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BlackEagle Girls
and The Pirates of the Mystic Caravan.

Chapter 17 - A Good Slapping

'Is it possible that you girls think this is Saturday or maybe a public holiday? Sorry to break in on you ladies but wakey wakey! You're both in big trouble having missed Assembly just like the two down the corridor. What is this, an epidemic?'

Priscilla opened one eye at the sound of this tirade and then wanted with all her might to pull the covers over her head and drift back into all-engulfing sleep where terrorists did not exist and bombs did not explode and teachers that sounded like parade ground Sergeant-Majors were just so much fantasy.

'Priscilla Black! Legs out and get showered. Now!' barked Jan Kelly the Languages teacher, hauling the blankets and sheets off Monique's and Priscilla's beds in two swift movements. 'Move it!'

'Where are we?' Wondered Priscilla out loud as water sprayed over her body.

'Where we are, is in BIG TROUBLE,' said Monique, working hard at lathering and waking up. 'Narenda and Belinda! How you doing?'

'Not actually really accepting the blast from Kelly yet.' Offered Belinda, two stalls down.

'Taking our medicine and being very quiet about it,' said Narenda in the stall next to Priscilla. 'After-all we are late for classes.'

Yawning through the water, Priscilla gurgled, 'You two get the end of Roger Dance, History first period and Moni and me get Gannon in English. We all get Justice Croad rambling on in Politics. Probably sleep through that to lunch, then Crankey Rankey's Maths for us and Science with Retep Skoorb for you guys. ( Retep Skoorb was the Science teacher's name backward, as it was rumoured that he had claimed to have once been taken by aliens. ) Gus Monroe in Music is where we get together again and we're finished for the day.'

'And I see myself falling into my my dinner face-first.' said Narenda. 'I am just so tired.'

'But you did good Narenda,' said Priscilla.

'Yes we all did,' said Belinda, emerging from her shower-stall wrapped in a large towel. 'And I appreciate both Moni and you Cilla allowing Narenda and me to make some decisions.'

'That is a part of what the BlackEagle Girls are all about.' said Monique, briskly towelling her smokey black hair.

'So Oooh-Kay.' said their Music Teacher Auguste Munro in his distinctive Canadian accent. 'There were these three men stranded on a desert island. The first was a Composer, the second was an Arranger and the third was a Conductor. They were there for many years. Eventually the Conductor died of old age and was followed soon after by the Composer. What was the nationality of the last fellow?'

'Sir! I know Sir!' said Sinclair, thrusting his hand into the air with much enthusiasm.

'Yes Mister Sinclair, you have the answer?'

'Yessir, he was from Italy.'

'And how do you come by that?'

Sinclair stood up and spreading his arms wide in a grand gesture exclaimed, in his best Italian accent, 'Becausa he wasa the Lone Arranger!'

'Who wasa that masked man? Well done Mister Sinclair! Your star as Class Clown shines untarnished!' Munro led a rapid-fire round of applause and laughter from his usual seated position in his rolling, swivel chair. 'Right! Hold it right there class! Bring it down a level. Moderation...and quiet... Now, for your next period: You can beat an egg, you can beat your chest, you can beat a drum, you can beat your feet on the Mississippi mud, but you can't beat...'

'A root,' muttered Priscilla automatically, her head sagging on her propped-up palm.

'Old joke Miss Black and one I think well below Mister Sinclair's standards, but I'll make an exception this time considering that you seem on the verge of nodding off against your Roomy's shoulder. And it looks like Miss Bateleur isn't in much better shape. You're done and so are we all, class. Ludwig van is the Beet-hoven coming soon to a class near you. Also I've earlier prepared a little U2 and a slice of Britney Spears as carrots for Schubert and Bach. Our time is up in three, two, one. Get out there, if some of you can stay awake, and think about sound! Go, go!' He aimed his chair toward the door and the class began to troop out. Against the tide the Art and Craft teacher Purdie Smith, who had recently become Purdie Munro, forced her way in.

'Ho Missus Munro!' cried Auguste, propelling himself over so that she fell onto his lap. 'Let's talk Arty-Crafty-Music!'

'Don't ya mean Make Beautiful Music?' said Roseanne Sole lumbering in. 'Not that Annie wants to bang on about that, but she'd like ta talk about a fanfare for the winners presentation of the Tennis Comp Singles and Mixed Doubles. That theme from those old Rocky movies would be o.k.'

'Finals are just the beginning, Miss Sole,' said Auguste, annoyed at her lack of respect and pushy manner. 'They have to be won first. Aren't you getting a little bit in front of yourself? '

'Nah! Done deal! Annie's guys'll wipe the floor with the competition because of her super training and coaching. No sweat. Job's done! So that's the Rocky theme locked in. Check!'

As they headed for the teachers staff quarters, Purdie remarked, 'That girl is the end. I find it so hard to keep my mouth shut. She's fourteen and thinks she's some... some... '

'Some pain in the ass, my Purdie girl, and I agree.' said Gus. 'Yet ours is but to teach... '

'Cilla,' said Monique, propped against the wall the two teachers had just passed, 'they don't sound impressed at whatever Roseanne had to say.'

'Don't know, don't care right now. Don't need dinner. Just got to lie down and drift away... Thank goodness it's Saturday tomorrow and we can all sleep in...'

'Monique! Priscilla!' called Belinda, wearily hurrying up to them. 'I got as far as Queasies and felt the need for a reviving fruit juice and while I was there the T.V. News Promo was on about an air and land strike in Iraq. They said something about insurgents and terrorists and bombings!'

'In the morning, we will buy the news-papers and read the reports,' Monique replied. 'But tonight,' she yawned, 'ask Narenda to toast you a sandwich. She does a wild Indian curry cheese-chutney.' The grand smile appeared as she ushered Priscilla toward their dorm.

'All it says is that a “Bombing raid” was carried out on a southern Iraq location, followed by a ground Clean-up Force moving into the area to stabilise the situation,' said Priscilla, rattling her copy of the Saturday Age into some kind of controllable position.

'Oh yes, but here in the Sun-Herald it tells of sightings by herders and tribesmen of two unidentified helicopters appearing and leaving the area before the ground troops arrived,' Narenda added.

'Getting Bin Laden out I wager, and leaving most of his people to be killed or hunted down.' offered Belinda. 'Such a pity they didn't get him again. It seems he is a Will O The Wisp.'

Monique screwed her face into a question-mark expression. 'What is that exactly?'

'She means simply that he can slip through the cracks like... Quick-silver! Oh yes! That it what Bin Laden is all about.' said Narenda.

'Nothing about Osama Bin Laden in here but there is a mention of that skunk Kaddar,' said Priscilla, 'listen: “Unconfirmed sources advise the identity of a body, discovered near that of an unknown woman, as Gammal Kaddar, an adventurer and rapacious plunderer of ancient antiquities who styled himself as an archaeologist working for museums world wide.” So he was already known as a con-man and a bastard!'

'Don't hold back Priscilla. Get it off your chest!' said Belinda, laughing, and then steadying herself she added, 'I wonder what will become of that unknown woman's body and who she really was?'

'There will be those who know exactly who she was, I am sure. Anti-Terrorist Agency people. Her name will never be exposed for fear of reprisals against family and friends.' said Monique. 'Whoever she was, I think her very brave and courageous, giving her life in the belief that that would allow Surban and her Mother an avenue of escape.'

'Do you actually think that's why she shot it out with Kaddar?' asked Priscilla.

'Glass half full this time my dear friend, why should we not?' Monique answered.

'Well because she'd already blown it with... ' Priscilla halted mid sentence. 'Hell! What would I know?'

Narenda patted her hand. 'It maybe that we will hear again from our friend Surban,' she said seriously, 'sometime in the future, of what has become of her and her mother...'

'Oh yes please, thank-you very much!' noted Belinda, collapsing into the news papers amidst growing laughter from Monique and Priscilla, that was taken up quickly by Narenda as she realised she was being impersonated.

By the latter part of the school year Hopewell's lower forms were into the tennis finals; a prelude to the seniors comps.

In the Mixed Doubles, Level Two had come down to four pairs: Crandle and Berri from 2A. Sharp and Black 2B. Mossop and Celessi 2E. Cross and Riley, 2H.

Ray Sharp and Priscilla Black had fallen in only by default, replacing 2D's up and coming tennis finds Shines and Sharma who had both come down with a bad bout of Influenza that kept them bed-ridden (separately) for several days. (It was suspected by some that Beth Shines and Vikram Sharma had contracted the flu not through practising and playing together but by closer mutual contact.)

'Sharma the Charmer! Ohh those dark eyes and thick black hair!' exclaimed 2B's resident gossip Sylvia Knight, sitting on her desk-top and swinging her legs. 'I'd risk catching the flu from him... '

'But would he want to give it to you?' asked Saif al Saiph, who had become much more self confident over almost two years at Hopewell.

'What would you know?' Sylvia responded spitefully. 'You're not supposed to even hold hands with a boy. You're lucky just to be here in a school like this.'

'I am fortunate to be here at Hopewell, yes. And that is because of my parents and their changing attitude, having come to Australia without any understanding of what they would discover. Yet now, after a little while, we are beginning to find a way to belong. In the past I have been abused and cursed, yet I have discovered a freedom in dancing. Although I am of the Muslim faith, I know now that here I can speak without fear. As for having personal contact with boys, my parents do forbid such activity and I obey yes, even if there is a “Charmer in 2D”.' Saif smiled. ' However, I also obey school rules and that of my adopted country. This is Australia.' she ended with a hint of pride in her voice.

'And here we're not oppressed by war or drug-violence like in my old country,' said Jesus Mendosa, skidding into his seat. Sylvia, biting back any further comment, slid down beside him as Roger Dance, Hopewell's English teacher entered, sweeping long, tapered fingers (With possibly glossed nails.) through his hair.

Week Three.

Mixed Doubles Semi Finals results for the Hopewell tennis comp. Year eight.

S. Berri and J. Crandle. 2.A. defeated P. Black and R. Sharp. 2.B.

T. Cross and J. Riley. 2.H. defeated N. Celessi and J. Mossop. 2.E.

Week Four.

Mixed Doubles Final result for the Hopewell tennis comp. Year eight.

T. Cross and J. Riley. 2.H. Defeated S. Berri and J. Crandle. 2.A.

'... such a shame that Shines and Sharma got sick just after their unexpected brilliant run in the comp.' Roseanne Sole said in a mocking voice as she stood on the podium, her big, rough hands gripping the lectern.

A sea of faces: students, parents and teachers were gazing up at her, many with fixed ho-hum expressions, some with that cringing, wincing look that appears when something, or someone, offends the senses, and others at the pair of nets bulging with gold, cream and navy balloons set to cascade down upon all the winners at the end of the night

Indeed the whole school assembly-hall was adorned with streamers, helium balloon trees and more balloon bunches attached to the walls.

'They was stiff ta miss out on the finals,' she continued, 'and a'course Annie's kids Jen Riley and Tone Cross had pretty well no competition after that. Well, maybe a bit from Crandle and Berri. Then both Annie's guys got crook a couple of days ago too. Lucky it was after they'd creamed all comers.' Roseanne paused for effect, her face splitting into a huge, gloating grin.

'She just so makes me want to stuff my fingers down my throat and throw up!' Priscilla exclaimed, standing amongst the Junior Schools' award night crowd.

'You could always stuff your fingers down her throat Sis,' Henry suggested, grinning mischievously, directly in front of her and Monique.

'She really does need a good slapping,' Ray Sharp added at Priscilla's side.

'Anyway!' Roseanne boomed into the microphone, 'That's why Annie's here and her two winners couldn't make it. After all, what's a coach for? And hey! Tennis! Annie's team're bein' well looked after in that department. No worries. So on their behalf, thanks for the awardooomf! Whatha muck! Gimme um towel! Cam't see... mastards!'

Several balloons had somehow dislodged from the net above, plummeting down to burst directly upon the lectern and Roseanne's head, obliterating her in what seemed to be a mixture of shaving cream and possibly something more devilishly sticky. Exactly on que, the fanfare from the movie Rocky blared out from the school speakers, yet even above that din Roseanne's muffled rantings could be heard: 'Amie'll get mem fordith! Jus' wait muntil Mamie gets meroffice right out ma front of mis school and... sheeit! Erghhh!'

There were some, quite a few in fact amongst the crowd, who could not contain themselves and burst into guffaws as several of the school staff hastened to aid the struggling victim and guide her away, mopping her down with paper towels and tissues. The Rocky fanfare cut off abruptly and all that was left was a breaking gaggle of ragged laughter that died abruptly as the school Head Mistress Sonia Poe, shaking with anger and confusion, stepped up to the splattered lectern.

'Parents, Students! Please! I cannot tell you how embarrassing this outrageous act is to the school! Please stay for the end celebration of all the winners. I give you my word that my staff and I will find the culprit and punishment will follow!

'Wouldn't try too hard, Miss Poe!' came a teen voice from the rear of the auditorium that just might have been Jeff Sinclair's.

At that point, with Sonia Poe rising up in her navy court-shoes like a Death- Adder about to strike and several members of Roseanne Sole's family erupting from the back of the auditorium, many of the gathered gaped at the juicy prospect of further consequences. Only the presence of the Assistant Head-Master, Stanley Mitikovski, (or “Ass-Head” as he was privately nick-named by some of the pupils of Hopewell) and others of his staff amongst the audience were able to calm the growing discord, hustling an outraged Morris and Julie Sole and the threatening figure of Angelo Sole away to their distressed, recently cream-bombed niece.

'What did she say just after she was dumped on?' Ray asked, his hands resting lightly upon both Priscilla and Monique's shoulders, while they stood amongst the confusion whirling around them.

'Something about an office out the front of the school, what could she mean by that?' wondered Monique.

'Sheepers!' (Which was an exasperated combination of Sheech! and Jeepers!) Henry yelled, then lowered his voice to a hiss. 'Whadaya reckon? Try Real Estate equals Morris, mister spinning-grinning bow-tie Sole plus pressure on old folks to sell, plus extra pressure back-up from Miss Poe for school car parking areas, equals double-cross after grabbing the land and knocking down the houses, equals high-rise apartments and offices for nutters who think they're going to be big-deal sports managers, that's what!'

'Non! Yes! Of course!' Monique exclaimed, wrapping her arms about Henry's neck. 'BoefHead has had a... what do you say it?'

'A brain explosion! Although you gotta have a brain first.' Henry muttered. 'Finally you're getting it.'

'And that's why her family are so agited... agitat... aggress...ohh... pissed off!' Priscilla cut in. 'They're not going to kiss her better, they're going to kill her because if Miss Poe and Ass-Head get the message, then the school deal's off and without Hopewell that would kill the whole land-grab!'

Monique, turning back to Priscilla and Ray, and dragging Henry with her, said, 'Better a Smarty-Pants than a Loud Mouth. I think the Scarlet Pimpernel has proved of more use than he might know.'

'I think,' offered Ray, 'that maybe we should make a move to the back while the singles are being awarded.'

'Better idea, let's get little brother here outside,' said Priscilla, pushing through the crowd.

'What'd I do?' said Henry, cowering in the glow of the outside lamps as if he was about to be hung, drawn and quartered on Hopewell's sports ground. 'Got an ali... alab... ali baba... you know, one of those things that mean you couldn't have done it because... '

'You were with us in there all the time, right, sure!' Priscilla ended. 'Sounds like a plan. But tell us, you are amongst friends, how did you do it?'

'Gee Sis, you really think it was me?'

'Gee little brother, I really know it was you. Spill the beans!'

Henry pursed his lips in that characteristic way he had about the time of going into denial and looking for sympathy, but the temptation to boast simply overwhelmed him. 'Aw Sis, you just see right through me...'

'Cut the crap Henry and cough it up before I give you a good slapping!' Priscilla growled, grabbing her younger brother's arm and twisting.

'Ow! Ya wouldn't do that if Mum and Dad were here!' he protested, trying to slip out of her grasp.

'When are they ever here?' She managed, holding on grimly and forcing his arm behind his back so that he couldn't kick out at her.

'I'll yell for help!'

'Go right ahead,' said Monique, thrusting her big toothy grin into Henry's face. 'The teachers are going to find all this very interesting, especially the part about The Scarlet Pimpernel's adventures in the world of pies. Or maybe The Great Race might have a better meaning for them, Mister whiter-than-white Tony Curtis.'

'O.K. Alright! But this is just hyper-watchjamacallit-thetic...al...ly,' Henry blurted. 'Say, just say, that some unknown people saw the doubles tennis results and also knew that the winners were too sick to collect the award and that some stupid self-set-up coach was going to big-note and get it, and say, that some unknown people very quickly got a few bombs ready and were able to sneak in after the balloon drop was rigged and lower it down and attach their surprise and raise it up again making sure that other balloons were poking out all over the place to disguise the pay-load, and threading an extra nylon release line down the actual cord so that it would not be observed, and suppose they, these unknown people, had a chance to hit the music button right on que while others were too busy gawking at splatters-ville, and that's how it might have happened hyper...hyper...'

'So what else was in the bomb mix?' Ray asked. 'What was the gooey stuff?'

'Treacle... erm... hyperthet...'

Priscilla let go of Henry's arm and patted him on the head. 'Never mind the hyperthet, you are just so pathet...' She ruffled his hair. 'And a rodent! Let's just hope Poe and Co. get the message.'


Chapter 18 next

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