Chapter 3 – The Chair and the stick

Granny Annie opened her eyes and all she could see was the blue sky and the green leaves of the Strawberry Tree above her head. She began to sit up making that noise which all older people seem to make when they try any sort of movement requiring the use of their backs. It’s a cross between an ooo-argh and a hissss, and of course they have to hold their back too, for good measure. So Granny sat up, holding her back and making that noise. As she started to look around, her eyes seemed to swivel as she noticed a smiling Joey and Ben in front of her. She smiled, said “Oh no, it’s true, the sun and lockdown have got to me,” and then quickly screwed her eyes up shut. She began to open her eyes again slowly, one then the other. “Hi Granny!” the boys said in unison. Granny for the second time in this story started to gasp, her mouth opening and closing like a cod. Then it started – a Granny tirade of questions. “What are you doing here? You shouldn’t be here because it’s lockdown. What would Boris-oojamaflip say? I know he told us we had to stay at home, but not if we had to go to work, and only if we could beam down without using public transport. Or was that last week? Anyway…What will your mum and dad say? What would Grandad say? Oh Grandad where are you?”

By the time Granny had finished her outpouring Ben and Joey were sitting munching on biscuits, the red biscuit barrel with the yellow pattern sitting on the patio table in front of them. Both boys knew exactly where the biscuit barrel lived in that house. Joey finished his last bite, before reaching for the next biscuit and saying “Well Granny, you invited us!” Granny huffed loudly, “Huff, I did no such thing!”

Joey smiled “Well Granny that’s not strictly true. Do you remember on our last day here, before lockdown, when we were all playing with lego? Remember first I left, then Ben left to go to the loo?” Granny nodded. She was listening but had that face on which said ‘I’m not yet quite convinced’. “We didn’t have a wee, we buried lego pieces in the garden” Ben added, giggling loudly “and they were magicked!” Joey pointed his biscuit towards Ben “Exactly! So when you put the two pieces together Granny, you invited us here…to help you with something.” Granny now had the look on her face that said ‘almost convinced’. Joey waited for the ‘but’ that often came next. “But what about the third piece?” she declared brandishing the black lego 8-er. Joey shook his head, “There wasn’t a third piece Granny, just a yellow one for me, and a white one for Ben.” Granny still didn’t look like she quite believed that the boys had learned magic, but she smiled as she placed the black lego piece that Grandad had given her into her pocket. “Well, you are here now. Let me tell you what has happened, but first…” She reached out her arms to hug them as she told them what had been happening in the garden, knowing that the magic kept them safe.

Granny Annie had finished telling the boys about what had happened earlier in the day. They all looked thoughtful. “It’s no good, I just don’t know what to do.” sighed Granny. Joey looked at her. “Sometimes it’s good to think about things you’ve been doing before, to remind yourself of anything important. You know, retrace your steps”. Ben jumped up nodding, grabbing Granny’s hand “Come on Granny, let’s go!” So the three of them had a tour of the garden. They had now been all around and looked at flowers, bushes, and lots of empty soil. Ben noticed something towards the bottom near the Apple tree “What’s that?” Granny looked to where Ben was pointing. “Oh that’s a chair that Grandad was making. It’s not quite finished. I don’t think that’s what we are after.” “Well Granny, I think Ben might be right. Let’s go. What is it you always say?” He knew full well that Granny always had a saying or a song lyric. “Never leave a stone unturned!” she stated. Joey wasn’t quite sure what she meant but led the way towards the chair whilst she seemed pleased with herself.

The chair was slightly wacky, something that summed up Granny and Grandad’s house and garden nicely. It seemed oversized, made of larger tree branches for the legs, and woven with smaller branches to form a seat. Well, actually it looked more like a boat than a seat. On the arms there were two knobs both with a hole in the middle, one on each side of the chair, one light brown and one a deep red-brown, and both incredibly shiny. “See, I told you. Not finished” declared Granny plonking herself down on a step. “No, but it’s pretty cool” said Joey. He plonked himself on the Wacky Chair. It was a large chair. “What now?” said Ben sitting himself down next to Joey. Joey looked at Ben. That was strange Ben seemed further away than expected. “Did Grandad make anything else in the garden recently?” asked Joey still puzzling how the Wacky Chair seemed to have grown. “Well just one thing. I’ll get it” Granny said as she made her way up the garden. When she returned she was carrying what looked to Joey like a spear. It seemed to blend into the shadows whenever she passed through them.

“When we were cutting down brambles and digging up roots, Grandad noticed this piece of wood. He decided it looked a bit like a raven and that it would make a nice stick top. This is it.” She held out a long piece of wood and on the top the shiny black head of a wooden raven. Grandad must have polished it, because it was shiny black, with some ridges like feathers, and on the top of the head he had placed a feather. “The Raven Stick” declared Granny. As she handed the stick to Joey to see, the Wacky Chair seemed to give a little jump and then another. “Well, that’s weird” said Granny overbalancing and falling into the chair. Joey was waiting to be squished up by a rather cuddly Granny joining he and Ben in the chair. However, no, she seemed to have fitted in with plenty of room – that was impossible. The Wacky Chair seemed to have stretched. It seemed to jump every so often, but nothing else seemed to be happening. Ben was kneeling on the chair next to one of the shiny knobs and began to trace his fingers over the light brown one. Tiny blue sparks bounced off his fingers. “That looks fun” laughed Joey and moved to touch the red-brown knob on the the arm of the chair. He giggled as the blue sparks bounced from his fingers. As he and Ben laughed the chair seemed to react by bouncing up and down a bit more. “Something seems to be happening. We need to think of other things from your day Granny.” “Ummm…Robin” she remembered. Robin flew down from the Apple Tree where he had been watching these events. He looked at Granny Annie and sang her a little song, depositing a little poo on her back as he flew onto the chair behind her. “That’s a pretty song Granny” said Joey but to Granny it sounded like Robin was saying “Time, time. About blinkin’ time!” Ben meantime was giggling and pointing at Granny’s back and nudging Joey.

“This doesn’t seem to be enough” declared Joey looking out at the garden. The Wacky Chair had been hopping about for the last 5 minutes like a fairground ride. The blue sparks from the knobs on the chair were tickling the boys making them laugh. The Raven stick placed on the back of the chair was jiggling about. The Robin was singing loudly. It was chaos. Mim the tortoise-shell cat appeared having been awoken by the commotion. She yawned and started to stretch – her bottom in the air. Ben held out one hand to her (the other was busy being tickled). He made kissing noises to try and call her to him, and at the same time rubbed his fingers together. People kept saying that Mim was getting incredibly podgy. Granny and Grandad couldn’t understand it. They were only giving her the usual meals, yet it looked like she had been eating twice as much. Anyway, Mim thought they were very rude to comment on an old lady’s weight – she decided to ignore Ben’s invitation and turned her back on them all to have a wash instead.

Granny decided that it was time to come clean. “ummm, I have a confession to make” she said, having to raise her voice to be heard over the giggling, tweeting and jiggling. “It was me that buried the Black piece of lego in the garden”. Everything stopped for a moment and there was silence as Granny held out the black piece of Lego which had been in her pocket. ‘Held out’ wasn’t quite accurate, actually it was hovering above her hand “And you aren’t the only ones who can do magic!” she added triumphantly.

With that two things happened at the same time. Mim decided she would not be left behind and jumped perfectly, landing with a flop into Ben’s lap, and with a loud thunder-clap the chair exploded into a sea of blue sparks.

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