by Alex Womack
It’s been raining for days. Mum’s sick of wet clothes and footprints everywhere. Us and the dog and the cat, we’re all in trouble. We put on all our rain gear to go shopping. On the way to town she tried to cheer us up by getting us to imagine it was chocolate rain. She could use more chocolate she says, hinting at some for Christmas. Muddy water flows downhill in the gutters. We go along the back road and down a stepped lane between old buildings to Woolpack Yard.
Even though the rain’s stopped, brown sludge is spreading in the market place. At the Farmers’ Market people squelch in the thick liquid. The stalls are full of boxes of cheeses with smells, jars of jam, cakes and pies and meats in all shapes. The Christmas trees are getting sticky. When Mum’s not looking, we scoop up a bit of the goo, it smells nice, it tastes good.
Two collies hop out from a land-rover-and-trailer of sheep. They lick the gunge, wagging their tails, ignoring the shepherd. He scratches his head under his soggy cap.
Across the road, at the livestock mart, sheep stand in the slow-moving slush and baa now and then. Cattle stamp in gooey puddles, restless because of the strange smell. We could tell them it’s chocolate but you can’t explain to a cow, whatever sort of noise it makes, Mum says.
The council road cleaner with a shovel, tries to clear some pavement but the stuff simply keeps flowing, creeping like lava. Someone laughs and says “Makes a change, a chocolate flood!” We wonder if there will be mint too, slithering from the factory and we sing Sticky stripey, sticky stripey!
A group of little children paddle in. One slips and sits in it, another trips over him and lands on her hands and knees. She gets up, hands out in front of her. We thought she’d cry. She just licks her hands. The one on the ground tastes some and starts giggling. The rest of the group begin to eat too. The minders can’t get them to stop. They’re getting messy.
Mum wades round the stalls and gets the things for Christmas. We trudge along. It’s difficult to get our feet out of the chocolate. Mum said pretend it’s brown snow and walk like you do through snow. But it’s not the same. We try snowballs. That’s a bad idea, except for eating them. After a bit we feel sick and moan a bit but she ignores that being busy helping our Katy, who is very sticky by then, and not dropping the cheese and pies and things.
The little kids are fed up now, one’s sick and others cry. The Christmas tree lights come on. The air gets colder and the chocolate begins to set. We stamp about on it. Mum’s talking to her friend who collected a bucket full of chocolate. We say let’s buy a bucket. We set off home then.
On the road up to our house the chocolate is spread thin over kerbs and draincovers. When we kick it off, it looks like bits of broken Easter egg. The friendly cat two-doors-down is in a bad mood. It’s on a window-ledge glaring at the chocolate. It hisses when we stroke it. At bedtime we look out at the dark. Walls have cats sitting on them, put out as usual, but not stepping on the chocolate.
In the morning I say I dreamt there were tiny sprouts falling from green clouds, and Tom said Silly Sam. He says mince pies grow in the garden, so we creep out straight away in our pyjamas.
There are no pies or green clouds, or chocolate!
Absolutely everywhere is white. It’s not mint, it is snow! There’s no cats, just pawprints.
The dog gets out and we chase it in circles. Mum catches us and pushes us back in before we freeze. We can do a snowman after breakfast.
have rejigged Kendal markets for this story.
I wrote it before a chocolate factory in Westonnen, Germany had a chocolate spillage due to a "small technical defect". Guardian 12. 12. 2018.
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