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Nine (part 5)

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“Stop eating it all!”

“I’m not! You stop eating it all!”

“I’m not. I’m just testing it. ‘Sides I can’t eat the hard ones.” Onetooth pulled a hard, pale blue shape from one of the bags he was carrying. “What’s this anyway? I don’t even know.”

Worms, who was currently sucking on one of those very same shifts the sweet into his cheek.

“It’s a Sugar Bug.  It’s a ant or something in the middle an’ they cover it all over in sugar. You hafta suck it all off then you can eat the bug.”

Onetooth examines the sweet critically for a moment and then pops it into his already full mouth. He slurps back the sugary saliva that is threatening to escape down his chin.

“Cool. Finny likes bugs an’ stuff.”

There had been much debate about making sure they only bought things that Finny liked. The only thing they had agreed upon was that Finny definitely liked sweets. So to learn that she liked bugs too only confirmed Onetooth’s theory that buying sweets was going to be the safest way of avoiding Joe’s wrath. The fact that both he and Worms also liked sweets, perhaps even more than Finny, was just a happy coincidence that even Joe couldn’t fault them for.

But they had bought a lot. Like, really a lot. Their combined chips had bought them more sweets than they had ever seen outside the sweet stall in the market. They were weighed down under paper bags, some of which were full of some of the most exotic sweets that they had never been able to afford before. Fortunately, their determined and thorough testing of these was going quite a long way in reducing the bulk of their purchases.

The boys were on their way back to the orphanage when they realised that they had spent all their combined money on the sweets and had entirely forgotten that Joe’s instructions also included that their present was to be nicely wrapped. It was Onetooth who realised it first and stopped dead.

“We di’n’t get any wrapping paper.”

They sat down with their backs against the dump fence, and watched some of the new police people coming and going while a pair of Liquorice Laces each aided the thinking process.

“We should’a got one of them big fancy glass jars they had. They even had ‘Candy Jar’ written on them.”

Worms made a face.

“Yeah but they cost four blue. I ain’t paying four blue just for a big glass jar.” He flicked a pebble at a passing rat. “’Sides. We’d probably have broke it afore we got it to the party.”

They watched the rat scuttle off through a gap in the fence. Onetooth pulled hard on a new Liquorice Lace until a piece snapped off. He chewed thoughtfully.

“Finny would have liked it though.”

“I guess.” Worms looked unhappy. They were going to have to go to Joe’s posh house with just the, by now, very crumpled bags of sweets. He could just imagine Joe’s glare. Then he sat up straight, an idea turning his frown into a cunning grin. He struggled to his feet, careful not to spill any of the precious sweets.

“C’mon. I got an idea. I know where there’s lots of posh jars.”

Still laden down with a dozen paper bags each, the contents of more than one of which were starting to become sticky in the heat, Onetooth and Worms headed off to the outlaying parts of the city. The parts where the buildings were almost entirely ruined. Where vermin roamed in packs and where larger predators hid in the shadows waiting for them to pass close. But to Worms it was his absolute favourite playground.

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