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Grandad and the Scarlet Macaw
Hugo and Rumer opened the creaking door of Grandad’s huge shed and wondered what trap had been set for them this time. As usual there was no sign of him which normally meant he was hiding somewhere, ready to jump out.
In the gloom, in the middle of the floor, was a silver cauldron which Grandad used to mix his spells. Smoke slowly swirled over the rim and, on the floor in front of it, were two red feathers.
The flapping sound of wings came from a dark corner which made Rumer jump and grab hold of her brother’s arm.
“Hey! get off, scaredy cat,” objected Hugo. “It will only be a pigeon on the roof.” He stepped towards the cauldron and peered inside to see a bubbling, green, jam-like slime.
Suddenly, a high pitched squawk came from the roof timbers making both of them jump this time. A screechy voice shouted. “Arrrrgh! Who goes there?”
A red breasted, very unhappy looking parrot appeared out of the shadows. It spread its wings, revealing a dazzling display of red, yellow and blue. A cream coloured beak protruded from a beard of black fur, and rings of light-pink surrounded its tiny eyes.
“It’s a parrot!” gasped Hugo.
“A parrot! I’m more than just a parrot. Don’t you recognise a scarlet macaw when you see one, you stupid boy? What school do you go to... the dimbo school for nitwits?”
“And what are you giggling at? Can’t stand gigglers, always hee hee heeing and haw haw hawing when there’s nothing to hee-haw about. Anyway, I demand to know why I am here. Who are you?”
Hugo, amazed that the macaw was talking so clearly, stepped closer. “I’m Hugo, and this is my sister, Rumer.”
“We are here to see our Grandad,” added Rumer, “he always looks after us on Wednesdays because our parents are at work and Nan goes to help out at the charity shop.”
“Grandad? So that’s the silly old fool’s name is it? Do you know what he did to me today? He snatched me from my home, brought me to this horrible shed and stole three of beautiful scarlet feathers. I told him I would bite off his finger if he tried to take any more.”
“You don’t half talk a lot,” said Hugo. “I thought macaws just repeated the things we say.”
“What? Why would I want to do that when everything humans say is rubbish.” The macaw ruffled its feathers. “Anyway, of course I talk a lot, I’m a macaw, it’s what we do and if you don’t know that then you really are as daft as you look.”
Hugo looked at Rumer. “Why would Grandad buy a parrot?”
“Buy… buy! He didn’t buy me... he kidnapped me… I told you, he snatched me from my home when all I was doing was minding my own business. Now he’s scarpered again, leaving me here in this tatty old shed.”
“I don’t believe you,” said Rumer. “Grandad wouldn’t kidnap anyone or anything. He’s bought you from the pet shop hasn’t he?”
“No! I was sitting on a branch, minding my own business when this rather nice blue and gold, female macaw came and landed right next to me.” The macaw breathed out a large sigh and his eyes appeared to go all out of focus. “I thought my dreams had come true. She gave me a peck on the cheek and Bam! I found myself here in the blink of an eye. Then he stole my feathers and nearly fell over when I tried to bite him."
“Hang on a minute,” said Hugo. “Are you saying that our Grandad turned himself into a macaw, flew to your home, and magically brought you here?”
“But that’s impossible. We’ve seen Grandad do some great magic but nothing like that.”
Rumer had a sudden thought. “Do you remember when we went to the zoo and Grandad found that feather stuck in the cage of the parrot house?”
“Oh yes! The one he put in his pocket saying it will be useful?”
She became excited and nodded. “He must have used it to turn himself in a macaw!”
“Yes, yes, that’s a very nice story. But it doesn’t explain why he has brought me all the way from Ecuador to this horrible, grotty shed does it?”
“We'll ask him,” said Rumer. “Where is he?”
“He’s gone again. The silly old fool dropped one of my feathers into that pot; then he went… Arrrh! and disappeared in a sort of melting kind of way.”
Rumer looked at the bubbling, stinky, green potion in the cauldron. She picked up the remaining two feathers. “So, if we drop these in as well, maybe we’ll follow him.”
The macaw gave a squawky chuckle. “Or maybe you’ll die because the man doesn’t know his potions from his lotions. And what will happen to me when you’re all dead? I will have to find my own way back to Equador, and that could be hundreds of miles away for all I know.”
“Equador isn’t hundreds of miles away,” said Hugo, “it’s thousands of miles away. We don’t have any jungles in England.”
“England! But that’s all the way around the world! I can’t fly that far!”
“We could take you with us,” suggested Rumer. “I’ll hold onto you. If Grandad went back to the jungle using this magic potion and one of your feathers, then we’ll be able to go there as well using the other two.”
“Oh no… I don’t think so... no thank you very much.”
“So you want to stay in England then?” asked Hugo.
“Well stop moaning and come on then. What’s your name by the way?”
The macaw looked at him like he was daft. “We don’t have names, we just know who we all are just by looking at each other.”
“You have to have a name, so I’m going to call you Ringo, because of the colour around your eyes.”
“All you have to do is trust us,” added Rumer. She held out an arm for the macaw to land on. “Come on, Ringo. Last chance.”
The macaw grunted as it spread its wings. It landed on her arm, wafting her shoulder length hair so it flopped all over her face.
“After three!” shouted Hugo.
As the feathers dropped into the cauldron, a green mist spiralled up their arms. The shed swirled into a brown haze. More colours appeared, and trees suddenly surrounded them. A blazing sun shone from a brilliant, blue and cloudless sky.
“I’m back! I’m back!” squawked Ringo. When he saw he wasn’t alone he squawked even louder, for there, flapping around in the air right next to him, above the canopy of the jungle, were two more beautiful scarlet macaws.
“Whooooaaaa!” shouted Hugo as his wings flapped around like washing on a stormy day. “I’m a macaw!”
Rumer was not doing very well with her wings either. She was heading towards the trees like an out of control aeroplane.
“Spread your wings and fly, you imbeciles!” shrieked Ringo. “That’s right… open them up, flap them! Now stretch them out and soar on the breeze… like me.”
“Yaaay! I’m flying!” bellowed Hugo.
Rumer flapped her wings up and down with all the strength she had. She just about got the hang of it when a sudden gust of wind blew her off course again.
Ringo swooped alongside her. “Twist your wing tips to change direction… that’s right!”
Ringo taught them how to fly for twenty minutes, making them land and take off a number of times before landing on a sturdy branch high in a tree in the green surroundings of the jungle.
“Well, that’s my work done. It’s been very nice to meet you but I’m off home now. Watch out for Hawks and Eagles because they will eat you; and, oh yes, keep a look out for monkeys and snakes in the trees, and jaguars if you are on the ground… they’ll eat you too. Bye, and good luck.” He spread his wings and flew off.
“No! Wait!” bellowed Rumer. “We haven’t found Grandad yet!”
Ringo circled over their heads. “He’s your problem, not mine. You’re the ones who decided to come here. I’ve shown you how to fly so just be thankful for that.”
“No!” shouted a furious Hugo. “You owe us more than that. You wouldn’t have been able to come back without us.”
“Yes,” snapped Rumer. “You have to help us find him because we don’t know how to get back without his magic.”
Hugo flapped into a panicking wobble. “I never thought about that, Rumer. How do we get back?”
Ringo gracefully landed on the branch again and ruffled his feathers. “I was wondering when one of you was going to say that.”
Rumer glared at him. “You know, don’t you? You know how we can get back but you’re not telling us.”
“Yes,” added Hugo, “Grandad has already taken you to his shed and you know how he did it.”
Ringo cocked his head on one side. The black fur around his beak ruffled into what looked like a smile. “Well, if you must know, he looked me sternly in the eye and winked three times… like this.”
Hugo and Rumer watched eagerly. His eye seemed to grow with every slow wink and, no sooner had he opened it after the third time, the jungle began to swirl into greens and blues, mixing together to become brown. In a few seconds, the inside of the shed reappeared before them and they were human again.
Grandad stood in front of them and roared with laughter. “Ringo!” he shouted. “I liked that name!”
Hugo and Rumer were unable to speak for a moment until Hugo realised what Grandad had done. “You were Ringo all the time?” he asked in amazement.
“Oh course I was!” said Grandad, “I told you that feather from the zoo would come in handy didn’t I?”
“You tricked us!” shouted Rumer.
“Of course I did and, if I do say so myself, it was one of my best tricks ever.”
Rumer and Hugo looked in the cauldron to see a clean and sparkling interior. The sticky green potion was gone, which meant today’s magical adventure with Grandad had finished.