WINNER of the 2018 StoryLinks Short Story Competition
Tuck Shop Takeover by Combat Dad
By Debbie Smith
“The school is looking for tuck shop ladies, I mean helpers. Maybe you should sign up?” Mum tells Dad.
“Shesh!” I blurt.
Mum and Dad both turn to look at me.
Mum shrugs her shoulders and gives me the glare; the glare that means I’ve got some explaining to do.
“I was just massacred.” I partially lift my iPad towards them.
It’s half true. I did get blown up on my Quest, but it’s Mum’s suggestion that’s made me hissy fit.
Mum keeps staring and shifts her weight squarely onto both legs; positioning for battle. It’s Dad who’s recently retired from the armed forces but it’s Mum who’s the home combat officer. Dad purrs like a pussycat when he’s home. Nothing fazes him.
Mum’s a real sharp shooter and beats me on our iPads, more times than not, when we duel on my interactive game, Missions of Combat.
“What do you think, TJ? Do you think Dad could handle volunteering at the tuck shop? He’d be the first dad ever at Cloverdale Prep.” Her eyes, like the rays from a laser pistol, pierce through me extracting the answer I know she wants to hear. It’s not the first time I wonder if my mother is a spy. Right now I feel trapped with an interrogator in her torture chamber.
“Sure.” I say, not so sure.
“Good!” Mum turns to Dad. “TJ’s given his seal of approval. You should do it, you trailblazer, you!”
I look from Mum to Dad. He’s nodding his head with a sloppy grin.
This could be interesting.
Dad signing up at the tuck shop is big news. Cloverdale Prep is a medium-sized school. Most of the kids from our small town of Bentley go there. The school’s newsletter makes an announcement and when the Bentley Gazette gets a whiff, they run a full feature on Dad. Their headline reads:
Tuck Shop Takeover by Combat Dad!
Suddenly Dad’s news pings attention to me.
“Hey, TJ, my Mum is sewing your Dad an apron.”
“Hey TJ, did you hear about the cheese factory your Dad blew up in France? There was nothing left but de Brie.”
Suddenly, I wish Dad would chicken out, and give the tuck shop thing a miss.
Over the next couple weeks Dad is more and more preoccupied in our kitchen, whipping up weird stuff for us to eat.
“Try this.” He shoves plate after plate of warm, gooey stuff or cold, crispy delicacies, under my nose. I start to feel like a taste test dummy. With each passing day, his dishes and baked goods get more and more scarily ‘exotic’!
I shake my head. “What recipes are you using?”
“Secret recipes,” he whispers and gives me a slinky wink.
Secret recipes? AKA (also-known-as) ‘inventing’, for sure. “Gee, that’s great, Dad.” I smile. I can fake it with the best of them. “So, I’ll be seeing you at school with the other mums?”
“Yep! I’m forging the way for more dad’s to follow, plus I’ll get to see a part of your world I usually miss out.”
“Great.” The word sounds hollow.
I give him the old thumbs up drill and begin to concoct an illness I can contract so I can stop the train wreck that’s rushing at us headlong.
“You’ll be fine, TJ. I can’t let the tuck shop ladies down. You don’t have a temperature and you look perfectly fine to me.”
“It’s almost still dark outside.” I groan. But the pussycat loads up the car with containers of baked goodies for today’s tuck shop sales.
“I’ll fix you a tasty breakfast once we get to the tuck shop,” he tells me. “That’ll make you feel better.”
“But no one will be there before seven am.” I plead.
“I have a key!”
Dad busies himself setting out all the treats he’s made. His face beams and he hums. Yes, hums! I can’t ever remember hearing Dad hum. He’s a man’s man!
He steps back and looks at his display.
“What do you think, TJ?”
The baked goods are like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
I think I’m going to be sick is what I want to say, but instead, I think about Mum and say what she would want me to say, “It looks great, Dad. I’m sure everyone will love it. “I’ll see you at lunch.”
“Okay, son. Knuckles!” He pumps out one fist for me to match my fist with, knuckles to knuckles; it’s a thing we do.
I look up at my Dad and unexpectedly we connect; my heart, like a tank, guzzles all the love he’s pouring in. I suddenly realise he’s doing all this for me. But I don’t want people to laugh at him and make jokes.
I hug him and say, “Good luck.”
Whispers and sideways looks follow me to class.
“Are you okay?” my friend Sam asks. But I don’t know what to say.
All morning I watch the hands of the clock sweep by the hours.
The lunch bell sounds.
Everyone bolts out the door, except for Sam.
“I’ll walk with you, if you like?” he says.
The closer we get, the more it sounds like the train wreck I’m expecting. My heart sinks, poor Dad.
We round the corner. Music is playing. The tuck shop is hopping; bulging with kids waiting in line.
“TJ, your Dad is the bomb! His Tomic Toobs are to die for. Here, have one.” Alistair Graham pushes one into my hand.
I share with Sam. Wow!
By the time we get to the front of the line, everything is SOLD OUT! All that is left, covered in crumbs, are the little handmade signs Dad made at home; Tomic Toobs, Beeta Blasts, Secret Scrolls and Bunka Bullets.
Tuck shop convener, Mrs Peters smiles. “Commando Grub; a stroke of genius. They can’t get enough of Combat Dad’s healthy options.”
Turns out, Dad is a tuck shop Superhero.
Dad winks, “Hungry? Come round the back. I’ve saved you a plate?”
It pays to know Combat Dad.
©Debbie Smith 2018