Reads: 104

10

The Disappearance

 

That night, I sneaked back into my bedroom by climbing up the drainpipe and crawling through the window. I quickly rearranged the bed so there wasn't a fake human figure sleeping there anymore. I managed to get to sleep just as my parents had finished their important tax argument and were going to bed. I kept helping the professor modify the Perma-therma pants and vest, and we changed the formula for Sprinkledust to make it bouncier and more flexible. However, after a couple of weeks, everything became unusually quiet. No, my parents still argued about tax calculations. It was something else.

I waited for instructions from the professor, but having waited a week, I hadn’t heard from him, and I began to worry. A couple more days went by, but I didn’t receive a text message from a stranger’s phone. There were no messages stuck to the town hall notice board, or to my bicycle parked outside the school, where the professor would normally leave me a note written in his horrible handwriting. I checked the delivery warehouse, and after making my deliveries each morning, I went to the church, the bus stop and the cemetery, but I couldn’t find a single piece of paper hidden anywhere. Something was up, and I was desperate to find out what had happened to the professor. It wasn’t like him to suddenly stop contacting me.

After my final delivery for the week, Mr. Trenchbog stopped me before I could pedal away from the warehouse. He yanked my polar bear head and said, “Just you wait, son. Just you wait.” His words confused and frightened me. Nobody had complained about my deliveries. I thought I had trodden on someone’s plants or trespassed on the wrong property, or that I had missed an order. Could it be possible that Trenchbog had been spying on me? Did he know I had been helping the professor? My heart kind of sank and I panicked. Trenchbog could tell the police and get me in deep trouble. The only way to solve this mystery was to pay the professor a visit, but with my latest homework schedule and school, I hadn’t had any time to cycle to the Old Mill.

Then something happened at the bus stop on the way home. I saw Mr. Lewis, and he avoided another high-five from me. “You’ve been a naughty boy!” he warned. “I know what you’ve been up to!” 

With some extra time for myself, I knew I could make it to the Old Mill and get home without my parents noticing my absence. I pedalled like fury until I reached the Old Mill. I saw the Indestructo standing in the field. Everything appeared to be normal.

“Professor Walker!” I shouted, as nobody answered the front door. “Wernie Walker, where are you? Hey, wooden eye Wernie! Professor? Madman? Get out here!”

Suddenly the door snapped open.

“Tom?” said Doris.

“Oh, what a relief. I haven’t heard from the professor in a long time. I’m worried. Where is he? Is he ok?”

“Just a moment,” said Doris, looking concerned. “He wanted you to have this.” She handed me the key we had found at the river. 

“He wanted me to have it? Do you mean, he’s gone?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so.”

“He’s dead? It can’t be!”

“No, he's not dead, Tom. He told me he was going away for a while. Well, he walked into that barn a week ago to do some experiments, and I haven’t seen or heard from him since.”

“Did he give any instructions for me? Did he say where he was going?”

“Nothing at all, Tom. I’m sorry that I can’t be more helpful. Do you want to come inside and have something to eat or drink?”

“No…no. I have to go home. See you soon, Doris. Thank you.”

I hurried back home just as my parents were finishing breakfast. My dad was standing next to the sorting machine, which until now I had been keeping in the shed and constantly changing and fixing.

“Big day for you tomorrow,” he said. 

“Huh? Dad?”

“Remember? The school competition? I polished your machine to make it tidy and presentable.”

Amongst the stress of wondering where on earth the professor was, I had completely forgotten about it.

“Oh. Thanks, Dad. That was kind of you.”

“Today’s itinerary,” said Mum, rubbing my cheeks with her cracked knuckles. “Two hours of homework, followed by a trip to the petting farm. You’d better hurry up if you want go out today!”

“Oh, great. I wanted to do some final checks on my sorting machine, Mum.”

“You can do that later,” said Dad.

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” said Mum.

“I’ve never looked a horse in the mouth because it would bite my head off.”

“It means don’t turn down a free offer, love.” Mum rubbed my cheeks again with her crispy palms. “You’ve been working hard lately and you deserve a reward. Now go and get ready to leave.”

 

 

 


Submitted: December 23, 2021

© Copyright 2022 Richard C. Parr. All rights reserved.

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