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Letters from the Inside (extract)

by John Marsden

February 11

Dear Tracey,

I don’t know why I’m answering your ad, to be honest. It’s not like I’m into pen pals, but it’s a boring Sunday here, wet, everyone’s out, and I thought it’d be something different.

U, what do I say now? I know what I won’t do, and that’s tell you my star sign, favourite group, favourite food, all about my sister and brother and the usual junk. If that’s what you want, don’t bother answering this letter, OK? That’s not me.

So, I’ll just tell you whatever comes to mind, for example... um...

(1) The last time I cried was when I saw an old movie called How Green Was My Valley, in black and white at 2.30 in the morning last Monday, on Channel 7. I was a mess.

(2) Right now I’ve got $78.31 in the bank, $12.60 on me, my sister owes me $5.00, and a friend at school, Rebecca Slater, owes me $6.00. Total: $101.60.

(3) I’d love to get a tat, where no-one can see it, and it’d be of a cane toad, ‘cos they’re so cute, but I don’t have the guts to do it.

(4) I’ve got a dog, or at least there’s a dog who lives here with us. I don’t think you can own an animal. He hasn’t got a name, which drives everyone crazy. It’s not that I’m against names, although I don’t like them much. It’s more that I can’t think of a name for him. So everyone keeps suggesting names, like Toby (my sister), Onion??? (my friend Cheryl), Mick (my father) and Idiot (my brother).

He’s only about a year old. He was dumped near the RSPCA shelter and we got him from there. He’s nearly all white, with a bit of black round the head. I think he’s a mix of Border Collie and twenty other things.

I was going to call him Gilligan, ‘cos he’s my little buddy, but it doesn’t sound right.

Do any dogs or animals live with you?

Well, I’ve told you four things about myself, four amazing facts. And a lot more besides. And I’ve written a long letter. Hope you answer, after all this work! Bye!


PS: How come you have a post-office box? I thought they were for big companies.


February 18

Dear Mandy,

Thanks for writing. You write so well, much better than me. I put the ad in for a joke, like a dare, and yours was the only good answer. There were three from guys, real perverts, pretty funny but disgusting. And a couple from little kids. It was exciting though, getting them all.

You asked if I have any pets, sorry, if any pets live with us. I have a horse, two dogs and a cat.

The horse is called Kizzy, the dogs are Dillon and Matt and the cat is Katie. So you see, they all have names. Why don’t you like names?

You also asked why I gave a post-office box as the address. Well, that’s my father’s company. He owns a transport company, with lots of semi-trailers. They do mainly interstate work.

As for me, I’m in Year 10 but I hate school. The only good subject is Art. I play a lot of sport though, and I’m quite good at basketball and high jump. (I’m pretty tall, as you can guess.)

I don’t know what else to tell you. I hope you keep writing though. It’d be fun writing letters to someone without ever meeting them. Prescott’s a long way from Acacia Park. I’ve never been to Acacia Park or anywhere down that line. Does anyone read your letters or can I write anything I want?

Please write,


February 26

Dear Tracey,

What do you mean, does anybody read my letters? You must be joking. I’d nail them to the roll-a-door if they tried.

Well, I suppose my brother would if he could, or if he thought of it. It’s OK though, he can hardly read as it is, so no problem.

It was quite exciting, getting your letter. I get about one letter a month. My grandmother writes occasionally, and a girl called Jacinta who I met at a writers’ camp, and a boy who’s at boarding school, a friend of a friend. So letters in my life are like sunflowers in Alaska.

I do write a lot of letters for Amnesty but not too many of those guys write back. Funny, that.

Was G.D.Y. the only magazine you put your ad in? Do you read G.D.Y. every month? Is that the only time you put an ad in? I’d love to see the letters you got from the dirty old men, or dirty young men, whichever they were. Send me some, OK? I still think it’s funny I wrote to you, but I’m enjoying this. I read G.D.Y. most months but I’m too much of a tight-ass to buy it: I have a friend, Cheryl Tsang, who gets it, and I read hers.

S’pose I’d better tell you a few boring facts about myself. I’m in Year 10 at Acacia Park High. I’m 15, turning 16 on October 19. I’ve got a sister called Katrina - she’s in first year arts at uni, and she’s a good bird, more like a friend than a... blah blah blah... you know how it goes.

I’ve got a brother too, named Steve. He’s 17.

Katrina’s not living at home any more. She moved out at the start of last year, when she got accepted into uni. But then she deferred. She was waitressing at a Hungarian restaurant for about half the year, then she went overseas for a couple of months, then she came back and worked in pubs. She’s still working in a pub three nights a week. It’s the Stripes and Stars, in Sinden, if you ever feel like a rage — just go there any Wednesday, Thursday or Friday night, ask for Katrina, tell her you’re a mate of mine, and you should at least get a free beer — and no ID! It’s a definite advantage having a sister in a job like that, although my parents don’t think so — they don’t like her working there.

God, this has turned into a long letter again. I’ve written this instead of doing my homework. Better stop and do Science at least. Oh help, just remembered there’s a French test tomorrow! Gotta go.