Sorry to bombard you but you made a rod for your own backs by being so helpful with my last efforts. This is my first proper attempt at editing and I want to know if I'm heading in the right direction before I go too much further. It's a smidgen over 3000 words, don't feel obliged to read it all. Thanks in advance for your comments.
Chapter one: Mrs Macaroon
Mrs Macaroon’s guest house was a tall, thin building with stone steps down to the basement and up to the front door. Inside was a long steep wooden staircase leading up to the bedrooms. Dad muttered something about the only things steeper than the stairs being the prices but I reckon nothing in the world was steeper except maybe Mount Everest. I didn’t count them all but I reckon there were a googol. It was a last minute decision to come to Bodbury-on-Sea and the only vacant room was in Mrs Macaroon’s guest house.
“Not cheap,” Dad had said as he looked at the brochure, “but it is a ‘beautiful period building with a sea view’, let’s book it.”
So here we were lugging our cases up the googol stairs to our room on the third floor.
Mrs Macaroon looked as unlike a macaroon as it was possible to look. She was tall and thin and pointy and grey. Not just grey haired, but grey. Her leathery skin looked grey, her hair was grey, her eyes were grey, her teeth were grey and her flannel dress was grey.
She didn’t smile as Dad introduced himself.
“You’re late. You’ve missed dinner. Third floor, room thirty nine. Sign here.” She thrust a form under his nose and Dad signed it and took the key.
“Thank you,” he ventured. “What time is breakfast please?”
“Eight o’clock sharp,” she replied and disappeared down the hall.
She made me feel really nervous.
“I guess she’s had a long day,” said Mum hopefully. We lugged our cases up the stairs. We went past several bedrooms but all the doors were shut and there was the definite sound of silence from behind them.
“I guess everyone’s gone out for dinner,” said Dad. Either that or they were hiding from Mrs Macaroon.
“We should do the same,” said Mum, “and then get these guys to bed.”
“These guys” were me and my sister Polly. She’s seven. I’m Jake and I’m nine. That’s why I had to carry a big bag up all those stairs while she only had to carry a string bag with a couple of beach towels in it.
We finally got to the top and Dad unlocked the door. Polly and I dropped our bags and ran to the tiny window.
“I can’t see the sea,” I moaned. “You said it had a sea view.”
“That’s what the brochure said,” replied Dad defensively. He came over and tried to peer through the window over our heads but it wasn’t really big enough so we had to move out of his way. I looked around our room. That didn’t take long. There was a double bed with its head against the right hand wall. There was just room to squeeze between its foot and the bunk beds which were along the left hand wall. In the far wall was the tiny window with a small chest of drawers under it. Next to the bunk beds was a door which didn’t close properly. This led to the ‘en-suite bathroom’ with a toilet, a tiny sink and a shower. If you sat on the toilet your knees were under the sink and if you had long legs like Dad your feet were in the shower tray.
“At least there’s some loo roll,” said Mum, ever practical.
We left our bags and let ourselves out, down all those stairs again.
“This’ll get us fit,” said Dad, attempting to sound cheerful.
As we left I had an uncomfortable feeling in my tummy. I looked around and saw Mrs Macaroon watching us from the doorway. It was getting a bit breezy by this time but the sky was still bright and the seafront looked pretty with its row of coloured beach huts. I tried to put my nervousness out of my mind.
“It must be cool to have one of those,” said Polly pointing at the beach huts.
We found a café and sat in the window eating fish and chips. I had two sachets of ketchup and Polly said I was greedy.
“That is the most beautiful sunset,” Mum announced, ignoring our bickering. “I think we’re going to like it here.”
We all agreed it seemed a nice place. Polly and me were looking forward to the beach and ice creams. Our holiday had begun. At bedtime we clambered into bed, me on the top bunk of course. I had to lie very still because every time I moved it creaked and Polly moaned at me.
“Come on kids,” said Dad, “don’t bicker. Settle down to sleep. We’re on holiday.”
Next morning I woke up to the sound of running water. I thought Dad was in the shower but then realised he was looking out of the window. Mum was rummaging through their suitcase. It must be Polly then. Just then Polly sat up and bumped her head on my bed.
“Ouch!” she exclaimed loudly.
“Oh, you’re awake then,” said Dad.
“Hard not to be with noisy Jake in the shower,” Polly retorted. I dangled my head over the side of the bed and made her jump.
“I’m up here actually.”
“Well who’s in our shower then?” she asked indignantly.
“Nobody,” said Mum. “It’s the room next door. It’s just the walls are a bit thin.”
“A bit?” Polly exclaimed.
“Yes,” said Mum so keep your voice down.”
We decided to give the shower a miss because the water was cold. Dad ran it for ages but it didn’t get any warmer. We went downstairs looking forward to our full English, it was one of those holiday treats. At home we just had a bowl of Cheerios.
A young couple came in just after us with a baby and strapped him in a highchair at a table in the corner. They sat down and smiled across at us. Polly waved at the baby and he grinned back.
Mrs Macaroon appeared at that moment.
“I said eight o’clock sharp,” she fumed. “I have things to do.”
“So sorry,” said Dad, looking at his watch. It was one minute past eight. “Could we have the full English please? Tea for my wife and I and orange juice for these two.” Mrs Macaroon didn’t respond to this but just stalked over to the other couple.
“Morning,” said the man cheerily. “One scrambled eggs on toast please, one bacon and mushroom bap and a porridge for the little man. One tea, one coffee and could we possibly have some hot water for warming his milk please?”
Again Mrs Macaroon didn’t answer but turned on her heel and disappeared back into the kitchen.
“She’s full of the joys of spring,” said the man. His wife shushed him and looked nervously at the kitchen.
“Yes,” said Dad, “we’d better set our alarm a minute earlier tomorrow.”
“Could have been down ten minutes sooner,” said the man, “but I was hoping the water would warm up.”
“We had that problem,” said Dad. “Did you sleep well?”
“Not really,” the woman whispered. “The bed was really hard.”
“Ours was lumpy,” said Mum, “and the pillows were flat as pancakes. Hardly slept a wink.”
“Ours was creaky,” said Polly, “and Jake wriggle bum wouldn’t lie still!” I threw a rolled up napkin at her.
The woman gave a little cough and rolled her eyes. Everyone went quiet as we realised Mrs Macaroon was in the room.
She plonked a tray on our table without a word, then went out and fetched another for the couple with the baby. We all looked at each other uncomfortably.
“Tuck in then,” said Mum, forcing a smile. The orange juice was watered down. The eggs were solid and rubbery. The bacon was slimy with grease. The sausages were more like charcoal sticks and the toast was either black and charred or white and soggy. It was all cold. I tried putting lots of ketchup and brown sauce on but I couldn’t disguise the fact that this was the most disgusting full English I had ever tasted.
At the other table the couple were looking sadly at their plates. The baby cried when the first spoon of grey lumpy goo was offered. His mother tried to tempt him with the yellow lumpy goo that was on her toast. He pushed it away and cried again.
“Come on,” said the father, “we’ve got some rusks upstairs.” The family departed, leaving their food untouched.
We headed back to our room feeling a bit deflated. As Dad opened the door Mum shrieked. We followed her gaze and saw a little mouse jump off the bed and run under the chest of drawers.
“That is it!” Mum exclaimed. “We’re leaving!”
“It was only a mouse,” said Dad, trying to calm her down.
“It was not only a mouse,” said Mum. “It was a mouse after a horrid breakfast, after a cold wash, after a sleepless night in a lumpy bed!” She was in one of her stressed out moods!
“OK, OK,” said Dad. “It’s just that everywhere else was booked up.”
“Well, now we know why this place wasn’t,” said Mum. We all agreed it was rubbish here. So we packed our bags to leave. Polly whispered to me that it was probably a guest Mrs Macaroon didn’t like and had turned into a mouse. We had both decided that she was a witch. “Shh,” said Mum, looking around her anxiously, “Stop being silly.”
Dad rang the bell nervously. We waited for what seemed like ages, then he rang it again. Mrs Macaroon appeared immediately.
“Don’t be so impatient,” she snapped.
“Sorry,” muttered Dad, looking at his feet. “We’d erm, like to check out please.”
“You’re booked in until Saturday,” Mrs Macaroon barked.
“Yes I know, I’m sorry but, erm, something came up.”
“I’ll have to charge you a supplement,” she said. “I can’t let that room to anyone else this week now.”
“Oh, of course,” said Dad.
“So that comes to one hundred and forty pounds and fifty seven pence,” said Mrs Macaroon.
“What?” exclaimed Dad. “We’ve only been here one night! Sixty pounds a night the brochure said.”
“There’s the early cancellation charge,” said Mrs Macaroon indignantly. “There’s the towel hire, you used FOUR towels!” She said this as if it were a serious crime.
“But surely use of towels is included,” said Dad.
“They don’t launder themselves,” the old lady huffed. “Then there’s the excess paper use.”
“Now I really have no idea what you are talking about,” said Dad.
“You used FOURTEEN sheets of toilet paper,” said Mrs Macaroon with that same indignation. “And of course breakfast.”
“Breakfast is definitely included in the sixty pounds,” Dad said confidently. “It’s very clear in your brochure. ‘Bed and breakfast’ it says.”
“It doesn’t say you can have ketchup AND brown sauce,” said Mrs Macaroon, and she pointed a bony finger at me accusingly. I shuddered and took a small step backwards. I wondered whether she was going to turn me into a mouse right there.
“This is ridiculous,” said Mum, exasperated. “We found a mouse in our room. We could have you closed down.”
“You are a LIAR!” shrieked Mrs Macaroon. “You are trying to get out of paying your bill. I should call the police!”
Dad didn’t like it when people caused a scene so he put his hand on Mum’s arm.
“It’s OK,” he said. “I’ll pay it. Then we can go.” He took out his cheque book.
“Cash,” said Mrs Macaroon.
“Sorry?” said Dad.
“Cash only. Didn’t you read the small print?”
“Clearly not,” said Dad. “Is there a cash point near here?”
“Leave your bags until you’ve paid,” said the old woman. “I’m not having you do a runner.”
Dad sighed and we went out to find the cash point.
“Better get back quick,” he said, “or she’ll be charging us interest.”
“Or turning us into mice,” said Polly rolling her eyes.
“What a dragon!” said Mum.
“No, she’s a witch,” corrected Polly.
Eventually we had paid Mrs Macaroon and loaded our bags into the car.
“May as well spend the rest of the day here,” said Dad. “It’s a shame but we’ll have to head home this evening kids. Sorry but there’s nowhere else to stay.” We were all upset.
“There must be somewhere,” Polly said. “Let’s look. I want to stay here and go on the beach and play in a beach hut.”
Again I had the strange feeling that Mrs Macaroon was watching me. I looked up and I’m sure I saw the net curtains twitch.
“Let’s just get away from this place,” I said shivering slightly although it was warm. As we drove away I still felt as if I was being watched. I had a feeling this was not the last we would see of Mrs Macaroon.
Chapter Two: Old Man
We parked at the end of the seafront and set off towards the beach. Polly was swinging the string bag, I was in charge of buckets and spades and Mum carried the “sensible bag” with handwipes and cream for stings and all the other stuff Mums carry “just in case”.
The sun was out and we soon cheered up and decided to enjoy our day out at the seaside. It did feel like we were on holiday. It was just a shame that it was only going to last for one day. When we reached the ramp that went down to the sand Polly yelled that kind of overexcited yodel that little kids do. She launched herself full tilt towards the beach, string bag swinging wildly beside her.
“Polly!” shouted Mum and Dad together. “Steady on!”
Polly looked back over her shoulder but didn’t stop running. She careered straight into the legs of a little old man coming the other way and the two of them ended up in a heap in the sand.
“Sorry,” muttered Polly. She knew she was in BIG trouble.
“I’m so sorry,” gasped Mum, helping the man to his feet. “She can get a bit boisterous when she’s excited. Are you alright? Goodness me, I am sorry.” She was flustered and embarrassed and fussing around the old man trying to brush sand off him. It was probably more annoying than being knocked over.
The man put his hand up to stop her burbling.
“My dear lady,” he said, “nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing a child enthusiastic for the joys of Bodbury-on-Sea.” He winked at Polly. “First day of your holiday eh? I can always tell.” He looked back at Mum who smiled uncomfortably. “It’s like when you first let a puppy off the leash.”
“First and last day,” I muttered.
“Ah, of course,” said the old man. “That’s why your parents are so on edge. Reels you in doesn’t she with such a friendly, happy name. Mrs Macaroon.”
“How do you know we’ve been there?” I asked in amazement.
“All over your face boy. Written in capital letters! You didn’t get a wink of sleep did you?”
“And breakfast was horrid and a mouse was on Mum’s bed and now we have to go home and that lady’s all grey!” blurted Polly.
Mum and Dad pulled faces at her trying to make her be quiet but she went on.
“And there were HUNDREDS of stairs and she counted our toilet paper!”
“Anyway darling,” Mum interrupted, “we must let this gentleman be on his way.” She turned to the old man. “I really am sorry,” and back to Polly, “say sorry Polly.”
“Sorry,” Polly said to her feet.
“I know, I know, a terrible start,” the old man said, “but you’ll love the rest of your holiday.”
“This IS the rest of our holiday,” I said. “We’re going home tonight, there’s nowhere to stay.”
“Nonsense!” said the old man. “You’re here for a week. You’re staying in my beach hut.”
“Yay!” Polly said, jumping up and down.
“Well, that’s very kind..” Dad was hesitant.
“It’s OK,” said the old man. “It’s free. Bit old and tired but you’ll love it!” He suddenly turned and disappeared into the crowd on the promenade. I tried to see where he went so we could follow him to his beach hut but he was gone. It was like magic.
“What a funny man,” I said.
“Can we Mum? Can we?” Polly was still jumping up and down.
“Can we what?” said Mum.
“Stay in his beach hut!”
“Don’t be silly.”
“Oh! But why not?”
“They’re just like sheds you use for your stuff in the day,” I told her. “You can’t stay in them. Anyway, we don’t know which one is his.”
Polly’s bottom lip came out but I rescued the situation.
“Come on,” I said. “Let’s build the world’s biggest sandcastle.” We settled on the beach and Mum smothered us in suncream. We started digging and piling up sand. The row of beach huts along the front looked bright and jolly in the sun. They were all painted different colours, reds and blues and yellows. One was green with big purple flowers all over it. One was rainbow striped like a deckchair, each plank of wood a different shade. Some were very fresh and shiny, some a little more tired and faded. One, at the end, was drab and grey. Its shutters hung at an awkward angle at its windows. Its roof was green with algae.
“Hey look,” I said, pointing at it, “do you think that’s where we’re staying?” I grinned. “Better than Mrs Macaroon’s.”
“I want it to be the rainbow one,” said Polly.
“Sweetheart,” Mum said, “we are not staying in a beach hut.” Polly’s bottom lip started to come out again.
“Guess what?” said Dad, “It’s ice cream time!”
“Yes!” I punched the air.
“It’s half eleven in the morning,” said Mum.
“Yes,” replied Dad, “and we’re on holiday.”
We had big soft ice creams and Mum and Dad let us have a flake in it. We explored the seafront and played in the amusements. At lunch time we found a little café which did an all day breakfast and Dad said it was only fair to make up for the morning’s disaster. It was really yummy.
We went back to the beach in the afternoon and continued on our castle. After a bit more work it was magnificent. We had built a huge pile of sand and arranged towers around it and on the top. We were half way through digging a big deep moat around it when Polly suddenly stopped.
“I saw him!” she shouted. “Look!” She was pointing towards the old faded beach hut.
“There’s nobody there,” I said.
“I saw him, I saw him!” she insisted. “The old man! He waved at me from the window.”
“Of course he did,” I said sarcastically. We went back to our digging in silence. Suddenly the edge of the moat gave way. Polly disappeared head first into the sand. She shrieked and I laughed out loud as I saw her little feet waving around in the air. Mum lifted her out. Dad and me exchanged glances, I hid behind Dad. We were waiting for her to be cross that we had laughed. To our surprise Polly was grinning triumphantly. She lifted her hand in the air and did a little dance of joy.
“Look!” she cried. “I found buried treasure!” In her hand she held a small old fashioned looking key. “It could be for a treasure chest,” she exclaimed.
“Maybe,” I said. Then I looked up at the sky. “Just our luck, our one day of holiday and it’s going to rain.” It had gone a bit darker and a cool breeze had started. Clouds were gathering. “Great!” I said.
“Never mind,” said Mum. “We’ll find somewhere to shelter. It’ll soon blow over.” She was gathering the towels and buckets up and glancing at the sky as she did it. “Come on kids,” she said. “Let’s go.”
As the first big drops started to fall we reached the promenade.
“Polly!” shouted Mum suddenly. “What are you doing?”
“It fits!” Polly shouted. She was doing her victory dance again. “It really fits!”
“Polly!” said Dad. “You are unbelievable!” Polly was at the door of the old drab beach hut. Her treasure key was in the keyhole and her other hand was on the door handle. “I told you I saw him,” she said.
“Well it’s a bit scruffy,” I said, “but it will be dry.” At that moment the heavens opened properly. It was as if someone had turned a hose on us.
“I guess we won’t be doing any harm,” said Dad. We all looked hopefully at Mum. We all expected her to say no. She glanced up at the sky.
“Go on then,” she said. “Let’s get out of this rain.”
Polly pushed the door open and we all surged in blinking as our eyes adjusted to the dark. We stopped, mouths open in amazement. I looked at the others to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It was clear from their faces that they were seeing what I was seeing.