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Chapter 24 continues:
“Where’s Luke?” asked Dad.
“Must be out with Dudley,” said Mum, “I expect he’ll be back soon.”
“Right, well as soon as he gets in, I want to give him his present.”
“You’ve finished it?”
“Yes,” said Dad with a big grin.
“Can I see it?” asked Mum excitedly, starting for the door.
“Not ’til Luke gets here,” Dad laughed and stepped in front of her.
“It’s not his birthday ’til Sunday,” said Jared.
“I know but I’ve got to work on Sunday.”
“Oh no!” said Mum, “didn’t you tell them you had plans?”
“Yeah but they’re desperate. A lot of people off with stomach flu.”
“Again?! Lucky for them you never get it.”
“What if you did?” suggested Jared, “tell ’em you caught it and then you won’t have to work.”
Dad frowned disapproval at that idea.
Mum pouted. “Oh, I don’t want you to miss Luke’s birthday.”
“I don’t want to miss it either. That’s why I thought we could do it now. While we’re all here.”
“Luke and Dudley are home,” said Jared, looking out the dining room window, “and they’re not alone.”
Luke greeted his family with a fierce scowl. “Butler let Curly an’ Squirt out and now they’re not allowed on the allotment!” he told them angrily.
“What?” asked everybody at once.
“Curly an’ Squirt got out and they messed up some o’ the plots and ate some o’ the plants but it wasn’t their fault. An’ I told Mr Tipton it wasn’t my fault either but he said I must’ve forgot but I didn’t an’ I told him I didn’t but he wun’t believe me! He said there was a new rule and no animals could live on the allotments so I had to bring ’em home!”
“Luke slow down. What exactly did Fred say?” asked Dad.
“I told you! He said he wasn’t gonna let animals on the allotments any more coz he couldn’t risk it happenin’ again!”
“The sheep got onto other people’s plots?”
“Yes!” Luke was exasperated.
“Oh no,” said Mum, “did they do much damage?”
“It’s not their fault,” Luke reiterated, “they were just eatin’. They didn’t know they weren’t s’posed to. They didn’t mean to spoil anything.”
“How did they get out?” asked Dad, “did you forget to bolt the gate this morning?”
“No! I told you! Butler did it!”
“Simon Butler? Why d’you think that?”
“I saw him just now – laughin’ with his stupid friends about it! He shouted at me that I shun’t have left the gate open. How would he know that if he din’t do it?”
Mum and Dad exchanged serious glances.
“I’ll speak to Fred,” said Dad, “don’t worry. I’m sure we can work something out.”
“We could put a padlock on the gate,” suggested Mum.
“Good idea ….”
“Won’t work,” interrupted Luke dejectedly, “I already offered to do that. He said no.”
Dad ruffled his hair. “Don’t worry, I’ll talk to him,” and he reached for the phone.
“No!” said Luke firmly, “they’re not safe there. I want them to stay here!”
“They can’t stay here Luke, I’m sorry.”
“Why not? The garden’s big enough.”
“I’m sorry Luke, no,” Dad insisted, “I’ve worked hard on this garden and I don’t want it ruined.” He looked out the dining room window. “Look – they’ve already eaten half my purple mallow!”
“Well they’ve had a rough day! Give ’em a break!”
“I’ll go next door and speak to Anne,” said Mum, “maybe she can keep her slimy son in check.”
“Okay,” said Dad. “Luke, put the sheep in the damson patch. I’ll phone Fred.”
“No! We’re not sendin’ ’em back! A padlock won’t keep ’em safe! Anyone could climb over the fence an’ hurt ’em! I want them here where I can see them all the time!”
Dad spoke low and calm but there was no mistaking his hostility. “Let me make one thing clear: I am not giving up my garden. I tolerated the loss of my vegetable patch to your rabbits and you’re lucky I didn’t put my foot down then. I’m putting it down now. The sheep are going back to the allotments.”
Luke was infuriated. “Aren’t Curly an’ Squirt more important than a few flowers? It’s dangerous for ’em there! It’s cruel to make ’em go back! Cruel and selfish!” He paused for a response that didn’t come. “If you make ’em leave, I’m goin’ with them!”
Mum put her hand on his shoulder in an effort to calm him down but he pulled away angrily and stormed back out into the garden.
Mr Walker slammed his garage keys down on the table. “So glad I worked every spare minute to make that child’s birthday present!” he growled.
“He didn’t mean it,” said Mum sympathetically, “he’s just upset. If he knew what you’d done …”
“He shouldn’t speak to me like that whether he knew or not!”
“I know but …”
“I think I deserve a little bit of respect!”
Mrs Walker reached out to hug him but he walked away. She sighed. “I wonder what it would have been like to have daughters,” she thought.
Story continues tomorrow but if you don’t want to wait, you can read it here now 😀
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