Glum Gladys, the pet rock, like all Undergrowby pet rocks, was born in the magical hearth of the Stone Quarry of Undergrowby, by the astonishing power of the Dumpling magic. Madge Dumpling, the six inch tall Quarry-mistress of the Stone Quarry was also a world-famous pet rock whisperer and Chairman of the Rubble Club for pet rock fanciers worldwide. She poked the roaring fire from her magic pet rocking chair, clapped out the Dumpling rhythm and chanted the Dumpling chant, as her ancestors before her had done, and hatched out Glum Gladys from a faceless pebble into a fully fledged pet rock, ready for adoption. To Madge’s dismay, Glum Gladys’s expression was not cute and friendly, like pet rocks usually are. It was as long and hard-faced as the poker by her side. Gladys’s curvaceous body was steely-grey just like the poker and the top of her head was as red as the poker’s. To the short-sighted, in fact, that poker could have been mistaken for her (thinner) twin brother.
An expert pet rock whisperer, Madge knew that there was a short window of opportunity for her, in the few moments while the newly hatched rock was still hot and changing, to improve its appearance and make it more attractive to the pet rock collectors. However, no amount of cajoling, tickling or whispered jollity could cheer up Gladys quickly enough to change her into a beauty. Her stony face cooled down more quickly than most and set rigid, just as it was, and so her miserable expression was fixed in stone for ever. Madge feared she would be almost impossible to re-home with a face like that. Pet rocks are normally cheerful, eager to please and in great demand as perfect, good-natured, intelligent, friendly pets. But Gladys was not normal.
Glum Gladys was glad she had persisted in scowling. She was determined to remain miserable. In fact, being miserable was what she did best and she took great pride in it. It was what made her unique. She was the glummest pet rock in the magical land of Undergrowby. She was special.
Although she was every bit as clever and sensitive as all the other pet rocks and she would have made an excellent pet rock for someone, no one ever wanted to adopt her because of her unfortunate face.
Then one week, who should invite himself along to the weekly Rubble Club meeting but Killjoy Roy from the Misty Swamp. Killjoy Roy had no pet rocks and had no intention of adopting any. His only reason for inviting himself to the Rubble Club was to put a stop to any fun that anyone might be having there. Stamping out fun was his favourite pastime.
Rudely, he did not knock but walked straight in. In the doorway he forced himself to have a noisy, wet, phlegm-releasing coughing fit to attract the worst kind of attention. The Rubble Clubbers dived for their hankies and offered them to him, like the kind, polite people that they are, but he ignored them, sniffed loudly, wiped his nose on his sleeve and strutted over to the fire. He hated fires, they were such jolly things, and so he spat into the fire with such a wet ball of spit that he nearly put it out. He would come back later when he had gathered up some more spit, and finish the job, he vowed. Insulted, the normally good-natured fire hissed in defiance.
killjoy royKilljoy Roy helped himself from the Rubble Club buffet and sat down on Madge Dumpling’s magic pet rocking chair. He started to eat the rock cakes, one after another and drink the teapot dry. He gobbled and drank, coughed, burped and slurped till the buffet table was emptied. The rest of the Rubble Clubbers had been nibbling politely on Madge’s world-famous rock cakes, but now they were feeling too sick to eat at the sight of Killjoy Roy’s slobber and crumbs being splattered all over everywhere, especially over Madge’s magic chair.
“Killjoy Roy, come over here, I have something to show you,” cooed Madge, flattered by his open appreciation of her baking but determined to get him out of her chair (without, of course, appearing selfish in front of the Rubble Clubbers, to whom she always tried to set a good example.) She hoped Killjoy Roy would have the wisdom to adopt a pocketful of pet rocks. With their friendly and magical little ways, she knew from experience that they would slowly but surely warm his heart and turn him into a happier person.
Thinking he was going to be given something for nothing, Killjoy Roy heaved himself from the chair with a squelching noise, stinking and shedding crumbs and drips like a walking, fermenting compost heap and followed Madge to the windowsill where the orphan pet rocks were lined up, waiting for their new owners to come along and adopt them. As soon as he stood up, Madge’s doting husband Malcolm rushed over and cleaned up Killjoy Roy’s slobbery mess from around Madge’s chair and pegged a ‘RESERVED FOR THE CHAIRMAN!’ sign on the back of it. Madge kept Malcolm well-trained for such emergencies.
“As long as you promise to keep them clean, dry and cosy in your pocket at all times, I can fix you up with any of the delightful little pets that you see here.” She turned to the group of rocks, “Smile nicely for Killjoy Roy, little rockies. Look your cheerful best and he might choose you!” Madge squeaked in her pet rock whispering voice. Squinting sideways at Killjoy Roy, she noticed that he was well endowed with pockets, and hoped they were cleaner and drier than his sleeves.
By their very nature, as a rule, pet rocks are smiley, happy creatures, and Killjoy Roy had no time for any kind of smileyness. He would like to wipe the cheerful smiles right off their faces but he could not, even with his worst scowl. Then he noticed Glum Gladys.
“Eeeeh, Madge, that’s a miserable-looking lump of rock there, isn’t it? That rock is ugly enough to make you weep, isn’t it?”
Madge was furious and sprung to Gladys’s defence with a few elaborate fibs, as any Quarry-mistress would in her position. “Gladys is a world-famous martyr, I’ll have you know. She is trained to take upon herself all the misery and ills in the world, and she does so gladly and willingly, but don’t expect her to smile at the same time! Her public expect no less of her than to show her suffering, set in stone for all to see, like the martyr that she is!”
“I’ll take her! She’ll turn the milk sour from here to kingdom come! Chortled Killjoy Roy, believing none of Madge’s fanciful yarn and thinking of all the misery he could spread with Glum Gladys by his side. As he reached out for Gladys, who was scowling more than ever, Madge grabbed his arm with her strong fingers like only a Quarry-mistress can.
“I will allow you to take her on one condition…that you prove to me that you are her saviour…that you have come along to deliver her from her suffering and make her give you just a whisper of a smile, just for a brief moment.” Madge preened herself, closed her eyes, raised her eyebrows and patted her hat nonchalantly, knowing she had the upper hand.
Killjoy Roy knew he was cornered and squirmed around, picking his snotty nose and flicking the snot everywhere while Madge’s eyes were closed, wondering how he was going to knock that smug smile off Madge Dumpling’s face. With a sneaky half-grin he put his damp, filthy hand into his pocket and brought out his secret weapon, his dirty squeaky toy. He squeaked it right in Madge’s face. It had a squeak that sounded like the wind blowing out of someone’s bottom and had a smell to match. That was enough! Madge gasped in horror, forgot her manners and did something she never did in public. She put her hands together in an almighty unladylike Dumpling clap that would have awoken the dead, took a deep breath and turned on him.
“Out you go! Go on, get out! From this moment you are banned from the Rubble Club for ever! As for Glum Gladys, martyr though she may be, over my dead body will she share a pocket with that nasty shrieking pet of yours! Out I said!”
On his way past the fire, he gave it one last drenching spit and the fire spat back at him, but it died a little nevertheless. Killjoy Roy congratulated himself on a job well done. The Rubble Club would not forget him in a hurry.
When he had gone, Glum Gladys wept real tears of joy and relief from her cold, frowning eyes. She may have a face like an iron poker, but it seemed that she, like all pet rocks, had a heart of pure gold, which was close to breaking. One of the more observant Rubble Clubbers, who was also a line-dancer, spotted the tears and Madge was sent for immediately. Madge dismissed someone’s suspicion that the tears may have been blobs of Killjoy Roy’s snot, and insisted that they were indeed the true tears of a martyr, as she had always suspected. The Rubble Clubbers, trusting their magical chairman implicitly, cheered and ran off to spread the word.
Glum Gladys was placed in the middle of the mantelpiece and a glittery silver star was glued upon her head. A sign saying “World Famous Martyr” was hung on the wall behind her and Rubble Club pilgrims from distant lands queued up to stand before her, hoping to have their troubles and cares taken away in an instant. The world was changed for ever thanks to Killjoy Roy and his squeaky toy..
Glum Gladys was no longer up for adoption, she was now far too important to the whole world, but knowing how much the membership liked to have something to take away as a souvenir, by way of compensation Madge made some expensive clay badges bearing Glum Gladys’s portrait. They were rare works of art. The badges were so sought-after and brought such joy and good fortune to their wearers that Madge had to train up Malcolm, her devoted husband, to take over the badge-making. He would have plenty of time to do it in between his Quarry-master’s duties and his housework, wouldn’t he? And Madge felt she had to be sensible. She simply could not be a slave to badge-making when she had all that pet rock whispering and hatching to do. She was not, after all, called Madge Dumpling for nothing! Anyone, even Malcolm, could be trained to make a rare work of art, but there was no one else in the world with the power to perform the ancient, top-secret pet rock whispering technique known in Undergrowby as the Dumpling Magic!