The Have-A-Chat Chronicles

In which our heroines are introduced

This is the story of two little girls, one aged just two and the other only four. The one that was aged just two was called Caro, but the world called her Little Miss I Can Do That. The one that was aged just four was called Suvi, but the world called her Little Miss Have A Chat. Now you might wonder why someone called Caro would go by the name Little Miss I Can Do That. But the fact was, if there was something to be done, then she would do that. And you might wonder why someone called Suvi would go by the name Little Miss Have A Chat. But the fact was, if there was any conversing to be done, then she would do that.

Little Miss I Can Do That and Little Miss Have A Chat lived with their mother in a run-down dilapidated house which belonged to the landlord, a big and nasty man who also owned the abandoned tannery next door, and the disused garbage dump beyond the back fence.

They were mostly good little girls, but sometimes they were incredibly naughty. One day their mummy came home from work to find that Little Miss I Can Do That and Little Miss Have A Chat had been making pancakes, or at least trying to. All over the floor were broken egg-shells. There was a fine layer of flour all over Mummy's best china. Someone had spilled the sugar bag, and it was clogging up the sink, which was unfortunate because the tap was on. A pancake was stuck to the ceiling and the frypan was on fire.

Mummy didn't say anything much. She just dropped the shopping and started crying."Oh you naughty, naughty children," she sobbed.

Little Miss Have A Chat sighed and gently rubbed her mummy's shoulder.

"Well, I don't think so," she said patiently. "I don't think we are naughty children. It was the sugar, the flour and the fry pan that was naughty."

To reinforce the point, Little Miss I Can Do That ran around the room smacking the respective culprits. "Naughty sugar. Naughty flour. Naughty fry pan," she said.

"It really doesn't matter. It's all right," said Little Miss Have A Chat, and went on to explain how such culinary disasters were just a normal part of infant hand-eye coordination development.

While she was saying this, her mummy stopped crying, because she was trying to work out how a little girl who was just four knew such big words. And while this was going on, Little Miss I Can Do That had loaded the dishwasher, and turned it on, used the vacuum cleaner and scrubbed the kitchen. Everything was as it was before.

"Are you feeling better now?" Little Miss Have A Chat asked, with some concern, while Little Miss I Can Do That gave her mummy a hug around the knees.

"I suppose you are good children," said their mother, "But what will we do?" The landlord has told us to leave this house tomorrow, because he wants to tear it down to make way for a car-park. And we have no place to go." Mummy started crying again.

"It's no matter," said Little Miss Have A Chat. "I'm sure we will think of something. Not to worry."

The next morning, Mummy gave her girls strict instructions.

"You two must stay her until I come back. You are not to go anywhere at all. I am going to see the Mayor, to see if he can't help us stay in our house."

Little Miss Have A Chat and Little Miss I Can Do That were on their best behaviour.

Little Miss I Can Do That cut out the pictures from her Popular Mechanics magazines, while Little Miss Have A Chat listened to her favourite cassette tape, 'Great Speeches of the Twentieth Century.'

Suddenly there was a loud knock on the door. More a thump, really, than a knock. Little Miss Have A Chat, being the eldest, got up and opened the door. Straight in front of her were the biggest, smelliest, dirtiest boots she had ever seen. She looked up. Attached to the boots was a filthy pair of trousers. And on top of the trousers was the smelliest blue singlet you could possibly imagine. And poking out of the singlet at various angles was Mr M. Phatic. She knew it was Mr M. Phatic, because she was a very good reader, and that's what it said on the hard-hat, right above the word that said "Demolition".

Mr M. Phatic was quite by far the nastiest person that Little Miss Have A Chat had ever seen. His eyes were red. His chin was stubbly, and he had thick eyebrows and a piece of snot hanging out of his nose. A few blowflies hovered around his ears.

"OUT!" said Mr Phatic.

Little Miss Have A Chat sighed and said as patiently and politely as she could, "I don't think so. Our mummy told us to stay right where we are. And our mummy also told us not to talk to strangers, and you look about as strange as someone can, if you don't mind me saying so, Mr Phatic."

"WHAT?" Mr Phatic roared, and I have no idea what he might have said next, had not a voice behind him called.

"What's up Mortimer, what's the delay?"

Little Miss I Can Do That, who had also come to the door to see what the fuss was about, gasped in astonishment, for there, not five metres behind Mr Phatic was a man sitting in a bright yellow, shiny new D9 grader with full cab, precisely the model grader that had featured in the latest copy of Road Constructions Monthly.

"It's OK, Charlie, it's just them two little anklebiters. We'll soon have them out of here."

"OK," said Charlie, and Little Miss I Can Do That watched intently as he moved some levers, depressed a pedal, and then pressed a button. The engine roared into life, and the huge yellow machine lumbered away.

"Now you punks," said Mr Phatic, "Get out of here!"

Little Miss Have A Chat sighed. "I don't think so, Mr Phatic. Firstly, you haven't said the magic word, and secondly, we haven't discussed this matter to a satisfactory conclusion.

Meanwhile, mummy was pleading with the Mayor to stop the men from turning her house into a car-park.

"I'm sorry Mrs Suloinen, but Phatic has the land. The council wants to put a play-park where the tannery and old dump are, but he wants his car-park and we can't do anything about it."

"But what about my house and my children, Mr Mayor? Where will we go? That ogre wants to take the roof off our heads."

"I'm sorry Mrs Suloinen, but it's up to you to convince Phatic of that, not me," said the Mayor, nervously fingering his mayoral chain.

As the mayor was wishing Mrs Suloinen would go away, Charlie was wishing his D9 with covered cab wouldn't. He had got down from his grader to help Phatic grab the little brats. They were just about to corner Little Miss Have A Chat who was yelling something about "fighting on the beaches and "never surrender" when Mr Phatic held up his hand and said "Sssh! What's that noise? Listen." Charlie listened.

"It's only the grader, Mortimer. Don't worry about it, let's get the kids."

But Mr Phatic didn't move. He looked slowly at Charlie and said, in a rather odd voice, "But if that's the grader, who the hell is driving it?"

Both men rushed out of the house. Mr Phatic gave a high pitched yelp.

"My machine! My beautiful machine. Hey, girlie, get your kid sister off my machine," he sobbed.

Little Miss Have A Chat sighed, "I don't think so, Mr Phatic, at least not until we've had a little chat."

Mummy was very upset as she drove home in the car. What was she going to tell her darling girls? Where would they live? She loved her girls more than anything else in the world, and the thought of them losing their only home just about broke her heart.

But when she turned into the driveway of her house she just about had an accident. The front yard, which had been a pot-holed extension of the old garbage dump, had been neatly graded. For that matter, the old garbage dump had been neatly filled in. The old tannery was gone. Some men in plastic hats were painting her house.

She got out of the car. Little Miss I Can Do That was holding the hand of a grader driver, who was showing her the various components of his grader engine. "The best part of course is the covered cab. Not only is it soundproofed, but it's air-conditioned as well. Covered cabs are of course required by government regulations these days," the man was saying.

Some men in plastic hats were planting grass on the freshly graded soil. She walked slowly inside, hardly believing her eyes, or indeed her ears.

"Surely Gandhi would rank as the finest," a gruff voice was saying earnestly, and then a voice she recognised.

"I don't think so, Mr Phatic. Mr Churchill is widely regarded as the finest orator of the century."

Mummy stood watching as Little Miss Have A Chat carefully changed over the cassette tape. Beside her daughter was sitting , cross-legged, the biggest man she had ever seen.

"Hello mummy. This is Mortimer. He's decided to fix our house for us and build a play-park next door. He told me he believes it to be a sound business decision, especially considering the alternative was his new grader heading for the Woolworths."

"Afternoon, Mrs S," said Mortimer sheepishly. "Always try to do me best for long standing tenants. Just then Little Miss I Can Do That ran inside and grabbed mummy's leg, and pointed to the grader.

"I can do that,' she said excitedly.

"I do believe you can," said mummy.

And they lived happily ever after in their house. Mr Phatic was true to his word and built a play-park next door with a very long twisty slippery dip and high swings. And Little Miss I Can Do That grew up to be a chemical engineer, while Little Miss Have A Chat grew up, of course, to be an industrial negotiator.