A Clump of Woops
by Adrian Hoad-Reddick

I have never met a stranger looking man than Mr. Blunder. It was my brother's birthday last Wednesday and I met Mr. Blunder the day before that. My Mom asked me to go to the store to get the ice cream for my brother's birthday party. I was so happy, because that was the first time Mom ever thought of letting me go to the store alone, without my older sister tagging along and helping me cross the street and carrying the money and the food bags and stuff.

Mom said "I think you are old enough to go on an errand by yourself now Anthony. Now I want you to go straight there, buy the ice cream - vanilla ice cream make sure - and come straight back. And make sure you keep the money in your front pocket until you get to the counter."

Then Mom got that squinted up worried face look.

"No," she added, "On second thought maybe we should wait until your sister gets home."

"No Mom. I can do it!", I said. I wasn't about to let this chance slip by me. I wanted Mom to know that I could do it by myself and that I was old enough.

"Now are you sure you can handle it?" Mom asked.

"Yes, Mom, yes!" I really wanted her to believe me.

"Well?....," she said and just stood there thinking.

"Okay. Let me write down the order for Mrs. Reed then --"

"No problem Mom," I said kind of loud, "I'll remember. One box of vanilla ice cream, right? See, I can remember!" I was so happy when she said "All right" that I was out the door, down the hall and waiting for the elevator door to open before she could chase me down.

"Anthony! Aren't you forgetting something?", she asked.

My brain froze. I hate that question, because you know you've forgotten something and if you could remember what it was, you wouldn't have forgotten it in the first place. What did I forget? The first thing I thought of was a goodnight kiss, because Mom always asked "Aren't you forgetting something?" when I forgot to give her and Dad goodnight kisses. Then I remembered what it was when Mom held out the money. I ran back down the hall and was off almost before she could stuff the bill deep into my front pants pocket.

When the elevator closed, I reached down into my pocket and scrunched the money down tight, so that it wouldn't fall out. I'd really be in heck if I lost the money and I'd never get to go to the store without Melissa tagging along and bossing me around like I was only five years old. I especially hated when she made me hold her hand when we crossed the street

Mr. Blunder suggested that when I told you about him, I should tell exactly what happened before I met him. That's why I am telling you about going to the store. I told him that I would.

I crossed the busy street and made it to Mrs. Reed's store as fast as I could, checking all the time to see if the money was still there. I had visions of some blue denim crocodile with two heads that was made into a pair of jeans, his two mouths being the pockets of my jeans. After a while I was scared to put my own hands in my pockets for fear of the pocket crocodile.

I felt a lot better when I heard the bells on Mrs. Reed's door jingle and rattle. Melissa had told me on one of our trips to the store that the bells were there so that Mrs. Reed would know if someone came in if she was working in the back room. I knew that that was right but I told Melissa I didn't believe her.

This time Mrs. Reed was already at the counter when I walked in.

"Well Hello, Mr. Anthony. And what can I do for you today?"

I knew that Mrs. Reed was just sounding business-like to make me feel better. I kind of liked it, so I played along too.

"I'll get it, thank-you Mrs. Reed." I said in my deepest, throatiest voice.

"Very well Sir," she said. That was the first time someone ever'd called me Sir. I kinda liked it, too.

"I'm on an air-end," I boasted proudly. I then turned and walked straight to the freezer section of the store, where all the cold foods kept cold.

"Vanilla, don't forget" I told myself. I reached my arm into the cold. A blast of cold air hit me and made me shiver. Even though it was so cold in the freezer, the ice cream seemed soft. I decided I wouldn't say anything about it to Mrs. Reed, because it probably wasn't her fault anyway. When I got to the counter with the ice cream I must have appeared to be in a hurry, for Mrs. Reed laughed and said "Are we afraid the ice cream will melt, Anthony?"

"Well sort of Mrs. Reed," I answered. "I have to beat the world record, so that I will be able to come to the store by myself from now on. My Mom let me come alone. This is the first time." That's all I said to Mrs. Reed, because as soon as she had put the ice cream in the plastic bag and had given me the change - it took forever for her to count out the change - I turned and dashed to the door.

"Anthony!"

I stopped because her voice sounded real angry. I turned around. She was angry. I could tell from her face and the way she held her hands on her hips like my Mom did.

"There will be no more running in my store or I will be forced to call your Mother and report to her that you should be accompanied by your sister from now on. Do I make myself perfectly clear?" All the while Mrs. Reed was quickly approaching me.

"But Mrs. Reed, I didn't mean it," I said. "Please don't tell her. I promise I won't run in the store again. I promise." By this time Mrs. Reed was almost on top of me. She

straightened the collar on my jacket and said, "Well, okay Anthony. Now go on and be careful. I want you to get home in one piece."

Mrs. Reed was just faking, because she turned real nice all of a sudden. She smiled and gave me a yellow jawbreaker that she had been hiding in her hand. "Pleasure doing business with you, Sir," she added as I turned to go.

"Thank you. Come again." I said in my deep adult voice. I don't know if that made any sense. I only said it because it was written on the back of the door.

It hurt, walking so slowly to the door. I really wanted to set that world record and prove to Mom and Melissa that I was an expert at going to the store.

When I made it to the corner I made sure that I stopped and looked both ways, because I had to do that - world record or no world record. Nothing was coming so off I ran again. I made it across the road, into the ditch bordering our park and halfway up the other side. I was going full blast and that's why I fell. That's what Mr Blunder's theory was.

I fell straight on my face. It hurt a lot, but all I could feel was the box of ice cream squishing into my chest. The plastic bag must have exploded because I remember feeling wet ice cream all over my neck and face. It even found its way into one of my ears.

I rolled back down into the ditch, rolling over and over what was left of the ice cream I still held tightly to my chest. My knee and nose hurt quite a bit and my chest was really sore from where the ice cream had smashed into it. I felt like crying and I lifted up my head to see if there was anything left of the ice cream. The first thing I saw was not the squashed box of ice cream. It was Mr. Blunder.

Mr Blunder was standing in front of me, laughing and pointing at me. He laughed so hard that his arms waved about and he poked himself in the eye. He was so funny laughing at me that I forgot about crying and laughed back at him. That started him laughing and he laughed so hard that he fell over and hit his head on the top of a dandelion. Oh yes, I forgot to tell you that Mr. Blunder wasn't an ordinary man. He was only three inches tall.

I forgot all about the ice cream and the world record and Melissa and Mrs. Reed, because all I could do was look and laugh at this strange looking man.

He had green hair and a white moustache that looked like a milk moustache because there weren't any whiskers in it. His jacket and jeans and shirt were all ripped and stained and blotched. They reminded me of my baby brother's baby suppers, when he was only half finished and he mixed all of the yellow, green and brown mush together in his bowl. Mr Blunder had a sock and no boot on one foot and a boot and no sock on the other foot. His toes stuck out of the big hole in his boot, too.

Mr. Blunder had a high voice that kept changing and squeaking like a parrot in an old rusty wagon.

"Ooo nay, nay, by gosh, wasn't that a woops," he said. "What a woops that was. That might be the best woops that ever was. Oops woops, what a woops that was." This is what Mr Blunder said as he used the stem of a dandelion to help himself back on his feet. I thought it was funny the way he talked, but I couldn't really understand what he meant.

"Um - What's a woops?," I asked. I had to laugh at myself, because the question sounded so funny.

"Good question that is that is, but let us do the first first and think about the later later, shall we?," Mr Blunder said. "The first first. My name -- and I must say it is a name I can't blame for it came all the same from much shame -- is Mr. Blunder. Arnold Sebastien Blunder to be more specific. And what does your little baby brother call you. Let's see -- Antinny, isn't it?"

"Anthony. Anthony William Prentice," I corrected. Mr. Blunder by this time had danced over to where I sat on the rim of the ditch and caught the ice cream drooling off my shirt front in his mouth, just like I sometimes catch raindrops. The only difference was that most of the globs of ice cream missed Mr. Blunder's mouth.

"Yimmy oooo vanilla I say, nay, nay!," he said, his mouth full of ice cream and ice cream covering his head and shoulders. Mr. Blunder was clearing the ice cream from his eyes with the torn sleeves of his very funny coat.

"I say, he woops it, eh?," Mr. Blunder said, looking at me as if he expected me to answer his question. "I say, ye woops it, eh Antinny? He fells it fer runnin' it much too fast across the roads, eh Antinny?"

"Well, I was trying to go kinda fast. But only because I don't want to have my sister baby me whenever I get to go to the store. I can do it myself! I can." I said, trying to get Mr. Blunder to believe me and be on my side.

"Hmmm, but ye fell here Antinny. Ye fell here nay, nay, fer trying to get from the store to home faster than yer feet were gettin' you. You made a woops and here ye are, yer shirt all covered in vanilla ice cream." Just as Mr. Blunder said this, he slipped on the widening river of gooey white ice cream that streamed down into the ditch. He was carried away faster than I could try to save his balance.

"Weeeeeeeeooooops," he squealed as he slid down into the ditch and crashed into a discarded pop can that lay at the bottom. I expected him to be in much pain, but he again broke out into an uncontrollable laugh that started me laughing once again.

"Oops woops, wasn't that a woops," he said.

"Mr. Blunder," I said, helping him to his feet and setting him out of the ditch, "What is a woops?"

"Aha!," he replied. "A woops. A boo boo, a no-no, an 'I shouldn't a done dat', a crazy thing a woops is. You see, Antinny, a woops is running across a road and falling face first into your ice cream in a ditch. A woops is not brushing your teeth for a week. A woops is forgetting to open your mouth before you put the food in. It's just about anything really - anything you wish you hadn't done, that is."

"Oh, so a woops is a mistake?," I asked.

"Yes indeedy, that's about what a woops is!," he replied. "And you know, we all make woops. That's why I am. That's why I be, Mr. Blunder you see."

"But I don't understand Mr. Blunder. What have you got to do with mistakes?" I asked.

"Hmm Hhmmm. Now we get to the point. The point is that I am Mr. Blunder. And when you go asunder. You give your woops to Mr. Blunder. And I, you see, take your woops for free. Do you think you want your woops away Antinny?," Mr. Blunder asked looking up at me and raising his hands.

"Let me explain," he continued before I could reply," see this smear and this tear and these rips here and there. Well these woops came from boys who think rules are just toys and misses who throw 'em away like they were kisses."

"So I suppose that's what I'm doing here, and what you are doing here?," I asked.

"You got it mate! I be here to buy your woops from thee for free. You just might beat that record home yet! With a fresh shirt and a new box of ice cream, too. And, you'll just make it home to beat that world record -- but you'll do it walking."

"Oh wow. You mean you can get me home with the ice cream and fix up what's happened?" I asked Mr. Blunder.

"Sure I can. You think I look like this for nothing? I'll be a little worse for the wear, but you'll be giving me your woops. You see, I'll just add it to the clump of woops I've received from here and there and everywhere. I've already cleaned up your shirt. See -- the ice cream has all dripped off on me."

He was right. Somehow Mr. Blunder had erased the ice cream stain from my shirt front and the pain in my chest was easing off. But there were still lots of questions in my mind.

"Mr. Blunder," I asked. "How am I going to explain you when I get home on time with everything okay? I mean, how am I going to explain that things went wrong when everything will look fine? And when will I see you again?"

"Oh yes. Well Antinny, no one will ever believe you. They'll laugh or just stand there thinking that you are nuts or something. Nobody believes in Mr. Blunder - in fact, in time you won't believe in me either. So you better tell them right when you get back, or as soon as you can.", Mr. Blunder explained. "And I'm afraid that this is the only time you'll be seeing Mr. Blunder.

"I'll never forget you, Mr. Blunder!" I exclaimed.

"Oh yes you will Antinny; everyone else has. But don't worry. I'll be around in a way. You see in the future you'll say "Woops", or "Oops whenever you make a blunder and you will probably give more thought to woops. You will always remember that woops are a part of living. We learn from our clump of woops. See how much I've learned?"

I had to laugh as Mr. Blunder did a pirouette, showing me all of the woops he had taken from other boys and girls. There were tears and blotches and rips and spills and scratches and even bandaids here and there all over. I laughed even more when he fell spinning to the ground with a "Woops" and told me stories of the best woops there ever was.

"You see Anthony, you've got to accept your clump of woops. Try not to forget them like you will forget me." And with a twirl and a fall and a sort of a snap of his fingers Mr. Blunder was off with a " Woops!".

I found myself running across the road with a cold box of ice cream clamped to my chest. I had gone back in time! Only a few minutes mind you, but Mr. Blunder had actually erased my woops.

I realized that I was running. "Woops," I exclaimed and stopped running just before the spot where I had fallen the first time. As I passed the dandelion I took a quick look for Mr. Blunder. He was nowhere to be seen. I continued home, walking the rest of the way. I then decided that I would never forget him. That's why I wrote this story.

The End

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