Gadgets the great escape, p.29
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       Gadgets: The Great Escape, p.29

           David Hancock
Back in the house Rebecca was at her wit’s end.

  ‘Right, we’re going to the hospital,’ she told the children.

  ‘I don’t like hospitals,’ said Zack.

  ‘How do you know? You’ve never been to one.’

  ‘I was there when you gave birth to me.’ he back-chatted.

  ‘That’s enough, now everyone in the four-by-four. Come on.’

  The Accident and Emergency unit at the Cranford District Hospital was not at all what Rebecca expected. There were no blood soaked walls, no people looking as if they had been lying on trolleys for three days, no heroin addicts brandishing knives and demanding drugs. In fact there was just ordered efficiency and Rebecca was a little disappointed. For years she had believed the National Health Service was a disgrace, and Sebastian had poured thousands of pounds into private health insurance. Now she was being greeted by a smiling receptionist who informed her that Mr. Abercrombie was undergoing a series of tests and if she took a seat someone would come and attend to her.

  And sure enough in less than five minutes a charming man was reassuring her that her husband would be fine.

  ‘We are going to keep him in overnight just for observations but apart from a shocking headache and a nasty bump on the head I think he will be fine,’ he said. ‘The doctors just want to make sure the concussion won’t have any lasting effect.’

  ‘Stay in overnight,’ said Rebecca incredulously. ‘How much is that going to cost?’

  ‘It won’t cost anything,’ said the young male nurse, with a slight laugh.

  ‘Oh it doesn’t matter, we can afford it.’

  ‘Please Mrs. Abercrombie, come with me. You can see your husband now. Bring the children.’

  Well one thing’s for sure, she thought. I have no intention of leaving them in reception or there will be blood on the walls.

  Sebastian was sitting up in bed in a single clean room equipped with television just off the main A & E area. It was one of six rooms kept for one-night patients who needed observation. The first thing he did was moan.

  ‘I don’t know why they are keeping me in here,’ he said. ‘I’m perfectly all right.’

  ‘It is just one night for observation darling,’ replied his wife. ‘And the room is free.’

  ‘But there is nothing wrong with me,’ he insisted.

  ‘Yes there is dad,’ interrupted Zack, and all eyes immediately swept round to look at the child monster. ‘You saw a crocodile in the garden and we don’t have any crocodiles, so you must be seeing things.’

  ‘You’ll be seeing things if you don’t pipe down,’ his father threatened.

  ‘But you said you saw one dad.’

  ‘Be quiet Zack, your mother and I want to talk.’

  Zack went back to fiddling with the monitors in the room and stamping on his brother’s toe before putting his finger to his lips and warning Jake: ‘Be quiet, this is a hospital remember.’ Little Lucy was sitting on the bed holding daddy’s hand.

  ‘Dad, dad, you said it might have been a snake,’ Zack piped up again. ‘Was it a crocodile or was it a snake?’

  ‘I don’t remember saying anything,’ replied Sebastian as calmly as he could. ‘And if I did I was mistaken. Now will you please shut up,’ he shouted.

  By the time Rebecca and the children got home there were only two things on Zack’s mind. Crocodiles and snakes.

  The gadgets had arrived safely at the island of bushes when Zack inevitably declared that he was ‘going on a crocodile hunt.’ As the appliances lay resting beside the oleander, jasmine, and juniper bushes Jane Dough announced she would make them all something nice to eat. Jane had become a bit of a surrogate mother to many of the gadgets trying to make sure they looked after themselves, especially the younger ones like Marvin and Harry, Warren the warming tray, Sam the salad shooter and Fiona. And in return they trusted her implicitly,

  ‘I’ve been saving this one for sometime,’ announced Jane. ‘We are going to have chocolate chip banana bread. Come here Fiona, help out,’ she asked the chocolate fondue fountain. Together they set to work.

  ‘Just a few chocolate chips in my Nut Raisin Dispenser Fiona. That’s the way’

  Fiona was happy helping Jane as the two of them peeled and mashed the bananas, and added the sugar, flour, butter and eggs before setting one of the 13 automatic programmes with which Jane, as an Italian Balencci, was equipped. The chocolate chips would go in from the dispenser at exactly the right time.

  ‘Sir, how ,long do we rest here? When are we going to break camp?

  ‘Ah General,’ replied Blade. ‘Well we are planning to stay until Jane serves everyone a little food and then we want to move on as quickly as possible. Can you make sure everyone is in hiding. I know we are a long way from the house now but I don’t want to take any risks at all. And make sure there is a look-out.’

  ‘Of course sir, I’ll attend to it now.’ The General walked around the island of bushes making sure everyone was off the grass and hidden. ‘And that means you,’ he shouted to Warren.

  ‘Ah, come on mate’, replied the warming tray. ‘I’ve gotta take a few rays. I’ve gotta energise, know what I mean?’

  ‘In there now,’ he ordered, pointing at the bushes. ‘Now…Do you hear me?’

  ‘OK mate, keep your hair on.’

  The freshly baked chocolate chip banana bread smelled delicious as it was lifted out of Jane’s bread maker. Blade stepped up and announced that he was going to slice it so that everyone had something to eat. And Forque said she would hold the bread in place which elicited a round of applause because this was the first thing that Blade’s girlfriend had felt able to do since being kidnapped by Zack and turned into a catapult.

  Everyone was in a good mood as the banana bread was passed round. Even Deep Fat seemed less miserable than usual, still buoyed by the part he had played in getting rid of the wasp storm. A grin appeared for the first time on Benzo the Russian bear of a glass blender. Carl The Mighty and Simon the vacuum sealer hung back letting everyone choose their own slices first.

  ‘Before we eat,’ said Blade. ‘I think we should just thank fortune that we are all well and have come this far.’

  ‘Fortune,’ replied the rest of the gadgets as they put the chocolate chip banana bread to their mouths.

  Zack roped in Jake and shouted: ‘Come on we’re going on a crocodile and snake hunt. You too Lucy, come on – we are big time hunters.’

  ‘But I don’t like snakes,’ replied Lucy.

  ‘Don’t be such a baby. Scaredy cat, scaredy cat.’

  ‘But I’m only five,’ said Lucy who promptly burst into tears causing her mother to come running to the kitchen and immediately ordering Zack and Jake out into the garden which is exactly what they wanted. ‘Now stay out there, until I say you can come back in,’ said Rebecca as she went to comfort her daughter.

  Once out on the patio Zack grabbed his brother and said: ‘Come on let’s go crocodile hunting,’ and reached into his back pocket to get his catapult, ‘Where’s my gat?’ he said accusingly to Jake.

  ‘Don’t look at me, I haven’t got it.’

  ‘It must have fallen out when I ripped my trousers,’ he replied. ‘Never mind I’ll just have to make another one. We’ll just have to take some sticks. There’s some over by the fence, go and get those Jake. They are our anti-crocodile sticks.’

  ‘What about the snakes as well,’ said Jake a little timidly.

  ‘Don’t worry, we’ll just bash them as well. Come one.’

  Zack and Jake jumped down the patio steps with the big sticks in their hands ready to go crocodile hunting.

  By the time the brothers got to the second patio they were spotted by Crock Pot, the slow cooker, who had been put on look-out duty by The General. Crock Pot was just about to put the chocolate chip banana bread in his mouth, when he suddenly lowered the slice and peered through the General’s field glasses and then he announced to the other gadgets: ‘Alert, alert, two young boys moving on to the la
wn. Alert, alert.’

  At that Blade ordered everyone to move further into the island of bushes before panic could break out. No one had yet had time to eat their lunch, everyone was scuttling around to get into hiding.

  Zack and Jake were now down on the vast lawn passing the ornate fountain and heading down over the manicured grass.

  ‘How far do we have to go Zack?’ piped up his brother.

  ‘Let’s go as far as those bushes down there,’ he pointed into the distance, ‘We are bound to see some crocodiles or snakes by then.’

  ‘But we never go that far,’ protested Jake. ‘Dad banned us from ever going out of sight of the house after you caused that fire in the Magic Forest.’

  ‘That wasn’t my fault.’

  ‘Yes it was.’

  No it wasn’t.’

  ‘Well you had the matches.’

  ‘Anyway dad’s in hospital so he won’t know. Now come on.’

  The island of bushes was once more calm with everyone in hiding and Ricky the electric rice cooker took a nice big bite out of his chocolate chip banana bread. ‘Mmmm. He said. ‘This is lovely,’ and took another bite. Neville the sandwich maker was munching away as well.

  Then Jenny, the juice extractor said: ‘Stop everybody. Stop eating. Don’t anyone have any more bread.’

  ‘What is it now Jenny?’ said her friend Zalda the ice queen a little exasperatedly. ‘We are all hungry and Jane has made this lovely food. Hardly anyone has even started yet.’

  ‘I have,’ said Ricky, speaking with his mouthful.

  ‘Well stop,’ ordered Jenny, a knowing look in her eyes. ‘I think we should all have our bread toasted. What do you say?’

  ‘That’s a lovely idea,’ replied Fiona, looking at her boyfriend Ricky who was half-way through his slice.

  ‘Come over here Toaster,’ said Jenny who had always been suspicious of the scheming gadget. ‘Let’s just pop a couple of slices in your slots.’

  Toaster didn’t know what to do and started to sweat. ‘Oh I see you haven’t got any chocolate chip banana bread of your own,’ said Jenny. ‘What’s the matter did naughty aunty Jane leave you out?’ she added in a mocking voice.

  ‘I never did,’ protested Jane. ‘I gave him a slice like everyone else.’

  ‘I ate it,’ said Toaster, ‘That’s it, I’ve already eaten mine and very delicious it was too. But I’m full now and I don’t think I want any more, thank you.’

  ‘And not a crumb anywhere,’ remarked Jenny sarcastically. ‘My you are a neat and tidy little Toaster aren’t you. Maybe too neat and tidy.’

  ‘I don’t know what you are getting at,’

  ‘Don’t you? ‘ It was at that moment that Ricky started being sick, and Neville started moaning with pain. Dr. Sympatico rushed to see what the matter was. He examined the little sandwich maker and the rice cooker and suddenly the coffee machine went the pale colour of a mocha latte and announced to the other assembled gadgets: ‘It looks like they’ve been poisoned!’

  All eyes turned back to Jenny and Toaster.

  ‘Surely…oh come on, surely you’re not suggesting I had anything to do with it,’ said Toaster with lots of bluster. ‘ I didn’t make the bread after all,’ he added with a shrug. ‘If anyone knows what’s going on just ask Jane Dough.’

  All eyes swung straight to Jane. She looked horrified and was just about to open her mouth when Jenny said: ‘Don’t bother defending yourself Jane, I think I know what has been going on.

  ‘Eddie,’ she said addressing the remains of the electric wok. ‘Will you be kind enough to have a look behind that Barberry bush over there,’ she pointed. ‘Just by the side of where Toaster is, and tell me what you find?’

  ‘This is ludicrous,’ protested Toaster. ‘What on earth are you driving at?’

  Eddie emerged from the Colorado Barberry bush holding a single slice of Chocolate Chip Banana bread.

  ‘I thought you said you had eaten yours Toaster,’ Jenny said accusingly.

  ‘I have done, that must be someone else’s.’

  Jenny gave a big sigh. ‘Will everyone except Ricky and Neville please hold up their banana bread? And all the gadgets complied, waving their slices of bread. Looking back at Toaster she continued: ‘Blade and Forque cut exactly the right amount of bread for everyone to have a slice. Every slice has been accounted for except yours Toaster.’

  There was a lasting silence throughout the island of bushes, all eyes focused once again on Toaster who was inwardly panicking.

  ‘Do you have anything to say?’ asked Jenny as calmly as possible.

  But before Toaster could answer The General shouted out: ‘I do. Court-martial, and that’s too good for him!’

  He was pulled away by Deep Fat just as Blade got to his feet and said: ‘Well Toaster the evidence looks stacked against you. I am surprised after I rescued you from the dustbin that you should turn against us like this. In many ways I hope that Jenny’s conclusions are wrong. But sadly I doubt whether they are. But why Toaster, why?’

  Sympatico interrupted: ‘It’s definitely poisoning sir,’ he said to Blade. ‘And it is holly berry poisoning. I’ve examined the bread and there are traces of holly berries in the bread. There were some holly bushes in the rockery, they must have come from there. On no account must anyone eat any more. It seems that whoever was responsible for this was trying to poison us all.’

  ‘My God,’ blurted out Jane Dough, putting a hand to her programming control panel. ‘But how could it have happened?’

  Jenny once again took over. ‘Someone, and I think we all know who it was, must have put the berries into your Nut Raisin Dispenser when you weren’t looking Jane and then try to blame the poisoning on you. Someone check Toaster’s crumb tray.’

  ‘Don’t any of you come a step nearer,’ said Toaster.

  ‘But why me?’ pleaded Jane.

  ‘Why you… why you,’ said Toaster with a note of incredulity in his voice. ‘Because you betrayed me, that’s why. Remember when you first came on to my kitchen worktop, yes my worktop,’ he added with arrogance. ‘Do you remember those days Jane? Or would you like me to remind you? Or maybe I ought to tell that fat fryer you are hanging around with,’ he added, glancing at Deep Fat.

  ‘You couldn’t keep your control panel off me in those days, could you Jane? You used to tempt my slots with every possible kind of bread. One day it would be your wonderful country buttermilk bread, the next day the jalapeno bread. Oh yes Jane, you knew the way to a toaster’s heart. Remember that potato bacon bread? Are you listening Deep Fat? We had the best relationship of any gadget on that worktop.

  ‘And just what are you getting at?’ replied Jane.

  ‘That you betrayed me Jane,’ he snarled out the words.

  ‘That’s not true and you know it. When I was taken down from the worktop you betrayed me. You never lifted a crumb tray to help. You just giggled with Kettle here. I remember the words ringing through my Dispenser. ‘Well that’s another gadget gone. Now who’s king of the worktop’ Isn’t that true,’ Jane said appealing to Kettle for confirmation.

  ‘I can’t quite remember,’ the Kettle answered shamed-facedly.

  Toaster continued: ‘And then you hi-jacked me, you suffocated me, you burnt me out on the night you oh-so-clever gadgets decided to leave the house. How do you think I felt then?’

  Warren and Benzo the glass blender made a move towards Toaster.

  ‘You stay back,’ he ordered them.

  Blade intervened: ‘Toaster understand, we had to keep you quiet or your arrogance would have given the game away. And remember, you were on the list for auctioning as well, but you didn’t know it then. We rescued you, we saved you.’

  ‘Well I don’t need saving from the likes of you Blade. You are all has-beens, finished, washed-up second class gadgets. You think when you make it to the Wendy House or wherever you want to go you will have a new life. Well you won’t. Tell them Dr. Sympatico, or whatever your name is, tell them
to wake up and smell the coffee. There are only two types of gadgets in this world, the ones people really want like a toaster and a kettle - and the rest of you. You are bought on a whim and you will die on a whim. You were never needed, never wanted, you were designed with obsolescence in mind, designed to be Christmas or wedding gifts, designed forever to be at the back of the cupboard after your two weeks on the work-top,’

  ‘That’s not true, that’s not true at all,’ said Lee-Mailer, startling the rest of the crowd. ‘We are appliances in our own right. We may be under-used but we are real first class gadgets. Just because humans can’t be bothered to read our manuals or understand all the different things we can do doesn’t make us second-class. We are advanced, we are different. Does a toaster or a kettle need brains to operate?’

  ‘Hey steady on, I’m on your side,’ said the kettle.

  Lee-Mailer continued: ‘No of course they don’t. One flick of a switch and that’s it. But I can be programmed, I can reach across cyberspace. Crock Pot can turn himself off or on at any set time to make healthy meals, Benzo can make anything from a peach bellini to a cake mix, and Neville, who you have so cruelly poisoned, can provide lots of things from a panini to a croque monsieur. We are not second class, we are advanced gadgets. It is the humans who do not understand. And if we have to fight, and even if some of us have to die so that we are acknowledged, then that is the way it is going to have to be. We are not willing to be auctioned off. None of us are going to give up our right to be free.’

  A sprinkling of applause broke out.

  ‘Well you can do it without me. I’m going back to the house,’ said Toaster.

  ‘Don’t, don’t go out there,’ shouted Blade.

  ‘Why not? you can duck, you can dive, that’s about the only thing you are any good for. Not me.’

  ‘No, you don’t understand….Don’t go out there,’ he begged.

  ‘Oh I understand perfectly well,’ and with that Toaster shot out of the bushes on to the lawn just as Zack and Jake were approaching with their crocodile hunting sticks in their hands.

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