Thomas sat in the doctor’s waiting room, trying not to panic about his arm. It wasn’t looking good. A red stain was seeping through the bandage.
‘Hey, Morris,’ people are always saying to me, ‘that book of yours, the one where the kid’s nipples itch when people tell him lies, why did you make it his nipples, what is it about nipples, why nipples?’
A serious question deserves a serious answer, so I give them one. I explain that in the first draft of Doubting Thomas, it wasn’t Thomas’s nipples that alerted him to the telling of fibs, it was his ears. Hot ears. Painfully hot. Though not as painfully hot as my brain when my editor told me some bad news soon after I’d finished the first draft.
‘I’ve just read another book,’ she said, ‘where a kid’s ears go hot when people tell him lies.’
I checked and the book wasn’t written by me. I wept. I cursed. I decided to give up writing and become an ear doctor. My editor reminded me that ear doctors train for about ten years, and we could probably find Thomas an alternative body part in about ten minutes.
She showed me the list she’d made. I rejected the first suggestion, reminding her that I’d used a penis in my book Bumface, and I didn’t want to repeat myself and become known as the penis author.
She agreed. I also removed nose, mouth and hair from the list (too close to those dumb old ears) and I nixed legs, feet, knees, ankles, shins, arms, hands, wrists and elbows (too remote and prone to dry skin).
‘Bum,’ said the editor. For a sec I thought she was getting cross, but she wasn’t. ‘Let’s go with the bum,’ she said. ‘It could twitch, tingle, wobble or make noises.’
I reminded her about the vast body of work of that fine Australian children’s author Andy Griffiths, who has made the bum his very own.
This left us with Thomas’s torso. We considered his belly button, and his shoulder blades, and his small intestine. But none of them had the allure and excitement of itchy nipples. Or the irony. Because, as I suddenly realised in one of those moments of inspiration that makes life a joy when you’re an author, Thomas would be deeply embarrassed by itchy nipples, and he’d tell people that nothing’s wrong, which is a lie and would make his nipples itch even more.
So that’s how Thomas ended up with lie-detector nipples. Some people I tell this to are doubtful. They think we just did it because nipples sell books. To these people I say, count the nipples in Harry Potter.
No, what I’ve just told you is the real reason. Sure, in some parts of this website I may have stretched the truth a little, but everything in this part is true. It must be, I haven’t scratched my chest for ages.
Doubting Thomas is available in bookshops and libraries in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and online: