Billy brushed his tousled hair from his eyes as his father kissed him goodbye.


"Now you be a good boy today," said Billy's father. "I have to go to work, so you look after Mummy won't you?"


Look after Mummy, thought Billy. Yes, I can do that. Aloud, however, he said, "But, Dad, I was going to help you do the gardening today."


"Well, son, not today. I have to go to work. Even though it's the weekend, there's some urgent business I have to look after. So today, you're the man of the house."


Billy's father kissed him goodbye and, with a wave, closed Billy's bedroom door.  Billy lay in bed thinking ... "Look after Mummy" ... "Man of the house" ... "Help with the gardening." A flicker of a smile crossed his face, and a twinkle lit his eyes as he lay in bed thinking; dangerously thinking.


Billy threw off his blankets and bounded out of bed. He slapped his pyjamaed thigh with his hand as he exclaimed, "Yes, I'll look after Mummy."


He rushed to the bathroom, and brushed his teeth as he had been told. He decided he would clean up later, as he watched the extra toothpaste run out of the tube all by itself and curl its way from the basin to the floor. He climbed onto the basin so he could see in the mirror to brush his hair.  He decided he would clean up his mother's knocked-over perfume bottle later, too.


"Oh gee," he thought. "Now I smell of Mum's perfume. I'd better have a bath."


Billy put the plug in the tub and turned on the taps.  Now, he thought, while the bath fills up, I’ll make Mummy's breakfast. And with that he closed the bathroom door and padded down the hall to the kitchen.


Why, he thought, do grown-ups make things so tall? Billy dragged a dining room chair into the kitchen. (He decided he'd clean the scratch marks from the hallway walls later.) Propping the chair against the cupboards, he clambered onto the kitchen bench. I must remember to pick that up later, he thought, as he knocked the fruit bowl from the bench to the floor.


He put some bread in the toaster. He put some tealeaves into a cup (he'd sweep up the rest, later) and ran some water from the hot water tap into the cup. Ah, he thought, a nice hot cup of tea for Mummy.


Smoke was coming from the toaster and the bread was a nice black colour, it must be cooked. He took an egg from the fridge and put it into an eggcup. He decided he'd clean up the plates he had to move to get to the eggcup, later.


Billy placed everything on a tray, and carefully balancing everything, made his way down the hall to Mummy's bedroom. Gee, that's funny, he thought, I wonder why the carpet's all wet?


As he reached Mummy's bedroom door, she came running out. "I thought I heard a crash of crockery," she cried as she tried to rush past him. But Billy's laden tray got caught up in Billy's mother's dressing gown and, as she tugged it away, Billy lost his grip on the tray. It fell crashing to the floor.


Billy's Mummy stared at the water running from under the bathroom door. Billy's Mummy stared at the scattered remnants of the breakfast tray. Billy's Mummy surveyed the kitchen disaster area.


Billy's Mummy turned to Billy and said, very slowly, "Young man, go to your room, and wait there until I tell your father what you have done."


Billy smiled at his mother, because he knew that whenever she spoke slowly, it was because it was important... and he knew his father would be so pleased to know that he had looked after Mummy by making her breakfast.



*        *        *



Billy lay on his bed, staring at the Thomas the Tank Engine poster on the wall. Then a twinkle sparkled in his eyes, and a smile flashed across his face. The garden, he thought, I haven't done the gardening for Dad!


He bounded from the bed, but then climbed back onto the bed, deciding that three bounces and then a jump to the floor was the better way of getting up. He stripped off his pyjamas, letting them fall to the floor to be immediately gobbled up by the bedclothes that now resided there.


Now what to wear to work? Daddy wore a suit and tie when he went to work. But Billy didn't own a suit or a tie. What to wear? He pulled clothes from the drawers, pulled clothes from hangers in the wardrobe, and rummaging through the ever growing pile of clothes on the floor amongst the tangled bedclothes, he found his brand new jeans and shirt that Nana bought him for Christmas. Billy remembered that Daddy wore jeans when he worked in the garden ... jeans with holes in the knees, and grass and dirt stains all over them.


Billy found his Mother's scissors in her sewing basket in the living room. Very carefully (because Mummy always told him to be careful with scissors) he cut some holes in his brand new jeans. Now, he thought, I'll rub some dirt onto them from the big pot plant in the hall, and then they'll look exactly like Daddy's. Billy decided that he would clean up the knocked over pot plant, later, and hurried back to his room to dress for his day in the garden.


He ran into the backyard. He was the man of the house. He would not only help Daddy do the gardening; he would do the gardening for him! He ran to the garage to get out the lawn mower. Yes, he thought, I'll mow the lawn first! Now, what does Daddy do? Oh, yes, first fill the lawn mower with petrol. Billy found the fuel can, and the funnel and filled the lawn mower's petrol tank. He decided that he would mop up the spilt petrol that puddled on the floor of the garage, later.


"Oh, gee!" he exclaimed, "I'll have to move Mummy's car to get the lawn mower out of the garage." The lawn mower just wouldn't fit between the wall and the car, no matter how hard he pulled it and scraped it against Mummy's car. Billy ran into the house and a few minutes later returned with Mummy's keys. It had been a job to get them off the hook in the kitchen, but he decided he'd clean up the knocked over tidy bin that he had stood on, later.


He hopped into Mummy's car, and after trying most of the keys on the ring, he found one that fitted the ignition. Billy had watched his Mother and Father drive their cars many times. He had watched them very carefully. All you have to do to start the car is turn the key. This Billy did.


Mummy's car jumped forward, and with a crunching lurch threw itself through the back wall of the garage. The wall crashed down around the car, as it continued on its way through the garage into the backyard. The car hit the big Mulberry tree. The big Mulberry tree fell over ... right onto the garden shed. The garden shed fell over right onto the swing set. The swing set fell over right onto the pergola. The pergola fell over right onto the big gum tree ... and the big gum tree fell over right onto the house.


Billy clambered from the car and with wide eyes and open mouth watched as the house just simply collapsed. From the swirling dust and settling debris, Billy's Mummy crawled on hands and knees, very slowly, towards Billy.


She stared at Billy. Billy looked at his mother. Billy's Mummy, with shaking hands, took a cigarette from its packet and, striking a match, lit it. She threw the still burning match to the ground, towards the puddle leaking from the garage. With woomph and a whoosh the puddle ignited, and the remains of the garage burst into flames. The flames spread from the garage to the car ... from the car to the garden shed ... from the garden shed to the pergola ... from the pergola to the house.


As Billy and Billy's Mummy ran up the driveway to the safety of the street, Billy turned to his mother and said, "Gee, Mum, are you in trouble. Wait 'til Dad sees what you did with that match!"





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