An excerpt from James Norcliffe's Twice Upon a Time, a Junior Fiction novel about Ginny's search for her Pop. It is full of quirky, inventive characters, chief among them Digger Dagger, whom Ginny encounters for the second time below.
from Chapter 3 - The Peach Tree
In which the mysterious visitor returns
It turned out to be a long, disappointing Saturday afternoon.
There had been no calls, no messages; there was no news of Pop at all. Perhaps the only good thing was that Badger hadn’t returned alone. That would have been really worrying.
For want of something to do, Ginny had gone out again after lunch to wander the streets in the hope of spotting Pop’s tall stooped figure somewhere, anywhere. She returned tired and frustrated. Late in the afternoon, Nan was determined to go back to her place and Ginny and her mother knew better than to try and argue.
They had a quiet supper, after which Ginny said she would go to her room to muck about, read or play on her laptop.
‘Let me know if there’s any news,’ said Ginny at the door.
'Of course, darling,’ said her mother.
But there was no news, and later, feeling low and very tired, Ginny went back to the living room to say goodnight.
‘Night, night. Don’t let the fleas bite,’ said her mother.
‘I don’t know that I’d feel them even if they did,’ said Ginny, with a wan smile. ‘I’m so tired . . . Night, Mum.’
Not long after her head sank into her pillow, Ginny sank into a deep and dreamless sleep.
Much later, she was surprised to find herself suddenly awake once more.
There had been a noise.
And then there was another noise.
What was it?
There it was again.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Somebody or something was tapping at her window.
Half asleep and half awake, Ginny climbed out of bed and made her way to the window. She pulled the curtains aside.
Again she found the large, brown eyes of Digger Dagger staring at her, this time bathed in moonlight.
‘You again!’ cried Ginny, shaking her head in exasperation.
Digger Dagger reached up, about to knock again.
Ginny raised her hands to prevent him and hurriedly pulled up the sash. The last thing she wanted was her mother to wake up.
‘You again!’ she repeated.
‘Me again,’ said Digger Dagger.
‘Why?’ demanded Ginny.
‘You don’t sound all that pleased to see me,’ said Digger Dagger.
‘That’s because I’m not pleased to see you!’ said Ginny.
‘Do you know how tired I am?’
‘No,’ said Digger Dagger. ‘How tired are you?’
‘Very!’ said Ginny crossly. ‘I’m still tired after looking for Pop.’
‘My granddad,’ said Ginny.
‘Missing,’ said Ginny.
‘Don’t repeat everything I say,’ said Ginny even more crossly. ‘Yes, missing! I looked everywhere. I went out twice looking all over the place, but there’s no sign of him!’
Digger Dagger stared at her so dolefully that Ginny felt sure he was trying to be sympathetic.
‘Perhaps I’m missing, too,’ he said.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well I’m here, so I’m not somewhere else. Somewhere else is probably missing me.’
‘So?’ said Ginny. Then she added, ‘That’s not very helpful.’
‘Yes, but your granddad’s not here, so he must be somewhere else.’
‘That doesn’t help much, either,’ said Ginny, ‘unless you just happen to know where that somewhere else might be?’
‘Search me,’ said Digger Dagger.
Ginny gave him a frustrated look. ‘You’re weird,’ she said. ‘Anyway, we’ve told the police. They’re looking for him.'
Digger Dagger didn’t answer. He stood below her on the pathway, looking very thoughtful. Ginny at once realised how he seemed to be illuminated softly, despite it being the middle of the night. She could see his expression quite clearly even in the darkness. It wasn’t that he was glowing or anything like that. He was just, well, visible. And even though his large brown eyes were looking in her direction, Ginny felt that he wasn’t actually looking at her. It was as if he were staring straight through her. She wanted to reach out and click her fingers in front of him.
Instead, she said, ‘What are you doing?’
At the sound of her voice he did focus on her.
‘I’m wondering,’ he said.
He gave a little smile, ‘I mean, do you think . . . I’m wondering if that’s why I’m here?’
‘What’s why you’re here?’
‘Your granddad,’ said Digger Dagger. ‘What do you call him?’
‘Yes, Pop. Perhaps I’m here to help you find him.’
Ginny stared at him. It was such a crazy idea it might have been true. It was a weird coincidence, and there didn’t seem to be any other likely reason for the little creature’s sudden arrival.
‘Perhaps you are,’ she said slowly. ‘Are you any good at finding things?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Digger Dagger. ‘I can’t remember ever losing anything.’
‘You must have,’ said Ginny. ‘People lose things all the time.
'I don’t,’ said Digger Dagger, and then added pointedly.
'Especially not people.’
‘Didn’t you just say you’d lost yourself?’
‘I said I thought I was missing, not that I was lost.’
‘What’s the difference?’
Digger Dagger screwed up his nose and stared up at her. It must be what he did when he was considering something tricky, Ginny thought. She wished he wouldn’t. Eventually he said, ‘Well, you can be missing without someone losing you.’
‘I suppose so,’ Ginny agreed, ‘and you can be lost without someone missing you, too.’ And then she added, ‘But all the same, I’m missing Pop. I do so wish we could find him.’
‘Right!’ cried Digger Dagger. ‘And I’m here to help.
Let’s find him!’
His enthusiasm was so sudden and bubbly that his red hat shook like a puppy’s tail, and Ginny couldn’t help laughing.
However, she looked at him a little doubtfully, and then asked, ‘How?’
‘How will you help when we haven’t found him and the police haven’t found him, and . . .’
‘Ah,’ said Digger Dagger grandly, ‘that’s because you and the police have been looking for him where he’s not. The trick to finding people, I’ve discovered, is to look for them where they actually are. It always works!’
Reproduced with permission from Twice Upon a Time by James Norcliffe.
Text © James Norcliffe, 2017. Illustrations by Patrick McDonald.
Twice upon a time
By James Norcliffe
Published by Puffin/ Penguin Random House NZ