Let’s get something straight. This is not a diary. Diaries smell like strawberry bubble gum and have stupid little locks with keys that are so easy to open. The book you are reading is not a diary. It is a log book, the sort pilots write. And astronauts and sea captains. This is not a diary. Remember that.
‘Right, my boy.’ said Dad, sitting heavily on my bed.
This was not good. Last time Dad came into my room and said, ‘Right, my boy’ I was grounded for two weeks because I had jumped off the water tank with an umbrella.
‘I’ve decided to ban the double bounce,’ Dad said.
‘What!?’ I said sitting up.
This was bad, bad news. My sister Claire and I have double-bounced on the trampoline since forever. It’s a wicked trick, especially if someone doesn’t know you’re going to do it. What you do is wait till you’re both jumping really high, then bounce as hard as you can just as the other person is landing. When you land, they fly into space.
‘But Dad, that’s not fair!’ I protested. ‘She called me a dumb idiot!’
‘I don’t care.’
‘And a no-hoper!’
‘Toby, your sister has a broken arm because you were acting the fool.’
Here’s what happened. I was on the trampoline and Claire and her friends jumped on without asking. Then Claire asked if I knew what a palindrome was. I didn’t.
‘You don’t even know what a palindrome is!’ She laughed like a kookaburra, which made her friends all laugh like kookaburras too.
‘You’re a Dumbo,’ she said. ‘A no-hoper!’
So I double bounced her into inifinity. I ask you, who wouldn’t?
From my room I could see Claire in the lounge lying on Mum’s comfy chair. She was watching a movie past her bedtime! And she was drinking fizzy!
‘What! We’re never allowed fizzy!’ I said to Dad.
‘Correct,’ he said, checking his phone. ‘Especially not at this time of night.’
‘But…look at Claire,’ I said. ‘She has got fizzy!’
‘She’s allowed to,’ he said, not looking up. ‘She’s in pain.’
I pulled the sheets up and buried my head. ‘Life sucks!’ I said. ‘Why can’t someone break my arm!’
‘But I have got an offer for you,’ Dad went on.
‘What kind of offer?’ I asked.
‘Toby, my boy, life is about redemption.’
‘Yeah, yeah,’ I sighed.
‘It’s a one-lap race.’
Here we go. Dad’s got all these sayings from a CD he plays in his car on his way to work.
‘It’s not whether you get knocked down,’ he continued. ‘It’s whether you get up. And if at first you don’t succeed – ‘
‘Try again,’ I said.
‘That’s the one!’ ‘Have you heard that before?’
‘Dad, what’s the offer?’
He moved closer and tried to whisper, but when dad whispers it sounds like a normal person yelling.
‘When I was a young like you,’ he said. ‘I needed goals and targets to achieve certain things. And sometimes, like today with Claire, people need a second chance.’
I slowly put down the covers and peeked over the top.
‘So even though I have banned the double bounce,’ he said. ‘Your mum and I have decided if you get twenty wickets and ten tries before the end of the year, we’ll buy you a new GameBox V3.’
Can you believe it? One minute I’m in trouble for double-bouncing my sister and the next Dad is telling me I’ve got the new GameBox V3! It’s not even Christmas. Shot!
GameBox V3 is the best thing since GameBox V2. It’s so new no one in my class has got it. You can choose your players and your teams, what uniform they should wear and what ground they should play on. It’s also got two player and three player so you can verse your friends. Twenty wickets and ten tries! Easy-peasy. Mum says sport is in my blood, which is funny because that’s what normally comes out on the field when I play. I get player of the day all the time, which is good for me, but bad for Mum because whoever gets player of the day has to wash the team shirts.
In my cricket team, I bat at number six but I’m mainly a bowler. Coach told me there are fast bowlers everywhere but leg spinners are rarer than hen’s teeth, which I think is his way of saying I should learn to be one. I play rugby too. I’m a fullback and my famous move is the up and under. Coach says I remind him of Christian Cullen, who used to play for the All Blacks. If you’re wondering what an up and under is, it’s when you kick the ball as high as the sky and run down and catch it before someone on the other team tackles you. Just make sure you don’t practise it in the lounge when your Mum and Dad are watching the Sunday night movie.
I can kick a ball all day if I have to. I dream about scoring goals. My best dream was scoring a hat trick for Manchester United against Arsenal and I was on the six o’ clock news in England. Then the manager of the club gave me a brand-new GameBox V3 and a Ferrari 250GTO. Then his wife says she loves me and goes and kisses me on the lips. Yuck!
I should tell you a little bit more about my family and friends. You might have figured out my name is Toby, but you won’t know my surname.Toby Gilligan-Flannigan. There, I said it. I blame Mum. She didn’t want to be called plain Mrs Gilligan. Sometimes all I want is a short surname like Jones or Smith. Every morning when Mrs Martin-Edge does the roll call, I get the same feeling as when Dad says, ‘Right, my boy.’
I’m the middle one in the family. Claire is four years older and my brother Max is seven years younger. They are both annoying, but at least Max doesn’t use all the hot water in the shower. Then again, Claire doesn’t poo her pants.
My two best friends are Terence and Sam, but I never call them Terence or Sam. None of the sports commentators on TV ever call each other by their real names. It’s always Smithie or Foxy or Greggy. Terence’s surname is Jones, so he’s Jonesy and Sam’s surname is Hughes so he’s Hughesy. My name is more difficult to change so I stay as Toby, which we decided was fine because it sounds a little bit like Jonesy and Hughesy. We’re in a club called the CGC, which stands for Cool Guys Club. To join the CGC you have to spit on a leaf, pass it to the next member, who has to lick it before spitting on it. We have a meeting every day during spelling.
Sometimes I go eeling with Jonesy and Hughesy. What we do is we get up really early, go to the butcher and buy a sheep’s heart. Hughesy is best at tying the heart to some fishing line and attaching it to the jetty by the river. Then we come back with spears! We catch silver bellies in the stony streams and yellow bellies in the muddy creeks. Once we caught an eel taller than Dad. Jonesy wanted to keep it as a pet, but his mum said no because he’s already got a lizard, two geckos and a goldfish as big as a shoe.
But do you know the best feeling in the world? Coming home with dinner! Even though Mum says I stink and that I should leave my clothes outside, she smiles like crazy when she sees what we’ve caught. Dad does too. When we put the eels on the bench, Dad rubs his hands together and puts on his apron that says, ‘Eat my cooking and always be good-looking.’
‘The hunter-gatherers are back!’ he says, getting a knife from the drawer. ‘Good on you, boys! Let’s smoke ’em!’ Dad loves fishing. He has fishing mugs, fishing t-shirts, fishing hats and fishing calendars. When he watches the fishing show he writes down notes on where the best places are. We used to put our car in the garage, but Dad filled it up with rods and jackets and boxes and sinkers.
During dinner when Dad is putting pepper on the smoked eel, he says things like, ‘Proud of you, boy,’ and ‘You can be anything you want to be.’ I want to say I want to be good at schoolwork and spelling, but never do because Claire sits next to me and makes me feel dumb. She’s such a nerd she could do her homework with her eyes closed. If she wanted to she could probably do the crossword faster than Mum.
It’s funny, because even though Dad has got the CD with all those sayings, it doesn’t really help. There’s no saying about how to be smarter than your sister or how to spell when your head feels like it’s got bricks in it. But I can change all that by getting twenty wickets and ten tries. Then I’ll be the only one in class with the GameBox V3.