Marmaduke by Margaret Pearce
Billy and Rusty spill a mysterious red dye on to Billy’s white mouse Marmaduke. Immediately the mouse grows very large and runs away. The red liquid has also run into the creek as well. All sorts of animals drink creek water…
Suddenly there are rumors of albino bandicoots and kangaroos and mysterious monsters seen around the district! Hunting parties and television news’ squads and scared neighbours run amok. Billy and Rusty have to act fast to get out of this mess, retrieve Marmaduke…and maybe find a way to fix this colossal problem before it gets seriously (and literally!) out of hand.
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GENRE: Mid-Grade Novella ISBN: 978-1-922066-48-0 ASIN: B003ZHVECS Word Count: 10, 856
There was a shriek from the house.
William Pitt the younger, otherwise known as Billy, looked up. “Sounds like Mum.”
Rusty Jordon grunted, his red head down over the wobbly wheel. He was used to the noise of the Pitt household. If it wasn’t Mr. or Mrs. Pitt bawling Billy out about something, it was Penny Pitt yelling at her little brother.
Billy and Rusty were busy working on Billy’s bike. Billy had swerved into a front fence on the way home from his paper round the night before. It had been some crash. A large section of the new picket fence had shattered with the impact. It was fortunate it had broken his fall.
He and Rusty had put in most of the Saturday morning fixing the chain and straightening the back wheel, but the front wheel remained a problem.
“William! You come right in here and get this mouse.” Billy’s mother sounded irritated.
Billy let got the wheel with a sigh and trudged into the house and along to his bedroom. Sometimes his mother was very difficult to get along with. She knew he had to get his bike fixed for his evening paper round.
“Don’t make all that racket, Mum. He’s got to be kept warm and quiet. He’s sick!”
This explanation of Marmaduke’s presence in Billy’s bed on the electric blanket sent his mother off again.
“Diseased animals in your bed! Goodness knows what you will pick up from it.”
The injustice of this remark stung Billy into answering back. “He’s sick because you washed him with my jeans. He’s probably going down with pneumonia.”
“That mouse shouldn’t have been in your dirty washing. Now get it out of my house!” his mother yelled.
Marmaduke shivered at shrillness in her voice, and blinked dulled pink eyes. Billy picked him up and eased him carefully into his back pocket.
“That mouse will have to go,” his mother threatened, and returned to the unrewarding task of cleaning up Billy’s room.
Rusty had taken the broken wheel off and was studying it, pale blue eyes squinting as he turned it this way and that.
“Needs a new wheel,” he pointed out.
“Spent this week’s pay,” Billy replied.
He inspected the wheel. Apart from the buckle in the rim, three of the spokes had snapped and the others were bent beyond repair.
New wheels were not cheap. For all his time and work on the paper round, Billy never seemed to have any spare money. Bikes cost money to keep on the road. The unmade roads of his paper round caused a lot of punctures and blowouts. That meant new tubes, puncture equipment and spare spokes.
His family seemed to think he was made of money. This week had been particularly expensive. His mother had forced him to buy a cage. Ten dollars it had cost! It was a terrible waste of money as Marmaduke spent all day in his shirt or jeans’ pocket and slept with him at night.
“Borrow,” Rusty suggested.
The mournful expression on Billy’s face deepened. His father was most unreasonable about lending money. His older sister Penny who was working and rich enough to help him, wasted all her pay on clothes and makeup.
“When you’ve finished putting grease all over my path, shift that heap of junk down to the end of the yard.” His mother still sounded bad-tempered as she flapped dust from the mat into the yard.
“It’s not a heap of junk,” Billy replied as he and Rusty grabbed up the collection of nut and bolts threatened by the flapping mat.
“Belongs down the tip.” The door slammed as his mother went back inside.
Rusty snapped his fingers. A slow grin spread across that part of Billy’s face not hidden by the untidy blonde fringe. For once, his mother had come up with a helpful suggestion!
The tip was the best place in the world to find a spare wheel for a bike. The tip was a vast deposit of all sorts of treasure. Everything ended up there, guarded by bad-tempered Council employees.
There were worn out beds and chairs, toasters, broken toys, prams, and wirelesses, old television sets, lounge suites and car parts, all jumbled in glorious abandon, waiting to be drowned by fresh filling.
Billy collected his tools and packed them into his battered canvas pouch. Rusty had already placed his screwdriver and pliers in his belt and stood waiting.
“Let’s go,” Billy said, his face cheerful again with hope and optimism.
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