Behind the Pineapple Piecesabout these words?

It was wrapped in shiny stuff. Mark would have thought it was an Easter surprise Mum hadn't hidden very well, except that it moved ... quickly. No sooner had he focussed dumbstruck on this not-a-chocolate-bunny, than it flung out a fine coppery spiral and, somehow, arrived inside his pocket.

Mark didn't know what to do. Would it bite? Zap him with that coppery thing? Take over his brain? Where had it come from - and how? Were there any more in the pantry?

At the thought of this, Mark sprung into sensible action. He crammed his pockets with cream biscuits (scanning the cupboard all the while), slammed the pantry door and bolted for his Safe Place. This was the biggest, softest armchair in the house, soaking up the soothing, strengthening afternoon sunlight.

Dobbs the tabby was already there. Mark pushed him off and sank into comfort, his mouth full of biscuits.

The Thing spoke. English.

"I am Jorn. I have come far, on a great and noble quest. Will you aid or hinder me? Are you friend or foe? Speak!"

That was tricky, with three shortbread creams choking him, but Mark tried. What came out was "Blerr-ke-fuff!" and a shower of fine crumbs. Jorn looked on in what was presumably noble self-restraint, then flick! Out came the coppery spiral again, and he was gone.

Dobbs stared flat-eyed at the creature before him.

"I am Jorn ..."

"I heard," Dobbs purred. "Don't mind the boy-servant. His kind are useful to us cats, but uncouth in their habits. I take it you wish to speak with an intelligent being on this planet? I am Dobbs."

Jorn sized up Dobbs' furred face, and seemed satisfied.

"Then there is intelligent life on Earth? We on Splat had only heard of humans."

"Clumsy creatures," mused Dobbs. "Able to communicate, after a fashion. No capacity for logical thought, however. They actually fancy themselves masters of this planet. We cats indulge them - it's a harmless fantasy. How quaint that their mewlings are heard across the universe."

"Fascinating, isn't it?" replied Jorn, as courteous as the cat. "May I seek your wise assistance with my quest, esteemed Dobbs?"

"Ask on, my friend."

"A grand prize has been offered on Splat to the space voyager who brings home the most marvellous object from outermost space. Your sage advice would surely guide me to victory in this tournament."

The cat's eyes narrowed to knife-edge slits. His tail tip twitched deliberately as he squatted, thinking.

Mark wondered why Dobbs didn't pounce on the Jorn thing. He'd been watching the two creatures, but hadn't understood they were in conversation.

Dobbs rose on silent paws and padded elegantly from the room. Jorn followed and so, at a distance, did Mark. Where were they going?

In the bedroom, Dobbs stretched an expert paw to toss a bundle of Mark's treasures out of the way. Reaching behind the wardrobe, he drew out Mark's favourite, longlost yo-yo. Mark leapt on it and proceeded to spin it, round-the-world, walk-the-dog, all his old tricks. He almost forgot Jorn for a moment.

"Well-trained, isn't he?" smiled Jorn. "I thank you, Dobbs. Farewell!"

Mark gazed, wondering, at his empty hand. He looked at the inscrutable face of Dobbs.

Our children's desks and schoolbags can be a fertile source of ideas for writing.

A student teacher at our children's school provided the beginnings of this story. (Apparently from a foreign source; I've edited 'pineapple chunks' to 'pineapple pieces'.) Thus:

The Story So Far:

Dramatis Personae:

Mark (a boy)

Jorn (an alien from the Planet Splat)

A prize has been offered on Splat to the space traveller who brings back the most unusual object from the far reaches of the universe.

Mark finds Jorn behind a tin of pineapple chunks. Jorn moves in an instant into Mark's jacket:.....