Thank you to everyone who voted for what Gregory should do with the poor bag lady. ‘Other’ suggestions included ‘take her home for tea’, ‘switch clothes with her so he can spend a day being a crabby old woman’ and ‘learn to play the saxophone’, but a massive 46% voted for Gregory to conceal the bag lady in the tree. (I love that absolutely nobody voted for him to do the honest thing and phone the police!)
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Gregory’s day gets a little bit worse.
Gregory felt awful. Of all the stupid things he could do he had gone and knocked out an old lady. Not just once but twice. He beat his head with his fist, blinking back tears as he muttered, “Idiot! Idiot! What have I done?”
He felt that perhaps he should stay and try to wake her, but he could not bear to look at her, afraid that at any minute she would open her eyes and say his name again. Racked with guilt, he was about to run away when a sudden, more terrifying, thought came to mind. If somebody found the bag lady and managed to wake her, she would be sure to say, in that eerie rasping voice of hers, “Gregory Bedcarrots did it!”
What awful bad luck to assault a stranger who already knows your name!
“Who are you?” Gregory whispered fretfully, “How do you know my name?”
But the bag lady lay ominously still.
Gregory looked around frantically, searching helplessly for an answer. His friend, the apple tree, seemed to beckon like a loyal ally. In a blind panic Gregory hoisted the old lady onto his shoulders and dragged her over to the hollow trunk. He shoved her inside the tree; pressing her in as far as she would go in the hope that nobody should spot her before she came to her senses.
Gregory stepped back and shuddered. The bag lady looked truly gruesome.
A small note in the bag lady’s defence: She was not really as frightening as you might imagine. She may have smelt funny and had a creepy face but she was actually a rather jolly bag lady. She could make a box into a bed in ten seconds flat, she could tell you what time it was without ever looking at a watch, and she knew several good jokes about a man with a dog. On a good day, she might look something like this:
But on a day when she has trudged through a muddy forest, been punched in the face, and then stuffed into a tree, she looked understandably worse for wear.
Gregory’s next thought was to hide the old lady’s bag. He reasoned with himself that he was actually doing a kind thing; keeping the old lady and her possessions safe until she awoke. And where better to awake after an assault than in the safe hug of a cosy tree trunk? Gregory turned and reached for the bag. But, to his horror, the bag was gone. A sudden terror took hold of him and he spun around wildly. It was nowhere to be seen. A chilly wind began to blow through the forest and Gregory shivered with fear as the leaves fluttered round him and tickled his ankles. The trees no longer looked warm and inviting. They seemed to point at him in accusation. Even his friend, the apple tree, appeared to leer at him as if to say, “I give you sanctuary all this time and this is how you repay me?”
Gregory gulped and began to run. He ran so fast that he was frightened he might turn himself inside out. It was a terrifying run, the kind of run I hope you never have to endure, where everything around you threatens to attack and consume you. His chest hurt wildly and he had a stitch in his side, but still he ran, never once looking behind him. He ran so fast that he nearly threw up Penny’s pie and barely noticed when his shoes fell off. By the time he got home he was sweatier than a soggy southerner sweltering at the World Sauna Championships.
Blinking back tears, Gregory dragged himself up his street and breathed a small sigh of relief. He felt as though he wanted to have a long bath and wipe the whole sorry episode from his mind. But as he walked up the garden path, an astonishing sight met him. There on the front porch sat the armadillo bag.
Gregory gaped at it in shock and muttered in a panic, “How did you get here?”
To his utter surprise the bag snapped back, “Same as you, Idiot! I ran!”
Gregory’s heart leapt into his mouth and he almost collapsed in shock, but the bag kept on speaking.