Photo by Chrissy Siggee
Christmas tree decorated by Chrissy’s granddaughter.
Photo by Chrissy Siggee
Christmas tree decorated by Chrissy’s granddaughter.
‘Daddy! Daddy, there’s a tiger in our garden!’
‘Really? I hope not. He might dig up the watermelon seeds.’
‘Should we feed the tiger so he won’t come and eat us up?’
‘OK, you get Mum’s kitchen scrap-bucket and I’ll put on my garden shoess.’
‘I have my garden shoes on too, Daddy. Look, Mummy tied the laces. Do you think tigers wear garden shoes too, Daddy?’
‘Well, we’ll soon find out, my young tiger hunter. Up on my shoulders you go. You can be the lookout.’
‘Yippee! I can see the whole garden up here, Daddy. Look! Paw prints.’
‘It looks like the tiger has been out all night.’
‘Daddy, do you think the tiger might be sleeping?’
‘Could be. We will have to keep very quite so we don’t wake him.’
‘Look Daddy, a crow. Let me down, cause he might get me. He could be the tiger’s friend. He might tell him we’re in the garden.’
‘Look, a lady bug. See how tiny her wings are?’
‘Daddy, why do they call em’ lady bugs?’
‘I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because they are so petite. Look at her tiny wings.’
‘Oh look Daddy, the watermelon seeds are popping out.’
‘Yeah, they are. Feel the little green shoot. Soon it will grow along the ground into a big vine and we will have lots of watermelons to eat.’
‘Ooooh, yuck! Daddy, it’s a snail.’
‘We can’t have snails eating our seedlings. Can we? We should put him on the compost heap. He can’t do any harm there.’
‘Come on Daddy, we have to feed the tiger.’
‘Be careful where you walk. The garden is a bit overgrown near the shed. We might clean it up next weekend. What do you think?’
‘Oh no, Daddy! Where will the tiger live?’
‘You have a point there. Here we are. Empty the scraps onto the compost pile.’
‘Daddy, can we empty the scraps for Mummy tomorrow? There might be a dinosaur in our garden.’
© Chrissy Siggee
Everyone except Thomas Creighton-Smith’s granddaughter, Ada, knew Rosie was more than just a pig. Ada’s ideal retirement for Rosie was to explore the ancient land of dragons by day and visit the kitchen for under-the-table dinner scraps in the evenings before dreaming by the fireplace.
At breakfast one dank April Friday, Grandma had suggested they have roast pig for Sunday lunch complete with the traditional three vegetables and brown gravy made from the juices of the roasting meat. It was while Grandma chatted on about where she would insert the large rotisserie rod that Ada ran from the kitchen with Rosie close at her heels. ‘It will help tenderise the old sow,’ Grandma was saying without acknowledging she had heard the back door slam.
Thomas put down his morning paper. ‘I just wanted to take the pig to the abattoir to recoup some of our loses. After all, this is a working farm,’ he muttered as he left the house in search of Ada.
His eyes scanned the landscape for a sign of the two gallant explorers. In spite of himself, old Thomas didn’t envy the little girl. He had grown up in Beatrix Potter country and the fantasies she created in the stunning Lake District would have been more practical for Ada’s school holiday fantasies. He shook his head. Maybe we should have stayed in Ambleside and taken up trout farming.
It was two days before St George’s national holiday and Thomas needed to take that fat old pig for a road trip but Grandma was fixed on having tough pork and bacon. He stood at the garden gate and looked around. Where are they? He squinted into the fog that settled over the bogs as he recalled his mother’s favourite story that dated back to the 6th century. What was it, again? Oh, yes. St George rescued a young maiden by slaying a terrifying fire-breathing dragon. He slipped his hands into his warm pockets and headed for the main road.
So she wouldn’t fall over, Ada held up her long flowing medieval princess costume as she marched down Old Kent Road. Rosie trudged slightly behind with cardboard toilet cylinders on her pointy ears and three black bows tied onto her limp tail.
They stopped near a red telephone box just beyond the intersection where the road-signs crisscrossed a wooden post. ‘Oh Rosie, how could Grandma say such horrid things? I won’t let them eat you.’ Ada stomped her foot splashing slops of mud over both of them.
She lifted the old play dress above her waist to search the pockets of her faded jeans beneath. With 10p in her hand she stepped into the telephone box. Finding the correct number from the list beside the chunky black phone, Ada dialled and waited. Rosie grunted, shuffled and squeezed in until she jammed herself tight between Ada’s knees.
‘Hello,’ Ada shouted into the mouthpiece. ‘Please help me. They’re going to kill Rosie!’
Approaching the end of the lane where it met the road, Grandpa looked left then right. Their farm was located two miles due east of the abattoir between Dover and Holyhead. He sniffed the thick foul air. This neighbourhood is likened to the lowest-priced property on the English Monopoly board. A few moments later he decided Ada would have headed away from town so off he trudged.
Minutes later he heard an ear-piercing squeal followed by a shout from young Ada. He quickened his stride. The telephone box a little ways past the next farm on the opposite side of the road seemed to be alive as it shook and groaned. Grandpa stopped in mid-step; his neck craned forward. There was someone, or something, in the telephone box. There were too many legs to count. He saw what looked like horns and a tail with blades. There was a lot of banging and bumping going on behind the grime and moss streaked glass.
‘Oh my, it looks like a dragon!’
Ada screamed again jolting Grandpa from his trance. Manoeuvring the door open to avoid swishing his granddaughter, he grabbed Rosie by the tail and dragged her squealing from the booth.
Later, after the local Bobbies had their explanation and had a good laugh, Grandpa and Ada sat down to rest at the nearby bus-stop.
‘Did you know, Ada, only forty-five to fifty percent of animals at the abattoir can be turned into edible meat products, fifteen percent is waste, and the remaining forty to forty five percent is turned into by-products like bath soap, candles and glue? Mmm…glue suits her.’
‘It’s okay, honey. I rather like rescuing my little princess from dragons. Come on, let’s go home and break the news to Grandma.’ He winked at his granddaughter. ‘There will be no more talk of bacon and roast pork.’
© Chrissy Siggee
Tommy entered the kitchen, his head bent forward to watch his feet as he walked. His hair skimmed the underside of the kitchen counter as he cut the corner.
‘Grandpa, can you help me tie my shoelaces, please?’
‘Sure. Up we go.’ He lifted his grandson onto a high kitchen chair.
‘Grandpa, why is it so hard to learn how to tie shoelaces?’
‘That’s a good question. Everything we learn in life can be hard.’
‘Because it’s part of learning.’
‘Well, if everything was easy to learn in life there wouldn’t be any strength to our character.’
Grandpa slowly looped a shoelace as Tommy watched. ‘Let me put it this way,’ Grandpa continued as he twisted one end of the lace around the loop. ‘Do you remember when your daddy and I took you fishing last summer?’
‘Yes.’ Tommy’s face screwed up. ‘It was so hard to get the worms to stay on the hook for the fish to bite them.’
‘That’s right. Do you remember how many times you had to practise to get it right?’
‘Lots.’ The little boy nodded once and continued to study his grandfather’s hands.
‘By the end of the weekend you had it just right and you caught the biggest fish for supper.’
Tommy’s face beamed and revealed a toothy grin. He let his foot drop and held up the other one.
‘Your turn,’ Grandpa encouraged.
Tommy wriggled his foot onto his other leg and concentrated on the shoelace. It took a few minutes but eventually he made the final turn and pulled the loop through.
‘There will be other things in life you will need to learn and they won’t be easy either.’
Tommy sat looking at his shoes in thought. ‘Like what?’
‘Oh, all sorts of things, like how to know the difference between right and wrong, when to make an important decision and how to choose which decision to make.’
‘Because that’s life and we need to learn lots of things like tying shoelaces and how to fish. Making a decision when choosing what kind of friends we should have can be a tough one.’
‘That sounds really hard. Will I have to learn how to talk to grandsons too?’
The old man laughed. ‘Yes, but not for a while yet; that’s a grow-up’s lesson. You can wait for that.’
‘Look, Grandpa. We tie shoelaces the same. Maybe you practised lots too.’
‘Yep, I practised lots too but some life lessons took longer to learn than others.’
‘Can you teach me how to learn other life lessons, Grandpa?’
‘I certainly can but right now… why don’t we have some ice-cream?’
Tommy giggled and his eyes shone. ‘I guess we don’t have to learn how to eat ice-cream.’
Time to introduce another grandchild’s talent.
Dylan is 11 years old and has always liked drawing dragons.
The lunch bell rang. The din of chairs screeching, student chatter and books slamming closed echoed in the classroom.
‘Peter Mason, I’d like a word with you in my office over lunch.’
Peter had only been at this school for six months. His father’s job regularly moved them from state to state. This was his second school in three years, making it difficult to make friends and to be accepted by his peers.
‘Hey Mason, what’s Olsen want to see you for this time?’ Jeremy Spears sniggered.
Jason shrugged and kept walking.
‘Mason,’ Spears shouted after him. ‘See you after school … usual place.’
The gym was his favourite place. Oddly enough, it was the only class he didn’t share with Jeremy. He entered the locker room and quickly changed into his gym gear.
One of the team’s pole-vaulters came over while Peter was placing a sweatband around his head. ‘Mason, I didn’t think you were going to show. Good to see you.’ He snickered and slapped Peter’s back.
Peter turned but the guy was gone. What’s he on? Peter pushed open the swinging doors, entered the gym and did his usual warm-up routine. His favourite apparatus were the rings, and he was grateful he had them to himself for the next hour.
‘Mason,’ the coach shouted. ‘Didn’t you hear the bell? Go shower. Principal Olsen is waiting.’
He showered quickly, dressed and was running his fingers through his matted hair when the coach entered the locker room.
‘Mason, you have an ability that will get you to the 2024 Olympic Games. Don’t waste your time painting walls in your spare time.’
‘Coach, I …’ But the coach had already left.
What is it with these jerks? He stormed off to the administration block, notified the secretary he had arrived and plopped in a chair to wait.
‘Come in, Mr. Mason. Take a seat.’
Principal Olsen didn’t even look up when he stepped behind his desk and sat down on his swivel chair. He picked up a newspaper and started reading.
They both sat in silence for a few moments before Principal Olsen spoke. ‘It’s come to my attention … again, that you were seen immediately following the latest graffiti incident here at the school. Somehow your picture and story made front page news.’ He emphasized his last words by tossing the folded newspaper across the table for Peter to read.
Peter stared at the photo, obviously taken by a security video camera, and the caption below. ‘Graffiti King Identified on Camera.’ In the hood of his jacket was a pressure-pack can.
‘How? Spears, it had to be Spears. Sir …’
‘I’d like to believe you, I really would. However, Spears is seen … here.’ He pointed to a gate, to the left of what appeared to be Peter. ‘He may have avoided the ‘camera rotation but …’
‘Why would I carry a spray can in my hoodie, Sir?’ Peter felt his pulse racing.
‘I’m sorry, Peter. This time I have to issue a suspension. Your father has been notified. You can collect your things now before classes resume. Return to the office to collect your suspension letter for your father and leave while everyone’s in class … to save face.’
Peter left in a daze. He couldn’t believe it.
He emptied the contents of his locker into his backpack and shut the door. He made his way back to the gym and wandered over to the rings. He was overcome with disappointment. He took one last look and turned to see the coach standing nearby.
‘It’s only for the remainder of the term, Peter, and unfortunately, Olsen won’t let you use the school gym after school hours either. I tried, but he won’t budge.’
‘Coach, I didn’t do it. Honest.’
His coach sighed. He placed his hand on Peter’s shoulder and spoke with compassion. ‘Look, stay away from Spears. He’s bad news. If you can keep out of trouble, I’ll talk to Principal Olsen about a summer training program.’
Peter smiled weakly. ‘Thanks Coach.’
With regrets, Peter returned to the administration block, collected the letter and headed home determined to hold on to the hint of hope that his coach had given him.
© Chrissy Siggee