The Start of Our Adventures
Mercury had moved away from his mum and dad under the tree trunk at the back of the shop and I began to spend more of my time at home, in the garden around the coal shed and woodpile. I constructed a walkway so that Merc, as I started to call him, could get into his hole without running into the roof support and bruising his nose again, and also so that the rain, which ran off the shed, could be diverted away from his entrance so that it did not cause a flood, as had happened one day. I had moved the wood over that side of the shed so no one noticed for years that it covered the entrance to his house. In fact mum was always grateful when I offered to bring in the wood during the winter months, it saved her going out on a cold night and gave me an opportunity to have a little chat with Merc after I had been at school all day.
We began to spend more time together and I started to notice many things about Merc as no doubt he did about me. In particular I noticed the way he walked and how this changed depending on what we were doing.
If he was outside during the daytime, which he sometimes was when he was with me, he would skulk and crawl along walls, pressing himself tightly against them so as not to be seen, then he would scurry across any open space, his little legs scampering so fast that I thought he would trip over. His tail was always dragging behind when he was skulking or crawling, but when he got up speed he travelled across the ground with his tail lifted. I never did find out why but I know I stood on it once by accident and he ended up on his back with his four legs still running in the air, as though they were still on the ground. At this point I picked him up and ran with him. When we reached relative safety I sat down breathing heavily and we laughed until we cried. I’m not sure whether he was crying in pain, but he did agree that he must have looked very funny in that position.
Something else he did that amused me was to squash his body like a pancake on the floor with his feet out to the side. He often did this to get under gates or fences. He used to get quite annoyed when I reached up to open the gate and walked through after he had wriggled underneath. Wriggling under gates was particularly difficult for Merc as he was still overweight. We often went for long walks to try to help him lose some, but unfortunately where we lived, we backed onto a greengrocers and a bakers shop and there was always plenty of food around for him, some of which made him very fat, particularly the chocolate cakes from the bakers which he liked so much. He admitted that he had only moved into my back yard because it was so close to the chocolate cakes.
The only thing Merc never mastered completely was his reverse shuffle. He did not work out how to co-ordinate his four limbs in reverse order. I could never understand why they had to go in reverse order, they just had to go backwards instead of forwards, but I was only 6 years old when I tried to work that one out for him. We spent a lot of time practising, all to no avail. I got fed up keep saying 1,4,2,3 over and over again, it made no difference if I tried it the other way, 3,2,4,1 – he still couldn’t get them to go right. Merc just had to make sure that if he went in anywhere tight, he could get out the other end, or had sufficient space to undertake a full swivel on the spot. He could achieve this by standing up on his two hind legs and shuffling if there was enough head room, but usually there was not and he ended up doing a very ungraceful manoeuvre with his nose tight up the top end of his tail and his tail wrapped round his ears to save tripping over it.
Normally, though he was quite content to amble in a relaxed aimless way and to stop to sniff or gnaw something interesting that just happened to be no more than an inch from the end of his nose. This meant that progress was very slow and that he did not get the exercise to rid him of the extra weight the chocolate cakes were giving him. It also meant that I soon became known to many people as a daydreamer, because to take attention away from Merc I would look up into the trees or the sky with a far-away expression, sometimes sitting down on the ground so that Merc could hide behind me until the people had gone. Little did they know that he was there, all they knew was that I wasn’t.
Merc and I had many conversations, about life underground, chocolate cakes, brothers and sisters and having to share beds, clothes, shoes, and hats and hot days. The only things we had in common were chocolate cakes and hot days, so of course the conversation always got back to those two items, particularly chocolate cakes, except the day that my auntie came to stay and gave me 3d to go down to the sweet shop to get an ice cream.
No-one could understand why I wanted to sit outside by the coal shed to eat it, particularly as it was a hot day and the ice cream would melt quickly. I explained that I was quite capable of eating it quickly as well so they left me alone as they had lots to talk about. Merc and I shared my ice cream. It was a rare treat for me and a first time life experience for him even though he was a teenager.
Merc really had no idea how to eat ice cream and ended up covered in sticky melted cream, which had once been fairly solid. It was on his tummy, between his toes, and spread over every whisker. Oh how he enjoyed it and talked about it with as much gusto as he did the chocolate cakes. At least it added another topic of conversation to our frequent talks, but I rarely had the opportunity to have ice cream, usually only when one of the family visited and they wanted me out of the way. I didn’t mind the walk to the shop as Merc usually came as well and we always shared, much to his delight. He never did learn how to eat ice cream and I’m sure he enjoyed getting all messy and sticky so really didn’t try.
To Chapter Four
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