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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
Grandpa Stubby

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.

Grandpa Stubby

"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 Underground."

"What’s the Underground?" asked Emily.

"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 Paul.

"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 tough life.

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 Angel?"

"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?" asked Adam.

"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?" asked Paul.

"Did he bleed all over?" Adam wondered.

"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.

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