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To the thousands of tiny nomes who live under the floorboards of a large department store, there is no Outside. Then they hear that the Store - their whole world - is to be demolished. And it's up to one nome, Masklin, to mastermind an unbelievable escape plan that will take all the nomes into the dangers of the great Outside. The first title in a magnificent trilogy about the nomes, a race of little people struggling to survive in a world of humans.
This is the story of the Going Home. This is the story of the Critical Path. This is the story of the lorry roaring through the sleeping city and out into the country lanes, smashing through street lamps and swinging from side to side and shattering shop windows and rolling to a halt when the police chased it. And when the baffled men went back to their car to report Listen, will you, listen? There isn’t anyone driving it!, it became the story of the lorry that started up again, rolled away from the astonished men, and vanished into the night.
But the story didn’t end there. It didn’t start there, either. The sky rained dismal. It rained humdrum. It rained the kind of rain that is so much wetter than normal rain, the kind of rain that comes down in big drops and splats, the kind of rain that is merely an upright sea with slots in it. It rained a tattoo on the old hamburger boxes and chip papers in the wire basket that was giving Masklin a temporary hiding place. Look at him. Wet. Cold. Extremely worried. And four inches high.
The waste-bin was usually a good hunting ground, even in winter. There were often a few cold chips in their wrapping, sometimes even a chicken bone. Once or twice there had been a rat, too. It had been a really good day when there had last been a rat – it had kept them going for a week. The trouble was that you could get pretty fed up with rat by the third day. By the third mouthful, come to that.
Masklin scanned the lorry park. And here it came, right on time, crashing through the puddles and pulling up with a hiss of brakes.
He’d watched this lorry arrive every Tuesday and Thursday morning for the last four weeks. He timed the driver’s stop carefully. They had exactly three minutes. To someone the size of a nome, that’s more than half an hour. He scrambled down through the greasy paper, dropped out of the bottom of the bin, and ran for the bushes at the edge of the park where Grimma and the old folk were waiting. ‘It’s here! ’ he said. ‘Come on! ’ They got to their feet, groaning and grumbling. He’d taken them through this dozens of times. He knew it wasn’t any good shouting. They just got upset and confused, and then they’d grumble some more. They grumbled about cold chips, even when Grimma warmed them up. They moaned about rat. He’d seriously thought about leaving alone, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. They needed him. They needed someone to grumble at. But they were too slow. He felt like bursting into tears.
He turned to Grimma instead. ‘Come on, ’ he said. ‘Give them a prod, or something. They’ll never get moving! ’ She patted his hand. ‘They’re frightened, ’ she said. ‘You go on. I’ll bring them out. ’ There wasn’t time to argue. Masklin ran back across the soaking mud of the park, unslinging the rope and grapnel. It had taken him a week to make the hook, out of a bit of wire teased off a fence, and he’d spent days practising; he was already swinging it around his head as he reached the lorry’s wheel. The hook caught the tarpaulin high above him at the second try. He tested it once or twice and then, his feet scrabbling for a grip on the tyre, pulled himself up.
He’d done it before. Oh, he’d done it three or four times. He scrambled under the heavy tarpaulin and into the darkness beyond, pulling out more line and tying it as tightly as possible around one of the ropes that were as thick as his arm. Then he slid back to the edge and, thank goodness, Grimma was herding the old people across the gravel. He could hear them complaining about the puddles.
Terry Pratchett treats absurd subjects with meticulous care, cutting no corners on plot or character, respecting his readers' intelligence while he tickles them into fits of laughter. .... witty, funny, wise and altogether delightful
Certifiably funny...Truckers is a gem
- Lloyd Alexander, author of The Black Cauldron
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