Derek the monkey was born one cold day
With a frost on the ground and with snow on the way.
The toymaker only had purple cloth in
(Except for the offcuts she’d thrown in the bin),
And there wasn’t enough for the face or the hands
Or the tail or the feet, so she used rubber bands
To hold him together and searched high and low
For some more material which she could sew.
She rummaged and rooted and hunted and scoured
Her home till she felt she’d been looking for hours
And finally defeated, cupboards inside out,
She returned to the bin and she gave out a shout,
“I’ve got it! I’ll make him bright and psychedelic:
I’ll use what I have, and then call him ‘Derek’!”
And cutting and sewing and stitching like wild
She created a very strange toy for a child.
For his face and his hands she used very bright yellow,
Blue feet and blue ears for this colourful fellow,
His tail matched the green patch sewed to his belly
(The green was the colour of last night’s jelly).
And when he was nearly completed she saw
The note she had pinned to the board by the door
To remind her she needed to go to the store
To buy soft toy stuffing as she had no more.
“Well fiddlesticks, sausages, rats!” she squeaked,
“I can’t finish him till the start of next week!”
And putting him down with his back to the wall
She locked up her workroom and walked up the hall.
It was the start of the weekend, after all.
Later that night, with a dusting of snow
On the chimneys and roofs and the ground far below,
From inside the workroom there came a faint glow
But no one was watching, so no one could know
That the fairies at work in that room on that night
Used fairy dust as they couldn’t quite reach the light.
Through the window they’d seen him all empty and saggy,
His nose flopping down and his belly all baggy.
They had a large bag full of cuddly toy stuffing
(Large enough to cause fairy huffing and puffing),
So they had popped in on their way home that night
To finish making Derek in the fairy dust light.
They turned as a floorboard creaked somewhere above them,
Ready to fly in case someone could discover them,
And as they turned, a draught under the door
Blew fairy dust in through the monkey’s right paw
And some went in through the seam under his nose
And some through the seams at the ends of his toes
And some through his back, right next to his tail.
And even though the dust left a glittering trail,
It had faded before they turned back to their sewing
And soon they had finished and then they were going.
Derek was still sitting with his back to the wall,
But not as the toymaker left him at all,
For deep in his chest and his head and his feet
And his hand lay a secret glow, giving off heat.
He was warm to the touch as though recently cuddled
But not hot enough to make anyone befuddled.
And when Monday came and his maker came back,
With stuffing packed into her little rucksack,
She found him all done, much to her great surprise,
And she blinked once or twice as the sun hit her eyes,
But she put it all down to her forgetfulness
And hugged him tight into a fold of her dress:
She put all her cuddly toys through that one test.
“He really is one of my finest creations,”
She said, “he’s too good to take down to the station
And there to be sold in the little gift shop
To a passing commuter with no time to stop
And who grabs the first thing in his desperation
To find a quick present for a younger relation.”
She held him up and looked deep into his eyes,
Ignoring the warmth, which had been a surprise,
When she’d felt it with Derek pressed into her chest
But she had assumed it was just her thermal vest.
He seemed to be watching her, in a kind way,
And she fought the impulse to let him just stay,
As she’d earn no money by acting like that
And she wanted to buy herself a brand new hat.
But she suddenly said, “I don’t think he’s done yet.
I know the material which I should get
To finish this monkey and make him just right
For a child to hug in the dark of the night.”
So the soles of his blue feet ended up orange
And the last sound he heard in that room was the door hinge
Which creaked as it opened; she took him away
And put him on sale in town the next day
In a shop which was charming, old-fashioned and full
Of spinning tops, puppets and old wooden toys,
Craft kits for girls and craft kits for boys,
Which were about the same but the girls got more wool.
Derek the monkey sat in pride of place
On the middle shelf of an antique display case.
Below him were pieces of railway track,
A grand wind-up doll with a key in her back
(Which could play ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ once when she was new
But the spring was too slack now to get all the way through),
And countless toy soldiers in military green:
A fearsome, though miniature, fighting machine.
Above him, too high for a young child’s eye,
Was a bear for collectors, expensive to buy,
It had been in its box since the day it was made
And was kept out of sunlight so it didn’t fade.
Derek sat in the shop catching each child’s eye,
Some smiled up at him but most were too shy
And none of them asked for the money to buy
Him – the shopkeeper could not imagine why.
And so, each night, as he locked up the shop
(After he’d given the floor a quick mop),
It seemed in the half-light as though he saw
A tear-smudged monkey eye and a moist monkey paw
But he put it all down to a trick of the light
And headed off home through the cold winter night.
Christmas was long gone, there was no sign of spring.
There were hardly any customers buying hardly anything,
And cuddly toys were selling the slowest of all
Which turned out to be lucky as up in the hall
Of the two-bedroom flat, over the shop,
A steady drip, drip became drop, drop, drop.
The owners were away on a beach overseas
And with the heating turned off their flat started to freeze:
The pipe in the hall had been nibbled by mice
So was in no condition to handle the ice.
At first the split didn’t allow too much through
(No more than already leaked behind the loo)
But as drips kept on coming, wanting to get out,
The pipe opened up like a wild water spout.
And water, once out, knows just one way to go
And that is downwards, soaking all that’s below.
A small drop pit-patted on Derek’s purple head
And another on a small doll’s neatly made bed.
Above them the ceiling was bending and creaking
Awaiting a big hole to do serious leaking.
The shopkeeper was gone, enjoying his dinner
(He was quite a fat man and not getting any thinner,
Eating roast beef, roast potatoes and mushy peas),
And no one else even had a set of the keys
But if someone had, they would never have known
Since it’s not like the toys could have picked up the phone
And called out, “Come save us! We’re all going to drown!
It’ll be the only underwater toyshop in town!”