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My dad's an astronaut by Sharon Hammad
Third Prize - Charlotte Duncan Award 2009

I'm Emma and my class is going on a bus trip to the Blue Mountains. I'm not looking

forward to it because I'm scared of heights.

I sit in the back of the bus with Jane and Brie. Amy has to sit up the front near the teachers or she might jump out of the bus window. Amy has ADHD. It makes her shout out in class and hit people sometimes. No-one in my class wants to sit next to her. Maybe they think they'll catch ADHD.

We arrive at Echo Point, Katoomba. Sticking out of the mountain next to the lookout are some tall rocks huddled together, known as the Three Sisters. They seem close enough to touch, but the man climbing them looks as tiny as an action figure.

The closer I get to the railing, the more my legs feel like jelly snakes and my heart feels like a puppy trying to get out of a bag. It's windy and my feet don't seem to hang onto the ground very well. Every step I take feels like I'm about to fly through the air like the leaves that are swirling around.

No-one notices me lurking near the wall except for Amy. She trampolines up to me. 'See the climber? He's up so high and he's only holding on with his fingers and toes.'

Thanks to her, I'm not only scared for myself, I'm scared for the climber as well. I wish Amy would go away. She might knock me over the cliff even though the rest of the class stands between the railing and me. She stops trampolining long enough to squint at my face. 'Are you sick, Emma?'

'Leave me alone.' At least, Amy gets me angry enough to turn my jelly snakes back into legs. I walk away from her but there is nowhere to go except towards the cliff edge where the wind is even gustier.

For once, Amy does as she is told. She leaves me standing rigid, as if I'm playing a game of statues. She pushes her way through the other kids to where the teacher is telling the boys to get down from the railing. Amy says something to the teacher. I bet it is something about me. Any minute now, everyone will turn around to see that I'm a great, big wimp but, no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to move.

Amy skips towards me. 'I have to go to the bus so I can take my medicine. You have to come with me.' She grabs my arm, turns me away from the cliff and drags me back to the bus.

I bet I'm the only one who is glad that Amy has ADHD.


When everyone is back on the bus, Amy thinks I'm going to sit next to her for the rest of the trip, but she's wrong. After all, it's not like she took her medicine just to get me out of trouble.

'Where have you been, snob?' Jane and Brie want to know. They'll give me heaps if they find out what happened.

'Nowhere,' I say, but they look at each other as if they're trying to work out a maths problem.

Next, we go to the Skyway. It's a huge cable car that travels on wire between two cliffs. It hangs in the middle of the wire so people can look down and, when the wind blows, it swings. If I don't go on it, I'll be the biggest geek in the history of my school. Even bigger than Amy.

Jane and Brie run to the windows and point down, just to scare everyone, but I'm already shaking. My face has gone stiff and my eyes feel as if they're poking out of my head. I wish I could think of an excuse not to get on, but the teacher spreads her arms out like a fence, pushing us all forward.

The door slams shut. The cable car pulls away from the platform, dropping down between the cliffs. I stay in the centre of the car. So far no-one has noticed how white my fingers are from holding on tightly. Every time anyone crosses the car from side to side, it tips and sways. Suddenly, there is a big bump. I close my eyes and wait for the cable car to crash.

'It's just the roller things on the top,' says Amy. I open my eyes and see that we are still moving towards the opposite cliff. Amy isn't holding on and she doesn't look even a little bit afraid. 'I wonder how your Dad feels when he goes up in his space ship.'

The other day, I told Amy that my dad's an astronaut. He might be, but I don't know for sure. I haven't seen him since I was a baby. I told Amy because she always talks about her dad and I wanted her to think my dad is better.

'How should I know?' Can't she see I'm busy trying not to scream?

'I bet he's scared. There's nothing to hold a space ship up in the air. My dad says this cable car wouldn't fall down even if it had an elephant in it and he knows because he's an engineer.' Imagining an elephant in the cable car makes me smile. 'I think it's brave when someone does something even when they're scared.'

Amy's got a point. I'm scared of heights but I'm going in the cable car. I feel a tiny bit better. 'Actually, I don't think my dad is an astronaut,' I tell her.

Amy shrugs. 'You never know,' she says.

For the rest of the trip, Amy makes up stories about the trees, waterfalls and cliffs as if we're flying over a planet made of chocolate. Pretty soon, I forget about being in the cable car. Next thing we are back on the platform and I'm almost sorry the trip is over.

Sometimes, I can't help liking Amy.

Copyright © 2009 Sharon Hammad.