Short story – read now below!
IF you have enjoyed Wicked Imp Irvine has several other e-book stories on the net, including The Phantom Sister, for 10-12 year olds.
IT was Saturday morning and the little town of Penrith was busy with shoppers. Elizabeth raced along the crowded pavement determined she would not stop for anything until she had reached her favourite window in the High Street.
There were lots of big shop windows, but none shone more beautifully than the narrow shining window at the George Hotel.
And now she reached it, all bright and happy, and everything seemed to be just as it should be and nothing strange happening.
Inside the hotel four ladies were sitting at a table drinking coffee. “Oh look,” smiled the oldest lady, peering out of the window, “that sweet little girl is here again!”
The ladies all looked.
Elizabeth did exactly what she always did. She stood outside on the pavement smiling cheerfully and waved madly with both hands.
“I do love her hair, all blondy and twiggy,” said the oldest lady. “And those purple boots, and her big pink glasses – a bit too big really, but different I suppose. Children do wear such delightful clothes these days. Mabel, you are the nearest, do wave back!”
Mabel did as she was told. It was the same every week.
“What a sweet little thing,” said Mabel.
But the sweet little thing wasn’t so sweet as all that. She wasn’t waving to the ladies at all. She could only just see them. In fact Elizabeth was waving and laughing at herself. The beautiful window reached down like a mirror and she was waving at her own reflection, which showed up wonderfully.
And she would have walked on feeling happy and cheery just like every Saturday because somehow that is what the window always did for her.
But not today.
At the bottom of the window, almost hidden in among the ladies’ feet, something blinked and glared. Because of the reflection Elizabeth thought it was a tiny dog, then she realised that it wasn’t, it had a thin golden face and two bulging eyes.
It glared at her for what seemed like a very long time, then in a flash it vanished.
Well, that’s funny, she thought; well, not exactly funny, but certainly Very Peculiar. Whatever it was it had lots of wrinkles.
The ladies were looking puzzled as she continued to stare. But she moved on, passing the hotel’s double glass doors.
Something golden whizzed across.
It was there again! It was certainly not a dog! It had jumped from one window to the next, vanishing yet again, a long straggly thing with claws for feet.
Elizabeth trembled. How ever had it done that? Elizabeth trembled. How ever had it done that? She glanced along at a string of shops, just in case. And yes, there it was! It was in the window of an ironmonger’s. It had done another jump.
Elizabeth was not exactly frightened. She knew in fact she was really quite brave, but it was a bit creepy.
She moved up very close.
“Go away!” she shouted fiercely.
A long thin arm shot out of the glass like a wiry piece of rope. It grabbed at her face. In a moment her heavy pink glasses were snatched off her nose and the creature shot back into the window.
Elizabeth was shocked and then she was furious. “Give them back at once!” she yelled. ‘You’re a wicked imp! Give them back!” Not pausing to think that it might be dangerous she lunged at the half-seen figure and to her surprise she plunged through the glass almost as if it were liquid.
She landed with a crash on the shop floor expecting bits of glass to tumble all around her. But no, the window was still whole, quite unbroken!
She gulped and stared round anxiously. What was happening? And where had the thing gone? And where were her glasses? It was a struggle, but she could just about see.
The shop was empty. There was not even a shop assistant. But there were lots of hiding places. It was full of buckets and shovels, shiny ladders, pickaxes, boxes of nails and garden tools.
Elizabeth went past a counter and stumbled over a lump.
“Ouch!” protested a deep voice. “Do you mind!”
It was a bucket.
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry, did I kick you?” said Elizabeth.
“Kick me? No, no, I’ve always had a dent in my nose!”
“I’m looking for a yellowy golden face,” Elizabeth said by way of explanation.
“Doesn’t sound like me,” said the bucket mournfully.
“It’s stolen my glasses.”
“Oh has it? Well something funny ran along a shelf.”
Elizabeth was dismayed. The shop was gloomy and full of shelves. She peered at them all. She opened cupboards and drawers. She looked behind the counter.
“Just wait till I get you!” she shouted.
Some things were definitely turning out really funny today.
And some things were turning out nastily.
Two steel mousetraps began to leap across the floor, glittering and snapping sharply each time they landed. Elizabeth took one look, grabbed a broom and knocked them flying.
“Put me down,” cried the startled broom. “You’re hurting!”
Elizabeth did so at once, very surprised. “Help! I didn’t know brooms could talk.”
“Hah! Typical. Everything talks if it wants to,” said the broom scornfully. “People simply don’t listen. I’ve known brooms who could talk and sing and dance if only they had been given a proper chance and furthermore it makes my bristles stand up when . . .”
“Thank you,” said Elizabeth quickly. “Very interesting. I am sure you are right.”
The snapping mousetraps had picked themselves up and were advancing again. Hastily Elizabeth dropped a plastic tub over them and slid back out through the window.
Help, that’s twice I’ve done that, she told herself. Everything was behaving strangely this morning.
And then she remembered why she been in the shop. She still hadn’t got her glasses. Dare she go back?
She might have tried but a long string of pots and pans came marching out through the door, blocking the way. Talking noisily they set off up the street taking her along with them. Shoppers stared, astonished as the column struggled to get through all the Saturday morning legs. Truthfully not many people had heard any pots and pans chatting as loudly as this before, not recently anyway.
The strange procession did not get far. A man paused to look at the advancing column, then he grabbed up a kettle. It yelled loudly as he pushed it down inside his coat. Other shoppers goggled. Then everyone started doing the same, cramming yelling pans into shopping bags. In no time at all the procession of marching pots and pans vanished.
I don’t think they should have done that, thought Elizabeth, but really she was thinking more about losing her glasses than all the marching pans. Her glasses might be old but they were better than having to squint all the time.
She hurried along the pavement, peering in all the windows. She did not halt until she reached the music shop, and yes! There it was, inside, dancing up and down. What was more, it was wearing her glasses!
How dare it! She plunged through the glass without so much as a crackle or crunch or anything. The shop was full of noise. Chellos and violins were twinging and twanging. Drums were beating exciting tattoos. A piano was pouring out cascades of notes. Such a din! The instruments were having a great time.
But Elizabeth wasn’t.
Halfway along the shop the golden-faced imp was crouching on a counter still wearing her glasses. Seeing her coming it leapt up onto a cupboard.
“Don’t think you’re going to get away!” she yelled. “I’ll soon catch you!”
The imp gave a shrill laugh and vanished.
Elizabeth woofed up her hair in exasperation.
The sound of clunky footsteps came from behind. She was surprised to see the shiny bucket.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded. “You’re in the wrong shop.”
The bucket seemed to wrinkle. “I just sort of came with you.”
Elizabeth did not think that that was right. “Well you can’t, can you? You belong in the ironmonger’s.”
Few would ever think a bucket could look miserable, but the bucket did.
“Couldn’t I stay a bit? I do like music.”
Before Elizabeth could think of a suitable answer a drumstick rushed up, looking very important.
“Are you a drum?” the drumstick demanded, waving up and down.
The bucket turned pale.
“Er, well, no, that is . . .”
“Splendid! We’re forming a drum quartet.
“You know, four players. But we’re short of a good drum.”
The bucket blinked. “Really, I don’t think I’m a drum.”
“You look like a drum to me,” said the drumstick, waving madly. “Turn over and I’ll try you.”
The drumstick leaned back as the bucket turned itself upside down.
“Super!” declared the drumstick. “You’re a Bucket Drum. Come on at once! We’re rehearsing behind the hotel.”
Well, thought Elizabeth. That’s a funny one.
“Goodbye,” said the bucket, no longer miserable. It blinked happily. “Oh, that thing, at the ironmonger’s – it was hiding in the cash drawer.”
It was the one place Elizabeth hadn’t looked.
“This is great,” the drumstick was telling the bucket as they hurried off. “You must meet the others, we’ve two dustbins and a super bath tub.”
And they had gone.
Elizabeth turned back to the window in time to catch a golden flicker. It had been behind her all along! Well it wasn’t going to get away. Without thinking how she did it she seemed to fold through the glass and land back in the street.
She peered along a line of shops, and there it was, in a hairdresser’s. No! How dare it! it was twirling her glasses round and round.
Very annoyed, she charged in and was swallowed by the glass. She took no more than two steps. Swift as anything, a humming hair drier grabbed her and plonked her down in a chair.
“Sit here, madam. You’re just in time.”
A pair of shiny scissors rushed up.
“Morning madam, hair-chop? Shampoo?”
“Certainly not!” said Elizabeth. “Let me out!”
She struggled to stand up but found that the chair’s arms had taken hold of her.
“Toes pierced? Earwigs removed?”
“I don’t want anything! Let me go.”
The scissors began hacking at her hair.
“Stop! You’re hurting.”
“Nonsense! Stop wriggling!” ordered the scissors as lumps of Elizabeth’s hair began to tumble to the floor. “If you misbehave I’ll cut it all off!”
Elizabeth quickly behaved.
The scissors worked swiftly. Then a mirror stood itself up and showed her the result.
“Oh,” said Elizabeth. Her twiggy hair had been changed into a short fuzzy cut.
“Lovely,” said the scissors admiringly. Elizabeth was surprised for she could only agree that it was. But she still had to go.
“That’s twenty-six pounds,” ordered the scissors.
Elizabeth gulped. “H-how much?”
“Special cut-price,” said the scissors. It smirked.
“That’s a terrible joke,” said Elizabeth. She thought swiftly.” I need to open my purse,” she said, and the chair let go of her.
She looked in her purse. She knew already what was there. “I’ve only got 20p.”
“What!” snapped the scissors. “Then you can scrub the floor, at once!”
“Certainly not!” said Elizabeth.
“And empty all the hairbins.”
“I won’t! I didn’t even ask for a haircut!”
She jumped up and hopped out through the window back into the busy street. Yells sounded as she ran, but no one caught her and she came to a breathless halt outside a cake shop.
It was the last shop in the row. Her eyes were beginning to hurt. She definitely needed to find her glasses.
For some reason the cake shop window was unlike other windows, it had heavy wire mesh embedded in the glass. Inside the shop loomed a giant wedding cake, which it was guarding, so perhaps that was why the window was so strong.
Cautiously Elizabeth went in by the door.
A sweet smell of raspberry jam and cream met her. Three plump women in white overalls were rushing about with trays of cream buns. Load after load was being stacked up onto a counter where they rose higher and higher until they stood like a wobbly mountain.
Indignant squeaks filled the shop. Elizabeth stared in surprise, looking for mice. But not a mouse was in sight. Then she realised it was the buns. As the buns landed on the counter they squeaked.
She had never heard of squeaking buns before.
“Are the buns for sale?” she inquired politely; of course remembering she had only 20p.
A red-faced baker plonked nineteen more buns on top of the pile. A chorus of protesting squeaks filled the shop right up to the ceiling.
“For sale?” he yelled. “Of course they are!” he yelled.
He was a very noisy baker.
“Our squeaky buns are famous!”
Elizabeth nearly said that some of his buns were not only famous but were being squashed flat, but she was cut short as the baker turned and screamed at the wedding cake.
“Get out!” he yelled.
The dumpy assistants waved their arms madly.
“Get out, get out!” they yelled.
Elizabeth wondered whatever the cake had done to be shouted at, but it wasn’t the cake that was in trouble. As cheeky as anything it was the imp. It was sitting on top of the cake, prodding a lanky finger down into the icing.
Still yelling, the baker hurled a cream bun.
It hit a wall and squeaked angrily.
Screaming and waving the excited women joined in.
Splat! Splat! Splat!
Flying squeaking buns filled the shop.
The imp was too fast. Laughing shrilly, it zig-zagged clear.
But now it made its first mistake. Waving its wiry arms it circled the counter and zoomed out through the window.
Except it didn’t.
A frightening crash sounded. The imp splattered into the glass but this time it did not zoom through. For a moment it stayed suspended, stopped by the wire mesh, then everything tumbled to the ground in fragments.
Elizabeth was horrified. She rushed outside. Wire and glass lay scattered on the pavement and mixed up in everything were lots of coloured pieces. Only seconds ago they had been the little imp!
She peered hard at the mess wishing desperately she had her spectacles. One small piece of glass shone brighter than all the rest. It sparkled urgently as if it were struggling to catch the light. Elizabeth was surprised. It almost seemed to be winking.
A large tear ran off the glass onto the ground.
“Oh, you poor thing.”
Suddenly she was sorry for the creature. She forgot all about her glasses. She just had to do something.
Help was on its way. The sound of drumming came along the street. A little line of musicians came marching, led by an upside down bucket.
Elizabeth’s face shone.
“You are just in time,” she told the drums. “It’s the imp.”
In a moment she had it organised. A dustbin hurried off and brought the broom and shovel, the bath stood across the path and prevented shoppers’ legs getting in the way, and the broom knew instantly what to do, brushing up all the fragments and tipping them into the bucket.
“You are brilliant!” cried Elizabeth excitedly
“Yes, I am, rather,” said the broom.
The bucket sagged on its little legs, full of glass fragments.
“Do you think you can manage to walk a bit?” Elizabeth asked.
“Phew, yearse, sort of.”
Elisabeth needed somewhere flat. She could think of one safe place, the paved yard behind the George Hotel.
It seemed a long way back along the High Street. She held the little bucket by its handle as it puffed along to encouraging cries of “Bucky, don’t trip!” and “Keep it up, Bucky!”
At last they turned into the yard and found a flat space between two parked cars. The bucket tipped out the glass.
I hope this works, thought Elizabeth.
What a mess! There were hundreds of fragments, but only a few were golden. Squinting hard, she picked out the coloured pieces one by one and set them on the ground beside her. She knew she was good at jigsaws and she pretended that that is what she was doing.
In this way little by little she began to rebuild the shattered imp until at last only one piece was needed. It was still all broken up, but it was looking good. Now she must try and get some glue and see if she could fix it.
Feeling pleased, she dropped the imp’s nose into place.
The glass snapped together.
Elizabeth fell back in surprise. The imp was whole again! For a second it lay on the ground then it shot up into a car window.
“Hurrah!” yelled the drummers. “Hurrah!”
Astonished, Elizabeth waited for the imp to vanish.
But it didn’t. The imp’s little face seemed to hover uncertainly, then a long gangling arm came out like a wiry piece of rope and Elizabeth’s glasses suddenly were back on her nose, just like that!
“Oh, thank you,” cried Elizabeth, delighted. “How very kind of you. I really was missing them.”
There was a quick blink, a flicker of a smile lit the little golden face and then the car window was empty.
Elizabeth waved goodbye with both hands at once and from somewhere far away came a trickle of laughter, then the noise of the town traffic drowned it out and she gave a little sigh, guessing she would probably never see the little imp again.
She took off her glasses to give them a wipe.
“Oh, look!” cried all the drummers. “Look! Look! Look!”
Elizabeth’s face lit in surprise. The frames of her glasses were no longer a funny old lumpy pink. Magically they had turned into a beautifully shaped dark green pair with a thin golden line running through it, quite the nicest one could ever hope to wear.
“How kind!” she cried. “Thank you, oh thank you.”
They really were beautiful. She put them back on and everything was as clear as anything. Smiling cheerfully, she left the yard and set off for home to the sound of drummers wildly drumming. How busy everything was. How funny everything had been. How she loved Saturday mornings.
© Irvine Hunt, 2015