Category: Chapbooks for Tweens
Author: Margot E. Finke www.margotfinke.com
Print ISBN: 9781616331306; 1616331305
eBook ISBN: 9781616331313; 1616331313
Sibling rivalry boils over when Josh and his older brother are left alone on Coorparoo Cattle Station. Long time mate, Bindi, persuades Josh to go walkabout with him. His hasty threat eats at Josh, while Bindi’s lie threatens their friendship. The Aussie outback and the Medicine Man try to destroy them both, while tribal lore and the Dreamtime take them far into the ancient past.
Suggested age range for readers: 9 to 14 years.
Dragging Josh across the table, Tom shook him like a cat shakes a rat. The milk jug, butter, and cutlery crashed onto the floor. Cereal, smashed china and milk squished beneath their feet. Gasps and panting sounds filled the kitchen.
“Quit it, or I’ll break your arm!”
The threat sank into Josh’s fevered brain. He stopped struggling. Tom dragged him out of the kitchen, down the hall toward the back door, shaking him every step of the way.
“Hey, I saw you take it!” Josh yelled and squirmed. “If I were bigger you’d have a fight on your hands.”
“I’m not a thief, and you know it.” Tom stopped and glared down at Josh. “I planned on paying it back before Dad knew. Tell Dad now, and I’m. . ."
“Screwed, mate. Royally screwed! Mom and Dad’ll freak if I tell them. They’ll kill you, Thomas Howard, count on it!”
“Little worm! I just borrowed the money.” A puzzled expression came over Tom’s face. “Why are you doing this?” His hands loosened their grip, and Josh wiggled free.
There was a moment of silence. Josh suddenly realized he had power over his brother. The thrill of it made him feel ten foot tall. “Well, you get to try and prove you’re still their “honest” darling boy. Me. . .? I get to say you’re a lousy thief.”
Tom’s fists clenched.
“Got your attention now, smart ass.” Josh’s eyes glittered. This was the most notice his brother had taken of him in years.
Tom pushed Josh against the wall, but Josh squirmed free. “We used to be mates. You know, have fun and do things together. Soon as you went to boarding school the cow dung flew. You’ve been a mean rotten brother ever since.”
“No reason to lie about me.” Tom’s cold gray eyes stared into his. “Get real, chicken brain. It’ll be my word against yours.”
“So what? I’ve made you sweat!” Josh’s grin held no humor.
“Cockroach!” Tom lunged, fists balled tight.
Josh tried to dodge, but at thirten he was no match for his brother’s sixteen year old height and muscle. He wiggled and heaved as Tom shoved him closer to the back door. Their rough grunts and ragged breathing were the only sounds.
One handed, Tom dragged open the door. “Want to get closer to the outback? Fine! Go fry in the sun. Might cook some sense into you.” He whirled Josh around to face him.
One look at his brother’s bulging eyed red face, and Josh shut his mouth with a snap. This was no time to throw further insults. “Outside, you!” A hard shove shot Josh out the door flat on his back in the dirt. The door slammed shaking the frame. “You can stay out there ‘till the rains come for all I care.” Tom’s voice faded as he moved further indoors.
Scrambling to his feet Josh rattled the doorknob. No good, it was locked. “You wait, Tom Howard. Wait ‘till Mom and Dad get home. I’ll tell Mum you beat me up. You freakin’ weirdo!”
Tom’s reply was the sound of hard rock music pounding out of his room.
A fast inspection of windows proved the house was sealed; tight as the final bid on a prize bull. “I’ll get you, Tom,” he yelled, giving the door a viscous kick. Daggers of pain shot up from his foot. “Oh, cripes!” Hopping on one leg, he imagined Tom laughing his stupid head off. Dumb move that. Kicking the door in thongs.
Limping around to the shade of the front porch, Josh tried the door there just in case, but it was locked. He plunked himself on the front steps. Small chunks of sleep clung to the corners of his eyes. His shorts and faded blue tee shirt showed signs of yesterday’s eats.
Like a cruel mirage, pictures of his mom’s hot meat pies popped into his head. Josh’s stomach lurched and rumbled. Her lamington cakes, soaked in chocolate and drenched in coconut, followed. When he closed his eyes he could smell them. “Ahhhhhhh.”
Well Josh Howard, you’re in the bull dust now. What’s next? The nearest neighbor was fifty miles away.
“Take it all back,” urged a small inner voice. “Tell Tom you were just kidding.”
“No way!” He frowned. “Tom’s ignored me for years. Been mean and nasty, too.” His loud words startled a couple of sulfur crested cockatoos in a nearby gum tree. Flying away, they offered squawks of protest.
The Queensland outback stared Josh in the face.