Most days in the boring country town I live in, not a lot happens.

My spare time made up of riding my bike or maybe fishing with Dad. But most times I spend it with my best friend Mel. She just turned twelve, a bit older than me which she always reminded about. Now although I like to stay out of trouble, it’s kind of impossible with a friend like her, especially when she’s on one of her latest rants about some mystery that needs solving. This time it was based on a rumour that had been going around our school for most of term.

Our canteen lady was making the lunch burgers out of puppies!

Miss Gribyl was someone we all feared. She never smiled. Always smelled like stale soup and would tell us off if we were too loud in the schoolyard. Today was the day, Mel was determined to close this case once and for all.

The mission began with Mel insisting I order one of these burgers for lunch…and eat it…to see if I could taste puppy. She insisted it had to be me because she’s a vegetarian. How convenient! But I don’t know what she was expecting, to see a furry little tail sticking out from the bun! I took a bite and showed her it looked and tasted like a normal burger. She was so disappointed. I was so relieved. But she wasn’t giving up that easy.

When school ended, Mel had to stay back late because she got into trouble again with our history teacher. I didn’t mind waiting for her…okay she told me I had to…so I hung out by the playground on one of the swings. I started to rock back and forth. Then pushed a bit harder. Swinging higher and higher. I felt like I could almost touch the sky until something suspicious caught my eye.

Behind the sport shed next to the canteen, I could see Miss Gribyl opening the door to her big brown van. As she walked back to the canteen, she was carrying something that looked like a dog food bowl. On the next swing upwards, I could see right into her van. And that’s when I spotted it.

The cute little ears. Then the cute little eyes of this cute little black puppy. It was looking sad as it poked its cute little face out from a cute little cardboard box. Okay, the box wasn’t cute, but you get the idea.

As I swung back and forward again, trying to get a closer look, Miss Gribyl slammed the door shut. I slowed my swinging down, thinking, I can’t believe Mel was right! And then I felt sick. Was that really a puppy burger I ate for lunch?!

When I told Mel, her face lit up with excitement. Whatever she was thinking, I knew I wouldn’t like it.


The first part of Mel’s mission was to stake out the canteen that night, so we organized a sleepover at her house. My mum and dad were busy, so this worked out well. And Mel’s mum was always in bed early and sleeps a lot so we knew we could easily escape.

It was a bright full moon which helped us to walk to school at night. It was weird going there when it was dark, and it looked so different. The buildings were creepy in the shadows, and I felt scared that something might jump out at us.

We crept around the handball wall to where the side door of the canteen was. Mel checked it. Sure enough, it was locked. She paced back and forward, thinking.

‘Oh well, I guess we should go home.’ I suggested, but I knew it wouldn’t be that easy.

Mel looked up high. She spotted a small window above the door, which was open. She smiled at me. I frowned at her.

‘You’re kidding?’

‘Think about it Ben, it’s the only way to expose her.’ She replied, handing me a small torch. ‘Now stand on my hands.’

Because I was smaller than Mel, I knew it was me who had to climb up. And she’s stronger, so as I stepped into her clasped hands, she pushed me up so I could grab the window ledge. I pulled myself in, turned on the torch and carefully stepped on the bench. Making sure I didn’t squish the chocolate bars nearby.

‘Make sure you look everywhere!’ she called. ‘Especially the big freezer!’

I crept over to the mini cool room and looked inside. Lots of boxes of ice blocks, frozen bread rolls and trays of jelly cups. But no sign of puppies. I was just about to call back to Mel when the noisy sound of an engine roared nearby.

‘Ben!’ Mel whispers loudly. ‘Someone’s coming! Hide!’

I took a peek through the window and could see the lights of a car pulling up beside the door. Then as the lights of the car turned off, I took another look. It wasn’t a car. It was a van. Miss Gribyl’s van! Then I heard the jingling of keys in the door, and the knob turning slowly.

I ran back into the cool room, but it was too cold. And then I saw a gap behind a tower of boxes. It must’ve been a year supply of chips. Big enough for me to squeeze into. I held my breath as the door opened.

I could see through a tiny gap between the boxes and saw little feet of the black puppy I spotted from the swing. Then another. And another. A whole litter of them!

I could see a bowl being put on the floor and Miss Gribyl filling it up with some milk from the fridge. She then placed pieces of left over sausage rolls which I’m sure was so she could fatten them up for cooking! The puppies gobbled it up…and then one of them stopped. It looked right towards me with milk on its face, cocking its floppy little head to the side.


It came running towards me. I tried to squeeze further in behind the boxes, but I was stuck. It sniffed around my feet. I tried to shoo it away, but then it yapped. I tried flicking it away with my foot but instead it bit onto my shoelace, thinking it was a game.

‘What are you doing you silly little thing?’ Miss Gribyl said in this strange tone. It didn’t sound like the scary old canteen lady we knew. In fact, she almost sounded…friendly. ‘Come on. Have something to eat or you’ll miss out.’

She picked up the puppy and took it back to join the others.


But something happened that I didn’t expect. These boxes were dusty, so my nose began to tingle and twitch.


I knew what was coming. I tried everything to hold it back, but the sneeze was so huge that my body shook. I accidentally sent the tower of boxes tumbling down across the floor. The puppies scattered in fear. They all started yapping as I stood there with snot dribbling down my nose and staring right into the shocked face of Miss Gribyl.

Mel must’ve heard everything because she came running through the door holding a big stick. She was probably worried that I might be the next thing that Miss Gribyl turns into lunch burgers, so she was ready to save me. Well, I hope that’s what she would’ve done.

After Miss Gribyl demanded an explanation, we told her everything about the rumour we heard. We thought she might lock us in the cool room to teach us a lesson, or for certain tell our parents. Instead, she did something we’ve never seen her do before.

She laughed.

‘Oh my goodness.’ She said, picking up one of the puppies, rubbing it gently behind the ears. ‘How could I hurt such a cute little thing like this.’

Mel and I were stunned. She explained to us that she often looks after puppies from the local animal shelter which had been abandoned by their owners. She uses leftover food from the canteen to keep them fed until they find a new home. She handed us a puppy each. They smelled so sweet and mine licked my nose.

Mel and I felt so bad for believing the rumours that we offered to help clean the canteen after school, and of course help feed the puppies.

After this whole ‘puppy-burger scandal’, I thought it meant Mel might stop trying to be some kind of kid spy. I was hoping she would stick to doing normal kid stuff instead of searching for the next crazy adventure. But just a week later, as we walked to school she turned to me with this look on her face. Her eyes wide open with excitement.

‘Ben, you’re not going to believe what I heard last night!’

Oh no.