It is a commonly known fact that of all the activities in the world, the one liked best by Little Miss Have A Chat, aged only four, and Little Miss I Can Do That, aged only two, was eating. And it is a lesser known, but still widely recognised fact that when Little Miss Have A Chat and Little Miss I Can Do That weren't eating, the thing they liked to do best was cook.
And the best thing in the world to cook, as far as Little Miss Have A Chat and Little Miss I Can Do That were concerned, was Cheese and Sauce Surprise.
The recipe for this delicious concoction is quite simple. Take two slices of bread and butter liberally. Add garlic sprinkle. Add slices of cheese and bits of olive. Add a slurptuous dollop of tomato sauce. And now for the surprise bit. In the middle of the dollop, place one whole fiery red Thai chilli pepper. Place another slice of bread on top, and microwave for about 45 seconds.
One of the reasons why Little Miss Have A Chat and Little Miss I Can Do That thought this dish was so delicious was because it was so exciting. It must be remembered that both Little Miss Have A Chat and Little Miss I Can Do That, even though one was only four and the other just two, liked to live dangerously. The trick was of course, to eat the sauce surprise without eating so much as a nibble of the chilli pepper. This took great skill. Once, when she was very little, Little Miss I Can Do That decided she would try to eat the chilli, and she did just that. She then grabbed mummy's glass of beer, downed it in one frenzied gulp, and spent the rest of the day crying about monsters in her mouth.
Now you might think this is a story about cooking, but it is in fact a story about never biting off more than you can chew, which applies equally to such things as cleaning rooms as it does to eating Cheese and Sauce Surprise.
One day, mummy had to do some shopping by herself. She was planning a dinner party that evening with member of the pre-school committee. She and the committee were hoping to convince Mr Phatic, a supermarket developer, to donate one half of his yearly profits to playground equipment.
"Please be good girls. I will be back in a few hours. And be sure you don't make a mess. I want this house spick and span for when Mr Phatic arrives," mummy said.
Little Miss Have A Chat and Little Miss I Can Do That nodded. For in fact they were good girls. Most of the time.
After mummy had left, the two girls sat down and thought of what they would do.
"What shall we play while Mummy is shopping?" Little Miss have A Chat asked Little Miss I Can Do That.
"Princesses" said Little Miss I Can Do That.
"Well, we'll need a castle to play that game, said little Miss Have A Chat.
'I can do that," said Little Miss I Can Do That, and she did. She tipped over the dining room table, put the chairs on their side, took mummy's Indian spread off her bed and draped it over the lot, and made a splendid castle.
Little Miss Have A Chat looked on approvingly. "I'll be the Princess and you can be the waitress," she said.
"Waitress, bring me my milk.""I do that," said Little Miss I Can Do That, and she did. She opened the fridge, and somehow an egg leapt out and smashed on the floor. "Naughty eggs," she said, and gave the rest of the carton a hard smack.
Next she took out the carton of milk and got a cup from the cupboard. She was about to pour the milk carefully out of the carton when for some reason it all poured out the bottom. However, some of it also went into the cup, and she carefully carried the cup back to the Princess.
"I think we should do some painting now," said Princess Have A Chat.
"I do that," said Little Miss I Can Do That, and that's what they both did. First of all they changed their clothes, then they got out the paints. Little Miss Have A Chat wanted to paint some chocolate, but there was no brown paint. Fortunately, Little Miss I Can Do That was able to make some using some soil from Mummy's prize Himalayan Blue Geranium and some orange juice.
They were good girls painting, and most of the time kept the paint on the paper. However, when they sprinkled some glitter and glue over their paintings, some of it somehow managed to get all over the TV screen.
Eventually it was time to stop playing and pack up, because mummy would be coming home soon, and she told them very sternly to keep the house clean.
Little Miss Have A Chat and Little Miss I Can Do That looked around the house. There was broken eggs all over the kitchen floor. Mummy's best Indian spread had soil and orange juice all over it. Piles of clothes, some with glitter and glue, lay everywhere. All the chairs and the dining room table had been turned over. A vase of flowers that had been on the table was now soaking into the magazine rack.
"Oh dear, how are we going to clean up this mess?' said Little Miss Have A Chat.
"I can't do that," said Little Miss I Can Do That, and burst into tears.
"Not to worry," said Little Miss Have A Chat, for she had an idea.
Little Miss Have a Chat had an excellent memory, and she remembered once when mummy had to clean up the house in a hurry. She had used the phone and hired a cleaner. But what Little Miss Have A Chat didn't know was that when you hire someone you have to pay them money. And of course, Little Miss Have A Chat and Little Miss I Can Do That didn't have any money.
Little Miss Have A Chat, who was a very good reader, got down the telephone book and flicked through it until she found a picture of person cleaning a house and the words "VIP Cleaning Service." She dialled the number.
"VIP Cleaning Service for the very rich and famous," said a nicely spoken gentleman on the phone.
"Yes, can you send someone over to my place immediately?" said Little Miss Have A Chat. "I live in the palace next to the children's play park that used to be a tannery.
"Certainly ma'am. Someone will be there straight away," the man said.Soon there was a knock on the door. Little Miss Have A Chat opened the door and looked up. Looking down was a big cleaning lady. "I'm sorry I'm late. My boss must have got the directions wrong. Is your mummy in?'
"She's left me in charge," said Little Miss Have A Chat. "You are to order this chaos promptly," she said, using the biggest words she knew so that she would sound grown-up.
And that is exactly what the cleaning lady did. She cleaned the kitchen floor and walls. She put all the furniture back the right way. She folded the clothes and put them back into the cupboard and washed mummy's bedspread. She even put the soil back I mummy's prized Himalayan Blue geranium. The whole house only took her about 50 minutes.
Little Miss Have A Chat and Little Miss I Can Do That cast their eyes around approvingly.
"Very good. You may now be excused," she said. She had heard a man on the TV in a black and white film say those words only a few days before, and thought they were appropriate to the occasion.
"OK, that will be $100," said the cleaning woman. Little Miss Have A Chat's eyes grew wide with horror.
"$100? You mean I have to pay you $100. I haven't got $100," said Little Miss Have A Chat.
"Come on. I want my money now. I have to get home soon and have some lunch."
"Please wait until mummy gets home. We can make some lunch for you," said Little Miss Have A Chat.
"I do that," said Little Miss I Can Do That, and she raced off to the kitchen to make some lunch.
"OK, but she had better be home soon. I want my $100,' the cleaning woman said.
Little Miss Have A Chat was almost in tears. What was mummy going to say when she found out she's have to pay the cleaning lady $100?
Little Miss I Can Do That brought in some sandwiches.
The cleaning woman picked up one and without even asking, started to eat it.
"Say this is very good,' she said. "What do you call it?"
"Cheese and Sauce Surprise," said Little Miss I Can Do That, carefully eating hers.
The cleaning lady took a big bite out of the centre of the sandwich and started chewing vigorously. She smiled at the two little girls and chewed some more. Then she slowly stopped chewing. She looked as if she was staring at something right in front of her nose. She slowly stopped smiling. Her ears grew red and her eyes grew wet. She looked like she wanted to spit the sandwich out, but swallowed it instead with an audible gulp.
"Oh dear," said Little Miss Have A Chat. "Don't tell me you ate the surprise. That's what mummy says is biting off more than you can chew."
"Thundering Volcanoes! I'm on fire!'" yelled the cleaning woman and started t jump up and down on the spot.
"What was in that sandwich you horrid little creeps?' she yelled.
"That's what I've been trying to say," Little Miss Have A chat said. "You ate the surprise. Little Miss I Can Do That once ate the surprise and has had a distinct fear of chilli ever since."
The cleaning woman was waving her hand in front of her mouth.
"I need a doctor, she screamed, as she picked up her things and started heading for the door.
"But what about your pay?' said Little Miss Have A Chat.
"If you think for one minute I'm ever coming back here again, then you've got another thing coming," said the cleaning lady as she slammed the front door.
And that is the end of that story. Except to say that from that day on, Little Miss Have A Chat and Little Miss I Can Do That never, ever, bit off more than they could chew.