Authors: Morris Gleitzman
They didn't even look at each other and say, âLet this be a lesson to us not to neglect Darryn in future'.
Mrs Peck just screamed.
And Mr Peck just shouted, âDarryn, get off there this minute, you're upsetting the dogs'.
Darryn was very good about it all.
After we'd run for it and hidden behind the Jam And Preserves tent and seen that no one was following us, he thanked me.
âIt was a good try,' he said sadly.
Then he went off to find his mates.
I felt awful.
I wrote a long note explaining that it was all my idea and that Darryn shouldn't be punished because he'd only agreed to do it because he was gullible, and I left it under the Pecks' windscreen wiper.
Walking back across the car park I was spotted by the one person I didn't want to be spotted by.
âRowena,' he called out, âabout your TV project.'
It was too late to run.
Mr Segal sprinted over and blocked my way.
âBrilliant,' he said, breaking into a grin, âI haven't laughed so much for ages.'
It took me a while to grasp what he was saying because I couldn't take my eyes off the dinosaurs on his shirt.
I stared at him and tried to smile back.
âYou and Amanda have got a big future in TV comedy,' he said. âWell done.'
I found Amanda over by the sheep and cattle enclosure.
She explained that because ten seconds of Darryn Peck crying wasn't really enough for an in-depth current affairs report, she'd handed in the tape of Sticky flying round the menswear shop and her dad throwing shoes at him.
âMr Segal wants to show it at a video festival,' Amanda said excitedly. âPretty good eh?'
I said it wasn't bad, but that I wasn't really in the mood for celebrating.
Amanda, because she's a true friend, didn't pester me for details, she just squeezed my arm and we went over to the stand to find a good position for the Carla Tamworth concert.
As we passed the Cakes And Puddings tent I saw a familiar hat weaving towards us through the crowd and my heart started thumping like a Saint Bernard's tail.
It was Dad.
He'd come to see the concert with me after all.
We ran towards him, me waving like a loon, until I saw what he was carrying.
A Jelly Custard Surprise.
âCan't stop,' he said, âbugger's melting,' and he hurried into the Cakes And Puddings tent.
I stared after him and blinked hard.
He was just dropping off Ms Dunning's entry.
Amanda took my arm and we found a good pozzie halfway up the stand.
There was a support band playing a song about a person whose heart had been run over by a steamroller, which was pretty right for the way I was feeling.
Then a ripple of alarm ran through the crowd.
People started craning to see.
There was some sort of commotion.
Up on the stage someone seemed to be having a heated discussion with the lead singer of the support band.
My guts froze.
I recognised the purple shirt and the white hat with the tractor exhaust stains.
It was Dad.
âIt's your dad,' yelled Amanda, who'd obviously forgotten she was meant to be a true friend.
People turned round and stared at me and I wanted to hide under the seat, but it was just a bench and there wasn't room.
The lead singer of the support band stepped up to the microphone shaking his head.
âOne of your local blokes wants to sing,' he said, âand because he's a pushy bugger we've decided to let him.'
The support band filed off the stage leaving Dad standing at the mike by himself.
Dad cleared his throat.
âI'd like to sing a little number I wrote myself,' he said.
I couldn't believe it.
Dad didn't write songs.
Even as Dad was clearing his throat again, people started throwing things.
A couple of people yelled out to give him a go, and the rest of us just sat there stunned that anyone would try and sing to a crowd of this size without a guitar.
Dad started singing and a lot more people started throwing things.
Bits of hot dog.
It was the worst I'd ever heard him sing.
He was off key and none of the lyrics rhymed.
But I didn't care.
Because Dad stood there ignoring the food and garbage raining down on him and the crowd yelling âJump off a cliff and âTake a hike' and âGet stuffed', and sang to me.
He didn't take his eyes off me the whole time he sang, and I didn't take mine off him.
Part of me wanted to yell at the crowd to shut up, but the other part of me was too busy glowing like a two-million-watt bulb.
The song was about a girl who's lived most of her life without a mother and so her father decides to give her the most precious gift he can think of.
A brother or sister.
When he'd finished, and the crowd had all booed, and I'd wiped my tears away, I wanted to jump up on my seat and cheer my lungs out.
I couldn't of course, and it took Amanda about a minute to stop looking dazed and do it, and during that time I found myself thinking how you never have a kid sister or brother with a good cheering voice around when you need one.
Then I ran down to the stage and Dad, who was splattered with beer and ice cream and bits of hot dog, hugged me so tight he left a red mark just above my bellybutton.
It wasn't his belt buckle, it was tomato sauce.
âI'd better ring home,' said Dad, âsee if the baby's coming.'
I couldn't have agreed more.
As we hurried to the pay phone we passed the Cake And Pudding tent.
I glanced inside, and across the heads of all the people, over in one corner, in front of the big hardware store fan, I was sure I saw Darryn Peck with Ms Dunning's Jelly Custard Surprise raised above his head.
We made it to the hospital just in time.
Dad sat me in the waiting room and gave me some money for the drink machine and hurried through the swing doors with Ms Dunning.
It was a long wait.
I had a drink every half hour and tried to ignore a little kid with blonde hair who kept pointing to me and saying to her dad, âThere's something wrong with her'.
I almost strangled her a couple of times, but spent the rest of the time straining to hear something.
Then Dad appeared flushed and red-eyed and grinning and took me inside to a ward.
Ms Dunning was sitting up in bed.
She was flushed and red-eyed and grinning too.
Lying on her chest was a small wrinkled baby.
It wasn't making a sound.
Come on, I said inside, come on.
âThis is your sister,' said Dad in a wobbly voice. âHer name's Erin.'
Even when I heard that I didn't stop holding my breath, not until Erin opened her mouth and gave a howl that rattled the windows.
Then I realised I was bawling my eyes out, but it didn't matter because Dad and Ms Dunning were too.
After a while, when we'd pulled ourselves together, and I was holding Erin, I noticed that the little blonde kid had wondered in, probably attracted by the noise Erin was making.
âLook,' said the kid to a nurse, âthe girl that's got something wrong with her, she's picked up that baby.'
I turned and spoke to her.
I knew she was too young to understand hand movements, but I wanted to say it.
âThis is my sister,' I said, âand there's nothing wrong with either of us.'