I wonder if some of you lovely folks would cast an eye over my 2nd chapter. This is a lower middle grade book for about age 7-8. 12 chapters, approx 22000 words total in my initial draft. At the end of chapter 1 the family are dejected that they have nowhere to stay for their holiday (having checked out of the ghastly guest house they were in) and are going to have to go home at the end of the first day...
The Magic Beach Hut
Chapter Two: Old Man
We parked at the end of the seafront and set off a little dejectedly towards the beach. Polly was swinging the string bag, I was in charge of buckets and spades, Dad had a football and Mum carried the “sensible bag” with handwipes and plasters and suncream and cream for stings.
The sun was out and we soon cheered up and decided to enjoy our day out at the seaside. We strolled past palm trees, sandwich boards advertising talent shows and little kiosks selling trinkets or fishing nets or tickets for boat trips. 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.” He looked at Dad. “Reels you in doesn’t she with such a friendly, happy name. Mrs Macaroon.”
“How do you know we’ve been there?” asked Dad in amazement.
“All over your face man. 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 intended to signal to her to 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. 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,” said Mum.
“Can we Mum? Can we?” Polly was still jumping up and down.
“Can we what?”
“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. You can’t stay in them. Anyway, we don’t know which one is his.”
Polly’s bottom lip came out. Dad rescued the situation.
“Come on,” he 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?” Dad grinned.
“Better than Mrs Macaroon’s,” he said.
“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.”
Mum gave in and she took Dad’s hand as we walked up to the kiosk. We had big soft ice creams and Mum and Dad let us have a flake in it. We explored the seafront. We played in the penny slot machines and found a place where we could race remote control cars. I chose a blue one and Polly chose a pink one. There were six cars and I came third and Polly came fifth in our race. 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 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!”
“Of course you 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 as I saw her little feet waving around in the air. Mum lifted her out. Dad and me exchanged glances. 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.
“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,” said Dad. Then he looked up at the sky. “Just our luck,” he said. “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!” said Dad.
“Well 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 jubilant. “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.
“Well it’s a bit scruffy,” said Polly, “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. “Lets 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.