LITTLE BLACK BALLS (1)
" What are these little black balls ? " said Mum in a loud voice.
She was standing there holding a pair of my jeans in one hand and the little black balls in the other.
I wasn't sure what to say.
She wasn't going to take it.
Mum usually checks the pockets before she puts my jeans in the wash.
I should have emptied them. But I forgot. Now jeans were all stained.
" Well..." I began.
" Come on, sally " said Mum.
She thrust the little black balls under my nose.
" Out with it. "
I just looked at my toes for a bit.
Then I took a deep breath.
It was no good stalling, " Goat poo, " I said.
" Goat poo " shrieked Mum.
She threw the droppings on the floor and scrubbed at her hands with a towel.
Then she turned on me with flaming eyes.
I could tell that she was just about to do something silly.
Like ground me for a month. Or stop my pocket money.
" I can explain " I said.
" You won't be mad when I tell you what happened. Just give me a chance. "
I took another deep breath and launched into my explanation
(つづく 1/9 )
LITTLE BLACK BALLS (2)
See, I've got this friend. Everyone calls him the Paper Man.
He dosn't dress in clothes. He dresses in newspapers. He wraps them around his arms and legs and ties them up with string.
In the winter he wears lots of papers and in the summer he takes some of them off.
The Paper Man dosn't believe in money. He's not into buying things. He thinks everybody should get by with a lot less.
" I don't need a car, " he told me.
" Or a house. Or a washing machine. I've got the stars. And the cool wind off the sea. I've got the birds. And the fish. I don't need television. Now when I can watch the clouds tell a different story every day. "
This is how the Paper Man goes on. He dosn't care what other people think. He has a mind of his own.
He lives in a bank hut on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea.His carpet is paper. His bedcovers are paper. And his friends are the wild creatures that live on the cliffside.
The kids at school think he's crazy.
When they see him wandering around in his paper clothes they call out names. From a safe distance of course.
They pretend they want to buy a paper. Or ask him for fish and chips. but really they're scared of him. No one goes near his hut except me. I'm his friend.
I help him to care for the animal. He has a blind possum that he feeds every day. And a hawk that sits on his bed. It's a pet. A black hawk with a yellow beak. The hawk can fly off whenever it wants to. But it never does.
Anyway, yesterday I went to see him after school. He was sitting on a rock in the sun. On his lap he had a bag made out of old newspapers. I could see straight away that there was something moving inside.
" What have you got ? " I said.
The Paper Man looked up with a sad smile. " A friend, " he told me.
I pulled back the paper and looked. It was a beautiful little kangaroo. She stared up at me with soft, moist eyes.
She felt safe in the arms of the Paper man. He was strong and gentle. Animals knew that he would never harm them.
" Can you fix it ? " I asked him. I thought I knew what his answer was going to be. The paper Man had healed hundreds of animals. None of them had ever died.
He shook his head slowly. " This one has bad trouble, " he said. " It has a lump inside. It needs to go to a vet. For an operation."
I knew he didn't like to go into town where people laughed at his newspaper clothes.
" No worries ", I said " I 'll take her in for you.
He looked up at me. " That's really nice of you,Sally, " he said.
" But vet cost money. It's two hundred dollars for an operation. We have to get two hundred dollars.
" I'll take up a collection, " I said.
He shook his head. " It wouldn't be right. Not begging for money. " He walked into the hut and brought out a rusty old tin. He reached inside and took out something.
It was a jewel. Small and lovely. it was smooth with blue and purple swirls running deep inside.
" An opal, " he said. My last one. From the old days. When I was a miner. "
I looked at the opal as it rolled around like an egg on his cracked, brown palm.
Suddenly he took my hand. he opened my fingers and gave me the opal.
" Take it into town, " said the Paper Man. " And sell it at the jeweller's. It's worth two hundred dollars. Cash it in for me. I know I can trust you,Sally. "
I went red in the face. No one else would have ever trusted me with two hundred dollars. People always say I lose things. That I'm a scatterbrain living in a dream world.
I stood up tall. " I'll do it. " I said. "But I won't be able to go to the jeweller's until after school tomorrow. The shops will be shut by now. And I can't wag school. "
The Paper Man's face crinkled up with a smile.
" That's the girl, " he said.
LITTLE BLACK BALLS (3)
I walked back along the clifftop.
The sun was setting into the sea like an ingot in a blazing furnace.
A soft wind ruffled my hair.
I looked at the opal and knew that it had cost the Paper Man a lot to part with it. I would never let him down.
Suddenly I heard something strange.
At first I thought it was someone playing a joke. A sort of sad, bleating call.
Then I heard it again. A baaing noise, like a sheep makes. It was coming from the cliff face.
I looked over the edge but couldn't see anything. There it was again. A loud baa. A cry for help ?
The cliff fell dangerously into the sea. The water swelled and crashed below. The edge was rocky and crumbling but there was a narrow track down.
I clasped the opal firmly and started to edge my way along, sitting on my bottom because I was too scared to walk.
I managed to inch my way around a clump of rocks and there he was.
A large billy goat.
He had a piece of chain around his neck which was tangled in a bush.
It was the dirtiest billy goat I had ever seen.
Its long hair was matted with dung and dirt. It was covered in burrs and twigs. Its teeth were green and horrible.
It baaed at me crossly.
"Okay, okay, Billy, " I said. " I'll get you out. "
I was still sitting down on the ledge, too scared to stand. I pulled myself towards the goat carefully.
The sea was long way down. There were sharp rocks in the water.
I hung on to tufts of grass with one hand. My other hand still crasped the opal. I was too scared to jam it into my pocket.
Finally I reached the goat. It wasn't a bit scared. The silly thing didin't even seem to know it was trapped. It started to nibble at my socks.
" Stop it, " I yelled. " Stop it, you stupid goat. "
Billy kept on nibbling. He took a whole chunk out of my socks and swallowed it.
With my left hand I propped myself up so that I didn't fall.
I tried to untangle the chain with my other hand. It was hard work because I was trying to hold the opal at the same time.
I felt opal fall. It just slipped out of my fingers.
It seemed to take for ever to hit the ground. It was as if it was in slow motion.
I made a wild grab but the opal fell onto the track and rolled towards the edge.
Quick as the flash, the goat bent down and licked it up.
" No, " I screamed.
But I was too late.
The goat gave a little swallow and had the opal for dessert. It was gone. Buried deep in the blackness of Billy's bowels.
The goat had swallowed the Paper Man's opal.
LITTLE BLACK BALLS (4)
The chain came away from the bush and Billy tried to escape.
He shoved between me and cliff.
I tottered on the edge. If it hadn't been for the root of a dead tree I would have tumbled to my death. I hung on like crazy.
The ungrateful goat pushed past and bolted up the track. With the opal still in its belly.
I managed to crawl back up the cliff on my knees. I stood up and looked around. Just in time to see Billy clip cloping in the distance.
I felt cold all over. I began to shake as I realised what had happened.
The opal was gone. THe goat was going. And poor little kangaroo would miss out on its operation.
I would die. And it was all my fault.
I couldn't go back and face the Paper Man.
I couldn't look into his trusting brown eyesand tell him that I'd ost his opal. The opal I was supposed to have sold for two hundred dollars.
I had to catch him. I belted after Billy as ast as I could go.
I tore alomg the clifftop.
Billy was heading for town. Flat out. You might not think it but goats can run fast.
I tried to keep up but I couldn't.
My side ached. I had a stitch.My lungs hurt.
I slowed to a fast walk.
It was the best I could do. As I went I thought about the opal. How could I get it back ?
I could take Billy to the vet's. I coud ooffer him half the opal to operateand take it out.
Or I could say, " Operateon the goat and get the opal back. Then you can fix the little kangaroo and keep the opal. Two operations for one opal."
But in my heart I knew he would just laugh.
I was just a kid. And what if the opal had gone ? Move on, so to speak.
No, i had to catch that goat and get the opal back myself.
But how ? What goes up must come down.What goes in must come out.
All I had to do was catch Billy and collect the droppings.
Sooner or later the opal would appear in a little ball of poo.
And every thing would be all right.
Then I started to worry. How long would the opal take to complete its journey ?
Goat eat quickly. Maybe the opal would pass through before I could catch up with Billy.
Slow motions wouldn't be Billy's style. I had to hurry.
LITTLE BLACK BALLS (5)
I started to run again. I could see Billy munching some flowers in a garden just outside of town.
This was my chance.
Boy, was I tired. But I kept runnig. Even with a stitch.
Billy looked up just as I reached him. He broke into a trot along the footpath into town. He went past the shops.
People stopped and laughed as he passed.
" Stop that goat, " I yelled at the top of my voice.
But no one did. Everyone thought it was a great joke.
Billy run across the road against a red traffic light. And did something.
" Oh no, " I groaned.
Billy ran on.
I looked at the little black balls on the footpath.
There was nothing else I could do. I couldn't risk leaving them there. One of them might have the opal inside.
I picked up the pellets of poo and shoved them into my pockets.
You can imagine how I felt.
There I was. On my hands and knees in the middle of the main street.
Picking up goat droppings in my bare hands. With everyone looking.
I went red in the face. Then I jumped up and tore after the goat. How embarrassing.
Well, it was terrible chase. Every time I caught up to Billy he dropped a few more pellets.
I had to stop and pick them up.
By the time I finally grabbed him my pockets were bulging with poo.
And people in the street thought I was crazy.
I walked slowly down the road, stopping every now and then to pick up Billy's latest offerings.
Finally I reached home. I took Billy into the back yard and tied him up behind the garage where Dad wouldn't see him.
" Don't make any noise, " I said. " This is a secret between you, me, and the little black balls."
" Baaa, " said Billy.
LITTLE BLACK BALLS (6)
That night I found it hard to sleep.
I snuck out twice and serched around in the night with a torch.
But no opal. Just more of same.
In the morning I dressed for school. I found a small cardboard box and borrowed a cheese knife from the kitchen.
Then I went to check on Billy.
He was gone.
" Oh no, " I groaned. I scooped up the new droppings near the fence and put them in a box.
Then I followed the trail.
Out through the hole in the hedge and down the lane.
The pile in the box grew bigger.
Finally I found him. His chain was tangled around a letterbox.
The silly goat was munching away on someone's roses.
I didn't know what to do. If I tied Billy up he might get away again.
And if the opal made an appearance someone else could find it.
I thought of the little kangaroo. And my friend the Paper Man.
I had to make the supreme sacrifice.
" Billy, " I said. " You are coming to school. "
Well, talk about terrible. The first class was music. I sat there looking out of the window hardly singing at all.
I could see Billy outside where I had left him. Chained up to a post on the school oval.
He was straining on the chain. Looking towards me.
I had the box of goat poo under the desk.
I hadn't had time to examine it carefully for the opal.
I slippedup the lid and started cutting open th little black balls with the cheese knife.
My hands were shaking with excitement. I didn't notice that the class had stopped singing. The silence was deafening.
Suddenly Irealised. Everyone was looking at me. Shame.
I tried to close the lid but my shaking hands let me down.
The box fell onto the floor. The cotents of Billy's belly scattered everywhere.
The kids laughed and jeered. They looked at me with disgust. I felt like a creep.
While all of this was happening, Billy had been busy.
Goat are stupid things. It was lonely. It wanted to find me.
Billy wandered through the front door ad straight into the classroom.
" Who own this goat ? " yelled Ms Quaver.
Every one looked at me.
" Sally Sampson, " she said. " I might have known. What on earth have you brought a goat to school for ? And wha's that filthy stuff on the floor ? "
I didn't know what to say. My head seemed as if it was ging to explode.
The kids were all giggling and laughing.
" I've got asthma, " I blurted out. " I have to drink fresh goat's milk every hour."
There was a long silence.
" You are not going to get much milk from the billy goat, "said Ms Quaver i a sarcastic voice.
The kids packed up. Talk about laugh.
They rlled around on the floor, helpless with mad mirth.
Some kids held their sides as they hooted and cackled.
I felt stupid. Caught out in a silly lie.
LITTLE BLACK BALLS (7)
Ms Quaver pointed outside with a quivering finger.
I grabbed Billy and took him back to the oval.
" Stay there " I ordered. " And don't let that opal drop until I came back. "
The class was singing some song about pennies from heaven when i returned. I had to clean up the mess in front of everyone.
As I worked, I stared out of the window at Billy.
He was eating and doing his business at the same time.
his business→this case it must be poo
A feeling came over me.
I was sort of like when you know that someone is looking at you.
Like the time I threw an orange in the air just for fun. As soon as it left my hand i knew it was going to fall next door and hit out neighbour on the head.
I just know it was going to and it did.
Well I had another feeling like that.
I knew that Billy had finally dropped the opal.
It was lying there on the grass. I just knew it.
A football team jogged out onto the field. One of the boys untied Billy because he was in the way.
Another boy with a large 2 on his jumper kicked at the goat droppings. Then he stopped and looked down. He bent over and picked something up.
I forgot all about the music class. And Ms Quaver.
I rushed out the door and over to the oval.
" Hand that over " I shrieked an Number Two.
" No way, " he said. " Buzz off, little girl. "
Little girl. He called me little girl. I saw red. And I saw the blue opal in his hand. There was no timefor talking.
I grabbed Number Two's arm. The opal flew into the air.
Then it started to fall.
Way over the other side of the oval.
It landed right between the goal posts.
My opal almost landed on a bird that was searching for worms. A black bird with a yellow beak.
You might not believe what happened next.
I could hardly believe it myself.
The bird picked up the opal and flew off with it. It happened right overour heads. I could see the opal clealy in its beak.
"Come back, " I screamed. " Drop that opal. "
But itwas no good.
The bird flapped off toward the sea.I can I ran after it as fast as I could go.
Billy trotted along behind. He stopped every now and then to nibbe at a gate or some flowers.
What a day. Everything was going wrong.
I puffed after the bird and finally caught up.
It stopped for a rest by the beach and perched on top of a swing in the playground.
" Good bird, " I said. " Good birdy. Drop it, birdy. " I tiptoed toward it.
Deep in my heart I knew it was hopeless.
Birds don't come to you when you call.
But I hoped that it might throw the opal away if I came close.
I mean, why would a bird want an opal mean, why would a bird want an opal ?
I could see the bird watching me with one beady eye.
I crept closer. I reached up.
And the bird flew off.
I watched as it flew out to sea, hisher and higher.
Then it opened its mouth and dropped the opal.
I seemed to take for ever falling. A small speck plunging down. I
I didn't hear it hit the waterbut I saw it disappear. Way out deep. Where no one would ever find it.
The opal was gone. Lost at sea.
" Rotten blackbird ," I shouted at the bird.
LITTLE BLACK BALLS (8)
I turned and walking towards the Paper Man's hut.
What was he going to say ?
I had no opal. And no two hundred dollars.
And the poor kangaroo was dying and needed an operation.
Soon I was on top of cliff, walking along a twisting track.
I walked slowly. I didn't really want to get there.
It was the worst day of my life.
"Baa " said Billy. he was still following me.
" It's all your fault, " I said. " Stupid goat."
I grabbed his chain and looked around for somewhere to tie him up. I'd had enough goats for one day.
I found a tree by a small pond and this time fixed the chain very carefully.
" There's enough for you to eat here until I come back, " I said to Billy.
He stared back without saying anything. Try to make me feel guilty. The way dogs do when you won't take them for a walk.
I trudged along the cliff with my head down.
The poor little kangaroo.
Now it coudn't have the operation because we didn't have two hundred dollars.
What if it died ?
I had ninty five cents in the bank. That was no good.
I could ask for my pocket money in advance. I tried it out in my mind.
" Dad," I could say. " Will you let me have the next one hundred week's pocket money right now? "
The answer would be " No " with a long lecture to follow.
By now I could see Paper Man's shack in the distance.
I stopped. I just couldn't tell him. My feet refused to move.
" Excuse me, " said a voice.
I just about jumped through the roof. Except there wasn't any roof.
I turned around and saw a man with a worried look and a bald head.
" Have you seen a goat ? " he asked.
" A goat ? " I replied.
" Yes, a kashmir goat. With long hair. I brought it out from india. But it's run off. It's worth fifteen thousand dollars. "
He hung his head and shook it in despair.
Then he looked up and said something that was music to my ear.
" There's two hundred dollars reward for whoever finds it. "
He took out two one hundred dollar notes and waved them in the air.
I gave an enormous smile. Then I grabbed the money.
" Follow me, " I said.
Well, that's just about the end of the story.
I took the bald-head man to Billy and the little kangaroo to the vet's for the operation.
The paper Man was rapt.
I've never seen anyone as happy as he was when the kangaroo came back. She made a complete recovery.
LITTLE BLACK BALLS (9) 完
Mum was standing there, still holding the jeans with goat poo stains on the pockets.
She had a soppy smile on her face. The sort of smile people have when they see someone's new baby. It was the type of smile that Mum rarely gave me any more.
" Why, Sally, " she said.
" What a lovely story. How sad. You kind girl. What a terrible time you've had. " she looked at the little black balls on the floor and the dirty jeans.
" Don't worry about the stains. Just clean up the mess and we won't say any more about it. "
I gave her a big smile and ran up to the kitchen to get a brush and dustpan.
Dad was there. He was just going to open the fridge and got a beer.
" Don't. " I screamed.
But it was too late.
He opened the fridge door.
There on the top shelf was a little mouse. Sitting up on a saucer, begging.
A dead mouse all covered in mould.
It looked lovely. As if it was a polar bear wearing a long white coat.
Dad didn't think it was lovely.
He stood there quite still.
He didn't even turn around.
He spoke slowly with a really mean voice.
" Sally, did you put this disgusting thing in the fridge ? "
He turned on me with flaming eyes.
" Come on, Sally, " said Dad.
He thrust the saucer under my nose.
" Out with it. "
I could tell that he was just about to do something silly.
Like ground me for a month.
Or stop my pocket money.
I took a deep breath and tried to think of another good story.