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Neville Toogood was too good to be true. He never made a noise. He helped old ladies across the road. He drank prune juice because it was good for him, and he washed at least twice a day without anyone telling him to. His bedroom was always tidy, and in school his teachers thought he was wonderful.

“Neville’s a little angel, isn’t he?” his mother would say. And other boys’ mothers would say “A little angel, yes.” But secretly they thought, “What a pain in the neck!”

Then one day Neville got a pain. It wasn’t a pain in the neck. It was a bit further down his back - and anyway it was more of an itch. He tried to scratch it but he couldn’t reach.

At bedtime he said goodnight to his mother and father, and put himself to bed. He was just putting on his pyjamas when he noticed the reflection of his shoulders in the mirror. There were two large red lumps!

That night, he could only get to sleep by lying on his face, and in the morning his pyjama jacket didn’t fit him. He looked in the mirror again, and there they were, two small wings!

There was worse to come. As he cleaned his teeth (brushing up and down, of course, not across) a dazzle of light flared up off his head and took the shape of a halo. Neville was turning into an angel.

Poor Neville. The wings made his jumpy lumpy, and the halo gave him a headache. “I don’t want to be an angel,” he thought. “I’ll look such a cissy floating around in a white frock. Nobody likes me much now. Nobody will even speak to me when I’m a fully fledged angel.” He put on his parka to hide the wings, and pulled up the hood to hide the halo.

But when he handed in all his homework (on time, as usual) , he actually felt the wings sprout, and long white feathers dropped down below the parka. There was only one escape from being an angel. He would have to do something really BAD - the badder the better.

“Neville, do take your coat off, dear,” said the teacher, smiling warmly at her favourite pupil.

Neville coughed nervously. “No,” he said.

His teacher could hardly believe her ears. “Neville,” she said firmly. “Take off your coat!”

“Shan’t. Won’t! You can’t make me, you silly old boot!” he shouted, pulling a face. At once, a feather moulted out of his wings.

“NEVILLE!”

Hugging his coat round him, he fled out of the classroom, out of the school, and up the street. He stopped by the fire station and drew a picture of the teacher in chalk on the wall. Underneath he wrote: ’Bad is Beautiful’ and ’Wickedness is Wonderful’. When he set off for the shops, he left behind a pile of angel feathers on the pavement - enough to stuff a pillow.

But oh, how he hated it. Being naughty was extremely hard work for a little angel like Neville.

In the supermarket, he took away the bottom tin in the baked beans display. He pulled the plugs out of the freezers and defrosted all the chickens. He drove a trolley through the paper towels, and twin-pack toilet rolls rained down on the shoppers. “What? Well, the little devil!” they shouted, and the manager shook his fist.

Neville felt for his halo. It had faded, except for a warm patch at the back of his head. And it went altogether after he had thrown a few pebbles at the ducks on the post. By the time he had let down a couple of tires, rung a few doorbells and stolen some sweets from a baby, he was very nearly having fun. A devilish sort of laugh kept gurgling up in his throat, and his angel feathers were falling like rain.

“You little devil!” shouted a man whose windows he broke. But Neville sped on, past the Salvation Army band on the corner, and stole their collecting tin as he went.

Back at home, he played trampolines with his boots on - until the bed broke. He got out all his toys...and didn’t put one away again.

“Make me some dinner, mother,” he demanded. “And do it now.”

“Have you washed your hands, dear?” said his mother.

“No, and I’m not going to wash ever again, or brush my teeth - not even back and forth.”

“Neville!” shouted his father. “What’s the matter with the boy, mother? Is he ill?”

To tell the truth, Neville didn’t feel at all well. He had an awful pain in his forehead. “Well it can’t be my halo,” he thought. “I haven’t done anything good all day!”

He ran to the bathroom mirror to look. And there were two small red lumps above his eyebrows. His eyes had gone a funny colour, and he had another pain in the seat of his pants.

It was not until the next morning that Neville understood. By that time, he had a fine set of horns, and a pointed tail hung down to his knees.

Neville was a devil!

Poor Neville. He had to start being good all over again. He said sorry to his mother, returned the collecting tin to the Salvation Army, and went to scrub the fire station. He apologised to his teacher.

“I wasn’t myself yesterday,” he said. And she asked him why he was wearing a bandage round his head. “I banged my forehead,” he lied - and the tail tucked up inside his trousers grew a little longer.

Only after three days of being good did the tail and horns wash off in the bath.

Neville breathed a sigh of relief and promised himself that he would never be really naughty again. But, just in case the wings or the halo came back, he always made a point of brushing his teeth back and forth, instead of up and down as everyone told him he should.


Geraldine McCaughrean
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