Brother For Sale - Chapter 1
“Why don’t you read your brother a story?” Mum lifted Todd from the sheepskin rug and plonked him next to me.
“But he doesn’t understand anything. What’s the point?” I snatched the remote and pressed the volume button.
“Turn it down Lewis!” She shoved a book onto my lap. I sneered at the smiling trains on the front. Did I really used to read this stuff?
Mum plucked clothes from radiators at world record speed. She was always a blur these days - bolting around the house like a pinball. When she did stop, it was to bathe Todd or feed Todd or cuddle Todd or put him to bed. Aaaaaaargh!
There was one thing okay about my brother I suppose ... He never cried. Not ever. But that really was the only thing.
“What a lovely sight – my two babies sat together. You look so alike you know. Your cute button noses are identical. And look at those adorable, big blue eyes - you'll break hearts one day.” Mum folded the last bib and dashed to the kitchen.
“I’m not a baby. I’m nearly 11!” I looked at Todd. I didn’t look anything like him. I wasn’t bald and I didn’t have a wrinkled, fat face. Todd wrapped his tiny fingers around my thumb and pulled it towards his mouth. Disgusting!
I opened the book and started reading, “Once upon a blah, blah, blah, blah, there lived a stupid brother called Todd.” I could read the back of a baked bean tin and he'd be happy. What a waste of time. And I was missing my favourite cartoon thanks to him.
I frisbeed the book through the air. It landed, slid across the floorboards and toppled a tower of alphabet bricks. Todd giggled and blew spit-bubbles at me.
Yuk! Stupid brother...
If only I could make him disappear.
Brother For Sale - Chapter 2
That afternoon, Mum sat next to me and asked if we could have a little talk. Her lips were smiling but her eyes had that look - like when she dropped Nana’s ‘Charles and Diana’ teapot and it smashed into a trillion pieces. “You know it’s your birthday next week?”
I played surprised. “Oh yeah! I’d forgotten.”
Mum's spider-leg lashes double-blinked over her glare. “Don’t be rude Lewis – it doesn’t suit you.” Her scowl dissolved and smashed-teapot-face returned. “Thing is - since Todd arrived, I’m struggling with money. You wouldn’t believe how much nappies cost.”
I felt my teeth clench.
“I know you really wanted that Wee-Wee video game thingy,” she said, staring at her twiddling fingers.
“It’s called a Wii and you promised I’d get one this year.” A shaken can of cola exploded in my stomach.
“I know I did love, but I haven’t got the money. And before you bite my head off – I’ve got an idea. You can buy amazing second hand stuff from the internet and charity shops these days.”
She was serious. She almost looked pleased with herself. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t think. A storm cloud invaded my brain.
“I was on eBay last night. They were no Wee-Wees but they had older consoles. I even found the one I used to play on in the 80’s. They're so cheap!”
My face was on fire when she finally looked at me. I gulped to stop my eyes filling. “You promised Mum!”
A gurgling giggle floated into the room. "Better dash - your brother's awake." Mum stood up and ruffled my hair. “Maybe next year Lewis.” I swatted her hand away. She disappeared through the door, like there was nothing else to talk about. As though everything was all right.
Well it wasn’t. I scanned the toy-littered lounge for ideas. I huffed at the framed photo of me and Todd on the mantelpiece. A fan of unopened envelopes were strewn across the window sill. Cupboards and drawers were half open; their contents escaped onto every surface - headache tablets on the shelf, screwdrivers in a vase, a cuddly penguin in the fruit bowl. It never used to be like this.
Just then, flashes from the TV beamed onto a pair of scissors and lasered inspiration into my brain.
I ran over and shoved the scissors up my sleeve. I charged upstairs, sneaked Mum’s camera from the drawer and rushed to my room. I pulled my silly old teddy from beneath a pile of shoes in the wardrobe. I ripped out the centre pages of my homework book and scribbled down loads of ideas.
Just last week, we’d had to make posters in school advertising futuristic robo-pets that could transform into vacuum cleaners, hair dryers and other useful appliances. Miss Blaine banged on and on about being persuasive. This would be easy.
Minutes later, I had it - an advert for the coolest, cuddly toy in the world.
Next I became Doctor Lewis - 'surgeon of soft toys'. I plunged the scissors into Teddy and cut holes in his stomach and face. Then I plucked out the stuffing until my old playmate was completely hollow.
So Mum thinks eBay’s the place to buy and sell things? Maybe she’s right.
Brother For Sale - Chapter 3
That evening, I offered to watch Todd while Mum washed the dishes. “Oh what a responsible big brother.” I stroked his head and faked a smile. “Just shout if there’s a problem. I’m only in the kitchen.”
As soon as she’d gone, I pulled the teddy suit from behind the cushion. Todd lay on his mat, blowing raspberries at the silly sea horses dangling from his mobile. I laid the suit on the floor and rolled him on top of it. I forced his feet into the hollow legs. I did the same with his arms. Todd chuckled and hiccupped. I picked him up and pulled the empty ted-head over his. Then I reached behind the cushion for the camera.
My brother looked kind of cute, wriggling in his new suit. His chubby face peered through the hole where Ted’s face used to be and his bloated belly had become a living, breathing teddy-tummy.
I had to be quick - I could hear Mum rinsing the dishes. “Ba ba boo boo. Ba ba boo boo,” I said and rubbed his fluffy, chewed penguin against his nose. Todd held his arms up and made a high pitched, happy squeak. I clicked the camera two or three times. That was all I needed.
“Do you want a biscuit? Or a drink?” Mum called from the kitchen.
“No thanks.” I tried to wrestle Todd’s limbs out of the furry suit, but he wasn’t having it. He stretched out like a starfish.
“Was that a yes Lewis?”
I tugged Todd’s leg and he let it loose with a giggle. My arm flew backwards and knocked the camera flying. It crashed into Mum’s silver giraffe, which flew sideways and bowled over the herd of African elephants roaming beside the fire.
“What the heck was that?” I heard Mum striding towards the living room. I threw a blanket over Todd. “What’s going on in here Lewis? Did you put the camera over there?” She resurrected her animals and put the camera on the mantelpiece.
I stood between her and Todd.
“Where’s your brother?” She peered over my shoulder and saw a ghost-baby wriggling on the rug. “What have you done to him? Poor thing.” She barged past and lifted Todd from the floor. The blanket fell off to reveal her new teddy bear son. I didn’t know whether to make something up or scarper. “How sweet! You’ve made a romper suit from your old teddy. I knew having a baby brother would make you more responsible.”
I forced a sweet smile and sneaked the camera behind my back. “I’m going up to my room - I’ve got holiday homework. Can I use the computer?”
“Use whatever you want love. I don’t know what’s got into you, but I’m not complaining.” She planted a noisy, long kiss on my forehead. “You’re turning out to be the best role model Todd could ever have.”
“Oh, and about my birthday - I’ll have a look at those old consoles you saw on eBay. I’ll probably need your log in details to check them out.”
“You need my details just to look at things on eBay?” Before I had time to answer, she shrugged and reached into her handbag. She passed me a little notepad. “My passwords are at the back.”
“Thanks Mum.” I pretend-pecked Todd's cheek and darted upstairs. This was going to be easier than I thought. I closed my bedroom door and switched on the PC.
Brother For Sale - Chapter 4
I signed into Mum’s eBay account and uploaded the cutest photo of Todd. I put the scribbled sheet of ideas next to the keyboard. Teddy Todd grinned out from the screen as I typed my seven best, persuasive red sentences.
Your one and only chance to own the coolest, wickedest, awesomest teddy bear in the whole universe!
He eats, crawls, gurgles, and poops - just like a real baby bear.
More amazing still - he never, EVER cries.
The perfect gift for any child.
No batteries needed.
Only one left for the bargain price of £199.99.
Hurry before it’s too late!!!
*No delivery by post. Must be collected.
Brilliant! No more annoying brother and enough money to buy exactly what I want for my birthday. I clicked the ‘Accept’ button, sat back and admired my advert - live for the world to see. Now all I had to do was wait.
Suddenly there was a knock. “Can I come in Lewis? I’ve brought you a hot chocolate” I jolted forwards and turned the monitor off.
“Yeah, come in.” Mum placed the mug on top of my scrawled notes. “You’ve been busy. So did you find anything?”
“Anything? What do you mean? Oh... for my birthday? No, not yet.”
“Shall we have a look together? I know it’s late but you are on holiday.” Her painted nail flew like a dart towards the screen.
I jumped in front of her and faked a massive yawn. “I’m really tired Mum. We’ll look tomorrow.”
“OK love. See you in the morning.” She kissed me on the cheek. “And thanks for being so great with your brother today. You’re the man of the house now.”
I slid into bed. I stared at the unidentifiable ceiling splodge that had been there as long as I could remember.
Whenever I closed my eyes, the splodge morphed into Todd’s swirling, laughing face. He squeezed my thumb and pulled it towards his mouth.
I yanked it away but he wouldn’t stop. He just kept reaching and grabbing, giggling and swirling - round and around and around.
Brother For Sale - Chapter 5
The neighbour's car revved a couple of times and my eyes flicked open. As it pulled off, its headlights broke in through the curtain-cracks and trespassed across my ceiling. Quiet almost returned but the tick-tock of my alarm clock tormented me out of bed. It was 5:30. I signed into eBay using Mum’s details. My stomach was full of bees.
I couldn’t believe it. There was a message. I sucked in a lungful of air and stepped back from the computer. I tiptoed to the door and pressed my ear against it. Silence.
I sat down and slid the cursor over ‘Inbox.’ I rested my finger, ever so gently, on the left mouse button. My heart banged above the bees.
I want to buy that little teddy for me granddaughter.
Now listen – I’m a poor, old granny on a pension. Can you do it for £150.00? Send me your address and we’ll be round to collect it at midday.
P.S. It had better work like you said and not cry. I can’t stand crying. It makes me want to smash tea cups against the wall.
I jolted backwards. What had I done? I closed my eyes and saw Todd’s giggling grin, spiraling around my brain. His multi-coloured saliva-bubbles burst and stung my eyeballs.
Get a grip! Soon it'd be just me and Mum again. But what if she answers the door when the old woman comes round? My heart buzzed and my belly banged.
I yelped and pushed my hand against my mouth.
“Everything OK? You’re up early.”
“Just doing more homework Mum. Don’t come in, I haven’t got my clothes on.”
“Naked homework! I’ve heard it all now.” Her giggles drifted away into Todd’s room. I leapt into the chair and typed as fast as I could.
All right - £150.00 but not a penny less.
I live at 28 Lightfoot Avenue. I might not be in when you come round, so just give the money to my son.
See you at 12.
P.S. The teddy works exactly as I said and never, ever cries. You’ll love it!
I shut down and grabbed yesterday’s hooded top, jeans and socks from the floor. I was dressed in seconds and didn’t even gel my hair. Instead, I pulled a cap from my bedpost and forced it on my head.
“Breakfast’s ready Lewis,” Mum called from the bottom of the stairs. “Hurry up - Todd’s missing his big brother.”
My heart drum-rolled. I glimpsed myself in the mirror and threw a towel over my reflection. “Coming Mum.” I opened my bedroom door and the day flooded in.
Brother For Sale - Chapter 6
The morning dragged. It was like waiting for Christmas or birthdays. That reminded me. I looked at Todd. “Look, it’s your fault I have to do this. You’d have ruined my birthday otherwise. You never know, you might like old Granny and her granddaughter.” Todd stared at me moving his lips like a goldfish. Who was I kidding?
He wrapped his fragile fingers around my thumb and pulled it towards his mouth. I sighed and stuffed his dummy in.
11:30. I sat in the window, eyes fixed on the path leading to the front door. Trouble was, you couldn’t see down the road because of the overgrown hedge surrounding our garden.
Mum walked in with a bowl of popcorn. She sat on the sofa and put her feet up. I’d told her I’d watch Todd. “What are you doing here? You said the back garden needed weeding.” I kept a steady gaze out of the window.
“Can’t your poor Mum have a little rest? I thought we'd watch a film together.” She lifted Todd’s bib to wipe the dribble hanging from his chin. “Why are you sitting in the window?”
“‘Cos I feel like it. Anyway, what about the weeding? The garden’s a mess.” I stole one last glance down the path. I sped over, gripped Mum’s hands and pulled her off the sofa. “What do you always tell me? Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow, what you can do today. Save the popcorn and we'll watch a film later.”
Just then, a thunderbolt thought hit me between the eyes - I hadn’t even planned how I'd explain Todd’s disappearance. Pants! I‘d just tell Mum someone came to the door and took him. I wouldn’t be telling lies! Yep – kidnapped by a mad gran. Easy.
“Oh I get it, Sadie from your class is coming over. Oooo! I know when I’m not wanted.”
“I don’t think so Mum.” I followed her to the kitchen and waited for her to go into the back garden.
The door bell rang.
“Can I say a quick hello?” Mum said through the window. “I can show her your baby bathtime photos.” She thought she was so funny.
“It’ll be Terry from next door,” I watched her smirk off into the shed.
The door bell went again. Three times. I ran into the front room and peeped out of the window.
There she stood - an old lady, slightly hunched, wearing a thick blanket coat. I could see her curly grey hair trapped beneath a transparent rain hood. It wasn’t even raining. A skinny, head-to-toe-in-pink girl gripped her hand. Her face contorted like an overexcited skinny girl - head to toe in pink.
“Hello? Is anybody in?” The old granny shouted through the letter box. “We haven’t got all day you know.”
I glanced back at Todd. For once he wasn’t laughing or even smiling. He just stared at me - his glassy eyes wide open. Wondering. Watching me as though he knew.
Brother For Sale - Chapter 7
I put Todd inside the teddy suit and picked him up. He blew raspberries on my cheek as I opened the door.
“About blooming time too!” The old woman snatched Todd. She squinted, turned him upside down and shook him like a jammed ketchup bottle. Todd gurgled and grinned. “Look Lilly – it moves and makes noises all by itself.”
The old lady threw Todd into the girl’s outstretched arms. “Careful!” I said, “You might hurt him.”
“It’s not a him, it’s a her,” the girl squeaked. She pulled a pink ribbon from her bag and tied it round Todd’s neck. “You can’t hurt teddies. Teddies are soft.”
“Well this one you can,” I squeaked back, trying to untie the ribbon, “so just be careful.”
The old woman squeezed my wrist and leaned towards me. “It doesn’t belong to you no more sonny. Now go get your mummy.” Her breath stank of minty cat food.
“Mum’s just popped out,” I said.
“Well here’s the money. Daylight robbery tell her, but what can you do.” She slapped the wad of notes into my hand. “Right come on Lilly. Give me teddy. I’m going to be late for bingo.”
I slammed the door and pushed my back against it, gasping for breath. I stared at the dirty cash between my fingers and shoved it in my pocket.
I dashed to the window. The old granny was half way down the path. Todd reached his arms towards the front door. He saw me peeping from behind the curtains and stretched his open teddy arms, right at me.
And that’s when it happened. First time ever.
Todd began to cry.
In half a second, sniffles turned to wails. His face was red as a strawberry splat and he wriggled like a wild cat in the old woman’s arms.
What had I done? What was I thinking?
Granny spun round. I half expected her throbbing face to turn green and muscles to rip open her coat. I swept the curtains closed.
Seconds later, thumps and punches hammered against the door.
“Lewis! What’s going on in there?” It was Mum. I had to get my brother back and quick.
Brother For Sale - Chapter 8
I flung open the door and tried to grapple Todd free.
The mean old lady swiped my hands away like a ninja . “You said it didn’t cry. How do you turn the blasted thing off? Tell me quick or I might do something I regret sonny.”
The little girl squealed like a mad ref’s whistle.
I got hold of Todd’s feet but granny had his arms and wouldn’t let go.
“What on earth is going on?!” Mum swooped between us and pulled Todd to her chest. “Call the police Lewis. Quickly!”
“It should be me calling the police. This is a mad house! You’re a liar sonny - you said the stupid teddy never cries.”
“Stupid teddy!?” Snake-veins bulged in Mum's neck. “How dare you? This stupid teddy's my son!” Todd sobbed even more.
Looking like champion curlers, neighbours congregated at the end of our path sweeping up non-existent leaves.
“Tell me what happened Lewis?" Mum said, "I can trust you.” The granny fixed her gaze on me. My time was up. I had to do something or the old woman would blow my story.
Just as she was about to speak, I blurted, “She tried to kidnap Todd. When I answered the door, she pretended she was a... postman.” I looked at the pink girl sucking her thumb. “And while she kept me talking, that girl sneaked into the house and took Todd.”
The granny said nothing. She didn’t even argue. She lifted her wrinkled hand and flung it towards my trousers. Her chewed up nails clawed around my pocket like a crab. “Kidnapper eh?” She snatched the wad of notes and waved them in front of my face. “Maybe you want to tell your mum how you got this?”
Mum went still. She turned to face me. Her mouth gaped open beneath the deafening stare.
“Come on Lilly. They're one goose short of a gaggle.” The old lady took her granddaughter’s hand and elbowed her way through the neighbours. “Lunatics - the bleeding lot of them.”
Todd cried on and on and on.
Mum's lips shrunk to a tight pout. Her wide, teary eyes closed to a squint. Bullets of rage shot from her glare and peppered my body with fear. She stretched out her arm and pointed a shaking index finger, towards the open front door.
Brother For Sale - Chapter 9
Mum wouldn’t look at me. I was grounded forever and sent to my room.
Todd cried all night and was still crying the next morning. All because of me. I heard Mum reading stories and singing nursery rhymes as she rocked, cuddled and cradled my baby brother. But nothing cured his crying.
About 8 o’clock, my bedroom door swung open. Mum bounced Todd in her arms as he screamed. Dark bags swelled beneath her bloodshot eyes. “What do you want for breakfast?”
“Mum, I'm sorry - I'm so stupid. I love Todd. I didn’t realise.”
I braced myself for the biggest telling off of my life. But just as Mum inhaled half the world's oxygen, Todd’s cries turned to sniffles. He stretched his arms towards me. “Bubba.”
A proud grin chased away Mum’s scowl. “He spoke! His first word! He said ‘brother'.”
“I feel so bad.”
“So you should.” Mum shook her head and placed Todd in my arms. A snowfall of silence settled throughout the house.
I stared into his smiling, blue eyes. They looked just like mine. My tummy went all weird and tickly - a bit like when you score a goal. Or when you get top marks and the teacher tells the whole class. But better.
Todd reached out and squeezed my thumb. He put it in his mouth. It didn’t feel too nice but I didn’t mind. He was my brother after all.
“Do you want to tell him a story while I make breakfast?” Mum asked, passing me a book.
“That'd be cool,” I said, “But I don’t need that.”
I looked down at Todd and began, “Once upon a time, there was a really stupid boy called Lewis who had the coolest, baby brother in the whole wide world...”
Todd gurgled. And I gurgled back.