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The River in the Box

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(Not in a mood for reading? Try the audio version instead...)

Somewhere towards the end of town, in a small cottage, surrounded by a spacious garden, lived the red haired Anne with her mother. Her father, who she used to visit from time to time in a far off town, had left a long time ago, and in fact it was so long ago that she couldn’t remember. Actually, her real name was Anne Ravenhead, but to everyone she was simply ‘Red’. That didn’t bother her because somehow the name suited her down to the ground.

Anne was nine years old but tall, with a round, freckled face, a little snub nose and a fringe that kept flopping in her eyes. Even though she was a big girl by now, she still loved playing with toys, and there were heaps of them all over the house. I say ‘heaps’ because most of them were in bits and pieces piled all around. You see, Anne had a terrible temper. She wasn’t an easy person to live with, especially for the toys, although they never complained. That’s not to say that she didn’t like them or didn’t take care of them. On the contrary, Anne was a very considerate child, but sometimes… Well, there were times when she just flew into a rage, and then woe betide the toys! The sweet, kind-hearted girl seemed to vanish into thin air and was replaced by a nasty, menacing creature who prowled around looking for someone to pick on. Pity the poor toys she set eyes on then! For all that tended to be left of them was just broken parts and torn shreds. Mum would get extremely annoyed and threatened serious punishment if it ever happened again. But one way or another, either the threat wasn’t enough or she simply forgot about it (she was a very busy woman indeed), so that after a day or two the storm had died down – much to the dismay of her poor toys, of course.

The story I’d like to tell you began precisely on one of those awful days. Actually, it was a lovely day – for everyone, that is, except Anne. It was the beginning of the summer holidays, the weather was warm enough to play outdoors all day long, but not so hot as to be unpleasant. Red had spent most of the day in the garden trying to put the finishing touches to the tepee she’d started building a few days earlier. It was hard going, though. There was always something wrong. If it wasn’t leaning over, then it looked so stupid to her that she’d have to tear it all down again. Mum was busy as usual, working at her computer all day, and was so tense and stressed that she wouldn’t have been of any help. On top of all that, every child in the neighbourhood seemed to have vanished underground. After hours of strenuous effort, Anne decided that the tepee just wasn’t worth it, and so she went back indoors.
 

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 Although the cottage was small, it was cosy and rather pretty. Downstairs there was a spacious kitchen-dining room. Next to that was mother’s bedroom and the ‘everything room’: a big closet full of old, useless stuff. Anne sometimes spent whole days in there making up stories about winding paths and endless mazes. She wasn’t in the mood today, though, so she went straight upstairs to where her mother’s study and her own bedroom were.

It would, of course, be exaggerating to suggest that Anne’s room usually looked clean and tidy. With Mum’s help she managed to keep it some kind of order, but only on days better than this one. To be honest, today her room looked as if a herd of frisky baby elephants had just charged through it. There were pens, pencils and crayons strewn all over the desk. Several unfinished drawings were lying on the floor next to the overturned chair. The bed she had attempted to transform into an enchanted castle that morning now looked very much like the abandoned tepee in the garden. The contents of the shelves and boxes were scattered over the floor after she’d rummaged through them looking for tools for her building project. Her poor, forlorn toys, most of which were in a very sorry state, lay heaped all around in every imaginable or unimaginable place.

Anne entered the room shooting murderous glances all around her, looking for something to vent her anger on. It didn’t come to that, though. One glance convinced her that someone had been meddling with her things, and there was no way she would let that go unpunished.

‘How dare she!’ she just managed to blurt out in fury and rage, before yelling at the top of her voice, ‘Muuuuum!’

‘What on earth’s the matter?’ Mum wasn’t in the best of moods herself as she was desperately late with her translation. ‘For goodness sake, stop shouting!’

‘Have you been tidying my room?’

‘Not exactly tidying. I was just looking for the scissors. I still need them, actually.’

‘They’re in the bathroom,’ Anne snapped back.

‘How come in the bathroom?’

‘My new doll’s got lice and I had to do something about it.’

‘You… what?’

Anne watched while Mum dashed into the bathroom and immediately reappeared clutching a mutilated, bald-headed doll...

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Don't foget, you can go to the audio excerpt, if it does look interesting...

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