IT’S A KID’S LIFE 5 – CAMP CHAOS – SNEAK PREVIEW!
I focused on my opponent as I heard shouts from the crowd.
“Go on, Ben!”
“Come on Ben, you can do this!”
“Get him Ben!”
I recognised the last squeaky voice as coming from my youngest brother, Little Spud. I glanced over at him to see his excited face smiling as he threw his skinny arms around in what I can only imagine resembled punches. I really needed to give him some training on those. It looked more like he was doing some sort of bizarre dance move!
Focus Ben, I reprimanded myself as I drew my attention back to the task in hand. I was at a karate tournament, my first one since becoming a black belt. Reaching down with my fingertips, I proudly touched the long strip of material tied around my waist. The belt belonging to my Sensei was tatty and faded with age. Mine, on the other hand, was as black as the night’s sky and still firm to the touch. It was my most prized possession.Locking eyes with my opponent, I raised my guard, ready to fight. I was a brave warrior going into battle… I was a daring trooper ready for war… I was a fierce tiger ready to strike…
“Poppet, be careful, he’s a bit bigger than you!”
Poppet? POPPET? Had she really just called me “poppet”?
Dropping my guard, I gazed over at my mum in disbelief. How could she be so embarrassing?
“One point,” shouted the referee, interrupting the look of horror I was casting in my mum’s direction.
Great! Not only had she just called me poppet in front of a room full of people (who were now sniggering at me), but while I’d been distracted, my opponent had taken advantage. He’d directed a sneaky punch at my head, just as the referee had signalled the fight was to start. Luckily for me, the black belt I was facing had the perfect control you would expect of someone of his level. It was a sign of true skill. He’d been able to launch a fast punch with his fist and then stop with ease so that it only made light contact with me.
Karate tournaments at my age were semi-contact which suited me just fine. I wanted my brain intact thank you very much. I wouldn’t be much good at running my own business when I was older if I ended up missing some very valuable brain cells! Karate was all about skill, and it was time for me to forget about my humiliation, courtesy of my own mother, and show everyone what I was made of. I adjusted my body into a fighting stance. Blocking out everything else in the room, I fixed my eyes on my opponent. Mum was right. He was slightly bigger than me, but not by much. I waited for him to make another move, biding my time until he left himself open. It was a tactic I had learnt from my Sensei. Sure enough, his impatience got the better of him, and he launched forward with a punch to the head. Expertly, I dodged it and retaliated with my own punch to his chest. Skilfully holding my power as my fist lightly connected with his chest, the referee held up his flag to signal a point for me. Feeling confident, I decided that it was time to try the leg sweep I had been practising all week. Before he knew what was happening, I hooked my leg around the back of my opponent’s leg and watched him collapse to the ground.
I took the opportunity to look over at my family who had all come to support me. Mum gave me a big thumbs-up with a cheesy grin on her face.
Pocket Rocket, my eight-year-old brother, was dangling from Dad’s arm trying to imitate the leg sweep he had just seen. Needless to say, his skinny leg didn’t stand a chance of getting Dad to collapse to the ground. Big Spud, my five-year-old brother, and Little Spud, my three-year-old brother, were doing karate chops on each other’s heads, screaming ‘hi-yah’ as they delivered their pathetic looking blows. Little Spud saw me looking and started waving excitedly. His face suddenly changed to one of anger though as I felt my legs slipping from under me. I had made the ultimate mistake all over again and let myself get distracted. I had thought my leg sweep would keep my opponent down for at least five seconds, but apparently he wasn’t the pushover he had seemed. Seeing his chance, he had sprung back up onto his feet like a cat with nine lives and retaliated with a cheeky copy of the move I had just performed on him. I fell on my backside with a thud, but not before catching a glimpse of Little Spud running towards us. My opponent was just about to deliver a match-winning strike to my chest when Little Spud launched himself at his legs.
It was only this morning that Pocket Rocket had been teaching him to rugby tackle in the lounge. Little Spud had been instructed to stand in front of the sofa as Pocket Rocket had run at him. He had then grabbed Little Spud round the legs whilst barging his shoulder into his slender frame. Little Spud had found it hilarious as he had tumbled back onto the sofa time and time again. He had obviously picked up a few tips from Pocket Rocket though as, unbelievably, his tiny body managed to knock my opponent right off his feet.
“Get off my brother you nincompoop!” his shrill little voice shouted.
He then sat right on my poor opponent’s legs in an attempt to pin him down. I lay there, stunned at what I was seeing. Then, just as I thought it couldn’t get any worse, Big Spud ran over and launched himself into the air like he was belly flopping into a swimming pool.
He landed slap bang on the poor boy’s tummy. My opponent groaned as he lay there, winded and in shock as to what had just happened.
Coming to my senses, I stood up and picked my brothers up off of him, one by one. The referee glared at them as Mum and Dad ran over to scoop them up, muttering their apologies. Everyone else in the crowd was laughing uncontrollably. I, on the other hand, was absolutely mortified. Next week couldn’t come quickly enough. A whole five days away from my annoying little brothers as I got to go on the much-anticipated Year Six residential trip. I could not wait!
“Why did you leave it to the last minute to pack, Ben?” moaned Mum.
We were in my bedroom the evening after my karate tournament. I had finally seen the funny side of my little brother’s ‘pitch invasion’ onto the karate mat. Luckily, my opponent had had a good sense of humour and taken his unexpected rugby tackle incredibly well. The referee had allowed the fight to continue, and the winning point had gone in my favour when I demonstrated a skilfully timed spinning kick which lightly brushed my opponent’s cheek, scoring me two points.
“I had other things on my mind,” I said, referring to my karate tournament.
“OK, well I think we are just about there,” Mum said as she pulled the zip of my suitcase shut.
“I can’t believe you’re not going to be here for five whole days!” exclaimed Mum, looking sad. She enveloped me in a big bear hug and planted a kiss on my cheek which I quickly brushed off.
“Yep, five whole days of no annoying little brothers and no annoying parents!” I replied playfully. Mum knew that I was going to miss her really, not that I’d admit that to anyone. Well, maybe to my best friend, Tommy, but definitely nobody else.
“Well I’m going to miss you, and so are your little brothers,” said Mum.
“Don’t forget Obi and Lola,” I said reaching down to tickle our dog, Obi’s, soft, furry belly.
“Don’t worry, we’ll look after them. Pocket Rocket has already said he’ll sneak Obi onto his bed with Lola every night.”
Typical Pocket Rocket! As if one dog wasn’t enough to have sleeping on his bed with him, he was going to take advantage of my absence and have two! At least I knew Obi would be OK with his best pal Lola.
“Right, let’s go and have some hot chocolate before bed,” said Mum.
Now she was talking. “Can I have extra marshmallows?” I asked, knowing that she would struggle to resist my request as I pulled on her emotional heartstrings. “I won’t be able to have any for five days!”
“Well, maybe just this once,” said Mum.
“But don’t tell your brothers!”
My three younger brothers were already sitting at the table sipping their hot chocolates when we got downstairs.
“Are you going to come back, Ben,” asked Little Spud, looking worried. “Pocket Rocket told me you weren’t ever coming home again!”
Pocket Rocket did a little snigger through his nose, looking guilty. “You’re so gullible!” he exclaimed.
I picked Little Spud up and put him on my lap. He had a hot chocolate moustache above his top lip where he’d been enjoying his bedtime treat.
“Of course I’m coming back,” I told my youngest brother as I gave him a gentle tickle in his ribs. “You can’t get rid of me that easily.”
Little Spud smiled and gave me a big hug. I guess he could be cute when he wanted to be.
Big Spud looked disgruntled. “Does that mean I don’t get your bedroom then?” he asked. “Pocket Rocket said I could have it.”
I glared at Pocket Rocket. “No, Big Spud, you cannot have my bedroom. I’m going for five days, and when I come back on Friday I expect to find my bedroom exactly how I left it. OK?”
“OK,” he said begrudgingly.
“I’m going to set my intruder alarm on my door, so if any of you so much as touch the handle, I’ll know about it!” I warned them all.
“How will you know?” asked Pocket Rocket, smugly. “You won’t be here.”
“Because it will send a message to my phone telling me,” I lied. “And if that happens, I’ve set up stink bombs in each of your bedrooms that I can make explode at the touch of a button.”
Big Spud and Little Spud giggled.
“You’re lying!” said Pocket Rocket.
“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not,” I replied. “But trust me, you don’t want to risk it. They smell worse than your feet, mixed with your farts, mixed with your breath when you haven’t brushed your teeth,” I said, pointing at Pocket Rocket, Big Spud, and Little Spud in turn.
Their little eyes all fixed on me suspiciously. I shrugged my shoulders and scooped a spoonful of marshmallows from my hot chocolate. I knew they didn’t totally believe me, but there was enough doubt for them not to risk it.
Pocket Rocket’s eyes shifted down to my overflowing mug. “Hey, Mum, why has Ben got more marshmallows than us?”
Mum rolled her eyes at him and swiftly topped up his mug with a small handful of extra marshmallows, and then did the same for my other brothers. They all cheered like they had won the lottery. Mum and I shared a sneaky look, knowing full well that she had only given them a fraction of the amount she had given me. I really should go away and make Mum miss me more often!
I awoke to the sound of my alarm beeping in my ear and groaned. I hated Monday mornings. I reached down to cuddle Obi’s soft fur against my body and was just about to doze back to sleep when I remembered…
Today wasn’t just a normal boring Monday morning with a week of school ahead of me. Today was the day I was setting off on my Year Six residential trip. Five whole days of fun! My friends and I had all been talking about it for months and now the day had finally arrived. I jumped out of bed and quickly had a shower. I didn’t plan on washing all week, so Mum had made me promise to have one last scrub this morning before I left. I set a new house record for the time taken to get ready as I gobbled down my breakfast and got myself dressed.
Pocket Rocket and Big Spud were sitting at the table eating their cereal one tiny spoonful at a time, like they had all the time in the world to get ready. I was starting to see why Mum always ended up shouting at us to hurry up in the mornings.
“I’m just going to wake Little Spud up,” announced Mum. “Ben, can you put your suitcase in the hall so we don’t forget it?”
I ran up the stairs two at a time. I was so excited thinking about my week away. I tried to pick my suitcase up with one hand, but it was too heavy so I dragged it along the floor instead. Big Spud appeared at my door.
“Can I sit on your suitcase as you push it down the stairs?” he asked.
We used to take it in turns to sit in the washing basket and whizz down the stairs into the crash barrier at the end, made up of duvets and bean bags. It was so much fun… until one day when I had pushed Pocket Rocket a little bit too hard. He had ended up catapulting out of the basket half way down and flying head first over the top of the crash barrier into the wall.
Let’s just say that the end-result was a big lumpy head, a big grumpy Mum, and the end of our days playing washing basket stair whizz!
“OK, but quick before Mum sees us,” I said, positioning the suitcase at the top of the stairs. It was so heavy! It must have been the extra jumpers Mum had made me pack. Big Spud climbed on top of the case looking excited.
“Wait one second,” I said, as I ran back to grab the duvet, pillows and bean bag from my bedroom. As tempting as it was to send my little brother flying down the stairs with no crash barrier, I wasn’t that crazy. Mum would go mad if he got hurt and maybe even ban me from the school trip. Oh, and of course, there was the issue that it was actually quite dangerous and held the real risk of a hospital visit if it went wrong.
“Right, are you ready?” I asked
“Yep!” came his reply as his eyes opened wide with excitement.
“Actually, wait just two more seconds,” I said, running back to my bedroom again.
I came back with my skateboarding helmet which I plonked on top of my little brother’s head. He looked a bit worried at that point.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “It’s just a precaution.”
“This case feels bumpy,” he said wriggling. “There’s something sticking up.”
“That’ll just be my wellies,” I said. “Quick, Mum’s coming.”
“Can you see if Little Spud is downstairs please, Ben?” Mum called. “I thought he was still asleep but he’s not in bed.”
“Yeah, I’ll look,” I replied, anxious to keep her away from the stairs.
“Three, two, one, go!” I whispered to Big Spud as I gave the case an almighty shove to send it on its thrill ride down the stairs. Big Spud let out an excited squeal as he picked up speed. His wasn’t the only squeal I heard though!
As the suitcase crashed into the barrier at the bottom of the stairs, Big Spud toppled off giggling.
“That was amazing!” he exclaimed. “Again, again, again!”
But I was more bothered as to where the squeal had actually come from. I raced down the stairs after him and grabbed the case. No wonder it had been so heavy! I tugged at the zip, knowing what I would find inside. I flipped the lid up and there, gazing out at me, looking slightly dizzy and shaken, was Little Spud!
“Hi Ben,” he said giggling.
I picked him up out of the suitcase before Mum saw.
“What were you doing in my suitcase?” I demanded. “And where have all my clothes gone?”
“I wanted to come with you,” he answered innocently. “I’m going to miss you to the moose and back.”
“To the moon and back,” I corrected him. “I’m going to miss you to the moon and back, is what you say, not to the moose and back.”
“Well that then,” he said. “I couldn’t fit in with the clothes in so I took them out. Quick, put me back in the cage before Mum sees, so I can come with you.”
“It’s a case, Little Spud, not a cage. A SUITCASE! And no, I am not putting you back in, because you are NOT coming!”
“Ben, have you found Little Spud,” Mum shouted from the bathroom, sounding worried.
“Yep, he’s here, Mum,” I replied. “He’s just having breakfast.” I grabbed the now empty suitcase in one hand and Little Spud in the other and raced to the kitchen. Plonking him down in his chair, I poured some cereal in a bowl, added a splash of milk and gave him a spoon.
“S’not fair,” moaned Little Spud, crossing his arms in a huff as he realised that his plan hadn’t worked. “Pocket Rocket hid in the car when you went camping with Rob, and he was allowed to stay!”
He was, of course, referring to the time I had gone camping with my real dad, Rob, last year. Rob hadn’t been a particularly good dad when I was younger, but since he had had a baby with his new girlfriend, Cassie, he had definitely improved in the dad department. He would never be as good as Dad – technically real dad to all my brothers and step-dad to me – but at least it was a start. Anyway, when he had taken me camping, unbeknown to all of us, Pocket Rocket had hidden on the back seat of the car under some coats. By the time we found him it was too late to take him home and so he had ended up staying with us. Apparently, Little Spud was learning from the master.
“Nice try, Little Spud, but it’s not going to happen. Now where are the clothes you emptied out?” I was trying to stay calm so that Mum didn’t find out that I had sent not just one, but two little brothers flying down the stairs at top speed.
“Not telling you!” said Little Spud, sulking that he wasn’t getting his own way.
I rushed off with my suitcase, knowing that it would be quicker to find the clothes myself. I grabbed the duvet and pillows on my way and shoved them messily back on my bed.
I heard footsteps on the stairs and Mum muttering something about a bean bag. Oops, I had forgotten to grab the bean bag with the pillows and duvet!
Little Spud had dumped all of my clothes in my wash bin. Luckily it had been empty before so I literally tipped it upside down over the suitcase and let everything just tumble back in.
I didn’t have time to check it was all there so just trusted it was and zipped the case back up. It was much lighter now than the last time I had tried to move it. I picked it up and walked down the stairs.
“Shoes on boys,” I heard Mum shout. “It’s time to go.”
This was one morning I didn’t need asking twice. I pulled my trainers on in record time, relishing the fact that I wasn’t having to wear school uniform today, and carried my suitcase out to the car.