by Joshua Crisp
with illustrations by Amy Sutton
* * *
Keepgoing was the youngest son of Tortoise. As such, he was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps. The assumption was that the ethos of his father would flow through him. Or trudge through him. But it didn’t. He was a lazy, arrogant teenager who’d fallen in with a bad crowd. Tortoise was worried about him. Hare was worried about him, and that was embarrassing.
He pretended not to care. He was a rebel. He was out late at night. He was hanging out with foxes.
He was in so much trouble.
He was found at four in the morning by Madame Spikeypig, who was returning from work and exhausted, but a fundamentally good and kind-hearted creature, so she made his problems her problems.
“Are you all right up there, young man?” she asked, calling up to the swinging plastic bag that dangled from a lamppost. She could see a tail and two legs poking out the side and she was pretty sure she knew who it was.
“I’m fine, go away!” shouted Keepgoing, struggling for the umpteenth time to break free from his plastic confines, and feeling the tight bag cutting into his leg again. He tried not to cry.
Madame Spikeypig had been raised in a large family, and had been a member of the community as long as anyone. She knew what a young boy’s pride was worth, but she also knew the value of a good night’s sleep. To both of them.
“All right then, if you’re sure.” She said, and turned to walk away.
Keepgoing watched her but the bag swung him around and he could only hear her shuffle. She was really leaving. It had been two hours and she was the first person he’d seen and the sun would be up soon and what would his mum say…
“Wait!” He shouted after her, his words muffled by the plastic bag.
He heard her paws stop. He bit his bottom lip, hard and shook for a moment.
“Please help me.” He said in a small voice.
Madame Spikeypig looked at the distant horizon and the first breaking rays of dawn. She looked down the street to the cosy pile of leaves she’d made her summer-home, and then back up the street towards the lamppost and the dangling Keepgoing. And she sighed and turned around.
Keepgoing snuck back into the house at five in the morning. The front door rustled a little as he came in and he winced, closing it slowly behind him with his tail. He turned into the living room and started as he came face to face with his mother. His neck shrunk back into his shell and he prepared a thousand excuses.
“Mum! I.. It’s… There…” he began, stammering as he scrambled for words.
A loud snore emanated through the chamber and he realised that it was coming from his mother. She was sound asleep. Keepgoing breathed a deep sigh of relief.
“She stayed up all night waiting for you,” said his father, from his chair in the corner.
Keepgoing shouted and almost leapt out of his shell.
“Dad!” he hissed. “Don’t scare me like that!”
“Don’t scare you like that?” asked Tortoise, slowly lumbering off of the armchair.
Keepgoing shrank backwards, and backed away from his father’s imposing bulk. He backed into a stand on which stood a lovely shell that Tortoise had given his mother for their anniversary.
The stand wobbled and the shell fell off and cracked. Keepgoing’s eyes widened and he began to panic.
“I… I didn’t mean to! That wasn’t supposed to be there!” he said, beginning to spiral. How could this get any worse?
“Keepgoing, is that you?” asked his mother, blinking slowly and tasting her lips with a slow yawn.
“Mum, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I…” babbled Keepgoing, but his mother simply leaned over and wrapped her neck around his in a great big hug.
“That’s good. I’m glad you’re home, now come and get some sleep. We’ll talk about it in the morning.”
And they did.
Merry Christmas 2017, from Josh and Amy xx