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Take My Word for It (extract)

by John Marsden


Hi Journal, Mr Lindell, whoever’s reading this. My name’s Lisa. Not Sad Lisa, like in the song; more like the nursery rhyme:

What’s become of poor old Lisa
Why’s she sitting up a tree sir?
Won’t she wave to you or me sir?
Can she see what we can’t see sir?

I used to love that when I was little. There’re not too many poems about Lisa, because it doesn’t rhyme with much. Just ‘mesa’ in Geography, and I don’t even know what that is. A kind of plateau, I think.

Is this what we’re meant to do with these Journals, Mr Lindell? Rattle away like a train in a tunnel? Seems pretty slack, if you don’t mind my saying so. Shouldn’t we be doing subjects and predicates, like we did with Mr Aspen? Do you remember Tarryn Mortimer, who you taught last year? She used to say she hoped I’d get you for English, but I don’t know if I’ll like your style. At least it should be interesting—I just don’t know if it’ll help us pass exams.

Think I’d better do my Maths before I get in trouble tomorrow. Goodnight Journal, from me and Alex the Bear.


Dear Journal and Mr Lindell: Mr Lindell, I think it’s a bit of a rip-off when you don’t read these, because how will you see if we’re improving, or using them properly? I didn’t mean to be rude in class but I think it’s all a bit pointless, and I usually say what I think (which is why teachers don’t like me much).

Alex the Bear would like to say ‘Hello’ but he’s not feeling well. He was chucked out of the dorm window last night by a certain person whose name I won’t mention because I don’t dob, but it starts with ‘C’ and ends with ‘y’ and has five letters. Anyway, this all happened after lights out, and I had to go down and rescue him without getting caught, which is not easy round here. And he was lying in MUD, which he does not like (why should he, poor little bear?). I think he thought it was Vegemite, which he does like so he was a bit confused.

Anyway he had to have a bath, and he’s still upset.

I’ll get Cathy back tomorrow—by the time I’m finished with her teddy he’ll be stuffed in more ways than one.

Cathy’s good value but generally this is not a great dorm. Everyone keeps asking us about the new girl, Marina. ‘What’s she really like?’ How should we know? She doesn’t seem to want to have any thing to do with us, although I know it’s not really us (Mrs Graham explained all that). But no-one comes near our dorm—we hardly get any visitors. They all go to Dorm D, where Kerry and Gabrielle are. I know it’s not Marina’s fault, but still.

I’m looking right at her now, because I’ve pulled my desk around a bit to get near the window. She’s huddled over her books, like a hunchback. She doesn’t seem to see or notice anything, and she never looks in anyone’s eyes. She never even looks at their face. Her hair’s quite long, dark, and she’s got it tied back tonight. Usually it hangs long down either side of her face. The right side of her face is fine but the left half, the side I’m looking at, is a bit of a mess. It’s all crinkly and wrinkly and red. You know how skin’s meant to be soft—well, this part of her face looks hard and plasticy. In fact her face looks like a plastic plate that’s been put on a hot stove. It’s not easy to look at her.


I did all my other Prep first tonight, so now I’ve got a bit of time to write in this. There’s only one problem—I’ve got nothing to say. Nothing happened today. This was a day of nothing. A nothing day that was full of nothing, all day long. Nothing, nutting, nothing.

Friday night’s the worst for Prep. No-one’s in a mood to do any work, and they always put the strictest teachers and prefects on duty. Mrs Graham, for example, and Marisa Chan. Marisa’s sweet, but you wouldn’t want to be on her wrong side. Tracey didn’t do her job this morning (she’s on Dorm Vac). Marisa went and found her and told her to do it, but Trace just went to breakfast anyway. Melt down! Marisa met her coming out of the Dining Hall, and I swear, it made Krakatoa look like a fart in a bathtub. I’ve never seen Trace move so fast.

Marisa’ll be a good House Captain I think. At least you know where you are with her, and she’s not corrupt like last year’s prefects. They all smoked and drank, but they busted other people for doing the same things. And they made us buy stuff for them at the tuckshop all the time, out of our own money. To tell you the truth, I’d love to be House Captain, even though I know I haven’t got much chance. I won’t be campaigning for it—there’s no point. I’ve made too many enemies.

We vote every year for prefects but I don’t know how much notice Mrs Graham takes of it. She says she does, but I doubt it. Marisa would have won the students’ vote, but I don’t think Sally Becker should have been Vice Captain, and I’m sure hardly anyone would have voted for Skye Bayliss last year. I know I didn’t.


Hi Journal, how are you today? Hope you had a good weekend. I didn’t open you once. But I admit I thought about you. A few times things happened and I thought, ‘I might write about that in my Journal.’ I can see how there’s a danger of getting hooked on you.

I’ve never kept a Diary before. What’s the difference between a Journal and a Diary, Mr Lindell? Must ask you in class.

I got in a few fights at the weekend. First weekend back—great start. I just don’t like this dorm much. I was in a good one for the second half of last year, with my best friends, Issy Eastwood and Kizzy Tan. Issy, Kizzy and Lizzy, that’s us. Now they’re both in Dorm C and I’m on my own in B. The way they pick the dorms is really off. You write down two people you want to be with and two people you don’t, but it’s a bit like voting for prefects. I reckon Mrs Graham shoves the papers through the shredder. She seems to set out to break up every friendship she can. Term one last year she filled the dorm next to her flat with all the quiet, well-behaved kids. It was so obvious. We called it Square Dorm. This year there’s one that’s got nearly all Asian kids, and Kate calls that Chinatown. Kate’s one person I put that I didn’t want to be with, but here she is, in the very next bed. I remember when she started at Warrington, halfway through last year. So funny. She came storming in with about six suitcases, dropped them all in a heap on the floor, kicked one of them across the room and said: ‘Geez I hate this place.’ From the look of the cases you’d have thought she was a real splendo, but she didn’t talk like one. I knew her sister a bit— she was kind to me when I first arrived (she was a prefect)—but she was even louder than Kate, and her parties were legendary.

Anyway, Kate wasn’t too bad to share with for two terms but I don’t know how I’ll put up with a second year.

I thought Sophie Smith would be a pain in the butt too, but she’s been OK so far.

The one who really drives me to the North Pole is Ann Maltin. She makes me so mad! I want to pick her up and shake some life into her. Basically, she’s a suck. ‘Oh Mrs Graham, you haven’t signed our Prep Diaries.’ ‘Mr Bostock, you forgot to set any Prep.’ ‘Miss Curzon, do you want me to do Marina’s job for her?’ I’m the one who does Marina’s job nearly every morning, but Ann gets all the credit. I hate people like that.

That brings me to Marina. Now honestly Mr Lindell, do you think the school should take students like Marina? I mean, I’ve got nothing against her, but I reckon it’s cruel sending her to boarding school. She should be in a hospital or some thing. And it’s hard on us, not just because of jobs and stuff, but because she depresses everyone. People go quiet when she comes in. And the way she keeps to the walls. And her face—I couldn’t look at her at first. I guess we’ll get used to her eventually, but I hope she doesn’t get worse, being with us.