Oscar Looms is Looking

by Julia Hubery. Shortlistee of the Best Novel Opening for Children or Young Adults competition 2021

When Oscar Looms came home from school one sneakily ordinary day, the house was empty. No mum anywhere, not even in the cupboard under the stairs. Perhaps there’s been a crisis at the aquarium, Oscar thought. Maybe Mum had to rescue someone from the giant squid, again. He made himself some peanut butter toast, and switched the telly on:

‘and now some breaking news…’

A giant squid filled the screen, a giant squid he knew well. It was Octavia, belching, because she had just eaten five grannies. And that meant Octavia must have eaten Mum first, for Mum would never allow granny-eating in the aquarium, no matter how horrible the grannies were. And that meant Oscar Looms was now alone in the world. Oscar tried to think, because he knew that an almost-nine-year-old boy alone in the world needs a plan. But all Oscar wanted to do was cry, which he did for two whole days until his body needed him to eat toast again, even if it tasted like sawdust.

‘It’s no good just eating, though,’ Oscar told himself. ‘I have to think,’ and his first thought was: ‘what would Mum want me to do?’

‘She’d want me to make a list!’ was the answer that popped into his head, and it was a tiny comfort to feel that Mum could still help him even from inside a giant squid. Mum had always said that when things feel too big and horrid to handle, a list will put them in their place a bit, and this felt bigger and horrider than anything in the world.