It all began with ten words, changing the lives of the Mathieson children forever.
‘I’ll take you hunting for Pobblebonks and Maniacal Cackle Frogs,’ their granny said.
‘Boppleponks?’ Pete asked. ‘Are you speaking some weird language or are you just plain bonkers?’
‘No. Wait and see. The rain will soon clear,’ she said, gazing out the cobwebbed kitchen window to the rolling green hills. ‘Then it will be a perfect time to hunt for them.’
‘Come on Gran, you’re makin’ it up. What self-respectin’ creatures would have names like those?’ Ozzie said.
‘Don’t look at me. I ain’t got no relatives with names like that.’
The kids had no idea what Pobblebonks were. In fact, looking back later they realised they knew nothing much at all.
‘Besides, can I have something to eat first?’ Ozzie asked. ‘It took a zillion hours to drive here. Hell’s bells, I ran out of food before we even cleared Sydney!’
‘I don’t know how you could even think of food with that stinking dog in the car,’ Fee complained. ‘How can any self-respecting dog let out a pong like that and not even open an eye to see if anyone caught him out?’
Pete’s dog, The Phantom, was a black Staffordshire terrier. Born as the runt of his litter, he had health problems. The worst was that after eating, his stomach blew up producing the most extreme-smelling gas. The Phantom got his name from the ‘carpet slippers’ he let off. You know, the kind of smell that suddenly whacks your nostrils without any warning.
Ozzie threw himself on the blue velvet lounge like a tired rhinoceros. A puff of dust burst from the impact. The lounge groaned. Lounges always did under the assault of his huge buttocks.
‘That is so gross,’ Fee said looking at his newly grown armpit hair that peeked out from his sleeveless shirt. ‘You should wear something to cover it up.’
‘And if you don’t put on deodorant soon I’ll have to wear a gas mask,’ Pete added. Ozzie thumped his chest and looked Pete’s skinny body up and down.
‘You’re just jealous. Anyway I’m not gross. My mates have all got this hairy stuff. And they’re also sweating like pigs all the time and have blackheads all over their noses. All twelve year old boys have these things it seems.’
Oh dear, Granny thought wearily. Is this what it’s going to be like?
That night the kids sprawled out on the musty-smelling patchwork quilt covering the huge old four-poster bed in Ozzie’s room.
‘I tell ya, Granny can forget that frog hunting stuff,’ Ozzie complained. ‘I’m on light duties this week. I’ve got a long choco-date and lots of lounge lizarding to catch up on. Besides which I have a massive bellyache,’ he moaned, clutching his big tummy. ‘And I just know this bellyache’s gonna be around for at least a week.’
‘I’m not going either,’ Fee said, screwing up her big green eyes. ‘I’ll have nothing to do with it, such a ridiculous idea. You can catch warts from those things. And what about those gruesome leeches out there?’
‘Aw go on,’ Ozzie replied. ‘Ya know a leech only needs one good feed of blood a year. Think of it as a donation to the Leech Blood Bank.’
If only the kids knew how that frog hunt was going to change their lives – forever.