Most cars are just cars. Four wheels. An engine. Some seats. They take you to work. Or to school. They bring you home again. But some cars—just a few—are more than cars.
Some cars are different.
Some cars are amazing.
And the Tooting family’s car was absolutely de?nitely not one of those.
It was so undifferent and so unamazing, in fact, that on the last day of the summer term when Lucy and Jem strolled out of the school gates and into the holidays, they walked straight past it. They didn’t even notice it was there until their father popped his head out of the window and shouted, “Lucy! Jem! Jump in! I’m giving you a lift!”
“I don’t need a lift,” said Lucy, who was ?fteen years old. “I need to be alone.” Lucy always dressed completely in black, ever since last Christmas.
“Why aren’t you at work?” asked Jem.
“Special occasion,” said Dad. “I have Big News.”
“Good Big News? Or Bad Big News?” said Jem, who was a bit of a worrier.
“All Big News is tragic,” said Lucy sadly. “Nothing good is ever news.”
“Wait and see,” said Dad. “First we’ll collect Little Harry from the child-minder.”
Little Harry hated being strapped into his car seat. As he struggled to get free, Jem said, “You have to be clipped in, in case we crash.”
“I lost my dinosaur,” said Little Harry.
“Are you going to tell us the Big Bad News now?” asked Lucy.
“It’s not bad news. First we’ll collect Mum from the shop.”
“You don’t usually collect me from the shop,” said Mum as she climbed into the front seat. “Has something terrible happened?”
“Tragic news,” said Lucy.
“What tragic news?”
“Not tragic news,” said Dad. “Big News. Excellent Big News.”
“Well, what is it?” I lost my dinosaur,” said Little Harry.
“Oh no,” said Mum. “Not the lovely red remote-control one that Santa brought you?”
“Can we stop talking about the dinosaur and talk about my news, please?” said Dad.
“Well . . .” said Dad, “I think we’re going to need takeaway to help us celebrate.”
They got the Celebration Banquet for Four with an extra portion of chicken in black bean sauce for Lucy—who liked to eat black food whenever she could. When it was all set out on the table, the lovely spicy smells curling into the air around them, Dad ?nally told them the
excellent Big News.
“Children,” he said, “and, wife—my Excellent Big News is that”— he looked around the table, enjoying their expectant faces—“I never have to work again! What do you think of that!?”
“Wow!” said Little Harry.
“Brilliant!” said Jem.
“That was unexpected,” said Lucy.
“How come?” said Mum.
“Because,” said Dad, “I have been sacked! Hooray!”
“Hooray!” yelled Little Harry.
“Hooray!” re-yelled Dad.
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