Aristotle’s whole body went grin-shaped as he thought about the good thing he was going to do.
He knew if the other nose germs found out, they’d think it was a naughty thing.
They might even punish him.
Aristotle didn’t care.
I’ll just have to make sure they don’t catch me, he thought.
He peered around the crowded floor of the nostril and up the vast teeming nostril walls to the heavily-populated nostril ceiling high above. Nobody was watching. The other germs were all having a meeting. Something about a new law to ban germs giving other germs piggybacks.
This was the perfect moment.
Aristotle crept over to Blob, grabbed him and dragged him behind a chunk of broken-off nose hair.
‘Hey,’ complained Blob. ‘Don’t. I’m trying to count how many germs are at the meeting. Now I can’t remember if I was up to six million and thirty-seven or six million and thirty-eight.’
‘Surprise,’ said Aristotle happily.
He pointed to the cake sitting on a pimple.
Blob stopped struggling.
Aristotle felt himself go grin-shaped again.
I’m a very lucky germ, he thought. I’ve got a brother who likes having fun as much as I do. Well, almost as much. Well, a bit. Well, he will when he tastes the cake.
Blob was staring at the white fluffy icing and the ten flickering candles.
‘What is it?’ he said, puzzled.
For a moment Aristotle thought Blob was joking. Then he remembered his brother never joked. Plus Blob’s normally round body was scrunched flat with disapproval. He looked more like a skin flake than a germ.
‘It’s a birthday cake,’ said Aristotle. ‘It’s what germs in exotic foreign places give each other on their birthdays.’
Blob looked long-sufferingly at Aristotle.
‘By exotic foreign places,’ said Blob, ‘I assume you mean places outside the nostril?’
‘Yes,’ said Aristotle.
He knew why Blob was looking disapproving. Blob didn’t like anything from outside the nostril. Aristotle couldn’t understand why. Blob had never been outside the nostril, none of them had, so why was he so picky?
Aristotle didn’t let it spoil his birthday mood.
‘The cake’s not from outside the nostril,’ he said. ‘Just the recipe. I got it from a visitor. Happy birthday, Blob.’
Aristotle waited hopefully for Blob to relax and grin back and give him a hug. He’d often wondered what it would be like to be hugged, to be wrapped up in all of Blob’s arms and several of his legs.
But Blob wasn’t relaxing.
Blob was folding most of his arms, which made him look like an angry adult. Aristotle always felt sad to see kids carrying on like adults. Around here young germs did that a lot.
‘We germs don’t have birthdays,’ said Blob sternly. ‘You know that. We don’t live long enough. You’ve got to live at least a year to have a birthday.’
‘Blob,’ he pleaded. ‘This is our anniversary. We’re ten. We were born ten hours ago. We should be celebrating.’
‘Are you crazy?’ said Blob. He glanced anxiously up at the nose-hair highway overhead to see if anyone was watching. ‘Do you know how many laws we’d be breaking? The No Parties part of the Nostril Protection Act for a start.’
Aristotle felt his excitement and pleasure draining away.
‘You’re already violating the Fluffy Icing Prohibition Bill,’ continued Blob. ‘Which is a law, as you know very well, that specifically forbids, anywhere in this nostril, the making of fluffy icing.’
‘It’s just mashed skin flakes,’ said Aristotle. ‘Please, Blob, blow out the candles. Have some fun, just for once.’
‘I will do no such thing,’ said Blob. ‘These candles are in direct contravention of the Nasal Passage Fire Control Act.’
‘They’re not real candles,’ sighed Aristotle. ‘They’re just some carbon molecules that I know burning off a bit of energy as a favour.’
Blob peered at the carbon molecules more closely. The carbon molecules gave him a cheery wave. Blob jumped back, alarmed.
‘Get rid of them now,’ he said. ‘And the icing, and the cake. Do you have any idea what will happen if the authorities see this cake?’
‘They’ll want a piece?’ said Aristotle hopefully.
‘A piece of you is what they’ll want,’ snapped Blob.
Aristotle looked sadly at his brother. How could his very own identical twin be so different to him?
We both look the same, he thought. We both have exactly the same round bodies. We both have exactly the same number of arms and legs, with all the arms at the top and all the legs at the bottom.
But we aren’t the same.
‘Blob,’ said Aristotle quietly. ‘Why don’t you want to be happy?’
Blob’s whole body went grim-shaped.
‘We’re not here to be happy,’ he said. ‘We’re here to make sure the nostril operates in an orderly and efficient manner.’
Aristotle wanted to grab Blob and shake him till his insides wobbled. He wanted to ask him what made a kid of ten talk like some ancient ninety-six-hour-old.
A loud voice was suddenly echoing across the nostril.
‘What’s going on over there?’it boomed.
Aristotle and Blob shrank down behind the chunk of nose hair.
‘We’ve had it now,’ moaned Blob. ‘We’ll be up for disciplinary action and smacked bottoms.’
‘Come out immediately,’ boomed the voice. ‘And bring that illegal cake with you.’
Blob went sag-shaped. He put all his hands up and stepped miserably out from the hiding place.
Aristotle picked up the cake and followed.
He tried not to think about what would happen now. The anger. The punishment. The blowing up of the cake by the cake-disposal squad.
At least Blob wouldn’t be blamed. The authorities would say it was all Aristotle’s fault, and they’d be right.
He was the odd germ out.
He was the one who’d been born with the tragic and mysterious problem.
Why am I so different, thought Aristotle sadly. Why am I, out of all the millions and millions of germs in the nostril, the only one who wants to be happy?
Aristotle’s Nostril is available in bookshops and libraries in Australia and New Zealand, and online:
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