By Rosie Cullen
The Shovel walked along the lines around the edge of the playground. The aim was to keep balanced. If you came off, you would be eaten by piranhas.
The trick was to keep your eyes firmly on the lines and concentrate on nothing else. This way, you also wouldn’t hear the names that they called you, “piggy” or “fatty,” or lately they had started to call him “The Shovel” because they said he just shoveled it in.
Stuart knew he was podgy, but he didn’t know how not to be. His mum said it was puppy fat. She said he had a healthy appetite, and he was a growing boy. That made it all right, for a while. There was just him and his mum, and she was large, too. And his Nan, who said they were big-boned, and it ran in the family. But then what about Uncle Bill? He was lean and wiry and worked as a forklift truck driver, something Stuart thought he might like to do when he grew up.
Stuart negotiated the far corner, which was always a difficult maneuver. Then he saw two feet approaching along the next section of lines, one dainty pointed foot placed carefully in front of the other. Blue sandals. A girl. He paused, trying to keep his balance. Sometimes they did this deliberately to make fun of him. The trick was to stay very still and not look up. It didn’t always work; someone might shove him off the line anyway, and he would be in amongst the piranhas.
She placed her next foot forward until their toes were almost touching. Although he wasn’t looking up, Stuart could see enough to know it was the new girl, Stella.
“Hey look—it’s the Shovel and the Rake!” A girl tittered close by.
Stella was thin. Thin as a rake. Thinner than a skeleton.
A minute passed, maybe two. The girl calling them names was joined by her giggling friends.
They were saved by the bell. Then Stella did a funny thing; she reached out and took his hand, and they stepped off the lines together.