Tag Archives: orphanage

Story Soup 1.14

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Welcome to Story Soup! If you need to catch up with the events so far, you can read the whole story in chronological order here. Thank you to everyone who voted for what Gregory should reply upon being caught by the orphanage director. ‘Other’ suggestions included, “I’m your worst nightmare” and ‘Penny saves the day’. But with 43% of the vote the winning choice is below…

The next instalment will be posted later in the week, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left of the site or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Use your brain, Gregory!

Gregory turned to the orphanage director and said urgently, “Never mind me, he took Einstein’s brain!”

To this, Professor Harvey made a noise which was somewhere between a splutter and a snarl. “That’s absurd!” he exclaimed. “I did no such thing!”

“Yes you did!” Gregory yelled furiously. “You stole it and you want to implant it inside the head of a child—!”

The two began to argue loudly, Professor Harvey growing redder and redder and Gregory shouting at the top of his voice as he exposed the full extent of professor’s plans.

“You only want to adopt that girl so that you can put Einstein’s brain inside her. But she will hate it and grow up desperately unhappy!”

“Please,” Professor Harvey begged the director. “Please don’t listen to him!”

The orphanage director, who was looking incredibly fraught, turned seriously to the professor. “Sir,” he said in astonishment. “Do not think for one moment that I hold any credibility to this child’s ridiculous claims!”

Professor Harvey opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again.

“Of course you didn’t take Einstein’s brain!” the director continued. “Who could fathom such a deed?”

“Quite right,” Professor Harvey said briskly, shooting Gregory a livid stare.

Gregory narrowed his eyes and started to retort but was interrupted by the orphanage director who enquired angrily, “Who are you anyway? And what do you mean by trespassing on my grounds?”

Gregory felt his face grow red as he racked his brains for a reputable excuse. He wondered if he should give a false name but before he could reply, a voice behind them sang out merrily, “Gregory Bedcarrots! There you are!”

Gregory spun around. To his utter relief, there stood Penny.

“Penny!” he said through his breath.

“Please forgive my brother,” Penny said smoothly to the astounded director, in her ridiculously fantastic fake American accent. “He’s a little bit backwards.” She shot Gregory a toothy smile, brimming with all the purpose and charisma of a courageous Rescuer.

Gregory didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Somewhere in the depths of his heart he felt as though it should be he, not she, who played the role of knight in shining armour, but he was so frightened of the orphanage director and Professor Harvey that he could not help but take Penny’s hand when she offered it.

“We’re new to the area,” Penny continued confidently to the stunned director. “Gregory wandered off while we were all busy with the moving van. Please accept our sincere apologies. You are sorry, aren’t you, brother?”

Gregory nodded dumbly.

The orphanage director, now looking at Gregory with a mixture of pity and trepidation said politely, “Oh, that’s quite alright. No harm done.”

They were about to walk away when Professor Harvey exclaimed loudly, “That’s my bag!”

Penny turned in mock horror, glancing at the large brown bag that hung clumsily over her shoulder. “What this?” she asked innocently.

“Yes!” the irate professor snapped.

“Oh, I am very sorry,” Penny continued courteously. “I found it whilst looking for my brother and assumed it had simply been abandoned. I’m a collector of bags, you see.” From over her other shoulder she presented the armadillo bag, who was doing a very good job of appearing to be nothing more than a toy. “I found this one in a smelly ditch!” She gave a little giggle, knowing full well that the bag would get her back for this later.

Gregory, in his nervousness, could not keep himself from giggling too. And once he’d started, he could not stop. Like a school child under strict instruction not to smile when being shown a sex education video for the very first time, he felt the ripples of laughter sliding through his face and causing his lips to quiver. He knew that he ought not to laugh; that their situation was far more desperate than that. But he simply couldn’t help it. This helped him greatly with his efforts to seem a little backwards.

The professor snatched his own bag from Penny’s outstretched arm and said rudely, “Insolent children. They should all be shot.” When the director looked alarmed he added quickly, “Except for the darling that I’m adopting, of course. Is she ready yet?”

The director cleared his throat and said politely, “Perhaps you’d like to come back inside while I fetch her?”

“Wait!” Gregory exclaimed. “Check inside his bag! Check for the brain!”

“There he goes again!” the professor snapped, holding the bag tight to his chest.

“Oh, brother!” Penny said with a little titter. “Don’t be absurd!”

“But Penny!” Gregory insisted. “We have to stop him. He’s going to— Ow!”

Penny had nipped him on the arm. “We’re going home, Gregory!” She pulled his arm and tried to march him away.

But Gregory shook his head and cried urgently, “The brain!”

“Perhaps you ought to open your bag, just to show him that he’s wrong,” the director suggested gently, shooting Gregory a pitying smile.

The professor, who was looking sicker and angrier by the minute, tried to protest but the director would have none of it. “Come on, Harvey! Just show the boy that’s he’s mistaken and he’ll be able to go home in peace.”

Seeing that he was cornered, the professor opened his bag very slowly and deliberately, keeping it turned towards himself. Fear turned into horror as the inside of the bag came into view. “It’s empty!” he said, aghast.

He looked at Penny in dismay but she simply shrugged and said briskly to Gregory. “I told you not to be absurd, brother! Now let’s go!”

Finally taking the hint, Gregory gave a quick nod and then followed Penny down the path, breaking into a sprint as soon as they neared the edge of the grounds.

Turning at the gate, Gregory stole a glance behind them and saw the professor staring furiously after them whilst trying to maintain formalities with the orphanage director who was beckoning him back into the orphanage building.

“Penny!” Gregory exclaimed breathlessly as they turned a corner at the edge of the street. “You’re amazing!”

“Thanks,” Penny said graciously. “I was hiding in the bush when you threw his bag in!”

“That’s fortunate!” Gregory said. Then he stopped and asked anxiously, “Then where is the brain?”

Penny gave him a sly grin and cocked her head at the armadillo bag swinging over her shoulder.

The bag raised an eyebrow and a little glint shone in his button eye.

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Story Soup 1.13

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Welcome to Story Soup! If you need to catch up with the events so far, you can read the whole story in chronological order here. Thank you to everyone who voted for what Gregory should do next. Each receiving 33% of the vote, your winning choices were ‘Make a run for it with the scientist’s bag’ and ‘Mention casually that Einstein’s brain was reported missing on the news’.

The next instalment will be posted later in the week, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory Bedcarrots; a little bit brainy a little bit brawny.

“Well?” Professor Harvey demanded. “How much longer?”

Gregory gave a timid cough and said hoarsely, “Not much, sir…”

Professor Harvey screwed up his nose and peered at Gregory rather distastefully. “Where are you from?” he asked with disdain.

Gregory blushed and bit his lip. Words felt thick and heavy in his throat. There was no way he could feign a believable American accent. “Uh, England,” he said finally.

Professor Harvey looked at him curiously, somewhat suspiciously. “How did you get to America?” he demanded crisply.

“I flew,” Gregory said quickly.

When Professor Harvey raised an eyebrow, Gregory gulped and crossed his fingers, hoping beyond hope that they had aeroplanes in the 1950s.

“Flew?” the professor repeated edgily.

“Yes, sir. On a, uh, jumbo jet…” Gregory whispered.

“Jumbo jet? What’s a jumbo jet?” Professor Harvey exclaimed furiously.

“Uh…” Gregory brought a hand to his head and began to anxiously twiddle his hair. A million thoughts flew between his ears and he felt his cheeks growing hot with shame. He hadn’t heard of a jumbo jet… Did that mean they hadn’t been invented yet? Would he have heard of any aeroplanes? Why were they called jumbo jets? Distant images of birds and planes and flying elephants spun themselves round his befuddled brain.

The hot-headed professor slammed an impatient hand down on the desk. “It’s a simple question, boy! What’s a jumbo jet?”

Gregory stood dumbstruck, opening and closing his mouth, searching desperately for the right thing to say. In his confusion, he blurted out foolishly, “It’s like an elephant, sir.”

Professor Harvey glared at him and snarled, “You lying child. I’m not waiting any longer.” He picked up his bag and moved towards the door.

Gregory felt his heart leap into his throat. “Wait!” he cried helplessly.

Professor Harvey ignored him and reached for the door handle.

“Did you see the news this morning?” Gregory babbled desperately. “Apparently someone’s stolen Einstein’s brain.” He tried to say it casually, with an edge of cool, but was shaking so much that he had to lean against the desk to steady himself.

Professor Harvey shot him a quick glance and then said briskly, “I expect that’s another lie.”

“No,” Gregory said quickly. “It’s true. Apparently there are police all over town looking for the person who took it.”

Professor Harvey said nothing for a moment, then coughed and adjusted his tie. “Well, good luck to them,” he muttered irritably.

Sensing weakness, Gregory willed himself to carry on and continued confidently, “They said the person who took it will face the death penalty.”

Professor Harvey eyed Gregory carefully, and then said in a forced voice, “Good.”

Gregory pushed his luck even further. “I would hate to be caught with Einstein’s brain in my bag, wouldn’t you, professor?”

“Indeed,” the professor snapped through gritted teeth.

“What’s in your bag?” Gregory enquired gingerly. Seeing the colour drain from Professor Harvey’s face, Gregory felt a glimmer of triumph surge through his veins. He attempted a cocky smile but, nervous as he was, he looked more like someone practising for the world gurning championships.

The professor glared at him and said in a most threatening manner, “What I keep in my own bag is entirely my business. And you would do well to stay put and keep quiet!” Then he turned and strode through the door.

In what can only be described as a moment of sheer lunacy, Gregory grabbed the nearest thing he could find (which happened to be a sandwich) and flung it at the back of the professor’s head. The professor gave a yell and momentarily dropped his bag. Without a moment’s thought, Gregory lunged for the bag and sprinted down the hallway.

“Oi!” Professor Harvey pursued him earnestly, screaming wild abuse as he followed Gregory through the door of the orphanage and out into the sunshine.

With the professor hot on his heels Gregory called desperately for Penny, hoping that she would hear him and come to his aid. “Penny, help! Where are you? Penny! HELP!”

But Penny was nowhere to be seen. Admittedly, they had been so fixated on moving the young Alberta and gaining access to the professor that they hadn’t actually made a plan on what to do next.

If you will recall, Gregory was not a particularly fit individual and running was not one his strengths. He hadn’t got very far before he could feel the professor’s hand grappling for the back of his neck. Knowing he could not hold the professor off for much longer, he roared mightily and flung the brain-filled bag into the nearest bush.

Professor Harvey gave a yell of fury, shoved Gregory roughly aside, and ploughed into the bush.

Gregory fell back, panting and holding his aching side. He felt the blood swim to his face and rubbed his eyes in dizzy frustration. He felt angry with himself for not being able to run faster, angry at Penny for not being there when he needed her, and angry with Einstein for not taking better care of his own brain.

A few seconds later the Professor emerged from the bush, shaking with anger. “Where is it?” he hissed furiously. “WHERE IS IT?”

Apparently the bag was no longer there. Professor Harvey spat on the floor and exclaimed, “You fool!” He said more than this. He swore quite a bit and made various ghastly threats. But I will leave that to your imagination. The attention-seeking antics of a person who steals someone else’s brain is not to be endorsed.

Of all the people Gregory has attacked so far in this sorry story, this guy was certainly the most deserving. With crazed frenzy in his eyes, Professor Harvey turned on Gregory. If he’d had the tools, he may well have extracted Gregory’s brain right there and then. But to Gregory’s relief, the orphanage director appeared at that moment, his grey face aghast and bewildered at the sorry state of the professor. “Professor Harvey,” he gasped. “What’s the matter?”

Professor Harvey turned, his face livid with rage, and yelled, “That boy has taken my bag!”

The orphanage director looked Gregory up and down and said sternly, “Who on earth are you?”

Story Soup 1.12

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Welcome to Story Soup! If you need to catch up with the events so far, you can read the whole story in chronological order here. Thank you to everyone who voted for where in the orphanage Gregory and his gang arrive. ‘Other’ suggestions included, ‘The angry orphanage manager’s under desk cabinet’ and ‘A laboratory in which 12 dinosaurs like Darren are lined up on a shelf’, but the winning choice, with 42% of the vote was in the Laundry room…

The next instalment will be posted later in the week, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory’s first trip abroad.

“Are we there?” Gregory asked anxiously. “Is this the right place?”

They were surrounded by piles of white towels, creased sheets and clean pyjamas.

“I don’t know,” Penny replied, picking a pair of pants off her head.

The room was very small and smelt of soap. It was probable that it was usually kept quite tidy, but their arrival had caused quite a disruption as many of the shelves had collapsed, leaving the contents in a disorderly heap on the small white floor. The bag was stuck under a pile of dirty pillow cases and was crying out for assistance. Gregory ran to his aid, though he soon wished he hadn’t when the bag snapped ungratefully, “Thanks for nothing, Idiot!”

Gregory sniffed and went to retrieve Darren who had landed in a box of pegs. “Are you alright?” he asked the dinosaur tenderly, unhooking a peg off his tail.

Darren purred and closed his eyes.

“I want to go home!” moaned the bag, twisting awkwardly to look at his limbs. “I think I’ve pulled a stitch!”

Gregory ignored him and took a deep breath, looking round at the piles of laundry that surrounded them.

Penny was clearing boxes of washing powder from the window sill in an attempt to peer through the window. “I can’t see anything,” she muttered in frustration.

Gregory caught sight of a tag sewn into a nearby towel. He picked it up and read, “Princeton Orphanage.” He shot Penny a wide grin. “We’re here!”

Penny beamed at him and then began to rifle through some clothes on the floor. “This is nice!” she said, holding up a long flowing skirt. She pulled it on over her trousers and did a little spin.

“What are you doing?” Gregory cried in exasperation. He knew that Penny, like most girls, was rather fond of clothes, but surely there were more pressing matters at hand.

“Put this on,” Penny suggested, thrusting a t-shirt into Gregory’s hands.

“Penny, be serious!” Gregory snapped in frustration.

“I am being serious!” Penny said, affronted. “I just meant it might help us look like we belong. We can’t walk through in our own clothes; we’ll look strange to them. It’s the fifties! They’ll have no idea what Star Wars is!” She pointed to the logo on Gregory’s shirt.

Gregory looked down at his own clothes and realised she was right. “All right,” he said. “But you’ll need to hide your earphones. And your High School Musical bracelet.” He looked her up and down. “And your crocs,” he added pointing to her feet.

Penny gave a squeak of fury. “I should have thought of this before we left!” she scolded herself. She started to rummage more urgently through the clothes, holding dresses and shirts up to herself and asking Gregory to vote for which ones suited her most.

Gregory shrugged in a most unhelpful manner as he pulled on the nearest clean shirt. “Just pick something,” he said impatiently.

“Alright, I am…” Penny tried on a dress and then decided it made her look ‘too frumpy’. The next top ‘didn’t quite fit right’ and the shirt after that was ‘too orange’. She found herself quite smitten with a pale pink scarf and insisted on wearing it even though Gregory (quite rightly) asserted that it made her seem like she was trying too hard to look older than she truly was. She then couldn’t decide between a white poodle skirt and a pair of black peddle pushers and ended up wearing them both. To top it off, she wore a loose pink shirt and tied it in a knot at the waist, stating firmly that, “All girls wore clothes like this in the fifties.” Eventually she undid the plaits in her hair and swept it back into a half ponytail, keeping the loose hair in place with a clothes peg. “How do I look?”

Gregory looked her over and said nothing.

“Would I fit in?” Penny begged him urgently.

Finally Gregory gave a long, slow nod.

“Good! Then let’s go!” said Penny. “Oh, and one more thing: We’re in America so we’d better speak in American accents.”

Gregory shot her a flabbergasted look and followed her nervously out of the laundry room. They crept along an empty corridor, sticking close together and muttering incoherently as they attempted American accents under their breath.

Penny carried the bag under her arm and he too was muttering incoherently, though he wasn’t as much practising an accent as heaping bitter curses as he grumbled about his withdrawals from Mario Kart.

Darren sat snugly in one of Gregory’s pockets while the bag lady’s key was wedged safely amongst the time worms in the other. Every now and then Gregory felt to make sure they were all still there. “We need to get to the hallway,” he told Penny, racking his brains as he tried to remember what the older him had said so many weeks ago. “A little girl should be there— Alberta, I mean. We need to get her out of the way so I can pretend to be the child the scientist has been allocated.”

Penny nodded and said in an appalling American accent, “Sure thing Buddy!”

Gregory grimaced and pointed towards some stairs. “Let’s go down there.”

They ventured carefully down the stairs, slightly disturbed by how empty and quiet the orphanage appeared to be. As it was, it was lunchtime and most of the children were on the other side of the building waiting to be fed in the dining room. But of course, they weren’t to know this. As they neared the bottom, Penny shook Gregory’s arm in excitement. There, sitting on the bottom step was a little girl with her hair in pigtails. Gregory felt both sick and exhilarated at the same time as they ran the last few steps and stopped in front of the child.

For a moment, forget anything you may believe about the kind of person the bag lady is. At this point, she was a sweet and simple child of three or four, largely untainted by the stains of this world. She liked painting and animals and pretending to be a princess. At this moment in time she was dreaming of flying. Gregory could not help but feel a twinge of compassion for her. He nudged Penny, indicating that as a sensitive girl, she should do the talking.

“Hello,” Penny said to the girl in her raucous fake accent. “I’m Penny.”

The girl looked at her with wide eyes and gave a shy smile. “Wanna play with me?”

Gregory’s jaw dropped as Penny shot him triumphant grin. It was like taking candy from a baby. Or a nut from a squirrel.

“I’d love to!” Penny said sweetly. “Let’s go and play outside…” She led the girl down the hallway and through the front door, pausing at the doorway to mouth Gregory a swift good-luck.

Gregory forced a determined grin and took a deep breath as the door swung closed behind them.

Goodness knows how long Gregory sat there on the cold grey step. It felt to him like hours and hours and he soon began to lose heart completely. More than a couple of times he got to his feet and edged towards the door, running his hands through the time worms in his pocket as he contemplated grabbing Penny and insisting that they were leaving. But every time, he remembered the sweet face of the little girl and, much as he hated the bag lady for putting him in this position, he couldn’t find it within himself to leave her to her dire fate.

While he waited, Gregory tried fruitlessly to produce an American accent. He had never been to America before. In fact, this was his first ever time abroad. When he first realised this, he felt rather excited and wondered where in the world he and Penny should go next. But then he considered that from what he’d seen of it, America wasn’t much more exciting than England, and what with the ridiculous task he had ahead of him, he probably wasn’t so lucky after all.

At one point, the matron of the orphanage walked through the hallway and eyed Gregory suspiciously. “Are you alright?” she asked him.

Gregory looked at her in horror and nodded wildly.

“Are you sure?” She looked closer at him and then, realising that she didn’t recognise him, asked, “Are you new?”

Feeling as though his tongue was glued to his mouth, Gregory nodded quickly.

“When did you arrive?” she continued, putting her hands on her hips.

Gregory simply shrugged.

“Are you hungry?”

Afraid that she would continue to press him until he gave himself away, Gregory said quietly, “No,” and looked away, desperately hoping that just one little word wouldn’t reveal him to be an English boy.

The matron shook her head and muttered something about him needing to have manners beaten into him. But thankfully she left him then.

A few minutes later, Gregory heard the rattling of a nearby door. His heart leapt as he got to his feet.

“I’ll bring her to you now,” he heard a voice saying courteously.

“Good,” a second voice said civilly from inside the room.

Gregory pretended to be studying a plaque on the wall as an aging gentleman came out of a nearby office. He wore a dark brown suit and was clearly the director of the orphanage.

“Oh, where has she gone?” he muttered angrily to himself upon finding the stairs empty. He looked up and down the hallway, peered into a nearby room and then disappeared down a corridor, shouting angrily for the little girl.

Gregory bit his lip and let out a whimper. This was it. Without another thought, he forced himself to walk over to the director’s office, turn the handle on the door, and walk through to face his doom. The scientist (whose name was Professor Harvey) was stood by the window. He had a long grim face and smelt of cigars. His lip curled into a sneer as Gregory came in and stood before him.

Taking a deep breath, Gregory said in a garble, “I’m-the-child-you-waitin-for-!”

Professor Harvey raised his eyebrows, “Excuse me?” he said in a deep American drawl.

Gregory cleared his throat and tried again. “I’m the child… for you.”

The scientist shook his head and said firmly, “No, you’re not. I asked for a young one.” He turned his back on Gregory and started to stride around the director’s office.

Gregory bit his lip and took hold of the sideboard to steady his beating heart. There, beside the scientist’s chair, was a large brown bag. Gregory’s heart skipped a beat as he remembered the older Gregory’s words; His bag contains Einstein’s brain which he removed without permission that very morning.

A few minutes later, Professor Harvey checked his watch and tutted angrily. “I really can’t wait much longer,” he muttered. He turned to Gregory and demanded impatiently, “Is that old fellow bringing me a child or not?”