Authors: Andy Griffiths
He remembered he was still holding his stocks full of skewered UFBs. He drew them together in front of him and pushed himself on top of them, taking advantage of their natural buoyancy to create a makeshift raft.
Not only were the UFBs keeping him afloat, they were giving the bum-piranhas something to chew on while he worked out what to do next.
But he had to think fast.
âWhat now?' said his bum.
âWe need to paddle to the edge of the river,' said Zack.
âBut it's too wide!' his bum said. âThe piranhas will eat the raft before we get there!'
âThen we're doomed!' said Zack, closing his eyes and feeling an immense tiredness engulf him. He couldn't keep fighting. It was time to admit defeat. To die with at least a little dignity.
âWhy don't we jump onto that log?' said his bum.
Zack opened his eyes.
He couldn't believe it.
As if by magic there was a large brown log floating beside them.
âGood idea!' said Zack, reaching across and dragging himself onto the log, just as the bum-piranhas finished off the last of the bum-raft.
Zack stood up, riding the log like a surfboard.
But the brown river was getting wilder and faster and there was a roaring sound in the distance that chilled Zack to his bum.
They were heading towards a giant sewagefall!
Zack tried desperately to point the log towards the bank of the river, but the log seemed to have a mind of its own.
That's when Zack realised the truth.
It did have a mind of its own. Because it wasn't a log at allâit was a poopigator! A poopigator masquerading as a log in order to trap unwary bum-fighters!
Zack cursed his own stupidity.
The oldest trick in the bum-fighter's
Bumper Book of Bums
and he'd fallen for it!
The poopigator lifted its large brown head out of the water, revealing enormous jaws full of large brown teeth, and twisted its neck around to chomp at Zack's legs. Zack jumped back. The poopigator chomped again. Zack jumped back even further. The poopigator lunged around and chomped for a third time. Zack jumped back as far along its tail as he could.
He couldn't jump back any further without falling off completely. He looked down into the river and saw the frenzied mass of bum-piranhas following close behind.
And even if he wasn't chomped in half by the poopigator or eaten by bum-piranhas, he would be killed for sure when they went over the sewagefall in front of them.
And it was no use asking his bum to try to thrust them into the air. The sky was full of even more UFBs than before.
The situation was not good.
In fact it stunk.
It really stunk.
âIf only you'd listened to me, we wouldn't have gone skiing in the first place,' said his bum. âWe could have been sitting at home on a nice fluffy pink toilet seat cover.'
âWell we're not, are we,' said Zack. âWe're about to die! Any last words?'
âYes,' said his bum. âHow could you have been SO DUMB?'
Zack shook his head.
After everything he and his bum had been through togetherâafter facing and defeating some of the most dangerous and terrifying bums in the world including Stenchgantor: the Great Unwiped Bum and the Great White Bumâthey had been brought undone by a common crapalanche.
The poopigator sailed over the edge of the sewagefall.
Zack caught a glimpse of the jagged rocks below.
There was only one thing left for him to do.
Zack sighed, reached down for the fluffy pink toilet seat cover he carried on his bum-fighting utility belt, wrapped it around his head and closed his eyes.
âHOW COULD YOU HAVE BEEN SO DUMB?' yelled the Kicker, violently shaking Zack's shoulder.
Zack blinked under the harsh fluorescent light, trying to understand what was happening to him.
Apparently he wasn't about to be dashed on sharp rocks, drowned in a sewagefall, eaten by a poopigator,
have the flesh stripped from his bones by bum-piranhas, attacked by UFBs or even buried in a crapalanche.
He blinked again and looked around.
He was inside a state-of-the-art bum-fighting simulator.
Buckled, belted and clamped into a black leather chair in front of a wraparound screen. The clamps had been fitted to prevent terrified rookies from escaping the simulator. Once a simulated bum-fighting program began, nobody was able to leave, no matter how scaryâor how hairyâthe simulated bums and challenges became.
Once again Zack marvelled at how overwhelmingly believable the environments and situations created by the simulator were. And, how overwhelmingly terrifying. They completely sucked him in every time, which of course was the whole point. To give the rookie bum-fighters at Silas Sterne's Bum-fighting Academy a chance to virtually experience the threats and challenges of bum-fighting before they actually had to do it for real.
But the fact that Zack wasn't really about to be dashed on sharp rocks, drowned in a sewage fall, have the flesh stripped from his bones by bum-piranhas, attacked by UFBs or buried in a crapalanche was no great cause for celebration.
Zack was in for something which would make any one of these possible fates infinitely preferable: another tongue-lashing from the Kicker.
This wasn't the first simulated bum-fighting episode that Zack had failed. In the three weeks he'd been at
the Academy studying for his elementary bum-fighter's certificate, Zack had died in almost every way it was possible for a bum-fighter to die. He'd been crushed in bumquakes, asphyxiated by stink-tornadoes, thrown off the backs of giant bucking blowflies, squashed by the Abuminable Brownman, run over by stampeding rhinocerarses and, most humiliating of all, gassed by a simulated replica of his own bum.
Because the shiny silver surfaces of the bum-fighting simulator acted like an echo chamber, Zack could barely understand a word the Kicker was yelling as he unlocked the clamps that held Zack in the seat. He did, however, have no trouble picking out key words and phrases such as âHOPELESS!', âCALL YOURSELF A BUM-FIGHTER?!' and âGET OUT, I WANT TO TALK TO YOU!'
Zack took off his helmet.
âThis is all your fault,' he whispered to his bum.
âMe?' it said. âWhat did I do?'
âIf you hadn't done a forward thrust instead of a reverse thrust we wouldn't have gone over the cliff in the first place!'
âTrue,' said his bum. âWe would have been buried in the crapalanche instead! That was a much better plan, Zack. Sorry. My mistake!'
Zack climbed out of the simulator and stepped into the classroom.
The Kicker followed. He stood and faced Zack, his hands on his hips.
âWhat did you think you were doing?' he roared, not waiting for a reply. âWhy have you ignored everything I've tried to teach you? We've been over the
difference between a mountain and a bumcano a hundred times! One is filled with rock and the other is filled withâ'
âYes,' said Zack, cutting in, âI know, but .Â .Â .'
âNo butts!' yelled the Kicker. âYou can learn to fight bums or you can make excuses but you can't do both! What's it going to be, boy?'
âI'm not making excuses,' said Zack, who was getting flustered. âI'm trying to explain .Â .Â .'
The Kicker stepped in close towards Zack and bent down so his face was only a few centimetres from Zack's. Zack shuddered. The Kicker was frightening enough at the best of times, but up this close, he was terrifying.
âListen, boy,' said the Kicker, âI'm not here to listen to excuses OR explanations. I'm here to teach you how to fight bums. Understand?'
Zack bit his lip and nodded.
âIt was my fault,' said Zack's bum.
âShut up!' said the Kicker. âI sure didn't give up my summer holidays to argue with a bum. If it was up to me you wouldn't even be here. I ought to kick you from here to the Moon!'
âAre you going to let him talk to me like that, Zack?' asked Zack's bum.
âWell?' said his bum.
âDon't talk to my bum like that,' Zack said in a barely audible whisper.
The Kicker pushed his head even closer to Zack's. So close that their noses were practically touching.
âDon't tell me what I can and can't do,' said the
Kicker. âDon't forget who you are. When you've kicked as many bums as I have then maybe I'll listen to you, but for now you're not even a bum-kicker's bootstrap. And the way you're going, you'll never amount to much more. Oh, sure, you might think that because you fired a harpoon into the Great White Bum and you've been nominated for the Bum Hunters' Hall of Fame that you know it all, but your performance in the simulator suggests to me that you don't know anything! You've been gassed, pummelled, putrefied, ambushed and sat on more times than I have ever seen any trainee bum-fighter gassed, pummelled, putrefied, ambushed and sat on in my entire life. Bum-fighting is no joking matter. You'd better get serious!'
âI AM serious!' replied Zack, surprised at the loudness of his voice. âIf you'd maybe encourage me once in a while instead of picking on me all the time .Â .Â .'
âOh!' said the Kicker. âSo it's
âI'm not saying that,' said Zack.
âThen what are you saying?' asked the Kicker.
Before Zack could respond, the door opened to reveal the Smacker and Silas Sterne. Their enormous bodies seemed to fill the classroom.
Great, thought Zack. Just great. The only thing worse than being yelled at by the Kicker was being yelled at by the Kicker in front of other people. And not just other people, but two of the bravest and best bum-fighting warriors in the world.
âWhat's all the shouting about?' said the Smacker, placing her large hands on her hips. âWe could hear
you from the other hill. And I've got a terrible headache.'
The Kicker rolled his eyes. âI'm just trying to explain to Zack the difference between a bumcano and a mountain.'
âOh, that's easy,' said the Smacker. âOne is filled with rock and the other is filled withâ'
âI think we're all well aware of what bumcanos are filled with,' said Silas Sterne, âespecially Zack!'
âYes,' said Zack. âI just didn't realise that a bumcano could look so much like a mountain.'
âWell it's about time you did,' said the Kicker.
âTake it easy, Kicker,' said the Smacker. âDon't forget, you were a beginner once too.'
âSure I was,' the Kicker replied. âAnd so was Zack, but he's been here for three whole weeks now and he's failed the simulator every single time he's been in it.'
Zack looked at the floor.
Silas frowned, stroked his chin and studied Zack intently. âI can't understand it,' he said. âYou showed such potential out in the field. The simulator should be a walk in the park for you.'
The Kicker snorted.
Zack shrugged. He was sick of the Kicker. He was sick of the simulator. He was sick of the Academy. He was sick of being called dumb. He was sick of
dumb. And he was sick of bum-fighting.
He looked around the classroom. The blackboard was covered with masses of complicated pictures of bums being kicked and smacked, along with hundreds of complex mathematical equations relating to the precise force with which the kicks and smacks should
be delivered, and the most effective angles to deliver them from. On the bench at the side of the classroom there was a plastic model of a bum with cutaways showing its substructure and internal workings. The walls were covered with various charts on topics such as bum-fighting safety, responsible bum ownership, appropriate bum-fighting clothing and protective gear, bum-fighting weaponry, and bum recognition charts. There was also a class set of
The Bumper Book of Bums
âthe official bum-fighters' encyclopaediaâand at the front of the room, a bust of the greatest bum hunter who ever lived: Silas Sterne.
A few short weeks ago Zack had been excited by all of this, but now it just filled him with an overwhelming sense of tiredness. The truth, Zack realised, was that he didn't belong here. He never had. He'd been lucky, that's all, but now it was time to go home.
The realisation hit Zack with the force of a nuclear bum.
Of course! It was so obvious! Why had it taken him until now to realise it?
It was time to settle down and forget all about runaway bums and bum-fighting. Sure, bum-fighting had its share of highs, but it seemed to Zack that it was mostly lows. Being gassed, pummelled, putrefied, ambushed and sat on wasn't exactly his idea of fun. How could I have been so dumb? he wondered, breaking into a broad grin.
The Kicker frowned.
âSomething funny?' he said.
âNo,' replied Zack. âI'm just happy.'
The Kicker was flabbergasted.
âWell you'd better get UNhappy and get you and your bum back into the simulator. We're going to do this until you get it right.'