Excerpted from Moon Pie by Simon Mason Copyright © 2011 by Simon Mason. Excerpted by permission of David Fickling Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
‘Come down at once!’ Martha called. ‘You’ll fall and hurt yourself.’
Dad took no notice. He went further up the drainpipe, grunting noisily, and grabbed the guttering of the bay window roof. With a sudden, wild effort he hoicked a leg over, and hung there like a gibbon, grinning fiercely down at them over his shoulder.
He panted something.
‘What did he say, Martha?’ Tug said.
‘Pardon?’ Martha called up.
‘Piece of,’ Dad said. ‘Cake.’
He spoke like that, in short gasps. ‘Done this. Before. No need. To worry.’
He took his hand off the guttering and began to wave, and quickly put it back again.
‘Dad’s strange, isn’t he, Martha?’ Tug said.
‘He’s very badly behaved. Dad, I want you to come down now. I’m going to go and get the spare key from Mrs Wilkinson.’
But Dad was already crouching on the steeply sloping bay window roof.
‘Be careful!’ Martha called.
He rose slowly to his feet, skittered suddenly on the tiles, waved his arms wildly once, and clung to the brickwork in front of him, laughing.
‘Easy does it,’ he said.
He shuffled sideways, face squashed against the brick, and blindly reached up an arm until he could feel the window sill of Martha’s bedroom above him.
‘Watch this, Tug,’ he said over his shoulder. ‘Any second now you’re going to see me give a little jump. And grab hold of that sill. Pull myself up. Jimmy the sash. Ease open the window. And hey presto.’
Tug let go of Martha’s hand. ‘Do it, Dad!’ he shouted. He began to dance with excitement.
Martha took back Tug’s hand. ‘Dad! You’re to come down now. This minute!’ She used her strictest voice.
‘First, a little jump,’ Dad said. He gave a little jump and missed the sill.
‘Oh!’ he said, as he fell.
He fell, crumpling onto the bay window roof, slithered crossways, scrabbling at the tiles, and skidded over the edge. He fell with a crunch into the hawthorn, which he had been promising to prune for months, and fell out of the hawthorn onto the wheelie bin which at once tipped over and flung him sideways along the gravel to where Martha and Tug stood holding hands and shouting.
Dad groaned, and there was a sudden silence, as if all the noise had been sucked out of the air. He lay there quietly on his back, eyes shut, bleeding from the nose. ‘Well,’ he said without opening his eyes. ‘I think my cat-burglar days are over.’
Tug fell on him with a sob.
Lights came on in the windows of neighbours’ houses and Martha took charge.
‘Yes, a slight accident,’ she was saying. ‘No thank you, Mrs Wilkinson, I think he’s OK. But may we use our spare key for a minute?’
Dad sat in the kitchen in his boxer shorts, with his left hand in a bowl of warm water and a large sticking plaster on his forehead. Martha was putting an ice pack round his right knee. The kitchen was small and square, with terracotta floor tiles, cracked here and there, and pine cupboards, a little shabby, and a much-repaired wooden table. There wasn’t quite enough room for things, but it didn’t matter because they could always be left on the counter or piled up in the corners or pushed behind the door.
‘You’ll need to see the doctor in the morning,’ Martha said.
‘I’m OK. Surface wounds. Nothing compared to the damage done to my pride. What do you think, Tug? Am I OK?’
‘You bashed the tree,’ Tug said. ‘You broke the bin. The bin won’t work now. Why did you break the bin?’
‘I’ve been meaning to break that bin for weeks. I don’t like that bin.’
‘Why don’t you like that bin?’
‘It’s rude and unhelpful. Ow!’
‘Hold still,’ Martha said. ‘Don’t listen to him, Tug. He knows he’s been silly.’
‘She’s right, Tug. I’ve been very silly. And now look at me.’
They looked at him, where he sat, looking back at them glassily. There were cuts down his cheek where the hawthorn had scratched him and grazes on the backs of his hands and knees. Dust and dirt in his hair made him look suddenly older. But he was still Dad. Limping to the sink, he poured himself a glass of water, gingerly sipped it and pulled a funny face.
‘What time is it?’ he said.
‘Come on then, or you’ll be tired tomorrow. I’m going up now. Tug?’
‘You weren’t frightened, were you? When I fell.’
‘I didn’t like the noise.’
‘No. I must remember to be silent when I fall off roofs.’
‘But I wasn’t frightened.’
Tug began to sniff.
‘Come on, Tug,’ Martha said. ‘Upstairs.’
They all went up together, into the darkness of the unlit landing, and Dad said good night and limped into his room. In the bathroom Martha made sure Tug cleaned his teeth. He was so floppy with sleepiness she had to hold him upright at the wash basin on his plastic step. Then she helped him to his room, the smallest bedroom, tucked away at the end of the landing, and read him one page of a story, and settled him down.
‘Good night, Tug.’
‘Good night, Martha. Is the light on?’
She switched on the nightlight. ‘Yes, the light’s on.’
‘Why’s Dad strange?’
Before she answered she drew her eyebrows together into a little frown, which was something she did when she was puzzled or upset. Then she said, ‘He’s not really strange, Tug. He’s just a bit excitable tonight. Go to sleep now.’
Going along the hall to her own room, she got into bed and lay there in the dark. A little while later she heard Dad get up and limp slowly back downstairs to the kitchen. She turned over and tried to get to sleep.