On February 18th this year I posted the first part of this story (it can be read here https://digestivepress.wordpress.com/2008/02/18/my-family-and-…reams%e2%80%9dmy-family-and-other-biscuits-a-boy%e2%80%99s-diary-entry-1-%e2%80%9cchocolate-fudge-crunch-creams%e2%80%9d/). The second part is a little overdue but here it is.
Howard stood up on his hind legs and nibbled away at a dark chocolate hob nob. I had changed his name a few days after rescuing him from the supermarket, ‘Oliver’ reminded me too much of the dull dryness of bath olivers and no respectable biscuit enthusiast should be lumbered with that. No, I needed a good, biscuit-neutral name for my rat. I settled on Howard and he seemed to approve. He didn’t argue anyway. I tried not to think about taking him back.
He was currently busy helping me with a study on the new dark chocolate hob nob, a new find in my favourite aisle of the shop. It seemed odd to me that the invention of dark chocolate hob nobs had taken so long given the enduring success of dark chocolate digestives and so their emergence called for a comprehensive study. I have to say that I was underwhelmed by this biscuit, the dark chocolate failing to transform the humble hob nob in the way it does with a digestive. Howard was still munching his way through the rest of the packet and seemed to be enjoying them, a fact that I would have to report when I wrote up my study.
Over the past few weeks Howard had become an invaluable companion in my quest to learn more about biscuits but on Tuesday it had all changed. I had been on the internet, idly kicking around on my favourite biscuit discussion website, www.saturatedfats.co.uk, when I noticed a post from a user named ‘BourbonMadProf’ which ran:
“RESEARCH RATS LOST. Over the past few years I have kept a small team of rats which I have trained to be biscuit connoisseurs of the highest order to help with various experiments to find the deeper meaning of biscuits, the biscuit soul if you will, what exists beyond that crumbly exterior. For the past few weeks these rats have been missing and I am concerned for their welfare deprived of biscuits to eat. I will quite happily train new rats to help me but I do want to know that they are ok. If you have any information please contact Professor McFox.”
There was surely only one set of rats it could be.
And so, early on Saturday morning I popped Howard in my backpack with half a packet of plain digestives to nibble on and set off for the Professor’s address. It was about an hour’s walk away and about halfway there it began to rain, the sky turning a dark grey that troubled my Oreo-distracted mind. The rain fell in heavy splodges which continued as the sky lightened, the sun shining through and the rain glittering like sugar on shortbread as it fell. I stopped to check my rucksack which was not sufficiently waterproof to cope with this kind of rain and found Howard desperately trying to tidy the biscuits away in their plastic wrapper as the water began to soak through. I continued on through the rain.
I was away from the city now, wandering down long, twisty, green roads surrounded by fields. Houses cropped up here and there relishing their freedom, not stuck on some grid like in the city. The professor’s house was around here somewhere, somewhere around this corner maybe… there it was. A long drive lined with trees which bent over to form a canopy led down to the house, a modest bungalow with a cheerful garden at the front. I gulped and made my way down the drive.
The knocker on the door was a chocolate chip cookie. I assumed it to be fake but as I rapped on the door it crumbled and fell to the ground. Not only that but the door swung open and I, soaked to the skin and eager to get out of the rain instinctively stepped inside.
Having seen a number of horror movies I had felt a momentary dread but as I stepped inside the aroma of fresh baking reached my nose and the sound of Ken Bruce on Radio 2 reached my ears and any fear I had felt vanished immediately. I looked around the clean and neatly decorated hallway and noticed several arty pictures of various biscuits on the wall.
“Hello,” I called from just within the doorway.
An elderly lady in a pinny bimbled through from what I took to be the kitchen. She had healthy, chubby cheeks and a strange lack of wrinkles. Her grey hair fell down over her shoulders. I must have looked like a drowned rat (something I hoped Howard was not) and she ushered me into the house, telling me to take off my shoes and coat and bringing me a towel. I dried my face and hair, glad to be out of the rain.
“I was wondering if I could speak to the Professor?” I asked eventually.
“Professor McFox? Is this the wrong house?”
“Oh, hahahaha, yes the professor. Mr McFox, he’s an amateur. I’m afraid he’s not… here at the moment.”
“Oh. Are you Mrs McFox?”
“No… no, I’m not.” she said sadly.
She showed me through to the front room and offered me a hot drink and freshly baked biscuits which I obviously accepted. Whilst she busied away in the kitchen I opened my bag to check on Howard and found him a little wet but munching happily on his dry digestives. I lifted him out and he sat up on the palm of my hand and looked around seemingly with some recognition of his new surroundings.
I sat down on the sofa and relaxed for a moment but this was difficult as there was something jammed down the back of the seat which now stuck into my lower back. I reached behind me and pulled out a well-thumbed copy of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. I had read it before but I spent an idle moment flicking through the pages. The thing that leapt out at me was that many of the pages were covered in ink, passages underlined and incomprehensible notes made in the margin in green pen. I tried to decipher them but my efforts were cut short by the voice of the old lady which cut through the living room.
“WHAT IS THAT DOING HERE?” Her kindly face had turned to rage and she thundered the question at me. For a second I thought it was the book that she was objecting to but it quickly became clear that her anger was focussed on Howard.
“It’s… he’s one of the Professor’s research rats… I… I brought him back.”
“Hand him over,” she stretched out her hand and started to pace towards me. Howard took this as his cue to hide and jumped from my hand into the sodden rucksack.
“The Professor asked for his safe return,” I explained, “I found him in the supermarket.”
“I know. Who do you think put them in the supermarket?” she spat back and continued towards me.
I had come here with the intention of returning Howard to his home but if he was not welcome here I was not prepared to hand him over. I zipped the bag shut and threw it over my shoulder.
“Give me the rat,” the old lady demanded, just a couple of feet away from me now.
“Where is the Professor?” I asked.
“Away.” She held out her hand, “The rat.”
That was when I ran. With my bag on my back I pushed past the old lady and ran for the front door, only to find that she had locked it behind me. She was surprisingly quick on her feet and now blocked off the hallway. For a moment we stood facing each other and the gorgeous baking smells continued to fill the house.
I ran up the stairs. I was unsure of what I would do when I got there but it was the only option available to me. The old lady grabbed my ankle and tried to pull me back down but I kicked loose and carried on, still being pursued. When I reached the landing I pushed at the nearest door and slammed it shut behind me. I had barely a second to look around and realise that it must be the Professor’s study as it was crammed full of packets of biscuits and hi-tech biscuit analysis equipment. I would have loved to have spent hours looking through this gold mine but I had no time. I was running around in a stranger’s house to try and save a rat that I had grown fond of and my brain was working on impulses that I hoped were correct.
There was no lock on the door but I dragged a hefty looking computer chair over to it to provide some kind of obstacle and sat down in it. I could hear the old lady reaching the top of the stairs and now I could feel her pushing at the door. I felt it move a little and realised I needed to push against it harder. It didn’t help that my feet were not touching the ground. I reached down to the lever on the side of the chair and pulled it to try and lower the seat. Nothing happened. I tried it again and again but still nothing happened.
Then it all happened.
The air became thin. With a loud shove the old lady pushed the door open, sending the chair and me spinning across the room. And then we didn’t stop spinning. The air became thinner and thinner until it was difficult to breathe, the old lady disappeared and the study walls became a blur. We span and span and I clutched hold of my bag.
I could barely move a muscle, we were spinning so fast and the world was blurring faster and faster too until the blurs I recognised were blurry. There was nothing I could do but hold on to the arms of the chair. My feet would not touch the ground. What would happen if I tried to jump? I decided not to try. But I had to try something.
Muscle by muscle I removed my right hand from the arm of the chair and felt around for the lever. I pushed it down hard, hoping that I could lower the seat. The seat did not move but something changed. We seemed to slow down a little, the blurs began to unblur so that I could see the original blurs again. I greeted them like old friends in my heart.
I pushed down harder and we slowed more. But now that the blurs were unblurring I could see that everything was not as it should be. The blurs were all green, green was all around. It no longer felt like a study. We span slower and slower until we were hardly moving and then we slowed some more and then we finally stopped.
I was still unable to see much. I felt overwhelmed by green but could not make anything else out. My head was still spinning, slower and slower but spinning and, dizzy, I flopped from the chair onto what seemed to be grass. I would get my bearings in a moment but for now-
I felt a strong pair of arms grab me by the waist and I was half-carried and half-dragged. I held on to the strap of my bag and it dragged behind me as I tried to shout. But no sound came out. The only sound was a deep-voiced, hefty shout of, “CRUMBS!” and then the air moved and the earth shook.
I sat up on the grass and held my head still with my hands. Slowly I began to focus.
I was in a forest. That much was clear. But I must have been hallucinating the next part for in front of me was the felled object that had made the earth shake. I held my head still and pinched my cheeks and blinked and rubbed my eyes until I was sure that what I was seeing was real. It was.
On the forest floor in front of me lay a bourbon biscuit, forty foot long and in perfect proportion. Where was I? In my bag Howard still seemed dizzy, the little rat looking dazed and confused. I needed to get him home. I got to my feet and began to look for the chair, walking back the way I had just been dragged.
Where the chair had stood lay a few tonnes of biscuit. The leaver poked out sadly from underneath, the rest of it smashed to smithereens.