A Jiggy McCue story, available as a Kindle ebook.
I hold all rights to this.
As you probably know, in the stories of Robin Hood there's this character called Little John. They call him Little John because he's taller than everybody else. It's a joke. In my class at Ranting Lane School there's a boy called Eejit Atkins. I'd like to say that he's called Eejit for a joke too, because he's a genius. But it wouldn't be true. Eejit's as thick as a rhino's backside. Here's an example of a typical Atkins-McCue chat.
'Jig,' he says, coming up to me.
'Yes?' I say.
'You know that thing?' he says.
'What thing?' I say.
'That thing,' he says.
'Oh, that thing,' I say, without the faintest idea what he's on about.
'Yeah,' he says.
Then there's this long pause while he stares blankly into space.
'What about it?' I say eventually to stop the suspense killing me.
'What about what?' he says, glancing at me.
'That thing,' I say.
'What thing?' he says.
'The thing you just asked me if I knew.'
'Dunno what you're talkin' abaat,' he says, and scoots off.
And that was one of our sharper conversations.
I don't spend a huge amount of time talking about Eejit Atkins, even though he's my next-door-neighbour and bottom of my class. But there was this one time when the two of us shared something that no one else knew about. I tried telling my best buds Angie and Pete about it afterwards, but they did that Yeah-yeah-chortle-down-your-sleeve thing, so I closed the old cheese hole and didn't speak to them for a week.
The deal with Atkins happened on a school trip to this museum we had to go to as part of some lesson that interested no one with any sort of life. It was called the Goddard-Eversledge-Hodge Museum of Natural History. 'What's a goddard-eversledge-hodge when it's at home, sir?' Milo Dakin asked Mr Rice on the bus that took us there.
It was a surprise to find Rice there. He usually lurked in the gym or on the sports field, but here he was, on the bus to a museum, still in the stupid red tracksuit he wears for everything except snoozing (though I wouldn't necessarily rule that out either).
'Probably the same as when it's on holiday!' he answered with a witty shout.
Mr Rice always shouts. Apart from blowing whistles and lobbing balls into giant hairnets, shouting's what he does best. His shouts were quieter than usual today though. The reason, we decided, was that our other minder – a science teacher called Mrs Baldeagle – could shout for Eurovision, and he was scared of her. Mrs B didn't take our class for Science, and none of us sobbed too uncontrollably about that because she reminded us of Hitler, only without the joke tash and stiff arm.
'When did you last go to a museum, sir?' Marlene Bronson asked Mr Rice, like she cared.
'It's been a while!' he shouted softly in reply.
'Come on, when?' said Bronson, who doesn't like to let a thing go once she's sunk her manky teeth into it. 'When you were forty, say?'
'Forty!?' said Rice. 'How old d'you think I am, for Dawkins' sake!?'
'Well, you're older than my dad.'
'How old's your dad?'
'Hundred and two,' said Hislop.
Bronson leaned over and thumped him. Bronson likes thumping boys. It's her hobby. Hislop yelled in pain.
'QUIET BACK THERE!'
That was Mrs Baldeagle, from the front of the bus. Mr Rice hunched down with the rest of us near the back.
'Keep it down, you lot,' he hissed.
We might have kept it down too – for a minute or three – if this ear-gutting semi-musical thing hadn't suddenly erupted nearby.
'What is that dreadful racket?!' Mr Rice gasped.
'It's me new ringtone,' said Eejit Atkins, waving a mobile phone I'd never seen before. 'I wrote it meself.'
'Mobiles aren't permitted during schooltime,' said Skinner, who's just got to become a teacher when he grows up, the toad.
'Why don't you put us out of our misery and answer it?' I asked Eejit.
'I'm just testin' me ringtone,' he said. 'Cool, innit?'
'Cool?' I said. 'No, Atkins, it's not cool. It's nothing like cool. It's a million miles short of cool, and it cannot be allowed to live.'
'How could anyone write a tune so tune-less?' said Fiala Kolinski.
'No one but Atkins would even want to write something like that,' said another girl. Eejit's not popular with girls for some reason.
'Mr Atkins!' Mr Rice said. 'Turn it off! Now!'
'FOR THE LAST TIME BE QUIET AT THE BACK THERE!' bawled Mrs Baldeagle from the front.
Mr Rice hunkered down again. 'Please?' he begged Atkins.
Eejit stuck his bottom lip out and punched buttons on his mobile.
The horrible ringtone went on.
He punched more buttons.
It went on. And on. And on.
All around him, ears were clasped, mouths were groaned, eyes were rolled. Mrs Baldeagle and the kids in the very front seats showed no sign of hearing the ringtone, but the rest of us couldn't miss it.
'How come you can put a personalised ringtone on your phone but don't know how to stop it?' Angie Mint wanted to know.
'The man at the car boot only showed me how to make a tone,' Eejit said.
'Car boot? You got it from a car boot?'
'Yeh. It were cheap.'
'I don't care how cheap it was,' said Angie. 'If you don't turn it off within two seconds, it's following your head through the window.'
Eejit hit the buttons again, but the horrible ringtone still didn't stop.
'Oh, give it here!'
Angie snatched the phone off him and started on the buttons, hoping to find the one that would turn it off. She failed. But suddenly she stopped buttoning, and smirked.
'You want to know why this was so cheap, Atkins?'
'The maker's name. One of the letters is wrong.'
She held the phone up for him to see the manufacturer's name.
'Which letter?' said Atkins.
Everyone was chortling at this when Angie's jaw dropped. She was staring at the back of the phone, eyes on stalks.
She leaned over. Showed me the four tiny little words she'd found.
A LITTLE DEVILS PRODUCT
My throat went dry. So did my palms, plus quite a few other places. I'd come across Little Devils products before and hoped I'd never see another. And here I was, inches from one on a school bus.
'Get that thing away from me!' I hissed.
As Angie handed the phone back to Atkins it stopped ringing, even though no one had found the off button. Whews of relief all round. The grateful unclasping of ears, ungroaning of mouths, unrolling of eyes.
'Mind of its own, that thing,' someone said.
'More than its owner has,' said someone else.
'You better not get calls on that while I'm about,' I said to Eejit.
'No chance,' he said. 'No one knows me number.'
'Well do me a favour, don't spread it around.'
'I can't. I don't know it meself.'
With normal service just about resumed, Pete Garrett asked Mr Rice why he was there.
'I've often wondered that,' I said. '“Why is Mr Rice here?”, I say. “I mean what is the point of him?”'
'Don't push your luck just 'cos we're out of school, McCue,' Rice shouted – quietly so he wouldn't get yelled at by Mrs Baldeagle.
'I never had any to push,' I said, which was very true.
'I mean today, with us,' said Pete to the Ricicle. 'I mean we're going to a science-type museum, and Mr Flowerdew's our Science teacher and he was supposed to take us, and he isn't here, and you are, so why?'
'Mr Flowerdew's in meltdown,' Rice said.
'His gas bill arrived this morning. He had to go to the doctor for emergency medication.'
'And you took his place because you were the only teacher not doing anything useful?' said Harry Potter. (Yes, there's a boy in my class called Harry Potter. He spends a lot of time trying to live it down – the name, not being in my class.)
'How would you like a detention, Potter?' asked Mr Rice.
'Ooh, yes please, sir, I live for detentions.'
A round of applause for that (we're so easy to please).
'I WON'T TELL YOU AGAIN!' screamed Baldeagle from the front.
When the bus eventually drew up outside the Eversledge-Hope Museum of Natural History, Mrs B stood up and ordered us off. When we were all standing on the pavement she told us to get in twos and stay with our partners.
'We ain't got no partners,' someone said.
'WELL, CHOOSE SOME!' bawled our personal Hitler in drag.
When everyone started scratching their heads wondering how to go about choosing partners, Mrs Baldeagle grabbed the nearest shoulder and slammed it against the next nearest and pushed the owners towards the museum steps.
'GO INSIDE AND WAIT IN AN ORDERLY FASHION!'
The first pair of partners went up the steps curling their lips at one another and Miss partnered two more, then two more, and two more. I was one of those who got a partner he wouldn't have chosen in three lifetimes.
'No, Miss,' I protested. 'Anyone but Atkins.'
But she wasn't listening. She was too busy choosing the wrong partners for everyone else.
We partnered ones were mooching up the museum steps when our unhappy mutterings were interrupted by a tall ginger-bearded man standing by the doors.
'Do not be fooled!' he bawled. 'It didn't happen the way they tell you in there! I, Remus P. Haversack, have dedicated my working life to unearthing the true causes and spurs of evolutionary change. Read my self-published work, “Evolution: the Truth”, available from my website, www.evoltrue.com. Take a leaflet, read more!'
No prizes for guessing who that was. The ginger man shut his beardy trap along with the rest of us. But as we passed him he pressed leaflets into a few hands, including mine.
'What's evilution, Jig?' Atkins asked as we went into the museum.
'Don't you remember Mr Flowerdew wasting weeks of our lives explaining it to prepare us for today?' I said, stuffing the mad scientist's flyer into a jacket pocket.
'Well, you were there. Your body was anyway.'
'But it's about evil, right?'
'No, Atkins, it's not about evil. It's e-vol-ution, not e-vil-ution. It's about turning from ape to person. You've got a way to go with that. Look, kid, just 'cos we've been paired off, don't feel that you have to talk to me, OK? In fact, feel free to keep as far away from me as possible today.'
'Evil,' Atkins said. His little eyes were shining. 'Cool.'
My wise words had gone right over his head, probably because the top of it only came up to my armpit. I sighed. It was starting to feel like a long day, and it had only just begun.
THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING, OF COURSE...
EVILUTION: THE TROOF
A Jiggy McCue story commissioned for World Book Day 2011.
Jiggy should have known that a school trip to a natural history museum with class dumbo Eejit Atkins wouldn't be a normal sort of day. But when he and Atkins step into one of the exhibits and find themselves in a real cave with real cavemen, things start to get seriously weird - especially when one of the cavemen announces that he wants to be boss of the world.
As well as this, there are sixteen books about Jiggy and his friends and relatives. Rights to some of these might be available soon.