Welcome to the second Story Soup instalment and thank you to everyone who voted for who or what was following Gregory! There was an awful moment when the poll first opened and the only vote was ‘Other— Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys’ which would have led to much necessary research and confusion. Perhaps he will pop up at some point though… Other suggestions also included ‘a block of cheese’, ‘a barrel on legs’, ‘A girl’, and ‘his neighbour after the pie Gregory had stolen’. It was all incredibly close and it looked like Gregory might be meeting three people at once, but a spurt of more than twenty votes came in overnight and a clear winner emerged! So with 52% of the vote, let’s see who was following Gregory…
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Gregory chooses an unfortunate moment to be brave.
Gregory had not been in the apple tree for very long when he heard a scuffling from somewhere close by. He strained his ears to listen, wondering if it was his neighbour, Penny, who had begged him earlier to show her his hiding place in exchange for some pie. Gregory had refused but had stolen the pie anyway, sprinting off with it under his arm before Penny had had time to fetch her shoes. Gregory quickly wolfed the pie down and waited to be found. But as the scuffling came closer he realised with a jolt of fear that the footsteps did not belong to Penny. In fact, they did not sound human at all. He held his breath as the sounds came closer. He had no idea what kind of animals might lurk in this forest and a whole host of gruesome creatures immediately sprang to mind.
Pretty soon, the mysterious animal began to circle the tree. It would not be too hard, Gregory realised, for the creature to climb into the tree trunk and devour him. He began to tremble in terror at the thought.
But many minutes passed and the creature, whatever it was, showed no signs of tearing down the tree to eat him. Round and round the tree it went, grunting and wheezing, and dragging something heavy (its tail, Gregory imagined) behind itself. Perhaps it wasn’t anything dangerous after all. Perhaps it was a friendly wombat, or a shy woodland deer, or a miniature diplodocus that had lived unseen since the beginning of time. In a moment of excitement, Gregory wondered if maybe he was on the brink of discovering a whole new creation. He would name it after himself and everywhere it went people would exclaim, “There goes a Gregory! What a wonderful creation!” Of course, if the animal looked anything as hideous as the beasts above, then Gregory would soon regret having it named after himself. ‘As ugly as a Gregory’ is not the kind of saying one would like to be known for.
Gregory edged towards the crack in the tree trunk to attempt a peek but he lost his nerve and shrank back again. He counted to ten and tried again, but once more fear got the better of him. The time went on and Gregory started to feel less curious and more infuriated. “It’s probably just a badger,” he scolded himself angrily. “I’m so stupid to be hiding from a badger!” He took a deep breath and rolled up his sleeves and determined to be bold. So in a moment of spirited daring and sheer unadulterated madness, Gregory leapt from his hiding place with a mighty roar and pounced upon the mysterious creature.
In the instant before he landed, Gregory caught sight of his target, gave a yelp and tried to abort his fall. But it was no use. He landed heavily on the creature and it dropped lifelessly to the floor. It was an old lady.
She lay perfectly still and heavy dread filled Gregory’s heart as he thought frantically, “I’ve killed her!” He stood up, heart beating fast and sickness rising in his throat, and assessed the situation. He saw straight away that she was some kind of beggar or tramp for her clothes were filthy and torn and she smelt of smoke and vinegar. She had the kind of face that makes you want to cry and she looked like a regular bag lady, apart from her bag itself which looked like a stuffed armadillo.Gregory stood over her, blinking back tears and murmuring over and over, “I’ve killed her! What do I do? What do I do?” He wondered whether he would go to jail for this and shook with fear at the thought of being branded a murderer and locked away with violent convicts. Tears started to stream down his cheeks as he whispered over and over, “I’m so sorry, it was an accident…”
Eventually he decided he would write a little note explaining what had happened and leave it by her body. Hopefully she would be cleared away by the weekend and he could return to his tree to hide. He was just about to run home and consult Google, when suddenly the old lady opened her eyes and said in a deep rasping voice, “Gregory…”
Gregory gasped and leapt backwards in fright.
“Gregory,” the lady repeated. “Gregory Bedcarrots…”
In a panic, Gregory lunged forward with a punch and the bag lady fell unconscious once more.