In 2013 I wrote a short story based on the Ishmael series that was included in an anthology created by my German publishers Carl Hanser celebrating 20 YEARS OF HANSER CHILDREN’S BOOKS.
The piece was called Ismael und das Team seiner Träume or Ishmael and the Dream Team.
In the story the characters of Ishmael, Razz, Bill, Ignatius and Scobie share their weirdest ever dreams and maybe at the same time reveal something of themselves and their unique personalities.
For anyone who might be interested, it went like this …
ISHMAEL AND THE DREAM TEAM
It was before school one morning in Grade Ten when Orazio Zorzotto, more commonly known as Razz, Razza or The Razzman, told us all about his ‘totally weird’ dream.
James Scobie, Ignatius Prindabel, Bill Kingsley and I were sitting at one of the lunch tables in the school yard. James and I were discussing the English homework Miss Tarango had set us. Across the table, Ignatius was hunched over a copy of an Extreme Mathematics magazine while Bill was sucking on a large carton of low-fat low-cal sugar-free vitamin-enriched chocolate milk and staring into deep space.
Until Razz dropped in and exploded among us like a hyperactive bomb.
‘Yo dudes! Man you gotta hear this! Come on. Shove over you guys,’ he said as he straddled the bench, elbowing himself in between Bill’s large body and Ignatius’s thin one and splitting them apart like bowling pins. While Razz made himself comfortable, Bill wiped chocolate milk from his chin and Ignatius glared at the half page of Extreme Mathematics that Razz’s elbow had caused him to tear off.
‘I had this totally weird dream last night. Man it was weird! Totally weird. You are not gonna believe just how totally weird it was.’
Everyone looked at Razz. His eyes were bouncing around the faces at the table like a ricocheting bullet. We said nothing. We weren’t going to make it too easy for him.
‘I’m telling you guys, this dream – you know the one I had last night – well it wasn’t just normal weird. It was weird weird. Totally weird weird!’
Once again Razz searched our faces for any flicker of interest that he could fan into life. All he got was a few semi-raised eyebrows and a couple of half-hearted nods.
‘I mean, seriously, if they held a Weird Dream Olympics, then this dream, would win the Weird Gold Medal every time for sure! That’s how weird it was. Really!’
Razz jerked his head from Scobie to me, from me to Ignatius, and from Ignatius to Bill.
‘Man it was weird,’ he said shaking his head, ‘Like totally!’
It was Scobie who finally responded. He pushed his glasses back up his button nose and twisted his mouth to one side and then the other before asking, ‘So Orazio. This dream you had last night … what was it like?’
Razz’s eyes lit up like spotlights.
‘IT WAS TOTALLY WEIRD SCOBES ALL RIGHT! Hello? Hello? Testing. Testing. Is my microphone on? Can you hear me? What is wrong with you people? Do you want to hear about my totally weird dream or not?’
‘Is there any possible way we can avoid hearing about your totally weird dream?’ Scobie enquired politely.
‘Not a chance.’
‘Well in that case, why don’t you tell us all about your totally weird dream Orazio?’
‘Finally!’ Razz said slapping the table and rolling his eyes. Then he leaned in eagerly.
‘Ok. Listen up. I had this dream last night …’
‘Really. What was it like?’
The others smiled. Razz just eyeballed me like a psychopathic drill-sergeant but kept going.
‘Right, as I was about to say before I was interrupted by Ishmael’s microscopic and tragic attempt at humour … in my dream I’m in this massive stadium thing, full of people. Then I see that at one end there’s a big stage and it’s packed with heaps and heaps of totally hot chicks in swimming suits!’
‘Wait,’ I said holding up my hand. ‘You’re telling us that you had a dream about good-looking girls with not much on? Wow, that really is amazing!’
‘Earth-shattering,’ Scobie agreed.
‘Unprecedented,’ Ignatius added flatly without lifting his eyes off his magazine.
Bill just lowered his chocolate milk and smiled.
Razz held up both hands like he was fending off a hail of rotten tomatoes.
‘All right, all right, all right. Just wait, ok. I haven’t got to the weird part yet. You see, in my dream, I’m actually at the Miss World Beauty Pageant. But here’s the most awesome bit. Apparently, I’ve been selected as the sole judge on account of my intimate and detailed knowledge and expertise when it comes to hot chicks!’
Scobie, Ignatius, Bill and I exchanged some very doubtful glances, but decided to let it pass. Razz continued.
‘Well of course, I’m super excited about being a judge ’cause there’s like thousands of chicks up there and I’ll be getting up close and personal with every one of them. Naturally, I will also be open to bribes.’
Ignatius Prindabel’s head jerked up.
‘One hundred and ninety-six,’ he said.
Razz twisted around to face the tall, wiry form hunched beside him.
‘Huh? What? You say something P-bud?’
‘One hundred and ninety-six.’
‘One hundred and ninety-six? What’s that supposed to be? Wait, wait, let me guess. Is it you’re new very favourite number? How many A’s you scored for assignments and tests last week? The number of chicks who’ve turned you down for a date? Or are you just suffering from some weird nerd form of mathematical Tourette’s Syndrome.’
‘None of the above,’ Ignatius said. ‘It happens to be the number of countries in the world. You said there were thousands of girls in the Miss World competition. That’s incorrect. If there’s one contestant from each country, there would only be 196 because there are only 196 countries in the world. Of course, I admit there is some disagreement over the exact figure since the independence of some countries is open to question and debate. Therefore some reliable sources might state it at a few more or a few less. However 196 contestants would be a very acceptable figure to most people and very close to the mark. In any case, there certainly wouldn’t be thousands.’
Razz rested his chin in the palm of his hand, squinted his eyes and studied Ignatius closely.
‘You know P-bud, I’ve often wondered. What exactly did your personality die from? Lack of use?’
‘So what happened? You know with the judging and everything?’
Razz twisted around to his other side.
‘Billy-boy! Good to see that you’ve finally beamed down to join us. Welcome to planet Earth! An excellent question from our interplanetary visitor here. Well, all the – one hundred and ninety-six – drop-dead gorgeous chicks are lining up on stage and I’m getting ready for the judging, when someone taps me on my shoulder. But not just any someone. It’s Pele himself! I’m not kidding. PELE!’
A frown wrinkled its way across Prindabel’s high, narrow forehead.
‘Pele?’ he said. ‘Wasn’t he a famous clown?’
Razz grabbed his head with both hands. ‘No! No! Must stay together. Do not explode! I repeat DO NOT EXPLODE!’
Then he swung back around to face Ignatius.
‘Well Iggy, the good news is that I’m pretty sure you’ll be the unbackable favourite to scoop the pool again this year at the Golden Nerd Awards. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they give you the Life-Time Achievement Award for Services to Nerdism. Oh and for your information, Pele just happens to be the greatest football player who ever lived.’
‘Well it would be hard for him to be the greatest football player if he hadn’t lived.’
Razz’s eyes narrowed.
‘Annnnnnyway … as I was saying before the motherboard in P-bud’s head short circuited. Pele – not to be confused with Bozo or Chuckles (insert a Razz dagger stare at Ignatius here) taps me on the shoulder and says that I have to come with him because … wait for it … I’m playing in the World Cup Football final! Me! Can you believe it?’
We all shake our heads. We literally cannot believe it.
‘And get this. Apparently I’m Captain of the team from Razzland and we’re playing Brazil in the final!’
‘Girls and football,’ Scobie said. ‘You’re two favourite things. It’s your dream dream.’
‘Absolutely!’ Razz agreed. ‘But there’s this one big problem. The Miss World Final and the World Cup Final are on at exactly the same time! I can’t do both. One hundred and ninety-six hot chicks versus playing in a World Cup Final. And I have to choose between them. It’s a nightmare!’
Now it was getting interesting. I asked the question that everyone at the table was pondering.
‘So what did you do?’
‘Well, I applied the totally rigid, incredibly awesome, super-sized Razzman brain cells to the problem and I came up with a killer solution.’
‘Which was … to ask if I could sort of join the two finals together so that I’d get half of each. And the Official dudes said yes!’
I thought about that for a second.
‘So … in your dream … you ended up interviewing and judging ninety-three Miss World contestants and then playing in the second half of a World Cup Final?’
‘Not quite young Ishmael. It seems the Official dudes and me weren’t exactly on the same ebook screen. What I ended up doing was judging an entire Miss World Pageant where all the contestants were famous World Cup football stars dressed in women’s clothes. Like I said, it was totally weird … especially the swim suit section.’
Razz gazed blankly ahead for a while before snapping out of his trance with a full body shudder and a quick head shake. Then he elbowed Prindabel’s arm and another page of Extreme Mathematics was set free.
‘Come on P-bud. Your turn. You must have had some weird dreams. What’s your weirdest one ever? Was it the one where you discover your real mother was a smart phone and your father a laptop? Or was it the one where you magically turn into a human being?’
Ignatius kept his eyes lowered as he attempted to align the words on two torn pieces of Extreme Mathematics.
‘Haven’t got one,’ he said. ‘Hardly ever dream. Or don’t remember them if I do.’
‘What? You must remember some. Come on, think about it.’
‘No I definitely don’t.’ There was a pause, then Ignatius lifted his head slowly like one of those Galapagos turtles and held up a long, bony index finger. ‘Correction … there was this one …’
‘Cool! Now you’re talking. Let’s hear it then Iggy my main man. Come on, blow our minds!’
‘Well, in the dream I must have been at a fair of some kind because there was a man selling balloons and he was pumping them up using a large cylinder of propane gas. While I’m watching him, he fills up a big red balloon, ties a string to it and hands it to a little girl and she runs off with it to show her parents. BUT, on the way the little girl trips and falls and she lets go of the string and the balloon floats off into the air. Then the little girl starts crying.’
Ignatius stopped. He was bobbing his head and grinning at us like a demented hyena.
‘And?’ Razz said spreading his arms wide.
‘And what?’ Ignatius asked.
‘AND WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!’
Ignatius frowned. ‘Nothing. I woke up.’
‘What? That’s it? That’s all there is? That’s your weird dream? ’
Ignatius nodded and looked around at us excitedly. ‘Yes. It’s completely mad isn’t it? I mean, everybody knows that propane gas is heavier than air and there is no possible way that balloon would have floated away.’
Ignatius shook his head and broke into one of his disturbing hissing laughing fits while Razz stared at him like he was a ticking time-bomb.
‘Have you had your internal hard drives checked for viruses recently Prindabel? You can’t even do ‘weird’ normally.’
Razz puffed out a big breath and looked across the table.
‘Ok Scobes. We desperately need help here. You of all people must understand weird. What’s your best weird dream?’
Scobie did an impressive series of facial gymnastics before his eyes stopped blinking and his mouth settled down into a thin line.
‘Was that it Your Scobeness? Were you giving it to us in mime? Did it have something to do with a sucker fish?’
Scobie ignored Razz.
‘Remember how I told you that I had that operation to remove a tumour from my brain?’
How could we forget? We nodded.
‘Well after the operation I kept having this one dream over and over again. It would always start off with everything completely normal but then after a while I’d realise that the top of my head was missing.’
Razz frowned. ‘The top of your head was missing? Well that would be … inconvenient.’
‘Yes it was,’ Scobie said. ‘because if I didn’t keep my head absolutely level stuff would fall out.’
Razz screwed up his face. ‘Stuff?’
‘Yes. But not what you’re thinking. Real stuff – toys, pictures, books, shells, clothes, even tiny people. They were all things and people from my life. And when something fell out it turned to smoke and disappeared, so I had to try to keep my head level and still. But the longer the dream went on, the harder it got. The ground became more and more rocky and uneven and there would be big holes everywhere for me to step in. Sometimes the ground just gave away under my feet like ice. And if I tried to just stand in one spot and not move, everything would start shaking and jumping around like an earthquake. The dream always ended the same way. Eventually something would make me trip and fall and then everything in my head would spill out and disappear in a puff of smoke. When I stood back up I couldn’t remember anything, not even who I was.’
Scobie pushed his mouth to one side and left it there. Four sets of eyes were fixed on him. Finally Razz broke the silence.
‘Riiiiiiiiiiiight. Well on that cheerful note gentlemen, what say we move on and see what Billy Boy has got for us.’
Bill shrugged his big shoulders. ‘There’s this one weird dream I have all the time too.’
Razz held up his hand.
‘Wait. Does it involve an amazing floating balloon or a partial decapitation?’
Bill gave the question far more consideration than it deserved before replying.
‘Awesome. Let’s hear it.’
‘It’s like I’m in Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit or something because I’m on this long journey. Anyway, at one point I’m right at the top of Mount Doom and all I have to do is throw the One Ring into the fiery pit in order to save the Shire and defeat the forces of darkness. But then I look down and the One Ring isn’t a ring anymore – it’s a super jumbo-sized cream doughnut. And I’m starving. So before I throw it in and save everyone and become a hero, I just take a few tiny nibbles from around the edges. But when I do, I can’t stop and I end up eating the whole thing! Then Mount Doom erupts like a volcano except that soft serve ice-cream comes out instead of lava, and I have to start swallowing it to stop from drowning. Then everything gets mixed up because all these spaceships fly in only they’re really giant pizzas and when they land, chocolate-coated Star Wars storm-troopers charge out and start firing French-fries and tomato sauce at me and I end up catching them all in my mouth …’
Razz’s hand was now clamped over that very mouth.
‘Ok. Ok. Ok. Thanks for coming Bilbo. I think we get the picture. Seems to me that dream could only mean one of two things. Either you have a slight issue with food or you’re a total nut case. Personally I’m leaning heavily towards “total nut case” at this early stage.’
Razz looked across at me.
‘Well that just leaves you Ishmael. What’s your weird dream or do you spend all your time drooling on your pillow over Kelly Faulkner.’
I gave Razz a pained look, but to be honest, I have had my fair share of Kelly Faulkner dreams including one where I was a ninja and I ended up saving her from a dangerous gang of evil peg-people. Once I even had a dream about Barry Bagsley. He wasn’t a bully in the dream like he is in real life. He was a really nice guy and we were good friends. I was kind of sad when I woke up. But I didn’t feel like sharing either of those dreams so I picked a different one.
‘Sometimes I have this dream where I’m stuck on the side of a really high mountain and I’m trying to hold on but my fingers are slipping. It’s pretty scary. Then I start to wonder what in the world I’m doing way up there and I realise that of course I must just be dreaming it. So I decide that all I have to do is jump off and let myself fall and nothing will happen to me. The only trouble is, I’m not one hundred percent sure it actually is a dream because it still seems really real. It takes me ages and ages to finally let go and drop. When I do, I wake up.’
Razz pushed out his bottom lip. He didn’t look that impressed.
‘Well if that’s the best you can all come up with, I think it’s pretty obvious to me and to anyone else with half a brain, that I, the Razzman, am the clear winner and undisputed champeeeeeeeeeeen of the Inaugural St Daniel’s Totally Weird Dream Dream-Off!’
That’s when the bell rang and we all headed off for homeroom with Miss Tarango.
But do you want to hear something really weird?
Well, here it is. That very night I had a dream that I think could have topped even Razz’s.
When it started I was inside a big, white dome, and the walls of the dome were covered with millions and millions of words. I even found my own name ISHMAEL LESEUR in amongst them in big letters. Then the words started peeling off the walls and they began swirling around everywhere like a snow storm. Some of the words joined and clumped together and they formed into shapes like statues and then the craziest thing happened. Those statues turned into Scobie and Razz and Bill and Ignatius and Kelly Faulkner and lots of other people I know! Then I saw that there were two oval-shaped windows at the front of the dome and I went over and looked through them and there was a whole world out there. And that’s when I realised that the windows weren’t actually windows at all. They were eyes. Which meant that the dome wasn’t just a dome. It was a head. And we were all inside it! It was like Razz, Scobie, Ignatius, Bill and I were running around in someone else’s mind. And that someone had dreamed us all up!
See what I mean? Talk about weird! Way too weird to ever share with the Razz and the guys. Too weird for words, as they say. But then again, who knows?
Artwork by Peter Schossow