Henry was a hungry baby. He bawled and yelled until he was fed. When the bottle of milk was empty he let out a giant belch and then, he smiled.
Mum and Dad discovered he would chew anything when he was hungry. He tried: earth, grass, worms, wood, cotton wool, coal and the bumper of the car.
Henry grew tall and strong. One day at school his teacher, Mr. Snow took a look at Henry’s homework. “How can I read this?” He said twisting and turning the pages. “Did you invite a family of spiders to have a party here, on the page?”
That afternoon Henry said to his mum, “I hate homework and school. Teachers don’t like me. I think I am really dumb.”
“Of course you aren’t Henry but you will learn a lot as you grow up. After all everyone changes during their life.” Mum said.
“Not in my life.” Henry said kicking his school bag across the floor.
Hopping off the school bus one day, Henry discovered there was no one at home. He tried all the doors, but they were locked. He pressed his nose to the kitchen window. His tummy growled and rumbled, as he saw the apple pie, sitting on the table.
Sticking his hands into his pockets he walked to the low garden wall. The clouds gathered overhead to look at him sitting there swinging his legs. He wished there was someone to talk to.
A leaf tumbled from a tree. It landed on his nose, tickling him and making him giggle. Others floated past. He began to count them. “One, two, three, four-five-six-seven.” Soon Henry was speaking so fast the numbers ran into one another. He liked the sound of this and kept going. He reached the amazing target of one thousand and seventy one, with the odd pause to catch his breath, before his growling stomach drowned out his voice.
Tipping his bag upside down an odd collection of books, biros and crayons fell out. He picked up a piece of ribbon he had pulled from Anne’s hair yesterday. It was blue, not his favourite colour, but Henry was hungry.
Popping it into his mouth he began to chew. A minute later he spat it out deciding it wasn’t his favourite taste either!
He caught a leaf and tried chewing it. He liked the rough and smooth texture of the leaf. But after a minute he decided it was tasteless. So he spat the leaf out.
He picked up his dictionary. Mr. Snow said all schoolbooks were to be treated with great respect. Henry’s nose twitched, as he smelt peppermint. A lump of chewing gum was stuck to the cover. Yanking it off he rolled the gum in another leaf and tried eating the sandwich.
No, he thought, it can’t compete with apple tart. His tummy rumbled in agreement.
The bright yellow and red covered dictionary felt nice in his hands. Henry stared at it. How do you eat a book with respect? He considered the problem carefully. If it were a used book, then it wouldn’t be so bad, he decided and opened the last page of the book.
The last word was; Zucchini. “I like zucchini’s ” he mumbled as he tore the strip out and popped it into his mouth. It didn’t taste too bad.
The first word on the next page was Zabaglione. He frowned puzzled by the strange word. He read aloud. “Italian whipped egg and cream dessert. Hmm, sounds nice. I will eat it after dinner some day.” He promised folding the page up and chewing it.
The dictionary paper was far better than used hair ribbon, and a lot nicer than chewed bubblegum and a dry crispy leaf. Better still his stomach was not as noisy. It had settled down to a pleasant grumble.
He flipped open another page, to Young Person and YWCA . He read the meanings of each word aloud before eating them.
By the time he had worked his way through Yeti and Y Chromosome he decided he liked the taste of the paper and the ink. If he closed his eyes he could pretend it was a crunchy flapjack.
Henry was happy until a thought arrived in his head, if I could remember these words I wouldn’t have to go to stupid school or have to do silly homework, ever again. But Henry knew there was no possibility of that ever happening to him.
Henry was as far as, Wonky, when his mum arrived home.
“‘Oh, Henry. I am so sorry. The car had a flat Tyre. It took me ages to change it, are you OK?” She rushed by him,opened the door. Inside she went straight to the kitchen to get Henry a snack.
“You must be so hungry you could eat a whole,” she paused and looked at him. He was very quiet.
“I should be in a woeful hungry state,” he told her. “And yes you are correct I am so hungry I could eat a horse but I am not hungry at all.” He noticed she was staring at him in a strange manner.
“Oh dear, are you feeling faint or light headed?” she asked.
Henry smiled and said, “No. I am not feeling woozy. But I would rather eat that apple tart than a woggle.”
His mum looked puzzled. “What is a woggle?”
“A woggle is a leather ring, made in Scotland.” Henry said.
“You did learn a lot at school today.” She said watching him swallow a slice of tart in two gulps.
Henry went to bed early. He wasn’t tired. He was thoughtful. Henry had worked out the solution to his homework problem: he would read and eat more books!
When he woke in the middle of the night with a grumbling rumbling tummy Henry ignored the large plate of biscuits on his locker and opened his dictionary. He was staring at the I’s, Index finger, Indiscriminate, and the last on the page Indulge. He smiled
“I know these,” he said to his Buzz Light Year who sat on the shelf ready for action.
At school next day, Henry did not complain once. He struggled a little bit with the maths but he stuck at it and finished the problem. Today was Tuesday and Mr. Snow always gave them a story to write on Tuesday night. Usually Henry hated writing a story but today he was looking forward to it.
“Tonight, I want you to write one hundred words about why you think you should be on the football team.”
“Henry, are you feeling OK?”
“Positively terrific, sir.” He said.
Mr Snow walked over to stand before him. “Are you ill?”
“No. I have never felt better.”
“Hmm.” Mr Snow looked into Henry’s eyes. “Are you certain you don’t have a fever?”
“I’m fine Sir, better than fine, exceptionally well. I am one of the healthiest boys in this class.”
“On this occasion I hope you remember that. And remember to do the one hundred words. No excuses will be tolerated, even if you do become ill.” Mr. Snow’s eyes rested on Henry as he spoke.
When he got home, Henry started on his homework.
I have oodles of speed, he wrote. Speed is, he paused and looked at the dictionary. Henry smiled. He had eaten the S section some days ago. He wrote, rapidity of movement.
Henry discovered writing a story was no problem to him at all. When he was finished he read it aloud:
I will bring the following attributes to the football team,
I have an overall speed that exceeds all of my class-mates rapidity of movement. I was the only boy on the team to play competitively during each one of our last games. (He put this bit in because some of his team had sat on the grass and held a debate about who was the greatest superhero.) I am a relatively calm individual who does not lose his temper or shout at the referee. (Henry laughed as he remembered the fight between his friend James and the boy he was marking. It had been loud and noisy). More to the point I will not make any excessive flamboyant displays. I will be focused on one thing only, getting the ball in the oppositions net.
Henry smiled. That should do the trick he decided and turned his attention to his maths homework.
Next day he was happy. His plan worked. He was picked for the team.
As time went on Henry discovered he had created another problem. It didn’t matter how quickly you did your homework if your teacher kept doubling the amount. He was struggling through the front door carrying so many books when he bumped into his Dad.
“Henry! What have you done wrong to get all this homework?” Dad asked him.
Scratching the top of his head, Henry considered his answer. “I think the problem is I keep getting things right. I think Mr. Snow is testing me, waiting for me to get it wrong.”
“Well I am proud of you son, nice to have a genius in the family.”
Henry didn’t smile. The last time he smiled was before the football letter and that was weeks ago, since then he had finished the dictionary and started on a grammar book.
Before he went to bed Henry asked Mum and Dad. “Would it bother you if I wasn’t a genius?”
“Henry, it wouldn’t matter to us, as long as you are happy,” Mum said.
Dad asked, “Are you cheating?”
Tilting his head sideways Henry said, “No, just reading a lot more books. The words are sticking in my head.”
“I never had that problem,” Dad said. “Nothing stays in mine, I forgot the milk again on my way home.”
On Saturday morning a loud thud and a flash against the window woke Henry. He dressed in a hurry and rushed outside. The bird lay on the ground. Not a feather or limb twitched. Henry felt a tear roll down his cheek. He hoped it wasn’t dead. Henry got a shoebox and lined it with tissues. Next he placed the bird in the box. He thought he felt movement but was unsure.
When his Dad got up Henry showed him the bird. It was sitting as still as a statue staring at them.
“It was stunned Henry, good work. We’ll leave it outside on the bird table and watch it for a while.”
They both smiled minutes later when the bird flew away.
Henry went back to try to solve his problem of being super smart. Remembering the bird he wondered if that could be the answer to his problem. He needed to have an accident and lose his memory. But how do you have an accident on purpose?
Henry thought about this new problem a lot during the next day. He thought about it so much that his best friend Mike began to follow him around.
“Why are you following me Mike?” Henry demanded as the bell rang.
“Because you are dangerous today, you stepped in front of a moving car, almost got hit by the swing doors in the hall and last but not least you nearly fell down the school stairs. Wake up Henry. I can’t follow you everywhere!”
“I’m sorry. Perhaps you shouldn’t follow me because you are jinxing me. I am trying to be a magnet for jeopardy, big and small.”
Mike scratched his head. “Magnet for what?”
“That should be no problem but be careful. I have to go to detention.” Mike said.
Henry went looking for more danger. It was windy so he walked home. He saw a ladder lying against a house. He walked under it. Nothing happened! Next he walked through the park full of waving trembling old trees, but to his disgust not one branch fell on him!
“You would imagine getting clunked on the head today would be an easy thing to achieve.” He said to his Mum.
“Clunked on the head, oh my! Are you ok?” Mum said. Henry nodded his head.
On Saturday he visited his Granny. Henry noticed she was upset.
“Oliver’s missing,” she said.
“I’ll find him for you,” Henry told her and wandered outside to find Oliver, the worlds oldest fattest cat. He found him, sitting on top of the shed.
“How did you manage that?” he asked.
Oliver blinked and stayed where he was.
“I’ll get him.” Henry said.
“Please be careful.” Granny said.
Henry wasn’t listening because he was climbing. Getting up there was easy. It was the return journey with a wailing sharp, clawed cat that was difficult.
One minute he was climbing and the next he was lying on the ground, in a heap with the cat scampering away. Henry couldn’t move. Oddly enough his first thought was, Typical it only happened after I gave up. Then the pain arrived, “Ouch! Help Granny.”
Before he knew it he was in hospital with a large plaster on his head and his broken leg in a huge ugly boot.
Henry was bored after a few hours of lying still. The doctors would not let him go home until they were sure he had not damaged his head. “It doesn’t matter,” he said.
“It does, we have been told how bright you are,” the nurse said as she left some books on his bed. “These are from the doctors they said you might enjoy discovering what they were talking about when they looked at your x-rays.”
Great, books or comic books about super hero’s and space adventures, he thought. He picked up the first one. “The Human Skeleton.” It was a schoolbook for doctors. Henry looked at the pile they were all school books.
“Ahh no. I can’t read any more school books,” he groaned.”However, more importantly I won’t break any bone ever again. I will miss soccer.”
For the next few hours Henry tried to pretend he didn’t like books, teachers or school. But he became bored with no one to talk to and there was a bunch of books sitting beside him. Finally he accepted the fact he needed to see what was between the covers of the books. Picking up the first book he said aloud, “Well there is always plan B.”
(There was never a plan A. What he meant was he could always learn to keep quiet.)
But being Henry, he read it, aloud!
So in time Henry had to create plan C;
Learning how to enjoy being the brainiest kid in school!