Wednesday, 30 September 2009
There was once a long time ago three very bored children. They were so bored they actually got to 'helping' their parents around the house. Their mama after a while, dearly tho' she loved them finally had enough.
"Children," she told them, "You must go out and play, for the day is bright and lovely. It is too beautiful to be indoors. Build yourselves a tree house or something."
The children sighed but went out into the garden. I should tell you about them really. The oldest was called Sam and she wore a white dress with flowers on it, sneakers and her dark hair was down to her shoulders and kept getting in the way of her face. The middle one was called Tam and he always looked cross, which he was. If you call your child Tamburlane you must expect such things, even if that child insists on being called Tam. The youngest, they called Raspberry Jam or Jam for short. That was because he was small, red-faced and very sticky. He was always dashing about which made him red in the face and no matter how often he was scrubbed and washed he always managed to become sticky. That's children for you.
At one end of the garden was a large shed with all kinds of things in it. Boxes of fabric, bits of leather, old pieces of wood and the like. The children decided that they would make a camp in there and use the stuff to make furniture and secret things, which was not a bad idea at that.
But beyond the bottom of the garden was another garden with a house attached. It was said that a witch lived there, but the children's mother was unimpressed by such nonsense.
"Just because Miss Hexham is an old lady living alone with her cat and wears black it does not mean she is a witch. That is just a lot of nasty prejudice. It's no wonder she can be a bit snappish at times." she said.
Sam did not say it, but she thought that it did not mean Miss Hexham wasn't a witch either. But it was always wise to let her mother have the last word when she was in that kind of mood. Miss Hexham's old cat was black, long-haired and generally amiable to polite children, so the children did not mind him at all.
When they opened the shed door they noticed that a window was open and Sam sighed. No doubt her father had left it open. They trooped in and left the door open to air the shed, which smelled of dust. First thing Tam decided was to move things so they would have room to move in the shed. He went under a very tight space between boxes and found himself face to face with the cat.
"Oh, hallo cat. Sorry to disturb you." Tam said politely.
The cat closed both moon eyes slowly and purred. Tam reached out and gently stroked the warm fur of the old cat's head.
It took some time to clear the shed but between the three of them, they moved boxes and fabric carefully until they had a small cave inside the shed with light coming in through the open window and something like a small dais on which the curled up cat watched them. They decided that he would be their mascot.
The cat was much amused by this but said nothing. Sam then took a pair of broom handles and decided that she was going to make a scarecrow for their father's vegetable patch. Instantly Tam and Jam wanted to join in, so she told them to find some things to make the scarecrow with. First she tied the two handles so that the scarecrow had two legs. Then Tam wrapped some cloth around the body and some old tatty sheeps wool went around the neck and shoulders. Some nylon chiffon was tied on, thanks to Jam and then they looked for a suitable head. They found a strange set of small cardboard packaging which was tied and glued together to make a sort of head.
"It looks like a piggy." said Jam.
It did too. Tam got some leather scraps for the ears and Sam added some of the tatty sheeps wool to give it some sort of wig. Then they put the head on and admired it.
"It should certainly scare the crows." Tam said.
"I'm scared of it." Jam said and hid behind Sam, clutching at her dress with sticky fingers.
"It's not that scary." Tam told him scornfully.
"Anyway Jam, you're not a crow so you don't have to be scared." Sam added, tousling her baby brother's hair.
They were about to put it up in Dad's vegetable patch, but their mother called from the kitchen and they left the shed in a rush saying a hurried goodbye to the cat. The cat was left all alone with the scarecrow and now he stood up smoothly and smiled to himself. He stared at the scarecrow as if studying it and if a cat could laugh, this one would have. He stretched his paws and yawned. Then he arched his back and little electric sparks dashed across his back.
He liked the children but he also thought it would be amusing to tease them a little. In a catlike, magical fashion perhaps. He got down from the little dais and slinked across to the scarecrow. Once more he arched his back and brushed against the scarecrow with his tail raised like a banner. The little sparks crackled along his fur, spiralled up his tail and as if with a life of their own gathered themselves at the tip of his tail before leaping on to the scarecrow and spiralling about it right up to the piggy like head.
The children did not go back to the shed for the rest of that day and forgot about the scarecrow by the time their father came home from work. They had helped their mother in the kitchen and made biscuits. Jam had gotten extra sticky and his mother had washed him in exasperation. Two minutes after she had washed, dried and re-dressed him, he was sticky again.
Sam and Tam had cleaned up the kitchen and taunted each other. Tongues were stuck out, fingers wiggled and imaginative insults hurled until they were both breathless with laughter. Mum made tea and they sat with her telling her stories, which she found quite amusing and said so. When dad came home they helped set the table and prepare for supper.
The lights from the kitchen lit up the garden and for a little while after the children had eaten they were allowed to watch the foxes in the garden before being sent to bed. The lights remained on downstairs and in her bedroom, Sam could not sleep. She sighed, shut her eyes and turned over in her bed, but still did not feel sleepy. Then her eyes opened when she heard a sharp crack. She was out of bed and at the window in a rush. At first, she could see nothing unusual. Across the back garden, the back of Miss Hexham's house was quiet. Only something flew out of Miss Hexham's window that looked like a very large black bird with two yellow moonish jewels on it's tail that she swore blinked at her solemnly.
Then she heard the cracking sound again but put it out of her mind, shook her head and went back to bed. It couldn't have been anything important she thought to herself. She went to bed and slept.
But in the garden, the foxes turned their heads quickly and darted away. The bats squeaked and flew up along with the sparrows who had all been asleep. With a softer cracking noise, the scarecrow came down the garden with an awkward shuffle. Amazingly it did not lose it's balance but about it's body little bluish electrical sparks fizzed. It went slowly and ungainly towards the house and peered in at the window.
It was a neat room with pictures on the wall that mum had painted in her student days. There was a blue and white gingham waxed table cloth on the table and the chairs neatly placed about it. The table cloth was a little sticky at one point but that was understandable with Jam in the house. The scarecrow stared in at the lit interior without understanding when suddenly it was caught as if by something creeping up on it. A muttered word from an old woman and the electrical sparks fizzed up to the ears and leapt between the scarecrow to the tip of the old woman's broomstick.
"Daft cat, teasing little ones like that!" Miss Hexham softly snapped and turned her broomstick away.
Outside the window, utterly still the scarecrow stood. Mum got quite a fright when she came to draw the curtains. She shrieked once and fainted. Sam awoke suddenly and dashed out of her room to save her mum. So it was that when dad came back in from the garden he found Sam, Tam and Raspberry Jam standing ruefully at the top of the stairs.
"Mum's alright," he told them with a smile, "Go on back to bed. It was just a scarecrow outside the window."
Sam was about to speak when Tam gripped her hand very hard and shoved his hand over Jam's mouth.
"Ok dad." he said and dragged his siblings back to Sam's room.
"Nobody says a word," he told them, "Nobody will believe it and we'll get into trouble."
So they made a pact and to this day they have no idea how the scarecrow came from the shed to the dining room window. Miss Hexham moved house to a small cottage in the Lake District - with no near neighbours for thirty miles. The scarecrow was taken apart by the children quietly the next day.