Jaz Ghent


Jaz Ghent

SignaturesSet 2TheAmazoniaSisterhoodRecycling DepotJaz GhentSeries Editor: Joy Cowley

ContentsPart and Parcel 5Can’t Get In! 8Skulking Around 11Getting Warm 14Magical Mystery Tent 16Stone Cold 19A Rude Awakening 22The Keynote 24Spooky! 27Laughter at Last! 31There’s No Place Like Home 34Luke and Lucifer 36Fire and Flames! 39All in Place 42From the Author 44From the Illustrator 45

Part and ParcelIt was early spring, and the ornamental peartrees in Buzzwick Street had buds burstingfrom every twig.“You can almost hear them exploding,” saidShasta, as she skipped out of her father’s flowershop and down the lane next door. She tappedon the side door of the Amazonia SisterhoodRecycling Depot. The door opened a crack anda face peered around it.“I’ll be ready in a minute,” whispered Luke.“There’s a lot going on in here today. Come inif you want to.”Shasta whipped inside. She loved the Depot.You never knew what you’d find on the racksor shelves. A whispering sound met them likea rising breeze as they went down the hallway.5

In the room behind the shop, where all thesorting was done, the Sisterhood were holdingan Extraordinary Meeting. This involved cupsof strong tea and cupcakes with green andblue icing. On the table was a Something incrackling black paper. It was tied up with hairy,red string. The Sisterhood, three women withblue tattooed foreheads and hooded robes, hadjoined hands and now leaned in a circle overthe table.“And as I was saying,” repeated Luke’smother, Carmel, “I found it on the step thismorning.”The Sisterhood all sighed at the same time.“It has the scent of something strange – notour usual kind of donation at all,” said Carmel,sniffing the air around the Something.The other two sisters sniffed, too.“Oh, yes,” cried Cissy, the youngest. “I cansmell… oh… sawdust and horses!”“I can smell candyfloss and lemonade,”Carmel said.“Greasepaint and sequins,” added Cissy.“But there’s a touch of sadness,” saidCrépuscule. A tear trundled down her cheek.6

“Why don’t you open it then?” askedShasta.Three hooded heads swivelled at once inShasta’s direction.“Sorry, Mum,” said Luke. “We were justgoing out.” He pulled at Shasta’s arm.“But I want to know what it is!” Shasta said,protesting at having to leave.“And so you shall,” said Carmel. “We werejust making sure it was nothing dangerous.”She took a pair of scissors in the shape of astork, and cut the string.7

Can’t Get In!There was general surprise at the sight of aminiature striped tent, with fireworks soaringabove it, and the sound of applause comingfrom inside. Over the door flap there was asign that said SPOOKYTENT.Shasta gasped as a tiny rocket narrowlymissed her ear and showered her with sparks.“Is it a miniature circus?” she asked.“Something like that,” said Luke, duckinghis head as a spray of sparks flew by.“And something not like that,” said Cissy. “Idon’t think there are horses, after all.”Carmel tried to prise open the miniaturetent, but it gave a yelp and stayed closed.“It’s alive!” cried Cissy.“Poor thing,” sobbed Crépuscule.8

“Nonsense,” snapped Carmel. “Certainly it’smagical, but that doesn’t make it automaticallyunhappy.”“But if it won’t let us look inside, how willwe know what it means or why it was lefthere?” asked Shasta, who was practical as wellas impatient.Now the fireworks had finished, but thesound of a hurdy-gurdy came from inside thestriped tent.“All in good time,” said Carmel. “I’m sureits secrets will be revealed if we just wait.”Shasta made a face.“Have a cupcake,” said Luke. “The blue onesare delicious.”The Sisterhood sat, still holding hands, andbreathed together quietly.Shasta ate a cake and Luke fidgeted.Saturday’s spring sunshine streamed throughthe Depot’s stained glass window depicting arose, a leek, and a thistle. But after a quarterof-an-hour,nothing more had happened.Shasta got up and brushed cake crumbsand blue icing onto the floor. “Right!” she said.“Come on, Luke. Things to do!”9

This seemed to break a spell, and themembers of the Sisterhood began to bustleabout. Carmel went to take the Sorry, back soon!notice from the shop front door, while Cissysorted out some clothing. With a look fromCissy, the clothes hung themselves on hangersor threw themselves into a reject bin. A longblack coat was shaken in the air and several batsfell out of it. Carmel concentrated on foldingcurtains and bedspreads. Crépuscule went onmending and repainting battered toys.With one more longing glance at the tinystriped tent, Luke and Shasta slipped out theside door.10

Skulking Around“So, what’s so important?” Luke asked Shasta,as they swung down Buzzwick Street past theBlossom Shoppe and Lila’s Latte Palace.“Wait till we get to the river,” she said, hissingat him. “The Bubbalinos may be skulking.”Skulking was what the Bubbalino boys didbest. It was their favourite pastime. They livedwith their parents, Alphonse and Lila, abovethe Latte Palace. Fonsie was the same age asShasta and Luke. Drago was a year older.“Too late!” Luke groaned.Fonsie and Drago sloped across the roadfrom Milo’s Milk Bar like miniature manmountains.They were both big for their age.“Where are you two going?” demandedDrago, loudly.11

“Why do you want to know?” asked Shasta.“We just do,” said Fonsie.“Well, that’s tough!” said Luke. Then hepointed behind the two boys and shouted,“What’s that?”As the boys spun around, Luke and Shastasped off around the corner, down the back lane,and finally collapsed laughing behind someknobby willows on the river bank.“They never learn!” said Shasta, gasping.“They’ll catch on sooner or later, I suppose,”Luke said, picking a stem to chew on. He layback on the grass. The sun glanced off the waterin shimmers that made him squint. “What wasso urgent?” he asked.“Just… this!” said Shasta, indicating thesweep of the river, the buzz of insects, and thebroad blue sky. “And something I found.”She pulled a crumpled tissue out of herpocket.“Yuck!” said Luke.“Not that. This!” she said, showing him asilver key that lay inside.“What’s it for?” Luke asked, taking the keyin his hand.12

“I don’t know,” Shasta said. “I was hopingyou could tell me.”Luke was about to answer her when he wasrudely interrupted. A clod of earth landedbetween them. They jumped to their feet as theBubbalinos, howling like hounds, scrambleddown the river bank.“Haven’t you two got anything better to dothan chase us all over the place?” Luke said,angrily, as he and Shasta pounded away alongthe river side.Over the bridge and onto the island theydashed. Without a word, they headed for thefar side where the trees grew thick and thebridal creeper hung in curtains from branchto branch.13

Getting WarmLuke and Shasta got further and further away,until they couldn’t hear the laboured breathingof the two slow hounds behind them.“We live to run another day,” Luke said,quietly.Shasta, who had the stitch, leanedbreathlessly against a tree and nodded.The trees shifted their branches and thecreeper curtains quivered, rearranging thepatterns of sun and shadow. Luke took thesilver key out of his pocket and stared at it. Abeam of sunlight filled with tiny specks of duststruck the metal and the key began to move inhis hand.“What’s happening?” Luke yelled, and hedropped the key as if he’d been stung.14

A thin tune spiralled up from the grass.Shasta looked for the source of the music.“It’s the same tune we heard coming fromthe little tent!” she said, parting the grasscarefully. “Here’s the key.” Just as she pickedup the delicate vibrating key, the pantingBubbalino brothers charged into the clearing.“Wotcha got?” Drago yelled, grabbing forthe key. It flew from his hand and hung inthe air, still swivelling and chiming. Fonsiecollided with his brother, and they both fellover. Fonsie caught sight of the object and hiseyes snapped wide open.“What’s that?” he asked, pointing with aquivering finger. Drago was already backingout of the clearing on his knees. “Let’s go!” hehissed, and the two boys crashed through thecreepers in their haste to get away.Shasta laughed. She tried to take the strangekey from its invisible perch in the air, but itdodged her hand. Then it darted away like asilver dragonfly.“I think it wants us to follow!” Luke cried.They ran through the trees, in the oppositedirection from the Bubbalino brothers.15

Magical Mystery TentIt was not only clothes and bedspreads thatwere recycled at the Amazonia SisterhoodRecycling Depot. The Depot dealt withanything and everything. Currently they hadthree dogs, two cats, a blue-tongued lizard,and a sulphur-crested cockatoo awaiting newowners. Carmel had named the cockatooLucifer due to his sulphurous connectionsand general rudeness. His crest glowed redwhenever he became angry, which was often.He had not been donated in the usual way,that is, by being deposited on the doorstep orin the large bin in the side lane. He was foundperched on a tree in their walled garden onemorning, imitating the wind chimes.“If only that was all he did,” said Carmel.16

At this moment, Lucifer was shouting outhis store of insults, which were directed at theSPOOKYTENT.“I think he sees it as some kind of rival bird,”agreed Cissy. “It must be the music.”“Horrible heap of cocky droppings!” shriekedLucifer, his crest bobbing up and down likeflames in a grate. “Putrid, pink pimple!”“Red-and-white striped actually,” saidCarmel, correcting him.“I wonder who Lucifer belonged to?” Cissyasked. “Maybe some little child is pining forhis return.”“I doubt it,” said Carmel. “Not with hischoice of language!”“It’s so sad,” said Crépuscule, mopping hereyes on a donated T-shirt.When Carmel moved the SPOOKYTENT tothe back doorstep, the music began to roll likewaves. Lucifer stopped screeching. He flew toa lamp made from a dressmaker’s dummy, andsettled to groom himself.“Much better,” said Carmel, fanning herface. “Though it is rather unnerving, notknowing what this tent wants.”17

Stone ColdOne minute Luke was running through thetrees behind Shasta, the next minute he wason the ground. He remembered tripping oversomething, probably his own sneaker laces.Looking up, he saw the key hanging in theair, singing to him in rolling waves of sound.The music had an echo of familiarity, althoughLuke couldn’t think why. He shivered.The silver key swooped down into Luke’shand, just as Shasta came running back to him,panting.“You found it again!” she said. “This lookslike the place where I first discovered it.”“It found me,” replied Luke. He pluckedthe key from the air and cradled it in his palm.“It’s warm,” he said.19

“I think it likes you,” said Shasta, touchingit gingerly. “What do you imagine it’s for?”“Oh, I don’t know,” said Luke, wincing ashe dusted gravel from his knees. “It’s cold hereall of a sudden. Let’s go home.”“I suppose we should. I hope the Bubbalinosaren’t waiting for us!” said Shasta.But the Bubbalino brothers had gone. Lukeand Shasta found their way easily back to thebridge and along the river bank. They walkedquickly in silence. Luke began to think more ofhis skinned knees than the key in his hand. Theday had clouded over, and they got spatteredwith light raindrops just as they arrived at thefront doors of their homes.“See you later,” said Luke, putting the keyinto his pocket.“Better get inside,” said Shasta, as a gust ofwind showered them with wet, white petals.The two doors slammed as thunder rolledaround the sky.Luke looked for the tent, and found it onthe back doorstep. It gave him that echo offamiliarity once more, and he shivered. Thekey stirred.20

“Your T-shirt is damp,” said Carmel, frombehind him. “And what have you done to yourknees? Go and have a hot bath.”Luke trudged up the stairs. Even the thoughtof the key wasn’t going to get him out of hisdark mood.c c cIn her room behind the flower shop, Shastawas throwing things around. It was her wayof thinking. She felt annoyed at Luke, excitedand cheated all at once. “The key wasn’t for me,it was for Luke,” she said to herself. “But whatuse is it?”The door opened a crack and her fatherwarily put his head around.“What’s all this thumping?” he asked.“I’m thinking! I’ll pick these up in a minute,”she said, grumpily.“Make sure you do,” her father said, as hebacked out of the room, shaking his head.Shasta flung herself on her bed and stared atthe ceiling, which had a watermark shaped likea clown. Her thoughts drifted like balloons,and she slept.21

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