Part 5: The Only Girl in School

Whatever lay ahead seemed perfectly plain and even a little dull to Frankie. The field stretched out before her and Spike, the familiar sounds of children shouting: “Offside! It’s not fair! I want to be in goal!” were all but a memory from the first sunshine of a promising March. This was the venue of the annual sports days, a time of excitement, fun and growing competitiveness for the children. For the staff, it was a time of head counting, lifting reception children up and down for the sack race and forgetting Mr Gill’s military operational plans within the first five minutes, much to the despair of the PE leader.

Frankie felt her lip wobble just at the possibility of this event not happening in June. “Never mind the Olympics, they had better not cancel the bean bag throwing – I owned that last year!” she thought defiantly. As she continued to ponder the end of the long jump and the missed opportunities for her class to sell their home made lemonade, she didn’t notice the little fur ball tumbling across the green like a Tasmanian Devil, squealing in delight.

“This – is – epic!” came the high pitched exclamation, gradually fading as he rolled further and further from Frankie’s side. “Have we gone through a wardrobe door? Are we in Narnia? No – no ice, no snow, no queen….. Aha! The Midnight Garden – it must be!”

By now, Frankie could barely make out his rapidly fired words, but she had heard enough to add to her astonishment at her freshly created dog. He was a literary genius! A dog that could talk, speak a little French and now apparently engage in book talk. Before she could fully process all the revelations, each one stranger than the last, Spike was back by her feet, panting feverishly and showing no signs of controlling his excitement. “Come on Frankie! There’s so much to do out here – this could not be more perfect!”
Frankie thought that the game was up now and Spike had truly lost his mind. It was a field. A big field, granted, with freshly mown grass and a few white lines started in earnest by Mr Evans before the lockdown. What was Spike seeing that she just couldn’t? “I’m sorry my little furry friend, there’s nothing to do and nothing to see! Except grass. A lot of grass….and … and a ball. Yes over there. That must have been where it ended up after Harry went into free kick overdrive last week on the playground.”

“I don’t think you’re getting it yet Frankie”, came the reply in a voice which implored his friend to take this a bit more seriously. “The possibilities are endless and we haven’t even begun…”
Before Frankie had a chance to argue, which she most certainly was about to do, Spike met her open mouth with a whisper: “sshhh – come with me.”
Reluctantly, Frankie followed, but just to demonstrate that she really was not one bit happy, she folded her arms and stomped. Stomp, stomp, stomp. “ Hmmm…he hasn’t noticed.” Bigger stomp, bigger stomp, bigger stomp. Just when she thought that she might actually do serious damage to her ankles, the ground beneath her feet dipped, taking the temper out of her trainers, and causing her knees to buckle. Frankie instinctively threw her arms out to the side to steady herself, and looking down to see what mole hole had caused her to lose balance, she felt herself swaying and spinning, grabbing at empty air and letting out a loud continuous squeal of fright.

The last question Frankie remembered posing to no one in particular and before her world was still again, was a shrill plea: “WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME?” The last sight she saw was Spike, spinning around her head, his small round body lifted from the ground as easily as Autumn leaves in a storm. She closed her eyes tightly to shut out her fear and to shield them from the intensely bright light which had cut through the sky and now dazzled and danced all around her. Helplessly, she felt her body twist and spiral at the mercy of the mysterious force – neither a warm nor a cold wind, and in fact, if Frankie was not mistaken, a force which felt like gigantic pair of hands, rolling her round like a cat with a prized toy. Dizziness overcame her and as her voice cried out for the world to stop turning, she knew that whatever this was had absolutely no intention of meeting her demands. She felt her body lift higher and higher from the safety of the field, and even if she could face opening her eyes to the blinding light, she knew she couldn’t face seeing the earth disappear from under her feet. Instead she squeezed them shut, tighter still, and as the world grew darker, her mind drifted away from consciousness.

And then all was still. Frankie tentatively opened her eyes and found the blueness of the sky broken only by a wisp of cloud. That could only mean that unless the world had turned upside down, she was flat on her back. If her memory served her well, she had definitely been standing, if quite unsteadily the last time she looked. It was tempting to stay exactly where she was. The absence of any sound at all was strangely comforting and for a moment, Frankie thought she would like to lie there forever.
It was not to be.

A slight nudge at her arm turned into an urgent and rather irritating call for her to get to her feet, accompanied by a familiar voice. “What did I tell you Frankie? Didn’t I tell you this was perfect? Didn’t I say we would have an adventure?”

Her last glimpse of Spike had been a whirling ball of black fur, spinning as uncontrollably as she was, and seeming just as put out by the whole business. Had that been minutes or days ago? The dog seemed no worse for his ordeal and actually seemed to have grown in both size and confidence. Just as Frankie was wondering whether the increased size was down to a fluffiness replacing his spikes of painted fur, as if he had been tumble dried with some miraculous fabric softener, her musing was interrupted by the strangest sights now coming into view as she stood up. The grass was still green: tick. The sky was still blue: double tick. But everything that lay before her, everything and everybody in her line of vision was different. Not different in the sense that familiar things had changed, or what was not there before was now in front her, but quite literally different in the most extraordinary way. Frankie instantly knew that she had never, and would never, see anything like this again, for as long as she lived.

To be continued…

Mrs Parton – The Girl Who Speaks Bear

‘The Girl Who Speaks Bear’ by Sophie Anderson.

A magical adventure about a girl trying to discover who she is and where she’s meant to be, making amazing new friends and finding out about the magic of the Snow Forest where she lives.

I couldn’t put this book down – great storytelling 🙂

Thanks Miss Williams for introducing a new author to me!

I’ve also read ‘The House With Chicken Legs’ by Sophie Anderson – a bit different and strange to start with but persevered and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Part 4: The Only Girl in School

Everything seemed to stand still, and the singing infants faded far into the background. Frankie turned her head slowly, and out of the corner of her eye, glimpsed the merest flash of movement. Something had darted towards the year five doorway. “Good,” thought Frankie, “whatever it is, it won’t be able to get any further.”

With baby steps, Frankie began to move up the corridor, her heart ready to confront the ‘thing’ but her head telling her to run to the safety of the adults. “Breathe,” she said out loud, surprising herself with the steadiness of her voice. Whatever this was, it certainly broke her routine, and that could only be a good thing. Her steps grew more confident and jutting out her chin as she turned the corner, she called out: “Right, whoever you are, you nearly gave me a…..whooooahhhh!”

Frankie jumped back, almost falling onto the mountain of cereal boxes and juice cartons which had been dumped yesterday, rather unceremoniously, outside the front office. There, crouching in the corner of Mrs Calbreath’s classroom door was a small black creature, curled into a frightened ball of spikey fur and staring back at Frankie with close set uneven eyes. “ Um….hello…er…Spike?” Frankie croaked by way of introduction. With that she coughed, having surprised herself at her usual strong vocal cords letting her down at such a key moment.

Suddenly there was a rumble of action coming from the other end of the corridor. Looking to her left, Frankie saw the unmistakable form of Miss Coghlan with what looked like a PE shirt wrapped round her head, holding out an ear thermometer as she gradually moved towards her. “Easy now Frankie – stay just where you are. Cover your mouth with your sleeve and when I count to three, slowly enter the medical room, step into the black bin liner on the medical bed and…

“Miss Coghlan, I’m fine!” Frankie interrupted. “I think some of that rainbow glitter caught the back of my throat, that’s all. Now you just go back to the boys and I’ll be more careful next time.”

Frankie thought that she detected a tear of relief in Miss Coghlan’s left eye, despite the distance between the two of them. The teacher’s right eye was obscured by one sleeve of the t shirt which had obviously been grabbed in a hurry. “If that’s a year six shirt, Miss will have more to worry about than catching that virus,” thought Frankie, chuckling to herself.
“Fine, good, lovely. You take care now Frankie. We’re just going to wash the Lego in Dettol now, no rush to come back.” Miss Coghlan disappeared as quickly as she had emerged, leaving Frankie alone again…..except for a most peculiar looking dog.

“That was close!” Frankie exclaimed, her voice back to normal, if perhaps a little too bold for Spike, who by now had started to stretch his spindly limbs tentatively, only to curl back up again.

“ Frankie, for goodness sake, could you just tone it down a bit? I’m having a spot of bother getting used to all this. One minute I’m staring up at one very wonky rainbow and the next I’m trying to avoid whatever smell that is coming from those toilets! I mean does anyone actually clean up round here. Well? Do they? Frankie?”
But Frankie was almost out of earshot, finding herself lying on top of the now crushed boxes of sugar free cornflakes, staring at the ceiling and wondering how she got there. As she struggled to get back on her feet, she was aware of a furry face appearing over the toppled boxes, a sight which quickened her movements as she sprang into a sitting position, her back against the stock cupboard door.

“Are you all right Frankie? That was quite a tumble. You want to be careful you don’t hurt yourself – I don’t fancy your chances with those two down there. Whatever phonics is, that’s all I’ve heard them talk about so far, and it doesn’t sound like it would be any use in a crisis!”
Frankie smiled, despite herself and whatever she was feeling. Fear? No, Spike was being very friendly and familiar and she hadn’t spotted any teeth yet in that animated mouth. Amazement? Well, yes, that was a very good word, along with shock, surprise and every other open- mouthed emotion that she could recall from the working wall.
“You talk. You’re a talking dog. You’re a talking dog who I painted yesterday. Sorry about the eyes. Wish I’d taken more care now, but then how was I to know that this would happen? What’s happened anyway? Am I going mad?”

Spike settled into a comfortable position, his spider-like legs folding under his rather too round body and his small toothless mouth shaping into an unmistakeable grin. A grinning, made up, oddly shaped dog who talked. Frankie decided that she had gone past mad and that no one, just no one, would ever believe a word of this.

“Not mad no. Just hopeful I suppose, and that’s what these rainbows are supposed to be about,” came the little dog’s thoughtful reply. “You hoped for something to stop you feeling lonely and bored, and, well, here I am!” Spike sighed, his comedy eyes trying to be serious for a moment but failing miserably. Frankie giggled, but then became very aware that despite his funny appearance, Spike actually and quite suddenly seemed a little forlorn.

“Can I stroke you? I mean, is that even possible?” Frankie asked, her hand cautiously extended and her eyes fixed on Spike’s pupils, rattling around comically in their plastic cases.
“I suppose so,” came the reply “no one ever has before. Well, no one has ever done anything to me. You drew me and here I am, all new and everything! And yet, I do feel I’ve been here before. What do you call it, déjà vu? Oh my goodness, I speak French! What’s French? Ca va bien? Oh there I go again!”

With that, Spike became quite frenzied and began to jump from left to right, panting frantically as he entered into a whole new word of self-discovery. “I can jump! I’m bilingual! I’m a bilingual dog! I can go this way and that way – look, see!”

Frankie laid both her hands on Spike’s back and slowly brought them up to cup his face to calm and quieten him. His fur was surprisingly soft and sleek, and Frankie inwardly congratulated herself on taking the time with those brush strokes. “Spike – there is so much to talk about, but not here. The teachers are bound to come running if they hear you and I really think that would finish them off.”

Spike settled himself into a sitting position, under the comforting guidance of Frankie’s hands. “Not to worry on that score, Frankie,” he replied in a quiet steady voice. “What I do know is that only you can see or hear me. I’m your adventure – no one else’s. Now I suggest we get started. Let’s get out of here while they’re sterilising everything in sight.”
And although Frankie was quite taken aback by Spike’s message, she quickly recovered enough to take his point. Within seconds, the Only Girl in School was tiptoeing down the corridor with the Only Talking Dog in the Universe, past year six, past the small boys and busy teachers, through the library and out of the door to whatever lay ahead.

To be continued…

Miss Edwards – The Murderer’s Ape

I am making my way through ‘The Murderer’s Ape’ by Jakob Wegelius.

After reading reviews of this book online, I just had to buy it! Both adults and children claim to love it.

I am over half way through (it’s a very big book) and I am very engrossed in the adventures of Sally Jones! It really is a wonderful book that takes you on the journey of a determined gorilla who is trying to prove the innocence of her best friend.

I can’t wait to finish the book and find out if Sally succeeds!


Miss Edwards

Part 3: The Only Girl in School

By week two, day two, Frankie wondered if there wasn’t a single sentence she hadn’t punctuated properly, or a number she hadn’t squared or divided. A month ago, she didn’t think it possible that she would miss her talk partner, regularly changed of course by Mr Johnston due to Frankie’s tendency to talk about anything other than the task he had set. Now she longed for the busy classroom, the laughter and even the strange smells, mostly, Frankie believed, coming from the male section of the classroom.

Of course, Miss Williams and Miss Coghlan talked kindly to both her and the smaller and bigger boys, but she could tell that it just wasn’t the same for the teachers either. They missed their friends too, she thought, and the cackling from the staffroom drowning out Mr Baddhan’s attempts to run his computing club felt like a thing of the past. It didn’t help that their snacks had run dry. Every morsel of chocolate, every crisp crumb and custard cream had been seized by Mrs Butterworth, who no one had not seen since mid – morning Monday when she had sprayed herself in sanitizer and disappeared with the last of the disposable gloves.

“She’ll be back,” thought Frankie “but not before I sort out some kind of adventure to get through this.”

But what form would that adventure take? With none of her friends available and the company offered by pre-school boys every morning being quite tiresome, the possibilities seemed limited. Jacob and Harry were okay, and could possibly be fellow adventurers, but they both seemed content to play basketball while there was no competition for the hoops. There was the forest school to explore, until she remembered that it was just an overgrown hedge with old CDs hung on every other branch by the cheery Mrs Hill, whose budget had run out two years ago, taking away her dream of log cabins and sensory trails. As for the so called woodland walk – well, that had long lost all of its magical possibilities since Mr Evans had cut it back it beyond recognition in an attempt to save the playground surface from buckling any further.

As Frankie’s mind emptied of ideas, her paintbrush worked harder at the formation of a small unicorn at the end of her rainbow. The legs were a bit short and the body a bit bluer than she had planned, (the white paint had still not been found), and her artistic skills were being challenged beyond her patience. Realising that the chance of this mythical creature giving her any hope of a break from the routine of the day, Frankie found herself swirling her brush in the black paint pot. Without giving it another thought, she painted over her unicorn with long dark strokes, turning it into a spikey ball with a jagged head and sharp ears. With the last touches of her brush, she finished off her creation with spindly, spidery legs and tail.

Frankie stood back, looked at her painting and sighed deeply. As she considered joining the boys on the smallest and least competitive basketball team in the universe, she was surprised to find Miss Williams looking over her shoulder, quietly smiling at Frankie’s efforts.
“It was a unicorn. Now it’s a … it’s a …sort of black pointy thing with a head and legs,” Frankie muttered weakly.

“Or…a little black dog,” suggested Miss Williams, and handed Frankie a plastic tub and a glue stick.

Frankie could hardly contain her excitement. No teacher had ever willingly parted with a glue stick since the 2017 national shortage, and that alone surprised and delighted her. But more than that, the tub contained the treasures of Christmas and Art Week combined. Tiny beads and sparkling sequins lay inside, wrapped in richly coloured ribbons and threads. And there at the bottom of the treasure trove were the perfect additions to her artistic creation: two perfectly silly googly eyes.

Excitedly, Frankie glued the eyes in place, one slightly higher than the other, and perhaps a little too close together. Then, as she stood back to check her work, she found herself more pleased than she could have ever imagined. “That’s a dog alright! His name will be …. Spike!”

She laughed, and turned to find Miss Williams and Miss Coghlan laughing along with her. Instantly, Frankie felt happier and less alone. That was until she realised that their attention was taken by the small boys, who were now tunelessly singing along to ‘Baby Shark’. At this point, she realised that she was truly on her own – too big to do something pointless but cute, and not quite old enough to hang out with teachers who had clearly reached the depths of their own boredom. Sadly, and going completely unnoticed, Frankie picked up her rainbow picture and quietly left the room.

“I’ll find somewhere to hang this, somewhere for other people to see it as a symbol of hope,” Frankie thought, scouring the walls for the best display area. As she spied the ‘Works of Art’ board, she lay the painting on the ground and started to clear a space, removing the inferior creations of the other children who weren’t even here in her time of need. “That should do it,” she said out loud, and bent down to retrieve her rainbow masterpiece.

Frankie stared at her picture. Something was wrong. Something so obvious but yet too unbelievable for Frankie to take in. The rainbow was there in all its glory, indigo blending with the wrong shade of blue, and the bright- not -quite – right yellow standing out a little too sharply. But where the little black dog now known as Spike had sat, bottom left, just below the dodgy shade of violet, there was the unmistakable form of her blue unicorn, with its short legs and crooked horn.

“Um…but…wait a moment….” she spluttered, turning the picture over in a pointless attempt to locate the missing dog. By now, her face was an open-mouthed cartoon, looking left and right and up and down, vainly hoping to find that she had somehow picked up the wrong picture. Then, as irritation and plain annoyance took over, she stomped back towards the classroom along the corridor that had seen her happily cartwheeling less than a week ago.

Frankie was almost at the classroom door, preparing to confront her trickster teachers, when something caused her to stop dead in her tracks.

Someone or something was behind her. She felt warm breath hit the back of her legs and heard the unmistakable sound of her name being repeated in an unrecognisable voice…

To be continued…