Diego smiler may have a strange name, hardly any friends and a family who doesn't appreciate him, but he aspires to be a young inventor. When his latest and most sucessful invention, the Cool Collar is completed, Diego's life takes a turn for the better. But the Cool Collar, whihc allows canines the capability to speak in perfect english, has unlocked a part of the dogs brains, and now they can do anyhting they want. The dogs soon decide to take over the world.
The day I invented ‘Cool Collars’ was the day I changed humanities’ views on dogs forever. Although it was a great invention, it brought on what could only be referred too as the animalistic apocalypse and I, the young inventor of such a collar, was to be blamed for it all.
By the way, I’m Diego Smiler, a rather unfortunate name. And no, I am NOT a sabre toothed Tiger from the ice age with a mammoth and a sloth for best friends. I’m an ordinary 14 year boy from Meridian school who wants nothing more than for his inventions to become famous. To have a second name Smiler, which of course was almost like a shortened version of Smilodon, the creature with whom I share my name, is not the best ways to be ignored by the other kids. You may as well stick a sign on my back saying “I’m Diego Smilodon from the ice age; please make fun of me whenever possible”.
But the reason I am writing this is not to tell you about my horrible school life and lack of friends, but to tell you about how I invented the gadget that would signal the almost destruction of the human race.
My story starts on a regular school day, a day promising the boredom of maths and double science, with only an hour of people mocking me at lunch to look forward too. I manage to make my way to my first lesson of the day without any crude roaring sounds that often greet me when I walk through the main hallway of the school building. Somehow, I manage to slip past a gang of kids blocking the doorway, probably waiting for my arrival.
As quietly as I can I slink into the maths room and take my seat next to Joe Talfor, my best and only friend. He is lucky with his name and I envy him for it; no one can twist Joe Talfor into some joke made to amuse everything but the poor kid it concerns.
“You Ok Smiler?” he asks good-naturedly. He is the only human being alive who I don’t mind calling me Smiler. It actually sounds better than Diego.
“Yeah, you?” I answer simply.
“I’m alright thanks” he answers, then turns his head towards the teacher, who is trying to explain the importance of getting homework in on time. Joe flicks through his homework diary, pulling out sheets of unfinished homework, trying to find the sheet he needed. I could tell by his sly grin that he had not completed his homework, probably hadn’t even considered it.
“What’s the excuse this time?” I laughed.
“The dog ate it, I suppose” Joe replied , shrugging his shoulders.
“And how many times have you used this excuse?”
“Dunno. The teacher might start to think I’m lying” Joe said.
“You are lying though. What you need is photographic proof of your mutt” I suggested.
Joe’s dog is called Mutt. She’s a five year old mongrel and Joe has no idea what sort of breed she is. Hence the name Mutt. She has a long brown coat of silky fur, a curled tail placed permanently atop her back and floppy ears that bounce up and down whenever she trots about. Mutt is in fact my own dog, Dosi’s, mother. Dosi was born into a litter of five, the other four of her siblings, two brothers and two sisters, were promptly adopted. Joe had become attached to Dosi, who was the runt of the litter, and hadn’t been ale to give her up. I suggested that he give her to a relative or a close fiend, and he handed her to me as soon as she was eight weeks old.
She was such a lovable bundle of white fur, bounding around, knocking things over and never failing to trip my brother Leo over. Dosi, unlike her mother, had a wiry pelt. She had the same tail and the same ears, but she possessed an amusing beard that was always getting dirty whenever Dosi found it necessary to dig for rabbits. It was Dosi that gave me the idea and the inspiration for my invention. She was always barking at me and, because I never had anything better to do, I bought a book about dog body language ad the meaning of the barking noises. Although it did help me to understand her mood, I always felt at a loss to what she was actually saying. One day at the park I saw her playing with another dog, yapping in a high pitched voice, and I wished I could understand her properly.
The very next day I began sorting out my ideas and putting pen to paper.
For the next hour we endure a lesson on algebra (which is the worst possible math subjects of all time) then we all trudge off to science, our spirits low and our happiness crushed by the typical Friday morning mood that always manages to mess with us, however positive the attitude is. Although it may be Friday and the end of the week, we still have to endure six hours of school, rather than an early release. I and Joe line up right at the very back of the line, not wanting to get involved in any of the regular fights or to be laughed at.
As we all saunter in, I suddenly long for home and the safety of my bedroom, along with my wonderful computer and the TV. I want to be at my desk with a large sheet of plain paper in front of me, ready for my ideas to flow like a river. I want more than anything to be able to design and invent, as I have done for quite a while.
The whole reason I am not successful is because most of my gadgets are very dangerous and very unsuccessful. Take last week for example:
I was innocently tweaking with an invention I called the ‘Card Game’ which was nothing more than a trading card with a mini computer attached to the front. The sole purpose of the device was to be like a mini gameboy and I had just completed adding the controls for it. I handed the games console to my twin brother, Leo, and he tested it out for me. But, as soon as his fingers hit the buttons, a bolt of static ran through his hand and shocked him, causing him to shake and spasm almost as if he was having a fit. Somehow, the miniature blast knocked him out and I, along with my faulty invention, quickly left the scene.
That’s right, I mentioned a twin brother. Leo, Leonardo Smiler to be exact. I am five minutes younger than him, look exactly the same and live in the same house and share a bedroom. We both have handsome features (although my ridiculous name means I am never noticed), the same blonde hair, the same brown eyes and the same sense of fashion. We are both exactly one metre and fifty five centimetres tall, although Leo does sometimes spike his hair up to make himself look taller than me, and both have our birthday on 16th September, which means we are both fourteen years old, and in year nine at school. But we are as different as chalk and cheese. Whereas he is quite popular and has the thinking capacity of a plankton, I am smart, quick thinking and unpopular. Also, he does not get laughed at for his name, in fact he is sometimes praised by it.
Being good at art, he gets called Da Vinci, like his name sake. So basically, I’m a Smilodon and he is a brilliant artist. That sounds fair. I often question my mother about our name sakes.
“How come I’m a sabre tooth and he gets to be a famous artist?” I would often say. My mother always replies in the same way, “Diego is also the name of an artist”.
But what my mother doesn’t realise is that the thick people in my school will often notice my resemblance to a cat first, and with a surname like Smiler the artist side of my name never gets noticed.
Anyway, I was talking about science. Science is ok when physics is involved and I can play with batteries and ammeters and the like, but today is biology and I have forgotten my homework.
Recently in biology, we have been learning about mammals, and more specifically the dog. This may sound quite fun and I do like dogs, but what they say about the teacher being a main influence on the mood of the lesson is true. Mr Lucken can’t make a lesson even remotely interesting even if he had a box of fireworks to start the lesson off and a real life dog with him.
As I take my place next to Joe the teacher, like my maths teacher, begins the lecture abut homework. This lecture is repeated in just about every lesson and in assemblies every Wednesday. You sort of get sick of it after a while.
Joe leans back on his chair, relaxed and without a care in the world. I wish I could be so carefree. But I wish many things, and maybe one wish will come true late, when I return home to perfect my blueprints.
The teacher begins handing out sheets of paper, and when I receive one I all I can see is a big picture of a dog, crudely drawn, right in the centre of the age.
“What’s this?” Joe asks.
“Its a worksheet I expect you to do for homework. You just need to name all the parts of a dog on the picture. Most written down gets a prize” Mr Lucken replies.
I groan to myself, once again wising I was able to invent a way to talk to dogs. Dosi could hep if she could talk to me. There was no way Leo would let me on the computer, even if my mother asked him nicely.
Joe rips his sheet in half, and shoves the paper into his bag.
“The dog did it” he whispers to me. I cannot hep but laugh loudly, and it echoes throughout the science room. The teacher was in the middle of explaining the homework to us, and the prizes was offering when the outburst escaped my mouth. He turns in my direction and opens his mouth, ready to shout.
“Wait outside, Mr Smiler” he orders, in a tone quieter than expected.
Not wanting to argue myself into a detention, i get up and leave the room swiftly. A small part of me wants to shout at Mr Lucken, to tell him there is no law against laughing along with a fiend, but that tiny part of e is dominated by the sensible part. Call me a nerd if you will, but I want to do well in school.
I stand just outside the door, peering in through the glass and watching the teacher pointing to a picture of a canine on the board. I am eager to learn, even from behind a wooden door. Joe spots me from the back of the room and sticks his middle finger up as a joking gesture. I return the gesture but look back to the teacher, who is now facing me.
Because I am looking at him and have my middle finger up, he thinks the gesture was meant for him. I can see his face go red and he marches over to the door, opens it and pushes me into the hallway.
“Detention, Mr Smiler!” he yells, and marches back into his room. I want to ay something back, but by the time a decent comeback has popped into my head, he is back at the board.
Anger is rising gradually within me and I want to shout. Instead of standing in the hallway, waiting to be let back in, I storm down the hallway and take a sharp left into another corridor. I am now fed up of being the teacher’s pet, only to be repaid with detentions.
I am blocked from going any further down the corridor by a group of boys, at least a year older than me, taking up the whole width of the hallway with their bulking forms.
“Going somewhere, Diego” one of them spits.
Although that is my name, the way he says it is offensive to me, and I can tell it’s an obvious joke.
“To the toilet” I reply quickly. I can see they are not going to move out of my way anytime soon, so I step forward and try to push into them. I am briskly shoved back, my feet skidding against the tiled floor.
Te anger increases and, before I can stop myself, I swing my leg around furiously and land a hard kick straight into the crotch of the nearest student.
He buckles over and lies writhing on the floor, holding onto his legs and wining with pain. I didn’t even kick him that hard. Without a second though a rush through the open space before any of the bullies can act and sprint down the hallway.
I only stop when I am safely locked up in one of the cubicles of the main school toilet.
Panting for breath, because I was not ready for the run, I sit on the lid of the toilet and wonder to myself how I am going to get out of this mess.
“That was a close one” a voice coming form the cubicle next to mine says.
I gasp, and can hear someone pushing their feet onto the toilet roll holders that reside on the wall of every school toilet. The holder creaks, and I see a pair of hands grasp the top of the cubicle wall.
Then suddenly Leo’s face appears.
“That was an awesome kick. I think you do have some potential in you after all” Leo giggles.
“It wasn’t funny, and I was angry” I retort. He looks at me with pride, as if seeing me for the first time in a new light.
“Don’t try to stick up for them. What you did was pretty sweet”
I wonder why Leo, the perfect and popular Leo, is praising me. He must have ulterior motives. Le stares at me for a few moments more, then jumps down form his perch and unlocks his door.
“Step outside” he orders, in a soft voice I recognise as the voice he sues when he wants something, or is trying to clear his name.
I do as I’m told, knowing if Lo has nay other motives, it will be a whole lot better than whatever Mr Lucken can dish out for me.
“I think It’s time you joined my” Leo smirks.
“Join the dark side, you mean?” I snicker. Leo, surprisingly enough, laughs along with me. I am really starting to get freaked out by his bizarre behaviour.
“Yeah, I suppose that is what you would call it”
“Why are you helping me, you never help me?”
I am curious as to what his terms would be.
“I do help you, all the time” Leo counters, sounding outraged by such an accusation. A true accusation at that “But I’m fed up with everyone taunting and teasing you. Why can’t you be Diego, the fearsome Sabre tooth, instead of the nerdy cat that everyone thinks you are”
I fold my arms across my chest and act as if I believe every word he is saying, although no one should every trust Leo.
“It’s brotherly love” he tells me sweetly. I know better than to trust him, especially when he adopts the sweet voice.
“What did you have in mind?” I ask, perfectly aware it will be something outrageously stupid.
“Bunk of school with me”
I sae my head and start heading back out into the hallway. He grabs my shoulder and hauls me back into the toilet, his face serious.
“If you go back and wait for the teacher to punish you, everyone else was right and you are a nerdy cat. If you come with me I promise everyone will know what you did. You will be popular and loved, and I won’t tell mum you kicked someone in the balls”
His argument is fair and, I think to myself, what I have to lose? Its not as if I can sink any lower at school, now that I am unpopular AND no longer have the backup of the teachers, not after Mr Lucken spills the beans about my behaviour to the other teachers.
“Fine, but only because I still have another lesson of science I’m in no mood to endure”. This comment sends a smile across my twin’s face, and I am certain he is planning something. Still, it would be nice to skip school for a bit.
Leo sticks his head out of the door, scanning the hallway for any sign of the kids that blocked my way. When he finds no trace of anyone, he steps outside and, pulling me along with him, starts jogging down the hallway.
You may think I was a bit stupid; going off with my troublemaking brother, going away with him where no one could protect me. I’m not saying my brother is a maniac hell-bent on hurting me, but he does have his moments when we fight. He always wins. That’s why I’m nervous.
Hurriedly Leo drags me through the maze of corridors and heads towards the hall. No doubt he wants to pick up some of his thicko friends, that way they can all have a turn at beating me up. But instead he drags me straight past the hall and into the dining room.
“Where are we going?” I ask innocently, my voice strangled by the collar of the blazer that’s digging into my neck as Leo pulls me.
”I’m hungry. We’re gonna get some food because I left my money at home” he answers.
Dread worms its way into my stomach; surely we will be caught.
As we approach the canteen door I can see its locked. I’m about to mention this small flaw to our plan when Leo produces a key from his pocket. I glance at him with confusion, then he explains, “I was sent to the headmaster’s office today for disruptive behaviour” he says, adding in quotation fingers “when the headmaster left to grab a drink, I stole the keys on his desk and left”
I roll my eyes to the ceiling, and allow him to unlock the door. He strides in confidentially, unaware that at any moment one f the cooks could stroll in and find him crouched over the slices of pizza and boxes of chips they had prepared for break time.
Leo grabs a couple of slices of pizza and wraps them in some serviettes, and beckons for me to do the same. Unsure of myself, I take some chips and pocket them, snatching one or two and eating them quickly.
When my pockets are stuffed with chips and Leo can no longer hold any more pizza slices, we decided to leave, bolting for the door as soon as we hear the bell signalling the end of first period. At the end of the first lesson of the day, and of every lesson, there is five minutes until the next lesson begins. A lot of pupils come down to the cafeteria to buy snacks and hot chocolate from the machine in the dining hall. If one of the nerds sees us with a whole supply of unpaid food, we will get grassed up in no time.
Nerds. I’ve been with Leo for five minutes and already I’m beginning to think of myself as special. I really need to sort myself out otherwise I will end up like another of Leo’s gang and that is not something I intend to do.
“I’m just gonna get Joe” I say as Leo shoves the main school exit open.
“With pocketfuls of chips and an angry teacher after you?”
“I’m not asking for your permission, I’m gong to get Joe. I’ll meet you outside the front gate”. Before I can go and search for my best friend Leo grabs my collar, after slipping the pizza into his pockets, and yanks e out of the door. You may be wondering why a kid who’s only five minutes older than me is managing to drag me around so much, but the answer is simply that he is stronger than me. Leo does more exercise and goes to boxing clubs every Thursdays. So it’s okay for him to be stronger than me.
I know fighting him will be futile, so I allow myself to be dragged outside, trying t think of ways to explain my disappearance to Joe. Somehow “I was kidnapped by my brother” did not sound like a good excuse.
I was sure I could hear a teacher shouting in the distance, so I pelted off towards the school gate, leaving Leo to catch up.
When he finally caught up, a few hundred metres outside the school gate, I nearly punch his smug face.
“what the freaking hell was that about!” I bellow at him “Joe is my friend”
“The teacher was coming” Leo pants. That was one of the benefits of being me; I can run fast and for long distances, Leo can’t. I suddenly realize I have the upper hand in this situation.
I bolt off down the road once more, not caring for Leo, just waiting to put as much distance between the school and myself as possible. The road I am running down must be at least a mile long. Its lined with houses and the only way out of it is to get to the end. That is why most kids who try to skip school are caught, because unless you can run like me, you will tire and be caught. Leo only manages his escapes because he can slink out quietly. Also, when you are sent out of nearly every lesson, the teachers get used to you not being in the classroom. He waits for five minutes then leaves, and no one realises until he is well on his way to town.
Running is easy for me, but for Leo and his muscled form, it’s a challenge. By the time I reach the end of the road, he is still only halfway down, his mouth wide open and gasping for breath.
It must have been at least ten minutes before he finally joined me.
“I thought you were used to this?” I asked as I scanned the road in sing of a policeman or our parents. I didn’t want to be sent back now I had came this far. The change that had happened to me whilst escaping was drastic, and I couldn’t believe it. Only this morning I had been a nerd and eager to learn, now I was running away from school. What was better was that Leo was out of breath, so once again I had the advantage.
“I do, but I don’t run” Leo replies, wheezing and bent over.
I know I should take my chance and run off again, or maybe fight Leo at his most vulnerable moment, but I don’t. This is because I have to thank Leo for showing me there was more to life than sucking up to teachers. The temptation to punch him was almost unbearable, though, but I managed to overcome it. Leo looks as if he is about to double over in exhaustion, and places a firm hand on my shoulder, squeezing it roughly. I pull away and watch him tumble forwards and hit the ground with a satisfying thud.
“We’re brothers, we need to look out for one another” he wheezed.
“This doesn’t change anything between you and me. Why are you suddenly all nice anyway? Did the law finally catch up with you?” I was referring to his tendencies to steal sweets from shops. He would always manage to snatch small packs of chewing gum into his pockets without anyone, not even our parents, noticing. Recently he has been moving onto bigger things; taking cans of cola and magazines every now and again. I am starting to fear he might turn to crime as a living, and go around stealing expensive items from shops.
He shakes his head and sucks in a big breath of air and stands up. Looking up and down the road one more time to be positive no one has seen us, Leo takes my arm again and pulls me along the pathway.
Its another ten minute walk, would have been a five minute jog if Leo had the strength to run, until we reached the town centre.
Me and Leo live in a small market town called Royston. Royston is a very small and very boring town, with virtually no decent shops and no ways of entertainment. In fact, just last week the cinema was knocked down, just after the release of the latest Saw movie, which Leo was petty gutted about. I tried to tell him it wasn’t worth trying to see the film anyway, because he’s only fourteen and you need to be at least eighteen to watch the film. Royston was positioned in the middle of miles of fields and forests, which is convenient for me and Dosi as we both love to walk. The rest of the town consists of houses, vandalised parks and a few supermarkets dotted around.
Every other weekend me and my brother and Dosi are given freedom for the whole weekend as we go round our dad’s house, who lives in Letchworth. Letchworth is not much bigger than Royston, but it has more shops and better parks. I, Leo and Dosi will be gong there this afternoon, as soon as school finishes.
It suddenly hits me how stupid I was to skip school. Yeah it may have been crap but I could have lived through it by joking around with Joe. When out parents find out there will be hell to pay.
“Where are you planning on gong?” I question politely.
“We’re going to Morrison’s, to steal some sweets” he replies.
“But what about the pizza and chips?”
“What about them?”
I become so angry with my twin that I punch his arm and fling it away. I scoop the chips out of my blazer pocket and throw them at him. Before he can retaliate I turn around and start walking back in the direction of the school.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Leo demands and takes hold of my shoulder once again. My actions are overcome by the anger boiling my blood and I swing round to land a perfect punch right between his eyes. He looks back at me, shocked, and tries to aim a blow to my stomach. I manage to block his punch with amazing accuracy and, with my other hand, I perform an uppercut . His bottom jaw smashes against his top jaw and I swear I can see a tooth fly out of his mouth.
Thinking the battle is over I turn back around and start walking off again. I am obviously unprepared for the attack Leo launches.
He leaps onto my back and pulls me down, starts punching my stomach and clawing at my face. I would have been done for if Leo wasn’t lifted off of me.
I get up, brushing dirt from my blazer and turn around to face the figure that has saved my life.
“What the hell are you two doing” booms the deep voice of my father.