at Old Boot House,’ said Jack slowly.

‘And you’re on your way home.’ Willie straightened back up.

‘But he can’t go home now,’ said Jill. ‘We need to take care of him – fix his head with vinegar and brown paper.’

‘No – he has to go,’ said Willie.

Jack nodded in agreement.

‘What if he can’t find his way home? It’s so cold out here he could freeze to death,’ continued Jill.

At that moment, Pinocchio darted around the bramble bush. Willie hadn’t heard anyone leave the boot and it gave him a fright.

‘I thought you were going to stop the estate agent.’ Pinocchio paused to catch his breath. ‘He’s just flown in on a flying carpet.’

‘He can’t have. This is the estate agent.’ Willie gestured at the man being helped out of the trunk by Jill.

‘It’s not,’ said Pinocchio.

Willie looked at their estate agent and so did his friends. He was stocky, middle-aged and had wiry brown hair. His clothes and shoes were soaking wet. A name badge fell out of his trouser pocket as he climbed free of the trunk. Willie picked it up and read: ‘Doctor Foster’.

‘We’ve got the wrong person.’ Jack took off his glasses, squeezed the bridge of his nose and put his glasses back on again.

Willie cringed and Jill said, many times, how sorry they were.

‘Come on, quick. We’ve got to get back to the boot,’ said Willie.

He sprinted off with Jack and Pinocchio.

‘I’ll come back,’ he heard Jill say to the doctor and she ran after them.

 

***

 

Willie and the others charged through the door together. Dame Nettle stood with the estate agent, staring up the boot’s leather ankle at the circle of daylight showing through the roof. Mr Sprat didn’t look anything like the man they’d locked inside the travelling trunk. He reminded Willie of a grasshopper on account of his bald head, skinny body, long legs and the lime-green tailcoat and tight brown trousers he wore.

Dame Nettle’s head snapped in their direction. ‘Back from the market so soon,’ she said and gave them a fierce glare. Her hand instinctively reached for the whip in her pocket, but then her eyes flicked to the estate agent and she let go of it.

‘Jack Sprat. I sell homes in one second flat.’ He gave them a wide, toothy smile and strode towards them and shook each of their hands in turn.

Willie hoped he really couldn’t sell a house this quickly.

The estate agent headed back across the room to Dame Nettle and peered up at the roof again.

‘To achieve the marvellous price I mentioned, you’ll need to get that fixed,’ he said. ‘And the sink unblocked and – ’ he examined the floor ‘– the insole re-glued in places. We want property buyers falling for your house not falling in it.’ He laughed at his own joke. ‘Do you have a man about the house who can do these things for you?’

Dame Nettle rolled her eyes. ‘I’ve always thought men are more trouble than they’re worth.’ The wrinkles on her forehead grew even deeper as she thought. ‘But I do want someone to pay a lot of money for the boot. Perhaps I should wish for one.’

‘Well, you won’t be granted a wish unless you try.’ Jack Sprat scribbled something down in a notepad. ‘Some lucky person’s dream will come true.’

Dame Nettle walked him to the door, passing Willie and his friends.

‘I just have one last question. Will you be leaving any fixtures and fittings, like curtains and carpets?’ he asked.

‘Oh, yes.’ Dame Nettle smiled a huge smile. ‘I’ll be leaving the children.’

Jack Sprat frowned, tapped his ear and said, ‘Excuse me?’

‘The children, an ugly bird and a few animals come with the house,’ she explained.

He took a step away from her. ‘You can’t leave children or creatures behind – you’ve got to take them with you. The house needs to be left empty or no-one will buy it,’ he said. ‘Is that a problem?’

Dame Nettle pressed her thin lips together and she cast a sideways glance at Willie, Pinocchio, Jack and Jill. Then she looked back at the estate agent and said, ‘No, it’s no problem at all.’

 

Story dedicated to Tom Donovan.

Story by Kim Donovan. (C) all rights reserved. Image: Pixabay

 

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Once Upon a Wish – The man who arrived by travelling trunk (Chapter 3)

shoe-1519804__4801

Willie had fallen asleep imagining what his family would be like. His dad would be a music man and he’d teach Willie how to play the piano – pia, pia, pia-ano – and the big bass drum – bumdi, bumdi, bumdi-bum. He pictured his mum and him rowing a boat gently down the stream, and stopping his sister from pricking her finger on an enchanted spinning wheel. He thought about them arriving on a flying carpet to collect him.

‘Keep wishing. Dreams do come true!’ he’d shout to the boys and girls, as he flew off to his new home – over the rainbow.

But his wished-for family didn’t arrive at breakfast time, by mid-morning or lunchtime.

‘Are you all right?’ Jill touched Willie’s arm.

He spun away from her. ‘It’s just something in ma eye,’ he said, and quickly wiped his face with the sleeve of his nightgown. Daft to believe in magic, anyway, he thought.

At half past two, Dame Nettle singled out Pinocchio and Princess True Love. The princess wore a dirty ball gown. ‘You two stay here,’ said the dame. ‘You’ll make the place look homely.’ Then she shooed the rest of the boys and girls out the door. ‘I want you go to market to buy a fat pig,’ she said to them. ‘The last thing I want is for Mr Sprat to think the place is overrun with horrible children and – ’ she glanced at the bird with muddy-brown feathers ‘– ugly ducklings.’

Willie tried to catch Enid’s eye to tell her not to listen to Dame Nettle, but she bent her long neck towards the wooden slats and didn’t look up.

Jill stretched out her hand, clearly expecting some money to pay for the pig. But Dame Nettle touched the pocket with the whip in it, and Jill’s arm shot behind her back.

‘The market’s in Banbury. It’ll take at least two hours to walk there,’ Jack whispered to Willie, as they headed down the outside steps by the shoe’s heel.

‘She’s only sending us there to get us out of the way,’ replied Willie.

The North wind blew through his flimsy nightshirt, making him shiver. Pale grey clouds hung like heavy sacks in the sky.

‘I think it might snow,’ said Jill.

Willie heard the door to the boot shut. ‘Quick! Let’s hide under the staircase.’ He ran around the side and ducked underneath it.

‘She might see us.’ Jill didn’t follow him.

‘No, she won’t. This is our chance to stop the estate agent; come on!’

Jack and Jill joined him in the small space. The rest of the children waved goodbye and carried on across the field on their long walk.

Jill pulled her sleeves over her hands. ‘Do you think it would feel this cold if we lived under a bridge?’

‘Yes, and we’d have trolls to worry about too.’ Jack peered out of a gap between two steps.

Willie did his best to give her a reassuring smile. ‘We’re not going to live under a bridge or a staircase or in cardboard boxes. We’re staying where we are.’

Inside, Tick Tock donged three times and Princess True Love started to sing like an angel.

‘Dame Nettle must think music will put the estate agent in a good mood,’ said Jack.

‘Aye. She’s after the best price she can get for the boot.’ Willie looked out from their hiding position as well. He scanned his surroundings for a pumpkin carriage bumping across the field or a flying house twirling to the ground. His chest felt like he had fairies fluttering inside of him.

But he had not expected the estate agent to arrive by travelling trunk. The wooden box appeared as a dot in the sky one second and before Willie had time to say Jack in a Box it landed with an almighty bump on the raised platform above their heads.

Tick Tock donged twelve times in warning even though it wasn’t midday or midnight. He’d obviously heard the noise too. Hopefully, Dame Nettle hadn’t.

‘Quick, get him!’ Willie sprinted up the steps to the trunk, his friends at his heel.

A middle-aged man sat wedged inside the box with his arms and legs dangling over the sides, trying to pull himself out. He wore odd clothes for an estate agent – a white cotton coat and a stethoscope around his neck. His clothes were also very wet, like he’d been for a swim fully dressed. A leather briefcase and a plastic carrier bag lay on top of him.

‘Thank goodness you’re here. Please help me,’ he said, breathlessly.

‘We’re very sorry to do this to you.’ Willie grabbed one of the man’s legs and started pushing it inside the box.

At the same time, Jack worked on forcing his arms inside too. Jill half-heartedly tried to push the lid closed.

‘Oh, please lower your head,’ she said to him. ‘I don’t want to hurt you.’

‘We will let you out again,’ said Jack.

‘Help! Someone help me!’ The man kicked Willie and hit Jack with the plastic bag.

The boys stopped what they were doing and helped Jill try to force the lid shut. Eventually, it started to close… the estate agent only just managed to pull his fingers inside the trunk in time. But by the thump and the yelp he let out, he didn’t lower his head fast enough.

‘Sorry!’ whispered Jill.

Willie stopped dead still. The princess had stopped singing part way through the song.

‘Something’s wrong,’ he said. Quick – push. Down the steps.’

 

Once Upon a Wish is dedicated to Tom Donovan

Story by Kim Donovan. (c) All rights reserved. Image: Pixabay

 

 

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Once Upon a Wish – Chapter 2

By child request, here is chapter two for bedtime stories. I’m so pleased you want to read more!

Chapter 2

shoe-1519804__4801Dame Nettle held the receiver to her ear and spoke in the posh voice she only used on the telephone. ‘Old Boot House. How may I help?’

Willie took a step closer to her so he could hear better.

Dame Nettle didn’t notice. She was too busy listening to the person on the other end. ‘Oh, thank you for calling me back,’ she said. ‘I’m planning on retiring soon, and I’d like to sell the boot I live in and move to Mermaid Creek.’ She started to walk, hunched over, towards her private room at the toe end. ‘An estate agent will visit tomorrow – hey diddle diddle!’ She tucked her grey hair behind her ear to hear better. ‘It’ll be Mr Sprat, the manager – cock-a-doodle doo! Three o’clock tomorrow afternoon – ’ She headed through her door and knocked it shut behind her with her whip.

‘What’s an estate agent?’ Jill asked Jack.

‘It’s someone who sells a house, castle or boot for you.’ They all listened to him. ‘The first thing he does is decide how much money people will pay for it. Then he puts it up for sale.’

‘Hoorah! She’s leaving us,’ said Patience Muffet, a girl with orangey-brown hair and freckles. The seven-year-old had ended up at Old Boot House after she ran away from a spider that sat down beside her. She had never been able to find her way back home again.

Children slapped hands and hugged each other.

‘It’s not a good thing,’ said Willie. ‘If Dame Nettle sells the boot we’ll have nowhere to live.’

‘I’m sure she’ll take us with her,’ said Jill.

Jack marched over to the table Dame Nettle had been sitting at. ‘I saw her circling some pictures of houses,’ he said, picking up the copy of Home Sweet Home.

‘Perhaps she’s looking for a bigger place for us all,’ said Puss in Boots. He was a silky grey cat in leather boots.

Jack started to leaf through the pages and Jill joined him at the table.

‘She’s not after somewhere bigger,’ he said, eventually. ‘All the houses she’s drawn rings around are tiny cottages.’

The boys and girls stopped celebrating and Jill pulled out a chair and flopped on it.

‘It might take ages for Dame Nettle to find someone who wants to buy the boot. It does smell of sweaty feet,’ said a boy made of wood. ‘By then we could all be back at home with our families.’

Willie turned towards him. ‘I’m sure your da will be found at sea, Pinocchio – and that he’ll come and get you,’ he said. ‘But I don’t have anywhere else to go. I don’t even know who my family are.’

Jill gave him a small smile. ‘You could wish for one.’

Willie shook his head firmly at her suggestion. ‘What good will that do? No-one’s going to wave a magic wand and make everything better.’ He noticed Patience Muffet and Tom Thumb looking at him. Their bottom lips were trembling. ‘Don’t worry yourselves.’ He paused to think. ‘All we have to do is stop the estate agent from coming here. That way he won’t be able to put it up for sale.’

Jack nodded. ‘I’ll do whatever it takes.’

‘Oh, please don’t get us into trouble,’ said Jill.

The two boys stared at her and Willie said, ‘Do you want to be homeless?’

 

***

 

Later that night, when all the other children were fast asleep, Willie lay awake in his hammock with the scratchy wool blanket pulled over him. He kept turning from side to side. He had far too many thoughts swarming in his head to sleep.

‘It’s daft to make wishes,’ he muttered. ‘They never come true.’ He wriggled onto his back and looked up through a hole in the roof at the moon and the stars. ‘So, all I have to do is ask for a palace and a teapot will magically turn into one!’ He made a false laugh. ‘I can’t believe even Jack made a wish before bed.’

He checked the hammocks nearest to him to make sure everyone was asleep and pulled a torn magazine picture out from under his thin pillow. He held it in the beam of moonlight coming through the roof. The photo was dog-eared and crumpled and showed a family : a mum, dad, a girl slightly younger than Willie and their pet unicorn. They were holding hands and flying through the air together with the aid of fairy dust. Willie always imagined being part of their family. Over the years, the picture had become fixed in his mind. As far as he was concerned, they were his family.

‘Ach, maybe I could make one wee wish… it’s only words.’ Willie chewed his lip. ‘Just a bit of fun to pass the time. That’s all.’

But his face looked deadly serious as he held the picture to his chest, stared up at the stars and whispered,

‘Star light, star bright,shooting-star-147722__4801

The first star I see tonight;

I wish I may, I wish I might,

Have the wish I wish tonight.’

 

He paused and said, ‘I wish for a family.’

 

This story is dedicated to Tom Donovan, my fantastic nephew.

I’ll post chapter three soon.

Story by Kim Donovan. All rights reserved. Image: Pixabay

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