I crept into Pi’s room at night and dragged him into our old treehouse. He didn’t like his gag – or being tied onto the roof.
Then I waited.
Today’s guest author is Australian writer Crisetta MacLeod.
My little sister was such a clever little thing – cute as a button, and learned to read almost as soon as she learned to walk. Her favourite game was with her numbers, though. Our Dad is a “Numbers Man” in the state government, which he thinks is a huge joke because he has always loved figures, originally trained as an accountant, then got into statistics, that kind of thing. He always played number games with us, right from when we were babies.
Little sister Una (“Number One”, Dad called her) really lapped up his games. I swear she understood numbers better than I did, and I was four years older than her. She especially liked her Cuisenaire rods, and Dad would play sums with her and she would whip those wooden bricks around in a flash, and come up with an answer. Then came the day when he asked her “What’s 7 plus 4?” expecting her usual arranging of her rods, but the minx twinkled at him and said “11” – she was beginning to do things in her little wise head!
Dad had to go to Switzerland for a conference of some sort and he brought her home a box of really enchanting numbers, carved in wood and painted, each number a quaint little person. How she loved those! One of her favourite games was “Looking after Number One”. She used to tuck Number One, her namesake, up in a tiny cot at night and sing him number songs. I’d hear her singing away …”One is one and all alone and ever more shall be so!” And then she’d whisper to him, “I’ll always be your friend, you won’t be alone at all!
Dad loved to show off her precocious number skills when colleagues came for dinner. One night someone asked “And what’s your favourite number?” and with a wicked look on her angelic face she replied “Eleventy-four!” and waited for the condescending, amused smiles around the table. Then she said “That’s what I used to call it when I was little – it’s the number of the bus that goes past here all the way to Daddy’s work! And I think it sounds much nicer than one hundred and fourteen!”
Then a black day arrived when Dad was in big trouble at work – I didn’t understand what was going on, but “We just don’t have the numbers!” was repeated despairingly – around the dinner table, to Mum, on the phone, again and again “We don’t have the numbers!” in an increasingly exasperated and anxious voice.
Una loved her Daddy. The poor wee soul packed up her precious number friends in her Bob the Builder backpack, including her precious Number One who she dressed in a tiny jacket which had belonged to a Teddy. If Daddy needed numbers, she would give him hers – her very best treasures. She slipped out of the house clutching 20 cents in her little hand, and went to catch the eleventy-four bus to Daddy’s work, so that he would have the very best numbers and not be worried and sad any more.
She didn’t understand how to catch a bus. She had never even been on one, since we drove everywhere. She was knocked down and killed by the eleventy-four.
Her number was up.