Authors: Morris Gleitzman
As it turned out, it wouldn't have mattered, because for the whole day we didn't even get to take the lens cap off the camera.
For a bloke who wears fish shirts, Mr Segal's a real stickler for paperwork.
First he insisted on seeing written permission from the parents of everyone who'd brought a camera in.
Then he wasted hours ringing up Trent Webster's parents. He thought Trent's note was forged just because âcamera' was spelt without an âe' If he'd asked us we could have explained that Trent's mum had to leave school when she was eleven to look after the goats.
Then Raylene Shapiro put her hand up and said that her dad was wondering if the school insurance would cover damage to his camera.
Mr Segal called Mr Fowler in and asked him.
He said he'd check.
I was adjusting Amanda's camera strap at the time, and when Mr Fowler saw me with a camera in my hand he went visibly pale.
Then, just when me and Amanda thought we could start shooting our in-depth report, Mr Segal announced that first we all had to write scripts.
We did that for the rest of the day.
It was a bit tricky because we didn't want Darryn Peck to know we were writing about him, so we used a code name.
Mr Segal thinks we're doing an in-depth report about dogs who are mean to cockatoos.
At least writing the script gave me something to show Sticky when I got home. I don't think he'd ever seen a current affairs script before because he tried to eat it.
âSticky,' I said, âstop that. Don't you want to be a star and an object of pity who's allowed to sleep in my room again?'
I don't think he understood the hand movements because he just looked at me with his beak open.
I wished I had Amanda there to explain it to him by mouth.
Then I remembered what Mr Segal had said about pictures being more important than words. I pulled out my notepad and drew Sticky a picture of me playing the in-depth report to Dad and Ms Dunning on our video and them tearfully inviting Sticky to live with us in the house.
He stared at it for ages and I could see his eyes getting moister.
I drew him another picture, of Darryn Peck being arrested by RSPCA officers and sentenced to ten years hard labour cleaning out the dog pound.
Sticky put his head under his wing and seemed a bit upset, so I reduced Darryn's sentence to five years.
It was the third picture that got Sticky really excited. I did it on two pages, and it showed our report being broadcast on telly, and people all over Australia who were about to abandon or neglect cockatoos thinking again.
I put in a few people who were about to abandon or neglect other things as well.
Dogs and cats.
Those people were all thinking again too.
Dad was one of them.
âBottom plops,' said Sticky.
Poor old Sticky, he finds it really hard to express his emotions.
I know that inside he was just as excited and moved as I was.
I never realised making in-depth current affairs programmes was so hard.
For starters there's focusing the camera properly and waiting for planes to fly over so they don't mess up the sound.
Then there's asking the reporter if she'd mind changing her orange and purple striped T-shirt for a blue one and taking off the green eye shadow.
And on top of all that there's waiting for Ms Dunning to go into town for her check-up and Dad to go over to slash weeds at the other side of the orchard so you can do the introduction in the old shed without being sprung.
No wonder it costs millions when the networks do it.
We didn't get started till nearly lunchtime.
âOK,' I said when the mail plane had finally disappeared and all we could hear was Dad murdering weeds in the distance, âcamera going, take one.'
Amanda stepped forward onto the spot I'd marked on the floor in front of Sticky's cage.
âThis poor mistreated bird,' she said in a loud clear voice, âhas suffered some of the crookest treatment you could imagine.'
âPig's bum,' said Sticky.
Amanda collapsed into giggles.
âIt's just his way of agreeing with you,' I said.
Amanda collapsed into more giggles.
Some reporters have no respect for their director.
âCamera going, take two,' I said.
âThis poor neglected bird . . .' said Amanda.
âAndy's been sick in the fridge,' said Sticky.
Amanda laughed so hard she had to bite her clipboard.
I could see it wasn't going to be easy.
I calmed myself down by telling myself that every TV current affairs show has a few of these sort of problems on the first day.
An hour later I wasn't so sure.
âTake thirty-two,' I said, my hand aching.
âThis poor neglected . . .' said Amanda.
âTurnip,' said Sticky.
âI can't do it,' screamed Amanda. âNot with him interrupting. That's it. I resign.'
I sat Amanda down and got her a drink and while she was having it I showed Sticky the pictures again to remind him how important it was that he keep his beak shut.
Then I held up four fingers to remind him that Ms Dunning's having a baby in four days so we can't afford to waste time.
He stared at my fingers, tongue darting about in his beak.
I knew how he felt. Thinking about it makes my mouth go dry too.
Amanda came over and had a look at the pictures.
She spent a long time staring at the people who had planned to abandon cockies and hampsters and kids but were changing their minds.
Then she looked at me and I could see her eyes getting moister.
âSorry,' she said. âLet's try it again.'
I didn't say âTake thirty-three' because I didn't want to depress her. I just started the camera and waved.
âThis poor mistreated bird,' said Amanda, âhas suffered some of the crookest treatment you could imagine.' She glanced down at her clipboard like a professional. âIn tonight's programme we talk to the boy who did it and doesn't care. A boy who . . .'
That's when the battery ran out.
I put the camera down so I'd have two hands to swear with, and Amanda explained that the camera had only come with one battery, and that it takes twelve hours to recharge.
We didn't waste the afternoon though.
We spent it teaching Sticky some nice things to say to Dad and Ms Dunning when they invite him to join the family.
It was hard work, but by the end of the afternoon he could say âG'day' and âPig's bottom'.
The battery should be charged in another six hours.
It would be less, but Ms Dunning's using heaps of electricity in the kitchen. She's had the food processor going all evening, making a lemon and lime Jelly Custard Surprise for the Cake And Pudding section in the Agricultural Show on Saturday.
I hope she wins because then she and Dad will be in the right frame of mind to watch a moving and thought-provoking in-depth current affairs report.
OK, I admit it, filming Sticky up the tree was my idea, but if we hadn't tried it we'd never have seen Darryn Peck drowning his parents in the creek.
I had the idea this morning while I was doing the eggs.
Why not have Amanda do the introduction in front of the tree where Darryn abandoned Sticky?
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
When Amanda arrived at the old shed she agreed.
âGood thinking,' she said. âKill two birds with one stone.'
I put my hands over Sticky's ears and gave her a look.
âSorry,' she said.
When we got to the tree I climbed it with Sticky on my shoulder, put him on the branch, showed him the pictures, climbed down, focused the camera on Amanda and gave her a wave.
âThis poor mistreated bird . . .' she said.
Then she stopped.
Sticky had flown down and was standing on her head.
Six times I climbed the tree with Sticky and six times he flew down.
The sixth time Amanda lost her temper.
âGet up that tree, banana-head, and stay there,' she yelled at Sticky, who was trying to undo her shoelaces with his beak.
Even though I was feeling pretty tense myself on account of Ms Dunning having a baby in three days and us not even having done the introduction yet, I tried to calm her down.
âHe's just feeling nervous,' I said. âHe's had a scary experience here. It's like us going to the dentist.'
It was no good.
Amanda was looking in the other direction.
âI said get up that tree!' she yelled at Sticky.
Sticky bit her on the ankle.
She screamed, then picked up an apple and threw it at him.
Luckily she missed, because Sticky wasn't in any condition to duck.
He was just standing there, rigid with shock.
Amanda realised what she'd done and looked pretty shocked herself.
Before any of us could move, a voice came from behind us.
âWatch yourself, Cosgrove,' it said. âYou can get five years for chucking Batts' apples.'
We spun round.
Darryn Peck was standing there, smirking.
âWish I could stay,' he said, âbut I can't hang around here all day watching you mistreat wildlife, I've got a miniseries to make.'
And he ran off down the track laughing to himself.
For a minute I felt as if I was going to explode with frustration and shrivel up with embarrassment at the same time.
Then I recovered the power of thought.
âCome on,' I said to Amanda. âAfter him. This is our chance to talk to him about his crimes on camera.'
It took us a while because Sticky wouldn't get into his bucket before Amanda apologised.
âSorry,' said Amanda at last, dabbing at her ankle with a hanky.
Then Amanda wouldn't go until Sticky apologised.
âEat soap,' said Sticky.
âThat's his way of saying sorry,' I explained to Amanda, pushing her down the track in the direction Darryn had gone.
As we got close to the creek we could hear Darryn shouting.
We crouched down and peered through the bushes and saw him and Trent Webster and Doug Walsh and a couple of kids on the other side of the creek.
Darryn was sitting on the bank with his head in his hands while Trent filmed him with his camera.
âMy parents,' sobbed Darryn loudly, âboth drowned. Swept off the bank by a freak wave in the middle of a picnic. I begged them to wear floaties.'
âLife jackets,' said Doug, holding up an exercise book. âIn the script it says life jackets.'
âStop being a smartarse,' Darryn hissed at him, âand try to arrest me.'
Doug stepped forward, and Trent swung the camera around till it was pointing at him.
âPolice,' said Doug, reading from the exercise book. âWe've found your parents' bodies and they've both got lumps of concrete tied to their feet.'
Darryn jumped up and pulled a plastic sword from his belt.
âYou'll never take me alive,' he shouted.
Doug stared at the sword.
âIt says a gun in the script,' he said.
âShut up and fall into the water when I kill you,' Darryn hissed at him.
Amanda nudged me.
âStart the camera,' she said and then she was on her feet yelling across the creek at Darryn.
âDarryn Peck,' she shouted, âis it true that you had a cockatoo for six years?'
Darryn paused with the sword raised above his head and looked across at us. So did the others.
I switched on the camera and struggled to get Darryn and Amanda in focus at the same time.
âPig's bum,' shouted Darryn.
âIs it also true,' yelled Amanda, âthat you ditched the cocky for a poodle?'
âGo suck a turnip,' yelled Darryn and went back to chopping Doug Walsh into tiny pieces.
Amanda and I discussed crossing the creek so he'd have to answer the questions, but it gets pretty deep in places and Amanda didn't want to risk it with the camera and I didn't want to risk it with Sticky.
âI've got a better idea,' I said. âLet's go to his place and wait for him to get back. That's what they do on telly. They chase people through the house with the camera going and out into the back yard and finally corner them near the veggie garden where they break down and confess.'
I could see Amanda was having trouble with my hand movements.
I wrote it out.
Amanda read it and nodded.
âOK Ro,' she said in a loud voice so Darryn could hear, âlet's go back to your place and do a nature documentary about woolly aphids.'
Then we set off for Darryn's.
We didn't get there.
Darryn's place is on the other side of town, but in the main street we ran into a problem.
Dad and Ms Dunning.
Just as we were passing the dry-cleaners and Amanda was in the middle of pointing out Mr Shapiro's new van to me and I was wondering if old dry-cleaning vans feel as bad about being dumped as cockies and kids do, I saw Dad and Ms Dunning coming out of the hardware store carrying a baby car seat.
Normally I'd have been pleased to see them, but not today.
Not when I was carrying a bucket with a cocky in it that I was meant to have given back to Darryn Peck four days ago.
Dad and Ms Dunning hadn't seen me, so I grabbed Amanda and dragged her across the street and into her dad's shop.
Both Amanda and Sticky were looking at me as though I was mental, so I explained the situation to them.
âIt's just for a couple of minutes,' I said, âtill Dad and Ms Dunning have gone.'
Sticky seemed happy with that, but Amanda looked nervously around.
The shop was empty apart from the usual rows and piles of neatly-folded clothes.
We could hear Mr Cosgrove in the changing cubicles, telling a customer that grey-green was definitely this year's colour.