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Washy and the Crocodile
 

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Washy and the Crocodile


  Washy

  James and John Maguire

  *

  © 2013 James and John Maguire

  James and John Maguire have asserted their rights in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the authors of this work.

  First published in eBook format in 2013

  ISBN: 978-1-78301-304-3

  All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the Publisher.

  eBook Conversion by www.ebookpartnership.com

  Contents

  Washy and the crocodile

  How Washy met the wombat

  Washy and the bush-fire

  Gentleman Jim

  How Washy learned to dance

  How Washy made a diagnosis

  How Washy opened a bank account

  How Washy met the Crocodile

  Annie had to go out, and Jack and Evie were upset.

  “You’re always going out, Mummy,” said Evie. She was a nice little girl. Most of the time.

  “That’s right,” said Jack. We never see you. You don’t care about us at all.” Jack was a strong little boy with dark eyes and a determined chin. His chin had a little dent in it, right in the middle. Evie thought it looked silly. Mummy said it was called a dimple. Evie still thought it looked silly.

  Mummy sighed.

  “I have to go, darlings,” she said. “But I’ll be back soon. And while I’m out, Uncle Otto will tell you a story.”

  “We don’t like Uncle Otto,” said Jack with the callousness of youth. “He’s old.”

  “And wrinkly,” added Evie. She giggled.

  “Thanks,” said Uncle Otto, who had just appeared, and was putting down his stick. “I heard that. If you’re going to be rude to me, I won’t tell you a story at all.”

  “We don’t care,” said Jack.

  “Yes we do,” said his sister. “You promised Mummy, and she’s relying on you!” All of a sudden, she felt very grown up.

  “Where shall I begin?” Asked Uncle Otto. The children had sat down by now, and Mummy had slipped out, blowing kisses from the door, and wondering what had happened to her car keys. (They were in her hand. Silly Mummy!) Tommy went to the door to see if she needed his help in catching a rabbit, but she waved him away, and he went and lay by the fire. In fact, he nearly went and lay in the fire. Tommy was a very sensible dog. Probably.

  The children looked at Uncle Otto. Where should he begin? They didn’t know. That was his job, to decide where to begin. He was telling the story.

  “I know,” said Uncle Otto, screwing up his dark brown eyes as if in memory, and staring hard into the fire. “I’ll begin at the beginning.”

  Evie thought that was very sensible.

  “In the beginning, when the world was young—”

  “What do you mean, when the world was young?” Jack interrupted his uncle. “How did the world know it was young?” Jack was a very curious little boy.

  Otto scratched his head.

  “In the beginning, when the world was young,” he began again, and then paused just slightly, but no-one interrupted him this time, so he went on.

  “In the beginning, when the world was young, a young man was going on walkabout. He was a very dark young man, and he was very slim, and he had curly dark brown hair and a broad nose and a big, big smile. He wore no clothes—”

  “No clothes?” Evie was astonished. “Didn’t he get very cold? I would.”

  “He wore no clothes,” said Uncle Otto firmly, “because he didn’t need to. The sun was up and it was very hot.”

  “1 wear clothes all the time.” Said Evie. “So does Jack. And so does Mummy. Except when we’re in the bath, of course!” She giggled.

  “This was in Australia,” said Uncle Otto. “1t’s very hot all the time. He didn’t need clothes. All he had was a spear, and his tooth-pick, and a boomerang.”

  “Why did he have a tooth-pick?” Asked Jack.

  “Everyone has a tooth-pick,” answered Otto.

  “Why?”

  “To pick their teeth with,” said Uncle Otto.

  “What was his name?” Asked Evie.

  “He didn’t have a name,” said his uncle, who had known both children for a very long time (from the beginning, in fact). “There was no one else there. He didn’t need a name.”

  “Everyone has a name”, said Jack firmly. “Everyone. Even Tommy.”

  “That’s right”, said his sister, and called: “Tommy! Tommy!” Tommy wagged his tail, lazily. He was very comfortable by the fire.

  “All right,” said Otto. “We’ll call him Washy.”

  Evie giggled.

  “Washy was walking across the desert, you see,” (said Otto) “with his spear and his tooth-pick and his boomerang. He saw a range of hills in the distance, and he walked towards them. They were a long way away, but Washy soon covered the distance. He was a very tall young man, and he had very long legs, and he moved very easily over the ground. His feet seemed to know where to go, without his deciding for them. When he reached the hills—”

  “How far away where the hills?”

  “When he reached the hills,” said Uncle Otto, ignoring his nephew’s passion for information, “Washy began to climb. He climbed for hours, one foot after the other. He didn’t grow thirsty. He didn’t grow tired. He didn’t grow bored. He wasn’t like you and me. He was an aborigine, at the beginning of the world. On his walkabout.”

  Otto looked at the two children, but they didn’t say anything.

  “Are you asleep?” He asked them.

  “No”, said Evie.

  “Yes”, said Jack.

  “Never mind him”, said Evie. “We’re both awake. And so is Tommy. Please go on with the story. What happened when Washy got to the top of the hill? What did he see?”

  “He stood on a rock, and he saw the black lagoon,” said her uncle.

  “What was it like?”

  “It was smooth, and dark, and splashy, like a big black treacle pudding, and it had trees on one side, and a sandy spit on the other.”

  “What’s a spit?” Asked Evie.

  “1’ll show you”, said her brother. He could be a very naughty little boy.

  “A spit is a little piece of land that sticks out,” said Otto quickly. “Not like your tongue, Jack. And then he saw her.”

  “Her?” Asked Evie. “Who was her?”

  “Her—she—was the girl,” said her uncle. “She had long black hair, and she was swimming slowly across the lagoon, and as she swam her hair spread out behind her like a fan opening.”

  Washy was fascinated.

  He had never seen a girl before.

  He had never seen anyone before.

  He stared.

  Behind the girl was what looked like a log.

  Washy didn’t think it had been there when he first looked.

  He stared even harder.

  The log was moving.

  It was alive.

  It had a great big tail, sweeping behind it from side to side, and it was powering through the water like a torpedo.

  It was a crocodile.

  It was catching up on the girl.

  Washy shouted, but the girl couldn’t hear him.

  The crocodile was drawing nearer to her. It glanced up at Washy, hundr
eds of feet above on his rock, and gave a contemptuous flick of its tail. She’s mine, it seemed to be saying. Leave us alone.

  Washy dived.

  He seemed to dive forever.

  When he came up to the surface of the water, the crocodile was right beside him.

  “Get out!” Washy shouted to the girl. “Get out of the water! Get out, while there’s still time!”

  “What about you?” She shouted back, swimming much faster, and getting ready to pull herself out of the pool and onto the bank.

  “Never mind about me!” He shouted. “I’ll manage! And if I don’t, it’ll only have one of us! Get out of the water, and run away from the bank! Crocodiles can chase you on land, too, you know! They have legs!”

  What a girl, he thought as he prepared to grapple with the crocodile. All this is going on, and she’s worried about me. What a girl.

  The crocodile was very angry. It had lost its prey, for the girl was out of the water and running up the bank like the wind. He turned to Washy, and opened his jaws wide, and showed his glistening yellow teeth. The smell was appalling.

  But Washy had had enough.

  “All right,” said Washy to the crocodile. “That’s it. You’ve had your fun. Playtime is over. I want you to be a good crocodile.” He reached his feet down to the bottom of the lagoon, and stood firm, and leant forward and grasped the crocodile by the jaws. He forced them together and held them shut tight.

  “Now let’s see what you can do, Mr Crocodile,” he said. “You might be very fearsome with your jaws open, but you’re not much good when they’re shut. Like this. And by the way, you smell appalling. When did you last brush your teeth?”

  The crocodile thrashed his great tail, but Washy easily avoided it.

  “Be careful,” called the girl. She was still on the bank. She was far too near. She was watching.

  “Go back!” Shouted Washy. She moved, but she kept her eyes on him. What a girl, he thought again.

  “I nearly had her.” The voice was very low, and deep, and croaky, and somehow it sounded as if it had never been used before. “I nearly had her. Until you jumped in. What did you want to do that for?”

  Washy looked around. There was no-one else there.

  “That’s right,” croaked the crocodile. “I’m talking to you... Sunshine.”

  “How?” Asked Washy. “I’m holding your jaws closed.”

  “I don’t need jaws to speak.” The crocodile sniffed. “We crocodiles have been around for a long time. I’m speaking in your mind.” He flicked his tail. “And by the way—”

  “What?” Said Washy, and released his grip in surprise. He didn’t know that crocodiles could speak. Let alone in his mind.

  “I could have had you then,” said the crocodile. “But I didn’t choose to. You’ve got guts, you have, coming in like that after me. Weren’t you scared?”

  “Didn’t have time,” said Washy. And I didn’t mean to be rude.”

  “What do you mean?” Asked the crocodile.

  Washy blushed. “I said, you smell appalling. I’m sorry.”

  The other smiled. “Don’t be, “he said. “I’m a crocodile. We’re supposed to smell.”

  “Do you want to use my tooth-pick?” It was all Washy had to offer.

  “Don’t push it, Sunshine,” snapped the crocodile. “I have feelings, you know.”

  “I know,” said Washy. “What’s your name?”

  The crocodile’s skin turned a sort of soft pink all over. He was blushing.

  “I don’t really know,” he said. “But my friends call me Crusty.” His skin flickered gold and blue and yellow, and he looked rather wistful. “Or at least, they used to.”

  Washy looked around. The lagoon was empty, for as far as he could see.

  “Crusty,” he said politely. “That’s a nice name.”

  The crocodile raised his head slightly and looked hard at Washy, as if he were weighing him. “You’d better be on your way, young Washy. Before this fit of... vegetarianism passes off, and I start eating you.”

  “I’m going! I’m going!” Said Washy, and he began to swim.

  The crocodile rolled his eyes.

  “Not that way,” he said. “Go to the girl. She’s waiting for you on the spit. Haven’t you got any common sense? Don’t they teach you anything at school, nowadays?”

  “Gosh. Thanks. Sorry,” said Washy. He swam quickly to the bank, and scrambled out of the pool and ran towards the girl who was waiting for him. When he was close, she put her hand in his, and smiled. She was very beautiful.

  “You need looking after,” she said.

  “I know,” said Washy.

  ***

  Otto paused to put another log on the fire, and the door opened behind him and Mummy came in, shaking her hair and looking very pleased to be home, but the two children didn’t really notice. They were too absorbed in the story.

  “What was the girl’s name?” Asked Jack. “You never told us that.”

  “No, I didn’t, did I?” Otto answered. “You do ask a lot of questions.”

  And just for a moment he looked a little sad.

  “Come along, everyone,” said Mummy. “Time for tea.”

  What’s for tea, Mummy?” Asked Evie.

  “Crumpets.”

  “Come with me, Uncle Otto,” said Jack. He took his uncle by the hand. “Crumpets. You won’t need your tooth-pick.”

  Jack could be a very nice little boy. Sometimes.

  How Washy Met the Wombat

  James and John Maguire

  “Wombat was worried. And he wanted to tell Washy all about it.” Said Uncle Otto, who had stretched himself out at full length beside the fire, pushing Tommy the dog to one side (it was much too hot for a dog, and might do him harm). Otto was beating time to a remembered rhythm on his chest, as if he could launch straight into a story just like that. But the children weren’t going to let him get away with it.

  “Who’s Wombat?” Asked Jack. “You’ve never mentioned him before.” Jack could be a very meticulous little boy.

  “That’s right,” echoed his sister. Evie was always ready to follow up her brother’s initiative—when it suited her. “You’ve never talked about Wombat before. And what is a wombat, anyway?”

  “Oh, Evie,” exclaimed Jack disloyally. “You should know what a wombat is. We did them last year at school. It’s a marsupial.”

  “A whatial?” Asked Evie.

  “You heard,” said her brother, who wasn’t quite sure what it meant, and didn’t want to be questioned any further. He thought it meant that the mother wombat carried its young in a pouch, like the mother kangaroo. But he wasn’t quite sure.

  “Wombat was worried,” said Uncle Otto again, as if the two children hadn’t spoken at all; and all three of them grinned.

  “Why was he worried?” Asked Jack.

  “Because he’d lost his wife,” answered Otto promptly.

  “Mrs Wombat?” Queried Jack, who liked things to be accurate.

  “I suppose so,” said Uncle Otto—who could be distressingly vague at times.

  “And when you say he’d lost her, do you mean that he couldn’t find her? Or that she’d passed away?” Asked Jack, who knew all about people passing away—and going missing, come to that. Why, only last week his mother had promised that she would be only away for an hour, having coffee with a friend, and as it happened—

  “I mean, that he couldn’t find her,” said Otto succinctly.

  “How did Wombat know Washy, in the first place?” Asked his nephew.

  “That is one of the mysteries of the outback,” said his uncle; but Jack knew that James Bond would be far from satisfied with this answer.

  “Were they friends?”

  “They became friends,” said his uncle, grinning, so that his dark, sun-stained features drew together and he looked even more like a wizened walnut. “Just like we three.”

  “And Tommy,” added Evie, who didn’t want the dog to feel left out.
>
  “And Tommy,” agreed her uncle. “And if you listen to the story, you’ll find out why.”

  ***

  “One day” (said Otto) “Washy came out of his hut in the early morning—before he cleaned his teeth, Jack, as I know you were about to ask—and found a funny, stumpy little animal scratching itself against the eucalyptus tree in the yard. It had black eyes and was covered in a dense pelt of hair, like the hearth-rug that Tommy’s lying on”—at which point, Tommy thumped his tail on the said hearth-rug, as if it had his full approval, which it did—”and it looked at Washy very alertly. It didn’t seem frightened at all, although Washy was far taller than the wombat: and not did it look as if it were going to attack him. It just looked interested.

  “Hullo,” said Washy. “Who are you? And what are you doing in my yard?”

  “I’m a wombat,” answered Wombat, who was clearly a creature of very few words; and even those he unleashed unwillingly, as if they were prize possessions that he would have preferred to keep to himself.

  “Are you,” declared Washy. “I’ve never met a wombat before. What’s your name?”

  Wombat looked puzzled, and scratched his stumpy little head with a convenient forepaw. “What do you mean?” He asked.

  “I mean, what do you call yourself?” Asked Washy helpfully.

  “I don’t,” said Wombat. And sniffed.

  Washy scratched his own head with the tip of his spear, and pondered what to say next. This was proving very difficult!

  “What do other people call you?” He asked.

  “Other people?” Queried the wombat, doubtfully.

  “Your friends,” said Washy.

  Wombat looked even more puzzled, if that were possible.

  “Didn’t Wombat have any friends?” Asked Evie, her eyes wide with astonishment. “I have lots!”

  “That’s what you think,” said Jack. who could be a very sharp little boy when he chose. “Do be quiet, fathead, and let Uncle Otto get on with the story!”

  Evie was about to cry when she suddenly decided not to. This story was far too interesting, and she wanted to know lots more about Wombat. Where did he go to school? What was his best subject? Who was his favourite teacher? How had he met Mrs Wombat? There was so much to learn!

 
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