Read Tom Jones Saves the World Online

Authors: Steven Herrick

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction/Action & Adventure General

Tom Jones Saves the World (7 page)

BOOK: Tom Jones Saves the World
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Cleo, and ladders
The walls at Pacific Palms
don't seem so big any more.
I think of Tom's Grandpa
trapped in bed
by a body
that doesn't work so well.
In a room
smelling of antiseptic
and detergent,
Grandpa
waits to find
a key to unlock
his words,
an escape hatch
for his body
to squeeze through,
a ladder
to climb out of bed
and join
the world again.
The parcel and the possiblilities
When Dad arrives home
and opens the parcel
sitting on the kitchen bench
he'll
• read the letter and rip it up,
then tip all the bottle tops into the rubbish bin.
• read the letter and rip it up,
then take all the bottle tops to his collection room.
• read the letter, call my name, and say,
“Did you have anything to do with this, Thomas?”
• read the letter,
ring Grandpa Jones at Mercy Gardens
go and visit him on Saturday
become good friends with Grandpa
ask Grandpa to come and live with us
give up his Accountancy job
and...
• read the letter,
and faint!
Dead parent wish #9, or not?
Dad arrives home,
sees the parcel and says,
“A gift perchance of substantial value
awaits my perusal.”
I say “Twaddle” in a loud voice
and Dad says
“Sorry Thomas, I hope there's a gift inside!
I'll open it in my study.”
Dad goes into his bottle top collection room
and closes the door.
I hang around the kitchen for ages,
waiting.
Mum thinks I want
to help with dinner.
She keeps giving me little jobs.
I peel potatoes
I cut carrots
I grate cheese.
I wait for a noise from Dad
but Arnold is quiet
dangerously quiet
hopefully quiet
achingly quiet.
Cheating
It's been two hours.
I can't stand it much longer
so
I decide to cheat.
I quietly ring Cleo
from the upstairs phone
and I ask for help.
Straight away
she comes up with a plan.
Another plan!
She'll phone our house
and in a deep lady-like voice
ask for Arnold Jones, the Accountant.
I hang up.
Sure enough, Cleo rings back.
I hear Mum answer the phone
in the kitchen,
then walk to Dad's study.
I rush downstairs,
but it's only Mum
on the phone telling “Mrs Patra”
that Dad is busy,
could she phone again tomorrow?
So much for cheating!
Uncle Robert and Aunt Ruth at morning tea
Robert:
This is an excellent cake, my dear.
Ruth:
Thank you Robert. Don't eat it all though,
leave some for Cleo.
Robert:
She spends a lot of time at Tom's, doesn't she?
Ruth:
He's her friend, dear.
Robert:
Yes, I know. But they seem to always be
visiting Tom's Grandpa.
Ruth:
That's good. Don't you think?
Robert:
Well, yes, I guess.
But he's as old as we are, Ruth.
Ruth:
Yes, but maybe he's more interesting.
Cleo says he tells them stories
about the war, and his travels
around the world.
Robert:
I went to Brisbane once.
Ruth:
Yes dear, I know, I was with you.
Robert:
I would have been in the war, if they'd let me.
Ruth:
Yes dear, it's not your fault you're
short-sighted.
Robert:
I still could have done something for the
Army. I could have been a cook!
Ruth:
Yes. But I think they wanted
to win the war, dear.
Like riding a bike
“Hello, Tiger.”
“Grandpa, you can talk!”
“Yes.
I learnt years ago.
Some things you never forget.”
“Like riding a bike.”
“Yeah, Tiger, like riding a bike.”
“Dad got your letter yesterday.
He went to his study,
closed the door,
and stayed there.
And today he'd left for work
before I even got up.”
“Your Dad, Tom.
He needs time.”
“But what if he just keeps
the bottle tops and doesn't
say a word. It'll be all for nothing.”
“No, Tom.
Not for nothing.
Not by a long shot.”
Murchison Creek
Me and Cleo
are sitting on the bank
of Murchison Creek.
We've come here after school,
not to yabby,
but to sit and talk.
I tell Cleo about Grandpa
and how he can talk,
a little.
And Dad,
who still hasn't said a word
about the letter.
My Dad
who never shuts up
doesn't utter a sound
when he should!
And what if he never
mentions the letter?
Not now.
Not in a week.
Never!
I can't escape Pacific Palms
through our hole in the wall forever
to visit Grandpa.
One day I'll tell Dad.
One day.
Bulls, Hamburgers, and Dads
I don't know what to do.
Tom and I sit here
by Murchison Creek
watching the bull opposite.
I move closer to Tom
and I put my arm
around his shoulder.
He shivers a little
and I just hug him.
I feel like a real goose
but he's my friend
and I feel bad
my plan hasn't worked.
Tom puts his arm around me
and we sit
close
watching the bull
for a very long time
until I say,
“That bull should have been a hamburger by now!”
Tom laughs and pushes me over
I push him back.
We're friends,
whatever his stupid Dad does!
The reason there are so many dead parents in books
Today
Ms Watkins tells us a story
about a bird, an eagle,
raised by a boy
from a chick
to a beautiful, powerful
bird of prey
with strong claws
and massive wingspan.
The eagle has grown too big
for the boy's cage
and he knows he
has to let the bird go
so
the boy and the eagle
go into an open field
and the boy
gently takes the bird
out of the cage,
his arm wrapped in a towel
so as to not get ripped
by those powerful claws.
The boy lets the eagle
rest on his arm
but the bird doesn't fly away.
The boy just stands there
looking at his friend, the bird.
Finally the bird flies
with an applause of wings
high into the sky
where he hovers over the boy.
The boy can't move
so proud of the bird
and its flight.
Then the eagle
dives down
and lands in a tree
not far from the boy.
The boy waves
and the bird flies away
into the forest.
Simple as that.
I look across at Cleo.
She's so involved in the story,
she doesn't notice me,
and I decide
that's why I like books.
They tell a story.
Simple.
A bird, a boy.
And the right thing to do.
I wonder as Ms Watkins
closes the book
whether anyone
has ever bothered
to write a story about
someone with a Dad
like Arnold.
Maybe that's why
there are so many books
with dead parents.
It's easier to have them die
than to write about them!
Almost caught
“Thomas.”
“Yes, Father.”
“Son.”
“Yeah, Dad.”
“Do you know anything
about the bottle tops?”
“Yeah, Dad.
You've got hundreds of them.”
“No, no, no,
I mean the bottle tops
I recently acquired
through a delivery arriving
two days prior to today.”
“Twaddle, Dad!”
“Sorry, I mean I got
some bottle tops in the mail
two days ago.
With a letter from your Grandfather.”
“Really.
That's nice of Grandpa.”
“The letter says
you told him about my collection”
“Yeah, I think I did, Dad.”
“It puts me in a difficult position, Thomas.
I guess I should thank him?”
“That'd be a good idea.”
“I could write him a letter?”
“Or visit him?”
“I could get Barbara to visit him?”
“Or you could go yourself?”
“Or you could go?”
“I don't know where Mercy Gardens is”
(oh no!
)
“Mercy Gardens.
That's where Grandfather lives.
But how do you know that, Thomas?”
“I ... I ... think Grandpa must have told me.
That's it. He told me at the party after the funeral.”
Two words for a moron
Tom Jones.

Chapter Eleven

CLEO'S LAST AND ABSOLUTELY FINAL PLAN
Tree
Grandpa's allowed to walk
around the Gardens now.
I hold his hand to steady him
as we walk to our favourite seat
under the huge old fir tree.
Grandpa breathes heavily
from the walk.
“I used to climb trees, Tiger,
when I was your age.
I'd climb this big old gum tree
in the school grounds
and I'd sit up there, hidden,
all lunchtime,
and if it was a sunny day,
I'd stay there all arvo.
Bugger school, I'd say.”
Grandpa laughs,
and coughs.
I reach for his hand.
He's quiet for a long time
until his breathing steadies.
“I'd lean back on the branch
and dream.
I'd hear my class
reciting times-tables
and think how lucky I was.
I wouldn't come down
until everyone
had gone home.
I loved school, Tom.
Loved it.
Never learnt a thing,
but geez, I loved it,
sitting up there in the tree!”
Skimming stones
On the way home
I skim stones
over the surface of
Murchison Creek.
If I choose a
perfectly smooth stone
I can skim from
one bank to the other.
The afternoon train
rattles over
Taylors Bridge
and I wave at
the driver.
He responds
with one clear train whistle
that bounces
off the walls
of Pacific Palms
and
echoes back
even louder
across the field.
Maybe the walls
have a use
after all?
What is Dad saying?
“Thomas, I proceeded,
at a slow pace, past Mercy Gardens...
I mean I walked past
Mercy Gardens yesterday.”
“Yeah, Dad.”
“And I was surprised to see
some people walking around
in the Gardens. They have very
extensive gardens there,
don't they Thomas?”
“I ... I ... don't know, Dad.
I've never been there.”
“Really.
Well, they have lots of old fir trees,
and lovely wooden seats
under the trees.
Places where people can sit
with their parents, or grandparents,
when they visit.
Beautiful gardens, Thomas.”
“That's good, Dad.
I'd better go, Dad,
I've got to finish some homework.”
“Beautiful gardens, Son.
Splendid.
Marvellous.
Inspiring.”
BOOK: Tom Jones Saves the World
2.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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