The Swindon Air
Joe Sakana was the first to notice the sound in the distance. He looked up from his issue of Captain Chickenpants.
“Hey, Mike. Do you hear that buzzing?” said Joe.
“Oh, yeah,” Mike said. “Sounds like a go-kart engine.”
Snappy the robot alligator observed, “It seems to be getting nearer.”
It was a quiet day in the Swindon junkyard. Joe, Mike and Snappy were reading by their workshop. The robot grasshopper, Ms Ratchet, was giving a tour of her metal flower garden to the mechanical frog, Mayor Crick, and their new neighbour, El Capitan, a turtle made from a Spanish sports car. “Hey, where is Tonk?” Mike wondered about the robot rabbit.
Mike didn’t have to wonder for long. Wearing motorised skis made from two car bumpers, Tonk hit a ramp at top speed and was now soaring over their heads.
“Woohoooo!” Tonk exclaimed. Then he landed in a cloud of dust. The other robot animals came over to look.
“Been tinkering again, Tonk?” asked Joe.
“Wicked!” said Mike, impressed.
Suddenly, Ms Ratchet pointed in the distance.
“I believe we have a visitor,” she said.
A lanky man was poking through a pile of auto parts. The stranger wore a thin moustache and a casual chequered suit.
“What’s he doing here?” Joe wondered.
The man began walking in their direction, his eyes scanning mounds of different items.
“Quick, hide!” Mike whispered.
Just last week, the robot animals asked Joe and Mike what would happen if they were discovered. The boys didn’t know, but they all agreed it would be wise to keep their existence a secret.
So now, the robot animals all hid behind piles of junk. They were just in time, too. The man looked up and saw only Joe and Mike.
“Oi! You chaps work ‘ere?” asked the stranger.
The two boys nodded slowly. They could see El Capitan’s big hubcap shell sticking out from his hiding place behind a stack of tyres.
The stranger shook the boys’ hands vigorously.
“Name’s Cleeker. Reg Cleeker. Owner of the one-and-only Cleeker Funfair! We’re in Swindon for the weekend!”
Mr Cleeker handed two slips of paper to Mike and Joe.
“Bring those to the ticket window, get half off the ticket price!”
El Capitan’s pile of tyres suddenly wobbled. One fell off the top.
“Uhh, thanks!” said Joe, holding up the advert. Cleeker narrowed his eyes in the direction of the tyre pile.
“What brings you to the junkyard?” Mike asked, hoping to distract the man. Cleeker turned his attention back to the boys.
“Lookin’ for parts for Hugh Mongo! He’s my giant robot. Folks love ‘im, but he stopped workin’, so...”
The stack of tyres had tipped onto a pile of cans. Ms Ratchet and El Capitan tried to dash to another hiding spot before they could be seen. But Cleeker was already turning around. The robots froze in mid-step, pretending to be statues. Cleeker did a double-take.
“What? Hang on,” he said. “That grasshopper and that turtle – were they always right there?”
“Those sculptures we made?” said Joe. “Of course!”
Mike laughed. “You don’t think they just ran over here, do you?”
Reg Cleeker didn’t look convinced. He stared into El Capitan’s headlight eyes. The turtle tried not to blink. Finally, Cleeker turned back to the boys.
“How much do you want for both the turtle and grasshopper? I’ll pay good money!”
Joe and Mike shook their heads.
“I’d take good care of ‘em!” Cleeker promised.
Mike shrugged. “Sorry, they’re not for sale.”
Cleeker took a breath and scrunched up his face. He looked angry. But instead of yelling, he breathed out again and put on a wide smile. “Well, alrighty then. See you at the funfair!”
Cleeker waved goodbye and bounded out of the junkyard. When the coast was clear, all the robot animals came out of hiding.
“Oh my,” said Crick, dabbing beads of oil from his metal forehead. “That was a close call.”
“What will you do now, lads?” Snappy asked Mike and Joe.
Joe looked at the paper in his hand. “Hey, Mike. Do you suppose we should check out the fair? See what this Cleeker’s all about?”
“Sure!” said Mike. “It’s just down the road – we can cycle there!”
He then wagged a finger at the robot animals. “While we’re gone, stay out of sight. Got it?”
The robot animals nodded. But one of them had their metal fingers crossed behind their back...
Within an hour, Mike and Joe had reached the fair on their bicycles.
“Not much to see here at Cleeker’s,” said Mike, unimpressed.
“Ah it’ll be good for an hour or two,” said Joe.
The boys had fun riding the Waltzers and bought some popcorn. Then they noticed a stall with its front flap down. Stencilled on the flap was, “Meet Hugh Mongo, the Giant!” A sign in front said, “Closed for Repairs.”
“Let’s get a peek!” said Mike.
Joe and Mike crept to the back of the stall. They made sure no one noticed them. When they poked their heads in, their jaws dropped.
There was a robot, looking vaguely like a large man with a beard. Its metal skin was very rusty. The boys also saw—
“Tonk?!” Joe exclaimed in a worried whisper. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to see the giant!” Tonk said. “Cleeker said he would take good care of Ratchet and El Capitan, but check out the rust on Mongo!” Tonk tut-tutted. “Appalling. That’s no way to treat a robot. No wonder Mongo stopped working.”
“You promised to stay out of sight,” Mike said, eyeing Tonk’s motorised skis in the stall.
“And I did!” said Tonk. “Nobody saw me. You’re not cross, are you?”
The boys were more worried than cross. They were sure that if Cleeker saw Tonk, he would kidnap him and display him at the fair. They made Tonk promise to head straight home.
But when Mike and Joe returned to the junkyard at dusk, Snappy said that Tonk still hadn’t come back.
“Where could he be?” wondered Joe.
“Wait, listen!” said Ratchet.
The sound of Tonk’s skis!
“There he eez!” pointed El Capitan.
“But what are those headlights behind him?” asked Crick.
Tonk pulled up to his friends just as a dented car screeched to a halt behind him. Mr Cleeker leapt out.
“Aha!” he said, pointing a finger at all of them. “I knew it! I followed this rabbit all the way from the fair! Tell me how you make these sculptures come to life!”
Mike shrugged and said, “We didn’t do anything! It’s just the Swindon air, sir!”
“The Swindon air’?! Don’t give me that nonsense! Now, listen – you’ll sell me one of these creatures right now, for ten quid, or I’m calling the police!”
Mike and Joe looked at each other. Selling one of their friends was out of the question. They didn’t know what to do.
But just then, they heard a chime coming from Cleeker’s phone. It was a call from his assistant back at the funfair.
“What do you want?” Cleeker shouted into the phone.
Joe and Mike watched the man’s face as it grew more and more astonished.
“Hugh Mongo did what?” said Cleeker. “And where is it now?!”
Apparently Hugh Mongo had started running all over the fair, waving its arms and shouting, “I’m free! I’m free!” Then it jogged down the road towards Badbury.
“I have to go find Hugh Mongo!” said Cleeker, excitedly. “It must be like you said – the Swindon air!”
The boys and robot animals watched Cleeker’s car speed out of the junkyard. Joe turned to Tonk and said, “You tinkered with Mongo. That’s why you were late getting back.”
Tonk didn’t say anything. But his wire whiskers twitched and he broke into a sly grin.
Benefits of reading Junkyard - The Swindon Air
This short story covers the friendship theme. The Swindon Air is written and narrated in the third person. We recommend children with a reading age of 6 - 10 years old for this story.
Who are the main characters in Junkyard - The Swindon Air
The main character in the Junkyard series is ten-year-old Joe Sakana and his best friend Mike Himmel. This is a sci-fi story series set in Swindon where the boys create robots that become characters.