Authors: Malorie Blackman
Dad turned in the direction of Nova’s pointing finger. ‘Nova, there’s no one here except you and me.’
‘Dad, this isn’t the time for a wind-up.’
‘My feelings exactly. Go and wind up your mother instead,’ Dad huffed.
‘Why did you let him behind the desk?’ Nova asked, exasperated.
Nova was about to explode when Weirdo put his finger up to his lips. The gesture momentarily took the wind out of Nova’s sails – but only momentarily.
‘Dad-’ She got no further.
Weirdo walked right
Dad and the reception desk to stand in front of Nova. ‘I wouldn’t bother if I were you,’ he said. ‘It seems that you’re the only
one in this dump who can see me. Hi, I’m Liam.’ And he held out his hand. . .
Also available by Malorie Blackman,
and published by Corgi Books
DANGEROUS REALITY HACKER
NOUGHTS & CROSSES
Hardcover, published by Doubleday:
For junior readers, published by Corgi Yearling Books:
For beginner readers, published by Corgi Pups Books:
THE MONSTER CRISP-GUZZLER
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To Neil and Lizzy with love
A storm was coming. I could smell it in the brackish air, hear it in the growl of the waves, see it in the darkening clouds. Josh picked up a stone and tried to skim it
across the foaming water. It sank immediately. A wave raced up the beach towards us as if in protest.
Josh laughed and picked up another stone. ‘Wow! Look at that!’
A salt tang caught at the back of my throat and I had to cough slightly to clear it before I could speak.
‘Look! Look!’ Josh pointed.
‘What about it?’
‘It’s like a huge pot of spaghetti, boiling and bubbling!’
I looked away and shook my head, biting back on the words that just itched to leave my mouth.
‘Amazing! Check the sky!’ Josh continued.
I automatically looked up at the strange yellowy-grey clouds. It was as if the tops of the clouds were solid and on fire and all the resultant soot and ash were falling to the bottom of them.
It was quite common to see the clouds like that over the coast where we lived but I’d never seen them like that anywhere else, and certainly not inland. Not that I’d been to that many
places. Not that I’d been anywhere really. The sky matched my mood. Unsettled. Restless.
‘What about the sky?’ I said, unable to keep the impatience out of my voice.
‘Isn’t it terrific? Like . . . like . . .’
‘Oh, for heaven’s sake, Josh. Not again,’ I snapped like an old elastic band. ‘Why’re you always going on about the skylight and the twilight and the moonlight?
No wonder you’re always getting picked on at school.’
Josh looked up at me like a wounded dog I’d kicked when he was down. ‘I like . . . looking at things.’
‘Fine. But that’s no reason to drip on like a snotty tissue about them,’ I said viciously.
Josh winced at my words and I wasn’t sorry. I was glad. I liked to look at things too, but you didn’t hear me going on like a girly about them. Josh had to toughen up –
fast. I wouldn’t always be there to watch his back at school, or anywhere else for that matter. Didn’t he understand that?
‘I’ll shut up then,’ Josh replied quietly.
‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘I’d appreciate it.’
Josh’s nose began to run. Another reason why my brother always gets picked on. Whenever he’s upset, his nose dribbles. It drives me crazy.
‘Wipe your nose,’ I ordered.
Josh swiped the sleeve of his jumper across his face. He picked up another stone and skimmed it across the water. After a moment I picked up a stone, my hand clenching tightly around its icy
smoothness. I knew I was just taking out my bad mood on my brother, but who else was there?
I shook my head.
My whole life was so pointless. It didn’t matter. I didn’t matter. I was like one of the small pebbles on the beach, battered smooth by day after month after year of wave upon
wave. Except in my case, the wave was my dad. He picked on and criticized and disapproved and condemned every breath I took, until the effect was just the same. I was battered smooth, but that was
only on the outside. Inside I was rough and jagged and all corners. And Josh was the only one I could hurt. So I often did. And as much as I hated myself afterwards, it never stopped me from doing
it again. And again.
I clenched the stone in my hand even more tightly. Josh sniffed beside me. I wanted to turn to him and hug him and hold him and tell him that he was my brother and that meant something to me.
But I didn’t. We stood there, together but apart as it began to rain. No gradual build-up from a light spray, but great beads of icy water as big as my fingernails. We were soaked in seconds.
The waves lashed up the beach, laughing at us. Or maybe they were angry with us. Or maybe they couldn’t care less one way or the other. We picked up smooth stones and skimmed them across the
rough water as the storm bashed at us.
It was better than going home.
Sooner or later, we’d have to turn round and head back. If we were lucky, Dad would be round the pub and we’d be able to change our clothes without ructions. If we were lucky. And
once again, it’d be left to me to cook up some pasta or some bacon, beans and toast for dinner – which was OK as long as we could eat our dinner in peace before Dad got home. I turned
to look at Josh, wondering what he was thinking. As if he sensed me watching him, he wiped his nose again with his sleeve. It was raining quite hard now. The yellow tinge to the clouds had
disappeared. Now there was only dark charcoal-grey.
‘Come on, Josh,’ I shouted above the noise of the waves and the rain. ‘Time to head back.’
‘Liam, I don’t want to go home,’ he shouted back.
‘Come on.’ I started walking up the beach. I didn’t need to turn round to know that my brother was standing there watching me. ‘Come on, or I’ll leave you to
it,’ I yelled.
Josh started to follow me. I slowed down so that he could catch up. When at last he did, I turned round to him and smiled. He smiled back. Without warning, I grabbed him and put him in a
‘Get off!’ he shouted.
After messing up his short locks good and proper, I let him go. Josh had to take a step forward, his hands stretched out before him to stop himself from falling. He sprang up and grinned at
me. And just like that, some of the weight was lifted from my shoulders. But not much. And not for long.
‘Time to go home,’ I sighed.
Josh’s smile vanished. And I’d done that. I was always the one to wipe the smile from his face. Sometimes, I really hated being the older brother. Sometimes, I wondered how it
would feel to just be me. By myself. No one else to consider. No one else to worry about. Just the thought of it made me ache inside. To be on my own and left alone. Now that would be a real slice
Nova had to read the wretched notice her dad had just put on the hotel notice board twice before the full horror of it sank in. What had she done to deserve such a father? Was
she someone despicably mean in another life? Just who had she cheesed off? Obviously someone really high up in the pecking order of things, because she was sure paying for it now. It was like every
night, Dad dreamed up unique, bizarre and very effective ways to embarrass the hell out of her. And the trouble was, he always succeeded. Nova sighed – one of the deep, long-suffering sighs
that she was rightly proud of. She stretched out a hand to remove the notice.
‘Nova, don’t even think about it,’ Dad called out, leaning over the reception desk.
‘Dad, you can’t leave that there.’
‘Anyone thinking of staying here will think this place is a nut-house, that’s why.’
‘Any new guests will be impressed by the hygiene standards at our hotel.’
‘New guests? Dream on!’ Nova muttered. She scowled at Dad’s notice. It had to come down. Embarrassing didn’t even come close to describing it.
POLITE NOTICE TO ALL GUESTS OF PHOENIX MANOR
There are some devices which are being underused in this hotel due to an obvious lack of knowledge or technical awareness. I realize that these features come without a
user guide, so I thought I might offer some advice.
* The white or wooden handle on the rear wall of each toilet cubicle is not decorative, nor is it the handle of a fruit machine or a firing mechanism for an ejector seat.
It has the express function of sending your sausage to the seaside. No matter how proud you may be of the fibre content of your diet, we at this hotel don’t want to see the evidence.
Flush the ruddy thing!
* Loobrushaphobia continues to be a real problem for some of you. Hold the narrow white or wood veneer end of the brush and use the bristly end to remove whatever excreta
may have avoided ‘the flush’ (see above).
* When you use the last piece of toilet paper in the dispenser, it would be a noble, charitable and friendly act to replace it from the large stock provided in each
bathroom. Please do NOT phone me or any member of my family at Omigod o’clock in the early hours of the morning and ask where the spare toilet rolls are, as happened two nights ago. And
if you do run out of toilet paper and find there is no more available in your current location, please do NOT shuffle down to the reception desk with your trousers around your ankles –
yes, you, Mr Burntwood. (My wife is still having nightmares.)
* The fact that fresh urine is almost sterile does not entirely mitigate the practice of spraying it around the toilet seat and/or floor like some randy tomcat. In other
words, ‘If you sprinkle when you tinkle, keep it neat and wipe the seat.’
If there are any technical issues for which you require further information, please call me on ext. 100 or try www.social.hygiene/how-to-use-the-ruddy-toilet.bum
Tyler Clibbens – Hotel Owner/Manager/General Dogsbody