It was not unusual that every single morning Rie would awake to the drumming of her mother’s voice vibrating throughout the house. Her mother’s voice was skillful at climbing the stairs and gushing through the crack underneath Rie’s bedroom door. However, this morning was different. The house was creepy quiet, and because of this, Rie woke up by herself scratching her head perhaps thinking she was still dreaming. She rather anxiously made her way downstairs, tiptoeing into the kitchen. There she found her mum humming along to a song broadcasting on the radio. What struck Rie most was that her mother had breakfast ready and in disbelief appeared to be very relaxed. Rie’s eyes opened wide, she bit her lip softly and sat down as if expecting a fart bomb to go off.
“Good morning my little princess,” said Rie’s mum with a wide smile.
“Err, are you OK mum?” asked Rie shaking slightly in her bright green flowery pajamas.
“Of course I am OK dear, now eat up, you have a big day ahead of you!”
“A big day…” Rie moved towards the calendar and gazed at it for a short while. There was nothing special happening from what she could see. In fact the calender was blank. It most certainly was not her birthday. So, what an earth could her mum be talking about. In any case Rie was far too hungry to ask her mum any questions.
“Thank you, mum,” said Rie in an energetic voice as she scooped her spoon into her favourite cereal. “Ah delicious,” she added. “All my friend’s at school eat Space-Stars also”. Crunchy wheat and bran flakes with fruit bits.
Rie hated walking to school because she had to walk past Mr Prigley’s Bagel Shop on Chokely Road everyday. There is nothing wrong with the bagel shop itself, in fact, Rie enjoys the aroma that glides in the air as she walks past. Whenever, Rie smelt cheese or salmon, she would imagine she was floating on a cloud made of cheese and that it would rain salmon down onto the London streets. No, was not the bagels the bothered Rie, it was Old Man Chapney. Yes, Old Man Chapney was a nasty old man. He always shouted at the school children walking past both on the way to and returning from school. He would wait around the corner and jump out screaming in the most creepy voice imaginable, ‘You didn’t buy a bagel did you? My little dry bones,’ he would say. He did this every day and there was nothing nobody could do about it. Parent’s did not believe their children of the old man, and nobody knew where he lived. One day he even grabbed Rie’s school bag saying ‘What lovely colours it has.’ Old Man Chapney was a looney with nobody else to bully except for little children.
The sky painted an azure canvas with sponges of white sheep and glaring orange ball of flame. Rie turned onto Chokely Road and stopped for a moment. She looked up and took a deep breath. Her heart pounding like the sticks on a Taiko drum. She looked around for Old Man Chapney, but could not see him anywhere in her relief. She decided she would run the length of the road as fast as she could just to be on the safe side. She scanned the road one last time and took a long deep breath, and bolted down the street like a 100m sprinter. The local black shabby cat halted and fixed its eyes at Rie, as her feet slapped down on the pavement.
“Nearly there,” she said whilst running. Then just when she nearly made it past the bagel shop, out jumped Old Man Chapney growling like a hungry dog. Rie screamed and tumbled to the ground holding her leg. She had bruised her knee. Seeing that Rie was hurt, Old Man Chapney put out his hand to help her up. He had dark grey messy hair and a big fuzzy beard. He wore old brown clothes with bits of food stuck all over with slime, and torn blue shoes with one toe sticking out. Rie looked up to see Old Man Chapney smiling. This frightened her even more and so she picked herself up and began to run away, limping slightly of course.
At school Rie could not think of anything else except for the incident with Old Man Chapney for the whole day. She wondered how she could get Old Man Chapney back. The more she thought about it the more cunning and evil her day-dream smile grew across her face. At first she thought of taking another route to school, but the only other way was around the park. Rie’s mum had told her never to walk through the park alone because it was dangerous. Besides, Rie enjoyed walking to school alone and none of her friends lived close to her house. The thought of walking around the park did not please Rie in the slightest, because it would add at least another twenty minutes to her journey time. This was not acceptable, so she had to think of a plan to get rid of Old Man Chapney from lurking around the bagel shop once and for all.
At lunch time Rie sat by herself and began drafting up a plan which she called the ‘Old Man Chapney Bagel Test.’ After careful thought, she decided how she was going get that old crusty man back. The main part of her plan was to show Old Man Chapney she was no longer afraid of him.
After school, Rie as usual said good-bye to her friends. She then made her way home. All the way home she smiled brightly as she knew Old Man Chapney would finally get what he deserved. As Rie turned onto Chokely road, she was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she did not realise where she was, and boom, Old Man Chapney jumped out from the corner growling like a wolf. Rie was startled and most definitely caught off guard. Old Man Chapney laughed, skipping and hopping doing some sort of funky chicken dance.
“It works, it always works!” laughed Old Man Chapney with dribble coming out of his mouth. “By the way, you’re not the girl from earlier are you? I wanted to say…” and before he could finish his sentence, Rie was already half way down the road running like a cheetah, as if chasing its prey.
That night before Rie went to bed she made a buttered bagel with cheese inside. She had told her mum she wanted to eat it for share it with a friend after school for the walk home. The next morning the house was also strangely quiet. Rie made her way downstairs and into the kitchen. She said good morning to her mum, ate her breakfast, and left for school ten minutes earlier than usual.
It was another sunny day. The sun gleamed across the sky as far as the eye could see. Rie walked to school slowly. Turning onto Chokely Road, she noticed the same black shabby cat from yesterday. The cat was clawing its way into a black bin bag, searching for food. The cat could feel Rie’s eyes gazing from the distance. It turned and looked at her from head to toe as if examining every part of Rie’s body. It began to follow her footsteps from the other side of the road. “What an odd cat,” said Rie, as she continued walking. She would have pondered more about this mysterious cat, but she had a task to complete.
Rie started to run. The cat followed. Just as she reached the infamous scary corner by the bagel shop, she came to a sharp stop. At the same time she stopped, Old Man Chapney, rather predictably as if by cue, jumped out from around the corner growling like a bear this time. However, Rie neither moved nor screamed in fear. Instead she smiled at him. It was to Old Man Chapney’s horror that Rie appeared to be no longer being scared of him. No, for in fact she stood rooted to the spot, proud and strong. By now, Old Man Chapney was very confused and had no idea what to do. He looked down at the ground and started to slowly turn his overly hunched body in the other direction, but as he was turning away Rie jumped star-shaped into the air and screamed liked a wild boar.
“Freeze, you’re under arrest Old Man Chapney,” she said in a deep voice. The old man got so scared that he threw his arms up into the air and screamed like a little girl. Quick witted and on her toes Rie pulled out her bagel and slapped it down on the old man’s wrists. For added dramatic effects, she let out a wolf howl. Old Man Chapney fell to the ground in shame. There was butter and cheese all over his hands. To the Old Man Chapney’s further surprise, Rie whipped out a Polaroid camera and took a picture of the old shameful man.
“You won’t be scary anymore, you old bully!” shouted Rie. “I am going to show everybody your picture.” But before Rie could laugh, the old man spoke.
“I’m sorry little girl, I really am,” he cried out. “I only wanted to scare people away from the bagel shop.”
“Why is that?” asked Rie with a stern voice, but also slightly confused.
“It’s because they, the workers in the bagel shop. They don’t clean their hands when they make the bagels. My granddaughter got sick after eating one of their bagels. It had old cheese and moldy butter in it.”
“Well, there are other ways to stop people going into the shop, such as calling the police, putting up a poster, running a campaign or making a formal complaint,” replied Rie. She certainly sounded like one of her teachers at school.
Old Man Chapney went into deep thought.
“I trust you won’t be scaring people anymore?” asked Rie as she waved the picture in the old man’s face.
“No, of course not. I am terribly sorry,” replied Old Man Chapney. Rie smiled and resumed her path to school. She showed wonderful courage and got her own back on the evil old man. The black shabby cat walked across Rie’s path and gave her what looked like a smile, then disappeared it into one of the nearby gardens. Rie shrugged her shoulders, took a deep breath and smiled. She was satisfied with how the morning turned out. But what now bothered her as she made her way to school was why her mother was acting strangely and she still could not work out what the big day ahead was supposed to be yesterday. “I’ll have to investigate,” she said laughing…
By B. L. Crisp
Moral: Two wrongs do not make a right
N.B. I wrote this short-story earlier today after lunch whilst my children were playing. I wanted to read them a quick bed-time story exploring the theme of courage, but also encompassing a moral of ‘two wrongs do not make a right’. As a side theme, I wanted to show that even adults can learn from their mistakes and from children. It’s unedited, and I already have ideas of how to improve it should I ever wish to revisit it. – Extra note, children really liked it!