Sticky toffee by Marie Gibson

"Mum!" Brad races inside and drops his bag on the floor. "Did you remember to make some sweets for tomorrow?"

"I’m late for the hairdresser Brad. Ask me about it when I get back."

"But Mum…"

"When I get back!" She picks up her bag and heads for the door. Suddenly she stops. "Go and talk to Grandad. He’s watching football on TV. Tell him how good his new teeth look."

"What new teeth?"

"He got new dentures today. Remember? Tell him they look nice." The door shuts and she’s gone.

"Everything round here is important except me," Brad grumbles. "Mum’s hairdo, Grandad’s new teeth. I need sweets for the fair tomorrow and no one’s got time to make any. Miss Davis will go mad if I don’t take something."

He opens the living room door. "Great teeth, Grandad," he calls.

"What?" Grandad turns round and cups one hand behind his ear.

"I said, your teeth look good!" Grandad must be getting deaf.

"D'you think so?" Grandad grins and shows off a row of square white teeth.

"Yeah." Brad nods and rushes out to the kitchen before he starts giggling.

He doesn’t want to upset Grandad but new teeth make people look funny.

Brad looks out the window. "Mum will be ages yet," he complains. "She won’t have time to make anything when she gets back and I’m not allowed to do it on my own." Then he has an idea. "I bet Grandad knows how to make toffee. He sure likes to eat it! I'll get him to help. It will be a surprise." He goes back to the living room. "Hey Grandad!" he calls. "Will you come and help me make some toffee?"

"Toffee did you say?" Grandad leaves the football game and comes to the kitchen. "I don’t know much about making toffee," he says. "Only about eating it."

"I know how to do it," Brad says. "I've made it before but Mum won’t let me do it on my own."

"Alright then. Let’s get started."

"Great," says Brad. "Now, where’s the recipe book?" Grandad watches while Brad puts sugar, water, butter and vinegar into a pot. "Boil for ten minutes," he reads aloud and puts it on the stove. He turns the handle towards the back so he won’t knock it over and burn himself. It starts cooking. He smears butter on a tin plate while they wait.

"I'll just go back and see how the game is getting on," Grandad says. "you’ll be all right for a minute won’t you?"

"Of course I will," says Brad.

Soon the toffee bubbles and goes pale brown. "It looks ready," he mutters, peering into the pot. " I don’t want it to burn."

"Grandad!" he calls. "Come and look at this toffee."

Grandad doesn’t answer. The football game is over and he has dozed off.

"I'd better not wake him up," Brad says. "Anyway I’m sure the toffee’s cooked." He pours it onto the plate and washes the pot. He is putting it away when he hears his mother’s car. Grabbing a tea towel Brad carries the hot plate into his room and hides it under the bed.

"It smells good," he whispers, and he drools. He tells himself it’s meant to be a surprise and he doesn’t want Mum to see it until it’s broken up into bits. Maybe it will be better if she doesn’t see it at all!

After tea Grandad watches a replay of the match. Mum goes outside to the garden. She has forgotten about making sweets. Brad decides not to remind her. He crawls under his bed and brings out the toffee. It should be ready to break into bits by now. He tries to snap it in half. It bends, but it won’t break. He licks his fingers.

"Yum!" It tastes wonderful but it’s still in one big lump.

"I know," he mutters. "The hammer." He gets the hammer from the shed and whacks the toffee. He makes dents all over it but it doesn’t break. He grabs it in both hands and twists. At last a small lump comes off. He puts it in his mouth and chews. "Maybe I didn’t cook it long enough," he mumbles, "but it tastes great."

He twists off more lumps and rolls them into balls. It takes ages. He stops often to lick his fingers. Finally he puts the toffee balls into a plastic bag and hides them at the bottom of his back pack. They don’t look as good as he'd hoped. He doesn’t show them to Mum.

"Isn’t the school fair on today?" Mum says next morning. "Aren’t you supposed to take sweets or something? Wasn’t I supposed to make some?"

"Too late now," Brad answers, not looking at her. Grandad winks at him.

"I'll give you some money instead." Mum opens her purse and gives him five dollars.

"Sweets, did you say?" Grandad looks across at Brad. "At the school fair?"

"That’s right Grandad."

"Well, I suppose we'll be coming, but in case we're late, buy me a couple of bags will you? I like that home made stuff. Especially toffee." He winks again and gives Brad another five dollars. "You can have the change - if there’s any."

This isn’t so bad after all, Brad thinks.

Brad puts his sweets out on the bench with all the others. Miss Davis tells Polly and Suzanne to pack the sweets into bags.

"Mix them up," she says. "Ten pieces for a dollar."

"Yes, Miss Davis," says Polly. She puts fudge, coconut ice and chunks of chocolate into the first bag. Then she comes to Brad’s toffee. She picks up one ball and four more come with it, all stuck together.

"Yuck! What’s this?" she hoots. Miss Davis peers at it through her glasses.

"Toffee, I think." She pokes at it. "Put it at the bottom of the bag where no one will see it."

"Yuck," says Polly again. She licks her fingers. "Tastes good though."

When the fair opens everyone rushes to the sweet stall. Brad is good at giving change, so Miss Davis lets him do the selling. They sell out in no time but Brad has saved two bags for Grandad.

When Mum and Grandad arrive Brad hands Grandad his sweets. He counts all the money and takes it in to Miss Davis. By the time he comes out, most people have got down to the bottom of their bags. They have started on Brad’s toffee balls.

Kids are trying to unstick their teeth. They have toffee stuck to their fingers and their clothes. One little boy is dribbling down his chin. His mother is cleaning him up with her handkerchief.

Suzanne gets it tangled in her long hair. "What about the scissors?" her brother asks. She shakes her head and the toffee tangle gets worse.

Polly gives hers to the caretaker’s dog. He rolls on the ground, trying to dig it out of his teeth with his paw. He gets up, wags his tail and begs for more. "He likes it!" Polly giggles. Brad laughs.

Then he stops. Grandad is standing in the corner of the playground with his back to everyone. His head is down and he’s staring at something in his hand. Brad hurries over to see what is wrong.

"What’s the matter, Grandad?"

"It’s the toffee." Grandad’s voice sounds strange. "It’s really gooey!" He turns round and holds out one of the toffee balls. "But it tastes good."

And his new teeth grin at Brad from a lump of sticky toffee.

© Marie Gibson

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