Unbelievable!, page 1
But I’m telling you it’s true.
The crusher had pushed all the air out of my lungs. It was squeezing me tighter and tighter. I knew I had only seconds to live.
Believe it or not …
A kid can grow younger.
Birds can bury you.
Ghosts have exams.
There are eyes in the milk.
FROM THE ONE AND ONLY PAUL JENNINGS
also by paul Jennings
The Cabbage Patch series
(illustrated by Craig Smith)
The Gizmo series
(illustrated by Keith McEwan)
The Singenpoo series
(illustrated by Keith McEwan)
Wicked! (series) and Deadly! (series)
(with Morris Gleitzman)
Duck for Cover
Freeze a Crowd
Spooner or Later
Spit It Out
(with Terry Denton and Ted Greenwood)
Round the Twist
Sucked In …
(illustrated by Terry Denton)
How Hedley Hopkins Did a Dare …
Paul Jennings’ Funniest Stories
Paul Jennings’ Weirdest Stories
Paul Jennings’ Spookiest Stories
Paul Jennings’ Trickiest Stories
The Reading Bug… and how you can help your child to catch it
The Rascal series
More information about Paul and his books can be found at
www.pauljennings.com.au and puffin.com.au
Published by the Penguin Group
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published by Penguin Books Australia, 1987
First published as Unbelievable! More surprising stories
This edition published 2003
Text copyright © Lockley Lodge Pty Ltd, 1986
The moral right of the author and illustrator has been asserted.
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
Text designed by George Dale, Penguin Design Studio
To Fiona, Kirsten and Sharon Lacy
There’s No Such Thing
The Gumleaf War
Well, here I am again, sitting outside the Principal’s office. And I’ve only been at the school for two days. Two lots of trouble in two days! Yesterday I got the strap for nothing. Nothing at all.
I see this bloke walking along the street wearing a pink bow-tie. It looks like a great pink butterfly attacking his neck. It is the silliest bow-tie I have ever seen. ‘What are you staring at, lad?’ says the bloke. He is in a bad mood.
‘Your bow-tie,’ I tell him. ‘It is ridiculous. It looks like a pink vampire.’ It is so funny that I start to laugh my head off.
Nobody tells me that this bloke is Old Splodge, the Principal of the school. He doesn’t see the joke and he gives me the strap. Life is very unfair.
Now I am in trouble again. I am sitting here outside Old Splodge’s office waiting for him to call me in.
Well, at least I’ve got something good to look at. Old Splodge’s secretary is sitting there typing some letters.
She is called Miss Newham and she is a real knockout. Every boy in the school is in love with her. I wish she was my girlfriend, but as she is seventeen and I am only fourteen there is not much hope. Still, she doesn’t have a boyfriend so there is always a chance.
She is looking at me and smiling. I can feel my face going red. ‘Why have you dyed your hair blond?’ she asks sweetly. ‘Didn’t you know it is against the school rules for boys to dye their hair?’
I try to think of a very impressive answer but before I can say anything Old Splodge sticks his head around the office door. ‘Come in, boy,’ he says.
I go in and sit down. ‘Well, lad,’ says Old Splodge. ‘Why have you dyed your hair? Trying to be a surfie, eh?’ He is a grumpy old coot. He is due to retire next year and he does not want to go.
I notice that he is still wearing the pink bow-tie. He always wears this bow-tie. He cannot seem to live without it. I try not to look at it as I answer him. ‘I did not dye my hair, sir,’ I say.
‘Yesterday,’ says Splodge, ‘when I gave you six of the best, I noticed that you had black hair. Am I correct?’
‘Yes, sir,’ I answer.
‘Then tell me, lad,’ he says. ‘How is it that your hair is white today?’ I notice that little purple veins are standing out on his bald head. This is a bad sign.
‘It’s a long story,’ I tell him.
‘Tell me the long story,’ he says. ‘And it had better be good.’
I look him straight in the eye and this is what I tell him.
I am a very nervous person. Very sensitive. I get scared easily. I am scared of the dark. I am scared of ghost stories. I am even scared of the Cookie Monster on ‘Sesame Street’. Yesterday I am going home on the train after getting the strap and I am in a carriage with some very strange people. There is an old lady with a walking stick, grey hair and gold wire-rim glasses. She is bent right over and can hardly walk. There is also a mean, skinny-looking guy sitting next to me. He looks like he would slit your throat for a dollar. Next to him is a kid of about my age and he is smoking. You are not allowed to smoke when you are fourteen. This is why I am not smoking at the time.
After about five minutes a ticket collector puts his head in the door. He looks straight at the kid who is smoking. ‘Put that cigarette out,’ he says. ‘You are too young to smoke.’
The kid does not stop smoking. He picks up this thing that looks like a transistor and twiddles a knob. Then he starts to grow older in front of
The ticket collector gives an almighty scream and runs down the corridor as fast as his legs can take him. The rest of us just sit there looking at the kid (who is now a man) with our mouths hanging open.
‘How did you do that?’ trembles the old lady. She is very interested indeed.
‘Easy,’ says the kid-man as he stands up. The train is stopping at a station. ‘Here,’ he says, throwing the transistor thing onto her lap. ‘You can have it if you want.’ He goes out of the compartment, down the corridor, and gets off the train.
We all stare at the box-looking thing. It has a sliding knob on it. Along the right-hand side it says OLDER and at the left-hand end it says YOUNGER. On the top is a label saying AGE RAGER.
The mean-looking bloke sitting next to me makes a sudden lunge forward and tries to grab the Age Rager but the old lady is too quick for him. ‘No you don’t,’ she says and shoves him off. Quick as a flash she pushes the knob a couple of centimetres down towards the YOUNGER end.
Straight away she starts to grow younger. In about one minute she looks as if she is sixteen. She is sixteen. She looks kind of pretty in the old lady’s glasses and old-fashioned clobber. It makes her look like a hippy. ‘Whacko,’ she shouts, throwing off her shawl. She throws the Age Rager over to me, runs down the corridor and jumps off the train just as it is pulling out of the station.
As the train speeds past I hear her say, ‘John McEnroe, look out!’
‘Give that to me,’ says the mean-looking guy. Like I told you before, I am no hero. I am scared of my own shadow. I do not like violence or scary things so I hand over the Age Rager to Mean Face.
He grabs the Age Rager from me and pushes the knob nearly up to the end where it says YOUNGER. Straight away he starts to grow younger but he doesn’t stop at sixteen. In no time at all there is a baby sitting next to me in a puddle of adult clothes. He is only about one year old. He looks at me with a wicked smile. He sure is a mean-looking baby. ‘Bad Dad Dad,’ he says.
‘I am not your Dad Dad,’ I say. ‘Give me that before you hurt yourself.’ The baby shakes his head and puts the Age Rager behind his back. I can see that he is not going to hand it over. He thinks it is a toy.
Then, before I can move, he pushes the knob right up to the OLDER end. A terrible sight meets my eyes. He starts to get older and older. First he is about sixteen, then thirty, then sixty, then eighty, then one hundred and then he is dead. But it doesn’t stop there. His body starts to rot away until all that is left is a skeleton.
I give a terrible scream and run to the door but I cannot get out because it is jammed. I kick and shout but I cannot get out. I open the window but the train is going too fast for me to escape.
And that is how my hair gets white. I have to sit in that carriage with a dead skeleton for fifteen minutes. I am terrified. I am shaking with fear. It is the most horrible thing that has ever happened to me. My hair goes white in just fifteen minutes. I am frightened into being a blond. When the train stops I get out of the window and walk all the rest of the way home.
‘And that,’ I say to Splodge, ‘is the truth.’
Splodge is fiddling with his pink bow-tie. His face is turning the same colour. I can see that he is about to freak out. ‘What utter rubbish,’ he yells. ‘Do you take me for a fool? Do you expect me to believe that yarn?’
‘I can prove it,’ I say. I get the Age Rager out of my bag and put it on his desk.
Splodge picks it up and looks at it carefully. ‘You can go now, lad,’ he says in a funny voice. ‘I will send a letter home to your parents telling them that you are suspended from school for telling lies.’
I walk sadly back to class. My parents will kill me if I am suspended from school.
For the next two weeks I worry about the letter showing up in the letter box. But nothing happens. I am saved.
Well, it is not quite true that nothing happens. Two things happen: one good and one bad. The good thing is that Splodge disappears and is never seen again.
The bad thing is that Miss Newham gets a boyfriend. He is about eighteen and is good-looking.
It’s funny, though. Why would she go out with a kid who wears pink bow-ties?
‘I’m afraid this tooth will have to be filled,’ said Mr Bin. ‘It’s badly decayed.’
Antonio’s knees started to knock as he looked at the dentist’s arm. He knew that Mr Bin was hiding a needle behind his back. ‘Not an injection. Not that,’ spluttered Antonio. But it was too late. Before he could say another word the numbing needle was doing its work.
Antonio could feel tears springing into his eyes. He stared helplessly out of the window at the huge white tooth that was swinging in the breeze. On the side of it was written:
M. T. BIN
The needle seemed to be taking years to go in. Mr Bin held Antonio’s mouth open with one hand and slowly pushed the plunger with the other. ‘Try not to move,’ he said. ‘You’re shaking like a leaf.’
At last it was over. The dreaded needle came out. ‘Rinse,’ ordered Mr Bin. Antonio took a mouthful of water from the glass and tried to spit it out but his mouth was numb and he dribbled most of it down his T-shirt.
Antonio fought back the tears as Mr Bin started up the drill. He mustn’t cry. It wouldn’t be right for a thirteen-year-old boy to cry at the dentist’s. He stared out of the window again at the giant tooth sign and opened up his mouth.
‘What are you going to do for a job when you leave school?’ asked Mr Bin.
‘A dustman,’ answered Antonio. ‘I’ve always wanted to be a dustman.’
Mr Bin put down the drill with an amazed look on his face. ‘A dustman. Did you say a dustman? Now isn’t that funny? I always wanted to be a dustman when I was a boy.’
‘Well, how come you ended up a dentist then?’ Antonio asked.
The dentist looked around the room and then went over and shut the door. He spoke in a very soft voice. ‘If you promise not to tell anyone, I’ll tell you the story, seeing that you want to be a dustman too. But you must give me your solemn promise not to tell any other person. Not a soul. Do you promise?’
Antonio nodded. He couldn’t say a word because Mr Bin had started drilling away inside his mouth. He closed his eyes and listened.
‘When I was a boy,’ said Mr Bin, ‘I loved looking in rubbish bins. I just couldn’t walk past one without opening it. I mean there are really some wonderful things to be found in the garbage.
‘I once found a dead pig’s head in our neighbour’s bin. I took it home and put it on an ants’ nest. They ate all the flesh off and I was left with just the skull. Next I drilled a hole in the top of it and gave it to my mother for a sugar container. She liked it so much that she never used it. She hid it away in a special place and then forgot where it was.
‘All the bins in our street had something interesting about them, but Old Monty’s rubbish was the strangest. I used to look in his garbage bin every Wednesday and Friday and it was always filled with the same thing. Empty toothpaste tubes. Dozens and dozens of them. They weren’t your everyday tubes either. They always had the same label: ONE-SHOT TOOTHPASTE was written on every one.
‘I could never work out why one old man who lived all alone would use so many tubes of toothpaste. He couldn’t have spent all day cleaning his teeth. Or I should say tooth, for he only had one fusty, old green tooth right in the middle of his mouth. In fact his tooth was so scungy that I am sure he had never cleaned it since the day it first grew.
‘I couldn’t stop thinking about Old Monty and his empty toothpaste tubes. I just had to find out what was going on. I knew it would be no good trying to talk to him because he hated children (actually, I think he hated everyone). If you said “good morning” to him he would just tell you to clear off. In the end I decided
‘One night, after my parents had gone to bed, I crept up to the side of Monty’s house. It was a ramshackle, tumble-down old joint with a rusty tin roof and cobwebs all over the windows. It was a dark night and a cold wind was blowing. I was covered in goose bumps, but they weren’t from the cold. I was scared stiff.
‘I stumbled around until I found a window which had a chink between the curtains. Then I stood on tip-toe and peered inside. All was black in the room and at first I couldn’t see anything. After a minute or two, however, I noticed something eerie, something strange, something I had never seen before. Teeth. I saw teeth.
‘About twenty sets of teeth were glowing palely in the dark. They were so white that they shone like tiny, dim light globes in the blackness. They hovered in the air at various heights above the floor like fierce kites on strings.
‘They were opening and shutting and waving around as if they belonged to invisible heads. That was when I realised the teeth did have heads. And bodies. I just couldn’t see them because it was dark. The teeth were so clean that they gave off their own light.
‘There were large pointed teeth and tiny sharp ones. There was every type of cruncher and chomper that you could think of except one. None of them belonged to people. There were no human teeth. I could tell that at once.
‘Just then someone lit a candle and an amazing sight met my eyes. I saw a room filled with animals. There were rabbits, dogs, kangaroos, wallabies and cats. Each one was in its own cage and each one possessed the whitest set of teeth I had ever seen. But the poor things – they all looked so sad. I could tell they hated being kept in those small cages. And even more, they hated what was about to happen next.
‘Monty strode across the room with an evil grin on his face and a candle in his hand. “Tooth time, boys,” he croaked. I could almost feel the poor animals shiver as he said it. He put the candle on a table and went over to a large cupboard and opened it. Inside were thousands of tubes of toothpaste. He took down one of the tubes. “Number 52A,” he said. “Let’s see if this is the mix that will make my fortune.”
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