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Granddad Funny

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Granddad Funny



  Maggie Speak

  Published by Margaret Holden

  Copyright 2012 Margaret Holden



  Chapter One

  “Look out, it’s Jakey’s Granddad!”

  Jake Finney stopped dead, just as he was about to score in their game of Kick the Can. Brains Brown ran up and launched a mighty kick that made his glasses fly off, and sent the can flying into the bushes. The Wreck, where they were playing, was at the top of the street. It was just a bit of waste ground – not like a proper Rec. with swings and things, so they called it the Wreck with a capital W - Brains’ idea. It was a bit soggy underfoot, and the bushes were dripping. Brains, running after the can, got soaked.

  “Jakey, man, you could’ve scored!” Scrapper Smith stamped on Jake’s jacket, which was being used as the left goalpost. He had a temper, had Scrapper, but it never lasted too long. He and Jake had, together with Brains, been best pals since they first started school. They had their quarrels, of course, and any other time, if his muddy boot had left a great splodge on the Jake’s jacket, there would have been a set-to. Jake knew his Mam would be angry when she saw the mess, but he had other things to think about at the moment. Scrapper hadn’t finished moaning. “It’s bad enough having to look after our little’un every day, spoiling our games, without having your Granddad coming and interfering.” He put on his fierce look. His boast was that in a scrap he didn’t stop until he drew blood. (Jake had never actually seen this happen. In fact he’d never seen him in a really fierce scrap at all.)

  Scrapper’s kid sister, Sally, launched a kick at her brother, “I’m not a little‘un, I’m seven and a bit. Don’t like your stupid games, anyway. I wanted to go and play with MY friends, but Mam wouldn’t let me. Says I’ve got to stay with you. She’ll be home soon, anyway, and I’m glad.” Scrapper’s sister, Sally, was usually with them more often than not, because he had to look after her until their Mam came back from work at the Factory. “War Work,” Scrapper was fond of boasting, and when they asked what she did, he put a finger to his lips and said “Secret! To do with bombs. Very dangerous!” Actually, the Factory made the boxes to put the bombs in that the soldiers took to the trenches. There was no risk of any of the workers getting blown up, but it was important work all the same. Sally was a bit of a nuisance, but she made the numbers even for games, and she was quite good as a lookout for The Gang sometimes. Jake’s Mam called them the Terrible Trio, but they preferred The Gang, even though there were only three of them – Sally didn’t count.

  Brains Brown, who wore glasses, and always put his hand up first in class, fancied himself as a bit of an arbitrator. He’d read that word in one of his books, and he always looked up words he didn’t know. He never spoke in haste, always having a good think first. Now he said, “Granddad Finney is a bit different, you must admit. He doesn’t do, well… sort of old men things.”

  “Wish he did, instead of hanging round us!” growled Scrapper.

  “Granddad Finney - Granddad Funny,” giggled Sally.

  “Shut up, pig face. Who are you calling funny!” Jake shouted. She wasn’t really a pig face - in fact she was quite pretty in a dolly sort of way, all black ringlets that she shook all the time, and big blue eyes, but it didn’t do to let her know it.

  “You call my sister names, and you’ll get it! And this time I won’t stop - the blood will flow!” Scrapper didn’t mind what he said to his sister, that was a big brother’s right, but anybody else . . .What trouble girls caused, stupid creatures. Jake put up a fist ready for a scrap, but his heart wasn’t in it. He was watching Granddad, who had just spotted them. Oh no, please don’t do it, Granddad. Not the Cossack leap. But he did. He leapt high into the air, clipped one foot against the other, and landed, spreading his arms out to balance himself. He was wearing the Siren Suit that Jake’s Mm had made for him from an army blanket. All in one piece, with a zip right down the front, it was easy to get into over his pyjamas when the siren went and they had to move quickly. Trouble was, he’d taken such a liking to it that he wore it all the time. “If it’s good enough for Mr. Churchill“ he would say.

  “What‘s he do that for?” giggled Sally.

  “To show off.” muttered Scrapper.

  “To make us laugh and be his friends.” Brains shook his head. “Funny peculiar, I would say, not funny ha-ha. Definitely funny peculiar, your Granddad.”

  “Swallowed the dictionary, have you? ” snarled Jake. “Bet you can’t even spell peculiar.”

  “P E…”

  “You said pee – that’s rude,” snorted Sally. She really was a pain. Why couldn’t they just lose her?

  “Well, you’ve got to agree, he isn’t your ordinary sort of Granddad. They want to go down the pub with their mates, or play bowls. Don’t want to hang around with kids.”

  It looked as if Granddad was all set to do another leap, when old Ma Savage appeared on her doorstep and grabbed his arm. From the way she was waving her fist in the air, about a foot from Granddad’s nose, it seemed that she was a bit annoyed about something. She was grey-haired and sharp nosed and her mouth was always turned down.

  “Bet she’s telling him about our Knockie Nine Doors,” said Brains. “She’s got no sense of humour.”

  Knockie Nine Doors was one of their favourite games. You had to knock on a door in the street then hide before someone came out. They’d never managed to do all nine yet. But when they were caught, they usually just got a telling off and were called the Terrible Trio again. They didn’t do any damage or hurt anybody – just a bit of fun. Except to old Ma Savage. She thought the children of today… bla bla bla. Now it was Granddad who was in for it. They were still talking. They were too far away to see much, but after a bit her arms stopped waving about, her hand patted her hair and her head raised up. Looked like Granddad was exercising his charm. There was definitely something different about Granddad.

  But it was no good. As Granddad continued down the street Jake knew he couldn’t face him, knowing how the others felt. “Tell him I’ve gone to the shop for my comic, will you,” and he dived down the cutting that led off the Wreck and hid behind a tree. The others went back on to the street. It was nearly teatime any rate, and after that it was blackout and in bed to get a bit of sleep before the sirens went and the bombs came down.

  Jake’s Granddad had said goodbye to Ma Savage and was coming towards them.

  “Here, watch this!” said Scrapper “It’s a laugh!” He pulled a little box out of his pocket and took out a few little pink things like pills. When Granddad got near, he threw them on the pavement and stamped on them. Bang, bang, bang went the percussion caps. Granddad Finney flung himself flat on the ground and put his arms over his head. His body was twitching. Scrapper started to giggle.

  “That’s not funny,” said Brains.

  Suddenly Jake came flying down the street from where he had been hiding. He gave Scrapper a push that sent him into the wall, and knelt down beside his Granddad. He put an arm round the shaking shoulders. “It’s all right, Granddad, you tripped on those stupid paving stones. Knocked you out a bit, shouldn’t wonder.”

  Raising himself up and looking all around him, Granddad said slowly, “Ay, that’s it. Tripped up on the flags, must have. I’ll be getting home, now. Don’t you be too long out, our Jake.” He walked back down the street, back bent, arms clasped in front of him. Suddenly he looked very old.

  Scrapper had got his breath back. “It was only a bit of fun, Jakey man. I saw Olly Stott do it last week. I wasn’t very near, mind. I thought your Granddad was fooling around.”

  “Olly Stott! And you copied that sh… Ow!” He rubbed his leg whe
re Sally had kicked him.

  “Language ! Good job I stopped you, Jakey Finney. If you say bad words you have to wash your mouth out with soap.”

  “I’ll look after the words I use. O.K. littl’un. And I mean to say, if your stupid brother thinks anything Olly Stott does is funny there’s no hope for him, kidder.”

  Olly Stott lived in the next street, Trafalgar Terrace. He was ten already, really tough, and the leader of the rival gang. There were four of them, but one had a gammy leg, which about put him about on a level with Sally. Things never got too nasty, but they enjoyed having a bit of a set-to. In the school playground they were usually rival football gangs. Olly Stott had the only half-decent football in the class - his uncle had once been quite good and gave him his old practice ball - so Jake’s gang liked to challenge his, and sometimes won. After school there was a bit of name calling and chasing for a wrestle, but the best of all their encounters had been when Olly’s lot had started a battle and Jake’s gang had bunkered down in Scrapper’s coalhouse.

  Every house in their streets had a coalhouse in the backyard. There was a small square door, quite high up, opening onto the back lane. This coalhole, where the coal was shovelled in from a great heap behind the back wall after the delivery lorry had tipped its load, was a great lookout and missile launcher. The gleaming black chunks of coal shifted under their feet dangerously, and they picked the small round bits for throwing. Not at their heads mind. You had to have rules. Olly and his lot couldn’t shy back the coal through the narrow gap. They were soundly beaten, as was Scrapper when his Mam came back, to find him and Sally black with coal dust and her precious coal scattered in the back lane.

  Granddad Finney had, surprise, surprise, come across them in mid-battle, and had directed them from the coalhouse door like an army sergeant. “Good choice of position, troops. You’ve got the advantage. Watch that fella trying to creep up on the flank.” He got quite excited. When Scrapper’s Mam appeared, he looked a bit sheepish. “Boys will be boys, eh. Mrs. Smith.” Sally glared at him. “. . .not forgetting the girls,” he added.

  “I’ve never seen the like of it,” shouted Scrapper’s Mam.“ You’ll all of you get that coal picked up from outside. And I mean all of you,” she said, glaring, and pointing at Olly Stott and gang. “You’ll make sure they pick it all up, Mr. Finney. Every last bit.” It was an order, not a request. She hauled Scrapper backwards off the mountain of big, shiny coals. “I’ll deal with you later!”

  Although it had been a bit painful for Scrapper afterwards, and he’d said sorry, he wasn’t really too upset. He was always just getting into things without really thinking, and didn’t worry too much about anything.

  This time, though, as Granddad walked slowly down the street, Scrapper was looking really sorry, and worried. “Your Granddad was real upset, wasn’t he? I never meant. . .”

  “O.K. but it was a daft thing to do. He was in the War, see. The one before this one - where they were in the trenches, just dug out holes in the ground with nothing outside but mud and barbed wire and huge explosions from shells. He was very brave, then - got a medal for it. Never talks about it. Never! Our Dad says it’s like all the horror got stored in his head, deep down – only comes out in nightmares, and when there’s a loud bang and he thinks the guns and shells are starting up. They call it shellshock.”

  Scrapper didn’t say anything. Words weren’t his big thing. He gave Jake a tap on the shoulder and, grabbing Sally’s hand, walked on home.

  Jake did not go straight home.

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