THE STEPHENSONS’ ROCKET

The Rocky books were inspired by a real greyhound, who was given a loving home when his racing days were over. Below is an extract from The Stephensons’ Rocket – look on the side of the page if you would like to buy the book and read on!

THE STEPHENSONS’ ROCKET.

CHAPTER 1 

It was three o’clock on Saturday afternoon, and Dad still wasn’t back from the pub. Mum scraped his meat pie into a dish and flung it in the fridge. Then she banged all the cupboard doors as she cleared away.

My brother Darren was fed up with waiting. ‘Dad promised me we’d play football this afternoon,’ he moaned. ‘He never keeps his promises! It’s not fair!’

We all know that, so I don’t understand why Darren still gets upset. It’s because he’s only ten, I suppose. I’m eleven, so I’ve had longer to get used to it. Dad had promised to take me swimming as well, but I didn’t even bother to mention it.

‘It’s no use whining to me, Darren,’ Mum snapped at him, ‘go and have a kickabout with Anna.’

‘We can go up the park,’ I said, trying to sound like I meant it.

‘Don’t be stupid!’ shouted Darren. ‘I don’t want to play football with a girl!’ He stormed off, stamped upstairs and slammed his bedroom door.

‘I’d better get on with my homework,’ I said, hurrying up to my room as well. It was a good excuse to keep out of Mum’s way. Besides, I knew Dad was in big trouble again and I didn’t want to be around when he turned up.

Finally, I heard Dad’s key in the lock. Mum ran straight to the front door, like she couldn’t wait to have a good shout.

‘Wherever have you been?’ I could hear her yelling at him. ‘And what on earth are you doing with that thing?’

‘Sorry I’m late, Jo, but the kids are going to love this,’ Dad sounded very cheerful. ‘Anna! Darren! I’ve got something to show you!’

‘What is it?’ I called, although it was hard to be interested. Things Dad brought home were always useless, like the bike with odd wheels or the skateboard that didn’t have any.

‘It’s a dog!’

A dog! I’d only been wanting a dog for nearly forever! Even Darren was excited enough to forget about sulking, because he came rushing down the stairs right behind me.

But this wasn’t the cuddly puppy I’d imagined. Leaning up against Dad, was a tall, bony creature, on legs so long and thin they looked like they could snap as easily as twigs.

‘That’s not a dog!’ grumbled Darren. ‘It’s a rat on stilts!’

‘Shut up Darren!’ I hissed.

Darren was being horrible, but secretly I thought he wasn’t far wrong. Still, it explained where Dad had been all this time. He must have found this poor animal abandoned somewhere and been trying to help it.

‘It’s all right, you’re safe now,’ I said gently to the dog and went to stroke him.

But Mum pulled me back. ‘Don’t you dare touch it, Anna! It might bite!’

Dad took no notice. ‘I want you all to meet someone very special,’ he announced proudly. ‘Say hello to Sheldon Rocket, but you can call him Rocky!’

It seemed like a fancy name for an old stray dog. And however did Dad know what he was called? That’s when I realised Dad was up to something again – and I knew it wouldn’t be good.

‘Rocky’s a racing greyhound!’ Dad announced, beaming all over his face.

‘A racing greyhound?’ repeated Mum, in amazement. I couldn’t believe it either.

‘That’s right! Isn’t he a beauty?’ Dad replied.

Rocky had a mottled brown and grey coat that looked like it needed a good brushing. One back leg was black, as if he was wearing a long, odd sock and there was a matching black patch over his right eye. He was trembling all over.

‘He’s a bit skinny,’ was all I could think of to say.

‘That’s because Rocky’s an athlete,’ said Dad, ‘he’s built for speed. Go on, Jo, let the girl stroke him.’

I patted the dog gently on the head. I could feel his skull under the skin. I didn’t want to stroke the rest of him because I couldn’t bear to feel those sticking-out bones. Rocky looked at me for a moment with big, wet eyes, then dropped his head again.

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