Ranger Tom moved on to showing us how to make damper and billy tea while we crouched around a small campfire. Everyone pulled their tin cups from their backpacks and put away their torches.
I’d scooted off back to our campsite for a few minutes but managed to rejoin Meg just in time to have Ranger Tom pour me a tea. I handed my backpack to my sister and began to mentally prepare myself for my part in the plan.
“Are you ready?’ I asked Meg while I caught my breath.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Meg asked.
“There’s milk and sugar on the esky there,” Ranger Tom said. I made mine extra milky to cool it down.
My two adversaries kept jabbing each other and laughing while throwing me looks.
“I’m ready,” I said.
If this didn’t go to plan…..
I tried not to think about it as I walked around the fire to where Bruiser and Crusher sat.
“You two losers still think it’s funny to scare little girls?” I asked them. Danger is my middle name. Actually it’s David, after my Dad, but I optimistically decided the D could easily stand for Danger. Or Daft, or Dumb.
“Yeah. We do,” said Crusher, still sitting and talking over his shoulder at me. “What’re you gonna do about it, you big stinker?”
I threw the contents of my teacup on them, soaking most of Crusher’s head and a fair bit of Bruiser’s. Then, without much hope of actually escaping, I turned and ran.
It wasn’t hot tea but it would have been an unwelcome shock. They jumped up immediately, and came after me.
“You kids! Stop that!” yelled Ranger Tom as he realized what the ruckus was about. He may as well have screamed at a fly to stop buzzing around a fresh cowpat.
Crusher, who had clearly earned his nickname on the rugby field, got to me first and tackled me painfully to the ground. Bruiser, who I knew from experience had earned his nickname on kids like me, arrived seconds later and gave me a solid kick to the gut.
All the other kids were up and coming towards us. More to see what was going on, unfortunately, than to attempt to help me.
“Stop it, I said!” yelled Ranger Tom as he grabbed Crusher by the scruff of the neck and pulled him off me. As I stood up Bruiser managed to follow up on his kick with a punch to my shoulder and I stumbled to the ground again.
But it could have been worse. It could have been Crusher hitting me.
Amidst cries of ‘he threw hot tea on us’ and ‘he attacked my sister in the forest’ Ranger Tom eventually saw sense and sent us all home to our parents. Everyone picked up their backpacks and began walking back to their campsites. Meg and I sensibly decided on a different route to the two big thugs.
“That went well,” Meg said dryly as we headed off. “That was all part of your brilliant plan, was it? Toss tea on them and get beaten up.”
“It was central to the whole thing,” I assured her.
While she stopped at the toilets to wash her hands, I rubbed my shoulder where Bruiser had hit me. My stomach was sore too and I’d grazed my knee.
“You know the old saying,” I said with a grin comprising a fair amount of grimace, “no pain, no gain.”
Knowing both Crusher and Bruiser would need cold showers this late at night to get milky tea out of their hair made the sacrifice that much sweeter.
“Boys are so stupid,” Meg said.
I didn’t respond. But given the way this holiday was progressing I thought she might be onto something.
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“Raising a family on little more than laughs”