Dominic Dominic Green woke up one day to find he’d lost control of his voice.
He had a wash, put on his school clothes and made his
way downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast. His dog, Yip,
was waiting for him as usual.
So far nothing seemed amiss, for he hadn’t yet attempted
to speak, but when he tried to say hello to his hairy friend,
what came out of his mouth was this:
“Chocolate spaghetti, four eyes.”
This puzzled Dominic, though not as much as it puzzled
Yip. For one thing, Yip hadn't worn glasses for years, and
for another, chocolate spaghetti happened to be one of the
few things on the planet he wouldn't dig through rotting
sewage to devour.
Dominic stroked Yip's head.
“Don't mess with that dog before you go touching your
food,” Mrs Green told him, as she did every morning. “You
don’t know where he’s been.”
“I'll paint the fence from here to there,” Dominic replied,
scratching his chin.
“And don't scratch your face after you've been touching
him, either,” Mrs Green went on. “You'll give yourself
Dominic sat down at the table and asked his dad to pass
him the honey covered sugar flakes.
“Fish on the motorway, followed by thunder,” his mouth
translated. Mr Green passed him the cereal box without
looking up from his newspaper.
“Hurry up,” he said. “You don't want to make me late.”
Dominic ate his breakfast without speaking, hoping that
whatever was wrong with him would wear off quickly.
Mr Green went out to start the car and at eight thirty
honked the horn to tell Dominic to get a move on.
Mrs Green shouted through to him.
“Don't forget I'm at college this afternoon. I’ll leave
something nice in the fridge for your tea.” Dominic told her
this would be acceptable.
“Pigs will swim the Atlantic,” he called out, and slapped
his hand over his mouth.
“Okay,” his mum said. “See you tonight.”
Dominic climbed into the car beside his dad, who was too
busy for the next few minutes, driving the car and swearing
at other motorists, to pay any attention to his son, but as
they neared the school gates, he spoke to him for the first
“You're very quiet today,” he said. Dominic didn't dare
reply. “Is anything wrong?”
Just then the man in the car in front indicated left and
turned right, causing Mr Green to fly into another rage.
“You stupid flaming fur faced frog!” he screamed, or
something similar, though only Dominic could hear him.
Dominic was just thankful the man had taken his dad’s
attention before he’d had to speak. Now they were outside
the school. Dominic jumped out.
“Have a good day,” Mr Green instructed him kindly, as
though Dominic had a choice in the matter, then drove
away before Dominic could say, “eat my Reeboks,” or
whatever else was waiting to leap out of his mouth.
He wandered miserably into the yard and hoped no one
would speak to him for the next fifty years.It wasn't long before someone did speak to him, of
“Hi, Dom,” his best friend Martin called out. Dominic
pretended not to hear him and headed indoors. “Dominic!” he heard Martin shout as he disappeared into
“What are you doing in here, you hideous little person?”
Mr Gristle, the ferocious head teacher, was fond of
patrolling the corridors, making sure no children entered the
school until the bell rang at nine o'clock, especially when the
weather was cold enough to make a polar bear think twice
about escaping from the zoo and going on the rampage.
Dominic shivered, but not with cold.
“Well, boy?” Mr Gristle thundered towards him. There
was no escape. “Has the cat got your tongue?”
Dominic didn’t have a cat but was now thinking of getting
one. Meanwhile, his tongue was lying in wait, behind his
teeth, thinking up the perfect words to plunge him into even
deeper trouble. The head was growing angrier by the
“Speak, child,” he shouted. Dominic jumped and bit the
insides of his cheeks, but he couldn’t stop his mouth from
“The elephants are dancing on the lawn,” he said, and
waited for Mr Gristle to explode.
He didn’t explode. If he’d listened to what Dominic said,
he may well have exploded, but fortunately it had been
many years since Mr Gristle had actually listened to anyone
under the age of ninety. He heard sounds coming from
people’s mouths, but he’d completely lost the ability to
translate those sounds into any language he understood. He
responded to Dominic the only way he knew how.
“Preposterous!” he exclaimed, and dismissed him.
“Outside, immediately, and pick up all the litter within a
fifteen mile diameter. Or radius. Whichever is bigger. Go!”
Dominic didn't wait to be told twice. He ran outside, just
in time to hear the bell telling him to come back in. Horribly
confused, he joined the rest of his class and filed into
He somehow survived without further mishap until just
before lunch, when Mrs Dandruff told the class to take out
their maths books.
“Last night I had the immense displeasure of marking
your homework,” she told them. “I was astonished – no,
disgusted - to find that every single one of you failed to give
the correct answer to question number seven. Well, I'll give
you all one last chance. Hands up who knows the answer.”
A wave of terror swept the room. Everyone knew
what was coming next; if no one provided Mrs Dandruff
with the correct answer, she would take them one at a time
to the front of the class and punish them horribly.
Although she wasn't supposed to hit children, Mrs
Dandruff saw rules she didn’t agree with as a challenge
rather than something she had to obey - though God help
any of her pupils who held similar beliefs. As a result, she
had devised many ingenious methods of inflicting pain on
people much smaller than herself.
Sometimes she would discover unwanted clumps of hair
on someone’s head, and remove them manually, without
even asking for payment.
Like all good teachers, she would help them discover
talents they didn’t even know they possessed. Like how to
bend their fingers back until they could almost scratch their
own elbows, or how to twist their arms right out of their
sockets, and then pop them back, so neatly, no one would
ever know the difference.
Sometimes she would simply take them in the stockroom
and whack them on the legs with a piece of wood, but only
on special occasions.
Everyone in the classroom was staring at the clever
children, hoping one of them would know the answer to
question number seven.The clever children stared at the floor and wished they
were somewhere else, or even dead.
Mrs Dandruff looked at the big clock on the wall.
“You have exactly two minutes,” she said. “Starting one
Children were sweating and shaking. Peter McSprout
started to cry. Angela Hamburger asked if she could go to
the toilet and had a wooden clog bounced off her head in
With thirty seconds to go, the clever children were being
punched by the stupid children sitting nearest to them, and
Phillip Furtwangle fell to the floor in a faint.
Twenty-three volunteers offered to carry him to the nurse.
With only ten seconds left, a dreadful howling filled the
classroom as children wept and shuddered with fear.
Dominic himself felt relatively calm. He just hoped that if
nobody volunteered an answer, he wouldn't be chosen by
Mrs Dandruff to offer a reply on everyone’s behalf, because
anyone giving the wrong answer doubled everyone’s
punishment. This naturally made the person very unpopular
for weeks, or until the wounds healed, whichever came first.
As the clock ticked away the final moments, a gasp of
astonishment filled the room, for Gregory MacAdenoid,
falsely suspected of being the most stupid person in the
whole school, even including the teachers, was holding his
hand up to attract Mrs Dandruff's attention.
A terrible silence fell on the room as all eyes turned on
Gregory, including Mrs Dandruff's. Gregory seemed not to
care. He pushed his glasses back up his nose with an inkstained
finger and breathed a deep, impatient sigh.
Mrs Dandruff approached him with a malignantly playful
“Well, Gregory,” she purred. “I'm glad someone has the
courage to raise a hand. I hope the rest of you are
thoroughly ashamed of yourselves.”
The rest of them, far too terrified to feel ashamed, were
waiting with bated breath to hear what Gregory had to
offer. Once, Mr Gristle had asked him his name, and Gregory
had forgotten. Mrs Dandruff's question was about a million
times harder than that one. She turned to face him, smiling
sweetly with almost all her teeth, and affectionately rubbed
her bony knuckles up and down the back of his head.
“Very well, Gregory,” she said, “speak up.”
There was a great, communal intake of breath as Gregory
lowered his arm.
“Miss,” he spluttered, nervously rubbing the fresh lumps
on the back of his head. “Miss, when do we break up for
There was a moment of absolute silence, then an
explosion of laughter, which died immediately as Mrs
Dandruff turned her finest Gorgon glare on each of the
children in turn.
“Silence!” she bellowed, and silence there was.
“Gregory MacAdenoid, go and wait for me in the
Gasps all round. Gregory stood up, wondering what he’d
done wrong, and made his way to the dreaded stockroom to
await his punishment. Mrs Dandruff ran her eyes round the
room like a searchlight.
“Right,” she said at last, “just for that, we'll play a little
game. It's called Double or Quits. I will ask each of you for
the answer to question number seven. Every time someone
doesn't know, I double the punishment for everyone. If one
of you miserable little worms gets it right, I let you off and
there'll be thirty minutes free time at the end of the day…
As if! Stand up, Daniel Doughnut.”
Daniel Doughnut stood up, followed by Anthony
Eggwhite, Samantha Snortwhistle and Malcolm Eczema.
No one had a clue.
Dominic was starting to panic. If he stood up and gave
the sort of ridiculous answer he’d been giving all day, his
punishment would surely be trebled.
Worse, the whole class would be made to pay, and then
he’d be so unpopular, no one would speak to him for a year.
Again there was no escape.
Finally Mrs Dandruff turned her eyes on him. “Dominic?”
Dominic rose slowly to his feet. Mrs Dandruff waited for
him to speak. It was like waiting for a bus in the rain,
something she hated even more than she hated children.
Dominic fought with his vocal chords.
“Come on, out with it,” she ordered.
Dominic prayed, silently.
“Do you want to join Gregory in the stockroom?”
Dominic shook his head.
“Right then, give me an answer, now.”
Dominic raised his eyes and looked at her. There was no
mercy in her expression. He opened his mouth. Some words
came out. They made no sense. The words were these:
“Sixteen men and a walrus.”
The words were followed by silence. Dominic closed his
eyes. Mrs Dandruff stood in the middle of the room and
swayed from side to side. All the children held their breath
and waited for her to explode all over the classroom. Even
Gregory poked his head round the stockroom door to see
what was going on.
The tension was unbearable, but Mrs Dandruff didn't
explode, not even slightly. She turned purple, then blue,
then white, then she turned and walked unsteadily back to
The bell rang for lunch but nobody moved a muscle. Mrs
Dandruff stared at Dominic and spoke in a slow, quiet,
“How did you know the answer?” she hissed.
All the children were puzzled, none more so than
Dominic. Then realisation set in, and admiring looks were
cast in his direction. He was a hero, there could be no
Mrs Dandruff was defeated. She waited a moment for
Dominic to offer an explanation, but when it was obvious
he had no intention of speaking again, she sank into her
chair and dismissed the class with a wave of her hand.
Everyone hurried quietly past her, in case she changed her
mind and dragged them all into the stockroom (where
Gregory was starting work on a tunnel), then they
surrounded Dominic and patted him on the back and
offered him chocolate and money.
Dominic thanked them all profusely.
“Storm pilchards,” he announced. “Throw the milkman
Everyone laughed as if he was cracking jokes on purpose,
and Dominic didn't mind. He was sure when he woke up
the next day, his voice would be back to normal, and it was.
Of course, there would be other strange and wonderful
things waiting for him in the future, but for now he was as
happy as a penguin in August, and who can be happier than