Magic Molly; The Curse of Cranberry Cottage.
‘Molly Miggins if you aren’t downstairs in five minutes flat, your breakfast is going into Harold.’
Molly rolled onto her back and looked at the ceiling. She wasn’t sure if Harold, the new in-sink monster she had conjured up a couple of weeks before, liked Wheaty Flakes or not. He seemed to like salad and vegetables best, anyway, she still thought Harold was a silly name for a former Compost Heap Monster. She had originally called him, Fang, because of his sharp little teeth, but Mrs McCraggity, the housekeeper had changed it to Harold.
‘Fang doesn’t like Wheaty Flakes,’ she shouted.
‘HAROLD, will eat anything if he’s hungry enough.’ Mrs McCraggity’s head appeared around Molly’s bedroom door. ‘Anyway, Harold’s eating habits are irrelevant. Have you forgotten that you’re going to stay with Great Aunt Willow this weekend? Granny Whitewand is up and about already, she’s really excited about the trip.’
Molly leapt of out bed and showered and dressed in record time. She slid down the banister to gain an extra few seconds, slipped off the end and bounced on her bottom twice before coming to a halt just in front of the hat stand.
Molly was still rubbing her bottom when she walked into the kitchen. Her packet of Wheaty Flakes was on the table next to a jug of milk and her breakfast bowl.
‘Good morning, Millie,’ croaked Granny Whitewand who was sitting at the kitchen table holding a cup of tea.
‘IT’S MOLLY, Grandma,’ said Molly. Granny Whitewand always got her name wrong. It was an ongoing battle between the two of them.
‘So you say,’ said Granny Whitewand, as though she knew better.
Molly piled up her bowl with Wheaty Flakes and added a generous sploosh of milk. She picked up her spoon and dug it into the mountain of cereal.
‘Are we all staying at Great Aunt Willow’s house?’ she asked. ‘There aren’t enough rooms for everyone, are there?’
‘She’s got plenty of room,’ said Granny Whitewand. ‘We’ll probably have to share, though, Millie.’
Molly’s jaw sagged. ‘Granny Whitewand was an Olympic-class snorer. She decided to have a quiet word with Great Aunt Willow when she got there. The sofa would be a better option than listening to Granny Whitewand’s window-rattling snores all night. Especially when her wobbly false teeth clacked together.
‘Well, I won’t need a room because, I’m not going,’ said Mrs McCraggity. ‘Someone has to stay behind to feed Mr Gladstone and Harold.’
‘Jenny will feed Mr Gladstone,’ said Molly. Mr Gladstone was Molly’s aging and increasingly grumpy cat. Jenny was her best friend.
‘It’s quite all right,’ said the housekeeper. ‘I don’t mind staying. Harold has to be fed throughout the day. You can’t just feed an in-sink monster morning and night; he has to have regular meals.’
Molly grinned. Mrs McCraggity had really fallen under her in-sink monster’s spell. As if to prove the point she held half a slice of hot-buttered toast over the hole of what used to be the in-sink food disposal unit. A Green head with saucer-like eyes popped out of the open hole.
‘Good morning, Harold,’ said Mrs McCraggity. ‘I’ve saved you a bit of my toast. There’ll be more later when Mr and Mrs Miggins have had breakfast. There might even be a rind or two of bacon if you’re lucky.’
Harold climbed out of the dark, sink hole. He was a good looking monster, as monsters go. He had little pointy ears, long green fingers and toes and a fat little tummy. He grabbed the toast and took a huge bite.
‘Yum, Fang likes toast, said Harold.’
‘Erm, I think you’ll find your name is Harold,’ said the housekeeper.
‘Harold likes toast,’ said Fang. He stuffed the rest of it into his mouth, chewed at it with his needle sharp teeth and burped.
‘Burrrrrrp. ‘scuse me missus.’
Mrs McCraggity stroked him behind the ears. Harold closed his eyes and made a contented noise.
‘You spoil that creature, Mrs M,’ said Granny Whitewand.
The housekeeper stopped stroking Harold and folded her arms across her bosom. ‘I do not spoil him. I’m just making sure he gets enough to eat. Had someone other than Molly used that Compost Heap Monster spell, he could be sitting under a mound of rotting cabbage in someone’s garden. It breaks my heart to think about it.’
Granny Whitewand’s knees sounded as though someone had just fired off two pistols as she got to her feet. Molly winced. The old witch crossed to the sink and offered the half-drunk cup of her tea to the in-sink monster.
‘Here you go, Fang. Strong and sweet, just how you like it.’
‘Fang took the tea cup and drained it in one long gulp. ‘That’s hit the spot, missus,’ he said with a grin.
Granny Whitewand cackled, then sucked her wobbly teeth back into place. ‘He’s picking up my little sayings nicely.’
‘You’ll confuse the poor little mite if you keep calling him, Fang,’ said the housekeeper. ‘His name is, Harold.’ She waited until Harold had finished licking the cup, them she took it gently from the monster’s hands. ‘Careful, Harold, we don’t want to drop Mrs Miggins’ best china do we?’
‘No missus,’ said Harold.
‘I think I’ll get you a plastic beaker to drink tea out of,’ said Mrs McCraggity thoughtfully. She carefully dunked the china cup into the washing up suds in the other sink and washed it gently with her rubber-glove covered hands.
Molly chased the last few Wheaty Flakes around her bowl and dropped the spoon into it with a clatter. ‘I’m off to see, Dad,’ she said. ‘He owes me some extra pocket money for helping clean the car yesterday.’
‘Hang on Millie,’ said Granny Whitewand. ‘I could do with a hand with my luggage.’
‘I’ll come to your room after I’ve seen Dad… and it’s MOLLY, Grandma.’
‘Your mother should have called you, Gertie, then we wouldn’t have any confusion,’ said Granny Whitewand.
‘I’m glad she didn’t,’ said Molly. She pulled a face. ‘Anyway, there isn’t any confusion. My name, is Molly.’
‘That’s not what it says on our coven register,’ said the old witch.
‘THAT’S BECAUSE YOU WROTE THE NAMES IN THE REGISTER,’ shouted Molly. She left the kitchen before her grandmother could come up with a reply and skipped down the corridor towards her father’s study.
Mr Miggins, or the Great Rudolpho, as he was also known, was a stage magician who used real magic in his tricks. Molly’s mother was the High Witch at the White Academy that Molly attended.
Their studies were at either end of a short passage. To the right of Mr Miggins’ door was a tall perch on which sat a colourful parrot. The parrot was actually dead but he had refused to cross over to the other side and spent his time guarding the corridor. He claimed to be the world’s foremost, security parrot. On the windowsill at its side, was a photograph album.
‘Halt, who goes there?’ The parrot held up one wing and made a, slow down motion with it.
‘You know who it is, parrot,’ said Molly, who had had many a run in with the bird.
‘If I knew, I wouldn’t be asking, would I?’ he replied.
Molly sighed. She was used to the ritual but it didn’t get any less annoying.
‘I’m Molly Miggins and I’ve come to see my dad, who is in his room waiting to give me some money.’
The parrot turned its attention to the photo album. On the cover, in big letters were the words, “MOST WANTED.” He opened it with a wing tip and began to flick through the pages. Most of the photographs were pictures he had cut out of a catalogue, but one was a full page blow up of Molly in her witch’s uniform.
‘Money eh?’ He tapped the photograph and narrowed his eyes. ‘So you admit you are about to attempt to BLACKMAIL, professor Miggins.’
‘Don’t be stupid all of your life,’ said Molly. ‘Have one day off at least.’
‘The parrot tapped the picture with his wing tip. ‘I happen to have had a tipoff that a world renowned, criminal is in the area, and the description fits…’ The parrot looked around the room, then scowled and pointed a wing tip at Molly. ‘YOU!’
Molly folded her arms across her chest and tapped her foot. ‘You’re being ridiculous now, I’ve had enough of this.’
‘Oh, go on,’ said the parrot. ‘Play the game a bit.’
Molly suddenly felt sorry for the parrot. He did spend most of his time alone.
‘Oh go on then,’ she said. Who am I supposed to be?’
‘Desperate Doris, the despicable doyenne of deception,’ said the parrot.
Molly sighed. ‘All right then.’
The parrot held up the book and showed the picture to Molly.
‘So, Desperate Doris, we meet again,’ he croaked, menacingly.
Molly played along. ‘How did you track me down so quickly?’
‘There was one little thing that gave you away,’ said the parrot.
‘What was that?’ asked Molly.
‘Your brain,’ said the parrot. ‘Mine is so much bigger than yours so it was easy to follow the clues.’
‘Okay, parrot, you win,’ said Molly. She made a move towards the door of her father’s study.
‘I can’t let you go in there,’ said the parrot.
‘Why not?’ asked Molly.
‘Because you’re Desperate Doris, the despicable doyenne of deception,’ said the parrot.
‘No I’m not,’ said Molly.
‘YOU JUST ADMITTED IT,’ yelled the parrot.
‘THAT WAS A GAME,’ shouted Molly.
‘I RECORDED OUR CONVERSATION, I HAVE THE EVIDENCE,’ screamed the parrot.
‘YOU’RE MAD,’ yelled Molly.
Just then the study door opened an out walked a bewildered Professor Miggins. ‘What on earth is going on out here?’ he asked.
The parrot inspected its foot and whistled. Molly glared at the bird.
‘I’ve come to get the extra pocket money you owe me, Dad. I want to put it with the holiday money I’ve saved.’
‘Money?’ Mr Miggins looked confused. The parrot eyed Molly suspiciously.
‘For helping, yesterday,’ said Molly.
‘Oh, yes I remember,’ said the professor. He pulled out his wallet and handed Molly a five-pound note. ‘There you go, Molly. I’ll see you out the front in half an hour or so. I just want to finish my notes.’ Mr Miggins walked back into his study and closed the door behind him.
Molly walked towards the corridor but just before she reached the corner she turned to face the parrot. She waved the five pound note in the air and stuck out her tongue, then she turned away with the parrot’s angry voice screeching in her ears.
‘Blackmailer,’ he squawked. ‘I’ll get you next time, Desperate Doris.’