OLD MORRIS

    My Plan went right out of my head when we got back to the mushroom farm. As we reached the gate, we heard some- one shouting, and it wasn't Barry. Then we saw Barry being pushed out of the mushroom shed by a tall, thin man with a ponytail and a very loud voice--Morris FitzMaurice, who runs the mushroom farm, or Old Morris, as Uncle Drac calls him.

    "Look here, " Old Morris was yelling, "I'm usin' nice clean chemicals now, delivered in nice clean sacks at a decent time of day. You can tell that creepy Drac bloke once and for all that I don't want no more of his disgustin' bat stuff. Got that?" "But--" Barry tried to get a word in, but the ponytail man still had a lot more to say. "I dunno what he thinks he's doin'-- comin' 'round with them sacks in the middle of the night, wakin' us all up, tellin' me how to manage my mushrooms and takin' no notice when I tell him I don't want no more of this stuff. Well, I'm tellin' you I've had enough of it. Got that?" "Er, yes, " said Barry, "I think I have. " "Good, " snapped the ponytail man.

    "An' you can take them smelly sacks back with you an' all. " With that, he stomped back inside the mushroom shed and slammed the door. Barry began dragging the sacks back to the van. He looked very annoyed. On the way home, I sat in the front of the van as I totally refused to go back with all those sacks. It was not a fun journey. One of Barry's frogs was missing, and Big Bat sud- denly looked a lot fatter. "I'm sure I had five frogs this morning, " said Barry. "Yes, Dad, you did. " Wanda glared at me like it was my fault. All the way home, Big Bat swung from the rearview mirror, and every time Barry looked in the mirror, Big Bat glared at him. Just like Uncle Drac does. "What is Drac going to say?" muttered Barry as he swerved around a corner and Big -50- Bat hit his head on the windshield. "Quite a lot, I expect, " I said. "He'll blame me, " said Barry. "Yes, he will, " I agreed. "He'll say it was all my fault because I didn't deliver it last night. " "Yes, " I said, "he will. " Barry didn't say anything for the rest of the ride.

    When we got home, Barry parked the van at the front of the house so that Uncle Drac wouldn't hear it. I unhooked Big Bat from the mirror. I was looking forward to giving him to Uncle Drac. But I wasn't looking forward to Uncle Drac finding out what Old Morris had said. "Are you going to tell Uncle Drac what happened?" I asked Barry, who had his head stuck under the seat.

    He was looking for his frog. Barry mumbled something. "You'll have to tell him sometime, Dad, " said Wanda. Barry came up for air. "Later, " he said. "I'll tell him later, when he feels better. " "You mean when you feel better, " Wanda said.  Barry sighed. He took off his hat and clicked his fingers. All the frogs that had not been eaten by Big Bat jumped on top of his head. Then Barry put his hat back on and went to get the sacks out of the van. I crept up to the broom closet door and opened it just a little bit. Then I threw Big Bat in. Bats don't mind being thrown. They just fly wherever they want to go, which is exactly what Big Bat did. He flew into the corner where Sir Horace was hiding and settled on the top of an old coat. "Big Bat--oh, Big Bat!" gasped Uncle Drac. He sounded really happy. I peered around the door, and Uncle Drac spotted me. "Minty. " He smiled. "I knew you'd find Big Bat. Where was he?" "In a sack--I mean, in a safe place, Uncle Drac. He was fine. Really fine. " Uncle Drac looked so pleased that I did not want to spoil things by mentioning the mushroom farm. So I didn't. But the trouble was, Uncle Drac mentioned it. "Did Barry take the bat poo to the mush- room farm?" Uncle Drac picked up his weird green knitting. "Yes, he did, Uncle Drac. That's a very nice scarf you're knitting. " "Oh, do you really think so, Minty? And Barry made sure he gave the bat poo personally to Old Morris, did he?" "Oh, yes, he certainly saw him personally, Uncle Drac. No doubt about that. Your scarf is quite long now, isn't it?" "Yes, I'll need some more yarn soon. Did Old Morris mind about the bat poo being late, Minty?"

    "I'll go and find you some more yarn, Uncle Drac. Back in a minute. " Phew. I got out of the broom closet fast and bumped straight into Wanda. "Have you told him?" she whispered. "No. Barry can tell him. Anyway, we've got things to do. I've got a Plan--remember?" Wanda did not look as impressed as she should have. "What kind of Plan?" she asked suspi- ciously.

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