(An unauthorised sequel to THE SNOWMAN)
By Baron Haddock
Evening Dec 22nd:
‘I want a snowman!’ Demanded Craig as the credits rolled up the screen and the film of “The Snowman” came to an end.
‘It’s dark outside pumpkin, and besides, there’s no snow,’ said mum diplomatically.
‘I want a snowman tomorrow then!’ continued the boy.
‘Daddy, Craig is talking to you,’ Mum deftly delegated responsibility to her husband and then darted out of the living room into the kitchen.
‘Daddy I want a snowman!’
‘Can you get them online?’ grumbled Dad from behind his newspaper.
‘I want to build a snowman! I want you to help me build one.’
‘Oh…do they come in kits?,’ Continued dad who was clearly paying no attention to the actual question he was being asked. Craig leapt up from his perch on the floor opposite the TV and ripped the newspaper clean down the middle revealing his father’s surprised face.
‘Snowmen do not come in kits, and you can’t buy them online Daddy! I want a real snowman! I want him to come to life at midnight, I want him to do all the fun things that the snowman in the cartoon does, fly me to the North Pole to meet Father Christmas, whisk me back here before my stupid parents wake up and then I want to watch him melt and feel sad! Okay?’
‘And what if I say no?’ said Dad, who was secretly terrified of the answer to this question.
Without batting an eyelid, Craig marched over to the phone, picked it up, rapidly dialled a number which rang twice and was finally answered.
‘Hello? Nan?’ Announced the boy, ‘I’d like you to come and stay for a couple of days!’
Filled with sudden panic at the thought of his mother-in-law paying an extended visit, Dad leapt across the room and grabbed the phone.
‘Sorry…er…wrong number!’ he told the operator. Turning his attention to Craig he quickly relented. ‘Alright, alright, we’ll build a snowman…but even you have to accept that in order to build a snowman we need it to snow first.’
Craig eyed his father suspiciously and after about a minute he nodded slowly.
‘Well it had better snow soon, or else!’ he growled. ‘I’m going to my room to play play-station and I am not to be disturbed under any circumstances.’ And with that he turned on his heel and marched up the stairs mumbling to himself about his disappointing parents. Dad sank back into his chair as mum emerged from the kitchen.
‘Has he gone?’ she whispered.
‘Yes… you coward!’ said Dad, but in good humour. After all they only had each other as allies against their tyrannical son.
‘Did you see what he did?’ moaned Dad.
‘Let me guess…my mother?’ said Mum.
‘You knew about that?’
‘Huh, that’s just the start… last week he drafted a letter to his local MP and the week before that I caught him sending an application form to the foreign legion because I wouldn’t buy him a car.’
‘A car? He’s nine!’ exclaimed Dad in utter amazement.
‘You know what he’s like Brian, once he gets an idea in his head.’ They both left this thought hanging.
‘Anyway, what are we going to do about this snowman thing? He’s got it in his head that it’ll come to life and fly him to the Arctic.’
‘I guess we’ll have to wait for it to snow and then improvise,’ she sighed, absently flicking the television channel to the ten o’clock news. After the news came the weather, and to the utter amazement of both parents; the forecast for Christmas Eve was snow.
‘Well that’s that then… we’ll get this over with on Christmas Eve,’ said Mum confidently.
‘Aren’t you forgetting something dear?’ said Dad. ‘He wants it to fly, he want’s to meet Father Christmas…’
‘Have a word with Angus, see what he can do.’
Originally from Glasgow, Angus lived in a caravan at the end of the garden. They let him off the rent most months in return for help with the gardening and various odd jobs around the house. Well into his eighties, Angus was still pretty sprightly and regularly bored them all to tears with a collection of highly improbable tales of his heroism during world war II.
The following morning Dad tramped down the garden to find Angus and ask him what he thought about re-enacting the snowman cartoon. The old man had never seen it, he didn’t even have a TV in his caravan, just an old radio.
Fetching his laptop from the house, Dad brought it down to the caravan and set up the Snowman DVD to play for him. Angus watched with interest.
‘Well?’ asked Dad as the cartoon finished.
‘Well what?’ said Angus, raising one white eyebrow.
‘Do you think we can do this in the garden?’
‘Do what?’ said Angus…only this time he had understood the question, it just seemed like such a ridiculous thing to say he pretended he had not.
‘Help me Angus… I need to make this happen or Craig is going to invite my mother-in-law for Christmas,’ said Dad. Angus looked rather upset by this and visibly paled.
‘Yer mather-in-law?,’ he whispered.
Dad nodded solemly.
‘Aye… a terrible and frightening woman she is, aye both terrible and frightening.’ He shook his head with worry. Looking up at Dad he continued. ‘And the boy would bring her here? He’s a bad boy, yes…very bad.’
‘Yes, I’m not ashamed to admit I’m petrified of her too. And she’ll be here for Christmas if I unless Craig gets his blasted snowman, so we’ve got no choice,’ bellowed Dad in frustration.
‘So what do you want me to do about it, and what’s it worth?’ Asked the gardener suspiciously. Dad explained his plan. One hour, and two hundred pounds later, Angus agreed in principle.
The morning of Christmas Eve arrived…but the snow did not. Craig was furious at his parents. It had been hard enough to stave off his plans for the whole of December the twenty-third, but this was just too much for him.
‘Where’s my snow? You promised!’ he screamed at the top of his voice; a sound so high pitched that, although almost inaudible to human ears, it made the dog jump straight through an open window and run the length of the garden.
Mum and Dad stared out of the window in despair. The rain was lashing down relentlessly, turning the garden into a quagmire.
‘What are you going to do?’ Wailed Craig. ‘What are you going to do now, you lied to me…my own parents, it’s disgraceful.’
‘But there’s no snow darling…just rain, rain and mud? What are we supposed to do? Build you a mud man?’ Shouted dad.
There followed a long silence in which a calculating expression swept across Craig’s bright red face.
‘Oh no…’ whispered mum under her breath. ‘Now you’ve done it.’
Craig’s mouth bent into a smile and his eyes lit up.
‘Yes, I want a mud man…a man made out of mud! And you’re going to help me build him…both of you… and he’s going to come to life and do all the things the snowman did… or we’ll all be on Tricia before the year is out…got that?’ he instructed them. His parent’s shoulders sank in submission and they all trailed off to find their wellies and macs.
The weather was truly atrocious. Nevertheless at one-twenty in the afternoon, two reluctant mud sculptors and their slave driving offspring trudged out into the Kentish Monsoon with all the enthusiasm of an old horse being led into a glue factory. Searching through the shed they uncovered a fork, a shovel and some rusty trowels, these were to be the tools that made The Mudman.
There was no shortage of mud. Brown rivers of sludge rolled down garden paths so lovingly manicured by Angus during the Autumn. The two parents shovelled mud into a pile, patting it into shape with the flat spade. Craig stood over them in a supervisory role as his dream slowly began to take shape.
It took about three hours to build The Mudman. Most of the time was spent repairing rain damage to his arms and head…but as the light began to fade, there stood the imposing figure of a man, nearly six foot tall, with a round head, broad shoulders and big brown feet. He had one green eye, and one orange made from old golf balls which the found in the hedge, and his nose was a flower pot, making look a bit like a large dog. Here and there the mud was speckled by leaves, grass and next spring’s daffodil bulbs which had been displaced by the torrential rain, but despite it all; Mum and Dad were pretty pleased with the result. They called for Craig, who had long since retired to the warmth of the house, to come and see what they had built. To their absolute horror, Craig emerged from the house carrying Mum’s best hat and Dad’s favourite scarf, both of which he proceeded to place onto The Mudman, soiling them beyond recognition. They then took a few photo’s and finally returned to the house for a well earned cup of tea.
‘I can’t wait till midnight,’ shouted Craig, gleefully eying his parents, willing them to fail. And with that he turned tail and ran up the stairs, humming the snowman theme tune and giggling.
‘I’d better go and speak to Angus,’ said Dad in a tired voice. ‘We’re going to have to change the plan a bit.’ And with that he staggered to his feet, donned his boots and mac and headed back out into the rain.
‘You what?’ said Angus.
‘Yes, instead of a snow man it’s a Mudman,’ Dad explained.
‘You asked for a snowman…the costume is white…look!’ He reached into his tiny wardrobe and produced a ridiculous looking white snowman costume, complete with a large round paper head.
‘Yes I can see that,’ said Dad. ‘But we need to make it brown…we need to cover it in mud.’
Angus looked rather offended by this.
‘Look! I made it white…you asked for a white snowman costume and that’s what I made. I was up half the night painting out all the newspaper words with white paint. And now you want it brown?’ he shouted.
‘Look out of the window Angus…what colour is the garden?’
Angus moved to the window and peered out. He glanced back at dad.
‘Brown?’ he suggested.
‘And what colour is the large object wearing a hat and scarf standing in the middle of it?’
‘Brown,’ nodded the gardener confidently.
‘That’s right…and you’re going to be taking it’s place aren’t you?’ Dad hoped that Angus could see where he was going with this. Suddenly there was a twinkle in the old gardeners eye.
‘What’s it worth?’ he nodded.
‘We’ve already done that bit,’ said dad.
‘Nae,’ said Angus. ‘We agreed a price for a snowman… but mudmen cost extra,’ he grinned.
Dad sighed, stared at the heavens for guidance. Having received none he reached into his back pocket and reluctantly pulled out his wallet.
Checking that the coast was clear and that Craig’s bedroom curtains were drawn, they headed out into the garden, Dad in his mac and boots…followed by a large paper snowman with a slightly stooped back and a Scottish accent. They need not have worried about how to make the white suit brown. Having neglected to cut any eye holes in the paper head, Angus couldn’t see where he was going and moments later he lost his footing and landed face first in the mud. Trying to help the stranded gardener, Dad pulled at one huge white arm but losing his grip on it fell backwards into a puddle himself. For what seemed like ages the two men splashed around in the mud, repeatedly climbing to their feet only to fall down again. By the time they finally managed to extricate themselves from the dirt, either one of them could have easily passed for a mud man.
‘Very good,’ said Dad smiling at the mud plastered snowman outfit. It looked almost exactly like the real Mudman except for the eyes and nose which Angus would attach later.
Angus removed the suit and placed it in the potting shed ready for use later. Then, he and Dad set about their preparations for the rest of the plan.
Seven hours later at eleven fifty-five, cold and exhausted, Dad and Angus returned to the garden. All that remained to do was to remove the original Mudman and replace him with Angus in the costume. While the gardener ran off to the potting shed to get changed Dad set about demolishing their earlier creation, except that there was a problem. In the intervening hours the sky had cleared, the temperature dropped well below freezing and The Mudman had frozen solid. Punching, kicking and clawing at the mud, the best he could do was remove one hand and the flower pot nose.
‘Angus!’ called Dad in a whispered shout. There was no answer. Having poked two holes into the paper head, Angus could now see out of the costume, but the thick polystyrene stuffing that held it in place rendered him almost deaf.
‘Angus!’ Dad shouted this time… but still nobody came. Looking at his watch Dad could see it was now three minutes to twelve, Craig would no doubt have set his alarm to go off on the stroke of midnight.
In desperation, ran to the end of the garden, turned around and pelted back as fast as he could and launched himself at The Mudman. It was like colliding with a concrete bollard. He bounced off, landing in flat on his back in the mud and leaves, shoulder throbbing from the impact. He would have to get Mum.
‘Wake up, wake up!’ Dad jiggled Mum’s arm.
‘Wh…what is it?’ she murmured, still half asleep.
‘You’ve got to help…we’ve got about fifty seconds to knock down The Mudman before Craig wakes up,’ dad whispered frantically.
‘Why didn’t you do it?’ said Mum yawning as she slipped on her dressing gown.
‘It’s frozen solid, I nearly broke my shoulder trying!’
They hurried downstairs as quietly as they could, Mum slipped on her wellies and they crept out into the garden. By this time Angus had emerged from the potting shed and was stumbling blindly around the garden trying to find Dad.
‘Angus, we’re over here,’ said Mum. ‘Ah, good evening Mrs Taylor, you…looks like you’ve got three mud men tae choose from.’ his laugh echoed around inside the paper head.
‘Angus? Have you been drinking?’ asked Mum suspiciously.
‘Nae but a wee dram tae keep oot the cold my good lady,’ replied Angus innocently. He then hiccupped. Mum rolled her eyes.
‘Now,’ continued the gardener. ‘Are we in a wee spot a bother then?’
‘We can’t make it fall down,’ said Dad kicking the mudman and hurting his foot.
‘No problem, no problem,’ said Angus. ‘I’ll have it down, nae bother.’
Angus pushed The Mudman but he didn’t move. Mum and Dad joined in. They kicked it, punched it, put their backs against it and strained but still it would not budge.
Meanwhile Craig was having a dream about pies. He was just about to eat a pie so large that his mouth had to be winched open with a car jack, when he was distracted by a beeping noise. He tried to ignore it and turn his attention back to the pie…but the pie had gone. The beeping grew louder. Finally he woke up and realised it was the alarm on his mobile phone. Reaching over to switch it off he knocked the phone onto the floor and his eyes began to close again.
‘I’ll get the axe!’ said Angus.
‘You’ll never find it in that, I’ll go,’ said Dad. He ran off to the potting shed, fetched up the large axe and carried it back to where the other two lay against The Mudman puffing and panting.
‘Right, stand back everyone,’ whispered Dad, and he swung the axe high over his head, bringing it down onto The Mudman…and as he did so the clock on the village church dramatically struck the first of twelve chimes. They all glanced at Craig’s bedroom curtain in terror.
‘Midnight!’ shouted Craig. And leapt out of bed at once, striding across his room to pull the curtains. At the last moment he changed his mind and snuck a peak around the edge of the curtains first, and then looked away. Had he just imagined it, or were there three people attacking The Mudman with an axe? Shaking his head in disbelief he pulled open the curtains fully… The Mudman stood where they had left him.
‘My eyes must be playing tricks on me,’ he muttered to himself, and stumbled off to find his dressing gown and slippers.
As Craig’s silhouette disappeared from the window, Mum, Dad and Angus crept out from their hiding places. That had been very close. Knowing that the boy would be down the stairs in less than a minute they continued with the demolition effort. Thankfully the axe made short work of The Mudman and they carried away the larger pieces quickly to leave just a small mound. Angus took his place on the mound just as the porch light came on and Craig emerged into the garden. The hat and coat having been hastily attached to his costume with green garden wire.
‘Remember,’ whispered Dad from the shadows. ‘Don’t speak…no matter what, okay?’
A barely perceptible nod issued from Mudman Mark II.
‘Hello, I’m Craig, are you alive?’ asked the boy who had crept right up to Angus.
‘Aye,’ said The Mudman, followed by a hiccup. Dad put his head in his hands.
‘What?’ asked Craig.
Realising his mistake Angus nodded and did a fake laugh, which sounded pretty frightening, but if Craig was bothered he didn’t show it.
‘Would you like to come and look around my house Mudman?’ asked Craig.
This was definitely not part of the plan. Angus turned his head towards Mum and Dad who both shook their heads no. Turning back to the boy The Mudman also shook his head no and continued the strange laugh.
‘The snowman in the cartoon wanted to come inside…are you sure you don’t want to come and see my house?’ everyone detected that familiar tone in Craig’s voice. One more refusal and he would explode in rage. Desperately Angus glanced back at Mum and dad who, reluctantly, nodded in defeat.
‘Great!’ said Craig when The Mudman finally accepted. ‘follow me…I’ll show you TV, and then we’ll go up to my parent’s bedroom where they are both sound asleep and we’ll dress up in their clothes without waking them…’ and with that he marched back to the house, The Mudman following reluctantly, trying not to slip up.
In the hedge, the two hidden parents stared at each other in horror as realisation dawned upon their faces.
‘We have to get back to our room…or he’ll know it’s us. Quickly!’ said Dad.
‘How are we going to get past them? I don’t have a front door key and we’ll never get in the back without him seeing us,’ Mum pointed out.
‘The drainpipe?’ suggested Dad.
‘I’ll have to get the ladder then.’
‘It’s December…the bedroom windows are locked from the inside,’ said Mum, shooting down another of Dad’s suggestions.
‘Well what’s your plan then clever clogs?’ he grumbled.
Meanwhile, Craig and The Mudman were in the living room. The fire was dying in the grate but still gave off a warm glow and plenty of heat. In the corner the Christmas tree was weighed down with tinsel, baubles and a collection of lights which flickered off and on because of a loose connection.
‘Sit down, sit down,’ demanded Craig pointing at the large armchair by the fireplace. Angus was a little reluctant to sit in the chair for two reasons. Firstly he would cover it in mud, and secondly there was a good chance he would be unable to get out of it without removing the lower half of his costume.
The noise had awoken Clifford, the family dog. The huge shaggy German Shepherd rose to his feet and padded down the hall to the living room. Poking his great head around the door he spotted The Mudman and immediately saw red. Bounding across the room he jumped up onto his hind legs pinning The Mudman against the fire place and barking furiously at the intruder. Angus and Clifford had never enjoyed a good relationship at the best of times and a cardboard costume was not enough to fool a dog’s nose.
‘Get off, Clifford, he’s The Mudman, he’s our friend,’ shouted Craig. But Clifford was having none of it. Momentarily releasing his prey he then sank his teeth into The Mudman’s leg.
‘Away wi ya, ya daft wee mutt!’ shouted The Mudman in agony. Thankfully Craig was too busy trying to control the dog to notice.
‘Now’s our chance,’ said Dad, hoping that they could slip into the house un noticed amidst the chaos. Breaking cover the two of them sprinted down the garden, through the back door and up the stairs, stopping only to mourn the huge muddy footprints which covered their new cream carpet. Craig was in the hall but he had is back to them, and was busy wrestling Clifford into the dining room.
Clicking the door shut so the apoplectic dog couldn’t escape he returned to the living room to resume his tour of the house. The Mudman lay against the mantelpiece, one hand on his huge round head, the other clasping the injured leg.
‘Sorry about that Mr Mudman,’ said Craig. ‘He’s just being friendly.’ This didn’t sound very convincing, especially seeing as he had to shout it above the enraged howls and barks of fury emanating from the dining room. The Mudman nodded, once again emitting the bizarre laugh which Craig now took to be his only form of communication.
‘What’s that smell?’ asked the boy. The Mudman shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.
‘You’re on fire!’ shouted Craig, quickly pulling Angus away from the grate. He was indeed on fire, as smoke billowed from one of the paper legs.
‘Don’t worry, I’ll sort it…stay where you are!’ Craig ran off into the hall leaving the smoking Angus hopping around the living room, with Clifford’s livid cries still echoing around the house. To add to the cacophony the smoke alarm was triggered emitting an ear splitting beep which could be heard for a hundred yards in every direction.
Craig came running in, fire extinguisher in hand and before The Mudman had time object, he was blasted with white foam expelled with such force that it knocked him backwards into the armchair from which he couldn’t escape despite his struggles. Gradually he disappeared beneath a mountain of fire retardant bubbles. The beeping ceased.
Mum and Dad, who were half way down the stairs expecting to find their house on fire stopped.
‘Do you think it’s okay?’ whispered Dad.
‘I don’t think there’s a fire, the alarm has stopped, lets go back upstairs,’ she replied.
Looking much more like The Snowman than The Mudman, Angus finally managed to extricate his huge cardboard backside from the chair and stand on his feet again. Wiping the foam from his tiny eye slots he was confronted with a grinning Craig.
‘Fantastic,’ laughed the boy. ‘That definitely happened in the film, in fact I think that was even better…right, lets go and play dressing up!’
Having only seen the film once, Angus could have been mistaken but he didn’t remember anything about fire extinguishers.
How Craig could believe that his parents had slept through all of this they could only guess…but believe it he did, and some minutes after the smoke alarm had died down the heard the sound of heavy footsteps tramping up the stairs.
‘Not a peep,’ whispered Dad.
Seconds later Craig crept in followed by an enormous shadow. Due to the accumulated foam The Mudman had grown to almost twice his original size. Craig had, of course, neglected to help wipe it off.
For the next twenty minutes they proceeded to empty both Mum’s and Dad’s wardrobes, attempting to dress The Mudman up. Unfortunately, neither parent had any clothes big enough to fit over the enormous paper costume and the amount of noise they made trying to achieve this was enough to wake up the neighbours, let alone Craig’s parents, both of whom were clenching their teeth trying not to laugh, or cry, or both. They didn’t even flinch when one of Mum’s bra’s pinged off The Mudman’s chest and hit Dad in the face.
As well as dressing up, Craig wanted The Mudman to sneeze like the snowman had in the film, so at every opportunity he would fire perfume, deodorant, aftershave and even talcum powder into the hapless giant’s face. Eventually he scored a direct hit forcing poor Angus into an uncontrollable sneezing fit which, among other things, clogged up one of his eye holes with phlegm.
Having exhausted this game, Craig dragged The Mudman across the landing to his room, much to the relief of his parents. All the while Clifford’s incensed barking continued to shake the windows.
‘Right,’ whispered Dad. ‘almost time for phase two. I’d better get up.’
Across the hall a terrified Angus was trying to steady himself on a tiny skateboard which was so small he couldn’t even see it beneath his giant cardboard feet. Having just about kept his footing, the hapless gardener was then propelled forward by an almighty push from behind. Through his one phlegm-free eye he desperately tried to navigate his way around the room trying not to crash into anything. Every time he lost momentum, Craig pushed him again, eventually propelling him out of the open door and down the landing.
Just at that moment, Dad poked his head out of their bedroom doorway to see what was going on. Turning his head towards a sound coming from the direction of Craig’s room he ducked back in, just in time to avoid Angus who was hurtling towards the staircase at high speed, followed by Craig in fits of laughter.
There then followed a series of loud crashes and swearing as The Mudman bounced down the stairs. This was followed a period eerie silence.
‘Oh no… I hope he’s alright,’ said Mum.
Thankfully they heard Angus’s voice moments later, he did the spooky laughter once again, only this time it sounded a little shaky.
‘Are you Scottish?’ asked Craig. ‘I’m sure I heard you speaking in a Scottish accent just now.’
‘Er…,’ said Angus. ‘Er…no I am from M…Mud.’
‘Mmm…Muu…Mud-i-gascar…yes,’ the voice sounded relieved. ‘Yes, I am from Mudigascar…the Mudigascans are Scottish!’ Angus announced triumphantly.
‘Oh, I see,’ said Craig suspiciously. ‘And where exactly is Mudigascar Mr Mudman?’
‘It’s in the Muditerranean of course!’ he laughed, and thankfully so did Craig.
‘Lets go for a ride on Dad’s motorbike!’
Angus and Dad had carefully worked out this part of the plan. In the film, The Snowman takes James for a ride through the fields on the back of an old motorbike. However there was no way Dad was about to let this happen to his old Enfield bike, it was his pride and joy. So he had taken out the spark plugs to prevent it starting.
Sure enough, no matter how many times he tried to kick start the machine it wouldn’t go.
‘Ah well, nay motor bike riding the day then,’ said Angus, thoroughly relieved that this, at least, was one adventure he wouldn’t have to go through with.
‘No matter,’ said Craig. ‘We’ll take mum’s.’
The indomitable boy marched confidently over to the garage and pulled open the metal door revealing an electric pink Lambretta, the keys conveniently left in the ignition.
‘Jump on!’ he shouted. ‘I’ll drive.’
With neither Dad or Mum around to give him guidance, Angus reluctantly stepped onto the back of the bike as the engine gunned into life.
‘Er, d’ya know what you’re doing aye?’ asked The Mudman nervously.
‘Oh yes,’ laughed Craig. ‘I take this out all the time when they’re at work.’ He pulled back the throttle and they rapidly accelerated out of the drive and off into the darkness, both The Mudman’s huge feet dragging on the tarmac behind them.
Mum, who had overheard this conversation was livid.
‘I didn’t know that, did you know that?’ she shouted at Dad.
‘Of course I didn’t,’ he defended himself.
‘Do you think he’s too old for adoption?’ mutter Mum.
Travelling only a short distance down the road Craig suddenly veered off down a farm track and off into the fields. Despite the thick mud they managed to keep going because Craig was running at full throttle. The little moped bounced over the furrows sending both riders clear of their seats every time it jumped. Craig whooped with laughter while Angus whispered prayers and hung on for dear life. On several occasions they got bogged down in the mud but with a good push from Angus they were up and running again. After a while the old gardener began to think he was enjoying himself, it was certainly more fun than sitting in a caravan listening to the radio. The wind blew the phlegm in his blocked eye hole back into his face which was not to pleasant, however he could now see out with both eyes. Unfortunately the first thing they saw was a large log which brought the journey to an abrupt end.
Craig steered the bike hard left to avoid the obstruction but it skidded away from beneath him throwing both of them into the adjacent hedgerow. By the time they were back up the bike was nowhere to be seen. A gurgling sound from nearby betrayed the terrible truth that somewhere in the darkness; mum’s pink moped was sinking to the bottom of a pond.
‘Aye we’re din fae now!’ said The Mudman, hoping this incident would bring the nightmare to an end.
‘Nah, they’re loaded,’ laughed Craig. ‘Lets get back to the house. Then you can show me how to fly.’
They turned around and started the long muddy trudge back to the house. Angus was ready to quit the whole thing, but he really needed the money, so he had to carry on.
Mum and Dad watched the drive nervously, listening hard for the sound of the little moped, but it never came. Instead, after about half an hour or so, Craig and a rather battered looking Mudman staggered up the drive.
‘Where’s my bike?’ gasped mum.
‘No time to worry about that now…we’ve got to do the flying bit,’ said Dad. Mum was a little alarmed by the enthusiasm in his voice.
The plan for the flying scene was painfully simple. So long as Craig kept his eyes closed he wouldn’t realise that instead of walking in the air, he would in fact be carried in the air whilst Mum and Dad walked in the mud.
‘Are we going to fly then?’ asked Craig.
‘Aye lad, but first you must wear this,’ said Angus untangling the wired-on scarf from his neck and then tying it around Craig’s eyes like a blindfold.
‘No, no, no…I’m not wearing this, I want to see all the amazing things as we fly!’ shouted Craig.
‘Is pitch dark, there’s nothing to see…and besides, if ya go fly without a blindfold, you’ll get a face full of bugs and seagulls! Yuk! I swallowed a whole seagull once, not pleasant, not at all!’ Angus warned him.
‘But nothing …no blindfold, no flying!’
‘Oh, okay then,’ Craig finally surrendered.
Reluctantly he tied on the muddy scarf.
‘And these senor!’ continued The Mudman, slipping a pair of blue fluffy earmuffs over Craig’s ears. They had been conveniently hidden in a bush for exactly this purpose.
‘This is crap!’ shouted Craig. ‘I can’t hear either!’ He pulled off the earmuffs and complained some more.
‘You won’t miss anything senor,’ said The Mudman. ‘We travel at the speed of sound, so can’t hear anything anyway…better to have warm ears no?’ Once again Craig conceded the point.
‘How will I even know we’re flying?’ asked Craig finally. The Mudman reached over and lifted up one earmuff.
‘Ah, that’s easy…you’ll feel the air push into your chest, like a wooden table lifting you up!’ he laughed and replaced the earmuff. ‘No peeking now!’ said The Mudman.
Once they were confident the boy could neither see nor hear anything, Mum and Dad emerged from the darkness holding a plank of wood. Silently taking their positions either side of the boy they placed the plank of wood in front of him and then tapped Angus on the shoulder to begin. Holding the boy’s hand; The Mudman began to move forward, slowly at first, then a little faster. As he did so, Mum and Dad, now in trainers and tracksuits, gently leaned into Craig with the plank of wood. Soon he began to rest all his considerable weight onto it and then they were carrying him on the plank.
‘Wow, this is weird…we’re taking off!’ shouted Craig, his outstretched hand holding The Mudman’s tightly, he truly believed he was flying.
They headed off towards a nearby copse where the next part of the plan had been prepared. Mum narrowed her eyes at Dad when she saw how far she was going to have to carry the podgy boy. However, Dad had a surprise up his sleeve that he thought would make her feel a bit better. When they were about two thirds of the way there Angus shouted out…
‘A whale, a whale!’ and with that he picked up a bucket of water, which they had strategically placed earlier, and gleefully threw it over Craig’s head, making him scream in shock. It was all Mum and Dad could do not to burst out laughing.
Finally, after about ten minutes, they arrived at the Copse. Craig was gently lowered to his feet and told to keep the blindfold on for a few more seconds. Meanwhile, Dad and Mum ran into the copse. There was a loud noise which sounded like an engine.
‘What’s that?’ shouted Craig above the din.
‘Er, that is the present machine,’ said Angus improvising.
‘Really? They have a machine for that?’ Craig’s eyes lit up. After about thirty seconds the sound was drowned out by music from the Snowman film (Mum had popped out and bought the CD). Craig’s blindfold was removed and he was led into the trees. There was a small clearing surrounded by large beech trees all lit up by bright tree lights strung through the lower branches. An old cabin, which had been there for years, was decorated with holly and tinsel.
‘Ho ho ho!’ said Dad, emerging from behind the shed in a rapidly cobbled-together Father Christmas outfit. It looked pretty convincing considering how little time he’d had to get ready.
‘Where’s all the snow?’ grumbled Craig. Father Christmas thought for a few seconds and then smiled.
‘Global warming,’ he laughed. ‘It’s all melted, ho ho ho!’
‘That’s not very funny, why are you laughing,’ said Craig.
‘Er…Because I’m Father Christmas…everything is funny to me…if I didn’t laugh all the time I’d be fired…now move along and stop asking questions,’ Dad improvised. He ushered the boy into the hut. Where there was an enormous pile of presents. They were, in fact, empty boxes wrapped up in Christmas paper.
‘Ah, here we are,’ said Dad after rustling through the presents for a moment. ‘He handed Craig a small package which he tore open feverishly.’
‘A scarf?’ he sounded very disappointed. ‘That’s a crappy present…why can’t I have one of those huge boxes?’ he pointed to one of the largest of the fake presents.
‘Because they’re not for you Craig,’ said Father Christmas. ‘They’re for other children.’
‘Other children?’ shouted the indignant boy. ‘How many other children have flown all the way here with The Mudman? I’m special, I should get the best present of all, not a stupid scarf.’ Father Christmas began to look worried. This tone of voice could lead to trouble. However, he used his character’s authority to try and calm the situation. Craig, wouldn’t listen to him as Dad, but he had no right to order around someone loved by children all over the world.
‘Now look here Craig,’ he said, still laughing. ‘Each present is matched to the child, they may not get exactly what they want, but they get what they need.’
‘I’ve already got a scarf, several in fact,’ shouted Craig. He did have a point and Dad was running out of ideas. Thankfully The Mudman helped him out.
‘Ah, it’s because we’re flying, and…er….there are baggage limit on all flights. This big box is too heavy for me to carry all the way home. But this wee scarf…you can tie it around your neck to keep warm on the journey, good old Father Christmas, what a clever present,’ hee finished.
‘Who?’ Asked dad and Craig at the same time.
‘Papá Noel…sorry, that’s what we call you in Mudigascar,’ said The Mudman.
‘Oh yes, I knew that, of course I did,’ laughed Father Christmas.
Craig looked at the scarf, and back at the massive presents piled up.
‘Oh, okay, I guess,’ he backed down. ‘you’re pretty clever for a Mudman aren’t you?’
‘Gracias senor,’ said The Mudman bowing awkwardly. ‘Right then,’ he continued. ‘Time to fly home.’
‘Already?’ said Craig. ‘What about the dancing bit?’
‘Dancing?’ exclaimed Father Christmas sounding very surprised. ‘You’re a nine year old boy, why would you want to do dancing?’ he laughed.
‘Good point,’ said Craig. ‘Lets fly home then. Bye Father Christmas, you’re great. I wish my Father was like you.’
‘Like I said, you can’t always have what you want,’ said Dad through gritted teeth. He was glad of the huge white beard because it hid the boiling rage on his face. ‘Ungrateful brat,’ he whispered under is breath as Craig walked off with The Mudman to prepare for launch.
‘Don’t worry, the nightmare is nearly over,’ said Mum who had been hiding behind the shed.
‘I sincerely hope so,’ replied Dad, scuttling into the shed to change back into his normal clothes.
As before, Mum and Dad took their positions either side of the boy once his blindfold and earmuffs were well and truly secured, and carried him back to the house. Everyone was looking forward to a well earned sleep. However that was not to be the case.
The first indication that things weren’t going entirely to plan came when dad noticed a number of flashing blue lights by the house. Trying to stay calm they carried Craig into the back garden as if nothing was wrong, lowered his feet to the ground and then hid. The Mudman undid the blindfold and was just about to give Craig a hug and send him on his way when they heard footsteps coming up the path from the front of the house.
Two lofty police officers came running across the muddy lawn shouting. They looked pretty frightening to start with, but once they’d slipped over three or four times and their fluorescent jackets were plastered with mud they seemed a little more human. More police appeared behind them, shouting even louder. Angus raised his hands and fell to his knees screaming for mercy. Craig looked very confused, but then, much to his parent’s amazement, dug his heels in, raised his fists and prepared to defend The Mudman.
He need not have bothered for the next wave of policemen and women were just as sure footed as the first two and were soon flailing around in the dirt helplessly. In a matter of minutes the garden appeared to be overrun with mud men and women. Mum and Dad emerged from their hiding places and tried to help but were inevitably drawn into the melee and soon it was impossible to tell Mudman from human.
‘Enough!’ shouted one of the policemen finally. ‘Would everybody just stop trying to stand up and kindly crawl to the nearest piece of non muddy ground so we can establish what on Earth is going on here?’
When they had all made it to the patio beside the back porch Dad put the outside light on. Everyone stood there shivering and gasping for breath.
‘Now,’ continued the rather irritated police officer. ‘We have had a report from several of your neighbours that an abduction has taken place on these premises.’
‘An abduction?’ gasped Mum. Dad was about to explain the whole thing but Craig butted in.
‘It’s not abduction officer,’ he said. ‘This is The Mudman, he’s from Mudigascar, he came to life at midnight, took me for a motorbike ride, flew me to the North Pole and back…and we’ve just landed. Nothing illegal about that is there?’ The policeman’s jaw dropped. He looked to Dad for a more plausible explanation. Dad didn’t know what to say. He wanted to deny all knowledge and just accept Craig’s fantastical story. But what would happen when the police removed Angus’s cardboard head? Then an idea occurred to him.
‘Craig…I’ve never heard such rubbish. Go to your room at once!’ He shouted.
‘Now boy! Don’t argue with me.’ Playing Father Christmas had obviously given Dad a confidence boost and for once the his son did as he was told.
Once Craig had disappeared, Mum took the officer to one side and explained the whole thing. He looked even more amazed by this story than the one Craig had told him.
‘But why go to so much trouble?’ he asked finally.
Mum and Dad looked at each other and sighed.
‘Because we can’t control him. He threatened to call his local MP if we didn’t give him what he wanted.’
‘He what?’ The officer put his hand to his head in utter disbelief. ‘Is there anything we can do to help?’
Mum smiled at the officer and nodded.
It was about half an hour later when Craig was summoned to the kitchen where the assembled police officers were waiting for him. Despite being caked in mud, they still looked stern and frightening, and Craig was pretty scared.
‘Craig,’ said the officer in charge. ‘This prank has wasted a lot of police time, caused your poor parents considerable distress and woken up half the neighbourhood. From now on we’ll be keeping an eye on you.’
‘But it’s not a prank…it’s real, The Mudman is real, Mum, Dad, tell him,’ Craig begged them. But his parents just shook their heads and sighed.
‘You heard the officer Craig,’ said Dad. ‘From now on you’d better watch your step. No more crank calls to your Nan, no more letters to the Foreign Legion, or MP’s…you’re going to have to behave or you’ll go to prison!’ Mum backed him up with some disappointed tutting.
‘But, hasn’t anyone spoken to The Mudman? He can explain…where is he?’ asked Craig desperately.
‘He’s in the garden, where he’s always been,’ said Mum.
Without even putting on his slippers, Craig ran out into the garden. The Mudman stood on his plinth, exactly as he had before the whole adventure started.
‘Mudman!’ Shouted Craig. ‘Tell them! Tell them we flew to the North Pole, and that the dog attacked you, and you fell down the stairs…tell them!’ he screamed. But The Mudman stood silent.
What Craig didn’t know is that Angus was back in his caravan warming his feet and listening to the radio. Meanwhile, his parents, with the help of the local constabulary, had hastily re-assembled the original Mudman, who being made from mud, could neither move, nor speak. Craig continued his wailing, trying desperately to get an answer from the inanimate statue.
From the kitchen window, seven police officers and two parents looked on, trying their hardest not to burst out laughing.
‘It looks like he’ll be out there for some time,’ said Mum. ‘Shall I put the kettle on?’ Everyone murmured in agreement and settled down for a nice cup of tea.
And so, instead of that magical scene at the end of the snowman where a heartbroken James finds his wonderful new friend the has melted. We have a chubby, spoilt, furious nine year old, jumping up and down in a quagmire at 2am demanding answers from a lifeless pile of mud.