Winter reading stories

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Donald Bisset

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Ring! Ring!

Once upon a time there was a man and a telephone. The telephone went, “Ring ring! Ring ring!”

“Hello!” said the man, picking up the receiver.

His wife, who was far away, spoke.

“Hello!” she said. “I can’t find the cat’s dinner. Where did you put it? The poor little thing is ever so hungry!”

“What a shame!” said the man. “I put the cat’s dinner in the refrigerator.”

All the words he said rushed along the telephone line back to his wife, at the other end of the wire. All except the last word, REFRIGERATOR, which was such a big word— bigger than all the others— that it got very squashed in the wire. It couldn’t go as fast as the little words, so it got left behind and began to cry.

“I’ll go back the other way again,” it decided. What a fuss there was! It had to squeeze past other words.

“Oh, don’t push!” they said. “You’re going the wrong way.”

The man was very surprised when the word came back. “You are silly!” he said. “I told my wife to look in the refrigerator for the cat’s dinner. If she didn’t hear me say ‘REFRIGERATOR’, she won’t know where to look and the cat won’t get any dinner. It will get thinner and thinner till there is nothing left of it but its mieow. You wouldn’t like that to happen, would you?”

“Now, you be a good word and I’ll send you off again and mind you don’t get stuck this time,” the man added. So he listened very carefully.

“Where did you say the cat’s dinner was?” he heard his wife ask.

“I said it’s in the refrigerator,” he said.

This time the REFRIGERATOR word was ready to have a really good try. Off it went along the wire, faster than a space rocket. In fact it went so fast it almost reached the end before all the other words in the sentence, and that wouldn’t have been very helpful. So it got to the other end at the right time— exactly right.

The lady was very pleased indeed and sent it back. “All right! I’ll look in the refrigerator,” she said.

So the cat got its dinner.

The Ant and the Sugar

Aunt Lucy had a house and garden. She lived in the house and a hundred ants lived in the garden. One day one of the ants, whose name was Thomas, said: “I am going to look for something to eat.” So he crawled under the back door and across the kitchen floor and up the kitchen cupboard door  till he came to the keyhole, and he crawled through the keyhole. Тhere he was in the kitchen cupboard. He looked round and he saw a great big bowl of sugar.
“Oh,” he said, “just what I like best,” and he sat down and began to eat the sugar. It was sweet as sweet. He ate and ate and got fatter and fatter, till, at last, he could eat no more.
Then he decided to go home, and started to crawl out  by the keyhole, but he had got so fat eating the sugar that he couldn’t get through it. Poor Thomas sat down and cried. He knew his mother would be waiting for him. Again he tried to get through the keyhole, but it was no good, he was too fat.
So he waited, and to make himself thinner he did exercises. He touched his toes and did deep breathing and knees bend, one-two, one-two. And he ran round and round the cupboard until, at last, he was quite thin again. He was just going to crawl through the keyhole and go home when he felt weak with h u n g e r , so he thought, “ I’ll just have a little something before I go,” and he ate some sugar.
It was lovely, so he ate a lot to get his strength up to walk all the way home. Then he started to crawl through the keyhole, but he couldn’t, he was too fat again. So he waited and did his exercises again and again until he grew thin, then he started to go home.
He felt ever so hungry, but this time he knew better t h a n to eat more sugar. He crawled on through the key hole and down the cupboard, across the kitchen floor, under the back door and out into the garden.
When he got home he told his mother all about the sugar. She called all the other ants together and said, “Let us go and see Aunt Lucy.” So they crawled across the garden and under the back door, across the kitchen floor into the passage beyond, and then into Aunt Lucy’s sitting-room, across the carpet, up the side of her chair and into Aunt Lucy’s
lap. She was pleased to see them. They told her all about Thomas and how he could get into the cupboard before eating sugar, and couldn’t get out after eating it.
So Aunt Lucy said that she would always leave a little saucer of sugar for them on the kitchen floor, in the corner. And all the ants said, “Thank you very much,” and kissed Aunt Lucy, said “Good-bye”, and went home.

Bump!

In a hole in a wall in a room in a house in a street in a town in a country in the world in the sky there lived a mouse whose name was Albert. He lay on his bed and ate some cheese and watched a spider who was trying to swing from one beam to another. The spider was hanging by a long thread and swung as hard as he could one, then he swung again — two and again — three, and banged his head a great big bump on the other beam, and crawled back on to his web in a very bad temper. He sat down and thought for a bit, then came out and tried again. This time he got across.
Albert grew tired of watching the spider and got up and went to the Zoo to see his friend the kangaroo, whose name was Bob. Bob was wearing some new shoes, which had sponge in the soles to help him bounce better. He was practicing his bouncing when Albert arrived. “Look how high I can bounce,” said Bob. And he bounced up and down.
He bounced so high he could see over the fence; then higher and he could’see. over the houses; then higher still, he could see over the tall towers; then higher  and just then an airplane was passing and Bob bumped his head a great big bump on the underneath part of it.
“What a bump!” thought Albert. “Just like the spider’s when he bumped his head on the beam.”
Bob had one more bounce and he bounced as high, almost as high, as the sun. Then he went and saw his keeper, who bathed Bob’s head with warm water so that the bump didn’t feel so sore. Then they all had tea. After tea, Albert went home and got some hot water and bathed the spider’s bump. “W hat a friend Albert is,” thought the spider as he
curled up on his web and went to sleep.

Hide-and-Seek

Once upon a time the dark was playing hide-and-seek with the moon. Sometimes it hid behind houses or chimneys and kept very still while the moonlight crept round to find it.
Sometimes it would dart about, hiding behind a pussy cat or a little dog crossing the road. It was very clever at h id in g 5 from the moon. But when the sun rose that was different. “Just you wait!” said the moon. “When the sun shines where will you hide then?” “ I’ll hide behind the children going to school,” said the dark, “and be their shadows.”  “T hat’s all very well,” said the moon, “but when  the children go into school then where will you hide? Really, ray dear, you had better go and hide round the other side of the world or the sun will be sure to catch you.”
“No, it won’t!” said the dark. “You wait and see.”
Well, presently the sun rose and most of the dark went and hid round at the other side of the world and made it night there, but some little bits of dark stayed to play with the sun.
They had a lovely time and some pieces were people’s shadows and some were pussy cats’ shadows and dogs’ shadows and cows’ shadows and some were little birds’ shadows and flitted across the lawn, but the sun nearly always caught them in the end till there was only one little piece of dark left.
“ I’ll catch you!” said the sun. “No matter where you hide!”
“No, you w on’t!” said the dark. “ I’ve thought of a lovely place where you’ll never find me. Now don’t look! And count ten while I go and hide.”
So the sun hid behind a cloud and counted ten. Then it came out to look.
“ I expect it’s hiding behind someone and being their shadow!” said the sun. But though it looked everywhere it couldn’t find the dark. It looked all day and all the next day but couldn’t find it, and indeed it never found it at all because the dark had found such a wonderful place to hide  in the cupboard under the stairs.
“ It is nice here!” thought the dark. “I think I’ll stay here all the time.” And it did. And that’s why it’s always dark in the cupboard under the stairs.

The Lost Birthday

Once upon a time there was a big father elephant who lived at Whipsnade Zoo with a
mother elephant and their little elephant, whose name was Yalmar. Father elephant was very, very big. Mother elephant was quite big.  And even Yalmar wasn’t very little.  Elephants aren’t! One day they saw the father elephant standing on his head.
“Whatever are you doing?” said the mother elephant.
“I’m trying to remember something,” said the father elephant.
“What are you trying to remember?”
“If I knew that,” said the father elephant, “I wouldn’t be trying to remember it,my dear,
would I!”  And he walked off.
“Now, run along, Yalmar,” said the mother elephant, “and see if you can find what your father’s forgotten.”
Yalmar ambled off by himself.  After a while he climbed a little hill by a bamboo wood and sat down  and watched the clouds chasing each other across the sky.  Presently he heard the sound of crying.
He couldn’t see anything but the crying seemed to come from quite near. So he said, “Please don’t  cry. I’ll help you.”
The crying stopped.
“Who are you?”  said Yalmar. “I can’t see you.”
‘I’m a lost birthday,” said a voice, “and I don’t know who I belong to.”
“Oh dear!” said Yalmar. “That is sad. And is there a birthday cake, too?”
“Of course I There’s always birthday cake on birthdays,” said the lost birthday. “This one’s got six candles. Someone’s six today.”
“How nice to be six!” thought Yalmar. “That’s a very nice age.  Almost as nice as being seven.  Five is nice, too, and so is four.  And as for eight, well, when you’re eight you’re nearly half-way to being grown up. Still, I think I’d like being six best.

I’m terribly sorry, though, that I can’t help you. I don’t know who’s forgotten a birthday.”
Yalmar started off home. When he got there his father had stopped standing on his head and was eating some hay.
“I remembered!” he said.  “I knew it was yesterday or tomorrow or perhaps today.  And it is…” “It is what?”  asked Yalmar.
“Your birthday!”  said his mother, coming in.  “You’re six today.”
Yalmar was excited. He trundled off as quickly as he could to the little hill by the bamboo wood.
“Hello!”  he called out. “You’re my birthday.  I’m six today.”

“Hooray!”  said the birthday.  “Hooray, hooray, hooray!”
That afternoon at teatime, Yalmar had a birthday cake with six candles and he curled his trunk round and blew all the candles out at once.
“It is fun!”  he thought.  “I like being six.”

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