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05 March 2005

Erasmus James & the Galactic ZAPP Machine

Erasmus James & the Galactic ZAPP Machine

CHAPTER ONE: My Dad's Weird (Unlike Me)

Three! I was just three mouse clicks away from hacking into Bayfield High's computer system when…


My bedroom rocked. What was that? Earthquake? World War Three?

A shock wave (or maybe just shock) toppled me out of my computer chair. I almost landed on Fang, my dad's deaf ferret. Fang hissed and spat.

Then I smelt smoke.

'Nnnnno!' I cried. 'Dad's blown himself up! Again!'

I rushed to his rescue. Almost. For my earphones were still connected to my stereo, my left foot snagged in the jumble of power cables under my desk, and Fang took out my other leg with a biting crash tackle. I tumbled through my door into the hall, bringing down my chair, stereo and something that made a nasty, tinkling crash.

I looked up. A cloud of smoke rolled down the zigzag hall, shrouding a shadowy figure. Out waddled… a Frankenstein possum. 'Ack,' he coughed, and scratched his stitches.

More movement behind. Out lurched… my dad! Splattered with globs of fire-extinguisher foam, his eyebrows smoking, but alive.

Damn him! Why did Dad have to worry me so much? Causing worry was supposed to be my job!

Somewhat mad, I let rip a big Vietnamese rice burp. But my dad didn't notice, not even when I kicked my guilty door shut. He just swayed and smoked in the hall like a black dog on a hot tin roof, eyes bug-wide open, beard half shaved, the hair on his head part gone, part pointing in every direction (looking for the missing crop circle perhaps). Luckily, when he gets blown up like this, my dad wouldn't notice if I'd rented out my room to a homeless family (I hadn't, but there's a future money-making idea…).

I should point out that my old man normally has only a few kangaroos missing from his brain paddock, by which I mean he's only partly a mad scientist. He's actually a pass mark single father and a very clever inventor who's invented clever inventions like the laser toaster (banned in every state), the wallaby wheelchair (zero sales) and chocolate flavoured toothpaste (his bestseller to date). That's where I inherited my brains from. (Have I mentioned I'm brilliant yet?)

Yet unlike me, my dad is also somewhat weird. Especially at… normal things. For example, he works very strange and too long hours, sometimes wears his shirts backwards (like now) and, when cooking, has been known to burn water (which explains why we eat a lot of Vietnamese take-away) (which I don't really mind) (burrrp).

If you think I'm being too critical of my dad, well, I have to be, because I'm the Organised One. It's hard enough starting high school, topping every science test and preparing to wrestle with puberty, without worrying if my dad is going to blow himself up inventing a fart magnifier at nine in the evening. He just needs to get a faster car and a social life. (If he married Ms Trang from the Vietnamese restaurant on the corner, we could have discount take-aways every day.)

Even more embarrassing, my dad's way too soft hearted. Every week he comes home from his long walks with yet another run-down, half-dead dog, cat, bat, galah, possum, kangaroo or homeless crazy person he's scraped off the expressway or retrieved from under the electrical wires. Healthy animals are gross enough, let alone splattered or electrocuted ones.

So our house is too pitiful for me to invite any friends home (don't believe any other rumour you might hear). The only good thing about Dad being such a softie is that I can almost always con my way (especially if I use goo-goo eyes or guilt him out about my lack of a mother (but that's another story (and not really his fault (Aren't brackets fun?))))…


I jolted with surprise as hall fans kicked in, blowing away the smoke.

'Erasmus!' My dad focused on me at last.

'That's my name,' I replied, casually waving away my burp fumes. (In case you readers haven't guessed, I'm also the hero and teller of this story (a story that is 95 % true).) 'What went boom this time?'

'Who boom?' My dad flicked at his burning ear hair. 'Oh, that boom! Well, I wanted to celebrate, so I decided to light up a cigar. Unfortunately, in my excitement, I failed to notice the build up of methane caused by the close proximity of a certain flatulent camel named Abdul.'

I began to untangle myself. 'So camel fart gas caused your lab to blow up? Cool!'
'There was a fire, but I put it out.' My dad suddenly looked right at me. 'How'd you get that black eye, Erasmus?'

'Oh… that?' I fingered my still-sore cheek. 'Ah… cricket ball. Hazard of being small and hating cricket, I guess.'

'Hmm…' Dad raised one smouldering eyebrow.

I quickly changed the subject. 'Um, you said you were celebrating something?'

'Yes!' My dad jolted back to his happy state. 'I've finally finished it! The Nobel Prize will be ours!'

'I'm happy for you, Dad,' I yawned. 'But I'm busy, um… e-mailing my stockbroker in Singapore.'

'Your fiendish schemes can wait, Raz. You simply must see my latest invention!' With a smile almost off his dial, my dad ignored my frown and picked up my roller chair, indicating I should sit. I grumbled, and sat. 'Let's roll!' Dad laughed, scaring the one-eyed cat skulking outside the toilet door.

I sighed and figured I'd better play along. After all, my dad did pay my generous pocket money, and he was pushing me down the zigzag hall at speed, and I did love speed. Plus I didn't want him to check my room too closely. Besides, he seemed so excited, even I was becoming a bit interested.

'Eeeeh!' My dad imitated a car braking as he pulled my chair to a skidding halt. A bandaged puppy slid by, her three legs skittering. We were outside the secret door, beyond which a solar powered escalator led to my dad's even more secret lab in the basement. Normally, I wasn't allowed down there (though I had snuck in before (roughly 367 times)).

'Are you ready, Raz?' My dad grinned. 'Ready to see the most amazing invention in the history of inventions?'

I humoured him, and nodded. A willy wagtail with a bandaged wing plonked in my lap.

'Stupid bird. Poop in someone else's lap.' I stood up. 'Let's go, Crazy Dad.'

'Look out,' he warned.

I ducked, and a ferret in a mini hang-glider cursed past my ear. Crazy Dad grinned even harder and reached out toward his secret door.


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