I like writing children’s books. Bernard Brain is about a nine-year-old boy who will grow up to read Ulysses but find it too plot-driven. Here’s an extract. It’s about the school secretary, Mrs Gorbles. Mrs Gorbles is a typical school secretary in many ways. Megalomaniacal. Borderline psychopathic. She’s been up to no good – murdering the headteachers, in this instance, which is still pretty illegal in most democracies. This presents Bernard with a problem.
BERNARD BRAIN - EXTRACT
All the way home he chewed over how to sort Mrs Gorbles out.
But what could one boy do?
It was only after he arrived home that the answer came to him in a flash. He was sitting at the kitchen table, eating a gingerbread man in the shape of his Uncle Henry and drawing a diagram of the problem on the tablecloth when he remembered what Mrs Gorbles had said that morning. Don’t go bothering the police.
The police! Of course! Getting the police involved was the LAST thing she’d want.
So Bernard gobbled Uncle Henry up in one mouthful and phoned the police.
‘What can I do for you?’ said the policeman who answered the phone.
‘I’d like to speak to someone high up,’ replied Bernard.
The policeman giggled quietly to himself.
‘Hold on a minute,’ he said. ‘Right. I’m sitting on the police enquiry desk, so I suppose you could say I’m high up. Now how can I help you, young man?’
‘I’d like to report a series of gruesome murders,’ said Bernard.
‘Oh you would, would you?’ said the policeman. ‘Hold on another minute while I get the gruesome murders file. Right. Here we are. So tell me. Exactly where were you when these gruesome murders were committed?’
‘I was at school,’ said Bernard.
‘I see,’ continued the policeman. ‘And where exactly were these gruesome murders committed?’
‘At school,’ said Bernard.
‘Aha!’ said the policeman. ‘We have a suspect. See? I’m very good at this.’
‘But I know who did it,’ protested Bernard.
‘I SEE,’ said the policeman. ‘I SEE. You know better than the police, do you? So what’s the point in phoning us up if you already know?’
‘So that you’ll ARREST her,’ snapped Bernard, who thought that should have been pretty obvious. ‘It’s Mrs Gorbles, the school secretary. Only she’s now the headteacher because she’s gone and murdered everyone else.’
‘Oh I SEE,’ said the policeman. ‘That nice school secretary has gone off on a bit of a murder spree, has she?’
‘Well, yes,’ said Bernard. ‘Except that she’s not nice.’
The policeman’s tone suddenly changed.
‘Now that’s quite enough of that, Hannah. What have I told you about phoning me at work pretending to be other people? I’m going to have a serious word with your mum when I get home.’
‘But… I’m not Hannah,’ spluttered Bernard. ‘I’m Bernard.’
‘Right,’ snapped the policeman. ‘That’s it. I’m coming straight home because you’re in big trouble, young lady. What if someone phones up while I’m gone and reports a gruesome murder and I’m not here to solve it? Why IT WILL BE ALL YOUR FAULT.’
And before Bernard had the chance to say that HE’D just phoned up to report a gruesome murder the policeman slammed the phone down and raced off home to have a serious word with Hannah’s mum. Even though Hannah was totally and absolutely INNOCENT.
So, Bernard thought, exasperated, the police were no help, and he was wondering if it might be a good idea to go straight to the prime minister when he noticed a letter addressed to his parents sticking out of the bin. On the envelope was written, in very large letters,
DO NOT STICK THIS LETTER IN THE BIN.
So Bernard pulled it out.
THAT’S BETTER, read the letter. NOW OPEN THE ENVELOPE.
But it’s not for me, thought Bernard.
WELL OPEN IT ANYWAY, read the letter. WHAT ARE YOU? SOME KIND OF TWIMP?
CHAPTER NINE – Twimp
Twimp? Bernard had never come across this word before. Which was unusual. Because Bernard knew most of the words in the English language. Hardly surprising, actually. When he was a baby he used to sing the Oxford Rhyming Dictionary to send himself to sleep.
Now anyone else would have just opened the letter. Unless they WERE a twimp. In which case they would have been terrified of something green and slimy leaping out and biting their nose off. But Bernard was curious. Twimp. What did it mean?
He might have asked Veronica Vanity Bloom if she’d been around. But she wasn’t. So Bernard decided to check his dictionary. He put the letter down and climbed all 4 flights of stairs to his room at the top of the house. It was exactly as he’d left it that morning. The skylight looking out at the sky. The telescope looking out at the stars. The bedspread with mathematical equations which glowed in the dark crumpled in a heap on the floor. Bernard was unnaturally tidy, but he tried hard not to be. So he made his bed in the morning and then tossed it straight away. Otherwise people might talk.
So there it was. A total mess. Just as a boy’s bedroom should be. Next to the bedspread a ladder on wheels leading to row upon row upon row upon row upon row of books. This was Bernard’s absolute pride and joy. Every book ever written. Almost. Bernard pulled the ladder over to D, and soon he had the world’s largest dictionary opened out on the floor at TW. His eye fell across many interesting words. Twirzle. Twump. Twizzock. Twirligig. Twark. But by the time he’d learned the meaning of 47 words he was hardly ever likely to use, he’d forgotten why he was there in the first place. So he put the book back on the shelf under D and made his way downstairs.
CHAPTER TEN – Ping!
There were 93 steps on the four flights of stairs. Both ways. On number 29 DOWN stood Veronica Vanity Bloom. Bernard didn’t bother asking her exactly what she was doing. Not because he wasn’t curious. It was just that she asked him first.
‘What exactly are you doing, Bernard?’ she enquired sweetly.
‘I’m going downstairs,’ he replied. Which seemed pretty obvious. To him anyway.
‘And what exactly were you doing upstairs?’ asked Veronica Vanity Bloom. Still sweetly. Always sweetly.
‘I was…’ said Bernard.
‘Don’t tell me,’ said Veronica Vanity Bloom. ‘You’ve forgotten.’
‘Have I?’ said Bernard, who’d actually forgotten he’d forgotten. Which made him think. I wonder, he thought, if forgetting you’ve forgotten makes you a twimp.
Veronica Vanity Bloom giggled softly.
‘I don’t think you’re a twimp, Bernard,’ she said.
‘Thanks,’ said Bernard.
And then he remembered. He still didn’t know the MEANING of Twimp.
So he turned around and back he went upstairs.
CHAPTER ELEVEN – Not A Twimp
A twimp, Bernard read, is a cross between a twit and a wimp. Bernard wasn’t a twit, and he certainly wasn’t a wimp, which meant he wasn’t a twimp. Excellent. He closed the dictionary. Went downstairs. Back to the kitchen. Opened the letter. In big writing at the top it said NOT A TWIMP? READ ON.
Bernard read on.
DON’T FORGET THE PARENT-TEACHER MEETING THIS EVENING.
H. GORBLES (MRS)
That sounded pretty serious, because one thing Bernard knew: You didn’t mess with a woman like Mrs Gorbles. He’d better make sure one of his parents went. So he folded the letter, put it back in the envelope, and patted the envelope shut.
2 parents. Only one needed. He had to be in with a chance.