> “What’s that supposed to be?”
“It’s a bilby,” I say.
I blink a few times and say it again slower. I try not to look at Brendan’s yellow teeth that smell of peanut butter. He picks up my drawing and stares at it for a minute.
“What’s it wearing shoes for, Dumbo?” he asks with a nasty smile on his face.
“It’s for the Olympics, Brendan. We were supposed to draw an Olympic mascot for school.”
Brendan turns around when I say the word school. He starts poking the girl sitting in front of him with his finger.
For the rest of the bus trip I look at my bilby. It is the best drawing I have ever done.
I had the idea while I was having dinner, and I was allowed to stay up and work on it until 8 o’clock. Dad even let me sit at his desk to draw it, his big brown desk, with the seat so high that my feet don’t even touch the ground. I wrote BONZER BILBY on top of the page in thick pencil. Bonzer Bilby is yellow and black and white and wore bright red shoes.
The hot bus seat sticks to my back and the banana in my lunch box will be squishy by morning tea, but I don’t care. Today I will do something the same as everyone else.
“Now class,” Mrs Borbley’s bright pink fingernails tap on her cheek, “can we all get our work books out please?”
I smile proudly at my desk. Desk number 12, if you count from the left. Just behind Mary Gillett, who always wears a big bow in her hair, and just in front of Brendan Pritchman, who doesn’t wear a bow, but calls me names and always looks like he is chewing something. Richie Smith, who sits next to me, told me Brendan eats things out of his nose.
I reach into my bag, and get out my blue book with a sunflower on the front. I practice writing Yous and Doubleyous (I can’t write them that way though) between dotted lines while everyone else copies something that is written on the blackboard.
I always have a different book to everyone else. Wednesdays and Fridays I even go into a different room, all by myself, and practice speaking with a tape. Mr. Willard helps me. He’s nice, but he talks strangely sometimes.
I stop writing when I know Mrs Borbley is standing right behind me. She likes to do that.
“Don’t worry about me David,” she says when I tip my head backwards to look at her. “Just carry on with your writing.”
Her mouth looks funny from upside down, and she has hair under her nose. I don’t tell her this though. I start on a new row of letters.
She says, “Try to keep those Ns inside the lines.”
It’s morning tea break now and I’m sitting on a bench under a big shady tree, pulling the gladwrap off a biscuit. I hear some kids over behind the Grade Seven building playing. One of them will be throwing a tennis ball at the others, who stand in a line against the wall, trying to dodge out of the way. The teachers try to get me to play sometimes but I always get hurt.
I see Richie Smith coming towards me. He is wearing a smiley face badge on his blazer.
“Hi David,” he says, throwing up an eraser in his hand and catching it again.
Richie is a good friend. He sat next to me on my first day of school and showed me his stamp album. Richie told me his dad drove aeroplanes all over the world, and every time he came back, he would bring Richie new stamps. He even one from India, with a green tiger on it.
“Can I sit next to you?” says Richie, in a funny voice.
“Okay Richie.” I try to copy the voice, but it doesn’t sound quite the same.
Richie laughs. He has a strange sort of laugh—it sounds like he is coughing but he isn’t. He pulls an orange lolly out of his pocket and puts it in his mouth. Richie is lucky because he gets lollies from the doctor that he’s even allowed to eat at school. His eraser has a funny dog on it.
“That’s a great eraser,” I say.
“You can have it,” says Richie, giving it to me. “I’ve got another one at home.”
I thank him and put it in my pocket. Mrs Borbley always makes me rub out my mistakes.
“Want to see my Olympic picture?” I say.
I pull it out of my bag carefully, using the fingers without crumbs on them. Richie looks at the picture.
“Wow!” he says. “That’s really good! Much better than mine. You should show Mr Willard. He’d love it.”
“I think I will,” I say, putting the gladwrap back in my lunch box.
After morning tea, I go down the hall with my picture to see Mr Willard. I walk past the shelf with the shiny trophies, past the door with the fuzzy glass and a sign that says PRINCIPAL . The door opens and Brendan steps out. His shoelaces are untied and he has a frown on his face.
“What’re you looking at, Dumbo?” he says. Brendan is always in the principal’s office.
“Hey, give me a look at that picture,” he says, sort of smiling.
Brendan snatches my picture and walks down the hallway.
“Hey, that’s my picture Brendan!” I shout. But he keeps walking.
“Thanks Dumbo,” he says. “I don’t have to draw one now.” He folds my picture and puts it in his top blazer pocket. As he walks off, he shouts over his shoulder: “Not a word to the teachers Dumbo, or it’s trouble!”
My mouth is wide open. No picture – no Bonzer Bilby. I was so proud of it and now no one was going to see it. I start to cry. I feel a hand on my shoulder.
“What’s the matter, dude?”
It’s Mr Willard. I don’t want to look at him. I don’t want to be here any more.
Mr Willard takes me to the teachers’ room and gets me a drink of red cordial.
“This is pretty cool,” he says. “You’re the only student I know who’s been in here. Probably thought it’d look a bit more like a torture chamber hey?”
I smile a little bit.
“So what’s the problem, buddy?” he asks.
I tell him I lost my picture.
“Can’t you do another drawing?”
He didn’t understand. That was my best picture ever.
“Just give it a go, dude,” he says. “I’ve got some really radical textas in my desk.”
He gives me some paper and a blue pencil and goes out the door. I start writing BONZER BILBY as hard as I can on the paper, imagining the letters going in and out of the dotted lines. I screw up my eyes hard and open them again. The letters mix around. Inside and outside the lines.
All of a sudden I see it. I don’t want my picture back any more. This is even better.
Brendan Pritchman takes off his blazer, throws it down next to the monkey bars and runs off with a wet tennis ball in his hand. I munch my sandwich and watch him disappear behind the grade seven building. I put my hand in my pocket. The funny dog eraser and Mr Willard’s pencil are still there. I walk over to the monkey bars.
“Now class, it’s time for show and tell,” says Mrs Borbley. “I asked you all to do a drawing of a mascot for the Olympics. Did everyone draw one?”
Everyone says yes in a quiet voice.
“Who would like to be first to come up and show the class their drawing?”
Brendan sticks up his hand.
“I shouldn’t have to tell you again Brendan,” says Mrs Borbley. “You have to go to the toilet before class starts.”
“No Miss,” says Brendan. “I want to show you my picture.”
Mrs Borbley stops in the middle of a yawn and looks at him strangely.
“Um … all right Brendan,” she says. “You may come up here and show everybody your picture.”
Brendan stands up in front of the class and speaks in a posh voice. “Hello teachers, girls and boys, here I have my show and tell.”
He is looking right at me. He unfolds the piece of paper and holds it out in front of him so we can all see it. Someone starts giggling. Then someone else. Then we’re all laughing. Brendan looks at us and his smile turns to a frown. He turns the page around so he can see it. He stares at the picture. He looks as if his underpants have been turned inside out with him still wearing them.
Our teacher sees the picture too.
It doesn’t say BONZER BILBY any more. It says MRS BORBLEY.
“I suppose you think this is funny do you Brendan?” says in a very angry voice.
Brendan makes a little squeak.
“I’ve had just about enough of you Brendan Pritchman!” she shouts. “I’m ringing your parents right now!”
“But … but it was David’s picture!” he whines.
“Don’t be stupid,” says Mrs Borbley. “You know David couldn’t have done that.”
“I can’t draw that well Brendan,” I say, smiling.
Mrs Borbley pulls Brendan out the door by his arm. Everyone is still laughing. I open my blue book and start practicing my letters with the blue pencil.
I give Richie back his eraser. I don’t need it anymore.