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The Harrumph Gallumph

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The town of Hearditall was a happy little place. Everyone knew everyone else, and most of the time, everyone could tell who was coming down the road or up the hill or by the shop well before they showed up. This was because each person from Hearditall had a special sound and so, you could hear them coming from a distance and get ready for them.

 

There was Mr. Yelp, who was known for his “Ouch!” Poor Mr. Yelp was a little clumsy and so was always bumping into things. If there was the smallest pebble on the road, you could be sure that Mr. Yelp would stub his toe against it. If he was in an empty room, Mr. Yelp would slip and fall on his bum. So no matter where he was coming from or where he was going, you could hear Mr. Yelp go “Ouch!” and get ready for him with an ice cube to soothe his newest bump.

 

Mr. Sigh could never understand why Mr. Yelp couldn’t go past things. It always made him let out his breath slowly, with a soft noise that sounded like the wind tickling a bunch of leaves. Of course, almost everything made Mr. Sigh’s breathing slow down. Sometimes, he let out his breath slowly because he saw a pretty flower and felt happy. When he was sad, or he sat down or he saw the moon or he had a good meal or he had a bad meal or he felt tired, Mr. Sigh did the same thing. He let his breath out slowly, with a soft whoosh that was just loud enough for someone close by to hear. So unless it was a quiet day and the wind was blowing towards you, you couldn’t hear Mr. Sigh but that was his special noise.

 

Although Miss Gasp wasn’t the loudest in Hearditall, hers was a sound that could be heard from miles away. No matter what she saw or heard, Miss Gasp would suck her breath in and her eyes would become big and wide and you could hear a quick little puff of sound. Everyone loved to look at Miss Gasp because she was so lovely but if you told her she was pretty, Miss Gasp would take in a sharp breath and widen her eyes with surprise. Since she was so easily shocked, Miss Gasp carried smelling salts in her bag and everyone in Hearditall knew that if her eyes became too big, or if her breath went in too fast or if she started swaying, then they should make her sniff the smelling salts and she would be alright. This happened quite often, which is why when Miss Gasp didn’t wear perfume, she smelled a little funny.

 

The most smelly person in Hearditall was Mr. Burp. He was a cheerful one, Mr. Burp, and he loved to eat which is why he opened up Hearditall’s favourite café. In fact, he loved to eat so much that when he had dinner, he would sit with two plates of food before him. Once he finished eating one plate of food, there would be a strange, rolling ball of noise that would climb up his stomach, past his throat and suddenly pop out of his mouth. It sounded a little bit like a frog croaking but frog’s croaks don’t smell like food, the way Mr. Burp’s noise did. Once he’d made his noise, Mr. Burp was ready to fill his tummy again. No one in Hearditall ever gave Mr. Burp onions or garlic because once when Mr. Burp was a baby, he had eaten two onions and one garlic. Then he made his sound. The smell that came with his sound was so bad that Mr. Burp’s mum had to keep the doors and windows open for two days.

 

Keeping Hearditall safe and crime-free was the policewoman, Miss Grr. It’s unlikely that anyone thought Miss Grr was pretty but no one would dare tell her that for fear of making her angry. Ever since she was a little Grr, Miss Grr had been someone who wasn’t afraid of baring her teeth and throwing a punch or two. The good thing about Miss Grr was that although she had a short temper, she was not a bully. In fact, you could count on her to protect you if there was a bully bothering you. If she saw someone doing something wrong or making someone sad, Miss Grr’s eyes went red, her face scrunched up and a low, rumbling noise came from her. It was like there was a thunderstorm happening in her throat. Strangely, Miss Grr didn’t like thunder so whenever black clouds gathered over Hearditall, she got angry and soon enough, there would be two competing rumbles: one from the sky and one from Miss Grr.

 

One of the most important people in Hearditall was Miss Squeak. She was tiny and very nervous. Miss Squeak hated watching scary movies and almost anything could scare her. When she was scared or surprised, a high-pitched little thread of sound would shoot out of her. The reason Miss Squeak was important was that her sound sounded like the language of mice. Ever since Miss Squeak discovered her sound, Hearditall realised the mice were moving out. They must have found it strange that someone so much bigger than them spoke their language.

 

Miss Squeak had a sister, Miss Shriek, and like Miss Squeak, Miss Shriek was easily scared. But other than that, Miss Shriek was nothing like Miss Squeak. Miss Squeak was small. Miss Shriek was big. Miss Squeak had a little noise. Miss Shriek’s noise could shatter windows. It was long and loud and once it came out of Miss Shriek’s mouth, it rushed around like a fly that was bottled up for days. The terrible sound came out of Miss Shriek whether she was crying or if she found something funny or if something crawled up her leg or if she saw something she wanted at a shop window. Miss Shriek was someone you could hear coming from the the other side of the hill because her sound whooped through the silence of Hearditall every time she opened her mouth.

 

The two people who were most annoyed by Miss Shriek were Mr. Snore and his wife, Mrs. Yawn. Mr. Snore worked in the library in Hearditall and he was the only sleepwalker in the town, so everyone was careful that he wasn’t woken up with a jolt because then it took him hours to calm down and go to sleep again. Mr. Snore was a sweet, gentle person who could fall asleep at any point. The moment he fell asleep, a soft gurgle of sound came out from somewhere between his nose and his mouth. But the noise wasn’t always soft. When Mr. Snore had a cold, the noise would sound like a wild animal’s roar. Sometimes, especially when he was having a good dream, the sound would be like steam coming out of a kettle. Mrs. Yawn found that very confusing because she always had a kettle on the stove with coffee in it. Mrs. Yawn liked drinking coffee because it kept her awake. She never slept because someone needed to keep an eye on the sleepwalking Mr. Snore. So she was always sleepy and because she was sleepy, she would yawn and when she did, a deep, lazy curl of sound could be heard. That was how you could tell Mrs. Yawn was around.

 

The other thing that annoyed Mr. Snore was that everyone thought his brother was Mr. Snort, even though the two had nothing in common. Mr. Snort was stern and very formal. He always wore a top hat, a three-piece suit and his brow was always furrowed. But the most noticeable thing on Mr. Snort’s face was his enormous nose. The tip of his nose was always twitching, as though it wanted to run away from Mr. Snort’s face. When Mr. Snort liked something or found something funny, his brow unfurrowed and a small grunting sound came out of his twitchy nose. When he didn’t like something, his nostrils flared and that same noise became bigger and sharper. If he got angry, then the noise was the loudest and if he was really angry, then little puffs of steam came whooshing out of his flared nostrils.

 

Mr. Snort’s real brother was Mr. Harrumph but most people didn’t remember this because Mr. Snort was full of airs, with his fancy clothes and his stern face, and everyone knew Mr. Harrumph as the teacher of Hearditall School. He was always either sitting at his desk, marking homework, or reading a book or writing something. If he was not at the desk, then he was at the blackboard, teaching a lesson. He looked strict but everyone knew Mr. Harrumph was a softie. He never spoke rudely and he always listened. It was just that if you asked him something, then Mr. Harrumph would start playing with a piece of chalk, or twiddling his fingers or his feet would get tangled up and a gruff, huffle-puffle of a noise would rush out of him.

 

The three happiest people in Hearditall were the triplets, Guffaw, Giggle and Laugh. Guffaw was the loudest of the three. There was nothing that could make him feel embarrassed or sad. Anyone he met and anything he saw would make him break out in uncontrollable laughter. He would roll around, clutching his tummy, big loud laughter bursting out of him. Giggle, on the other hand, was a little more shy. Everything amused him too but his laughter came out in short bursts, like toothpaste squirting out of a tube. Laugh was also a happy one but he did have one worry: he didn’t want to become thin. He ate and ate and ate and ate and ate. He ate so much that sometimes even Mr. Burp would be impressed. Laugh ate because he knew very well that when it came to being a Laugh, the bigger the better.

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One day Guffaw, Giggles and Laugh had an idea.

“Let’s throw a party for Hearditall,” Guffaw said. “We haven’t had any fun in ages, not since Mr. Snort showed up for the peace march against car horns with a bag of peas because he thought it was a march in support of green peas.” Remember the sight of Mr. Snort in a green suit with a bag of frozen peas made Guffaw’s sound burst out of him.

“That’s a great idea, Guffaw,” said Laugh. “We could ask Mr. Burp to make all sorts of wonderful food, like cakes and pies and ice cream and fruit jelly.”

“Laugh, we want people to have fun at our party, not groan with a tummy ache,” said Giggle, as a little gurgle of sound came out of him.

“I know! Let’s have a dance party,” Laugh said. “If we have a dance party, then people can dance and then they’ll get hungry, and they’ll eat and then they’ll dance so eating won’t make their tummy ache.”

“Laugh, that is a brilliant idea!” Guffaw thumped his brother on the back. “A dance party for Hearditall! It’ll be fantastic!”

 

So the next day, every person in Hearditall received a neat little envelope in their mail. Inside the envelope was a letter. It read:

“Dear Resident of Hearditall,

 

Here’s something you haven’t heard in a while: it’s time to party! Messrs Guffaw, Giggles and Laugh would like to invite you to a dance party on Friday. You’re requested to put on your dancing shoes and let your hair down, and if you don’t have hair, you can shake a leg or even two. If you don’t, we will be heartbroken and you wouldn’t want a sad Laugh on your conscience, would you?

So see you on Friday for the Guffaw, Giggles and Laugh Dance Party!

 

Signed,

With thanks and regards,

Messrs Guffaw, Giggles and Laugh.”

 

As you can imagine, the town of Hearditall was full of happy chatter at the thought of a party. Miss Gasp swooned with happiness after reading it. Mr. Snort brought out all his top hats to figure out which was most suitable for a dance party. Mr. Burp pulled out his recipe books to make the best cakes and cookies and pies. Just reading the ingredients made his stomach rumble. Miss Squeak couldn’t stop jumping up and down with joy and every time she jumped, she made her little noise. In fact, she made her noise so often that the mice from the next town sent a scouting mission to Hearditall because they were certain that so many squeaks could only mean an SOS signal from a trapped mouse. The excitement was almost too much for Miss Shriek and her whoops were so loud and regular that for the first time in years, Mrs. Yawn didn’t bother to put her coffee pot on the stove.

Everyone was delighted, except one person.

Mr. Harrumph.

He read the letter from Guffaw, Giggles and Laugh, and then he sat down in his chair worriedly. “A dance party? What will I do at a dance party?” A worried snuffly sound came out of him. “What can a Harrumph do at a dance party?”

The reason Mr. Harrumph became grumpy once he got the invitation was that he didn’t know how to dance. He had never needed to dance before. He taught lessons and he marked homework. None of these things needed dancing. But now here he was, holding an invitation to a dance party in his hand. If he didn’t go, then it would be rude and all of Hearditall would never let him hear the end of it. Mr. Harrumph found himself sighing.

And that was when the solution to his problem struck him.

Mr. Sigh must know how to dance. He was graceful and elegant and he looked like a dancer. Mr. Harrumph would ask Mr. Sigh to teach him to dance and then, on Friday, he would shake a leg with everyone else in Hearditall. Feeling quite proud of himself, Mr. Harrumph patted himself on the back, letting loose a satisfied, snuffly grunt, and set out to Mr. Sigh’s house.

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So it was that Mr. Harrumph knocked on Mr. Sigh’s door.

“Hello, Mr. Harrumph, what a pleasant surprise!” said Mr. Sigh.

Mr. Harrumph harrumphed and said gruffly, “Yes, well, Mr. Sigh, I needed your help, if you don’t mind my asking for it.”

“But of course, Mr. Harrumph. What can I do for you?” Mr. Sigh asked.

“Well, you know, that party that Guffaw, Giggles and Laugh are throwing on Friday?”

“Oh yes!” Mr. Sigh let out a happy little sigh. “Aren’t they wonderful boys for coming up with that idea?”

“Yes, I suppose they are,” said Mr. Harrumph. “But you see Mr. Sigh, I don’t know how to dance.”

“What?” Mr. Sigh suddenly looked like he was Miss Gasp’s first cousin. “You can’t dance?”

“I’m afraid not. So I was wondering if, well, perhaps, maybe if you have the time, not if it’s any bother of course, but just maybe you could teach me a dance in time for the party?” Mr. Harrumph asked hopefully.

“My dear Mr. Harrumph, it would be an honour!” Mr. Sigh clapped his hands happily. “I would love to teach you. In fact, we can have our first lesson right away!” Leaping up gracefully, Mr. Sigh cantered to a cupboard and out of it came two pairs of very pink, very satiny shoes with ribbons fluttering from them.

“What is that?” Mr. Harrumph asked, suddenly feeling very unsure about Mr. Sigh.

“These, my dear Mr. Harrumph, are ballet slippers!” Mr. Sigh.

“Are these meant for men?”

“Mr. Harrumph. I expected more open minded thinking from you,” said Mr. Sigh as he put on one pair of the ballet slippers. With a flourish, he whipped off his trousers and Mr. Harrumph saw that Mr. Sigh was wearing leopard-print tights underneath. Mr. Harrumph could feel himself begin to sweat.

Mr. Sigh held his hands out to his side and with a swish, his two feet swivelled and pointed in opposite directions. “This, Mr. Harrumph, is your first position.”

Mr. Harrumph looked down at his own feet. They were still wearing their simple brown shoes and both of them looked out in the same direction. He felt even more alarmed when Mr. Sigh’s feet started swooshing around and with each swoosh, Mr. Sigh said things like, “First position!”, “Second Position!” and so on.

“Mr. Sigh, I’m not sure this is really cut out for me,” Mr. Harrumph felt compelled to point out.

“Nonsense!” said Mr. Sigh and spun into an elegant pirouette. “In no time, you’ll be whipping out arabesques and tendus.”

The sight of Mr. Sigh’s head going around in rushing circles made Mr. Harrumph feel just a little bit queasy. He mumbled something about needing to get back to school and made as quick a getaway as he could, leaving Mr. Sigh spinning in his drawing room.

 

Mr. Harrumph went back home and settled down in his comfy armchair. “Ballet! Harrumph, it doesn’t matter if you are the only one not dancing at that party but you can’t go out of the house wearing pink satin slippers,” he told himself sternly. “In fact, I would say you shouldn’t be wearing those shoes in the house either or anywhere else, unless you are a nine-year-old girl or a ballet dancer, neither of which is you.” With that, Mr. Harrumph decided to grade some homework.

 

But Mr. Harrumph’s adventures with dancing weren’t over. You see, Mr. Sigh was so happy that Mr. Harrumph had chosen him as a dance tutor that he called up everybody in Hearditall and said, “Did I tell you? Mr. Harrumph asked me, yes ME!, to teach him a little number for the party on Friday!” Barely had he sighed happily and put down the phone that Hearditall’s best dancers had decided that they, not Mr. Sigh, would teach Mr. Harrumph to dance.

 

 

First there was Mr. Yelp, who stumble and bump into things four times in the time that it took him to get from Mr. Harrumph’s door to his sofa.

“You can’t do ballet at the party tomorrow, Harrumph old boy. It’s terribly dull. Trust me, the dance for a party is BREAKDANCING!”

And with that he gave Mr. Harrumph a demonstration.

Mr. Harrumph felt his bones ache just from watching Mr. Yelp.

 

 

Then came Miss Gasp.

“Dear Mr. Harrumph, I was wondering, would you like to be my partner for the Bollywood number I’m planning to do on Friday?” she asked, fluttering her eyelashes.

“Bollywood, Miss Gasp?”

Miss Gasp smiled and gave Mr. Harrumph a music player to hold. She pressed play and an orchestra started whinneying out of the little speakers. Miss Gasp whipped off her coat and underneath she wore lots of jangly silver jewellery and a bright pink dress with many sequences. Dressed like that, she started leaping around Mr. Harrumph’s garden, gasping every now and then.

 

 

Just after Mr. Harrumph had managed to make Miss Gasp leave by saying he didn’t have the hips for this dance, Mr. Burp landed up at Mr. Harrumph’s door.

“No arguments, Harrumph,” said Mr. Burp as he stuffed a crumpet into Mr. Harrumph’s mouth, making it impossible for the poor man to say anything (although it was a very fresh and yummy crumpet). “You need a manly, powerful dance. Something that’s energetic, builds up an appetite. You and I, Harrumph, are going to krump. Why? Because it sounds like its related to crumpets. Here, have another one and watch.”

Mr. Harrumph had to eat 28 crumpets before he was able to convince Mr. Burp that he needed to think a little before he started krumping.

 

 

The next time the doorbell rang, Mr.Snore and Mrs. Yawn were standing at Mr. Harrumph’s door.

“We know the perfect dance for you,” they said, beaming.

“Mr. Snore, Mrs. Yawn, it’s very kind of you to come by but I really don’t think I have the energy to even watch a dance anymore.”

“Oh don’t worry. This is nothing like those uncultured moves of Mr. Burp and Mr. Yelp. This is elegant, soothing and slow. This, Mr. Harrumph, is the waltz.”

 

It certainly was relaxing to watch. At one point, Mr. Harrumph realised it was so slow and soothing that he had dozed off. Looking at Mr. Snore and Mrs. Yawn, it did look a little bit like they were also sleepwalking, or sleepwaltzing in this case. Leaving them gliding on auto-pilot in his living room, Mr. Harrumph took his jacket and decided to go for a walk to get away from all these eager dance teachers.

 

Who should Mr. Harrumph find walking on the road leading to his house but his brother, Mr. Snort.

“Harrumph, I believe you’re in need of some dance lessons.”

“Not really, Snort. I’ve decided dancing is not for me.”

“Nonsense. You can’t not dance at a dance party. That’s absurd.” He tucked his arm around Mr. Harrumph and bundled him into Mr. Snort’s car nearby and in a jiffy, the two brothers were in Mr. Snort’s home.

“I have just the thing for you,” said Mr. Snort, as he picked up a rose from the vase on the table and grabbed hold of his housekeeper. “The tango!”

 

Mr. Harrumph suddenly realised that Mr. Snort and the housekeeper were coming at him like he was a locked gate and they were a battering ram. Extremely alarmed, Mr. Harrumph ran out.

 

 

Having seen the tango, Mr. Harrumph was sure that he would not be dancing on Friday, no matter what anyone said. He became even more sure when, while running away from Mr. Snort’s house, he saw Miss Shriek and Miss Squeak jumping in their garden, doing a cheerleader’s dance with pompoms and their squeals and shrieks.

“Has Hearditall gone completely mad?” Mr. Harrumph wondered as he watched Miss Squeak catapult herself into the air, with her pompoms.

Mr. Harrumph started walking as fast as he could. All he wanted was to get away from all these dancers.

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It was quite some time later that Mr. Harrumph heard someone calling his name. He turned around to see Miss Grr coming up to him.

“What’s the matter Harrumph? You’re walking like a pickpocket trying to make a getaway and you’re talking to yourself,” she said with a grin.

Mr. Harrumph suddenly felt a little hot around his collar. “No, it’s nothing. I’m fine.”

“Are you really? You’re going red in the face. You’re not going to have a heart attack, are you?” Miss Grr asked, concerned. “I have a medical kit in the police station, if you need it.”

“No, no. I’m fine. If I had to have a heart attack, I think I would have had it much earlier today.” And it was like this that Mr. Harrumph began telling Miss. Grr about his day, with Mr. Sigh’s pirouettes, Mr. Yelp’s breakdance, Mr. Burp’s krump, Mr. Snore’s waltz, Mr. Snort’s Tango and, of course, Miss Gasp’s Bollywood.

“But I couldn’t learn any of them. I feel terrible, if you must know, Miss Grr. Alright so some of the dances were ridiculous but at least all these people can dance. Everyone will have their moves and I’ll be there, all alone, without knowing what to do with my arms and legs.”

“Harrumph, you’re going about this all wrong. It’s a dance party, which means you dance however you want to. Just do what you feel like doing and it will be your dance.”

“What are you going to be dancing, Miss Grr?”

Miss Grr grinned widely. “I call my dance Stomp. Want to see it?”

“Yes, please!” It was the first time that Mr. Harrumph really did want to see a dance.

Miss Grr started thudding her feet as she jumped around. She clapped her hands. She leapt up in the air. She did a cartwheel. She was smiling and laughing through it all. Then she stopped.

“See Harrumph? Mr. Sigh would probably not consider Stomp to be a dance but it’s me so why not? Don’t worry about the dancing on Friday. Just do whatever it is that you feel like doing.”

“Thank you, Miss Grr,” Mr. Harrumph gruffly. He didn’t know about Mr. Sigh but he had thought Miss Grr’s dance was fantastic.

Miss Grr gave Mr. Harrumph a pat on the back and then went on her way.

 

 

Soon enough, Friday evening came. Mr. Burp had put together the most yummy menu. Guffaw, Giggles and Laugh had decorated their garden beautifully. There was cheerful music in the air. Everyone was shaking both legs, arms, heads and whatever else they could shake. The Dance Party was a success. All of Hearditall had come, dressed beautifully and ready to have fun. The only one who was missing was Mr. Harrumph.

 

Mr. Harrumph was at home, twiddling his thumbs and wondering what to do. He could hear faint strains of the music from the party. He knew he wanted to go but he was still a little scared of being the only one who couldn’t dance. He heard Miss Shriek shrieking and remembered watching her practice in her garden. Then he remembered his brother Mr. Snort with a rose clamped between his teeth. He remembered Mr. Yelp standing straight one minute and then crumbling to his knees as he breakdanced. They had all looked quite silly but they had fun and Mr. Harrumph had fun watching them. Taking a deep breath, Mr. Harrumph decided he would go to the dance party, even though he didn’t have a dance of his own.

 

At the dance party, everyone was dancing delightedly.

Mr. Yelp was breakdancing.

Miss Gasp was dancing Bollywood.

Mr. Snore and Mrs. Yawn were waltzing, and they were awake.

Mr. Burp was krumping.

Miss Grr was stomping.

Mr. Harrumph took one small step towards the dance floor, still a little unsure.

“Mr. Harrumph!” Guffaw yelled as soon as he spotted the new face in the party. “You came!”

Giggles and Laugh pulled him on to the floor. There was a bit of a pause when everyone slowed down their dancing to see what Mr. Harrumph would do. Would he join Miss Gasp in a Bollywood number? Would he take the pompom Miss Shriek was offering him? Would he krump? Would he tango? Would he waltz?

 

Then Mr. Harrumph started dancing.

It wasn’t breakdancing or tango or krump or Bollywood or anything that Hearditall had seen before.

It was Mr. Harrumph’s very own dance.

 

“What is he doing?” Miss Squeak asked in a little voice to Miss Grr.

Miss Grr grinned and said, “It’s the Harrumph Gallumph.” And she joined in. One by one, so did every one else. Mr. Harrumph had never felt happier.

 

And so it was that Mr. Harrumph found his Gallumph and everyone in Hearditall lived happily ever after.

 

The end.

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