By Patrick Kennedy
I knew today was going to be a bad day when I discovered I had put my underpants on backwards - and inside out. Inside out is a drag but backwards is just plain uncomfortable. It felt funny as I sat down for breakfast and I went back to the bedroom to check after my cereal. My little brother Kyle came in to our bedroom when I was getting changed and fell over laughing when he saw what I was doing.
“Don’t you tell mum, and specially don’t tell Megan – she’ll tell those drippy friends of hers and it’ll be all round school by play time.” I glared at him, still rolling round on the floor.
“What’ll you give me not to tell?” Kyle always tried to get something out of you if he thought he had a chance.
“If anybody finds out I’ll pound you – understand?” I looked down at him. He stopped laughing and nodded.
“Mum wants to know if you want some toast – she thought you were sick or something.”
“Yeah, I’ll go and finish breakfast – you walking to school?”
“I’m waiting for Brett and Wayne – if they’re here by the time you leave can we walk with you?”
“Uh, with Wayne - I dunno…”
Most of my little brother’s friends were all right (for grade threes), but me and my friends called Wayne ‘Wayne the pain’. He was one of those kids who you just knew would always be a dick – full of himself and a real nuisance to teachers and older kids.
The thing was his older sister was OK and his mum was really nice. When you met his dad though you realised who Wayne took after. He ran his own business and was always trying to sell the grown ups something.
But the real reason I didn’t want to walk to school with my brother if Wayne was with him was because Wayne always acted like we were walking with him, not the other way around. Usually it would be obvious: the older kids in the group were in charge, keeping an eye on the traffic, making sure everybody crossed at the crossing and making sure the little kids didn’t mess about. Not according to Wayne: Wayne was like a smaller version of his dad – loud, overconfident and – a pain! As far as he was concerned he was allowed to walk to school on his own and do what he liked and he never took any notice of the older kids. So I wasn’t that keen on walking with my little brother if Wayne was in the group.
“I might take my bike.”
“Ohhh, but if you go on your own mum will make us walk with Megan and her friends and they’re really boring and bossy. Don’t go on your own; walk with us. Anyway what’s wrong with Wayne? He’s my friend – I walk with your friends.”
“My friends aren’t total dicks like Wayne – why do you hang around with him anyway? Everybody thinks he’s a loser, and it makes you look like one too.”
“He’s not a loser; they’ve got a pool and everything -”
“Kyle, Wayne has two real friends, you and Brett – other kids just suck up to him ‘cause he has pool parties for his birthday. All the older kids think he’s a pain. He might be your friend but he’s a loser.”
I thought for a minute; walking to school with the grade threes would at least distract me from my problems…
“I’ll wait and walk with you but if Wayne gets too annoying, I’ll push him under a car!”
“Thanks – I’ll go get ready.”
I went out to the kitchen to get some toast hoping the day would get better. It didn’t. It was the worst school day I ever had: everybody was annoyed with me, and it wasn’t even my fault. It was our dog’s fault. He got me into this mess.
This time yesterday I was on the way to being a star student – I had got all my homework done, the big project that me and five other kids worked on together was safely saved on my memory stick ready for printing at school and I had loaded all the Year 7 camp photos on as well, so Mr Simms could pick out the ones he wanted for the school magazine. It had all started last night…
All my homework, my school project and the photos from school camp that Mr Simms, the year 7 coordinator wanted: all gone - all inside Charlie, our big boofhead dog.
How did it get there?
It’s so easy to do: you just keep your little computer thing in the top pocket of your school shirt when you go out to feed the dog and when you bend over to tip the tin of dog food into the dish the computer thingy falls in too. You don’t notice at first, though, because the dog bumps you to try and get to the food and you’re too busy pushing him away so you can empty the can. By the time you notice it’s missing and see it in the dog’s bowl it’s just disappearing into the dog in a huge gulp of dog food.
I rushed in to tell Mum.
“Mum! The dog ate my memory stick!”
“My memory stick – you know my computer thing with all the school camp photos and stuff on it!”
“Where was it? You weren’t doing silly things with the dog were you?”
“Nooo! It was in my shirt pocket and it fell out into the bowl when I was putting Charlie’s dog food out for him. I didn’t see it until Charlie had eaten it – now it’s gone! Ohhh, I’m in so much trouble!”
“Don’t shout! I told you to change out of your school clothes as soon as you get home – if you had it wouldn’t have been anywhere near the dog. Will it make the dog sick?”
“I don’t know – I feel sick! All my homework is on it, and Mr Simms is going to go mad at me when he finds out I’ve lost the photos.”
So now my life is a bit of a dog’s dinner, as Mum said.
I blame my Dad. He bought the dog – It took us ages to convince Mum that we should have a dog and finally she weakened. The one thing is she said we should get a small dog that could be house trained: one like my Auntie Jean has got.
Auntie Jean is my mum’s sister and she and Uncle Trevor live in this really tidy house in Glen Waverley. You know, nice carpets, chairs you can’t sit on and the kitchen floor is always shiny. Well Auntie Jean has this little brown and white dog, named after some King called Charles (I don’t know which one; we didn’t do that in history – anyway I thought he was just a prince…).
It’s okay, I suppose, a bit yappy and nervous but ever so clean and doesn’t chew the furniture or anything. So that’s what my mum said we could get – one of these King Charles dogs.
Only my dad gets our dog from someone he works with who tells him it’s got mostly King Charles in it. Well I don’t know where – it was a noisy little puppy and just kept growing until it was about ten times the size of Auntie Jean’s dog. Anyway Dad called it Charles to try to get mum to like it but she just told dad to keep it outside. I think she wanted to keep dad outside for a while too, but she forgave him in the end.
The funny thing is Mum is the only one who can control the dog – but then everybody does what Mum says in our place - even Dad. So there I am, standing in the kitchen and mum isn’t really interested in what I’m telling her.
“You will have to wait to see what happens – what goes in one end usually comes out the other,” she says.
“Oh, gross - how long will that take?”
“I don’t know – a day or two I suppose. You could ring the Vet’s and ask them.”
I look for the phone then say “Mum, Where’s –“
“On the fridge – one of those magnetic things.”
How come mothers always know what you are thinking? I ring the Vet’s and the receptionist answers.
“Can I speak to the Vet please – I need some advice about our dog.”
“The Vet is in surgery at the moment. What’s the problem, I might be able to help you.”
“Well, he swallowed something he shouldn’t have.”
“Oh dear, was it something in the garden? You need to be very careful with pesticides and weedkiller, you know.”
“No it wasn’t any thing poisonous – at least I don’t think it is…. It’s my memory stick.”
“My memory stick – you know, one of those little things you put in computers and save your homework on.”
“Oh, right – how big is it?” I could tell she didn’t have any idea what I was talking about - what is it with grown-ups, they are supposed to be so smart but most of the time they haven’t got a clue….
“It’s small – about the size of …” I held up my hand and examined the size of my fingers. “about as wide as my thumb – maybe a bit longer.”
“How old are you – only I can’t see your thumb over the phone so I just have to imagine it.”
I looked at my thumb and tried to figure out whether my thumb was the right size for my age.
“Hullo - are you still there?”
“Oh sorry, yeah, I was just trying to work out - oh, never mind - I’m twelve.”
“Right, so it’s not very big this stick thing – how big is your dog?”
“Aahhh - well, he’s supposed to be a King Charles dog but he’s not, he’s bigger than that – more like a small Labrador or something. And he’s black with bits of white and his fur isn’t curly like my auntie’s dog.”
“So he’s medium sized and a bit of everything, and he’s eaten your stick thing.”
“He’s not choking or anything?”
“I don’t think so – he was just gutsing down his dog food when I came in to tell my mum about it.”
“Can you see him now?”
“No, but I can hear him barking – he always barks when my Mum’s getting dinner. It drives her mad but he won’t shut up.”
“So if he’s barking he’s not choking – just hold on a moment and I’ll pop my head into the surgery and see what the vet says.”
I stood there with the phone to my ear and waited. I could hear all these strange sounds over the phone in the background: dogs barking, cats wailing, footsteps going away from the phone, voices, and then footsteps coming back.
“Oh good; well the vet knew what this stick thing was and said it probably wouldn’t hurt the dog. It will pass through in its own good time and the dog will be fine, so that’s alright.”
“But how do I get it back – I know our dog will be alright; he eats anything, even our cat’s food – but I need the memory stick. When will it come out the other end, and will it be all right? If Mr Simms finds out our dog has swallowed the school camp photos he’ll go mad!”
“Well I imagine sometime in the next couple of days.” She suddenly sounded as if she didn’t want to be having this conversation anymore. “Dogs are usually very regular. You’ll just have to be patient – anyway your dog should be alright, that’s the main thing isn’t it?”
“I suppose so – thanks for your help.”
“It’s my pleasure, goodbye.”
“Bye.” I pressed the button to hang up and went back into the kitchen. I could hear the dog barking outside and my mum had a set look on her face as she made dinner. I suddenly thought maybe she didn’t really like the dog, and I felt a bit sad for both of them. Mum looked up as I came in.
“What did the vet say?”
“Sort of what you said – it wouldn’t hurt the dog and it would come out when it came out.”
“Well there you are then – just keep an eye out for it and you’ll soon have it back.”
“Soon isn’t good enough – all my homework is on there and the photos – Mr Simms is going to kill me tomorrow. And even if it comes out it’ll probably be ruined!”
“Well you should have looked after it – I’m always telling you to look out for your things – maybe this will help you to remember in future.”
“Aawwhh! That’s no help – Mr Simms will go mad…”
Mum looked at me and sighed.
“If you are going to stand there moaning you can set the table for dinner. Oh that dog!” She went to the back door and told him off. He stopped barking and I heard him snuffling around her legs. She came back in and the dog followed obediently at her heels.
“Sit down, Charlie – no - by the door, good dog, sit!” Charlie lay down on the floor by the door, put his head on his paws and watched my mum as she went back to the stove. I thought I’d be in less trouble if I did what I was told too, so I got the tablecloth out and started setting the table. Mum didn’t often let Charlie in – she usually just ignored him, or told him off if she was really annoyed – so to bring him in was pretty rare. Charlie just lay there watching Mum with his big brown eyes: he looked like he really loved her - he never looked at me or Dad like that; and he definitely never was that obedient with anybody else in the family. My mum seemed much calmer suddenly too, she was even humming as she rattled the pots and pans. Maybe she did like the dog after all.
“Mum, how do you get Charlie to do what you want him to?”
She looked up from the pot she was stirring.
“Dogs are much the same as children – you just have to make sure they know who’s in charge.”
Okay, that put me and my brother and sister in with the dog, I thought; the same probably applied to my dad in most situations: although there were times when my dad was obviously in charge.
“If you’ve got the table done you can call the others,” said mum.
Dinner was, as usual, very noisy and mum put up with the chatter until Charlie tried to join in.
“Charlie! Be quiet! Are you all finished? Megan and Kyle, you clear the table, Campbell put the leftovers away and load the dishwasher. Charlie, come on – walkies.” She took the dog lead and her coat from the hook on the back door and went out with the dog. I put food into plastic containers in the fridge while my brother and sister squabbled over who cleared the rest of the table.
“If mum comes back and the table isn’t cleared you two will get into trouble.” I warned them. Kyle looked at me and started to argue but then we heard Charlie barking as he came down the street and the two of them almost ran between the table and the bench with the dirty dishes. I was just loading the last of the dirty dishes into the dishwasher as mum and Charlie came in the back door. Mum hung her coat and the lead on the hook.
“Lie down Charlie, good boy” She patted his head – Charlie looked as surprised as I did, mum never patted Charlie, at least I had never seen her do it. She looked up at me:
“Yeah, I’m going to do my Maths. I want to get it finished before ‘Doctor Who’ comes on.”
Later, watching tele with my mum, I asked her about Charlie again. She was a bit reluctant to talk about it.
“Mum, how will we know when my memory stick comes out of Charlie?”
As I predicted, the walk to school was dominated by Wayne, only not for the reason I thought. It went like this: when Mum knew I was walking to school with my friends and would supervise Kyle and his friends she let Megan go early and got the dog ready for his walk. Mum and Charlie kept us company up to the corner which meant Wayne behaved himself (sort of…) because he knew Mum wouldn’t put up with any mucking about. He had been around our place often enough to know that Mum wasn’t particular about who she told off – play up around our mum and she would let you know; so our house always seemed to be full of well behaved kids, at least if Mum was around: it was a different story if Dad was in charge.
So as far as the corner it was pretty normal – at least as normal as you could get with three really dopey grade threes and a dog that had never worked out that he was a dog and not a boy. Anyway when we got to the corner Mum took Charlie off one way and we went the other way towards school. That was when the fun started…. and naturally it started with Wayne.
The first trick he tried was the obvious one: he lagged behind and Kyle and Brett slowed with him, so suddenly they were about a house length behind us. When I noticed I stopped and turned around:
“Kyle, keep up! If you don’t I’ll tell Mum and she’ll walk you to school every day for the rest of the year, ‘cos I won’t!”
My little brother rolled his eyes and nudged his friends. Andrew and Darren waited with me as the three of them dawdled their way up to us – Wayne was the slowest, naturally. I told them to stay in front where I could keep an eye on them and we hustled them along for the next block. When we stopped at the corner there was some traffic coming but I could see Wayne twitching, wanting to cross the road on his own to show he didn’t need supervising by older kids. The only problem I could see was Kyle – if Wayne dived out into the traffic he and Brett would probably follow: if Wayne got flattened by the kind of overgrown four-wheel drive his dad drove I thought the world would celebrate, but if Kyle and Brett disappeared under the same wheels mum would kill me….
I saw a slight gap appear and just as Wayne lifted his foot my hand clamped on his collar. He turned around to protest, his face red and angry.
“Wayne, one word and I’ll throw you under the next car.” He looked at me and obviously decided he couldn’t trust me not to and turned away to talk to the other two.
We all crossed the road safely and I relaxed a bit – there were no more crossings until we reached the primary school and the crossing supervisor was a fierce little old lady, who even frightened Wayne.
I was busy talking to Darren and Andrew and didn’t really notice the younger ones drift back behind us as we walked. In fact I had forgotten about them until…
“Cameron! CAMERON!! HELP!”
Kyle’s shrieks reminded me of the grade threes and I turned around. All I could see was Kyle and Brett about two houses back behind us waving, pointing and shouting. I sighed and Andrew, Darren and I walked back towards them.
“Where’s Wayne?” I started to say and then saw a sight that almost made me laugh: Wayne was up a tree in a garden and an old man was below him with a big dog that obviously wanted to eat him. Another dog giving me problems! Once again I was tempted to leave him there, but figured that mum would not be impressed with my grown up supervising skills. I waved at the old man.
“Hey mister, let him down.”
“He’s trespassing – I’m allowed to protect my property. The dog can have him!”
“He’s only eight, he’s not even smart enough to spell trespass.” When I said this Wayne looked like he wanted to stay up the tree. “Let him down.”
Andrew got out his phone and waved it at the man.
“I’m gonna call the cops – if they come around they’ll take the dog away and probably put him down.”
The old man grumbled and led the dog back to the house. Wayne came down the tree like a possum and jumped the fence. Andrew picked him up by the shirt-front and shook him. Andrew was a very big year seven and usually very relaxed, but if he shook you, you stayed shook.
“Wayne, for a grade three you’re a real dickhead – I should throw you back over the fence for that dog to eat! When are you gonna grow up?” He shook him again and dropped him on the grass. Wayne picked himself up and didn’t reply but just fell in between Kyle and Brett in front of us. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I saw tears in his eyes – I wondered whether he was more frightened of the dog or Andrew. The rest of the walk to school was very subdued, Kyle and his friends stayed about four metres in front of us, and every so often Kyle or Brett would glance behind to make sure we were still there. Maybe Andrew had got the message through to Wayne, but I wasn’t sure it would last…
Arriving at the school gate reminded me again of the trouble I would be in as the day unfolded. My problems would start in homeroom before classes even began and could only get worse. Mr Simms was our homeroom teacher and he was sure to ask me about the camp photos. He said yesterday that he would download them at lunchtime so he would ask me if I had remembered the memory stick. Whatever I said would get me into trouble: if I said I had forgotten it, he would be annoyed because he wanted to sort through them for the school newsletter this week and it was already Tuesday. If I told him our dog had eaten them I would probably get expelled!
This would also mean my name was mud with the other kids working on the project – two of them were in my homeroom group, they would tell the others and they would all have a go at me. We had planned to print the project today or tomorrow (tomorrow might just save my life!) depending on when we could book the big printer in the library. I had insisted on saving the whole project on one memory stick – mine: the memory stick that as far as I knew was still inside Charlie – and even if it wasn’t it would be in a pretty bad way!
I thought about bunking off but only for a moment: I had never skipped school in my life and I didn’t see any point in starting now. Today was probably going to end my reputation at school forever but my dad always said the worst thing you could be was a quitter so I thought I should just keep going. He also said something always turns up which made my mum sigh and say he was just a dreamer, but something always seemed to – although that might have had more to do with the fact that while my dad was a very smart and well known professor, it was my mum who organised everything in our family, from the household to our holidays and even made sure that my dad was dressed properly when he went to work! Whatever turned up was more likely because my mum had organised it than any other reason.
I went to my locker and sorted my bag out, getting my books for periods one and two to take to home room, although I wasn’t sure I would be alive to go to them, not if I told Mr Simms the reason I didn’t have the memory stick: if he didn’t get me the project group would…
I walked over to homeroom with Josh and Kerri who had the lockers on either side of mine. All the lockers were in homeroom groups and those groups were based on whether we studied French or Japanese as our language. I was doing French and Darren and Andrew were in the Japanese class, so we had different homeroom groups. Josh was a small, skinny, twitchy kid who never stopped talking and was always in trouble with the teachers because of it.
“Whadja do last night? I watched TV all night – til my mum sent me to bed anyway.”
“I did some maths for homework then I watched Doctor Who – mum wouldn’t let me stay up any later.”
“Maths - did we have maths homework? I didn’t hear the teacher say we had homework in maths. I always copy down my homework – jeez I don’t want to get into trouble, I never get into trouble over homework - ”
Kerri laughed and put her arm around Josh’s shoulders.
“You don’t have time to get in trouble for homework ‘cause you’re always in trouble for talking, Joshy. Anyway I don’t remember any maths homework either.” she raised her eyebrows at me over Josh.
“Nah we didn’t have any homework, I just finished off what we were doing in class. Thing is, if I told my mum I didn’t have any homework, first, she wouldn’t believe me and then she’d ring the school and ask why they weren’t giving us enough homework! So it’s easier to say I had some maths and then she’s happy.”
“Jeez your mum’s funny, mine doesn’t know whether I’ve got homework or not – she’s usually at work when I get home anyway.”
Josh lived with his mum and little sister, who was in Kyle’s class at the school and often came over to our house to play; his mum was a nurse and worked funny shifts at the hospital. Josh was the only kid I knew who could cook properly, you know, make a whole meal from the beginning. Once when we went over to his house he cooked a roast dinner for four of us and his mum and sister – it was as good as my mum could make.
Kerri on the other hand was one of those kids who just seemed to find life a laugh. Lots of her friends were boys, like me and Josh, but she hung around with girls too and was a star in the year 7 netball team. She was always up to date with her schoolwork and had been class captain since lower primary school - she could have been really sickening but was one of the most popular kids in our year. Normally I would have told her about the dog and the memory stick, she would have laughed her head off at it, but I couldn’t afford to let the news get back to Mr Simms or the other kids in the project group – my day was looking worse by the minute as we went through the doors to ‘B’ block and up the stairs to our home room. I sat in my usual seat and worried.
“What’s up Cam?” Kerri nudged me.
“Huh? Oh, nothing, it’s just Mondays, you know…”
“Cheer up then, cos it’s Tuesday.”
“Oh right, so it is – great. That’s good.” I sat there worrying still: if it had been Monday it would have been alright. What I really needed was a time machine, like Doctor Who!
Just then Mr Simms swept in the door in his usual hurry his coat flying behind him and with Miss O’Grady trotting behind.
“Good Morning 7S – I have to go to a meeting with the head, Miss O’Grady will take home room. Any misbehaviour will be punished in the usual way!” He made a throat cutting action, smiled and left. I just sat there in a state of shock until Kerri nudged me again. I heard the teacher’s voice.
“Cameron! Are you here?”
“Oh sorry Miss – present.” I thought I had better wake up before I got into more trouble so I sat up and listened to the notices carefully. As homeroom dragged to a close I was chatting to Kerri when I realised Miss O’Grady was standing by the desk. A shiver went down my back: I thought Mr Simms had told her to get the memory stick for him – what would I tell her?
I looked up with a worried expression - and she said:
“Kerri did you remember we have an extra netball practice at lunchtime?”
“Yes Miss – will we be finished by 1 o’clock? Only there’s a year captains meeting on then and I have to go to that as well.”
“That’s OK you can leave practice about 5 to 1 and go to your meeting.”
The teacher turned away and I realised I had been holding my breath through the whole conversation. I let it out with a sigh and Miss O’Grady heard me and turned back.
“Oh, I almost forgot; Cameron, Mr Simms said could you find him in the staff room at lunchtime? He said something about photos.”
My shoulders slumped again: “Yes Miss.”
She turned away and Kerri looked at me again.
“Are you alright Cam?”
“Oh yeah, I’m fine; it’s just not going to be a very good day, that’s all.”
“What’s up? You’re not in trouble with Mr Simms are you? I thought you were his star student!”
“By the end of today I won’t be.”
“Why – what have you done – or not done? It can’t be homework, cos you’re in my classes and we haven’t had much so far.”
“I haven’t done anything yet but that won’t stop me getting into trouble with Mr Simms; and if I get in trouble with him I’ll be in a lot of other trouble.”
Kerri looked sideways at me and opened her mouth to speak, but the bell went for first period and we gathered up our stuff to change rooms.
Mr Simms was usually our maths teacher but because he wasn’t there we had Mr Wilson instead. Mr Wilson taught the older kids and every time we had him as a substitute he gave us this really hard maths to do. So when we had Mr Wilson I would sit with Tom ‘cause he was a genius at maths, but he was in the project group and would probably ask me about printing it out at lunchtime and I didn’t want that. So I sat with Kerri and Josh and I really struggled with the stuff Mr Wilson gave us.
Tom kept giving me these funny looks, because he couldn’t work out why I didn’t sit with him – and Kerri and Josh looked a bit surprised when I sat down with them instead of drifting over to sit with Tom – but Mr Wilson hit us with all this heavy duty maths and we were too busy for anything else.
On the way out of the classroom after we were finished Tom caught up with me.
“How’d you go with old Wilson’s maths?”
“Rubbish – didn’t finish any of them - what about you?”
“OK – that third one was a bit hard, but I got it eventually. Why didn’t you come sit with me? I would have helped you like usual.”
“Yeah I know, but I have to try and do them on my own sometime if I want to pass maths in high school.”
As I was saying this I was hoping that Tom believed me and didn’t ask me about the project. He did but he did anyway.
“Are we going to print that project out today?”
“Maybe – we have to use the big printer in the library and I don’t know if we can get it yet. I’ll have to ask the librarian at break.”
“OK. I want to catch Mr Wilson, see you in French.” Tom dashed after the teacher and I let my breath out with a sigh.
Kerri looked at me for a minute then said:
“Are you trying to break some record for holding your breath?”
“Cos that’s the second time today you’ve been holding your breath. Are you OK?”
“Me? OK? Yeah, sure, no, no probs…”
Kerri shook her head.
“I don’t believe you, Cam – you’ve always been a terrible liar. It’s about the project isn’t it? Haven’t you finished your bit or something?”
“No it’s all finished, all fine, really.”
Kerri still looked disbelieving and shook her head.
“So what trouble are you in with Mr Simms - can’t be the project, that’s not his class, we’ve had maths…. We don’t really have him again today. So why does he want to see you at lunchtime?”
“Ohh, nothing, really nothing at all.”
I knew Kerri wouldn’t believe me and I was so tempted just to tell her the story, but luckily we reached the classroom with lots of others and the teacher told us all to quieten down. We found our seats and got our books out. Kerri looked across at me.
“Tell me at break.” She hissed. I rolled my eyes and shrugged my shoulders. This was getting more mixed up as the day went on, and it was only the second period. I got out my French book and my folder as the teacher started talking. At least we had a test this period and I might get a break from questions. I was wrong again – after the test we had ten minutes of conversation for the last bit of the lesson. We could talk, but only in French, which limited the topics we could cover a bit; Kerri looked straight across the table at me and said:
“Quelle est votre problem?”
“What?” I said.
“En Francais, s’il vous plait.” said the teacher as she passed our table.
“Sorry – er pardon, quelle?”
“Quelle est votre problem??”
I sighed and looked at the book in front of me.
“Le chien est mange ma travail de maison.”
"En Français, s’il vous plait" I replied.
Before Kerri could reply in any language, the teacher clapped her hands and told us to pack up. A couple of minutes later the bell went for break and we crowded out and headed for the lockers.
“OK,” said Kerri as we crossed the playground, “what were you saying about your dog? It’s got mange or something?”
I realised that my French accent was so bad that Kerri hadn’t understood what I had said. I didn’t reply, thinking about whether to tell her or not.
“Is it infectious?” she said.
“Mange – what your dog’s got!”
“Don’t know, why?”
“Well you’d have to keep it in if it was.”
“Oh, yeah, it mustn’t be then ‘cause my mum walked Charlie with us on the way to school.”
“So you haven’t got it then,” Kerri laughed, stuck her books in her locker and then dashed off to play netball. I stared after her and stuffed my books in my locker. I looked around suspiciously after I got my snack out and closed my locker – I didn’t want to run into Mr Simms or any of the other kids from the project group. I spotted a couple of them coming across the playground, so I headed around the side of the art block and down towards the old trees below the oval.
If I could lie low for the next two periods I might be able to think of a way to avoid Mr Simms at lunchtime. But the next two periods were going to be tricky: there were six of us in the project group and four of the others shared the next two classes with me. Someone was bound to ask me about printing it off and I would have to hope that they didn’t ask too many questions….
The bell went for the end of break and I headed back towards the lockers. Kerri was already there when I arrived, red faced and bubbly from her netball.
“Hey Cam, where’d you get to, some kids were looking for you.”
I looked at her, imagining who they might be – probably the rest of my project group – oh well, they would see me soon enough in the next class. I mumbled something about going to the library.
“The library? At break? Are you feeling alright, Cam? Seriously, you haven’t got that mangy thing from your dog have you?” Kerri looked at me with a concerned expression, a sort of mix between worry for me and worry that what I had might be contagious…. I just shrugged and grabbed my books from my locker.
The day just got worse and worse.
First I ran into Teri on the way to class. Teri was in the project group and she was really bossy when we did work in groups. She had wanted each of us to save our bit of the project on our own memory stick and print it out ourselves. Guess who opened his big mouth and said why don’t we put it all on one stick – say, mine – and then we can print out the whole thing in one hit, and it will all be in the same style….
Unluckily for big mouth me, Teri thought this was a good idea, although I think she was a bit annoyed that she hadn’t thought of the idea and suggested putting it all on her stick. And it seemed like such a good idea at the time.... Now I was going to end up in the doghouse with Mr Simms and four of the smartest kids in the class. This was the worst day of my life!
“Are we going to print the project at lunchtime?” was the first thing Teri said as she caught me up.
“Don’t know – we have to talk to Mrs Linley. We need the big printer in the library resources room.” Kerri looked around at me.
“Weren’t you in the library at break, Cam? You could’ve asked her then.”
“Oh, ah, I didn’t see her. She must have been over in the staff room or something.” I said, digging myself a bigger hole by the second.
“Oh well,” said Teri, “we can go and ask her at the start of lunchtime – it should be alright. It won’t take long.”
“No.” I said, thinking that it wouldn’t take any time at all, as I didn’t have anything to print from! I could see my school life ending sometime in the next two hours….
Kerri and Teri talked over my head as we walked across to the classroom.
“Are you coming to practice at lunchtime?”
“Yes but I have to leave at five to, there’s a form captains meeting at one.”
“You’re going to be all sweaty when you turn up – nobody will sit next to you!”
“I’ll just sit next to Janine, she’s got that perfume on again today, I could smell it in Maths....”
“That’ll drown anything – where does she get it?”
“She said her boyfriend bought it for her.”
“Boyfriend?!? What boyfriend – she probably pinched it from her mum!”
“Mmmm, I’ve never seen this boyfriend either – not you is it Cam?!?”
“What? Who? Me? No Way!!!”
The two of them fell about laughing.
“Cam, your face!”
“Don’t you find the perfume attractive?”
They were still laughing when we got to the next class. I couldn’t understand how they were able to find life so funny at that particular moment, but they were laughing so much that they didn’t notice I wasn’t.
Double English: at least it wasn’t Mr. Simms, and the project group wouldn’t be all in one class until Geography, which was last period. By then I guessed I would be expelled anyway because Mr Simms would have caught up with me. I tried to concentrate on what the teacher said but all could see was Charlie’s big mouth wolfing down my memory stick and Mr Simms angry face. I thought I was going to pass out, my mind was all over the place, and I couldn’t concentrate. I closed my eyes and put my head on the desk.
I felt someone shaking me and heard the teacher’s voice, distantly like I was under water – then something hit me hard in the back.
“Wake up Cam!” Kerri’s voice was right in my ear. I lifted my head and looked up to find the teacher and Kerri looking down at me.
“Are you ill, Cameron?” The teacher looked a bit worried.
“Shall I take him to the sick bay Miss?” Kerri was gathering my stuff and hers.
“Yes, he looks pale, I think you should, Kerri. Off you go, Cameron.” Kerri hauled me up, gathered up our books and folders and led me out of the classroom. As soon as we were outside she let go of my arm and turned to face me.
“Cam! What is wrong with you? Are you sick or what???”
“I told you in French!”
“Your dog’s got mange???? So what – take it to the Vet!”
“No, not mange, mange, eat – I thought you were good at French – my dog ate my memory stick!”
“Is that all? They’re only little, what goes in one end usually comes out the other.”
“Yeah that’s what my mum said, but that’s not the point.”
“What is the point? You’ve been like a sick cat all morning and I still don’t know why!”
“Because all my photos from the school camp are on it and I got everyone in the project group to put their stuff on my memory stick so we could print it out in one big document. Only now it’s inside my dog!”
I could see the wheels turning in Kerri’s brain as she worked all this out and her face crinkled as she thought about it. Then she did what I was most worried about: she laughed. She laughed so hard she had to sit down and put her hand over her mouth so the teacher didn’t hear her. She laughed until the tears ran down her cheeks. I grabbed my stuff and walked away.
Kerri caught up with me as I reached the stairs down to office and the sick bay.
“Sorry, Cam I didn’t mean to laugh – but it was just so funny – I mean your dog! And the camp photos…. Oh, Mr Simms is going to be so mad at you! But you should be able to sort out the project stuff shouldn’t you? All the others will still have their stuff any way.”
“Well, yeess,” I started to think my life wasn’t quite going to end today, but then, “But all my bits of the project are on that memory stick! So the project is still ruined, Ooohhh, my life is ruined, and anyway Mr Simms will kill me over the photos.”
“No he won’t – you’re his star student, everyone knows that.”
“No I’m not – that sounds like I’m teacher’s pet.”
“I didn’t mean that – what I meant was that you’re good at his subjects, don’t get into trouble and….”
“Yeah, teacher’s pet!”
“Oh, Cam – look, just explain to Mr Simms he’ll be annoyed but he won’t kill you – he’ll probably think it’s as funny as I did. I think the project thing is a bigger problem, Mrs Holder is really strict about getting stuff in on time and she hasn’t got a sense of humour at all!”
“Mrs Holder? I hadn’t even thought about her! I was just worried about the project group.”
“I’d be more worried about Mrs Holder if I was you – she’ll be really mad if you don’t get the project in on time.”
“Yeah but she’ll be mad at all of us and that means the rest of the group will be really mad at me.”
We reached the sick bay and the teacher on duty looked up at us in the doorway. “Hullo Kerri, are you ill?” All the teachers knew Kerri and most of them seemed to like her.
“No Miss, it’s Cam, he wasn’t well in English and the teacher sent us over here.”
“Well Cameron, what’s the matter?” Ms Green, the teacher got up and came over as Kerri shoved me in the door. She put a hand on my forehead. “Do you have a temperature? You don’t feel too hot.”
“I’m not sure, Miss, I just felt faint in English.”
“Well, you look a bit pale; do you want me to call home? Will anyone be there?”
“My mum is probably at home. I don’t know about calling her….”
“Well, go and lie down and I’ll take your temperature in a moment.” She looked up at Kerri.
“Thank you Kerri, you can go back to class now.”
“OK Miss; I’ll come back and see you at lunch Cam.”
I nodded and went and lay down on the bed in the corner. I actually wanted to hide under it but there wasn’t room. The teacher came over and stuck the thermometer thing in my ear. She hummed for a bit and looked at it until it buzzed and she took it out. Peering at it, she frowned:
“Well Cam, it’s up a bit, so I think I’ll ring your Mum.” She walked back to the desk. “What’s your number?” I recited it and she dialled.
I heard her talking to my mum.
“His temperature’s up, he’s a little pale, apparently he felt unwell in class and another pupil brought him over to the sick bay.”
“Yes I’ll keep him here, and you’ll collect him? OK, I’ll see you then. Bye.”
She came over to the bed.
“I just spoke to your mother Cameron, she will come and collect you shortly.”
Ms Green went back to her marking. I went back to my worrying….
A little while later I heard familiar brisk footsteps in the corridor outside the sick bay.
“Ms Green?” My mum’s voice.
“Hullo, Mrs O’Donnell, Cameron seems to be no worse.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing serious, thanks for calling me.”
Mum smiled at me.
“Come on Cam, we’ll collect your bag on the way out.”
We went out past my locker. I put my books away and collected my school bag. Mum led the way to the school office to sign me out. I followed in a bit of a daze, it had been a stressful day so far and it wasn’t even lunchtime. I was standing there worrying about my troubles when one of them spoke from behind me!
“Cameron! Not in class? What’s the problem?” Mr Simms voice boomed out, making me jump. Mum turned around and smiled at him.
“Hullo Mr Simms,” she said, “I’ve just collected Cam from the sick bay, he’s not well.”
“Oh dear,” he replied, “I hope we’re not overworking you!”
I was unable to speak and Mum jumped in again.
“Ms Green says he has a temperature, so I’ll take him home and see how he feels later.”
Mr Simms leaned closer: “Yes he looks a bit pale… Oh well, I hope we’ll see you tomorrow Cam – don’t forget those photos!” and he swept off, collecting a stray senior student as he went. I felt faint and realised I was holding my breath again.
Mum finished signing me out and we headed out the gate to the car and drove home. As we pulled in to the driveway I heard Charlie barking and remembered all my problems.
A couple of hours later I was rugged up on the sofa in my pyjamas. Mum had taken my temperature again, still up a bit, said I still looked a bit pale, but not sick enough for the doctor. I could hear her vacuuming the bedrooms. Normally I would have been a bit bored by now, but my problems kept me in a state of inner agitation and my mind seemed to go around and around in the same circles. Every so often the dog would bark at a bird or a car passing in the street and I would remember that my life would surely end when I went back to school. If Mr Simms didn’t get me then Mrs Holder and the project group would leave me in little pieces – dog food probably….
Mum came back through the house with the vacuum cleaner, which drowned out the loud panicky thoughts running around my brain. When she had finished the big sitting room she packed it away.
She came and felt my forehead.
“I’m going around to get the other two in a few minutes, will you be alright here or do you want to go back to bed?”
I shrugged, and pulled the big blanket around me.
“I’m ok here – I don’t feel like going back to bed. Mum…?”
“Has Charlie, you know….”
“Not while I have been with him – is that why you don’t feel well?”
I looked at mum: I hadn’t thought of that – was worry making me sick? That made me feel even more worried! And more sick – oh, my life was ruined!!!
Mum just shook her head and went off to get her coat from the back door. I heard her open the door and call the dog and talk to him as she put the lead on him. She called goodbye and shut the door. Charlie barked as they went up the driveway just to remind me of my ruined life.
Mum came home with Megan and Kyle and two of Megan’s friends. The girls disappeared into Megan’s bedroom and Kyle lay on the floor watching TV with me. I thought I was a bit grown up for kid’s TV but it was a distraction from my worrying about the dog so I didn’t mind watching whatever Kyle chose. I was sure I didn’t watch such silly shows when I was a grade three, but Kyle obviously did. My dad came home early for a change and sat at the kitchen bench chatting with Mum while she was getting dinner ready. He was surprised to see me in my pyjamas and said so.
“What’s up Cam? Not feeling well?”
Before I could reply my mum answered him.
“I had to collect him from sick bay at school before lunch. He’s got a bit of a temperature and felt faint in class. He looks a bit pale to me – what do you think?”
Dad eased himself off the stool by the bench and came over to peer at me. After a closer inspection, he shrugged and grunted and went back to the stool.
“Does he need the doctor?”
“I don’t think so. I’ll see how he is in the morning. Anyway, as Cam is ill, can you feed the dog?”
Dad nodded and went out the back door. I heard Charlie barking happily as they went down the garden to the shed. I wondered if Dad kept his memory stick in his shirt pocket…. The barking stopped so I guessed the dog was eating – he would probably be finished before Dad got back to the house. The back door opened and Dad came in. He was holding an old tea towel with something in it and looked puzzled.
“Look what I found by the dog’s bowl,” he said.
He unwrapped the tea towel and held up my memory stick! I stared at it: mum looked at me.
“Is that yours, Cam?”
“Yes, it is! Where did you find it? Is it all right?” I didn’t know whether to be pleased or still worried.
“It was just down between the bowl and the box with the tins of dog food in it. How did it get there? It’s a bit mucky too – looks like the dog’s been licking it or something.”
Mum looked at me. “Perhaps you’d better tell your father how it got there…”
So I did – the whole story, Charlie eating it, the photos, the project, avoiding Mr Simms, everything. And at the end of it he responded just like Kerri: he laughed so much that he had to sit down.
“I think he probably spat it out – it wasn’t dog food so he didn’t swallow it.”
“But does it still work? It’s probably ruined anyway and Mr Simms and Mrs Holder will kill me – I’ll be expelled!”
Mum rolled her eyes and Dad chuckled again.
“Perhaps I can check to see if it’s suffered any damage from dog slobber! We might need to dry it out first though.”
Dad disappeared into the bathroom and I heard the sound of my mum’s hairdryer going. He reappeared and got his laptop from his briefcase. He plugged in my memory stick and opened it.
“Hmm,” he said, “Hmmm, not sure about this one…”
He fiddled with the computer for a few minutes and brought it over to me. I looked at what I thought was one of the photos: it was a mess – funny colours, weird shapes; a total disaster!
“Oh no – they’re ruined – I’m dead!”
Mum came over and looked, then gave my Dad one of her looks.
“I think you can fix that, don’t you?”
Dad laughed and then fiddled with the computer. The photo appeared in its former normal state.
“Sorry,” he said, “couldn’t resist a bit of a play!”
I looked at the photo, still suspicious, of both the dog and my dad.
“So it’s alright? The photos aren’t ruined? Or the project? It’s all OK?”
“Looks that way,” said Dad, “but if you like I’ll shift it to a fresh memory stick just to be sure.”
He dug around in his brief case and pulled out a little bag of smart memory sticks, all shiny with the logo of his university on the case. He spent a few minutes on the computer transferring my stuff to the new memory stick then closed it all down and brought the old and the new ones over.
“Here you are – all your files are on both so you can just use the new one if you like, it’s got more space on it anyway.”
“I think you should take them both and put them safely in your school bag.” Said Mum. “And then you can come back and set the table for me.”
Later that night I was lying in bed reading, and Mum came in to say goodnight and turn my light off. She felt my forehead.
“Well you don’t feel as if you’ve got a temperature, and you don’t look as pale as you did when I picked you up from school. We’ll see how you are in the morning. Night night honey.”
Mum switched off the light as she left and I lay there in the dark thinking about the worst day of my life: and it was only one day – it had seemed like a lifetime…. I fell asleep.