keith waddington ©2007

Stoopid Kids


This book is forever dedicated to


The Invention

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 went sideways.

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 answered.

“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.”

“Yes Boss.”

“I want you to invent something so shocking you’ll get a medal from the electric company.”

“Yes Boss.”

“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 kids stupid.”

“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 an adventure.

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 chattering.

“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 you?”

Tom looked at the floor.

“Well don’t worry, 'cos I get Es in everything!” The big boy laughed. Tom stayed silent.

“Come on, you can walk with me. Nobody’ll touch you.”

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 grinned.

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 pan.

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 you?”

“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 pointed.

“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 in stains.

“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 white van.

The two boys looked at each other.

“I think he’s spying on the school,” Smiley whispered.

“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 stupid?”

“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 them stupid.”

“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.”

“Right Boss.”

“This is our big test,” Wannabe said, half daydreaming. “If it works here, we’ll put one in every rotten school!”

“Right Boss.”

“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.”

“Yes Boss.”

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.”

“Tell who?”

“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 blabbered.

“Chilliwacks? Spying?”

“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 decided.

“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 blabberer.”

“But Boss—”

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 Boss.”

“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 gargled.

“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 your game?”

“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.

“You mean—”

“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 one angry.”

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 spluttered.

“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 like cry-babies.

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 trouser pocket.

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.


“What? Say ‘now’? What’re you going on about, you great hoddy-doddy?”


“Red button?” Wannabe looked around and saw the red button on the winding machine. “Oh, oh, right.”

“NOW! Boss.”

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 slobbered.

“Probably, Boss.”


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 louder.

“Oh,” Tom called, the wind slapping his face and the Kiddy-Kite tugging on the Super Strong String.

“Open your eyes and see!”


“Go on.”

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 out.

“Yes Boss. I have everything in there.”


Everything Boss.”

“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 bouncing?”

“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 smile.

“Everything Boss.”

“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 yours?”

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 weird expressions.

“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?” Wannabe repeated.

“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.”

“Right, Boss.”


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 square.

“Good,” Wannabe whispered. “The school’s deserted.”

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, Boss.”

“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 baby.

“Why did you put the spy camera?” Wannabe finally asked.

“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 are.”

“Good idea, you great peeping-tom,” Wannabe said.

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 sky.

“How much longer will it take now? Wannabe asked.

“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.

“Yes Boss?”

“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 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!” Smiley shouted.

“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 Nowhere.

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 we’ll crash.”



Tom could hear that Smiley was getting angry, so he tried again. But nothing happened.

“Try harder!”

“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 me?”

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 do it.”

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 open.

“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 trapped.”

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 each other.

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 on.

“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.”

Going Down

“Right! Let’s take these Kiddy-Kites to pieces and take everything with us.”

“We’re not flying them again are we?” Tom asked.

“No, don’t worry Tom boy! You’ll see why later.”

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 and fold.

“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 bags.

“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 of it.

“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 tears.

“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 darkening sky.

“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 brief glance.

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 in front.

“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 deeper.

“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 silver case.


“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 to flame.

“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.

“All right.”

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 shift about.

“Hey, do you have any food left from lunchtime?” Smiley asked.

“Yes. Do you?”

“Yeah, tons.”

In Tom’s lunch-box he had:

One chicken sandwich—with only a bite taken out—wrapped in silver foil.

Six carrot sticks.

An apple.

Half a small bottle of orange juice.

In Smiley’s lunch-box he had:

Five meatballs in gravy.

A few bits of potato.

Two chocolate biscuits.

Half a large bottle of red pop.

“Mmm, it all looks good, I’m starving,” Tom said.

“Me too. But we’d better keep some for tomorrow.”

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?” Smiley asked.

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 long silence.

“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 night.”

“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 inside.

“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?”

“Nearly eight.”

“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 wood.”

“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?”

“I’ll try.”

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 sunny?”

“Yes. Just in case. I don’t like getting wet.”

Smiley smiled to himself. “Let’s spread it out.”

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 about.

And Tom didn’t look and walked straight to the fire.

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 silent.

“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:

          A science book.

          A math book with a hard cover.

          A math exercise book.

          Learners’ Dictionary.

          Children’s Atlas of the World and Other Bits.

          A writing book for English class.

         A metal pencil case filled with pens and pencils and a compass with a spike at one end for drawing circles.

          A cloth bag with twenty-seven marbles inside.

          A small safety-pin.

“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.

          Three elastic bands.

          A neatly folded plastic shopping bag.

          A 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.” Tom explained.

          A pocket sized spiral notebook.

          School scissors.

A toy racing car with suspension wheels that helped it speed fast over bumpy ground.

          The Twits, a famous book by a famous writer.

          Half of a yo-yo with no string.

Next it was Smiley turn:

          A pencil.

          A 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 books?”

“Nah, I don’t have that stuff.” Smiley said.

“Why not?”

“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:

Tom’s bag of twenty-seven marbles.

The cork that squeaked on windows.

The scissors.

The empty metal pencil case.

The pointy compass for drawing circles.

The 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. Click.

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 totally mad:

“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 was doing.

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.

“You’re crazy.”

“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 back.”

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.

“All right.”

“Ready? Go!” They raced out and grabbed the stuff and stuffed the stuff in their bags and turned on their heels and scarpered.

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 way home.”

“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 unhappy.

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 water.

“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.

“All right.”

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 listened.

“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.

1. Sort the wood into piles by size, tiny twigs first and big logs last.

2. Crumple up two pages into balls.

3. Break the tiniest twigs and place them carefully over the balls of paper.

4. Break some thicker twigs and place them carefully on top.

5. Light the balls of paper.

6. Add more twigs and sticks as the fire grew.

7. Blow to make the flames burn bigger and hotter.

8. 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 gone.

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 about.

“And we discovered that weird animal that likes to read.”

“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 a name.”

“All right.”

Tom chewed on the pencil for a few seconds and then wrote.

“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 the tent.”

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 returned.

“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 from themselves.

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 asleep.

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 ghost.


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 came closer.

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.”

“You won’t.”

“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 photo. Click.

“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 another bite.

“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.”

“All right.”

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 from fear.

Smiley glanced up. The strange pink animals were getting awfully close.

“Okay okay let’s go!” he cried and they set off running.

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 legs.

“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 fun.”

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 to write:

Pig Monkeys

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 fire-proof.


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 before.

“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 channel.”

“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 thinking, “No.”

“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 really fast.”

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 would.

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 shivering.

“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 cloth.

And all the time, Tom was wondering when the whole thing would collapse.

And when they’d both get soaked and freeze to death.

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.


Lightening flashed.

“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 been?”

“Only four days, Boss.”

“Urmgrph,” Wannabe groaned like a rhinoceros in a paper bag.

“Well, I starving!” Wannabe slobbered. “Make me some breakfast.”

“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.”

“Yes Boss.”

“And eggs.”

“Yes Boss.”

“And beans.”

“Yes Boss.”

“And tomatoes.”

“Yes Boss.”

“And very mushy mushrooms.”

“Yes Boss.”

“And cubed cabbage.”

“Yes Boss.”

“And garlic grimps.”

“Yes Boss.”

“And steamed fraggles.”

“Yes Boss.”

“And crunchy hinkledrops.”

“Yes Boss.”

“And even more toothsome sage and union sausages.”

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 evergreen tree.

“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 teaches me.”

“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 left.

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 trousers.

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 the tent.

Outside, the fire crackled away.

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, nervously.

“What?” Smiley whispered.

“I can hear something strange.”


“Something strange.”

“Like a voice?”

“Well, mmm, a bit like that.”

“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 jumped over.

“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 the mother!”

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.

“Me too.”

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.

“Me too.”

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 this:

“Aaaaahshes ta aaaaaahshes awwwwwnd duuuuuuuust ta 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 duuuuuuuust,”

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 mouth.

“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?”

“I’m positive.”

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 fingernails.

Funeral Birds

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 Smiley.


“If we ever get out of this forest and back home—”

“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 counting.”

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.

“Right Boss.”

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 flobbery neck.

“Yes Boss.”

“Well, I’m thirsty and I want a nice cup of bitter coffee.”

“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 sloppy sip.

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 are.”

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 Alphabet Song?”

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 class, “YOU!”

“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 TV.”

“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 many Ms.”

“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 asked.

“Well, one darling. One M. Or, two at the very most.”

“Oh,” Sarah said and started to cry crocodile tears.

“Awwwwwww, it’s awwwwwright,” Miss Moppy said, giving the little brat a hug. “You did your best, and that’s the important thing.

“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 boyfriends.

“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 bit wrong.”

“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 his sloppiness.

“Okaay,” Miss Moppy sang, “Sloppy, spell ‘FOOD’ for the whole class. And do it slowly my sweetheart, and think very very carefully.”

“Yes, Miss.” Sloppy looked up at the ceiling, and then down at the stains on his shirt. Then, very slowly, he began. “FOOD. Erm, F—”

“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 things in—”

“Stupidifiers, Boss.”

“—one of those stupid Stupidifiers in every school.”

“Yes Boss.”

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 stupid?”

“I don’t know. Maybe they’re just mad. What do you think?”

“I think they’ve got an evil plan, like in books.”

“Yeah, but it’s not a book,” Smiley said.

Suddenly Tom looked up and stopped dead in his tracks.

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 down.

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 moonlight.

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 shuffled.

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 shadowy trees.

“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 noise.”


Tom and Smiley sat quietly for a moment.

“It’s stopped raining,” Tom whispered.


“Shall we light the campfire to keep the animal away?”


“Why not?”

“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.”

“All right.”

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 fire.

There was a long silence, and then Tom said, “Thanks, Smiley.”

“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?”

“She is.”

“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.

Monster Boys

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 thing.

“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.

“Hi leafy!”

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 away.

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.

Leaf People

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.

Patience Pays

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:

One: string is very interesting.

Two: 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 fish.

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 fishing net.

“That’s brilliant!”

“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 along.

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 catch more?”

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 one!”


Smiley checked the worm was still fixed to the hook.

“I’ll keep going down the stream then,” Tom said.

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 the tent.

“I think you should make a fishing net like mine.”

“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.”

Smiley smiled.

There was no talking. There was no talking because the boys were too busy eating.

“I’m getting full!” Tom said.

“Me too.”

“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 other.

“I think that one’s lunch tomorrow,” Smiley said.

“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 coal mine.

Don’t Worry, Tom Boy

“This streams plenty big enough now,” Smiley said. “I’ve seen loads of fish all morning.”

“Have you?”

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 some.”

“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 angry.

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 wet again.

“Right, let’s get you dry.”

Smiley collected wood and made a fire to dry Tom’s clothes.

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 pointed.

“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 so smart.”

“Yeah, that’s because they don’t live in schools!”

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 into space.

“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 them.

“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 we go.”

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 the trees.

“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 that.”

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 his clothes.

“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 wonderful.

“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, aren’t you!?”

“Yes,” Tom answered.

“We’re having a bit of an adventure, eh Tom boy?”

“Yes, we are Smiley. It’s nearly like in a book.”


“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.”

“What’s wrong?”

“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 Tom’s.


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 festival.

“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.

“Just sit?”


“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 was.

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 to walk.

“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 about anything.

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.”

“Thanks, Smiley.”

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 mattress.”

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.”

“Yes Boss.”

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 ladder.

“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 wars.

“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 slobbery way.

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 said.

“Stupidifiers, Boss.”

“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 mouth.

“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.”

“Yes Boss.”

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 rooms:

1. The entry, with a fold-up coat rack.

2. The living room, with a fold-up couch and a fold-up entertainment system.

3. A large bedroom for Wannabe, with a fold-up king-sized bed.

4. A small bedroom for Tinker, with a cheap blow-up mattress.

5. A library, with fold-up bookshelves and hundreds of fold-up books that Wannabe had never read.

6. A bathroom, with a fold-up bath and fold up flush-toilet.

7. 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:



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.

Course number 1: Salad with chunks of pig fat.

Course number 2: Brussels sprouts soup with previously licked garlic.

Course number 3: Shrimp with whale blubber in tomato sauce.

Course number 4: Sliced cow with snail gravy.

Course number 5: Hedgehog casserole.

Course 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 asleep.

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 thick snow.

“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 the tent.

“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 back.

“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 scared.”

You Idiot

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 river.

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.

“It’s going?”

“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 not crazy!”

They both chuckled.

But then Smiley said, “But maybe we can get across.”

“It’s impossible.”

“No, look up there,” Smiley pointed.

Far ahead a big tree had fallen across the river.

“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 for you.”

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 the middle.

“See?” Smiley said. “It’s really wide. It’s easy!”

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 breath.

“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 back across.”

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 asked.

“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. “And even—”

“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.

“I know.”

“And they’re just floating there.”

“They must weigh nothing. I wonder what they eat?”

“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.”

“I won’t.”

“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 something?”

“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 step.

“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 left.

“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 sure?”

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 mountains everywhere.”

“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 ground up.

“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.

“I will.”

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 tiny chews.

“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 mini bite.

“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 it.

“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.

Umbrella Tree

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 church ceiling.

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 said.

“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.”

Up the Garden Path

The boys were walking pretty much as fast as they could and both feeling excited.

“It’s not that far.”

“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.

“It’s impossible, it was super-close to the shore.”

“Maybe it wasn’t smoke from a house.”

“What then?”

“Maybe it was a smoke devil or something weird like that.”

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 laughing.

“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 field.

“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.”

“What about it?”

“It has no glass!”

“Oh, yeah! Well, I’ll tell you what I hope: I hope the owner’s not a madman.”

“Cripes, me too.”

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.

“Um, a telephone? Are you Dewanged?”

“Pardon?” Tom asked.

“Demented? Dewusional? In simple Engwish: are you cwazy?” The madman clarified.

“No,” Smiley said, “we’re not crazy. Are you?”

Tom nudged his arm and whispered, “Shh.”

“Well, if you don’t have a telephone, can you tell us how to get to the nearest village?” Tom asked, politely.

The neawest viwage?” The madman seemed either completely confused or completely mad. “It’s vewy far. Vewy vewy far.”

How far? Smiley insisted.

“Well, um, have you no idea where you are?”

“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 of Nowhere?”

“Sixteen days,” Tom said, suddenly ready to cry.

“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,” Smiley said.

“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 tasty enough.”

“And how, pwey tell, did you get to the middle of Nowhere?”

“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.”

“Kiddy-Kites, you say?”


“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. 

“Well, um, you’d better both, um, um, come inside.”

So they followed the madman up the garden path.

“By the way,” the madman said, turning towards them, “what are your names?”

“I’m Tom.”

“And I’m Smiley.”

“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”


Inside, the log cabin was just as slanted as outside. In fact, inside was even more slanted. The first thing both boys noticed though was a big gun hanging on the wall beside the door. And they certainly weren’t happy to see that.

Close to the door there was a big wooden table with a bench on either side. And just to the left of the door, the window with no glass. Below the window, a chair and smaller table covered in heaps of papers. Opposite, on the back wall, a low wooden platform that looked like a bed covered in furs. On the far wall to the right was the fireplace and chimney made of rocks with a bunch of fur and animal skins on the floor in front.

“How did you get here?” Smiley asked.

“Pwease sit,” Professor Reader said. Tom sat carefully on a bench in case it fell to pieces. Smiley, who was wandering around, sat on the chair by the window.

“And now, to answer your question: I walked. With three vewy fine donkeys, four vewy naughty goats, a dozen chickens and my goods and chattels.”

“Why?” Tom asked, finally feeling a bit better. “No one ever comes here. Not ever.”

“And that is the very weason I came,” he said, almost smiling.

“Oh,” Tom said.

“You see, back in the wealm of civilisation, I am a Doctor of Phiwosophy and a Doctor of Witerature.”

“My sister’s a nurse,” Smiley said.

“Indeed.” Professor Reader’s eyebrows swivelled. “I twavelled into this empty pwace to conduct a gwand phiwosophical experiment: the wesults will, um, wattle the world of academia. If you, um, take my meaning.”

Of course Smiley was looking out of the window and hardly even listening. And even Tom couldn’t guess what he was on about.

“In simple Engwish, I am writing a book.”

“Oh,” Smiley said. Finally understanding something Professor Reader said.

“My book is expwaining the wessons I have wearned wiving in this wilderness. Wiving in sowitude and wiving with Nature.”

“Oooh,” Tom and Smiley both said, pretending to be interested.

“My book is named The Simple Wife.” Professor Reader glanced at the piles of papers on the small table beside Smiley.

“Oh, are you married, then?” Tom asked.

“Mawied? Of course not.”

“So why is your book called The Simple Wife?”

Wife?” Professor Reader looked at Tom as if he was a madboy. “Not wife. I said Wife.”

Smiley looked at the title page and read it to Tom: “The Simple Life.”

“Oh, The Simple Life,” Tom said.

“Just as I said,” Professor Reader answered, shaking his hairy head while his eyebrows leapt up and down. “The Simple Wife.”

The two boys tried not to laugh but Smiley definitely snickered.

“In, um, two more years my book will be compwete.”

Smiley looked again. There were hundreds and hundreds of pages. He took one at random and glanced over it. Every word was super-long like a wet weekend at the end of a wet week.

“I have a question,” Smiley said, almost dizzy from looking at the page.


“Yeah. If your book is about simple life—”


“Well, why is it so big and so complicated?”

“Well, um, well—” Professor Reader looked at his shoes. “Well, um you see, that is a vewy canny question. Vewy canny. But, um, have you ever had mumps?” It was obvious Professor Reader wanted to change the subject and that was the best he could manage.

“Mumps? Tom asked, pretty puzzled. “No.”

“Lumps?” Professor Reader continued his line of enquiry.

“Lumps? No.”



“Well, that’s cewtainwy good to hear.”

“I’m sure it is,” Tom agreed.

“Oh, oh, you must both be hungry.” The professor finally thought of something connected with real life.

“Yeah, we’re always hungry!” Smiley said.

“Yes, a feature of boyhood. Might I suggest a dewicious bowl of wentil soup?”

Lentil soup?” Smiley asked, standing and going over to sit at the table with Tom. “You can’t eat lentils, can you?”

“Eat wentils? Why of course. What do you do with them?” Professor Reader asked, beginning to think the boys were a couple of madboys.

“Well, when I was little I used to glue them to paper and make pictures,” Smiley said.

“I did that too!” Tom said. “It was fun.”

“Well, um, how about a delicious wentil burger instead? Or wentil stew?”

“I don’t want to be rude,” Smiley said, “but do you have something to eat that’s not lentils?”

“Well, um, how about, um, a carrot casserole with special sauce?”

“What’s the special sauce?”

“Delicious wentil,” Professor Reader said.

“Anything’s all right,” Tom said, and gave Smiley a nudge. “Be polite,” he whispered out of the corner of his mouth.

“Excellent!” Professor Reader said, almost smiling. He went to the fire, added some wood, then hung a large pot over the flames.

“So how far do we have to go to get out of Nowhere?” Tom asked.

“Oh, vewy far.”

How far?”

“Vewwwwy far.”

“Well how long did it take you to get here?”

“I came vewy slowly. My speed was neither here nor there.” He seemed to look around to make sure.

“Well how long do you think it will take us to get to a village?” Tom asked, wishing Professor Reader would answer something clearly and simply.

“By Kiddy-Kite?”

“Of course not! Walking.” Smiley said.

“Afoot? I can hazard a guess, if you wish. Do you wish?”

“Yes, we wish,” Tom said.

“Well then, afoot: possibwe one month. Or possibwe two.”

Tom and Smiley looked at each. All expression had been wiped off their faces like ink from a whiteboard.

“We’ll never make it,” Tom said quietly. And for once, Smiley didn’t argue.

Just then, Professor Reader served them giant bowls of lentil soup and two cups full of a curious brown drink. Then he served himself and sat with the boys.

The lentil soup looked horrible and smelled horrible, so Tom took a drink first. His eyes popped open wide as he swallowed.

“What’s this drink?” he spluttered.

“Dwink? Why, that dwink is home-made beer. Vewy nutritious.”

“Beer? Is it?” Smiley asked, picking up his cup to have a taste. But Professor Reader was paying no attention because he was already eating his lentil soup.

“Dewicious! The utter simpwicity. The unpwetentious simpwicity.” And with that, he slurped and actually smiled.

The Wrong Questions

It took the boys a long time to eat the lentil soup because it was so yacky.

“Right boys. Time for a wovewy guided tour!”

They followed Professor Reader outside.

“How long have you been living here?” Tom asked.

“Oh, four, five, seven years or so.”

They walked around the back of the house.

“Over there, behind those bushes you will find the, um, latwine.”

“The what?” Tom asked.

“Toilet,” Professor Reader said in a whisper.

“And now, as you see, this is my fwout field.” There were several apple and pear trees still full of fruit. “Twy sum!”

Tom and Smiley both took an apple each and started scoffing away.

“Well, um, I see you boys must have been starving.”

“Nah, we’ve had lot’s to eat,” Smiley said.

“Not lot’s,” Tom argued.

“What have you been eating?”

“Tradition Sage and Onion Sausage from a tree,” Smiley said.

“Blackberries,” Tom said.


“Watercress. Oh, and we made some bread. I think we took some of your wheat from a field. We didn’t know it belonged to any one. Sorry.”

“No apowogy necessawy. But you made bwead? Most astounding. And such a vawiety of wild foods! A vewitable feast.”

“If you say so,” Smiley said.

“And every night you, um, sleep outside in the cold and wain and snow without even a bwanket!”

“Well, actually we have a tent. Smiley made if from the Kiddy-Kites. It’s really good,” Tom explained.

“A tent made fwom a kite?! Incwedible. Can it fwy?”

“Fly?” Smiley said. “Of course not. It’s a tent!”

“Well, um, even so, um, I must confess, you are, um, a couple of cwever whippersnappers! Most cwever!”

“No. Smiley’s the cwever one. I mean clever one. He did it all.”

“Ha ha,” Smiley laughed. “Tom’s the clever one. He gets As in everything in school.”

“Yes but—” Tom tried to jump in.

“And I get Es.”

“Well,” Professor Reader began, “possibwe you get Es because your, um, teachers ask you the wrong questions. Maybe that’s the weason.”

“Maybe.” Smiley liked the sound of that!

“Ah, and this is my pwincipal vegetable field,” Professor Reader said as they continued along the path. “And here is my Wentil Expewimentation Zone. I pwomise you will find this most intewesting.” Professor Reader stopped and began to explain about his lentil experimentations.

“As you can see, my expewimentation involves the Aldinga vawiety of Wens cuwinawis. Notice the swender compound leaves indistinguishable fwom those of vetch. And bwah bwah bwah bwah bwah.” The two boys quickly stopped listening while he blahed away. But Professor Reader, like a teacher who doesn’t notice half the kids in class are looking out of the window and the other half are asleep, continued with his long explanation about the wonders of lentils and his fantastic scientific lentil experimentations. Finally he appeared to stop.

“Well, you seem to like lentils quite a bit,” Smiley said, trying to be polite.

“Wike Wentils? My dear boy I wove wentils.” And then he went on about how much he loved lentils and gave seventeen excellent reasons why.

They moved on, following the twisting path along the edge of the forest. Then they crossed through a narrow band of trees and came to a hidden field. It was surrounded by a fence made of woven thorny branches. They reached a heavy gate and Professor Reader opened it. As they entered the field, four donkeys looked up from the far corner where they were eating the rich green grass.

“Come along my Students of Nature!” Professor Reader called. Almost at once the donkeys walked towards them.

“Such, um, cwever beasts. Very knowedgeable. Vewy bwainy.”

“Are they?” Tom asked.

“Oh, yes. And stwong. They, um, cawied all my good and chattels to this pwace.” He gave them all a pat when they arrived and fished out some carrots from his jacket pocket.

“Here, feed them,” he said, giving the boys the carrots. “And let me intwoduce you,” he said, talking to the donkeys. “Students of Nature, this is Tom and, um, Smiley.”

“Nice to meet you!” Smiley said, holding out a carrot and trying not to laugh.

By then a herd of ten goats had also found their way over.

“Oh, these wuffians want food too!” Professor Reader said. And then, addressing the goats: “You want food do you, wuffians? Hooligans you are. The whole lot of you.” And then he looked at Tom and Smiley. “I never, um, mince my words with this gang. Never.” He took out more carrots and tossed them onto the grass some distance away. The goats hurried over to eat them.

“You can never twust a goat. Not like my Students of Nature.” He patted the donkeys again.

“Do you get milk from the goats?” Tom asked.

“I do indeed. And in winter I eat one or two. Usually the worst twoublemakers.”

“And now, farewell my students of Nature, off we go,” he said. They came out of the trees and walked along the lake shore. There was a rough wooden deck above the water with several fishing rods leaning against a box.

“Let’s sit on the deck for a moment and enjoy the wovewy peace and quiet,” Professor Reader said.

And so, sitting down on that sunny afternoon, with the lake as still as a mirror reflecting the autumn forest, and the smoke from the chimney climbing up the cliff wall beside the house, everything really did seem safe and peaceful. And maybe that was why Smiley started talking about things that were definitely not safe and peaceful.

“Are there many dangerous animals in this place then?” Smiley asked.

“In this, um, pwace?” Professor Reader seemed shocked. “This,” he gestured with his hands at everything around them, “is not a pwace. This is Nowhere.”

“Yes, but even Nowhere is somewhere, isn’t it?” Tom asked craftily.

“Is it? Is it? Is it?” Professor Reader repeated. And with each “is it” he seemed less sure of himself. “Is it? Is it? Is it? An interwesting phiwosophical conundwum. Most engwossing. Most wiveting.” He adjusted is sensible spectacles.

“So?” Smiley continued.

“So?” Professor Reader seemed puzzled and his hairy eyebrows bounced up and down.

“Are there a lot of dangerous animals in this, erm, in this Nowhere?”

“Yes. Vewy many. A gweat number. Toothy and tweacherous. I have, um, a gun in the house for pwotection.”

“What kind of dangerous animals are there here?” Smiley asked.

“Um, Fanged Fingermunchers and Poisonous Slithewers. Fwog Faced Gwizzlers and Horned Hamster. Razor Toothed Slicers, Lesser Devil Dragons and, um. the tewible Wigling Wigler. And, of course, many have no names—but they all have vewy tweacherous teeth.”

“Oh,” Tom said, wishing they’d change the subject.

“But, um, surely you have been attacked? Indeed, I cannot compwehend how you are still awive after so many dangewous days and dangewous nights.”

“Well we nearly got attacked one night. By a Black Cat Shadow.” Smiley said.

“But Smiley managed to scare it away,” Tom added.

“And no other attacks?” Professor Reader seemed puzzled.

“Not really.”

“Well you are vewy lucky boys. Vewy vewy vewy lucky. Indeed, such luck seems outwageous.”

They followed the edge of the corn field and turned towards the high cliff. A long row of tree trunks, stripped of their branches, was leaning up against the cliff making a kind of giant room underneath.

“What’s that for?” Tom asked.

“Shelter for the animals, um, in winter,” he explained.

They followed Professor Reader behind a row of gooseberry bushes and saw a strange rough wooden door at the bottom of the rocky cliff. He moved it to one side and they saw it was hiding a dark cave.

“This is where I, um, lived the first year, while I was, um, building the log cabin.”

“You lived in there?” Smiley said.

“Indeed I did.”

“Like a caveman? Holy-guacamole.”

The boys looked inside. It was dark, but they could see he used it now to store vegetables and fruit and other foods.

“It must be fun living in a cave!” Smiley said.

“It looks scary to me,” Tom said. “And if I did have to live in a cave, I’d paint pictures on the walls.”

Wisdom Beyond His Ears

Tom and Smiley were sitting at the table drinking some kind of strange hot tea. Professor Reader was outside working. Suddenly, there came a great cafuffle, a flapping of wings and a squawking of beaks, a thunderous thud and then silence.

“What’s happening?” Smiley asked. They walked to the open doorway to look outside. As the sun slipped behind the mountains and the sky turned blood-red, Professor Reader came carrying a headless chicken.

“Chicken tonight,” he said.

“Not with lentils, I hope!” Tom whispered as they turned back inside.

And it was a delicious chicken feast they had. And the potatoes and the carrots and the beetroot and the cornbread were so tasty the boys hardly noticed the lentils.

“I can’t eat another mouthful,” Smiley said, taking a drink of his nutritious beer.

“Me neither, “ Tom said.

“Professor,” Smiley began, “How do you make this beer?” Smiley was draining the cup.

“Oh, that’s my special recipe. Made with 100% lentils.”

Smiley coughed and spluttered and nearly choked.

Tom sniggered.

They all sat on the furs in front of the fire, watching the flames just like they did every night with the campfire.

“Professor?” Tom finally broke the silence.

“Yes, Tom?”

“You’ve been here a long time, right?”


“Well, in the evening, or in the night, have you ever heard a kind of talking-singing, but it’s not really a voice. It’s hard to explain.”

“Indeed I have. One night just after I awived, as cwear as I hear you now. And I heard it not so wong ago. One night maybe, um, thwee years ago.”

“Oh, only twice?” Tom asked.

“So you have heard it?”

“We both hear it. Every night.”

“Really?” Even in the dim firelight the boys saw Professor Reader’s hairy eyebrows climb up his forehead and do a dance. “Most intewesting.”

“Well, not every night,” Smiley began. “There was one night we didn’t hear it.”

“Yes,” Tom said. “The night we were attacked by the Black Cat Shadow.

“Most intwiguing.”

“Do you know what the voice is?” Tom asked.

“Alas, I have never solved this mindful mystewy.”

“I think I know,” Tom said.

Smiley looked up, surprised. Professor Reader looked up. He was surprised too and his hairy eyebrows seemed to be bouncing about as if they were on a trampoline.

“Weawy?” the professor asked. Surely such a young boy could never know such an unfathomable thing. “Pway do tell.”

“Well,” Tom began, “do you remember when we were sitting at the lake this afternoon? You were talking about wild animals. And you said there are so many here and some have no names but they all have sharp teeth. And you said you needed a gun to stay safe.”

“Yes yes yes, go on,” the professor said.

“Well, you said that we’re very lucky to be still alive and you could hardly believe it.”

“Yes yes yes.”

“Well, I don’t think we’re lucky. ”


“I think that the voice we hear is the voice of the mountains and the rocks and the trees and, well everything. Like a spirit or something. I think it’s the voice of Nowhere. And the voice is saying it’s protecting us because we didn’t mean to be here and we don’t mean any harm.”

There was absolute silence.

Even the fire seemed to have stopped crackling.

Tom looked at Smiley and then looked at Professor Reader.

“What do you think?” Tom finally asked.

“I think,” said the professor, “you are quite cowect.”

Vewy Nouwishing Tea

The boys had slept on the furs in front of the fire. When they woke up, Professor Reader was already outside working.

They washed and then sat at the table drinking some more of that strange tea.

“I think we should leave this morning. Get going again,” Smiley said.

“Already? Really?” Tom didn’t sound too happy.

“I just don’t think we should get too comfortable here. The food is really tasty—apart from the lentils. And it’s really safe here. But the longer we stay the less we’ll want to go. And if it’s really going to take a month or two to make it back, well we’ve no time to lose. Remember what it was like in the snow, Tom boy?”

“Oh. Yes, you’re right,” Tom said gloomily.

Soon after the professor came in and they told him their plan.

“Weawy? Weaving so, um, soon?” And was that sadness in the hermit’s voice?

“Yes, we have to. Otherwise the snow’ll come before we’re home,” Smiley said.

“Indeed. Well then, a Bwobdingnagian bweakfast before you go."

And so the professor set to cooking.

“Oh, no lentils for breakfast,” Smiley said casually.

“Weawy?” the Professor turned towards them. “Are you sure? It’s no twouble.”

“Yes. We’re sure,” Smiley said.

Soon the Professor served them scrambled eggs with coriander, beans, fresh tomatoes and cucumber, and a giant pile of cornbread.

After they finished, the Professor walked to a corner and opened a hidden hatch in the wooden floor. The boys watched him reach inside and pull out two blankets.

“These should keep you warm,” he said. “Wight. And you need some food.” Professor Reader rushed outside.

“He’s really odd,” Smiley whispered.

“He’s not so bad. Don’t forget, usually he only has his Students of Nature to talk to.”

“Yeah, it’s funny how he thinks those donkeys are super-smart.”

“Well, maybe they are compared to goats!”

And the two boys laughed their heads off.



“Do you know what I think?”

“You’re always thinking. What now?”

“I think he doesn’t really want to be a hermit and live all alone. I think he just wants to write a big book about being a hermit and living alone.”

But Smiley had no chance to answer because the professor was just coming in the open doorway. He dropped a cloth bag onto the table top and started taking food out.

“Wight. Some dwied fish. Packed with pwotein. Take all of them. Next, a few apples each. Chock-a-bwock with fwuctose and gwucose. Keep you walking all day! And some cheese fwom the wuffians.”

“We don’t have much more room,” Tom said, filling up his bag

“How about some cooked wentils?”

“Erm, no thanks. It’s a bit heavy,” Tom said.

“Um, cawots then. Help you see in the night! ”

“Okay. But I think that’s all we can take,” Smiley said. The boys fastened their bags.

“A nice cup of tea before you go. Vewy nouwishing.” And so he served three cups of that strange tea and they all sat slurping.

“Oh, one more thing,” Professor Reader said. He went to a shelf beside the fireplace and opened a small basket.

“Here,” he said, holding out some paper money.

Smiley took it and said, “But there’s over a hundred here. And what can we do with money?”

“Keep it for when you get back. You may need it. Buy some chocowate!”

“With a hundred? We could buy a million!”

“Keep it keep it. I have no need of money,” Professor Reader said.

“Thanks,” Tom said.

“Yeah, thanks,” Smiley said.

“Professor?” Tom began. “What do you make this tea with?” And he started to drain the cup.

“Oh, that’s my special tea. Made with 100% wentils!”

Tom nearly choked and tea sprayed out of his mouth.

Smiley sniggered.

And then it was time to go and they all stood up.

“Oh, just a minute,” Smiley said. He took out his camera and set it on the table. “Stand together you two!” Tom and the professor and the professor’s hairy eyebrows stood together. Smiley checked the small screen on the back of the camera. “Okay, I’m putting it on the timer,” he said, pressing a tiny button. And then he rushed to join Tom and Professor Reader.

“Smile!” Smiley said.


All Quiet For Professor Reader

And so Tom and Smiley were on their way. For a long time Professor Reader stood silently watching them disappear into the distance. Then, he quietly walked into his topsy-turvy house, quietly walked to the table by the window and sat.

Now Professor Reader’s eyebrows seemed to be sitting in a corner sulking.

Quietly Professor Reader perused the giant pile of papers called The Simple Life, all covered in giant inky words. And he quietly decided his big book was maybe a bit big and bit complicated.

Then he went to the field and called his Students of Nature over for a quiet chat.

The Trick

It was pretty quiet for the boys too. They were both thinking about two more months lost in the mysterious Nowhere mountains. And even Smiley was secretly wondering if they’d ever get home. So as they continued along the lake shore, the only sound was the gentle lapping of the gentle waves.

Much sooner than they expected, they came to a stream.

“It’s flowing out of the lake,” Smiley said.

“That means we follow it, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Smiley said.

So they turned their backs on the lake and the hermit’s house once and for all.

The afternoon was half through when they reached the top of a waterfall. Smiley took careful steps to the edge and watched the stream crash down to a blue bubbling pool far below.

“We’ll have to climb down,” Smiley said.

“I knew you’d say that,” Tom said, not exactly sounding happy.

“Let’s have a break first.”

Smiley jumped onto a big flat rock shaped like a triangle in the middle of the stream, took off his bag and sat down in the warm sunlight. Tom followed. They ate an apple each and watched the stream disappear over the edge.

“Ready then?”

Tom nodded.

They stood up, grabbed their stuff and jumped back to the bank of the stream. Again they walked to the edge and looked down.

“Can you see a way down?” Tom asked.

“I think so.” Smiley folded away the spear, put it in his bag and began to climb down.

He reached a safe place and looked up at Tom.

“All right, Tom boy, just remember, go carefully and don’t be scared. You’ll be fine.”

Tom turned around and lowered himself over the edge. To his right the water crashed down, thundering and making all the rocks shake. His heart was beating like a drum but he wasn’t quite so scared as he expected. Finally, he was beside Smiley and they both smiled.

And so it went, from one ledge and rock to the next, with careful steps and handholds, until finally they reached the bottom and both stood looking up at the crashing waterfall.

“We did it!” Tom said.

“Yeah, you’re getting to be a good climber.”

And so, once again they set off walking. But now the river was twisting and turning as if it wasn’t quite sure which way to go.

“Oh no, look!” Tom said as they came around a bend. “Another waterfall.”


“I hope it’s not as high as the other one,” Tom said.

“Yeah, me too.”

As they drew closer, something seemed odd.

“That’s strange,” Tom said, “it looks just like the other one.”

“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.”

“And look at that rock in the middle.” Sure enough, there was a large triangular rock just like where they’d sat for a rest. “It’s impossible. Unless we went around in a circle.”

“But we just followed the stream,” Smiley said. “Water can’t flow up hill.”

“I know that and you know that. But does the water know that?”

By now they were at the edge and Smiley was looking down.

“Well, it’s pretty strange because I can see exactly the way we climbed down.”

Tom looked over too. “We must be mixed up,” he said.

“Well, it’s really odd.”

This time they were at the bottom quite quickly.

“That climb was exactly the same as the last one,” Smiley said.

“It must be two waterfalls that happen to be nearly the same.”

“Well, I don’t know what else it could be. Any way, let’s get going or we’ll never get anywhere.”

And so the set off, walking faster now. But once again the river was twisting and turning so much the boys almost felt giddy.

“Oh-oh,” Smiley said, coming to a stop. “Another waterfall!”

Soon they both stood staring at the triangular rock.

“This has to be the same waterfall,” Smiley said, scratching his head. “But it’s impossible.”

“I hope we’re not going to keep walking around in circles all day.”

“Well, this is the third time now.”

“I’ve got an idea,” Tom said.


“Well, we think it’s the same waterfall over and over again. But we know it can’t be. Right?”


“So let’s find out for sure.”


Tom looked around on the ground and then picked up a small white stone. He jumped onto the triangular rock in the middle of the stream and, with the stone, drew a big thick X on it. He scribbled and scrabbled over and over again until the X was very easy to see.

“Right,” he said, jumping off the rock, “let’s see if the X is there next time. If it is, we’ll know for sure we’re going around in circles, even if it’s impossible!”

“Good idea, Tom boy.” Smiley ruffled up Tom’s hair and then they began to climb down the waterfall all over again.

They followed the twisting stream.

“Right,” Tom said, “I think this is the bend coming up. Let’s see if there’s a waterfall again.”

They walked around the bend but there was no waterfall.

“Mmm, maybe it not the right bend,” Tom said. “Maybe it’s a bit further.”

So they walked a bit further but they never came to the right bend or the waterfall again.

“Well, that was strange. But I’m glad we can finally get going,” Smiley said. So they walked on, and the whole thing started to seem like a dream.

Finally, as the sun slipped behind the mountains, they made camp.

“That dried fish isn’t so bad,” Tom said. The boys had just finished eating and it was almost dark.

“And the flat-bread was great.”

“Yeah, and we’ve got loads of flour.”

Smiley added more wood to the fire.



“If we really are being protected by that spirit—”

“The voice thing?”

“Yes. Well, do you think we still need to keep the fire going all through the night and keep getting up to take care of it?”

“Well, maybe the spirit only protects us if we protect ourselves. I think we should just keep doing what we’ve always done. It’s safer if we don’t change anything.”

“All right.”

Now the boys were in the tent, wrapped in their new blankets.

“It’s super-warm,” Smiley said.

“Yes. The blankets are great. Maybe that Professor Reader is a bit mad. But he was nice to us.”


They laid in silence, with the fire crackling outside, until Tom said, “Smiley?”


“What do you think was happening back at the waterfall?”

“I have no idea. But I know water can’t go up hill.”

“Yes, I think it’s impossible—even here.”

“What do you think was happening?”

“I think it was a trick trying to trick us but when we did the X on the rock we tricked the trick so it stopped tricking us.”

Three Choices

It was another fine morning. The sun was shining and the air was crisp. Tom made some flat-bread and they ate it with hooligan goat’s cheese.

All through the morning, the stream they followed grew wider and deeper as other streams flowed into it. By afternoon it had already become a wide river.

“It’s going well today. No crazy waterfall!” Tom said.

“You always speak too soon, Tom boy.”

“Why, what’s wrong now?”

“Look ahead. The mountains are closing in on the river.”

“Oh, it could get hard to walk again.”


As they walked the mountains continued to crowd in. But there was something worse: the mountains were getting steeper and steeper.

“I think we’re gonna have big problems,” Smiley said.


“I think the river’s going through a gorge. We might not be able to get through.”

And it was true: soon the trees came to an end and there was no place to walk any more. The river was rushing through a narrow gorge and the rocky cliffs on both sides stretched straight up.

“What can we do?” Tom asked.

“Sit down and have a think,” Smiley answered vaguely, dropping his bag and sitting on a rock. Tom sat too and they both watched the surging river disappear into the gorge.

“We can’t swim!” Tom said.

“No,” Smiley half smiled. “We can’t.”

Tom was happy to hear that.

Smiley stood up and began looking at the mountains around them.

“Do you have any ideas?” Tom asked.

“I think we have three choices.”


“We could go all the way back to the lake. And then keep going around it until we find a different stream to follow.”

“It’s so far!” Tom said. “And the waterfall’s back there too! What’s the next choice?”

“We can go back to where we camped last night and climb up the mountain side. It’s not soooo steep back there. When we reach the top, maybe we can get passed this gorge and then climb back down to the river.”

“It’s so high,” Tom said, looking up to the top of the cliffs. “What’s the third choice?”

“We can make a raft with all the fallen trees and wood. Then we just float through the gorge.”


“It could be really short. Maybe we’d be through in a minute or two. Then we just get back on the river bank and start walking again.”

“Mmm. The river’s really fast though. And what if there’re giant rocks around the corner?”

“We can make long poles and try to steer it through.”

“Well, I don’t like any of those choices! So you can choose.”

“Okay. I say let’s try and make a raft first and see how it goes.”

“Are you sure?” Tom didn’t seem too happy.

So they walked back along the river until they found a place with enough space to make the raft and began collecting wood.

Smiley laid the thickest logs side by side.

Using the Super Strong String, he began to carefully tie them together.

“Is that string really strong enough?” Tom asked.

“I hope so.”

Next, Smiley took some long thin branches, stripped off the twigs, placed them on top and tied them in place so that every log was attached. Carefully he added more underneath the raft and tied them into place. It was all taking a long time and the afternoon was getting late.

“Will it float?” Tom asked.

“Let’s find out.”

Carefully they pushed the raft into the water.

“Tom, hold the corner and don’t let it float away.”

“I’m not so strong.” Tom said.

“You’re strong.”

As Tom took hold, Smiley stepped onto the raft. It wobbled and began to sink but then more or less floated. He jumped off and they pulled the raft back onto the shore.

“It floats, but my shoes got soaked. And with two on it’ll be worse.”

“So we’re not going to use it then?”

“Yeah, we are. But we need to make it a bit higher.”

Now using only thin branches, Smiley began making another layer on top of the raft. When everything was tied in place he did the same thing all over again in the opposite direction as if he was making some kind of weird wooden layered raft cake.

“I think it should be okay now,” Smiley said.

“It doesn’t look okay,” Tom said.

“Well, we’ll have to wait until the morning any way. It’s getting dark.”

That was a relief to hear and Tom began making a fire with the wood they hadn’t used.

It was quite quiet in camp that evening.

Tom Lays Down on the Job

The next morning they nervously packed away without breakfast.

“Let’s make two long poles for steering,” Smiley said.

They stripped two long straight branches. Then the boys began to push the rickety raft into the water, leaving the final corner on dry land. Smiley, holding both poles, carefully stepped onto the raft. It wobbled.

“Come on, Tom. Get on carefully.”

The river looked freezing and deep and dangerous. But there was no choice and he stepped onto the raft beside Smiley. It wobbled even more and Smiley grabbed hold of Tom to help him balance.

“See? It’s okay,” Smiley said as the raft settled down.

“Is it?” Tom was about as sure as the captain of a Jumbo Jet trying to pilot a ship.

“Okay, kneel down on that side—but not too close to the edge.” When Tom knelt, Smiley put one of the poles beside him.

“What am I supposed to do with it?”

“I’ll show you later.”

Then, Smiley took his own pole and used it to push the corner of the raft into the water. Almost at once, the raft began to move as if the river had grabbed it with water fingers.

“Oh!” Tom said.

Smiley used his pole to push the raft out towards the middle of the river. But even he was shocked how fast the raft was moving.

“That’s it, hold on tight!” Smiley called, kneeling down and grabbing hold.

“I am. But we’re going too fast!”

In just a few seconds they were already at the entrance to the gorge and now the river was much rougher. And water splashed up through all the gaps in the wood. And the Super Strong String seemed to strain and screech as if it was ready to break.

“Hold on!” Smiley called again.

And then they were inside the gorge and on both sides the giant cliffs towered above them. And the racing river turned a bend and they saw the gorge stretching out into the distance with no end in sight. And the water was white and wild.

The raft began moving towards the rocky cliff on the far side. Without standing up, Smiley tried to use his pole to push the raft back to the middle. But the river was too wild and too strong and there was nothing he could do. He pulled his pole back onto the raft and again held on tight.

The raft bobbed about closer and closer to the cliff. Smiley was sure they’d crash into it any moment. And then the raft began to spin around so that now they were going through the gorge backwards.

“Whaaaaa!” Tom screamed, facing up river the way they’d come and about ready to cry. Going backwards was even more scary.

Carefully Smiley, still on his knees, turned around to face forward. Luckily, the raft had moved away from the cliff and was back in the middle of the river.

But now the water was even wilder and they surged forward faster and faster. And even at that speed the gorge seemed to be never ending. The air was filled with spray and the rocky cliffs were dripping black water.

“Turn around, Tom!” Smiley shouted.

“I can’t. I’m too scared to move.”


His knuckles white from hanging on so tight, Tom began to slowly turn around. He’d completely forgotten about his pole and never noticed when it fell over the side and disappeared into the angry raging river.

Now that Tom could see forward he could also see a row of giant jagged rocks sticking out of the river like monstrous teeth.

“Look out!” Tom shouted.

Smiley turned and saw them. “Hold on!” Smiley called.

Smiley tried to steer with his long pole, but now they were in the middle and the river was too deep. So all they could do was hold on tight and watch in horror as the raft began to move in line with one of the jagged rocks. The frenzied river was turning more and more white and more and more frenzied.

There was a sudden dip just before the jagged rock tooth and it seemed like the raft was suddenly falling downwards into a giant hole. But then the raft bobbed up out of the hole and floated sideways just far enough to avoid the crash. The raft scraped along the side of the jagged rock tooth and the Super Strong String seemed to scream.

Before they knew what was happening, the raft had slipped between the row of rocky teeth and now they surged forward into the endless gorge.

“That was close!” Smiley shouted. His words echoed, bouncing from cliff to cliff as if they were laughing at him.

That was close!

That was close!

That was close!

There was nothing to do but hang on tight and even Smiley was terrified. The raft fell into a series of watery holes and came bouncing out again. And each time the boys were sure they’d fall off and into the deadly water.

And then, half a second later, the raft was moving towards the cliff, this time on Tom’s side.

“Tom! Use the pole and push us back to the middle!”

Tom! Use the pole

Tom! Use the pole

Tom! Use the pole and push us

Tom! Use the pole and push us

back to the middle!

Tom! Use the pole and push us

back to the middle!

back to the middle!

But Tom had lost his pole. And Smiley’s voice echoed and told Tom what to do over and over again as if it was laughing at his carelessness.

“I lost it!” Tom cried.

I lost it

I lost it

I lost it

lost it

lost it

So Smiley stood up and tried to use his pole to keep the raft from hitting the cliff face. But it was no good. He was on the wrong side. Quickly he knelt down and held on as the raft hit the sheer rock with a terrible thud. The raft scraped along the cliff screeching and scraping and the Super Strong String screamed ready to snap. The Super Strong String screamed ready to snap and the raft shook. Smiley watched, scared stiff, knowing that at any moment the raft would break into a hundred pieces.

Smiley could hardly believe his eyes: even though the raft was still scraping along the cliff and ready to disintegrate, Tom had decided to lay down and have a rest. Maybe he thought this was all just a picnic and it was time to have a nap. It was incredible, but there he was now, laying on the raft laying on his back as if he wanted to be an expert relaxer too! And then, in one swift movement, Tom lifted up his legs and gave a two footed kick against the rocky cliff face. In half a second the raft pushed away and out towards the middle of the racing raging river.

“Nice going Tom!”

Nice going Tom

Nice going Tom

Nice going Tom

Nice going Tom

Nice going Tom

Nice going Tom

Nice going Tom

Nice going Tom

Nice going Tom

The words echoed around as if the rocky cliffs were now cheering. Everything was happening so fast: by the time Tom knelt up and gave Smiley a smile, the raft was back in the very middle of the river.

The white water still splashed and sprayed the boys, but the raft seemed to fall down fewer and fewer watery holes. Still, the boys held on tight and watched ahead, expecting something terrible around every corner.

Finally the cliffs on both sides began to move out. The river become wider and calmer but with no intention of slowing. Smiley glanced at Tom. Tom glanced at Smiley. But neither of them said a word.

And then they were well and truly out of the gorge. Trees appeared on both banks and the mountains opened up around them.

“I think we made it Tom!”

“Well let’s get off! And I’m soaking wet!”

Tom really didn’t like getting wet!

Carefully, Smiley stood up and used his pole to punt the raft towards the shore. He ducked down just in time as the current swept them beneath overhanging branches that tried to catch him and shove him off.

“We’re going too fast!” Smiley said. “We’ll have to wait a while.”

Using the pole he punted the raft back out to the middle and then moved over to sit next to Tom.

“Don’t worry. I think we’re okay.”

“I hope so.”

“We can get off as soon as the current slows.”

And so they both sat, anxiously watching ahead for any sign of danger.

Ages passed and then finally the river widened more and began to slow.

“Okay, Tom, I’m going to get us off now.” In the distance, Smiley had spotted a small gravel beach on the left shore.

“All right.”

Smiley stood and punted the raft.

“It’s easy now,” he said.

“Is it?”


“Are you sure?”

“’Course I’m sure. I can steer it easy.”

“Well, if you think it’s safe, we can stay on the river a bit longer if you want. It’s a lot faster than walking.”

“Are you positive?”

“Yes, but as soon as we see anything dangerous, we get off.”

“Don’t worry Tom boy. I’m definitely with you on that one.”

So Smiley knelt down again beside Tom and they both watched far into the distance for any sign of rocks or white water or waterfalls or things they couldn’t even imagine but didn’t want to see.

Safe and Sound

It was early afternoon. The sun was shining. The current had increased again but the river was calm. Tom and Smiley were both dry now, and finally they were beginning to relax. Smiley opened his bag and handed Tom a carrot. They both sat munching away.

“You know, I think we might’ve been lucky getting trapped at the gorge,” Smiley said.

“What was lucky about it?”

“Well, we made it through, and just look how fast we’re moving now. And all we have to do is sit.”

“How fast do you think we’re going?”

“Right now? At least 25 kilometres an hour. Maybe more.”

“Cripes. That’s good.”

“It’s better than good. One hour on this raft is more than one whole day walking.”

“So we should stay on it then. As long as it stays safe.”

“Definitely. We could be home really soon.”

Suddenly everything had changed. Suddenly Tom and Smiley really and truly believed they had a good chance getting home safe and sound.

The sun had ducked behind the mountains and the river had slowed, so the boys decided to get back to shore. On the left, just ahead, the ground was flat and Smiley used his pole to punt the raft closer and closer to the river bank. With one almighty punt he pushed the raft into the river bank. It hit the mud with a gentle thud. Smiley jumped onto the grass, turned and grabbed hold of the raft before it had chance to float away. Tom jumped off and they pulled it completely out of the water.

Smiley went carefully over the raft, checking the wood and string and tying things together again.

“It might not be the best looking raft in the world,” Smiley said, “but it’s doing a pretty good job!”

All Creatures Great and Less Great

For the first time since they arrived in Nowhere, Tom woke up feeling happy.

And they had a big breakfast with bread and dried fish and hooligan cheese.

They pushed the raft out onto the water and, just before Tom stepped onboard, he glanced at the cold wide river and felt a moment of fear. But then he was on and Smiley pushed them out into the middle.

As the sun climbed over the mountains and warmed the air, both boys sat watching ahead for any sign of danger. But the river seemed to be taking care of itself and taking care of them too, and again they began to relax.

And now, moving silently on the river so early in the morning, they finally could see how many strange and unusual animals lived in the forest as they all came out to drink.

“I don’t even know what half of them are!” Tom said. But as Smiley started taking pictures, he grabbed his notebook and started naming them all.

Big-footed Ballyhoo

Spotted Spink

Long-tongued Water-watcher

Rat-faced Rooter


Big Bum

Elephant-nosed Mouse

Long-legged Wobbler

Later in the morning, Smiley said, “Hey, Tom boy, let’s take it in turns to be lookout. One hour each.”

“All right. Who goes first?”

“You!” Smiley smiled and ruffled up Tom’s hair.

So while Tom watched the river ahead, Smiley moved behind and set up his schoolbag to rest his head on. He laid down for a while watching the sky pass by. Then he stuck his finger in the water and watched the ripples it made. Then he whistled a merry song. Smiley was, after all, an expert relaxer.

“Hey, Tom, I’ve got an idea. Have you still got that silver foil in your bag?”


“Can you get me it?”

“All right, but watch the river.”

“I’m watching!” Smiley said, still whistling and gazing into the blue sky.

“What do you want it for?”

“You’ll see!”

Smiley fiddled with the silver foil for a few minutes. Then he held it up to show Tom.

“What do you think it looks like?” Smiley asked.

“Mmm, a bit of foil. Ha!”

“No. Well, maybe to you that’s what it looks like. But to a big fish it’ll look like a little bite sized fish.”

He fixed it to the home-made hook, tied the line to the raft and threw it into the water so it trailed behind.

It was Smiley’s turn to watch ahead.

During the afternoon, countless streams flowed into the river and the current again grew swifter.

“Is it safe?” Tom asked, alarmed at the speed.

“Yeah. It’s safe, Tom boy. And it’s fast and it’s fun!”

As the river calmed again, Smiley remember the fishing line.

“Hey, Tom boy, I think I caught one!” He was pulling the line in and it was heavy. Now he could see the big fish in the clear water, well and truly caught.

“It’s a giant!” Smiley said. “Help me! Quick!” Tom pulled his knotty net from the pocket of his bag and together they knotty netted the wriggling monster fish and pulled it out.

“Cripes, you’re good at fishing!”

Later in the afternoon, Smiley was almost snoozing when Tom gave him a shove.

“Look, Smiley. Isn’t that an island in the middle of the river?”

“What? Oh, yeah, I think it is.”

“Well help or we’ll crash!”

“I have a better idea. Let’s camp on it.”

“Oh, all right.”

So Smiley took his pole and punted the raft until it came to a stop on the shore of the small island.

They made camp and then walked around to explore.

As the sun set, the boys enjoyed a feast with Smiley’s giant fish and delicious fresh flat-bread.

Commercial Break



Now It was completely dark and they were both laying watching the campfire flicker and flame. It was more interesting than any television show ever made. And instead of commercial breaks, the boys looked up and the ink black sky was filled with ten million trillion stars glinting and glimmering.

“Did you ever read Robinson Crusoe?”

“Nope, but I heard of it.”

“I read it about ten times. Well, it was the kids’ version. I didn’t read the grown-up version yet.”

“Yeah, I bet you’ll read that when you’re nine!” Smiley laughed and ruffled up Tom’s hair.

“I used to imagine having adventures like him.”

“Yeah, I bet you did.”

“Well, we’re sleeping on an island aren’t we! Just like Robinson Crusoe. And everything that’s happened to us has been like an adventure.”

“Well, for a change I’ll tell you what I think?”

“Go on,” Tom said.

“I think it’s only an adventure if we don’t die at the end.”

Tom looked shocked and scared so Smiley ruffled up his hair, gave him a Smiley smile and they both laughed their heads off.

Several Impossible Things

That night, as they laid inside the tent, there was no ghost voice or the voice of a ghost. The ghost voice or the voice of a ghost had gone, never to return.

And it was a lovely sleepy night because they were on an island with no animals so they didn’t need to keep waking up and seeing to the fire.

And the morning was lovely too. Tom made a fire. The air filled with smoke. Sunbeams lit up a canopy of autumn leaves and cut through the smoky air in diagonal lines.

Again they had a big breakfast.

“We haven’t been hungry for days and days,” Tom said.

“Yeah, everything seems to be going great.”

And at that moment, neither Tom nor Smiley were wondering when things would get bad again.

And so they floated serenely down the river.

“Did you ever read Tom Sawyer, Smiley?”

“No. What’s that?”

“It’s a book about some kids who have a rafting adventure and everyone thinks they’re dead. I read the kids’ version.”

“Oh. I bet everyone thinks we’re dead.”

“Me too.”

“But have you noticed something?” Smiley began. “The mountains seem to be getting smaller and smaller.”

“And further away. I think we’re nearly out of Nowhere. We’re back somewhere!”

“That’s what we thought days ago. And it was just the hermit’s house.”

So Tom kept his mouth shut. But deep inside he believed that this time they really were almost back where ordinary people lived.

It was Smiley who spotted it first.

“Look over there, Tom boy,” he said, pointing.

There was a small stream on the left bank, flowing into the river. It seemed impossible, but some distance up there was a house.

“Cripes! Let’s stop the raft.”

Smiley stood up and used the pole to steer the raft to the river bank.

“Don’t get too excited. It could be just another madman living in the middle of Nowhere.”

“No, there’s a road beside the house!”

The raft came to a stop and Tom jumped off. Smiley followed.

“Cripes! We’re on the wrong side of the stream.”

Smiley held the spear in front and used it to pole vault across.

“Da-daa,” he said, taking a bow as if he worked in a circus.

“Aw, Smiley, you know I’m no good at that.”

“Go on.” He threw the spear to Tom’s side.

“It’s impossible. It’s like the one where I fell in!” Tom moaned.

Actually it was wider.

“That was ages ago. Just do it. You know you can.”

Tom looked across at Smiley. Right there and then he decided that the worst thing that could happen was falling in the stream. And if he fell in the stream that was all. So he ran and stuck the pole in the bottom of the stream and pole vaulted to the other side.

“Easy!” he said, like a pole vaulter stepping over a twig.

And they both laughed their heads off.

Finally, they were knock knock knocking on the door.

No answer.

“It’s a real house, though,” Tom said. “Not like a hermit’s hut.”

“Let’s take the road.”

Smiley folded up the spear and stashed it in his bag as they walked down the road. But it was a dirt road and he still wasn’t convinced they were really out of Nowhere.

And then they saw it: at the bottom of a hill, an actual village.

“We really made it!” Smiley said.

Both boy’s stopped in their tracks and could hardly believe their eyes. And their eyes were watering with happiness because their eyes couldn’t believe their eyes.

They walked down the hill, over a tiny stone bridge, passed one house, passed another, and then they were on the main street and saw three actual ordinary people walking about. It seemed so strange to see actual ordinary people walking about. It was almost as strange as seeing Rat-faced Rooters and Long-legged Wobblers.


“So what shall we do?” Tom asked, suddenly confused by everything being so ordinary.

“I don’t know. Phone home?”

“All right. There’s a public phone over there.”

They crossed the quiet street and walked passed a small school and then a small grocery store and newsagents. A bunch of newspapers hung on a rack near the door.

“Wait!” Tom stopped. “Look at that!” The noisy black inky headline of The Daily Reflection newspaper was shouting out at them.

“Have you got the money Professor Reader gave us?”


“Let’s go in and buy that paper.”

“Let’s get some chocolate too!” Smiley said, pushing the door open. “Just like the hermit said!”

“Mmm, you can if you want. I don’t eat chocolate much.” Tom grabbed the newspaper from the rack.

“Why not?

“Well,” Tom began, looking away shyly, “I’m a bit fat.”

Smiley laughed, then said, “Okay Tom boy, I admit, when we first met you were a bit chubby. Not fat, just a bit chubby. But you haven’t seen yourself for ages. You’re in super-great shape now.”

“Am I? Really?”


“Cripes! But anyway. Let’s buy something healthy. Do you like strawberry yoghurt?”

“Yeah, I love it.”

“Let’s get that then.”

So they paid for the paper and bought two tubs of strawberry yoghurt.

They crossed the road again and sat on a bench in a tiny park with a single slide and the stream flowing along behind. Tom was dying to read the newspaper, but first they opened the strawberry yogurt. After so long. Finally. Normal food. Quietly. Carefully. They opened the tasty strawberry yoghurt like an old priest opens his Holy Bible before service.

And it was lickishly good and deliciously not like lentils.

And then, Tom turned to the newspaper.

Kids Getting Stupid!

Shocking School Report

The Daily Reflection has just learned the shocking truth about the nation’s school children. In recent early term tests, more than 8 out of ten—that’s 90% to you and me—of school kids have completely failed in Everything. Mr. Gigglebottom, headmaster of Bottom-of-the-Hill Primary School told The Daily Reflection:

“I can’t understand it. Last term the kids were definitely very average. Remarkably average. But this term, after just a few weeks, the little bra—er children—are failing in everything. And between you and me—but don’t quote me on this—the teachers seem to be getting pretty dumb too!”

Mr. Gigglebottom also told The Daily Reflection that things are even worse than they seem. “I have to say—but don’t quote me on this—the little, erm, children are so stupid they think a writing test is to check if a pen has any ink.”

So what’s going on? The Daily Reflection demands an immediate government inquiry to find out why the nation’s kids can’t even pass at failing. Just how stupid are they?

Tom put the newspaper down.

“Cripes, that Stupidifier thing really works then.”

“It looks like it,” Smiley said.

They sat in silence for a moment, thinking about what it all must mean.

“After all this time, they must have put them in loads of school,” Smiley said.

“Why though?”

“I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense. Why would that fat fellow want every single kid to be stupid?”

“We have to go to the police and tell them everything,” Tom decided.

Smiley shook his head. “They’d never believe us. Not for half a second. We don’t even know their names. And our whole story’s sounds impossible. No one’s ever been to the middle of Nowhere and if they have they never came out again to talk about it. They’ll just think we’re a couple of hooligans who ran away from home.”

“Mmm, you could be right,” Tom admitted.

Just then, if enough impossible things hadn’t already happened, another impossible thing happened. First, Smiley grabbed Tom by the sleeve of his jacket and dragged him from the bench and over behind the slide.

“What’re you doing” Tom protested.

“Just look!” Smiley pointed.

Next, in front of the tiny park, a small white van pulled up. Written on the side: “Education Department.” Inside, someone short and fat and someone tall and thin.


“What do you mean ‘cripes’? This isn’t cripes. This is holy-guacamole.”

The two boys watched as Wannabe pushed open his door and started to climb out.

“Now, hurry up you giant giraffe, this is the final school for today. Let’s get on with it.”

“Yes Boss.”

“Did you hear that?” Smiley whispered. But his whisper carried on the gentle telling breeze. Wannabe seemed to hear and looked up and looked around. Tom and Smiley moved out of sight behind the slide.

The boys heard the two doors slam closed and peeped around the slide again. Tinker was opening the back doors of the van and took out a Stupidifier and a Stupidifier Compact. He gave them to Wannabe then pulled the ladder from the roof. They crossed the road towards the small school.

“Come on,” Tom said, “let’s get away from here before they spot us.”

And then the next impossible thing happened. Smiley looked at Tom, looked at the short fat Wannabe and the tall skinny Tinker walking through the school gates, looked back at Tom, scratched his head, then finally opened his mouth and said:

“Listen Tom, if you want to get away then you should. But I want to find out what all this business is about. And I want to stop those two making every kid even stupider than me.”

“But Smiley—”

“And I want those two locked up in a prison till the fat one’s thin and the thin one’s fat.”

“But Smiley, it’s impossible. How can we do anything?”

“I have a kinda plan. But you don’t have to join in. But you have to make up your mind quick.”

“I’m not brave like you,” Tom said, feebly.

Smiley stood silent.

And then Tom said something that he really didn’t want to say: “All right.”

“Right Tom boy,” Smiley smiled and ruffled up Tom’s hair. “Come on!”

They ran to the van. Smiley looked through the window on the driver’s side and then opened the door. He reached in and took a map from between the seats. It was covered in red Xs.

“Those are all the schools they’ve been to and put Stupidifiers,” Tom said, glancing over the map.

“Holy-guacamole. They’ve been to nearly every one.”

“Let’s go, before they come back,” Tom said.

“Hey, they’ve got a little TV in here!” Smiley saw the Secret Spy Camera TV in the dashboard.

“Who cares, Smiley. Hurry, before we get caught.”

Smiley closed the door and ran to the rear of the van with Tom close behind. He opened one of the back doors. The first thing they Smiley noticed was a trunk behind the drivers seat.

“Maybe we can hide in that trunk,” Smiley said.

“You want to hide?” Tom could hardly believe his wiggly ears.

“Yeah.” Smiley was already climbing inside. “Come in and close the door behind you.”

And this was when another impossible thing happened.

Smiley lifted up the lid of the trunk.

“Holy-guacamole!” Smiley stared into the open trunk.

“What?” Tom asked, carefully footing the foot passed the pile of Stupidifiers.

“We can definitely hide in here!” Smiley was almost laughing.

“Are you sure?” Tom asked.

“Well, look!”

Tom came along side and looked into the trunk.


They both stood staring.

“But, it’s impossible,” Tom said finally, in a voice that was as wobbly as a wobble.

The trunk seemed hardly big enough for two kids, but inside it was big enough for a gang of kids. It was big enough for two gangs of kids. It was big enough for two gangs of kids plus a visiting gang of kids. Smiley climbed in. Tom climbed in.

“It’s amazing,” Smiley whispered. “We could play tennis in here!”

“I’m no good at tennis,” Tom confessed.

Then Smiley closed the lid of the trunk that was small on the outside and giant on the inside. Suddenly it was completely black. It was blacker than black.

“I never didn’t see anything so black,” Tom whispered.

“Let’s sit down and keep quiet,” Smiley answered.

So they sat close together and waited in the darkness that was darker than the darkest darkness you can ever imagine.

Dried Pig’s Fat

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.

“Where to Boss?”

“Back to the warehouse.”

“Right, Boss. You should relax then, because it’s a long way home.”

“Well you better get me something before we set off.”

“Yes Boss. What do you want?”

“Well, you do have everything in the back of this van, right?”

“Yes Boss. Everything.”

“Well, get me a strawberry milkshake with big chocolate chunks on top. And a bag of dried pig’s fat.”

“Yes Boss.”

“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 more quietly.

“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.

“Here you are Boss.”

“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 turned off.

“Wake up, Boss.”

Wannabe was snoring and it sounded like a pig gargling.

“Boss, wake up.”

“What? What? I wasn’t sleeping. I was thinking.”

“Yes Boss.”

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 the trunk.

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.


Tom and Smiley were in the giant warehouse. A dim bulb, hanging over the big table, gave enough light for the boys to see they were surrounded by piles and piles of boxes.

They walked slowly between the towering stacks.

“It’s all brand new TVs,” Smiley said.

“It must be his business.”

Smiley came to a small dirty window and stood to one side peeping out.

“I can see them,” he whispered.

Tom peeped out too. Wannabe and Tinker were standing talking in a small dark car park. Well, Wannabe seemed to be doing the talking and Tinker seemed to be doing the listening. Then Wannabe climbed into a fancy Rolls Royce car and drove away. Meanwhile, Tinker grabbed a bicycle with a basket on the front, climbed on and peddled away.

Now they’ve gone,” Smiley said.

“So, what’re we supposed to do here?” Tom asked.

“Well,” Smiley looked guilty, “when I said I had a plan, this was really as far as it went.”

“Just to come here’s your big plan?”

Smiley smiled shyly. “I never said it was big. I just wanted see where they were going and snoop around and find out what’s going on.”



“Let’s get snooping then,” Tom said.

Tom spotted a desk in the corner with a computer. He moved the mouse and the computer woke up. Quickly, he began click click clicking. After a few seconds he started laughing.

“What’s funny?”

“I found their names,” Tom said.

“Go on then.”

“The fat one’s called Walter Maximilian Wannabe.”

“What about the thin one?”

“It just says Tinker.”

“Hey, now I’ve found something!” Smiley said.

“What?” Tom looked up from the screen.

Smiley was looking at a cork notice board on a wall.

“It’s a bunch of newspaper clippings.”

“What do they say?”

Smiley unpinned one. “This one say’s that Wannabe’s become the richest businessman in the whole country.”


“And he has five TV factories in a country called Anich.”


“And he’s opening five more.” Smiley pinned the clipping back.

Tom went back to clicking the mouse on the computer.



“Come and see this.”

Smiley stood beside Tom to look at the computer screen.


“Look,” Tom pointed. “This graph shows his TV business. You’re right: he’s suddenly started selling millions of them.”

“I wonder how?”

“I don’t know. Let me see what else I can find.” Tom started clicking again. Smiley went back to his own search.

“Hey, Tom. Look!” Smiley had the top drawer of a filing cabinet open. He reached in and took out a pistol. “It’s that fat fellow’s gun.”

“Cripes,” Tom said, walking over to look at it. “The one he pointed as us.”


“I hate guns.”

“Me too. And I’ve got a good idea.” Smiley emptied all the bullets out of the pistol.

“What’re you going to do with them?”

Smiley walked away and returned a moment later.

“I flushed them down the toilet!”


Tom went back to the computer and quickly found something else.

“Cripes, Smiley, I think he’s got his own TV Channel as well.”

“Does he? Which one?”

“It’s called Kids 24.”

Kids 24? I never heard of it.”

“It’s new. And it’s on twenty-four hours a day!”

“That’s crazy. Kid’s don’t watch TV twenty-four hours a day.”

“I know.”

“There’s a TV over there. Let’s see if we can see his stupid channel.” They crossed a short passage into a grimy kitchen with heavy blood-red curtains and a big TV balanced on an old wobbly chair.

Smiley grabbed the remote. The screen came to life.

“Look, I think it’s already set to his channel.”

“Ha! I’m not surprised,” Tom said.

Kids 24

There was a young man on the TV dressed up like he thought he was the coolest guy in the world.

“Right kids and kidettes, were gonna have a quick break and then come back for more of your favourite Kids 24 show: Homework Crusher. Why do your homework when you can watch TV, right? Right! Ha ha ha ha ha.”

A commercial came on. Six fat kids were dressed up like they were bars of chocolate. They were dancing around and singing:

Yum yum yum

Yumy yum yum

Xtra choco’s extra licky

Xtra choco’s nice and sticky

Breakfast lunch or even dinner

Xtra choco is a winner

Yum yum yum

Yumy yum yum

Finally a voice said: “Xtra Choco: five times the sugar for ten times the taste!”

The young man who thought he was the coolest guy in the world came back on.

“Okay kids and kidettes. Welcome back to Homework Crusher. And it’s the time we’ve all been waiting for. Are you sitting comfy? Have you got yourself a tasty Xtra Choco or ten? Good, 'cos here comes the newest and funest super-hero ever: Boredom Buster Man, yeaaaaaah. Remember yesterday when Boredom Buster Man turned that boring Public Library into a giant custard pie with a cherry on top? Well, yeah, even if you don’t remember kids and kidettes, don’t worry about it. Today’s episode is called: “Bust the Boring Museum.” So sit tight and don’t move and inch 'cos here comes Boredom Buster Man!”

Tom Works It Out

“Turn it off,” Tom said, “I hate stupid stuff like that. It’s even worse than Reality TV.”

Smiley clicked it off. “Let’s see what else we can find, then.”

Almost at once Tom said, “Cripes.”

“What?” Smiley walked over to look at the computer screen again.











“Look at this. That Kids 24 channel is getting really really popular.”

“I don’t know why,” Smiley said. “It looked completely stupid to me.”

“Well of course!” Tom turned to Smiley. “That’s it! That’s what Wannabe’s up to.”

“What is?” Smiley asked.

“I should have guessed ages ago. It’s obvious.”

“What is?” Smiley insisted.

“Well, three weeks ago, we found Wannabe and Tinker in my mum’s field, right?”


“And they put one of those Stupidifiers in our school for a one week test, right?”


“That means, two weeks ago, when the test was over, they started putting them in every school in the country, right?”


“Well, look at the graphs. He started selling more and more TVs and more and more kids started watching his stupid 24 hour TV channel exactly two weeks ago.”

“Oh, yeah.” Smiley still sounded puzzled.

“Don’t you get it? He’s making every kid stupid. And the more stupid kids get, the more they want to sit around and watch stupid TV.”


“So kids get stupider and stupider and he sells more and more TVs.”


“And every kid’s so stupid they can’t get enough of that stupid Kids 24 channel.”


“And if they buy all that junk-food he advertises, the stupider they get the fatter they get as well.”

“So that’s why he’s suddenly the richest businessman in the country.”



You can say that again! Now we’ve got to tell the police!”

“They’ll never believe us. You know it. The whole thing sounds crazy. And even if they did almost believe us, by the time they’ve finished stomping about, that Wannabe and Tinker will be a million kilometres away.”

“What else can we do though?”

“We have to stop them, that’s what we have to do,” Smiley said. “Catch them while they’re putting those Stupidifiers in a school. Catch them red handed and then call the police.”

“But how? It’s impossible.”

“I don’t know,” Smiley admitted. “I was hoping you had an idea!” Smiley smiled.

“Well I don’t.”

A Modest Meal

There was a small fridge in the kitchen, so Tom and Smiley decided to have a break and eat.

“I’m starving,” Tom said, opening the fridge door.

“What’s he got?” Smiley asked. Tom began taking things out.

“A tin of Caviar. It looks yucky. And something called ‘Truffles’—but they look yucky too. Bird’s Nest Soup! Yuck. Dwarf Blue Sheep Stew. At least it’s not really blue. And something mushy, it says ‘Fois Gras.’”

“That’s all?”

“Yes. Oh, some crusty bread here too.”

“Well, at least the bread looks normal. Let’s eat.”

So they sat at the kitchen table and started eating the weird food.

“It all taste awful,” Smiley said. “If he’s so rich, he should buy some decent grub.”


They finished eating the freakish food.

Then they started snooping again.

Next to the grimy kitchen with blood-red curtains there was a small room with a comfy armchair and a small table. The room was very stinky. But on the table there was something very interesting: a very fancy and expensive looking hand carved wooden box. It was the kind of box normally used for treasure or jewels.

“Hey, Tom look at this! A treasure chest!” Smiley picked it up and eagerly opened it.

“What’s inside?”

“Aw! Just his stupid stinky cigars.”

There was a printed label on the inside of the lid:



“Not treasure then!” Tom sniggered.

Tinker’s Workshop

The next room was Tinker’s workshop, where he worked on all his crazy inventions.

“Look at these tiny video cameras,” Tom said. There were half a dozen of Tinker’s Secret Spy Cameras piled up on a table.

“They must be for spying,” Smiley said. “I bet they work with that little TV in the van.”


There were piles of wood and plastic and paper and metal.

There were tins of paint of every colour you’ve ever seen and three you haven’t.

There were long things and short things and things that were neither long nor short.

There were twisty things and curly things.

There was an electric saw and an electric screwdriver and an electric chisel.

There were all kinds of strange machines. Some of the machines made other machines. And some of the machines made other machines that made other machines. And some of the machines made other machines that made other machines that mad other machines. Tinker seemed to like machines.

And there were hundreds of things that could have been almost anything or nothing at all.

Tom’s Mum

Next, they moved back to the main warehouse and turned on the lights.

“Let’s go check that van properly,” Smiley said.

He opened the van’s back doors.

On both sides of the van were rows of narrow shelves and on each shelf numbered black boxes with silver handles on the front.

They climbed inside and carefully stepped over the pile of Stupidifiers.

“Hey, look at this. It’s a pile of camping stuff,” Smiley said, stepping over the giant pile on the floor.

“Is that what it is? I can’t imagine Wannabe camping, can you?”

“Yeah I can: look at the size of his tent. It must be like a house when they put it up. And look at that little box: it’s makes electricity!”

“Ha! I bet he watches stupid TV while he’s camping!”

“Hey, I never noticed this before,” Tom said. In the corner, behind the passenger seat, there was a metal box with something sticking out of the top that looked like a shower head. On the front there was a small screen and a keyboard. Above the screen in silver letters it said: “Matter Maker.”

“‘Matter Maker?’ What’s that mean?” Tom asked, puzzling over the strange machine. “It must be another of Tinker’s wacky inventions,”

Smiley came along side. “Yes, but what does it do?”

Tom pushed the ‘On’ button and the small screen lit up. After a few seconds some text appeared:


“What kind of request?” Smiley asked.

“I’ve no idea.”

“Well, request something then.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Ask where we are.”

Tom typed: “Where are we?” and pressed enter.

In no time the answer came on the screen:

“This item is not in the database.”

“Item? What’s it mean, ‘item?’ I asked a question.”

“Maybe it doesn’t speak good English!” Smiley smiled. “Ask for an item then.”

“An item? What’s it mean though? What kind of item?”

“Any thing.”

So Tom typed: “apple.”

This time the text on the screen changed to:


“Cripes, it’s doing something this time.”

Almost before Tom had finished speaking the shower thing started to shine with a wobbly purple wavy light. Quite soon the wobbly purple wavy light faded. And there it was: an apple.

“Holy-guacamole. Is it real?”

“It looks real.” Tom picked it up cautiously. “And it feels real.”

“Well see if it tastes real!”

“No way.”

“Give it to me then,” Smiley said. He took the apple and tapped it and squeezed it and smelt it and even listened to it. Then he took a tiny bite and tasted it. He chewed slowly.

“Yum. It’s real!” He took a bigger bite.

“Let me try then.” Tom took a bite. “It’s good too!”

“Well, let’s make something else!” Smiley said.

“What do you want?”

Smiley typed: “a whistle.”


The purple light came on, wobbled and waved and faded and suddenly there was a shiny silver whistle there.

“Brilliant!” Tom said.

“Let’s do one more!” Smiley said, pocketing his silver whistle. “What do you want, Tom boy?”

“Mmm, I don’t know.”

“Go on. You can have anything. What do you really really really want?”

My mum,” Tom said without thinking. At once he realised what he’d said. “Oh! No, ha! I was just joking.” His face went red.

“Well, type it!”

“No way.”

Smiley pushed in and quickly typed: “Tom’s Mum.”

The machine answered:


“Oh no! What’ve you done? It’s working!” Tom cried in a sudden panic. Smiley’s mouth fell open as he tried to imagine the machine making Tom’s scatterbrain mum.

Then more text came on the screen:

“Error. This item is not in the database.”

“Phew,” Tom said. “I was scared for a moment there!”.

And the two boys laughed their heads off.

Tinker’s Inventions

Next, the boys turned their attention to the shelves and rows of small black boxes.

Smiley opened one.

“That’s funny,” he said.

“What is it?”

Smiley read a white label tied to the object. “A bottle of Upside-Down Water.”

Tom and Smiley looked at each other, pretty baffled.

The boys took it in turns opening the black boxes, taking things out and reading the labels. Next it was Tom’s turn.

Hairless wig. For people with hair who want to be bald.”

Bargain Priced Plastic Penguin Puppet with No Strings Attached.”

Soundproof Bed Sheets. For a quite night’s sleep.”

Backwards Boomerang. Never comes back.”

Thinktation. Writes your thoughts.” It was a small gadget with a screen and a red button underneath.

”Press the red button then and I’ll think something,” Smiley said.

Tom pressed the red button. Smiley closed his eyes and thought. Suddenly letters began to appear on the screen:


“Hey!” Tom said. “Is that what you were thinking?”

Smiley opened his eyes, read the words and started to laugh.

“And I don’t want my mum. I told you I was only joking.”

They opened more of the black boxes.

Unknotable String.”

I Hate Reading Glasses.” Smiley put them on and looked at Tom. “They don’t do anything.”

“Try to read something.” Tom took out his pocket notebook and opened it to the first page.

“It’s blank. Turn to a page with some writing.”

“It has writing. Loads of writing.”

“Well, it looks blank with these on.” Smiley took off the I Hate Reading Glasses and then he could see all Tom’s handwriting on the page.

“Well that’s a stupid invention.

Auto-Candle.” Underneath the candle was a tiny switch. Tom pushed it and a real flame suddenly appeared on the top of the candle. “That’s pretty good though,” he said.

Portable Hole.”

“It’s not a hole. It’s a hoop.” Tom said. It looked like an inflated bicycle inner-tube.

“Let’s find out,” Smiley said. He threw the hoop onto the floor outside the van. It bounced about a bit then settled down. “Now it looks like a hole!” He jumped out of the van and Tom followed.

“Is it a real hole?” Tom asked.

Smiley got on his knees and shoved his hand into the dark circle inside the hoop.

“Holy-guacamole. It really is.” His hand had disappeared inside.

“Can you see the bottom?”

“Nope. It’s too dark in here.”

Smiley picked up the hoop to examine it. As soon as it was off the floor it was just a hoop again.

“It’s strange.”

He put it on the floor again. It became a hole again.

“It really is a portable hole,” Tom said.

“Let’s see how deep it is.” Smiley took a coin from his pocket and dropped it into the portable hole. They heard it hit the bottom and roll around. “It’s not so deep then.”

“I wouldn’t want to fall in though,” Tom said.

The Decision

The boys were back in the kitchen with the blood-red curtains drinking tea.



“We’ve looked at everything and we’ve seen all the useless junk and weird inventions. We know both their names. And now we finally know that Wannabe’s making kids stupid so he can sell tons of TVs, and make them all watch his stupid Kids 24 TV channel. Sooooo, I think we should call the police.”

“I wish you’d stop saying that. They’ll never believe us. And we’ll get in loads of trouble for making up stories. You know, police aren’t famous for being smart.”

“What’re they famous for then?”

“Having big boots.”

“Big boots! Well what else can we do?”

“I’ve got an idea!” Smiley said.

“What kind of idea?”

“A Plan.”

“Is it a real plan this time?”

“I think so.”

And so, for the next ten minutes, Smiley told Tom his real plan.

“Oh,” Tom said, finally. “Are you sure it’ll work?”

“Nope. But Wannabe’s really stupid and this plan’s really stupid. So it’s a good match!”

“What about Tinker though? I don’t think he’s so stupid.”

“No, but he lets Wannabe boss him around.”

“That’s true,” Tom said. And then again he said something that he really didn’t want to say: “All right, Smiley. Let’s do it!”

“Great, Tom boy!” He ruffled up Tom’s hair.

And so they set to work. There were tons of things to prepare and it was after midnight when they finished.

The Plan

It was seven o’clock in the morning. Wannabe and Tinker arrived.

“Right,” Wannabe began, “I have to leave a message for the foreman. We have 10,000 new TVs shipping out today. They’re selling like hot cakes.”

Wannabe give a slobbery laugh as if he’d love to eat those hot cakes.

“Yes Boss.”

“Pretty soon every house will have half a dozen. One for every room! You should invent a special TV to go in the toilet!” Wannabe started laughing and spluttering and slobbering.

“Any way, load up the van with those stupid things—”

“Stupidifiers, Boss.”

“Yes, you great grandmother. Load up those stupid Stupidifiers. It’s a long drive, but this is our final day. By the time we come home tonight, every school in the whole country will have one.”

“Finally we can have a rest!” Tinker said.

“Have a rest? Ha! Today, the country. Tomorrow, the rest of the wiggly world! Now get to work.”

So Tinker loaded up the van and Wannabe did whatever it was that he does.

Finally, they drove off.

“Are we nearly there yet?” Wannabe grumbled.

“Erm, no Boss. Like you said: it’s a long drive. And we’ve only been going three minutes.”

“Umph,” Wannabe moaned.

They drove on.

“Are we nearly there yet?” Wannabe grumbled.

“No Boss. We’ve only been going six minutes.”


They drove on.

“Are we nearly there yet?” Wannabe grumbled.

“No Boss. We’ve only been going seven minutes.”


“Do you want to watch some TV Boss? The Secret Spy Camera TV can show regular channels too.” Tinker adjusted the small screen in the dashboard. “How about Kids 24? Shall I put it on?”

“You dunderhead! That’s my channel. Do you think I want to watch that gibberish? Half an hour watching that stupid stuff and I’ll be as stupid as all those stupid kids. And that’s without a Stupidifier.”

“Yes Boss.”

“Just drive,” Wannabe said, lighting up a disgusting cigar and sucking on it like a slobbery slobberer.

They drove on.

“Are we nearly there yet?” Wannabe grumbled.

“No Boss. We’ve only been going eleven minutes.”


Hours and hours passed and finally they arrived at the first school on their list.

“Let’s get on with it then,” Wannabe said, opening the door.

Wannabe and Tinker had put hundreds and hundreds of Stupidifiers in hundreds and hundreds of schools. They did it quickly and they did it silently and they did it sneakily and usually no one even noticed them. And so, less than five minutes later, they were already coming out of the school gates and Tinker was shoving the step-ladder back onto the van’s roof. They climbed in and Wannabe’s seat groaned under his elephantormous weight.

“Right, next school,” Wannabe said, looking at his list.

At that moment a strange eerie sound filled the van.


Wannabe sat up as if he’d been stung on the bum by a bee.


It was a spooky sound and Wannabe looked at Tinker and Tinker looked at Wannabe.

Then they saw it.

The small Secret Spy Camera TV screen in the dashboard of the van came to life. The small TV screen was completely black except for a head with no body floating in the middle. The face was ghostly white.

“Ooooooooooh,” it said. Wannabe began to slobber.

“What’s that? What’s that?” Wannabe babbled. “Turn that TV off,” he babbled. But too late. The ghostly head started to speak.

“Walter Maximilian Wannabe.” The head’s voice was whispery and ghostly.

“How does it know my name?” Wannabe croaked. Sweat was dripping down his face like fat from a cooking chicken.

“Walter Maximilian Wannabe: look into my cold dead eyes.”

“No!” Wannabe said and covered his own eyes with his flobbery hands.

“Do you recognise these cold dead eyes?” the ghost head asked.

Wannabe couldn't help himself and slowly spread his fingers and peeped out.

“No,” he blubbered like a big baby.

“I am the ghost of a boy,” it said. “A boy called Smiley, who smiles no more. A boy you sent to his death in the middle of Nowhere. Ooooooooooh.”

“What?” Wannabe could hardly believe his eyes and ears. He’d almost forgotten about the Kiddy-Kites and the middle of Nowhere and those two rotten kids.

Then, without warning, the head began to fade away and the TV screen went entirely black.

Wannabe gave a sigh of relief and wiped away his slobber.

But not so quick Mr. Walter Maximilian Wannabe. Again, the van filled with an eerie moan.


A ghostly head with no body came on the small TV screen again. This time it was a different white dead face.

“Look into my cold dead eyes,” it said. “Do you recognise these cold dead eyes?”

“No no no! I don’t,” Wannabe slobbered, again peeping through his fingers.

“I am the ghost of a boy,” it said. “A boy called Tom, who toms no more. A boy you sent to his death in the middle of Nowhere. Ooooooooooh.”

The ghostly head with no body faded away.

“Turn it off!” Wannabe blabbered again. “Let’s get away from here.”

In the back of the van, Tom and Smiley were in the trunk that was bigger on the inside than the outside. It was completely black except for a tiny tiny tiny green light. It was one of Tinker’s Secret Spy Cameras. Smiley had carefully fixed it to the wall. It was turned on and pointing at them. Tom and Smiley were now standing close together in the absolute darkness.

“Ready?” Smiley whispered.

“Yes.” Tom whispered, nervously.

Smiley was holding Tinker’s invention, the Auto-Candle, just below their faces. He pushed the tiny switch on the bottom of the Auto-Candle. The small flame flickered to life with just enough light to show their ghostly white faces—covered in white bread flour from Professor Reader’s wheat field. In the flickering dim candle-light they really looked ghostly.

In the front, both ghostly heads faded back and floated side by side in the blackness of the TV screen.

They spoke together: “You must free our spirits. Free our spirits and be free. Obey or we will haunt you to death. Ooooooooooh.”

“How how how?” Wannabe begged. He eyes were open wide with fear now and the small TV screen with the two ghostly heads reflected in his eyeballs. “I’ll do it. Tell me how.” Now he was really blubbering and slobbering.

“Look outside,” the ghost heads whispered together in their ghostly whisper.

Wannabe and Tinker looked outside frantically not knowing what they were looking for. It was a gloomy day, with big black clouds hanging like lead.

But they saw it at exactly the same moment: across the street, in an empty space between a book shop and a grocers, they saw a table covered in a deep blood-red cloth. It looked like the alter of a strange spooky church. On the alter with the blood-red cloth there was a mysterious gold chest that sparkled in a sudden beam of sunlight. Leading up to the alter there was a blood-red carpet.

“The box! We see it!” Wannabe slobbered.

But the two dead floating heads just moaned.

“Ooooooooooh, ooooooooooh, ooooooooooh.”

The sound was terrible and a shiver ran down Wannabe’s spineless spine.

“Tell us what to do,” Wannabe begged hurriedly, his eyes almost popping out as he watched the two ghost faces on the tiny TV screen.

Again the ghost voices spoke together: “Listen listen listen. Obey or we will haunt you to death. Ooooooooooh. Free our spirits. Free our spirits. Free our spirits.”

The ghost of Tom spoke: “Go outside. Stand side by side.”

The ghost of Smiley spoke: “You are both guilty. Hold hands and walk together to the blood-red carpet. Hold hands and never never never let go. Stand together at the blood-red carpet and bow. Bow and beg forgiveness. Ooooooooooh, ooooooooooh, ooooooooooh.”

The ghost of Tom and Smiley spoke together: “ Walk together. Walk together. Walk together. Stand before the Secret Spirit Chest and beg for the freedom of our spirits. Beg for the freedom of our spirits. Beg for the freedom of our spirits. Open the Secret Spirit Chest. Set our spirits free. Set our spirits free. Set our spirits freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”

The ghostly white faces faded and the small TV screen was completely black.

“What did they say?” Wannabe slobbered and shook. “Do you know what they said?” He was so scared he could hardly remember anything the boy-ghosts had said.

“Yes Boss. We’ve got to get out.”

Tinker rushed around to Wannabe’s side.

“Hold my hand,” Tinker said.

They held hands and slowly walked across the street together.

Several passer-by saw the two strange men holding hands and sniggered.

In the back of the van, Tom had switched off the Secret Spy Camera. Smiley switched off the Auto-Candle they’d used to light up their faces and dropped it onto the floor. Now they pushed the lid of the trunk open and climbed out. They peeped out of the side window.

“It’s working,” Tom said.

“Yeah. As long as they stay together!”

The boys wiped the white flour off their faces with a towel.

“I can’t believe they fell for that trick,” Tom said. “They really think we’re ghosts.” Both boys smiled but they were too nervous to laugh.

Wannabe and Tinker reached the blood-red carpet.

“Stop Boss. We have to bow and beg forgiveness.”

Still holding hands, they bowed to the mysterious Secret Spirit Chest on the alter, still lit by a single ray of sunlight peeping from behind the heavy dark clouds.

“Forgive me for sending the boys to the middle of Nowhere,” Tinker said.

“Forgive me too. Tinker made me do it!” Wannabe said.

Spitfully Delicious

Now Tinker and Wannabe took slow uncertain steps down the short blood-red carpet towards the alter and the mysterious Secret Spirit Chest.

“We have to open the chest together, Boss,” Tinker whispered. “And set the dead boys’ spirits free.”

Wannabe slobbered without saying a word.

Just before they reached the alter with the blood-red cloth and the mysterious Secret Spirit Chest, the blood-red carpet seemed to turn into a river of blood. The carpet and Wannabe and Tinker began to flow and were all swallowed up by a hole that had suddenly appeared in the ground. It was Tinker’s Portable-Hole, hidden under the blood-red carpet and now swallowing everything and everyone.

“Ahhh,” Wannabe cried, as his big fat body disappeared down the hole.

“Uncle!” Tinker cried, still holding hands as his long thin body slipped down the hole.

At that very moment, both doors on the back of the van burst open and the two boys jumped out and rushed across the road. They reached the Portable Hole and looked down. Wannabe was laying on his back and Tinker had fallen on top of his bulging belly. The blood-red carpet lay crumpled all around them. Wannabe’s most fetching necklace had broken and shiny pearls rolled about. The two men looked up and saw the two boys looking down.

“We’ve been tricked!” Wannabe cried. “It’s those two brats!”

The boys rushed over to the alter with the Secret Spirit Chest and lifted up the blood-red cloth. Hidden underneath was a small blue box. It was Tinker’s generator for making electricity. Beside it there was a round piece of wood attached to the generator by a wire. Smiley grabbed the wood and rushed to the edge of the portable hole. Wannabe was on his feet and pointing his gun upwards.

“Right you little brat. Help us out or I’ll shoot you dead.”

“Shoot me then,” Smiley said with one of his smiles.

Wannabe pulled the trigger.


The gun clicked.

Wannabe looked at the gun and pulled the trigger again and again and again.




“Too bad,” Smiley smiled. “No bullets!”

Wannabe looked flushed. Flushed and furious. Flushed and furious and frantic.

Smiley glanced at Tom and nodded. Tom pressed the red Start button and the electric generator began to whir quietly. Smiley held the round piece of wood. On the underside of the round piece of wood the boys had fixed five Stupidifier Compacts. Immediately the Five Stupidifier Compacts burst into light and Smiley slammed the wood cover over the portable hole with the Stupidifiers on the inside.

“Those are Stupidifiers,” Tinker said looking up. “Five of them.”

“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo,” Wannabe cried.

The wood cover was sized perfectly to completely cover the Portable Hole. None of the Stupidifier’s stupidifying light leaked out and Wannabe’s scream was like the far away squeak of a slobbery mouse.

“Holy Guacamole,” Smiley said with a smile and flopped down on a bench beside the Portable hole.

“Cripes.” Tom flopped down too.

Both boys were exhausted from pulling off their dangerous plan. And at that moment, neither of them really realised what an amazing thing they’d done.

“Now we just wait until those Stupidifiers make them safe and stupid.”

“Well, let’s go buy something from that grocery shop,” Smiley said. “I’m starving.”

“Yeah, me too.”

They came out of the shop with a sandwich each and a carton of milk and sat on the bench again.



“Do me a favour. When we get back home, don’t call me ‘Tom boy.’”

“Okay, Tom boy!”

The boys laughed and continued their breakfast.

“You made a pretty good carpet and alter cloth with Wannabe’s kitchen curtains,” Smiley smiled, draining his milk.

“Ha! Yes, it fooled those two any way. And you did a good paint job on the Secret Spirit Chest.”

Smiley stood up, took the gold Secret Spirit Chest and opened it. There was a printed label on the inside of the lid:



“Want a cigar, Tom boy?”

And they laughed their heads off.

“Hey, how long do you think we have to wait until they’re stupid enough?” Smiley asked.

“Mmm, I don’t know. It’s your plan! But the kids at school only walk under a Stupidifier a few times a day. So that’s only a few seconds.”

“Yeah. Just a few seconds a day and it still makes them dumb. And we’ve put five Stupidifiers!”

“How long have they been under now?”

Tom looked at his watch. “Five minutes! We better see if they’re all right.”

Tom turned off the generator and Smiley cautiously lifted up the cover. Wannabe and Tinker were sitting at the bottom of the hole staring into space.

“Hey, you!” Smiley shouted down. Tinker looked up. “What’s your name?”

“My name? It’s erm, it’s, erm, wait wait I know it. It’s, erm Winker!”

Tinker you idiot! And what’s his name. The fat one next to you?”

“Oh, he’s my mother, erm, no no, not mother. He’s my, erm, Uncle Boss. No no, Uncle Wannabe.”

“Cripes, Wannabe’s his uncle!”

Amazed, the two boys looked at each other.

“Right, Tinker. What’s 10 x 10?”

“Yes! Absolutely! Definitely!”

The boys laughed.

“Hey, Wannabe,” Smiley shouted. “You there!” Wannabe looked up.

“Wannabe, are you an ugly slobbery pig?”

“Yes, yes. Happy Easter!” Wannabe said.

“They’re both really stupid,” Tom said. “I think they were under the Stupidifiers too long.”

“Hey, Wannabe. Do you want to watch some TV? Some cartoons? How about Boredom Buster Man?”

“Ooooh, yes! Lovely! Tell the Queen I’m on my way.”

And even Tom couldn’t resist: “How about some Reality TV? Just right for your stupid brain.”

“Yes, yes! With jelly in my belly,” Wannabe said.

“Yeah, he’s really stupid and mixed up,” Smiley said.

“Ha! He must be if he wants to watch Reality TV.”

“Any way, Tom boy: now we can call the police!”

“We did it, Smiley! We escaped from the middle of Nowhere, and we stopped their plan, and we caught them.”

There’s No Place Like Home

Even with Wannabe and Tinker in the portable hole and completely stupid, even with the fake Education Department van and all the Stupidifiers in the back, even with all the photos in Smiley’s camera—even with all that the policeman still didn’t believe Tom and Smiley. He rocked back and forth in his big boots and said, “Tut tut, now come on laddies. Stop making up stories.”

But then an Inspector came. The Inspector wasn’t wearing boots and he started to inspect. And then he shook Tom and Smiley by the hand and said, “Well done, lads. I think you’ll both get a medal for this!”

And then they arrested Wannabe and Tinker and drove Tom and Smiley home.

Tom walked into his farmhouse and closed the door.

Now, after so many weeks, you’d expect Tom’s mum, even if she is a scatterbrain, to rush over and pick up Tom like he was still a baby and hug him and smother him with sloppy kisses. But Tom wasn’t expecting anything like that because he knew his mum was a scatterbrain.

“Mum mum, where are you? I’m safe!”

Tom’s mum came out of the kitchen.

Mum: “Oh, Tom, there you are. It seems like I haven’t seen you for quite some time. Have you been in that public library again?”

Tom: “Mum, I’ve been gone for three whole weeks!”

Mum: “Well, Tom, really. I know you like reading, but that’s a bit long to stay in a library, don’t you think dear?”

Tom: “I haven’t been in the library, mum. Two crazy criminals kidnapped me and Smiley and left us completely in the middle of Nowhere.”

Mum: “Well that’s terrible, dear. But at least you had company.”

Tom: “Company? Yes, wild animals that wanted to eat us. That’s what company.”

Mum: “Oh my poor boy. Any way, don’t stay in the library quite so long next time. All right?”

Tom: “We could’ve starved to death!”

Mum: “Well, let me get you something to eat. How does some nice home cooking sound?”

Tom: “Great.”

Mum: “Good, because I made something very special today.”

Tom: “What?”

Mum: “Lentil soup. I’ll get you a really big bowl.”

What Happened

When the news broke, all the Stupidifiers were taken from all the schools in five seconds flat. And after a few weeks, all the kids stopped being stupid and went back to normal. Well, not quite normal. The amazing thing is that many mums and dads threw away every TV they had and swore they’d never buy another ever. So loads of kids started buying books and reading great stories like The Twits and having tons of fun. And other kids just played out a lot and had tons of fun as well. And many of them got smarter than they’d ever been before. Even the bully Basher Baldwin stopped bashing kids and started taking violin lessons.

Wannabe was sent to prison for ever and ever. It was a special prison for evil greedy business men. It had no comforts. But Wannabe had a few special things in his cell that none of the other prisoners had. Because he was special. He had a TV with a DVD player and a stack of DVDs. On the disks were every show ever made for the Kids 24 TV channel. And he had a bonus disk of Reality TV. But Wannabe preferred to sit and watch dust float.

Tinker was lucky. The judge said he’d been bossed and bullied into doing everything by his rotten Uncle Wannabe. And it was true. So he had to promise not to be bad any more and then he was set free.

Tinker went to live at the seaside. He loved it there and he invented many useless things for holidaymakers to buy as gifts and souvenirs.

And of course, Tom and Smiley became famous all over the world and a few other places too. And believe it or not, the police really did give them both boot-shaped medals for bravery. And the famous Rotating-Door University gave them both certificates for being super-smart. And Smiley’s amazing photos and Tom’s animal names were praised by scientists, zoologists, environmentalists, ecologists, educationalists and dentists.

And much later, when the summer holidays came around, Tom and Smiley met every day at the public library and together (well their English teacher helped a bit) they wrote down their amazing adventure story and stuck in Smiley’s amazing photos. And they made it into a smashing book. And that’s the book you’re holding in your hands right now.