SLICE is my first YA prose novel, released in June 2010 by Woolshed Press, an imprint of Random House. I'm very excited to be working once again with the fabulous publisher (and friend), Leonie Tyle, who released my first ten books with UQP. Leonie now has her own imprint at Random.
SLICE is the story of sixteen year old Darcy, who means what he says... he just shouldn't say it aloud.
Darcy can cope with parents, parties and punch-ups. He can handle his infatuation with the beautiful Audrey, spending quality chess-time with his nerdy friend, Noah, even the misadventures of kayaking on a school excursion. He's a teenage boy, he can deal with it.
If only he'd learn to keep his mouth closed.
My name is Darcy Franz Pele Walker.
Ignore the middle names.
My Dad is a football nut and he figured if he named me after his two favourite players, I’d turn out just like them. At the age of five, I’d stand in the backyard wearing baggy blue shorts and a Brazilian jersey watching the clouds, the trees, birds tilting overhead on the breeze.
Dad would shout, ‘Ready, Darcy? and roll the ball temptingly my way.
‘Just kick it with all you’ve got, Son.’
I’d look at the coloured panels on the ball.
‘Just swing your foot, Darcy.’
Arms extended, I’d obediently sway my right leg like a ballerina stretching.
The football experiment stopped at age eleven. Years of frustration got the better of Dad and he belted one, straight at me. Bloodcurdling screams rent the suburb.
Not from me, from Mum.
I lay on my back, a warm ooze of blood trickled down my face.
People say I look better with a broken nose.
It’s a slight lump.
You can hardly notice it.
Dad was distraught. Mum shouted at him for hours, bad language bouncing off the kitchen walls.
Dad said I’d never have to play football again.
I almost hugged him, but I didn’t want to get blood all over his clean shirt.
Pele is some Brazilian dude, the greatest player of all time. When he retired he became the Minister for Sport in the Brazilian government. He did a television commercial for men with erection problems.
Franz is Franz Beckenbauer - the only person to win the world cup as player and a coach. In his heyday, he had a haircut like a laughing clown, curls framing an amiable round chubby face.
A normal sixteen year old
There are two minutes and twenty-four seconds until lunchtime.
Maths with Mr Clegg.
How’s that for a name?
Some parents should be forbidden from naming their children.
Are you listening Mum and Dad?
Mr Clegg is wearing a paisley shirt and mustard slacks with matching cowdung coloured shoes. He has a sergeant-major haircut, lacquered down with Brylcreem (I saw it on his desk yesterday). According to Google, Brylcreem was used by old men and rock stars last century. It’s made of beeswax.
Anyway, Wax-head is lecturing us on the relevance of Maths in daily life. He sprouts forth (sprouts forth - my attempt at Shakespeare) and he doth complain too much about nobody recognizing the value of numeracy.
I won’t bore you with the details. He’s been raving for forty-three minutes and . . . fifteen seconds non-stop. We’ve been promised our final exam results today but I don’t like our chances. The clock ticks down to one minute and thirty seconds until freedom. Stacey Scott slumps forward like an old lady nodding off over her knitting. If Clegg notices he’ll keep us in after the bell.
I jump up from my desk, a finger pointing accusingly towards the clock, ‘Sir. The time!’
Stacey bounces awake. Mr Clegg gasps, glasses hanging loosely off his broken nose. We have something in common!
‘Darcy Walker, how dare you . . .’
‘Sir, a quick calculation tells me we only have one minute left before lunch. You’re right. Maths is useful!
Sniggering comes from the losers in the back row. Gutless wonders!
‘If you give us our results now, we’ll see how relevant maths will be in the future, won’t we?’
Clegg sweeps his hand over his Brylcreem-stiff hair, mutters under his breath, then reaches for the results folder and walks to the front of his desk. I stand triumphantly waiting to be mobbed by cheering students, blokes slapping me on the back, girls offering kisses and seductive text messages.
Instead, Marcus Guyotus whines from the corner, ‘Can you sit down, Darcy. I can’t see the board.’
‘There’s nothing on the board, Marcus.’
‘How do I know that, if you’re in the way?’
‘Open your eyes!’
‘Sir, Walker just insulted me!’
‘Telling somebody to open their eyes is not an insult, Marcus. Your haircut on the other hand . . . ’
‘Walker! It’s bad enough you interrupt me, it’s worse you continue to hold the floor.
‘I’m technically not "holding the floor, Sir. I don’t believe that’s physically possible. All I’m . . .’
I make like a dog and do as he commands.
The bell rings and everyone scrapes their chairs back in unison. Stacey is almost at the door when Clegg calls, ‘Not so fast, Sleepyhead. Walker demanded your results . . . Clegg smiles, ‘. . . something for you all to savour over lunch.
Like a funeral bell tolling, he slowly reads our scores.
Nobody says a word, failures scatter like dead leaves.
Miranda and Stacey stand in the canteen line, Miranda’s voice is like a chainsaw cutting through soft timber, ‘Clegg is a prick. I can’t believe he failed me. All Maths teachers are sadist. You’d have to be to . . .
Stacey interrupts, ‘Did he really say "sleepyhead"? Isn’t there a rule against name-calling?’
Mrs Harrison, the canteen lady, drums her fingers on the bench waiting for them to order.
My stomach rumbles and my ears ache from listening to these two.
I lean forward, ‘It’s called bullying, but I’m not sure if "sleepyhead" qualifies.’
Miranda sneers, ‘How would you know? Stacey is very sensitive. Aren’t you Stace?’
‘Please don’t call me Stace.’
Mrs Harrison rolls her eyes, ‘Pies or sausage rolls. That’s all we’ve got left.’
Miranda says, ‘I’ll have a salad sandwich.’
I’m sixteen years old and my mouth runs ahead of my brain. Our friend Pele would describe it as - ahem - premature enunciation. Mum says I talk without thinking. She’s wrong.
I mean what I say, I just shouldn’t say it aloud.