by Robert Williams
"Ralph Berkshire!" snapped Aunty Phyllis one morning.
"Oh, what have I done now," sighed Ralph.
"That statue of mine is a disgrace!"
"That's not my fault!" protested Ralph.
"As you are aware I am going to visit my sister Rosemary in Northumberland tomorrow, and I want that statue to be thoroughly cleaned before I leave! Do I make myself clear!"
"Yes," sighed Ralph. The statue Phyllis referred to was a priceless self-sculpture of Leonardo da Wednesday, dating back to the seventeenth century. It stood pride of place in the back garden, and even Ralph had to admit it was looking a little mucky. "It'll take ages though!"
"Well ask Desmond to help you then!" exclaimed Phyllis. "Now I am going to Kingston-upon-Thames to shop for some new attire to wear on my holiday, and I want the statue to be immaculate by the time I am back."
Ralph sighed. Once Phyllis had left he went round to the cafe where he knew Des and the others would be.
"We've got to clean Phyllis's statue, Des," said Ralph.
"What, that horrible old thing?" said Des. "That'll take forever!"
"She wants it done by the time she comes back from shopping," said Ralph.
"But we'll never get it done, just us two!" said Des. "Mick, Clive, Wayne and Dave, you'll have to help us!"
"I didn't know Mrs Berkshire had a statue," said Mick.
"It's a self-portrait, or a self-sculpture rather, done by my great ancestor Leonardo da Wednesday. He was as bad at sculpting as he was at painting," said Des.
"It see what you mean," said Mick, when they arrived at Phyllis's house. "He must have been jolly ugly."
"Runs in the family," said Clive.
"Look stop gabbling and help me get on with cleaning this thing!" said Ralph. "And please be careful! It's priceless, you see, and if we get even a little scratch on it, then I'm DEAD!!!"
"No probs!" exclaimed Wayne.
"Hey man, don't worry!" said Dave.
They set to work cleaning the priceless sculpture, and with the six of them, it didn't take long to get it looking spick and span.
"Hey, that wasn't as difficult as I thought," said Ralph. "Even Phyllis will have to be impressed!"
"Anyway, I think you three had better scarper, especially you, Wayne. Phyllis will be furious if she knows you helped to clean her priceless statue!" said Des.
"Oh all right then!" said Wayne. "See yer later, Leonardo, dude!"
Wayne tapped the statue on the shoulder - but with a little too much force. The statue started wobbling about, and before they had a chance to save it the statue had toppled over, and broke into hundreds of little pieces. The six of them just stood there open-mouthed, in complete horror.
"Ooops!!" exclaimed Wayne. "I'm off!!"
He was about to run off but Des stopped him.
"Wayne! You're not going anywhere!"
"But what are we gonna do??!!" exclaimed Wayne. "Yer Aunty's gonna kill us!!"
"Do they do one-way tickets to Mars at the travel agents?" said Mick.
"We'll have to stick it back together again," said Ralph. "It's all we can do. We've got all the bits!"
"Hey man!" said Dave. "That'll take ages! And Mrs Wednesday will be back soon!"
"Well we'd better work quickly then!" said Mick. "Clive, you go inside and keep watch in case she comes back."
Clive did so. Ralph fetched some superglue and they set to work.
"This is quite fun, really," said Des. "It's like a giant jigsaw!"
They had just managed to get the main bits together when Clive came rushing out to the garden.
The others panicked, and let go of the statue which promptly fell apart.
"Oh no," sighed Des. "Right, there's only one thing for it. Ralph, got any whitewash?"
"Yes, I have," said Ralph. "I was doing the side of the house the other day."
"Brilliant!" said Des. "Right, Clive, you're ugly enough, stand there."
"What??!!" exclaimed Clive, who happened to be standing on the former statue's pedestal.
"Ever wanted to be a statue? Well now here's your chance!" said Des. "Right you lot, collect up the bits and hide them in the shed. And quickly!! I'll try and stall Aunty Phyllis."
Ralph started covering Clive in the whitewash, Mick, Wayne and Dave frantically swept up the bits of the statue, and Des hurried out to the front of the house where Phyllis was walking up the drive.
"Ah, good afternoon Desmond, have you completed cleaning my statue?"
"Good. I shall go and inspect it."
"NO!!" exclaimed Des. "Sorry, no...um...I wanted to have a word with you first...um...you see...um..."
"What is it, Desmond?"
"You see, I mowed my lawn yesterday, and I just wanted you to check that all the blades of grass are the same length..."
"I have already done that," said Phyllis.
"At precisely half past six this morning," said Phyllis, who was at the front door and was opening it. "I do every morning."
"Oh!" said Des. "Well...I did notice that...um...the painting in your drawing room was a bit wonky..."
Phyllis looked horrified. Des gulped. If that horrified her, what if she found out they had broken her statue? She entered the house and strode into the drawing (living) room.
"There is nothing wrong with it at all," said Phyllis. "Now I wish to view my statue."
She bustled past Des and went into the kitchen and went to open the back door. Des got in her way just in time.
"You can't!!" exclaimed Des.
"What is wrong with you, Desmond?" said Phyllis. "Why can I not?"
"The thing is...um...Ralph is still in his overalls, and he doesn't like you to see him in them..."
"That has never bothered him before," said Phyllis.
"Well...this is a rather special event," said Des, "and he wants to be looking his best for the unveiling of your cleaned statue."
"I am not asking for a ceremony!" exclaimed Phyllis. "I just wanted it cleaned!"
Des peered out of the window, and saw that Ralph was still frantically trying to disguise Clive as the statue. He prayed that Phyllis would not look out of the window. She didn't - instead she tried to open the door.
"Oh, Aunty Phyllis," cried Des. "It's...it's..."
"Are you keeping something from me?" said Phyllis.
Des desperately tried to think of another excuse. He then saw Ralph giving him the thumbs up.
He moved away from the door, and Phyllis strode outside and saw Ralph standing beside Clive, who was now completely white and wearing the stone beard that had been rescued from the statue. Des prayed for his life.
"Hmmm," said Phyllis, inspecting the statue. Luckily, her sight was not as good as it used to be and she did not cotton on to the fact that it was actually Clive.
"This is so uncomfortable," whispered Clive to Ralph out of the corner of his mouth. "Try and get to rid of her."
"It certainly looks a little uglier than it did before!"
Clive was fuming.
"Don't inspect it too much!" said Ralph. "You see, we didn't quite have time to finish it."
"Desmond told me it was finished!"
"Oh did he?" said Ralph. "Well, er, I thought it was, but then I noticed that we'd missed a few bits..."
"You most certainly have," said Phyllis. "This is a disgrace! You have hardly cleaned it at all!"
"Look, give us until you come back from your holiday," said Ralph. "Then we'll have it really spick and span!"
"All right then," sighed Phyllis. She went back inside.
"Phew!" said Clive, relaxing. "That was a close one!"
"Now we've got a whole three days to get it sorted out!" said Des. "Well done, Ralph! Oi Clive, where are you going?"
"Eh?" said Clive.
"You'll have to stay there!"
"What?? Until tomorrow?!"
"You've got to!" said Des. "The statue can't just vanish! And you lot, as well," he said to the others who were hiding in the shed. "You'll have to stay in there tonight so that Aunty Phyllis doesn't spot you leaving!"
"Oh brilliant!" exclaimed Mick.
Des and Ralph slept in their nice cosy beds that night. Meanwhile, Mick, Wayne and Dave spent it in the shed, and Clive on Phyllis's lawn.
Phyllis left early the next morning, and so the crew gathered early in her garden to discuss what to do next.
"Cor, what a night!" sighed Mick.
"Yeah! I was sleepin' on a sack o' potatoes all night!" moaned Wayne.
"Hey man, that was me!" exclaimed Dave.
"Huh!!" exclaimed the still totally white Clive, who was fuming. "You lot had it easy!! I spent all last night stuck out here in the freezing cold! When I see that Des, you will have great difficulty in stopping me killing him!!!"
"Ah, here he comes now," said Mick.
"Hello everyone," said Des, cheerfully. "Hello Clive, you look a little off-colour this morning!"
"Desmond Wednesday," said Clive, in an absolute rage. "I've been angry with you many, many times before, but this really takes the biscuit. I'm frozen, I'm hungry, I'm tired, my hair is ruined, my new trousers are ruined, my new shirt is ruined, and I am still covered in this stupid whitewash AND I AM FURIOUS !!!!!!!!!!"
"But apart from that, you're all right," said Des. "Sorry, I mean all-white!! Ha, ha!!"
"Look you lot, we haven't got time to argue," said Mick. "We've got three days in which to get this sorted out."
"I'm not standing out here for the rest of my life, you know!!" exclaimed Clive.
"And we'd never get away with just sticking it back together," said Mick.
"I didn't get much sleep last night but I did come up with a solution," said Ralph. "I've a friend who's an artist, and he does a bit of sculpture as well. If we could stick it back together then he may be able to knock off a replacement."
"Worth a try," said Des.
They glued the main statue bits together, while Clive had ten showers to clean himself up. They then took the statue over to Ralph's friend's studio.
"I think I should be able to manage that," said Harold (for that was his name), examining the statue.
"You've got three days, by the way," said Des.
"Three days??!?!" exclaimed Harold. "I usually take weeks over a sculpture!"
But three days it had to be, and, with payment, Ralph's friend was willing to undertake the mammoth task. He put his heart and soul into it, working day and night, with Des and the others hanging around and generally getting in his way, drinking his coffee and watching his television. Finally, on the morning of Phyllis's return, the replacement statue was completed.
"It's not perfect," said Harold. "I could have done a better job if I had had more time."
"Oh, it'll do," said Des. "Aunty Phyllis won't notice - I hope!"
They carefully loaded the statue into the back of Des's van, and Des drove slowly back home.
"Oh go a bit faster!" exclaimed Wayne.
"No, I'm not taking any risks," said Des.
"Look at that long queue behind us!" said Mick.
"Hey listen to the radio!" said Clive. "They're even mentioning this tailback on the travel news!"
Eventually they got it back to Phyllis's house, and had just finished positioning it when Phyllis turned up.
"Phew! Just in time!" said Mick.
"Hello Aunty Phyllis!" said Des. "Hope you had a nice time! Look, we've finished cleaning your statue!"
Phyllis, however, did not look very happy. In fact, she was furious.
"FAKE!!! That statue is a fake!!" she cried.
They looked at each other in disbelief, as well as in Phyllis's garden.
"No it's not!" said Des. "It's the real thing!"
Then with a combination of amazement and horror they watched Phyllis walk straight up to the statue and push it over, smashing into many hundreds of pieces. The others were speechless, especially Harold who was close to tears.
"That statue was a fake!" exclaimed Phyllis. "While I was at my sister's residence, we found some diaries belonging to Gordon Wednesday, your grandfather, Desmond. He was a most disreputable character, a disgrace to our family!"
"Oh yes, I know," said Des.
"We discovered that whilst the statue was in his possession he accidently broke it whilst cleaning it one day! So he had a replacement made and successfully conned everyone into thinking it was the original!"
"So that statue was a worthless fake!" said Des.
"That is correct!!" said Phyllis. "It was a dreadful act, the likes of which I am sure you would never partake in, Desmond!"
"Of course not, oh no, perish the thought!" lied Des.
"What are you going to put in its place then, Mrs Wednesday?" asked Mick.
"Clive's not doing anything at the moment..." said Des.
Copyright © Robert Williams
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