Surreptitiously Supercilious

"As I sat on my chair that Tuesday, a book in one hand, tea in the other, desperately hoping that no one would come in and begin the awkward eye contact thing, I expected another perfectly normal day. A day when nothing unexpected would happen at all. That’s when the assassin dashed into my store, clapped a hand across my mouth, and crawled under my desk to huddle near my feet, gun pressing against my ankle."

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22. Of Bouncy Castles

 

An explanation as to why Edmund is terrified of bouncy castles.

    Edmund Nightingale was, to everyone’s eyes, quite plainly and obviously, the weird child. 

    He was the child whose favourite way to pass a lunchtime was to sit on a pile of newspapers and read books with no cover jackets. He was the child who sat on the swing set all alone at break time and giggled when people he didn’t like fell over. He was also the child who had been discovered with a magazine about interrogation, but nobody talked about that because they were all slightly scared of him, despite the fact that he was only ten years old. 

    Naturally, Edmund was left out of largely everything, which suited him quite perfectly. On sports days, he would mysteriously miss out on his class’s race, and be sent to the library to think about what he had done wrong. Naturally, he viewed this as his own kind of success. Edmund did not need medals or cheering to make him happy. He just needed books. 

    It was on one of those days—those days on which you get to miss out on class, and when the sun always seems to melt your sunscreen right off the back of your neck—that the school fair proclaimed its start with a fanfare of screams and one exceedingly loud moo of which the source was never discovered. Still, despite mysterious moos, the fair went on, and a hoard of children aged six to eleven piled out of their classrooms at lunch and clambered on brightly coloured things that could easily double as instruments of torture. 

    Edmund pondered these more practical uses as he sat on the library roof with The Picture of Dorian Gray nestled in his lap. He also pondered why on Earth children his own age who, to his knowledge, had never been subjected to brain removal, would want to put their lives in danger for the sake of…well, why? Edmund adjusted his glasses and sighed. Perhaps it was a human thing. Perhaps that was why he didn’t really get it. 

    “Julie, Robert, get back to the fair! Look, there it is, over there! Really, disgracing yourselves in such a way! Get back right now to the fair, I say!” 

    Edmund wondered if Miss Hayes knew she spoke in rhymes, decided she probably didn’t, and tried to draw backwards so she wouldn’t look up and see him.    

    She did. “Edmund? Are you up there? Today’s not for the roof, it’s for the fair! Get back down here, I say! No point in wasting a beautiful day!”

    “I would prefer not to.”

    “Edmund dear, if it’s detention you seek, then get down here or you’ll have it all week!” Miss Hayes’ left eye glanced over to the fair as she said this, while her right remained on Edmund. He put this phenomenon in the back of his mind to think about later. 

    “Yes, Miss Hayes.” Edmund stood with a world-weary sigh and tucked his book into the waistband of his trousers. Steading himself on the corrugated iron roof of the library, he completed a complicated sort of waddle over to the wall, grasped the handy gutter between his hands, and slid down with a satisfying woosh. He gave a wave to the Miss Hayes, who was now looking slightly faint at this perverse breach of health and safety, and headed towards the brightly coloured, large-scale torture instruments in the middle of the school playing field. 

    There were, Edmund concluded, approximately twelve places to read quietly in this place. The roof, of course, had been ruled out. Underneath the drop-y thing with the screaming children was also not an option, as the drop-y thing was currently dropping. The circular cups on the spinning disk were probably not the best brainwave ever either, as Edmund knew that people liked to empty their bladders into such things, although he was still not entirely sure why. With those options now ruled out, Edmund wandered surreptitiously over to the bouncy castle.

    It was, by most people’s standards, not a bouncy castle at all. First of all, it was not bouncy. It was made out of wood, and for some reason it had been carted around at great expense to all the local fairs in the last fifty years, so that it could sit in a shaded corner not being used. Secondly, it was not a castle—at least, not by most people’s idea of what a castle should look like. It was square, squat, and strangely squidgy in places that probably shouldn’t have been so. Overall, it resembled a sad and out of work clown and no one was particularly keen on bouncing on it.

    Edmund deemed it perfect for reading and went to investigate. 

    On one side, the lump of squidgy wood was solid and looked disturbingly grey. On the other, it was decidedly softer, and gave way when Edmund pressed his hands against it. 

    Swallowing back his revulsion, Edmund leaned against the wood with his hands flat against it until it gave way under his weight, revealing a tiny nook that was just perfect for crawling into. Hoisting up his trousers, Edmund wriggled into the hole and along, blowing dust out of his nose like a small determined land whale. 

    He was quite surprised when he because stuck. One would expect, inside a dilapidated old lump of wood, there to be a convenient cave for the disturbed book worm to take refuge in. Unfortunately, this lump of wood and sad and alone and wanted other people to be sad and alone as well so they could be sad and not alone together.

    Edmund began to panic slightly. 

    He tried to wriggle backwards, but to no avail. His body refused to move, and he was rapidly becoming more and more worried. What if they never found him? What if he was stuck inside a wormy lump of wood until he died and turned into a skeleton and then they pulled him out and hung him in a science lab in a high school? Could his dead self bear the indignity? 

    Edmund decided dead Edmund would probably wish to retain whatever shreds of dignity alive Edmund had accumulated for him, so opened his mouth and hollered for help, but the combination of the castle being wood and his body blocking the hole rendered him inaudible to the crowd. 

    However, seven hours later when the police pulled him from the hole with a loud scrape and a pop, he actually was speechless, although that may have been because he’s just finished reading Dorian Gray and was rather traumatised by the ending.

    Edmund really didn’t like bouncy castles very much after that, even if they weren’t bouncy and weren’t castles. He decided he much preferred trampolines.

    Well, reading on them, anyway.

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