The Spoon of Doom (4 page)

BOOK: The Spoon of Doom
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Dad shook his head sheepishly.

‘Don't worry, Grub,' said Smedley with an insincere grin. ‘I have a solution that'll suit us both – sell Piddler's to me.'

I was gobsmacked. Ernie growled. Dad started to look slightly sweaty.

Smedley held up his hands. ‘Yes, I know it's out of the blue – a surprise, a shock – but that's just the sort of chap I am. Instant ideas. Instant decisions. Instant noodles. After all, why wait when you know what you want?'

Ernie could stand it no longer. ‘Get lost, Snoodle,' he said, stepping forward at last. ‘Everyone knows you're not interested in Piddler's.'

Snoodle glared back at the old foreman. But I noticed him retreat slightly. Ernie might have been older and smaller than him, but one flick of his forearms would have sent that skinny spider spinning.

Snoodle turned back to Dad. ‘I'll give you a fair price, Grub. Trust me.'

‘Don't do it, Timmy,' said Ernie desperately. ‘He doesn't care about Piddler's. He'll close us down – sack us all. He's just after the spoon.'

What spoon?

‘Mr Grub knows what's best for his family,' said Smedley Snoodle, starting to look cross. ‘And this crumbly old factory isn't it.'

But Ernie wasn't giving up. ‘Think about it, Timmy. You mustn't let him get it. You know
what happened the last time that spoon fell into the wrong hands…'

What spoon? Why did Ernie keep talking about a spoon? I looked at Dad. His Adam's apple was bobbing wildly. And his hair was standing up on end. He tugged at his tie, and this time he tugged it right off.

And then he shook his head sadly. ‘He's right, Ernie – I'm just not the man for the job. I'm sorry…'

And then I realised what he was about to do.

‘Dad,' I said desperately. ‘Don't do it. Don't sell Piddler's.'

But I needn't have bothered, because just at that moment…


It was Mum, pounding down the corridor, her face bright red, her eyes wide like saucers.

‘Gordon, you'll never believe this. Guess what's living on the roof of the factory?'

If she'd said the Loch Ness Monster, I wouldn't have batted an eyelid.

‘Jumping spiders!' she gasped.

And we all sort of sagged. All, that is, apart from Dad.

Chapter Eight

Mum often does this sort of thing. Just when the world looks like it might be about to crumble, she suddenly appears and somehow manages to avert Armageddon. She should work for the UN really.

She gave me a wink, and I wondered how much she'd heard before making her grand entrance.

‘And it's not just spiders, Gordon,' gasped Mum breathlessly, ‘there are some amazing worms outside in the factory garden. It's fabulous here – you must come and see.'

Dad grinned gratefully, like a drowning man thrown a life raft, and without another word, he took her hand and escaped.

I was left with Ernie and the Noodle crew.

Smedley Snoodle muttered something under his breath, and then withdrew to huddle near the door with his gang.

‘What was all that about?' I whispered to Ernie, who was exchanging knowing looks with Margery,
still busily knitting behind her desk.

He shrugged apologetically. ‘You'll have to ask your dad, Albert. It's Piddler family business.'

But I wasn't about to be fobbed off.

‘Why does Mr Snoodle want to buy Piddler's? You said he wasn't interested in porridge.'

Ernie looked slightly uncomfortable and then shrugged. ‘I shouldn't think he is – why would he be? But there's obviously something in this factory that he wants.'

‘You said something about a spoon. What spoon? Come on! You've got to tell me. Dad won't. I didn't even know we were called Piddler until last night, let alone anything about the factory.'

Ernie sighed. And I could see he was weakening, so I carried on.

‘I don't want him to sell your factory. Not now. Not ever.'

And I meant that – every word. You see, for some reason Piddler's felt like a good place to be, and I wanted to be part of it. More than that, I wanted my parents to be part of it. I wanted them to stop playing with bugs, and work at Piddler's instead. Maybe then I could put my slippers on without having to check whether something slimy had got there first. And I could kick a ball round the garden
without endangering Dad's worm world. (We don't have a compost heap – we have a compost continent, with thousands of the blighters inside.)

There must have been something desperate in my eyes because Ernie suddenly took pity on me.

‘Come on, lad, let's get a cuppa and I'll tell you a bit – but your dad won't like it.'

As he led me away, I tried not to look at the Noodle crew, still huddled by the doorway. But I could feel their eyes boring into my back.

We went to the staff canteen. Ernie said the shift was changing because one minute it was empty, the next it was full of moon-faced folk with thundering forearms and cheery smiles. Porridgers. That's what Ernie called the workforce. And a strange-looking bunch they were, too.

Ernie got the tea (though I have to say it tasted like porridge), and sat me down at the back of the room, and then slowly, a bit like porridge coming to the boil, he told me the tale – all about my dad, Piddler's Porridge and, most importantly, the spoon.

‘Your dad was orphaned as a baby,' said Ernie. ‘Sad, it's true, but I suppose it was better that he didn't know his parents; after all, you don't miss what you don't know.'

I felt a lump in my throat. I'd never really noticed I didn't have grandparents on Dad's side. He never mentioned his family, and I never asked.

‘Your great uncle Percival took him in. He was a good man back then; full of ideas and energy. Business was booming and he was grooming your dad to take over the factory, but of course your dad had other ideas…'

‘Bugs?' I guessed.

Ernie smiled. ‘Percy thought your dad would grow out of them…'

Fat chance.

‘…then the bottom fell out of the tinned porridge market,' sighed Ernie. ‘And Piddler's was in trouble. There was even talk of closing down the factory. Your uncle had to lay off half the workforce. They were terrible times.' Ernie shook his head sadly. ‘But there was worse to come. Around then, your uncle found one of your dad's old picture books. A fairy story –
The Magic Porridge Pot
. Do you know it?'

Of course I did. Every kid did – a little old lady gives a girl a magic porridge pot, which eventually goes haywire and floods a village with porridge.

‘But what's that got to do with Piddler's?' I asked impatiently.

Ernie looked embarrassed. ‘Your uncle became obsessed with that story. ‘Imagine,' he'd say, ‘a pot that produces endless porridge with no ingredients, none at all. If only we had that pot, we'd be billionaires…”

‘But it's just a story for little kids,' I said.

‘Of course it is. But as I've learnt to my cost, Albert, in every fairy story there's just a grain, or perhaps in this case a tiny
, of truth.'

I didn't believe a word.

‘Anyway,' said Ernie, ‘your uncle started looking into it. He read every book he could find. He
consulted historians. He even went to the British Museum – they thought he was barmy. And then, finally, he hired a man to travel the world and search out the truth of the tale.'

‘But that's bonkers,' I said.

‘You're right,' said Ernie, taking a slug of tea. ‘But I never said your great uncle Percy was sane… The smell of porridge gets to you after a while – we're all a bit doo-lally at Piddler's.'

why I'd suddenly developed an interest in porridge. The smell had got to me. It had certainly got to Ernie. What a yarn he was spinning! ‘Then one day the man returned from his travels with a strange story.' Ernie lowered his voice. ‘He said he'd found a village in Russia that had actually been flooded by porridge, just like in the book. High in the mountains, it was, in a big swampy gully – a sunken village where the roofs of the houses, submerged below, could still be seen from above.'

For no reason at all, I suddenly felt slightly cold. I hugged my porridgy tea closer.

Ernie took another slug of his and paused for a second. ‘According to legend, the villagers bought a magic spoon from a pedlar. He'd promised them that if they used it to stir their porridge pots, it
would make more and more porridge. It was a godsend for a hungry village in the grip of winter. But then one day it went wrong. And it carried on making porridge until the whole village sank.'

I grinned. ‘You're pulling my leg now, and anyway this was supposed to be a story about a magic porridge

‘Not a pot, Albert. A
– the Spoon of Doom, they called it.' Ernie's eyes darkened and his voice dropped to a breathy whisper. ‘Everyone in that village died, Albert – drowned in porridge. And I'll tell you something else, lad, our own town very nearly suffered the same fate.'

I gasped. ‘How?'

‘Because Percy's man brought back that spoon with him. And he gave it to your uncle. Percival Piddler got his hands on the Spoon of Doom.'

Chapter Nine

I felt like laughing. ‘But that's ridiculous,' I said. ‘If that village
existed, and it
was flooded by porridge, then the spoon would have been lost for ever.'

‘It was, lad. It had been lost in that swamp for hundreds of years, and that's where it should have stayed, but unfortunately your uncle's man hired a diver to find it.'

I shook my head. ‘But he could have found any old spoon. How did he know he'd found the Spoon of Doom?'

‘Because it was the only thing left in that sunken village that wasn't cracked or crumbling or rusted or rotten. Piles of skulls and bones and one perfect wooden spoon, that's all the diver found.'

I still wasn't convinced. And I was beginning to think Ernie was as doo-lally as Uncle Percy.

‘So what did Uncle Percy do with it?'

‘He used it, of course. The very next day he
gathered us all together in the porridge room – your dad, too – and we watched him climb onto the gantry and start stirring the porridge pot with that big old spoon.'

I tried to picture the scene.

‘At first nothing happened. And I'll admit, Albert, I laughed to myself at your uncle's folly… Everything was working normally, you see. The porridge cooked, and when it was ready, it started squirting through the funnel into the cans below, just like it does now. Then, after a while, the porridge pot should have run dry. But it didn't. It kept on squirting out porridge – hundreds and hundreds of tins of the stuff. And still it made more.'

I took another sip of tea. It definitely tasted like porridge.

‘Soon we ran out of tins, so we filled tubs, buckets – anything we could find – but we couldn't keep up and the porridge started spilling onto the floor.' Ernie shook his head. ‘And then a really strange thing happened - your uncle stepped away from the pot and the spoon carried on stirring all by itself.'

‘But that's impossible!'

Ernie shrugged. ‘Your uncle was mesmerised. So was your dad. He'd climbed up onto the gantry
to get a better look and was horrified at what he saw. The spoon was turning faster and faster, round and round like a twister, and the faster it spun, the more porridge it made. And then I realised there was a real danger that the factory would flood. ‘Everyone out!' I shouted – and the porridgers ran for their lives.'

‘What did you do?' I gasped, completely caught up in the story now.

‘There was nothing I could do, lad, because at that point I felt my feet stick. The porridge wrapped around my legs and tried to suck me under, like quicksand. I shouted to your uncle to stop the spoon, but I don't think he could, even if he'd wanted to.'

‘So what happened?'

‘Well, the porridge was up to my armpits. It was all I could do to stop myself from sinking. I was clinging onto a pallet, and more and more porridge was pumping out.

BOOK: The Spoon of Doom
7.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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