A funny read.

Sally Murphy
Aussiereviews.com
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Chapter One

Here is Chapter One of Harriet Huxtable and the Trouble with Teachers. I hope you enjoy it.

If you want to read more you should be able to buy the book at most good book stores or you may be able to find it at your local library. If they haven't got it, ask them to get it for you.

CHAPTER 1

It’s not fair when your favourite teacher is away and the relief teacher's a bit of a der-brain.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure Mr Rugless's mother thinks he’s a really nice person and everything, but he’s just not up to scratch when you compare him with Mr Penny.

Mr Penny’s a cricket expert. Our whole class is transformed into the West Indies cricket team every Friday, and we play the Aussies (otherwise known as Miss Montgomery's class).

I’m the best fast bowler we’ve ever had. (Even better than Courtney Walsh, so Mr Penny says.) I learnt everything I know about bowling from Mr Penny.

But Mr Rugless hasn’t got a clue.

Today he made me the umpire. Bad decision.

Nobody ever gets out when I’m the umpire because I can’t bear to tell anyone that they’re out. I guess I’d never make a good bank manager either. I’d never be able to tell anyone they couldn’t have a loan.

It was obvious our team was going to lose. Apart from me, we've only got one other half-decent bowler, Sam Forrest, and his leg's been in plaster since he tried to parachute from his shed roof using a tablecloth and some shoe laces.

And with me never giving anyone out, the Aussies had no choice but to win.

"I reckon it's good they won," my best friend Sophie said to me on the way back to the classroom. "I mean, we won every game in Term One. It'd be terrible if they started thinking they were hopeless or anything. Nobody should ever feel they're hopeless."

Dear old Soph. She really understands about the hopeless thing. You see, she used to bowl for our team. Just because her legs don't work and she gets around in a wheelchair doesn’t mean she can't be a pretty wicked spin bowler. Mr Penny gave her heaps of coaching and taught her some excellent tricks and she was really good.

One problem, but. The batsmen kept tripping over her wheelchair when they were running. Sophie'd try and get out of the way, but when you're trying to get out of the way really fast in a wheelchair, things don't always go according to plan.

Once, she ran over the umpire's foot and another time she ploughed straight into the wickets and sent them flying. But it was when she got bogged and spun her wheels, sending up heaps of mud into Veronica Fletcher's face, that things got nasty.

Veronica Fletcher called her hopeless.

Sophie's never bowled a ball since.

Mr Penny tried and tried to get her to bowl again. So did I, after I'd given the biggest glare in the whole world that said, Don't you ever call my friend hopeless again, to Veronica Fletcher.

But Sophie retired from cricket there and then. Now she's the scorer. Unlike her legs, her brain works perfectly and she's the most unhopeless cricket scorer the West Indies or the Aussies have ever had.

"Speaking of hopeless, except not speaking of it because it's not very nice," I said, confusing myself a bit, "Mr Rugless isn't very good at cricket, is he?"

"No way!" Sophie agreed. "Did you hear him call out 'fault' instead of 'no ball'? I think he got a bit mixed up with tennis."

"And what about how he wouldn't let us have a drinks break?" I said. "Doesn't he know that cricketers can easily dehydrate?"

"Yeah, and what about how he wouldn’t let us sing the National Anthem this morning? How mean is that?"

With Mr Penny, we sang the National Anthem every morning while he played the saxophone. It was a classroom tradition.

I looked at Sophie and rolled my eyes. You'd think Mr Rugless would know better about important things like cricket and national anthems. After all, he was about a hundred years older than Mr Penny. (Well, not quite.)

"Thank goodness Mr Penny will be back on Monday," I said.

"No he won't!"

Sophie and I turned around to see who'd been eavesdropping on our conversation.

It was Angus. Angus the eavesdropper.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Mr Penny won't be back on Monday," said Angus. He was looking at a scab on his arm as he spoke. That's really annoying, when people think scabs are more important than making eye contact while you're talking about very important things like your favourite teacher being away.

"When will he be back?" Sophie asked.

Angus picked a corner off his scab.

"Tuesday," he said without looking up.

"Is he sick?" I said, looking at Sophie, because Angus was still looking at his scab and I wanted to make eye contact with someone while I was talking.

"Nup."

Trying to get information out of Angus was like trying to make a spy confess. You probably needed to inject them with special truth stuff to make them talk.

"ANGUS!" Sophie and I shouted at the same time.

He looked up. Amazing.

He looked back at his arm. Typical.

"What?" he said, as if he didn't understand that Sophie and I needed to know why our favourite teacher was away and why we had to cope for another day with a bit of a der-brain relief teacher. (Anyway, why were they called 'relief' teachers? Mr Rugless wasn't much of a relief.)

I had a brainwave.

"Angus, if you look at us and tell us everything you know about Mr Penny being away, I'll bring you my brother's mega-scab to look at."

Angus looked up. "Mega-scab?"

"Yeah, it's the biggest scab he's ever picked off in one piece and he keeps it in a matchbox."

Angus suddenly changed. One minute he was a person with no conversation skills and the next he was someone who raved on for seven hours (OK, four minutes) about his Dad telling him that Mr Penny had gone to the city for a job interview at a school and if he got the job he'd start there in Term Three.

Sophie and I looked at each other. We were worried. What if Mr Penny left? Would we have Mr Rugless every day? Would our cricket team go down the drain? Would we ask each other millions of questions all the time?

“Don’t forget to bring your brother’s scab on Monday,” Angus said as he banged into a basketball pole.

“Ow!”

Just goes to show that you should watch where you’re going instead of looking at your arm while you’re walking back to the classroom.

Sophie and I reached the bottom of the ramp that went up to our classroom door. I started to push her up it in case her arms were a bit tired after all that scoring, but then I stopped. We needed to have a very important discussion.

“What are we going to do, Soph? The whole class will be devastated if Mr Penny leaves. He's the best. He makes every day heaps interesting and he’s funny and he makes sense and he’s cool and he helps you if you’re stuck and he loves Butter Menthols and he plays the saxophone and…” I had about two hundred and thirty more things on my What’s Good About Mr Penny list, but I was feeling a bit low on oxygen and I really needed to take a breath.

“And he’s a cricket expert,” added Sophie. “I know, Harriet. But there’s only one thing we can do. We’re just going to have to try really hard to like Mr Rugless better. He’s probably not that bad once you get to know him. Everyone’s got something good about them. We’ll just have to try and work out what his good thing is.”

“I suppose you’re right.” I agreed with Sophie nearly all the time. She was pretty sensible.

I pushed Sophie up the ramp and we went inside. We were only about two millimetres inside the door when there was this huge booming noise and the windows started rattling.

Just for a sec I was going to yell, “Earthquake!” and push Sophie to safety before I rescued everyone else from the rubble including the goldfish whose tank had exploded sending glass fragments flying through the air.

Then I realised it wasn’t an earthquake.

I also realised I watch way too much TV.

Mr Rugless was yelling at us. At Sophie and me.

“WHERE HAVE YOU GIRLS BEEN? THE REST OF THE CLASS HAS BEEN BACK FOR TEN MINUTES. WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING?”

How are you supposed to tell a very loud, angry, yelling relief teacher, who obviously got out of the wrong side of bed that morning, that you were involved in a very important discussion about trying to like him better?

“RIGHT! FOR BEING LATE AND FOR NOT ANSWERING MY QUESTIONS, YOU TWO CAN STAY BACK AFTER SCHOOL FOR TEN MINUTES. NO, LET’S DOUBLE THAT. TWENTY MINUTES. NO, BECAUSE YOU’VE NOW GIVEN ME A HEADACHE, YOU CAN STAY BACK FOR THIRTY MINUTES.”

Sophie and I looked at each other.

We both knew what the other one was thinking. We were thinking that Mr Rugless wasn’t very well educated if he didn’t know that yelling at the top of your voice for two and a half minutes non-stop is asking for a headache.

We were also thinking that we didn’t like the idea of trying to like Mr Rugless better. It would probably be a whole lot easier to think up some way to make Mr Penny stay. That’d solve all our problems. And I realised that Mr Rugless was actually doing us a big favour. Thirty minutes after school was just what we needed for a brainwave session to come up with a brilliant idea.

I reckon Sophie realised all this too, because she smiled at me.

I smiled back. That caused another earthquake.

“RIGHT! THAT’S ONE HOUR FOR SMILING!”

Oh, well. An hour to come up with the most fantastic, excellent, foolproof plan to keep the best teacher in the world at our school was twice as good.


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