The Best of Roald Dahl Read online
The Best of Roald Dahl
Man from the South
The Sound Machine
Dip in the Pool
Edward the Conqueror
Lamb to the Slaughter
The Way Up to Heaven
William and Mary
Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat
Genesis and Catastrophe
The Champion of the World
THE BEST OF ROALD DAHL
Roald Dahl's parents were Norwegian, but he was born in Llandaff, Glamorgan, in 1916 and educated at Repton School. On the outbreak of the Second World War, he enlisted in the RAF at Nairobi. He was severely wounded after joining a fighter squadron in Libya, but later saw service as a fighter pilot in Greece and Syria. In 1942 he went to Washington as Assistant Air Attache, which was where he started to write, and then was transferred to Intelligence, ending the war as a wing commander. His first twelve short stories, based on his wartime experiences, were originally published in leading American magazines and afterwards as a book, Over to You. All of his highly acclaimed stories have been widely translated and have become bestsellers all over the world. Anglia Television dramatized a selection of his short stories under the title Tales of the Unexpected. Among his other publications are two volumes of autobiography, Boy and Going Solo, his much-praised novel, My Uncle Oswald, and Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories, of which he was editor. During the last year of his life he compiled a book of anecdotes and recipes with his wife, Felicity, which was published by Penguin in 1996 as Roald Dahl's Cookbook. He is one of the most successful and well known of all children's writers, and his books are read by children all over the world. These include James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Magic Finger, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Twits, The Witches, winner of the 1983 Whitbread Award, The BFG and Matilda.
Roald Dahl died in November 1990. The Times described him as 'one of the most widely read and influential writers of our generation' and wrote in its obituary: 'Children loved his stories and made him their favourite ... They will be classics of the future.' In 2000 Roald Dahl was voted the nation's favourite author in the World Book Day poll.
For more information on Roald Dahl go to www.roalddahl.com
'Oh Jesus, this is wonderful,' said the Stag.
He was lying back in the bath with a scotch and soda in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The water was right up to the brim and he was keeping it warm by turning the tap with his toes.
He raised his head and took a little sip of his whisky, then he lay back and closed his eyes.
'For God's sake, get out,' said a voice from the next room. 'Come on, Stag, you've had over an hour.' Stuffy was sitting on the edge of the bed with no clothes on, drinking slowly and waiting his turn.
The Stag said, 'All right. I'm letting the water out now,' and he stretched out a leg and flipped up the plug with his toes.
Stuffy stood up and wandered into the bathroom, holding his drink in his hand. The Stag lay in the bath for a few moments more, then, balancing his glass carefully on the soap rack, he stood up and reached for a towel. His body was short and square, with strong thick legs and exaggerated calf muscles. He had coarse curly ginger hair and a thin, rather pointed face covered with freckles. There was a layer of pale ginger hair on his chest.
'Jesus,' he said, looking down into the bathtub, 'I've brought half the desert with me.'
Stuffy said, 'Wash it out and let me get in. I haven't had a bath for five months.'
This was back in the early days when we were fighting the Italians in Libya. One flew very hard in those days because there were not many pilots. They certainly could not send any out from England because there they were fighting the Battle of Britain. So one remained for long periods out in the desert, living the strange unnatural life of the desert, living in the same dirty little tent, washing and shaving every day in a mug full of one's own spat-out tooth water, all the time picking flies out of one's tea and out of One's food, having sandstorms which were as much in the tents as outside them so that placid men became bloody-minded and lost their tempers with their friends and with themselves; having dysentery and gippy tummy and mastoid and desert sores, having some bombs from the Italian S.79's, having no water and no women; having no flowers growing out of the ground; having very little except sand sand sand. One flew old Gloster Gladiators against the Italian C.R.42's, and when one was not flying, it was difficult to know what to do.
Occasionally one would catch scorpions, put them in empty petrol cans and match them against each other in fierce mortal combat. Always there would be a champion scorpion in the squadron, a sort of Joe Louis who was invincible and won all his fights. He would have a name; he would become famous and his training diet would be a great secret known only to the owner. Training diet was considered very important with scorpions. Some were trained on corned beef, some on a thing called Machonachies, which is an unpleasant canned meat stew, some on live beetles and there were others who were persuaded to take a little beer just before the fight, on the premise that it made the scorpion happy and gave him confidence. These last ones always lost. But there were great battles and great champions, and in the afternoons when the flying was over, one could often see a group of pilots and airmen standing around in a circle on the sand, bending over with their hands on their knees, watching the fight, exhorting the scorpions and shouting at them as people shout at boxers or wrestlers in a ring. Then there would be a victory, and the man who owned the winner would become excited. He would dance around in the sand yelling, waving his arms in the air and extolling in a loud voice the virtues of the victorious animal. The greatest scorpion of all was owned by a sergeant called Wishful who fed him only on marmalade. The animal had an unmentionable name, but he won forty-two consecutive fights and then died quietly in training just when Wishful was considering the problem of retiring him to stud.
So you can see that because there were no great pleasures while living in the desert, the small pleasures became great pleasures and the pleasures of children became the pleasures of grown men. That was true for everyone; for the pilots, the fitters, the riggers, the corporals who cooked the food and the men who kept the stores. It was true for the Stag and for Stuffy, so true that when the two of them wangled a forty-eight-hour pass and a lift by air into Cairo, and when they got to the hotel, they were feeling about having a bath rather as you would feel on the first night of your honeymoon.
The Stag had dried himself and was lying on the bed with a towel round his waist, with his hands up behind his head, and Stuffy was in the bath, lying with his head against the back of the bath, groaning and sighing with ecstasy.
The Stag said, 'Stuffy.'
'What are we going to do now?'
'Women,' said Stuffy. 'We must find some women to take out to supper.'
The Stag said, 'Later. That can wait till later.' It was early afternoon.
'I don't think it can wait,' said Stuffy.
'Yes,' said the Stag, 'it can wait.'
The Stag was very old and wise; he never rushed any fences. He was twenty-seven, much older than anyone els