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       Valoura Karuna and the Cake Stall Kerfuffle, p.1

           Yeshe Thubten
 
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Valoura Karuna and the Cake Stall Kerfuffle


  Valoura Karuna and the Cake Stall Kerfuffle

  By Yeshe Thubten

  Copyright 2014 Yeshe Thubten

  For Lily

  Chapter 1

  Muffled sounds filter in through the warm, soft cocoon. I squiggle and squirm deeper into my hidey hole, and wiggle my toes in a sleepy kind of way.

  ‘Oh, I really don’t want to get up!’ I groan into my doona cocoon.

  ‘Ooof!’ A heavy blow hits my tummy which makes it impossible to pretend I am a butterfly any longer.

  ‘Gilbert, you are an evil evil dog from the land of evil’, I grumble as I throw off my doona and glare at the sandy coloured, big dog now curling up to sleep at my feet. ‘Valoura, do you want food?’ comes a shout from somewhere in the distance. Instead of replying I jump up and run to my desk to examine my ant farm, feeling very excited and holding my breath with anticipation. I can see tiny larvae wriggling about and can’t help but let out a giggle at the cute likkle wormy things.

  Then I take off, speeding out the door, I fling myself at the staircase, and slide all the way down the dark oak banister until I hit the faded blue tiles at the bottom. I do this every morning. It’s quicker that way. But waiting there is my sister Celia with a plate of pancakes. Smash! Food is airborne; Celia hits the extensive collection of boots, coats, umbrellas, dog leads, filthy toys and a cassowary shaped canister situated near the front door. And me? I sail past shooting Celia a cheeky grin – that is until I hit something tall, lumpy and grumpy.

  ‘Why must I put up with constantly being assaulted by you Valoura Karuna?’ Aunt Stacey spits as she lifts herself from under my crumpled body.

  (Just in time) the door bell rings, it is loud and shrill like a cockatoo with its tail caught in a chainsaw and Bastian, my little brother races to answer it. We hear ‘it’s Billy’, the slam of the door and the rattle of a scooter on the path outside.

  ‘ Well, that’s Bas off for the day,’ I sing happily, Bastian is never home much, which suits me fine as sometimes he can be a pain in the… you know what I mean. Poor Celia is still stranded on the island of our doorway debris so I help her get to her feet and head off to get my cleaning supplies.

  Why would an eleven year old girl need cleaning supplies?

  Because I am always, always in a kerfuffle.

  *****

  I love the word kerfuffle, don’t you? Kerfuffle, it’s just one of those words that just fluffs off your tongue in a warm flumphy kind of way. I actually like words a lot. I like the ones that mean the same as the sound they make – I think they’re called onomatopoeia. And I like nonsense words that mean a lot to some people (like kids) and mean nothing to others. I also like words that help to understand what a person is thinking and feeling because sometimes those things can be hard to pin down. Like a waify wafty ghost.

  I finish scrubbing up what looks like it would have been a tasty breaky and then slide into the dining room on my socky feet. Our old floorboards are awesome for ‘socksliding’ a sport that Bas and I compete in regularly. Celia is too ‘mature’ to participate.

  A gaggle of people are crammed around our big wooden dining table in various stages of eating. The telly is on with some smarmy weather guy talking about El Nino and rain that is like cats and wombats, yes wombats *roll eyes* and my mum is repairing the kettle. She loves to fix stuff. Bits of our 1990’s sunbeam are scattered all over one end of the table. Celia arrives back from changing her clothes; she has a quirky look of her own of skinny jeans and a jumper covered with multicoloured baubles that she knitted herself. But with bare feet and short, unbrushed hair, she still had that unmistaken haughty look of a teenager in a bad mood.

  I quickly look down at my breakfast which now consists of toast and homemade lime marmalade, thanks to my pancakes meeting their doom by my own hands - or rather it was my left elbow that did most of the damage. I try to avoid Celia’s death stare, don’t want to set her off which is not hard to do these days. Celia does start ranting at me so my mum just rolls her eyes and mouths the words ‘it’s the hormones’ at me.

  Aunt Stacey is on her mobile, yattering away loudly to some poor person about ‘the blasted idiot’ who rammed her with their trolley at the supermarket. I secretly roll my eyes into my cup of tea and turn to mum.

  My mum is one in a million. Not really what you’d expect a mum to be. In short, my mum is a space cadet. She always looks like she dresses in the dark and is constantly muttering to herself about all the things she has to do. Today her bright orange hair is pulled up into a messy bun, she has a pencil behind her left ear and her freckly face is screwed up in intense concentration as she fiddles with the heating element from the jug. Her tongue is ever so slightly peeking out of the right corner of her mouth. I can’t help but roll my eyes again – but in a more chuckle-y, friendly way.

  ‘What are you up to today mummy-o?’

  ‘Hmmmm?’

  ‘mum!’

  ‘yeeeeeesss?’

  ‘hello, earth to mum, I wave my hand in front of that freckly face and say slightly loudly and slowly, ‘What-are-you-doing-to-day?’

  ‘Oh ummmm,’ Beattie puts her screwdriver down,’ I’m doing the cake stall!’ It was like she suddenly remembered who she is, where she is and what day it is!

  ‘I simply don’t know why you can’t call it a bake sale mother, you know, like everyone else?’ Comes – unsurprisingly - Celia’s exasperated ramble.

  ‘Because we aren’t living in America dear’, comes mum’s simple reply.

  ‘Can I help?’ I ask. I know that because it is Saturday my nemesis, Aunt Stacey will be home from work, and I am determined not to spend the day at home with her.

  ‘Of course sweetie, actually it’s late we better pack up’.

  My brother and sister and me are lucky enough to be homeschooled – or at least that’s what Billy Bilberry, Bastian’s best mate thinks anyway. He has to go to Groaning Grammar down the road, but us Karuna’s get to spend every day doing what we like, whether it be swimming in the creek, making Lego towers of doom on the kitchen floor or snuggling up with a book in the house library on a rainy day, often with Gilbert the dog or Spazzy the cat on our laps. Celia had considered going to school when she turned high school age, but one day of bossy, stressed out teachers and bored kids who talked about nothing but texting and Lady Ga Ga was enough for Celia to come home to her knitting and her homemade chemistry lab in the garden shed.

  But not everyone thinks we are lucky.

  Aunt Stacey, or as I like to call her ’Aunt Bossy’, ‘Aunt Cranky Pants’ or ‘The Evil Witch Queen’, is one. She came to live with my family after her divorce from her husband a year ago. According to mum, at the time Aunt Bossy was cracking up and talking about running off to New Zealand to become a chicken farmer. Good riddance I say. But Aunt Stacey is not chicken farming material. She is a business woman in the city, which means she is always busy and thinks she is very important. In fact every single thing Aunt Stacey says is fact, don’t you know – even if it is completely untrue. And one of those things was that homeschooled kids are lazy and stupid and should be shipped off to school.

  But mum explained after one such tirade, ‘Stacey went to school and thinks because she had to suffer thirteen years inside, everybody else should too’.

  Mum doesn’t think so. Mum is happier having us kids at home, in our big crumbling colonial* house with a massive garden, on the outskirts of a small country town. At least this way she knows her kids will actually learn something worthwhile; like how to cook a roast potato or how to mend a lawn mower.

  *Colonial means that our house is old, like really really really reall
y….oh, you get what I mean.

  It‘s taking a while to get the car packed for the cake stall (‘bake sale!’). I guess it would have been a faster affair if I hadn’t packed the car keys in the box of tablecloths that were shoved into the middle of our old yellow station wagon with piles of plates on top. But Bas and Billy have just arrived back from the creek and Billy is small enough to scramble inside and pull them out with his long fingers.

  There isn’t enough room for everyone, so me, Billy and Bas decide to ride into town. Billy has to borrow Celia’s scooter (she wont be too happy when she finds out, lol!) and I ride my bright blue but battered bike. Bas is on ‘silver lightning’ his trusty steed (or scooter if you like). Billy often complains that he so so so wants a scooter but his parents never listen and give him stupid things like an antique watch and monogrammed pillow cases. I get sick of Billy’s whinging so I take off down Barker Creek road. That’s my street. It is a dirt road that Aunt Bossy refers to as a ‘goat track’ when she complains of the damage her fancy schmancy car gets from the big holes. I like the holes, it is fun to dodge them on my bike. I also like the rows of lofty poplar trees that line either side of Barker Creek Road. In autumn their leaves turn from bright lime green to honey yellow and to copper, then drop off just before winter. Then they look like skeletons standing guard, their bones rattling in the winter wind.

  It is a fun and easy ride into town, down hills and around twisty curvy bends. It is still quite early so there isn’t too much traffic and the early spring air whips my hair. Gilbert is galumphing along behind me, tongue out and with that crazy ‘cat chasing glint’ in his eye. I chuckle at him as Van Noh from the bakery waves at me. I speed past the rows of Victorian terraced shops and multiple cafés frequented by the tourists who come to see the ‘first thingy’ and ‘largest whatsit’ that my town has to offer. In the distance I can see the sparkling waters of the Gulaangga River reflecting the cloudless sky and grazing sheep on its banks. I like it here. It’s not too hot in summer and not too cold in winter, there is stuff to do (river, mini golf, community theatre) and people are friendly; well most of them.

  Eventually I hit the town square – literally. My bike tyre scrapes the edge of the gutter and hits a fence surrounding a little tree. I come off the bike seat and land on the middle bit of my bike on my bum. It hurts.

  ‘Woah, that’s like the funniest thing I have seen all century!’

  ‘Yeah, like, wow, like, good one Valoooorah’.

  It is Carter and ‘The Grater’. They look at me with their stupid pushed in faces and beady little eyes. Carter is tall and thin, my sisters age (fourteen) with the waist of his skinny jeans halfway down his thighs and a lame ‘Beiber’ fringe. ‘The Grater’ (named so by Celia because her voice is like someone grating a cat with a cheese grater through a loud speaker. Her real name is Emmerllee – which is a dumb way of spelling Emily) has her hair scrapped back so hard her eyebrows are at her hairline.

  ‘Whatever’ I say in an airy way so as to show them I am not bothered by their boorish (that’s another great word don’t you think?) jibes. I am, of course, mortified and my face is almost as red as my bum feels.

  The two rowdy tormentors are snuffling and guffawing as I swing my leg over my bike and chain it to the fence I banged into. The Grater rolls her eyes and snorts, ‘you look like a mental orang-utan with the dress sense of a cross eyed juggler, why aren’t you at home with your sister the “mad professor”, (The Grater makes the quote marks in the air with her fingers), or should I say the nutty nutbag, LOL!’

  She actually said LOL. Who does that?

  Emmerllee cackles to herself as she and her brother shuffle off to bother some currawongs in the park opposite. I sort my bike and out walk over to where mum and her friend Mrs Vanmanthy are setting out plates of cakes. Mrs Vanmanthy is older than my mum. I don’t know how old, you know, old people old. She always wears a bright red and gold Sari which looks awesome against her creamy brown skin. Her husband died last year, mum says Mrs V. is lonely which is sad. Although Mrs V. ruffles my hair and calls me pumpkin, which is cringable, she always listens to my crazy stories, and like, gets them. And she lets me help her in her veggie garden.

  ‘Hey Mrs V. What’s happening?’

  ‘Hello Pumpkin (hair ruffle) how is your day today?’

  ‘I just came off my bike, it was a kerfuffle’.

  ‘What a lovely word, kerfuffle. I like it.’ She gives me a big grin and goes to our car for more cakes.

  Mum scans me up and down, ‘this kerfuffle didn’t do too much damage did it? Shields at ninety eight percent?’

  I roll my eyes at my mother’s lame sci-fi reference. She is such a dag sometimes.

  ‘I’m all good mummy-o, what can I do to help?’

  ‘Can you go and get Mrs V. and me a drink from Sago’s please?’

  I take some cash from the mumster and trot off towards Sago’s - it’s a small supermarket down the main street, which is called Mayne Street. Stupid huh. I see Maggie Tremlow sitting out the front on her mobility scooter. She raises a drawn on eyebrow at me but says nothing. She hasn’t said anything to me since the time she told me off for nicking the mandarins from her tree - which I didn’t do, and then mum told her off for driving into our fence, which she did do, because she is a very much too old to be driving kind of person. They took her drivers license away because she was a ‘danger to the public and herself’.

  I dart past her as she whirrs away and I bump into Bas and Billy on their way out of the store. Their mouths are all red from the ice blocks shoved in their gobs and Bas is trying to say something but it sounds like ‘hmmdhfkh, dmfnsdnfi’. His shaggy brown hair is plastered down over his blue eyes - he and I are the only ones in the family with blue eyes – both of the boys look like they’ve been swimming.

  ‘What? I don’t understand ice block language’ I shoot at them as I pass by. It was probably some kind of annoy-ment anyway.

  I grab one of the dark green baskets and head down the juice aisle to the organic juices. The day is getting rather hot so I go for maximum hydration. As I shove an elderberry and pomegranate and an apple and tangerine into my basket I can hear a smidge of some whispers coming from the next aisle which is the chip and fizzy drink aisle.

  ‘I told you I haven’t got any money der’.

  ‘Well shove it in your pants then.’ I know that irritating voice, even in whisper form.

  ‘I’m not doin’ that, you do it.’

  ‘No way, I can’t get caught again. I wish we had some &%^*£@+ money!’(I won’t really repeat that word as I am sensitive and it makes me blush).

  Then the two voices whisper-argue all the way down the aisle and out the shop.

  ‘And they call us mental’ I mutter to myself.

  ‘Karuna, are you payin’ for those or not?’ Mr Sago barks at me. He looks rather like a dog, an old English bulldog with a smooshed in face, lots of wrinkles of skin and saggy eyes. I can’t help but giggle to myself at this thought and he gives me a penetrating stare. Well, he thinks it’s a penetrating stare, I’m sure. All I can see is cutey likkle doggy woggy….Hee hee.

  I pay for the drinks and head back to mum and Mrs V. Mrs V. has a HUUUUUUUGE sun hat on which makes her smallish head look even tinier and Billy and Bas are sitting on upside down milk crates talking about this computer game where you dig stuff and build it into things – it’s usually all they talk about. I like that game too, and actually I am much better at it, which gets under Bas’s skin.

  Mum gives me some chalk and asks me to write some signs on the footpath about the cake stall. I write big curly letters that say Cake Stall Ahead, prepare for a sugar rush! And, cake stall for rescued animals, yummy foods for fluffy creatures.

  As the day goes on we get quite a few people meandering about. One of the teachers from the high school buys a brownie and poor Mr Congreve from the video shop tries one of Celia’s rock cakes – which are literally as hard as rocks. At lunch time some of
the students from the uni come and buy most of the stall. Mum says that uni students need to eat more sugar than most people because it makes their brains work after too much ‘glug glug’, and then she lifts her hand to her mouth like she’s drinking something.

  Bas and Billy are no help and we are becoming quite swamped. Carter and The Grater are skulking about and I try to keep my eye on them as they are untrustworthy types. The Grater pulls a face at me and thumps her hand into her palm as if to say she would like to pound my face. I just shove a cupcake into my mouth and make a face like I am in heaven and she shoots me a filthy and somewhat jealous look and moves away.

  I am now distracted by Mrs Tremlow who has scooted up and is banging on: ‘what animals need rescuing?’ And ‘why would anyone bother?’ And, ‘most animals are filthy dirty things, excepting parrots of course’. My mum is very nice - totally too nice, if you ask me, I would be like ‘sling yer hook ya old bat’ – anyway, my mum explains to her that the money from the stall is going to a farm nearby that takes abandoned animals. They are there because they are being harmed by their owners or are dropped off by people who are too lazy to look after them or because they have to move or something. The way some people treat animals makes me steaming mad, but mum says getting mad doesn’t change anything, and all we can do is try to show people what the best way is to treat animals. Mrs Tremlow just pretty much ignores my mum anyway and buys the cheapest thing at the table – a homemade toffee - and whirrs away, her grey bun wobbling about on her head.

  Finally the people are leaving which is good because all the food is almost gone even though there was a lot. We had chocolate brownies with hazelnuts, vegan cupcakes of all colours and with different types of sprinkles on (vegan means they have no butter or eggs or milk because it comes from animals and some people don’t eat animal things…like me and my family); vanilla slice; cherry macaroons; Celia’s rock cakes with currents in and her choc chip cookies which are much more delish. There was a cream and jam sponge made by the CWA president Ms Smiley (seriously, that’s her name) and the Buddhist nuns from the temple next town over made these things called ‘mo mo’s’ with hazelnut spread in them. Mrs V. made these awesome sweets from India called Cobri Sakraii which most people loved except for Bas who secretly spat his into the gutter. Mum had asked Aunt Bossy if she would make something and she looked at my mum like she was a two-headed slimy green alien thing like from Doctor Who or something. Anyway, she bought a Madeira cake from Sago’s which is a very boring cake. This is the only cake left.

 
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