Which is really good. All my characters first appear in my imagination. The essence of their story, what happens in their thoughts and feelings as the story unfolds, the ways the characters change by the end of the story, everything grows out of that meeting. But not entirely. Usually characters appear in my imagination unexpectedly, seemingly for their own reasons. But sometimes I go looking for them.
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Which is really good. Bomb wind can really put you off your soccer skills. Newcastle United lunges at me. I dodge the tackle. I dazzle him with footwork. I weave one way, then the other. The ball at my feet is a blur, and not just because the heat coming off the desert is making the air wobble.
But I manage to avoid his big boots and flick the ball between his legs. Grinning, I duck past him, steer the ball round the mudguard of a wrecked troop carrier, and find myself in front of the goal. Yusuf crouches between two piles of rubble, not taking his eyes off the ball at my toes. Ask any of the seven kids in my school.
But this time I want to score myself. I want to give a desert warrior whoop and smack the ball with all my strength and watch it whiz past Yusuf like a Scud missile. Just once. I decide to shoot low and try for a curve.
You have to with Yusuf. I can hear Aziz and Mussa thudding towards me. I steady myself and shoot. Just like last time. And all the times before that. The ball trickles towards Yusuf. Just picks it up and chucks it back over my head. Zoltan is looking at me as though an American air strike has hit me in the head and scrambled my brains. Nobody says a word. Their faces are frozen. Their mouths are open.
I turn and look fearfully at the figure behind us. A kid in a very familiar dress and headcloth. Bibi has the ball at her feet. She starts dribbling towards us.
We all back away. Come on, you soft lumps of camel poop, tackle me. This person putting us all in danger is a member of my family. My first thought is to yell at her. Two years ago I used to get distracted and forget things too. She must have forgotten that females have to keep their faces covered at all times out of doors.
And it must have slipped her mind that girls playing soccer is completely, totally and absolutely against the law. I open my mouth to remind Bibi about all this, then close it. They stare at me, confused. Now they understand. We all lunge at Bibi. Without slowing down she sidesteps Aziz, weaves past Mussa, and flicks the ball between my legs. You promised. Yusuf, uncertain, crouches on the goal line, eyes on the ball.
Zoltan has caught up with her. All Zoltan can think about is getting a shot at goal. I want her to have a shot herself.
Bibi ignores him. Without steadying herself or pausing to pull up her skirt, she shoots. Yusuf dives, but the ball scuds past his fingers and hurtles into the rocket crater behind him.
Panting, she gives me a proud grin. I grin back. Aziz and Mussa and Zoltan are staring dumbstruck after the ball, which has disappeared over the other side of the rocket crater. The three of them sprint away. I sprint after Bibi. On the other side of the rocket crater is the open desert.
Boy Overboard Essay
Morris Gleitzman - Boy Overboard