For pushing you out of your nests.
It's what mamma cuckoo taught it to do --
She taught it that pushing is best."
If Molly or Rocky ever felt cross with their parents, whoever they were, for abandoning them, Mrs. Trinklebury's song would make them feel better.
But Mrs. Trinklebury didn't live at the orphanage any more. As soon as Molly and Rocky were out of diapers, she'd been sent away. Now she came back only once a week to help with the cleaning and laundry. And the older children had to take care of the younger ones.
Night was drawing in.
In the distance Molly heard the squawk of the cuckoo clock in Miss Adderstone's rooms striking six.
"We're really late," she said, tearing her dressing gown from a hook on the door.
"She's going to have a tantrum," Rocky agreed as they sprinted down the passage. They skidded round a corner on the polished linoleum floor and long-jumped down the stairs. Quietly, they tiptoed across the stone floor of the hall past the TV room and to the oak-paneled assembly room. They slunk in.
Nine children, four of them under seven years old, were lined up along the walls. Molly and Rocky joined the end of a line, near two friendly five-year-olds, Ruby and Jinx, hoping that Miss Adderstone hadn't reached their names on the register yet. Molly glanced at the unfriendly, older faces opposite her. Hazel Hackersly, the meanest girl in the orphanage, narrowed her eyes at Molly. Gordon Boils made the motion of cutting his throat with an imaginary knife.
"Ruby Able?" read Miss Adderstone.
"Yes, Miss Adderstone," piped up tiny Ruby beside Molly.
"Here, Miss Adderstone," said Gordon, making a face at Molly.
"Yes, Miss Adderstone," the little boy said.
"Here, Miss Adderstone," said the tall, thin boy who stood next to Gordon, eyeing Molly maliciously.
"Here, Miss Adderstone."
Molly was relieved. Her name was next.
"Here, Miss Adderstone," said seven-year-old Gerry, thrusting his hand into his pocket where he could feel his pet mouse trying to escape.
"Here, Miss Adderstone," said Cynthia, winking at Hazel.
Molly wondered when her own name would pop up. Miss Adderstone seemed to have skipped it.
"Here, Miss Adderstone," grunted Cynthia's twin.
"Here, Miss Adderstone."
"Here," Rocky said.
Miss Adderstone slammed the register shut. "As usual, Molly Moon is not here."
"I am here now, Miss Adderstone." Molly could hardly believe it. Miss Adderstone must have read her name out first, to intentionally catch her out.
"Now doesn't count," said Miss Adderstone, her lips twitching. "You will be on dishwashing duty tonight. Edna will be pleased to have the night off."
After the last blessing prayer, the dinner gong sounded, and the heavy dining room door swung open. The orphans shuffled through it, welcomed tonight by the disgusting smell of old fish. They'd seen the fish earlier that week, lying in plastic crates in the alley outside the kitchen, crawling with flies and beetles. And everyone knew that Edna, the orphanage cook, would have baked the fish in a thick, greasy, cheese-and-nut sauce to disguise its rotten taste -- a trick that she'd learned in the navy.
There Edna stood now, broad and muscly, with her curly gray hair and her flattened nose, ready to make sure every child ate up. With a tattoo of a sailor on her thigh (although this was only a rumor), and her terrible language, Edna was like a grumpy pirate.
Every single child felt nervous and sick as they stood in line while Edna slopped out smelly helpings.
Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism Copyright © 2002 by Georgia Byng HarperCollins Publishers
Blood at the Root
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