Three little rats lay on a
carpet in front of a roaring, crackling fire. They were on their tummies,
hands under their chins, listening carefully to the stories Grandma Angel
was telling them. Grandpa Stubby lay asleep on the couch, under a warm
blanket, snoring loudly. The littlest rat, Sloane, lay asleep on Grandma
Angel’s lap. "Grandpa Stubby snores so loud," Adam noted.
"Stubby! Stop that
snoring!" Grandma angel said, throwing her slipper gently at him to wake
him up. He fidgeted for a minute and then rolled onto his side and began
to snore again. The little rats laughed.
"Grandma Angel, why do we
call him Grandpa Stubby? It’s a funny name," Paul asked.
"Because of his stubby
tail, silly," announced Emily.
"Was Grandpa born with a
stubby tail, Grandma Angel? How did he get it?" asked Adam.
"Gather round, my little
rats and I’ll tell you all about it," Grandma Angels said, calling her
grandchildren closer to her. "A long, long time ago, Grandpa and I lived
in London. We lived deep below the ground in a place called the
"What’s the Underground?"
"The Underground is a lot
of long, dark tunnels, deep under the ground. Trains go through them,
taking people from one place to another," Grandma Angel explained.
"Oh. Did you ever ride the
train, Grandma Angel?" asked Paul.
"Yes. I did, but that’s not
what I want to tell you about. Long, long ago, when I first met Grandpa
Stubby……" She suddenly remembered something, she asked, "Do any of you
know what Grandpa’s real name is?"
"I don’t," said Emily.
"I don’t know too," said
"Me neither," said Adam.
"Well, his real name is
Lancaster. We used to hang out together, along with our friends, Russell,
Warren and Victoria. We lived at the Tottenham Court Road Station."
"Tots and ham floor
station?" Emily sounded out the words as she’d heard them.
Paul and Adam giggled.
Sloane still slept.
"No, Emily, sweetheart. I
said Tottenham Court Road." She sounded it out slowly. "It doesn’t matter
anyway. Let me continue. Those were hard times down there. We had to look
for scraps of food that people threw down on to the train tracks. It was a
Now and then we’d find a
sweetie or two, or a bit of a sandwich. If we were really lucky, we’d find
fish and chips lying there," Grandma Angel told them, staring into space
as she remembered those days long ago. "We had to be very careful when we
were down on the tracks. The tracks were electrical."
"What’s lectreacle, Grandma
Angel? Does that mean there’s treacle on the rails?" asked Paul.
"No, Paul," interrupted
Adam. "It means there’s electricity going through the rail; right Grandma
"That’s exactly right,
Adam. If you touched the rail, then you would die because electricity
would burn you. We had to be very careful with our tails and whiskers. We
also had to watch out for the trains. There was a trick to that though,"
Grandma Angel explained.
"A trick? The trains were a
trick?" asked Emily.
"What I mean is that we
learned quickly that before a train comes through the tunnel, a big gush
of wind blows," she explained to her grandchildren.
‘That’s silly, Grandma
Angel. How can wind blow way under the ground?" asked Paul.
"The train pushes the air
in front of it. About ten seconds before the train came into the station,
the wind would blow. We knew it was time to get up onto the platform, or
at least out of the way," she explained. "That was dangerous too, because
a lot of people were standing on the platform, getting off and on the
trains, so we had to be very careful not to be stepped on."
"That would hurt, wouldn’t
it? Is that how Grandpa Stubby lost his tail? Did a person step on it?"
"Lancaster, I mean Grandpa
Stubby, always was the fastest. He’d never get stepped on. You could say
he was a bit of a show off. He’d stay on the track until the train was
right there. We were all afraid he’d get run over, but he always managed
to get out of the way in time," Grandma Angel sighed, remembering how many
close calls Grandpa Stubby had.
"Russell, Warren, Victoria
and I were always telling him to hurry. We worried so much about him, but
he wouldn’t listen to us. One day we spotted a bag of fish and chips. Not
one bite had been taking out of any of it. Someone must have dropped it
when they were trying to get on the train. Oh, we had a feast that night.
We were all so full; the fullest we’ve ever been," Grandma Angel smiled.
"Did the fish have vinegar
on it?" Adam asked.
"Yes it did. It was
delicious. If I close my eyes, I can almost smell and tasted those fish
and chips, right now," Grandma Angel said with her eyes shut.
The little rats closed
their eyes and tried to imagine the smell of the fish and the salty taste
of the chips. "I smell it too, Grandma Angle, said Emily.
"Me too," said Paul.
"Well, I can smell it and
even taste the vinegar on the fish," boasted Adam.
"On with the story,"
Grandma Angel said. The fire popped and crackled and sent its warm fingers
of heat around the children. Sloane wiggled, but Grandma Angel wrapper the
blanket around her and she fell back to sleep. "We were down on the
tracks, very close to the rail when the wind began to blow. Russell,
Warren, Victoria and I ran up the sides onto the platform. But not
Lancaster; I mean Grandpa. No, he stayed on the track. I yelled down to
him to hurry up. I noticed his tummy was very full and round and worried
that he might not be able to run as fast as usual. I called to him again
to hurry. He ignored me. The wind blew very hard now and I could see the
lights of the train coming into the station."
"Did Grandpa get run over?"
asked Paul, very concerned.
"He would be dead if he
had, Paul," said Adam.
"What happened?" Emily
asked, her big brown eyes wide with curiosity.
"I yelled for him to hurry.
He looked up at me and smiled. Just as the train pulled up, he jumped, but
because he was so full of fish and chips, he didn’t jump quickly enough.
His tail got caught under the train and was cut off. All that was left was
a little stub!" Grandma Angel told her grandchildren.
"Oh no! Did it hurt him?"
"Did he bleed all over?"
"What happened to his tail,
Grandma Angel? Did it stick to the wheel?" asked Emily.
"Now, now, children. Don’t
worry. It hurt Grandpa a little bit at first. No, there wasn’t a lot of
blood and we never saw the tail again," she explained. "From then on he
wasn’t called Lancaster. Warren made up the name Stubby and it just stuck
with him. But one thing for sure, Grandpa never, ever stayed on the rail
again. He was the first one off the track and up onto the platform. The
second the first wind was felt, off he went."
"Did he wear a bandage on
his tail?" asked Emily.
Just then Sloane stirred in
Grandma Angel’s lap. Grandma bent her head over and kissed her forehead.
"No, Emily. He never wore a bandage, but it was sore for quite a while.
Anyway, after a few months, Grandpa Stubby and I got married and moved out
of London into the country. We’ve lived here every since."
They looked over at their
sleeping grandpa. He was snoring. Hanging out from under the blanket was
his stubby little tail. Grandma Angel winked at them. They all giggled
softly as the fire crackled behind them.