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Looking for Trouble (extract)

by John Marsden

Tuesday, Jan 28, 5 pm

Sixteen hours before I start school again and things have not kicked off well. I opened my bag to pack it for tomorrow and the first thing I found was my lunch from December 17 last year. There was an orange, a piece of cheese and something that might have been a salami and tomato sandwich. I didn’t eat it then because we had our Christmas party at school, and I’m not going to eat it now. The second thing I found was half a Mars Bar. I don’t know where it had come from, or where it had been, but I checked the use-by date and it still had two months to go. So I wiped off the dust and fluff and recycled it. It didn’t taste too bad.

Another thing in the bag was a letter to Mum from the Principal about a school council meeting. Maybe I should recycle that too, into the garbage bin. Hide the evidence.

We’ve just been shopping for school stuff, leaving it a bit late, but we didn’t have much money till last Friday when Dad finally got paid for a job he did way back in November. So it came just in time. I had to get new shoes and some pens, and Dad shouted me a box of Derwents. Jodie had to get a new lunch box and a pencil case and some pens too, and Dad shouted her a calculator. We must have spent about a hundred bucks. It’s lucky parents have kids, I reckon, ‘cos they wouldn’t know what to spend their money on otherwise. I said that to Dad and he chased me through the house with a chain saw. Well, maybe not a chain saw. It was actually his electric toothbrush.

Wednesday, Jan 29, 10 am

Oh no, what a shock! I got Mrs Hazell, and everyone reckons she’s so crabby. I hoped I’d get Mrs Faizarano or Mr O’Keeffe or the new teacher. But my luck ran out. Well, at least I’m with Luke and Phil, and there’s a new girl at the next desk who’s really pretty. Right now, we’re not doing much, just getting our books and putting our names on things. In a few minutes we have to write our autobiographies. That’ll be the third time in twelve months—we had to do it at the start of last year, then again in September when we changed teachers. I think I’ll store it on a disc for next year in case we get it again in high school.

Mrs Hazell just got mad for the first time. This is going to be a long year. It was Phil who copped it. Helen was pushing past him to get the Maths books and she said ‘Excuse me’ and Phil said ‘We did, as soon as we saw you’, and Mrs Hazell heard him and gave him this long lecture about manners and respect and the way boys treat girls and all this stuff. I thought she’d never stop.

After six weeks holiday you get pretty wrecked by a day’s school. I’m not catching the bus home ‘cos Mum’s picking me up—she’s enrolling Jodie and me in swimming classes. I want to learn butterfly this year. I wouldn’t mind some diving lessons too, but you have to pay for those, I think.

Thursday, Jan 30, 11.45 am

Phil and Helen are at war again, just like they were by the end of last year. They’re at each other all the time. Phil says to Helen ‘You’re a pain’ and she says back ‘You go beyond pain’. Phil’s trying to learn how to thread a needle, in craft, and Helen whispers, loud enough for everyone to hear: ‘It’d be quicker to train a dinosaur’. Helen makes a mistake in Spelling Baseball and Phil goes ‘Helen, if brains were rain you’d be a drought’.

I don’t know why they hate each other. I think Helen liked Phil last year and he pretended he liked her for a while, then she heard what he really thought. The girls go on and on about that sort of stuff sometimes.

Mrs Hazell started reading us this book before Recess. I’ve got to admit, she reads pretty well. She puts a lot of expression in her voice, and makes it sound exciting. The book’s called A Line to the Top and it’s about these kids who see a robbery and because they’re the only witnesses they help the police find the guys. I wish something like that would happen around here. My life is seriously boring. I get up in the morning, have the same stuff for breakfast, get the bus, have school all day, go home, watch TV, have tea, do Homework, watch more TV, go to bed. The first few days of school are good each year, but it gets boring after that. In Year 5 Mr Quigley asked us what the best thing about school was and I said ‘Recess and lunchtime’. Phil said ‘Going home’. Luke said ‘Holidays’. But to be honest, holidays can get boring too.

8.50 pm

I’m in bed writing this. I’ve only got ten minutes before I get my lights turned off. I reckon it’s really unfair that Jodie’s fifteen months younger than me and she goes to bed at the same time I do. She’s so spoilt. The younger one always gets it easy, if you ask me. Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to write about. I just wanted to put down that it looks like there’s new people moved in down the street at number 17. It’s where Paul Choo, who was my best mate, used to live, before they went to Greendale. There was a truck unloading stuff when I was coming home from school, and there were lights on there tonight. I wonder who they are and if they’ve got kids. Whoa, here comes Mum to turn off my lights.

Friday, Jan 31, 4 pm

Today was pretty good. Mrs Hazell only cracked at us once, when she found Terry had scratched the desk about six times while he was cutting out stuff for Art. I don’t blame her. Terry’d have any teacher making a move for the Mortein. He was bad last year and he looks like he’ll be worse this year. Mr Quigley couldn’t control him too well, but maybe Mrs Hazell’ll do a better job.

We had a bit more of A Line to the Top, where the kids think they see the men the police are looking for but it turns out they’re Red Cross workers doing a doorknock. Bit of a bad mistake that one.

After lunch we started a game of cricket that we’re going to finish next week. It’s A to L’s against M to Z’s, going by our family names, so we’ve got Nick and Luke and Karen, who’d be the best three players in the class except for Darren. We batted and got 78. Luke got 25, when you have to retire, Karen got 18, Nick got a duck and I got 14. I got given out stumped but I reckon I was in. My back foot was still on the line, and that’s in. We should have action replays.