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The Third-class Genie (Collins Modern Classics)

Firearms licence. First name is required. Last name is required. I confirm that I am over 18 years old. Payment options Other options Cash, NZ bank deposit. At the centre stood a long low building with great holes in its roof. On one side it was cut off by the railway arches and on the other ran the canal, disused now, its black ooze topped with green weed.

In one direction the canal vanished under the railway arches; in the other it disappeared among the tangled bushes towards the goods yard and the low level railway, where Alec could hear the distant whistle of shunting engines. From his home you looked down a slope over the allotments and all you could see was this tall fence.

Robert Leeson

People living on the estate, Mum in particular, liked it that way. To get home, Alec had to cross the canal. He could take the triumphal route, clambering up over the high iron gantry which once supported an overhead crane. Or he could go by the easier route, the one he took when he felt low. Twenty yards down the canal from the main Tank building lay a sunken barge, its timbers just showing above the slime.

Alec had fixed loose planks from one timber to another to make a bridge. Today that was his chosen route.

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He stopped by the main building to get his breath back and to make one more effort to get the brick dust off his trousers. As he brushed his clothes, his hand knocked against the can in his jacket pocket. He pulled it out and studied it again. It was definitely unopened. The metal seal was intact, but it was as light as a feather. He shook it, but no swishing sounds came forth. He lifted it up to his ear like a seashell. Then he nearly dropped it with surprise. He heard a fantastic sound, not like surf on a distant shore, but like snoring on a nearby bed.

Alec took a good grip, shook the can and held it to his ear again.

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This time there was silence, but he had heard a noise. There was something funny about the can, without a doubt. The only one way to satisfy his curiosity was to open it; though perhaps he could save that as a treat for later on.

While he hesitated, his mind was made up for him. Alec stuffed the can in his pocket, picked up his bag and ran down to the canal. That signal meant only one thing. Dad was bringing the 3. In his haste to cross the canal, Alec never noticed that one of his planks was out of place, or rather, he noticed it as his foot was on the way down. He did an imitation jungle dance in the air, as he tried to jump over to the farther side, but the distance was too great. One foot landed safely on the bank but the other plunged down into five fathoms of black, green, greasy canal gunge.

He lost hold of his school bag. His first clutch was on a bunch of nettles. He yelled, dropped back and grabbed again. This time, he dragged himself on to the bank with a great heave and sat down to work out how much damage had been done. It was a disaster all right. His trouser leg was coated in thick greasy slime up to the knee and so were his sock and trainer. He had to admit that he smelt terrible. He suddenly saw his bag slowly sinking out of sight into the ghastly depths of the canal. Lying flat on the towpath, he stretched out his arm and just managed to reach the handle and pull the bag out.

The canal, reluctant to let go, made a rude, sucking noise. Alec stood up and did his best to clean the satchel, which was fairly easy, and then his clothes, which was more difficult.

(ebook) The Third-Class Genie (Collins Modern Classics)

A handful of grass took off the worst, but five minutes of frantic rubbing still left his trousers looking grotty and smelling worse. There was nothing to do but go home. His arrival would be at the most disastrous time, with Dad saying nothing, but looking grim , Mum looking grim and saying a lot and his sister Kim, home from the biscuit works laughing her head off. But there was no getting out of it.

Forward, Bowden! He crossed the waste ground to the fence. Here again, he carefully counted the boards to find the loose one only he knew about, pushed it forward. With a grunt and wriggle he was out at the foot of the slope below the council houses.


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No one was about, though it was a fine evening. From the windows came the white glow of televisions switched on, the clatter of cups and plates, and other pleasant sounds of people enjoying their tea without a care in the world. Was there a chance, Alec wondered as he reached the bottom of his street, of getting in through the front door and sneaking straight upstairs to his bedroom, so avoiding the kitchen and the reception committee?


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  • It was a wild hope, he knew. Front doors on the estate were opened twice in a lifetime, for weddings and funerals, and to go in that way would be impossible without knocking. So it was round the corner of the house to the kitchen door. Alec braced himself to go in.

    The voice came from the green and white caravan parked in the back yard. One side rested on a wheel, the other side rested on a pile of bricks built up under the axle. Dad was always threatening to mend it, but never did.

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    The small side window of the caravan opened and a round, red face with wild, white hair peered out. An arm stretched out, beckoning, and Alec, with one eye on the kitchen door, slunk in, while Granddad closed the caravan door after him. Inside the heat was terrific and the air was blue with pipe smoke and foul with the fumes of an old oil heater.

    More heat came from a small soldering iron which was slowly growing red at the side of the fire. Through the fog Alec could see Granddad perched on one of the bunks.