Dodgy Dealings

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Children Stories  |  House: Booksie Classic
My second story in the Tales Of Pawton series about a group of teds living together in a city. George the turtle gets himself into deeper and deeper trouble at every turn.

Submitted: February 21, 2011

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Submitted: February 21, 2011

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DODGY DEALINGS
George couldn’t say that he had a bad life at all, just that there was something missing. The problem was he just couldn’t discover what was wrong, no matter how hard he tried. Even though he had his own house, a fine large mansion-like abode in the heart of Pawton, he spent most of his time doing what he enjoyed best: cuddling Rachael in her home on the outskirts. When he wasn’t relaxing at either of these two places, he was out having great fun running his School For Young Turtles. Now that it was a success, he could practically enjoy an early retirement, but still he loved to pop into lessons every now and then to see the children’s faces beaming up at him. There was never a minute when George would feel uncomfortable as such doing any of these things, and yet he was sure there was something better that could, maybe even should, happen soon.
One day early in winter, George shuffled out of his school to the sounds of delighted little turtles shouting goodbye to their favourite teacher. He chuckled to himself as he waved back, and carried on down the road in the direction of his little sweetheart’s house. As he moved away from the school, the warmth in his heart faded and, all of a sudden, he felt very alone. Even the sky seemed to darken as he scanned the road for passers-by that he knew, but there were no friendly waves to greet him here. In a sudden flash of inspiration, he seemed to finally understand the dark niggle in the back of his mind. Maybe he was alone. Not at school, with all the adoring children and teachers; certainly not at Rachael’s house, in bed with all his friends; but in his own home. Surely this whole town would seem far more cheerful if there were a few companions to exchange words with on the street? Slowly, he smiled to himself at the thought and hurried on.
“I couldn’t agree more,” said Rachael in a soothing, sincere voice, as George awkwardly finished muttering about his empty neighbourhood. “Even if you don’t spend much time with your neighbours, it would be nice to say hello.”
George, gulping down a mouthful of tea, was just about to complain that everyone was always in such a rush in the city, when Paws solved the problem before he had opened his mouth. “You don’t have time before school or when you’re coming here,” began the bear thoughtfully, “but what about at tea-time? Maybe you should share some of those delicious scones you make with a few neighbours, get to know them a little. Then you won’t feel you’re all by yourself when you aren’t here.” George couldn’t stop himself; he flung his front flippers round Paws in an excited hug. “You’re a genius Paws,” he cried happily. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have some making to do.”
George was not the sort of turtle that would leave an idea to rest once he was settled on it. That very evening, he bravely knocked on every door on his street (except the one belonging to the scary grizzled old hedgehog next door) in order to introduce himself and invite them for tea and scones the following afternoon. The animals were surprised by the visit but all readily accepted; at least, their stomachs did!
The next morning, George was woken by a frightful hammering on his door. One of the more boisterous young turtles at his school had been most unpleasant to a rather shy teacher, and the bewildered victim had marched him straight to the headturtle’s house. Despite the nasty incident, George felt quite smug that he had gained an (albeit unwilling) apprentice for the day’s baking. With careful instructions to the moody boy, George had his scones done in record time, and found time for a quiet cup of tea in the living room while the excluded pupil cleared up in the kitchen. After a while, George worriedly turned his attention to what he should wear when so many guests would be coming to his usually quiet house, and quickly forgetting his ‘apprentice’ waddled upstairs to catalogue his cupboard. He only remembered the naughty young flippersnapper when he heard the door slam and looked out to see him hurrying down the street, but it was home-time at the school anyway. The scolding could wait until tomorrow; George had more important things to worry about right now.
Looking back to the morning’s frantic search for the right outfit, George laughed quietly to himself as he mingled with his guests. He couldn’t quite believe what a state he had got into just two hours previously, but it was all worth it... for a while. True, he did enjoy the idle conversation, but maybe this chatter had gone on too long – he was getting quite tired already. Maybe it was time to reveal the snacks.
“Ok, friends!” he called in his best teacher voice, silencing the crowd in an instant. “It’s time for my fresh home-made nibbles, baked this very morning! Hold on a moment.” Turning to the cupboard door and swinging it open, the turtle waved a flipper majestically towards the shelves, and stopped dead. The scones were gone!
It took a few moments for the reality of the situation to sink in. George frantically brushed cups and saucers away in a desperate effort to recover the plates that clearly weren’t there to be found, when the truth dawned on him. The apprentice! George hadn’t been with the child when he was clearing up, and the young upstart must have scoffed the prizes in revenge for the hard day’s work before making good his escape!
George fought the urge to cry out in anger, and won. Turning to his guests with a blank expression, his mind raced to come up with an excuse. Luckily, potential aid was at hand. “Errr, I forgot, silly me!” he called out. “I had tea this morning with Old Man Prickly next door, and showed him my... food.” He hadn’t mentioned scones since last night; hopefully everyone would have forgotten by now. “I must have left it there... I’ll be back in a minute!” And off he scuttled, out the front door, towards an encounter he both dreaded and desperately needed at the same time.
Old Man Prickly was his usual grumpy self, and any guilt George felt about not inviting him to the party instantly disappeared when he looked on the sour face. Nervously, the turtle blurted out the tricky situation, and at the proposal that the hedgehog could lend food at such short notice, the neighbour’s eyes lit up with anger. However, the expression only lasted a second, quickly giving way to a shifty, calculating look. “And you say you have no other food ready?” he muttered grumpily.
“I was intending to go shopping as soon as they’d eaten the scones,” said George miserably, and prepared to leave. “As a matter of fact I do have some spare cakes that need eating,” the hedgehog snarled suddenly, “but I have a little favour to ask in return. You see, my poor back’s too sore these days to weed my garden out back. If you took the cakes, you’d have to come straight back here and sort out my lawn at once!”
George glanced behind the old animal to look out the window, and almost squeaked with horror. The lawn itself, if it existed at all, was completely invisible under a tangled jungle of thistles and nettles. A turtle such as George would have to spend days pulling out all those plants, if he could get his flipper around the biggest stalks at all. But, desperate times called for desperate measures.
“I’ll do it!” whimpered George, collecting the cakes and leaving before the hedgehog could say any more.’ I really hope he leaves me alone to do the garden,’ George thought timidly, as he sped back into his own home to greet the guests again.
The cakes went down very well, and no-one seemed to ask about any scones, but George could not enjoy a second more of the gathering. Even when a kindly animal was talking directly to him, his mind wandered back to the lurking forest next door. He began to wish the guests would go that very instant and imagined them stampeding noisily out of his front door, when another idea struck him.
George moved out to the back garden and whistled for the other guests to follow. He stood in the centre of his immaculate lawn and reached out for the first item to hand: a small rubber ball from the summer. “And now for the grand finale!” he shouted, thinking on his flippers. “In collaboration with Old Man Prickly next door, I have organised a treasure hunt to end things here in style! The first animal to reach this ball and present it to me shall receive....”
“Think, George, think!” he muttered under his breath, and, in a wild panic with all the faces staring expectantly at him, he rather unfortunately picked out the first thing he would want in a treasure hunt.
“A free weekend at the Gentle Friends Luxury Resort in Paw shire!” he called, throwing the ball over the fence into the hedgehog’s garden. As the guests ran wildly out the garden gate, George slumped to the ground in resignation. He could never get a free room there, and certainly couldn’t afford one. Why couldn’t he have said anything but that?
With a heavy heart, George trudged over to the hedgehog’s garden. He expected the fearsome old animal to race towards him, reprimanding him for the mob in his garden, but no! The first thing the turtle saw was the usually grumpy face smiling in admiration, and then he saw why.
The jungle had disappeared under the dozens of feet that now scampered over every square inch of the lawn. With such a good prize on offer, the guests had plunged into the weeds, heedless of thorns and stings, and now only broken piles of leaves and stems remained for the turtle to pick up. For a moment, George actually felt pure relief. His plan had worked! Then, a much more sorry sight greeted his eyes.
A small mouse was scurrying straight towards him, wild happiness in her eyes. And in her front paws was the rubber ball. George forced a smile as he accepted the target, a deep sense of dread hiding and growing behind his eyes.
Needless to say, George didn’t sleep one wink that night. When he rolled over and plumped up his pillows for the twentieth time, he gave up completely and went out to seek the cool night air on his shell. To ease his sorrow, he decided now was the time to clear up the hedgehog’s garden, and by the time dawn’s first light crept over the horizon, the lawn was as clear as George’s.
The aching turtle didn’t stop to wake Old Man Prickly – regardless of how he felt, he had a mission to perform. No matter how little hope there was, he had to rely on the possibility that he could somehow obtain a room, even if just for a night, at the area’s most classy hotel.
George was right about one thing – there was little hope after all. Even as he explained his predicament to the ted at the check-in desk adorned with its crystal ornaments and golden clock, he got a very strong impression the worker thought he was an idiot. “I’m afraid there is very little we can do for you, sir,” sighed the bear as sympathetically as possible. “We do no such offers. And a room here would cost at least five hundred per night...”
“Five hundred per night!” exclaimed George in amazement. “That’s a lot more than my house!” Suddenly, the ted seemed to remember something, and came around the counter to lean close to the grim turtle. “Well, we are looking for accommodation for a few of our staff members,” he said, slowly and clearly. “Maybe your house is just what we are looking for. You do live in Pawton?”
Walking home that evening, George felt sure that no turtle had ever felt this miserable before. He couldn’t betray the mouse by refusing to give the prize, even if she was a mere acquaintance. That went against everything he believed in. But could he go through with this? Could he give up his very own house for one weekend booking in Gentle Friends? He asked those questions, but already he knew the answer. He was a turtle of honour. And at least he could still live with Rachael – he was there most nights anyway. Yet, that wasn’t the point. What would the teachers think? ‘The ironic thing is,’ he thought, laughing bitterly, ‘I didn’t even particularly enjoy their company.’ How had it come to this?
George could barely look at Rachael as he passed out the last of his belongings from the hall. She had been very understanding, but still he felt ashamed at losing all this, through one stupid idea. That reminded him, he still had to ring the hotel to confirm his leaving. Better to do it sooner rather than later. Reluctantly, he picked up his phone and dialled the number. And then, there it was again! Surely not another idea? All the others had gone wrong, but could he make this one work?
His reasoning was cut off by the polite voice on the other end. “Yes, I have left,” he said, slowly and clearly so he could not be mistaken. “Yes, the manager can come today if he likes. But, he does realise this was a turtle’s home?” The voice confirmed exactly what George wanted to here – that would be fine, the hotel had nothing against turtles.
Slamming the phone down, the turtle turned to his friends, grimly watching the last of the bags being hauled away. “I might have another plan,” he told them, and a groan resounded down the street. “Not another plan,” said Paws kindly, “Let’s just go. There’s nothing left to do!”
“Oh yes there is!” replied George. “Just a few home improvements for the next resident!”
The esteemed manager of the Gentle Friends Luxury Resort arrived promptly at seven that evening. He was a smart young bear with finely brushed golden fur, and seemed quite taken aback when he rounded the corner to see a welcoming party of animals gathered outside the new property. They all seemed rather out of breath, as if they had been madly rushing around just seconds previously, but they all greeted the ted politely enough.
The turtle seemed the most dishevelled of all as he stepped forwards with the keys. “Just to confirm,” George puffed, “You have no problem with a turtle’s residence?”
‘What does he think I am, a racist?’ thought the manager in annoyance, but put on his usual business smile. “Not at all, friend,” he smiled. “Not at all. This arrangement is most welcome. May I have a look around?”
“Indeed!” cried George, in a mysteriously cheerful voice for a turtle that had just lost his home. The manager stepped forward to peer through the front window, his hand stopping on the doorknob next to it. Only his reflection gazed back at him. Surely he should be able to see in!
“Extra thick glass,” explained George, moving to stand beside the ted. “It was my home, after all!”
“Hmmm,” growled the manager, thoughtfully. What a strange house! But, there again, he wasn’t going to live in it. “I’ll go in now, if you don’t mind,” he continued, turning to George and shaking his flipper. “You needn’t wait here!”
Turning back to the door, the bear heaved it open, and was instantly knocked over by a wall of cold, rushing water. He scrambled backwards, desperate to be away from the tidal wave. His newly curled fur was soaked through! Ruined! He sensed animals rushing past him, heard a grunt of effort and the closing of the door, and the roaring torrent stopped as quickly as it had started. The bear gazed blankly at the puddle of water rolling out in every direction around him, and then at the faces encircling him with expectant expressions. “What...what happened there?” he stammered, his teeth chattering in the sudden cold. A flipper was extended to him from the left as George pulled him to his feet and brushed frantically at his jacket. “Sir, are you alright?” the turtle said with great concern. “You didn’t seem prepared for that at all!”
“But... but how could I... I be prepared for all that water?” stuttered the manager in disbelief.
“Well, I did warn your secretary and yourself,” explained George light-heartedly. “It is a turtle’s residence. We do like to swim – we’re originally from the sea, you see. My whole house has been converted into a swimming pool. I’m afraid, if you haven’t got any turtles in your staff...” George trailed off hopefully as the manager shook his head. The bear was still in a state of shock. “Y-y-yes, well, th-this was supposed to be s-s-sorted out before. W-w-why wasn’t I told of th-this before? You’re sure you told my secretary of the situation?”
“Definitely!” replied George cheerily. “A home for turtles!”
“W-well, I’m most sorry for my disruption. This residence is NOT fit for my staff. Wait until I see him!” growled the bear, seeming to forget all about George and his friends and stumbling towards the car park.
George’s friends could barely contain themselves until he was gone before they burst into applause and cheers. “Good work!” yelled Paws, hugging his ecstatic friend, “But are you sure you’re comfortable in this fish tank? You could have left one room spare!”
“I couldn’t take any risks!” laughed George. “And besides, I think my life is finally complete!”
And so, at last, the whole situation was over, and yielded some delightful consequences. As soon as George had thought about converting his house to save it from the hotel, he just knew his feeling of emptiness was a longing for the feel of water on his shell. When he thought about it, he always did get restless on trips to the seaside, and now he knew why! Of course, he didn’t have to go back to completely traditional ways – whenever he felt the need for his old sophisticated life, he simply popped over to Rachael’s house for a nice cuddle and a talk with all his friends.
Speaking of friends, the mouse who won the treasure hunt was so delighted with her weekend break that she swore she would never forget George’s kindness: a new companion for life was made. Even Old Man Prickly was a little more agreeable after the cleaning up of his garden, and soon everyone on the streets of Pawton knew George’s story and no-one avoided saying hello.
Eventually, George did realise he simply didn’t need such a huge swimming pool all to himself. But he certainly didn’t regret the conversion. If you should ever go to Pawton now, look for the signs to the ‘George’s School For Young Turtles Swimming Pool’, where all the turtles of the city can feel the thrill and release of a good swim! It is only after their first session that many of the visitors realise that, like George, their lives have suddenly somehow changed, and for the very best!
THE END


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