Authors: Sam Hay
When the ambulance men arrived on the scene, Dad came round and said he was feeling better, but his face was white and he was shivering with cold.
They loaded him onto a stretcher and Mum said she'd go along to the hospital. Ernie offered to take me home.
As they were about to carry him away, Dad beckoned me over.
âDid you see the worm, Albert?'
I shook my head.
âI had it with me â a giant gobbler it was â in a specimen jar. It's amazing, Albert, you have to see itâ¦'
(That was typical of Dad. Even with a giant hole in his head he was still blethering about bugs.)
âBut I can't seem to find it, Albert,' he gasped, looking around the room weakly. Then suddenly he struggled against the stretcher, as if he was trying to sit up to get a better look.
âI'll find it, Dad,' I promised, pressing him back down. âYou just get better, OK.'
After they'd gone, I looked around the room. But I couldn't see any worm. And to be honest, I didn't give it much thought, because I had something else on my mindâ¦
The Spoon of Doom
Seeing Dad lying on that stretcher had made me all the more determined to reclaim what was ours. But as I closed Uncle Percy's office door, I suddenly wondered whether that spoon was already casting its shadow on anyone who touched it. I shuddered. Dad had found it again, and look what had happened to him.
Getting the spoon back definitely wasn't going to be easy. For a start, the Snoodle's Noodles factory wasn't a bit like Piddler's. It was small and swanky, with cross-looking blokes in blue uniforms guarding the gates.
The crossest of them all was now blocking my way, clipboard and pen in hand. âI've told you three times, sonny, you're not on my list. And if you're not on my list, you don't get in. Now clear off.'
I very nearly did. I'm ashamed to say my anger had evaporated. And I suddenly felt very small standing there in front of Snoodle's Noodles. After all, what could I say?
Please can I have my spoon back?
It wasn't exactly a football that I'd kicked into Snoodle's back garden.
âThis isn't working, Albert,' said a moany voice next to me.
I didn't want to bring her. But she made me.
You see, while Ernie went off to make sure everything was locked, I'd decided to sneak off and pay Snoodle a visit. But I got as far as Piddler's front door whenâ¦
âWhere are you going?' Mandy asked.
We were both supposed to be waiting in reception while Ernie did his rounds.
I hesitated for a heartbeat. âNext door,' I whispered, glancing down the corridor in case Ernie reappeared.
âCan I come?'
âNo! Definitely not.'
Mandy made a face. âGRANDAD!' she yelped.
âBe quiet,' I shushed.
âNot unless I can come.' She folded her arms and scowled at me. âBecause if this is Piddler's business, I should be involved, too.'
I glared at her. âWhy?'
âBecause I'm a porridger â or probably will be one day.'
I looked at her as if she was off her head.
She scowled at me. âIt's not just my grandad that works here, Albert,' she snapped. âSo do my parents. And my big brother. And all my aunts and uncles. My family has always worked here. And, anyway, I know more about the Spoon of Doom than you do. All of us porridgers do.'
I looked at Mandy closely. She didn't look like she was descended from a long line of porridgers. Her forearms were skinnier than mine.
âSo, if everyone knows about the spoon,' I snapped. âWhy don't I?' (And the rest of the world for that matter. Why weren't there Indiana Jones lookalikes swinging from the banisters trying to get their hands on it at that very moment?)
knows about the spoon,' she said crossly. âOnly the porridgers. And we never share Piddler's secrets outside the factory.'
It was like some crazy code of conduct. A porridge pledge, or something.
âBut what I don't understand,' said Mandy, âis why you want it back. If this Snoodle man has got it, let him have it.'
Sometimes girls are very stupid.
âIt's our spoon,' I snapped. âHe stole it. People can't just go around stealing things. And anyway, what if he uses it â do you really want to be smothered to death by
Kebab 'n' Ketchup
But it didn't matter anyway, because we'd already fallen at the first fence. There we were standing outside the Snoodle's Noodles factory with no earthly chance of being allowed in.
âIf you don't go now, I'll call the police!' bellowed the grumpy uniform.
I was about to start begging for an appointment, when things got a million times worse.
Mandy suddenly gripped my arm, squeezed it hard and started yowling at the top of her voice. âAlbert! Albert!' she squealed. âI don't feel well.'
I cringed. Not now. Not hereâ¦ But Mandy had turned white. She'd started shaking all over. Any moment, she looked like she might fall over. I felt like crying.
Then she clasped her hand to her mouth and
said very loudly, âI think I'm going to be sick.'
The security guard gawped at us. âWhat's wrong with her?'
âShe's just a bit off-colour,' I said through gritted teeth. I turned on her with a face like thunder.
But then she winked at me. It was definitely a wink.
âOh, Albert,' she was screaming now. âI think I'm going to barf.'
âWater,' I said loudly. âShe needs water!'
A bustle of blue uniforms appeared from the little office next to the gates, and Mandy was now hysterical; rolling around on the ground as if her insides were about to burst out.
And then I had my chance.
The security guards were swarming round Mandy, like ants round a jam jar. And not one of them noticed me slip through the gates, pad across the perimeter and make my way swiftly to the very heart of the Snoodle's Noodles Empire.
I remember reading somewhere that if you walk purposefully, no one will stop you. (It always seems to work in films.) So that's what I did. My heart was pumping. My pulse was racing. At any moment I expected to feel a hand on my shoulder.
But I didn't.
I walked straight past the very efficient-looking reception team (even on a Sunday there was no slacking â and certainly no knitting â at Snoodle's) and headed for the first corridor I saw.
Of course, I had no idea where I was going. If I'd been in Piddler's, I'd immediately have come a cropper, because there are no signs and no rhyme or reason to the layout of the porridge plant. It's as if they're preparing for a siege and don't want the invaders to have any clues as to how to find the porridge room. But the Snoodle's Noodles factory was a model of efficiency. On the wall to my right was a neat, easy-to-follow floorplan. And two minutes later I took a deep breath and marched straight into the exceedingly plush offices of Mr Smedley Snoodle himself. (Really, they could make it a bit harder. After all, I could have been a disgruntled customer, dissatisfied at the amount of onion in my
Onion Bhaji Noodle Doodle
, and ready to have it out with the big boss man himself.)
To say Mr Snoodle was shocked was an understatement. He nearly choked on his lunch.
âWhat do you want?' he spluttered, spitting out chunks of noodle across his desk.
I was shocked, too. I didn't realise that food magnates ate their own stuff. You'd think they'd
be cheesed off with it after making the stuff for so many years. Heck! I never wanted to eat porridge and I'd only been at Piddler's ten minutesâ¦
Snoodle glared at me. But he wasn't the only one. A pointy-nosed woman was there as well.
âYou can't come in here,' she gasped, her mouth also full of noodles.
âI want my spoon back,' I squeaked. âIt's Piddler's property, and you stole it.'
âI don't know what you're talking about,' Snoodle snapped back.
I glanced quickly around the room to see if I could spot it. The place was a shrine to the world of instant noodles. There were posters. And pots. And packets and pans. And even a large cardboard cutout of Smedley Snoodle sucking up one exceedingly long noodle.
But no spoon.
On the desk was an enormous map (now covered in half-chewed noodle), and propped up against it were two tall fishing rods.
But still no spoon.
âI've no idea how you got in here,' snarled Smedley. âBut heads will roll!'
I suddenly started to feel scared. After all, ten-year-old boys don't normally find themselves confronting noodle barons.
âPlease,' I said, my voice quivering. âJust give me back my spoon, and I'll go.'
Smedley looked like he'd explode. âWill you stop squawking about spoons! Really, we don't know what you're talking about.'
But then I spotted Miss Pointy Nose furtively shoving something under the map â something big and bulkyâ¦
Something obviously spoon-shapedâ¦
I made a grab.
âAha!' I said, my spunk returning.
But unfortunately it wasn't the spoon. It was a specimen box. Just like the ones my dad used. And inside, wriggling around, was an enormous worm.
And then a klaxon went off in my brain again.
must be the worm my dad had found that morning. The worm he'd been telling me about when they were stretchering him away â the gobbler worm. The worm that could eat as much as he couldâ¦
âI can explainâ¦' said Miss Pointy Nose.
But Smedley Snoodle shook his head and turned to me himself. His manner had changed. He flashed a very insincere smile.
âYou seem to have caught us out, young Grub.' He coughed. âYou see, my assistant Pamela and I paid a visit to your father this morning, to have an informal word with him about selling the factory to usâ¦'
âBecause of the spoon?'
Snoodle frowned. âWhat? No! This has nothing to do with cutlery. I want Piddler's for the
. I'm planning a massive expansion programme. The future is noodle-shaped, young Grub. Microwave meals in minutes.' He scrabbled around in a drawer for a bit, then tossed a pile of papers at me.
âI have plans â¦ architect's drawings â¦ I want to knock down Piddler's and build the biggest noodle factory in the world.'
âNot on your Nelly noodle!' A loud, high-pitched squeal suddenly burst into the room.
It was Mandy Moon, surrounded by security guards who were trying to grab her flailing arms. For someone so skinny, she was doing a very good job of fending them off.
âI presume she's with you?' said Snoodle, rolling his eyes.
I wished I could say no.
âWe'll never let you knock Piddler's down,' shouted Mandy. âWill we, Albert?'
I was about to agree, but Snoodle beat me to itâ¦
âI can and
knock it down,' he snapped. âOnce your father sees sense and sells it to me. How is his head, by the way? When we arrived, he appeared to be in a bit of a bad wayâ¦'
I scowled at them. After all, they hadn't even bothered calling for help. Instead, they'd left my dad to bleed to death all over Uncle Percy's carpet. Besides, I'd heard enough. If Snoodle had the spoon, he certainly wasn't about to show it to me. I turned to go, when suddenly I remembered somethingâ¦
âWhat about the worm? Why did you pinch that?'
Snoodle and his assistant smiled sheepishly at one another.
âFishing,' chuckled Snoodle. âMy secret hobby, Grub. It's how I relax and unwind. You should try it.' He grinned at his assistant again. âPamela thought the worm might make good bait.'
I was appalled. I'm no bug-botherer, but still, I had standards. I snatched up the specimen box. âIt's Piddler's property,' I said firmly, slipping it into my coat pocket. And with my head held high, I turned and fled. Closely followed by Mandy Moon.