“Did they take ‘em then?” Mattie throws an arm around his shoulder.
“Sure, and they gave me chocolate cake besides!”
“Nah!” Hemi doesn’t believe him, but it’s true! He opens his mouth to show them the chocolate stains on his teeth. “Did!”
“Man ya coulda brought us some back.”
“Nah, yous made me take the fish.”
“That’s fair,” Mattie announces, and they shut up. Dad and Mum are waiting up the road a bit. “What’s the story then, boys?” Dad’s looking pleased with himself.
“Tide’s comin’ in,” Mattie says. “Did pretty well though.” He’d been carrying his kete and Hemi’s bucket, and shows them off. “Got a bit carried away, so I sent Pete around to a coupla ladies on the beach, give them some.”
“Well, auntie says we just need to be back for dinner, so we got the whole afternoon to ourselves. Any plans?”
Pete’s a city boy, really. He gets all excited on holiday. “Let’s go for a walk, Dad! Let’s go up into the forest.” Hemi’s not protesting the idea yet, so Mum says “I’ve got lunch packed, why don’t we drive into the national park and see what walks there are?”
Mattie’s not so keen. He’s met a girl at the dairy where he’s been going to buy the morning milk. He’s been hanging around there talking to her all the time, any excuse. But he does a pretty good job hiding it. “Make it a short one, eh guys? I’m tired from running around after you kids.”
Mum and Dad exchange a smile at their eldest acting all grown up.
“But I want a long walk,” wails Pete. He’s been watching too many reality tv shows about people losing weight or something.
“Maybe coming down with a bug,” Mattie adds. A frown is developing on Pete’s face.
Mum tugs the car door open. “You take it easy then, Mattie. Dad’s got some work to do anyway, so he can stick around here too. I’ll give you boys your sandwiches and take these two up into the park.”
Dad gives her a look. “Go on,” she says with a wink. “You’ll get your work done and Mattie can rest. We can go for a walk later.”
“You owe me, Mattie!” Dad tells him pointedly.
“Oi, no, you go. I’m good on my own.”
“No, no. Auntie’s home, we’ll drop you off at hers and she’ll look after you.” Mum knows this is an even worse prospect for Mattie than staying back with Dad.
Hemi’s been a bit too quiet. The reason becomes clear when Mattie says, “And Hemi shouldn’t get a walk. He’s been trouble all morning. Running off past the rocks and trying to get into the deep water to swim.”
This is amusing. Mattie hasn’t realised his parents know exactly what he’s doing, saving up information so he can nark on his brothers at the right time in the hope his parents’ll forget about him. He’s not lying, though. Mattie doesn’t lie about his brothers, only about his love interests.
“Hemi, what do you feel like doing now?” Mum finally gets in the car and the others follow
“Wanna go for a walk...” Hemi doesn’t want a walk, but it would’ve been worth keeping quiet and going along if it meant Mattie didn’t remember to tell on him. Now he’s hoping his punishment will be to get left behind.
“Right, we’ll talk about this over a walk.” Hemi already knows what the talk is – he’s heard it often enough. The theme is about listening to his big brother, and today the plot will be about drowning.
Mum starts the car. “It’d be nice if Mattie could come too, of course.” She looks back at Pete, who’s squished in the middle of the back seat between his brothers. Mattie went through a phase when he wouldn’t let anyone else in that seat because he was scared the seatbelt would chop them in half if there was a crash. Now he’s too big to fit in the seat, he just starts complaining when his parents drive too fast. Not that it matters here, where the roads are unsealed and no one wears seatbelts anyway, apart from Pete, only he doesn’t today.
“You okay there, son?” Mum doesn’t turn around, but she can see him in the mirror. Dad turns around, though. Some days, they wonder if Pete’s the best schemer of the bunch. With great big tears like that in his eyes – well, let’s just say Mum drives straight to the park and doesn’t even ask Mattie what he wants to do. Oh, she doesn’t mind. Pete’s parents can put up with his tears. Even Hemi says “You’re such a baby, Pete.” But Mattie keeps his mouth shut and doesn’t say anything about feeling sick or misbehaving siblings or even wanting to see his auntie. He’ll just make everyone big milkshakes the minute they get back. Really big milkshakes.
Word count: 835