Chapter 6 – Derek Cat and his Best Friend, Susie

Maybe you would like to read how this bedtime story began. You could check here –

Those Small Knitty Gritty Kids (or how it all came about) (click here)

Derek Cat and his Best Friend, Susie

I promised myself to puff up my courage to tiptoe into the jungle of enormous cats – and to my great amazement, what did I find? A most appealing cat peeping out of the bushes—and a friend with him. A girl-friend?

Derek twitches his whiskers. “Isn’t it time to talk about cats yet, Mum?”

I’ve been keeping an eye on him, seeing his impatience grow as his tail swishes back and forth, faster and faster. Uh-oh, better give him a say before he gets too angry. I pick him up and tickle below his chin. He loves that. And I say, “OK… your time to shine, Derek.”

He stretches as tall as he can (which is not too tall at all, but shh, don’t tell him that), clears his throat and with a growl, says “Some cats are King of the Jungle, and of the animal world, too. In faraway places, a long, long, long time ago, some cats were treasured and worshipped as gods. Other people thought cats were good luck… while others said we were evil luck.” He frowned and tried for another ferocious growl. “And what’s the story about the one called Dick Whittington’s cat, Mum? You know that one, don’t you?”

I sure do, and it’s my turn for some throat clearing. “Hurr-humm. Many years ago, there was a Whittington family who lived a long way across the sea in England, and they had a famous son named Dick. He became Lord Mayor of London, not just once, but three times. And just like Mary’s lamb in that favourite rhyme – everywhere that Dick went, his cat was sure to follow. I never found out what that London-visiting cat’s name was, but I do know while he was visiting the Queen, he ‘frightened a little mouse under her chair’.

When I first met Derek the Cat, my mind jumped immediately to that rhyme. I wondered if he could be the original ‘Dick Whittington’s Cat’? Maybe not, but he surely looks like all the pictures I’ve ever seen from that old rhyme. There’s the cheeky tilt of his hat and the fluffy feather sitting cheerfully on one side. There’s the belt with a sky blue buckle, holding up trousers tucked into tall boots. And then that candy apple red cloak he wears with such style. Derek certainly looks like a born again Dick Whittington’s cat. Except Derek is not into mouse-chasing business. He’s a gentle soul, who really has no interest in harming anything at all.

Having mentioned this other famous cat, Derek and the other Small Knitty Gritty Kids cannot possibly let me move on without repeating the rhyme – AGAIN!

‘Pussy cat, Pussy cat – where have you been?
I’ve been to London to visit the Queen.
Pussy cat, Pussy cat – what did you there?
I frightened a little mouse under her chair.’

Now they are all content – especially Derek… and his dearest Susie looks ever so proud.

# # # # #

With his head leaning against my shoulder and trusting, imploring eyes stretched to look up into mine, Jonjon has a question – “But Sarah! Cats ALWAYS chase mice. Don’t they? Sarah?” And the cheeky tyke tugs my chin around to make sure I give him my full attention. Reluctantly, I stop reading Granny’s words. Sometimes I could strangle this kid – but I guess he has SO much to learn. And I think to myself, didn’t we ALL, when we were young!

“Some cats LOVE mice,” I reassure him. “Truly! I saw a photo just the other day of a cat and mouse who grew up together. Nobody taught them this doesn’t happen in the actual world, so they just went right ahead and became best pals.”

“Ohh, I know, I know!” Jonjon has to wave his hands around like a small whirlwind. “It’s uhmm… you know? Like that picture we saw the other day of the two little boys with the same hair cut to confuse their teacher, so she wouldn’t know who was who. It was so funny, because they couldn’t see that of course she would know – one had MUCH bigger ears than the other one. Remember that one, Sarah? Silly teacher!”

I have to smile. That photo was of a black child and a white one. Neither had any idea THAT was what their difference was. And obviously nor did Jonjon. Cute. So cute.

Meanwhile, back at the story about Derek Cat and Susie…

# # # # #

“But this – make peace, not war attitude? It doesn’t mean you’re not brave, does it Derek?”

“NO WAY!” he answers, with the loudest and most disgusted miaow he can make. “I am REALLY brave – and loyal and faithful. You just ask my Susie… go on!”

I don’t have to. Derek and Susie hang out together all the time and nobody knows him better. He feels the same, and if you listen carefully, you will often hear him sing that old classic—

‘If you knew Susie,
Like I know Susie,
Oh, oh, oh what a girl!
There’s none so classy,
as that fair lassie,
Oh, oh, you should see her super-chassis’

# # # # #

“Sarah, Sarah! Stop for a minute.” And Jonjon curls his hand over my mouth to be sure I can’t continue. “What’s a ‘supershazzy’??”

I pull my face out of his grip to say, ‘“Super CHASSIS’, Jonjon. It’s the umm… well-ll… body of the car. It’s the frame underneath the outside shiny part.”

“But why talk about a car when it’s his girlfriend Susie he means?” His face creases up like a tatty paper bag. “Doesn’t he mean her?”

I flounder a little. “Uhrr… I think it means she has an impressive bone structure beneath her pretty face and uhrr… body!” And I hastily get back to the reading before another ‘WHY?’ can follow the deep intake of breath and Jonjon’s squeezed up lips. “Now shh… and listen to the rest of this chapter. CAN you do that?? P-l-e-a-s-e?” Jonjon looks shamefaced and stays quiet to allow me to continue reading.

# # # # #

Derek knows all the verses, and it’s plain for all to see that Susie just adores hearing her name in song. (Shh-hh… please don’t tell her he didn’t write it especially for her. She believes she is the only Susie in the world). This is easy to understand when you think of the other song he loves to sing to her about the love of two special people—

‘If you were the only girl in the world,
And I were the only boy…’

It IS love. The level of their commitment is clear by the huge smile on Susie’s sweet face (and his too, but Derek’s small mouth shows he’s giving some serious thought to this subject. Huh?)

Uh-oh, surely Derek is not embarrassed by all this love-type talk? I do believe he’s blushing, and he sounds flustered when he says, “I just don’t enjoy talking about our feelings, you know? They’re private. OK?” and he changes the subject.

“You haven’t told them about the thing little cats like me can do that big wild cats can’t,” and he’s grinning again.

I have to chuckle. “The purring bit?” I ask, and he nods his head so hard I fear one of those wonderful feathers may fall off his hat.

“Well… they say big wild cats can only purr on their outward breath because their throats are made to roar. BUT… little cats like Derek can purr on and on without any breaths seeming to happen at all. You are SO clever, Derek,” and I snuggle him tighter. “… and I’m SO happy you don’t roar. That would frighten both Susie and me right away!”

Derek the Cat is a most gentle soul, who doesn’t want to scare or harm anything at all. I have to wonder. Will Derek purr a path to Paradise? And take that sweet Susie with him? I have no doubt they’re bound to be a couple forever.

# # # # #

 

NEXT??  Chapter 7: SIMON SCARECROW (click here)

 

Christine

The Talebearer

 

NOT the tale-telling kind that’s not-so-friendly (can even be quite a bit nasty sometimes) – Ted Bear Esq. tells tales about himself and his family, with  lots of love and loyalty  and the strongest wish to share with you and your family.

  Let’s go, readers… no matter how big or small you are!

Copyright note: This is a children’s book solely created by Christine Larsen and so is fully protected by All Rights Reserved copyright. If you are reading this elsewhere than here or Wattpad, it has been taken without my permission and I/Wattpad can take legal action.

© 2018 Christine Larsen

NEXT:  INTRODUCTION (click here)

Introduction

She’s not crying ‘cos I’m hogging our chair… truly! (T.B.Esq.)

A Few Words from Christine

Ted Bear and I have been best mates since I was two and he was new.

I had only barely been a doll person until I met Ted, but he won my heart on that birthday when we met and has owned the oldest part of it for over 7 decades now.

He holds one little girl’s secrets and the tears (both happy and sad), and even after all this time, never, ever told anyone else a single one. What a champion!

Straight after deciding he wanted his story told, he naturally chose me, the person who’s known and loved him best in this whole wide world. It’s been yet another joy to share with my best mate, Ted.

(Trumpet fanfare…. drum roll… 21 gun salute)

– a LOT of words from Ted Bear Esq.

Hallo – Ted Speaking (haarr-haarrumph)

Telling Mum what to write is a tough job, but someone had to grin and bear it – that is, tell Mum what to do about anything. It’s a challenge I’m up for after all the years we’ve shared. There’s a stout heart beating strongly beneath this hairy chest. Plus, I have the added support of small friends at Mum’s computer… there’s Guide Dog Puppy in a red coat, True Blue the Aussie Koala with his Anzac Day badge pinned to his jacket, another Guide Dog Puppy in a blue coat, and most importantly, the best assistant I’ve ever known, Charlie the One-eyed Crows supporter (he’s made from a gumnut with a knitted ‘Crows’ cap, and poor fellow truly only owns one eye). Although they’re only little chaps, you know the saying about good things in small packages? Well these kids are simply the best.

I’m sure it’s already quite clear to you – like a great wine, I am ageing beautifully. There are the odd niggles – a bit of thinning hair here, a suggestion of sagging there… ah well, I try to accept the wear and tear always trooping along with the ‘getting of wisdom’… it happens, even to nobility. Mine not to reason why. Mine but to bear, or cry… ( haar-haarumph! That’s enough now!)

These days I find I need glasses more often than not. My vision problem began when I found my arms were too short for comfortable reading. Did they shrink, do you think? Funny – I didn’t feel my arms getting smaller. It began to disturb me as it worsened each time Postie Bear brought me important mail from far away friends and I needed to squint and twist my head every which way to read those precious words.

‘Twas quite unbearable for a while, until Mum bought spectacles for me. At first I felt a bit weird. Kind of different, you know? And sort of ashamed and scared. What would others think about Ted Bear Esq. in glasses? Snigger? Whisper behind my back? You know… ever had those feelings? I thought maybe there’d be people who wouldn’t like me anymore. It felt gross, and made me SO unhappy. Trust Mum to gather up all the Small Knitty Gritty Kids – and Gran and Grandpa too – to sit together on the lounge and talked it through.

They’ve all been SO kind. I had armfuls of hugs from small people telling me how much they loved me, with or without glasses. I could hardly bear it, and must admit to the odd sniffle. And as if their caring wasn’t more than enough, the Small Knitty Gritty Kids went without all manner of things to give me warm and special scarves for the coldest nights.

Sometimes I wear the pure wool scarf we inherited from my Mum’s Dad. The one he loved and wore heaps, many long years ago (bit of an honour actually). It’s all brown and cream and SO cosy when I’m sitting there – on guard – watching over Mum through the night.

Then, for a change, and if I need a lift of my spirits on dreary Winter days, I wear the gorgeous pinky, purply one – thanks to the overwhelming kindness of the Small Knitty Gritty Kids. Who else would have guessed how mean those chilly nights can be as you sit perfectly still… for hours, and hours? And understood how stiff a neck can get after it doesn’t move… for hours, and hours? The Small Knitty Gritty Kids could – bless their small loving hearts. What a family!

If you haven’t seen our group snuggle photos before, you probably don’t know story-telling is my way to thank them for their kindness. They love it, and are SO quiet and still you could hear a stitch drop. And THAT IS QUIET… I promise you.

 

 

NEXT: FEELS LIKE ONLY YESTERDAY (click here)

Feels Like Only Yesterday

THIS is the face of Experience… having a brainstorm!!

I wasn’t always old, you know. Once upon a time I was but a cub – it’s true! My Mum and I became family when she was two, and I was new. We can’t remember anymore what our first words to each other were… but most definitely we fell in love at first sight. I didn’t know then that I would be exactly what she wanted. I didn’t know she had never really been in love with dolls, and for the rest of her life would prefer cuddly kids (and animals, too).

I still have my chair from brand new. I call it my chair, and these days it truly is – although it actually began life as one of Mum’s later birthday presents. Don’t quote me, but I think it was her 5th birthday. In those days, we both fitted into our chair in a traditional cuddly kind of fashion. The good news is, as Mum outgrew our chair, I didn’t – and like Goldilocks, I found it to be just right. Funny how me and my chair still fit as well as ever we did.

I share my chair most days with two likely lads. Greengrass is the youngest of we three bears by many years; he’s a quiet sort of a chap who mostly listens – and learns – many pearls of wisdom from Postie Bear and myself, (Ted Bear Esq.) while we reminisce. Greengrass truly knows ‘listening is as important as talking’.

Actually, it’s a curious thing with Greengrass. I firmly believe he’s an old soul (you know, like he’s lived before… in another time and place?) It’s maybe hard to understand this, because Mum only made him less than a decade ago. I think she stitched her formidable history (or two? or more?) into Greengrass when she created him. Strange thought… isn’t it? And yet it truly seems possible to me‼

And Postie Bear? He is chock-a-block full of postman stories involving much whistle-blowing, and bearing tidings of great joy (and sometimes sorrow) – and dog stories – never-ending dog stories. Like ALL postmen, he has a million of them.

His feet are extremely thankful his postman days are done. You will often hear him say – “Those modern posties don’t know they’re alive… zipping and zapping every which way on their motorbikes. And all the protective clothing for bad weather days! Hurr-hum-hh… Now back in my day…”. He can go on for hours about this subject.

And then there’s THE Letter… the one Postie Bear insists he didn’t write – but look at the signature! Need I say more?

Dear Mrs. Brown
We would like to thank you for using our service.
We received your letter that was posted today and we are very happy that you think Australia post staff are that intelligent that you do not need to address it.
Sadly I have to inform you that none of the hapless post office employees are gifted with such astute mental powers nor do the slackers have any telepathic powers that would allow them to read your mind so I am sorry to say that you will have to please address your letters in the future.

PS: a bloody stamp would not hurt your cause either.
Regards
Postie

Hmmm…

They’re the good memories. And the bad and the ugly? I think we won’t go there or dwell on things like that – not here, not now. It’s one of the things we old fellows share amongst ourselves sometimes, late at night – the way good old friends tend to do. You see, the three of us choose to live our lives by the old saying – It’s OK to let your stuffing show… now and then. We prefer to do this in private, baring our chests only amongst ourselves, you know?

Now and then, at most special times, visitors stay for a small holiday. We love that. We always say “ALL VISITORS WELCOME – ESPECIALLY OUR ‘SPECIAL’ FRIENDS”.

Jemima is a favourite. She’s a little lady in a faded pink baby jump-suit. Jemima belongs to my Mum’s grand-daughter, Cirena. They were both born in 2000. Jemima is a most special old friend, despite her young age. She’s been coming on holidays for most of her life, and for lots and lots of overnight stays. I don’t see her through the night time, because Cirena always loved to take her to bed to snuggle with, all through her darkest hours. Jemima and I had the same job – to make sure no bad dreams drifted in to our two Mums’ sleeping minds.

I love the way Jemima hugs me… bless her little heart. Maybe she wrote the saying – Hugs are even better than chocolates. It’s always good to be together again, and we have SO much to talk about. You can’t imagine how many things happen in our lives in between visits. We have many different friends, Jemima and I… mainly because our homes have often been far apart.

And the other special friend who visited Greengrass, Postie Bear and me a few times, is a young fellow called Billow. He’s a seal and he comes from Queensland. Oh, don’t worry… he didn’t have to swim all the way to South Australia. No, no, no… he came by plane! Huh? I know… I could hardly believe it at first, either. But the answer is simple. The first time he came to visit, he came with Cirena, and I believe she had Billow tucked safely under one arm and Jemima under the other, never letting them go for anyone. She had no doubts about the saying – Everyone needs someone to hold onto – and no way would she be visiting the Lost Children desk at the airport.

NEXT: AARRGH… HERE COME THE PIRATES (click here)

Aarrgh… Here Come the Pirates

Mum and Dad once went for a holiday to Tasmania and came back with Captain Chas. (I think Mum found those two weeks without me totally unbearable and just had to have something furry and bearish to cuddle.) So Captain Chas and I get together fairly regularly to swap seafaring yarns and sing a sea shanty or three.

I wear my Riverboat Captain cap so that Chas doesn’t mistake me for a scurvy, lily-livered landlubber. We say Ahoy Matey and Avast there and Hoist the Jolly Roger, and we pretend our toy boat is an evil black pirate ship with lots of gold swirls and curls, and many great cannons poking out each side. In our dreams, we two scallywags (or scoundrels… whichever you prefer) – sail the Seven Seas once again. We shout Heave Ho to make our crew put some muscle into hoisting the sails to go to sea, and Avast when we want to stop.

Much later, when we’ve said Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of Rum a heap of times, and had a slurp or two, we seem to always end up doing a lot of aaarrrrgghh… ing in between loudly singing –

What shall we do with the drunken sailor… ‘,
and the next verse –
Put him in the longboat until he gets sober… ‘

Well-ll-ll, all I can say is… Shiver Me Timbers

But wait! There’s a completely ‘other’ side to me, rarely revealed to the public, so shhh… we’ll just keep this between you and me, OK? You see, sometimes, on really sunny days, I concentrate on getting in touch with my feminine side and spend time with the ladies – Gertie Galah and Rosemary.

The first thing you should know about Gertie Galah is that she’s really beautiful – all pink and grey and white. And she has this cute little white topknot of feathers on her head, that can stand up tall when she’s alarmed or sometimes when she’s just being nosy. But when she’s comfy and quietly thinking, or smiling, or maybe settling for the night, then her topknot lies down nice and smooth.

Gertie is a really funny gal… she makes me laugh a lot. Some humans say Galahs are the clowns of the bird world. I agree. I’ve seen Galahs doing some really funny things. I wonder if you’ve seen them when a light rain falls, after many long, hot and dusty days? Galahs love to crowd onto telegraph lines and have a shower. They spread their wings, and whilst hanging on tightly with their curly claws, they swing around on the lines a few times, and then stop when they’re upside down… high above the ground. This way, they catch as many raindrops as they possibly can, and then flap their wings furiously, to get rid of the excess. (After all, you wouldn’t want to be waterlogged for flight, would you?)

I have seen Gertie doing this high wire act, too. Around and around and around she would go… where would she stop? I didn’t know. I was quite dizzy, just watching her. But she had no fear. Like all the rest of her family and friends, she only wanted to ‘come clean’.
After that, each and every feather must be lifted and ruffled and run through with that tough curvy beak, until they all lay smooth and flat (and of course, squeaky clean once again). Then, at long last, the Galahs sit in the sun to dry out completely.

Gertie tends to squawk more than talk… well – that’s how it sounds at first. But when you be very, beary quiet and listen most carefully, you can hear her words. (This is easy for a Teddy Bear – it’s our basic personality.) Humans are different. More often than not, they have problems understanding why they have two ears and only one mouth – “All the better to hear you with, my dear” (as a famous Wolf once said).
We Teddy-type bears have no problem with this, OR any other loyalty and caring and loving type things. You may have noticed this about us.

Oh yes… and Rosemary? She’s what we sit on in the great outdoors – Gertie and me. Although sometimes she’s a girl in other houses – Rosemary is a bush at our place. And although a bush by any other name would smell as sweet, it’s a lovely name for a special gal who shares her sweetness with anyone who brushes past, or indeed lingers, as Gertie and I do.

 

 

 

NEXT:  ONE-EYED SUPPORTERS? US? (click here)

One-eyed Supporters? Us?

Long ago when I was just a whipper-snapper, I was a devoted football fan, cheering loudly for a South Australian footy team fondly called the Eagles, and their colours were blue and gold. Then Dad came along and things became complicated. His team were the Redlegs, and their colours were red and blue. Then South Australia created its own State football team. Now all our problems were solved, and we all felt happy. This proud team is called the Adelaide Crows and their colours are Red and Blue and Gold… how fortunate is that?

Mum went a bit crazy in those early years as a dedicated supporter. She knitted a l-o-n-g scarf, and crocheted a knee rug – and then another – finally joining the two together for a double knee rug for her and Dad to snuggle under together and keep warm between cheering at the big matches. Then she crocheted two cushion covers to sit on and soften the chilly concrete bench seats at the footy oval. She says cheering and cursing the umpire usually kept them heated nicely most of the time, but on particularly wintry days, her handiwork was most welcome.

Mum lent me her best footy cap on game days when she couldn’t go to the matches. She crocheted one huge eye and sewed it to the cap to show what a ‘one-eyed’ supporter she was. She made one for Dad too, and sitting beside each other, bundled under their rug, they look like a two-headed, one-eyed alien. The first l-o-n-g scarf had to be replaced because Mum insisted on having it looped through the car and flying out from both back car windows each time the Crows won. The scarf I get to wear for photo shoots is the new you beaut model in a wonderful silky and feathery yarn that looks like it glows… truly it does.

Crow Bear and Crow Clown and I love to cuddle up in all the gear in front of the TV on a chilly Saturday afternoon, and cheer them on. Don’t know if the Crows can actually hear us, but our house gets quite rowdy each time we’re on a winning streak. We three are actually fervent footy fans, in case you hadn’t noticed. Learned it all from our Mum. We like to think the Adelaide Crows are comforted by the old saying –

When all the world’s against you, Ted is on your side (…as are Crow Bear and Crow Clown, too.)

There are other truly grand people I fully support who aren’t footballers. They would be my own sweet family. Every now and then, my girl Betsy comes visiting this beary loveable old critter (uhrr yes, that would be me), and she brings my grandies… to crawl all over me.

Love ’em to bits… I tell them stories from last century and they are SO impressed by my yesterdays. Well-ll-ll, to tell the truth, Betsy hangs on every word, but the grandies soon lose interest and begin fidgeting and whispering and squirming. It’s time to suggest they go play outdoors, and before you can say hugs are even better than chocolates, they’re out the door and off to start another great adventure.

Luckily, we live on a farm and they can shout and sing their blessed little hearts out, without worrying about disturbing the neighbours. Betsy and I don’t have to worry about them being in any danger from the farm animals – those cows are far too big for our tiny bambinos. They scare the little tykes much too much to come anywhere near them… not even anywhere near their paddock fence.

To tell the truth, I’m not too sure about those great critters either. I reckon a few licks from a cow’s rough tongue could turn me into a skin-head, just like that! (As I say those words, I would snap my fingers if I could, but I don’t have any… just two velvety paws that actually stroke very nicely.)

Even the hens Mum and Dad love are a bit of a worry. They have scary pecky beaks, and talk about beady eyes? Well-ll-ll, chook-lovers ought to study those hens up close and personal, that’s all I can say. And people who are not in love with bears reckon we have beady eyes? It’s not true. Some bears actually have buttons for eyes. Sad really… I believe their eyesight is particularly bad, even though they are nowhere near my advanced age.

NEXT: AN AVERAGE DAY? (click here)

An Average Day?

Now here’s a tough one, even for an old hand like me! You see, there are places Mum publishes my tales, where we can make a picture story (and I absolutely require a pictorial record to cover ALL I do in an average day!).

Other places, however, can only show the front cover – no pics inside whatsoever. Ah well… their loss! The thing is, I’ll have to make a condensed version for those poor unfortunates. Sighanother challenge!

Haarrumphh – deep breath (or three) now... OK!

Time out for sunshine and stretches

First things first – I L-O-V-E to greet the morning sun through the bathroom window. Warms those creaky old joints that stiffen overnight. Normal bear wear and tear, I guess.
See the wide open spaces behind me? Fresh country air… I LOVE my sunburnt country.

Time to quickly check emails and Facebook and what Mum wrote about in the wee small hours. She’s an insomniac (no, no, no… not a maniac – it means she wakes up and can’t go back to sleep, so she sensibly writes for a few hours, instead of fretting over her sleeplessness). Sometimes I think she’s a show-off with her touch-typing skill, when I’m restricted to paw-patting one key at a time… but truthfully (shh, don’t tell her this), I’m basically overawed at her speed for an old girl (on the keyboard, that is. Not so much in other times and places). She loves to tell people she’s seen the model typewriter she learned to type on in museums, often asking staff if they need an antique operator, too.

No escape… First draft

Because home is a farm, we only have mail delivery three times a week. Pretty neat timing actually, providing exactly enough effort for Postie Bear, my personal postman, to trot all the way up our drive to the road and letterbox, and return… hopefully with something in hand. This particular pic is us reading a treasured card from Mum’s grand-daughter. I suspect Postie Bear gets a charge out of reading special mail, just like me.

Time to make sure Wilfrid Wabbit has his carrot fix for the day. It’s important for all rabbits, but most especially Wilfrid. You see, he was born with weak eyes, causing the poor little blighter to have to wear specs already… and he’s only a little guy yet. Hopefully, enough extra carrots should solve his problem well before he gets to his ‘terrible teen’ years and becomes besotted by the Playboy Bunnies. He will HAVE to have 20:20 vision to be able to say, “All the better to see you with, my dear”.

Here’s another old geezer I hang out with on sunshiny days. This one’s Farmer Dan. He reckons he’s a lucky duck whenever we have our get-togethers to discuss the weather (and whether it’s going to rain because our corns are aching; and definitely there’ll be a frost because a huge mistiness ringed the moon last night; and rainbow in the morning gives you fair warning – a shower is coming from the west), and planting tips and times (above-ground plants should always be planted in the morning, and underground chaps during the afternoon. Hmm, dunno. We’re not convinced about the last one, Farmer Dan and me). Our truly best stuff, after we’re warmed up, is to stretch the truth beyond its limits about absolutely everything, and tell the odd smutty joke (not dirty ones… that’s not the style of old-time bushmen). We simply concentrate on humour and enjoying the lazy luxury of fine times in the sun, doing nothing more energetic than chin-wagging. That’s us alright… Farmer Dan and me.

Sometimes if the sunshiny moments get too warm atop the Rosemary bush, Gertie Galah and I seek a shady place up a leafy tree somewhere. She really is a tonic – my ‘giggling Gertie‘ – keeping me in stitches with her tales of all the things she sees when she flies far and wide. Great stories to share with the Small Knitty Gritty Kids, later on… before their bedtime.

Sheesh, my Mum owns a l-o-t-t-a books. I get exhausted looking at the line-up, let along reading them all. And all those stacks of books in front of even more books. Phew! How DO her eyes stand up to it? There are times Dad gets exasperated in charity shops and at clearing sales having to tear her bodily away from any books for sale. Then she reminds him she’s pretty cheap to run, compared to dames who want jewels and pearls or maybe ‘just one more pair of shoes’.

As the daylight hours are ending, and before the Small Knitty Gritty Kids nod off, there’s time for one more Bedtime Story. I know I’ve already shown you this pic, but what can I say? They’re the BEST family in the world – and you may have noticed, I’m a tad proud.

This isn’t the prettiest picture of me you’re likely to see, but I have many old-fashioned virtues, and ‘Honesty is the Best Policy’ is an important one. The truth is, I L-O-V-E a nightcap or three before bed. Smoothes out the cares of the day and makes me all warm and fuzzy… you know? Some may turn up their noses and say, “Pardon?”, but I reckon if it’s the worst I do in this world, it’s not too bad.

Cheers! Skaal! Prost! Sante! Cin Cin! Here’s Mud in your Eye!

NEXT:  AGE SHALL NOT WEARY THEM (click here)

Age Shall Not Weary Us

Gran and Grandpa

Speaking of advanced age, I can’t miss the chance to pass on some ‘cultured pearls of wisdom’ from the two sweetest antiques I’ve ever met, Gran and Grandpa. They are old souls too… I just know it. When I’m with them, I feel like a playful young cub again – forever young and all that stuff – so I take my specs off and pretend. It’s actually their fault for encouraging me… but look at them. Can you blame me for being putty in their hands?

Their plain, old-fashioned good sense and down-to-earth way of looking at Life’s problems is such a comfort when times get tough. With their never-ending supply of wise sayings and thoughts for every situation you can imagine, they simply soothe the soul.

Look at these ones especially for bears they picked up somewhere along the way –

There’s no such thing as too many kisses.

One good cuddle can change a grumpy day.

If the heart is true, it doesn’t much matter if an ear drops off.

Bears do not like to be lent. Save to very small children in very great distress.

I’m sure I’ve already used a couple in my story already. You don’t need to tell me – I know. It’s because I quote them SO often nowadays, talking to the Knitty Gritty Kids and any other small folk. You can use them too, if you wish. They can lift a chap up on a ‘down‘ day, and work exactly like that great line – you are the wind beneath my wings. Try one… go on! You’re going to feel better… truly.

Now I’m getting beary weary and it’s time for a last brush of my teeth before bed. Mum’s right about ‘brush twice a day to keep the Dentist away’ – I haven’t needed one in years and years!

Looking at the clock now… Good! Time for one more short bedtime story for my darlings. Except this night it’s less a bedtime story than a discussion about me having another bite of the cherry, so to speak, with Mum making this story – yet another one all of my own. Now it’s their turn to be revolting – clamouring for me to tell Mum she can’t rest those tip-tapping fingers yet – she simply MUST tell more about those little rascals, the Small Knitty Gritty Kids… or else! (Or else what, I’m not sure. Bit hard to go slow when your every move is already almost a non-event! Maybe they’re thinking to ration their cuddles. Now that would be DREADFUL!)

It’s looking as though a little pillow talk with Mum has become No. 1 on my ‘To Do’ list! (mmm… haa-rum-ph… phew… y-a-w-w-n-n-n… hmm… in the morning, I think – when we’re both fresh as daisies!)

NEXT: SOMETIMES IN DREAMS (click here)

The short and the Tall of it All

“Where IS Summer, this time?” Grandpa looked all around the barn, the old dairy, the stockyards – even peered into the pig pen.

His slow and easy voice showed he didn’t expect to find her there, but the child had taken up near-permanent residence in Pansy’s pen a few weeks ago. Grandpa shook his head again, as he had many, many times. That friendly pig had given birth to TEN piglets on her first ever litter. “TEN!” He snorted out loud to nobody there. “Pansy’s only a young’un herself.” And nobody there answered him.

“Summer! Summer!” he called, and muttered, where is that girl? He pushed the barn door open wide, looking out into the sunny meadow on one side… and then squinting his eyes up tight to see more clearly into the apple orchard on the other side. And there she was, laying back against the trunk of her favourite tree, safe and sound. A large sigh escaped his lips. If Summer could have seen the look of relief easing the many wrinkles of his old face, she would have laughed at him and teased him for worrying even the teensiest bit.

For many moments Grandpa didn’t say another word. The smile tugging at the edges of his mouth showed how much he enjoyed the vision of this small child, chewing on a long stalk of hay, oblivious to her world’s sounds. Summer’s one squinted eye in that small, upturned face showed her focus was on the changing cloud shapes. Grandpa approached her, unwilling to disturb such a charming scene as she traced imagined shapes with one chubby finger of her upraised hand. Despite his stealth, Summer sensed his presence and turned her head trustingly, prompting him to ask what she saw this time. He never tired of looking through her eyes. Her imagination knew no boundaries as it stretched his own far beyond his usual practical and down-to-earth visions.

“Don’t tell me the short man has come down from his tall mountain again, hey punkin’?” And as he lowered himself to sit alongside her, he took one of her long golden braids and tickled her nose with the curly ends hanging below the pink polka-dot ribbon. Summer giggled as she nodded her head so hard Grandpa thought it could roll right off her shoulders.

“And what does he breathe out this day, hey? More animals?” And he settled himself more comfortably. How he loved his little darling telling him a story, instead of the many bedtime ones he told her. She snuggled up against him just as tightly no matter who was the storyteller. But unlike their precious night-time ritual, one snuggle was all Summer could manage before she simply had to wriggle free to point skywards again.

“It’s my Knitty Gritty kids, Pappy. L-O-O-K! Up there between those two branches. See ? Where the old nest is?” And she pulled his head to her so their faces were pressed side by side, to see exactly where she peered. And though he knew he didn’t have a quarter of the imagination running wild behind those shining brown eyes, he pretended. And couldn’t believe the magic happened again, like last time when it was all about animals. Inside the warmth of her… uhmm? Aura? Was that what it was? Grandpa wasn’t sure of its name. All he knew was up close and all around his little punkin’ was this warmth and light, where strange new powers were born and flourished. Like being able to see the shapes and characters who filled her daydream world.

“LOOK! Do you see Gran and Grandpa?” Her voice was small and hushed, but her excitement was impossible to miss. “They’ve got their heads together, Pappy – same as we have.” And she planted a hasty kiss on his ear, with eyes still stretched to their limit sideways. And whether it was the ‘aura’ thing or whatever, Grandpa could see his namesake and the other one who represented his dear old wife, Clara. How well he remembered the amount of time she’d spent creating them. Knitting all their bits and sewing them together; puffing out their small bodies with stuffing; and then the faces. He shook his head to clear the image of the many attempts Clara had made to get those small mouths into the best smile, and darned eyes to match each other, yet magically, seeming to be looking at each other when they were side by side.

And now, with his Summer-eyes at work in place of his old-farmer-see-for-miles ones, more and more of the Knitty Gritty children floated into view.

“Look! Bimbo! It’s Bimbo the Clown,” he said gleefully, beating Summer by a goat’s whisker. “And I can’t even see where your Gran patched him after the terrible night of the munching moths.” For a moment, the suspicion of a tear hovered on Summer’s eyelashes.

“He was SO brave, Pappy. He never cried out when it was happening. He soldiered on. And you know he refused an anaesthetic when Gran mended him. Bimbo just toughed it out.” Summer sniffed. “But she did have to restitch his mouth to put his special smile back.” Her little body stiffened as she pointed off to the other side of the tree – “See? Past those three apples cuddled up tight. See? It’s another bravest one. It’s Molly!” Grandpa had to squint, but then he too could see a cute little mop cap shading the brightest eyes.

“Of course. She’s the courageous soul who came all the way across the sea from Tasmania to our BIG island – all by herself!” Grandpa had always been greatly impressed by this small sailor. Certainly, she had been carefully but firmly wrapped, and that was most important, but still it must have been terrifying to be surrounded by strange noises and smells, and not be able to see ANY of the culprits at all. And have no understanding of the hero’s welcome waiting at the end of her journey. Bravery above and beyond the call of duty, Grandpa muttered.

As Grandpa focussed more and more clearly thanks to Summer’s magic, he saw Simon Scarecrow, keeping crows and other troublesome winged types away. Although, Grandpa saw he let angels pass without a problem. SOME feathered friends were ALWAYS welcome.

“And Pappy… do you see Derek the Cat?”

Now it was Grandpa’s turn to nod with such vigour he nearly lost his beanie. “I know him. He’s the one who tells the story of being Dick Whittington’s cat in another lifetime, and going to London to visit the Queen.” And a sly but wide grin nearly split Grandpa’s face in half. “And if I’m not mistaken, there’s his best girl Susie, holding his hand.”

Summer wriggled. “And if we were not so far away, I’ll bet we’d hear him singing his bestiest song in the world—”

“Ahh but I love that one, too.” And Grandpa ducked his head. “… sing it to Gran sometimes, out on the porch, on a moony, starry night—” and he interrupted himself to urrhum-urrhum as two red spots appeared on his wrinkly cheeks and his voice dropped to barely a whisper. “If you were the only girl in the world, and I were the only boy…’

Summer smiled at her Pappy. Hardly anyone knew what a marshmallow he was behind the rough-tough old farmer image. But then his face changed. He wore a frown now and a questioning look.

“Just a minute. I remember last time how you told me the ‘short man’ is Scotty the Chimney Sweep, and the breaths he breathes to make all these shapes are a heap of giant sneezes from all the dust and grime inside all the chimneys he cleans, right? But how does he get up on the roof in the first place? And the tall mountain, too, on his short legs? That’s what I don’t understand.”

Summer’s face relaxed into her usual happy smile. “Ahh… easy-peasy, Pappy. Great big Harry the Painter – see him?” And she leaned so far to one side Grandpa thought she would topple right over and likely roll down the hill exactly like her beloved Jack and Jill.

“See his big tall ladder? It’s strong as forever. You know what a supercalafragalistic tradesman he is! He props it against any house, and up Scotty goes. And now he doesn’t need any help to climb the tall mountain. His legs are sturdy as tree trunks and he goes up faster than a speeding bullet! See, Pappy?”

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Author’s Note:  Proud to tell you this won third place in a children’s story competition – the challenge being to create a >1500 word story from a paragraph prompt –

Summer lies on the warm grass, her long braids keeping her wind hair out of her freckled face.
She traces the outlines of the shapes in the clouds with a chubby finger and one squinted eye.
“What are you doing out here punkin’?” Summer’s grandpa inquires as he shuffles through the yard.
“Watching the animals,” she replies simply, never taking her eyes off the sky.
“Animals?” Her grandpa asks.
“Yeah Pappy, the animals the short man on the tall mountain makes with his breath.”

 

The Curse of the Deep Green Blues

 

“If I wasn’t green, I’d tell you I was blue.”

“Blue? Why would you want to be blue? Dragons aren’t BLUE!”

“No. Not the colour, my little friend. I mean ‘blue’ as in unhappy, down in the mouth, all that kind of sad puff ‘n stuff.

Timmy tilted his head and stopped licking his lollipop only just long enough to say, “WH-A-A-T?” and “WH-Y-Y-Y??”

He scratched his head some, like he’d seen Grandpa do when he was muddled and befuddled. Timmy had never seen a sniffling snuffling dragon before and wasn’t sure what he should do. His mum always came with the tissue box when he cried – but a dragon with the waterworks would probably need a whole roll of paper towels… best nip that one in the bud, he thought. Maybe give Kaida a lick of lollipop? That could work. And Timmy held up his red and white swirly lollipop as high as he could reach. It was a super-generous gift – Timmy’s favourite – raspberry and vanilla.

Kaida’s large and grateful lick threatened to knock Timmy over, but he braced his legs. He’d been getting dragon licks since he was small, when Kaida blew warm breaths over his baby body to tickle him ever so slightly and post him off to Dreamland. He’d actually learned to walk by holding on to the pointy bits up her spine, becoming excellent at keeping his balance around her.

********

It all started with Farmer Grandpa, once upon a long time ago. Farmers can fix most anything, always living up to the title – ‘Jack of all trades, Master of none’. This was never more useful than the day Grandpa met a dragonette in his far paddock. A dragonette, you ask? That’s a youngster, only about 60 something years old, trying hard to be a grown-up. This was Kaida and she had become separated from her mother [who was about two thousand years old, although she liked to say she’d lost track, and forget a few hundred years here and there… seems to be a female kind of thing.]

First came a severe cramp in one wing as Kaida tried to keep up with her mother, flying against a buffety wind, and that had caused the crash landing – luckily into a forest of extremely leafy trees. After she slowly fell through the branches onto a forest floor covered in ivy and mushrooms and a mountain of crackly fallen leaves, Kaida managed to stand up. BUT, to her dismay, she not only couldn’t fly [having damaged her wing] but her fiery, whooshing huff ‘n puff wouldn’t work at all. Instead it came out as a warm and gentle breeze. Her green cheeks turned a brightish pink with embarrassment, imagining how the other dragonettes would laugh and make fun of her. Maybe even her parents would be ashamed of her? She knew they loved her and would pretend it didn’t matter, but it would hurt them terribly when all the other dragonettes were playing their fire-bug games and she couldn’t join in.

Kaida begged Grandpa to help make her better – and being an excellent handyman, always ready to try anything, he wanted to help her… BUT this day it was his job to babysit Timmy, and he couldn’t possibly do both. Kaida convinced him she could let the babe lay on her tail between the pointy bits and sway him ever so slowly, while humming as she curled around him and did some warm-air-blowing. She promised faithfully [and crossed her heart and hoped to die if she lied], she would NOT eat Timmy, even though he looked perfectly scrumptious.

She said, “It’s only fair! PLEASE! I beg you…” Her plaintive tone and tear-filled eyes convinced Grandpa to trust her. With a quick look over his shoulder to make sure Timmy’s mother wasn’t anywhere near to see the risk he was taking, he found the coast was clear [and the paddock too], all the way to the barn where he placed small Timmy in a nest of hay he’d made, beckoning Kaida to lay her head close to the babe. Soon Timmy was sleeping happily in the soft ebb and flow of her loving breath. Kaida couldn’t believe the unsuspected well of love she found deep inside herself.

After several hours of concentrated binding with the strongest silver packaging tape – because band-aids were too wimpy, and gauzy-type bandages likewise – Grandpa was able to patch Kaida up darn-fine-splendid as he liked to say when he did a good job. But reviving the fire and brimstone blasts of breath was impossible. [To tell the truth, Grandpa didn’t try TOO hard. He loved that Kaida could only blow gentle warm breezes, no matter how hard she huffed and puffed.] He pretended much grief as he shared the bad news, but when she broke down and sobbed her great dragon heart out, he did feel truly sorry for her.

“I won’t belong anywhere in Dragonville any more. Even dragonettes have to fire up daily to survive there.” Kaida sniffed so hard the hay around Timmy was nearly sucked up. He murmured and wriggled, but thankfully never woke. “Once upon a long time ago, dragons were the only things flying really high in the sky – even more than twice as high as eagles and the like. And then you human beans started crowding us out with your flying dragon-things; more and more of them, flying ever higher, until some went right off into the darkest sky and never returned. These are powers we don’t understand. So we crept into the deepest caves and hid… or risk perishing if we showed ourselves to you.”

Grandpa was deeply moved. Clearly he’d decided to make this dragon a friend. After all, he murmured quietly to himself, anyone who purrs like Kaida and makes my precious grandson giggle and laugh out loud when he’s awake, and then sleep like a… well-ll-ll… baby – MUST be trustworthy. And as always, gruff old Grandpa’s heart went out to the homeless, even such as this young dragon of almost sixty six.

Turned out it was a wonderful choice Grandpa made. Kaida never ever let him down. Not. One. Single. Time. Even when tiny Timmy was teething and brought to Kaida screaming, she’d calm him down in a moment. Grandpa made sure she had the best of care and a diet rich in banana skins. He’d discovered orange peels were OK, although a bit ho-hum. BUT banana skins? They were a special treat for dragons, and he gratefully and regularly rewarded her with well-deserved treaties. And Timmy grew and flourished and grew some more, until even his mother lost all fear and came to depend on Kaida’s special care.

********

But now, out of the blue, here was Kaida ‘feeling blue’. “But why??” said Timmy, when Kaida lay her head alongside her shoulder and her mouth turned down at the corners. He’d been so sure the lollipop would do it. Why, he was even ready to sacrifice the whole stickful, if worst came to worst.

“Because I can’t make fire, I can’t see the brightest yellows and oranges and reds of flames. My soft huff’n puff stuff is all quiet colours, like lemon and apricot and kind of pinkish.” And Kaida sighed so hard Timmy’s best-loved cap blew off and rolled far away before he could catch it. But despite his loss and before he had time to miss it too much, he started smiling as a super thought popped into his mind.

“It’s OK,” he said. “Think about sunrise colours. They’re all those soft huff’n puff colours, and they are the beginning of a new day… a new chance for each one of us to follow a dream, or be our own new bestiest person [or dragon] we can be. Isn’t that a super-dooper thought?”

“Well-ll yes. I guess so… “ Kaida didn’t sound overly convinced. “But the bright colours? I miss them SO badly.”

“Easy peasy. They’re the colours of sunset – the END of each day. It’s like all your dreams are over, all bridges burned—” and Timmy interrupted himself, putting up his hand like a STOP sign. “BUT that is NOT sad. It just means you can go to bed and dream about all the tomorrows, all the ‘might be gonna happen’ stuff.”

And Timmy stretched out his hand to stroke the soft part of the front of her nose, where it was velvety, just like a horse’s. And Kaida smiled and made an almost whinnying sound… and decided green was the nicest colour a dragon could possibly be.

 

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Author’s Note:  I’m proud to say this small story won Second Prize in a competition for a story suitable for children under 10 years old, 1500 words or less, inspired by the picture that I used as my cover.