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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
The Adventures of Fish and Chips - Book 7

Fish lay in bed, the covers wrapped up to his chin. Raindrops gently patted against the window pain. He lifted his arm out and quickly pulled it back under. “Mum must have forgotten to put the heating on this morning. It's freezing.” He mumbled to himself and gave a deep sigh.

“I suppose I should get up.” After sliding his feet into his slippers, he wrapped his bathrobe around him and moved to the window. Parting the heavy curtains he glanced around his back garden. A shadow moved through the gate. “Harry? What's he up to this early in the morning?” Fish watched Harry run down the graveled road. “He's out in the rain, on a Saturday morning?” Letting the curtains fall, he went downstairs.

“Good morning, Fish. It's a dismal Saturday. Your dad left early this morning and caught the ferry over to Grailton. He's taking the train down to Inverness.” Maureen Ross, her dark brown hair spilling over her rosy cheeks, stood at the stove scrambling eggs. Sausages, plump and savory, sizzled in a frying pan.

“Mum, where did Harry go this morning?” Fish sat at the table and buttered a piece of wheat toast.

“Harry? I thought he was still in bed?” Mum poked the sausages and moved them to a paper towel covered plate, soaking up the grease. She scraped the eggs onto another platter and carried the food over to the table. “Help yourself. It's just you and I this morning then.”

“That's rather odd, isn't it, Mum? Have you ever heard of Harry getting up early on a Saturday morning and going out in the rain?” Fish shoved a piece of toast into his mouth.

“I'd not worry about it. Would you like to go into town with me today? We can have lunch at The Heather and Thistle Inn. I saw Hamish McMillan yesterday and he said the special for today was Forfar Bridies and chips with mashed peas.”

“What else are you doing?” Fish drank half a glass of orange juice.

“I've got to do some grocery shopping. I know that doesn't sound much fun to you, but you can invite Chips if you'd like and we'll make a day of it. What do you say?” Maureen winked at her son.

“Sounds nice, Mum. I'll call Chips after breakfast and see if she wants to come with us. Maybe we'll run into Harry and see what he's up to.”

An hour later Chips, Fish and his mum left for town. She walked a bit ahead of the two of them.

Chips whispered to Fish, “Where's Harry this morning? In bed?”

“No. He left early, in the rain, if you can believe that.” Fish rolled his eyes.

“What? Harry get up early? What's he up to?” Chips giggled and nudged Fish in the ribs.

“I plan to find out. I told Mum we'd go with her to town. After lunch I plan to find out where Harry went.”

“Come up here with me. Don't lag behind. I can't hear what you're gossiping about,” Maureen said, stopping to wait for them.

They started in McAllister's Sweetie Shop, where Maureen let Fish and Chips pick out a bag of their favorites.

“Inverlarich's a nice wee town, isn't it? It's the sort of place I've always wanted to live. When your father learned he could work from home, we immediately thought of moving here. Harry was just four and you a new baby. I'm glad we came.” Maureen's thoughts wandered back in time. A smile spread across her face.

“My favorite part of Inverlarich is the bridge over the River Larich. I wonder how old it is. It looks hundreds of years old.” Chips popped a Berwick Cockle into her mouth and sucked on its sweetness.

“The bridge was built in 1593, I believe,” Maureen said. “Why don't you two go and do whatever suits your fancy and meet me at the Inn at twelve. I doubt if you want to pick up groceries with me.”

“Okay, Mum. Thanks.” Without giving it a second thought, Fish grabbed Chips hand and ran off, dragging her down the street.

“Fish! Don't run so fast!” Chips struggled to release her hand from Fish's grasp.

“I didn't want Mum to change her mind. I want to find Harry.” Fish let go of his friend. They marched along the main street, glancing down each side street. “There he is.” Fish stopped suddenly and pulled Chips back against the clothes shop window. They peeked around the side cautiously. “He's with Shaun Kirkpatrick and Stewart Williamson.”

“Those two are hoodlums. Why would Harry hang out with them? You don't think he's doing something wrong, do you Fish?” Chips didn't take her eyes of the three lads.

“I don't think so, but he's there with them. Those two are bad news. They smoke and are always in trouble with the truancy officer at school. I wonder if I should mention it to Mum.” Fish pulled back when his brother came towards him. “Let's hide. I don't want him to know that we've seen him.”

Fish and Chips ran for cover, darting inside one of the shops.

“Oh, I see you wanted to shop with me after all. Very well,” Maureen said, “you can help me pick out a new tie for your father.”

Fish blew a breath of exasperation, ruffling hair.

Chips shrugged her shoulders in acceptance.

They finished selecting a tie and then headed to the grocery shop. After filling three bags with tins of beans, sticks of butter and loaves of bread, they headed for The Heather and Thistle Inn for a Ploughman's Lunch.

When they got home, Fish and Chips ran off to the beach. They gathered driftwood and seashells.

Sunday went by as normal. Harry and Fish attended church with their mum and spent the afternoon visiting their gran, who lived on the other side of Inverlarich.

As soon as Fish got out of school on Monday afternoon, he searched for Chips. He found her talking to a few of her girlfriends. “Chips, Harry's taken off again. We've got to follow him.” Fish blushed when the other girls looked over at him. “Do you want to come with me?”

Chips waved goodbye to her pals and ran off with Fish. “Where did he go?”

“I saw him with those two again, Shaun and Stewart. They headed right for town. If we hurry we can catch up with them. I want to stay behind them so they don't know we're following them,” Fish said.

“Of course, Fish. It wouldn't do us much good if Harry saw us, now would it?” Chips shook her head back and forth.

They followed the Harry to a doorway. Once he and the others went inside, Fish and Chips ran up to the door. “What do you think is in there? I've never been in the back of Lamont's Music Shop before. I didn't even know there was a back door.” Fish put his hand on the knob.

“Don't open it. What if they're in there stealing some of the instruments?” Chips pulled Fish's hand off the knob.

“What in the world would Stewart and Shaun do with a violin? Don't be silly, but I must agree, they're up to something. Let's hide and see how long they are in there.” Fish led Chips down the narrow street. They sat behind a row of rubbish bins.

An hour later Chips heard the door open. “Fish,” she nudged her half-asleep friend, “they're coming out.”

 They peeked around the bins and saw Shaun and Stewart. Harry came out a few minutes later, a bag in his hand. “What's he got in there,” Fish whispered. “It can't be a musical instrument. You don't think he's doing something really bad, do you?”

“He's your brother, Fish. I don't know him as well as you. Why would he be sneaking around all the time?” Chips stood. “They're gone. Come on. I have to go home. I've got school lessons to finish. I'll see you tomorrow.” Chips ran off, leaving Fish by himself.

On his way home Fish caught up with Harry. “Harry! Wait for me! What are you doing in town after school? I thought you'd have rushed home to watch television.”

Harry's face turned red. “I had something to do. It's none of your business, so stop asking questions, or you'll find yourself in trouble.” Harry ran ahead.

That night the family ate supper in silence. Maureen was thinking of Hugh. “I wish he'd come back. I miss him.”

“Mum, you're talking out loud,” Fish said. “You miss Dad?”

She nodded. A tear trickled down her cheek.

Harry spoke up. “He'll be home in three days, Mum. We're here.”

Maureen smiled and pulled herself together. “You're right. What did you think of supper? I wasn't in the mood for cooking. I hope you don't mind the quiche.”

“It's great, Mum.” Fish finished and sat staring at Harry.

“What are you looking at fish face?” Harry snarled and flicked a spoonful of peas at his brother.

“Harry, why are you hanging around with Shaun and Stewart? They're bad. I saw you with them two times. And why are you hanging out back of the music shop?” Fish blurted this out without thinking.

Maureen put her spoon down and looked at her son. “Harry? What's all this about?”

Harry sighed and rested his chin in his palms. “I didn't want you to find out. Fish, you're such a tattle. Mum, I am taking bagpipe lessons from Mr. Lamont. Shaun and Stewart are always getting into trouble. I thought if they came with me, it might give them something constructive to do. We all are taking lessons.”

“What? You're learning to play the bagpipe?” Fish roared with laughter.

Harry jumped up, ready to hit his brother. “This is why I didn't say anything. I don't want him taking the mickey out of me, Mum.”

Maureen nodded. “Fish, I think it's wonderful that Harry is learning to play the bagpipes. Your granddad on your father's side used to play and he was amazing. I'm also glad that Harry is trying to get Shaun and Stewart to play too. It's about time those lads did something good instead of always getting into mischief. I commend you for it, Harry and hope that when you're ready, you'll play for us. Your dad has his father's bagpipes up in the attic. He always wanted to learn to play. He'll be thrilled.”

A smirk of satisfaction spread across Harry's face. He stuck his tongue out at Fish.

Maureen continued. “Fish, I don't want you saying another word about this. You should think of joining Harry in lessons.”

“No thank you, Mum. If I am going to play any instrument, it would be the drums. I'm happy carving my driftwood and hanging out with Chips.”

Maureen finished off her piece of quiche.

The next day Fish ran over to Chips as soon as he spotted her. “Chips! Guess what? Harry's not up to no good. He's taking bagpipe lessons and so are Shaun and Stewart. Can you believe that?”

“Harry? If that's what tickles his fancy. Say, after school, do you want to run down to the beach. The tide was extra high last night. We can look for driftwood and then run over to Searlaid Point. Maybe we'll see Morag again.” Chips waved and ran off to class.

Fish smiled. Life was good in Inverlarich.

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