Authors: Paul Gamble
“Yeah, I got dropped home by her lift.” At least that was the truth.
“All right. Just make sure you let us know how late you're going to be in the future,” said his father. “I mean, it's a very strange world. Anything could happen.”
He didn't realize quite how right he was.
Have you ever stopped to wonder why dentists drill holes in people's teeth? For many years dentists have claimed that if someone has a hole in a tooth, they will fix it by drilling a much bigger hole into it. This is plainly absurd. It would be like a builder repairing a crack in a wall by knocking it down or a doctor trying to fix a broken arm with a hammer.
You don't fix a hole in a tooth by making it bigger. So why are they drilling the hole?
The answer, of course, is simple. Dentists are in the pay of the Tooth Fairy. Naturally the more teeth that decay and crumble, the less money the Tooth Fairy can make. Therefore the Tooth Fairy pays dentists to drill into decayed teeth and insert tiny monitoring and tracking devices.
That way he can keep tabs on people to ensure they are brushing their teeth appropriately and protecting his investment.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
This is why the Ministry of SUITs issues all its operatives a toothbrush. Keeping your teeth clean isn't about decay. It's about trying to avoid being tracked by the Tooth Fairy.
The next morning Jack found himself in a strangely cheerful mood. “Good morning, parents!”
Jack's father's mustache did its trick of peering at him over the paper. “We're in good form this morning considering that we have to go to school, aren't we?”
Jack grabbed one of two bacon rolls off the table and wolfed it down as he dashed out the door. “Gotta rush. Don't want to be late.”
Jack's father and mother looked at the empty space where Jack had been.
“There's something going on with that boy,” Jack's mother said, shaking her head.
“Yes. There certainly is.”
“Well, shouldn't we ask him what's going on?” she asked.
“Most certainly not. Then he might tell us what's going on and we'd have to do something about it.”
Jack's mother thought about this for a while before she spoke. “Blissful ignorance?”
“Indeed,” said Jack's father.
Jack's father's mustache silently agreed with them. Picking up the second bacon roll, Jack's father munched on it contentedly. His mustache enjoyed some of the crumbs.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
Jack was disappointed when he got outside and realized that being early for the bus didn't actually make it arrive any sooner. For the first time in his life he was in a rush to get to school. More than anything else he wanted to get to see Trudy again and talk to her about the Ministry.
When the school bus came Jack bolted into it and was just about to sit down when he noticed David.
“Hi, Jack,” said David. “So what happened last night?”
Jack had been so excited about seeing Trudy again that he had totally forgotten that this moment was coming. No one at the Ministry had told Jack that he couldn't talk about his work. But, on the other hand, it did feel as if he was part of a spy ring or something of that nature. And Grey had called it semisecret. After all, what was the point in the Ministry hiding things like Porcupods, unicorns, and dinosaurs if the minute that Jack got into school he blurted about them to all his friends?
“It wasÂ â¦ interesting.” Jack felt strange not telling David exactly what had happened. A major part of his reason for joining the Ministry had been to ensure that David wasn't one of the next odd kids to go missing.
“I can't help feeling that if it was really interesting you would have something more to say about it than that,” said David.
Jack thought about it. Would telling David mean that he was betraying Trudy, Grey, and the Minister?
“I can't tell youÂ â¦ yet,” said Jack.
“Okay,” said David. “Did you see the documentary about tigers last night?”
“Aren't you the slightest bit curious?”
“Not really. I'm talking about tigers now. Tigers are probably more interesting than anything you got up to last night.”
The only thing that was more annoying than someone badgering you to tell them a secret was when someone had no interest in your secret at all. David seemed to lack any curiosity. Jack thought that must have made his life very easy indeed. He would never have agreed to join the Ministry of SUITs. He would never even have gone to the museum to find Grey.
Jack and David walked in the school's front door to find Trudy sitting on the foyer reception desk. When Trudy saw Jack she pushed herself off it and bounded over to speak to him. Jack couldn't help himself from smiling.
“Trudy, great to see you! This is my friend David.”
To David's credit, this time he hadn't curled himself up into a tortoiselike ball, but he did make a little high-pitched scream and throw his hands up in front of his face.
“I was only coming over to say hi,” said Trudy.
“That seems unlikely,” said David.
Trudy looked as if she was about to hit David. Jack felt he had to say something. “Look, Trudy's my mate now, David. I was hanging out with her last night.”
“What?” asked David. “Moody Trudy?”
There was silence for a minute.
David breathed out slowly. “I said that out loud, didn't I?”
Jack nodded gingerly. “But I'm sure Trudy won't mind.”
“Won't she?” asked Trudy. Trudy was clearly fighting against every violent instinct she had. Both Jack and David noticed that her right hand was curling up into a fist.
“Of course not,” Jack said pleadingly. “Because Trudy is my friend. And David is my friend. And friends don't hit friends.”
Trudy cocked her head to one side and looked at Jack. “We're friends?”
“Yeah, course we are.”
“Not just partners? Actual friends?” asked Trudy. “Really?”
“Really,” said Jack.
“Really?” asked David.
,” said Jack more forcefully. Sometimes he wondered what was going on in David's head. Did he actually want to get beat up?
Trudy's fist slowly relaxed and became a hand once more. Jack was amazed that he'd managed to negotiate the situation without violence. Apart from anything else, David had a face that looked as though it wanted to be punched, in exactly the same way that a bouncy castle looks as though it wants to be jumped on.
“Anyway, Trudy, we need to speak. I've been thinking about the new uniforms that Mr. Teach from Chapeau Noir Enterprises gave us. There's something not right about them.”
“Okay,” agreed Trudy, “how about we meet at break time and discuss it?”
Jack nodded in agreement and Trudy ran off to registration.
“You're friends with Moody Trudy?” asked David. “Maybe last night
more interesting than tigers.”
Many people assume that bouncy castles are actually a modern invention and were made purely for children to play on. However, this is quite ridiculous when you consider the matter carefully. Every year hundreds of children are injured with twisted ankles or broken legs on bouncy castles. Why would anyone invent a plaything for children that is patently so very dangerous with the potential to break bones?
The truth, of course, makes much more sense. Originally, bouncy castles were much bigger and were invented to be actual castles. They had many advantages over traditional stone castles. Firstly, they could be moved from place to place, so they could be located wherever the enemy was attacking (it was rather pointless to spend a hundred years building a stone castle when your enemy could bypass it entirely by going a different route). Secondly, they were impervious to battering rams and catapults.
If someone fired an enormous boulder at your castle, it would rebound directly at them. Finally, if someone actually got inside your bouncy fortification, they found it very hard to fight with everyone bouncing around all over the place. Inevitably their army would find themselves forced to retreat with injuries ranging from sprained ankles to motion sickness.
Possibly the most famous bouncy castle ever was that of King Harlam II. King Harlam II was a tactical genius and came up with the brilliant idea of filling his bouncy castle with helium. This meant he could float around the country in his castle, dropping rocks on people until they surrendered.
However, ultimately no one really took King Harlam II seriously. Although he was a great warrior, his helium castle was slightly leaky, which meant that he always spoke in a rather peculiar, high-pitched voice.
The morning session of classes seemed to drag by as Jack was keen to speak to Trudy. When the break-time bell rang, Jack leapt out of his seat and was the first out of the classroom door. He immediately fell flat on his face.
He expected to flatten his nose on the cold stone floor of the corridor. However, his first thought when he hit the ground wasn't “Ouch.” Instead it was
Instead of coming into contact with concrete Jack's nose was squashed against fluffy red carpet.
Of course the headmaster had said that Mr. Teach had agreed to spruce up the school, but Jack hadn't thought they would really put carpet in the corridors. It seemed madness to put carpet in a corridor where kids would continually be walking, running, and dropping sticky stuff. After a few weeks so much food and drink would have been dropped and trampled into the carpet that Heston Blumenthal would have been able to cut it into squares and serve it as the main course in one of his strange restaurants. Jack assumed that if Heston Blumenthal had served carpet as a main course, he would also serve an appetizer of rug and finish it off with a desert of fluffy hand towel.
Jack stood up and walked down the corridor where carpetfitters were finishing the final few sections.
, Jack thought to himself.
What was the rush?
Trudy was waiting for Jack on a bench in the front playground. “So what's so odd about these new uniforms?” she asked.
“They're exactly the same as the old ones,” said Jack.
“Well, that's it. When someone gives you a new uniform they normally redesign it. Make it more dynamic. Add new colors. These new uniforms are exactly the same as the old ones. What's the point?”
Trudy looked down at the new uniform she was wearing. “Well, this one's made of polyester. It's machine washable.”
“But why's that so important? Most of the kids here are growing so fast that by the time a uniform needs to be washed it doesn't fit anyway. Either that or they've fallen and torn the knee out of their trousers. Uniforms rarely last long enough to get properly dirty!” Jack shook his head, trying to figure the problem out. “Whatever way you look at it there's something fishy here. Why would a big business want us to have uniforms that are machine washable? It just doesn't make sense.”
“It is strange,” agreed Trudy.
“Are these the kind of mysteries that I should be thinking about if I'm in the Ministry?” Jack asked.
Trudy shrugged. “Yes and no. The Ministry deals with strange and unusual things.”
“Hence the name,” interrupted Jack.
“Hence the name,” agreed Trudy. “And this doesn't seem that strange and unusual, but in my limited experience, this is the way the cases always start. Something small, something everybody else ignores. That's the first clue. And then behind a small clue you find there's an enormous case, something sinister, something awful.”
Jack nodded. “I also think the uniforms might have something to do with the box of odds and ends we have in the P.E. stores.”
Jack explained to her about the spare kit box in P.E. He also told her how he was especially worried as David was most definitely an “odd kid.” Jack felt slightly guilty talking about David. David had been the main reason he'd sought out Grey, but it seemed as if Jack was continually getting sidetracked. As much as he was worried about what might happen to David, there were so many curious and interesting things to learn about in the Ministry. Jack's mother had said his curiosity would be the death of him. Jack was now more worried that it might be the reason that David would end up going missing.
Trudy told Jack that the girls had a similar box in their changing room. “â¦ But wouldn't someone report children if they went missing?” asked Trudy.
Jack shrugged. “Maybe the kind of parents who don't make sure you have a proper P.E. kit are the same kind of parents who'd just think you've run away from home. Or maybe they're the kind of parents that the police just don't take seriously.”
“Maybe. I've certainly heard of stranger things.”
Jack paused for a moment. “I've got something else to ask you, Trudy.”
“It's about David. Can I tell him about the Ministry?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, the Ministry is kind of secret. I didn't know if we could tell our friends about it.”
“I'm not sure,” Trudy said. “It's not a problem I've ever really had. Up until I met you I never really had a friend close enough for me to worry about telling.”