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Burdock House


Published by Burdock House www.burdockhouse.co.uk info@burdockhouse.co.uk

First edition paperback published 2015

Text Š Flinty Maguire, 2015 Book cover & illustrations Š Flinty Maguire, 2015 All rights reserved The moral right of the author has been asserted

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN: 978-0-9930984-3-7


For Jack and Finley


By Flinty Maguire Trouble at the Crab Shack Café Ellie Booton’s Journal, No. 1 Also available on Kindle The Lighthouse Code Ellie Booton’s Journal, No. 2 Also available on Kindle

In this book you’ll see an occasional asterisk * This means there’s an extra jot at the back.

For more information about Flinty Maguire www.burdockhouse.co.uk


Remembering my grandmothers Menella Edith and Ruby. Menella lived to be 101. Known as Edie, she was gentle and resilient, loved nature and was a great reader. Ruby was a kind, brave woman who was creative, practical, musical and loved dogs.


Parents have a lot to answer for We’ve moved into Grandma’s house because she was pretty lonely after Grandpa died. So here I am, in a new town with no friends and just my family for company. The one good thing about this situation is that my bedroom has a window seat where I can curl up and watch the ocean. The seagulls cry and so do I. At least I have tissues. I’m trying to be a glass half-full kinda kid. On the other hand, my parents have a lot to answer for. They named me after my great-grandma, Menella. My friends, who may have forgotten me already, called me Ellie (rhymes with smelly) and my surname is Booton. I was also known (by less friendly people) as Smelly Boots. Fetid footwear. Thanks Mum and Dad – you didn’t think that one through. When my parents introduce me, I get my full title. They say, ‘This is our daughter, Menella,’ and I’m expected to say, ‘Hello, I am pleased to meet you,’ because that is polite and we are BIG on politeness in my family - though to tell the truth, I’m not sure they’re clued-up on what politeness actually is. For example, Mum shouts up the stairs, ‘Ellie, get down here now and get your breakfast,’ and Dad will yell, ‘Will somebody answer that flippin’ phone – I can’t hear myself think!’ You’ll notice, they both omit the word, ‘please’. My parents are a 1


teeny bit irony impaired. And that’s not the worst of it. I have a big brother, Eddie, who technically, should be a grown-up but he’s a million miles away from achieving that goal. He moved here a few months before us and works with Grandma making things that people don’t know they need until they see them – like crows made out of wire and hares made out of clay. They’re called objects d’art* which makes people think they should pay a lot of money for them. I coped with Eddie’s sweaty socks, his terrible dress sense and his inability to string a sentence together – but when my parents surprised me with a baby brother, I started to feel they were plotting against me. He’s called Fin, otherwise known as The Finster. I suggested the name because ‘fin’ means ‘the end’ in French, and I was definitely positive I didn’t want any more brothers. Brothers are weasels. Are you starting to get an idea of what my life is like? Moving in with Grandma also means I have to start a new school. Mum and Fin come to the school gates on my first morning to wish me luck, which scores a fat ten on the embarrassment scale. They have strict instructions not to hug or kiss me, and I would prefer it if they didn’t talk to me either. But Mum gives my hand a squeeze and says, ‘Go knock ’em out, kid,’ and Fin, who calls me Melly because he’s small and his mouth doesn’t work properly, calls out, ‘Bye-bye Melly.’ A tall boy with floppy hair hears him and says to me in a mean voice, ‘Smelly Melly.’ Then I see my new teacher, Miss Askew, in the corridor. In a voice that might startle dozing cows in Jersey she says, ‘Hello Menella Booton, welcome to your new school,’ just as Floppy2


Hair slithers past. And it’s just a matter of time (1.3 seconds) for him to work out what I’ve always been called at school: Smelly Boots. So predictable, it’s sad. It’s a pretty tricky morning and I feel like I just want to go home – though that would be difficult, because I’m not sure I could find my way there. But then, my luck changes. A girl in my class smiles at me. At dinner time she says, ‘Shall I sit with you?’ Grandma has given me some tips on how to make new friends and influence people.

TOP TIPS 1. Smile and say something nice like, I like your shoes. (People like to be complimented.) 2. Ask their name. (Then you can call them back if they start to walk away.) 3. Ask questions. (Generally, people love to talk about themselves.)

I say, ‘I love your hair,’ which is the truth. It’s always better to tell the truth if you can, though there are exceptions when not telling the truth is OK – like when your auntie gives you a hat covered in glass buttons, and if the sun is out, the glare from the hat could start a fire – so not only is the hat dangerous, it’s heavy and scratchy and you WOULDN’T BE SEEN DEAD IN IT ordinarily – it’s fine to say, ‘Thank you auntie, I love it,’ because it’s not nice to hurt your auntie’s feelings. And that’s tip number 4: to get on in life, polite lies are often necessary.

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But Elsie’s hair is lovely – red and curly and she has two silver clips with ladybirds on them. ‘I like your clips,’ I say, because two compliments are better than one. Then I ask, ‘What’s your name?’ ‘I’ll write it down,’ she says. I give her my best multi-colour gel pen and open up my new notebook with the glittery cover. She chooses indigo, my favourite, so already we have something in common. She writes:

Elsie Mabel Berry-Brown ‘Berry is my mum’s name and Brown is my dad’s name, though I don’t see my dad any more.’ This sounds like a story she might tell me one day. I take the pen and write:

Menella Edith Booton I say, ‘Menella Edith was my great-grandma’s name and I don’t see her either because she died before I was born. But really, my name is Ellie.’ Elsie points to Floppy Hair, the pin-up in a group of nondescript, spotty boys. ‘That’s Gilby Flynn,’ she says flatly. Already I don’t like him. When the last bell rings, Elsie and I walk out of school together. Gilby Flynn, surrounded by minions, leans against the school gate, chewing gum. ‘Bye bye Smelly Boots,’ he says in a silly sing-song voice. Then he calls after Elsie, ‘Finally got yourself a playmate, Cranberry? Two weirdos together.’ 4


Elsie goes red which is, apparently, very funny because the minions laugh. Gilby takes a step forward and I’ve a feeling he’s planning to give one of us a shove. I’ve been told to ignore bullies, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. Something pops into my head. Fin says chish and fips instead of fish and chips and Dad sometimes calls him Bin Footon. Without thinking of the bigger picture I say, ‘Lovely to meet you, Filby Glynn.’ ‘My name is Gil-by Flynn,’ he squawks. ‘Sure. That’s what I said. Filby Glynn.’ Elsie and I walk away and we can hear the other boys laughing and shouting, ‘Filby!’ ‘Hey Filby!’ ‘That’s ace!’ Goldfish and some people don’t take much amusing. If he dishes it out, he should be able to take it, but I probably should have kept my mouth shut.

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More smacky than tappy It’s odd that Elsie doesn’t see her dad when I probably, almost certainly, see too much of mine. My dad has big ears like an African elephant, always flapping, and x-ray eyes which never miss a trick, even when the door is closed and you’re on the other side of it holding your breath and standing on tiptoes. He’s a ghost writer, but he doesn’t write about ghosts. He writes autobiographies* for people who think their life story will change the world. At the moment, he’s trying to make a famous politician sound interesting, because being famous is not the same as being interesting. Dad’s advice is: If you’re famous and you step in a pile of poo, it’s on YouTube and goes round the world in one second flat – so avoid fame at all costs. I agree. I would rather be interesting than famous and I definitely want to keep my tricky moments to myself. Dad starts his day with a cup of tea, a bowl of Shreddies and a thought which he scribbles on the whiteboard, which is propped against the kitchen wall, because he can’t find his Black & Decker drill. This morning the board says:

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Does the truth depend on how you tell it – not what actually happened? I ask Dad what this means. Dad says the politician doesn’t exactly deal in facts, which is worrying him a bit, because he likes his books to be accurate. I eat my Rice Krispies and think about this. Last week The Finster missed his nap and got very crabby. He whacked me with his lightsaber and it HURT, but when I told Mum he said it was only a tap. Mum said, ‘Tell the truth, Fin. Was it a smack, or was it a tap?’ Fin said, ‘It was a smacky-tap.’ Weasel! I tell Dad about this, but he says it would be a holiday if that’s all he had to deal with. Dad takes his glasses off and rubs his eyes. ‘This guy tells smacky-thump-wallop stories. He’s giving me an ulcer. He’s an idiot. The truth is out there on Twitter.’ ‘Dodgy,’ I say, not quite understanding.

Update on Gilby Flynn Gilby Flynn tells lies, usually to make nice kids look bad. He is a menace. Still, school term is nearly over and I won’t have to see or speak to Gilby for the whole summer. I hope.

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Embarrassment and the task of making the world A BETTER PLACE Elsie is now my best friend. We swap things all the time. At the moment I am borrowing her cupcake rubber which smells of vanilla and she is borrowing my Wallace and Gromit pen. We have a dog just like Gromit* called Herman and he is very funny. He is actually Grandma’s dog but now that we live with Grandma, he belongs to all of us. We also have a cat called Eliza who curls up on the windowsill or Dad’s knee and does very little except eat and sleep. She was in our family before I was born and when she met Herman and realised she would have to live with him, Eliza wasn’t too happy. She would sit on a stool and swipe Herman whenever he passed by - but now they are sort of friends. Herman does not realise that Eliza is a cat because if he did, he would chase her. Cats have a good plan when this happens. They jump somewhere high and stare at Herman who becomes very embarrassed and runs away, because he’s never been given proper advice on how to deal with embarrassment.

Grandma’s tips: 1. Embarrassing things happen to everyone, so just get over it.

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2. Make a joke of it and carry on as normal.

Once, when Grandma was out shopping, her skirt fell down. Fortunately, she was wearing big pants - so the other tip to avoid embarrassment is:

always wear clean, adequate

underwear and of course, if you don’t want this sort of

thing

on

YouTube,

avoid

being

even

remotely

famous, if that’s still possible.

Elsie comes to my house after school and we sit at the kitchen table and do our homework. Miss Askew has given us a summer holiday project called: HELPING HANDS. It’s a piece of work to show that we are helping to make the world a BETTER PLACE. Elsie and I think there must be a way to recycle things we don’t want to people who need them. For example, Elsie’s mum runs a café on the promenade called the Crab Shack. If food doesn’t get eaten in a certain time Elsie’s mum has to throw it away, though there are children all over the world who don’t get enough food to eat. We talk to Grandma about our ideas. Grandma says, ‘No one can save the world all by themselves, girls.’ We realise Grandma is perhaps most certainly right. What can we do, other than make sure the wasted food gets fed to the seagulls, or dogs like Herman? The problem is – we can’t give the food away to people if it’s no longer good enough to eat. And if we give food away to people when it is good enough to eat, then Elsie’s mum does not get paid for it, and every grownup needs money for electricity, for example. Dad suddenly appears with his flappy ears and says, ‘Write 9


something down to start you off. A squeaky wheel needs some grease.’ Dad means that your brain is the wheel and your thoughts are the grease and sometimes you have to just think, think, think. Eddie comes in from the workshop and Grandma pours coffee. Elsie writes on the whiteboard: What would make the world a better place?

‘World peace,’ says Eddie. ‘Fair trade,’ says Grandma. ‘The equitable distribution of food -’ says Dad, then adds ‘and honest politicians.’ Miss Askew is asking a lot. It’s dawning on me that making the world a better place might be a bit tricky. If Elsie and I can’t think of a good idea, we’ll end up going back to school with an empty project book – which will be a tad embarrassing.

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If this is the present – when is the past? School is out! We have the whole summer in front of us. If you’re thinking blue skies and sunshine – forget it. It’s cold and raining hard. Elsie and I head for the Crab Shack to have a hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows. Elsie’s mum is Cadence Berry, minus the Brown. She’s tall and pretty and has very long arms. When there are no customers, Cadence dances to music on the jukebox. She says dancing helps her get through the day. ‘The only living soul I’ve seen today is Jem Hardy who brought me flowers and a DVD,’ she says. ‘Would you like to watch it?’ I read the title of the DVD. It’s a musical called, Singing in the Rain, which seems just right for this sort of weather. Elsie and I sit on tall stools at the counter and we watch the film on a television fixed to the wall. We decide that bad weather isn’t a big deal because we have people who love us and we are at the very beginning of our summer holiday. After the film, we wash our mugs, because it’s fun to go behind the counter and pretend we work at the café, even though there are no customers. We mop the floor too, because it’s raining and the roof leaks and there’s a puddle by the door. 11


Rain, rain, rain! And WIND. It is very, very windy. I’ve forgotten what blue sky looks like. Everything becomes a bit strange when the weather is bad. The streets are mostly empty and if you do see anyone, they hurry along with their shoulders hunched and their head down and nobody stops for a chat. Even Herman doesn’t want to go outside. I am thinking about Dad’s scribble this morning:

If THIS is the present, WHEN is the past ? Grandma reads it and says, ‘That looks serious.’ Eddie makes coffee while Mum stuffs grey pants into the washer. She’s not enjoying herself. She mumbles, ‘We’re all history.’ I can’t quite remember when I last saw Mum smile. On a photo, I think, when I was looking through Grandma’s memory box. Grandma keeps postcards too. Some are pretty old and they’re wrapped in tissue paper to keep them clean. My favourite postcard is of this town. It sort of looks the same but the people and cars look different to how people and cars look now. There’s a stamp on the back which shows the date: 14th February, 1940. It’s addressed to Miss Menella Ghent, at this address, though postcodes weren’t invented then. The message says:

I am so looking forward to seeing you this evening, my Dearest Menella I am yours, always and forever. William 12


The postcard is from Grandma’s dad, to her mum, and in those days, you could post a letter and it would be delivered on the same day. William sent it on Valentine’s Day when he asked Menella to marry him, so it’s very, very special. The phone rings and Mum goes to answer it. Grandma and Eddie go back to work. Eddie likes working with Grandma because she believes in his creative ability and he likes living in this town because he has a girlfriend called Susannah, who has pink hair and a tattoo of a butterfly on her wrist. I’m lonely, so I follow them into the workshop. Eddie says, ‘What’s up Melly-Moo? Bored already?’ ‘A little bit.’ ‘And it’s only the start of the holiday,’ sighs Grandma. Mum is on the telephone talking to her mother, who I call Nanna. I decide to go out. I write on the whiteboard:

Going to see Elsie

- because Mum likes to know where I am, even when I’m not going far. I pull on my jacket and step out into the rain. The Crab Shack’s pink neon sign glows: OPEN. Elsie doesn’t live there, but during the day she hangs out at the café with her mum. I set off down the hill. Seagulls screech and flap against the wind and the sea is rough and grey. I feel like I’m striding into an adventure, because that’s how stormy weather makes me feel. Elsie sees me and waves. When I go inside, there are no customers and for some reason, there’s no music. Cadence must be having a rest because she will have done a lot of dancing today. I sit with Elsie and we talk about our Helping Hands project, 13


because we need a plan if we are going to make the world a better place in the summer holidays. Suddenly, the bell over the door clangs and in walks Gilby Flynn, Cooper Platt and Abigail Jennings, whose dad is a policeman. Gilby’s hair looks like wet rats’ tails. They all look miserable. Abigail’s perfected a model’s pout which must make her face ache. I wonder why she’s hanging round with Gilby and Cooper? She looks cold in her flimsy silver jacket and little black shorts. Elsie and I try not to look at them. Have you ever noticed that it’s very difficult not to look at someone? It’s as though you need to keep checking that they haven’t disappeared or something. Cadence takes their order at the counter and then they go and sit at the furthest table away from us. Cadence puts music on the jukebox and pours two Sprites and a Diet Coke into tall, thin glasses, then adds little heart-shaped ice cubes and red stripy straws. She picks up the tray - and then – the telephone rings. Elsie and I look up and Cadence puts the tray down. She looks at Elsie, points to the drinks, then points to the table where Gilby, Cooper and Abigail are sitting, and goes to answer the telephone.

Grandma’s advice on how to do something you REALLY don’t want to do. 1. If you don’t have to do it, just don’t do it. 2. If you do have to do it, don’t get your feathers ruffled.

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3. Be pleasant (alternatively, smile through gritted teeth). 4. Get on with it.

I whisper, ‘Stay calm.’ Elsie nods and goes to pick up the tray. I concentrate on looking nonchalant.* I pick up a pencil and write my name. I glance at Elsie, then I start to write my address. The bell over the door clangs again and there’s a rush of chilly air. A boy wearing a blue jacket steps into the café. Everyone looks at him and while Elsie is distracted, Gilby Flynn leans over, flips the tray and the glasses cascade into the air like a fountain, then hit the floor and shatter. Elsie is soaked. There is a stunned silence as we all look at the broken glass on the wet floor. Elsie’s feathers are DEFINITELY RUFFLED and so are mine. Gilby, Abigail and Cooper smirk. I look at the new boy standing by the door and he looks at me. Cadence is already at the table. She hands Elsie a towel and says, ‘Go and get dry, sweetie,’ and she tells Gilby, Cooper and Abigail to sit still. Then she gets a brush and starts sweeping up the mess. Elsie and I sit together quietly. We are not sure if Cadence saw what actually happened and it is awkward watching her pour new drinks for them - but before she can take them over, they get up. Gilby bangs into the boy, knocking him off balance. They trail out and slam the door behind them. I feel wobbly inside and Elsie is really pale and still. Cadence says, ‘Oh my goodness. Is everyone all right?’ Elsie and I nod. 15


The boy says, ‘Is there anything I can do?’ ‘No, no. Everything’s fine,’ lies Cadence. There’s an awkward silence. ‘Well, I’ll go then.’ He looks at me again, pulls up his hood and steps into the rain. I watch until he’s out of sight. Cadence seems to crumple and then she starts to cry.

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Stay busy – have a goal My mum is called Flora and she can knit and use a sewing machine and she can cook and use a computer. She also does the tax returns for Dad and Grandma, whatever they are. Mum is good at looking after people and everybody knows it. Her dad, who I call Gramps, is not well and Nanna wants Mum to go and look after him. Gramps and Nanna live in a tiny bungalow in Yorkshire and Mum will have to sleep on a camp bed. She’ll be away for a week or even longer, and there is no room for Fin or me to go with her. Mum says, ‘Don’t worry, Ellie. You have Dad and Grandma to look after you, and if you keep a big sister eye on Fin, that will be very helpful.’ I hear Mum talking on the phone to Nanna and her voice is not happy. I’m not happy either. I am worried about what Gilby did. I am worried about Cadence. And now I am also worried about Gramps. Fin seems all right. He doesn’t worry yet – he is too young. This gets me thinking about Grandma, who was once a young child like Fin. Do you know that she never properly met William, her dad? He went to fight in World War Two when she was a tiny baby and he NEVER CAME HOME because lots of soldiers got killed during the war. Grandma doesn’t even 17


know what he looked like because there are no photographs of him. Grandma was told that her dad was tall and had brown wavy hair and lovely blue eyes and he had a scar over his eyebrow because he fell out of a pear tree when he was a boy. Grandma has the same shaped nose as her dad and the same big smile, because her mum told her so. But that’s all she knows about what he looked like and she has to imagine the rest. I say to Grandma, ‘Do you miss your dad, Grandma?’ Grandma looks at me over her glasses and says, ‘It’s difficult to miss something you’ve never had.’ But I know I will miss my mum even though she is only going away for a little while.

Mum’s advice on what to do while she is away 1. Stay busy – because time travels faster if you’re occupied.

That is why the astronauts on the International Space Station* always have something to do – because not only are they away from their families – they are far, far away from their homes on earth. 2. Have a goal.

If you set out to achieve something your mind stays focused and you don’t spend time staring into space – unless you are looking for the space station, of course. I think I might tell Grandma about Gilby, but not until Mum has caught her train, because I don’t want to give Grandma too much to think about at once. Everyone is busy. Grandma is 18


helping Mum to pack a suitcase and Dad is cooking fish fingers for our tea. Eddie is booking train tickets for Mum on the Internet, and Fin is watching CBeebies on iPlayer. I put the knives and forks on the kitchen table. Dad’s scribbled another question on the whiteboard:

Can anyone be certain they’re making the right decision? Dad has a lot of questions that he doesn’t seem to know the answer to. Dad says he never worries, but that might not be true. Uncertainty is stressful. This is the first week of the summer holiday and already it’s not going to plan. It’s raining. Gramps is sick. Cadence is sad. And now Mum has to go away. It all seems a bit much - and I have no idea how Elsie and I can make the world a better place. Dad has taken Mum to catch the train. Eddie has gone out with Susannah to see a film, and Fin is in bed. Grandma plays jazz on the iPod, and then she loads the dishwasher. The telephone rings. I wonder if it’s Nanna checking to see if Mum is on her way. Nanna can be pretty bossy. Grandma picks up the phone and says, ‘Hello,’ then, instead of asking me to turn the music down she says, ‘Just a second,’ and she takes the telephone out of the room. I sit on the floor and I hug Herman who seems to know I need a bit of company. A few minutes later, Grandma comes back and says: ‘Come and sit down, Ellie. I have something to explain.’ 19


I know that it is going to be bad news because Grandma looks serious and she’s usually very smiley. She says, ‘You know how quiet the Crab Shack has been this year?’ ‘Because of the rotten weather,’ I say. Grandma nods. ‘Elsie’s mum is struggling to make ends meet.’ Grandma takes my hand. ‘She’s decided to sell the café.’ I say, ‘Oh,’ thinking this doesn’t make much difference to Elsie and me. Grandma says, ‘Cadence is going to Leeds to find somewhere to live so that she can be near her family. She’s asked if Elsie can stay here for a few days while she gets things sorted out.’ My first thought is: Oh good – Elsie is coming to stay. But then I ask, ‘Where is Leeds? Is it far away?’ I want the answer to be no, but the answer is, ‘Yes.’ Grandma looks sad and I suddenly feel very different. I say to Grandma, ‘Elsie and I will be history,’ which is a strange thought, because it hasn’t happened yet, but already I know that my life has changed. I suddenly understand Dad’s scribble: If this is the present, when is the past? In just one moment, my happy self has slipped into the past. I put my head on Grandma’s knee and close my eyes.

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Coping with change My dad is called Walter. He sits in his office with Eliza on his knee, looking relaxed. He even has a T-shirt that says, R-E-L-A-X on it. But actually, he isn’t a relaxing person to be around. Mum doesn’t find him relaxing either. I heard her say, ‘Just because you’re not upset, doesn’t mean I’m not upset.’ The negatives in that sentence make my head hurt. It’s not just Mum who seems frustrated with Dad. Yesterday I heard Grandma say, ‘Great thinkers aren’t necessarily thoughtful, Walter. Why don’t you think about that?’ This morning, Dad looks tired and says he doesn’t want any breakfast. I heard him go downstairs in the middle of the night. I’ve had a restless night too, thinking about Elsie going to live in Leeds. I don’t want any breakfast either, but Dad tells me I must eat, which doesn’t seem quite fair. I tell Dad I’m worried that Elsie might move away, but he doesn’t seem to care.

Dad’s advice on how to cope with change 1. Don’t worry about what hasn’t happened, because you don’t know if it will. 2. If it hasn’t happened, you don’t know how you will feel about it anyway, because it’s in the future.

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AND THAT’S IT! Helpful, or what??? I am seriously unimpressed.

My thoughts on Dad’s advice 1. Just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean to say it won’t. In fact, it is probably definite that it will. 2. And I DO know how I will feel about it, thank you very much.

I am rather cross and upset with everyone, including Mum and Elsie, even though I know it’s not their fault. Grandma is busy in the workshop and Dad is helping Fin build a Lego police station, so I go to my bedroom. I look out of the window and see a green van parked outside the Crab Shack. On the side of the van in gold letters it says, Jeremy Hardy ~ Greengrocer, Fruitier & Purveyor of Fine Foods. There are lights on in the café but the pink neon ‘open’ sign is off – and you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes* to realise that this is bad news. The thought of the café closing and Elsie going to live in Leeds makes me feel awful. There’s a knock on my bedroom door and Eddie pops his head in. He looks like he’s just got out of bed but he always looks like that because he doesn’t brush his hair and he doesn’t iron his clothes. Mum says she’s not his servant, and it’s up to him if he wants to go around looking like a scarecrow. He says, ‘Are you all right? Is there anything I can do?’ I say, crossly, ‘Like what?’ 22


Eddie shrugs. He comes in and looks out of the window. We watch Jem get into his van and drive away. ‘Tough break,’ says Eddie. ‘What does that mean?’ I ask. ‘Jem has a thing for Cadence.’ ‘What thing?’ ‘He’s sweet on her. Big style. He’s been trying to work up the courage to ask her out for months. He’s lost his chance now. It’s over. Finito.’ That’s news. So there’s someone else who will be sad to see Elsie and Cadence leave our town. Eddie puts his arm round me and says kindly, ‘Would you like a drink?’ But I don’t want a drink. An hour and six minutes later, Cadence and Elsie knock on our door. I crouch at the top of the stairs and listen. Dad lets them in and puts Elsie’s overnight bag on the bottom stair. He sees me and says, ‘Elsie’s here,’ and that makes me angry because I already know that. Dad says, ‘Come down, Ellie.’ So I go down, though I don’t want to. Elsie looks pale and definitely not cheerful. Cadence picks up Fin and gives him a hug. She’s not wearing lipstick today and she looks like she’s getting a cold or she has a headache or something - and I don’t know why, but I don’t feel angry any more. I just feel sad.

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The last straw ... Elsie decides to sleep on the bottom bunk because she’s not used to bunk beds and she doesn’t fancy falling out and breaking something. I clear a space in my cupboard for her clothes and we unpack her bag. Elsie has a hair brush, two pairs of jeans, four T-shirts, two cardigans and a pair of pink Hello Kitty pyjamas. In a plastic bag, she has a tube of toothpaste and a green toothbrush. We put her toothbrush in the mug in the bathroom and we put her trainers in the cupboard under the stairs, next to mine. Eddie knocks on my bedroom door and he’s got a tray with two glasses of strawberry milk and a dish of cherries dipped in chocolate. Fin toddles into the room and heads straight for the cherries but Eddie scoops him up and says, ‘Oh no you don’t, Cherry Monster. Come with me, little man.’ And even though it is grey and drizzly outside, we have pink milk and chocolate cherries and we sit on the rug and look through comics. Then Dad knocks on the door and says, ‘Mum’s on the phone. Do you want a word?’ I take Dad’s smartphone and put it on speaker. I say ‘Hi Mum. Elsie’s here.’ Mum says, ‘Hello Elsie. Which bunk have you chosen?’ 24


Elsie says, ‘The bottom one.’ Mum says, ‘Good choice. Not so far to fall.’ I say, ‘Who has ever fallen out of bed?’ And Mum says, ‘Gramps has.’ I’m shocked. ‘Really? Is he all right?’ ‘He will be,’ says Mum. ‘He’s got a bad cold and it’s made him a bit chesty and confused, but the doctor has given him antibiotics and he will soon feel better.’ I say, ‘Are you coming home, then?’ Mum says, ‘I need to work out what will be best for the future. Gramps needs a bit more looking after than Nanna can manage by herself.’ I could say to Mum: Do you know that Elsie is going to move to Leeds? – but I don’t. I don’t even want to think it. Instead I say, ‘Eddie brought us milk and chocolate cherries.’ Mum says, ‘Good heavens. Is he ill?’ ‘That’s what I thought,’ I say. I hear Nanna call in the background. ‘Got to go,’ says Mum. She makes a kissy sound and we say bye-bye.

It seems like the present, the past and the future is a big deal at the moment, and it’s a bit confusing. THE PRESENT Everything is quite nice, surprisingly. Elsie is here and we are very cosy. We have books, music and films. Eddie is making an effort, and that’s because he is, what Grandma calls, 25


a sensitive soul deep down – though Dad is annoying, which I won’t think about too much at the moment. Gramps’ chesty cold is getting better and that is good news because, although Gramps is a bit grumpy, he is Nanna’s husband and it’s his job to keep her company.

THE FUTURE Mum needs to work out how Nanna and Gramps will cope in the future. Cadence needs to work out lots of things because the café is empty all the time which means that she and Elsie will have to move to Leeds, and I don’t really know where Leeds is.

THE PAST This is the most confusing bit. Looking back, I didn’t realise that Cadence was worried about the café, because she smiled and she danced. I didn’t realise how lonely I was until I met Elsie because, at my other school, I didn’t have a very best friend – and like Grandma says, you don’t miss what you’ve never had. So even though I didn’t want to move to this town and live in Grandma’s house, it turned out to be a very good thing. And I know that I absolutely, positively, do NOT want Elsie to move away because I will MISS her VERY MUCH and I will be LONELY again. I want everything to stay as it is – in the PRESENT. I don’t want Elsie to be in my PAST, even though she has not moved yet and when she does it will be sometime in the FUTURE. Like I said – it is very confusing. Elsie and I go downstairs. I carry the tray because the last 26


time that Elsie carried glasses, they smashed and I suspect that she still feels wobbly about it. Eddie sits at the kitchen table working on his laptop. He is uploading photographs of crows and hares onto his website which is where he and Grandma sell the things they’ve made. I say to Eddie, ‘Gilby Flynn knocked a tray out of Elsie’s hands and all the glasses smashed.’ Eddie says, ‘Was it an accident?’ Elsie and I look at one another. We say, ‘No.’ Eddie raises his eyebrows and says, ‘Hmm. When did that happen?’ ‘Yesterday,’ says Elsie. ‘It made Mum cry.’ ‘It would have been the last straw,’ says Eddie. Elsie says, ‘We have plenty of straws.’ ‘Not that type of straw,’ says Eddie. ‘Straw from a farm. Dry stalks. It’s from the saying: The last straw that broke the camel’s back.’ ‘What does that mean?’ Eddie looks confused. ‘Hang on. I’ll get a definition for you.’ He googles: The last straw that broke the camel’s back. He clicks a link and there it is:

The last straw: The final and often small thing to happen which tilts the balance and pushes someone over the edge. Elsie looks shocked and says, ‘What does that mean,

exactly?’ Eddie looks flustered. Someone must have given him advice on how to answer tricky questions, but perhaps he wasn’t 27


listening. I try to explain it. ‘Gilby was the last straw,’ I say, just as Grandma comes into the kitchen. ‘If your mum hadn’t been pushed over the edge, she would stay here and marry Jem Hardy.’ Grandma says, ‘Ellie, hang on -’ But I’m too busy looking at Elsie, who looks really shocked now. She says, ‘Why would Mum marry Jem Hardy?’ ‘Because Jem Hardy has a thing for her - doesn’t he Eddie?’ Grandma says in a stern voice, “Eddie, what on earth have you been saying?’ Eddie gets up, all red-faced, and says, ‘I’ll catch you guys later,’ and disappears into the workshop.

Dad’s advice on how to answer tricky questions When someone asks you a difficult or, what’s otherwise known as, a very tricky question: 1. Don’t panic. Give your ear a rub and say: Pardon, could you repeat the question, please? (This buys you a bit of time to think.) 2. Stare into space and say: Hmm. That’s a very good question. 3. If the question is still too tricky to answer, you can say: Your question reminds me of the time when

I…

and

then

you

tell

a

story

and

it

doesn’t matter what that story is about, because it’s a distraction. (By the end of it, no one will remember what the tricky question was in the

28


first place.)

You can repeat steps 1 to 3 as many times as needed, until the person asking the tricky question gives up and goes away. And, incidentally, Dad says that the politician he’s writing about, does this all the time, so getting at the facts is as easy as picking cherries from a coconut tree. Grandma doesn’t wait for us to ask tricky questions – she goes straight to the distraction tactic. She goes out of the room and brings back her memory box and says, ‘Look through this.’ Elsie and I sit at the kitchen table with Grandma and look through the memory box, and I show Elsie the postcard that my great-granddad, George, sent to my great-grandma, Menella, which makes Grandma look thoughtful and a little bit sad. I don’t want any more last straws breaking any more backs, so I hug Grandma and get her a chocolate biscuit to eat with her coffee.

29


Love hurts, kiddo Eddie and Susannah have fallen out and Eddie is upset, so he’s keeping busy in the workshop and eating his meals there as well. Grandma says it’s just a tiff, but I am not so sure because Susannah is very patient and she wouldn’t fall out with someone unless they really deserved it. Susannah plays the guitar and sings songs. She sometimes paints my nails lots of different colours. Best of all, she talks to me. I love Susannah. I pour Eddie a glass of pink milk and I take it to him. I say, ‘If Susannah doesn’t want you any more, will she still come and see me?’ Eddie says, ‘Probably not, Ellie.’ I say, ‘That’s not fair! You’re ruining my life. You’ve got to fix this, Eddie.’ Everyone seems to be going away and it’s stressing me out. Eddie says, ‘Love hurts, kiddo.’ I say, ‘Why?’ But Eddie just shrugs. Dad has started to call me the Weather Girl because I keep checking the weather on the BBC website. Today there is an amber warning which means BE PREPARED for possible 30


flooding, tricky journeys and electricity cuts. Cadence has been gone three days and it is starting to dawn on me that she has a good reason to be in Leeds. I suppose people don’t want to go into a café if they might get stuck in a flood, or if they can’t get a cup of coffee because there’s no electricity to boil the kettle. Cadence probably thought that the rain would stop, the summer would start, and people would flock to the beach and stop for a bite to eat in the café. I guess after lots of rainy days she started her rain dance to ease the tension. I suppose she is like a camel because camels prefer hot, dry weather. If only Gilby Flynn hadn’t come into the café on that day… But maybe, the last straw scenario would have happened anyway. Elsie and I are playing with Herman in the kitchen when the telephone rings. Grandma answers it and we hear her say, ‘Hello, Cadence.’ She stands in the hall and we go to sit on the bottom stair. ‘Yes, he’s a very good estate agent,’ says Grandma. She listens, then says, ‘I’ll pick up the post for you, don’t worry… Yes, Elsie is fine. I’ll tell her that you’ll phone again this evening. Well, my dear, you must do what’s best for you and Elsie. I will be very sorry to see you go.’ Elsie runs up the stairs. From the sound of it, it is almost definitely certain that Cadence is selling the café and taking Elsie to live in Leeds. I think I know what Eddie means now when he says: Love hurts, kiddo. I must stay calm. I follow Grandma into the kitchen and I say, ‘We could do with some fresh air, Grandma. Elsie and I 31


will pick up the post from the Crab Shack.’ Grandma looks surprised, but she says, ‘That will certainly lighten my load, Ellie. Thank you. Do you know how to unlock the door?’ I say, ‘Yes, and we will lock the door again very carefully.’ Grandma gets the key and gives it to me. I think there are too many camels carrying too many straws – and if there is a way to lessen the load then everything will be all right. After all, camels like carrying things on their backs, so long as they are not too heavy.

32


No strings attached I go to my bedroom and find Elsie sitting, all hunched up, staring at the floor. I know a bit about body language. Dad says when he’s interviewing someone, if they make good eye contact, it’s a good sign. If they fidget or look down a lot, or scratch their noses, or fold their arms, they’re holding something back or not telling the truth – and you might as well write a book and call it: One Big Fat Lie, because there’s no point in telling someone’s story if it’s not true. It’s easy to see the truth of Elsie’s situation though. She’s stressed and unhappy. ‘Are you all right?’ I ask. ‘Yes.’ I know this is a lie – but it’s not a bad lie. Elsie is trying to be brave. I’m not sure what to do. I see Jem Hardy’s van parked outside the Crab Shack and there’s a ladder leaning against the wall. ‘Look!’ I say to Elsie. ‘Someone’s on the roof.’ Elsie jumps up and looks out of the window. Something’s going on. I hand Elsie the key to the Crab Shack. We look at one another and without another word, we stampede down the stairs. Dad comes out of his office, ears flapping. 33


‘Just going to the Crab Shack, Dad. Grandma asked us to pick up the post.’ We grab our jackets and before he can say anything, we’re out of the door. It most definitely is Jem Hardy on the roof. He sees us and waves then climbs down the ladder. He says, ‘The roof’s been leaking pretty bad, but I’ve fixed it now. I wanted to do it before, but Cadence wouldn’t let me.’ It must be strange for Elsie knowing that Jem loves her mum. She doesn’t look too pleased about it. Jem wilts under the pressure of her stare. ‘There’s no harm in a friend helping a friend, right?’ he says defensively. ‘A friend?’ says Elsie coldly. Jem blushes. ‘Of course, and I always will be. I wish your mother didn’t feel like she had to move on. She has friends here who will help her at the drop of a hat. No man is an island.’ Jem looks very sad. This love hurts business isn’t much fun. ‘I’ll tell her you’ve fixed the roof,’ she says. She eyeballs Jem some more, takes a deep breath and says, ‘Thanks.’ Jem breathes a sigh of relief. ‘Tell her I said hello, and that if I can do anything to help, anything at all – I’m here – no strings attached.’ Then Jem gets the ladder and fixes it on top of his van and drives off. I’m not sure what no man is an island means, but I know that no strings attached, means that Jem will help someone without expecting anything in return. My dad used to go to 34


school with Jem Hardy, and says Jem is a salt of the earth bloke, which means, I guess, that if you ever needed salt, Jem would always give you some. Elsie unlocks the door and we go inside. There’s a pile of post on the floor. ‘More bills my mum can’t pay,’ says Elsie. I feel very sorry for Cadence and for Elsie because I have never worried about my parents not being able to pay bills. In fact it’s never even crossed my mind before. Elsie says, ‘This place is all wrong. Even the name is wrong. No one catches crabs around here any more. How can a café be called the Crab Shack if it doesn’t have any crabs?’ ‘Well, that’s easy to put right,’ I say. ‘You call it something else.’ Elsie and I are in the den with Dad and Grandma. Fin is in bed, fast asleep. The den is where we watch television and where Fin keeps his toys. It’s chilly and damp outside so we have one of Grandma’s knitted blankets across our knees. We

are

watching

Grandma’s

favourite

programme,

Shopped! presented by Hazel Hunter. She bursts into shops and cafés and shouts: ‘YOU’RE SHOPPED!’ then tells them how rubbish their business is. She marks them out of ten and they all get low marks to start with. And here’s the funny thing - instead of telling her to mind her own business and throwing her out, they let her take over! After she’s finished insulting them, her team swoop in, spring-clean and make a big fuss. Then they throw a party and leave because everything is fixed to a perfect ten. 35


Mum calls Dad on his smartphone. They chat for a while, then Dad gives the phone to me. Mum says, ‘Hello, darling girl.’ I say, ‘Hello Mum,’ and I ask what, no man is an island, means. Mum says, ‘It means that people need people - which is why I’m here with Nanna and Gramps. Everybody needs a helping hand now and again.’ ‘Jem Hardy was helping today. He fixed the roof of the Crab Shack, but don’t worry, he told us there were no strings attached.’ Mum says, ‘Oh well, there you go.’ I say, ‘He has a thing for Cadence and she’s gone over the edge because she has too many straws to carry and it’s broken her back.’ Mum gasps and says, ‘Goodness. Is that what Jem said?’ I say, ‘Oh no. That’s what Eddie told us. Did you know he’s fallen out with Susannah. Love hurts, doesn’t it, Mum?’ ‘Good grief,’ says Mum. ‘What on earth is going on?’ Dad, whose ears are flapping says, ‘I think I better speak to Mum again, Ellie. Say goodnight.’ So I say, ‘Goodnight, Mum.’ I give the phone back to Dad who takes it out of the room and closes the door.

36


Fuzzy logic Elsie and I eat Rice Krispies for breakfast. Grandma munches toast. Eddie stares at the holes in his socks. Fin nibbles jammy bread and makes his hair sticky. Dad searches for a packet of baby wipes. ‘Do you miss Susannah, Eddie?’ I ask. ‘Of course I do. She’s my world.’ ‘Then go and talk to her, you buffoon,’ says Grandma from behind her newspaper. ‘Take her flowers. Eat a bit of humble pie, and for goodness sake, put some decent clothes on.’ ‘A haircut wouldn’t go amiss, either,’ says Dad. ‘Or a shower,’ I say. I look at the whiteboard and read: What would make the world a better place? Maybe we don’t have to make the WHOLE world better – just a bit of it. My brain fills with fuzzy thoughts. I imagine the café, all fixed-up, and Cadence is run off her feet serving heaps of chocolate brownies. Then I see Cadence in a swishy wedding dress getting married to Jem and I’m there with Elsie, and we’re both bridesmaids. I get a glimpse of Eddie in a clean Tshirt, walking hand-in-hand with Susannah towards a rosy sunset. Elsie and I go upstairs. We brush our teeth and then we go into my bedroom and sit on the rug. Elsie looks sad and tired. 37


She’s awake sometimes in the night, and I know this because I’m awake too. I say, ‘If we save the Crab Shack, you won’t have to move.’ I get a pad of paper and my gel-pen and I start to write:

Helping Hands Project. If we can save the Crab Shack we will make our world a better place. And then I write:

ONE: The Crab Shack needs customers. Elsie says: ‘Even when it’s raining.’ ‘That will solve the problem,’ I say. Elsie says in a very reasonable voice, ‘How do we get customers?’ ‘Hmm,’ I say. ‘That’s the tricky bit.’ ‘Very tricky,’ says Elsie. We look at one another. ‘But if we could do it, then your mum would have enough money and you could stay.’ I think about what Hazel Hunter would suggest and I start to write:

TWO: What would Hazel Hunter do? ‘She’d score it two out of ten at the most,’ says Elsie, ‘and she would definitely give the café a new name.’ ‘She would have a plan, so we should have a plan,’ I say. ‘We need to work on this.’ I put the paper and a pen in my bag, and we go downstairs and put our shoes and jackets on. Eddie is about to go out. ‘I’m going to get a haircut,’ he says sheepishly. I say, ‘Good. If you look less horrible, Susannah might give you another chance.’ 38


There are a few things wrong with Eddie. His hair is a mess, he wears scruffy clothes and sometimes he doesn’t smell good. He says nothing when he should say something, and something when he should keep his mouth shut. He gets lost in his work and forgets the time. He even forgot Susannah’s birthday, even though I reminded him – and I think that was the last straw for her. I say, ‘There’s lots to fix, but you have to start somewhere. At the moment, you’re a one out of ten.’ Eddie looks hurt, but sometimes the truth isn’t pretty. ‘You’re like that hazelnut woman,’ he mumbles, picking up his car keys and disappearing. Dad comes out of his office carrying Fin. He says, ‘What’s the plan, girls?’ ‘How do you know we have a plan?’ I ask. ‘I don’t,’ says Dad. ‘Spill the beans.’ I say, ‘We’re going to collect the post from the Crab Shack, for a start.’ ‘But it can’t be called the Crab Shack any more,’ says Elsie. ‘Why not?’ asks Dad. His ears start to flap and I’m not sure how to answer tricky questions at the moment, so I say, ‘Eddie’s gone to get a haircut.’ Dad says, ‘Ah, a bit of rebranding. No harm in that. Susannah might take him back if he doesn’t look like... Eddie all the time.’ We head down the hill. Elsie unlocks the Crab Shack, and we go in. There’s no post today, so no more bills, which is good, and the floor is dry because the roof no longer leaks 39


also good. I say, ‘We’ve got to think like Hazel Hunter. What would she do?’ Elsie says, ‘She’d call people darling.’ ‘And then she’d insult them.’ I look at Elsie and say, ‘Your café is rubbish, darling. It’s absolutely gross. I mean, really disgusting.’ It’s a good job Elsie can see the funny side. We both laugh. Then we see something going on outside. Someone is fixing a camera to a tripod and pointing it straight at the Crab Shack. I say, ‘That must be the estate agent.’ ‘We’ve got to stop him, Ellie,’ cries Elsie. We’re not laughing now. In fact, our feathers are completely ruffled. The estate agent looks familiar somehow, but his hood’s up and I can’t see his face. Immediate action is needed. If he’s going to take photos of the café they’re DEFINITELY NOT going to be good ones. In fact, no one will want to buy the café after seeing them! I pop up in the window and throw the shapes of a monkey who expects a banana and gets a sultana instead. Why? Because this is an emergency and I am reacting with what Mum would call FUZZY LOGIC.

A bit about fuzzy logic 1. There are no right or wrong answers with fuzzy logic. 2. Fuzzy logic can explain just about ANYTHING, and you

can

get

out

of

TONS

rabbiting on about it.

40

OF

SCRAPES

just

by


Fuzzy logic explains the twitch Mum gets when she just has to buy another handbag, even though she’s got a cupboard full, and more in a box under the stairs. If ever I have to explain why I pulled so many CRAZY faces at an estate agent, I will say that I got a twitch and I just had to do it. My performance doesn’t stop him though. Then the wind blows his hood down and when he looks up, I recognise him. He is not an estate agent at all. He’s the boy who was in the café when Gilby flipped the tray. I am a bit HORRIFIED, more than a bit MORTIFIED and I am very, very EMBARRASSED. Elsie says, ‘Oh – my – goodness.’ The boy grins and puts his thumb up. He shouts: ‘That was some show!’ He packs up his tripod and walks towards us - but we are on the inside and he is on the outside and this is still an emergency. We duck behind the counter so he can’t see us. We hear him laugh as he walks away.

41


Attitude is everything I hear the front door open. I look out of the window and see Eddie’s car parked outside. I go into the kitchen to find him. He looks different. His hair is still quite long but it’s styled and very shiny. He looks pleased and he keeps popping into the hall to look at himself in the mirror. He says, ‘I need to show Susannah that I’m serious about making changes.’ Grandma says, ‘When I was a girl, we used to say: Clothes maketh the man.’ ‘What do you mean?’ says Eddie, panicking. ‘Wear a suit or something?’ Grandma says, ‘No. But you could buy some decent T-shirts and a pair of nice jeans. Clean your finger nails. Splash on some aftershave... Shave.’ Eddie pulls an Eddie face. ‘What? Every day?’ Grandma shakes her head. There is an awkward silence. ‘Do you think she’ll take me back?’ he asks sadly. Grandma looks at him and says, ‘Attitude is everything. Belief is half the battle.’ I think all of this is good advice. Eddie is not bad looking and now he has nice hair. He’s kind and friendly but not very 42


good at talking about his feelings. He is also untidy and disorganised. We don’t know where he got it from because Mum and Dad are tidy people. Dad is tidy because he doesn’t like wasting time, which is why he organises his thoughts on the whiteboard. I like to be tidy too. I have plastic containers that roll under the bed to store games, paper and pens. I have a bookcase and I have a sock drawer. I hardly ever drop my clothes on the floor like Eddie does. Eddie thinks this is how he was made but I’m sure he can do better - and it’s important that Fin doesn’t grow up like Eddie. Two messy brothers would be two too many. After all, it’s not rocket science to remember to brush your hair, or to put someone’s birthday in your diary. When Eddie forgot Susannah’s birthday it must have hurt her. She remembers everyone’s birthday, even Herman’s and she makes cards with little sketches she’s drawn herself. Susannah lives in one room which has a tiny kitchen and a settee that turns into a bed. Her room is like a sweet shop with things you’d like to put in a bag and take home. She has fairy lights round the window and there are lots of colourful drawings on the walls and she hangs her necklaces on little pegs so that she can choose which one she wants to wear. Of all the girls that Eddie has gone out with, Susannah is the BEST. She’s chatty and if you ever have a worry, Susannah always has something to say that makes it seem a bit better. She even promised to teach me to play the guitar which I’m very excited about. So it is VERY IMPORTANT that Eddie makes an effort to be a good boyfriend to Susannah for my sake. Eddie needs a different attitude and he must believe he can do better. I say, ‘Eddie, why don’t Elsie and I go shopping with you? 43


We can help you choose some nice T-shirts.’ ‘What do you know about men’s fashion?’ he asks. I snort. ‘Definitely more than you.’ Eddie considers this for a moment then says, ‘OK.’ ‘You should buy Susannah a present to make up for being a lousy boyfriend, and you can take me and Elsie out for lunch.’ We eyeball one another. ‘I have the final say in what I buy.’ I nod. I’ll let him think that. If I say: This will look really good on you, I know he’ll run to the pay desk like an Olympic sprinter. I go into the den to get Elsie who has been talking to her mum on the phone. She is sitting on the floor hugging her knees. ‘It’s not going to work out, Ellie,’ whispers Elsie. Cadence will have been saying that they must sell the café – and when your mum tells you something, it’s normal to believe it’s going to happen – because after all, you’re the kid, and she’s the grown-up. Elsie looks so unhappy, I can’t bear it. I say, ‘I definitely have a plan.’ ‘You do?’ What is my plan? I’ve got to come up with something. ‘Eddie will help us save the café,’ I say. Elsie sighs. That’s not enough to lift anyone’s spirits. I add, ‘And Susannah will help.’ Elsie lifts her chin. ‘Susannah will help us?’ ‘And Grandma, and Dad. Everyone will help us.’ ‘Really?’ ‘Jem Hardy will.’ 44


‘Jem definitely will,’ agrees Elsie. Grandma said: Attitude is everything and belief is half the battle. Although we haven’t actually asked Eddie or Susannah or Grandma or Dad or Jem, to help us save the Crab Shack – I almost certainly, nearly positively, believe that they will. What we need to make this happen is... a lot of helping hands. We are eating cheese sandwiches in Eddie’s car. I think I will have to mention that this doesn’t strictly qualify as taking us out for lunch. Still, Eddie has actually parted with some cash. We started in Boots (sonic toothbrush, shampoo, hair gel and aftershave, plus three Meal Deals). Then we sauntered into the shopping mall and bought a grey jacket with metal buttons and two pairs of jeans, (chosen by me) a packet of socks and a canvas belt, (chosen by Elsie). Two hours and probably ten miles later, we settled on a few random printed T-shirts: BORN TO BE WILD (a famous song, apparently) - COME OUT TO PLAY (‘A cultural reference to a Beatles* song,’ says Eddie) and CREATIVE GENIUS (which Eddie thinks describes him perfectly, though BORN TO BE ANNOYING would be a much better fit). Eddie bought Susannah a beautiful watch that shows the lunar phases of the moon, because Susannah likes astronomy or astrology, Eddie isn’t sure which, but he knows it involves stars and maybe planets. He also bought himself a watch (my idea) to remind him to keep an eye on the time, so he won’t let Susannah down again. I say, ‘Susannah will love her watch, and every time she looks at it, she will think of you, Eddie.’ 45


‘That’s the plan,’ he says. I take a deep breath. ‘It’s important to have a plan, isn’t it?’ For some reason my voice wobbles. Eddie looks at me. ‘What’s on your mind, Chicken?’ he says, because he sometimes calls me, Chicken. It’s now or never. I give Elsie a nudge. ‘Mum loves the Crab Shack,’ says Elsie, nervously. ‘I know she doesn’t want to sell it. We have to save it - except we can’t call it the Crab Shack any more.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because crab isn’t on the menu.’ ‘Good,’ says Eddie, who’s vegetarian. ‘You have to help us, Eddie,’ I say. Oh no. I’m on the verge of tears. Eddie looks anxious. ‘You shouldn’t get your hopes up, girls,’ he says. ‘Why not?’ I say. ‘You don’t want to lose Susannah. I don’t want to lose Elsie. Attitude is everything, Eddie. We have to believe we can save the café.’ I see my brother crumble under the pressure. ‘OK. I’ll help. But what if it doesn’t work?’ ‘At least we will have tried,’ I say. ‘Jem will help,’ says Elsie. ‘He loves my mum.’ ‘He told me that in confidence,’ says Eddie, miserably. ‘So why did you tell me then?’ I ask. ‘Because I have a BIG mouth,’ says Eddie. ‘I know,’ I say. ‘But when you bother to brush your teeth, you have a nice smile.’ 46


Needed: CREATIVE GENIUS We call a family conference. We do this when there is something big to discuss, like when Grandpa died and Grandma had to run the workshop by herself. Dad got us round the kitchen table and we talked about it because if someone is in a bit of bother you can all think of ways to help, and if a family is thinking about making a big change, you can all have your say.

How we made the decision to come and live in Grandma’s house. 1. Dad gave Mum a big glass of wine and a tin of beer to Eddie. 2. There

was

chocolate,

because

chocolate

calms

people down and puts them in a helpful mood. 3. Dad made notes on the whiteboard so we could all understand and focus on what the problem was.

PROBLEM 1. Grandma was struggling to cope with the workshop by herself. 2. Grandma’s house is very big for one person. 3. Grandma was missing Grandpa and was very lonely. 4. Grandma is elderly and her knees are a bit stiff and sore.

47


Then Dad said there are lots of ways to solve these problems and it was up to us as a family to decide which solution was the best.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS 1. Grandma could give up the workshop and live alone in the house.

We talked about it, then decided that even without the workshop, she’d still have a lot of housework to do, and she would still be pretty lonely. 2. Grandma could sell the workshop and the house and move closer to us so that we could help her with shopping and give her a bit of company.

We agreed that this would be a shame because Grandma loves her home and still enjoys working. Then we realised that we were not so settled ourselves, and one day it would be nice to move to the seaside and get lots of fresh air. And from there we decided that, as Grandma has a big house and lives by the seaside, we could live with her. We all had our own reasons: DAD: Grandma is Dad’s mum and he grew up in that house,

so

he’s

always

loved

it.

Dad

is

happy

anywhere, so long as he has a quiet room to work in with good light and an Internet connection. MUM: Mum gets along with Grandma and one day she would like to run a bed and breakfast by the sea, or a little art gallery. EDDIE: Eddie went to art school and ended up working in a call centre (which he hated) and he liked

48


the idea of working with Grandma instead. Also, he’d met Susannah who lives about a mile away from Grandma. (Eddie packed a suitcase and went to live with Grandma the next day.) FIN: Fin doesn’t have opinions yet, other than what he wants to eat and which toy he wants to play with, so he didn’t mind where he lived. ME: I knew I’d have to start a new school which was a

terrifying

thought,

but

everyone

seemed

so

enthusiastic, I didn’t want to spoil the mood.

So – this is ANOTHER conference, called by Eddie this time. Grandma knows this is very important because Elsie and I told her what it was about. Grandma has made a chocolate cake with white chocolate ganache (my absolute favourite) and she has made cappuccinos for Dad and Eddie and strawberry milk for Fin. Elsie and I have glasses of Cherry Good. We sit round the table: there’s Dad, Grandma, Eddie, Fin, Mum, (who is on a video call on Dad’s smartphone) Elsie and me. Eddie is wearing his CREATIVE GENIUS T-shirt and a new pair of jeans. He smells a bit woody, but it isn’t bad and he’s definitely smelled a lot worse. Grandma says, ‘A boy who takes advice. How refreshing. Nice threads, Eddie, and I like the aftershave very much.’ Eddie looks pleased. He says, ‘In the Booton tradition, I’m calling this meeting because there is a problem which might be solved by discussion and positive action.’ Dad says, ‘Nice opening, Eddie. May I add something? No 49


matter what we decide here today, there’s no guarantee of a positive outcome and I think we must bear that in mind.’ He looks at me and Elsie in a very serious way and says, ‘In other words, girls – don’t get your hopes up.’ I’ve heard that before, so I say, ‘Attitude is everything, Dad. Belief is half the battle.’ Grandma smiles and says, ‘Another young person who listens. Ellie, you are a precious child,’ which makes me feel very nice. Eddie says, ‘Well, this is the problem.’ He writes on the whiteboard:

QSPCMFN!.!! 2/!Uif!dbgf!jt!opu!nbljoh!npofz/! 3/!Uif!sbjo!ibt!cffo!b!qspcmfn!boe!xf!dboopu!dpouspm! uif!xfbuifs/! Dad says, ‘Hmm,’ and looks worried, even though my dad says he NEVER worries. Mum says, ‘The weather has been terrible, just terrible.’ She sounds worried because she’s a worrier and I’m used to it. Elsie and I exchange looks. We’re both anxious. Eddie says, ‘The girls think that if the Crab Shack has a makeover, it might draw customers back.’ Mum says, ‘But when it’s rainy, people stay indoors. It’s the sunshine that gets people out, or a bit of entertainment.’ ‘Good point, Flora,’ says Grandma. ‘The café needs to be more than just a café. Cadence could stage events there and that 50


would help publicise it too.’ ‘And the café needs to be called something else,’ says Elsie. ‘And when it’s looking smart, a party’s a good idea. Then people will see it scores a perfect ten,’ I say, thinking of Hazel Hunter. Eddie says, ‘Great!’ He writes on the whiteboard:

BDUJPOT!OFFEFE!.!! 2/!!B!nblfpwfs! 3/!!B!ofx!obnf!gps!uif!dbgf! 4/!!Fwfout!0!foufsubjonfou! 5/!!B!QS!dbnqbjho+!up!hfu!uif!xpse!pvu! 6/!!Mbvodi!qbsuz! Grandma says, ‘What about a website? I wonder if Cadence could sell things on the Internet, like we do?’ Mum says, ‘What, like cupcakes?’ Grandma says, ‘Well, if the café gets well known, you could sell anything – your own brand of fudge or jams or gift hampers.’ Elsie says, ‘Mum makes the best chocolate brownies.’ ‘She does, Elsie.’ Grandma looks at Eddie and says, ‘You know, Eddie, we could exhibit our creations in the café. I wonder if Susannah would play her guitar and sing her songs?’ Eddie says, ‘That is a brilliant idea. Gran, you’re a genius.’ Grandma looks at Eddie’s T-shirt and says, ‘It must run in 51


the family.’ Grandma’s suggestion gives Eddie the perfect excuse to phone Susannah. Everyone knows she would never say no to helping someone. Eddie jots down:

7/!!B!xfctjuf@! 8/!!Qpttjcmf!Joufsofu!tfmmjoh@! 9/!!Fyijcjujpot!@!Sfhvmbs!nvtjdbm!hjht@! All of this sounds very positive and a GOOD PLAN. Elsie smiles and looks just a little bit hopeful. Grandma says, ‘Girls, you must remember that we can only offer help. It is completely up to Cadence what happens next.’ I squeeze Elsie’s hand and say, ‘We know, Grandma.’

52


What is a shack, anyway? The rain has stopped! It’s not exactly the Riviera out there, but there are little patches of blue sky. Walking and talking is great for mulling over ideas. Sometimes you can walk and talk by yourself – you just do the talking in your head. But if you have a dog, you can speak your thoughts out loud. Herman is a very good listener. Grandma says he knows all her secrets and he always keeps them to himself. That’s because dogs can’t talk, though Grandma says dogs can talk with their expressions and body language. Last night I saw Dad sitting in his office, gazing out of the window. When Herman saw him, he didn’t wag his tail. Instead, he frowned and put his head on Dad’s lap - and Eliza let him because, somehow, they knew he was sad and needed some company. But today Herman is very happy. His collar and lead are kept in the captain’s chest in the hall. When I open the drawer, Herman starts laughing – well, it sounds like he’s laughing – arr arr arr arr arr, because he knows he’s going out. I go to Dad and say, ‘We’re taking Herman down to the beach and we’ll collect the post from the Crab Shack. Elsie and I go out with Herman. She holds the lead and Herman walks nicely and doesn’t pull because he is a well mannered dog. Elsie says, ‘We need to think of a good name for the Crab 53


Shack.’ I say, ‘Your mum serves prawn sandwiches. What about the Prawn Shack?’ ‘That doesn’t sound right.’ ‘Which part? Prawn or shack?’ ‘Both,’ says Elsie. ‘What is a shack, anyway?’ I ask. ‘It’s like a hut that’s about to fall down.’ ‘Oh. I don’t think Hazel Hunter would approve of anything being called a shack, do you?’ Elsie says, ‘No. I think the word, shack, has got to go.’ Elsie unlocks the door and we go inside. There’s some post on the floor and we gather it up. Elsie says, ‘What can we do to make this place look better? Should we paint everything?’ ‘I think we should clean first,’ I say. ‘You clean and then you paint. Or do you paint and then clean?’ Elsie shakes her head. ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Well, we don’t have any paint but we could start cleaning,’ I suggest. So we fill the washing-up bowl with water. The floor is covered in dirty footprints from all the wet weather. Elsie decides to tip the water from the bowl into a bucket, so we can mop the floor. Herman nudges Elsie’s arm and the water goes everywhere. I grab a white cloth and start mopping it up. ‘That’s a tablecloth, Ellie!’ cries Elsie. She grabs the mop while I rinse the tablecloth under the tap. Elsie helps me wring it out, but it’s still sopping wet. Outside 54


there’s a flagpole that doesn’t get used any more, but there’s a line dangling from it and some pegs underneath the sink. I peg the tablecloth to the line. It flutters in the breeze and so do our feathers because they are a bit ruffled. Elsie says, ‘It’s a white flag. It looks like we’ve surrendered.’ ‘Well, we haven’t,’ I say. We decide we need a better plan before we give the Crab Shack a makeover, so we lock the door and go down the slipway onto the beach. Herman dashes off for a swim. Herman was born in March, so his horoscope is Pisces, a water sign, which explains why he loves to swim and also why he is kind and gentle. Dad doesn’t believe in horoscopes. He says Labradors were bred to dive into icy water to retrieve fish, and if you put FIS in front of HERMAN, you get FISHERMAN – though Grandma says this is just a co-incidence. Elsie and I play with Herman on the beach. We run up and down and throw a ball and Herman runs after it and brings it back – and then he goes into the sea for a quick splash – and then he runs after the ball again. I’m thinking about what we can call the Crab Shack because you can think about a problem even when you’re having fun – and sometimes the answer will just pop into your head. I look up at the Crab Shack for a bit of inspiration and I see something that doesn’t look right. Someone is crawling about on the roof again and it’s definitely NOT Jem Hardy. ‘What’s going on?’ shouts Elsie. She sounds scared and angry and we run towards the Crab Shack. Herman barks and 55


runs with us. At the top of the slipway we see the CRAB SHACK sign has been knocked down, and is now smashed on the ground. One of the windows is broken and the white cloth has gone from the flagpole. We see the boy in the blue jacket running away. I put Herman on his lead and we head for home. Herman knows something’s wrong; he pulls at his lead and helps us run faster. Dad and Grandma are drinking tea in the kitchen. Elsie and I must look very ruffled because Dad stands up and says, ‘What’s happened?’ Elsie says, ‘We saw someone on the Crab Shack roof and when we got there he was running away. He’s broken a window and smashed the sign.’ ‘And I hung a tablecloth out to dry and he’s taken that as well.’ Grandma says, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ ‘Do you know who it was?’ asks Dad. ‘We don’t know his name, but we’ve seen him before. He was taking photographs of the Crab Shack.’ ‘We need to call the police,’ says Dad.

56


Something has to g-i-v-e It’s not long before PC Jennings arrives. We troop down the hill and show him the damaged sign and the broken window and he tut-tuts and makes notes in a little book. We tell him about the boy and how we saw him running away. It doesn’t seem absolutely necessary to tell PC Jennings how I pulled monkey faces to spoil his photographs, but I wonder, privately, if the boy’s attack on the Crab Shack has something to do with revenge? The thought makes me feel pretty sick. ‘I’ve seen this boy around. He always carries a camera. I don’t think he’s a local lad, but don’t you worry - I’ll track him down,’ says PC Jennings, grimly. ‘He was in the café when Gilby Flynn flipped the tray I was carrying,’ says Elsie. ‘All the glasses broke.’ PC Jennings asks if Gilby did that deliberately. Elsie says, ‘Definitely.’ ‘So this boy was with Gilby that day?’ asks PC Jennings. ‘No,’ says Elsie. ‘He was on his own. Gilby was with Cooper Platt and Abigail.’ ‘My daughter?’ he says, sounding surprised. ‘Yes,’ says Elsie. That bit of news seems to rattle him. It’s the middle of the night and I’m awake. Obviously. I am 57


VERY WORRIED. I hear someone go downstairs. I’m pretty sure it’s Dad because he sounds a lot heavier on the stairs than Grandma, and Eddie never gets up at night. He would sleep through an invasion of Martians. I get up and go downstairs. Dad is in the kitchen making himself tea and toast. ‘What are you doing up?’ he asks, surprised. ‘It’s three o’clock in the morning.’ ‘I can’t sleep.’ ‘Would you like a drink?’ ‘Can I have toast as well?’ So Dad warms milk in a pan and makes more toast. ‘Why can’t you sleep?’ asks Dad. ‘I’m worried about the Crab Shack. Are you worried, Dad?’ Dad shrugs. ‘Not about that. PC Jennings will find that lad and give him a good telling off. He’s not broken anything that can’t be fixed.’ ‘So what are you worried about then?’ I ask. ‘Nothing,’ he says. But I’m not fooled. ‘I saw you staring out of the window earlier, and you looked pretty worried.’ ‘Menella Booton, you don’t miss a trick,’ sighs Dad. ‘I have x-ray eyes, like you Dad -’ ‘X-ray eyes?’ ‘- and ears that hear everything, like an African elephant.’ Dad says, ‘You don’t have big ears, Menella.’ ‘I don’t, but you do.’ I say. ‘Oh, thanks a bunch,’ he says and munches his toast. I’m sure Dad is worried. I stare at him. 58


‘Oh, for goodness sake, don’t put me under the spotlight,’ he says, spluttering on his tea. I keep staring. ‘OK. Enough!’ says Dad. ‘It looks like Nanna and Gramps can’t cope on their own any more. Your mum and I have been talking and we’ve reached the conclusion that something has to give.’ ‘Give what?’ ‘It’s a figure of speech. It means, something has to change.’ ‘They could live here with us,’ I say. ‘There’s enough room.’ ‘Well, that’s an option being discussed, but I’m not sure I want another big change,’ says Dad. ‘Why?’ ‘Because it’s too big a deal... and because I won’t like it.’ Hmm, I think. ‘But if it hasn’t happened yet, how do you know how you’ll feel about it? You might like Nanna and Gramps living here.’ Dad shakes his head and says, ‘I know I won’t.’ ‘Ha!’ I say. ‘And I know I won’t like it if Elsie moves away.’ Dad looks at me, startled. ‘And if you want the truth, your advice was pretty unhelpful, actually.’ Dad stops munching. He blinks and says, ‘Touché, Ellie. That means you’ve made a very good point.’ Then he says, ‘I’m sorry I was so dismissive of your worries.’ I’m pleased he said sorry. Grown-ups should say sorry sometimes. They don’t get everything right. I say, ‘If we make a big effort to help, Elsie might be able to stay.’ 59


‘But what if it doesn’t work, Ellie?’ says Dad. ‘You’ll be heartbroken. Cadence is a very independent woman. She has to do what’s right for her.’ I think for a moment. ‘At least Elsie will know that we cared enough to try.’ ‘That’s a good attitude, Ellie,’ says Dad. ‘Attitude is everything,’ I say, yawning. I give Dad a hug. ‘Nanna likes to be in charge, so she wouldn’t like sharing this house anyway. But they could stay here, until they get used to this town, then they could get their own little house and be close enough for us to help them out. At least, that way, Mum can come home.’ Dad nods slowly. ‘It has the makings of a plan.’ Herman comes into my bedroom to wake me up. I stick my foot out of the top bunk and he stands on his back legs and gives it a lick. It tickles. I feel tired and a bit strange. Grandma sometimes says she feels as flat as a pancake, which I never understood before. How can she feel flat, when her body is the same shape – and that’s definitely not flat. She said this a lot after Grandpa died, though she’s not said it for quite a while now. This morning, I understand what she means. I feel flat too – as though there is a big weight pressing on me. I feel like I’ve lost something important and I don’t know where to find it. Things are changing and everything feels uncertain. I want Mum to come home. I miss her. I wouldn’t mind Nanna and Gramps living here, because it would be like us all being together at Christmas, except that no one would have to 60


go home. I love Grandma because she is always kind and she thinks I am a precious child, and she makes lovely cake. Grandma keeps Eddie in order because he used to come home late at night, crash about and wake everybody up, and then Mum and Dad would shout at him and Fin would cry. Sometimes, he stayed in bed ALL day. He didn’t change his clothes and he was smelly. My brother was unhappy. But now he works with Grandma, he’s almost normal. I live in a house where there’s always someone to talk to, which is nice. I like to look out of the window and see the moon hanging over the sea. When the seagulls hop over the roof, it sounds like they’re tap dancing, which is annoying and funny at the same time. I love Herman who wakes me up and is always ready to play. And I love Elsie, who made me feel welcome when I felt so alone. We are best friends. I realise that Elsie only has her mum and me. She doesn’t see her dad or even know that much about him. I wonder if Elsie might be better off living in Leeds, where her grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins live. I wonder if she would have more friends in Leeds. More than just me.

61


The uncertainty principle Elsie and I are in the kitchen having our breakfast. Eddie is on his laptop updating the website. Fin drops scrambled egg on the floor for Herman, then rubs some in his hair. There’s a knock on the door and Herman barks, but when the phone rings, he ignores it – and it can ring and ring – and he couldn’t care less, because it’s not as though anyone ever calls him for a chat. Grandma and Herman go to answer the door and they come back with Jem Hardy. ‘Would you like a cup of tea, Jeremy?’ asks Grandma. ‘That would be grand, Ruby. Thank you.’ Jem sits down and makes a fuss of Herman who loves visitors. Jem looks at the whiteboard and reads Elsie’s note out loud: ‘What would make the world a better place?’ He thinks for a moment and says, ‘If everyone showed a bit of kindness, the world would be wonderful.’ Dad comes in with a packet of baby wipes and sets to work on Fin. ‘I heard about the vandalism at the Crab Shack, Walter,’ says Jem. ‘What can I do to help?’ ‘It’s a worry. I’ve spoken to Cadence about it.’ Then Dad looks at Elsie and says to Jem, ‘We can talk in my office.’ Dad scoops up Fin and Grandma gives Jem a mug of tea and 62


Jem says, ‘Nice to see you, girls. Carry on the good work, Eddie.’ Eddie looks up, surprised, and says, ‘Oh, hello Jem. I didn’t know you were here.’ He scratches his head and disappears into his laptop again. Elsie and I look at one another. The word worry is scary. It means the grown-ups don’t quite know how to solve the problems. I feel empty and flat inside. I take a deep breath and say, ‘Elsie, I’ve been thinking that Leeds might be a good place to live. No matter where you live, I will always be your friend.’ Elsie looks at me. There’s an awkward silence. ‘Don’t you want me to stay?’ she asks. ‘Of course I do.’ ‘It doesn’t seem like it,’ she says, unhappily. Dad is still talking to Jem in his office, so I put my head around the door and I say, ‘We’re going to collect the post from the Crab Shack. We’ll take Herman with us.’ Dad says, ‘Have you brushed your teeth?’ I wonder when Dad will stop reminding me to brush my teeth. I’m not a little kid. Elsie and I go down the hill with Herman. We get to the Crab Shack which looks different without the sign over the door. The broken window is now covered with a piece of plywood which makes the café look like a face with one eye shut. Elsie unlocks the door and we go inside. Maybe it’s because there’s not as much light, but it looks dull and scruffy. There are no flowers on the tables - no music on the jukebox. 63


There’s no smell of coffee and strawberry milkshake. There’s no Cadence moving around in her swishy dress. It feels different. It’s like the Crab Shack has... died. This is what I’m thinking but I don’t say anything out loud. Then Elsie says, ‘It’s awful in here. It doesn’t feel right,’ and she starts to cry.

What to do when someone cries 1. DON’T

say:

Don’t

cry.

If

you

don’t

let

tears

spill out, you’ll get a headache. 2. DO say something like: I understand how you feel. 3. If you don’t understand how someone feels, ask: What

has

upset

you?

and

then

listen,

because

listening is always a good thing to do.

I put my arm round Elsie and say, ‘I understand,’ because I do. I really do. Then I say, ‘It will be all right,’ because you have to believe that things will work out, somehow. I remember Nanna saying: If I had a pound for every worry I’ve had, I’d be a rich woman. And here I am, alive and kicking, and worry never changed anything – though it would have been nice to be paid for it. I remember wondering how much money Nanna would have earned if she had been paid a pound for every worry. I guess she would have been paid more than £50, because she’s quite old and she must have had a few worries along the way. I get Elsie a piece of kitchen towel and she blows her nose. I get her a glass of water to top her back up, because it’s a fact that humans are 70% water – and that always surprises me. 64


Then Herman starts to bark. Gilby Flynn, Cooper Platt and Abigail Jennings are outside. Gilby opens the glass door. Herman barks and rushes towards him. Gilby yelps and jumps back. ‘STUPID DOG!’ he shouts and slams the door. Cooper and Abigail are holding hands. Abigail is wearing a black T-shirt that says in big white letters: I WANT I GET. ‘Obnoxious,’ says Elsie. Gilby’s floppy hair gets caught in the breeze and smacks Abigail in the face. Abigail says something and they all laugh then Gilby comes up to the door again and presses his nose against the glass and goes, ‘WOOF, WOOF.’ Herman rushes towards him. Gilby’s eyes pop and he nearly jumps out of his skin, which looks quite comical because the worst Herman would do is give him a lick. I think it’s because I’m nervous that I start to laugh. This makes Gilby angry. He shouts, ‘CATCH YOU LA-TER,’ but he doesn’t sound in the least bit friendly. They turn to walk away. I can’t help it. I shout back, ‘AL-LI-GA-TOR.’ Elsie and I look at one another and laugh. It’s not that we think it’s funny – it’s just that laughing is often better than crying. Herman watches until they’re out of sight, then he sees someone else and wags his tail. Jem Hardy’s van is parked outside and he’s walking towards the café. ‘Was that the Flynn boy?’ asks Jem. ‘He’s frightened of dogs. Herman scared him,’ I say. Jem pats Herman and says, ‘Good boy.’ Then he says, 65


‘Have you been crying, Elsie?’ ‘A little bit.’ ‘The uncertainty principle. When you can’t accurately measure something or predict an outcome, it’s stressful. It is for me, anyway. I like to know where I stand,’ says Jem kindly. Elsie nods and dabs her eyes and I think: This must be awful for Jem, too. Jem pulls out a little book from his pocket and starts to jot down notes. He says, ‘I’ll get that window fixed straight away.’ ‘We don’t need the sign fixing because the café should be called something else,’ I tell him. ‘We’re going to give it a makeover,’ says Elsie. Jem smiles sadly. ‘Before anything happens, you must talk to your mum, Elsie. Tell her how you feel. She needs to know.’ Elsie says, ‘But if she’s OK with us making the café better, will you help us?’ ‘Of course. Jeremy Hardy, at your service, Miss.’ Before I can stop myself, I say, ‘You should tell Cadence how you feel,’ and I carry on thinking: because we all know that you love her. Jem goes bright red and looks at the floor. I think: Oh no. I’ve got a big mouth like Eddie - but Jem says, ‘That’s good advice, Ellie. Thank you.’ Jem drives off. I know that no matter what grand plan we come up with, or how many people are prepared to help us, if Cadence doesn’t want to give it a go – then it’s all a waste of time. I have no idea what Cadence will say, or how she is feeling, or what she 66


needs, or what she wants. All I know is that she danced when the café was empty, and she cried when Elsie dropped the tray – and that’s not a lot to go on really. What seems like a simple idea – saving the café – is maybe, not as straightforward as it seems. Like my idea of Nanna and Gramps moving to our town. It might solve one problem and create another. What if Nanna and Gramps have friends they’ll miss, who will miss them too? What if they will miss the hills and the fields they see out of their window – because I would miss the beach and the lighthouse I see out of mine. I would miss the sound of the seagulls and the smell of the salty air, and the pink neon sign that says, ‘OPEN’ in the window of the Crab Shack. I want things to stay the same, but they never do. Is this life? Constant change? Difficult decisions? No wonder Dad wrote: CAN ANYONE BE CERTAIN THEY’RE MAKING THE RIGHT DECISION? How do you know? One day, I will have to leave my home to go to college, or to get a job. One day Eddie might get married and leave us to start his own family. Everybody gets older. Everybody moves on. Nothing stays the same. Things change... but how do you know if they change in the right way?

67


So hope you’ve enjoyed this sample. Where to buy the book: Paperback: www.burdockhouse.co.uk Digital: Kindle book store

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Trouble at the Crab Shack Café / Flinty Maguire  

Trouble at the Crab Shack Cafe / Ellie Booton's Journal, No. 1 / FLINTY MAGUIRE Sample chapters. Genre: Young people’s fiction / Adventur...

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