(For parts 1, 2 and 3 of my NaNoWriMo novel, see the previous posts, which together constitute chapter 1.)
NB: I've been advised by a friend in publishing to not post all of the novel in progress, especially not in an unbroken sequence, so although I seriously doubt it's good enough for anyone to bother ripping off, I'm going to take her advice. This exercpt, therefore, is from Chapter 3, rather than Chapter 2. The omitted chapter contained some details of Frankie's family life and more information about Penny Ganz's missing mother. Chapter 3 opens the following day in the schoolyard.
We were, as usual, barely on time for school the next morning. Rounding the corner to the sound of the first bell ringing, Seb, Phil and I immediately scattered, racing off to our respective class queues just before the teachers came out to walk us in. Breathless, I scooted into place behind my friend, Jen, who muttered, “You cut it so fine, Frankie,” as she shuffled up a little further to make room for me. “Yeah, yeah...” I replied, giving her my best who-me grin.
Our teacher, Mr Orringe, came strolling out of the office block, his scuffed brown sandals flapping loudly in the cool morning air. As usual, Mr O looked like he had woken up about 7 minutes ago, rolled out of bed, and thrown on the first thing that came to hand on his meander to school. Today he was sporting a pair of khaki cotton pants, creased in such a way that made it obvious they’d never seen an iron; a red and white striped shirt, minus two buttons; and a scruffy black bomber jacket, which he wore every day, regardless of weather. His mouse-brown hair was getting long around his ears again and was standing up in places. His mild brown eyes showed no fear, though. He never looked stressed about his absence of kempt, never seemed even aware of the sniggers and comments of the kids and some of the parents about his perpetual state of disarray. Mr O was very relaxed about life, and teaching, and, indeed, personal grooming.
“Right, then, 5-O”, he said calmly, “let’s get this show on the road.” Obedient as a row of ducklings following mama duck, we puttered along after him, walking past the bright yellow wattle and the glorious full-flower bottle-brush (my favourite plant at the school) into our classroom block. As always, I half-smiled at the startling and cheery mural that decorated the outer wall of our building – a blue sky, a bluer sea, a bobbing red sailboat, a multitude of shining, darting fishes. The artist had painted it all with energy and colour and delight, and it showed.
Being so late, I hadn’t seen Penny that morning – her class lined up in a different area of the yard. As I shoved my bag into my locker, I decided that I really needed to try to catch her at recess.
“Jen,” I said, catching her lunchbox as it slid from her stuffed locker to the floor (a job I do every day, as Jen’s locker is always over-filled with science paraphernalia), “where does Penny Ganz hang out these days? At breaks, I mean?”
Jen pushed her green glasses back up her nose and looked at me suspiciously. “How do you think I would know, Frankie? I spend most of my breaks with you, or with the Science Club, right?”
“Yeah, I just thought maybe you would,” I said, grabbing my maths book for the first lesson of the day. Just then Troy Peel came past, looking as pleasant as usual (which is to say, not pleasant at all).
“How’s it hanging, Frank?” he said, nudging his maths book into my abdomen. “All of it, I mean?” He sniggered, and his toadies, Travis Li and Jayden Furquani, imitated him, elbowing each other in their amusement at Troy Baiting the Fattie.
I gave Troy my best pitying grin. I do a fairly good line in those.
“Very well, Troy, very well indeed.” I stretched luxuriously, which made my school jumper pull up for second, exposing an inch of my belly. “Great to have padding against the cold, I find. Wouldn’t you agree? No, wait, sorry, I forgot ... you’re thin.” I smiled kindly. “Oh well...”
Troy, as usual, was equal parts peeved at being called on his garbage in front of his mates, and disconcerted, not knowing what to say next. My exterior of so-don’t-care confused him. The thought seemed to travel visibly across his mind: How could I not care that I was fat? Why wasn’t I embarrassed? And why did I, obviously lower than his good self on the totem pole, feel I had the right to answer back?
Troy opened his mouth to amplify his witticism, but before he had a chance, Mr O came out into the corridor. “Come on, Frankie, Troy, you others,” he said mildly. “Maths waits for no one, you know.” He stood by the door, shepherding us into the room.
13 hours ago