‘Oh I do, I do!’
‘So be it,’ Glubbslyme sighed. ‘Give the magical command.’
Rebecca gabbled seven Glubbslymes while his eyes revolved one, two, three, four, five, six, seven times.
The umbrella twitched again, and then it jerked violently upwards, catching Rebecca off balance so that she shot down the umbrella, severely squashing Glubbslyme. There was one confused shrieking second when they were all actually airborne but then they clattered separately on to the kitchen floor. The umbrella lay quietly where it fell. Glubbslyme did not lie quietly. He hopped up and down, croaking furiously, rubbing his sore arm and bumped head. Rebecca had twisted her ankle and bumped her own head on the edge of the kitchen table but she did not dare complain. She concentrated on soothing Glubbslyme, which wasn’t easy.
‘You clumsy dim-witted dolt,’ he hissed.
‘I know, and I’m ever so sorry, Glubbslyme, really I am. I swear I won’t squash you next time. It was just it all happened so quickly it took me by surprise. Please let’s have another go. You sit in front of me to be on the safe side.’
‘There is no safe side where you are concerned,’ said Glubbslyme, but he hopped over to the umbrella and settled himself upon it, crouching right up at the handle. Rebecca followed him and sat on the umbrella, clutching it as tightly as she could with her hands, and her knees too for good measure. She chanted seven Glubbslymes. Glubbslyme wearily revolved his eyes one, two, three, four, five, six, seven times and the umbrella quivered into action. It rose in the air – and Rebecca and Glubbslyme rose too. They reached the level of the kitchen table.
‘We’re doing it, we’re doing it!’ Rebecca shouted, and she was so excited she lost all her common sense and waved her legs wildly to convince herself she was actually up off the ground. She did not stay up off the ground for very long. Waving her legs made the umbrella tilt sideways. It stabbed at the kitchen shelves, sweeping the biscuit tin onto the floor, and the impact made it twist and whirl. Rebecca and Glubbslyme twisted and whirled too and rapidly returned to the kitchen floor. The umbrella stayed spinning in mid-air for a few seconds as if it hadn’t noticed they were missing, but then it tumbled down and landed with a thwack against the door frame, chipping off a large flake of paint.
‘Oh help,’ said Rebecca wearily.
Glubbslyme said nothing at all for several seconds. He lay flat on his back, twitching.
‘Glubbslyme? You are all right, aren’t you?’ Rebecca enquired anxiously.
‘I am exceeding all
said Glubbslyme. He struggled to his feet and brushed biscuit crumbs from his body. He nibbled one absent-mindedly, and then started serious munching. ‘We will abandon this flying foolery forthwith. Perhaps you relish the idea of pain and confusion and indignity. I do not.’
‘But I can’t give up now, not when I’m just getting the hang of it,’ said Rebecca.
‘You are “getting the hang” of falling, not flying,’ said Glubbslyme.
‘Can’t we have a few more goes, please? I really did do it. I was right up in the air.’
Glubbslyme sighed. Rebecca picked up some bigger bits of biscuit to persuade him. She’d have to sweep the kitchen floor properly and see if there was any way she could stick the piece of paint-flake back on to the door frame but she wasn’t going to bother about that now.
There wasn’t much point in bothering. On her next flight she knocked the cornflake packet off the shelf too, and the flight after that she managed to fly smack into the wall, and the point of Dad’s umbrella chipped a great chunk out of the plaster. That really did alarm her and she tried doing a temporary repair with the last of the Ariel ointment, which proved totally ineffective.
‘What’s Dad going to say?’ she whispered – but the feeling of flying had been so wonderful she soon stopped worrying. She decided she simply didn’t have room enough in the kitchen, so she persuaded Glubbslyme to perch on the umbrella at the top of the stairs.
It was a sensible idea. Rebecca could kick off and actually aim the umbrella. They flew from the top of the stairs to the bottom, zig-zagging a little and landing in a heap in the hall, but it was proper flight for all that.
‘Isn’t it fantastic!’ said Rebecca, jumping up and down with excitement. ‘It’s heaps and heaps better than riding a bike or going down a slide.’
‘Desist,’ Glubbslyme groaned. ‘There is no need to bounce like a ball in a cup. I feel giddy enough as it is without your crazy bobbing up and down.’
‘Oh Glubbslyme, you can’t possibly be feeling giddy when we flew such a little way! Come on, let’s do it again. And again and again and again.’
‘You do it. Again and again. I will lie here and close my eyes until the world stops spinning,’ groaned Glubbslyme.
Rebecca wondered if she really could do it by herself. She did seem to have got the knack now. She decided to give it a try. She wisely did not climb to the top of the stairs. She straddled the umbrella and launched herself into the air three steps from the bottom. It was just as well. She landed very quickly indeed on both knees and her chin. She lay where she was with her bottom sticking up in the air, wondering whether her teeth were still attached. She ran her tongue over them gingerly but they all seemed to be in place. Then she wondered if her jaw had dislocated, but when she sat up she found she could move it easily if painfully.
‘Why are you grimacing so terribly?’ Glubbslyme enquired. ‘Are you having a seizure?’
‘No, of course not. I’m sort of putting my face back into place because it got banged a bit. Glubbslyme, I can’t fly at all without you.’
‘I am aware of that,’ said Glubbslyme.
‘So will you do it with me? Just
Glubbslyme reluctantly complied. They flew from the top of the stairs to the bottom. Apart from one bump on the bannisters it was a perfect flight. Rebecca tried for another once more. And then another. She was starting to be able to steer properly now, and this time she even managed a decorous landing, feet first.
‘I can do it, I can do it!’ she yelled triumphantly.
‘I?’ said Glubbslyme.
‘We. You. Oh Glubbslyme, no wonder they called you great. You really are. You’re the most magical toad ever. I’m so proud and pleased that you’re my familiar.’
Glubbslyme puffed up automatically, but his eyes were suspicious.
‘Why do you burble praise, child?’
‘Because I think you’re so wonderful. And—’
‘And I want you to come and fly outside with me.’
They discussed it in this rather basic fashion for five minutes. Eventually, when Rebecca had recklessly promised a tin of golden syrup, a bag of assorted biscuits, and anything else in Sainsburys that might prove tempting, Glubbslyme started to waver.
‘Perhaps one brief journey across your garden might not be
upsetting to my system.’
Rebecca peered out of the kitchen window. Mr Baker was trecking round his garden with yet another bucket full of drunken slugs. It looked as if he was going to be out there a very long time.
‘He’ll see us if we fly in the garden,’ said Rebecca. ‘Why don’t we go to the park, Glubbslyme? We could find a quiet part away from the gates. And you could have a little paddle in your own pond.’
‘I see,’ said Glubbslyme. ‘And when you tire of flying you will tire of me too and tell me to crawl back under my stone.’ He had already started deflating.
‘No! No, of
not. How could you think such a thing? I couldn’t bear to lose you now, Glubbslyme. It’s such fun having you with me. I want you to stay with me for ever,’ said Rebecca, realizing it was true.
‘I see,’ said Glubbslyme, in a very different tone. ‘Let us proceed to the park.’
Rebecca knew he was uncomfortable in the plastic carrier so she found an old canvas shopping bag and slipped her own pillow inside so that Glubbslyme was suitably cushioned. (It was very kind of her because Glubbslyme was still sticky from the syrup and covered in crumbs.) She looked in need of a good wash herself, covered as she was in dried white patches of Ariel ointment, but that couldn’t be helped.
She set off for the park, Glubbslyme’s shopping bag in one hand, the large umbrella in the other. They were quite heavy and it was a very hot day. Halfway along the road they met Mrs Baker, her shopping basket clinking with big bottles of beer.
‘Hello Rebecca’ she said, puffing and blowing. ‘Was it
who poured the beer into our buckets?’
‘I thought it was! You clever girl, it’s working wonderfully. I’ve just been down to the supermarket to buy some more. I felt so silly at the checkout – I do hope the girl didn’t think I wanted to
all this beer. It was so kind of you to help us out – especially when my husband was a bit tetchy with you.’
‘I just thought it might help,’ said Rebecca, going red. She didn’t want Mrs Baker to be so grateful, it made her feel worse.
‘Are you just off to the shops yourself, dear? You are a good girl. But I don’t know why you’ve got that great big umbrella. The weather forecast said it’s going to be hot and sunny all day. It’s not going to rain.’
‘Well, I thought it looked a bit cloudy,’ said Rebecca.
‘Nonsense!’ said Mrs Baker. ‘Here, give me the umbrella and I’ll pop it in your porch for you. It’s silly to lug it all the way to the shops and back for nothing.’
‘I think I’d like to keep it, just to be on the safe side,’ said Rebecca.
‘Really!’ said Mrs Baker, peering up at the bright blue sky. ‘There’s not a cloud in sight. It couldn’t
She set off down the road, shaking her head at Rebecca’s stupidity. It was too great a temptation. Rebecca put her head inside the shopping bag and whispered. The blue sky darkened. The sun disappeared. There was a sudden hissing sound. Rain. Drenching torrents. Mrs Baker shrieked and ran for cover.
It rained and rained. The wind blew hard and the sky was almost black. Rebecca was getting very wet. Her dress was soaking and the Ariel ointment was beginning to bubble.
‘I think that’s enough rain for now, Glubbslyme,’ she whispered into the shopping bag.
‘I summon forth a squally tempest but before it has scarce begun you wish it stopped. The Magical Arts are not worked like your newfangled taps, child.’
‘But I’m getting soaked,’ said Rebecca.
She had often been soaked in the short time she had known Glubbslyme. Perhaps she should prepare herself and dress up in waterproof apron and wellington boots each morning. Then she grinned and grasped the umbrella.
‘I am an idiot,’ she said, and she opened it up and held it over her head.
Glubbslyme peered out of the shopping bag in alarm.
‘It will become aerial. Put it down at once. We cannot fly in a tempest!’
They had no option. Rebecca didn’t have a chance to collapse the umbrella. The wind whistled and whirled, and the umbrella bobbed and danced, shook and shivered, and then suddenly shot up into the air. Rebecca shot up with it – and Glubbslyme in the shopping bag. They bounced along about three feet above the pavement, very nearly banged into a lamppost, and then soared upwards in a gust of wind. A woman looked out of the window of her flat and screamed silently behind the glass when she saw Rebecca shooting past. Rebecca was too shocked to scream herself. It was too wet and windy to draw breath in any case. She concentrated on clinging to the umbrella and the shopping bag, her knuckles whitening. She tried looking down and it was a big mistake. Glubbslyme didn’t sound too happy about it either. He had retreated right into the shopping bag and was croaking piteously.
‘Magic us down again, Glubbslyme,’ Rebecca shouted. She tried to draw enough breath for seven Glubbslymes but it was a wasted effort. Glubbslyme wasn’t in a fit condition for magic.