Saving Mississippi

Saving Mississippi

Grandma Dolly has a big holiday surprise for her granddaughter Emma: a horse with the adventuresome name Mississippi. Yet the sleazy and money grubbing Alligator is threatening the summer happiness.

Emma loves to visit Grandma Dolly and her animal sanctuary in the summer holidays. While staying with Dolly, Emma's grandmother is asked to take in Mississippi, the beloved horse of her friend, wealthy Mr Clipperbush who has passed away. Emma can't believe her luck when Grandma then gives her Mississippi - a horse of her own.

When Emma got off the bus, she opened her eyes as wide as they would go and took a deep breath. Oh yes! This was how the village ought to smell. Of manure, petrol and damp earth. Of summer holidays with Dolly. Emma shouldered her rucksack and hopped across the road. She spat in the village pond, jumped into two puddles, and then she was at her grandmother’s garden gate.

Everything was the same as ever. The paint was peeling off the old house, and Dolly grew lettuce instead of geraniums in her window boxes. The car had another dent in it, and Emma hadn’t met the black cat sitting on the dustbin before. But the wobbly garden table under the walnut tree was laid to welcome her, just as usual. Chickens were pecking about on the grass, and Dolly’s old dogs Tom and Jerry lay asleep outside the open front door.

They didn’t even look up when Emma pushed the gate open and ran to the house. Only when she was right in front of them did they wag their tails sleepily and put their muddy paws on her shoes. ‘Hi, you super-alert watchdogs!’ Emma tickled them both behind the ears and gave them a few dog biscuits. She always took care to stuff her pockets with dog biscuits when she was going to see her grandmother. A smell of burning drifted out of the house. Emma grinned.

Dolly must have been trying to do some baking again. She was probably the only grandmother in the world who couldn’t bake a cake properly. In fact she wasn’t specially good at any kind of cooking. She did none of the things that Emma’s friends’ grannies liked doing. Dolly didn’t crochet, she didn’t knit, she didn’t read stories aloud, and she regularly forgot Emma’s birthday. Her grey hair was cut very short, she usually wore men’s clothes, ad she repaired her car herself. But Emma wouldn’t have swapped her for any other grandmother in the world.

‘Hi!’ she called into the smoke-filled kitchen. ‘I’m back!’ An enormous dog shot out barking from under the kitchen table, jumped up at Emma and licked her face. “Hello, sweetheart.’ Dolly was crouching in front of the oven, looking rather unhappy. She took her cake out and banged the baking tin on the kitchen table. ‘Look at that, will you! Overcooked again. I can’t understand it. I even got one of those stupid kitchen timers.’ The enormous dog left Emma alone and sniffed the burnt cake. ‘Good thing I bought some shop cake, just to be on the safe side.’ Dolly wiped her floury hands on her trousers and gave Emma a kiss. ‘Lovely to see you again. I hope you’ve missed me!’ ‘You bet.’

Emma took her rucksack off and held a few dog biscuits in front of the new dog’s muzzle. ‘Where did this one come from?’ ‘Shaggy?’ Dolly took a large packet of cake out of the kitchen cupboard and carried it into the garden, with Emma beside her. ‘Our vet Mr Knapp found him on the motorway slip road. You know how dogs like that always end up with me.’ Emma smiled.

The idea for "Saving Mississippi" came up in Venice ... not necessarily the place you think of when reading this story. It came to my mind in the lobby of the hotel Gabrielli Sandwirth.

It had just started snowing outside, which is a sight to behold in the City of Water. Another inspiration was my life then with family, dog and iceland pony amid fields and meadows on the outskirts of Hamburg, although Hamburg-Sasel or Ohlstedt are not villages like the one where Dolly lives. And as for Mr Clipperbush's dream of moving to America, well, I probably had been dreaming the same dream back then already. First I thought that the idea had arisen out of my love of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. It often happens to me, that a story knows more about my future than I do. Very strange ...