NORMAL RAT SETS A NEW WORLD COUNTING RECORD by Gordon Dioxide Once upon a time there was a normal-looking rat called Normal Rat. He had a sister called Basketball Rat, who was good at basketball. Basketball Rat had a brother called Normal Rat, and they both had a brother called Spelling Rat. He was good at spelling. Normal Rat, Basketball Rat and Spelling Rat had two sisters called Gardening Rat and Weather Forecasting Rat, and they all had a brother called Running Backwards Rat. Their mother was called Cuddly Rat and she was married to a Welsh rabbit called Scott. Cuddly and Scott had five children called Normal Rat, Basketball Rat, Spelling Rat, Gardening Rat and Weather Forecasting Rat, plus a sixth child called Running Backwards Rat. They all lived in a large house in the middle of a small town called London. Next door lived a family of fifteen frogs, including Freddie Frog, Flora Frog and their children Felicity, Fergus, Felix, Ferdinand, Fernando, Fern, Fifi, Fiona, Fitz, Florence, Frank, Fraser and Colin. Next door to the frogs lived Cuddly Rat, Scott Rabbit, Normal Rat, Basketball Rat, Spelling Rat, Gardening Rat and Weather Forecasting Rat. Also living in the same house as Cuddly Rat, Scott Rabbit, Normal Rat, Basketball Rat, Spelling Rat, Gardening Rat and Weather Forecasting Rat was Running Backwards Rat. Running Backwards Rat was the son of Cuddly Rat and Scott Rabbit and the brother of Normal Rat, Basketball Rat, Spelling Rat, Gardening Rat and Weather Forecasting Rat. Once a year, people would come from miles around to watch the Annual Counting Competition. This was the most exciting day of the year for all Londoners, but this year was especially exciting for the Rat and Frog families as four of them were taking part in the competition. Now the highest that anybody in the world could count up to was 109. Nobody, but nobody, could work out what comes after 109. So when Fiona Frog went onto the stage, she counted all the way up to 109, smiled, bowed to the audience and left the stage while everybody clapped politely. Then Spelling Rat did the same thing and then Fraser Frog did the same thing again. Finally, Normal Rat walked onto the stage. He counted to 100 in very quick time and then continued "101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109 ..." Everybody expected him to bow and leave the stage. But he didn't. He coughed and took a step forward. He looked down at all the faces, cleared his throat once more and then said in a very confident voice "200". A hush fell over the audience. Nobody knew what to do. They all looked at each other nervously. Then, from the back of the crowd, Professor Rat called "Yes! Yes! I think he's right! Yes! I'm sure he's right! He's right! He's right! He's done it! A new world counting record!" Everybody went wild. They clapped and cheered and carried Normal Rat around the room on their shoulders. This was the biggest thing to happen in London since Great Grandfather Rat broke through the 100 barrier in 1937. Just then, a small voice from the crowd called "I don't believe it. That can't be right. There must be at least 90 numbers between 109 and 200". But nobody heard the voice as it belonged to Extremely Quiet Rat. Instead, Professor Rat went onto the stage and announced that Normal Rat would now be called Counting Rat. And that made Normal Rat very proud. The new counting system was introduced immediately into schools all over London, and soon everybody could do it. It wasn't until ten years later that a young rat called Young Rat discovered that there were indeed another 90 numbers between 109 and 200. He was renamed Missing Numbers Discovery Rat and went on to become rich, famous and quite good looking. This all goes to show that you shouldn't always believe everything that people tell you. Everybody believed that 200 came after 109, but they were wrong. You should always ask questions if you are not sure about anything. That is the only way to become as clever as Missing Numbers Discovery Rat. There is no such thing as a stupid question. Asking a question shows that you are thinking. Here are some questions that you could ask your teacher: 1. Is the Earth really round? It looks flat to me. 2. Are monkeys controlling our thoughts? 3. Why do toy shops close at night? 4. Is football more important than cheese? 5. Do elephants prefer milk chocolate or chocolate milk? 6. Can I go home now?