Story Soup 1.14

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Welcome to Story Soup! If you need to catch up with the events so far, you can read the whole story in chronological order here. Thank you to everyone who voted for what Gregory should reply upon being caught by the orphanage director. ‘Other’ suggestions included, “I’m your worst nightmare” and ‘Penny saves the day’. But with 43% of the vote the winning choice is below…

The next instalment will be posted later in the week, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left of the site or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Use your brain, Gregory!

Gregory turned to the orphanage director and said urgently, “Never mind me, he took Einstein’s brain!”

To this, Professor Harvey made a noise which was somewhere between a splutter and a snarl. “That’s absurd!” he exclaimed. “I did no such thing!”

“Yes you did!” Gregory yelled furiously. “You stole it and you want to implant it inside the head of a child—!”

The two began to argue loudly, Professor Harvey growing redder and redder and Gregory shouting at the top of his voice as he exposed the full extent of professor’s plans.

“You only want to adopt that girl so that you can put Einstein’s brain inside her. But she will hate it and grow up desperately unhappy!”

“Please,” Professor Harvey begged the director. “Please don’t listen to him!”

The orphanage director, who was looking incredibly fraught, turned seriously to the professor. “Sir,” he said in astonishment. “Do not think for one moment that I hold any credibility to this child’s ridiculous claims!”

Professor Harvey opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again.

“Of course you didn’t take Einstein’s brain!” the director continued. “Who could fathom such a deed?”

“Quite right,” Professor Harvey said briskly, shooting Gregory a livid stare.

Gregory narrowed his eyes and started to retort but was interrupted by the orphanage director who enquired angrily, “Who are you anyway? And what do you mean by trespassing on my grounds?”

Gregory felt his face grow red as he racked his brains for a reputable excuse. He wondered if he should give a false name but before he could reply, a voice behind them sang out merrily, “Gregory Bedcarrots! There you are!”

Gregory spun around. To his utter relief, there stood Penny.

“Penny!” he said through his breath.

“Please forgive my brother,” Penny said smoothly to the astounded director, in her ridiculously fantastic fake American accent. “He’s a little bit backwards.” She shot Gregory a toothy smile, brimming with all the purpose and charisma of a courageous Rescuer.

Gregory didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Somewhere in the depths of his heart he felt as though it should be he, not she, who played the role of knight in shining armour, but he was so frightened of the orphanage director and Professor Harvey that he could not help but take Penny’s hand when she offered it.

“We’re new to the area,” Penny continued confidently to the stunned director. “Gregory wandered off while we were all busy with the moving van. Please accept our sincere apologies. You are sorry, aren’t you, brother?”

Gregory nodded dumbly.

The orphanage director, now looking at Gregory with a mixture of pity and trepidation said politely, “Oh, that’s quite alright. No harm done.”

They were about to walk away when Professor Harvey exclaimed loudly, “That’s my bag!”

Penny turned in mock horror, glancing at the large brown bag that hung clumsily over her shoulder. “What this?” she asked innocently.

“Yes!” the irate professor snapped.

“Oh, I am very sorry,” Penny continued courteously. “I found it whilst looking for my brother and assumed it had simply been abandoned. I’m a collector of bags, you see.” From over her other shoulder she presented the armadillo bag, who was doing a very good job of appearing to be nothing more than a toy. “I found this one in a smelly ditch!” She gave a little giggle, knowing full well that the bag would get her back for this later.

Gregory, in his nervousness, could not keep himself from giggling too. And once he’d started, he could not stop. Like a school child under strict instruction not to smile when being shown a sex education video for the very first time, he felt the ripples of laughter sliding through his face and causing his lips to quiver. He knew that he ought not to laugh; that their situation was far more desperate than that. But he simply couldn’t help it. This helped him greatly with his efforts to seem a little backwards.

The professor snatched his own bag from Penny’s outstretched arm and said rudely, “Insolent children. They should all be shot.” When the director looked alarmed he added quickly, “Except for the darling that I’m adopting, of course. Is she ready yet?”

The director cleared his throat and said politely, “Perhaps you’d like to come back inside while I fetch her?”

“Wait!” Gregory exclaimed. “Check inside his bag! Check for the brain!”

“There he goes again!” the professor snapped, holding the bag tight to his chest.

“Oh, brother!” Penny said with a little titter. “Don’t be absurd!”

“But Penny!” Gregory insisted. “We have to stop him. He’s going to— Ow!”

Penny had nipped him on the arm. “We’re going home, Gregory!” She pulled his arm and tried to march him away.

But Gregory shook his head and cried urgently, “The brain!”

“Perhaps you ought to open your bag, just to show him that he’s wrong,” the director suggested gently, shooting Gregory a pitying smile.

The professor, who was looking sicker and angrier by the minute, tried to protest but the director would have none of it. “Come on, Harvey! Just show the boy that’s he’s mistaken and he’ll be able to go home in peace.”

Seeing that he was cornered, the professor opened his bag very slowly and deliberately, keeping it turned towards himself. Fear turned into horror as the inside of the bag came into view. “It’s empty!” he said, aghast.

He looked at Penny in dismay but she simply shrugged and said briskly to Gregory. “I told you not to be absurd, brother! Now let’s go!”

Finally taking the hint, Gregory gave a quick nod and then followed Penny down the path, breaking into a sprint as soon as they neared the edge of the grounds.

Turning at the gate, Gregory stole a glance behind them and saw the professor staring furiously after them whilst trying to maintain formalities with the orphanage director who was beckoning him back into the orphanage building.

“Penny!” Gregory exclaimed breathlessly as they turned a corner at the edge of the street. “You’re amazing!”

“Thanks,” Penny said graciously. “I was hiding in the bush when you threw his bag in!”

“That’s fortunate!” Gregory said. Then he stopped and asked anxiously, “Then where is the brain?”

Penny gave him a sly grin and cocked her head at the armadillo bag swinging over her shoulder.

The bag raised an eyebrow and a little glint shone in his button eye.

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