This complimentary excerpt from DOWN UNDER: Kussins.
The “Ding” sound beckoned Driew’s chasers.
Driew’s big sister, Killiope, had left for bootcamp a week ago, after her high school graduation. He anticipated a summer break between his sixth and seventh grades, free of sibling torture—not the case. Her handed-down cell phone blasted cryptic messages to him.
”U LOST SOMETHING! MEET U OUTBACK W/ IT”
Driew responded to the text message reluctantly.
Driew thrust the phone over the bluff into the Tradewater River below. You bounces can reach me in person, he thought. Driew refused to accept the bully’s texts. Enduring torments from his remaining bothers and sinisters was enough.
His parents had felt giving Driew a cell phone was pointless, knowing he wouldn’t have service or any intentions to use it while on his Outback adventures. He settled their concerns with that one toss.
Bounces possess unlimited bullying power using uncaring devices. Hurling stoney words online and in person hurts.
Driew felt their painful attack—instantaneously. A white object struck his back. The pain stung between his shoulder blades like his big bother Pester’s lacrosse ball. He ran from the three hooded figures, no longer the four he had been running from his entire life.
Cryptic text messages led him to discover his discarded items in the early summer Outback. Meeting the bounces seemed like an ace idea.
Cawing crows alerted the chasers to Driew’s location. Disguised calls chased behind him, as he tore through new saw briars and blossoming honeysuckle vines.
”There is no family crueler than ours!” called a winded chaser.
The Qweepies’ tired barn silhouetted against the half moon on the ridge. Home at last! The promise of safety, Driew thought, catapulting over the board fence, separating field from forest.
Inside the barn’s shelter, Driew hid inside the last remaining vehicle from the farm cleanup. As he hunkered in the front seat, silhouettes marched along the barn door opening. Why torture me?
He felt for the cell phone’s light, realizing the phone now lit the way toward the Mississippi River. Within a week, he had developed a reliance on its addictive apps and features.
Thirst tightened around his throat, strangling for moisture. He longed for his canteen filled with his Australian friend Gulia’s well water. Having no water or knife left him stranded, armed with only his boomerang. Casting was more dangerous in the dark; the boomerang might hurt him upon its return. The one thing I control, I don’t understand, Driew thought.
From the doorway, three figures surveyed the lifeless barn for Driew’s whereabouts. The tallest culprit stepped into the barn, disappearing in its evening shadows.
An eerie hiss tore through the barn’s dark rafters. The sound grated across Driew’s skin causing his body to paralyze with fear.
”Bobcat! Let’s get outta here!”
Mumbles of fear and laughter raced from the barn, followed by their three shrinking shadows.
Bobcats comforted Driew more than bothers and sinister’s attacks. He guardedly made his way through the barn’s shadows into the field toward the farmhouse’s back porch light.
His parents’ profiles sipped drinks under the porch light. They were acclimated to open-air living and southern cuisine. Driew was acclimated to nightly runs toward their safety.