This is insane, Jane said to herself as she looked out across the still water. The sun had still to make an appearance, but here she was standing beside the tree lined river that flowed along the boundary of Lushers College. In Jane’s mind this time of day was best spent in bed, but that was certainly not the view of rowers like Ruth.
“You’ll get used to it,” Ruth had assured her repeatedly whenever the subject came up during the training sessions in the gym. After hours on the ‘erg’, Jane felt a little more confident about her fitness and technique, but now was the day of reckoning.
“I don’t know about this, it’s so skinny,” Jane said, indicating to the double rowing scull Ruth was holding next to the boatshed jetty. “Are you sure I won’t sink it? I told you I have always been hopeless at sports”.
Ruth laughed, “Yeah, that’d be right. Now you first, come on, get in.”
“They even banned me from playing tennis and hockey; Said I was more likely to hit the other players than the ball.”
“I’ll hit you with this if you don’t get in.” Ruth replied, reaching for one of the oars.
Jane laughed, “Okay, okay,” as she climbed gingerly into the shell. Ruth followed with the confident experience befitting the current Junior Single Scull champion.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Jane commented as Ruth used one of the oars to push the sleek Ted Hale rowing shell away from the jetty.
“Can you swim?” Ruth asked, without any hint of concern.
“Oh yeah, I am pretty good at that.”
“Pity …” They both laughed as the shell drifted out to the centre of the river, Ruth in the stroke seat and Jane behind her.
“Now it’s not difficult, we’ll start out slow. Just do what you were doing in the gym yesterday.” Ruth said, “And, relax!”
With gentle encouragement from Ruth and a few stern reminders to keep her back straight and move from the hips, Jane was soon in the groove. Rowing in unison, the slim boat sliced through the calm water with only the sound of the oars breaking the dawn silence. Eventually, Ruth called a stop.
“Wow, this is so awesome,” Jane shouted at the top of her voice, causing a flock of sulphur crested cockatoos to screech into the air.
Two hours later, Jane walked cautiously down to her school locker with the awkward shuffling gait of someone who, through sheer pain, has just discovered a bunch of muscles they never knew they had. “Just what I need,” she said to herself as she saw Annabelle Purvis and the other members of the Brat Pack standing by the lockers.
“What did you sit on Jane”? Shelley demanded.
“Jane’s a bit sore,” Lou added sarcastically. “Here let me carry your bag.”
Jane brusquely brushed off Lou’s attempt to grab her school backpack.
“Only trying to help”
“You can’t help someone who thinks the sun shines out of her bum,” Annabelle contributed with a laugh. The other members of the pack joined in.
“Just piss off!” Jane half said to herself as she put the bag in her locker.
“Temper, Temper,” admonished Annabelle. “Poor Jane’s been working so hard at the deli. How are the small goods selling dear?”
Annabelle’s comment was loud enough for everyone around to hear. The brat pack members laughed as though it was the funniest thing they had ever heard and a few other girls in the corridor sniggered. Ruth, who on entering the corridor had also heard the comment and addressed Annabelle with icy sarcasm.
“Very well Annabelle. They’ve got some lamb’s brains, about the size of yours; no bigger I think. Perhaps you could trade up.”
The brat pack fell silent and Annabelle’s attempt at a retort was drowned out by the laughter of everyone else around the lockers.
In the next episode, “Biggles”, Ray Purvis sounds out Sir Murray St Clair, ‘gentleman’ and well known lender of last resort.