Jack Saves The Day

A children’s story with a central character who is more than a little autobiographical!

Jack was seriously annoyed. His friend Carly had texted last night to say she’d be playing ‘Alien Attacker 3’ today and he could go online to join in. Instead, his mother had announced she had to help mind the shop and that he needed to come with her. It wasn’t even their shop; it was his Aunty Jane’s, but his mum had promised to look after it while Aunty Jane went away for a long weekend.

Why he needed to be there was a mystery. He’d be sitting around all day with nothing to do but check the sell-by-dates on the tins while Carly zapped Martians. He’d explained this to his mum, but apparently she didn’t trust him to stay out of trouble at home. She’d gone on and on about that time last week when he’d tried to wash his trainers and had filled the kitchen with foam. That was just unfair; how was he to know you weren’t supposed to use the whole box of soap powder?   

So here he was, sitting behind the counter in Aunty Jane’s newsagent and mini-mart, reading a magazine called ‘Girls Love Ponies!’ (all the others were wrapped in plastic) and wondering if his mum would let him have a slushy drink from the machine. He was just about to ask when he saw something moving past the shop window. It was a car; their car, on the back of a flatbed truck marked ‘Illegal Parking Control’. 

“Mum,” said Jack, but his mum was already flinging open the door and screeching at the disappearing truck.

When she returned, she was red in the face and trying to catch her breath.

“That swine!” she wheezed, “He knew I was chasing him and he didn’t even slow down. And what’s he doing towing the car away? I’ve parked outside the pet shop for years and I’ve never had any problems before!  Listen, I’ve got to go to the depot before 5 o’clock and pay a fine or they’ll start turning our car into baked bean cans. I’ll be gone for about half an hour so lock up the shop and don’t do anything daft!”

Jack’s mum grabbed her bag and bustled through the shop door. For a moment he just sat in the silent shop until he remembered he was supposed to lock the door. Before he could get there, the bell rang and a man staggering under the weight of a large parcel came in.

“Excuse me, is this number 56?” the man said, setting the package down on the floor.

Jack wasn’t sure, but it sounded right, so he confidently replied, “Yes” and signed the piece of paper that he was given. He had been practising his signature at home and this one said, Jack ‘Ironfist’ Wallace, Galactic Hero. The delivery driver raised an eyebrow and left through the door, which Jack locked after him. Had he been looking, Jack might have noticed the numbers 66 on the outside.

It then occurred to Jack that he had unrestricted access to a slushy machine and that somewhere in the back of the shop there was probably a computer belonging to Aunt Jane. Maybe today wasn’t going to be so bad.

The parcel was sitting in front of the slushy machine, so Jack lifted it out of the way. As he raised it he saw holes around the top and writing in large red letters: ‘LIVE CONTENTS- OPEN IMMEDIATELY ONCE DELIVERED’. Jack felt the slightest niggling doubt, but remembering that you should always follow instructions, he started to tear away the brown paper and open the box within.

Inside, sitting in on a bed of wood shavings was a snake. It was orange with brown markings, curled up in a circle and looking very sleepy. Jack took a little pride in the fact that he knew exactly what it was, a corn snake. He’d spent years trying to persuade his mum that snakes weren’t all terrifying killers (and that they made good pets) and in the process he’d built up a fairly good knowledge of which species were which. But even after he’d changed his mum’s computer screensaver to a picture of a king cobra and put a rubber snake under her pillow to help her get used to the idea; she still refused to consider getting one.

He realised straight away what had happened, the delivery driver should have taken the parcel to the pet shop, but he couldn’t see any harm in playing with the snake before he took it over there. Placing the box on the shop counter, Jack finally went to get his slushy and after a moment’s deliberation, opted for a blue and red mix. He took a satisfied slurp and turned back to meet his new slithering friend. The box was empty. The wood shavings held nothing but a shallow coiled imprint. The box was empty!

Jack picked up the box and looked underneath – no snake. He scrabbled through the chewing gum display – no snake. He opened the shop till and looked inside – £3.57 in loose change – no snake.     

In a frenzy of panic, Jack started to tip out the bags of crisps from their boxes, pull the stationery from its racks and knock over the neat stacks of washing powder. In no time at all, it looked like a group of teenage rhinoceroses had been holding a party in there. It was chaos, but of the snake, there was no sign. Jack’s shoulders slumped and he sat down on the floor with a groan. A pack of crisps popped under his bottom. 

He was just wondering if he could convince his mum the shop had been robbed when he felt something glide over his legs into the warmth of his lap. Jack looked down and there was the corn snake, innocently nestled on his legs. There was no time to waste, Mum could be back any minute – he could still save the day! Placing the snake carefully back in its box (and weighing the top down with can of baked beans) Jack flung himself round the shop, desperately returning items to the proper place. It was exhausting work, but he had just managed to sweep up the crisps from the floor when he heard a knock at the door. It was Mum.

She was looking rather smug as she waved the car keys in front of her. “I got it back, and I didn’t have to pay the fine! Those cowboys tried to say I’d parked on a double yellow line, but I told them..” she paused for breath and noticed the large box standing on the counter with a baked bean tin on the top.

“Delivery for the pet shop,” said Jack quickly, “I’ll just take it round, now you’re back.” And he hurried out of the door before his mum could ask any more questions. Walking up the street, he smiled to himself at the thought of how close he’d come to disaster.

The man in the pet shop was relieved to see what Jack was carrying and didn’t seem to mind the fact the box had been opened.

“I was starting to worry,” he said, pulling apart the packaging. He carefully pulled out the snake that had given Jack so much trouble. “That’s funny,” he said groping through the wood shavings with his other hand. “There were supposed to be two in here.”

From about 5 doors down, Jack and the confused pet shop owner heard a scream.

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