Your children can read along as they listen to short story writing contest winner, Matty Hides in Midgeton. This STOR14S episode, written by Dee McLellan and read by the star of 12 Years a Slave, Chiwetel Ejiofor, will be released on Spotify and Apple Podcasts on July 9, or you can listen here:
And if you enjoy this story, learn more at GEANCO, who are helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and improving lives in Nigeria.
Click here to learn more about the STOR14S podcast series.
Matty Hides in Midgeton
by Dee McLellan
Matty was 8. He was staying with his Uncle Pete and his younger cousin Suzy in a small, old, stone fisherman’s cottage in Midgeton.
Midgeton was a small fishing village very, very, far away from London.
Matty had come to stay with his uncle because his mum was a nurse at a very important hospital in London. There was a very bad illness going around the whole world, and Matty had been moved to his uncle’s house so that his mum could look after people who were ill.
Matty found himself in a tiny little stone cottage far away from home.
He was so bored.
Normally, Matty was full of energy and liked playing outside with his friends. Usually, he would be playing pranks on his classmates. Ordinarily he’d be up in trees pretending to be a monkey. But this was no ordinary time, it definitely wasn’t usual or normal.
This time was called “lockdown.” Everybody had to stay indoors. All of the schools were closed and even the grown-ups were all at home.
“We’ve got to stay in,” said his uncle, “to stop this illness from spreading.”
Matty wasn’t sure exactly what a “lockdown” meant, only that they had to stay at home. He was getting bored staying in every day. From his bedroom window he could even see the taunting sight of the sea.
“I wish I could go down to the beach.” he said aloud one morning at breakfast.
“Well, you know that’s not possible at the moment Matty, don’t you?” replied his uncle.
“And, anyway, you know there isn’t a beach near here. It’s along the coast in the next town, five miles away.”
“But I can see the sea from my bedroom!” exclaimed Matty.
“That’s the sea alright,” said Uncle Pete sternly, “but there’s no beach here at Midgeton. Anyway, we must stay inside.” Matty sighed and carried on eating.
After breakfast, which was usually cereal, toast and marmalade, Suzy and Matty decided to play hide and seek. Since the house wasn’t very big, this game usually didn’t last very long, both he and Suzy thought they had certainly found all the hiding places that there possibly could be in the small cottage already.
Even so, it was still fun trying to guess where the other would choose to hide first: the bathroom cupboard, under the big bed in his uncle’s room, in Suzy’s toy box, or behind the long curtains in the living room.
This morning, Suzy started counting first, and Matty went to hide. The person counting always stood facing the front door, with their eyes covered and their back to the hallway. This meant that the whole house could be used for hiding places.
Suzy started counting… one… two… three… four…. Matty ran away from her, through the hall, and into the dining room.
And there he saw it. It had been right in front of him — staring him in the face all along! A little door behind the dining room table that he hadn’t noticed before.
It was a wooden door, slightly smaller than normal doorways, and it wasn’t rectangular either, it looked as if someone had cut off the top of the door-way, diagonally. It was really quite small, and it was in the corner, before you went down the step into the kitchen.
“Brilliant,” thought Matty, as he grabbed the doorknob, “another place to hide that we haven’t used before.”
He pushed and pushed at the doorknob. It was really quite difficult … as if it hadn’t been opened in a very long time.
He put all his strength into it and gave it a mighty shove. Then, it suddenly gave way and opened. It looked very dark inside, and Matty was a little scared, but in the hallway he could hear Suzy counting “96, 97, 98,” she was nearly at 100! He had no choice but to hop into the darkness behind this mystery door.
“100!” Suzy shouted, just as Matty stepped in and slammed the little door closed behind him. After that, he didn’t hear Suzy anymore, as he hadn’t realized that what he was stepping into wasn’t just a cupboard, but steps going downwards. Steep steps, made of stone.
He went hurtling down them two by two, and at the bottom he landed on his bottom and it was very cold!
“Ow!” he yelled, and then quickly got up, rubbing his eyes to try and see in the darkness. After a couple of minutes his eyes adjusted to the change in light and he could see that he was in a sort of tunnel. Slowly he edged forward, step by step, carefully treading in the dark so that he could feel his way.
He stretched out his arms either side of him and he could touch the walls easily. He put his hands above his head, and he could also touch the roof of the tunnel as well.
“This was a tunnel made for small people,” he thought to himself, “there’s no way that Uncle Pete could get in here!”
By now his eyes could see quite well enough, and he was able to walk more confidently through the tunnel. He seemed to be going downhill and he had to be careful not to slip on the stone floor.
After a few minutes he could see a glimmer of light in the distance, and he could hear something too. And then he noticed that he wasn’t walking on flagstones anymore. Beneath his feet it didn’t feel cold and hard but soft and warm. He bent down and touched the ground. Sure enough, it felt like sand.
Matty quickened his pace and then started running towards the end of the tunnel, where he could see the light. It got brighter and brighter, and the sound he could hear got louder and louder, and then suddenly he came out of the tunnel and could see that it was the sound of waves crashing on the most beautiful little sandy beach that he’d ever seen in his whole life!
“Wow!” Matty cried out in excitement “This is fantastic! I’ve found a beach!”
He looked all around him to see what was there. Behind him, in the rocks, was the entrance to the tunnel that he’d just come out of. It wasn’t easy to see and if you didn’t know it was there it would be impossible to guess that it was a tunnel up to his uncle’s house.
In front of him was a small, sandy beach with the sea lapping onto the shore. He instinctively ran down to the water’s edge and threw off his shoes and went paddling! Splash, splosh, splish, he jumped the waves as they came.
“Yipeeeeeee!” He exclaimed out loud. But there was nobody else there to hear him.
After a few minutes of paddling and splashing in the water, he ran across the beach, pretending to be an airplane with his arms outstretched. It felt so good after being cooped up inside for so long.
At his feet he saw something glinting in the sun, something shiny. He bent down to get a closer look and to his surprise discovered that it was an old gold coin.
On one side there was a coat of arms, and the other side looked like a cross.
“Pirate treasure,” Matty thought to himself. “I’ve found a pirate’s smuggling beach with a secret tunnel!”
He then remembered that Suzy would be searching for him, so he quickly put the pirate’s treasure in his pocket and made his way back towards the entrance of the tunnel. As he stood there, he took one last look at his secret, “pirate treasure” beach, and then began his clamber back through the tunnel. It was much harder going back through the tunnel than it had been coming out of it, as it was really dark inside. He felt his way with his hands on the walls, and took careful steps as he climbed up the stones inside.
At last he reached the doorway, and he found the knob and pulled at it with all his strength again. Pull, pull — it gave way just as abruptly as it had done when he entered and he fell backwards a little.
Quickly he came back into the dining room and thought about what to do next. Should he keep the tunnel a secret, or should he tell Suzy?
He decided not to tell her, or his uncle, and he scooted quickly to the windows and hid behind the long curtains. Just then, Suzy came bounding into the room, quite upset.
“Matty, where are you? I’ve looked everywhere!” She shouted.
Matty poked a foot out, deliberately, from under the curtains, and gave a loud cough, as if clearing his throat.
“Matty?” Suzy enquired, seeing his foot, “is that you? I’ve already looked here a dozen times.”
“Yes, I’ve been here all along” grinned Matty, feeling extremely chuffed with himself.
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