Luke Walker: animal stick up for-er, chapter 17, continues from yesterday:
Inside the busy department store Luke and Joe headed to the food hall at the back. It was like a supermarket only posh. High on the walls were colourful photographs of grazing animals alongside stylish pictures of meat and fish dishes with captions like “Committed to Animal Welfare” and “RSPCA Freedom Foods”.
Luke turned to Joe. “The leaflets said this shop is sellin’ ducks from factory farms so stick these on anythin’ with ducks in,” he said, handing Joe half the stickers. Then he reconsidered and took them back. “No, it’s busy so we’d better stick together. You pretend to be shoppin’ – get a basket – an’ I’ll put the stickers on.”
Joe fetched a basket and the two outlaws headed for the chilled section. They walked along the large glass-fronted cabinets and whenever they saw anything labelled ‘duck’ Joe reached up and pretended to be rummaging, picking things up, looking at them, putting them back, choosing something else. All the while Luke, screened from onlookers by his friend’s authentic movements, commenced putting stickers on plastic-wrapped trays of duck spring rolls, duck breasts with plum sauce, and duck legs with Hoisin sauce. Then they moved on to the freezer section and Luke stickered a pile of whole ducklings with giblets while Joe casually kept watch. After that they progressed to the tinned meat aisle but there was a man restocking the shelves. Luke whispered something to Joe who shook his head.
Luke frowned. “If you won’t do it, I’ll have to do it and you’ll have to do the stickers on your own!” he whispered.
Joe accepted the commission, preferring that to the alternative, so Luke approached the shelf-filler. “’Scuse me,” he said politely, “I’ve lost me mum, can you put an announcement out for her?”
“Sure,” said the man, helpfully, “come with me.”
As soon as Luke and the man were out of sight Joe, as fast as he could, began stickering stacks of tinned duck cassoulet, duck confit and duck liver pãtè. He had to keep pausing, trying to look casual, every time someone entered the aisle, but as soon as they left he resumed. Sometimes the stickers were frustratingly difficult to peel off their backing paper but he took deep breaths to calm himself and persevered. When he heard the announcement for Mrs Kathryn Janeway to meet her son at the customer service desk he knew his time was up. With only one sticker left, he made his escape before the shelf-filler returned. The two boys rendezvoused in the toy department and left the shop unhindered, but not before Luke affixed their last remaining sticker to a yellow toy duck.
“What’s your name?” asked Isabel.
“Andy,” said the suited man, “what’s yours?”
“Isabel. Why do you dress like that?”
“In a suit you mean?”
“To look respectable.”
“Like an estate agent?”
“Well, that wasn’t exactly what I was going for,” said Andy.
“Oh, sorry,” Isabel apologised. “Like a bank manager then? Or a teacher?”
Kris laughed again.
Andy sighed. “Not like anything in particular,” he said, “just a regular upstanding citizen as opposed to a scary, pierced, tattooed, hippy dippy punk, like someone I could mention.”
“Heyyy!” Kris was mock-offended.
“I think she looks nice,” said Isabel.
“Yeah, she’s cool,” Tania agreed.
“Thanks guys,” Kris smiled.
“Yes yes yes, she’s very cool,” said Andy, “but she looks like a weirdo. If we want to persuade ordinary, mainstream people to take us seriously they have to be able to relate to us. We have to look ordinary. Approachable, respectable, non-threatening.”
At that moment a policeman arrived.
“Afternoon folks, have you got a permit for this stall?”
“Don’t need one officer, we’re not collecting money,” Andy replied.
“How long have you been standing here?”
“Got here about twelve o’clock didn’t we?”
“Yeah,” said Kris.
“And you’ve been here the whole time? All of you?” Kris and Andy nodded. “What about you two?” he asked Tania and Isabel.
“We got here about quarter past one,” Isabel told him.
“And where were you before that?”
“The library,” said Tania, deciding that their brief time in front of the RSPCA shop wasn’t worth mentioning.
“No.” The girls felt their faces flush.
“Can anyone vouch for that?”
“Is there a problem officer?” Andy intervened.
“Spittles have found stickers on a lot of their duck products. They’ve had to take a couple of hundred pounds worth of stuff off the shelves.”
Everyone behind the stall tried to keep their faces expressionless.
“Any stickers here?” the policeman asked as he browsed the stall, “you’ve got leaflets about Spittle’s factory farm duck. Did you do it?”
“Certainly not,” said Andy truthfully, “we’re just here to provide information.” The policeman looked sceptical. “Look,” Andy gestured to all the literature on the stall, “no stickers.”
“Nevertheless,” the policeman continued after a moment’s pause, “Spittle’s would like you to move away from their store.”
“We have every right …” Kris began to object.
“Nevertheless,” the policeman repeated with emphasis, “I would like you to move your stall away from this store.”
“No problem officer,” Andy replied, “we can do that. No problem at all.”
Wearing a serious, ‘don’t mess with me’ expression, the policeman looked hard at Andy and Kris before nodding and turning away.
“This is exactly the kind of thing I was trying to avoid!” complained Andy. “Now they think we’re thugs.”
Kris shook her head. “I call that a win,” she said, “we weren’t going to get that duck off the shelves by just standing here handing out leaflets.”
“We’re playing a long game here Kris,” Andy argued, “we have to keep to the high moral ground. We can’t force the issue or it won’t stick. We’ve got to persuade people to do it for the right reasons, so they won’t renege later on.”
Kris shrugged as she continued piling leaflets into her battered shopper on wheels. The girls, who could see both sides of the argument, quietly exchanged glances before retrieving their clipboard. Andy folded the table and all four of them relocated outside the Arndale Centre.
“D’you think Luke and Joe will be able to find us?” Isabel asked Tania.
“I hope so,” said Tania, “if they don’t get here soon we’ll have to go. Our bus leaves in ten minutes.”
“Are you all going home together?” Kris asked.
“No, we don’t live in the same village,” said Isabel.
“Don’t worry then, if you’ve got to go, you go. I’ll explain it to them when they get here. If they get here.”
“Did you reach your target?”
“Nearly,” said Isabel, smiling, “Two hundred and ninety four.”
“Not a bad day’s work then,” said Kris.
The girls thanked her, said their goodbyes and made tracks for the bus station.
At the public toilets Luke was having trouble with the automated hand-washing machine. He’d been dispensed liquid soap, no problem, but after covering his hands with it he’d been unable to get any water. He moved his hands from left to right, trying to activate the sensor, but nothing happened.
“Don’t bother,” said Joe, wiping his hands on his trousers, “it doesn’t work.”
Luke was annoyed at the sticky mess. “We’d better get back to the others,” he said, grabbing a handful of toilet tissue.
“They’ll be gone by now,” said Joe, “their bus was at three.”
“Oh. Shall we go then?”
“Okay. Unless you wanna see the new Spiderman.”
For more Luke Walker chapters click here 🙂
Chapters 17 to 24 are available in paperback:
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