After a chance meeting with a high-spirited, French speaking goat called Õogly, Amy rejects her human life and adopts one of a goat - But her friends, teachers and parents are not tolerant of this new lifestyle...
CHAPTER 1: Un-happy birthday!
“I can only apologise for the quick dinner,” said Mum, plonking down a plate of bread and toast. “I’m in a bit of a rush tonight. It’s the first dress rehearsal at circus training. We’ve got our big show opening in just a few weeks!”
Neither Amy nor Colin, Mum’s new boyfriend, stopped eating to notice her flitting around. She pushed another crust of bread into the toaster.
“In just a few weeks I need to perfect the art of balancing on my head while riding on the back of a camel. It’s not as easy as it sounds.”
Colin took a large slice of toast. “Amy, could I trouble you for some marmalade?”
Amy pushed away from the table, balancing on the scrawny chair’s back legs. She pulled open the dusty cupboard behind her.
“Ewww, its use-by-date is 1972,” she said, inspecting a sticky, orange jar.
Eating stale, forgotten food that lurked in cupboards was quite normal in Amy’s house. After Colin moved in following her parents’ divorce, Amy learnt he was useless at a weekly food shop and Mum was too busy spending every second doing her activities. Be it tap dancing, yoga or circus skills, every evening she’d prance around the kitchen in her own world. “Everyone should always be striving for the best, not sat in front of the TV,” she said daily… even when the TV was off…and no one was in.
Colin swallowed his mouthful. “1972 was an excellent year for marmalade.”
“But it’s got furry green bits in it.”
“Oh, will you stop moaning, Amy,” said Mum, pushing up to a headstand in the centre of the kitchen. Her bottom was right in Amy’s eyeline.
“You’re always trying to be different to everyone else, why don’t you eat the mould.”
Amy glared up at her Mother but was met by two firm bum cheeks in a blue leotard.
“Nonsense!” said Colin, taking the sticky jar. “We can both eat around it.”
He rattled the tip of his knife, trying to find a less mouldy bit.
“Ahh, here we are,” he said, smearing an orange clump on Amy’s plate.
“Gosh, what a gift that is,” she replied sarcastically, inspecting the bogey-looking lump.
Suddenly Colin’s heavy thick eyebrows jumped up towards his hairline.
"Gift! That reminds me!" He dashed out of the kitchen, stumbling over himself as he pulled up his trousers that were forever falling down. Moments later he returned, biting his lips, fighting a big smile. He was holding a present beautifully wrapped with a green bow. "Happy birthday, Amy." He bent down and kissed her head.
This instantly made Amy smile. What a terrible day she'd had at her new school, St Andrews School of Controlled Excellence & Unoriginality. It's against the rules to celebrate birthdays and engraved on the school's large, iron gates is the motto:
CLOSE YOUR MIND AND DO AS YOU’RE TOLD
At her school it was very important to Mrs Moopleton, the headmistress, that all pupils remained the same and didn't stand out. If they did stand out, she’d paint them. In thick, grey paint.
Some at Ofsted did question this, but she believed in a more hands on approach when dealing with naughty children. You can’t simply speak to them when telling them off, you have to cover and smother their soul!
However, Amy being Amy, had challenged this and worn a flashing birthday badge she’d made herself. In the morning assembly, Mrs Moopleton spotted it instantly.
“Stop thinking you’re different to everyone else!”
She hissed in Amy’s face, ripping the badge from her blouse, reaching for her paint brush.
Quickly, Amy tore through the wrapping paper to shut out the sadness. In her lap sat a bashed-up box smelling a bit like lemons. She carefully folded back the lid to see a collection of household cleaning products. There was a packet of yellow dusters, some carpet cleaner and a super-saver size bottle of lemon Fairy Liquid.
Colin grinned at his stepdaughter, trying to suppress his excitement. “You seem so interested when I’m cleaning so I thought it’d be nice to do some together.” There was a twinkle in his eye.
To any other child, this may seem odd, but not to Amy. Colin tried very hard to build a relationship with his stepdaughter. He understood it couldn’t have been easy for her to watch her parents separate and have her dad move out, and then have him, the new boyfriend, move in. So, he reached out the way he knew best: cleaning. He was allergic to almost every single thing in the world (dust, animals...even fish and snails) so he was always vacuuming to keep off his sneezes. Quickly Amy learnt it wasn’t normal to vacuum family members as they slept. Nor was it polite to spray disinfectant into the face of everyone who stepped into their house.
“Welcome to our home!” he’d shout, then spray and dash away.
Amy smiled down at the dusters and carpet cleaner, touched at Colin’s gift.
"Thanks, Colin. That's really…um," she paused, finding the right words "…hygienic of you."
“Oh goodness!” shouted Mum, jumping down from her headstand. “Of course, it’s your birthday today! The big nine…no, 10! I um…must have left your present in the car. Yes, that's right, it's in the car".
“I’ll go get it shall I?” offered Colin, a mouth full of toast.
“No!” snapped Mum, eyes searching for the car keys. “It’ll ruin the surprise! I’ll go and get it. What was it you asked for again?”
Unlike most 10 year old’s, Amy hadn’t asked for anything. She knew what she wanted couldn’t be bought with money. What she wanted was quite simply to be allowed to be herself.
You see, Amy felt people lived painfully dull lives. And for a 10 year-old girl, she was naturally quite… different. She thought differently, she felt differently and she smelt differently (we’ll get to that later).
“Why don’t people do what they actually want to do?” She’d mull over while doing something very different like wearing a dirty saucepan on her head, and walking around the house backwards.
"Why does everyone at school do the classes they don’t want to do but told they have to. And then go to work…forever?”
“I’ve got it!” shouted Mum, interrupting Amy’s train of thought. “Your present can be to come to my circus rehearsal tonight. It’s our first dress rehearsal so you’ll be the lucky girl who sees it before all your new friends. That’s sure to impress the "cool" group at your expensive school -.”
" - That's alright Mum!" interrupted Amy, her voice panicked and high-pitched. “I've got – um - a lot of...a lot of homework to do." She slid from her chair, ready to make a run for it.
Mum disco danced her way to the kitchen door, blocking the only exit. “Nonsense, it’s your birthday. You don't have to do your homework." She paused, regretting such a silly suggestion. "Well, you can get up extra early and do it tomorrow morning before school."
“That’ll be a treat!” piped in Colin. “And you can come too.”
Colin gulped loudly, swallowing his final crust.
Amy giggled at her stepdad. Recently the two of them had been dragged to a lot of Mum's shows. It involved them sitting around bored for hours.
All at once, the front door slammed and in strutted Sebastián. He dumped his rucksack on the floor, narrowly missing Stewart the cat, then dumped himself on a big bean bag slumped in the corner of the kitchen.
Now, one unimportant person we failed to introduce earlier was Amy’s big brother by four years, Sebastián. He wasn’t like a normal big brother who would punch, pinch and fart. Instead, he did the meanest thing a big brother could do.
He completely ignored her.
He chose to believe Amy didn’t exist.
“I can smell something,” he announced, pointing the remote at the TV.
“Oh, that’ll be the toast burning!” cried Colin, scurrying to the smoking toaster.
“No, I can smell something like, really disgustingly bad.”
Amy glared at the back of her brother’s head. He was talking about her. “Why don’t you say what you think the smell is?” she shouted across the kitchen.
Sebastián acted out a big, drawn-out, yawn. His eyes never leaving the screen. This is what Sebastián did. He communicated with Amy by saying there was a bad smell. He found her repulsive so never spoke or looked at her. She was invisible to him. Most younger sisters would love to be ignored by their older brothers, just to have a break from the bullying. But not Amy. She longed to be tripped up or spat at.
Anything that meant he saw her.
He even ignored her at their new school. What made it worse was he was already the most popular person there. He never said or did anything different but the children would flock and wait for him at
the school gates for hours. To be fair, he was rather handsome for a 14-year-old. He’d had braces at a young age so his teeth were now perfectly straight. His hair was confusingly shiny and unlike most teenagers, he had only a thin covering of pimples across his face. He took no interest in his classmates. His one focus was the cheerleading team. He had to become captain and this was his sole purpose for being alive. Having a smelly younger sister who tried to be different didn’t help.
“Hello my dear, Sebastián!” sang Mum. “How was school? Did you learn anything that will change the world?”
Sebastiánignored her. He was still angry about Colin moving in so soon after Dad left. NotthatDad was ever around much before that anyway. He flicked through the music channels. Behaviour only he could get away with.
“That’s excellent,” replied Mum to the unanswered question. “And shall you be joining me at my circus rehearsal tonight? I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned, but it’s the first dress rehearsal –”
“We know!” shouted Colin wafting the smoking toaster with a cloth.
“It’s the first dress rehearsal for the Circus Society before our big day,” she continued like she hadn’t been interrupted, “and the whole family have decided to show their support.”
“I thought it was for my birthday?” questioned Amy.
“Yes, and that too…I suppose,” Mum squeezed Sebastián’s left shoulder. “What do you say, My Little Hero?”
Sebastián wrinkled his nose at the words, ‘My Little Hero’. Mum called him this when she wanted him to do something for her.
“Okay, that’s fine. I’ll leave out a big bowl of crisps and unlimited chocolate for you.”
“That’s not fair!” argued Amy. “It’s my birthday.”
Mum clapped her hands together showing the matter to be closed. “Right, now where did I hide the expensive chocolate?”
“But I don’t want to go either, Mum!” said Amy, waving her hands, desperate to be seen.
“Nonsense, Amy. Now go change into something dull that doesn’t reflect your personality. I don’t want you attracting attention away from the clowns like last time.”
Amy frowned deeply, glaring at the back of Mum’s head. “I’m wearing my flashing birthday badge.”
Mum flung round, throwing her arms in the air. “Absolutely not! These are important members of the circus we are trying to impress. I can’t have you turning up, being ‘different’.”
Mum shooed the girl away like a stray cat. Amy trudged up the stairs to her room, untying the fun rainbow ribbon from her bun.
“Ahh, I can finally smell fresh air,” announced
Sebastián loudly to make sure Amy heard.
Amy opened her mouth to shout something back but quickly felt there was no point. Would she ever be allowed to be her true self?
She was about to find out…
CHAPTER 2: The circus
Amy and Colin sat on the rickety benches waiting for the show to begin. The tent was huge, filled with the smell of warm popcorn and donkey poo. The performers frantically rushed past them. One had a rubber chicken lodged under her arm, while another woman wore a heavy wig of purple afro hair that kept sliding off.
“All seems a bit chaotic,” said Colin, shovelling salty popcorn into his mouth.
Amy shrugged. She was sulking and much to her annoyance Colin was too excited to notice. She wanted the next few hours to go by as quickly as possible.
All at once the lights dimmed and the audience hushed. The show was about to begin.
“Here we go!” squealed Colin, waving his flashing plastic sword (he originally bought this for Amy).
A very merry ringmaster bounced into the centre of the ring. His sweaty forehead sparkled more than his blue sequined blazer.
“Lords and ladies, are you ready to be entertained!?”
His eyes searched the silent audience of seven people. All of whom were unlucky family members that had been dragged along.
“I said…ARE YOU READY TO BE ENTERTAINED?”
“YeahhhHHHhhhh!” cheered Colin. Alone.