Tricky Rock’s Disappearing Act
Pet rocks are born by the fireside in Madge Dumpling's parlour, where they would happily sit for ever if they could. Having sad that, they do love a night out with their owners. Undergrowby's favourite night spot is the Summerlands Bonfire party, held nightly in the far south of Undergrowby, whatever the weather.
The Summerlands Bonfire is, as you might have guessed, no ordinary bonfire. It has a life of its own. It sleeps in the daytime and performs for its audience of Undergrowby gnomes (and their pet rocks) at night. It is joined in its work by its theatrical friends, the storyteller, the juggler and the Sunshine Bugs, and anyone else who might like to perform.
Sunshine Bugs, for the benefit of those who do not know, are tiny triangular creatures, chuckling splinters of light beamed out from the beaming sun down towards the earth along shimmering midsummer sunbeams. They move so fast in a straight line (they are in such a hurry to get to the shade) that many of them plunge to an early death unnoticed in dark corners where they quickly go cold. Within seconds their light goes out and they explode into dust. On sunny days you can often see this dust swirling around in sunbeams if you look closely enough. It's very sad.
If only we could respond quickly enough to catch them, things would be different. If only we were all as fast at responding as Jig the Juggler. Jig the Juggler is the fastest catcher in Undergrowby, and probably in the world. He has always had a fondness for sunshine bugs and to the envy of his rivals, he has his own tame collection. After catching them he keeps them warm and alive, jumping around like fleas in a little hut next to the magic bonfire of the Summerlands. The door is kept closed until evening when Jig lets them out to perform.
He catches them as they hop out of the door and juggles them up into the air into a twinkling, chuckling cloud around his head. Chuckling, as we know, is infectious, and soon catches on with the audience, warming them up ready for the main act. Once the sunshine bugs have got the audience giggling, Jig juggles the bugs towards the smouldering bonfire. He bounces them against the side of the heap and exactly on cue it bursts into flame, like the old professional that it is.
Once the bonfire, the star of the show, is alight and burning brightly, Jig juggles the tired but happy sunshine bugs safely back into the hut and feeds them a nice bunch of dry twigs as a reward. The Sunshine Bugs have a good life and they make nice pets for Jig the Juggler, but unlike pet rocks, they are not suitable for everyone. They burn.
One night when Jig had shut the sunshine bugs away for the night, he sat amongst the audience to listen to the storyteller who, that particular night, was reading a pet rock story by the world-famous author and pet rock whisperer, Madge Dumpling. As the storyteller told Madge's spellbinding story, every now and then she would wave her magic wand over the bonfire and its smoke would clear as if by magic. Then, pictures illustrating the story would appear in the glow above the bonfire. The bonfire was very talented and creative in this, its own personal magical art. For the audience it was a bit like being at a theatre-in-the-round, but more magical.
No wonder the pet rocks loved it, peeping out at the magical show from the safety of their owners' pockets, or on their owners'knees (if they were their favourites).
Pet rocks are never tired of hearing Madge Dumpling's pet rock stories. They know them all off by heart because they have been hearing them every night since they were born. Madge Dumpling herself would recite them last thing before she went to bed to get the pet rocks off to sleep. Her husband Malcolm accused her of spoiling them but she did not care. She knew how important the stories were to the pet rocks, and when she put a pet rock up for adoption, its new owners were always given copies of all her stories, so they could carry on the nightly tradition.
Jig the Juggler loved Madge's pet rock stories. He loved them so much he decided to get a pet rock of his own, and some for his sunshine bugs to play with. One morning he set off towards the north east on a pet rock-finding expedition to the Stone Quarry in the Rocky Headlands to ask Madge Dumpling if he could have a look at the pet rock orphans who were up for adoption. Madge was delighted and dragged him in through the door for a rock cake and a cup of her speciality tea. She was always looking for new members of the Rubble Club, (the official Undergrowby pet rock owners' club).
"I have the perfect one for you, Jig the Juggler,"cooed Madge,"He is a right little tumbler if ever there was one. He is always throwing himself off the window-sill and getting lost on the floor because I can't catch him in time. No sooner have I found him amongst the rubble on the floor than he jumps off and is lost again." The orphan in question was covered in dust from Madge's carefully unswept floor when she pointed it out to Jig. Immediately it tumbled forward on its face in embarrassment and rolled towards the edge of the windowsill.
"See what I mean? He can't keep still, bless him," clucked Madge fondly and tickled the dusty orphan teasingly on the back of the neck. The rock rolled right off the windowsill and Jig caught him easily before he disappeared into he cosy heap of rubble that was Madge's parlour floor."I'll have him then" said Jig. Well, who could resist? "I'll call him Tricky the Tumbler and I'll have him doing juggling tricks in no time, don't you wory. I'll make him a star!"
Madge beamed at the thought, but as long as she had found Tricky a nice new home, that was all she really cared about.
"Now,"Jig looked around for the other orphans on offer. "Which can I have for the Sunshine Bugs to play with? Like all jolly creatures of light, they are fascinated by dark, miserable things, so have you got any dark, sad ones for them?" Madge thought for a moment and then remembered something. "If you don't mind REALLY naughty ones, you can have this batch of frowning grumpies over here, sulking in my Naughty Corner. You see, they were born in rainstorm when the roof was leaking and they got a cold wet shock when they were hatching. Their faces set in a horrified scowl at the wrong moment and nothing will change them now."
"Perfect!" said Jig, and irresistibly he danced a little jig on the spot, (as he was prone to doing - he wasn't called Jig for nothing!)He was sure the Sunshine Bugs would adore them. "My Sunshine Bugs never stop laughing and these little chaps never stop frowning. It's a match made in heaven!" Jig was right. They got on like a house on fire, (in a hut which indeed often WAS on fire, being next to the bonfire and being red hot and everything).
Tricky the Tumbler became a megastar, not in the Summerlands as Jig had hoped, but in the playing fields of Seventh Heaven. When Poppy the child-minder from the Gnursery of Seventh Heaven heard about Jig's pet rock juggling act, she invited him to perform at a children's party in her garden. Pet rocks were not as dangerous as Sunshine Bugs, which she would not have within throwing distance of the Gnursery for health and safety reasons. It was all going well. Jig introduced Tricky to the children and told them what a good tumbler he was. Then he got the naughty pet rocks out of his pocket and juggled them all up into the air, so far up into the sky that they vanished from sight. What he did not know was that Tricky was looking for a chance to disappear. While they were out of sight up in the air, Tricky found a thick dark cloud to hide in. When the naughty pet rocks fell down into Jig's hands again, Tricky stayed in the cloud, tumbling round and round, showing off. The cloud happened to be a rain cloud, and it was having a job holding all the rain together with Tricky messing about like he was. The cloud was getting very nervous and its mood grew ever blacker until finally it burst. So much rain fell that Tricky tumbled down to earth so fast, and he was so cold and wet, even Jig could not catch him. He hit the ground so hard that he was shattered into a thousand pieces. He died that day, but his fall made a crater in the earth for which he will always be remembered. The rain filled the crater right up to the brim. Humans would call it a puddle, but to the Growbies it was more of a boating lake for pet rocks. Ever since that day there has been a tiny boating lake in Seventh Heaven where pet rock owners bring their pet rocks in their toy boats for a trip round the lake.
Jig the Juggler had a bench made to commemorate Tricky's short but eventful life. He put it by the side of the lake so he and others could come, sit with their pet rocks and remember those who, like Tricky, are no longer with us. The bench is marked on the map as The Lucky Breathing Bench, for indeed, as long as you are breathing, you are one of the lucky ones. The bench bears this moving inscription...
"This is the lake that Tricky brought down
When he tumbled from the sky.
I'll catch you when we meet again.
Goodbye my Tricky, goodbye!"