Chapter 3: Luke Walker and the Giant Gobstopper
LITTER: 1 PIZZA BOX AND 1 COKE CAN
Luke tutted and looked across the park. At 8.27 there was no one else there but he knew they would come. And when they did, he would be ready.
On one side of the park was the school, on the other, the pony paddock. The top and bottom edges skirted the ends of back gardens. With his binoculars Luke could see it all clearly. He waited.
At 8.49 a dog walker entered the recreation field and walked around twice. Luke pretended to read his comic while secretly watching the person’s every move. No litter was dropped.
At 9.12 and 9.18 two more dog walkers arrived at opposite sides of the park. One threw a ball for his dog, the other kept her dog on a lead. No litter was dropped.
For Luke time was passing extremely slowly. He had read his comic three times and it was losing its appeal. At least his enjoyment of the gobstopper was not waning.
“The solitude of the outlaw life might be too much for some people,” Luke mused, “but I’m used to it now, I can handle it.”
Twenty four hours earlier he had been less philosophical:
“I don’t see why I should have to clean up other people’s mess!” Luke complained to Rusty who was sitting on a cabbage leaf, watching him.
Mrs Tebbut had followed through on her threat to send home a letter after the zoo trip and Luke’s dad had sentenced him to a month of weekends cleaning up litter. Luke was bitterly resentful at the injustice of it all.
“I mean, I could see the logic if I was a litter dropper myself. Makin’ me pick up litter would serve me right. But I’m not a dropper. I’ve never been a dropper. I won’t ever be a dropper – so what kind of lesson is this s’posed to teach me? A lesson I already know, that’s what!”
Rusty, Ash and Scratcher, the only witnesses to this tirade, did not attempt to answer him. They were used to his rhetorical rants and knew it was best to just let him get it off his chest. Sitting with his friends in ‘the damson patch’, as it was now known, letting off steam with the only ones who really understood him, was a kind of therapy for Luke. He always felt better afterwards.
But at the park Luke felt humiliated. It was Saturday morning; scouts were having football practice; skateboarders were zooming up and down their ramps and slopes; little girls were skipping rope and playing hopscotch. Luke felt like everyone was smirking at him picking up litter. It was disgusting. Disgusting people had dropped their disgusting rubbish and he was forced to clean up after them. It made him so cross.
Then he noticed his dad trying to get his attention. Maybe he was going to let him off. Maybe he’d done enough now.
“Luke, look, behind you. Dudley’s done his business. Make sure you pick that up as well.”
Dad went back to reading the paper and Luke seethed. It wasn’t fair!
Continues tomorrow, but if you can’t wait you can read the whole chapter here now
and the first eight chapters are also available in paperback