Authors: Frank English
Tags: #Magic Parcel, #Fantasy, #Omni, #Adventure, #childrens adventure, #Uncle Reuben, #Fiction, #Senti, #Frank English, #Ursula, #Chaz Wood
Published by 2QT Limited
Burton In Kendal
Cumbria LA6 1NJ
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Copyright Â© 2009 Frank English. All rights reserved.
This work is registered with the UK Copyright Service:
Registration No: 300102
The right of Frank English to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that no part of this book is to be reproduced, in any shape or form. Or by way of trade, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition, including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser, without prior permission of the copyright holder.
Cover design and Illustrations by Chaz Wolf
The author has his own website:
For my wife Denise without whose endless support, patience and understanding this wouldn't have been possible.
There was once a boy, a little boy by the name of Jimmy; Jimmy Scoggins to be exact. He lived with his mother and older brother, Tommy, in a mid-terrace house in an ordinary town in England. They never considered they were anything other than straight forward, regular and the most usual sorts of people.
Although Jimmy was only nine, he was quite a bright little boy for his age. His favourite things of all time were weekends, holidays, and anything which meant he didn't have to go to school. This particular morning, he had to be up early because there was something he badly wanted to do ......
“Jimmy! Jimmy!” yelled Mrs Scoggins in her usual high-pitched, drawn-out wail. “It's half past seven! Time to get up! Jimmeee!”
It's funny how first thing, when you've woken out of a lovely warm dream of that eternal holiday from school, ready to get up for that special visit you've been looking forward to for ages, you decide you don't really want to get up after all. Doesn't that warm blankety feeling make you just wish everyone else would go away?
“I'll just roll over and pretend I didn't hear,” thought Jimmy in that semi-drowsy state he called waking up. Why on earth had he wanted to get up anyway? What was so special about
The thought rang suddenly in his half-empty brain. Covers shot back and he leaped out of his bed - well, crawled anyway - ready for the day. He should have known straight away it was Saturday. There was always a different feel about the morning when it was Saturday, particularly the first Saturday of a holiday. Saturday was always the day he went to see ...
“Uncle Reuben! Why didn't you think of it sooner, idiot,” he muttered under his breath, tapping the side of his head with his forefinger; and what's more there was ... “No school! Yippee!”
He hated school even more than cabbage and castor oil - yuck! How he hated school! âEmpty head' is what his class teacher always called him. âThoughts in the clouds' he usually said did Mr Bolam. He was all right really, Mr Bolam, Jimmy supposed, in a funny sort of a way. Would have been much better if he hadn't been a teacher, though. Rum lot, those teachers. Always telling you what to do; things they wouldn't dream of doing themselves. Good for you, good for discipline, they always said. Jimmy didn't
believe what they said, he just didn't ever listen. Didn't have the time; he was too busy thinking of his next visit to his ...
“Uncle Reuben!” he shouted more clearly as he pulled on his trousers. “Must hurry; can't be late for my bus...” Besides, it was breakfast time, and the smell of bacon frying downstairs was beginning to make him realise his stomach was empty and crying out to be filled.
“Back upstairs,” his mum ordered, as he bowled through the kitchen door in his futile attempt to stop himself catapulting into her as she barred the way in, “and put your clean shirt on.”
He knew his “Aw, mum!” in complaint, wouldn't cut any ice but he had to try anyway. He turned on his heels and trudged grudgingly back to his room.
“Don't forget to brush your hair and teeth whilst you're at it!” she reminded him as he reached the top step. His attempt to reduce the time he spent at the breakfast table had taken a serious blow. How is it that mothers always seem to know what you are thinking?
“Not much longer to go now, mum,” he mumbled at last through two large bulging bags at the sides of his face he called cheeks. He could hardly speak his mouth was so full in a desperate attempt to polish off his breakfast in time to catch his bus. Getting up from the table, he stuffed another bread roll into his groaning cheek sacks - surely they would burst if much more were pushed in. Leaving half his breakfast on his plate for the cat, he made a dash for the door.
“Sit down!” she frowned as he attempted to whiz past her left ear on his way out. “You
finish your bacon!”
Jimmy was stopped in his tracks by her commanding voice, and a swift arm-lock applied as his flailing limbs spun past her head. There she goes again, bossing about as usual. Couldn't
decide when he had had enough?
“... for your own good,” she always nattered. “... ought to do as you are told ... be getting into bother one of these days with not listening ...” she always droned on. He didn't really listen much anyway. Mothers always fussed ... didn't they?
“Oh, mum,” complained Jimmy. “Can't I just...? I'll miss my bus! Please, mum!”
“Just a little more then, dear,” she said quietly, her head drooping slightly to form that stern double chin of finality he knew so well. There was no further use in arguing; that, most definitely, was that. He sat down and began to eat again with as much decent haste as he could, making sure not to stuff too much in at once, or else she would keep him all the more.
“OK,” she said quietly again, “that'll do. Off you go now, and don't ...”
She wasn't given the time to finish. He was through into the hallway in a flash, coat and scarf flying behind in his slipstream as he reached the open gate.
She smiled slightly and shook her head in that knowing way all mothers have and to herself she wished him a good time.
Shooting a quick glance to his right as he skidded onto the pavement, he saw the great blue double-decker chugging along the road just a short way lower down. It would be a close run race as to who or what would reach the stop first - bus or boy.
“Oh no!” he panted in full stride, glancing over his flapping scarf; “must ... get ... there! Oh no! I'm going to miss...”
The stop was in sight and he made a last despairing lunge as the bus's bell clanged permission for it to set off, passengers on board. A hand's distance ... not quite ... and then as he was about to miss the darned thing, two great hairy hands appeared from nowhere. Grabbing a hand and the flapping hood of his anorak, the anonymous hands hauled Jimmy towards the platform. Two sensations he felt; one of powered flight, and the other of being almost strangled by his own coat.
Once safely on board, he looked around to find an enormous conductor, who was grinning a great toothless welcome to his number 59.
“Nice of you to drop in,” he grinned, bowing low. “Please take a seat. Best views on top. Wipe your feet before you tread on our newly-fitted carpet.”
Jimmy mumbled his gratitude and slowly wound his way up the spiral stairway to the upper deck. The bus was one of those ancient carriers which had so obviously been brought out of retirement to fill in for a younger, sprightlier relative which had broken down. It was so old, even the bell wasn't guaranteed to work every time, and even if it did, it was just as likely to ring five minutes after the knob had been pressed, or not at all.
Jimmy shuffled along the side gangway on the top deck between the window and banks of worn bench seats, trying to find somewhere to sit. The big, square, fat or squat frames of the Saturday morning shift at the local foundry works filled the bus, row upon row of silent, unresponsive, reluctant bodies, being taken from the warmth of their weekend laziness.
He eventually managed to squeeze himself into a small space between a fat pair of greasy overalls and a long, thin blue boiler suit, on the front-most seat of the deck, giving him a wonderful view all around. From this seat, which was Jimmy's favourite of all, you could be absolutely
; airline pilot, for example, though he didn't think it would be as cramped as this for space.
“Attention please, this is your captain Jimmy Scoggins calling. I hope you have had a pleasant journey with us. Touchdown will be in ...”.
What if an engine caught fire? He could bring her in to land on only one, and be the hero of the day, saving all on board.
Or ... or ... spaceship captain!
“Hello base. Hello base. WIJS calling. Cruising along just below cloud base. No sign of life on this planet as yet, but some strange markings and what appears to be buildings just ahead. Making for them now ...”
And ... and ...
“Tumbles Row; next stop terminus,” the harsh voice cut roughly through his inter-galactic adventure, jerking him back to the top deck again. His stop! He hadn't noticed his fellow sardines squeeze out of the can the stop before. He had to hurry along the gangway, down to the platform and out onto the pavement before the bus got up too much speed. On the roadside, panting slightly from his exertions, he gathered his bearings and set off in the direction of his Uncle Reuben's house, a five-minute walk from the stop.
The houses, in the main, had been built between fifty and a hundred years earlier, in their terraced and semi-detached splendour, with long gardens running and tumbling down to neatly trimmed and shaped privet hedges by the path. To Jimmy, they all looked the same, but there was an individuality about each one. If only because of the paintwork outside, each was entirely different from all the others. Immaculate in their appearance and proudly maintained by their owners, they all displayed their best characteristics in the early morning sunshine.
Now, his Uncle Reuben's house
different, and rather special. At the end of one of those late Victorian terraces, it stood in a wonderful position in relation to the others in its row. Set in large gardens to three sides, with a strong, high fence all around, the house enjoyed complete seclusion and privacy from prying eyes. To the outsider, it was just another old house and garden, but to Jimmy it was heaven and paradise rolled into one. It was one of those few special places Jimmy could have found with his eyes shut, for whenever he was near to it he had a funny tingling sensation run through and around his body. It was as if he had walked through a very mild electric field, making the hairs on his neck stand on end; not with fear, but with anticipation. For, indeed, he didn't quite know what to expect whenever he visited Uncle Reuben. Something different and exciting always happened.
The garden tumbled backwards and forwards over itself to provide all who entered something different according to his mind and interests. It
it to be. There were so many trees and bushes, and so much dense undergrowth that the fence, apart from a few obvious places, could hardly be seen at all. You felt that you weren't even
a garden, but somewhere ... up the Amazon, or ... in the Himalayas, or ... or ... even on another planet!
Jimmy hadn't explored it all yet. He hadn't had the time. You see he'd only been going to Uncle Reuben's every Saturday since he was six, and now he was nine. There was always the odd corner he seemed to have missed, or
particular area he was sure wasn't there the last time, or
rather interesting-looking old shed he hadn't noticed. Always something...
There was that tingling feeling again! He was almost there. One more corner, and ... Uncle Reuben, as always, standing on the front step (the top one of ten to be exact), thumbs under lapels, and boot caps flashing as he smiled his welcome to his favourite nephew. In the years he had known him, Jimmy had never seen that smile leave his face. He was one of life's optimists; he saw good in everything, and had a great deal of wisdom and âextra' knowledge that other people didn't have.
He was a funny old soul really, if you stopped to think; shortish, quite thickset, with a great bush of black, curly hair which always stayed in the same position but never seemed orderly or to have been combed. And those horn-rimmed, half-moon spectacles he had perched permanently, like a bird ready for take-off, on the end of his nose, added a certain odd look to him, like some absent-minded professor. Absent-minded he certainly was not. Jimmy was forever puzzled how he knew so much (he always had an answer for all, absolutely
of Jimmy's questions), and he never seemed to forget anything you told him, no matter how long ago it was. Although he swore he could not see an inch without them, Uncle Reuben never seemed to look
those glasses, but usually
them. And those eyes - they were so sharp, bright and deep that you couldn't imagine them, ever needing glasses.