The single entry into Cobbitty Primary meant Will had to walk past him. Although Nick was Will’s age, he was a head taller. “Will’s a dill’, hissed Nick in his ear. Trying so hard to ignore Nick, Will didn’t see the foot stuck out. Down he went, sprawled in the dust. Nick ran off, laughing. ‘I wish I was back at my old school,’ thought Will, but he knew that wouldn’t happen as his parents had finally bought their dream farm in the valley.
Cobbitty was a single teacher school with a total of twenty students. The room was light and airy with large windows and desks and chairs grouped in the centre. Bag pegs lined the walls. Will hung his bag on his peg and turned to take his seat. ‘Watch it, Shorty.’ Nick shoved him so hard the peg bit into his back. Will winced in pain.
‘Good morning, class,’ said Miss Turner. ‘Please put your homework books on my desk and get out your Maths projects.’ Will got his book and was about to add it to the growing pile, when it was snatched, the cover torn off and thrown in Miss Turner’s direction. ‘Will Smart! Lunchtime detention’, she shouted, ‘Sucker’ hissed Nick, his hot breath making Will’s skin crawl.
Lunchtime came. The kids tumbled out of the classroom, all except Will. ‘Will, what is the problem?’ asked Miss Turner, looking at him sympathetically. Will shuffled his feet, head down. ‘Your grades have slipped a lot this term and your behavior lately is not acceptable. Please tell me what is going on?’ Will wished he could sink through the floor; ‘It’s Nick’, he muttered. ‘He’s bullying me and I don’t know what to do.’ ‘Mmm,’ she said. ‘I’ll speak to his Dad this afternoon.’
Next day, Nick was at the front gate as usual. ‘What did you say to Miss Taylor, you rat,’ he spat out at as Will tried to wriggle past him. Nick’s fist caught Will in the stomach and knocked the wind out of him. ‘Don’t dob on me again!’ he added, as his elbow connected with Will’s cheekbone. Blood trickled down Will’s cheek. ‘Will’s a dobber. Will’s a dobber’, yelled Nick, as he ran off.’
‘Hey, I saw that,’ said Samantha, the grade six girl. ‘Nick needs to be taught a lesson,’ she added. ‘Come on, let me help you. ‘Thanks,’ sniffled Will, as he tasted the blood and tears with his tongue. Thankfully, it was Friday, and he could have two days without the bully, but Samantha’s words echoed in his head all weekend; ‘teach Nick a lesson.’
On Monday, at lunch time, Will joined Samantha, sitting under the one shady tree. ‘Samantha,’ said Will, ‘I’ve been thinking about what you said about Nick. I’ve got a plan.’ ‘Oh yeah,’ she said, ‘what is it?
That afternoon, Will headed down the bush track for home. He knew Nick would be waiting for him. ‘Here comes the dobber,’ sneered Nick as he stepped out from behind a large gum tree. ‘Me dad gave us a thumpin’ cause of you,’ he said. ‘I had to tell,’ said Will, ‘Ah, yeah,’ well tell Miss Taylor this,’ Nick swung hard at Will’s head as Will ducked and ran full tilt into Nick’s belly, flattening him.
‘Go, get ‘im Will,’ shouted Samantha, as she and the rest of the kids tumbled out of the trees. Nick struggled to his feet, only to be knocked down again by Will’s second charge. ‘Stop. Stop’, screamed Nick, ‘don’t hit me again; me Dad’ll belt me for fightin’. Will paused, shoulders hunched, panting. ‘Yeah, well why pick on me then?’ bellowed Will, in Nick’s face.
Nick’s bottom lip trembled and tears trickled down his cheeks leaving clean trails through the dirt. ‘Me dad drinks a lot,’ he blurted out. ‘When ‘e gets full, ‘e lays into me mum ‘n me. Any excuse’ll do’. Will straightened up looking Nick in the eye and for the first time saw a frightened boy, not the school bully.
Samantha offered her handkerchief to Nick. ‘Thanks,’ he mumbled. ‘Well. Answer Will!’ she commanded. ‘Dunno,’ whimpered Nick, ‘I guess it’s ‘cause he’s got so many friends.’ ‘That’s no reason to pick on someone, though,’ said Samantha. ‘Isn’t it?’ replied Nick. She added, ‘Your Dad’s a bully, but you don’t have to be like him. We’ll be your friends if you want. Just stop picking on Will.’ ‘OK,’ came the soft reply.
Next morning, Nick was at the front gate. He grabbed Will’s arm. Will stiffened, waiting. ‘I’m really sorry for pickin’ on ya. Can we be friends?’ Nick said. Will thought for a moment. ‘OK. Which footy team do you go for?’ They walked into the schoolyard deep in conversation, enveloped by the swirling dust of a summer’s morning.