A Morris Gleitzman Collection, p.1Morris Gleitzman
About A Morris Gleitzman Collection
Keith Shipley is just a regular kid with Misery Guts for parents. Sick of gloomy life in London, he hatches a plan to move his even gloomier parents to sunny Australia.
But when they arrive in Australia, his parents become Worry Warts. Fed up with their fretting and fussing, Keith comes up with a scheme to make them rich. Very, very rich.
After all Keith’s hard work, his parents split up and start putting on Puppy Fat. Exasperated with their laziness, he devises a strategy to whip them into shape – and find them new partners! It’s a brilliant plan . . . if he can pull it off!
Three classic books bursting with humour from one of Australia’s most loved authors, Morris Gleitzman.
For Chris, Sophie and Ben,
and my parents.
About A Morris Gleitzman Collection
About Morris Gleitzman
Also by Morris Gleitzman
For my parents
Keith’s heart was pounding.
Calm down, he thought. You’re not robbing a bank. You’re not kidnapping anybody. You’re just painting a fish and chip shop orange.
He looked up and down his street, peering into the early morning fog.
Everything was grey. Grey houses. Grey shops. Grey cars. Grey blocks of flats looming up into a grey sky.
The cold air was making his ears hurt.
This is why, he thought. This is why Mum and Dad are such misery guts. The weather.
He pulled his collar up round his ears. Thirty-five years of it was enough to give anyone a long face. He’d only had twelve and a quarter years of it and even he got the willies sometimes.
Oh well, he thought, they’ll be feeling better soon. When they see what I’ve done.
He looked at his watch. Seven-fifteen, Mum’ll be awake soon. Dad’ll be back from the market at eight.
And neither of them’s got a clue they’re about to be cheered up.
Keith grinned at the thought.
Then he turned back to the shop front, dipped his brush into the tin and carried on painting.
The Tropical Mango Hi-Gloss spread over the dull brown of the window frame like liquid sunshine.
Keith’s heart pounded even faster. It looked even better than he’d thought it would.
While he painted, he imagined Mum and Dad’s faces when they saw it. The big grins spreading over both their faces. Those big droopy creases at the corners of Dad’s mouth, gone. Those frown lines on Mum’s forehead, vanished.
He stood on a soft drink crate to reach the top bit of the window frame, brushing the Tropical Mango on as thickly as he could so not much of the brown showed through. When they see this, thought Keith, they’ll think the sun’s come out.
Then he heard the sound of a door slamming. He looked round. It wasn’t the sun coming out, it was Mr Naylor from next door.
Keith sighed. Here we go.
Mr Naylor looked at the paint, at the brush, and at the Tropical Mango window frame.
‘What are you doing?’ he asked suspiciously.
Teaching sheep to juggle toasters, thought Keith, then remembered he’d promised Mum he wouldn’t be cheeky to Mr Naylor now he was twelve.
‘Painting our shop. For Dad’s birthday. It’s a surprise.’
Mr Naylor gave the window frame a long stare.
‘Won’t dry in this weather,’ he said.
‘It’s quick-drying,’ said Keith. ‘You get a brilliant long-lasting finish in only hours. Says so on the tin.’
‘Horrible colour,’ said Mr Naylor.
‘The man in the shop said orange reminds people of their summer holidays,’ said Keith.
‘It’s dripping on the pavement,’ said Mr Naylor and shuffled away towards the bus stop.
Keith wondered when Mr Naylor had last smiled. 1847 probably.
He looked at the pavement. There were a few orange spots. He rubbed them with his foot, but they were already starting to go like old custard skin. Oh well, he thought, what’s a bit of spotty pavement when you’re bringing happiness to two people?
He moved on to the door. It was good to have a decent-sized flat bit to work on. He’d gone a bit wonky on the window frame in places.
He smoothed big brushfuls of paint on and had a vision of Mum and Dad, big grins still on their faces, going over to Lewisham and buying themselves some colourful clothes and coming back and having a party for Dad’s birthday. Just the three of them. Getting out all their old records, the Rolling Stones and stuff. Mum and Dad dancing. He’d never seen them dance.
The shop door glowed and so did Keith.
A hand reached past him and stuck a rolled-up newspaper in the letter box.
‘Waste of time, that.’
Mitch Wilson stepped round him and stuffed a paper into Mr Naylor’s letter box.
‘Be filthy dirty in a week.’
‘Comes up like new with a simple wipe,’ said Keith. ‘Says so on telly.’
Tragic, he thought, watching Mitch trying to stuff a wad of magazines through the door of the hairdressers two doors down. Only ten and he was as big a moaner as Mrs Wall in the laundrette. She didn’t even like people getting married in case the tablecloths from the reception put a strain on her dryers.
‘Be filthy dirty again in another week.’
Keith didn’t bother answering. No point with a moaner. And only two years ago Mitch Wilson had been an eager little kid who’d wanted to be a Mars Bar salesman.
Keith put the soft drink crate on top of the dustbin and climbed up to do the sign over the window. Vin’s Fish Supplies. He decided to do the background rather than the lettering. Do the lettering in Rainforest Green later.
As he slapped the paint on he wondered if there was an award for the Brightest Fish And Chip Shop In Britain. That’d really get Dad’s eyes sparkling again. The Queen dropping in to shake his hand and give him a solid silver cod fillet.
This thought was shattered by a whine.
Owen the milkman.
The whine was coming from the milk truck but Owen soon started one of his own.
‘That’s not a colour I’d have chosen, Keith. Show the dirt something awful, bright colours. Won’t dry this time of year neither, gloss paint. Wife’s cousin did their garage in November, still tacky in March. Tell your Mum no yoghurt till Thursday.’
Owen’s whine stopped, the truck’s started and he was gone.
No wonder Mum and Dad are depressed, thought Keith, with a milkman like that.
He finished off the sign and climbed down to get the full effect.
On the pavement he tried to imagine he was a depressed parent. He looked up at the glowing Tropical Mango and felt cheered up immediately. Then he half-closed his eyes and banged himself on the head with his knuckles to see what it would look like with temporary bad eyesight due to a tension headache.
‘Keith, what are you doing out he
Keith opened his eyes. Mum was standing next to him in her dressing gown, staring at the Tropical Mango. She stared at it for quite a long time. The frown lines on her forehead looked deeper than ever.
Keith, heart pounding, waited for her to be cheered up.
Instead she stared at him.
‘It’s a birthday surprise for Dad,’ he explained. ‘And you.’
He wished she’d stop staring at him.
‘Even though it’s not your birthday,’ he added.
Please smile Mum, he thought. Please don’t turn into Mr Naylor.
‘It’s to cheer you both up.’
She didn’t smile.
She stared back at the paint.
She closed her eyes and held them closed for ages.
Must be the paint fumes, he thought. Funny though, they didn’t sting my eyes.
She looked at him again.
Her voice sounded funny. Could paint fumes affect the vocal chords?
‘Where did you get the paint?’
‘Sally Prescott gave me eleven quid for my stamp collection.’
She breathed out slowly and her face softened a bit.
But she still didn’t smile.
‘Keith,’ she said, ‘I don’t think you should be around when Dad gets back.’
Keith was confused. Surely she wasn’t planning to pinch the birthday surprise? Pretend it was from her? Not Mum. Not the woman who’d sat up with him all night after he’d seen Nightmare On Elm Street.
Before he could tell her he’d go fifty-fifty and that was his final offer, Dad came round the corner in the van and pulled up in front of the shop.
Keith stepped forward.
‘Happy birthday Dad. From me and Mum.’
Dad sat behind the wheel, motionless, staring up at the shop, mouth open.
Keith opened the van door in case the surprise had sapped Dad’s strength.
‘Vin,’ said Mum, ‘before you say anything, Keith’s done this as a birthday present. Just try and remember that love, he did it as a birthday present.’
Alright Mum, thought Keith, don’t overdo it, I think he’s got the message.
He waited for Dad to take it all in. For Dad’s face to light up with the sheer joy of the Tropical Mango Hi-Gloss. And then for him to throw back his head and roar with delighted laughter.
Or even just give a big grin, like he did in that photo when he won Best Fish And Chips at the Woolwich Show before Keith was born.
Or a smile.
Half a smile.
Keith realised Dad was staring down at the pavement.
Then he looked at Keith with an expression that made Mr Naylor, Mitch Wilson and Owen the milkman look like the happiest people on earth.
‘Inside’ he said.
‘It’s got to stop, Keith.’
Keith stared at the back of the cornflakes box on the kitchen table. A happy mum, a happy dad and a happy kid were all playing happily with an inflatable beach ball they’d got by sending in two box tops and four pounds ninety-nine.
‘Did you hear what I said?’ demanded Dad. ‘It’s got to stop.’
Keith looked up at Dad’s face. Dad’s mouth was droopier than ever.
He looked up at Mum’s face. Her forehead looked like she’d put some tucks in it with the sewing machine.
Keith sighed. They looked like they’d sent in two box tops and four pounds ninety-nine and got back an inflatable dog poo.
‘I’m just trying to cheer you both up,’ he said.
‘Well it’s not working,’ said Dad.
Keith wondered if the Guinness Book of Records had a category for The Most Incredibly Obvious Statement Ever Made.
‘That business a few weeks ago,’ continued Dad. ‘Did you honestly think drawing funny faces on the cod fillets with tomato sauce was going to make us dance with joy?’
Not dance with joy, thought Keith. Have a bit of a giggle perhaps.
‘Mrs Wall nearly had a heart attack,’ said Mum. ‘She thought we’d left the heads on them.’
‘And rigging up the record player under our bed,’ said Dad. ‘Me and Mum might be strange, but having the living daylights scared out of us doesn’t leave us feeling very cheerful.’
‘I thought you liked the Rolling Stones,’ said Keith.
‘Not at six o’clock in the morning,’ said Mum, ‘and not that loud. Mr Naylor thought the fryer in the shop had exploded.’
‘And now this,’ said Dad. ‘It’s . . . it’s . . .’
Keith watched him trying to find the words, pacing around the kitchen.
Alright, thought Keith, it’s not the best paint job in the world, but it’s not bad considering. If Picasso had done his painting in the freezing cold without gloves he’d have dripped a bit and gone over the edges too.
Dad turned to face him.
‘Why?’ he said. ‘That’s what I don’t understand. Why this obsession with cheering us up?’
‘It’s not as if we’re in mourning or anything,’ said Mum. ‘Nobody’s died. We haven’t been robbed. The shop hasn’t burnt down.’
‘So why all this nonsense about cheering us up?’ said Dad. ‘Just answer me that. Why?’
First period at school was science and Keith managed to have a quiet word with Mr Crouch the science teacher.
‘Sir,’ said Keith, ‘you know all those science magazines you read, what’s the latest research data on cheerful people who have to live with misery guts?’
Mr Crouch, who was reading a gardening magazine, looked at him suspiciously.
‘How do you mean?’
‘Well,’ said Keith, ‘if a person who’s still pretty cheerful has to live with people who aren’t cheerful any more, what’s the average amount of time it takes for the cheerful person to end up a misery guts too?’
Mr Crouch told him to go back to his seat and finish boiling his tap water.
At lunchtime Keith managed to have another quiet word with Mr Crouch.
‘Sir, you know how we’ve just been boiling up tap water to find the impurities and stuff?’
‘Distillation,’ said Mr Crouch through a mouthful of peanut butter sandwich. ‘It’s in your textbook.’
‘I was just wondering sir,’ said Keith, ‘if there’s any research been done on whether impurities in tap water can turn people into misery guts.’
‘Go away,’ said Mr Crouch, turning the page of his rose catalogue, ‘I’m busy.’
‘How about rays from the TV?’ said Keith. ‘I read somewhere once that TVs give out rays that can make people depressed if they’re not getting enough sleep. Either that or microwave ovens.’
Mr Crouch put down his catalogue and his sandwich, stood up, gripped Keith by the shoulder and steered him across the staff room and out into the corridor. Then he went back into the staff room and closed the door.
Keith put his mouth to the keyhole.
‘How about the greenhouse effect?’
It was still foggy when Keith walked home from school, but as he turned the corner into his street he could see the Tropical Mango glowing through the fog even at that distance.
He felt a tingle of pleasure.
If it can make me feel good at fifty yards, he thought, it’s got to work on them at less than ten feet.
He hurried home to see if Mum and Dad were smiling yet.
They were waiting for him in the shop.
They weren’t smiling.
‘Son,’ said Dad, ‘we’ve decided the time’s come to tell you what’s what.’
Eh? thought Keith. What does he mean?
It couldn’t be where baby cod come from, they’d done that ages ago.
‘You’re right Keith,’ said Mum, ‘me and Dad aren’t the happy-go-lucky people we used to be.’
‘And there are reasons for that,’ said Dad, ‘and we want you to know what they are. So you’ll stop all this nonsense.’
What were they going to tell him? What awful things didn’t he know about?
He stared at Mum and Dad, hardly daring to look for the telltale signs of brain tumours or fatal diseases you could get from handling too much raw fish.
Dad lifted a big sack of flour onto the counter. And a big drum of fat. He didn’t look as if he was suffering from anything too bad.
‘Do you know what this is?’ he asked.
Keith nodded. ‘Fat and flour.’
Dad lifted a sack of potatoes onto the counter and took a block of fish from the freezer.
Oh no, thought Keith, don’t tell me Dad’s banged his head on the fryer hood and forgotten the basic ingredients of fish and chips.
‘Fish and potatoes,’ he said. ‘The potatoes are the round ones.’
‘Not just any fat and flour and fish and potatoes,’ said Dad. ‘Cheap fat and cheap flour and cheap fish and cheap potatoes.’
Keith realised with a shock there was a wobble in Dad’s voice.
‘The sort of fat and flour and fish and potatoes I said I’d never use. When I started this shop before you were born I only used the best vegetable oil and the best matzo flour and the freshest fish and the best potatoes. I used to turn out the best fish and chips in South London. I don’t anymore and that’s why I don’t spend much time cracking jokes and kicking up my heels.’
Before Keith could ask Dad why he didn’t cheer himself up by going back to turning out the best fish and chips in South London, Mum and Dad were steering him up the stairs and into the flat.
They stopped in the little hallway that ran between his bedroom and Mum and Dad’s bedroom.
‘When we got married,’ said Mum, ‘me and Dad had wonderful plans. We were going to live here for a few years, and have you, which we did, and then buy a house, and then have a little brother or sister for you.’
Keith stared at her. How many times when he was a kid, when he still said his prayers, had he asked God for a brother or sister? Fifty at least. Almost as many times as he’d asked for a helicopter.
A Morris Gleitzman Collection by Morris Gleitzman / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes