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       Max's Revenge: a wedding, a party and a plate of dog food stew, p.1

           Sally Gould
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Max's Revenge: a wedding, a party and a plate of dog food stew

  Max’s Revenge

  A wedding, a party and a plate of dog food stew

  Sally Gould

  Copyright © 2014 Sally Gould

  All rights reserved.

  Published by Orbis Media

  Editing by Brooke Clark, Spring Agency

  Cover design and formatting by

  My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.

  Mark Twain

  Table of Contents

  Max’s Revenge


  2. LUCY







  Dog Food Stew







  7. LEO


  Other books by Sally Gould


  Max’s Revenge


  Dad cut the engine, jerked on the handbrake and turned round. “These are the rules,” he said, looking from me to Charlie and back to me. “You’re both to be quiet, still and polite.” His voice deepened. “At all times.”

  “Yes, Dad,” we answered like a pair of robots.

  “This is Sophie and Dan’s special day—”

  “Daniel,” I interrupted, “Sophie wants everyone to call him Daniel.”

  Dad glared at me. “He’s my brother and I’ll call him what I want.”

  Another point to me. Charlie and me were having a competition to see how many times we could annoy Dad without getting into serious trouble. So far I was winning three to one.

  “I don’t want either of you ruining their special day because you have the attention span of two year olds.” He stared at us as though that would make his message sink in. “Okay, Charlie?”

  “Yes, Dad.”

  “And Max, absolutely no trouble today!”

  “Yes, Dad.” I tugged my collar. The tie was choking me and I felt stupid. I could see myself in the rear-vision mirror; I looked like a shrunken version of Dad going to work. “It would be easier to be quiet and still if I didn’t have to wear this tie.”

  “The tie stays on,” Mom said, without looking up from the murder mystery she was reading.

  After she’d read to the end of the page, we were allowed to get out of the car and hang out at the front of the stone church with everyone else. There were heaps of people. People I’d never seen before. All the guys wore suits, which made me feel less stupid. And there were heaps of gorgeous girls with long shiny hair and suntans. Dan and Sophie had lived in London for years and years, so how did they know all these people?

  The four of us stood in a circle looking at each other because we didn’t seem to know anyone else. Mom smiled. “The sunshine is lovely,” she said.

  “Beautiful,” replied Dad, returning her smile.

  My parents were weird. Actually, weddings were weird. For months everyone had carried on like Dan was a prince and Sophie was a princess just because they were getting married. But they’d been living together in a little flat in London for ages, so it was like they were married anyway. How did dressing up and going to church change anything?

  And Mom and Nanna couldn’t wait until Sophie had a baby. Once Mom told me babies are hard work. She said, when I was a baby I never slept and I cried all the time. So why did Mom and Nanna want Sophie to have a baby so much? Maybe they didn’t really like her.

  I shrugged. Who knew? I just hoped this day and night would go real fast. Now that I wasn’t the pageboy I might die of boredom.

  A woman wearing a large hat with feathers on it came up to us. She said to Mom and Dad, “I’m Sophie’s mother.” Mom introduced Charlie and me. Sophie’s mother patted me on the head and whispered, “You would’ve made a very handsome pageboy.”

  I smiled, but inside I was mad because I’d wanted to be the pageboy. I wanted to be standing near Dan when the minister said, Now you may kiss the bride. I wanted my face in a wedding photo on their mantelpiece. I wanted the guests to tell me how handsome I was.

  And I wanted to do something that Charlie hadn’t done. He’d never been a pageboy. And now he was too old, so he never would be. Charlie had always been the chosen one. He was captain of his soccer team again. When he was in grade six he was captain of Yarra house. And last week the girls in his class voted him as the boy they’d most like to kiss. It sucked.

  Dan had called me from London to ask, Would you do me the honor of being my pageboy? I pretended to think about it for a minute, before I said, Yep. I even went to get my suit fitted. But three weeks before the wedding, Dan came over to our place and said, Sorry sport, Sophie has changed her mind. You’ll find women do that.

  I decided I didn’t like Sophie and I didn’t want Dan to marry her. Even though I’d seen her photo and she had beautiful green eyes and smooth skin. Then a week later I met her when we had a barbeque at Nanna’s place. As soon as Sophie saw me, her hand went over her glossy pink lips and she said, Oh, you’re so cute and just the right age. You would’ve looked perfect with Lucy. She seemed really upset that she’d made a mistake, so, being the kind, generous person I am, I forgave her.

  I knew then that something fishy was going on. All I found out was that I’d lost my place in the team to a five year old named Hamish (tell me, what sort of pageboy is named Hamish?), who was Sophie’s twenty-third cousin or something. But why? Someone must’ve told her I wasn’t cute enough. Who would’ve said that?

  As Sophie’s mom told Mom all about Sophie’s Italian handmade beaded silk shoes, Nanna arrived. She wanted to know the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses. Mom thought they were lilac and Sophie’s mom thought they were lavender.

  Aunt Evil (as Charlie and me call her) turned up. She parked in the loading zone out the front of the church, probably so everyone could check out her red Mercedes sports car. She came over and Charlie and me stood back while everyone kissed everyone else like they hadn’t seen each other since Christmas (and not two weeks ago at Nanna’s place).

  Charlie kicked a stone in my direction. Dad spun round to see if we were doing anything we shouldn’t be. I stood on the stone and gave him a blank look. So far I’d made a good impression. I’d been quiet and still, just like Dad had told me to be. I wouldn’t kick the stone back to Charlie. I’d let Charlie suffer.

  Everyone turned to look at me.

  “I didn’t do anything,” I said.

  Then Sophie’s mom stepped back and wrapped her arm round me, squeezing me like I was a plastic duck that spurted water out its mouth. Geez, I’d only just met her! “Avril,” she said, “I think he’s lovely and he seems perfectly behaved.”

  Aunt Evil laughed nervously. “Trust me,” she replied, “he’s programmed to make trouble.”

  “Oh, he’s a good boy,” said good old Nanna.

  I glared at my evil aunt. She looked guilty and turned away. So it was Aunt Evil who told Sophie that I was too naughty! My heart thumped like I’d just run a hundred-metre race. I wanted revenge, but I wouldn’t do anything yet. I’d wait. I’d wait until the right moment. Then I’d get revenge on my evil aunt.

  2. LUCY

  Mostly we only go to church at Easter and Christmas. We always sit in the back row, just in case Dad wants to send Charlie and me outside. Mom always makes us promise to be good. And
we try, but we can’t help having fun. What do parents expect? Sometimes I think they’re jealous because we have all the fun.

  Today was going to be different. Today I didn’t care about fun. I was going to prove to Sophie that not only was I cute, but I could also behave like the perfect pageboy. And I’d get revenge on Aunt Evil. I hadn’t worked out a plan yet, but I would.

  Within ten seconds of sitting in the back row on the groom’s side, Charlie shoved his elbow in my side. He stuck out his hand and made the shapes of “paper, scissors, rock”. I shook my head. He could ask me to play the game all he liked; I wasn’t falling for it.

  “Come on,” he whispered.

  I couldn’t tell him that today I wasn’t going to have any fun, so I said, “You always win.” He had alien powers, which meant he couldn’t lose that game. I tugged my collar.

  “What do you want to play?” Charlie whispered.

  I wanted to play I-spy. I always chose some teeny-weeny thing that Charlie couldn’t see. Sometimes it was tiny words on a poster. He hated it when he couldn’t guess. There weren’t any posters in the church, but there was heaps of little stuff. The girl in front of me was wearing diamante earrings. Now I bet you that Charlie had never heard of the word diamante. And if he said diamond I’d have to say no, because a diamond is real and a diamante is fake. But today I wasn’t playing, so it didn’t matter. I stuck my nose in the air and said, “Nothing.”

  He huffed, “Should’ve brought my iPod.”

  We sat and listened to Mom and Dad chatting to the girl with the diamante earrings. How come we had to be quiet and still while they talked? It wasn’t fair. There was always one rule for them and another rule for us. Actually, I realized that everyone in the church was chatting except us. Even Dan, who was now waiting up the front dressed in a suit identical to what his two best friends were wearing, was joking that Sophie must’ve changed her mind because she was so late.

  “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with C,” said Charlie, staring at the stone arches way up above us.

  I bet the thing beginning with c was on the floor. I glanced down. “Crack,” I said.

  He glared at me. “How?”

  “You’re predictable,” I said. Music began to play.

  “Am not!”

  “Boys,” said Dad in an angry whisper, “quiet.” He pointed to the entrance of the church.

  Coming down the aisle was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. She walked like a ballerina and smiled sweetly at the guests. Black wavy hair reached her waist. Her blue eyes sparkled. Lucy, the flower girl, I realized. Wow! And I could’ve been there right next to her.

  Instead there was a short blond-haired boy with a crooked bow tie. He wasn’t smiling. He looked like he didn’t want to be there at all. Hamish, I thought with a stab of envy. Hamish the Horrible. He stuck his finger up his nose as he passed. Now Sophie’s mother would really wish that I were the pageboy. I laughed out loud.

  Dad jabbed me with his finger. I hated when he did that.

  Everyone watched Sophie come down the aisle on her father’s arm, but all I could think about was Lucy.

  The boring part began, where the minister went on and on. I wished I owned an iPod. After five minutes I noticed I wasn’t the only bored person. A lot of people were fidgeting. Who could blame them? The minister was babbling on about supporting each other through the good and the bad times and the meaning of commitment. We didn’t come here for a lecture.

  “I spy with my little eye,” I whispered to Charlie without looking at him, “something beginning with R.”

  “Red,” he said, pointing to the lady in front of us. She was wearing a red dress.

  I shook my head.

  Charlie’s eyes lit up and he pointed to his bare finger. “Ring!”

  I shook my head.

  He looked from right to left and top to bottom. “Reading material, reverend, rafters, robes, roses, round stained-glass window, rows of benches, rows of people ...”

  I kept shaking my head.

  Finally, he whispered, “I give up.”

  “Ribbon,” I said. “The flower girl has a white ribbon in her hair.”

  Charlie leaned sideways into the aisle to look. He screwed his face up and said, “That’s a headband.”

  “It is not.”

  “Is so,” he whispered.

  The girl with the diamante earrings turned and gave us a filthy look. She went to say something, but out came the loudest snort I’d ever heard. A horse couldn’t have snorted louder.

  We cracked up. We had to hold our stomachs it was so funny. Lots of people stared at us.

  Then I felt Dad’s large hand grip my arm so hard the blood must’ve been shooting back up my arm. I wanted to scream, but I thought of Dan, Sophie and Lucy and I managed not to.

  In his threatening voice, Dad whispered, “Get out now. Both of you. Wait at the front of the church. And Max, no trouble!”


  We moped out of the church. From now on I’d have to be extra good.

  Once we were outside, I rubbed my arm. “I think it’s going to fall off.”

  “That was serious trouble,” said Charlie ignoring my arm. “Neither of us gets a point for that.”

  “Yeah, I suppose.” We leaned against the church and looked at each other. I said, “What’re we going to do now?”

  “Bet you I can climb to the top,” he said, pointing to the flagpole. At the top the flag fluttered.

  I ran toward it. “Bet you I can first.” I heard Charlie running behind me.

  “It was my idea,” he moaned.

  Too bad. I gripped the pole and began to scale upwards. I’d only gone a little way when I remembered I was in a suit. I’d have to be careful.

  “Max,” Charlie called out, “I was only joking. Come down.”

  I ignored him. He was jealous because I’d beaten him to it. I kept going without looking down. I wanted to pull my collar away from my neck but my hands felt grimy, and I didn’t want to dirty my white shirt. Not after Mom had told me fifty thousand times to keep clean.

  “Hey, young man!” a voice from below yelled.

  I stopped, but didn’t look down. I imagined an old man waving an umbrella at me.

  “Come down from there; you might break your neck!”

  He sounded like Mom. I was close to the top, so I couldn’t give up. I felt like an Islander scaling up a palm tree to get a coconut. Charlie and the man were babbling below me. Finally, I reached the top and I let myself glance down. Charlie seemed so small. That made me laugh.

  I noticed the photographer stepping backwards out of the church. That was weird. Why would he be crouched down and going backwards?

  “Max!” Charlie yelled. “Get down!”

  Then I noticed everyone spilling out of the church. The wedding bells sounded so loud I almost fell. Oh, no, there was Dad and Mom. They threw confetti over Dan and Sophie. The veil no longer covered Sophie’s face and they were laughing while the photographer took photos. I had to get down. Before I turned away, my eyes met the eyes of Aunt Evil. She glared at me. I groaned.

  “Look!” She pointed at me.

  The crowd looked up and they all gasped together.

  I grabbed the flag and wrapped it round me to hide. Dumb, I know. My hand holding the pole began to slip. My other hand was caught in the flag. A feeling of dread rose from my stomach up to my throat. I wanted to yell out HELP, but the word got stuck somewhere. I heard a rip and then, still wrapped in the flag, I lost my grip. Falling was weird, like I was in slow motion.

  I heard screaming. I hit the ground with a thump. A shot of pain went up my back.

  Far out, that ground was hard. I blinked a few times. The sun looked strange through the navy blue of the flag. Then the sun disappeared. Oh, no, I must be dying.

  No, I couldn’t be because there were heaps of faces peering down at me.

  I heard the old man say, “I told him.”

  The know-it-al


  That was Dad’s voice. He sounded scared. He’d kill me. My life was over.

  As he peeled the flag off my face, I shut my eyes. If he thought I was unconscious, he’d be more worried. I had to pretend to be unconscious. When I finally woke, he’d be so happy I was okay that he’d forget he ever wanted to kill me. That was a good plan. I didn’t move except for my breath going in and out. I didn’t want them to think I was dead, just seriously hurt.

  “Someone call an ambulance!” I heard a lady yell. She sounded like Sophie’s mother.

  That was serious. Did I want some ambulance guys poking and prodding me? No way.

  “Is he okay?” a girl asked.

  That girl, I thought, might be Lucy. I couldn’t remember seeing another girl her age in the church. She had to be Lucy. Wow, she hadn’t even met me and she already cared.

  “Charlie,” said Dad, “what happened?”

  “As soon as we came out Max ran over to the flagpole and climbed it.”

  Did not, I wanted to scream.

  “The ambulance will be here within ten minutes,” someone said.

  I could sit straight up like a zombie and scare everyone to death or I could slowly open my eyes and ask, Where am I? It was a tough choice. I could smell Mom’s hand cream. She caressed my forehead as if I only had moments to live. I felt bad. She thought her favourite son was about to die.

  I sat straight up with my eyes wide open. I looked around. “Where am I?” The words came out weird.

  “Are you all right?” Mom hugged me.

  I gave her a blank look.

  Dad went to grab my arm, but I pulled away. “Max,” he asked, “can you move your toes?”

  I wiggled them and nodded. Seeing everyone look so worried almost made me laugh.

  Aunt Evil’s thunderous voice sounded from above, “He’s fine; he’s faking.”

  The crowd gasped.

  Charlie piped up, “Yeah, he’s fine. Trust me, I can tell.”

  Scumbag. When he faked a stomachache to get out of assembly because he was getting the prize for Religion, I never told anyone.

  “Maaax,” said Dad in that don’t mess with me tone.

  “Yeah, I think I’m okay,” I admitted.

  “Cancel the ambulance,” said someone.

  Someone else said, “Too late, it’s here.”

  I heard Aunt Evil apologizing to the ambulance men in a loud voice. A hypochondriac, she called me. I hated that word. I could be bleeding to death and she’d say, He only wants attention. He’s a hypochondriac, you know.

  “That fall mightn’t have hurt you,” threatened Dad, “but—”

  “Shh,” whispered Mom. Then she turned to Charlie, “Get the ambulance officers; I want them to check him.”

  Dad began to argue, but Mom stopped him with a look. Good old Mom - at least she loved me.

  The crowd cleared - except for Mom - while a guy in uniform began to poke and prod me. I saw Aunt Evil looking on. I couldn’t wait to get my revenge.

  The ambulance guy felt my ribs.

  “Ow,” I cried out, “that hurt.”

  He said, “That’s good. How’s your back?”

  There was a dull ache down near my butt, though that was none of his business. “Fine,” I said.

  “Keep an eye on him,” the ambulance guy said to Mom, “but I think he’ll be okay.” He patted me on the head as he stood. “Take it easy.”

  “Thanks,” I replied pushing myself up from the grass.

  Once the ambulance had gone, Dad barked, “Max, get in the car!”

  My insides began to shake as I headed toward the car. He couldn’t kill me, I decided. If I didn’t turn up to the party, the other guests would ask questions. I suppose that was good.


  For ages, I sat in the station wagon alone and thought. I thought about Aunt Evil. If she hadn’t seen me at the top of the flagpole, I wouldn’t have fallen, I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be in trouble. Revenge would be great.

  I could see the photographer taking photos in the garden at the side of the church. That was where I should’ve been - posing next to Lucy. Instead, she was standing so close to Hamish the Horrible they were touching. She would’ve been touching me if Aunt Evil hadn’t said I was too naughty.

  I imagined ‘accidentally’ bumping into Lucy when I got to the party. Then I’d have an excuse to talk to her. I pictured her twirling strands of long black hair around her finger while giving me a shy smile. If I could talk to her before the night was over, this wedding could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

  Finally, the guests began to head to their cars. I saw Mom, Dad and Charlie coming toward me, and I braced myself for one of Dad’s lectures. They got in the car without uttering a word. I felt like the family reject. Four seatbelts clicked in. Dad started the engine and hit the radio knob off. I held my breath. Charlie had a stupid grin on his face, so I shot him a dirty look.

  The silence was killing me. Dad reversed the car and drove off.

  Finally, in his prime minister voice, Dad asked, “Max, do you have any birthday parties coming up?”

  Well, there was Chook’s laser gun party next month. But, since I hadn’t got the invitation yet, it didn’t count. “No,” I replied.

  After a long silence, Dad said, “I’ll tell you your punishment later.”

  That meant he needed time to think of something bad enough. Maybe he couldn’t decide between grounding me for a month and making me lose a month’s pocket money. Great. I couldn’t wait.

  Charlie sniggered.

  I stared out the window and watched out for black Porsches. Not that I needed a car. Charlie and I already owned the Monaro that our Uncle Jack had left to us when he died. I just liked to count black Porsches. I don’t know why.

  “Do you know the way?” Mom asked Dad.


  I saw him nod his head real slow. That meant he only knew the general direction.

  “Charlie, please look up the map on your phone,” said Mom.

  Usually, I looked up the map. “I’ll do it.”

  “Thank you, Max,” said Mom in her formal voice. She handed me her phone.

  She only used that voice when I was in trouble, which I suppose was better than not speaking to me at all. That’d only happened once. Then I really felt like the family reject.

  Of course it had never happened to Charlie. His alien powers protected him from getting into big trouble. I used to think he just knew how to stay of serious trouble, but then I realized there was so much he just knew. Not just facts, but how to get people to do what he wanted them to do without them even realizing. He was definitely half alien. A half alien with some useful powers.

  I pointed ahead to the intersection. “Turn right here and stay on the highway for a while.”

  “That’s what my instinct told me,” said Dad.

  Charlie rolled his eyes and I shook my head. Dad and his instinct.

  Once Dad had settled into the middle lane, he said, “Now Max.”

  He was ready to give me a lecture. I knew the drill. I just had to say yes every now and again and look like I was sorry.

  “We’re sorry you had a bad fall—”

  BUT, was the next word. I knew this because Dad’s lectures followed a pattern.

  “... but it’s Dan and—”

  “Daniel,” interrupted Charlie.

  “DAN!” Dad hit the steering wheel.

  Charlie glanced at me and held up his index finger.

  That meant one point to him. Scumbag! I’d thought of that one first. Now it was three to two in my favor. He was catching up.

  “It’s their special day. And I want them to have wonderful memories. I don’t want the whole family to remember their wedding because they saw you falling from a flagpole wrapped in the Australian flag.”

  “Yes, Dad.” Then I whispered, “But I could’ve died.”

  “But you didn’t.”
r />   “When I die I don’t want Charlie to have my Xbox games. I want you to divide them between Thomo and Chook.”

  Charlie huffed and Mom giggled.

  That wasn’t meant to be funny. “I’m serious,” I said.

  “Okay,” said Dad, “I’ll keep that in mind. But you remember that for the remainder of the wedding you are going to be quiet, still and polite, and stay out of trouble.”

  I stared at Dad’s bald patch, so Charlie couldn’t make me laugh. “Yes, Dad.” I waited for him to continue, but instead he turned on the radio. Surely I couldn’t have got out of it that easily.

  Mom opened her murder mystery and began to read.

  The song on the radio was about a guy getting kicked when he was down ... getting pushed around. He sang, You don’t know what it’s like. Yes, I do, I thought. I really do. It wasn’t a coincidence that song was playing right now. The cosmic forces of the universe were on my wavelength. I just knew it.
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