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Beware! Killer Tomatoes

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Beware! Killer Tomatoes


  This is me, Jack.

  I’m stuck in hospital, lying here, on my back, twenty-four hours a day.

  You wouldn’t think I could get into much trouble, would you?

  Read on…

  Jeremy Strong once worked in a bakery, putting the jam into three thousand doughnuts every night. Now he puts the jam in stories instead, which he finds much more exciting. At the age of three, he fell out of a first-floor bedroom window and landed on his head. His mother says that this damaged him for the rest of his life and refuses to take any responsibility. He loves writing stories because he says it is ‘the only time you alone have complete control and can make anything happen’. His ambition is to make you laugh (or at least snuffle). Jeremy Strong lives in Somerset with a flying cow and a cat.


  Jeremy STRONG

  Illustrated by

  Rowan Clifford



  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3

  (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)

  Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia

  (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)

  Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India

  Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Mairangi Bay, Auckland 1310, New Zealand

  (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England


  Published 2007


  Text copyright ©Jeremy Strong, 2007

  Illustrations copyright © Rowan Clifford, 2007

  All rights reserved

  The moral right of the author and illustrator has been asserted

  Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

  British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

  ACIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

  This is for Maria Baker, her family and all the staff and patients of the Children’s Hospital, Bristol Royal Infirmary.

  I would also like to thank everyone at the Big Ted Appeal and staff and patients of the Children’s Department at RUH, Bath. It is a privilege to be involved with you all.


  1. How I Ended Up in Hospital

  2. How to Make a Mangospoon

  3. How to Talk with an Alien

  4. How to Demolish a Pyramid

  5. How to Make a Promise, Maisie-style

  6. How Not to Score a Goal

  7. How to Escape from Hospital

  8. How to Make an Entrance

  9. How I Start Investigating

  10. How Not to Conduct an Investigation

  11. How Princess La-La Saved My Life

  12. How to Win a Holiday

  1 How I Ended Up in Hospital

  Is life wonderful? No. Am I enjoying myself? No. Am I surrounded by disease and despair? Yes. Which is hardly surprising, because I’m in hospital. Again. Do you think I like coming here? No. In fact I take great pains to try and avoid it but somehow, somehow, I always seem to end up here, often with a great pain.

  Mum says I’m a walking disaster. Dad says I don’t have accidents. ‘You’re an accident waiting to happen, Jack,’ he told me. ‘In fact, you are an accident.’

  ‘A Jackcident,’ sniggered my little bro, Ben. The whole family laughed. Even me.

  You’d think I was tied to this hospital with elastic. The moment I escape – boyoyoing! I come zooming back. Dad says he’s plain fed up.

  ‘I’m fed up with you ending up in hospital,’ he says. (See, told you.) ‘I spend more time here than I do at home, all because of you.’

  ‘Dad, you’re exaggerating.’

  ‘Not a lot. You were here a few weeks ago with a broken foot.’

  ‘It wasn’t broken, Dad. It was badly bruised.’

  ‘And last term you had an operation.’

  ‘The doctors didn’t operate, Dad. They thought they might have to, but they didn’t.’

  ‘I don’t know why you swallowed that coin in the first place,’ Dad said.

  ‘Ben said it would stop my hiccups if I put a cold coin on my tongue.’

  ‘That is unbelievably stupid.’

  ‘I know that now, Dad, but I didn’t know when I did it. I only realized how stupid it was when I swallowed it by mistake. Anyhow, it was Ben who said it. He’s more stupid than me.’

  ‘No, you’re more stupid than Ben. He only said it, and he’s seven, but you actually went and did it, Jack! And then it went straight down the toilet! Talk about chucking money away.’

  Parents are lovely, aren’t they? There you are on your death bed and all they can think about is money. I could have been choking my way to heaven!

  ME: Uhuhh! Urhurrhh! URRRHHH! Dad!


  DAD: Just tell me where the money is, son!


  Oh, now you’re dead! What did you go and die for? Wake up!

  Yep – that’s all the sympathy I get. I’m always having accidents. Some people reckon I am just humongously clumsy. Others think I’m plain stupid. But I can tell you this for sure – I don’t do it on purpose.

  So I’m stuck in hospital, again, and you would not believe how boring it is. What’s the most boring thing you can think of? Socks? School? Auntie Rachel? Whatever it is that you are thinking of I can tell you now it’s not boring enough because my boredom is as BIG AS A PLANET. (Jupiter probably – the biggest planet in the universe.)

  HELP! I AM DYING OF BOREDOM! I NEED VISITORS! (But not Ben – he just winds me up.) Just to prove how bored I am, I miss school. Exactly. That much. I even miss

  my teacher, Mrs Fetlock, and that’s saying something. Do you know what her favourite subject is? Repetition. Here are a few examples of things she constantly repeats.

  ‘Did you hear what I said?’ Secret silent answer: What?

  ‘Are you listening to me?’ Secret silent answer: No.

  ‘Jack Lemming, what did I just say?’ Secret silent answer: Jack Lemming, what did I just say?

  So I am lying here, on my back, twenty-four hours a day. Not allowed to move. Broken leg. Bad break. Top half of the leg, where the big bone goes, the femur. I may never walk again. My life lies in ruins, and my leg lies in plaster. Takes about six weeks to heal – four of them on my back, 24/7, leg covered in bandages and a giant bag of sugar hanging off my foot.

  That’s how doctors cure a broken leg. It’s true. They hang bags of sugar from your toes.

  Yeah – gotcha!! Had you fooled, didn’t I? OK, here’s the truth, and I mean the true truth. There is a weight hanging from my foot, but it’s not a giant bag of sugar. It’s a bag of… well, actually I don’t know what’s in the bag. Could be jam. Or dynamite. Or someone’s brain, left over fro
m an operation. Yuk. What’s in the bag isn’t important, but the weight is, because it helps to keep the leg stretched and straight. It’s called traction.

  Most broken legs aren’t mended like this any more, not in plaster and everything. The doc pins it – not pins like you have at home – big steel pins. You don’t feel it because you get anaesthetized first. When you wake up it’s all been done.

  Unfortunately, and that should be my middle name, unfortunate – Jack Unfortunate Lemming – my leg couldn’t be mended the new, easy way of course. The break was complicated, and the leg got shoved into plaster. Typical. Will I ever get a lucky break? Ha ha. Lucky break! A hospital-type joke. There might be more of those. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

  So I lie here festering and rotting away. Now I know what it’s like to be an apple left in the fruit bowl for weeks and weeks, slowly going mouldy.

  And what have I got to look at while I’m lying here? I will tell you – a small TV and the ceiling. If I turn my head to the left I can see the rest of

  the ward I’m on. It’s not all that big. Opposite me there’s Kirsty, although I call her Princess La-La. She thinks she’s above everyone else because she’s thirteen and goes to secondary school. Big deal. Kirsty has multiple food allergies and all she gets to eat is some horrible slop-stuff. It looks vile but she says she doesn’t care because at least it stays inside her.

  I said, ‘How do you get multiple food allergies?’

  ‘I was born with them, if you must know,’ she muttered. Honestly, having a conversation with Kirsty is like jumping into a patch of stinging nettles, so I shut up after that. Liam didn’t though. Liam never shuts up. He said, what if you’re not allergic to the food? Suppose it’s the food that’s allergic to you? She said he was stupid.

  ‘Is that a medical definition?’ he asked.

  ‘In your case, yes,’ said Kirsty (aka Princess La-La). I think she won that argument. Rats. She usually wins. Double rats. Still, it can’t be very nice for her. There are loads of things she’s not allowed to eat. Chips, ice cream, chocolate, cheese – that’s just a few. Sometimes she has really bad weeks and can hardly eat anything without being ill. Then she has to come into hospital and get fed on the slop-stuff.

  There are two other beds: one’s empty and the other is inhabited by Liam (already introduced). I say inhabited because Liam lives in his bed a bit like a caveman in his cave. His bed is a mountain of sheets and covers and pillows and books and toys and I don’t know what. Liam sits in the middle of it all, staring out, picking his nose and making ‘ugg-ugg’ noises. I’m not quite sure what’s wrong with him, apart from being a complete clown. I did try asking. I said, word for word: ‘Why are you in hospital, Liam?’

  He said, word for word: ‘Can’t find the way out.’

  See? I told you he was a clown. He reckons he should be going home soon. ‘Can’t be soon enough,’ said almost anyone who heard him. He’s a laugh, Liam, and I need all the laughter I can get because this place is killing me, and I don’t think hospitals are supposed to do that, are they? They’re supposed to make you

  better, to help you live – but I am DYING OF BOREDOM. I’ve said that already haven’t I? That’s how bored I am. I hope I get out soon. I’ve got to get out.

  I suppose you’re wondering how I broke my leg in the first place, and that’s where things start getting edgy. Everyone thinks I came off my mountain bike and it’s true, I did. The thing is though that nobody knows why I came off my mountain bike. That’s why I have to get out of here, get out before they come to get me, and they will come, I know they will, because they know what I did. I’m not brave enough to tell you everything yet, but I will, I promise. All I can say at the moment is that it was a tomato-related accident. And someone died. And it was my fault.

  2 How to Make a Mangospoon

  Liam and Princess La-La have only been here a week so far. Loads of people have come and gone since I’ve been here. There was Charlie who had his ears pinned, Beatrice who had one leg stretched to make it as long as the other, Tony who had unidentified spots, Jenny who had her tonsils out, Grace who wouldn’t say what

  was wrong with her (but we all knew and I’m not telling) and lots more besides. You just get to know them and then they’ve gone home, all except for me.

  Now then, if I turn my head to the right I can see… and this is quite exciting… I can see… the wall! Way-hey! Yeah! Cool! A whole wall. My excitement cannot be contained.

  But wait, it gets even better because, if I look up (which is by far the most comfortable position for me, since I am lying on my back), I can see the ceiling! Great, the ceiling. It’s like the wall really, isn’t it, only it’s above instead of at the side and there’s a lot more of it, a great expanse of flat, cream desert. It’s not exactly what I would call interesting. How many times do you rush home thinking, I can’t wait to get back and look at the ceiling!

  One of the things we did in History at school was learn about the sort of homes posh people lived in two or three hundred years ago, and one of the things they did was paint pictures all over their ceilings. They didn’t paint them themselves of course because they were posh. They got other people, some not-at-all-posh people, to

  do the painting for them. Mrs Fetlock took our class on a trip to Bling House – ‘So you can see how civilized people lived,’ she explained. ‘People who knew how to handle a knife and fork properly’ she added, eyeing Megan Morgan very coldly.

  ‘I want to be a knife thrower in a circus when I grow up,’ Megan explained. ‘I was only practising.’

  ‘I don’t remember them throwing forks as well,’ snapped Mrs Fetlock. ‘Besides – it’s very dangerous.’

  ‘That’s the whole point, Mrs Fetlock. It wouldn’t be exciting if it wasn’t dangerous, and I wasn’t doing it with a real person. It was only a dinner lady’s apron.’

  Mrs Fetlock ignored her. ‘Bling House is famous for its painted ceiling,’ she explained. ‘I’ve always wanted to see it myself. I’m really quite excited and I’m sure you are too.’ She beamed down the coach at us. We didn’t beam back.

  We wandered all round Bling House, which had an awful lot of stairs, and finally we came to this great big hall and the guide said that if we looked up we would see the most beautiful painted ceiling in the country. ‘People come from all over the world just to see it,’ she said.

  We looked up and there was this massive picture above our heads. Well! No wonder people came from miles around to stare at it. There were all these ladies with nothing on! Dancing about all over the place. What a way to behave! There were cherubs too – you know, baby angels – and they weren’t wearing anything either, not even nappies. And a chariot pulled by two horses, charging across the ceiling. You could see all their underneath bits. It was a bit much. Mrs Fetlock went very red and started talking rapidly about the floor.

  ‘It’s made of very special wood. Look at the pattern in the wood, Class Six. Isn’t it fascinating? I have never seen such a fascinating floor. Quite amazing.’

  ‘Did civilized people always go about with nothing on, Mrs Fetlock?’ asked Megan, still staring at the ceiling along with the rest of us.

  ‘Fascinating…’ muttered Mrs Fetlock, crouching even lower to study the totally unfascinating floor.

  ‘I expect the posh people were so posh they could have the central heating turned up all year and they didn’t need to wear clothes,’ suggested Harvey.

  ‘The one by the waterfall looks like Mrs Douglas when she takes assembly,’ Megan pointed out, much to everyone’s amusement. Mrs Douglas is our headteacher, and Megan was right. The lady by the waterfall had her arms stretched out on either side, which is what Mrs Douglas does in assembly when she’s telling us to love our neighbours. (She should try living near Mr Tugg. He lives down our street and he’s a maniac!)

  ‘Is that the time?’ cried Mrs Fetlock. ‘Come on, Class Six. We’ll miss lunch if we don’t hurry. Follow me, this way.’

hat was our school trip, and what I reckon is that we ought to paint our ceilings to make them more interesting. I wouldn’t want ladies like the ones at Bling House, or even horses or whatever. It would be a bit much to be staring up at something like that. Suppose you had a herd of cows thundering overhead? You might get whopped by a passing udder. You’d have to wear a hard hat.

  So, nothing like that – but you could have cars! Whopping great monster cars with flames belching from their exhausts, tyres squealing and scattering stones. Or jungle animals – leaping tigers, crashing buffalo, slithery snakes, mad monkeys and rainbow parrots chattering through a forest of rain-dappled leaves.

  And even if people didn’t do things like that in their own homes you’d think they’d do it IN A HOSPITAL WHERE MOST OF THE PATIENTS HAVE TO LIE THERE STARING AT THE CEILING ALL THE TIME!!!

  It would be really good to paint the ceiling above my bed, and I did have a go myself a week or so back. I was SO cheesed off and I told Liam about Bling House and we worked out a plan to redecorate the ward, starting with the ceiling. We had several problems to overcome.

  Problem 1. We didn’t have any paintbrushes.

  Problem 2. We didn’t have any paint.

  Problem 3. We didn’t have any ladders to

  climb up to reach the ceiling, and anyhow I

  couldn’t move from my bed so I would need

  paintbrushes tied to very long poles.

  Problem 4. Nobody would let us do it anyway.

  So we gave up on that idea pretty quickly. But then the next day Miss Crispin comes round – she’s the hospital teacher – and I was looking at the book she gave me about the Romans and there was a picture of a mangonel. (I think that’s how you spell it.) You might be surprised to learn that you know what a mangonel is. You may not know that a mangonel is called a mangonel (I certainly didn’t – until I saw that book), but you do know what it is. It’s that giant spoony-catapulty-thingy that the Romans used to fling great big boulders at the enemy.

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