Beth looked out the window to the wet street below. She gazed at four big raindrops that were racing each other down the outside of the glass. She hoped the one on her left would win. It didn’t. It slowed up at the last minute and came in last. Beth sighed. It was supposed to be summer but someone had forgotten to tell the people who controlled the weather over Glasgow. Beth was now in the third week of the big holiday from her primary school and there had barely been a dry day since the final bell of June had sounded.
She sighed again and turned away from the view outside. Inside, there was a loud rasping noise. It was coming from the sofa. It was getting louder. Beth’s dad’s snoring was beginning to shake the whole building to its very foundations. She just wanted him to waken up and build Lego houses with her, or tell her dramatic, exciting stories, or watch Horrible Histories with her. Anything in fact, as long as it involved him being awake.
She was annoyed with him. He worked thousands of miles away for months and months on end, and when he came back, all he ever did was sleep. It was so unfair. She banged pot lids together. She played Let It Go at top volume next to his ear. She even put bright red lipstick on him. But nothing ever woke him up until it was time for him to go away again, to his other life; the one that Beth wasn’t involved in.
She went to the kitchen and brought back a packet of Haribo. She looked for two that were the right shape, and pushed them carefully into her dad’s nostrils. He didn’t wake up but at least the tortuous snoring had stopped. But then he let out a huge fart. It bounced off the walls. Beth laughed. The blocked-up snores had found another route to get out of him, she figured. But still her dad remained asleep. She was completely fed up with it.
Beth knew her dad worked very hard. But she just wished he had more time for her. She also knew her mum worked very hard and although she enjoyed spending time with her mum, Beth was a little envious of the things her school friends seemed to do with their dads. They went to the Safari Park up near Stirling, or they went to the big shiny Science Centre on the banks of the river, or sometimes they simply went to McDonalds. Beth’s dad didn’t take her to these places. He was just always asleep.
The July rain had got worse as the day had gone on. The television was on but all Beth could find of interest was a programme that she’d watched only last week. It would still be a few hours before her mum came home. That afternoon, Beth had an idea. She opened up her laptop. Her dad had brought it back from China for her. He wasn’t completely useless, she figured. Her mum perhaps wouldn’t be happy about her idea but, frankly, Beth was at her wits’ end. Her idea was very simple. She would sell her dad on eBay.
Earlier in the year, when Beth was having a post-Christmas clear-out of her room, her mum allowed her to put some old toys and clothes up for sale on eBay. It had been exciting waiting for people to bid for them and, even better, Beth had been allowed to keep the money. She looked over at the sofa, and wondered what she might get for her dad.
He was as hopeless to her as her old Bratz dolls had been, but he might be worth something to other people. He could maybe cut down trees for a rich landowner, or surely he could milk cows for a farmer who was too busy to do it himself. She was feeling happy. Her ‘dad for sale’ might even fetch a bid of ten pounds! There were lots of things ten pounds could buy. There were more loom bands that Beth wanted … there was the Bear Factory and all its bits and pieces … and there was a new Jacqueline Wilson book out that she wanted.
Once logged into her mum’s Ebay account, she began typing. Beth listed her dad’s good points:
Big strong dad for sale. Can lift any weight. Can fix broken Barbies. Makes good eggy toast. Has checked shirt and tattoos.
Beth was struggling to find anything else to say beyond this brief description, so she added:
Loves children – when awake … because she was sure he did.
Her mum had said it was better to keep the prices low in order to encourage better bids.
She typed: £10 … Buy Him Now.
Beth added a photograph of her sleeping, snoring father and smiled broadly when the whole posting came together. She listed it for 3 days only because there was a new Miley Cyrus film on at the cinema at the end of the week and the ten pounds would come in handy for that. She hit ‘submit’, closed down the laptop and went back to building a Polo Mint tower on her dad’s forehead.
Over the next couple of days, Beth’s mum asked her more questions than normal and ones where she couldn’t just answer ‘fine’ as she usually did. The questions were all about her dad. Beth answered but without giving away the fact that she had decided to sell him. Her mum mostly smiled through the questioning. Beth began to think her mum maybe knew about the eBay idea. But if she did, she didn’t seem too unhappy about it. Maybe Beth’s mum secretly wanted to sell him, too! If so, Beth decided her mum wasn’t sharing the ten pounds. Beth had thought of the idea first, after all.
On the day that the bids closed, Beth was more excited than she had been for a while. It was still raining, but that didn’t worry her. With twenty minutes to go, she logged on to the eBay account. It recorded ‘no bids’. Now she was upset. Nobody wanted her dad? Just then, the phone rang. Beth’s mum brought it through and handed it to Beth.
‘It’s for you, Beth,’ she said. Her mum left the living room and Beth was alone with the phone.
‘Hullo, is that Beth?’ it asked. The voice seemed sort of familiar.
‘Em … yes. I’m called Beth,’ she whispered.
‘My name is Barnaby Bumblebee for Barnaby Bumblebee & Sons … the travelling circus. It’s about your offer on eBay. You are trying to sell your dad?’
‘Eh … yes. I am,’ said Beth, checking her mum wasn’t listening.
‘Well, we don’t want to buy your dad, but we wondered if we might borrow him for a few days. We’d still pay the ten pounds, of course.’
Beth beamed. ‘Yes … please,’ she said. This was even better. She could get the ten pounds and then try and sell him again the very next week.
Beth knew she would struggle to wrap her dad up and post him to the caller, so Mr Bumblebee agreed that the circus would collect him the next day when Beth was out with her mum. Barnaby Bumblebee would leave the money on the kitchen table. It was the best of all possible outcomes, Beth thought.
Three days passed. Beth hadn’t seen her dad at home. She was certain he had indeed gone to join the circus. She started to think that this wasn’t maybe such a great idea after all. She missed him. She even missed his snoring – even the super-loud snoring that was louder than the time she accidently sat on the volume button of the TV’s remote control. She wanted him to come home. She decided that she wouldn’t try to sell him again – that is, if he ever came back.
Just as Beth thought she should go and tell her mum what she had done, the living-room door burst open. It was her dad. He was dressed as a clown with big red clown shoes, a funny wig and one of those plastic noses that Beth had from the last Comic Relief Day.
You’re never gonna believe what just happened to me, Beth,’ he said.
He sat down, breathless. Beth sat next to him, her mouth growing wider as he told her how he’d woken up in a lion’s cage with a circus crowd cheering. How he got shot out of a cannon and landed on a great big bouncy trampoline. How he learned to balance on a big tall bicycle that only had one wheel. And, finally, how he had to stand in for the senior clown, Barney Bumblebee himself, because he had twisted his ankle in a fall from the high wire.
Beth was actually sitting on her dad’s knee by the time his amazing story came to an end. The rain continued to fall outside, but Beth didn’t care. She had got what she wanted all along … plus she was ten pounds better off. But the best was still to come. In return for the great favour Beth and her dad had done for Barney Bumblebee, the circus owner had arranged for Beth and her family to go to Disneyland in Paris. This was incredible. Beth saw her dad winking at her mum. It gave her another brilliant idea. If she could get all of this for her dad, just think how much her mum would go for! She was, after all, ten times more useful than her dad.