Authors: Ivan Brett
PS Oh dear. This book seems to have developed the capability of time travel. It’s actually a pretty common thing, especially when there’s time travelling going on within the book’s pages. The story gets ideas of its own, you see, and soon you’ve got Chapter 1 following Chapter 12, Chapter 4 hiding in the middle of Chapter 5, and Chapter 7 fighting barbarians somewhere in the Middle Ages. It’s a nightmare, I tell you.
Listen, the best thing to do is just ride it out. I’ll fill you in as we go along, OK?
Oh, that’s close enough. I mean, ideally you’d start with Chapter 1, but not much happened, really. There was this big dog that wouldn’t stop eating muffins, but it’s not central to the story. So let’s just begin from here.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this may be the proudest moment of my life.”
Mayor Rattsbulge wiped a greasy tear from his enormous cheek and licked his finger.
“To be standing in the shadow of such a majestic structure, and to have that structure
named after little old me
Well, few people in this world could feel as proud as I do now. To have our very own bus shelter here in Corne-on-the-Kobb.” The mayor trembled. “To enjoy its many uses, such as, well, actually… what does a bus shelter
A murmur of confusion spread through the crowd. Beards were scratched, shoulders were shrugged. The 107-year-old Betty Woons gasped and almost rocked her wheelchair over, but then her smile wrinkled up and she shook her head. This was a problem. Nobody had a clue what a bus shelter did, and if nobody knew, what was the point in having one?
In truth, this sort of thing happened quite a lot around these parts. You see, Corne-on-the-Kobb was what’s known in the trade as A Village of Idiots. With an average IQ of just under fifty-six, and an average reading age of minus three, the villagers of Corne-on-the-Kobb weren’t the shiniest spoons in the drawer. If left to their own devices they’d often end up stuck in a tree, buried neck-deep in a vegetable patch or sleeping inside your washing machine. But that’s exactly what makes Corne-on-the-Kobb brilliant.
“Somebody must know,” groaned Mayor Rattsbulge. “Where’s that clever lad? The one with the face. Oh, what’s his name – Camper Catalogue or something. He’ll know.”
The name spread through the crowd like Chinese whispers.
“Find Catcher Capricorn!”
“Where’s Candy Calculator?”
“Get Calcium Carbonate!”
At the very back of the crowd, Casper Candlewacks sighed. “You mean me?”
Heads nodded eagerly and the crowd parted to let Casper through.
“Ah, just the fellow,” said Mayor Rattsbulge, ruffling Casper’s scruffy blond hair. “Got any idea what this chap actually does?” He gestured to the shiny new bus shelter.
The wide-eyed crowd looked on expectantly. Noise trickled down to silence as they waited for the boy’s verdict. Even the pigeons stopped pecking to listen in.
Casper pointed inside to the wooden seats. “Erm… you sit here to wait for a bus.”
“HOORAY!” The crowd exploded with joy and Casper was promptly forgotten.
Not being an idiot in a village full of idiots was a full-time job, as Casper would tell you (between bouts of averting disasters and saving days). It meant late nights, early starts and a terrible pension package. But deep down, Casper loved it.
He wandered off to sit on a bollard just as the mayor asked, “What’s a bus?”
Casper picked up a soggy copy of Corne-on-the-Kobb’s weekly newspaper, the
floated on a puddle. On the front page Casper could still read the headline, the story that everyone had been talking about (until Mayor Rattsbulge announced the opening of his bus shelter):
Below the headline was a picture of Blight Manor, a once-great mansion, now old and crumbling, with missing windows, half a roof, and walls that had buckled and bent more than a bent buckle.
The Blight dynasty existed long before Corne-on-the-Kobb had even been thought of. A baron of Blight ruled the Kobb Valley after the Norman Conquest, and the family have held the seat with their cold-knuckled fists ever since. But in the years that passed, the Blights’ hold on the Kobb Valley slipped, their lands shrank and their finances dwindled. The last Lord Blight died under mysterious circumstances – after his daughter poisoned him. It’s not that mysterious, really. Now Lady Lobelia Blight and her daughter, Anemonie Blight, resided in Blight Manor, desperately clutching at the embers of their once-great empire. With the sale of Blight Manor, the lordship would slip away and the estate disappear, leaving nothing in its place but a nesting-place for the pigeons.
A steel-capped black leather boot slammed down on the soggy paper, splashing a muddy puddle all over Casper’s trousers.
“Oy!” Casper jumped back to avoid more wetting. Then he looked up to see the owner of the boot… and shivered. “Anemonie Blight. What d’you want?”
“It’s all lies, Candlewacks!” shrieked Anemonie, her oh-so-noble pointy nose red with shame. “How many times do I have to punch you before you understand that?”
Casper shuffled back further as Anemonie advanced, fists clenched. “Look, I don’t care how much money you have.”
“Lots of money!” she shouted. She had long dark hair and a threatening squint. “Rooms full of it, in fact. An’ if you say we don’t, I’ll bite you.”
“OK!” Casper held up his hands. “I believe you! You’re still rich.”
Anemonie stopped and smirked, but her eyes stayed steely cold. “Good. Make sure you tell everyone.” As she turned to leave, she spotted a two-pence piece on the ground and bent down to snatch it like a pigeon to a breadcrumb. She straightened up and looked around to check nobody had seen.
Casper pretended to watch a tree.
Once Anemonie had stomped round the corner, Casper gave a sigh. However much he despised the little bully and her pointy nose, watching Anemonie’s downfall was a pitiful sight. A few generations back, a Blight’s packed lunch would contain caviar sandwiches and cartons of alcohol-free champagne. But now Anemonie was eating free school lunches and getting caught stealing cabbages from Mrs Trimble’s shop.
The crowd from the ceremony was filtering away gradually, although many villagers had formed a long line stretching from the bus shelter and away down the road. As old Betty Woons trundled by, she gave Casper a knowing wink. She always did. It was unnerving.
“Casper! Casper!” A sooty-haired, lumpy chap in a blue boiler suit and sponge shoes came galumphing out of a garage at the end of the street. He spotted Casper, gasped, and galumphed in his direction. He only fell over twice on the way, which was a new record. “Casper, I did it! I really did it!”
“What did you do, Lamp?”
Lamp Flannigan, Casper’s best and only friend, was red-faced and puffing from his run. He was eleven, the same age as Casper, with a dongle of a nose, wide, round eyes and a funny way of standing that always made him look as if he was about to sit down. He also had toes that glowed in the dark ever since he let a small family of fireflies live in his shoes, and the world’s first elephant-repellent boiler suit. Lamp was an inventor by trade… but we’ll get to that.
“I did my Time Toaster! Look…”
Lamp crossed his eyes and stuck out his tongue with concentration as he fumbled around in the pocket of his boiler suit. Finally his eyes lit up and he pulled out a blackened, crumbling piece of toast.
Casper waited for the toast to do something amazing.
“So…” Casper shrugged. “It’s just toast.”
“Not just toast, Casper,” Lamp grinned, relishing the words on the tip of his tongue. “This is toast from