The dream was back.
    However hard he tried to wake up, Looda was yet again caught up in its nonsensical talons.
    Round and round a strange garden the two children chased Looda until he was exhausted. Then when they caught him, it was his turn to chase them. Why couldn’t Treacle and Coke spend their time sitting in front of a screen like most other children? This sort of thing was too exhausting to be good for anyone.
    Next Looda was dragged to the plastic seesaw and bounced up and down until it cracked. It was a reverberating sound and someone must have noticed. Undaunted, Treacle and Coke pulled him away to play on the swings.
    By the time the children stopped for breath, Looda was so tired all he could do was lie down and stare at the goldfish in the pond. He must have been the only person who slept all night, only to wake up exhausted.
    Looda had no idea why the nine-year-old girl was called Treacle, or her five-year-old brother, Coke. They insisted on calling him Tigger - Looda couldn't work that out either. It might have had something to do with the old striped fur coat of their grandmother's they insisted he wear when he had to gallop about the lawn, pulling them on a tricycle.
    Neither Treacle nor Coke were allowed to climb the apple trees so, when he became too exhausted to play any more, Looda hid in their branches and watched the children wonder where he had gone. If he was totally honest with himself, he enjoyed his visits and the hectic play. Back home it was nothing but pay attention, and learn, learn, learn. There wasn't a word for play in his vocabulary; it was all about expanding the mind.
    For some reason the brother and sister didn't have anyone else to play with, and their grandparents' garden was the only place they were allowed to let off steam. Treacle explained how she and Coke went to a special school. That was great fun, but it was for only a few hours a week. The rest of the time was very boring for the two boisterous young people. For someone whose life was filled with non stop, intensive study, Looda had trouble understanding what it was like. If only they could share out their play and study equally between the three of them, life would be so much easier.
    Then Looda had an idea. He persuaded the boisterous Treacle and Coke to sit down while he told them everything he knew about the planets and stars. He wasn't sure if they understood, yet they insisted he told them more. So Looda went on to botany, geology, oceanography, meteorology, and biology - all the subjects he had passed with merit. The more his dream companions listened, the less tired he felt when he woke up.
    Then Looda persuaded Treacle and Coke to try drawing. Not just the splashes and squirls they made at school, but things which could be recognised. The children’s sketchpads were soon filled with beautiful, strange scenes, much to the amazement of their parents. After working all day, they seldom had the energy to be amazed at anything. And then they started to listen to the conversations Treacle and Coke were having.     Despite the efforts of their teachers, the children had never shown much interest in any subject before. Now, between them, they were discussing things even the adults couldn’t understand. Nor were they as rowdy as they used to be, and could even be trusted to load the dishwasher.
    One morning, a teacher visited Treacle and Coke’s grandparents.
    Because they were now so well behaved, their grandmother had taken the children shopping, so their grandfather invited the young woman into the lounge. Her questions seemed endless and often pretty silly, but he was a good natured soul and knew they were being asked for the benefit of his grandchildren.
    At last the teacher put away her clipboard, anxious to discuss the real reason she was there. “So what do you make of the children’s rapid progress?”
    Grandfather scratched his head. “They’ve always been nice kids; but have calmed down no end over these past few weeks.”
   “Any idea why?”
   “Reckon it has something to do with that playmate of theirs.”
   “Oh yes; didn’t we mention him? Small round feller. Always wears fancy dress for some reason. We always watch, but never interfere unless someone looks as though they’re going to get hurt. Must be one of the neighbour’s kids. Though, every time I go out to chat to him, he seems to disappear and the kids come over secretive. That's ok though. No one else comes round to play with them... them being the way they are… and they all get on like a house on fire, they do. Reckon he taught them how to draw.”
    The teacher peered over her glasses at the older man. “What sort of fancy dress does this child wear then?”
   “Well, he always has on this glittery tunic, bit like purple baking foil . . . then there’s these things on his head..."
   “Things on his head?”
   “Look like short stumpy horns. And, of course, the tail. Long and hairy it is. The way he swishes it about you’d swear it was real.”

©Dandi Palmer