There was a misty rain falling again over Dartmoor. We hadn’t picked the best week of the summer.
“Come on,” said Bill, jolly as usual. “It’ll clear by midday.”
Toby, Jenny and I smiled at each other. Jenny, nearly ten, could tell I didn’t believe it. Toby was too young to spot my fake smile.
We walked for two hours, up and up, away from the village. Bill gave Toby a shoulder-ride for a while, then stopped to unpack the sandwiches. The mist suddenly dropped like a curtain around us, enveloping us. One minute we were all smiling bravely with our doorstep sandwiches and hot chocolate from the flask in our hands, and the next, we couldn’t see beyond the end of our nose.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “It’ll clear just as fast.”
Toby was gone. We didn’t notice he was missing until the mist lifted as quickly as it had arrived. Bill and I just stared in disbelief at the grass where he had been sitting.
We didn’t notice he was missing until it was time to pack up and go home. Then panic started. Everyone was shouting at once until my mother yelled.
“Shut up all of you – this is not helping. Now will everyone think when they saw him last. Jo you start.”
Jo looked blank and shook her head. “I thought he was playing with the kids down by the water.”
We didn’t notice he was missing until we turned our heads, staring at the smoke and the sparks where he had been standing.
He’d been there when we’d offered ice cream, and he’d very surprisingly said “no”. He never said no, not to anything sweet, anyway. But today he’d had a faraway look in his eye, and had turned away from the 99s and the chocolate sauce.
And now he was nowhere to be seen. We made an effort of course. We turned back to the elephant house, and the reptiles, we tried not to think about the lions and Albert, and began to ask everyone we encountered. But no, no-one had seen him, no-one was interested.
And then we noticed another scorched patch of earth – there on the grass where the picnics were being gobbled and the pigeons were swooping and the swans were heading menacingly. “Was there a boy here?” we asked, “Just a minute ago – did you see anything?”
No, shook the heads of the jam sandwich eaters. Dunno, shrugged the pork pie scoffers, and the crisp crunchers.
We began to worry – he really did seem to have vanished into thin air, and although there wasn’t much of him, we couldn’t believe that … well, what couldn’t we believe? That we would never see him again? We looked up at the clouds, which seemed to be waving.
We didn’t notice he was missing until teatime when he didn’t come in for his food. Fred was a chubby cat and was on a diet, albeit not a very successful one, so not turning up for food was a serious concern. The following morning when he didn’t come for his breakfast my sister and I were so worried we went to all our neighbours to ask if they had seen him. On the far side of the block, where their garden backed onto ours, the lady recognised his photo.
“Oh the fluffy tortoiseshell. We know him. He came for his lunch yesterday and we thought he had gone but when we opened the door of the front room this morning, we found him asleep on the sideboard. He’d been locked in all night so we gave him some breakfast and he’s just left.”
By the time we had run round the block with the news, we found Fred back in our kitchen wolfing down his second breakfast.
We didn’t notice he’d gone until Jack turned to speak to him and he just wasn’t there. At that point the noise from the crowd was so loud that Jack had trouble getting our attention, but when he did a panic really set it.
Little Bob was called that because he was little! At five foot one he was so much smaller than the rest of us who were all five foot nine and counting. There were 6 of us and we began to push against the crowd shouting Bob’s name as loud as we could.
It was simply impossible. Whose idea was it to come to London and join the demonstration? Oh yes, of course, it was Bob’s. Typical. And, naturally, he is the one to go missing. Happens every time!
As we looked frantically around we spot a pub on the corner. Pushing our way through we went in and there is Bob – leaning on the bar, with a pint as if nothing was amiss.