The Sword In the Grotto

Chapter Three


????The next morning Aunt Tabby yelled up to our Saturday bedroom, "Uncle Drac's back from the hospital. Two broken legs, nothing to worry about. " I jumped out of bed and looked through the small trapdoor. Aunt Tabby was standing at the bottom of the rope ladder in the corri- dor below.

????"Two broken legs?" I said. "But that's awful, Aunt Tabby. " "Better than having three, dear, " she said briskly. "Drac's resting in the broom closet. I want both of you to be very quiet this morn- ing and leave him in peace. " Wanda sat up in bed with her hair sticking up like it always does. "Why is he in the broom closet?" she asked. "Shouldn't he be in bed?" "Uncle Drac doesn't have a bed, silly, " I told her. "He sleeps in his sleeping bag in the bat turret. " "Why?" asked Wanda, rubbing her eyes. "I don't know. Because he likes being with his bats, I suppose. Come on, let's go and see him. "

????"But Aunt Tabby said--" "Duh, " I told her. "You don't want to take any notice of what Aunt Tabby says. Come on, Wanda. Get up. " And I pulled her duvet off. The broom closet is downstairs by the back door. Barry's frogs were waiting for him outside, and we could hear Barry's voice coming from the closet. He was arguing with Uncle Drac. "I don't know why you're making such a fuss, Drac, " he was saying grumpily. "I told you, I'm going in a minute. " "You promised me you'd deliver it last night, " Uncle Drac complained. "No I didn't, " said Barry. "I promised I'd deliver it. I didn't say I'd take the wretched stuff there at midnight. That's ridiculous, Drac. "

????"It is not ridiculous, " Uncle Drac growled. "I always deliver it at night. I've been doing it Q for years. That's when Old Morris expects it, and that's when the mushrooms like it. " "How can you possibly know what mush- rooms like?" Barry asked. "I understand mushrooms, " said Uncle Drac. "Me and mushrooms have a lot in com- mon. We both like dark and peace and quiet. Now go away, close the door, and leave me alone. " Barry stomped out of the broom closet and nearly trod on one of his frogs. "I wouldn't go in there, " he said to us. "He's in a really bad mood. Would anyone like to take a trip to the mushroom farm? I could use some help. " He scooped up his frogs and put them in his pocket.

????"I'll come, Dad, " said Wanda, and she ran off without even bothering to see how Uncle Drac was. I pushed open the door to the broom closet and peered in. It was really dark and gloomy in there. Aunt Tabby had put a blanket over the tiny window to keep the light out, as Uncle Drac doesn't like daylight very much. I slipped into the closet and closed the door behind me. All I could see were Uncle Drac's two white plaster casts propped up on a footstool, but Uncle Drac, who can see really well in the dark said, "Hello, Minty. You can put the light on if you like. I may as well get on with my knitting. " "Knitting, Uncle Drac?" I was a bit shocked. I didn't know Uncle Drac liked knitting. "Knitting stops people from moaning-- according to Tabby, " Uncle Drac said gloomily. He waved a pair of knitting needles and a ball of green yarn at me. "I'd watch it if I were you, Minty. One moan, and she'll have you knitting a scarf too. " I looked at the green muddle of wool on Uncle Drac's knitting needles. "Is that a scarf, Uncle Drac?" I asked. "Of course it's a scarf. Can't you tell?" And then he said, "Minty, would you do me a favor?"

????"Of course, Uncle Drac. " Q "Would you go into the bat turret and see if Big Bat is . . . Squashed?" "Squashed, Uncle Drac?" "Er, yes. I fell on him last night. And I couldn't see him anywhere when Tabby and Barry got me out. " "Well then, I expect he is pretty squashed, " I said. "Squished, even. You are quite heavy, Uncle Drac. And really heavy compared to a bat. " Uncle Drac groaned. "Are your legs hurting?" I asked him. "Big Bat, Minty, Big Bat. Go and find him, will you?" I didn't reply right away, as I had just seen something rather interesting.

????A pair of pointy metal feet were sticking out from underneath a pile of coats--I had found out where Sir Horace was hiding! I decided not to say any- thing to Sir Horace, as I didn't want him to disappear again. I figured if he thought that no one knew where he was, he would stay put. I left Uncle Drac to his knitting and went to find Big Bat. I didn't want to go and find Big Bat, as I am not that keen on squashed bats myself, and Big Bat would be an awful lot of squashed bat. But I knew that, knitting or not, Uncle Drac would keep asking me about it until I did.

????When I got down to the bat poo hatch, I found four sacks of bat poo leaning up against the wall--Barry and Wanda were busy get- ting Uncle Drac's delivery ready. Uncle Drac runs Drac's Bats.

????He delivers sacks of bat poo fertilizer to farms, but the bat poo business had not being doing too well lately and Uncle Drac only had one customer left, the Morris Mushroom Farm down by the beach. I took a deep breath and crawled into the bat poo tunnel. When I got to the top, it was hard to see much. There were bats flying around everywhere, and bat poo was falling like rain. Barry and Wanda were just filling the last sack. Wanda held the sack open with one hand while holding up a big umbrella in her other hand to keep the showers of poo off her. "Do you want some help?" I asked. "Oh, thanks a lot, " said Wanda snappily, -32- "but Dad and I have finished now. " Barry put the last shovelful of poo into the sack, then he and Wanda dragged it down to join the other four in the corridor. I had a quick look for Big Bat, but I couldn't see a thing. Everything was covered with a new layer of poo, and it had all been trampled by Wanda and Barry. Big Bat, I decided, was probably history. But I didn't want to go and tell Uncle Drac that. Not yet, anyway. "Right, " said Barry as I crawled out of the bat poo door, "let's get these sacks into the van. " Barry had driven Uncle Drac's van around to the back door. Wanda and Barry heaved the sacks in, and I told them where to put them. Then Barry and Wanda got in the van. Wanda slammed the door, and Barry started up the engine. "Hey, what about me?" I banged on Wanda's window. Wanda rolled down the window. Barry's stupid frogs were sitting next to her. "There's no room in here, " she said. "Yes there is. I can sit where the frogs are. " "No you can't, you'll squash them.

????You can go in the back if you want to come, " Wanda answered. "You must be joking, " I told her. "Minty, is that you?" I heard Uncle Drac's voice coming from the broom closet. "Minty, have you found Big Bat? Minty?" I opened the back door of the van and jumped in. I soon wished I hadn't. The smell was disgusting.

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