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Authors: Steven Herrick

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction/Action & Adventure General

Tom Jones Saves the World (5 page)

BOOK: Tom Jones Saves the World
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Cleo's letter
Dear Mum and Dad,
Thanks very much for the mummified camel bone you sent. I'm sure everyone at school will be impressed. Did I tell you I've made a friend—his name is Tom, and he lives near Aunt Ruth and Uncle Robert. He goes to school with me, and we go fishing for yabbies on the weekend. Yesterday, the Principal, Mr Freeman, who's a bit short-sighted, called out my name at Assembly, only he said, “Student of the Week is Leo Langins.” Everyone laughed.
Can you do me a favour? While I really loved the camel-bone, if you should buy any Chinese beer, could you send the bottle tops to me? It's for a school project. That would be great. Well, I'd better go. Aunt Ruth likes me to help Uncle Robert when he cooks. She says he needs all the help he can get.
See you.
love
Cleo
Long and loud
Cleo is on one side
of Murchison Creek,
I'm on the other.
We're walking from Brady Lane
down to the train line,
searching for bottle tops.
Every time Cleo finds one
she does a little victory dance
holding a bottle top over her head
like a trophy.
I can't help but laugh.
I see a shiny new Fosters top
at my feet.
I pick it up,
call to Cleo,
then I run a few steps
and try a backward somersault,
like I've seen the footballers
do on TV,
only the paddock is uneven
and I lose my footing
and land flat on my back
halfway through the
perfect somersault.
Cleo calls my name,
scrambles over the logs
in Murchison Creek
and runs to me.
I hold the bottle top high
as I lie here in the long grass.
Cleo falls beside me
and we laugh
long and loud,
holding a stupid bottle top high.
Tom's bottle top collection
One Tasmanian Hahn Beer top.
Two Coopers tops.
Four Fosters Light-Ice tops.
Fifty-five Tooheys Blue tops. (Grandpa drinks Tooheys!)
One bottle top so rusted we're not sure it is a bottle top.
Three Bundaberg Ginger Beer tops
and yesterday
Cleo gave me a plastic bag
with
Twenty-two Tsingtao tops from China!
I was so excited I kissed her!
Then we both just stood there
outside the gates to Pacific Palms
not knowing what to do next
but luckily Cleo smiled
and punched me on the arm,
not hard.
I punched her back.
I think she likes me.
Exclusive?
Five thousand, six hundred and eighty-two metres!
Over five and a half kilometres.
That's how long
the wall is.
Cleo and I
stand outside Mr Smith's office
as he talks about
his favourite subject.
Two metres high.
Over twenty-eight thousand stone bricks.
And the gates
are made of
tubular steel
with bronze letters
PACIFIC PALMS
in case we've forgotten
where we live.
Mr Smith shows us
the closed-circuit cameras
mounted on the wall.
“No one gets in here
without me seeing them.
How's that for safety?”
He smiles proudly.
“Just like a prison.”
Cleo replies.
“Not a prison, my girl.
A suburb.
A resort.
An exclusive village.
A community.”

Chapter Eight

BARBARA, TO THE RESCUE!
Mercy Gardens calls
“Hello.”
“Hello, can I speak to
a Mr Tom Jones please?”
“Yeah, that's me.”
“Oh. My name's Betty.
I'm from Mercy Gardens Retirement Home.
I'm afraid I've got some bad news for you.”
“Grandpa!
Is Grandpa all right?”
“Well, yes. I mean Mr Jones has had a stroke,
and been confined to bed.
I was asked to contact you.
I'm sure he'll be okay.
He just can't walk for a while.”
“I'll be there in thirty minutes.
Bye.”
“Wait...”
Grandpa
I didn't think the escape hatch
would be so useful.
I tell Mum I have to visit Cleo—
a homework project I forgot.
Then I run, as fast as I can,
across the paddock,
and over the rail bridge.
The creek is a dark shadow below.
The lady at the front desk
says it isn't visiting time
but I ignore her
and run up the stairs
to Grandpa's room.
I make it inside
before the Nurse sees me
and I rush to Grandpa's bed.
He's asleep.
He looks really pale
and as he sleeps
his top lip quivers
like he's trying to talk
but no words are coming out.
I sit on the chair
and I hold Grandpa's hand.
He grunts, still asleep,
and his top lip stops trembling.
Tom's dream
Grandpa is young
and clean-shaven.
He's wearing a leather jacket
and black pants.
He's sitting on a motorbike
revving it real loud.
Dad comes outside
hands over his ears
saying,
“Quiet that deafening cacophony!”
I stand on the footpath
near Grandpa's bike.
Grandpa keeps smiling.
Dad says,
“Thomas, I forbid you
to entertain the notion
of travelling on such a machine.”
I turn and jump on
the back of Grandpa's motorbike.
Grandpa revs full-throttle
and we race down Cherrywood Avenue
without looking back.
Slow and steady
I wake
still holding Grandpa's hand.
His eyes are open
and they seem to be smiling.
Can eyes smile?
I know he can't talk
so I just say
“Hi, Grandpa.”
His eyes smile again
then he goes back to sleep
while I sit here
watching him breathe
slow,
slow and steady.
Barbara to the rescue
I must have dozed off again
and I wake
with Mum's hand on my shoulder.
She's standing beside a nurse.
I look at Grandpa,
he's sleeping.
I whisper to Mum
that I'm not leaving,
not until morning
when he wakes
and I can tell him
that I have to go home.
I tell Mum
I'm not going to let Grandpa
wake up alone.
Mum looks at the nurse
who nods
and says
“It's okay, I'll keep an eye on them both.”
Mum leans down
and kisses me
and she says,
“I told Dad you were at Cleo's.
I'll say I let you stay there
for the night, okay?”
As Mum and the nurse leave the room
I realise
I may have to take back some of
my Dead Parent Wishes!
Two secrets
It's brilliant sunshine
with magpies calling
in the fir trees as I walk
through the gates of Mercy Gardens
on the way home.
Grandpa was sitting up in bed
when I left, and he winked
as I waved goodbye
and closed the door.
I walk home, slowly,
making sure I arrive after
Dad has left for work.
Mum is sitting at the kitchen table.
Over breakfast
I tell her
all about my visits to Grandpa
and how nice he is
when he isn't drunk
and how he's giving up drinking
and my visits are helping him.
I need Mum
to understand that.
I have to keep visiting him
and she can't tell Dad
because
Arnold wouldn't understand.
Arnold only understands
big words, and figures, and bottle tops.
Mum says that isn't true,
but I plead with her
not to tell him.
I promise I'll get all my homework done
and all my household jobs finished
if only she'll let me keep visiting Grandpa.
She nods “yes”,
and I hug her, tight,
and I say she's a great Mum,
and
she's a great belly dancer too.
She blushes beetroot-red
and we both laugh
at our two secrets.
Tom
The nurse says
it may take a few days
before Grandpa can talk again.
She says he's recovering well.
She says I'm a good grandson
to visit him so often.
I don't know what to say.
I've been visiting Grandpa
every afternoon this week.
I only stay a while.
I have to be home before Dad.
Grandpa sits up in bed
and I tell him
about Mum's belly dancing
and how Cleo and I
are really good friends
and when he gets better
we have a plan
to make him popular with Dad.
Grandpa looks a little confused
and I'm kind of glad
he can't talk
because at least
he can't say “no”
to our plan!
Whose letter?
Cleo and I
are working on her computer.
We're writing a letter to Dad,
only it's not going to be signed
by me, or Cleo.
It's going to be from Grandpa.
This is what we've written so far.
Dear Arnold,
I hope you don't mind me writing to you
but I thought I'd better say something about
all the bottle tops I've included in this package.
Your son, Tom, told me about your collection when I spoke
to him at Aunt Ella's funeral.
Sorry about being drunk.
I've stopped drinking in the past six weeks. Well, almost.
I know you don't like me much.
I hope you like all the bottle tops.
I didn't drink all the beer to get these tops!
Do you like the ones from China?
That son of yours, Tom, seems like a good boy.
Your father,
Bob
All we need to do now
is get
Grandpa to sign it.
The Treasure Chest of Mystery
At last!
After eleven weeks of trying
I've finally won
Ms Watkins' Treasure Chest of Mystery.
The bell rings for recess
and everyone races outside.
Ms Watkins calls me forward
to choose a present.
When I'm sure everyone
has left the room
I stand in front of Ms Watkins
and say,
“Ms, do I have to choose a present?”
Ms looks at me like I'm half-crazy.
“I mean, Ms, I'd love a present,
but you see, there's something
I'd rather have.”
Ms Watkins looks interested,
and a little confused.
“It's a favour, Ms.
I hope you don't mind.
But I know how you
and Mr Beatty are friends.
And I know how Mr Beatty loves a beer
because I heard him
telling the Principal
he felt like a beer
on Friday afternoon last week
after the Smoke Detector
went off in the Library
and poor Mr Beatty had to rush
to get a ladder, then climb up
and switch it off, with Class 2W
screaming at the top of their lungs.
Well, do you think
you could ask Mr Beatty
if I can have his bottle tops?
It's for my Dad.
He collects them.
Only you can't let Dad know,
it's a surprise,
like your Treasure Chest surprise.
What do you think, Ms?”
Ms Watkins looks at me
for a very long time.
I think she's trying to decide
if I'm telling the truth or not,
but I mean,
who'd make up such a stupid lie!
Finally, she says
“Okay Tom.
I'll ask Mr Beatty for you.
No promises though.
I mean, he may drink cans
not bottles. Have you thought of that?”
“Oh yes, Ms.
I'm sure Mr Beatty is a bottle man!”
“Okay Tom, we'll see.”
I turn to leave
but when I get to the door
Ms Watkins says:
“Tom, how do you know
Mr Beatty and I are friends?”
“Easy, Ms. The whole school knows!”
And I leave before
she can ask me any more questions.
BOOK: Tom Jones Saves the World
5.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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