I stand in the corner leaning backwards. Jets of water inside the shower cubicle drill into my skin, washing away the shame of last night. Mum had nagged me before we left on the overnight coach trip from South Bottomley to Canberra.
“Don’t sit up the back Sid. You know you’ll get travel sick!”
But hey, me and my mates, we’re back seat types.
After midnight, the nausea had crept up on me when everyone was asleep, including the teachers. I’d vomited into a plastic container I found in the darkness on the overhead rack. Then, wondering what to do with the warm, steaming remains of Mum’s tuna casserole, I’d staggered down the dim aisle of the swaying coach with the open container. Mr Barrel was snoring when I’d reached his seat to ask for help, but the coach had lurched suddenly and I’d slopped the contents into his lap. He’d woken instantly and gagged noisily in horror at his wet trousers. A lot of my Year 6 classmates woke up, wondering if Mr Barrel was OK. Had he vomited on himself? Well, my mate Stretch Longley hasn’t stopped giving me grief since. But we’ve arrived at our cabins in Canberra this morning and after using most of a bottle of shower gel, I’m feeling clean and pumped. We’re leaving soon to visit Questacon, Parliament House and we’ll drive by the Governor-General’s residence. I reckon this will be an awesome week-long excursion. Not sure what Mr Barrel thinks.
Mum had packed my suitcase, so I rummage through looking for undies. There’s no boxer shorts, just my jocks. I pick a fluoro-yellow pair, drop my towel, put them on and admire myself in a full-length wall mirror. I look like a skinny twelve year old white-ant wearing fluoro-yellow undies, but I run my fingers through my wet hair and give a little nod of approval. Yeah Sid, you’re a catch.
And I’m flexing my biceps at the mirror, when the door suddenly flies open and my cabin mates burst in.
“Oi! Shut the door!” I scream, standing naked except for fluoro undies.
They’re all trying to tell me stuff at once.
“Sid! There’s girls from St Spatula’s School in the cabin across from us. They’re from Sydney and they’re dissing our school.”
“Yeah, there’s a snobby one named Camilla. Probably the class pet. She reckons we’ve all had brain operations. Like we’re weird or something.”
I pull the curtain aside, just a sliver, and I can see them. They’re sitting on their verandah giggling, whispering and pointing across at our cabin. Behind me, Stretch snickers, then picks up my damp towel and flicks my bum while I’m peering out. “Owww!” I yelp and bump my nose on the glass.
I’m tingling, partly from the towel flick, but mostly because these girls are putting crap on our school, South Bottomley Primary. Wheels spin in my head. There’s a whirring noise. Arcs of electricity shoot from my brain. The others are watching me. I scrabble in my suitcase and find the black balaclava I’d brought from home.
“Whatya gunna do, Sid?” asks Stretch, voice quavering. “Don’t do anything dumb. We’ll all get in trouble.”
But I barge past Stretch and the six others, pull the balaclava over my head and storm out onto the roadway. The cabin 34 girls go quiet and jaws drop open. They’re goggle-eyed. Why’s this skinny little white-ant wearing just a balaclava and fluoro-yellow undies? Then I crouch down like Gollum from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and I give an evil giggle and lope slowly towards them cackling in a raspy voice, “Precious. My precious.”
There’s instant squealing and frantic scrambling to get off that verandah and back inside their cabin. And I hear hysterical laughter coming from my own cabin.
Mission accomplished. I turn and sprint back before any teachers investigate the screaming. I leap up the steps in a single bound and I’m just about to tear through our open doorway when the door slams. I fumble frantically with the handle but it’s been locked from the inside!
“Let me in!” I shout urgently, “Unlock the door!”
I bang furiously on the door but it doesn’t unlock.
And behind the door I can hear Stretch cacking himself with laughter. And all my cabin buddies.
The girls from St Spatula’s scramble back out onto their verandah. They’ve been watching through their curtain. And they’re pointing at my fluoro undies and cracking up because my mates locked me outside. And the more I bang on the door, the louder I can hear Stretch laughing. At least I’ve got my balaclava on and the girls don’t know who I am.
Snobby Camilla’s voice cuts across the roadway, “What’s your name fluoro undies?”
“It’s Gollum!” I shout back.
“No way. What’s your real name? Anyway, you’re so busted Gollum! We’re going to tell our teacher.”
There’s another whirring noise inside my head. I can see a way out. You’re on fire today Sid!
I turn, face the girls on their verandah, and shout through my balaclava,
“My name is…. Oscar Longley from South Bottomley. My mates call me Stretch.”
There’s a sudden fumbling with the lock inside my cabin and our door flies open and Stretch shouts frantically across the road, “No it’s not! It’s not!”
I grab Stretch and we tumble back inside to safety and slam the door. Plucking the balaclava from my head, I shriek triumphantly at Stretch’s horrified face,
“Sucked in, Stretch! You’re so busted now.”