Good Reading : June 2005
goodreading 49 tongue, she said.That’s rubbish and crap, that is, rubbish and crap.” When my legs worked I moved for- ward.Two rows along I breathed again. Daniel sat on his own, on the left, near the front, cuddling his anorak. “Don’t worry, Biffo,” he said, “it’s all right, it’s all right.” I don’t think I’d ever been so glad to see him. I didn’t let on. I said, “Cheers, big ears. Budge up.What’s happening?” Amazingly, Daniel knew exactly what was happening. “It’s Adrian Mahoney, Harry. He’s not on the bus.They thought he was, and then they thought he wasn’t and now they’ve decided he definitely is not on the bus.” “But—” “The thing is, Harry, Mr Pratt thinks he might have counted Jason twice.” Teachers were always getting Adrian and Jason confused.They both had wide blue eyes and floppy blond hair and they both loved skateboards and they argued about who supported Man United the best. (It was Adrian. He had actually been to Old Trafford with his dad.) Miss Bliss, our class teacher, called them the Mahoney twins, but they weren’t related. Jason’s real name was Smith. Suddenly, everyone was an expert on Adrian Mahoney. “He was with a lady and a man,” that smelly girl from Dan’s class said over and over again. “He might have left his bag and gone back for it,” said William Plumb, gripping his trousers. The driver’s huge head bobbed about in a cheerful way. He sang snatches of something he had playing on his headphones. It seemed daft to me that the bus was ploughing through the rain on the motorway, what with Adrian miles back in the dark, lost in Legoland, but grown-ups don’t ask your opinion when you’re nine and a bit and they don’t like you to offer it either. The driver sang loud and totally out of tune: “Theeengs,” Bob. Bob. Bob. Bob. “Are geddin much bedda.” If he could have heard himself he’d have died. I went to report my hot new intel- ligence to the boys at the back and found Scurfy in my seat. “But Kylie’s being sick,” he said when I told him to shift it. I heard retching. “Tough.” The lads were impressed that I knew all about everything. I didn’t say Daniel had told me.We instantly came up with millions more ideas than Mr Pratt who was casting wildly about the bus as if Adrian might any moment magically materialise. “Strategy, guys,” said Terry. “We should call the police and go back.” “Yeah, guys, we should call the police,” said Peter who never said “guys”. It was Terry’s word. “We’ll form search parties,” said Terry. “We’ll need four team leaders.” “I’ll be a leader.” “No, Harry.We’ll need super-fast scouts to keep the search teams in con- tact.You’re the fastest runner we’ve got.” I couldn’t argue with that. Any minute Terry might disappear behind the seat and spring out dressed as Super man, he was so brilliant at dealing with disaster. “How come you know so much about it?” said Piggy. Terry looked around like there might be enemy spies, and growled, “I shouldn’t tell you this but my dad’s a big cheese in the SAS.” “What’s the SAS?” shouted Stan, like a moron. “You seen Thunderbirds on TV?” Peter’s round eyes grew like they’d pop out of his head. “International Rescue!” “It’s like that,” said Terry, “only real life and dangerous.” “My Grampa fought in Spain,” I said. “Yeah,” Piggy snorted, “To get his deck-chair first before the Germans nabbed them.” “He got his eye shot out and won some medals, actually,” I said. “Wicked!” said Terry. Terry was most definitely a premier league boy.The way things were going, me and Peter might be battling it out for deputy. As for Piggy, he’d find him- self in the relegation zone if he didn’t watch his form. A howl and a wet stink came out of Scurfy’s row. “Miss! Miss! Come Quick!” he shouted. I put my head round. Kylie was dabbing herself with a tissue. “I’m all leaky, Miss!” I could have told her about those holes. Miss Burton picked her way down the bus, glared at Kylie, and took the bag off her. Scurfy whined, “You’re drippin on me, Miss.” Miss Burton didn’t hear. She dripped all the way to the front of the bus. Lucky I hadn’t left my things in the aisle. “It’s not fair. I’ve got a note and everything,” Kylie blubbed. “My jeans!” “Least it’s your own sick,” said Scurfy. There were sniffer dogs and helicopters with heat-seeking binoculars in our search plan by the time Mr Pratt pulled out his mobile.The way he stared at it you’d think he’d not seen one before. His thin legs trembled.We pulled over at a service station, slowed down and stopped.We all surged forward. “Not so fast,” said a tight voice through the speakers.“Sit down and be quiet.” We all sat down. “Thank you,” said the voice. It was the driver. Sounded like he was in charge. I scooted down to sit with Daniel, taking care not to slip on the sick. “He should have told me straight away,” the driver said. Miss Burton nodded like those toy dogs people have in the back of their cars. Her dangly earrings swung like spaniels’ ears. Mr Pratt yelled into his mobile, “IsaidLforLarry.Notatown. . . No. Legoland. Near Windsor . . . . Hold on. I’m breaking up.” He really was. “I’m still here. Are you there?” Daniel snored. Mr Pratt scratched the back of one goosebumped leg and shouted into his mobile, “Look! We’ve just realised we’re one child short!” That wasn’t true. He’d been dither- ing for miles.