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Authors: Sam Hay

Billy Angel

BOOK: Billy Angel
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Billy Angel

Sam Hay

Illustrated by Emma Dodson

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Imprint

For Alice and Archie

Chapter 1

Plumbing. That's what the future had in store for me. From as early as I can remember, and even before that, I knew I was destined to spend my life with my arm stuck down someone else's toilet. And to be totally honest, I wasn't very happy about it.

‘Happy Birthday, Billy.'

That's me, age three, with a plunger on my head and a set of plastic plumbing tools on my lap. See how cheesed-off I look. That's because what I really wanted was a bright-yellow, shiny digger, like my best friend Barry's.

‘Happy Birthday, Billy.'

There I am again. I'm the small boy standing in front of 2,000 new toilets. Yes,
2,000 toilets
. I'm six and it's my birthday treat – a visit to the toilet factory. I look ecstatic, don't I?

Oh, and that's me again. It's Christmas and I'm the one holding the giant book that doesn't quite fit on my lap. I'm eight and the book is
The A to Z of Practical Plumbing Problems
. Don't laugh. That's really what I got for Christmas that year. It may look like I'm smiling, but inside I'm seething.

You see my dad, William Box, is a plumber, just like his father before him and his father before him and his father before him. In fact, if you could be bothered going right back to the beginning of time, you'd probably find a William Box in a loin cloth up to his arm in dinosaur doo-doo sorting out someone's cesspit problems.

I'm called William Box, too. But despite the name and millions of years of tradition, I've always known plumbing wasn't for me. I have absolutely no interest in pipes. Or poo. Or blocked sinks. Or smelly drains. Or leaky radiators. Or bothersome ball cocks. The only
trouble is, I haven't quite worked out how to tell my dad. Or my mum, for that matter.

You see, Mum's almost as potty about plumbing as Dad. She says she's a social historian, but all she's really interested in is how Joe Bloggs back in eighteen-something or other washed his shorts or took a whiz.

She's currently building a matchstick-model replica of the original London sewer system. It's got flushing lavs and everything. It's enough to make you weep.

My parents talk endlessly about plumbing. They dream about plumbing. They watch plumbing programmes on TV. They read plumbing magazines. They go on holiday with other plumbers. They even crack plumbing jokes, which are not funny.

‘What do you call a highly skilled plumber?'

‘A drain surgeon.'

No, I didn't laugh, either.

And that's what I thought my destiny was. A lifetime of dreadful jokes and endless blocked loos. But I was wrong. Fate had something
far
stranger in store for me.

Chapter 2

It was the eve of my eleventh birthday and life was about to go down the pan. Completely!

As usual, I was looking forward to a pile of pointless plumbing presents (PPPs), which I'd stuff under the bed along with all the others.

If you ever find yourself desperately searching for a pair of polyester pyjamas with purple pliers on them, I can help you out.

Maybe you're itching to read about the history of the automatic washing machine, with extra diagrams and full-colour photos. If so, give me a call.

But crap presents were the least of my worries this year. Because I was about to turn eleven. That might not sound like a big deal to you. But to a Box it's a big occasion. You see, destiny calls us Boxes on the eve of our eleventh birthdays. And that destiny is always plumbing.

It happened to my dad, his brothers, and Grandad, too.

They'll all tell you the same story: the night before they turned eleven, just as they were drifting off to the land of nod, they had the weirdest dream. A shaft of golden light appeared from the ceiling, there was a faint pong of plumber putty, and suddenly a life of smelly sinks and dirty drains beckoned to them.

That was all it took. They got up the next day as though a whopping great water tank had burst in their brains, flooding out any other thoughts apart from plumbing.

Yeah, that's what I thought, too. A load of codswallop, with the distinct smell of last month's Camembert. But it's true. That's how it happens in my family. Wham! Bham! Your life's down the pan. Happy eleventh birthday.

So you'll understand how excited I was to go to bed the night before I turned eleven.

Yeah, not very.

‘Goodnight, son, and the best of British,' said Dad, clenching his fist in a manly gesture of encouragement, as I slunk up to bed wearing my spanner-shaped slippers. (Another PPP.)

‘Sleep well, sweet dreams,' giggled Mum, as she switched off my light.

But actually I wasn't too worried because, unknown to them, I had a plan. There was no way I was going to Dream the Dream.

As soon as Mum had gone, I snuck out of bed and put on my football kit. The whole shebang: boots, shin pads, socks and all. Then I climbed back into bed clutching my football in one hand and my box of
Goal!
back issues in the other.

You see, I'm planning to be an international footballer. Not a plumber – international or otherwise. And I reckoned that if I dressed the part, it might make me dream of football.
Not plumbing
.

For a long time I couldn't sleep. I was trying so hard
not
to think about plumbing that all I could think about
was
plumbing. But eventually I must have dropped off because the next thing I remember was the football rolling off my bed and waking up with a start.

I blinked at the clock.

3:03 am.

Had I escaped my destiny? I couldn't remember Dreaming the Dream. And I certainly wasn't swinging from the light at the thought of bleeding a radiator.

I sighed deeply, lay back on my pillows and closed my eyes with a smug smile of satisfaction.

And that's when I heard it…

‘William Box? Are you William Box?'

I sat bolt upright.

‘Only the address isn't very clear. And I haven't got much time.'

I gasped.

Standing at the bottom of my bed was a thuggish-looking bloke. If I'd seen him on the street, I'd have crossed the road. He was tall and mean-looking, in a hooded top and jeans. His nose was squashed, and his hair looked like a loo brush. But the weirdest thing was the light. All around him was a white light, sunglasses bright. It hurt to look.

A rush went through my brain: was it a burglar? Or a mad axeman?

‘What do you want?' I squeaked, shading my eyes and clutching my football mags, in case he made a grab for them.

But he wasn't listening. He was peering at a scrap of paper.

‘William Box, 15 Lavender Rise?' he muttered to himself. ‘Lavender Rise? What sort of stupid, girly sounding address is that anyway?'

Suddenly I felt cross, despite myself. The fact that some spiky weirdo in a translucent, hooded top was standing at the bottom of my bed somehow seemed less important than my street name being ridiculed.

‘What's wrong with Lavender Rise?' I said.

‘What's
right
with it?' he snapped. ‘But who cares what sort of frilly street you live in. Are you William Box or not?'

I was still cross, but I nodded.

That seemed to please him, because he dropped the paper and stepped forward with a sort of twisted smile on his face.

And that's when an awful thought smacked me on the chops. Maybe I was actually asleep. Could this be something to do with Dreaming the Dream? Was this bloke about to tell me my future was toilet-shaped?

‘Look,' I said desperately. ‘If this is anything to do with plumbing, I don't want to know…'

He frowned.

‘…Because, I am
not
going to be a plumber – not ever! So if you're anything to do with Dreaming the Dream, or toilets, or central-heating systems, I'm not interested. Not in the slightest. Now, please go away.'

I dived under the duvet and held my breath.

But he didn't go away.

Suddenly, I felt a pointy finger poking my head through the covers.

‘Look, squirt,' he growled. ‘I haven't got all night. I've no idea what you're wittering on about, but I'm here with a message, so stop messing around and listen.'

Reluctantly, I peeped out. He was standing right next to my bed. ‘You're too bright,' I said, squinting in the light, ‘and you smell funny.'

But he didn't smell of plumbing putty. It was something much fouler, like burnt anchovies or grilled-sardine sandwiches.

BOOK: Billy Angel
3.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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