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Story continues from yesterday:
“What are you doing?” said an angry man.
“What are you doing?” returned Luke.
“Did you move my horse?”
“She’s your horse?” asked Luke, “you should look after her better! She don’t like it by the road!”
The man slammed his car door and climbed over the fence. “I know she doesn’t like it,” he said angrily, “that’s why I tied her there, so she can get used to it!”
“Why does she have to get used to it?” asked Luke, equally angry.
“I’m training her to pull a buggy,” said the man, “and if she’s easily spooked by traffic she could get us both killed!”
“You shun’t make her pull the buggy then!” said Luke, stating the obvious, “you shun’t make ‘er do anything she don’t wanna do!”
The man was livid. “Shouldn’t you be in school? What have you done with her bridle?”
“Don’t you tie her up again, that’s illegal!” said Luke, desperately, “an’ I should know, coz me mum and dad are police!”
“Yeah, an’ they just arrested someone last week for leavin’ his horse tied up by the road!”
“What? That’s ridiculous!”
“Oh, is it?” said Luke with increasing confidence, “I’d have to disagree with you on that coz it happened. They arrested him on charges of ….. bad animal welfare.”
“The Animal Welfare Act?”
“Yes!” said Luke, thankful for the help. “The Animal Welfare Act makes it illegal to tie horses by the road because they don’t like it and it’s cruel!”
“I would never …!” the man was offended. “I have always taken exemplary care of my horses,” said the man, a little quieter, “I’ve done this training many times and none of them have ever been hurt.”
“Well, I wun’t do it again if I were you,” said Luke, “coz they’re crackin’ down.”
The man was uncertain whether to believe him but the boy seemed confident of his information. He decided to test him. “What police force do your parents work for?”
“Belton,” said Luke without hesitation.
“What are their badge numbers?”
“My mum’s is 2357, and my dad’s is 111317.” Mrs Cassidy was right, it is important to remember the prime numbers.
“I’ll check,” threatened the man.
“D’you wanna borra a pencil?” asked Luke.
The man shook his head and commenced retrieval of the bridle. “Stupid law!” he grumbled, “how am I supposed to train her now?”
“Well, I mean, who’d look after ‘er if you got arrested?”
The man didn’t answer, he just put her bridle back on.
“Has she got any friends?” Luke asked, sad that she wouldn’t be able to go to the horse sanctuary.
“I’ve got two other horses,” said the man, which was something of a relief.
“Bye Cocoa,” said Luke as the man led her into his trailer.
Luke watched wistfully as his new friend departed before his mind was brought sharply back into focus by the sight of his school bag on the ground. He looked at his watch. It was 9.25. The bell had gone almost an hour ago and his plight seemed hopeless. School was still half an hour away. Hopefully that was enough time for him to think of something.
He walked briskly, coming up with ideas and then dismissing them almost immediately. When he was just ten minutes away he was annoyed by a plastic carrier bag in the hedge.
“Flamin’ litter bugs!” he said with disgust, “I am sick an’ tired of clearin’ up other people’s mess!” He yanked the bag angrily from its roost and stuffed it into his pocket. Then he had an idea. A good one. He smiled. No need to worry. He wouldn’t have to stay after school today.
Twenty five minutes later Luke entered the school gates and made his way directly to the Deputy Head’s office. The Deputy Head, Mr Paxton, had been a teacher at Graywood Comp for over thirty years. He’d been there when Mum was there. She remembered him. According to her he was just as horrible in her day. He was one of those teachers who sorely missed corporal punishment. Inflicting it, not receiving it. He told them that every time someone talked in Assembly. Another important thing to note about Mr Paxton was his bad memory. He was always forgetting things – even things that had only just happened half an hour earlier – and he was very embarrassed about it. He seemed to think it would show weakness if he admitted his lapses so he never did. He always pretended to remember, even when it was obvious he didn’t. Luke knocked on his door.
Luke entered with a carrier bag full of litter. “I’ve done it sir,” he said.
“Done what?” Mr Paxton scowled.
“Picked up the litter.”
Mr Paxton had no idea what Luke was talking about but, assuming he must have forgotten, he faked understanding. “Ahh, good!” he said gruffly, “and I hope you’ve learned your lesson!”
“Yes sir,” said Luke.
“Alright, go on with you, get to class!”
“But sir, ….” said Luke with feigned timidity.
“What? What now?”
“Well, you said you’d write me a note for Mr Flanagan. To explain why I was late.”
“Ahh, yes, quite right, I did,” said Paxton, almost remembering it himself. “Quite right,” he said again as he began to scrawl a brief explanation for Luke’s form tutor. “And your name? Come on come on, a thousand kids in this school and they expect me to remember all their names!”
“Yes, of course,” he said, finishing the note. “Here you go – now get to class!”
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