Mum and Dad are going away for a romantic weekend, and “Wicked” Uncle Jeff is left in charge of the children. The children have homework to do, but Uncle Jeff thinks that is far too boring. He has other ideas, and a misadventure follows.
The idea for this story was inspired by our friends at Wicked Uncle, a website that helps Wicked Uncles remember the birthdays of their nephews and nieces.
It was Mum and Dad’s Crystal Anniversary, which meant that they had been married for 15 years. To celebrate, Dad was taking Mum away for a long weekend to a secret, romantic location. The children, Jeremy and Jemima, were going to stay with Aunty Jane. Only Aunty Jane was a bit scatterbrained, and she forgot all about her promise to look after her sister’s children, and she also arranged to go away that weekend. And so she couldn’t look after the kids after all.
“Well I suppose I could ask Jeff,” said Dad.
“Oh no, anybody but Jeff,” said Mum.
But as it turned out, there was nobody else but Jeff to be found at such short notice.
Jeff was Dad’s brother. The children hadn’t seen him since they were very small, and Mum called him their “wicked Uncle” because he always forgot their birthdays. Sometimes he sent cards and a ten pound note – but always at completely the wrong time of year.
“I bet he is awfully wicked,” said Jemima, “because Mum really really doesn’t like him at all. I think he went to prison.”
“Or perhaps he was a pirate.” said Jeremy hopefully.
But when Jemima asked Dad if Uncle Jeff had been to prison, Dad said that no he hadn’t, at least, not as far as he knew. But he didn’t say it like he was surprised she had asked. I mean, if somebody asked you if somebody you knew had been to prison, you might at least try to sound a bit surprised. But Dad didn’t.
Uncle Jeff arrived late on Friday night, and in the morning, when Jeremy looked out of the window he saw a red sports car parked in the drive next to Dad’s big blue estate car. A taxi came very early to pick up Mum and Dad and take them to the airport. Later, Jemima and Jeremy got up and made their own breakfast, but Jeremy didn’t eat his at the kitchen table like he was supposed to. Instead, still in his pyjamas, he took his toast and jam into the living room and switched on the television.
“You know that Mum doesn’t let us watch TV on Saturday mornings,” said Jemima. “because they only show rubbish.”
“Well Mum isn’t here. She’s enjoying a weekend of freedom from us,” said Jeremy.
“I bet Uncle Jeff will tick you off,” said Jemima.
At about about ten o’clock, Uncle Jeff came into the living room just as an army of tanks was being destroyed by robots from the Planet Zeeton.
“Bang! Pehow! Poook!” said Uncle Jeff, like a lot of guns and explosives going off. Jeremy looked up at him in amazement. Dad never said anything like that.
“Scuse me kids,” said Uncle Jeff. “I need a cup of strong black coffee before I can face the world – Now where’s the kitchen? Oh, I’m your Uncle Jeff by the way,” and he disappeared down the corridor. A little later, he returned and asked, “Well what are we going to do today?”
“Homework,” said Jemima.
And Uncle Jeff said, “Bor-ing. What’s the world coming to? Don’t kids these days get up to any mischief?”
“Let’s go and buy some computer games” suggested Jeremy.
“Could do,” said Uncle Jeff thoughtfully. “But I had something a bit more outdoors in mind. Come on. Get dressed and I’ll take you on a surprise treat.”
A little later, they all got into Dad’s estate car. Jeremy was supposed to be strapped into a child seat for safety, but he asked cheekily, “can I drive?” and Uncle Jeff said, “well alright, but only on the driveway.” Jemima protested that her little brother didn’t know how to drive a car, but Uncle Jeff said that it was never too early to learn, and he let Jeremy sit on his lap and hold the steering wheel. But just as Jeff was starting the engine, Jeremy moved the gear stick, and the car leapt forward with a great crunching noise. There was a burning smell and smoke started to come out of the bonnet.
“Whoops, there goes the clutch,” said Uncle Jeff. “I don’t think Dennis is going to be too pleased. Perhaps we won’t mention this little incident to your dad. We’ll just let him think that your mother broke the car. Well, what shall we do now?”
“Can we go in your sports car?” asked Jeremy.
“Well, so long as I drive,” said Uncle Jeff. And they all got out and went over to Uncle Jeff’s car. It was rather cramped in the back seat, even for the children, and there certainly wasn’t room for Jeremy’s safety seat. He reversed out of the drive at quite a pace, and soon was roaring down their street so that all of their neighbours must have heard them. Then Uncle Jeff turned on some loud music and opened the sun roof. His style of driving was not at all like Dad’s. He zipped in and out of traffic and shot through lights just as they were turning from orange to red. Jemima thought he was an irresponsible driver, but she didn’t say anything because that wouldn’t be polite. Jeremy said, “can we go faster Uncle Jeff?” And Uncle Jeff put his foot on the pedal and they went even faster. He took them out of town, and down a dual carriageway into the countryside. Eventually he turned up to what looked like a farm track. A sign read: “Clay Pigeon Shooting.”
When they stopped and got out of the car, Uncle Jeff opened up the little boot and took out a long leather pouch. Jeremy realised that there was a gun inside. “Oh, can I hold it?” he asked. And Uncle Jeff said “Maybe.”
Clay Pigeons aren’t real pigeons, but disks that are shot out of a machine and fly through the air. If you are shooting you try to smash the disk. But it’s extremely difficult to hit a moving target, and requires lots of skill.
Uncle Jeff made sure that Jeremy and Jemima were kitted out with ear protectors because gun-fire is really loud and can make you deaf. They also had to wear goggles in case a bit of clay flew into their eyes.
They stood in a field and when Uncle Jeff called “pull” a clay pigeon flew out of a kind of bunker. Uncle Jeff smoothly followed the target with his gun and squeezed the trigger. There was a loud bang and the smell of gun powder in the air. He missed. But he called out “pull” again and another target flew through the air. This time he hit it and the clay smashed into pieces.
“Can I have a go? Can I have a go?” begged Jeremy.
And Uncle Jeff showed him how to hold the shotgun broken open at the middle so that it couldn’t go off by accident. And then he showed him how to hold it in firing position so that its kick wouldn’t hurt his shoulder. The shot gun was almost as big as Jeremy, but he thought that holding it was the coolest thing ever.
“Pull” he shouted, and a pigeon flew through the air. He followed it and squeezed the trigger. The gun went “boom” and it jumped as if it had a life of its own. Jeremy missed by a mile. But he was very excited, and as soon as Uncle Jeff had loaded a new cartridge into the barrel, he called “pull” again and another pigeon flew through the air and he missed one more time. In fact, however many times he tried, Jeremy couldn’t hit the target.
And then Jemima had a go. And do you know what? She was really good at shooting. She smashed the target about four or five times.
Even Uncle Jeff was impressed. “Better than doing homework, eh?” he said as they squished back into his car. Jeremy and Jemima thanked their uncle for their treat.
“It was really wicked,” said Jeremy.
“Well it was fun,” said Jemima. “But I don’t think you should have taken us clay pigeon shooting without asking Mum first.”
“How do you know I didn’t ask her?” said Uncle Jeff.
“Because she would almost certainly have said “no” said Jemima. “And by the way, please drive more slowly and carefully. There are children in the back, you are the responsible adult.”
Uncle Jeff slowed down and promised to drive carefully. And Jemima felt better because she realised that safety was even more important than being polite or worrying about causing offence.
When they got back to town, Uncle Jeff took them to a Turkish Kebab restaurant for lunch, and Jeremy tried hot chilli sauce which burnt his mouth. He had to eat loads of ice cream afterwards to cool off.
But when they got back to the house, Uncle Jeff searched in vain through his pockets for the front door key. And then he realized that he must have got it mixed up with his own from home. They were locked out.
“Is there a way in the back?” he asked. And they tried the side gate and found that it was open.
The french doors at the back of the house were firmly closed. But there was a window open just above the extension that had been added to the back of the house only last year.
“It’s a pity. I think I’m too heavy to climb onto that roof” said Uncle Jeff.
“But I can,” said Jeremy. And since there was no other way into the house, Uncle Jeff agreed to lift Jeremy up onto the roof of the porch. He started to scramble up towards the window. But when he got to it, he found that the window was stuck and he couldn’t get it open any more. But there was a higher window that was fully open, and Jeremy thought that he might be able to climb up to that one by getting up onto the garden wall.
“Oh no” called out Uncle Jeff when he saw what Jeremy was trying to do. “That’s too dangerous”.
But Jeremy didn’t listen. He was on the top of the garden wall and now he was trying to stretch across to the high window. But the stretch was too far and he didn’t make it. He fell down to the roof of the porch. The extension to the house hadn’t been made very well by the builders and Jeremy went straight through the roof of the sun room. He landed on top of Mum’s tomato plant.
“Oh,” said Jeremy.
“Oh dear,” said Jeff.
“I don’t think Mum’s going to be pleased,” said Jemima.
A nosy neighbour saw what had happened and called the police. He told them:
“There’s a boy who’s just got in through the roof, and a man holding what can only be a gun. Then there’s a lass too. She looks really mean.”
“What makes you say it’s a gun sir?” asked the policeman.
“Well I was in the army for fifteen years and I think I know what a gun looks like,” said the neighbour.
It wasn’t often that people with guns tried to break into houses in that area. In fact, Jeremy and Jemima lived on one of the sleepiest and most peaceful streets you could imagine. But the police officer who took the call decided to send an armed response unit just to be on the safe side.
It took Jeremy a few minutes to get over the shock of falling through the roof. He wasn’t badly hurt, but he had cut and bruised himself and he had earth in his hair and looked quite a sight. The police car screeched up the drive just as he was letting Uncle Jeff and Jemima in through the front door.
“Armed Police Officers, Freeze!” shouted the policeman.
And Uncle Jeff said: “Don’t shoot. I’ve got a licence for this gun.”
Uncle Jeff, Jemima and Jeremy spent the rest of the day at the police station. Jemima and Jeremy were allowed to sit in the waiting room with a policeman and a policewoman sitting on either side of them. They weren’t allowed to talk to each other. Uncle Jeff was taken down to the cells before being interviewed. He gave them his brother’s mobile phone number, but since Mum and Dad were in Paris on a romantic weekend, they had both turned their mobile phones off for the day. It was 10 O’Clock at night before they managed to persuade the police that they weren’t a gang of criminals and could go home.
On Sunday, they all got up rather late.
“Well what shall we do?” asked Uncle Jeff.
“Homework” said Jemima. And Jeremy agreed that they both needed to do their homework. After that, Jemima asked Jeff if they could make a carrot cake, and they got one of Mum’s recipe books out and they all did the mixing and baking. The result wasn’t too bad. Then they went out and bought some flowers from the stall for Mum and Dad. Then they read books and went to bed at seven o’clock.
“Well,” said Uncle Jeff to himself as he watched the football match on TV. “I think a Wicked Uncle has an important role to play in the upbringing of every child. They won’t forget this weekend in a hurry. I’ve set the kids a great example of how NOT to behave.”
And he had. But funnily enough, Mum and Dad never asked him to look after the kids for the weekend again.