Short story (children’s)

Copyright © 2011 Jerry Dunne

Text Copyright © 2011 Jerry Dunne

Recommended reading age 8 years +

This story is surreal with less powerful language and description than many of my other stories. But the language suits the mood and feel of the story and I didn’t want it to be too long. I wanted the scenes short and fast. This story might be more suitable for the lower age range of the middle reader and even slightly below it, though there are 11 and 12
year olds who are happy with it.

Danny’s Brain

At first his mum and dad had no idea of it. His mum held the new born Danny in her arms, smiling tiredly and dreamily at his little pink face, while his dad stood straight and tall with his chest stuck out proudly.

The doctor who’d just delivered him, said, “He looks a perfectly healthy baby.”

Danny’s mum boasted, “My boy’s the best baby in the whole world.”

“He certainly is,” his dad agreed, pinching Danny’s cheek.

The doctor took the baby off his mum and began to poke around his little pink body. “He’s got two lovely arms and two lovely legs.”

“Yes, he has,” his mum sighed.

The doctor examined the baby’s eyes before pinching his pink ears. He gazed into one of Danny’s ears, and suddenly his eyes widened. “Something’s not quite right here.”

“What is it? What’s not quite right? What’s up with my beautiful little boy, doctor?”

“Usually I need to shine my torch to look inside the ear of a new born baby. But with your Danny there’s no need because daylight’s coming through from the other side.”

Danny’s mum grabbed him off the doctor. “What d’you mean?”

The doctor wrestled the baby back off her and shook him a little, keeping an ear pressed against the tiny head. “Just as I thought,” he said.

“What is it? Give me back my baby!” She lunged for him, but the doctor skipped away from the bed.

“Your baby’s got no brain,” the doctor told her. “That’s my diagnosis.”

*

Danny’s parents were determined their boy would lead a normal life. Even more, that he’d grow up to be very clever. So they took him to a brain specialist to see what he could do.

This doctor gave Danny the once over before saying, “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. I’ve seen babies with all sorts of brains but never until today have I seen one with no brain whatsoever. If you look through one ear you can see clear out the other side. There’s absolutely nothing between your baby’s ears at all. You have a truly remarkable baby, madam.”

His mum’s cheeks grew red as roses. “I just knew my little sweet baby was special. What can you do to make him clever?”

The doctor said, “If he had only one leg, I’d give him an artificial one.”

“But he’s already got two legs,” his Mum protested. “What does he want with another?”

“No, you don’t get it. He’ll need an artificial brain.”

“Can they do that nowadays?” his dad asked.

“What Danny needs is a rubber brain,” the doctor went on.

His dad said, “What a wonderful idea.”

“And I’ve got the finest rubber brains right here in my surgery.”

He went straight to his cupboard and took out several rubber brains of different sizes. Then he held up each in turn against the side of Danny’s head to see which would fit. He settled on the smallest.

“Now for the operation.”

“What operation?”

“I can’t very well squeeze the brain in through his ear,” the doctor laughed. “I’m going to cut off the top part of Danny’s skull and slip the brain in that way.”

His mum bit her lower lip. “But you’ll fix his head right again, won’t you, doctor?”

“I’ll fix a hinge on the back and a little latch on the front, both above the hairline. Nobody will see anything different from the front or back. To all intents and purposes your son can live a normal life. And being able to open up his head means he can take his brain out for a regular washing. But don’t forget to return when his head starts to outgrow the brain, so I can give him a bigger size.”

His mum sniffled, “My sweet boy’s going to have a normal life just like other boys.”

*

As Danny grew he received signals that his brain needed changing. Thump! Thump! With a bigger skull, his brain would loosen and pain shoot all round the inside of his head. A visit to the doctor followed and he got fitted out with a bigger size. All turned out well this way.

Over the years his mum made sure he took good care of his brain. Every night she’d shout up before he went to bed, “Danny, you brushed your teeth?”

And Danny would reply, “Yes, mum.”

Then she’d shout out,” Danny, you washed your brain?”

Every night he carefully washed off the dirt and dust that had sneaked in through his ears or nostrils in the day. “Yes, mum.”

Whenever the hinge on the back of his head began to creak, his dad would squirt a little oil on it. “How’s that, son?” Danny would test it thoroughly by opening and closing the top part of his head, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly. His ears would be on full alert, for if he still heard any little creaks his dad would squirt on more oil.

*

Though his parents were very proud of him, Danny himself felt ashamed of his rubber brain; but he kept his sadness to himself. Here’s why he felt this way. Once, after gym, Danny unlatched his head and took out his brain because it felt dusty and dirty and he wanted to give it a good scrub. While running it under tap water he felt a tense silence gathering around him. He turned to see the other boys staring big eyed and open mouthed at his open head. For thirty seconds not a single boy moved. No one said anything.

One boy, Perry Rash, suddenly exploded with laughter. Then they all burst out laughing. The laughter tore at Danny’s ears.

“See what Danny just did?” Perry cried out, stepping forward and shoving Danny.

“I can‘t believe it!”

“Why’d he do that?”

“Weirdo!” Perry shouted.

Perry Rash grabbed Danny’s brain and tossed it to another boy. “It’s made of rubber.”

“Rubber brain! Rubber brain!” they all chanted. “Danny’s got a rubber brain!”

Danny pressed his hands against his ears but their taunting still pierced through sharp as needles.

“It’ll make a good football,” Perry roared.

They passed it to one another, bouncing it off their knees, chests and heads and all the time laughing and jeering at Danny. He ran from one to the other, pleading for it back, but he looked like a footballer who couldn’t get a single touch on the ball. In the end he threw up his arms, doubling over and gasping for breath. It was so difficult doing anything without a brain in his head!

They kicked his brains about until the PE teacher shouted into the changing room, “Knock that racket off!”

*

One time, while waiting for the teacher to turn up for the lesson, everyone started complaining about maths. One boy said, “Maths makes my brain spin round and round like a washing machine.”

Danny’s eyebrows arched with a sudden idea. He ran out of the room to the broom cupboard. He grabbed a broom, smiling. They’ll really like this trick, he told himself. He ran back to the room.

He whipped his brain out and balanced it on top of the broom handle. Then he raised the handle high above his head. “Maths really makes my brain spin,” he declared, and twisted the broom handle round and round to make his brain spin like a plate.

The boys’ eyes shone in amazement.

One said, “That’s so cool.”

But another voice hissed, “You can’t do maths, rubber brain. All you can do are stupid things.”

Perry Rash hurled a textbook across the room. It knocked the spinning brain off the top of the broom handle. Danny caught it before it hit the floor and at the sound of Perry’s laughter stuck it straight back in his head.

The others joined in, laughing like loudspeakers at full volume.

*

One night, Danny woke up hot and restless. He threw back the duvet and jumped out of bed. He pulled off his sweaty pyjama top, gulping in huge breaths, trying to steady his restless thoughts.

Opening up his head, he took out his brain and held it in his hands like a heavy weight. Every day his classmates’ mocking laughter rang in his ears. “Rubber brain! Rubber brain!” A shudder passed through him. He could hear the words right here in the room.

He never let his parents know his true feelings, and always smiled for them. But here in his room his sighs echoed long and meaningful. With his brain tucked under his arm, he paced the room in his bare feet like a lion in a cage.

He said aloud, “I really don’t get it. So what if I’ve got a latch on my head and a rubber brain inside it? What’s the big deal?” He stopped pacing and punched the air. “Why do they always taunt me? It’s not like I can’t do what they do. What’s the matter with them? Are they mad?”

With the brain in his open hand, he drew back a trembling arm, flexing his muscles. His throat rumbled with a deep growl as his hand shot toward the far wall. The brain bounced off the wall and flew straight back at him. Thump! It hit him on the side of the head. He felt a wobble starting in his head and then rippling downward to his feet. Like a skittle he crashed to the floor.

*

On his way home from school one afternoon, with his shoulders slumped and his head hung low, tired of the usual teasing from his classmates, a man running from his house caught his eye. The man wore dark clothes with a flat cap pulled down over his brow. In one hand he clutched a black bag. He jerked his head round as though worrying someone was giving chase.

His mum appeared on the doorstep, waving her arms about wildly and screaming, “Stop thief! Stop thief! Oh, please someone do something! He’s getting away with my jewellery!” Her eyes fixed on Danny, “Oh, son, do something!”

The running thief was fast getting away with his mum’s jewellery. Danny glanced up the street both ways. Deserted. He’d not be able to outrun the man, so what should he do?

“Use your brain, son! Do something!” his mum shouted.

An idea fired up in his mind. He tugged open the top part of his head and whipped out his brain. He drew back his arm, taking careful aim, filling his chest with air. He felt the adrenalin shoot through his limbs and quicken his heart. His body shot forward, his arm spun like a propeller’s blade and the brain went twisting high into the air.

What a shot!

It hit the thief on the back of the head and he collapsed on his face.

They wrote about Danny in the newspapers.

Small boy catches the clever and famous thief, Lucky Sid, robbing his house. Lucky Sid had been at large for years, stealing whatever he fancied, whenever he fancied, and not even all the combined police forces in the country ever came close to catching him. But a ten-year-old boy ends his career. A mere boy outsmarts Lucky Sid and saves his mum’s jewellery, and does so by using his clever brain.

“Told you so,” his mum said to anyone who’d listen. “Told you my boy had brains. Now everyone knows it.”

*

Perry Rash lived in Danny’s street and from his bedroom window had seen the thief running away. He’d run down the stairs and out the front door and shot off after Lucky Sid. But just ten yards into the run he tripped on a flagstone and hit his head on the ground. When he scrambled to his feet, rubbing his head, he was just in time to see Danny’s brain hitting Lucky Sid. Perry had turned deep red, and told himself, “Just a lucky shot.”

Back indoors he stuck the plug in the sink and turned on the cold tap. Steam hissed off his hot face when it touched the cold water.  He kept it under for thirty seconds but afterwards his face still burned uncomfortably.

“Just a lucky shot,” he repeated in a hoarse whisper.

In school Perry spread lies about the incident. “Danny’s brain just fell out of his head and rolled along the street. Then the thief tripped over the brain and banged his head off the ground. The thief’s as stupid as Danny.”

“Are you serious?” someone asked.

Perry looked everyone in the eye and said, “I saw the whole thing from my bedroom window. His mum made up that stuff in the newspapers.”

“Ha! Ha! Ha! What a mummy’s boy.”

“He’s a fake.”

“As fake as his brain.”

“Where is he now?”

When they found him they shoved him around.

“Hold him down!” Perry said.

Several pinned down his arms and legs and despite Danny’s desperate struggling Perry tore at the latch on his head and stuck his hand inside. Danny’s breathing erupted in short throaty gasps as Perry snatched out his brain.

“Here’s the stupid rubber brain,” he snarled.

They threw it to each other. Then they kicked it to each other. Eventually, bored with that they rolled it about in the dirt. Danny sat on the ground, watching them, chest heaving in and out, arms and legs heavy with exhaustion from the struggle. One boy kicked the brain high in the air and it smashed the teachers’ common room window. They all scarpered, leaving Danny to explain to the teachers why his brain had ruined their lunchtime rest.

*

Danny’s mum knew her boy’s constant smile hid troubled thoughts. Several times she overheard children on the bus discussing him. One time she heard,

“What kind of kid keeps a football in his head?”

“That weirdo makes me sick.”

“I’m going to tease him again tomorrow. It’s great fun.”

She knew one of these boys lived in her street but she never talked to him. Neither boy discussing Danny in this nasty way knew she was his mum.

Because of the bullying she constantly looked out for ways to help him feel good about himself and about his brain in particular. Not long after the incident with the thief, while searching through the newspapers for more wonderful things about Danny, she discovered an interesting bit of news.

“Lookee!” she said to her husband. “Says here they’ve just invented a computer more intelligent than any human brain. Can you believe it?”

“Load of rubbish,” Dad reckoned. “Nothing’s more sophisticated than the human brain.”

“Course it isn’t. You only gotta look at our Danny to realise that. What a cheek saying they got a computer smarter than our boy. I’ve a good mind to write… Hold on a mo! What’s this? You listen to this, our dad! Says here the inventor of this computer,” her voice blazed with fire, “Professor Knowitallstein, reckons he’ll give a million quid to anyone who has a brain that can beat his computer.”

“A million quid! He’s a liar!” Dad reckoned. “Those scientists never have any money. Everyone knows they’re always on the scrounge for grants and stuff.”

Her eyebrows rose up into a happy arc. She’d just realised a way to boost her son’s confidence and make the others in the school respect him.

She stabbed the newspaper with her finger and said, “Wait till I get my hands on this Knowitallstein. I’ll give him a piece of my mind. Coming out with nonsense about a machine being smarter than our Danny. What’ll they think of next? Here! Let’s see him put his money where his mouth is.”

“He won’t pay up. Scientists never have any money.”

“What’s the name of that reporter who wrote those nice things about Danny?”

“They all wrote nice things about Danny.”

“Yes, but the one who said he’s a really wonderful boy and a credit to his parents. I’ll give him a ring and ask him to set up the match between Danny and this loud mouth’s computer.”

*

The room bubbled with noise and excitement. Eight TV cameras pointed right at Danny. Cameras flashed continuously. Journalists fired questions at his mum and dad.

Danny sat at a round table opposite the computer and the scientist. He fiddled with his hands, his eyes flitting from the computer to the scientist and on to the reporters and cameras and then to his mum and dad who caught his eye and gave him an encouraging smile. His feet tapped off the floor. A woman journalist asked him a question but he didn’t hear her.

He’d only come to make his mum happy. He didn’t want to disappoint her but how was it possible to beat this machine? He narrowed his eyes at it. Bigger and sleeker than a normal computer, it made a low strange buzzing noise like a giant bee. He wriggled about in his seat as though a pin was stuck under him.

The judge rose to his feet. “Quiet everyone. The contest will now begin between the boy and the computer!”

“Right,” snapped the scientist, glaring down his nose at Danny. “I’ll ask you a question and I’ll ask the computer the same question.” The scientist’s look suggested that Danny was nothing more than a fly to be swatted out of sight. “Whoever gets it right the quickest wins the point. I’ll ask ten questions in all and the best out of ten is the overall winner.”

“What happens if it’s a tie?” someone asked.

The scientist’s lips curled up into a thin smile. “It won’t be.”

“You bet it won’t,” Danny’s mum roared. “Our boy’s in brilliant shape.”

The scientist turned his back on her. As he read out the first question he typed it into the computer keyboard. “What is the computational measurement of 86,000.8887 divided by the prime of the hexagonal ratio, and then divided by its overall exponential?”

Danny’s eyebrows shot up. What language was the scientist babbling? He glanced at the many faces staring at him expectantly and thought he’d better say something. So he made a long, “Uuuuuh,” and scratched the side of his head.

The scientist said calmly, “Look at the screen everyone. The computer has just worked out the answer to this very difficult question. The answer is 787858697839486576666.6979787.

Many heads nodded and mouths mumbled in admiration. More cameras flashed, blinding Danny. He gulped hard, his throat dry.

After the second question the same thing happened. Danny made a long, “Uuuuuh,” while the computer answered in a moment.

“Don’t worry, son!” his mum reassured him after he’d failed to answer anything except “Uuuuuh,” for the first four questions. “You’re still finding your feet. You know what to do when the time’s right. You‘ve got the brains for it.”

But now sighs of admiration were all directed to the computer and cameras no longer flashed in his direction. Danny’s chest felt tight.  How could he turn things round?

When the scientist asked the fifth question the computer answered it so quickly that Danny hadn’t even time to get in an, “Uuuuuh.”

The computer led by five points. He must get the next five answers correct and in first or he’d lose the contest. Even then it would be a draw. With such an important question coming, the air grew tense and quiet.

The scientist started to ask the question. His lips moved but Danny didn’t hear the words, only feel the computer’s bee-like buzzing vibrating in his ears. All the school were watching this contest and they’d see him lose miserably. Perry Rash would mock him to the ends of the earth after this. What in the world was he supposed to do? His mum’s eyes were sparkling with confidence.

Her enthusiasm made an idea spring into his head and he sat bolt upright. What was this whole contest about? What was the challenge? He needed to beat the computer using his brain. That’s all he had to do and he’d be the winner. The scientist’s face glowed with arrogance as he finished asking the sixth question, his fingers tapping on the computer’s keyboard.

A rush of air swelled out Danny’s chest and he jumped to his feet. Eyes and cameras turned his way. He opened the top part of his head and whipped out his brain. The whole room breathed out a noisy hiss.

Gripping his brain tightly with both hands and throwing all his strength into it, he began beating the computer this way and that. The scientist shrieked in horror. Soon bits and pieces were flying everywhere, making zinging, zanging, binging and pinging noises. People’s hands shot up to protect their faces against the flying bits. Balls of white, blue and black smoke puffed out of the machine. It crackled like crushed dry leaves, popped like burst balloons, sizzled like frying sausages and let off steam like a whacked-out engine. Bright silver sparks leapt up and somersaulted in every direction like circus fleas. Eventually all its fussiness disappeared as it fizzled out completely, leaving behind a burnt out skeleton with tiny wisps of silent smoke rising slowly out of it.

Danny’s parents threw up their arms and cheered, “Our boy’s a genius. Our boy’s brain has beaten the cleverest computer in the world. Put the cameras on him! Take nice pictures! Write lovely stuff about him! This is one of those historiological moments.”

The scientist’s face turned dark. “D’you know what it costs to build a computer like this, you stupid woman?”

“Don’t talk to her like that!” Danny’s dad warned him.

“Twenty million pounds,” the scientist roared, glancing about at everyone.

“Twenty-one million,” Danny’s mum shot back.

The scientist furrowed his crimson brow. “What?”

“You owe us a million. My boy beat your computer.”

The scientist shook his fist at her. “He’s destroyed my work.”

“No need for threatening behaviour,” his dad snapped.

The judge stepped forward with a calm look on his face. “Most extraordinary! Most extraordinary! But I’m afraid Danny’s mum is right. You agreed that if the boy beat your computer using his brain you’d give him a million pounds. And he did. So you owe him a million.”

“That isn’t the way to do it.” The scientist said, trembling with rage. “I didn’t mean it that way. This is absurd.”

The judge’s cheeks reddened. “If you didn’t mean it that way, you should have said so earlier. But that’s the way you agreed to it.”

“That’s the trouble with you fellows,” Dad wagged a finger at him. “You think you know it all. But you don’t know the half of it.”

“Pay up and learn a good lesson from this,” the judge said, and the tone of his voice left no room for argument. “Three cheers for the winner!”

*

Back in school they cheered him, “Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! You’re brilliant! What a clever way to go, Danny!”

“He’s clever, isn’t he?” one said to Perry Rash.

Perry Rash’s silence made them all turn and stare at him. His face coloured green and his mouth erupted with, “Go away, you stupid lot! You’ll believe anything.”

They did go away – to be closer to Danny.

*

Just think! Danny had been born with absolutely no brain, yet when still only a boy he beat a scientist’s great computer. Just shows what you can do in this world, even starting off with very little, or even nothing at all (as in Danny’s case), if you just put your mind to it.

THE END

You can buy Jerry’s books on any Amazon site. They are also for sale in many of the other online stores such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords.

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