Trouble in Time
I glared at the old , brown suitcases in the centre of my bedroom floor, as I dialled my mate Zac. He wasn't going to like what I had to tell him.
"Hey, Zac. I can't shoot tonight." I held the phone away from my ear waiting for the explosion on the other end.
"What! We're coming second in the competition," he yelled. "You've gotta come!"
"I told Mum that," I said, "But her Poppa's come to stay. He invaded at lunchtime."
"So?" Zac whined. "Why does your mum's old man need you there? We need you on the team."
"Not her dad. Her poppa. You know, her grandfather."
"Whoa," cried Zac, "he must be ancient. He won't notice if you're there or not."
I grinned, thinking he was probably right, but Mum had other ideas.
"Ben!" called Mum down the hall. "Come and set the table"'
"You'll just have to blast twice as many opposition tonight," I said quickly. "Mum's got me doing heaps of jobs and says I've got to stay home."
Zac groaned. "That sucks."
"Ben!" Mum called again.
"Gotta go. I'll text ya later." I grabbed my cell phone charger from my desk. Zac was right. Missing out on Laser Force, just when our team was getting somewhere, sucked. And all for a welcome dinner for Mum's poppa. Whatever. It's not like I even know him that well.
I was about to sick one of the suitcases when my sister Abby skipped down the hall. "Mum says you have to set the table," she sang in her puky sing-song voice. I gave her my usual scowl and she skipped back to the kitchen.
I followed, checking my watch. Maybe, if I ate fast, Mum could take me down to Laser Force after dinner.
Dinner dragged on longer than a maths test on the last day of school. The chances of me making the last Laser Force game slipped further and further away.
I'd checked my watch and the wall clock then looked at Mum a hundred times in the hope she'd get the hint, but she just frowned back. I glanced across the table at Poppa. He'd hardly said a word to me since he'd arrived. I groaned inside. I could've been blasting the other team with Zac for the last hour. I frowned back at Mum. It so wasn't fair. This was the third time this week she hadn't let me do my normal stuff. It was "Mow the lawns - Poppa's coming," or "Clean your room - Poppa's coming," and worst of all, "Go and make your bed up in the caravan. Poppa's sleeping in your room."
I scowled at the memory. I thought I might just sleep in the lounge like I did at Christmas when my cousins stayed. I could roll out of my sleeping bag and be on the computer in seconds. I'd tried reasoning with Mum, then begging and even pleading, but nothing would convince her.
"Poppa's here until his new flat is finished," she'd said. "It's going to take weeks. You'll be better off in the caravan."
I cringed, remembering what was waiting for me in the back yard. The caravan Dad had borrowed from one of his golfing buddies was tiny, and even after Mum had cleaned it, it still smelt like old cheese.
I flicked a look around the table and slowly slid my cell phone from my pocket. I turned to Dad, pretending to be interested in what he was talking about.
"...Beaumont Bridge is not only over a century old and completely made of wood, it's a huge feat of engineering," Dad waffled. "They have to save it, don't you agree, George?"
Poppa nodded. "When I was a boy," he wheezed, "it was the biggest thing for miles. Trains rumbled across it every day." He let out a sigh.
It must be old if Poppa remembered it, I thought. Beaumont Bridge was Dad's latest quest. He was always campaigning to save something. Who cared about a bridge no one used any more? I just nodded, while I texted Zac under the table. After heaps of practice I could text in class without looking. I'd never been sprung by my teachers, though I'd had a couple of near misses.
Bored 2 max. This sux. Wots score?
The thought of my team losing because I wasn't there had bugged me since our phone call, but I had to admit that the thought of them winning without me felt even worse. For the first time during the entire meal, Poppa turned and looked at me. "What are you doing?"
I nearly dropped my phone. Everyone stared. Abby twisted down off the corner of the table, just as I shoved it back in my pocket. "Ben's texting at the table!"
I shot her a glare and before I could get a word out, Mum held out her hand. I knew that look on her face. It meant NOW! With a groan, I slid my phone from my pocket and dropped it into her hand.
Dad chuckled. "Technology , eh? Kids can't be without it for five minutes. Always attached to a gadget. They don't call them 'screenagers' for nothing."
"All these fandangled gadgets have a lot to answer for," Poppa grumbled. "Lazy bodies and lazy minds, if you ask me."
"Not to mention lack of table manners," growled Mum. Abby giggled.
"Yes, George,' Dad said to Poppa, "but where would we be without them, eh? Back to snail mail, waiting to use the telephone and lining up in queues at the bank."
I nodded in agreement at Mum, hoping she'd give my phone back. She didn't.
"Ben's an expert on the computer," Dad told Poppa. "Animation. Movies. That's where Ben's headed. He's going to be the next James Cameron, or even Peter Jackson."
I grinned at Dad, but my heart sank like the Titanic when I looked at my great grandfather. "Never heard of them," Poppa grumbled.
What! I thought. Have you been living in a cave? I grabbed my plate and slid out from the table. "I'm going to my..." I couldn't even say my room anymore. "I'm going to the caravan."
With Poppa's scowl etched in my brain I stomped outside. "Stupid old fart," I grumbled to myself. "The sooner you're gone, the better."
The next morning, like always, Zac was waiting on his bike at the corner of my street. But for the first time ever, he wasn't alone. Another kid stood alongside him as they straddled their bikes. The boy pointed in my direction and Zac turned and waved.
"I thought you weren't coming," he called. "We've been waiting eons."
I flicked a look at the stranger. He looked familiar somehow, but I couldn't remember why. I checked my watch. Fifteen minutes late, but I wasn't going to tell Zac about my disaster of a morning with the other kid there.
I'd forgotten to take my alarm clock out to the caravan, so I slept in. When I finally got inside, Mum was racing around like a loony; also running late after cooking Poppa breakfast. I don't know why he couldn't have had toast or cereal like the rest of us. Then when I went to brush my teeth, I couldn't get into the bathroom. Why? You guessed it. Poppa. When he finally shuffled out, you'd think we had all the time in the world. To make things even worse, he moved even slower in the morning than he did when he arrived. Before I could get past him, Abby zoomed in and slammed the door.
I shrugged at Zac as I ran my tongue over my teeth. A day without brushing wouldn't kill me. I nodded over at the stranger.
"Oh yeah," said Zac. "This is Connor. he started at our school last week. He's in Miss Linden's class."
I nodded. But what's he doing here? I thought. You can tell Zac and I have been mates since Year 1 because he read my mind.
"We would've been wasted last night without Connor," he said, pushing off on his bike. Connor and I followed. "The other team had two new kids and we were one short so Connor filled in for you." Zac grinned. "He's really good."
Connor flicked his greasy black hair out of his eyes and smirked over at me. I ignored him. "So what was the score?" I asked. Mum had confiscated my phone before I found out, but I'd tell Zac about that later.
"It was really close," said Zac, "but in the last five, Connor scored. And he took the least amount of hits of anyone, all night!"
I wheeled around the last corner to school. Okay, so it was cool our team had won, but they'd not only done it without me, they'd replaced me. I really liked Laser Force, but I was no expert. Connor sounded like a pro.
"Great," I grumbled to myself. I've lost my room, my cell phone, and now maybe my spot on my team. And whose fault was it? Poppa's.