Welcome, all, to the first five chapters of my nexy book, due out this spring, "Jimmy Greenteeth and the Magic Kettle". Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. I hope you enjoy.
There are few things more English than a cricket match on a village green. The “thwack” of the leather ball on the oily Willow of the bat, the ripple of applause and the hearty “Howzat” as the silly mid-off plucks the ball from the air.
Even “silly mid-off” itself is a very English sounding thing.
The cricket match that Jimmy found himself watching, whilst munching on half an apple he’d found (discarded by someone that knew not the value of food) and skulking behind the little row of wheelie-bins behind the chip shop, was every bit as English as those played on the greens of the villages, insofar as it was cricket and was being played in England.
The stumps were painted on the wall of one of the disused and derelict lock up garages that served the small council estate. The thwack of leather on polished willow was replaced by the dull thump of shabby tennis ball on well-weathered willow and the ripple of applause was more like the whooping of a band of gibbons.
“Out.” The young man playing the part of umpire called.
“Get knotted, that was my practice shot, I told you I was taking a practice shot.” The batsman, who was far larger than the umpire, replied.
“Erm, ok, not out.”
Jimmy nibbled every bit of available apple, leaving just a skinny core, dabbed at the corners of his mouth with a crusty, grey handkerchief, shrugged and popped the core itself into his mouth, crunching and swallowing the pips, stalk and all.
“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” He stepped from behind the bins, “there’s no need to argue. Allow me to adjudicate.” He smiled, revealing a mouth full of filthy, crooked teeth.
The children stared at Jimmy as he approached.
Jimmy was dressed in a long, green and once grand coat, tied at the waist with a length of electrical flex that had originally been the lead for a kettle, a pair of khaki cargo pants that had long since lost the big pockets from the sides, a training shoe on his left foot and a Wellington boot on his right. On his head he wore a top hat, battered and bent with age and with the bone from a piece of fried chicken stuck into the hatband at a jaunty angle. A half hearted moustache, no more than whiskers at the corner of his mouth, held the crumbs from last nights meal and, hanging on a chain around his neck, a pair of spectacles that had long since lost their lenses.
“Blummin’ ‘eck,” Shouted the umpire, “It’s Jimmy Greenteeth.”
“Leg it!” Exclaimed the batsman as he dropped the bat, and leg it they did. All in different directions, not stopping until they reached the safety of home.
Jimmy was a legend. Everyone knew Jimmy. Jimmy was the reason kids shouldn’t play by the river, the reason they should be home before it went dark, the reason they shouldn’t talk to strangers. The children spoke of him in hushed tones.
Jimmy was a killer. Jimmy was evil. Jimmy was sly and Jimmy was never seen. He was in the bushes, in the shadows and in the nightmares of the children.
Although Jimmy was never seen, the children knew he was real. They knew because their parents had told them about him and their parents knew because THEIR parents had told them when they themselves were children.
In reality, the parents knew Jimmy didn’t exist. Nothing more than a story told to keep their children safe. It was dangerous to play by the polluted river that ran behind their estate, but kids didn’t understand the dangers of the oily, muddy water and the inlet pipes that sucked in that oily, muddy water to cool the turbines of the nearby power station. So the legend of Jimmy Greenteeth existed to ward the kids away from those perils. Jimmy and his wicked ways. The children didn’t fear the dark streets, but the parents feared their children being out after dark, so Jimmy was there too, lurking in the shadows with promises of treats and adventure to tempt the children to their deaths. Jimmy was the stranger watching them play in the park or the baddy that lay in wait in the shadows. Jimmy was a lie, a lie told to keep the children safe.
The parents had believed in Jimmy once, but now did not. Jimmy was a fairy tale.
The thing is with fairy tales, they had to start somewhere and, though they may get built upon, exaggerated and twisted through years of retelling, at some point in the past all fairy tales were true.
“Don’t forget your dinner money.” Jake’s mother spoke without looking up from the frying pan she tended.
Jake scooped the handful of change from the counter and dropped it into the pouch on the front of his satchel.
“And don’t forget to drop in and see your granddad on the way home, lad. That dog of his will need walking.” Jake’s father spoke this time, without glancing up from the newspaper he was reading.
“But it’s cricket practice tonight, dad.”
“You’ll have to skip this week. I can’t walk the mangy thing, I’m far too busy.”
Jake’s dad was never busy, Jake’s dad was bone idle. But someone had to walk granddad’s dog. Granddad himself couldn’t, having only one leg.
Depending on the mood granddad was in, if you asked him what had happened to leave him with just seventy-five percent of the limbs he was born with you would get one of several answers. Either he’d lost it in the war, had it bitten off by a shark, sliced off by pirates while in the merchant navy and rounding the Cape of Good Hope or it had been eaten by a lion when he was with the circus. Jake thought that probably none of these explanations were true, but he enjoyed the stories.
So, cricket practice would have to wait, a dog needs a walk.
“Here, Jake,” His mother turned to him as he hoisted his satchel over his shoulder, “Take him this.” She slipped the previous day’s local newspaper into his satchel along with his homework and exercise books as she kissed his forehead. “They won’t deliver to him up there.”
Jakes granddad had recently moved from the little house in which he’d lived, with Jake’s grandmother, since before Jake was born. He now lived on the second floor of a tower block, his good lady wife having died the year before. Not an ideal home for a man with only one leg, but the lift usually worked.
The frosted glass pane rattled in the back door as Jake slammed it shut behind him.
“And get straight to school this time. If I get a phone call off your blummin’ headmaster again I’ll wring your…” The remainder of his father’s words were drowned out as Jake plugged his earphones into his ears, turned up the collar on his favourite winter coat and headed out into the alleyway that ran behind his house.
Jake meandered his way to school along the little dirt track that ran between the river and the power station, skilfully avoiding the dog dirt and broken bottles that littered his path. Jake had a great imagination, fuelled by his granddad’s tall tales, and in his mind he was dodging traps laid by an ancient civilisation to thwart the explorers and adventurers of future generations in their attempts to find their treasures and claim them for their own.
He almost made it, too.
“Ewww!” He exclaimed, lifting his right foot and peering down at the poo covered sole. He limped, as if shot in the leg by an arrow, over to the side of the path where he leaned against a tree as he removed his tatty, black school shoe and banged it against the ground, rubbing it in the long grass to clean the filth away.
It was no good. Whichever dog had left this particular deposit had quite plainly been eating something he shouldn’t. Jake searched around for a twig to pick the more stubborn nuggets from the tread.
Jake sat on his satchel, the ground being frozen solid and icy cold, and concentrated on the task in hand. Poo pinged left and right as he flicked the twig, a grimace upon his face, muttering and cursing his luck. The route he’d chosen to take to school was a scenic route and he would have been pushing it to arrive in time for registration as it was. He daren’t be late, again. He would already be in danger of losing his place on the school cricket team for missing tonight’s practice and another black mark against his attendance record would seal his fate. He glanced at his watch, tutted, replaced his still dirty shoe and continued on his way.
As he clambered up the embankment at the end of the fence that surrounded the power station an otter dashed from the bushes behind him. The creature sat atop the satchel he had neglected to remember, squealing and gurgling and performing little, acrobatic somersaults and back flips as the child scurried away.
Jimmy Greenteeth squeezed through the little door of his caravan. He took a box of matches from one of the deep pockets of his coat, struck it on the floor and used it to light the little paraffin heater in the corner before settling into the orange deck chair that sat in the middle of the room.
Jimmy reached into his coat and pulled out the hot water bottle that hung on a cord around his neck, unscrewed the top and poured some of the strong, steaming tea held within into a little, tin cup before replacing the top and slipping the warm, rubber bottle back inside his coat. He reached over to the counter that served as his kitchen and picked up the carton of milk that stood there, smiled and said hello to the dormouse that had been sitting behind the milk and grooming itself, then poured a splash into his beverage.
Sipping his tea, Jimmy reached once again inside his coat and drew out today’s find. A child’s satchel. He opened the satchel up and inhaled deeply, the odour of leather, plimsolls and pencil shavings filled his hairy nostrils and he chuckled to himself.
“That takes me back.” He said, to no one in particular, before rummaging through his find.
Schoolbooks, a pencil case, the wrappers from half a dozen chocolate bars and coins totalling seven pounds and fifty pence. Then, tucked between two of the exercise books…
“Oh dear, oh dear, this will never do.” Jimmy shook his head.
The dormouse squeaked.
“Oh my word, no, they can‘t.” Jimmy placed the pointless spectacles on his nose and squinted at the story on the front of the newspaper.
Again, the dormouse squeaked.
“Yes, but it’s not theirs. They can’t have it. How dare they? No, this will never do.”
Jimmy stood up sharply, straightened his scarf and bade the dormouse farewell.
“I’ll be back soon,” He said from the doorway, “If I’m late, don’t worry, I’ve left you some emergency cheese in the cupboard.”
The dormouse squeaked again, sitting bolt upright on his haunches, as Jimmy Greenteeth exited the caravan. His whiskers twitched once, then twice, then thrice and finally, when he was sure Jimmy wasn’t going to come back in and catch him, he scurried into the cupboard and ate the emergency cheese.
If you’re still at school then you probably won’t believe it, but school days are the best days of your life.
Jake generally enjoyed school, but not today. Today was rapidly becoming his least favourite day at school ever.
Mr. Everest the headmaster, or “ever-vexed” as the children called him, had been waiting at the school gates for late pupils. Mr. Everest was well named, a huge, mountain of a man, well over six feet tall and with shoulders as broad as an ox with a neck to suit. His hands were like shovels and his face never smiled.
Mr. Everest thought himself a fair minded man and allowed a little tardiness, four minutes to be exact, but any more would result in a stern ticking off, a black mark on the child’s attendance record and, depending on his mood that morning, a day or two of after-school detention.
This morning, ever-vexed had stubbed his toe on the bedside cabinet whilst making his bleary eyed way to the bathroom, dropped his toast and marmalade on the kitchen floor while preparing his breakfast, his dog had frenziedly torn the local newspaper as the paperboy popped it through the letterbox for the second day on the trot and the milk in the fridge had gone off. His mood was vile, and so Jake had become the unfortunate recipient of two day’s after-school detention.
The black mark on Jake’s attendance record meant no more cricket practice and, therefore, rendered him ineligible for selection.
Having left his satchel on the bank of the river meant he had no homework to hand in. Unusually for Jake, he had actually completed his homework to quite a high standard and would have received top marks, but instead received a black mark and a lunchtime detention.
His dinner money had been in his satchel, which not only meant no dinner for the whole week since he daren’t tell him mother he’d lost it, but also meant he couldn’t hand the money over to the school bully. The bully fully believed Jake when he told him that he had lost the money, but there were rules. An inability to pay meant there had to be repercussions. The bully’s hands were tied, as were Jakes, by his own school tie to the heavy benches in the boy’s changing rooms whilst the bully tried, albeit ultimately unsuccessfully, to pull Jake’s underwear off over his head. And all these unfortunate events were accompanied by the smell of the dog dirt engrained in the tread of the sole’s of his shoes.
Not a great day.
So it was that Jake, having completed his first session of after-school detention, found himself walking out of the school gates alone and in the dark. He walked as briskly as he could manage, thoroughly dejected, to his grandfathers flat to collect Toby, the shaggy mongrel, and take him for his evening walkies.
And all the while, from behind trees, beneath bushes and atop walls and fences, a pair of beady, little eyes watched.
At the top of the cold, dark stairs, through a heavy, metal door, along a corridor lined with portraits of men with eyes that followed your journey and lit by lights that flickered and faded, then further through another heavy, though this time wooden, door lay a cold, gloomy room. A tall, grand looking, arched window on the wall that faced the heavy, wooden door allowed the silvery light of that evening’s bright, full, wintry moon to illuminate the large, mahogany desk before which the two men in smart suits stood.
A third man, seated in the big, green, studded leather chair, was hidden from the moon’s silvery fingers and, as such, invisible in the darkness.
The voice of the man in the chair was low and deep. Even without a face to see, the men in suits knew he wasn’t smiling.
“Yes, sir. But It‘s just a formality. We have to go down the proper channels.”
“Poppycock, you blithering idiot. Just throw money at them. I‘ve waited too long as it is.”
“But, sir, they’ll get suspicious, they might find...”
The man in the chair raised a hand.
“I can not, and will not, wait a moment longer. This is nothing more than a formality, yes?”
“Yes, sir, we’ve ensured the townsfolk think they need more power, I’m confident that once the council see the appli…”
“Shush now.” His unseen fingers rapped impatiently on the desk. “Let them go through their process, let them stamp their forms and tick their boxes. In the meantime, send in the diggers.”
“But what if someone sees?”
“Do it at night time. No one ventures out there in the dark. And if someone does, deal with them.”
“Deal with, sir?”
“Yes. Deal with. Kill them.”
“S’only me, granddad.” Jake called as he let himself into the flat.
“In here, lad.”
Jake joined his grandfather in the lounge. The stump of his missing leg rested on a footstool and the television, volume turned almost all the way up, was the only light in the room.
Toby, Jake’s grandfather’s big, old dog, stood as Jake entered the room. He stretched, yawned, trumped and wagged his tail, then turned his attention to the pungent sole of Jake’s right shoe, sniffing and snuffling excitedly.
Toby had been a puppy when Jake was a baby. Jake was still a child, but Toby was now an old dog. His once jet black muzzle now peppered with grey, his once bright eyes now cloudy. Where once he’d pulled on the lead and tried to drag Jake along he now plodded along behind, harrumphing and huffing when told to hurry up. Jake loved Toby and Toby loved Jake.
“You’re a bit late, lad, don’t be taking him far at this time.”
“It’s not late, granddad.”
“Maybe not, but it’s dark. Just be careful, stay close.”
“I was going to take him on the old cricket pitch behind the power station, let him have a run.”
“Run? At his age?” Granddad laughed, “Just be careful, stick to the roads, no shortcuts, especially not along the river.”
“Yes, granddad,” Jake crouched to slip Toby’s lead over his head.
“I mean it, stick to the road. You don’t want to run into Jimmy Greenteeth, lad.”
“I’ll be okay, granddad, Jimmy is on holiday with the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny.”
“I’m serious, lad. It was Jimmy Greenteeth cost me this leg?”
“Really? How? Did he throw a shark at you while you were fighting pirates in the trenches of France?” Jake headed for the door.
“Don’t be so blinkin’ cheeky.”
Jake and Toby took the rattly, clattery lift to the ground floor and out into the cold, night air, turning right and heading toward the river.
And still, those beady eyes watched.
A long, long time ago in a far distant land, a great emperor had a great treasure.
The most treasured of treasures, the most prized of possessions. A thing of such beauty and rarity that all who gazed upon it were struck speechless. A thing of such power that none but the purest of souls could be trusted with it. The treasure held the answers, all the answers. The answers to any why, what, where, how or when that could or would ever be asked.
It was said that the treasure had been gifted to the emperor by the Gods, that it had been created in that moment when the universe itself had come into being. That it had visited all of the galaxies, the stars and the worlds of the cosmos and had explored all of the vast expanse of darkness that lay in between.
The emperor was a wise man, made wiser by his treasure, but he was still just a man. As the emperor aged he began to fear what would come next. During his reign, he had seen the world flower and bloom. A period of peace and kindness that none, not even the most wicked, dared violate for fear of the emperor’s treasure.
The emperor knew when he would die. He knew how he would die and he feared not his own demise. But after he was gone, what then? What would become of the treasure and of the paradise it had created?
So the emperor sent forth the treasure into the world.
Carried by the emperor’s three most trusted bodyguards, with it’s great beauty disguised, to be hidden and protected until one as worthy as the emperor could be found. A person so pure of heart that the great power of the treasure could not corrupt. A wise, innocent and strong willed individual.
Once the emperor was dead and the treasure many miles away, those who had coveted the power for their own selfish reasons began the search. They spread throughout the world, carrying with them the evil in their hearts, in a ruthless and relentless hunt. A race.
Many times the emperor’s bodyguards were discovered, and many times they fought to protect the treasure. They fled from country to country and continent to continent. Through centuries and millennia they circled the globe again and again, sometimes remaining hidden from view for generations, until eventually happening upon a location so remote, so plain, so ordinary that none would suspect such a bounty be. The final resting place of the treasure.
The bodyguards separated, their toil final completed, vanishing into the modern world without a trace. This was their reward. After fighting and fleeing throughout the ages now, at last, they were granted mortality. A chance to live an ordinary life, to age, to wither and, eventually, to die.
Now that the teapot was safe.
Once away from the streets and houses of the estate, down by the river, Jake unclipped the lead from Toby’s collar. Toby plodded off into the trees and bushes to the right, looking for a place to do his filthy business.
It was dark down by the river, but the light of the moon reflected off the oily water, illuminating Jake’s path just enough to save him from slipping into the river or tripping himself up. He pulled the ear plugs from his pocket and popped them into his ears. It wasn’t music he listened to, it was the dulcet tones of that man off the telly reading a story, an audio book.
The book he was currently listening to told a tale of peril and adventure, of children chased by the forces of evil throughout time. His favourite kind of book. A child’s book and one he would be teased mercilessly by his father for reading. His father didn’t like reading, unless it was a newspaper and, even then, he focussed only on the sport’s pages.
As Jake climbed the embankment at the far end of the power station, still engrossed in the story, he failed to hear the shrill, “beep, beep, beep” of a motor vehicle’s reversing siren in the distance. He smiled as he listened to the tale being pumped directly into his head and didn’t notice the flashing, yellow beacon on the big, green digger that clawed and scraped at the flat, green cricket pitch up ahead and was nearly at the boundary between waste land and pitch before he was spotted by the men in the hard hats.
When he eventually did see the men he stopped, mouth agape, and plucked the plugs from his ears.
“Get him.” One of the men shouted. They were approaching fast and were almost upon Jake before he had chance to realise what was happening. No time to turn and run, Jake put his hands up in the air in an attempt to signal he wasn’t a threat.
It was true, Jake wasn’t a threat.
It was those two men approaching the boy with his hands in the air that were a threat.