Following last year’s success in the Flash Fiction Challenge, I decided to take part in another NYC Midnight competition.
As soon as I received my prompts though, I quickly regretted my decision! At first I was completely stumped with both what to write and how to write it, but in the end I really enjoyed working on my final piece.
As a reminder, I had 8 days to write a 2,500-word story based on these prompts:
It was a rather long road but thanks to the support from some awesome beta readers, I finally made it. Even if I get no further in the competition I am chuffed with my end result.
Thanks in advance for reading my story. I hope it makes you laugh!
The Milk Bottle Bandits
By Donna-Louise Bishop
Brief Synopsis: The Cookie Jar Caper is set to be the biggest and best heist in the history of Bloom Nursery. Alone they are just babies with their own special talents, but together they make-up the Milk Bottle Bandits – if only they could work out how to get the lid off the cookie jar…
You know that feeling, the one you get after nap time when everything feels calm and starts to make sense? That’s exactly how I felt when Gurgling Gretchen first muttered the word “cookie” and pointed to the nursery’s kitchen.
It was a good idea to listen when Gretchen talked because she was the only one of us that could really do it – at least to the grown-ups anyway. And I don’t mean like the way the rest of us babies communicated. I mean actual words came out of her mouth.
Bob-A-Long Bill was the next one to hear her talk. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him plant both of his chubby hands on the floor and push himself up onto his wobbly legs. He then busted out his trademark ‘excitement dance’ which comprised of a little, bouncing on-the-spot jig.
This soon grabbed Kristy the Code Cracker’s attention away from the Jack-in-the-box she was figuring out how to open. She had been concentrating so hard her braids were falling out.
As for me, well they called me Gorgeous George. I could make grown-up women stop and admire me from a record-breaking five metres away. It was a tough job but hey, someone had to do it.
Together we made-up the Milk Bottle Bandits, and we were about to take on the biggest biscuit heist Bloom Nursery had ever seen – the Cookie Jar Caper.
I looked at the three of them and vowed that before home time came, we would be feasting on delicious cookies.
After all, this wasn’t our first rodeo.
* * *
From the first day we met, the four of us seemed to share a mutual love for mischief-making. But it wasn’t until one of our earlier escapades when we started to bond.
It was the day the grown-ups told us it was too wet to go outside, but they also said the toys inside were fun. Grown-ups; they could never be trusted.
Sitting around the same Tickle Me Elmo toy, we took turns hitting it wondering why it wasn’t doing anything. That’s when we noticed the bottle of powder had been left out.
“Ook!” Gretchen pointed.
We stared at each other and our minds came together. Only one thought passed through us all. Let’s do this.
Bob-A-Long Bill was the first to go. He stood up and waddled towards the powder. It didn’t take long for the rest of us to follow and we crawled after Bill at the speed of morning milk-guzzling.
The Code Cracker quickly worked out the combination of the twisty-lid and as soon as it was open, a cloud of sweet-smelling dust seeped out.
Shake it, shake it, we urged.
Screaming with delight, she waved her arms around like a gorilla and sent the contents of the bottle flying everywhere. White magic flew up into the air like steam out of a choo-choo. It floated around us and we blinked our eyes in enjoyment as the snow-coloured powder showered us with fun.
It wasn’t enough though and the four of us grabbed handfuls of the stuff, throwing it up into the air. Gurgling Gretchen shoved it into her mouth but judging by the expression on her face, it wasn’t too nice. She later told me she thought it was the stuff they put on cakes.
In that moment we were in our own little world having the most fun we’d ever experienced. That’s when we heard her – the SKI instructor.
“No!” she raged. “Who left the powder out?” Busted.
Now I should explain about her.
Before our grown-ups began leaving us at the nursery, we came to Bloom’s for a visit. It’s funny because all of us have the same memory of when we met her for the first time.
“You must be the famous ski instructor, Mary-Jane West!” Mummy gushed.
“Oh how very sweet of you Ms Barker. Yes, in a different life I guess I did have some success.”
“You trained seven Olympic gold medallists!”
“Well, yes, but now my passion is in childcare and providing a great start for our future generation.”
“Ah, how admirable. Still, I bet you have some amazing stories to tell about your days on the slope.”
None of us knew what it meant at first but eventually Kristy the Code Cracker figured it out. It meant Stop Kids Investigating, and this grown-up had been the top dog. She had been an instructor. This means she will, at any cost, stop babies and children carrying out all forms of non-approved exploration. It gives me the willies just thinking about it.
So you can imagine our horror when we were caught with the bottle, covered from head to toe in mess.
That was the day we experienced our first time-out behind the bars of our cot. I vowed to get my revenge.
* * *
The morning of the heist started out like any other.
The Code Cracker and I grabbed our dummies for a nap while Bob-A-Long Bill and Gurgling Gretchen found the perfect outfits for the Milk Bottle Bandits’ finest moment.
When we woke up, Gretchen already had a tiara on her head and Bill had somehow managed to get a pair of Spiderman pants on over his nappy. The SKI instructor smiled at them playing dress-up as she placed us in the baby area, sealed off by The Gate.
“Hat! Hat!” I looked over to where Gretchen was pointing and she’d found a tiny brown cowboy hat for me to wear.
Perfect, I thought and clapped to show my approval. Nothing looks cuter than a baby dressed as a cowboy.
Lastly it was Code Cracker’s turn to get ready. Gretchen had found the SKI instructor’s special red crayon. It was the one she put on her lips and sometimes teeth. With the precision of a three-year-old kid, Gretchen ran the stick around Code Cracker’s face and made her look like a tomato.
I looked at the Bandits. It was time to get to work.
The plan was set in place: Bob-A-Long Bill would grab the Thomas the Tank Engine activity table, push it to The Gate, climb on top and pull himself over to the other side. Then he would wait for the Code Cracker to pass him her favourite Barbie doll, whose leg would pry The Gate open. Together they would make their way to the cookie jar where Code Cracker would do her thing.
It was Gurgling Gretchen’s job to keep watch and she would give the signal when the coast was clear to begin the heist.
And my job? To look gorgeous of course. If the SKI instructor peeked in on us, I would pull out my pretty-face and distract her by looking cute as a button. What could go wrong?
There was only one sticking point; opening the cookie jar. None of us had seen anything like it. From what the Code Cracker had discovered, there were buttons which, when pressed in the right order, allowed the jar lid to pop open. If she could pull this off, it would be one hula hoop of a password breach.
Now we had to play the waiting game.
Normally around this time of the day there would be a delivery at the back door. This would give us a clear time slot to carry out the deed. I prayed it would happen soon because I was getting worried about Bob-A-Long Bill. He had eaten his entire carrot snack that morning to prepare for the heist, but now he was looking a bit sick. He didn’t like veggies.
Just then Gurgling Gretchen started a beautiful rendition of “mama, mama, mama” – code for the coast is clear. I got into my position next to her, to keep watch. I had a great view of the SKI instructor and I could see she was already chatting to someone at the door.
“Ga!” I screamed to Bob-A-Long Bill.
He grabbed the Thomas the Tank Engine activity table like it was a walker and pushed it with ease along the floor. It made a gentle thud as it hit The Gate. He was concentrating so much, a blob of green goo popped out of his nose.
While I contemplated stuffing a dummy up there to stop the slimy monster running down his face, Bob-A-Long Bill pulled himself up over The Gate.
It was then I noticed we’d made out first major error; we’d forgotten to put a pillow on the other side. It was not going to be a soft landing.
As his bottom hit the floor I could see his eyes filling with tears. No amount of nappy padding could have prevented the pain.
Thankfully Code Cracker was on hand to help, ready and waiting at The Gate. She put her face up close and blew the biggest raspberry any of us had ever heard. Bob-A-Long Bill’s tears were soon replaced with a giggle and he was snapped out of the potential tear-waterfall.
They then opened The Gate by shoving the Barbie leg into the catch. Bill’s one and only tooth glistened with joy and excess dribble.
Gretchen was still gurgling away, enough not to raise suspicions, while the SKI instructor continued with her chat.
Our next goal was to bring the cookie jar down!
How the Code Cracker balanced on Bob-A-Long Bill’s back I will never know, but that is what happened. Though it remains a mystery as to how they did it without dropping the jar.
Out of the back of her nappy, Kristy the Code Cracker pulled out her trusted Numbers One Two Three book and set to work cracking the password.
This was her moment.
She began by pressing some of the buttons but nothing worked.
Just then Gurgling Gretchen said “wass tha” – our code word for danger. The SKI instructor was on her way back.
Code Cracker began furiously smacking at the buttons but the lid stayed firm. I saw the tears threatening to enter Bill’s eyes again, but I had my own problems – my cowboy hat was slipping off my head!
Just then I heard the sound of the SKI instructor shut the back door and I knew she would head towards our playroom next. I took another look at Code Cracker and watched her cheeks jiggle as her head switched between looking at the jar and her numbers book. She used her whole hand to smack at the buttons again, hoping that the lid would pop open.
It was time for me to get to work.
With seconds to spare I poked my head in sight of the doorway and gave my most precious pretty-face pose. That, combined with the cowboy hat, was enough to satisfy the SKI instructor we were all okay. She shouted something about “needing to spend a penny” – I think that meant using the potty – and walked away again. We all breathed a sigh of relief but even then, I knew we didn’t have long.
Suddenly I heard clapping and turned around to see Kristy the Code Cracker and Bob-A-Long Bill reaching inside the cookie jar. They’d only gone and figured out the password!
Within seconds the two of them were making their way back to us – Kristy carried two cookies in her mouth, while Bill held on tightly to one in each of his hands. Then before Gurgling Gretchen had a chance to mutter the word “ta”, the four of us sat munching.
We’d done it.
I knew then that the Cookie Jar Caper would go down in the Bloom Nursery history books and babies would talk about our epic adventure for years to come.
It didn’t matter that a time-out was on the cards when the SKI instructor returned. It didn’t matter that we had the evidence of cookie crumbs and melted chocolate chips all over our faces. What mattered was that our full bellies would carry us off into a well-deserved slumber.
After all, we were the Milk Bottle Bandits and together we could do anything. It was as easy as stealing cookies from a grown-up.