Aunt Effie and Mrs Grizzle (14 page)

Cream Collectors and Contumacious Reptiles, What Mrs Grizzle Used to Make a False Red Nose, and Why the Cannibal Krockapook Tasted of Ballpoint Pens and Chalk
.

“‘If it’s not one thing
then it’s another,’ murmured Mrs Grizzle when Bonny told her the decent old man who collected the cream had been eaten. ‘I told him to watch out for crocs, the contumacious reptiles!’

“‘Come in and have a cup of tea, Bonny. You’ll have to take the cream on the scow again, till the factory gets somebody else to collect it.’

“‘More!’ said my little mother. ‘Euphemia wants more!’

“‘You needn’t think you’re going to fill yourself up on cake,’ I told her.

“‘I’ll scream again,’ she threatened. ‘I’ll run on the spot, hold my breath till my face turns red, and faint in front of everyone, and you’ll be embarrassed.’”

Isaac laughed. “I used to do that! I can remember running on the spot and holding my breath. Exactly like Euphemia.”

“This story is giving everyone bad ideas,” said Daisy. “What happened to dear little Euphemia?”

“‘T
HAT

S IT
!’ Itold her,” said Aunt Effie. “‘Off you go to bed at once. And serves you right! Ana to mokomoko.’”

“It serves her right!” said the four little ones, who loved to hear of justice being done to others.

Aunt Effie nodded.

“F
OR SEVERAL DAYS
Bonny carried the cream can balanced on her head. It slowed her down and meant that they got to school only a few minutes before nine o’clock.

“‘It’s not fair,’ said Euphemia. ‘I don’t have time to play with Peggy Carter before the bell goes.’

“‘Every cloud has a silver lining,’ Mrs Grizzle murmured.

“A new man started collecting the cream. It was only a few days before he, too, was eaten by a crocodile.

“‘I suppose that means I can’t play with Peggy Carter again!’ complained Euphemia.

“‘The new man wasn’t very reliable anyway,’ Mrs Grizzle said. We were pleased when a powerful young woman poled the flax-stick raft to our jetty next morning and collected the cream. But that afternoon Mrs Grizzle called me. Our cream can lay on its side, empty. The raft floated upside-down.

“Mrs Grizzle pointed at the slurry of clay and slime where something had waited to leap and drag the powerful young woman under the murk of the Great Waharoa Swamp. As I watched, the gigantic claw marks in the mud filled with scummy water and disappeared.”

“Had the Something eaten the powerful young woman?” Casey asked. Aunt Effie nodded. The little ones put their arms around each other and wept noisily. “What was the Something?” they wanted to know.

Aunt Effie put one finger to her lips, the other hand behind her ear. We put our hands behind our ears and, from under her bed, we heard the sound of something that had lived under the dark waters of the Great Waharoa Swamp since the Age of Dinosaurs, something enormous slithering through ancient mud.

Marie was the only one brave enough to speak. “What’s it called?”

“The Cannibal Krockapook!” Aunt Effie knocked back a slug of Old Puckeroo and waited for us to stop screaming.

“M
RS
G
RIZZLE DISGUISED
herself with a false red nose she made out of little Euphemia’s play-dough. She knitted a white wig to hide her red hair, turned the raft up the right way, and poled it out on the swamp.

“I stood on the jetty, my little mother in my arms, and watched the water of the swamp begin to circle round and round. ‘Euphemia’s getting giddy,’ whimpered a little voice.

“‘Close your eyes and don’t watch!’ I said sharply.

“‘Nasty Brunnhilde!’ said her dear little voice, and her darling little fingers pinched me, but I was watching the swamp churn into a whirlpool. Faster and faster it circled, roaring, sucking down raupo and flax islands, and the blown-up carcasses of dead pookackodiles. The korari raft tilted, spun round and round, and went sideways down the hole. I saw Mrs Grizzle’s white wig and her false red nose spin and disappear.”

“Why is that silly Brunnhilde standing on the jetty holding dear little Euphemia in her arms?” cried Daisy. “Make her carry the poor dear little thing to safety, Aunt Effie!”

“We don’t like the Cannibal Krockapook,” said the little ones. Aunt Effie gargled a mouthful of Old Puckeroo, and continued.

“A
LL NIGHT
, the dark swamp water swirled, heaved, and glowed lurid orange and purple. Huge bubbles came up and burst with groans and shrieks. The underwater conflict raged several days, then the raft, the white wig, and the red play-dough nose bobbed up and floated gaily.

“My heart was bursting. ‘Even Mrs Grizzle couldn’t hold her breath that long,’ I said, but Euphemia whined, ‘I want my false nose. Get a stick, Brunnhilde, and drag my false nose ashore.’

“‘It’s all that’s left of Mrs Grizzle!’ I wept.

“‘She made it out of my play-dough,’ Euphemia complained. ‘I want to put it on!’

“A stench smothered us. Something gross and misshapen surfaced and slid and slithered on to the korari raft. I hugged Euphemia to me, and put my hands over her eyes. I stuck my fingers in my little mother’s ears as the Cannibal Krockapook gulped, swallowed, and sucked its teeth. I knew I should run for the house, but my gumboots stuck to the jetty! I told my feet to pull themselves out of the gumboots, but they wouldn’t work.

“Mrs Grizzle had said that with my name I should be a hero. She had taught me to be a witch. Together we had saved Hopuruahine from the monster pukekos, even cleaned up the pookackodiles of the Great Waharoa Swamp. But now the ancient Cannibal Krockapook had eaten Mrs Grizzle!

“Bonny sat by the dark water and cried. The cows, the sheep, and the pigs sat by the dark water and cried, too. They had all loved Mrs Grizzle.

“‘Look!’ said Bonny, manfully trying to stop her tears with one front hoof and pointing with the other.

“The raft came jerking towards us….”

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