Authors: Pam Harvey
‘Quick!’ he called, running to a door marked ‘EXIT’.
He flung the door open then froze.
‘What?’ Gabby hissed.
‘See for yourself,’ Angus said, beckoning her over. Gabby snuck a look around the edge of the door. Andrea Simpson and her mother were walking across the car park towards their car. Andrea was licking an ice cream. And her hair was totally dry.
Hannah jumped, knocking her pencil case off the table. ‘E.D.!’ she growled back at him. ‘Stop it.’
He’d been doing it all day, sneaking around behind her, pretending to be a snake.
‘Mr Emilio De Lugio,’ said Mr Collins, their Maths teacher, ‘if you wouldn’t mind sitting down. I have an announcement.’ Mr Collins watched E.D. over the rim of his glasses until he was satisfied that E.D.’s backside was on his seat. ‘Now.’ He straightened the piece of paper in his hands. ‘Mr Taylor has asked me to remind you all of the practice session being held in the library after school for the
competition. He has requested that all persons
interested meet in the library as soon as they can after the bell. Any questions?’
Hannah put up her hand. ‘When’s the actual competition, Mr Collins?’
‘It says here that the Teasdale secondary school-based competition, sponsored by Kids’ Head Start, is to be held on Monday next week. The winners will be announced at a special assembly on Friday morning.’
‘Another assembly?’ E.D. groaned, not quite softly enough.
‘It won’t kill you, Emilio. And are
going to enter this competition?’
E.D. leaned back in his seat. ‘Yeah, I thought I might.’
‘Then you’d better go to the practice session.’
‘Yeah, good idea.’ E.D. frowned and leaned forward. ‘Does anyone know where the library is?’
‘I wasn’t joking,’ said E.D. after school, heaving his bag onto his back.
‘Well, Collarbone Collins thought you were.’ Angus chuckled. ‘Have a nice recess?’
E.D. shook his head hard so that his black hair spun around his head. ‘He made me do algebra. Whatever that is.’
‘Doesn’t matter now,’ said Hannah. ‘Come on, we’ll be late.’ She sped off down the corridor. The boys followed more slowly.
The library was full. There hadn’t been so many people in the room since the day Andy Griffiths had visited. The
prize was a huge lure. Hannah found a table at the back and waved Angus and E.D. over.
‘Check out all these…books!’ E.D. goggled dramatically at the bookshelves.
Hannah frowned at him. ‘Now I know you’re joking.’
‘Good afternoon, boys and girls.’ Mr Taylor appeared at the front of the library, smiling broadly and holding a bunch of papers in his hand. ‘This is an impressive turn-out indeed. It’s good to see so many of you willing to have a shot at this competition.’
‘We’re only here for the prize,’ muttered Angus.
‘Look,’ whispered Hannah. ‘Jon Hodgkins is here. So’s Sarah Townsend. What a laugh! They’ve got no chance. And Dave Kelly’s here.’
‘Dave? Where?’ Angus turned to see where Hannah was pointing. A small boy with short spiky hair sat huddled at the corner of the table, glancing around at the crowd. He looked almost
frightened. ‘Poor Dave. I don’t think this is his scene. He must be really desperate.’
‘Like the rest of us,’ said E.D., leaning back to pull a book off the shelf. ‘
Camels in the Desert.
’ He nodded. ‘Wow. I didn’t know there was anything
a desert except sand.’
‘Put it back, E.D. Here comes Mr Taylor.’ Hannah nodded towards the principal.
‘I’m giving out the practice papers now.’ Mr Taylor moved swiftly around the tables, placing a paper face down in front of each student. ‘The questions are divided into Maths skills, problem-solving and vocabulary. And there’s a practical component at the end. Remember, this paper doesn’t have an essay question on it, although it will in the actual competition. When it comes to the 3D model building, there is a choice of building materials in the middle of each table. When I say it’s time, you can turn the paper over and start.’
Hannah stared at her paper as though she thought it might fly away. Angus rolled the edge of his and stared at the box of art materials on the table. E.D. tipped his chair back so it balanced on its two rear legs and gazed at the ceiling like it was the most amazing thing he’d ever seen.
‘Ready? Forty-five minutes from…now!’ Mr Taylor checked his watch and the room filled with the noise of rustling papers turning over.
The first section was a series of short questions. Hannah read the first one:
1. Which of the numbers should replace the question mark?
She studied it for a moment, then circled her answer: B.
There were five questions like the first one, and then some complicated mazes to find your way out of.
Hannah glanced over at Angus and E.D. before she started the next section. Angus was reading each question, frowning, and then carefully putting an answer down. E.D. was drawing a picture of a two-stroke engine in the margin of the first page. Hannah shook
her head slowly, smiling. Then she read the next bit.
In an athletics contest between the army, the navy and the air force, each team entered three athletes in a particular race. The winning athlete scored eight points, the runner-up seven, third place six, and so on down to none for last place.
Once the race was run, the judges needed a photograph to separate the first two army men to finish. A member of the navy’s team finished last. When the points were totalled, all three teams were found to have the same score.
Find by team the order in which the nine athletes finished.
The smile nearly left Hannah’s face. It took her a while to answer but at last she wrote: Navy—first, fifth, ninth. Air force—second, sixth, seventh. Army—third, fourth and eighth.
After that, there were words to put meanings to. Hannah started smiling again. Not a problem, she thought as she worked her way through them.
That left only the model to build. There was a choice of things to copy: Uluru, the Opera House or the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Shame it isn’t a motorbike, thought Hannah, glancing again at E.D. who was flicking spit balls at the boy in front of him. Or the Flemington grandstand, she thought, looking at Angus who was staring horrified at the question about the athletes.
At thirty minutes, Hannah was almost done. She’d chosen the Opera House, and her model wasn’t bad. At least it didn’t look like either the Harbour Bridge or Uluru. She took a break, stretching her arms in front of her. Most people still had their heads down, concentrating hard. Dave Kelly had a trace of sweat on his forehead. Sarah Townsend looked as though she was going to be sick. Angus had his head so close to the page she wondered how he was reading anything. E.D. had turned his paper over and, to Hannah’s surprise, was reading the book on deserts he’d found earlier.
At thirty-five minutes, Angus pushed his chair back and stood up. He looked at Hannah and shrugged. ‘Got to go and help Dad with the young horses,’ he muttered, and walked up to the front, handed in his paper and disappeared.
E.D. was staring out the window when he saw Angus walk past. He leapt up, crashed his chair over, picked it up noisily, rushed to the front,
gave his empty paper to an astonished Mr Taylor, and raced outside. Hannah saw them go and shook her head. They don’t realise how serious this is, she thought, putting the finishing touch to the Opera House.
At forty-four minutes, Mr Taylor cleared his throat to warn everyone that time was nearly up. A minute later, he tapped his hand on the table. ‘That’s it, everyone!’
Hannah stared at her paper intently. She’d gone over it twice. She’d done all she could to the Opera House. There was nothing she wanted to change. It was all pretty good, she thought. She smiled as she handed her paper and the model to Mr Taylor. He didn’t smile back. In fact he frowned slightly as if he didn’t really like what he’d seen.
Hannah was puzzled. She gathered her pencil case and bag, and walked to the exit. Behind her, Dave Kelly put his sweat-drenched paper on the table in front of Mr Taylor and a paper catastrophe that was meant to be his model next to that. Hannah looked around and saw him. She shook her head. Dave Kelly, she thought to herself, hasn’t got a chance.
Hannah walked towards her home. It was a hot day, one of the first for the term. She thought longingly of a cool, blue swimming pool—and veered off to Gabby’s.
Gabby’s house was on the edge of town, next to Angus’s. It was like looking at the Taj Mahal compared to someone’s garden shed. It was two storeyed and shone white in the sun. Immaculate gardens curved their way right around the house and the swimming pool glittered like a large jewel. Hannah went straight around the back.
Gabby was swimming. Since her loss to Andrea, she’d been training more than usual. Her coach, Pat, was at the side of the pool, hands on hips, watching Gabby intently. Hannah stood back so she couldn’t be seen and watched her friend as well. Gabby swam easily, powering through the water like she had a motor in each leg. Hannah was amazed. I can barely dog-paddle, she thought. Maybe I should get some tips from Gabby. She makes it look so easy.
It wasn’t until Gabby stopped at one end of the pool, red-faced and chest heaving, that Hannah realised that it wasn’t easy. Gabby was working hard,
hard. Hannah heard Pat say, ‘Don’t strain yourself, Gab. You’re doing really
well. You don’t need to injure yourself to prove a point. We know you swim like a champ.’
‘But it didn’t get me into the finals.’ Gabby wiped the water from her face with one hand.
‘You’re an emergency. You might be racing, it just depends on what happens. Don’t wear yourself out beforehand. You don’t want to peak too early.’
‘I’m at my best right now. Why couldn’t I beat her? I’ve done my best times ever. Last year Andrea Simpson didn’t even have a look in. So what’s going on this year?’
Pat shook her head. ‘I don’t know. I really don’t know. Andrea used to swim like a one-legged turtle. Even now I can see she’s inclined to turn her left foot out. Her technique isn’t one hundred per cent. I don’t know what’s going on.’
‘She’s turned into a freak.’
‘Well, we can’t be worried about that. We’ll just keep going the way we are. You have fabulous technique and the power to go with it.’
‘Pat?’ Gabby looked up at her coach. ‘You don’t think Andrea is using any…you know…performance-enhancing drugs?’
Pat looked shocked. ‘She’s only a kid. And this is the state championships, not the
Olympics.’ She crouched down to Gabby but her voice still travelled over to where Hannah was standing. ‘I don’t think her coach would be so stupid. They can trace all sorts of drugs these days—it’s not worth the risk. Andrea wouldn’t be taking anything illegal.’
‘Then how is she doing it?’ Gabby slapped the water with her hand, sending a spray up and wetting her coach’s face. ‘Sorry.’
Pat laughed. ‘Come on. Let’s not worry about it. We’ve got the Gabriella Mean Machine here, doing the best she can and more. Keep going.’
Gabby turned and adjusted her goggles. Hannah saw how upset she looked but Gabby pushed off from the wall and set out to do another kilometre of laps. Hannah moved out from where she’d been standing, waved to Pat, and sat down on a wooden bench at one end of the pool.
It didn’t make any sense. Gabby trained hard. It seemed like Andrea didn’t train at all. Gabby had a special coach. Andrea was going to the newly opened Kids’ Head Start instead of training. Gabby got great times at the races. Andrea did better.
What was going on?
The Teasdale Secondary
competition was held in the library on Monday.
‘No, I don’t think I’ll go,’ Angus had said on Friday. ‘The questions were a bit weird for me.’
‘Well, then, I won’t either,’ said E.D.
‘You didn’t even try to answer the questions!’ Hannah said to him.
‘I looked at them,’ said E.D. ‘At least, I looked at number one. I think I got the wrong paper because it was written like Maths.’
‘You had the same paper as everyone else.’
‘Anyway,’ said E.D. loudly, ‘
can do the competition and
share your prize when you win.’
So it was Hannah who went to the library on Monday. There were only nine other people in
the room: two girls from year 10, a group of boys from year 9, three girls from year 8, and Dave Kelly.
Hannah raised her eyebrows at Dave as he came in but he didn’t look at her. He sat in his corner again and chewed the end of his pencil nervously until the competition started. He was the last person Hannah expected to see.
The questions were similar to the practice ones, only the choice of 3D models was slightly different: the Great Pyramid, the Colosseum and a cathedral. Hannah chose the Colosseum because she’d done a model of it in first term.
They had more time—an hour and a half—and she needed every minute, especially because this time there was an essay to write, which she thought might be the tiebreaker. Mr Taylor sat up the front, watching everyone closely. When Hannah glanced up once, he was looking directly at her, a frown on his face. She ducked her head down to her model again. Despite his handsome face and his enthusiasm about the competition, he was giving her the creeps.
‘How did you go?’ asked Angus as they rode their bikes home that night.
‘Yeah, okay.’ Hannah rode in silence for a while. ‘Actually, I think I went pretty well. Not
showing off or anything.’ She glanced anxiously at Angus to make sure he hadn’t thought that.
Angus laughed. ‘Good on you. It would be fantastic if you won.’
Hannah smiled in relief. ‘Wouldn’t it? But there were other kids that were much older than me in it.’
‘Doesn’t mean they’re smarter.’ Angus pedalled harder. ‘But they might be faster.’
Hannah tried to catch him but he made it to his place before she was even halfway along the road. ‘Don’t rub it in!’ she yelled to his dust.
After lunch on Friday, the whole school gathered in the gymnasium to hear the results of the competition. Hannah sat nervously next to Angus who was flicking through a copy of
magazine. E.D. sat next to him, trying to sneak chips out of a bag stuffed in his pocket.
Mr Taylor walked to the podium. He looked particularly principal-like, wearing a dark suit and red tie. He smiled at the assembly as if he was really glad to see them.
‘Thank you, boys and girls.’ The hall quietened. ‘We have a special assembly today to announce our contestant in the state finals of the
competition. We had ten
exceptional people from the school try out and I am very pleased with their efforts. They represent the educational and life qualities that this school values: namely, perseverance, organisation, best effort and a sense of good sportspersonship.’
ship?’ E.D. snorted and stuffed a chip in his mouth. Then he saw Hannah glaring at him. ‘Of course,’ he said. ‘Sports
ship is a very important quality.’
‘Today I will put my other hat on,’ continued Mr Taylor, ‘as a representative of Explore!, and present the winner with his or her prize—free entry to the Explore! facility for a whole year, as well as the chance to win the major prize at the national championships.
‘Also, as you know, this Saturday the state finals of
will be held at the Teasdale Explore! What a bonus for the community!’
‘Is he a principal or a salesman?’ whispered Angus to Hannah. She shrugged, only half listening to the conversation around her. She hadn’t felt this nervous and excited since her first day of school. Would she be the winner? She had a one in ten chance. Better, she thought, with Dave Kelly as one of the contestants.
‘It’s my great pleasure today to announce the winner of the Teasdale Secondary quiz for the
competition.’ He produced an envelope from his suit pocket and made a great show of opening it.
‘What is this, the Academy Awards?’ E.D. nudged Angus.
‘Shut up, E.D.,’ said Angus, looking at Hannah.
Hannah put her fist into her mouth and chewed her knuckles.
‘The winner is…’ Mr Taylor paused and smiled at the assembly, ‘David Kelly.’
There was a huge gasp from most of the people in the hall and then complete silence. The assistant principal craned his neck to check the paper Mr Taylor was holding and then looked up with a smile plastered on his face.
‘Dave?’ said Angus.
‘Dave?’ E.D. put both his hands over his face. Angus could still hear him laughing though.
‘Dave?’ breathed Hannah. ‘That can’t be right.’
Whispers suddenly erupted around the hall. ‘Dave Kelly? No. He couldn’t win a colouring competition.’
‘Let’s give a hand for David Kelly!’ Mr Taylor started clapping and slowly the whole school joined in.
There was movement near the back of the gym until finally Dave himself was pushed out of the crowd. He walked down between the rows of seats, avoiding the stares and surprised looks from those around him. His face was a strange shade of beetroot.
Hannah watched him walk past, disbelief surging through her. Okay, maybe I wouldn’t have won, she thought. There’s some smart kids in the other year levels, but I am
I would have beaten Dave Kelly. Everyone should have beaten Dave Kelly.
‘Do you know much about him?’ whispered Angus as if he could hear what she was thinking.
‘Yeah, he’s really…’ Hannah thought hard. ‘He’s…Dave, that’s who he is. He sits in class and never says anything to anybody. He’s never got any prizes for anything. He lives on a poultry farm. He’s got four older brothers. He’s always been there but he’s just
Angus shrugged. ‘Just because he lives on a chook farm doesn’t mean he’s stupid. Maybe he’s one of those quiet achievers you don’t hear anything about. He might be a genius!’
‘Maybe he is,’ said Hannah, but it didn’t make sense. She’d known Dave Kelly since they were five years old and he didn’t seem like a genius.
Dave had reached the stage. He climbed the stairs slowly, still looking at the ground.
‘Congratulations, David.’ Mr Taylor reached out his hand to Dave who shook it carefully. ‘I know that you almost didn’t enter the competition, but with lots of encouragement you not only entered but won the prize!’ He handed Dave a flat, white card about the size of a credit card. ‘This is your key to Explore!—a personalised swipe card that you can use for a whole year to go anywhere within our building. Good on you, David!’ Mr Taylor smiled at the crowd again.
‘Well!’ That was about all Hannah said for the rest of the school day.
Angus organised pizza at his place that night. Nothing he’d done had cheered Hannah up so he rang Gabby to ask her to come over and join them. His dad drove into town and came back with five pizzas, then left them to it. But apart from E.D. chewing, there wasn’t much noise happening.
Angus had told Gabby about the results of the Teasdale Secondary
competition. Her school had had its competition as well but Gabby hadn’t entered.
She was tired: the extra swimming was catching up with her and her arms felt heavy. Pat had told her she needed a day off, so when Angus rang she made a quick decision that her day off was today. Gabby put her feet up on the chair opposite her and let her body droop. Maybe I need more than one day off, she thought.
Hannah wasn’t eating much. She had a piece of pizza on her plate and was pulling bits of cheese off in long strings. A pile of stringed cheese sat next to the slice. Hannah licked her fingers occasionally and then wiped them on her jeans.
‘So, what are we doing over the weekend?’ Angus said. He’d eaten three slices and was going for more. It looked like there would be plenty left over.
‘Johnny’s going to help me work on the Ghost.’ E.D. smiled happily. ‘There’s something going on with its gearbox.’
‘That old car that you hide in the back of the garage?’ Gabby said. ‘I think there’s something wrong with most bits of it.’
‘It’s driveable,’ said E.D. ‘Took you to the horse stud, didn’t it?’
Gabby had to nod. E.D. had driven them in it
along the bumpy fire track during their recent adventure.
‘That’s why I know there’s lots wrong with it.’
‘Want another bit of pizza, Han?’ Angus shoved a box towards her. ‘Try this one.’
‘No, thanks. I’m not hungry.’
‘Don’t be upset, Hannah,’ said Gabby. ‘Maybe it was just luck that Dave Kelly won.’
‘I’m not upset,’ said Hannah, sounding like she was. ‘I just thought I had a really good chance of winning. I mean, the questions weren’t that bad.’
?’ Angus nearly choked on his pizza. ‘If they were anything like the practice ones they weren’t even
‘I answered them all.’ Hannah sighed. ‘I don’t know.’
‘Well, Han,’ said Gabby, reaching over and touching her friend on the shoulder, ‘being smart isn’t everything.’
‘What do you mean by that?’ Hannah shrugged Gabby’s hand away.
‘Do you mean I’m not that smart?’
‘Of course not!’ Gabby took her legs off the chair and sat up. ‘I just meant that maybe this Dave kid is smarter than you. This time. He may not be again.’
‘I’m sure I’m smarter than Dave Kelly.’ Hannah’s eyes were wide and she was starting to go red in the face.
‘But it’s not everything, you know. Being smart, that is.’ Gabby tried smiling at her angry friend. ‘I’m sure you’ve got lots of other…qualities. Maybe they haven’t come out yet. Maybe you’d be really good at…um…pottery!’
‘POTTERY?’ Hannah was on her feet, yelling.
‘Well, have you ever tried it? You might be brilliant at pottery.’ Gabby stood up, too. ‘I’m only trying to make you feel better.’
I’m feeling a whole lot worse thanks to you. First you say I’m not smart and then you tell me that I might be good at other things but you don’t know what they are yet!’ Hannah slammed her plate on the table. ‘Thanks,
Angus stood up as well. ‘I think Gabby only means—’
‘Don’t you start as well!’ Hannah picked her slice of pizza up and threw it at Angus. He ducked and the slice sailed over him, hitting E.D. on the head. ‘I don’t have to stay here and take this. Goodbye!’ Hannah stalked out of the house and ran down the driveway.
‘I didn’t mean…’ Gabby started, looking as if she was going to cry.
‘I know,’ said Angus. He sat down heavily and sighed.
‘Hey, guys,’ said E.D., peeling the pizza from his hair. ‘If I wanted another slice I would’ve just taken one.’
‘Shut up, E.D.,’ said Angus and Gabby together.