The latest episode is my barking mad Christmas short story is one in which Much Is Revealed. I recommend that you have pen and paper handy before reading it here. To read the whole thing from the beginning, click here.
I've decided to post the remaining chapters of my barking mad Christmas short story on a separate blog, though I'll link to new ones from here as and when they are written. I'm doing this because the story may work better in a dedicated space and because some of the chapters-in-progress look as though they're going to take up too much room! So, Chapter Ten begins like this:
"The very posh and royal Mad Dog was a Dachshund. Dachshunds are commonly known as sausage dogs because of their long sausage-shaped bodies, which they carry on diddy-widdy little legs. However, it seemed unlikely that this particular Dachshund would take kindly to being referred to in such a way..."
It continues here. And if you want to read the whole story-so-far from the top, click here.
Down, down plunged the Mad Dogs towards the middle of the village green, each of them howling wildly.
Down, down plunged Nessie and Norton, two small children in peril both howling like Mad Dogs.
The further Nessie, Norton and the Mad Dogs plunged, the faster the village green seemed to race up to meet them. Faster, faster, faster. Nessie prayed to God to be saved, even though she wasn't sure if God existed. Norton, under his Maths Hat, wondered why he and Nessie were howling when they weren’t Mad Dogs. And then they and the Mad Dogs stopped plunging. That was because they’d landed on the village green and so could plunge no more. But to Nessie and Norton’s surprise, they didn’t die. Instead, they...bounced.
True, it wasn't actually them that bounced, but the Mad Dogs they were clinging to. Also, they bounced in such a big, crazy way that Nessie lost her grip on the waist of the white Poodle in the fur-trimmed, red cat suit, Norton lost his grip on the Bulldog in the bowler hat and they both landed on the cold, wet village green grass with a "Thud!" Then were landed on by the cold, wet and rather smelly bodies of two other Mad Dogs. But neither Nessie nor Norton was dead. They knew this, because they were alive. The Mad Dogs that had landed on them were alive too. One of these, the Great Dane, got slowly to his massive paws and padded over to where his quad bike lay. The Great Dane had been been squashing Nessie and now she clambered to her feet and looked around for Norton. She saw that he was trapped beneath the cold, wet, hairy and rather smelly bottom of the Bloodhound, which was still wearing its Viking helmet with wings.
“Norton!” Nessie cried, running over to her brother anxiously. The Bloodhound saw her coming and stood up. As Nessie approached, he growled.
“Norton!” cried Nessie again, ignoring the Bloodhound. “Norton! Are you alright?”
Now that the Bloodhound’s smelly bottom was no longer planted on his chest, Norton was able to sit up. He removed his Maths Hat, and was about to say “Yes,” when the Bloodhound growled again, this time more loudly. The children looked at him nervously as he raised one large, hairy Mad Dog paw to his Mad Dogs lips and went “Shhh!” They kept looked at him as his big, brown Mad Dog eyes rolled over towards the motorbike with the sidecar attached. Then they stopped looking at him and looked at that instead.
Standing beside it was its rider, the elderly Beagle in the flying cap. His nose was in the air and he had a rather pompous expression on his face. With one paw he opened the door of the sidecar. From the sidecar emerged the poshest-looking dog Nessie and Norton had ever seen. Smarter-Than-Average Readers may already have guessed that they were in the presence of...royalty!
Instead of turning left to the centre of the un-amazing village where Nessie and Norton lived, or right to the nearby town the Mad Dogs raced straight across the road towards the hedge opposite! Nessie cried out “Eeek!” Norton would have cried out "Eeek!" too, but he didn’t have enough time to remove his Maths Hat so he thought “Eeek!” very loudly instead. In fact, he and Nessie were moving so fast that the “k” of the “Eeek!” had hardly left Nessie’s mouth or been thought in Norton’s head when the Great Dane in the quadbike hurtled straight into the hedge and burst out the other side.
The other four Mad Dogs followed, tearing through the gap left by the quad bike: first the Bloodhound, then the Bulldog, with Norton crouching behind him, then the Beagle with his hidden passenger and finally the Poodle, with Nessie hanging on to her for dear life. On the far side of the hedge was a field. It was a wide, muddy field on a steady upward slope. At the top of the slope stood a great tree called a Mighty Oak. The Mad Dogs headed straight for it, making an ear-splitting noise and leaving deep furrows in their wake. When they reached the Mighty Oak, they came to a dangerous skidding halt the way teenagers do on mountain bikes. The Mad Dogs switched off their engines and suddenly everything was very quiet. The only sound was of a chill breeze rustling the Mighty Oak's bare branches.
At first, the Mad Dogs did one thing only: they raised their wet doggy noses and breathed in. Then, all except the Poodle, the only female among them, trotted over to the Mighty Oak. The Bloodhound, the Bulldog, the Great Dane and the elderly Beagle gathered round the base of the great tree. They stood looking obedient and alert.
Then there was a bark.
It was a posh, high-pitched sort of a bark and it came from within the sidecar attached to the elderly Beagle’s motorbike. It sounded like a command and it had an immediate effect. All four of the male dogs immediately lifted whichever of their hind legs was nearest the tree and did a boy doggy wee against its trunk. Then they lowered their legs and stood to attention again. There was another bark from the sidecar:
As one, the four male dogs trotted rather stiffly back to their vehicles. And soon the peace was shattered as once again they revved their tre-mendous, powerful engines...
...and set off back down the hill at an even more terrifying speed than they had gone up it. Suddenly, the slope seemed very steep. Suddenly, Nessie and Norton thought they were going to die – and on Christmas Eve too! But then something happened that could only happen in the sort of story that has Secret Blancmange in it (of which more eventually) and Gnome Kings who talk to God. Just ahead of the Mad Dogs was a huge ridge in the muddy field. As the Mad Dogs hurtled towards the ridge Norton pulled his Maths Hat all the way down and Nessie’s eyes closed behind her purple shades.
And then the Mad Dogs hit the ridge.
And then...they were flying!
Flying high up in the sky!
The Bloodhound was howling!
The other Mad Dogs were howling.
And soon, without thinking about it or knowing why, Nessie and Norton were howling too!
And they kept on howling – howling and howling! – even as they and the Mad Dogs stopped climbing higher and began instead to plunge down and down and down and even more down towards the very middle of the un-amazing village where Nessie and Norton lived, towards the village green in the middle of the village's middle, towards the very middle of the village green where surely they would stop howling forever.
At this point in the story, Worried Readers will be worried. This should not be a surprise because if they weren't worried they would not be Worried Readers. But that is not the point. The point is that it is hard to imagine anything more worrying than two small children going off with a bunch of Mad Dogs who were driving powerful motor vehicles and dressed in peculiar clothes. It is even more worrying, however, that some grown-ups reading this story – yes, grown-ups do sometimes read stories that have been written for children, that’s how pathetic some of them are – might now be hopping up and down saying how irresponsible it is that a story written for children (which they just happen to be reading) should contain an episode in which two young children who are out all on their own accept a lift from people – or in this case, a pack of Mad Dogs – who they do not even know.
Such grown-ups should be ignored. Don’t they understand that this is a made-up story? Don’t these dimwits realise that children can tell the difference between what is perfectly alright in a made-up story and what might be dangerous in real life? Do they think children are stupid?
Worried Readers would do better to worry about what might happen when the Mad Dogs and Nessie and Norton reach the end of Willow Close where it meets a much busier road. There are rules about this sort of thing. All-road-users, including dog ones who are mad, are supposed to stop at the white line and look carefully both ways before pulling out. That is because a car or a bicycle or a family of dear, sweet little field mice might be driving past on the busier road, and who would want to smash into them, especially if it was a family of field mice and extra especially if it was the sort of field mouse family that turns a bit nasty if it is smashed into, and teaches you a lesson by tearing off your wheels and making you eat them without even sprinkling sugar on them first?
But would the Mad Dogs obey the rules? Would they stop at the white line and look both ways? After all, they were mad. No wonder, then, that just like Worried Readers, Nessie and Norton were worried as the Mad Dogs roared – ROAR! – towards the end of Willow Close at tre-mendous speed. But then, just as they came to the white line, they screeched to a halt – SCREECH! – causing Norton to biff – BIFF! – into the bum end of the Bulldog in the bowler hat and Nessie to cling – CLING! – to the hips of the white Poodle in the red cat suit.
So now the Mad Dogs were all waiting at the white line as if about a start a race. The Great Dane was in the middle, the Bloodhound and the Bulldog were on either side of him and they elderly Beagle with his mysterious sidecar passenger were next to the Bloodhound at one end. This left the cat-suited poodle at the end next to the Bulldog. And this meant that Nessie and Norton were next to each other.
They exchanged glances. This was Nessie and Norton’s way of letting each other know that they were both wondering what they’d let themselves in for. Nessie was seriously doubting that this was all part of God’s help with finding a mermaid, a talking vegetable, something to stop Thalia going “Thud!” and the True Meaning of Christmas. And Norton was wondering if there was time to use his green pocket calculator to work out how to bark something like, “Excuse me, but where are we going?”
Meanwhile, just to confuse things, the Mad Dogs were being very sensible. First, they all looked carefully to the left. Nothing was coming. Then, they all looked carefully to the right. At first nothing seemed to be coming from that direction either. But then a family of dear little field mice appeared, from round the corner in a tank. The Mad Dogs waited politely for them to pass. The Bloodhound saluted. The Bulldog tipped his bowler hat, making his sprig of mistletoe vibrate. Only when the tank had disappeared from view did the Mad Dogs begin revving their engines again.
Did Nessie and Norton dare to Ride With The Mad Dogs? Would the Mad Dogs help them on their Christmas Quest to find a mermaid, a talking vegetable and something to stop their little sister Thalia going “Thud”? Would the Mad Dogs help them to discover the True Meaning of Christmas, which was the other thing their mum and dad suggested they look for? Well...
Norton took his Maths Hat off, looked at Nessie for five seconds then put the hat back on again. This was to show her that he didn’t quite know what to say. You see, Norton really DID want to Ride With The Mad Dogs because now that he’d learned how to speak to them in barks, he wanted to do it some more. However, he thought that Nessie probably DIDN’T want to Ride With The Mad Dogs, and he didn’t want her to say that she DID want to ride with them just to make him happy. This was because Norton was, in his different way, an understanding child just as Nessie was. But was Norton right about what Nessie wanted?
Well, he mostly was. About three quarters of Nessie did not want to Ride With The Mad Dogs but the remaining quarter of her did. Now, Readers Who’ve Done Fractions might be wondering which bits of Nessie we are talking about here. Which bits added up to the three quarters of her that thought to Ride With The Mad Dogs would be extremely unwise and which bits made up the quarter that was quite keen on the idea?
Such readers might be scratching their chins and thinking that maybe both her arms and one of her legs had figured it would be better to say “No” while her other leg was altogether more reckless and brave. But any Readers Who’ve Done Fractions having thoughts of this kind should stop thinking them immediately. That is because the three quarters of Nessie that did not want to Ride With The Mad Dogs and the one quarter that did were both inside of Nessie’s mind! Other bits of Nessie simply did not come into it! I mean: do knees have opinions? Do earlobes think? How many elbows ever wrestle with mixed emotions? Not many, probably.
And there was something else. Even though Norton hadn’t said he wanted to Ride With The Mad Dogs because he knew that most of Nessie didn’t, Nessie was just as good at knowing what Norton really wanted as Norton was at knowing what Nessie really wanted. This meant that Nessie knew that Norton wanted to Ride With The Mad Dogs but wouldn’t say so because he knew that most of Nessie didn’t! And because Nessie knew this, she had a lovely, fond feeling about her little brother. And this lovely, fond feeling made the one quarter of her that had wanted to Ride With The Mad Dogs at the beginning of this chapter grow bigger until it was slightly more than half of her. And this meant that the three quarters of her that hadn’t wanted to Ride With The Mad Dogs had shrunk to slightly less than a half. And here is a chance for Readers Who’ve Done Fractions to work out what Nessie said to Norton next. They have five seconds in which to do this
Nessie said to Norton, “I think we should Ride With The Mad Dogs.”
Norton took off his Maths Hat and replied, “So do I.” So Nessie put Plingo the toy flamingo back into her shoulder bag and took her purple sunglasses out of it and put them on. This helped to put her in a questing mood. She climbed on to the silver motor scooter behind the white Poodle in the red cat suit with fur trim wearing the Father Christmas hat. Norton put his Maths Hat back on and got into the go-kart behind the Bulldog who wore the bowler hat with mistletoe dangling over its brim. Then the Mad Dogs roared off towards the way out of Willow Close, leaving Excited Readers desperate to know what happened next.
Footnote: Apologies for those expecting to meet the fieldmice in Chapter Six. That's been put back until tomorrow - these things happen when you make stuff up as you go along...
From the trees burst five dogs driving motor vehicles, travelling at truly terrifying speed. First came a large Bloodhound riding an enormous motorbike. He was wearing a black leather jacket, a tin Viking helmet with little wings on it and a patch over his left eye. Behind him came a snowy white Poodle balanced elegantly astride a silver motor scooter. Strangely for a dog she was dressed in a cat suit and a cat mask. The suit was bright red in colour with white fur trimming and on her head the poodle wore a dainty little Father Christmas hat. Next to her was a go-kart with an English Bulldog hunched at the controls. He had a bowler hat on his head tilted at what is called “a rakish angle” and with a large sprig of mistletoe attached to it its brim so that it dangled above his squashed-up nose. A second motorbike was ridden by an elderly Beagle who wore an old-fashioned flying jacket, an old –fashioned flying cap and old-fashioned flying goggles over his eyes. This bike had a sidecar attached to it, though it was difficult to if it contained a passenger. Finally, at the rear of the group rode a vast, grey Great Dane on a gigantic quad bike. He had an old carpet slipper gripped between his teeth the way old men grip fat cigars.
The dogs screeched to a halt at the kerbside and revved their tremendous engines restlessly.
“Oh my goodness!” Nessie cried, terrified, and stepped protectively in front of Norton. Then, after a bit more revving, the Bloodhound switched off his motorbike and climbed down from his seat. The other dogs switched their engines off too. Suddenly, there was silence. The large Bloodhound stared at Nessie and Norton, seeming to frown. Then he raised his head, took a deep breath and went:
Nessie and Norton both stepped backwards. However, as Dog-Loving Readers will know, just because a dog is barking at you it doesn't mean it wants to bite you. And it seemed Norton had worked this out. Still standing behind Nessie he reached into his pocket, took out his green pocket calculator and began calculating at high speed. Then he did something extremely unusual: he made noises while he had his Maths Hat on. But the noises were not words. They were imitation barks. They went like this:
The five dogs all stared at Norton. But they did not seem to be staring angrily. No, if anything, they stared with a mixture of surprise and approval. Norton’s imitation barks meant something to them. In human language, they meant a word. The word was “Pardon”?
The Bloodhound barked at Norton again – exactly the same barks as before:
Again, Norton calculated frantically. Then he took his Maths Hat off and said, “You Need The Mad Dogs.”
“Pardon?” said Nessie
“No,” said Norton, “’Pardon’ was the word I barked. The Bloodhound is saying “You Need The Mad Dogs.”
The Mad Dogs? Only Half Asleep Readers will have failed to guess that this was the name these, well, mad dogs gave themselves. Norton began to calculate again, punching buttons like mad. With his Maths Hat now covering his eyes completely, he calculated for at least one minute and nine seconds while the Mad Dogs looked on expectantly, Nessie cuddled Plingo the flamingo and Lorcan the Gnome King did nothing at all, as usual. Finally, Norton addressed the biker Bloodhound once again. He went:
This meant: “We are on a quest.” The Mad Dogs looked at each other. Then they went into a huddle, clearly debating what they ought to do. At last, the Bloodhound turned back to Nessie and Norton and barked at them once more:
Even as the Bloodhound barked, Norton was calculating. Soon, he understood that the he and his sister had been paid a compliment. But the compliment was a challenge too: “RIDE WITH THE MAD DOGS – IF YOU DARE!”
Lorcan the Gnome King was a fat, unhappy fellow who lived in the house opposite Nessie and Norton's in a little turning called Willow Close. He spent most of his time sitting out on his front lawn surrounded by a little crowd of other, smaller gnomes who never moved. Unlike these smaller gnomes, Lorcan did move now and again but never very much and always slowly. Mostly, he just sat beside the ornamental wishing well in the middle of the lawn wearing his tall gnome boots, his wide gnome belt with a big buckle and his gnome pointy hat, dangling his fishing rod over the edge and never, ever catching anything. There was, though, one thing about Lorcan that the children found extremely interesting. It was that he talked to God.
Nessie took Norton's hand and crossed the road. At the edge of Lorcan’s lawn she removed her sunglasses, asked Plingo the flamingo to look after them for her and tucked them into her pink shoulder bag beside him. Then she called out in her sweetest voice, “Excuse me, oh Gnome King, would you mind asking God a question?”
At first, Lorcan seemed not to hear. He just kept staring gloomily at his fishing rod as if by doing so for long enough a fish would suddenly appear at the end of his line. Nessie knew this was unlikely because the wishing well did not have any water in it, which meant that the only type of fish Lorcan had any hope of catching were ones that live on land. Nessie also knew that such fish are extremely rare and she had often wondered if that was the reason why Lorcan was always so down in the dumps. If so, she would understand because, of course, she was an understanding child.
She decided to try cheering Lorcan up by doing a skipping dance on the pavement. Her trainers were the sort with lights in the soles, and these twinkled as her dainty feet flew. When she'd finished, she did a curtsey and Norton clapped in a brainy small boy way. Then they both waited. Eventually, three words emerged from the tangle of Lorcan’s long gnome beard. They were “Oh,” “alright” and “then”, in that order.
“Oh, alright then.”
“Thank you, oh Gnome King,” said Nessie. She took Norton's hand again and began walking towards Lorcan, nervously. They stepped carefully over the smaller gnomes that never, ever moved until they were quite close to Lorcan. Then Nessie said, “Please ask God if He will help us with our quest.”
The whole of Lorcan remained quite still except for his eyes. These rolled dolefully Nessie's way, then upwards towards the sky before closing. After a few seconds, Lorcan opened them again. Without looking at Nessie, he intoned: “God says ‘Maybe.’”
“Thank you,” said Nessie politely. Perceptive Readers, though, will know she was disappointed with this reply. “Maybe” was quite a long way from being “Yes,” and could easily be very close to “No.” And even if God did help them, what sort of help would it be? Would the hand of God reach down from the sky so they could climb into its palm and be taken to a mermaid, a talking vegetable and something to stop Thalia going Thud!? Would God tell them what the True Meaning of Christmas was? Or would God simply provide a few really difficult clues and leave them to do the rest all by themselves?
Nessie asked Norton to remove his Maths Hat so he could tell her what he thought. He did so. But before he could speak something unexpected happened. One side of Willow Close was surrounded by tall trees – willow trees, not surprisingly. And from among these trees came a tremendous roar. Not the tremendous roar of a tremendous monster, but the roar of a tremendous engine. In fact, the roars of several such engines. And then, out of the trees, burst one of the weirdest sights Nessie and Norton had ever seen...
Because Nessie and Norton were so different it surprised some grown-ups that they got along so well. Grown-ups who considered themselves unusually clever sometimes said in loud voices that the reason why Nessie and Norton got on well was precisely because they were different. But this only proved that grown-ups who consider themselves unusually clever are often the least clever ones of all. True, Nessie and Norton were different in many ways. Yet they were far from being completely different. In fact, in several ways they were the same. Readers Who Are A Bit Quick Off The Mark will have already worked out that these included…
One: having the same parents.
Two: having the same home.
Three: having the same little sister who went 'Thud!' all the time.
Four: having names that begin with the same letter.
Even these readers, though, will not have detected one other thing they had in common. That is because it hasn’t been mentioned in this story yet. However, by the end of this sentence every reader will know that Nessie too could disappear into a world of her own, just as Norton did when he had his Maths Hat on. In this world, Nessie stopped being an understanding child of seven and instead became a teenager called Amber who had a friend called Jade with whom she enjoyed long telephone conversations. It would be wise for Forgetful Readers to write this information down. If they do not they may become confused if Nessie starts pretending to be Amber later in this story without giving any warning (this is what is known as “a hint”).
In passing it might also be worth mentioning that, in fact, “Nessie” wasn't Nessie's real name. Her real name was Natalie, but her mum and dad had called her Nessie since she was two years old because she'd been a bit of a monster in those days. “Nessie”, apparently, is the nickname given to a large underwater creature said to live in Scotland in Loch Ness. Nobody has ever seen this so-called Loch Ness monster, although some grown-ups like pretending that they have. Interesting that some grown-ups should want to do this, don’t you think? Interesting and – let’s be honest - a bit sad. However, this information is not really important to the story unfolding here, unlike the titbit about Nessie pretending to be Amber, which should be stored safely away like one of those toenail clippings you keep in your belly button in case you should feel peckish in the night.
Nessie and Norton put on their coats and went outdoors. It was a grey, gloomy day, which wasn’t how Christmas Eve was meant to be. It was, though, the right weather for a Christmas Quest, although Nessie and Norton didn’t know that yet because they had never been on one before. For this same reason they weren’t sure what they ought to bring with them. In the end, Norton chose his big, green pocket calculator, which he put in his pocket because that’s where pocket calculators feel at home. Nessie brought her pink plastic shoulder bag with the diamante clasp. Inside it were her Barbie toy mobile phone and her toy flamingo, Plingo, whose head peeked from the top of the pink bag. Also, Nessie wore her sunglasses with purple frames because they made her feel mysterious which helped to put her in a questing mood.
Holding Norton’s hand, she stood on the doorstep and looked around the little corner of the un-amazing English village where she and Norton - and her mum, her dad and little sister - all lived in the same house. It was not going to be easy to find a mermaid, a talking vegetable and something to stop Thalia going 'Thud!' let alone the True Meaning of Christmas. But she knew where to begin. She would speak to Lorcan the Gnome King.
On Christmas Eve morning Nessie and Norton got up, got dressed, got their own breakfasts and cleaned their own teeth (rather than anyone else's teeth, for example their headteacher’s or Harry Potter's). They then watched children's television for three hours, which Intelligent Readers won’t be surprised to learn left both of them restless and bored. At last, they went up to their mum and dad's bedroom.
“Mummy and Daddy,” said Nessie, “We’re restless and bored.”
“I can't move,” said their mum, weakly, which was her way of saying “I love you dearly, Nessie and Norton, but please go away.”
“I can't move either,” said their dad, which was his way of saying, “I feel the same way as your mum.”
“Why can't you move, Mummy?” Nessie asked.
'Because Thud is asleep with her finger up my nose,” her mum replied, “and if I move she'll fall out of bed again.”
“Why can't you move Daddy?” Nessie asked.
'Because Thud drove me so mad falling out of bed all night that I began chewing the leg of the bed, and now my teeth are stuck in it,” he replied.
Suspicious Readers may be thinking that Nessie and Norton's parents were making these things up. They may well be right, for it was dark in the bedroom and Nessie couldn't tell if they were smiling in a secret, grown-up way. Anyway, she had a question. It was: “What shall we do?”
Her mother replied, “I don't know at the moment, Nessie, because when Thud's finger is shoved up my nose I never seem to have any ideas.”
Her dad replied, “I don't know at the moment, Nessie. You see, my teeth are stuck in the leg of the bed, which makes suggesting things extremely difficult.”
Nessie sighed. But then she said, “I understand.” This was because Nessie was a very understanding child. As for Norton he said nothing, and Curious Readers may be wondering why Norton has said nothing at any point in this story so far. The reason is that Norton had his Maths Hat on. This was grey, helmet-shaped and made of felt and it came down so far over Norton's eyes that when he was wearing it he had to tip his head back to see where he was going. The hat had the word “MATHS” embroidered in red letters on the front, and when Norton was wearing it he never spoke. This was because he wore the Maths Hat when concentrated fiercely on something more interesting than talking. The “something” was very often to do with maths and Conceited Readers may be congratulating themselves on having worked this out all by themselves.
In the parents' bedroom, Thud's snoring had become the only sound. Nessie took Norton's hand and turned to leave. But then their dad said, “You could go on a quest.”
Nessie looked down at Norton. Norton, who could still hear things when he had his Maths Hat on, looked up at Nessie from underneath its rim.
“What's a quest?” Nessie inquired.
“It's a long outdoor adventure,” said her mum from underneath her pillow. “Usually, you have to find things that are important and rare.”
“Like what?” Nessie asked.
“Like a mermaid,” said her dad.
“Or like a talking vegetable,” said their mum. “It would be nice having one in the kitchen. Most vegetables make no conversation at all.”
“Anything else?” Nessie asked.
“Something to stop your little sister going thud,” said both parents at the same time.
Nessie thought about this. Also, she thought about the Christmas tree downstairs and the mysterious gifts piled beneath it. “Can we open some presents?” she asked, sweetly.
“Oh, Nessie,” said her mum, “Christmas isn’t all about presents.”
“Quite right,” said her dad. “Maybe on your quest you could also discover the True Meaning of Christmas. These days, no one seems to remember what that is.”
Nessie was about to ask how she and her little brother could possibly find such extraordinary things as a mermaid, a talking vegetable, something to stop her little sister going thud and the True Meaning of Christmas in such an un-amazing place as their village when, from the darkness of the room, came a familiar sound.
Thalia had fallen out of bed again. 'Oh no,' groaned the parents as she began to cry.
Nessie and Norton went back downstairs.
In the hallway Nessie looked down at Norton. Know-All Readers won't be surprised that she then said, “I suppose we'd better start out on our quest.”
Norton looked up at Nessie. He removed his Maths Hat and said, “Cucumbers are very talkative.”