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she says. âThe princess got out on the wrong side of the bed this morning.â
I climb into the boat. âThe bottoms of my jeans are soaking!â I explain.
âThatâs the sea for you.â She waves her hand. âBut look at it this way, if it was the top of your jeans wet, youâd have some explaining to do.â
I have to laugh. âGrandma, I canât believe you said that!â
She wags a finger at me. âGirlie, bear this in mind. I know what itâs like to be thirteen but you donât know what itâs like to be eighty-two.â
âFourteen, Grandma. I am fourteen and Iâll soon be fifteen.â I want to add that she lived in the age of the dinosaurs and my world is entirely different, but I canât be bothered putting all that into a yell.
âWhatever,â she says. âA year or two makes little difference when youâre my age. Now come over here. No, not that close, I donât want you dripping on me. Hand me the tackle box and Iâll get you to make some nylon traces.â
I bet Melissa will tell Mum and Dad that I drove Grandpaâs car. I hope she does. I want her to describe how I drove up the beach, towing a trailer, entirely on my own, over the stones and the grass of the access, then turned into a siding on the road and parked under a big gum tree. Handbrake on. Car locked. Grandpa couldnât have done it better. This will dispel the myth of the nerd whoâs not practical. When I was using the washing machine one day and it chose to flood, Mum told me, âNever mind, Will, youâll work with your brain and not your hands,â which is a ridiculous statement, I mean, how does a brain connect to a computer without hands? I believe in all sincerity that a smart brain can teach hands to do anything. In a few days I have become a chopper of wood, a fixer of water, a student of guitar and the driver of a gear-shift Vauxhall. Which is why Iâm surprised when Grandpa lets Melissa steer the boat.
âThis isnât your job,â I tell her. âYou helped Grandma set up the lines.â
âSo?â She smiles. Her hair is blowing all over her face. I donât know how she can see to drive a boat.
I explain it to her. âYou help Grandma. I help Grandpa. You cook. I drive. Understand?â
So what does she do next? She turns and yells at Grandpa, âWill says I shouldnât be driving the boat.â
âHeâll get his turn,â Grandpa says, chopping up bait on a board.
Oh, all right, fair enough, considering she didnât want to come at all today and her sole training in boat skills has been making bread and scones. This is an echo of Mumâs shop, where Melissa gets to serve customers while I carry heavy boxes of old magazines to the recycling bins.
I sit at the stern of the boat near Grandma, and put a safety pin swivel on the line on my rod, a simple task complicated by the way Melissa bounces the boat over waves.
We are now in the outer Sounds and the edges of hills have the sun on them, although the shadows are still dark. Our wake is astonishingly smooth compared with the sea on either side â I mean, you could ski behind the boat and feel you were on glass. The fringes of the wake are turbulent immediately behind us, diminishing to bands of white froth as far as I can see. Occasionally, a bit of seaweed or driftwood slides by, and something hard, wood, I expect, rattles along the bottom of the boat which Iâm sure is called a keel, even on runabouts, and I think itâs just as well for Melissa that it didnât smash into the propeller.
Grandmaâs voice is louder than the motor. She tells me the names of the various bays and things about them, like the people who built their house around their caravan, and the man who ate everything raw, vegetables, fish and meat, because he said cooking took life out of food.
âSee that hut?