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Pure Dead Brilliant
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Pure Dead Brilliant

Written by Debi GlioriAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Debi Gliori

· Knopf Books for Young Readers
· eBook · September 9, 2003 · $5.99 · 978-0-375-89038-3 (0-375-89038-6)

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Kiss of Death

Titus decided that if there were a button to press that would cause his sister to reincarnate as a cockroach, he would push it without a moment's hesitation. He stood outside her bedroom door, seething, as he read the notice taped to the oak paneling:

Pandora's Room
entry is absolutely forbidden to any of the following:
possessors of smelly pits & dog's breath
one-celled amoebas with memory of goldfish
smug, rich jerks
the terminally plug-ugly
the criminally insane
and especially the vertically challenged over 12 yrs.
Titus, all of the above describe you, so bog off.
Yours Cordially, Pandora Strega-Borgia
Pandora's Room
United Kingdom
Western Hemisphere
The Universe
The Galaxy

"Just because I'm about to inherit all Grandfather Borgia's money and you're broke doesn't mean you have to be so aggressive." Titus's voice bounced off the door and down the landing, but brought no answering response from within. He pressed his mouth up to the keyhole and tried again. "Some people just can't handle other people's good fortune, can they, Pandora?"

Over his head, dangling from the cornice, Pandora's pet tarantula, Tarantella, gave out an exasperated "Tchhhh." Titus looked up and shuddered. There was something about the scuttling nature of spiders that revolted him. This one in particular, with her swollen abdomen, gave him nightmares. Titus loathed the entire spider race with a deep and abiding passion. Their gross hairiness, their appetite for flies, their--

The tarantula grinned widely, as if reading his thoughts. "Like it?" she inquired, puckering up her lipsticked mouth parts into a pout. "It's a new one. Now, what's it called . . . ?" Tarantella rummaged under her abdomen with one hairy leg and produced a minuscule lipstick. "Let me see . . . 'Blood-Lust.' Mmm-hmm. Come on, Titus, I know you find me irresistible, give us a kiss. . . ."

With a barely stifled shriek, Titus fled downstairs. Trembling, he burst through the kitchen door and was immediately assailed by a stench that defied description. The beasts were already at breakfast and, judging by the state of the kitchen, had been eating for several hours. Sprawled across the kitchen table, Ffup, the teenage dragon, had her vast head buried in her talons.

"Don't say it," she warned, gazing down at Titus with her vast golden eyes. "Just don't say it, right? I've been up all night with that wee horror, and now he sits there, wolfs down forty-eight Miserablios, three boxes of Ricey Krispettes, and then does a major dump, downloading the lot into his pants. I tell you, pal, I'm not cut out for this motherhood stuff. I hate changing diapers, and . . ." The dragon paused, peered under her baby's high chair, and whimpered, "Yup, just as I thought, it's a shovel job."

"Spare me the details," muttered Titus, edging past Ffup and patting her offending infant on his scaly little head. "Phwoarr, Nestor, you stink, don't you?"

The baby gazed up at Titus and grinned gummily, clapping his tiny wings above his head and lashing his snake-like tail back and forth by way of greeting. This had the unfortunate consequence of launching most of the contents of his overloaded diaper into orbit.

"Stop. Stop. STOP!" wailed Ffup. "Oh, yeurrrch. I can't handle this. . . . Knot! knot? Come on, help me out here."

Emerging from the pantry with a sheepish grin, Knot the yeti shuffled across the kitchen to stare hopefully at his fellow beasts. The yeti's perpetually unsanitary fur was clotted with fetid lumps of food that had somehow failed to make the journey to his mouth. He wrinkled up his fur in the general area of his nose, sniffed deeply in sincerest appreciation of the odors in the kitchen, and sighed in happy anticipation.

"Nestor has a wee something for you," muttered Ffup, burying her nostrils in a coffee cup. "Freshly laid, still warm . . ."

"Give me strength," gagged Titus, turning his back on this revolting inter-beast exchange.

"Mmm-yummy," observed Knot, dipping an experimental paw in the puddle under Nestor's high chair. Titus moaned softly and closed his eyes. Knot sniffed, unrolled his lengthy spotted tongue, and sampled a little morsel. "Naww," he pronounced, at length. "Bit overripe, that one. Nope. Don't fancy it much."

"Don't be so picky," said Ffup. "Be a gent. Help me out. Just close your eyes and think of Gorgonzola. Pleeeeease?"

Knot wiped his paw on his tummy and scratched his armpit thoughtfully. "If you don't mind, I'll pass," he mumbled, clearly uncomfortable at the prospect of letting Ffup down. "I'm not really too hungry right this minute."

"Well, I'm starving," said Pandora, arriving in the kitchen by way of the door to the herb garden. "Phwoarr. Urghhh. What's that stench?"

"Here we go again," sighed Ffup, glaring at her baby son. "See what you've done?"

"'Morning, all." Pandora kicked off her rubber boots and came over to warm herself beside Titus at the range. "Are we all pretending that there isn't a vast pile of dragon poo on the floor over there, or is someone going to clean it up?"

"Ffup is," said Titus. "Aren't you, Ffup?"

"What? And ruin my manicured talons?" squeaked the dragon. "You can't be serious. These took me ages." Hoping for female sympathy, she extended one paw for Pandora's inspection. Each of her seven talons was painted a lurid sugar-pink. "Pretty, aren't they?" Ffup smirked, examining her paw with satisfaction, turning it this way and that, all the better to catch the light.

Mrs. Flora McLachlan, nanny to Titus and Pandora, entered the kitchen with their baby sister, Damp, in her arms. Smelling something truly awful and assuming that it was about to be her breakfast, the little girl buried her face in the nanny's shoulder and gave a little moan.

"Good heavens, is that the time?" Mrs. McLachlan peered at the mantelpiece clock in dismay. "My bedside clock isn't keeping very good time, and the alarm didn't go off." Then, as she became aware of the odor in the kitchen, she added, "Ffup, dear, I'm sure you're aware that Nestor needs a diaper change. D'you think you could stop admiring your manicure, stir your stumps, and do it before your mistress comes downstairs for breakfast?"

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Excerpted from Pure Dead Brilliant by Debi Gliori Copyright © 2005 by Debi Gliori. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.