Chapter Nine – Feeding Hob is a Full-Time Job

“Here, Hob, eat these sandwiches, and make them last.” Hob stuffed the food into his mouth with a huge slurp and a gulp, and then it was all gone.

The boys were awestruck but fascinated by the goblin’s greed. Jacob said, “Gran will catch on to all the food raiding soon. Better keep the P- A- S- T- A for later.”

Then a thought struck him and he looked at Hob warily. “Er, can you read and write and spell?” he asked the goblin, but Hob’s mouth was too full for him to reply.

“Don’t you chew anything?” Jerry frowned, but he already knew the answer.

“Chew? What’s that?” Hob spluttered out a storm of breadcrumbs.

Jacob eyed up the goblin. “Now, Hob, let’s get down to business. Tell us exactly how you fell. What were you doing? It may help us to get you back home.”

Hob stared back.

“Doing?” he grunted.

“Yes. What were you doing before you fell? What was happening?” Jacob repeated the question nice and slowly.

Hob screwed up his face as if remembering.

“It was those elves,” he grunted. “Yes, I caught one of those sneaky, twisty, nasty little elves.”

“You were chasing elves?” Jacob asked, shaking his head.

But Hob stared as if Jacob were stupid.

“Chasing elves, yes, that’s what you do with elves, chase them, and catch them and poke them and bite them.” Hob was enjoying himself and but he shook his head as if to say, everybody knows that.

“Okay,” Jerry chimed in. “Just tell us what happened, please.”

Hob scratched his chin.

“I caught one of those twisty little ones and I bit his toe.”

The boys looked at each other, but said nothing as Hob added, “Yes, I bit his toe and the nasty little elf screeched and screeched and screeched and …”

Hob hopped around, holding his toe, screeching to tell the story better.

“We get the picture, Hob. What happened then?” Jerry said impatiently.

Hob stopped dancing around on one foot.

“Well, then his horrible little elf shoe came off and I grabbed it and ran away, fast like the wind. And then I fell, bump, bump, bump and hurt myself.”

The boys looked at each other again.

“Maybe this elf’s shoe is important,” said Jacob, watching Hob. “Are elves magic at all? Could it be that this elf didn’t like you pinching his shoe?”

Jerry grinned. “Never mind biting his toe. Perhaps he was very angry?”

Hob grinned to himself, “Oh yes, he was hopping mad. He screamed and yelled at me.” And Hob hopped around, yelping to give the story a bit more drama.

Jerry tried again. “And magic? Are elves magic?”

Hob shrugged. “They are stupid, not like goblins, but they do magic things too.”

“Now we have it, Hob,” said Jacob. “You got on the wrong side of an elf, bit his toe, pinched his shoe and he put some kind of ‘go away’ spell on you!”

Jerry was thoughtful. “Where is that shoe, Hob?”

“When I landed with a bump, I threw it away, I don’t want a stupid elf shoe,” Hob grumbled.

Jerry looked at his brother,

“We’ve got to find that elf’s shoe, that’s how to get him back. Beam him up holding that shoe, sort of thing.”

“So, one last question, Hob. What colour is that elf shoe?”

Jacob had a horrible feeling he already knew the answer as Hob looked at him as if he were completely daft.

“Green. That is the colour of an elf shoe.”

Just at that moment they heard Gran approaching the shed.

“Spaghetti, boys!” she yelled, and Jerry opened the shed door as Jacob hissed at Hob, “No nonsense in here, or you won’t get any lunch!”

“Don’t you even think of touching a single thing.” Jacob waved a finger at the goblin. “Goblin’s honour, if there is such a thing, okay?”

Hob jumped, sulking, into the hammock, mumbling to himself about unspeakable goblin things – biting elves and chasing creatures, lighting blazing fires, but Jerry and Jacob didn’t wait to hear more about that one. They closed the door on him and ran to meet Gran as fast as they could.

In the kitchen, Gran’s spaghetti was steaming and her famous tomato sauce was bubbling in a pot on the stove.

“Wash your hands first, boys.”

She sat at the table and ladled large portions onto their dishes. After washing his hands, Jacob looked under the kitchen sink and saw a small yellow bucket. He slipped it between his knees as Gran lifted the pans onto the table for everybody to help themselves to seconds.

“Oh, I nearly forgot the cheese.” She shut the fridge door. “Be careful if you see any animals in the garden. Mr Roper is talking about a fox, or even a racoon, now.”

As Gran stood at the fridge, Jerry slipped a pile of spaghetti into the yellow bucket and Jacob quickly ladled some of the tasty red sauce on top. When Gran handed them a slab of cheese to grate onto the spaghetti, Hob’s portion was safe between Jacob’s knees.

“We’re learning about, um, tracking. Maybe we’ll find Mr Roper’s fox, smelly things, foxes, aren’t they?” Jerry shook his head when Gran asked what they were up to in their new den.

Luckily, after their lunch, she was bending down with Jacob to stack things in the dishwasher and didn’t notice Jerry carrying a yellow bucket with him back to the shed. Jerry saw at once that Hob had been busy – this time in the wood pile at the side of the shed, which was no longer a pile, but spread all over the place.

“Looking for bad creatures,” Hob explained.

Jacob, who had just finished helping Gran and had arrived at the shed, shook his head.

“The only bad creature around here happens to be you, Hob.”

“Don’t understand silly words,” the goblin chuckled, just as Mr Roper’s dog Flash growled through the fence. Hob puts his fists up for a fight but Jacob steered him into the shed away from the snarling dog. Hob seemed pretty disappointed.

Jacob groaned. Perhaps he wasn’t as simple as they’d thought. Inside the shed with the door safely shut, Jerry handed Hob the yellow bucket.

“Here. I hope you like spaghetti?”

Now, everybody knows that spaghetti is not easy to eat and that sometimes you get a few splashes of tomato sauce on your T-shirt. Hob’s case was different though. He ignored the spoon Jacob held out and dived head first into the bucket. Hob slurped and gobbled and sucked with all his might, licked his green lips and dived in again. The goblin loved spaghetti, that much was clear. In between his slurping and swallowing and gobbling, he yelled, “Good, good, good.”

Within a couple of minutes, the yellow bucket was licked sparkling clean – which is more than could be said for Hob. He’d already been messy from the bramble berries and smeared with brown clods of earth and streaks of grassy stains from the rabbit hole and now, added to this, he’d covered himself from head to toe in bright red tomato sauce.

Jerry and Jacob didn’t know about other goblins, but surely this one had to be the messiest and greediest of them all. The boys had simply sat and watched in amazement. Hob didn’t pause for a single breath, slurping up the spaghetti just like a high power vacuum cleaner.


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