by Robert Williams
"I've come up with a foolproof scheme this time," said Des to Mick as they made their way up the road to Mrs Greasy's cafe for their compulsory daily meeting. "I'm going to smuggle in some food of my own!"
"Ah, good idea but..." said Mick.
"I've got some chocolate biscuits and cream cakes in my pockets, and as soon as Mrs Greasy looks away, I'll swap whatever disgusting rubbish she serves up with my own stuff!"
"Yes, but the thing is Des..."
"I've really cracked it this time!!"
"Here we are then!" said Des as they reached the cafe. Mick walked in through the door, followed by Des. But as soon as Des stepped inside, an ear-piercing alarm went off and lights started flashing. Des looked all around in horror.
"Aha!!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "I've caught you!"
"What...what have I done?!" said Des nervously. "You can't have installed a burglar alarm...no one would want to steal anything from here!"
"No, not a burglar alarm!" said Mrs Greasy. "I've installed a food detector!!"
"A what?!" said Des. "A food detector?!!"
"I've got wind..." said Mrs Greasy.
"I'm very sorry to hear that," said Clive, who was there already.
"Let me finish!" said Mrs G. "I've got wind of a scheme under which certain individuals may be entering this establishment with items of food hidden about their person."
"I don't know where you could have got that idea from," said Des, trying to look all nonchalant.
"I'm afraid Des," said Mrs Greasy, putting her serious face on, "I cannot have people such as yourself bringing your own food in! I'm trying to run a business here!"
"'Trying' being the operative word," said Clive.
"And people like Des are not helping the situation!" said Mrs G.
"Oooooh!" said Des.
"Now listen everyone," said Mrs G. "I need to make an important announcement. Once again, in my Annual Report to Shareholders, I have had to record a loss."
"So are you going to close the cafe then?!" said Des, extremely hopefully.
"Are you mad?!" said Mrs Greasy. "Of course not! I will never close this cafe!!"
"In fact Mrs Greasy's cafe will probably still be here long after the rest of human civilisation has died out," said Clive. "Although looking round this place, it looks as though it already has."
"However I have been looking at new approaches to the business, and I have decided I am going to exploit a new audience," said Mrs G.
"New audience?" said Des. "Does that mean you won't be needing us any more?"
"On the contrary," said Mrs Greasy. "I will be needing you! I have decided I need to aim for a younger customer."
"I try to aim for Des, but I usually miss, unfortunately," said Clive.
"Now what happens at 3.30 every afternoon?" quizzed Mrs Greasy.
"'The Tweenies' comes on," said Des. "Never miss it."
"Apart from that," said Mrs Greasy.
"The 3.15 at Cheltenham runs?" said Des.
"No, no," said Mrs Greasy.
"The 3.15 to Waterloo comes in!" said Clive.
"No!" exclaimed Mrs G.
"Yes it does!" exclaimed Clive. "It's always late!"
"That's not what I'm thinking of!" said Mrs G. "At 3.30 all the kids get let out of school! And what are they desperate to do?"
"Go home and watch telly," said Mick.
"Go home and play on their Playstation," said Des.
"In fact, do anything other than go to Mrs Greasy's cafe," said Clive.
"No, no, no, you're all wrong!!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "They're hungry! They want something to eat! And what's the nearest top class eating establishment to the school?"
"Oh...there's that place in the high street..." said Mick.
"You lot are just not playing along," said Mrs Greasy. "It's here!"
"What is?" said Des.
"The nearest top class eating establishment to the school!!!" exclaimed Mrs G. "For goodness sake, wake up everybody!"
"I still don't understand," said Des.
"Look, I'll cut to the chase," said Mrs G. "I need you three to become lollipop ladies."
"What?!" exclaimed Clive.
"Oh yummy," said Des. "I like lollipops."
"Why do you want us to become, ahem, lollipop ladies?" said Mick.
"Because I've noticed that when all the kids walk home from school, they always walk on the other side of the road, and never this side," said Mrs G.
"I think there may be a reason for that..." said Clive.
"It's quite obvious," said Mrs G. "It's because there's nowhere safe for them to cross the road."
"That's not the reason I was thinking of," said Clive.
"So I've volunteered you all to become lollipop ladies!" said Mrs G.
"Volunteer?" said Des. "Does that mean we don't get paid?"
"We'll discuss that later," said Mrs G. "Anyway, when you become lollipop ladies the kids can then safely cross over to this side of the road, which means they'll be able to come in here and I can serve them up an after-school snack!"
"Ah no, you can't subject those poor kiddies to your food," said Des. "What have they done to deserve that so early in life?!"
"Never mind that, I don't want to spend my afternoons standing about in the middle of the road!" said Clive.
"It's only one day in three for each of you!" said Mrs Greasy.
"Well all right then...but if I'm going to be a lollipop lady, I'm not wearing a skirt!!" said Des.
"No, you wear a luminous yellow hat and coat," said Mrs G.
"Oh dear, will that go with my trousers?" said the vain Clive.
"Probably not, but it'll mean there's less chance of you getting run over!" said Mick.
Des was volunteered to be the lollipop lady on the first day, Monday. He reported to Mrs Greasy's cafe where he was presented with his gear and his all-important lollipop.
"Why do I have to put this stupid hat on," moaned Des as he donned his attire. "It's not raining..."
He then walked up to the local middle school, which was situated at the other end of the road to the cafe. Armed with his lollipop, he stood outside the gate and waited.
"I'm missing 'The Tweenies' for this," he grumbled to himself.
As soon as it ticked round to 3.30, all the kids started streaming out of the school. Many of them were driven off by their parents, so Des did his best to accost all the remaining pupils, whether they wanted to cross the road or not.
"Come along now kiddies," said Des. "Cross the road here, you know it makes sense."
He made sure there was no traffic and stepped out into the road with his lollipop.
"Now remember the green cross code!" said Des. "And get a move on, I haven't got all day!"
As they crossed the kids started pulling faces at Des and his miserable face.
"Oi!" exclaimed Des. "Just get across there! Ruddy hooligans!"
As the long stream of children continued to cross the road, Des's mind started to drift off. Suddenly he got a whiff of something he didn't expect to get a whiff of.
"Phew, what's that smell?"
As he looked, to his surprise, the children had turned into pigs.
"Ooooh arrrrr!!!" exclaimed a familiar voice.
"Farmer Files?!" exclaimed Des.
"Ooooh arrrrr!!! Very koind of you Des, to assist moiself and moi porkers on crossin' this 'ere road!!"
"Farmer Files, this is crossing is supposed to be for school kids, not school pigs!!"
"Oooooh arrrrr!! Oi be just takin' 'em out for walkies!"
"Walkies!!" said Des in his worst Barbara Woodhouse voice.
"Ooooh arrrrrr!!!" exclaimed Files. Des was not sure whether Files was offended by his poor impersonation, or whether was just laughing, but he didn't stop to think about it any longer as he had now run out of kids and pigs and was instead causing a great hold-up in the road with all the cars hooting and tooting at him.
Not long afterwards, while Des has still hanging around outside the school in case there were any stragglers, he was surprised to see Mrs Greasy rushing up the road. She didn't look overly happy.
"Hello Mrs Greasy, would you like to cross the road?" said Des.
"Des, you haven't been doing your job properly!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy.
"Yes I have!!" protested Des.
"Not one school kid has yet come into my cafe! They were all still walking along the other side of the road! In fact my only customer was Farmer Files and a load of smelly pigs!"
"I think you'll find I did my job impeccably!" said Des. "Only thing is, once I had guided the children across the road, they all crossed back again further up."
"Oh botherations," said Mrs Greasy. "I'm going to need a rethink then."
The next morning, Mrs Greasy announced some revised plans.
"I'm afraid I'm going to need both Des and Mick as lollipop ladies today," said Mrs G.
"Oh what?!" said Des. "I did it yesterday! Today's supposed to be my day off!"
"Apparently all the children are crossing back over on their own after Des has led them across. So I need Mick to stand further up the road, and lead them back across to this side again."
"Eh?!?!" said Mick.
"But if Mick's going to lead them across further up the road, why do I need to lead them across the road as well?!" said Des.
"Des, you really should bring your brain with you," said Mrs G. "They're crossing back over the road once you've led them across, so Mick has to lead them back again! That's why I need both of you!!"
But Des did not get a chance to protest, as Mrs Greasy had gone off to fetch their lunch.
"I wish Mrs Greasy would remember to put her brain in sometimes," sighed Des.
When she re-emerged, she told them of the next stage of her plan.
"In addition, to further entice them into the cafe if the promise of delicious din-dins isn't enough, I'm giving away a free packet of crayons with each meal. And because they're children, I'm only going to charge half price for their meal. Now does that sound tempting or what?!"
Des and Mick sniggered.
That afternoon, Des and Mick took up their positions. Des was outside the school as yesterday, while Mick was up at the other end of the road, directly opposite the cafe.
As Des stood in the road grumbling to himself as usual, all the kids crossed over, pulling faces at him again. Des didn't pay that much attention, although he did notice that one of the kids was much taller than the others - and unlike the others he wore an old-fashioned school cap and carried an old-style satchel. However Des didn't think any more of it.
Once again, all the children then crossed back over the road further up, but when they reached the end of the road they found Mick blocking the pavement. So they were all compelled to wait, and when there was a long enough queue, Mick walked into the road and led them across, leaving them dumped right in front of Mrs Greasy's cafe.
Hmmm," said Mick when they had crossed. "That's strange...one of those kids is much taller than all the others..." But he thought no more of it.
Mrs Greasy could be seen inside the cafe, looking through the window, rubbing her hands with glee. But her glee soon turned to anger, as all the kids just walked off down the road, some of them laughing and sniggering at the sign in the window that informed them of the free crayons they could get. In the end, just one of the school children actually went inside the cafe - and that was the boy who was much taller than all the others.
The next morning (Wednesday) Mrs Greasy called an inquiry.
"What happened?!" she said. "They were right outside the cafe! And still they didn't come in!"
"Maybe they weren't hungry?" said Des.
"Come on, you did at least get one customer," said Mick. "That's one more than yesterday!"
"Yes, that's something," said Mrs Greasy. "He was a very good customer too, ate everything up..."
Des, Mick and Clive looked at each other in amazement.
"...and he was delighted with his free crayons. But he did seem rather tall for his age."
"I hardly think your free giveaway of cheap packets of crayons is likely to get many more kids into the cafe," said Mick. "Mrs Greasy, you've got to get with it!"
"Yo dudes, wot's goin' down, big shout goin' out to all the posses in a area!!" said Mrs G.
"I didn't mean like that," said Mick. "Give them something they may actually want! Now what are all the kids into today?"
"Mobile phones," said Clive.
"Exactly," said Mick. "So instead of giving them free crayons with their meal, give them a free mobile phone!"
"Do you realise how much that's going to cost me?!" exclaimed Mrs G.
"That's business," said Clive. "You've got to take risks!"
"I'm not taking risks," said Mrs G. "Now today I want you Des and Mick in the same places as yesterday. And I want you Clive standing outside the door, and jolly well make sure they come inside!!"
"Yes madame!" said Des, Mick and Clive in unison.
"Got that?!" said Mrs G. "Good! (Oh by the way, does anyone want any crayons?)"
"They'd taste better than most the rubbish you give us," mumbled Des.
Later that morning Mrs G decided she would give the mobile phone idea a try. She went down the local market and bought the cheapest phones she could find, and painted them in luminous multi-colours in order to make them more appealing to the children.
Then she put a new sign in the window which read 'KIDZ! GET YR FREE MBL PHN 2DAY!'
"What on earth does that mean?" said Mick when he saw the sign. "What's a mbl phn?"
At 3.30 that afternoon Des and Mick reluctantly found themselves in the same positions as the previous day. In addition Clive was standing on the pavement outside the cafe door, also dressed in the lollipop lady gear, holding another lollipop.
As Mick guided them across the road, Clive did his best to block the pavement. Mrs G stood holding the door whilst grinning and waving one of her multicoloured mobiles about. So, whether they wanted to or not, the children had no option but to walk right inside the cafe.
"Funny..." said Clive as they passed through. "That's a very tall kid that just walked in..."
Thursday morning, and Mrs Greasy called another meeting.
"Success at last!" she exclaimed.
"Not that much of a success," said Clive. "I was watching! They just grabbed their free phones, left their meals on the table and rushed off! Only that big kid seemed to eat everything. In fact he ate everyone else's meal as well!"
"I can't understand that," said Mrs G. "Why would they not want to eat my delicious food? I laid on a special kiddie-orientated menu of homemade chips, jelly, ice cream and gingerbread men!!"
"Oh yuck," said Des.
"Well, at least I got their money anyway!" said Mrs Greasy. "That's the main thing!"
So for day four, they continued with their winning formula. Mrs G bought another lot of cheap phones, Clive stood waiting by the cafe door, Mick standing opposite, and Des outside the school.
But at 3.30 outside the school, things seemed a lot quieter than before. Sure enough, all the children who were being picked up by the parents in their cars were there, but all the others who usually walked home were nowhere to be seen.
Des hung about anyway, but was about to give up and go home when one school kid came rushing along. It was the unusually tall lad again. Des went and stood in the road with the lollipop, and the boy ran across.
"Hang on..." said Des. "I think I know who that is!"
Des watched as he quite pointlessly crossed back over again, then at the other end of street Mick guided him back. Clive stood by the door, but didn't need to lead him in as the boy rushed through the door of his own accord.
"Hold on a minute!" said Clive as he rushed past. "I know who you are!" He went inside and whipped off the school cap which was covering the boy's face.
When Mrs Greasy saw who it was, she gasped in shock.
The next morning she called another inquiry.
"People!" she exclaimed. "What happened yesterday? Where were all the children?"
"I don't know," said Mick. "But you did get your one regular customer though."
"That was Wayne! Disguised as a schoolboy! He's my only regular customer anyway! He was just after the half-price meal and free goodies! Don't worry, I've severely reprimanded him for deceiving me, by banning him from my cafe for a week!"
"Darn, why didn't we do that?!" said Clive.
"So come on, I want an explanation!" said Mrs G. "What happened to all the children?"
"I think they all got food poisoning after what you fed them, and had to take the day off," said Des.
"They can't have food poisoning, because they didn't eat any of what they were given!" said Clive.
"I know what it is," said Mick. "They all went home the other way. They must have left the school out the back entrance, and walked round the block, round the long way!"
"But what about my free giveaway?" said Mrs G. "Don't they want their mobile phones?"
"They all got their free phones on Wednesday," said Clive. "They don't want another one."
"Right then, this is the plan for today," said Mrs G. "Des, you go and stand by the back entrance to the school. Mick, you stand on the corner by the pillar box. Clive, you stand opposite the sports ground. Then I'll get Mike to stand by the petrol station..."
"Oh give it a rest Mrs Greasy," said Mick. "It'll never work."
"Oh I suppose so," sighed Mrs Greasy. "You're all sacked."
"Great!" said Des. "But can I keep my luminous coat? I've rather grown to like it..."
Copyright © Robert Williams
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