CHAPTER 5 BIG RED'S BACKYARD
As we wheel our bikes down the hill towards Big Red's house I notice Big Red has gone all quiet. I think maybe he's feeling a bit unhappy because, like Doug the Thug, he doesn't have a Mum either. Mrs Pratt told us that Big Red and his Dad moved from the city because Big Red's mum had died from breast cancer. At least she wasn't killed in a car crash like Doug's poor mum.
"Does Doug's dad really think he's a fish?" Big Red asks. "What's the matter with him?"
"He's got a brain injury, from an accident," I answer.
"Yeah, too bad it wasn't Doug," Sparra adds. "But, then Doug probably doesn't even have a brain."
We continue walking in silence.
"Why do you want to borrow Miss Fogarty's dog?" Big Red suddenly asks me.
I explain to him how Skip is able to sniff out just about anything and that I reckon he'll be able to help me find lots of worms.
"Worms? What do you want worms for?" he asks.
"Look, Skip can find anything," I say. "Lost wallets, Miss Fogarty's glasses, and my missing library book. Lots of stuff. He shouldn't have any problems finding worms."
"Yeah, but what do you want worms for?" he asks again.
I'm about to tell him that it's none of his business, but then I remember what Mrs Pratt said. She said we weren't to exclude Big Red just because he was new to the school and a bit different from the rest of us.
"Because," I say, trying real hard to sound pleasant, "with a heap of big fat juicy worms I'm going to do what no-one else has ever done."
"What's that?" he asks.
"I'm going to catch Yabba Jack."
Big Red shakes his head.
"You won't catch a Murray cod with worms," he scoffs. "You've got to use something like bardi grubs. That's how I caught the yellow belly."
"He's right ya know," Sparra chirps. "I reckon bardi grubs are definitely the go."
I glare at Sparra and feel like giving him an elbow in the guts. Instead I drop my bike on the nature strip in front of Big Red's house.
* * * * *
Stepping into Big Red's backyard is like walking into a jungle. There's tall grass and weeds and junk everywhere and I wonder if we need a machete. A dead lawn mower lies on its side near the gate, a rusty car body is buried in the grass and broken toys lay scattered around the back door. I can't believe that Big Red and his dad have been living in Yabba Creek for only two months.
"This way," Big Red says and kicks an empty can into the grass.
We walk along a cracked concrete path to an outside laundry that looks like it's about to fall over. One wall is propped up by heavy bits of wood. Big Red pushes open the door and we step inside.
"In there," he says, pointing to a trough in the corner and we squeeze past him.
Floating in the water is the biggest yellow belly I've ever seen. Big Red dips his hand into the trough, slips his fingers under the fish's gills and lifts it up. Water gushes all over his jeans and onto the floor but he doesn't seem to care.
"Awesome!" Sparra says. "That'd feed my whole mob!"
"Bet you couldn't catch something this big with just worms," Big Red says proudly and pushes up his glasses.
"Geeze, it's huge," Sparra says.
I have a sudden urge to grab the fish and smack him in the mouth with it.
"Not as big as Yabba Jack though," I add. "Mike Wills reckons he's so big he's got a sunburnt back and gravel rash on his belly."
"Bulldust!" Sparra says. "Fish don't get sunburnt."
I ignore him as Big Red lowers the fish back into the trough and wipes his hands on his tee shirt. Sparra doesn't move away from the trough. He pokes at the fish with a finger while I secretly wish I could catch a fish half that big.
"Want to see something else?" Big Red asks.
"Your dad's trophies?" Sparra asks and I notice the excitement in his voice. "Bet he's got plenty of them."
"No, something much better," Big Red says. "Dad's maggot breeder."
"Sick!" Sparra says.
"What's a maggot breeder?" he whispers to me as we step out of the laundry and back into the jungle. I just shrug nonchalantly, pretending that I'm not half as interested as Sparra is to find out.
Big Red is the new kid that we bag out all the time. No one wants to hang out with him. He smells a bit, he's as big as a house and he's not the most attractive kid in class by a long shot, but it looks to me like he might just know how to catch fish; big fish. I'm beginning to think Mr Proud might be right when he says you can't judge a book by its cover.