Haywire – a taster

A little taster from my novel “Haywire” which was published mid-pandemic. Notice the lovely silver sticker? “Haywire” was shortlisted in this year’s NSW Premier’s History Awards.

Tom (Hay NSW) October 1939

There is silence around the dinner table: no plate-clinking, no elbow-jostling, no open-mouth chewing, no seat-wriggling.

Nothing normal.

Mick and Pete have joined up. Joined the army. Volunteered to go fight in the war.

‘The militia?’

The militia are a sort of home army. They won’t go overseas but do stuff here. I’m not really sure what.

Pete shakes his head.

They’re going on a ship. Overseas. To fight against Hitler and the Germans. Like we see in the newsreels each Saturday.

Mum’s face is paler than it was the time I nearly cut my finger off. Dad stares into the distance. Mick’s chin is out. Pete scratches at something interesting on the tablecloth.

My big sister, Joanie, opens and closes her mouth like a landed fish. Her boyfriend is in the militia and she reckons she knows everything. But my little sister beats her.

Mary takes a big, noisy breath. ‘But people get killed at war!’

Max (Bockhurst, Germany) October 1939

I am in mathematics class, turning numbers into angles.

If I’d known what was about to happen, perhaps I would have cleared my desk.

Or told Markus Kleinitz what I really thought of him.

I know I definitely wouldn’t have worried as much about geometry.

But I didn’t know.

I thought it was a normal day.

The school secretary whispers to Mr Weber, then waits by the door. Mr Weber looks at me and I wonder what I’ve done.

‘Gruber.’ He nods in the direction of the door.

I untangle my legs and follow the secretary down the central corridor of the middle school, all the way to the office.

There at the end is my mother. Why isn’t she at work?

‘Danke.’ Mutti nods at the secretary. ‘Come, Max,’ she says and hands me my coat, hat and scarf. ‘Your grandmother is gravely ill. We must go to her at once.’

I frown. Oma died more than a year ago. I open my mouth to ask. Mutti shakes her head, just a little, but enough so I close my mouth again and wind my scarf around my neck.

Still she says nothing.

Mutti retrieves a knapsack from the snow steps and threads my arms into it. It’s heavy.

Haywire is a novel for 10+ and travels from Germany, via England to outback town Hay, where Tom, son of local baker, meets Max, German internee who arrives via the Dunera with 2500 other internees in the small, quiet inland town of Hay. Both boys are trapped in lives not of their choosing.

Available for purchase here, here, here, and independent bookshops everywhere.