Thank you for having me as guest author this month! I’m very glad to be here.
By way of introduction, for my first post I thought I’d share a couple of pics and also a story I wrote so you can get to know me a little.
The first thing to know about me is that I’m crazy about animals. I have three cats, which doesn’t help at all when it comes to writing. Here are two of them on my desk. Where’s my keyboard? Good question! It’s days like this I don’t manage to get much writing done.
As well as writing, I work for a company that makes computer games, which means I get to play lots of games… which doesn’t feel like real work, but hey, who’s complaining? The main game I work on is a virtual world called SmallWorlds. Here’s a picture of my avatar in the game firing a toilet paper gun at someone. Yes, I am working hard!
So to finish off my introduction, do you want a story? Here’s one I wrote that won a prize but hasn’t been published anywhere… except right here, right now! So you’re probably the only kids anywhere in the world who get to read this story. I really hope you like it!
Chemistry in a Yellow Dress
(A short story by Tania Hutley)
Being good at sport doesn’t make me dumb. I can write an essay that makes my English teacher rave. But chemistry’s another thing. All those stupid element names!
Jamie’s top in chemistry and I think that’s why Mr Black paired me with him. “There’ll be no final exam,” Mr Black said. “Instead you can present a project on anything you want. But you have to do it in pairs.”
While everyone else was talking about their projects, Mr Black drew me aside. “This is your last chance, Max. Fail this and you fail the whole subject.”
Feeling sick, I slunk back to my seat next to Jamie. “What project are we going to do?” I asked.
He just stared at me with his arms folded. “I’m not going to do anything,” he said. “Why should I help you? I’ve already done enough this year to get Merit.”
I couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t still be mad, could he? “I said I was sorry, okay?”
“You said it, but you’re not.”
He was right. Just remembering the trick I’d played on him made me want to crack up. His expression when he went to get changed after PE and found his uniform stapled to the ceiling was so funny the whole class killed themselves laughing. “It was just a joke,” I said. “You can’t still be mad. If I fail chemistry they might make me repeat the whole year.”
“It wasn’t personal or anything, I was just being funny. And I had to do all that detention.”
Jamie thought about it. “I’ll help you on one condition,” he finally said. “You get your sister to go to the social with me.”
My sister? She was a year ahead of us and so tough I swear she ate small children for breakfast. And she hated me. No way was she going to do me a favour.
I asked her anyway. She made me beg for a while, then laid down her conditions. “You gotta go to the social too,” she said.
“Let me finish.” Her grin was pure evil. She opened her wardrobe and whipped out a yellow polka-dot dress with frills on it. “You gotta go wearing this.”
“And a wig.”
“High heels.” She rubbed her hands together. “And makeup. I think bright red lipstick would suit you.”
She smirked. “That’s the deal. Take it or leave it.”
Then it struck me. The social was the night after our project was due. I could just pretend I was going to go through with it until our project was presented, then pull out. Sneaky. I got guilt pangs thinking about it. It would be too late for Jamie to ask anyone else, but he already hated me, so he probably expected me to betray him. At least, that’s what I told myself.
I nodded slowly. “Alright, I’ll do it.”
When Jamie heard, he laughed like a maniac. “In a dress?” he kept saying, then laughing some more. “This is going to be great!”
“Why do you want to go out with my sister?” I had to ask.
He shrugged. “I don’t like the girls in our year.”
“Not even Mandy?”
“Mandy’s a friend,” he said. “But she’s not my type.”
I couldn’t believe it! You’d have to be blind, deaf and totally dumb not to like Mandy. “I didn’t know you were friends with her,” I said. “I’d have asked her to the social, but she won’t even talk to me.”
He grinned. “Mandy’s got taste. She doesn’t like bullies.”
“I’m not a bully!”
I thought he was talking rubbish. But later I started to wonder. Was I a bully? I’d never done anything really nasty; I just liked joking around. My mates thought I was hilarious. But I guess some gags might have seemed mean. I decided maybe I should give the tricks a miss for a while. I’d still clown around, but I’d try not to make anyone else the butt of the joke.
Jamie kept his end of the deal. “Our project should be about Ernest Rutherford,” he decided.
“He was from Nelson. Got a Nobel Prize in Chemistry.”
“Boring? He was the first person to split the atom.”
He stared at me like I was dumb. “The first to get a nuclear reaction.”
I imagined a mushroom cloud over Nelson. “That’s kinda interesting,” I admitted.
“And he was the first person to figure out how old the Earth is.”
“How old is it?”
“Find out for yourself. This is your project too. I’m not doing all the work.”
When I googled the guy, I found out heaps more stuff. “Did you know Rutherford invented smoke dectectors?” I said to Jamie.
“Great, we’ll put that in the project too,” he said. “Want to draw diagrams of his experiments?”
By the time it was due, our project looked awesome. And I was proud of myself because I hadn’t played a single trick on anyone, even though I’d thought of some really funny ones. I hadn’t told anyone about my resolution, so I got no credit for resisting. But I told Jamie that I really was sorry for the joke I’d played on him, and this time I meant it. He didn’t say much in return. I was hoping he might admit I wasn’t a bully, but he just changed the subject.
When we presented our project we blew Mr Black away. He asked me a million questions, trying to catch me out, thinking Jamie had done the whole thing. No way! I answered everything right and pointed out the diagrams I’d done. His grin when we finished told me I’d passed.
So that was that, right? All I had to do was pull out of that stupid deal I’d made with my sister, and everything would be great.
Just one problem. I couldn’t do it.
Jamie was a mate now, even if he was still mad with me. I couldn’t let down a mate, could I? And he’d been looking forward to the social. If you ask me, having a crush on my sister was like fancying a poisonous snake, but he acted all goofy when she was around. So lame, but I felt sorry for him. Of all the girls at our school, he had to fall for my sister!
So on the day of the social, I pulled on that awful yellow dress. My sister had her fun painting colours on my eyes and lips, and putting a blonde wig on my head. She’d even found a pair of high heels in a thrift shop that would fit me. I told you she hated me!
Five million times I almost pulled out. But I didn’t.
Walking into the school hall wearing a dress was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Word had got out about the deal I’d made, but no-one thought I’d go through with it. The spotlight was on me as I walked in. I almost drowned in the sea of laughter. My so-called mates were on the floor laughing. Then wolf whistles started coming from all directions. I would have turned and run, except for those stupid high heels. I could hardly even walk in them.
Jamie came up to me, grinning. “Joke’s on you,” he said. “Your sister was coming with me anyway. We cooked this up together.”
Sure enough, my sister hooked her arm through his and the two of them sniggered.
I swallowed. Everyone thought of me as a trickster. Getting mad would make me look like I couldn’t handle it when the tables were turned.
“Good one.” I forced a smile onto my face. “You got me, alright.”
I left them looking surprised and hobbled over to the drinks table. I’d have one glass of punch, let everyone have their laugh, then get outta there.
I’d just drained the glass when I felt a tap on my back. It was Mandy, in a white dress, looking so pretty I thought angel wings might suddenly sprout from her back.
She tilted her head to one side. “You know, I used to think you were a loser,” she said. “But Jamie said you were okay.”
“Did he?” For some reason I’d lost the ability to string more than two words together.
She smiled. “And you look quite pretty in yellow.”
Pretty? My face caught fire.
“Wanna dance?” she asked.
Was she kidding? I glanced around to make sure it wasn’t another joke and saw my mates staring. They weren’t laughing any more; they looked like they wished they were wearing dresses too.
I managed to grin at Mandy and my brain started to reboot after its initial melt-down. “Promise you won’t step on my high heels?” I asked. Not much of a joke, but she laughed anyway.
“It’s a deal,” she said.