Authors: Stuart David
Copyright Â© 2015 by Stuart David
First published by Hot Key Books Limited, London.
All rights reserved. For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to
or to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, New York 10016.
Cover art Â© 2016 by Susanna Vagt
The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows:
Names: David, Stuart, 1969â
Title: My brilliant idea : (and how it caused my downfall) / written by Stuart David.
Description: Boston New York : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,  | Summary: “Jack will do anything to avoid the life his parents want for him.” â Provided by publisher
Identifiers: LCCN 2015018548 | ISBN 9780544699618 hardback
Subjects: | CYAC: High schoolsâFiction. | SchoolsâFiction. |
ParentsâFiction. | Humorous stories. | BISAC: JUVENILE FICTION / Humorous
Stories. | JUVENILE FICTION / Science & Technology. | JUVENILE FICTION /
Family / Parents.
Classification: LCC PZ7.1.D336 My 2016 | DDC [Fic]âdc23 LC record available at
So there I am, sitting in Baldy Baine's science class, staring out the window at a totally Z-list pigeon attacking an old sausage roll, when all of a sudden the Baldy One erupts.
“You, boy!” he shouts, and I turn round to see who he's freaking out at this time. Unfortunately, it's me. “Look lively!” he says. “How do you think I would proceed under these particular circumstances?”
I give the matter my full consideration.
“By sticking your beard in the Bunsen burner,” I almost say. Then I change my mind. The problem is, this is the third time he's asked me a question since the lesson started, and it's the third time I haven't been paying enough attention to know what he's talking about. I scan the room to see if anyone else is offering me a prompt, but they're all just sitting there looking thrilled it's me and not them in the firing line. Baine stares at me, the eyes blazing, and all I can really think of to say is, “What was the question again, sir?”
And that seems to be enough for him on this particular morning.
“Out!” he screams. “Stand in the corridor for the rest of the lesson. And if the headmaster doesn't find you out there, I'll deal with you myself afterward.”
I take one last look at the pigeon, still doing battle with its sausage roll, and then I head for the door. Busted. There's a bit of cheering and a bit of laughing, and Baine goes off the head again, but by then I'm already out in the corridor and it's got nothing to do with me anymore.
And then my life changes.
I'm just leaning up against the wall, staring across the corridor at this poster about not getting pregnant or something, when it suddenly hits me: the Big One. The brain wave I've been waiting for. An idea for an app that's so brilliant, it's guaranteed to make me a millionaire. A billionaire.
I pull my phone out and go online to make sure the app doesn't already exist. While I'm flicking about I'm already thinking up names for the thingâthe Minder, the iKnow, the Class Monitor? I'm firing on all cylinders, and all at once nothing else matters: not the embarrassment of getting thrown out of the class again; not the fact that it's only a couple of months till the first exams; not even the knowledge that I probably haven't taken in a single nanobyte of information all term long, in any subject. None of that can faze me now. This idea is going to set me up for years. For decades. For centuries.
It's total genius.
And then, just when I'm getting into the finer details of how it would work, my thoughts are rudely interrupted by the bell ringing for the end of the lesson .Â .Â .
Randoms start pouring out of the door beside me, most of them making some kind of deeply witty comment as they pass. Usually, “You, boy!” or “Look lively!” Hilarious stuff. I keep my eyes fixed on the pregnancy poster, riding it out, just waiting to see what Baine's got in store for me this time. But here's the thing about Baldy Baine. I mean, he's probably some kind of genius when it comes to chemical reactions and whatever, but that's about as far as it goes. His head is so stuffed with scientific know-how that there's hardly any room left in there for anything elseâfor all the normal day-to-day business like remembering to clean the food out of his beard, or for dealing with the pupil he's thrown out of his class for staring at a pigeon. So, basically, he forgets about me. I wait till the randoms are all gone, and a couple of minutes later my main wingman, Sandy Hammil, comes gliding out of the class and gives me the all-clear.
“Forgotten?” I ask him, and he nods.
“I kept him talking about protons for a while at the end,” he says. “Then he just wandered away into the back room.”
I push myself off the wall and follow Sandy down the stairs, feeling pretty relieved.
“What were you up to in there, anyway?” he asks me. “You really need to start focusing. Two months. That's all we've got now.”
“I know,” I tell him. “But it doesn't matter. I've cracked it, Sandy. I had the Big One.”
He stares at me blankly. “What Big One?” he says.
Big One. The life changer. The idea I've been waiting for. It hit me while I was standing out in the corridor. Baine's made me a millionaire.”
Sandy groans. “Not this again,” he says. “You're not pulling me into another one of your crazy schemes.”
I shake my head. “This is the real thing,” I tell him. “This one absolutely can't fail.”
“Like the bike thing couldn't fail? Like the disaster you pulled me into with the dining hall trays? Like that couldn't fail?”
“Relax,” I tell him. “This one's nothing like that. Anyway, I don't even need you on this one. You're off the hook. This one's an app. All I need to do is find a programmer who'll work for free.”
He looks at me in a disapproving way. “Maybe if you paid attention in your computing class, you'd be able to program it yourself,” he says.
“Maybe,” I agree. “But if I'd gone in for paying attention in class, I'd never have come up with the idea in the first place. That's what the app does. Stops you getting in trouble when you've drifted off.”
Then he says something that almost gives me a heart attack.
“There's already something that does that.”
I can't believe it. I couldn't find anything like that online. My legs go all weak, and I have to grab hold of the banister and take a deep breath. Then I ask him what the thing is.
“Paying attention in class,” he laughs, and the good feeling starts to rise up in me again. I give Sandy a punch on the shoulder and mess up his hair.
“This is it,” I tell him. “This is what I've been waiting for all my life. This is the Big Time, Sandy.”
I'm Jack, by the way. Jack Dawson. Most people call me The Jackdaw. If they don't, I tell them they probably should. I look like a jackdaw. My eyes are gray, and my hair is very black, with white bits in it where the pigment died. Probably from the shock of realizing what kind of life lay in wait for me when all this exam business started. Anyway, it looks kind of weird, my hair, but I like it. So I look after it. Get it cut feathered and sweep it over. Keep it long and short. It's important to look good. That's my point of view, anyway.
No reason to charge about looking like a Z-list pigeon, is there?
Not that I can see .Â .Â .
“What have you got next?” Sandy asks as we cross the playground, and I tell him double history, with Sergeant Monahan.
“No luck,” he says, and normally I would agree. Monahan is insane. But today is different because I sit next to Mark Walker in history, and Mark Walker is a geek extraordinaire. Whenever I'm stuck on anything in computing class, which is most of the time if I'm being honest, I go to Mark. He never lets me down.
“See you at lunchtime,” Sandy says. “I'm off for an easy double in hospitality.” And he heads for the stairs up into the old block, while I cross the playground in the other direction, flying high.
There must have been a moment, some morning or afternoon, when I actually chose to take history. What was I thinking? I certainly can't remember it now, and given the chance again I'd definitely choose something else. Especially if I knew I was getting Monahan. The rumor is, he used to be in the army before he started teaching. I don't know if it's true. I don't even know if the army would take him. I think he's too insane for them. He has very short white hair that looks like a toothbrush that's been used too much, and he's got a big round face that's bright red most of the time, usually from rage. His mustache sort of looks more like a cat's whiskers than anything a humanoid would have on their face, and a lot of the time he wears a bow tie that seems to be strangling him.
I wish it would.
Ten minutes into the lesson today, he already has Fritter Mackenzie standing in front of the class, off to one side, holding a big thick history book out at arm's length, for whistling while he was working on his project. I'm pretty sure it's against Fritter's human rights, but most of the things Sergeant Monahan does are probably against our human rights. Fritter's eyes look all kind of poppy and red while he stands up there, and every time he lowers his arms by a millimeter the Sergeant walks over to him and lifts them back up again until they're at a ninety degree angle to his body.
“Start again,” Monahan tells him. “Ten minutes without moving. You're only making it harder for yourself.”
Fritter's arms are all trembly, and the book is all bobbing up and down. Nobody usually makes it to ten minutes, which means they have to stand up there for most of the lesson.
“I need to talk to you,” I say quietly to Mark Walker, as soon as I get the chance. Monahan has his back to us, writing something up on his flip chart for another lesson, but Mark still doesn't turn round to look at me. He just shakes his head stiffly and stares straight ahead.
“We'll end up out there,” he mutters in a tiny quivery voice.
“Just whisper,” I tell him, but he gives me the head shake again and says nothing.
I look at him and sigh, then tear a page out of my notebook and write, “I need you to do some programming for me. In Objective-C,” and pass it across to him. He turns to look at me as if he thinks I'm a total idiot, which he probably does. Then he flips the piece of paper over and writes on the back of it.
“Do you even know what Objective-C is?” it says. He drops it onto my desk, and I stare at it for a while. Then I tear out another piece of paper.
“I know it's the programming language for apps,” I write. “And I know I need you to help me with it.”
“But I don't know Objective-C,” he replies.
“How come?” I write. “You're in my computing class.”
I drop it on him and he gives me the idiot look again, then shrugs as if to say,
“So, we do Objective-C in there,” I whisper, and he frowns at me, then flips the page.
“No we don't, doofus,” he writes, and at that moment the Sergeant spins round, all on fire.
“Silence!” he shouts. “Who's talking? Who has the gall to disrupt my class?”
All the blood drains from Mark's face. He goes as white as a ghost, and I look down at my desk, certain that his fear is going to give us away. I hit on the idea of staring at somebody else in the room, in the hope that Mark will follow my lead and mad Monahan will assume that's the culprit. I focus my efforts on Amanda Gray, but then I realize almost everyone in the class has gone chalk white and it's obvious Mark's not giving anything away at all. I watch the Sergeant as he glares from face to face. Then he notices Fritter is letting the book slip again and he walks over and takes it off him.