Mr. Walter Wannabe was a short fat hideous
fellow. His teeth were crooked and creaky like stones on a castle wall. His
mouth was slobbery and his lips were like sausages. His head was hairless and
shiny. And Mr. Walter Wannabe always wore a pin-stripe suit but the stripes
The man with him, Tinker, was tall and skinny
and knobbly like a piece of knotted string. His hair was uncombed and spiky as
if he‘d just been hit by a bolt of lightening. And he always wore a long white
laboratory coat covered in stains.
Half hidden in shadow, they stood beside a
large table covered with papers. A single dim light bulb hung by a long wire
from the high ceiling. And all around, piles and piles of big cardboard boxes
disappeared into the darkness.
“Right,” slobbered Walter Wannabe, puffing on a
big fat stinky and slobbery cigar, “is you, or isn’t you, my inventor?”
“Yes Boss. I am Boss.”
“And do you, or don’t you, invent?”
“Yes Boss. I do Boss.”
“Right then, listen up and listen up good, 'cos
I’ll only say this three times.” The Boss paused. “Are you listening up?”
“Yes Boss. All the way to the top,” Tinker
“Right. Now this is top secret.” Wannabe took a
quick shifty look around. “This is between my mouth and your ears. Understand?”
“Yes Boss. Top secret.”
“I want you to invent something. And I want you
to invent something so rotten it’ll make your socks stink.”
“I want you to invent something so shocking
you’ll get a medal from the electric company.”
“I want you to invent something so tricky it’ll
make magicians weep.”
“Yes Boss,” Tinker said. “But what exactly do you want me to invent?”
“I want you to invent something that’ll make
“Make chilliwacks stupid Boss?”
“Yes you oaf! Make kids stupid.”
“Which chilliwacks Boss?”
“All of them.”
“Oh,” Tinker scratched his spiky head. “How stupid Boss?”
“Well, let’s put it this way,” Wannabe
slobbered. “In a quiz between a kid and a cabbage, I want the cabbage to win.”
“Oh.” Tinker seemed flabbergasted.
“Right, you’ve got one month to invent the invention. Get inventing!”
One Month Later
Tom Baker was not the kind of boy to have an
adventure. He was eight years old and preferred sitting quietly reading books
about other people having
Now, to tell the truth, Tom was a bit short for
his age. And he was a bit chubby for his age. And he was definitely a bit brainy for his age. In fact, although he was only
eight, some of the teachers whispered amongst themselves that he was the
cleverest kid in the whole school.
He was in math class and today, like every
other day, he was the only one to have a table to himself. It was in the far
corner at the back.
Most of the kids were all eyes down as if they
were playing a game of Bingo. But some—the ones who hated
mathematicating—looked out of the window, or watched the hands on the big
wall clock, or scribbled on their book covers.
“Right everyone,” Mr. Adder, the math teacher,
stood up. Mr. Adder was sick of teaching kids and secretly wanted to stay home
all day and do long multiplication. “Put your pencils and books away.” He
paused and adjusted his wire spectacles. All the class started smiling and
“Right, quiet every one. Before you all go
home, I want to hand back the tests from yesterday.” There was a general
unhappy grumble. Mr. Adder opened a folder and took out the pile of papers.
“Tut, tut,” he tutted, flipping through the
pile. “Terrible. This was the terriblest test I’ve ever seen—and I’ve seen tons of terrible tests in my time.” Mr Adder though
said that about every test.
“What do you mean doing so
badly? Eh?” he continued. “What do you mean?” He looked from blank face to blank face. The
class had no idea what they
meant by doing so badly. “Believe it or not, more than half of you got Ds. Only one student got an A.”
“Yeah, Brain Box Baker,” Basher Baldwin chimed as if he was singing a
song. Basher Baldwin was the class bully and loved bashing kids smaller than he
was. He also loved bashing kids bigger than he was. His hobby was bashing. And
he always said that one day he’d bash teachers too. Tom wriggled awkwardly in
his chair while the class twisted their necks to look at him.
“Hey Brain Box, you want another gold star to
show your mummy?” Basher taunted. Tom’s face turned red.
“He’ll see plenty of gold stars when I smash
his head in after school!” This was Watfor, one of Basher’s gang.
“Don’t you know no one likes a brain box?” This
was Scrag, another of Basher’s gang. It wasn’t because Tom got As in math that Basher’s gang hated him. No, it
was because he got As in every class. English, Geography, you name it, Tom
got As in it. Well, every
class except one.
“He’s not a brain box in sports,” Watfor said.
“No, he’s a weed box,” Basher said, and all his
gang laughed like it was the funniest joke they’d ever heard.
“All right you horrible little vermin,” Mr.
Adder said finally. “Quiet while I hand back your terrible tests.”
All the kids looked silently at their grades
and then stuffed the papers into their bags.
“All right, scram the lot of you. Go home.” All
the kids rattled their seats and rushed out. All except Tom. He was in no
hurry. In fact, he planned on being very slow, hoping that Basher and his gang
would get tired of waiting to beat him up.
“Hurry up, Tom,” Mr. Adder said, wiping his
spectacles on his shirt. Tom walked past the teacher and into the corridor.
Down the stairs. Into the library. He browsed the spinning rack of new books.
But there was nothing he hadn’t read already.
Holding his schoolbag in front and kicking it
with each step, Tom slowly walked back into the corridor and towards the main
door. And there he stood, peeping outside but scared to stick his neck out.
“Are you hiding from someone?” a voice behind
asked. Tom turned around. It was a big kid, 11 years old from the 6th year. He was new to the school.
“Basher,” Tom said, shyly.
“Oh, yeah, I heard of him,” the big boy
answered with a friendly grin. “You’re Baker, aren’t you.”
“How do you know?”
“I heard of you as well,” the big boy gave another grin. “You
get As in everything don’t
Tom looked at the floor.
“Well don’t worry, 'cos I get Es in everything!” The big boy laughed. Tom
“Come on, you can walk with me. Nobody’ll touch
Outside, a bunch of kids were playing football
in the village square. A few others sat around the old clock tower, chatting
away. But there was no sign of Basher or any of his awful gang.
“See, nothing to worry about!” the big boy
But then Basher and his basher gang suddenly
came out from behind the old church. Basher was grinning like mad dog in an
alley of cats. And then he saw who Tom was walking with. Basher and his gang
suddenly stopped. The grin fell off Basher’s face like egg from a non-stick frying
They stood around kicking stones and pretending
to chat and pretending they weren’t waiting to do some bashing.
“Look at them! What a bunch of cowards!” But
Tom preferred not to look.
Tom and the big boy walked past the square and
followed the old road out of the village. Now it was hilly with high dry-stone
walls on both sides of the road and the sound of sheep in the fields behind.
“What’s your name?” Tom asked, finally relaxing
and throwing his schoolbag onto his back.
“Every one calls me Smiley,” he said.
“Do you smile a lot then?”
“Nah.” Smiley reached into his jacket pocket
and took out a small digital camera and showed it to Tom.
“Is it yours?”
“Yeah,” Smiley said. “I got my fist camera when
I was little. I used to take loads of pictures and tell everyone to smile all
the time. That’s why they call me Smiley.”
“You live down the road on the left, don’t
“Yeah, that’s us.”
“I live at the farm near the stream.”
“You live on a farm?”
“Yes,” Tom nodded.
“Is your dad a farmer?”
“No, my mum’s a farmer. My dad’s a teacher.”
“Really? That’s a bit odd.”
“Yes, I know. My mum’s a bit odd.”
“Have you got pigs?” Smiley obviously wasn’t
interested in Tom’s odd mum.
“No. We have loads of sheep though.”
“Oh, I like pigs,” Smiley said.
“We have 15 cows,” Tom added.
“I like pigs,” Smiley insisted.
They continued to walk up the steep hill. It
was early autumn and a strong cool wind blew in their faces.
“I read a book once about a pig that could
talk,” Tom offered.
“That sounds fun.”
“Hey, what’s going on?” Tom asked as they
reached the top of the hill.
“That’s one of our fields—and the gate’s open.” Tom
“Well maybe your mum’s in there.”
“No. And she might be a scatterbrain, but she’d
never leave a gate open.”
They crossed the road and walked through the
open gate. There was a line of trees half way up the hilly field. Beside the
trees they could see a big white van. On the side it said: “Education Department.”
There was a ladder on the roof.
“What’s going on?” Tom whispered.
“Let’s go find out!” Smiley answered.
“We should be quiet,” Tom whispered. “There’s
something fishy going on in this field of sheep.”
They ran up the hill towards the trees and then
came to a stop. Through the trees they could see two figures. There was a small
fat man in a pin-stripe suit with the stripes going sideways. He was standing
on the edge of the hill peering through a pair of binoculars. Walking towards
him was a tall skinny man with spiky hair wearing a white laboratory coat covered
“All the kids are out now.” It was Wannabe with
his spiky inventor, Tinker. Wannabe lowered the binoculars from his eyes.
“We’ll wait another thirty minutes and then most of the teachers’ll be gone.”
“Right Boss,” Tinker answered.
“Go bring the invention.”
“Yes Boss.” Tinker walked back towards the
The two boys looked at each other.
“I think he’s spying on the school,” Smiley
“Yes. And what’s the invention thing he wants?”
Just then Tinker returned. He was carrying a
long white glass tube. It looked like a fluorescent light bulb.
“Here it is Boss. I call it a Stupidifier.”
“It looks like a fluorescent light,” Wannabe
said, examining it uncertainly.
“I know Boss,” Tinker chuckled. “That’s why
it’s so crafty and so cunning and so clever. When we put it in that school, no
one will guess what it really is and what it really does.”
“And you’re sure it’ll make all the kids
“Yes Boss.” Tinker nodded.
“Did you hear that?” Smiley whispered.
“Yes. They must be a couple of loonies,” Tom
whispered, hardly able to believe his ears.
“As long as the chilliwacks walk under the
Stupidifier every day,” Tinker was explaining, “it’ll make them stupid and keep
“Perfect!” Wannabe laughed a slobbery laugh and
spit fell on his shoes. “We’ll put it in the main corridor, then the brats’ll
get a dose the moment they arrive every morning.”
“This is our big test,” Wannabe said, half
daydreaming. “If it works here, we’ll put one in every rotten school!”
“How long before we need to test it?”
“A week, Boss.”
“A week? I want it tested quick! You lanky laggard.”
“It needs time, Boss.”
“All right you pottering potterer. Now, wait
here while I go put it back in the van.”
Wannabe carefully carried the Stupidifier back
to the van.
“Did you hear that?” Smiley whispered.
“They must be mad,” Tom said. “It’s just a
fluorescent light bulb.”
“But what if it’s real?”
“I can’t be.”
“What if it really makes kids stupid?”
“Well, we’d better get out of here and tell
someone. Come on.”
“The headmaster. Or the police,” Tom whispered.
One Second Later
Just as Tom and Smiley were about to turn and
hurry away, a hand fell on each of their shoulders and a voice shrieked,
“GOTCHA!” It was Wannabe. He dragged them backwards by their shirt collars and
their feet hardly touched the ground.
“These two brats were spying on us,” Wannabe
“Yes, you great oaf. Now hold them for me. And
don’t let them go.”
“Yes Boss.” Tinker took them by the arm and
clung on tight. Tinker wasn’t so strong and Smiley was ready to break free. But
then he saw Wannabe. And Wannabe was holding a gun and pointing it at them.”
“What did you two brats hear?” he demanded,
spluttering and splattering with every slobbering word.
“Nothing,” Smiley said.
“Ha! They heard e v e r y t h i n g!” Wannabe
“No, no,” Smiley said.
“We didn’t,” Tom said.
Wannabe licked the slobber from his sausage
lips while he considered the situation.
“Right, there’s only one thing for it.”
He cocked the trigger of the gun.
“But Boss, you can’t kill chilliwacks.”
“We have no choice, you great piece of
spiralled spaghetti. They heard the whole plan and they’ll blab faster than a
“Nothing can stop the plan now. Nothing!” Now Wannabe wasn’t just slobbering he was shaking.
“But, but Boss, they’re just chilliwacks. You can’t kill chilliwacks!”
“I can,” slobbered the slobbery Wannabe, “and I
will.” He raised the gun towards the boys and pointed it straight at them.
“You-hu-hu can’t,” Tom said, beginning to cry.
Big tears trickled down his cheeks.
“We’re just kids,” Smiley pleaded.
Wannabe just slobbered, trying to decide which
one he’d shoot first.
“Boss Boss Boss,” Tinker said, urgently. “Wait
wait! I have a better idea.”
“What’s your idea?” Wannabe slobbered
suspiciously, his finger still on the trigger.
“I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you. No! I’ll show you!” Tinker grabbed Wannabe by the arm and
pulled him a few steps to the summit of the hill. Wannabe waddled like a fat
duck that thought it was a pig.
“Let go of me, you oaf!”
“Look? Look at what?” Wannabe wanted to keep
his eye on the two boys, hoping they’d try and run off so he could shoot them.
“Do you know where that is over there?” He pointed
at the vast up and down mountains and forest that disappeared into the distance.
“Of course I know where it is! It’s Nowhere!”
Wannabe was beginning to get angry, glancing back at Tom and Smiley.
“Yes Boss, its Nowhere. The Nowhere mountains.
Where no one has ever been and no one wants to go.”
“Get to the point! We have work to do!” Wannabe
“My point is, Boss, if we put those two kids in
the deepest darkest part of Nowhere, where the forest is full of heepy-creepies
and boy-eating beasties, they’ll never get out. They’ll never be seen again. They’ll be lost forever. Eaten up
and gobbled. They’ll never have a chance to blab and spoil your plan.”
Tom and Smiley gazed in silence at the Nowhere
mountains. There was nothing more scary to a small boy than the Nowhere mountains.
“Well that’s just lovely!” Wannabe scoffed.
“That really is lovely, you great loggerhead! How can we put them there?
There’s no roads. There’s no way out 'cos there’s no way in!”
“That’s true Boss. Except, I know how.”
“Shooting ‘em’s quicker. Bang bang! They’re
dead.” Wannabe pretended to shoot at the boys while he said each bang.
“Ah, yes Boss, but that’s murder. But when they’re creepied and guzzled and gobbled
by the heepy-creepies and beasties, well that’s just bad luck!”
While it was true that no man, woman or child
had ever been in the Nowhere mountains, it was common knowledge that they were
full of the most retched heepy-creepies and beasties. And when little kids
where bad, wicked parents sometimes threatened to send them to the middle of Nowhere.
“I admit, it does sound tempting,” Wannabe
slobbered. “And no one could say I murdered the brats.”
“Boss, they’d say you’re so kind for not murdering them!”
“Right then!” Wannabe decided. “Get on with it!
I want ’em in the deepest darkest part of Nowhere. And fast.”
Tom and Smiley stood with Wannabe slobbering
and pointing the gun at them. Tinker rushed to the van. With his long skinny
legs, he walked like a giraffe on stilts. Then he rushed back.
“This ball of string is the longest strongest ball of string in the world. And
this other ball of string is the strongest longest ball of string in the world. It’s Super Strong String.”
He dropped them on the ground. He rushed to the
van. Then he rushed back.
“This is the strongest lightest cloth in the
world. It’s water-proof and fire-proof and wiggle-proof and giggle proof.”
He dropped the role of cloth on the ground. He
rushed to the van. Then he rushed back.
“These are the strongest lightest poles in the
world. They’re stronger than you and lighter me.”
He dropped the pile of poles on the ground. He
rushed to the van. Then he rushed back.
“This Magic Sticky Tape is the stickiest sticky
tape in the world. It will stick anything to anything else and anything else to
anything. It will stick wiggles to giggles and giggles to wiggles.”
“All right you great wooden spoon!” Wannabe
said, glaring at all Tinker’s weird inventions piled up on the grass. “What’s
“No game Boss. Watch and see!”
Tinker took three poles and laid them on the
grass shaped like an A.
Next, he took the Magic Sticky Tape and stuck
the poles into position. Then he started to cut the green cloth into a giant
rectangle, stretched it over the poles and stuck it in place with the Magic
Sticky Tape. It was about now that Tom began to guess what Tinker was up to.
But the idea was too crazy. It was too impossible. It was too unbelievable.
Now Tinker was cutting very very long strips of
the green cloth and sticking them in place.
“That’s one done,” Tinker said.
“It looks like a giant kite!” Wannabe said.
“Yes Boss,” Tinker said. He was already
grabbing more of the poles and making another.
“We don’t have time for kite flying, you great
ninny!” Wannabe said, getting very red in the face. He was spluttering and
blubbering like a madman on holiday in a place with no sea or sand.
“It’s not just a kite, Boss. I call it a
Kiddy-Kite. It will carry any kid any where you care that kid to be. “
Now Tom knew his guess was right. And it was
too crazy and too impossible and too unbelievable.
“Yes Boss,” Tinker interrupted, still busy
making the second Kiddy-Kite. “I’m going to Kiddy-Kite them all the way to the
middle of Nowhere.”
“You can’t!” Tom cried.
“Shh,” Smiley whispered, “don’t make the fat
But Wannabe was already angry. He pointed his gun at Tom and began to
waddle over towards them. “Right, right, I’ll just shoot you brats!” he
“No Boss! No! It’s done! Look, both Kiddy-Kites
are ready! Let’s have some fun with these rotten chilliwacks. Let’s fly them
off once and forever. Let’s watch ‘em cry like babies!”
“Well, get on with it then, you chucklehead!”
Wannabe said, realising what fun it would be to watch them dangle and scream
Tinker laid the two Kiddy-Kites on the summit
of the hill, then, using some thick cord from the pocket of his white
laboratory coat, he began to tie first Smiley then Tom to the metal poles. As
Tom looked upwards he imagined himself dangling from the Kiddy-Kite and
climbing higher and higher and higher into the empty sky. Tom began to cry
again. But Tinker had no time for his tears. Finally he tied the end of each giant
ball of Super Strong String onto the kites, then rushed down to the van. Smiley
struggled to get free, but it was useless. He twisted his neck to see what was
happening. Tinker had fixed the two giant balls of Super Strong String onto a
kind of winding machine beside the back doors of the van.
“Right Boss, everything’s ready. When I say
‘Now,’ press this red button on the winding machine.”
“Am I or am I not the Boss?” Wannabe said angrily.
“You are Boss. You are the Boss, Boss.”
“Well then, I’ll be the one to say, ‘Now.’ Not you. Right?”
“Yes Boss. Right Boss.”
First Tinker lifted Tom’s Kiddy-Kite so that
the bottom of the poles rested on the ground.
And then, quickly, so quickly it seemed as if
maybe nothing had happened, Tinker dropped something small and heavy into Tom’s
Then he lifted up Smiley’s Kiddy-Kite. With a
Kiddy-Kite in each hand, he stood facing the wind and soon it began bellowing
into the cloth.
“Don’t do it,” Tom begged, tears now streaming
down his cheeks. “We won’t tell anyone.”
But suddenly a giant gust of wind blew over the
hilltop and Tinker threw the Kiddy-Kites upwards and skywards. Both boys cried
out, “Whaaaaa!” The Kiddy-Kites quickly flew upwards as the wind blew and
blasted. The boys looked down and again cried, “Whaaaaa!”
“You can say ‘Now’ now Boss,” Tinker called.
“What? What?” Wannabe answered.
“YOU CAN SAY ‘NOW’ NOW BOSS!”
“What? Say ‘now’? What’re you going on about,
you great hoddy-doddy?”
“PRESS THE RED BUTTON Boss!”
“Red button?” Wannabe looked around and saw the
red button on the winding machine. “Oh, oh, right.”
Wannabe pressed the red button and the winding
machine began to turn. It fed out the Super Strong String from both giant balls
and the Kiddy-Kites flew higher and higher and further and further.
Tom closed his eyes, afraid to look, but could
feel the wind growing stronger and cried, “Whaaaaa!” again. Smiley watched the
ground fall away beneath him. His heart jumped up into his mouth, beating and
bumping against his teeth. “Whaaaaa!” he cried, sure the Super Strong String
would break any moment and they’d fall to the ground deader than dead.
Tinker walked back to the van, glancing over
his shoulder and watching the Kiddy-Kites soar higher and higher and further
and further. There was a certain skip and jump in the way he walked now, as if
he was too proud of his latest invention to keep his feet on the ground.
“Pretty good, eh Boss?” The winding machine
continued to turn and feed out the Super Strong String. The boys’ cries now
blew away with the wind.
“Grmph, pretty good,” the slobbery Wannabe
slobbered, using his binoculars to watch the Kiddy-Kites fly away. “At least
they’re still blubbering like blubberers.”
Tinker pulled a large sheet of folded paper
from his pocket.
“Look, Boss,” he said, unfolding it. “This is a
map of the clouds. See?”
“Yes yes yes,” Wannabe said, even though he had
no idea what he was looking at.
“We’ll cut the Super Strong String when they
get here,” he pointed. “By the time the Kiddy-Kites crash—if the crash
doesn’t kill them—they’ll be in the deepest darkest forestiest part of
the mountains: where no one has ever been and no one wants to go.”
“Will it? Will the crash kill ’em?” Wannabe
And then, despite the wind and the distance,
they both heard a final, “Whaaaaa.”
And then the two Kiddy-Kites and the two boys
were nothing more than two tiny specs in the sky.
And then . . .
“I think we’re gonna be okay!” Smiley shouted
over to Tom.
“What?” Tom’s eyes were still tightly closed
and the wind was howling and hollering.
“These Kiddy-Kites fly okay,” he shouted
“Oh,” Tom called, the wind slapping his face
and the Kiddy-Kite tugging on the Super Strong String.
“Open your eyes and see!”
Tom peeped out, but only saw sky and clouds. He
screamed and closed his eyes again.
“It’s okay. I promise!” Smiley shouted.
Tom peeped out again. This time he saw the
ground. But it was so so so far below. He screamed and closed his eyes again.
“Are you okay?”
“We’re too high,” Tom called, his eyes tightly
closed, his cheeks stained with dry tears.
“I know we are. But closing your eyes doesn’t
make us any lower,” Smiley shouted.
“Mmm.” Tom started to think about this. And he
was thinking it sounded pretty smart for a kid who says he always gets Es in school. And he was thinking it was pretty
stupid to keep his eyes closed because it really didn’t make them any lower.
So he opened his eyes.
They were really flying high and far. The van
and the two horrible men were too small to even see. Tom glanced straight down
and it seemed like he was looking from an aeroplane.
“We’re going to die,” he screamed.
This time Smiley started to think. The Kiddy-Kites were flying
well and they were fixed securely in place, but sooner or later the horrible
men would cut the stings and then . . .
“Do you have a chair in the back of that van?”
Wannabe asked, sucking on a slobbery stinky cigar and watching the winding
machine wind out the Super Strong String.
“Yes Boss.” Tinker brought two fold-up chairs.
Wannabe sat and his chair creaked under his fat bum.
“Do you have a table in the back of that van?”
“Yes Boss.” Tinker brought a fold-up table.
“Do you have anything to make a cup of tea in
the back of that van?”
“Yes Boss.” Tinker brought a small fold-up
camping stove, a fold-up kettle, a fold-up teapot, two fold-up bone china cups,
two fold-up teaspoons, a bottle of low fat milk, four sugar cubes and two tea
bags. The short fat Wannabe stuck out his little fat finger when he held his
cup as if he was having tea with the Queen.
“You seem to have a lota stuff in the back of
that van,” Wannabe mused, taking a drink with his little fat finger sticking
“Yes Boss. I have everything in there.”
“Do you have a red pogo-stick covered in
painted yellow flowers?” Wannabe gave an evil smile.
Tinker rushed back to the van and returned bouncing
on a red pogo-stick covered in painted yellow flowers. “Here, Boss. Want to try
“No, you great noddy.”
Tinker sat down and took a drink of his tea.
The winding machine whirred away.
“Everything you say?” Wannabe asked with an even more evil
“Do you have a chocolate Easter egg wrapped in
silver foil with a genuine pearl necklace hidden inside?”
“It’s not Easter, Boss.”
“HA! Got you!” Wannabe was triumphant. He knew Tinker couldn’t have everything in his van.
“But even so, I still have one,” Tinker said.
Tinker rushed back to the van and returned with
a chocolate Easter egg wrapped in silver foil.
Wannabe sputtered and choked and his tea came
spurting out of his mouth and nose as if he was a human tea fountain. He took
the Easter egg and began to unwrap it.
The winding machine whirred away.
The chocolate egg split in two and a genuine
pearl necklace fell into Wannabe’s flubbery hands.
“What? What? What?” he said, still spluttering.
“There you go Boss. I told you I have everything in that van.”
But the Boss wasn’t listening. He was examining
the pearl necklace. It was a rather charming necklace, and he decided to try it
around his fat flubbery neck.
“How does it look?” he asked, pulling and
tugging and twisting his neck to try and see the pearls.
“It suits you, Boss. Most fetching.”
“You must have a mirror in that blasted van of
Tinker rushed back to the van and returned with
a hand mirror. Wannabe sat admiring the string of pearls around his fat
flubbery neck. He turned his face this way and that way and made half a dozen
“How long is that blasted thing gonna take?”
Wannabe asked, suddenly glaring at the winding machine and the longest ball of
Super Strong String in the world and the other longest ball of Super Strong
String in the world.
Tinker showed him the map of the clouds again
and pointed. “Look, Boss, those chilliwacks have to go pretty far.”
“How long will that blasted thing take?”
“Pretty long, Boss,” Tinker said.
“Can’t you make that blasted thing go faster?”
“Faster? Yes Boss.” Tinker pushed the button
marked, “Faster” and the whirring speeded up.
“Now how long will it take?”
“Pretty long Boss.”
“Baaaaa,” Wannabe said, as if he was one of the
sheep in the field. “Let’s leave it going and get down to that school. The
place must be empty by now.”
Tinker took the stepladder from the roof of the
van while Wannabe grabbed the Stupidifier.
And so they left the van and the winding
machine in the field and walked towards the school. They crossed the village
“Good,” Wannabe whispered. “The school’s
They walked through the doors and into the main
corridor. Tinker looked up and saw a fluorescent light on the ceiling.
“Here Boss.” Quickly and quietly, he set up the
stepladder, climbed up and replaced the long light bulb with the Stupidifier.
“That should make the kids really stupid,
“It better,” Wannabe warned, glancing up and
down the empty corridor. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Just a minute, Boss,” Tinker said. And he ran
off into one of the classrooms then moments later ran back to Wannabe.
“What were you doing?”
“I’ve hidden a Secret Spy Camera in that
classroom,” Tinker said, folding away the stepladder.
They hurried out of the school. As they passed
the church, Wannabe started to whistle as if he was as innocent as a whistling
“Why did you put the spy camera?” Wannabe finally
“So that, Boss, when we come back next week,
Boss, to see how well the Stupidifier has worked, all we need to do is turn on
my special Secret Spy Camera TV in the van. Then we can see how stupid the kids
“Good idea, you great peeping-tom,” Wannabe
Now they walked up the hill towards the open
gate. Wannabe looked here and there, making sure no one was around, then they
slipped back into the field.
The winding machine was still winding away. The
two lines of Super Strong String were impossibly long and vanished into the
“How much longer will it take now? Wannabe
“Pretty long, Boss,” Tinker said. “Let’s have
some more tea.”
So they sat in silence, sipping their tea,
while the winding machine whirred and the two balls of Super Strong String
became smaller and smaller and smaller.
“I just thought of something.” Wannabe’s eyes
were shining like a car’s headlights.
“Your stupid Stupidifier looks like a
fluorescent light bulb. But what happens if a school doesn’t have fluorescent lights in the corridor? What if it has regular lights? Did you think about that?”
Tinker took a leisurely sip of tea.
“Well, Boss, most schools have fluorescent
lights. But, if they have regular lights, then we’ll use this.” He reached into the pocket of his white
laboratory coat and took out what looked like a regular light bulb. “This is a
Stupidifier Compact,” he said smiling.
“Grmph,” Wannabe said.
Finally Tinker spread his cloud map on the
table and examined it carefully.
“Right, Boss. I think that’s it. We can cut the
Super Strong String.”
“About time you great gufflewaffer! Get on with
it,” Wannabe spluttered with another spluttery cigar stuffed in his mouth.
Tinker took a pair of scissors from the van
that had everything and looked up to where the two Super Strong Strings
vanished into the distance. And then Tinker reached out with the scissors and
cut the Super Strong Strings with a snip.
Birthday and Christmas and Summer Holidays
Tom and Smiley flew side by side. They were
tired and scared and couldn’t count the minutes for the hours. Below, far
below, the Nowhere mountains and forest stretched in every direction. It was a
place where no one had been and no one wanted to go. It seemed to go on and on
and on forever.
Suddenly something happened: both the Super
Strong Strings on the Kiddy-Kites fell slack and fell downwards. Almost at the
same time the Kiddy-Kites twisted and turned and began to spin and fall fall
“Whaaaaa,” Tom and Smiley cried. They knew the
Super Strong String had been cut and they were falling to their deaths. It was
the terrible moment they’d both been expecting. “Whaaaaa,” they cried, spinning
and twisting and turning and falling. A million crashing smashing dying ideas
flashed through the boys’ heads as the Kiddy-Kites spun out of control. Their
hearts raced and drummed and drummed and raced and tears spilled down their
cold cheeks. It was going to happen. They were going to die.
Then, just as suddenly, the Kiddy-Kites stopped
spinning and falling and began to fly, like two crazy gliders, gliding with
both boys now hanging underneath.
“We’re gliding! These Kiddy-Kites can glide!”
“Cripes!” Tom shouted back.
“Maybe we can land them!” Smiley called.
After being so scared for so long and thinking
about crashing and dying, Tom now felt as if it was his birthday and Christmas
and summer holidays all rolled into one. They were gliding and not crashing.
And so now they boys hung precariously under
the Kiddy-Kites, gliding forwards further and further into the middle of
Time passed slowly, and slowly Tom felt less
sure. Could they really land
safely? Looking down at the mountains and forest, Tom was beginning to doubt
it. Maybe it wasn’t his birthday and Christmas and summer holidays after all.
“Hey, Tom!” Smiley shouted over.
“Try to move your body over a bit to the left
of your Kiddy-Kite.”
“What? How? Why?” Tom shouted.
“Just try to move yourself over a bit! Try.”
Tom struggled half-heartedly.
“I can’t,” he called.
“Try harder! Watch me!” Tom twisted his neck
and saw Smiley adjusting himself and edging slightly to the left side of his
Kiddy-Kite. He didn’t move much but it was enough to make the Kiddy-Kite suddenly
change direction and fly to the left towards Tom. Smiley swooped like a crazy
swooping swooper and Tom cried out, “You’ll crash me!” At the last moment,
Smiley pushed himself back to the centre and his Kiddy-Kite changed course
again and flew safely beside Tom’s.
“See?” Smiley shouted. “We can steer these
Kiddy-Kites! Try it.”
“I tried! I can’t! I’m not strong like you!”
“You have to! Try again!” Smiley shouted. “Try
harder. We have to steer these Kiddy-Kites if we want to land them! Otherwise
Tom could hear that Smiley was getting angry,
so he tried again. But nothing happened.
“I AM!” Now Tom was getting angry and tears ran
down his cheeks and blew away in the wind. Again he struggled to move, twisting
and turning and trying with all his might. Suddenly he seemed to figure it out
and his Kiddy-Kite turned and flew off to the left.
“Whaaaaa,” he shouted.
“You did it!” Smiley shouted and turned his own
Kiddy-Kite to follow. “Now move back to the middle!”
Tom adjusted his body and moved back to the
middle and the Kiddy-Kite flew straight forwards again.
“You got it!” Smiley shouted as they glided
side by side again.
“It’s not so hard!” Tom called proudly.
“Right! Well follow me then!”
Tom saw Smiley move slightly to the right and
he swooped away. Tom copied and quickly followed.
“Watch this!” Some how Smiley’s Kiddy-Kite
began to glide upwards and then downwards.
“How do you do that?” Tom shouted.
“Try to move yourself backwards a tiny bit!”
Tom tried and this time quickly got the hang of
it. As his weight moved back, the Kiddy-Kite started to glide upwards, higher
into the sky. Smiley followed. Then Tom moved forwards a tiny bit and began to
glide downwards. Smiley followed.
Smiley swooped to the left. Tom swooped to the
left. Tom swooped upwards. Smiley swooped upwards. Up and down, left and right,
they swooped here and they swooped there, and with every swoop they learned how
to control the Kiddy-Kites better.
“Look over there, ahead to your left!” Smiley
shouted. Tom saw the summit of a mountain. The mountaintop was flat with no
trees or bushes.
“We better try and land there. Okay?”
“Cripes! Are you sure?”
“Yeah!” In one fantastic move, Smiley swooped
downwards and leftwards and swooped directly underneath Tom. The flat-topped
mountain wasn’t so far away, but it was far below. The boys had no choice but to swoop downwards
faster than a swooping swooper.
“We’ll crash!” Tom shouted.
“We won’t. Just stay behind me and copy
everything I do!”
Smiley swooped downwards and around the
mountain’s summit until he was flying from a completely different direction.
Tom cried, “Whaaaaa,” as he followed, and quickly realised what Smiley was doing:
they were both flying towards the summit, but now they were going into the wind. It blew and swooshed into their
faces and the Kiddy-Kites began to slow down. But the summit was still coming
up fearfully fast. Tom saw Smiley lean back and the front of his Kiddy-Kite
lifted upwards. The wind suddenly hit the underside and his Kiddy-Kite slowed
even more. Tom followed and felt the cloth fill like the sail of a yacht in a
sail-breaking yacht-sinking storm. His Kiddy-Kite slowed too. But the summit
was still coming up fearfully fast.
With horror, Tom watched Smiley swoop level
with the summit. It looked like Smiley was crashing. The tail end of his
Kiddy-Kite was dragging along the ground, drawing scritch-scratch lines over
the grass and patches of bare rock. Then the front of Smiley’s Kiddy-Kite
seemed to suddenly rise upwards even more and then came to a stop. Was Smiley
still alive? There was no time to think because now it was Tom’s turn. He
forced the front of his Kiddy-Kite slightly higher and felt the bottom of the
poles dig into the ground and drag along. Next the toes of his shoes began to
scrape the ground. Almost at once the ground seemed about to crash into him.
With a final effort he tried to lift the front of the Kiddy-Kite higher and
felt the wind catch underneath. Finally, the Kiddy-Kite stopped and Tom fell
flat onto his face, completely covered by the Kiddy-Kite. “Whaaaaa,” he yelled
and then lay quiet.
The Middle of Nowhere
Tom’s eyes were closed, but he could feel and
smell the grass against his face. He could hear the sound of the wind howling
over the mountaintop, flapping and fluttering the cloth of his Kiddy-Kite. Was
he dead? Was he hurt? Was he Broken?
“Are you okay, Tom?” a voice called. But the
wind made it seem so far away, almost like the voice of a ghost. Was he dead?
Was he hurt? Was he Broken?
“Are you okay, Tom?” a voice called again.
“Smiley?” Tom gasped.
“Yeah, Tom. Are you okay?”
“I don’t know. I can’t move.”
“Look under your kite to the right. Can you see
With the Kiddy-Kite covering him completely,
Tom struggle to turn his head and peep under the cloth.
“I can see you!”
“Try to wriggle towards me.”
“I can’t. I’m stuck. I can’t move!”
“TRY,” Smiley shouted, and Tom could hear he
was angry again.
“Okay.” It was hard and he didn’t seem to be
moving much. So while he wriggled, he pushed with his fingertips and shoved
with the toes of his shoes. Very very slowly, Tom started moved over towards
Smiley. He glanced over and saw Smiley was also moving slowly but steadily towards
him. It was obvious Smiley was strong and it was obvious Smiley was brave.
Finally they were side by side.
“Okay, Tom, don’t move.” Tom relaxed, panting
with his face pushed into the grass. Smiley moved closer until their hands
touched. Like a hand-spider, Smiley began to feel the knot in the rope that
held Tom to the frame of the Kiddy-Kite.
“I think it’s a slipknot,” Smiley said. “If I
pull on the longest end it should pop open.” The hand-spider found the long end
and pulled. The knot popped open. Tom’s hand fell free.
“Can you pull the one on your other hand?”
Smiley asked. Tom struggled but it was no use.
“I can’t reach.”
“Okay. Start to turn around then. I’ll have to
From above it must have seemed as if two
strange kite creatures were doing some kind of mountaintop dance. Finally, they
were in position and Smiley began to tug on the next slipknot. The knot popped
“You did it!” Tom cried.
“Can you untie your waste and feet?”
Tom reached down and pulled the long end of the
rope around his waist.
“Got it! But I can’t reach my feet. I’m still
Again the kite creatures danced their crazy
dance until Smiley pulled on the last rope. Instantly the wailing wind grabbed
the untethered Kiddy-Kite and it began to fly off.
“Catch it!” Smiley shouted, peeping from under
his own Kiddy-Kite.
As quick as a flash, Tom reached out and
grabbed a pole before the Kiddy-Kite blew away. He took off his schoolbag and
placed it on top.
“Good job, Tom!” Smiley said. “Now untie me!”
Tom got up. He was aching but nothing seemed
broken. A minute later Tom and Smiley stood facing each other.
“We did it! We made it!” Smiley said. And the
two boys, complete strangers just a few hours early, reached out and hugged
Tom and Smiley walked to the edge of the
flat-topped mountain and looked out the way they’d come. Beneath them, trees
and trees and mountains and trees stretched on and on and on and on and on and
“We’re completely in the middle of Nowhere,”
Tom said in a whisper that was almost eaten up by the monster wind. Silently
they looked outwards and downwards and outwards again.
“We’ll never get home,” Tom said, and silent
tears spilled down his cheeks.
Silently they stood, until finally, still
looking into the distance, Smiley put his arm on Tom’s shoulder and said,
“Don’t worry, we’ll get home.”
“Right! Let’s take these Kiddy-Kites to pieces
and take everything with us.”
“We’re not flying them again are we?” Tom
“No, don’t worry Tom boy! You’ll see why
And so, with the blustery wind blustering and
blowing, they took the Kiddy-Kites to pieces.
“That’s funny, these poles seem to have tiny
joins.” Smiley could see several faint lines.
“Maybe they fold up,” Tom said.
So Smiley began pulling and twisting and
turning a pole. But nothing happened.
“Well, I don’t know how!” He gave the pole a
final shake. And then, in the blink of an eye, the pole seemed to jump and snap
“Holy-guacamole! Did you see that? It’s folded
up all by itself.”
“What did you do?”
“I just shook it.” Smiley shook once more and
the pole was suddenly long again.
Soon, everything was stuffed in their school
“Let’s take some Super Strong String as well,”
Smiley said. Again they stood on the edge of the summit while Smiley wound up the
Super Strong String.
“How can we find our way though?”
“I’ll tell you that later as well, Tom boy.”
Smiley said. “We’ve got to get off this mountaintop as fast as we can.”
Tom cut the Super Strong String with his school
scissors and Smiley stashed it away. They both put on their school bags.
“Do you think you can climb down these rocks?”
“Mmm, I’ll try,” Tom said, not liking the look
“Well, just follow me.”
Smiley began to carefully climb down. He knew
if either of them slipped there was no one to come to their rescue.
Now it was Tom’s turn and he was almost too
scared to even go over the edge. But there was no choice. Slowly, almost
shaking from fear, he climbed towards Smiley.
“That’s it. Slowly,” Smiley encouraged him.
“I think I’m stuck!” Tom said, fighting off
“No you’re not. Don’t worry. Just stay calm.”
Tom’s tear stained cheek was flat against the
cold naked rock. He began to lower his leg, finally found a small ledge and
uncertainly lowered himself down.
And so they continued, fingers finding
impossible holds, balancing on narrow outcroppings, clinging to the rocks.
Slowly but steadily they climbed down.
Finally they stood together. The rocks now were
less steep and they could hike downwards. But the ground was covered in loose
stones and every step was still dangerous and slow. Smiley glanced up at the
“We have to find somewhere flat to camp,” he
said, “before it gets dark.”
At last there were no more loose stones and
trees and bushes began to appear. And so they walked on, faster now, downwards
until they found themselves inside the great massive endless Nowhere forest.
“It’s darker in here,” Tom said, looking up at
the canopy of leaves. Smiley looked up too. The trees seemed taller than normal
trees and the two boys felt tiny.
“Yeah. Now we really have to get a move on.”
They quickened the pace, dodging around trees,
pushing through branches, striding over shrubs, leaving a long line of small
footprints in the mossy forest floor.
“Do you think that inventor man made those
Kiddy-Kites like gliders so we wouldn’t crash and die?”
“I’m not sure. But he was nicer than the fat
one. So maybe.”
It was twilight. Soon it would be dark. With
every passing minute, Smiley grew more worried, glancing frantically this way
and that way and every other way, searching for an empty flat place where they
could make camp.
“How about there?” Tom pointed.
“It’s too rocky,” Smiley answered, with only a
In the end, just when it seemed they’d never
find a place, the two boys came over a ridge and saw, just below, a giant rock
the size of the house with a fallen tree on one side and a large area of grass
“Look!” Smiley called. “Perfect!”
They scrambled down the slope towards the rock.
Creepy and Scary
“Okay, we’ve no time to waste.” Smiley took off
his schoolbag, dropped it to the ground and unfastened the buckles. “Tom, get
your Kiddy-Kite cloth.”
“What’re you going to do?”
“Try and make a tent!”
“Cripes! Can you?”
“I dunno, but I have to.”
Smiley found a nice sized rock. He shook the
first pole and it snapped to full length. Then, he pushed it into the grassy
ground and began hitting the other end with the rock, hammering it deeper and
“Pass me another pole,” he told Tom quickly.
Smiley pushed the second one into the ground so
that the top ends both crossed each other. Then he hammered it with the rock.
Now Smiley wrapped some Magic Sticky Tape where they crossed. The poles stood
firm like a kind of upside down V. Smiley began hammering another pole into the
ground and taping it to the first two.
By the time he’d finished, which was pretty
soon because he was working so fast, all six poles formed a circle and
criss-crossed each other near the top.
“Oh, you’re making a wigwam kind of tent?”
“Yeah! I hope!”
Now Smiley took one of the Kiddy-Kite cloths
and taped one corner to a pole and then began wrapping it around the frame.
“Hey! I just remembered something,” Tom said.
“I think that inventor put something into my pocket
before he flew us away.” Tom reached into his pocket and took out a small
“What is it?”
The top was hinged and Tom flipped it open.
“It’s a cigarette lighter.”
“Holy-guacamole! Does it work?”
Tom span the small wheel and tiny sparks turned
“That’s brilliant. We can make campfires! Close
it! Don’t waste the fuel! And don’t lose it!”
Tom flipped the top closed and said, “Oh, well,
er, you keep it then.”
“Okay, Tom boy.” Smiley took the lighter and
stashed it in his deepest pocket.
“Well, you should start getting dead branches
so we can make a fire.”
Smiley was already winding the second cloth
around the bottom part of the poles.
Tom wandered around collecting wood from the
forest floor. But away from Smiley, it suddenly seemed much darker and much
scarier. He didn’t go far, but still silent tears began to run down his cheeks.
Smiley had almost finished the tent. With Tom’s
school scissors he cut two slits upwards from the bottom and made a door-flap.
Then he took the Kiddy-Kite tales, cut them to size and stuck them together
making one big sheet. He crawled inside and spread it out on the ground. It was
a perfect fit.
“It’s finished!” he called.
Tom threw more branches on the pile he’d
collected and walked over to look.
“Cripes. It’s great,” he sad, happy for a brief
moment. “Like a real wigwam.”
“I’ll teach you how to make a fire tomorrow
when we have more time,” Smiley said, kneeling on the ground in front of the
tent and breaking up some twigs.
Soon the fire was burning. The light spread out
towards all the surrounding trees and the house-sized rock behind. Tom looked
around the campsite and the moving flames made the shadows shiver and shake and
“Hey, do you have any food left from lunchtime?”
“Yes. Do you?”
In Tom’s lunch-box he had:
chicken sandwich—with only a bite taken out—wrapped in silver foil.
a small bottle of orange juice.
In Smiley’s lunch-box he had:
meatballs in gravy.
few bits of potato.
a large bottle of red pop.
“Mmm, it all looks good, I’m starving,” Tom
“Me too. But we’d better keep some for
Tom was just about to say, “Yes, but . . .”
when he realised Smiley was right.
“Let’s eat my stuff now and your stuff
tomorrow,” Smiley said.
There wasn’t much food so they ate slowly.
Finally, yum, a whole chocolate biscuit each. Tom began slowly licking off the
chocolate and didn’t take a single bite until it was all gone.
Smiley had other plans: he took tiny bites. The
bites were so tiny he took almost a hundred before the biscuit was finished.
“What was it like licking the chocolate off?”
“Deliciumptious. What was it like taking tiny bites?”
“Slow!” And they both laughed.
Tom and Smiley sat watching the fire, first
sitting and then laying on the grass. As the wood burned down they noticed the
evening was turning very cool. Smiley put more logs on.
“Do you have a watch?” Smiley asked, after a
“Yes, do you?”
“No. Does it have an alarm?”
“Have we got to wake up early?”
“No, but we have to keep the fire burning all
“Do we? Why?”
“Well, there could be like some, you know, a
few animals in this forest, small ones maybe, and the fire’ll keep them away.”
“Oh,” Tom said.
Smiley knew Tom was getting scared because he
was pretty scared himself.
A few minutes later they packed up the food and
carried their schoolbags into the tent.
“It’s nice inside!” Tom said.
The entrance flap was pushed behind two poles
so it wouldn't fall down, and the campfire was close enough to light up the
“It’s much warmer inside.”
The two boys lay on their stomach, rested their
chins in their hands and watched the fire burn.
“So, listen Tom boy, we have to take it in
turns to wake up and put more wood on the fire. Every two hours should be okay.
What time is it now?”
“Okay. So I’ll do the first one at ten, and you
do the next at twelve and we keep going like that. What do you think?”
“Okaaaaaaaay,” Tom said, as if the word was
bubble-gum he was giving it a good chew. “But I don’t know how to put the
“Just like you saw me. If the fire’s burning
good, just put lots of big logs on. If it’s not burning so well, put some
smaller branches on first and then the big logs. Easy. Right?”
Tom showed how to set the alarm and then Smiley
strapped the watch to one of the poles.
Smiley lowered the door-flap. The campfire sent
faint shadows running over the tent.
“I wish we had a cover,” Smiley said.
“I’ve got something.”
“What is it?”
Tom fished inside his schoolbag and took out a
small package. “It’s a raincoat that folds up into the hood.” Tom unfolded it.
“You have a raincoat in your bag even when it’s
“Yes. Just in case. I don’t like getting wet.”
Smiley smiled to himself. “Let’s spread it
The raincoat made a pretty bad cover, but it
was much better than nothing.
Smiley used his schoolbag as a pillow. Tom
copied. The bag made a pretty bad pillow too.
Tom closed his eyes. The tops of trees creaked
painfully in the gentle breeze, leaves shivered and shook and sometimes rattled
like old bones. Even the grass seemed to creep in the wind with a crickle and a
crackle. Tom lived in the countryside, but it was nothing like the middle of
Nowhere. The silence just wouldn’t shut up. And there was the hooting of
hooting owls and the flip-flap of a bat’s whispering wings, the quiet screaming
of insects that had survived the end of summer. And the scampering of small
animals in the undergrowth, rustling and whiskering about. With his eyes
closed, Tom heard everything that he didn’t want to hear and everything he
heard sounded creepy and scary.
Tom rolled over.
A few tears trickle down his face.
And time passed.
And Tom was still awake when his watched
beep-beeped and Smiley crawled out to put logs on the fire.
And time passed.
And Tom was still awake when his watched
beep-beeped and it was his turn to take care of the fire.
And his heart was beating like crazy because he
didn’t want to go outside where the silence was so noisy and wouldn’t shut up.
And then he was out.
And shadows still twisted and turned and dodged
And Tom didn’t look and walked straight to the
And he put the logs on the fire just like
Smiley said and hurried back inside the tent.
And when the watch beep-beeped again for Smiley
to take care of the fire, well Tom was finally fast asleep.
Dear Mr. Animal
It was morning. Smiley looked at Tom’s watch
fastened to the pole and it was seven o’clock.
“Hey, Tom, are you awake?”
Tom woke up but kept his eyes closed and stayed
“Tom! Are you awake?”
“No,” Tom said.
“Well stop talking in your sleep and wake up!”
Smiley crawled outside and stood stretching.
Tom soon followed.
“It’s a sunny day,” Smiley said. “Let’s get on
with things.” He began taking down the tent. Tom helped but already he felt
like crying. Deep inside he knew they’d never get out of Nowhere and even
though Smiley was there he was feeling lost and lonely.
“What now?” Tom asked.
“Let’s eat a bit.”
Smiley only took out a single solitary apple,
cut it with the blade of the scissors, and handed Tom half. Tom sat
cross-legged on the grass and ate slowly. Smiley took out the red pop. Glug
glug, only two glugs each and it was all gone.
“Okay,” Smiley said, “let’s sort out the stuff
in our bags and see what we can use.”
Still sitting, Tom opened his schoolbag and
took everything out one by one:
math book with a hard cover.
math exercise book.
Atlas of the World and Other Bits.
writing book for English class.
metal pencil case filled with pens and pencils and a compass with a spike at
one end for drawing circles.
cloth bag with twenty-seven marbles inside.
“Holy-guacamole,” Smiley said, “a safety-pin!
That’s really what we
need.” He pinned it to his shirt pocket for safety. Tom looked at him as if he
was half mad, then continued to empty his bag.
neatly folded plastic shopping bag.
cork from a wine bottle.
“What do you do with that?” Smiley asked.
“I put a hole in the bottom, and if you lick it
and wipe it on a window it squeaks really loud and sounds like a giant mouse.”
pocket sized spiral notebook.
A toy racing car with suspension wheels that
helped it speed fast over bumpy ground.
Twits, a famous book by a
of a yo-yo with no string.
Next it was Smiley turn:
dog-eared writing book.
“Is that all you have?” Tom asked. He was so surprised he looked
like a kid who woke up on Christmas morning and found a bag of Easter Eggs.
“What about all your school books and exercise
“Nah, I don’t have that stuff.” Smiley said.
“I told you! I’m dumb. I get Es in every class. I don’t need schoolbooks to
get Es. It comes naturally.”
“Well, maybe you get Es because you have no books,” Tom said.
“Anyway, let’s see what we can keep,” Smiley
said. “We can use the dictionary pages for toilet paper 'cos the pages are
thin,” Smiley spelled out.
“There’s no toilet,” Tom mentioned.
“There’s plenty of trees. And we can use this
math book for lighting the fires because the pages are thick.” He tore off the
hard covers and threw them onto the fire. “Now, let’s see what else.” Smiley selected:
bag of twenty-seven marbles.
cork that squeaked on windows.
empty metal pencil case.
pointy compass for drawing circles.
folded plastic bag.
He put them in his schoolbag.
“And I want my pocket notebook and a pencil!”
Tom said, picking them up and popping them into his jacket pocket.
“Well then, let’s pack away the lunch-boxes and
tent stuff and get going.”
But no sooner had they put the lunch-boxes away
than a strange sound suddenly came from the side of the house-sized rock. It
was a hissing sound that hissed. The two boys turned fast as lightening and saw
the head of a strange beast staring at them through the leaves of a bush.
Before Tom had time to think what was happening, it was already happening:
Smiley jumped up and pulled Tom by the arm, dragging him along until they were
both running fast and frantic away from the beast.
“Quick, up that tree!” Smiley shouted and
almost threw Tom to the lower branches. “Climb! Climb!” he shouted. Tom began
to climb and Smiley came up after him. “Faster!” Tom climbed faster because now
he heard the beast getting closer. Tom reached a big branch that stretched out
sideways and moved onto it. Smiley came alongside and they looked down at the
ground. The beast was at the bottom of the tree hissing. It was a strange kind
of animal never ever seen before by a human boy. It’s body and legs were shaped
like a badger, but its fur was covered in strange black dots with thick black
lines like exclamation marks. Its face was long and white with scrubbing brush
whiskers and black circles around its eyes so it looked like it was wearing
glasses. It was standing at the bottom of the tree and staring up at them.
“It’s weird looking,” Smiley said.
“I hope it can’t climb.”
“Yeah, me too.”
The beast seemed puzzled what to do and gave a
hiss or two as it paced back and forth. Then it glanced over its shoulder and
seemed to notice something. The beast turned around and walked back to where
they’d been sitting. First it sniffed Tom’s science book. And then it did
something very strange: the beast used its paws to open the book. It flipped
through several pages, looked back at the boys and hissed.
Next, the beast flipped open the math exercise
book. This time a single page seemed to be enough: the beast looked back at the
boys and hissed again.
Next, the beast opened the Children’s Atlas
of the World and Other Bits.
This time the beast spent some time flipping through the pages and looking with
his black ringed eyes at the maps.
“What’s it doing?” Smiley asked.
“Mmm, I’m not sure.”
By now the beast was working its way through
Tom’s writing book for English class. It looked at the pages more carefully and
only glanced at the boys once.
“I have a lot of stories in that book!” Tom
said. “I made them up myself.”
The animal was acting very strangely and Smiley
reached into his jacket pocket and took out his small camera. He took a photo.
Now the beast was looking at The Twits, a famous book by a famous writer. And now it
seemed to look very carefully at the page. Even more strangely, it sat down on its back legs and
flipped the page over.
“You know what?” Tom said.
“You’ll think I’m crazy, but—I think it’s reading.”
“I think you’re crazy,” Smiley said. “It’s an animal.”
They continued to watch the beast’s strange
behaviour until Tom said, “Wait, let me try something.”
He took out his pocket notebook and pencil and
secretly wrote something on the first page. He glanced at Smiley, tore out the
page, replaced the notebook and pencil in his pocket, and then he did something
“Hey, you! Animal!” Tom shouted. “Hey! Hey!”
The beast looked up from the book and hissed at them.
“Hey hey hey!” Tom shouted. The beast looked
angry and hissed even louder then started to walk towards them.
“Are you crazy?” Smiley shouted.
“Wait!” Tom said, as if he knew exactly what he
By now the beast was at the bottom of the tree,
hissing with anger. Smiley was sure it would try to climb up and eat them.
Then, Tom took the page with his secret writing on it and tossed it to the
ground. It drifted and floated like an autumn leaf and tickled the beast’s
snout before it landed. The beast gave a sneeze and twitched its snout. Then
the beast looked at the page lying on the ground.
“I’m sure it’s reading!” Tom said.
“Wait and see.”
“What did you write?” Smiley asked. They both
looked down as the beast seemed to follow the lines of words on the page. Then
it looked up at them. But now there was no hissing. Then it looked back at the
page and seemed to read every word and every line all over again. Then it
looked back up at them. And then, if a beast can ever really shrug its
shoulders, that’s exactly what this beast seemed to do! It turned around,
walked back to the pile of books and other school stuff, grabbed The Twits, a famous book by a famous writer, in its
front teeth and walked away.
“What?” Smiley couldn’t believe what he’d seen.
“Has it gone?”
“I hope so,” Tom said.
“Okay, well let’s wait a bit in case it comes
They waited a bit.
The beast didn’t come back.
“Okay, let’s climb down and see what happens.”
They climbed down the tree and nothing
happened. They both stood at the bottom, looking around everywhere in case the
beast was hiding and waiting for them and ready to jump out.
Smiley picked up the page from Tom’s notebook
and read Tom’s neat hand writing:
Dear Mr. Animal,
We are two small human boys and we are very small and we are not good to eat.
We taste really really yucky. Human boys are the most yucky thing in the world.
So please do not try to eat us because you will say Yuck.
And please take that book called The Twits. It’s by a very famous writer and
you will love it a lot.
Thank you Mr. Animal and have a nice day.
Two yucky human boys.
“Do you think it really read all that?” Smiley asked.
“Mmm, I think so.”
“Tom boy, that must be the smartest animal in
the world and you must be the smartest kid.”
“I’m good at school,” Tom said, flatly.
“Right, listen, let’s run over there, stuff the
stuff in the bags, grab our jackets and run like mad that way!” he pointed.
“Ready? Go!” They raced out and grabbed the
stuff and stuffed the stuff in their bags and turned on their heels and
They ran and they ran. Smiley glanced back to
see if the beast was anywhere to be seen.
“Okay, let’s stop!” Smiley said.
Tom fell panting to the ground.
Smiley sat down, fished inside his bag, took
out the compass, opened it up, and then began to use the point to dig a hole
through Tom’s window squeaking cork. Tom watched quietly. He wasn’t good at
running and he was still breathing hard. Smiley examined the hole and then
pushed the point of the compass until he came out the other end of the cork.
Next he took one of the metal poles, shook it so it popped to full length, and
pushed the cork inside so that the compass point was sticking out.
“Look. It’s a kind of spear.”
“If any other animal wants to attack us, we can
give it a jab with that spike and give it something else to think about.”
“Cripes,” Tom said again.
Smiley stood up and held the spear and
pretended to jab an imaginary animal. “Do you want to carry it?”
“Me? Er, no, I don’t think I’d be good at
spiking an animal.”
“Oh, okay then.”
Hit by a Bullet
The two boys continued their long walk through
the middle of Nowhere.
“Smiley?” Tom began.
“You didn’t tell me how we’re going to find our
“Oh, yeah. Well, we have no map. So there’s
only one thing we can do.”
“We have to go west to get home.” Smiley looked
up at the sky to see where the morning sun was. “And west is that way,” he pointed. “So what we have to do is try
and find a stream or a river that’s going west and just keep following it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. Water always flows downhill, right? So
sooner or later it’ll flow out of the mountains. Then we’ll find people and
we’ll be safe.”
“Oh,” Tom said. It sounded too simple.
They walked on.
“I’m pretty thirsty. Are you?”
“Yeah. But we don’t have much left. Can you
wait a bit longer?”
“All right,” Tom said, trying not to sound
They pushed their way through a large bush and
jumped with surprise when half a dozen small birds suddenly flew out.
They walked on.
“What will we do when all the juice is finished?”
“Don’t worry, Tom boy. We’re in the mountains.
There’s always loads of streams in the mountains. We’ll find one soon.”
But Smiley was secretly worrying. He knew they
had to find drinking water really soon.
So they walked on, with Smiley checking the
position of the sun to make sure they were going west. And at the same time he
was looking carefully in every direction for any sign of a stream and drinking
“Let’s take a rest and a drink,” he said, and
they sat down leaning against a tree. Tom took out the bottle of juice.
“Let’s have four glugs each,” Smiley said.
Tom: Glug glug glug glug.
Smiley: Glug glug glug glug.
They were both tired, but Smiley knew they had
to keep walking and keep searching for a stream before it got dark.
Tom groaned as they stood up, his aching legs
too tired to move. They mostly walked downwards. But often they had no choice
but to climb up and over ridges and small hills. And it was hard work. Worst of
all, it was thirsty work. But Smiley never suggested drinking and Tom decided
not to ask.
The sun had climbed up into the sky, over their
heads and was now sinking towards the horizon. The two boys sat for another
rest and Smiley finally said they could drink.
“Three glugs each?”
“All right,” Tom agreed.
Smiley: Glug glug glug.
Tom: Glug glug glug.
It wasn’t much and they were both still thirsty
but it was already all gone.
While they sat, Smiley hid his face in his
hands, trying to look as if he was just resting. Really, he was almost ready to
cry. He could hardly believe they’d walked so far and so long and not found a
stream. He knew they could only survive three or four days without drinking.
Smiley tried not to imagine what it would be like to die of thirst.
Much too soon, Smiley stood up again and Tom
followed. He really wanted to just stay where he was and rest and put up the
tent and go to sleep and dream a nice dream and wake up and find he was back
home in his own bed.
So they walked and the sun peeped through the
trees and slowly sank lower in the sky. Smiley was looking here and there and
everywhere. There had to be a stream somewhere.
Even though they were both exhausted, Smiley
changed pace and they started walking faster than ever. Faster than ever with
Smiley frantically looking here and there and everywhere. He knew if they had
to camp without finding any drinking water it would be a terrible night and the
next day would be even more terrible.
Then, unexpectedly, Smiley grabbed Tom by the
arm and stopped dead still.
“Shh,” Smiley shhed. There they stood, silent.
Smiley cupped his ear with his hand.
“Can you hear it?” he whispered.
“What?” Tom could only hear the forest sounds:
the rustle of leaves and the twittering and squawking of birds.
“That!” he whispered. Still holding Tom’s arm, Smiley quietly and slowly led
the way, gently pushing a leafy branch to one side, careful with each silent
step as if they were hunters stalking an animal. Smiley stopped again and
“Now? Can you hear it now?”
“What?” Tom was starting to get scared.
Smiley pulled him along by the arm and now he
was walking faster. And with each step Smiley pulled him faster still. And then
he released Tom’s arm and ran forward until he seemed to fall to the ground as
if he’d been hit by a bullet. Tom rushed to help him.
“Are you all right?” he cried.
At the last moment he saw there was a small
stream and Smiley was lying with his face in it, drinking like a fish.
Tom fell to his knees and used his hands to
drink. The water was so cold and so tasty. It was better than any water he’d
ever tasted in his life.
“It’s better than red pop,” Smiley gasped. And
red pop was his favourite.
If you’ve ever been really thirsty for a long
time and then finally had a drink, then you’ll know what it feels like. Only
Tom and Smiley weren’t really thirsty. No: they were really dying of thirst. Glug glug glug no need to count the glugs.
Smiley turned to face Tom. “We did it Tom boy!”
And they both smiled at each other with water dripping down their chins.
“You did it Smiley. And I knew you would!”
The Name Game
The tent was set up beside the stream, this
time with only five poles so that Smiley could keep the spear beside him.
Smiley taught Tom how to make a campfire so it would always light first time.
Sort the wood into piles by size, tiny twigs first and big logs last.
Crumple up two pages into balls.
Break the tiniest twigs and place them carefully over the balls of paper.
Break some thicker twigs and place them carefully on top.
Light the balls of paper.
Add more twigs and sticks as the fire grew.
Blow to make the flames burn bigger and hotter.
Carefully add thick branches and finally logs.
“See? It’s easy,” Smiley said, adding two logs.
Tom sat on the grass beside Smiley. They both
watched the flames, dancing and jumping as if they were alive.
“The stream makes a nice sound!” Tom said.
“It’s like poetry.”
“Is it?” Smiley seemed surprised.
Tom took the food out of his bag. He used the
scissors to cut the chicken sandwich with only a bite taken out.
“Better keep that silver foil,” Smiley said,
“just in case.”
All the food was eaten and all the food was
They both stared silently at the fire.
“Smiley, do you know what?” Tom fished in his
pocket for his notebook and pencil.
“People who discover something can be the ones
who give it a name.”
“Oh,” Smiley said, wondering what Tom was on
“And we discovered that weird animal that likes
“Oh, yeah! We did didn’t we!”
“So what shall we call it? I’m going to write
it in my notebook.”
“I’m not good at stuff like that. You think of
Tom chewed on the pencil for a few seconds and
“What did you call it?” Smiley asked.
“Well, the book it liked is called The Twits. So this is what I called it.” Tom showed Smiley the page:
The Great Twit
This animal has rings around its eyes so it looks like
it’s wearing glasses. It can ead but only likes good books.
The sun had slipped behind the mountains and
the sky was growing dark. Once again, the early evening air was growing cold.
Tom added some logs to the fire and the boys lay leisurely on the ground
watching the flames. After a few minutes Smiley said, “I’m just going to check
He took his schoolbag with him. When he reached
the tent he glanced back at Tom to make sure he wasn’t looking, took out Tom’s
bag of marbles and quietly placed them one by one in the pencil case. He
glanced around again. Tom was still watching the fire. Smiley reached inside
the tent and put the pencil case full of marbles just inside the door.
“Is it all right?” Tom asked when Smiley
“Yeah, fine,” he said.
The fire crackled.
Soon enough it was completely dark and the
campfire made the shadows dance and shake again, as if they wanted to run away
Later, inside the tent, Tom noticed his pencil
case but was too tired to ask why it was there. He pulled the raincoat into
place and rested his head on his schoolbag. And he was too tired to worry about
forest sounds and shifting shadows. Almost as soon as he closed his eyes he was
Smiley though seemed to be awake a bit longer.
Or was he? The night sounds didn’t bother him so much. But tonight there was something else:
something that Smiley almost heard. It was like when you almost see something out of the corner of your eye and then look around and
there’s nothing there. Smiley almost heard something and listened hard and then there was nothing. The thing
he almost heard was like a voice, but it wasn’t speaking and it wasn’t singing
and it was a girl’s voice. And it was like a ghost voice or the voice of a
The next morning was chilly and they hadn’t
even a scrap of food left.
They washed in the stream, drank, packed
everything away. The sun was still behind the high mountains, so they sat down
on a rock and enjoyed the last of the fire.
Finally they set off. It was easier to walk
following the stream because they only had to go downhill. Soon it was starting
to be nice and warm, and by mid morning they both had their jackets off and
stuffed them in their bags. Not much later they took off their pullovers and
tied them around their waists.
The stream began to take them around a sharp
corner. Ahead they saw a tall tree with very peculiar looking fruit.
“Ha! It looks like sausages,” Tom said as they
Using his spear, Smiley knocked one of the
fruits off and it fell to the ground. He picked it up and it really did look
like a sausage.
Smiley took a small bite.
“What’s it taste like?”
“You won’t believe me.”
“I will. Tell me.”
“Well, if you ask me, it tastes like sausage.”
“Ha! I don’t believe you.”
“A traditional sage and onion sausage.”
“It’s a fruit. It’s not a sausage.”
“Have a bite then.”
So Tom took a smaller bite. Smiley took a
“Cripes. You’re right. It tastes exactly like a traditional sage and onion sausage. And
you know what?”
“I love traditional sage and onion sausages.”
“Me too,” Smiley said.
“I’m starving,” Tom said, and started to take
“Stop!” Smiley snatched the weird traditional
sage and onion sausages away.
“We have to be careful. For all we know it
could be poisonous.”
“Really?” Tom said, sadly. “But it’s yumific.”
“Yeah, and nature can be dead tricky. And we
don’t want to end up dead.”
“So we can’t eat any?” When Tom said this, he
looked as if he was ready to cry.
“We just have to be careful. We’ll take another
bite each and then wait until tonight. And if we haven’t been sick and we feel
okay, we’ll know they’re probably safe.”
“So are we staying here all day waiting?”
“Nah, we’ll fill up the bags and get going.”
Tom and Smiley took another bite each and
seemed to study the taste as if there would be a test later.
“Okay, let’s get as many as we can carry.”
The tree was pretty big and even the lowest
lying fruit was almost too high to reach with the spear. Smiley managed to
knock off three more.
“I can’t reach any more.”
“Cripes,” Tom said, stuffing them into his bag.
“That’s not many.”
“I know. I know what, though. Get on my
shoulders and you try.”
“Mmm, all right,” Tom said, unhappily. He
wasn’t keen on gymnastic stuff.
Smiley got on his knees. Tom sat on his
shoulders. Smiley stood. Tom wobbled.
“Are you okay?”
“I think so.”
Smiley passed the spear to Tom who began to knock
off more of the sausage fruit.
“I think we have enough!” Smiley said.
“I can get more.”
“Maybe you can. But maybe it’s not a great
idea. Look over there!”
In the distance Tom saw a pack of animals
running towards them. They were monkeyish, except they had no fur, were completely
pink from head to toe with a short curly tail, and were making very
un-monkeyish snorting sounds.
“Get off!” Smiley cried.
Tom jumped from Smiley shoulders.
Tom was about to grab his school bag and run
when Smiley shouted, “Get the sausages!”
The boys scrambled about in a panic, stuffing
the sausages in their bags as fast as they could. Tom was about ready to cry
Smiley glanced up. The strange pink animals
were getting awfully close.
“Okay okay let’s go!” he cried and they set off
When the strange animals reached the tree they
noticed some sage and onion sausages still scattered about on the ground. They
wanted to chase the two sausage thieves. But they wanted to eat the sausages
more. So they all stopped and started munching away as fast as they could and
making awful munching sounds.
“I think we can stop now!” Smiley said,
glancing back. “They’re busy eating.”
He took out his camera and zoomed in. Click.
Inside and Outside at the Same Time
“Let’s make camp,” Smiley said.
The boys had walked all day and Tom could
hardly take another step. They dropped their bags on the ground. Tom glanced up
and saw big black clouds were beginning to gather.
“Look,” he told Smiley.
“Yeah I noticed. Maybe a storm’s coming.”
“I hope not,” Tom said.
Smiley started to look at the ground around
them, twisting and turning and looking from this angle and that angle and every
other angle you can imagine. Once he even bent over and looked through his
“What’re you doing?” Tom asked.
“In case it rains—we have to make sure
the tent’s on high ground. Otherwise we could end up sleeping in a giant
puddle—and that’s not
And then the wind began to blow.
To make the tent stronger, Smiley used his
spear pole too. Then he collected rocks from the stream and placed them around
the bottom to hold everything down.
Everything was done and the fire was burning
nicely. As they sat on the ground to rest, great rumblings of thunder rumbled
in the distance and the tops of the trees began to creak.
“And it’s coming fast.”
“What about those sausages?” Tom asked. “I’m
not feeling sick, are you?”
“Well my stomach’s rumbling more than that
thunder! Can we eat some?”
“Sure, Tom boy!”
As they ate, the rumbling of thunder grew closer
and now the sky lit up with flashes of lightening.
Tom finished eating and put more wood on the
fire. The flames began to grow and sent shadows running. Tom took out his
pocket notebook and pencil.
“We’ve got to name that fruit tree and those
animals,” Tom said, chewing the end of his pencil thoughtfully.
“You do it, Tom boy.”
“All right.” He chewed some more and then began
They look like pigs and run like pigs and snort like pigs
and eat like pigs. But they are monkeys.
Sage and Onion Sausage Tree
The fruit looks like sage and onion sausage and tastes
like sage and onion sausage but it’s fruit so it’s NOT sage and onion sausage.
Pig Monkeys and human boys love it.
When Tom finally crawled into the tent, he
noticed that Smiley had put his pencil case beside his pillow again.
The rain had just started and it was hissing
into the campfire until the last flames died. Now everything was dark and the
raindrops pitter-pattered onto the tent.
“That crazy inventor said this material’s
water-proof, didn’t he?” Smiley asked.
“Yes, that’s what he said.”
“And wiggle-proof and giggle proof.”
“Well that’s a relief!” Smiley said and they both laughed
their heads off.
Suddenly there was a giant flash of lightening
and the rumble of thunder. The boys stopped laughing.
“I just wish it was lightening-proof,” Tom said.
When you’re at home, safe in bed, and the
lightening flashes and thunder crashes, maybe it makes you jump and hide under
the covers. But imagine being in the deepest darkest part of a forest, in the
middle of Nowhere, inside a makeshift tent. And it’s so dark. And when the rain
rains it hammers on the tent over your head like a thousand hammers. And when
the lightening flashes and the thunder crashes it sounds like the whole world
is at war and you’re the target of all the world’s bombs and bullets. You don’t
jump and hide under the covers. No. You close your eyes and feel your shins
shiver and your giblets gibber. Your knees knock. And that’s what it was like
for Tom. And remember he was only eight. Even Smiley wasn’t smiling.
Soon the rain was raining fast and furious and
it was really battering on the tent. The lightening flashed and flashed and
flashed as if the whole sky was exploding and the thunder thundered like the
clouds were made of metal and crashing into each other. It thundered so hard
and so loud and so close they could feel the ground shake beneath them.
“Are we going to be all right?” Tom asked.
“I think so,” Smiley said. But then he got up
and started crawling around the tent.
“What’re you doing?”
“Checking if any water’s sneaking in from the
bottom.” Lightening flashed and Tom could see Smiley feeling all along the
bottom of the tent.
“Oh-oh,” he said.
“What?” Tom was suddenly more afraid than
“There’s a tiny trickle of water starting to
come in. We have to stop it before it gets worse.”
“I’ll have to go outside and dig a small
“Tell me how to do it. I’ll do it,” Tom said.
And as soon as he said it, he wished he’d kept his big mouth shut.
“Why? It’s raining like crazy out there. You
don’t like getting wet.”
“I know. But you do everything, and I want to do my share. Tell me how.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes.” Tom said yes, but he was really
“It’s dark. You don’t like the dark either.”
“I know. Just tell me what to do.”
And so Smiley explained.
“All right,” Tom said, and sat up to go outside
into the horrible scary stormy Nowhere night.
“Just one last thing,” Smiley began.
“If your clothes get soaking wet, when you come
back inside they’ll never dry because we don’t have any fire or sleeping bags.
And if they don’t dry you’ll get colder and colder and that’s how people die
when they go hiking.”
“Is it?” Tom’s mind was racing. He had to go
outside but if he did he could die! “Are you sure?”
“I can wear the raincoat.”
“Nah. That thing’s useless in a storm like
this. And then we wouldn’t be able to use it as a cover either.”
“Well what shall I do?”
“There’s only one thing to do: take off your clothes
and go out quick and dig the channel as quick as you can.”
“Yeah. You’ll get soaked, but when you get back
in you can put your dry clothes on and you’ll soon be warm again.”
“Take off my clothes?” Tom couldn’t believe he was serious.
“That’s what I was going to do.”
“All of them?”
“That’s what I was going to do.”
“Even my underpants?”
“That’s what I was going to do.”
“Mmm. All right.” As Tom began undressing and
the lightening flashed and the thunder crashed, he was already feeling cold.
All his clothes were off. Tom pushed the
door-flap open and quickly climbed out before he had chance to change his mind.
It was pouring and in half a second he couldn’t
be wetter even if he went swimming. First things first. Just like Smiley had
explained, he ran to the dead campfire and picked up a big stick to help him
dig. The lightening flashed. The thunder crashed.
And then, with the stick in his hand, Tom began
to do something very strange. Something very strange. As the rain rained and
the lightening lightened and the thunder thundered, he began to dance around
the tent. He began to dance around the tent and hoop and cry and scream and
with every hoop and cry and scream he slapped his mouth with the palm of his
hand so that every hoop and cry and scream sounded very eerie.
“Wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah.” And so he danced and hopped and jumped and hopped
and cried and screamed like a wild man who’d grown up in a cave and never been
to school or taken a single test. Smiley pulled the door-flap to one side and
looked out. Just at that moment, the lightening flashed and he saw Tom’s bare
bottom disappear around the tent as he danced and cried. But then, Smiley did
something strange too: instead of shouting to Tom and telling him not to dance
around and cry like a wild-man, he just moved his head back inside, out of the
rain, and closed the flap.
“Hooooo-ahhhhh wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah.” Tom
danced around the tent in the freezing cold rain, once, twice, thrice. Just as
another thunder of lightening exploded, he stopped and shouted to Smiley, “Show
me where the water’s coming in.”
Smiley stuck his hand under the bottom of the
tent and wiggled his fingers. “Can you see my hand?”
“This is where it’s coming in.”
Quickly, Tom used the stick to scratch and dig
a channel to one side of the tent and then the other. The ground was already
wet and soft so it wasn’t so difficult to dig deep. The two long holes made an
upside down V shape.
“I think I did it!” Tom shouted.
“Get back inside then!”
Tom tossed the stick away and with a bit of a
hop and a skip and a jump and with one final wild-man cry he went to the front
of the tent, pushed the flap to one side and crawled in.
Tom’s teeth were chattering and he was
shivering and shaking.
“Nice job, Tom boy! Now get dressed really
Tom got dressed really really fast, but he was
still shivering and shaking.
Smiley took off his school jacket and spread it
on the floor. “Lay on it. It’ll keep you off the cold ground.” Tom lay down.
Smiley took off his pullover and shirt and laid them over Tom. Last of all, he
put the raincoat.
“How was it outside?”
“W-w-w-wild,” Tom said, his teeth chattering so
much he could hardly say a single word. But already, with his dry clothes on
and the shirt, pullover and raincoat covering him, Tom began to warm up. And
Smiley didn’t ask why he’d danced and screamed like a wild-man. And he never
The rain hammered on the tent and the thunder
and lightening exploded. But Tom had done a good job and the rain on the ground
flowed to both sides of the tent instead of sneaking inside. Eventually, Tom
was feeling warmer and now it was Smiley, still sitting with no shirt, who was
“Here,” Tom said, sitting up, “put your stuff
back on again. I’m warmer now.”
Smiley dressed quickly.
And so, at long last, they both laid on their
backs, covered by the raincoat, using their schoolbags as pillows and watching
the lightening light up the tent. The rain hammered away on the thin tent
And all the time, Tom was wondering when the whole
thing would collapse.
And when they’d both get soaked and freeze to
One hour drifted into the next, and every time
the storm seemed to be passing and the rain slowing, it returned louder and
heavier and scarier than before.
It was after midnight when Tom really began to
believe that Smiley’s marvellous tent really would keep them safe and dry.
“Are you asleep?” Tom asked quietly.
“Nope. Are you?”
“No!” And they both laughed as another bolt of
lightening blasted the sky open and more rain fell.
“Do you know what?” Tom said.
“It’s amazing. We just have that thin material
and six poles, but it’s enough to keep us safe and dry.”
“Yeah. That’s why camping’s so great. It’s like
being inside and outside at the same time.”
And even though the storm continued louder than
ever, again Smiley almost heard something. It was like a voice, but it wasn’t speaking and it wasn’t
singing and it was a girl’s voice. And it was like a ghost voice or the voice
of a ghost.
A Business Breakfast
The next morning, far far far away, a tall
Skinny inventor called Tinker was drinking a cup of tea surrounded by stacks
and stacks of boxes that disappeared into the shadows of the giant warehouse.
On a large table were sheets of paper where he’d scribbled ideas for more inventions.
The door opened and bright morning light shone
into the gloomy room.
“Ah, there you are, you great giddyhead!” It
was Wannabe. For some reason he was still wearing the pearl necklace around his
fat flabby neck.
“Yes Boss,” Tinker said, taking another drink
of hot tea.
“Are you ready to see if the kids in that
school are stupid yet?
“Well, Boss, I’m ready—but the invention isn’t.”
“What? What’re you on about now?”
“You know we have to give it a week, Boss.”
“A week? A week? Well how blasted long has it
“Only four days, Boss.”
“Urmgrph,” Wannabe groaned like a rhinoceros in
a paper bag.
“Well, I starving!” Wannabe slobbered. “Make me
“What do you fancy, Boss?”
“Mmmmmmmmmm, let me see,” he slobbered some more.
“I think this morning I feel like some nice toothsome sage and onion sausages.”
“And very mushy mushrooms.”
“And cubed cabbage.”
“And garlic grimps.”
“And steamed fraggles.”
“And crunchy hinkledrops.”
“And even more toothsome sage and union
And of course the slobbery Wannabe ate the
whole lot and then asked for more.
Some Traditions Just Don’t Last
It was a damp and miserable morning. And with
only four traditional sage and onion sausages left, they set off with no
breakfast. And when lunchtime came, they had no lunch either.
All day long they grew hungrier and hungrier
and weaker and weaker and walking was harder and harder.
It was late in the afternoon when a tiny
gargling stream flowed into the one they were following.
“It’s nice,” Tom said. “Shall we camp here?”
“Sure, Tom boy.”
All the firewood was wet, so Smiley showed Tom
a secret trick.
First he collected pine needles from under an
“Now, Tom boy, watch what happens.”
As the paper began to burn and the wet twigs
fizzled, Smiley threw a handful of the pine needles on top. Immediately they
flashed and flared like tiny fireworks and the wet twigs began to burn.
“Works every time!” Smiley said.
Now, Tom had been number one in his class ever
since he started school. Everyone said how smart he was. But now he was
starting to think he wasn’t so smart after all.
“How is it you know everything about camping
and hiking and everything?”
“My dad’s mad about camping. He takes me all the time and
“Well, you’re really smart.”
“I told you already, I get Es in everything. I must be the dumbest kid in
the whole school.”
“No. You know a lot more than me. If I was in
the middle of Nowhere on my own—” Tom decided not to finish the sentence.
“They don’t test us on camping, or hiking, or
making fires—or not getting eaten by wild animals,” Smiley said. “They
test us on math and spelling and what’s the capital of Mexico.”
Tom opened his bag and took out the four traditional
sage and onion sausages they had left.
Both boys looked at them for a few moments. It
was scary to eat them because they were the last traditional sage and onion sausages
and after they were gone they’d have nothing else to eat.
Can you imagine your mum giving you a
traditional sage and onion sausage and telling you that when it was gone
there’d be nothing else to eat? “What about tomorrow?” you’d ask. And your mum
would smile weakly and say there was no food for tomorrow. Can you imagine?
Well, that’s why it wasn’t fun for Tom and
Smiley to eat those traditional sage and onion sausages. And that’s why Tom
felt like crying.
“Don’t worry.” Smiley knew exactly what Tom was
thinking. “There’s other things we can find to eat. You wait and see.”
They both ate slower than a couple of tortoises
in an international slow eating competition. But finally there was no more food
And so, as the evening grew colder, they sat,
sometimes holding their hands to the fire, fingers spread like the tails of
peacocks. Steam steamed from their wet shoes and socks and the bottoms of their
It seemed really late but when Tom checked his
watch it was only 8:47.
“That’s what it’s like when you’re camping,”
Smiley said. “It seems like midnight but it’s only 8:47.”
“I wish we were just camping with your dad,
instead of being here in the middle of Nowhere,” Tom said.
“Yeah, so do I.”
Finally, they crawled into
Outside, the fire crackled
Smiley suddenly opened his
eyes. He could almost hear that strange voice that was not a voice. The voice
was not speaking and it was not singing and it was a girl’s voice. And it was
like a ghost voice or the voice of a ghost.
“Smiley?” Tom whispered,
“What?” Smiley whispered.
“I can hear something
“Like a voice?”
“Well, mmm, a bit like
“Yeah. I hear it every
night,” Smiley whispered.
“Do you? What is it?”
“I don’t know.”
Tom turned onto his side, covered his ears with
his arms and tried to think of something else. Something nice. Something that
was not a ghost voice or the voice of a ghost.
Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust
Tom and Smiley walked almost without talking.
Now it was their second day with no food and they were too hungry to talk. And
Smiley was looking here and looking there and looking everywhere for something
they could eat.
Another small stream crossed their path. They
“Cripes! What are they?”
Just ahead there was a clearing in the trees
and what looked like strange eggs half buried in the ground. They were all
kinds of sizes, some as small as a rugby ball and some bigger than a bungalow.
They pushed their way through the last of the
trees and then Tom and Smiley both reached out to touch the first strange egg.
“They’re made of stone,” Smiley said.
“Maybe they’re fossilised dinosaur eggs,” Tom
said. “Or maybe they’re dragons’ eggs.”
“I hope not,” Smiley said with a smile.
“So do I. And if they are, I hope we don’t meet
They began to walk between the strange stones.
“There’s hundreds of them,” Smiley said.
Some were so close together that they had to
squeeze between them. Sometimes there was more space and a tree grew in
between. But the trees were all strange old creaky twisty turning sickly withered
looking trees, with scraggy branches and thorny thorns that tried to scratch
the boys’ faces. It was a strange gloomy and spooky place.
“This place gives me the creeps,” Tom said.
Ages later they were still walking amongst the
strange stones and the pointy trees.
“Let’s take a rest for a minute,” Smiley said.
Tom sat down on one of the egg-shaped stones
while Smiley took a photo. Click.
“Phew, I’ll be glad to get out of here,” Smiley
said, pocketing the camera.
But then Smiley saw something.
“Look there.” Smiley pointed just ahead to a
half dead tree. It was all twisty and horrible with hardly any leaves. And
there were five very big very strange very scary very spooky and very black
birds sitting on the lowest branch. They were black. The feathers on their
heads were shaped like old-fashioned top hats. And they were watching Tom and
Smiley very very very carefully with beady black eyes. Smiley took out his
camera and took another quick photo. Click.
“They look like they’re waiting for a funeral.”
Tom said, and shiver ran up his spine.
“Yeah, our funeral.” Smiley picked up a stone and tossed it at the birds.
Immediately they took to the wing. As they flew off, their big black wings
waff-waff-waffed through the air and they looked Tom and Smiley in the eyes.
They croaked all together in a terrible croaking chorus and it sounded like
“Aaaaahshes ta aaaaaahshes awwwwwnd duuuuuuuust
Tom and Smiley set off walking again, finding
their way between the strange eggs-shaped stones.
Finally they reached the end and normal trees
began to grow again.
“Cripes, that place was awful.”
“Awfully weird,” Smiley agreed.
As they walked, Smiley again looked here and
there and everywhere for something to eat. But there was nothing to eat.
Then they heard something. It was a croaky
chorus of croaky voices: “Aaaaahshes ta aaaaaahshes awwwwwnd duuuuuuuust ta
Tom and Smiley glanced at each other. There was
another mortuary croak and the two boys looked up at exactly the same time and
saw the five birds, sitting in a tree, staring at them with their black eyes.
“Cripes, are they following us?”
“I’m not sure,” Smiley said, “but I’ll follow them with something.” He picked up a stick and
lobbed it at them. They all took off and again flew off with a waff-waff-waff
of wings and a sombre croaking.
“It’s getting late. Shall we stop here and make
camp?” Smiley asked.
“Not here, Smiley,” Tom said, even though he
was tired out. “Those birds know we’re here. Let’s go a bit further.”
The sun had dipped behind the mountains. The
air was getting cold and their breath came out like smoke from a dragon’s
“It’s getting cold again,” Tom said.
Finally, the tent was up and the fire was
burning. Tom was silently watching the flames.
“Don’t worry,” Smiley said, “we’ll find some
food. Sooner or later.”
“Are you sure?”
Tom looked up at Smiley and they both smiled
weakly at each other.
Tom took out his pocket note-book and wrote:
Witch’s Fingernail Trees
These trees look old and twisted and horrible and have
hardly any leaves. But they have plenty of scratchy thorns like a witch’s long
They are big and black. Their feathers look like they are
dressed for a funeral. They squawk and it sounds like ashes to ashes and dust
to dust. They seem to follow hungry kids.
“You know what?” Tom began, showing the page to
“If we ever get out of this forest and back
“We will,” Smiley said.
“Well, when we do, we’ll be really famous
because we discovered so many new things and we’ve named them all.”
Do You Know What?
It was another day with no food, so the only
thing they had for breakfast was wishful thinking.
Everything was packed up and the boys stood
huddled close to the campfire.
“Do you know what?” Tom said.
“This is our seventh day. We’ve been in the
middle of nowhere for a whole week.”
“Holy-guacamole,” Smiley said. “You’re good at
Numbers and Letters
Meanwhile, far far far away there was a certain
shadowy place with a couple of shadowy characters.
Half hidden in those shadows, the two shadowy
characters stood beside a large table covered with papers. A single dim light
bulb hung by a long wire from the high ceiling. And all around, piles and piles
of big cardboard boxes disappeared into the darkness.
“Right then,” Wannabe began, “it’s been exactly
seven days since we put that blasted stupid thing in that blasted school.”
“The Stupidifier, Boss. It’s called a
Stupidifier and it’ll make all the kids in that school completely stupid.”
“Well, let’s go and see.”
They left the shadowy warehouse and climbed
into the white van that had everything.
“Let’s get going, let’s get going, let’s get
going,” Wannabe said, pretty keen to get going.
The engine growled and sputtered and choked and
then speeded off faster than an honest kid but slower than a cheater.
“So this blasted van of yours has everything?”
Wannabe challenged, fiddling with the string of pearls still around his
“Well, I’m thirsty and I want a nice cup of
“But I’m driving Boss,” Tinker said.
“Driving? Ha. Any fool can drive.”
“Can you drive, Boss?”
“NO, you blasted fool,” Wannabe said. “Now get
me that blasted coffee. And you better make it bitter!”
Smiley climbed from his seat and the van began
to twist and turn and swivel. But, two seconds later, Tinker came back and
handed Wannabe a steaming mug of black bitter coffee.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh,” Wannabe said, taking a
And so they drove on, over hill and dale until
finally they arrived outside the small village where Tom and Smiley came from.
All the men and women in the village pub were sad and talking about where Tom
and Smiley had gone. And the more beer they drank the sadder they became. And
all the kids in the village school—except Basher and his basher
gang—were sad and talking about where the boys had gone.
Tinker parked the van beside the old church. He
turned off the chuggery engine. On the dashboard, between the driver and passenger
seats, there was a Secret Spy Camera TV. Tinker switched it on and the small
screen lit up.
“Right, Boss, let’s see how stupid those kids
It was a class of tiny little six-year-old
kids. They were all wriggling around as if they had ants in their pants and
spiders down their shirts.
“Right my likkkkle darlings,” Miss Moppy, the
teacher, said in her best baby voice. “Sekkle down now.”
All the tiny brats kept wriggling.
“That’s better. Now, who wants to play a reaaaaally fun game?” All the class
started shouting, “Me! Me!” as if they were in a shouting competition.
“Okaaay my lovelies. Who wants to sing The
Half the class shouted, “Me!” while the other
half screamed, “Not me!” A few little monsters shouted both.
“Now, now, not so much noise my sweet likkle
darlings. Raise your hand if you want to sing The Alphabet Song,” Miss Moppy told them.
Miss Moppy got her pointing finger ready, and
started to point it around the class while she very slowly said, “Hoooooooow
abouuuuuut,” and then pointed at little Sarah, the most spoiled kid in the
“Yeahhhhhhhhh,” spoiled Sarah cheered and
glanced around the class to make sure every one was watching her.
So she stood up as if she was on a big stage
with ten million people in the audience.
“Okaay you sweet likkle girl,” Miss Moppy said.
“Sing The Alphabet Song for
the whole class. Class: listen to Sarah sing.”
Sarah began to sing: “A B C D E F G, H I J K M
M M M M, M M M, M M M, M M M and M. Now I know my A B C, let me watch some more
“Ha ha ha” Wannabe laughed, watching the Secret
Spy Camera TV screen. “Did you hear what that stupid girl said about TV? Ha ha!
She wants more TV! Ha ha! That tickles me that does!” And Wannabe was laughing
so much it really did seem like he was being tickled.
Meanwhile, the class clapped quietly the way
they always did when spoiled Sarah showed off. But they suddenly stopped when
Miss Moppy suddenly burst out: “Sarah, really, you know that wasn’t right.”
Sarah looked up. Miss Moppy looked down.
“Miss?” Sarah couldn’t believe her ears and was
thinking Miss Moppy had misapprehended. “I’m sure it was right.”
“Really my honey blossom, there were far too
“Really, Miss? I’m sure it was right.”
“No my darling likkle girl. Far too many Ms.”
“Oh. How many should there be, Miss?” Sarah
“Well, one darling. One M. Or, two at the very most.”
“Oh,” Sarah said and started to cry crocodile
“Awwwwwww, it’s awwwwwright,” Miss Moppy said,
giving the little brat a hug. “You did your best, and that’s the important
“Okaaay, sekkle down everyone. Let’s play a
spelling game. Who can spell ‘CAT’?”
Half the class said, “I can, I can, I can,” and
raised their hands and waved about as if they were swotting flies.
Miss Moppy got her pointing finger ready and
started to point it around the class while she very slowly said, “Hoooooooow
abouuuuuut,” and then pointed at curly Kim, the curliest kid in the class,
“YOU!” Kim had golden hair with so many kiss-curls it looked like she had a hundred
“Okaay my curly Kim, spell ‘CAT’ for the whole
class. Class: listen to Kim spell ‘CAT’.”
Kim stood up and looked around the class before
she began. “CAT: D,O,G spells CAT.” The class quietly clapped again.
“Excellent try my honey-dove. But just a likkle
“What?” Kim looked up astonished. “CAT: D,O,G
spells CAT.” She said it again, thinking Miss Moppy had misheard.
“That’s not how we spell ‘CAT,’ but don’t worry
my sugar plumb. You tried your best and that’s the important thing. Now, let’s
try another. Who can spell ‘DOG’? Now that should be easy.”
All the brats shouted, “I can, I can,” and
raised their hands and waved about as if they were holding flags and the Queen
was going passed in a train.
Miss Moppy got her pointing finger ready, and
started to point around the class while she very slowly said, “Hoooooooow
abouuuuuut,” and then pointed at Willie, the wobbliest kid in the class, “YOU!”
All the class looked at him, wondering if Willie would wobble. Willie stood up
ready to spell to the class but wobbled over and sat down again.
“Okaay my wobbly young fellow, spell ‘DOG’ for
the whole class. Class: listen to Willie spell ‘DOG’.”
“DOG: W, O, O, F spells DOG.”
The class clapped.
Miss Moppy shook her head silently. “That was a
lovely try, Willie, very very lovely. But you got it just a likkle bit wrong.”
Had Miss Moppy miscalculated the smartness of
the whole class? What was going on? Just one week before all the class knew The
Alphabet Song and could spell these easy words easy.
“Okaaaaay likkle boys and likkle girlies.
Sekkle down. We’ll do just one more before lunchtime. Who can spell ‘FOOD’?”
All the class raised their hands and waved
about as if they were monkeys dangling from a tree.
Miss Moppy got her pointing finger ready, and
started to point it around the class while she very slowly said, “Hoooooooow
abouuuuuut,” and then pointed at Sloppy, the sloppiest kid in the class, “YOU!”
Sloppy looked at Miss Moppy and Miss Moppy looked at Sloppy. Sloppy had food
stains all over his white shirt and trousers and even his socks were covered in
“Okaay,” Miss Moppy sang, “Sloppy, spell ‘FOOD’
for the whole class. And do it slowly my sweetheart, and think very very
“Yes, Miss.” Sloppy looked up at the ceiling,
and then down at the stains on his shirt. Then, very slowly, he began. “FOOD.
“Yes!” Miss Moppy cried.
“Yes!” Miss Moppy cried.
“Yes!” Miss Moppy cried.
“No!” Miss Moppy cried.
“Yes!” Wannabe said, looking at the Secret Spy
Camera TV screen and laughing like a loony. “Those kids are really stupid. But
what about the teachers? Are they staying smart?”
“No Boss. But they’re adults and the
Stupidifier works slower on adults. But they’ll get stupid too.”
“Good, I hate smart teachers,” Wannabe said and
some spit dribbled down his chin. “Now all we have to do is put one of those stupid
“—one of those stupid Stupidifiers in every school.”
Something Even More Scary
It was mid morning and finally the sun popped
up over the surrounding mountains and began to warm the air.
“I was wondering: why do you think that fat
fellow and that skinny inventor want to make the kids in our school all
“I don’t know. Maybe they’re just mad. What do you think?”
“I think they’ve got an evil plan, like in
“Yeah, but it’s not a book,” Smiley said.
Suddenly Tom looked up and stopped dead in his
The Funeral Birds were back.
They were sitting on the lowest branch they
could find and staring with black funeral eyes.
“Cripes, I thought we lost them days ago.”
“Yeah, me too.” Smiley picked up a branch and
tossed it at them.
Waff-waff-waff, they waffed away.
“It’s spooky,” Tom said. “what do they want?”
“I don’t know. Maybe they really want to go to our funeral.”
Now Tom and Smiley had long sad faces as if
they were walking towards their own funeral.
As the long hungry afternoon passed, dark
clouds began to fill the sky like black ink on pale paper.
“We’d better make camp,” Smiley said. The boys
were weak from hunger and could hardly take another step.
Smiley was afraid it might be another storm, so
he used the spear too, banged all the poles deep into the ground and put rocks
all around the bottom.
The fire was burning strong. Tom and Smiley sat
staring into the flames, trying not to think about being hungry. Soon the first
drops of rain began.
“Well,” Smiley said, “that’s the end of the
fire.” Already it was fizzzzzing and sizzzzzzling as the raindrops splashed
They crawled into the tent. Tom went first, and
noticed his pencil case in the usual place.
They both laid on their stomachs, chins propped
in hands, watching the rain dance about on the grass.
It was dark now and the tent flap was closed
and the two boys laid listening to the hammering of the rain on the tent. For
the first time there was no ghost voice or the voice of a ghost. But neither
Tom nor Smiley noticed and soon they both fell asleep.
While they slept there was a flapping flurry of
feathers as the gathering of funeral birds perched on a near-by branch. They
each gave their funeral call in the dark of the night and it eerily echoed
about the mountains.
And suddenly Smiley woke up. He had a strange
feeling that something was wrong. He listened. He listened. He listened. What
was it? He noticed the rain had stopped so everything was quiet but there was a
quiet sound that seemed too quiet. What was it? Smiley felt the shivers shiver his shivers. Something was
wrong. He rolled onto his stomach and used two fingers to open the entrance
flap and peeped outside. Most of the clouds had gone and the moon hung in the
sky like a streetlight looking for a street to light. There was hardly anything
to see but there was a shadow that he could hardly see. He half closed his eyes
and half opened his eyes, trying to see what the shadow was. The shadow seemed
to be moving about in the shadows of the trees at the edge of the clearing. It
was nothing. It was just a shadow.
Smiley was about ready to go back to sleep because
there was nothing there except shadows. But then he really saw the shadow. It was wasn’t just a shadow
because now he saw it move towards the tent and it looked like a big Black Cat
Shadow. A big Black Cat Shadow hungry for little kids. His heart skipped a
beat. The Black Cat Shadow stopped and its Black Cat Shadow eyes flashed in the
The Black Cat Shadow opened its black mouth and
black shiny teeth shone blackly in the moonlight. Smiley silently reached for
the spear. And then he remembered that he’d used it to make the tent stronger.
Smiley, still watching the Black Cat Shadow, felt his heart thud thud thud like
a huge temple drum in his chest. Without really thinking, his fingers moved
magically and he found Tom’s pencil case in it usual place. Quietly, silently,
he rested his hand on it.
And outside he watched the Black Cat Shadow
move closer to the tent. Now the moon seemed especially bright and for a moment
Smiley saw the Black Cat Shadow sniffing, sniffing, sniffing.
The Black Cat Shadow had never seen a tent and
never sniffed a human child before. The tent seemed a scary strange thing but
the sniff of human child seemed too gobbly good. Carefully, cautiously,
creepily it crept closer. And then it stopped again, half afraid and half crazy
for the taste of human child.
It crept and it crawled closer and closer.
Smiley’s heart was beating and he could almost taste the fear in his mouth. He
imagined a million things but knew there was only one thing he could do. He
only had one chance. And the Black Cat Shadow crept, step by creepy step,
closer and closer and closer.
And all around the shadows of the trees seemed
to shake as if they too were afraid of the Black Cat Shadow. The Funeral Birds
Smiley was scared. He was scared stiff. He was
so scared he could cry. But he peeped out and watched the creepy Black Cat
Shadow creep closer. His hand tightened around Tom’s pencil case.
And now the Black Cat Shadow was so close he
could hear its shadowy black breath gasping gasping gasping.
The Black Cat Shadow paused and sniffed the
sniff of human child. The Black Cat Shadow finally decided that human child was
a tasty treat. The Black Cat Shadow took another step closer to the tent. Now
it was only a metre away. It paused again. But this time only long enough to
crouch and stretch its Black Cat Shadow muscles like elastic bands ready to
snap and ready to spring. The Black Cat Shadow swallowed some kind of Black Cat
Shadow spit and finally finally finally decided it was time to pounce and kill
and eat human child.
And Smiley knew this was it. It was now or
never. In the blink of an eye he picked up Tom’s metal pencil case. He picked
up Tom’s metal pencil case with twenty-seven marbles inside and shook and shook
and shook and they rattled and clamoured and clattered. And in the quiet of the
forest night the rattle and clammer and clatter of the twenty-seven marbles
inside the metal pencil case sounded like a million rattling rabbledragons and
the Black Cat Shadow, suddenly shocked and scared out of its shadowy wits,
twisted and turned and tore away. Tom jumped up with his eyes wide open as if
he’d been hit by a billion marbles. The Black Cat Shadow disappeared into the
“What? What?” Tom cried. And he was ready to
cry with fear.
“It’s okay,” Smiley whispered. He showed Tom
the metal pencil case with twenty-seven marbles inside.
“What?” Tom asked again, his eyes wide open.
“There was something outside,” Smiley
whispered. “But it’s gone now.”
“What?” Tom whispered.
“Some kind of animal. I scared it away with the
Tom and Smiley sat quietly for a moment.
“It’s stopped raining,” Tom whispered.
“Shall we light the campfire to keep the animal
“Well . . .” Smiley didn’t want to tell Tom he
was too scared to go outside. “It’s okay now. Don’t worry.”
“Are you sure?”
Smiley lifted the flap on the door and peeped
out. Tom stared at him, wondering what was really going on.
“Go to sleep, Tom boy. I’m just going to watch
a bit longer.”
Tom rolled over and closed his eyes. But it was
a long time before he fell asleep.
Smiley peered outside, staring into the shadows
watching for the Black Cat Shadow. And as one hour slowly slipped into the next
hour, Smiley kept his vigil and never had a moments sleep.
And when dawn came and the sky grew light,
still Smiley was awake and watching. And he crawled out of the tent and walked
over the wet ground and gathered pine needled and more wood and made the
campfire burn big and bright. And he sat watching it crickle and crackle and
spit and splutter. And Smiley wondered if the Black Cat Shadow was an animal or
something else. Something even more scary.
A Couple of Rag Dolls
Tom crawled out of the tent. The wet grass
glistened and glimmered with the rays of the early morning sun. Smiley was
still sitting staring at the campfire.
“Good morning, Smiley.”
Tom crouched down and warmed himself at the
There was a long silence, and then Tom said, “Thanks,
“For what?” Smiley looked up. He looked tired.
“Taking care of that animal. You know.” Tom had
a feeling it had been much more dangerous than Smiley would admit.
“Oh, yeah. No problem.”
“I never knew a pencil case full of marbles
could be so scary!” Tom laughed. But Smiley only offered a tired smile.
Soon they packed away and set off again,
following the stream and hoping, sooner or later, it would lead them back to
civilisation before they starved to death.
Tom and Smiley were both tired and they were
both starving and feeling as weak as a couple of rag dolls with half the
stuffing knocked out.
“Hey! Look there!” Smiley said, pointing to the
other side of the stream and immediately taking a running jump to cross it. Tom
looked and saw a giant bush covered in small black fruit. He followed Smiley.
“Blackberries!” Smiley said, picking one and
tasting it carefully. Tom took one. It had been days since they’d had anything
to eat and they both began to scoff like crazy. They ate them like blackberries
were crazy and they were two crazy kids crazy for crazy blackberries.
“My mum said it’s not good to each too much
fruit,” Tom remembered.
“I thought you said she’s a scatterbrain?”
“Well just eat then,” Smiley said, his fingers
and face covered in black blackberry juice.
They both stuffed themselves until they
couldn’t stuff themselves any more.
“Shall we collect some for later?” Tom, asked.
“Of course, Tom boy!”
They took their plastic lunch-boxes from their
bags and started to fill them up with blackberries.
Finally, they sat to rest.
“I told you we’d find some food!” Smiley said
with a smile.
The boys had been so hungry for so long, they
felt like they’d just finished a banquet even it was just some blackberries.
Tom and Smiley washed the blackberry juice off
their hands and face and set off again.
Later, Tom and Smiley were sitting on a large
rock taking a break.
“Hey, look!” Smiley said, pointing to the
ground behind the rock.
“Look! Look! On the ground.”
“There!” Smiley pointed.
“You mean those strange leaves?” Tom asked. Of
course at that time of year there were lots of leaves on the ground.
“They’re more than strange! Look! I think they’re alive!”
“Well, all leaves are alive,” Tom said, thinking everyone knew such a simple
“No no no, I don’t mean alive like that: I think I saw them walking around and talking
to each other!”
“Leaves?” Tom smiled, but Smiley seemed serious.
So they both stared at a bunch of leaves laying
on the ground and waiting for something to happen. But nothing happened.
“Come!” Smiley grabbed Tom by the jacket sleeve
and pulled him behind a bush. They crouched and watched the place where Smiley
said he’d seen a bunch of leaves walking around and talking.
“Shh,” Smiley whispered. “Watch.”
And so they watched. And they watched. And they
watched. And absolutely nothing happened. But, strange as it may seem, something
finally did happen: one by one the leaves began to stand up and dust themselves
off. They had tiny twig-like arms and hands and legs and feet. They had tiny
black specks for eyes and they all began to look around to make sure it was
safe. They began muttering to each other, but it was impossible to know if they
were talking or if they were just chirping like crickets.
“See?” Smiley whispered.
Smiley took out his camera and pressed the zoom
button and took some close-up photographs of the strange leaf people.
And then he stood up and pushed his way out
from behind the bush. The strange leaf people noticed him and fell to the
ground and pretended to be leaves again. Tom followed Smiley, who had picked
one up and laid it gently on his palm. The leaf person didn’t move. The two
boys watched it and began to think that maybe it was just a weird leaf after
all. And then Smiley took his water bottle and poured water onto the leaf
person. The leaf person suddenly jumped up coughing and spluttering. And then
it looked up at the two boys and then covered its black dot eyes with its
twiggy fingers as if it was too scared to look at the two Monster Boys. Tom and
Smiley began to laugh their heads off. The twig person peeped out and saw the
Monster Boys laughing and began to make a strange sound.
And then Tom and Smiley noticed, one by one,
two by two and three by four, all the other leaf people were standing up. They
looked up at the Monster Boys and their leafy friend standing in Smiley’s palm
and began to mutter to each other. They gesticulated with their twiggy arms and
hands. But it was impossible to know if they were talking or if they were just
buzzing like bees.
“Hey, hello!” Tom said.
The boys laughed but the leaf person just kept
waving his arms and hands about.
Smiley put the leaf person carefully on the
ground. All the other leaf people gathered around and then they all looked up
at the two Monsters Boys and ran away into the forest.
“Quick, let’s follow them.” Tom said.
Even though the leaf people were running like
crazy, the Monster Boys could follow them easily. They hid behind rocks and
bushes and trees until they finally saw where they leaf people were going.
“Holy-guacamole, they’ve got little houses.”
It was true: the Monster Boys saw a tiny
village with twig houses and twig fences and maybe even a twig post office and
a twig school and a twig playground and maybe an interesting twig museum where
leaf kids learned about leaf people history.
Smiley took another photo. Click.
“Let’s go,” Tom whispered, and they sneaked
That evening, after they finished off the
blackberries, Tom took out his pocket notebook and began to write:
The Black Cat Shadow
It’s not black and it’s not a cat and it’s not a shadow.
It’s the same colour as invisible. I didn’t see it but Smiley did. It wants to
eat kids. And it’s scared of big sudden noises.
These animals look like leaves and act like people. Maybe
they can talk. Or maybe they can’t. They live in a village of twigs and maybe
they go to twig school. Or maybe they don’t.
It was late afternoon. Again the boys were hungry
and exhausted and walking in silence.
Suddenly Smiley stopped in his tracks. Tom was
so tired he hardly noticed. Then he looked back.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Shh. Come here,” Smiley said, almost
whispering and beckoning with his hand.
“What?” Tom whispered, starting to get scared.
“Look in the stream there,” Smiley pointed.
During all those days of walking, many smaller
streams had flowed in and it was much deeper and wider now.
“Look. Beside that stone.”
“It’s a fish!”
“Nope, it’s dinner,” Smiley smiled.
“Can you catch it?”
“Just wait and see!”
Smiley got busy. First he took Tom’s tiny
safety-pin from his shirt pocket. He opened it and used a small stone to bend
the tip into a hook. Next he pulled out some Super Strong String from his bag.
Now, if you’ve ever looked closely as string, you probably noticed two things:
string is very interesting.
string is made of many tiny threads all twisted together.
Smiley was busy unravelling the string until he
had a single long thread. He tied it to the safety-pin. He tied the other end
of the thread to his spear.
Next he added a small twig a few centimetres
above the hook.
Then, with a stick he began to dig into the
soft wet ground. He dug here and he dug there until he found a big juicy worm.
During all this, Tom watched and really thought Smiley must be the smartest kid
he’d ever met.
Finally, quietly, he tossed the line towards
The twig splashed then floated.
The fish, surprised, darted under a rock.
Smiley sat silently waiting for the fish to
swim out again.
“What shall I do?” Tom asked.
“Use some of the Super Strong String and make a
net. There must be other fish around here.”
“How can I make a net?”
“I don’t know. Figure it out,” Smiley said, not
taking his eyes from the small twig floating on the surface of the stream.
Tom wasn’t happy. Why couldn’t Smiley
understand that he was good at school stuff and not other stuff. He was good at
math and history and knowing the capital of Mexico and all that stuff. He
wasn’t good at other stuff like staying alive in the middle of Nowhere and making
a net from Super Strong String.
But he had no choice. The two boys were
starving and they had to catch some fishy fish or it would be the last thing
they didn’t do.
So Tom imagined what a fishing net looked like.
Then he cut some string into shorts strips, laid them on the ground and started
tying knotty knots from this one to that one and the other one. Finally it
looked like a weird knotty net.
Then he broke off a bendy branch from a tree,
pulled off all the twigs and leaves and twisted it into a hoop. Carefully, Tom
tied the knotty net to the hoop. Finally, he took one of the poles and some
Magic Sticky Tape and pretty soon had an actual fishing net!
“How’s that?” he showed it to Smiley.
Smiley glanced up and smiled when he saw Tom’s
“But what shall I do?”
“Find a fish and catch it!” Smiley said. “And
the secret is: be patient.”
He whispered the last two words as if it really was a secret.
It was a pretty good looking fishing net (if
you only looked quickly and paid no attention to all the knotty knots), but Tom
knew he’d never actually catch a fish.
Slowly he walked down the stream, peering into
the water and only half expecting to glimpse a fish.
Tom glanced back and saw Smiley silently
sitting and concentrating, as if he was playing chess and had to keep a close
eye on the board.
Suddenly, Smiley felt a tug on the pole as the
fish began to nibble the bait. At the same time the twig bobbed about like
someone called Bob. With a flick of the wrist he jerked the line upwards and
the hook caught the fish. Smiley lifted the line out of the water and lowered
the wriggling fish onto the grass.
“Got one!” Smiley called.
“You’re good!” Tom answered.
Then Tom turned back to the stream and slowly
walked on. Miraculously, he saw a fish quite soon. It was wiggling its tail and
facing into the fast current, waiting for something tasty to come floating
Tom quickly put the knotty net into the water.
But in half a second the fish disappeared under a rock.
What to do next? What to do next? What to do
next? While Tom was thinking what to do next, the fish had already decided: it
was slowly coming out from under the rock.
Slowly slowly slowly, Tom sat down, never
taking his eyes off the fish. Holding the pole tightly, he watched as the fish
swam about. The fish swam closer to the fishing net. Tom was sure he could
sweep it up into the knotty net. But Tom sat still, patient, like Smiley had
said, waiting for the fish to swim even closer. His heart was thumping in his
chest as if it wanted to jump out of his mouth.
And yet Tom waited and waited and waited until
the fish seemed about to actually swim into the fishing net. Finally, with one almighty
swish and swoosh, Tom tore the pole through the water and out of the water and
there and then the fish was in the net wiggling and struggling.
“Smiley Smiley Smiley I got one!” Tom shrieked.
Tom laid the net down on the ground while the
fish wiggled and struggled to get free. He could hardly believe that he’d
actually caught a fish.
Smiley came up to look.
“Nice going, Tom boy. How about we try and
Tom took out the plastic bag from his satchel
and put the two fish inside. Then, slowly and quietly, they walked down the
stream looking for more fish.
“Look! There’s one there!” Smiley said. “A big
Smiley checked the worm was still fixed to the
“I’ll keep going down the stream then,” Tom
Smiley glanced up. “Oh, yeah, but don’t go far.
You don’t have a spear.”
“All right,” Tom said. But he didn’t like the
sound of that. He’d almost forgotten they were in the middle of Nowhere and
could be attacked by wild animals with teeth.
So now he kept glancing back to make sure he
wasn’t too far from Smiley. Then he saw another fish.
This time he lowered the knotty net into the
water very slowly and carefully.
Later, as the sky grew dark and the first stars
came out to play, the two boys stopped fishing. How many fish did they have?
Well, believe it or not, Smiley had caught two fish with his fishing rod. And
Tom, with his knotty net, had caught five!
“You know what, Smiley?”
“What?” Smiley asked, fixing the final part of
“I think you should make a fishing net like
“You mean a really knotty one?”
The two boys laughed their heads off.
With the last of the light, Smiley used the
scissors like a knife and cut open the fish to clean them. He searched through
the pile of firewood and found seven sticks. He pulled off the twigs then stuck
each one into the ground as close to the fire as he could. Finally, he skewered
each fish until they all stood in a row like fishy lollipops. They started to
slowly cook and crickled and crackled. With nothing to eat except a few
blackberries for days and days, Tom and Smiley were starving and the delicious
smell made their mouths water and they could hardly wait to start eating.
“I found something else we can eat.” Smiley
said. “It was growing in the stream.”
Smiley open his lunch box and showed Tom. Is
was full of watercress.
Finally, Smiley took a stick and pushed a
cooked fish into Tom’s lunch-box over the watercress and took one for himself.
Tom took the first bite.
“What?” For a moment Smiley was afraid they
were poisonous, even if they did smell delicious.
“This is the tastiest fish I ever tasted.”
There was no talking. There was no talking
because the boys were too busy eating.
“I’m getting full!” Tom said.
“Shall we save some for tomorrow?”
“No! Let’s eat like pigs!”
They both giggled. And the two pigs ate more
fish. And more fish. Finally only the biggest one was left. They looked at each
“I think that one’s lunch tomorrow,” Smiley
“Cripes, I think so. I can’t eat another bite.”
Tom laid on his back. He looked up into the
dark sky. Millions and millions of stars were scattered like silver dust in a
Don’t Worry, Tom Boy
“This streams plenty big enough now,” Smiley
said. “I’ve seen loads of fish all morning.”
Tom and Smiley were feeling strong and
refreshed and were walking full speed ahead.
“Yeah. I think we don’t need to worry about
food any more.”
“Cripes. I hope so.”
Late in the afternoon, Smiley spotted a
clearing with another giant Traditional Sage and Onion Sausage Tree.
“Look at all those sausages,” he whispered.
“Yes, and look at all those Pig Monkeys.”
Not only was the tree full of sausages, it was
full of Pig Monkeys. And a group were on the ground, marching about like they
were on guard duty.
“They’ll kill us for sure if we try to get
“I know, I know,” Smiley whispered. “Let’s walk
on the other side of the stream until we get passed.”
Tom looked at the stream and then at Smiley.
“We can’t jump over. It’s too wide.”
“Don’t worry, Tom boy! Just watch me.”
Smiley ran towards the stream holding his spear
horizontal with the ground. Then he planted the bottom of the pole into the
stream and pole-vaulted over to the other side.
“Now you do it!” He tossed the spear to the
other side and Tom picked it up with a worried look on his face.
“I’m no good at sports stuff.”
“Well, throw your bag over first then. And just
run and don’t stop!”
Tom threw his bag then held the pole. He ran
and ran and tried not to be scared and tried not to slow down and ran and
pushed the pole into the stream and then he was flying through the air and
flying over the stream and then
he landed in the middle of the stream.
“Hey! Tom! Are you wet?!”
Tom was sitting with water up to his waste.
“Yes!” Tom said, half embarrassed and half
Smiley was laughing his head off.
“Don’t laugh!” Tom said, trying to splash
Smiley who stepped out of range. Tom stood up, waded over and climbed out.
“I’m soaking,” he said.
“Yeah, I noticed. Let’s get passed all those
Pig Monkeys and then we’ll get you dried off.”
So, with a squelch, they walked into the trees
and followed the stream just out of sight of the pink Pig Monkeys.
“We may as well stay on this side,” Smiley
said, when they were well past the Pig Monkeys and the Traditional Sage and
Onion Sausage Tree.
“Good!” Tom said, happy he wouldn’t have to get
“Right, let’s get you dry.”
Smiley collected wood and made a fire to dry
Pretty soon they were off again.
The sun had just dipped down below the mountain
ahead and already the air felt cooler. They came to a small clearing with some
moss covered rocks and a few patches of grass and ferns.
“We’d better make camp and try to catch some
fish,” Smiley said.
They made camp. The sun had already slipped
behind the high mountains and darkness wasn’t far away. In the half-light, the
boys walked beside the stream looking for fish.
“It’s getting too late,” Tom complained.
“I know. But there’s one there. Look.” Smiley
“It’s a big one!”
“Yeah! You can have it, Tom Boy.”
Smiley continued up the stream.
Looking at the big fish, Tom suddenly forgot
about how late it was. He placed the knotty net carefully into the water and
the fish never noticed. He waited patiently until the fish was just in front of
his net. With a sudden whoosh he swooshed the net through the water and the
fish was caught.
“Got it!” Tom shouted.
Smiley looked around. “That was quick.”
“Let’s go back. One’s enough.”
Smiley came back. “Okay. You’re getting to be
pretty good at fishing!”
“Well it’s easy with the net. These fish aren’t
“Yeah, that’s because they don’t live in
They boys laughed their heads off.
The fire was burning strong and Tom’s big fish
was cooking nicely.
The sun had set now but there was a full moon
and the forest was filled with silvery light. While Smiley shared out the fish,
Tom piled more wood onto the fire.
The boys had just finished eating when Smiley
seemed to peer into space with a puzzled expression.
“What the . . . ?” His mouth dropped open.
“What?” Tom asked. Smiley was still staring
“Look!” he pointed upwards.
Tom looked, but there was nothing to see.
“Look!” Smiley pointed again.
Tom looked again but there was nothing to see.
“Look!” Smiley pointed again.
This time Tom saw something very strange.
In that bright silvery full moon light:
He saw something weird.
He saw something whacky.
He saw something wondrous.
He saw a single BUBBLE floating in the air.
Dodging between branches and trees.
“Who’s blowing bubbles?” he asked, almost
talking to himself.
“There’s no one here,” Smiley said. “We’re in
the middle of Nowhere. No one can blow bubbles.”
They watched the silvery bubble sail on the
wind over their heads until it hit a twig and burst.
Tom looked at Smiley.
Smiley looked at Tom.
Tom and Smiley looked at each other.
“We must’ve been dreaming,” Tom said.
“Well, I’m still dreaming,” Smiley said and
pointed upwards again.
Another bubble had appeared in almost the same
place as the first.
“It’s impossible,” Tom said.
But they watched the bubble blow between the
branches. And then they noticed another. And then they noticed another. Before
they could notice anything else, there were tons of bubbles floating towards
“Let’s find out where they’re coming from,”
Smiley said, taking his spear and standing up.
“It’s night! It’s dark!” Going away from the
campfire into the forest seemed like madness.
“It’s a full moon, Tom boy. It’s light enough
to read a book.”
“Maybe it is. But it’s not light enough to go
in the forest.”
“Okay, Tom boy. You stay here. I won’t go far.
I’ll be back in a jiffy.”
Tom stood up quickly.
“No no, I’ll come.”
Smiley Smiled. “Let’s make the fire big before
He started piling more wood on the fire and the
flames were already leaping about as if they hated the darkness as much as Tom.
And so they followed the trail of bubbles into
“We’re not going far are we?” Tom asked,
glancing back and noticing that the campfire was almost out of sight.
“No. Don’t worry, Tom boy.”
Overhead, a steady stream of bubbles blew passed.
An owl hooted. In the distance another owl
hooted an answer.
Finally they saw it: in the slivery moonlight,
a small bubbly pool surrounded by white rocks.
Holy-guacamole,” Smiley breathed. “Look at
They walked over the white rocks, almost luminous
in the moonshine. The creamy looking water was bubbling like crazy and some of
the bubbles bubbled bubbles and the bubbles floated up into the air and blew
away on the breeze.
“That’s weird,” Tom said.
Smiley knelt down and put his hand into the pool.
“Is it soapy?”
“No. It’s not soapy, but it’s warm.”
Tom knelt down too and put his hand in.
The next thing Tom knew, Smiley was taking off
“What’re you doing?”
“I’m going to have a bath.”
“A bath? In there? Are you crazy?”
Smiley was already starkers and stepped into
the water. He sat down in the water and said a long, “Ahhhhh.”
“Is it safe?”
“Sure it’s safe. Don’t just stand there, Tom
boy. Get in the water. It’s lovely. The bubbles are tickling me like mad.”
So Tom undressed too and stepped into the
creamy pool. With the evening air so cold the warm bubbly water really did feel
“Oh, it’s nice.”
Smiley splashed Tom and a bunch of bubbles
bubbled into the air and blew away. Tom splashed him back. And soon they were
having a bubble battle and the forest filled with millions of floating bubbles
floating in the silver light.
Tom and Smiley laughed their heads off.
They both laid back and relaxed, their heads
resting on the edge of the warm bubble pool, looking up at the night sky.
“Now you’re glad we followed the bubbles,
“Yes,” Tom answered.
“We’re having a bit of an adventure, eh Tom
“Yes, we are Smiley. It’s nearly like in a
“I just hope it has a happy ending.”
Something They Really Didn’t Want to See
Tom woke up first and started to crawl out of
the tent. But as soon as his head was out the rest of his body refused to
follow. He stopped as still as a snowman in a snowstorm. Slowly, he turned and
jabbed Smiley in the shoulder and whispered from the side of his mouth,
“Smiley, Smiley, wake up.”
“Shh. Take a look,” Tom said, still whispering
from the corner of his mouth. “There’re loads of animals outside.”
Smiley sat up and pushed his head out beside
On the edge of the clearing were at least 50
strange looking animals. They were about the size of goats. But their horns
were twisty spirals like crazy Christmas decorations and their hair hung very
long and almost touched the ground. Half of them had beards and mustachios and
half didn’t. They were all looking at the boys and making a strange sound that
sounded like, “So, so,” as if they were trying to decide what those strange boy
creatures were and what they should do.
“I don’t think they’re dangerous—as long
as we don’t make any quick movements and scare them,” Smiley said quietly.
“How can you know?” Tom whispered.
“Look at those over there on the far side.
They’re eating grass and hardly bothering about us.”
“What does it mean?”
“Well, most animals that eat grass don’t eat
kids!” Smiley smiled, but he kept his eyes on the herd of animals. The biggest
one at the front, who seemed to be the leader, was looking at the boys
carefully and then turned to one side and made a “So so,” sound. A few nearby
animals looked at the boys, looked at the leader, looked at the boys, then
looked back at the leader and went, “So so.”
The leader shook his head and his long hair and
beard and mustachio went flying all over the place like a hippy at a music
“What shall we do?” Tom whispered.
“I’m not sure. Let’s just sit down and wait for
them to go.” He took out his camera and took a photo. Click.
“And wait for them to go?”
So they sat down and waited. Pretty soon, Tom
was bored. Smiley though was laying on his back with one leg crossed over the
other and his hands behind his head.
“I bet we have to wait ages,” Tom said.
“Yeah. Lucky I’m an expert relaxer!”
The herd of animals soon took no notice of the
boy creatures inside the strange tent and were busy eating grass and leaves or
drinking from the stream as if it was a lazy Sunday morning, which perhaps it
Eventually though they began to move on and the
boys climbed out, took down the tent and packed away.
At last they set off and almost at once a
breeze began to blow.
By afternoon the wind was so strong it was hard
“It’s a good day to fly a kite!”
“Don’t talk to me about kites. I never want to
see a kite as long as I live,” Tom shouted, but his words were almost gobbled
up by a sudden gust.
And the wind blew and blew. But worse than the
wind was the cold. The air was getting colder and colder. And worse than the
cold was the wind. And worse than the wind was the cold. They both walked with
their hands stuffed in their pockets and shoulder hunched up.
“I think we should put up the tent pretty
soon,” Smiley shouted.
“Good. I’m freezing.”
As they struggled through the wind and cold, a
bigger stream came down a hill towards the one the were following. Just ahead
the two flowed together. And now, the stream they’d followed for so many days became
a wide racing river.
“I bet it’s harder to catch fish now!” Smiley
called over the face slapping wind.
Tom didn’t answer. He was too cold to care
Smiley looked up. The sky had clouded over.
“Okay, Tom. Can you see those cliffs down
there, with that big rock in front?” Smiley pointed forward and below where
they now walked.
“We’ll make camp down there. Maybe we can find
a place out of the wind.”
The cold was starting to bite them like bad
tempered dogs with icicle teeth. Later, when they reached the cliffs, Smiley
walked around the giant rock searching for a sheltered place.
“Here, Tom boy. There’s almost no wind here!”
And each word came out of his mouth like a frozen white cloud.
But even if there was no wind there, it was
still cruelly cold.
So, as usual, Tom began collecting firewood.
Smiley hammered the poles in deeper than usual and piled as many rocks as he
could around the bottom of the tent.
“I’ve got and idea,” Smiley said.
“An idea for what?”
“To keep us warm.”
For the next ten minutes he collected a giant
pile of dry leaves and stuffed them under the ground-sheet.
“There. That should help. A nice warm
And this time Tom made the biggest pile of wood
ever and the camp fire was a real bonfire.
The ground was too cold for sitting so they
found a big log and dragged it close to the fire.
“It’s like winter!” Smiley said, holding his
hands out to warm them.
“And we still have to go fishing.”
“Let’s forget it. We can catch fish tomorrow.
The cold’s too dangerous,” Smiley said.
“All right,” Tom said and threw a few more logs
onto the fire.
With all the clouds, darkness was coming early.
The wind was getting stronger and now and then a gust came around the giant
rock and rattled the boys bones as if they were a couple of shivering skeletons.
“I’m going into the tent,” Tom said.
“I’ll join you.”
The tent was really close to the bonfire, so
when they were inside they left the door-flap open, laid on their stomachs and
could still feel the flames.
Tom took out his Pocket Notebook and pencil and
began to write:
Hairy So and So.
This animal is the size of a goat and has hair like a
hippy. Males have moustaches and beards and females don’t. Or maybe the other
way round. They make a sound like “So, so,” to each other.
“It’s a lot warmer in here,” Tom said, putting
his note pad away.
“Yeah, it’s not so bad,” Smiley agreed. “But
watch out for tonight. I think it’s gonna be really cold.”
No sooner had Smiley spoken than they both saw
something that they really didn’t want to see.
“Oh no,” Tom said.
“Snow,” Smiley said.
Meanwhile, far far away, the horrible fat
slobbering Wannabe and Tinker were driving in their white van with the fake
“Education Department” sign on the side.
“This is the last school for today,” Wannabe
said. “It’s getting late.”
Tinker turned the van into the parking of
Bottom-of-the-Hill Primary School.
Wannabe, wearing his usual sideways pin-stripe
suit, carried a clipboard in one hand, a long Stupidifier in the other with a
Stupidifier Compact in his pocket. Tinker was wearing his white laboratory coat
and carried the step ladder.
They walked straight into the main door as if
they had every right in the world. Tinker looked up to the high ceiling where
there was a fluorescent light. He set the step ladders underneath and climbed
up. It was a quick job to twist the light out and pass it down to Wannabe.
But, just as Wannabe was about to hand him the
Stupidifier, a man with a tattered suit appeared in the corridor. His head was
bald except for a single clump of hair sticking up like a palm tree on a desert
island. He marched briskly towards Wannabe. His shoes made a click-clack sound
on the floor.
“Oh-oh,” Tinker whispered from the top of the
“Can I help you gentlemen?” the bald-headed man
asked in a voice that was like a sergeant in an army that had never won any
“No thank you,” Wannabe said, as if they were
doing nothing wrong, and passed the Stupidifier to Tinker.
“I, sir, am Mr. Gigglebottom, the headmaster of this school. And I demand to know your name and business.”
“Oh, headmaster,” Wannabe said with a big fake
smile. “I’m Mr. Cheater, from the Education Department: Technical Division.” Wannabe
handed the headmaster a fake identification card from his inside jacket pocket.
“We’re here to do an electrical safety check.
You were notified.”
The headmaster was looking at the fake ID and
handed it back to Wannabe. “Notified?” the headmaster began sternly. “I most certainly
was not notified. This is all news to me, sir.”
“I do believe you were informed last week, by
letter, that we would be coming today for a safety check,” Wannabe lied with
his fake smiley face. And he was trying his best not to slobber in his usual
“Informed? By letter you say?
I most certainly was not,
sir,” the headmaster said again. He wasn’t accustomed to people arguing with
him. And he didn’t like it.
“Oh,” Wannabe said, opening his eyes wide as if
he was all innocent and surprised like a one year old baby with a stick of
rhubarb instead of his dummy. “Perhaps your secretary forgot to tell you?”
“My secretary?” The headmaster seemed about to
argue, then changed his mind. “Yes, well, I shall go see about that. Both of
you wait here.”
“Of course,” Wannabe smiled. The headmaster
turned on his heals and marched back up the shiny corridor.
“Quick,” Wannabe whispered. Tinker put the
Stupidifier where the light had been and was down the step-ladder in half a
tick. He folded the ladder and they hurried out of the school door. With the
ladder on the roof of the van, they climbed in and were soon speeding away.
“Well, that takes care of that!” Wannabe said
with an evil smile. He took his clipboard and made a tick next to the name of
the school. “We have those stupid things in more than half the schools,” he
“Yes yes yes, you great giddy-head. Pretty soon
we’ll have them in every school in the country. Millions of little kids will be
completely stupid!” He laughed his evil laugh and spit flew from his blubbery
“Yes Boss, then maybe we can have a nice rest.”
“A nice rest? Are you barmy? When we’ve
finished with this country we’ll do THE WHOLE WIGGLY WORLD!” There were sparks
in his eyes when he said this, as if he had a head full of fireworks.
“You want to make kids stupid in the whole
wide world Boss?” Tinker
seemed surprised that his Stupidifier invention would do so much harm.
“Of course, you great knotted piece of string.
“Now,” Wannabe continued, glancing at his
watch, “drive faster and find us a nice spot.”
Soon they were out of the town and Tinker
parked the van beside some trees on the edge of a grassy field.
Wannabe was sitting on a fold-up camping chair
beside a fold-up camping table, sipping happily on a hot cup of tea. Close to
his fat legs was a fold-up oil heater glowing red. Tinker was busy putting up a
huge tent that was almost the size of a house.
“Ah, I love camping! It’s so comforting.”
“Yes Boss,” Tinker answered. “But it might be
nice to stay in a hotel sometimes, Boss.”
“A hotel costs money. I’m a businessman, not
Father Christmas. Besides, camping is so relaxing!”
“Yes Boss,” Tinker said, wiping the sweat from
his brow and banging in the final pegs of the monstrous house-tent.
Finally, everything was ready. Tinker pressed a
red button on a small blue box. It was a generator and it made electricity. The
monstrous house-tent filled with light. Wannabe went inside. The tent had seven
The entry, with a fold-up coat rack.
The living room, with a fold-up couch and a fold-up entertainment system.
A large bedroom for Wannabe, with a fold-up king-sized bed.
A small bedroom for Tinker, with a cheap blow-up mattress.
A library, with fold-up bookshelves and hundreds of fold-up books that Wannabe
had never read.
A bathroom, with a fold-up bath and fold up flush-toilet.
A smoking room, with a single fold-up table with a hand carved wooden box and
chair. Wannabe sat. The fold-up chair groaned. He opened the box. There was a
printed label on the inside of the lid:
“CUBAN HAND-ROLLED CIGARS
SPITFULLY DELICIOUS FLAVOUR.”
He took out a fat cigar, hand-rolled by a fat
fingered lady in Cuba called Maria.
“FIRE!” Wannabe cried.
Tinker came running into the smoking room of
the tent, took out a lighter from his pocket and lit Wannabe’s stinky cigar.
“There you are, Boss.”
Wannabe puffed away and started to stink up the
room really fast.
“Right you great hoddy-doddy. Now get out and
make me some tasty grub.”
“Yes Boss.” Tinker slinked out.
So while Wannabe was puffing his guts out and
turning the smoking room into a smoky room, Tinker took out a fold-up cooker
and began to cook another ginormous meal.
This is what he served.
number 1: Salad with chunks of pig fat.
number 2: Brussels sprouts soup with previously licked garlic.
number 3: Shrimp with whale blubber in tomato sauce.
number 4: Sliced cow with snail gravy.
number 5: Hedgehog casserole.
number 6: Apple pie and mustard.
“Yum,” Wannabe said, licking his chops. He was
happy. His fat belly was full and the oil heater was keeping him deliciously
warm. “That was pretty good. At least you can do something right.” Wannabe covered his legs with a thick
blanket and put his feet up on a fold-up puffy fluffy foot-rest.
To Be Not Scared
It was dark now. But Tom and Smiley could still
see the snow, falling fast now, blowing sideways and swirling around the giant
rock in the strong wind like coconut in a clockwork blender.
Smiley climbed out of the tent and threw on
more big logs as fast as he could and then rushed back inside.
“Look, I’m already covered in snow,” Smiley
said, brushing it from his hair and jacket. “It’s snowing super-fast out there.”
“The fire will go out,” Tom said.
They laid silently looking out.
“People die in the snow, don’t they?”
“Yeah. But we’re not in the snow are we?”
“Well . . .”
Now it was nine o’clock and Tom took off his
watch and set the alarm. “I’ll do eleven o’clock,” he said.
And so they both laid, still watching the
flames and the slanting swirling snow. At long last, tired out, they both fell
The alarm rang and Tom pressed the off button
and looked outside. The campfire was out. The snow was coming down faster then
before. And everything, the ground, the trees, the tent was covered in thick
“Smiley! You’d better wake up.” Tom gave him a
soft tap on the shoulder.
“Take a look outside.”
“What about the tent? It’s covered in snow. I
think it might cave in.”
Smiley stuck his head outside and looked around
“You might be right, but that inventor said
it’s the strongest cloth in the world And all that snow is like a blanket.”
“Really?” Tom asked, uncertain.
So Smiley closed up the flaps and they both
settled down to sleep.
The Wind outside began to howl.
“It’s a bit scary,” Tom whispered.
“Yeah. But don’t be scared,” Smiley whispered
“How can I not be scared?”
“Well, this is what I do when something scary
comes along: I imagine the worst thing happening—”
“Like the tent collapsing?”
“Yeah. Then I imagine a plan. And when I have a
plan made up, when I’m ready for the worst thing happening, I just don’t think
about it any more. I think of something else. Something nice.”
“Does it work?”
“Yeah. Usually. Try it if I want to be not
When Tom opened his eyes the next morning it
seemed strangely dark. He was laying on his back looking at the roof of the
tent and wondering if it was still too early to be awake. Then he realised
there was so much snow on the tent that the light could hardly get in. He
rolled onto his stomach to look outside and saw that Smiley was already awake.
“It’s still snowing,” Smiley said, moving the
flap on Tom’s side so he could see outside.
Everything was completely covered in snow and
giant flakes still fell like confetti at a snowman and snow-woman's wedding.
“We can’t walk in all that snow. We’ll have to
wait for it to melt.”
“What if it doesn’t melt?”
“It will,” Smiley said. “It’s not even winter.
This is just a freak storm.”
“I hope so.”
Smiley put his fists under his chin and made
himself comfortable to watch the mad snow storm. Tom copied.
“I’ve got an idea,” Tom said, finally.
“I’ll make a really giant fire and you can go
start fishing. And when the fires going really well, I’ll go fishing and you
can come and get warm.”
“Do you think you can make a fire with all that
snow and wet wood?”
“Yes. You showed me how. I’m sure I can.”
“If we get wet and cold—”
“I can do it though. I’m sure.”
“Well, you are an expert these days!” Smiley
smiled one of his smiles. “Let’s do it.”
Smiley walked through the deep snow over to the
Tom looked around and then set off towards the
biggest evergreen tree he could see. His shoes and socks were soon wet and his
feet felt like plates of cold meat. The snow went up to his knees. Now his
trousers were soaking wet too. He had to make a giant fire fast.
He reached the tree and pushed his way through
the bottom branches and began scooping up pine needles and twigs and filling
his plastic bag.
Tom followed his own trail of footprints back
to the camp. He brushed the snow off the giant pile of wood and pretty quickly
his hands were as cold as his feet. He sorted out the driest branches from the
bottom of the pile.
Tom used the biggest logs to build a kind of
fireplace and began to quickly and carefully build the fire underneath.
Tom flicked the wheel on the lighter and
watched the paper catch light. He dropped on a handful of pine needles and the
tiny fireworks flashed and burned, sending fingery flames to the twigs. Carefully
Tom added more twigs. He glanced over towards the river and saw Smiley sitting
hunched over, freezing with his fishing rod. And everywhere was white and
everywhere more white fell from the sky.
Tom was blowing the struggling fire. The wet
branches were fighting with the flames. “Burn burn burn,” Tom chanted silently.
He adding more pine needles and the fire finally flared into life. At last he
could feel the heat on his hands and face.
It took another hour before the fire was big
enough and hot enough to take the damp logs. But now it was really roaring. Tom
added more wood and then headed over to Smiley.
“Yes! Go over and get warm.”
Tom took the fishing rod and Smiley went to the
camp and stood by the fire.
Taking it in turns, Tom and Smiley fished all
morning. The snow gradually stopped falling. Then the clouds began to open, the
sun peeped out and the snow covering the trees began to melt and great clumps
fell to the ground.
“There’s not so much snow left,” Smiley said.
“Let’s pack up and get going,” They had three fish altogether.
As the afternoon passed, the snow thawed faster
and faster and now there were only a few patches here and there. But the ground
was became steep.
“It’s hard to walk,” Tom said.
“I know. I wish we could cross the river. It’s
flat on the other side. And it’s in the sunshine.”
“We can’t,” Tom said quickly.
“No, we can’t,” Smiley said.
“Phew,” Tom said. “I was afraid you wanted to
try and jump across!”
“No, it’s too wide. I may be stupid, but I’m
They both chuckled.
But then Smiley said, “But maybe we can get across.”
“No, look up there,” Smiley pointed.
Far ahead a big tree had fallen across the
“See? It’s like a bridge,” Smiley said.
“No it’s not.”
As they got closer, Smiley nodded to himself.
“Yeah, I think we can make it across.”
Now they were standing beside the big tree. It
had fallen from the mountainside above where they stood and sloped downwards
towards the far bank.
“Give me your bag.”
“I’ll take it across myself. It’ll be easier
Miserably, Tom handed Smiley his bag. Smiley
put the straps over his shoulders so that the bag was on his chest.
With the spear in his hand, Smiley began to
climb up the steep mountainside until he reached the tree. He climbed up the
thick roots and onto the trunk. He walked down the sloping tree trunk as if he
was out for a Sunday stroll. He even whistled as he walked.
Tom stood watching.
Even when Smiley was out over the deep cold
water, he walked and whistled and whistled as he walked. Before long he was
across and jumping onto the grass on the far bank.
“See! It’s easy!” he called.
“Easy for you!” Tom shouted back.
Smiley dropped the bags and spear onto the
grass and hopped back onto the tree trunk. He walked over and then stopped in
“See?” Smiley said. “It’s really wide. It’s
But then, suddenly, Smiley began to waver, side
to side he wobbled, like wobbly Willie in Miss Moppy’s class, stretching out
his arms, trying to balance.
“Ahhhhhh, I’m gonna fall!” he cried. He wavered
and wobble, he teetered and tottered and lurched. “Ahhhhhh,” he cried with a
quiver and a quake, “I’m gonna fall!”
All of a sudden, just as he was about to fall
off, he lowered his arms and started laughing like some kind a mad maniac.
“Just fooling you, Tom boy!” Smiley laughed his head off. But Tom was not amused.
“It’s not funny you idiot!” Tom was nearly ready to cry.
“Sorry, Tom boy. I didn’t mean it.”
Smiley stopped laughing and walked further
across until he was standing opposite Tom.
“Come on Tom. It really is easy. Go climb on.”
Without looking at Smiley, Tom suddenly set off
scrambling up the mountainside and climbed up onto the tree trunk. And then,
finally, he stopped and looked at Smiley.
“Are you ready?”
Tom was still angry and just gave a nod.
And then he set off walking.
“That’s right. Don’t walk too slow or too fast.
And don’t look down.”
At first it was easy because the log was over
the ground and it wasn’t so high. But then he was out over the water. Now, Tom
was in a cold sweat, but he kept walking, watching the tree trunk, careful of
the broken branches sticking out, stepping over them, so scared he could hardly
“Don’t look down!” Smiley called, quietly.
His heart was beating like a drum in a circus
while the tightrope walker walks the tightrope.
Now he was close to Smiley. “Turn around,” Tom
mumbled, thinking that even moving his lips might make him lose balance. “Go
Smiley turned and quickly walked back over to
the other side.
But Tom’s steps were slow and cautious. Each
step was like the thoughtful answer to a tricky question in a slippery test.
Without actually looking down, Tom knew the
river was far below and it was deep and it was freezing cold.
But the fallen tree was sloping steeply and
after a few more steps the water was quite close. Tom began to relax and he
quickly walked the final section.
And then he was across.
Smiley ruffled Tom’s hair. “See? It was easy!”
“Mmm, I suppose,” Tom said.
“See how flat it is on this side?” Smiley said.
“I suppose so.”
“It won’t be dark for ages yet, so we should
make some good distance today.”
“How far do you think we walk in one day?” Tom
“Well, I’d say maybe twenty kilometres.”
“Really? So far?”
“So that means in five days we walk 100
kilometres. Cripes! We should get home soon. Don’t you think?”
“Not so soon. But we’ll get there,” Smiley said.
“Hey, what’s that?”
Smiley followed Tom’s gaze. Just ahead, there
was something in the air between two giant trees. It was something round like a
large flying ping-pong ball.
“Is it an insect?” Tom asked.
The strange creature had a ping-pong head that
was almost transparent, with big round eyes and a big mouth and wings that
flapped faster than Tom and Smiley could look. But nothing else. It was all
ping-pong head and no ping-pong body. The creature flew sideways, zipping
sideways but still facing forward. Another appeared from behind a trees and
zipped forward until the two were side by side. At exactly the same time, as if
they were doing some kind of weird aerial ping-pong dance, they zipped up and
down and forward until they were quite close to Tom and Smiley.
“Holy-guacamole,” Smiley whispered. “Look, they
stopped flapping their wings but they just float in mid-air.”
The two creatures were so close the boys could
almost reach out and touch them.
“Look how big their mouths are. It looks like
they’re smiling!” Smiley took out his camera and took a picture. Click.
“And they’re just floating there.”
“They must weigh nothing. I wonder what they
“I don’t know. Why?”
“Well, If they eat something they’ll weigh something
and crash,” Tom whispered.
Just then a slight breeze came up the river.
Instantly the two creatures opened their big mouths into perfect circles. And
now they looked like all ping-pong mouths with no ping-pong head and no
ping-pong body. They started wow wow wowing like a couple of gulping goldfish.
Eventually, as the breeze began to fade, they
zipped off after it. Over the river, they floated again and began gulping away.
“Well, now we know what they eat,” Tom said.
“Do we? What?” Smiley asked.
“Wind,” Tom said. “They eat wind. That’s how
they never get heavy and can float all over the place.”
Once the two ping-pong creatures had
ping-ponged out of sight, the two boys set off again.
They walked until the sky was almost dark and
then quickly made camp.
By the firelight, Tom opened his notebook and
began to write:
It’s a beast like a big ping-pong ball. They have a head
but no body. You can see through them as if they’re made of nothing. They can
float without flapping their wings. They eat wind so they never get fat.
Meanwhile, Smiley had cooked the three fish and
they began to eat quietly.
“Smiley,” Tom said.
“Remember when we crossed the river?”
“Well, I’m sorry I called you an idiot.”
“That’s okay. Sorry I did what I did.”
“That’s all right.”
The Expert Gets More Practice
Sunshine flickered through the leaves overhead.
The boys walking quickly and had their jackets off.
“Finally a nice day,” Tom said.
“Don’t speak too soon, Tom boy.” Smiley
pointed. Tom looked at the sky over the river and saw a giant black cloud
sailing over. Almost at once a few specs began to fall.
“At least it’s not snow.”
“What shall we do though?” Tom asked.
“Well, it won’t last long. But let’s run and
find some where we can put the tent up, just in case.”
So, with the gentle rain pitter-pattering on
the forest canopy, the boys set of running.
“Be careful, Tom boy. Don’t go falling.”
“Oh-oh,” Smiley said. The sound of the rain was
suddenly louder. “We better find somewhere quick.”
Almost before Smiley finished saying “quick,”
the boys suddenly found themselves rushing out of the trees and into a giant
clearing the size of two football fields. The ground was covered in grass and exactly
in the centre was the biggest tree they’d ever seen. They were so surprised by
the sight that they came to a sudden stop.
“Look at the size of that tree,” Smiley said.
“I know. And does the shape remind you of
“Yeah. It looks like an umbrella.”
“I know,” Tom said.
“Well let’s get under it!”
Out in the open the rain was worse, so the boys
set off running again. Just as the rain came crashing down they reached the
giant tree and ran underneath.
“Do you think it can keep us dry?” Tom asked.
The heavy rain fell on the leaves overhead and made a sound like ten thousand
tiny hands clapping.
“Well, it is for now,” Smiley said.
Tom walked around the trunk and counted each
“1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 15 16 17!
Seventeen steps just to get around it.”
The applause grew louder.
“Cripes! Listen to the rain.”
“Look at it!” Smiley said. Tom looked out and the rain was falling so fast
and thick he could hardly see the forest across the clearing.
“Shall we put the tent up?”
“Nah. It’s as dry as duck’s bum under here.”
Tom laughed. “What shall we do then?”
“Just wait for it to stop.” Smiley took off his
bag. “And we might as well get comfy.” Pretty soon he was laying down with one
leg crossed over the other and his arms folded behind his head.
“Oh, that’s right,” Tom said, “you’re an expert
relaxer aren’t you!”
“Yeah. I’ll give you lessons some time.”
So Tom sat around flicking pebbles, breaking
twigs, chewing grass, crossing his eyes and twiddling his thumbs while Smiley
practiced the art of relaxation.
Lucky for Tom the rain soon stopped. A rainbow
arced over the sky and they were on their way again.
Just What the Boys Knead
The mountains on both sides seemed to have
moved back and now the ground on both sides of the river had become completely
flat. And then The boys were amazed to see the river they were following
unexpectedly flowed into an enormous lake.
The boys walked to a pebble beach just to their
“It looks lovely.” The lake sparkled in the
bright sunshine. The surrounding mountains were covered in the red and yellow
and brown and green smudges of autumn leaves.
“Yeah, it’s lovely. But we have to walk all the
way around it.” Smiley said.
The lake seemed to go on for ever and they
could hardly imagine how long it would take to walk around to the far side
because they could hardly even see the far side.
“It makes me want to swim!” Smiley said. He put
his hand into the water. “It’s not so cold. Shall we?”
Tom nodded, and in half a second they were both
stripped off and running and splashing into the water.
“Ahhh” Tom cried, “you tricked me. It’s
freezing!” But he was already falling forward and splash he was swimming.
“Yeah, it’s a bit on the chilly side!” Smiley
cried. And the boys laughed their heads off.
They swam and had a splashing battle and swam
some more and then did acrobatics.
“That was fun!” Tom said, as they walked out of
the water shivering.
They sat on a log facing the sun to dry off.
“The sun feels so nice now. I wish it could be
like this every day,” Tom said.
“Yeah. So do I,” Smiley said, starting to get
dressed. Then, while he buttoned up his shirt, Smiley noticed a strip of long
grass that ran along the back of the pebble beach.
“Tom, I don’t think that grass is ordinary grass.”
“What grass?” Tom stood up and looked around.
“Oh. What is it then?”
“I think it’s wheat.”
“Really?” Tom started to dress too. “Are you
Smiley walked over to the edge of the beach and
pulled out a single strand.
“Well?” Tom called, putting on his socks.
“I think it is.”
Tom walked over to examine it.
“See how many seeds there are?” Smiley said.
“I’m sure wild grass can’t have that many.”
“I think you’re right. Maybe this is a field.
Maybe it’s a farmer’s field. Maybe we’re at the end of Nowhere.”
Smiley looked up and looked all around. “No, there’s
“Mmm, I suppose so,” Tom said.
“I’ve got an idea though. Give me your plastic
bag, Tom boy.”
Smiley began to fill the bag with wheat seeds.
Next he took two flat rocks from the river bank.
“What’re you doing?”
“Watch and see!”
He put one of the rocks on the pebble beach and
carefully placed the bag of seeds on top. He took the other rock and placed it
on top and rocked it back and forth. The seeds quietly crackled as they were
“Ah! Now I know what you’re up to!” Tom said.
Smiley inspected the contents of the bag.
“It’s working! I think we can make flour! Do
you want to get a fire going while I do some more?”
“All right,” Tom said.
Smiley ground the wheat seeds completely,
emptied the bag into his lunch-box and collected more.
“Put a big flat rock in the fire,” Smiley said,
glancing up at Tom.
When Smiley had enough of the coarse flour in
his lunch-box, he carefully poured in some water from his bottle. He mixed it
with his fingers, added more water, and then made a soft ball of dough. Finally,
he began turning it and flattening it.
“Do you think the rock’s hot yet?”
“I think so. It’s a pretty big fire,” Tom said.
Tom took a stick and moved most of the wood
away from the rock.
“I know this isn’t how you really make bread,” Smiley said. “But maybe we can
still eat it.”
Quickly and carefully he dropped the circle of
dough onto the rock. After only a few seconds it began to bubble. Smiley
flipped it over.
“Look, it’s a bit brown. It looks like it’s
cooking nicely,” Smiley said. The dough bubbled up more and began to rise up
like an envelope full of air. Smiley flipped it again and after a few seconds
took it off and dropped it onto the lunch-box lid.
“Can you smell it?” Tom asked.
“Yeah. It smells good. Let’s try it.”
Smiley broke the flat-bread in half. It was hot
and steam came out.
“Here,” he handed half to Smiley.
“Who’s gonna try first?” Smiley asked.
Tom took a mini bite and chewed daintily like a
cheese expert with a crumb of the most expensive cheese in the world. He chewed
“Well?” Smiley asked.
“I’m not sure.”
Tom took another mini bite and began his dainty
chewing all over again.
“Well? How is it? Can we eat it?”
“I’m not sure!” Tom said again and took another
“Holy-guacamole! Never mind those baby bites.”
Smiley took a big bite.
“Mmmmmmmmmmm,” he said in half a second. It’s
pretty tasty. He took another big bite.
“Is it? Are you sure?”
“Yeah! Take a real bite.”
Tom took a real bite and finally he could taste
“You’re right. It’s pretty scrumdiddly!”
And they both laughed their heads off.
Tom and Smiley spent the rest of the afternoon
making more flour. As the sun slipped behind the far away mountains, both
lunch-boxes were completely full.
The tent was up and the fire burning nicely.
The boys had moved a big old log close to the fire and they sat on the pebble
beach using it as a back rest. Tom took out his notebook.
The biggest tree in the world. It grows alone away from
other trees. The branches are in the shape of an umbrella and it stops the rain
no matter how fast or how wet.
And now, while Smiley turned the bread over,
Tom leisurely flattened a fresh ball of dough. Soon they had half a dozen ready
and began eating.
“It’s nice to have bread for a change.”
“You can say that again!” Tom said.
The sun was well behind the mountains, but the
sky was filled with shimmering orange and red like the painting of fire on a
No Smoke Without Fire
It was early, but the boys were already walking
around the vast lake. Again it was warm and sunny and they had their jackets
off and pullovers tied around their waists.
“It’s nearly like summer!” Smiley said.
But Tom wasn’t really listening. “Hey, Smiley,
are you sure that wheat
wasn’t from a farmer’s field?”
“How could it? We’re still completely
surrounded by mountains. We must be the first people ever to even see this lake.”
“Well, I’m not so sure, because if you look
over there,” Tom pointed along the shore, “I think there’s some smoke.”
“Smoke? Where?” Smiley followed Tom’s gaze.
“Holy-guacamole, I think you’re right.” It was
a thin scribbly charcoal line of smoke climbing into the sky. Behind it a tall
cliff stuck out above the tree tops.
“And it looks like smoke from a chimney,” Tom
“You know, Tom boy, I think you’re right. But
how can it be?” He looked all around, here and there and everywhere, and there
was nothing but the lake and mountains and forest.
“Well, I think we’ve made it!” Tom said. “I
think we’re out of Nowhere and these are just ordinary mountains. Where people live.”
The boys were walking pretty much as fast as
they could and both feeling excited.
“About half an hour,” Smiley guessed.
But half an hour passed and still nothing.
Worst of all, now they couldn’t even see the place where the smoke had been.
They walked in silence, expecting to see a
house or a village around every corner.
“I hope we didn’t miss it,” Tom said.
But then, around the very next corner, there it
was: a house with a smoking chimney.
Tom and Smiley stopped still as statues and
stared. They stopped and they stared in absolute silence, as if speaking might
make the house disappear in a puff of chimney smoke.
Uncertainly, they began to walk. It still
seemed too good to be true. Could they really be at the end of Nowhere?
Already? Then they looked at each other and first smiled and than started
“We made it!” Tom cried. And they walked faster
and faster until they looked like they were in an Olympic walking race. They
climbed through a rough wooden fence and hurried along the edge of a corn
“I hope they don’t have a dog!” Tom said.
Several chickens ran away flapping their wings and squawking as the boys
entered the front garden.
The house was made a logs and had been built by
someone who didn’t seem to like straight lines.
“It’s a strange house,” Smiley said.
“I know. And look at the window.”
It was at that very moment that a person
answering to the description of madman come out of the open doorway and, with
his hands dangling at his sides as if he didn’t know where to keep them,
watched the boys approach. He was thin with long madman hair hanging to his
shoulders, hairy eyebrows that seemed to move up and down and side to side all
by themselves, and a very wild madman mustachio and beard covering most of his
madman face. But he was wearing very sensible spectacles.
“Hello there,” he called.
“Hi. And boy are we glad to see you!” Smiley
lied, because the man really did look like a madman. And, as you probably know,
there’s only one thing worse than a madman, and that’s a madman with sensible spectacles.
“Do you have a telephone we can use?” Tom
asked. The boys stopped before they got too close.
“Pardon?” Tom asked.
“Demented? Dewusional? In simple Engwish: are
you cwazy?” The madman clarified.
“Well, if you don’t have a telephone, can you
tell us how to get to the nearest village?” Tom asked, politely.
“Well, not really. That’s why we’re asking you directions,” Smiley said, cheekily.
“Well then, um, pwease allow me to, um,
enwighten you: this is the middle of Nowhere.”
“Oh nooooo,” Tom half sighed and half cried. “Still the middle of Nowhere?”
All their hopes were gone. The two boys felt
like giant beach-balls with the plugs pulled out.
“Why, how wong have you, um, been in the middle
“Sixteen days,” Tom said, suddenly ready to
“You’re good at counting!” Smiley said looking
at Tom and obviously impressed.
“Sixteen days?” The madman’s eyebrows seemed to
move from side to side. “Afoot? Is it possible?”
“Well, here were are—so it must be,”
“But how is it you have not been, um,
masticated by some monstwous mammal? The wepast of a wepellent weptile? Or
even, um, the fowage of a fantastic phantasm?”
“Pardon?” Smiley asked, thinking the madman
must love alphabetti soup.
“To be pwain and compwehensible: why haven’t
you been eaten by wild cweatures?” The madman said it like your teacher says:
“Why haven’t you done your homework?!” As if it was very naughty of them not to
have been eaten alive.
“I don’t know,” Smiley said. “Maybe we’re not
“And how, pwey tell, did you get to the middle
“We were kidnapped by two—” Smiley was
about to say “madmen” but paused a moment and said, “criminals. They sent us
here on Kiddy-Kites.”
“Kites to, um, the cawwy childwen? Most
intwiguing.” Now the madman was looking at his feet as if he was actually
talking to his shoes.
So they followed the madman up the garden path.
“By the way,” the madman said, turning towards
them, “what are your names?”
“Indeed?” the madman said, looking at Smiley
while his hairy eyebrows began to spin as if he didn’t appreciate such a name.
“Well, I am Pwofessor Weader”
Finally, they heard a noise and the sound of
the ladder crashing down onto the roof of the van. Then the doors opened and
the van shook again as fat Wannabe sat in his seat.
“Right, let’s get going,” Wannabe said.
“Right, Boss. You should relax then, because
it’s a long way home.”
“Yes Boss. What do you want?”
“Yes Boss. Everything.”
“Well, get me a strawberry milkshake with big
chocolate chunks on top. And a bag of dried pig’s fat.”
“I think this trunk is soundproof,” Smiley
whispered in his most whispering voice. “I can’t hear anything out there.”
“Maybe they aren’t talking,” Tom whispered even
“Maybe. We’d better stay quite just in case.”
As Tinker climbed into the back of the van his
foot kicked the trunk. Inside the sound sounded like twelve kettle drums
playing a one note tune in an empty concert hall. The two boys sat silent.
“Umpgh!” Wannabe grunted, happy to see the food
he wanted but miserable that Tinker really did seem to have everything in the back of the van.
The engine croaked and they set off.
And in the black blackness the boys sat silent
and one hour seemed like two and two hours seemed like three. Three hours
seemed like four and four hours seemed like forever.
At long last, the van stopped and the engine
Wannabe was snoring and it sounded like a pig
“What? What? I wasn’t sleeping. I was
Tom and Smiley sat unmoving in the blackness,
like statues in a closed museum. The van doors opened and then clunked closed.
After a few minutes, Smiley whispered, “Let’s
leave the bags in here and go see what’s going on.”
He stood up and with one hand resting on the
wall, felt his way to the front of the trunk and pushed open the top. It was
dark inside the van too, but the van’s darkness was bright compared to inside
Slowly and quietly he climbed out and Tom
followed. They both crouched inside the van listening. They could hear muffled
voices. Then a door opened and closed and everything fell silent.
“I think they’ve gone,” Smiley said and turned
the handle on the van door. It opened with a loud clank. They held their
breaths, hearts thumping. Smiley peeped out and then pushed the door open and
they jumped out.