Chapters 7-12

In this part of the novel, Calma and Kiffo try to find out more about the mysterious MIss Payne. They follow her to a warehouse where they see her receiving a large bag of white powder. Calma barely escapes from Miss Payne’s vicious dog, leaving behind a tell-tale red sneaker…

The reader is also given greater insight into the character of Kiffo. Concerned that the whole school thinks she’s in love with Miss Payne, she visits Kiffo at home and receives some surprisingly astute advice. “I don’t look for people’s approval and you shouldn’t neither,” he says. “What you did for me was real good, a real nice thing to do…if it’s caused other people to think bad of you, well that’s their problem, not yours.”

The flashbacks continue to give us an insight into how the friendship between Calma and Kiffo evolved. Calma also reveals she feels sorry for the troubled teen: “I had little first-hand knowledge of the kind of life he led, but I knew that it was loveless and full of casual cruelty. I felt even closer to him than normal. Not the sort of closeness you feel for the underprivileged, when your own comfortable existence is held up to theirs. Not the sort that is tinged with guilt. I just felt – and I know this sounds really obvious and almost childish – that we were both here and human. That for all our differences we were still, like the rest of humanity, ninety-nine per cent indistinguishable from each other.”


At the beginning of the novel, Kiffo is established as a lout and a troublemaker. Partway into the book we discover that there’s more to him than meets the eye. Explain what you learn about KIffo in this section of the novel using appropriate textual evidence. A good place to start is pages 82-88.


In Chapter 11, Calma imagines what the principal Mr Di Matteo might have written in his job application.

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Dear Sir,

I wish to apply for the position of Principal, as advertised in your Education Bulletin of 3 March. I am 50 years old and have looked this way since I was 20. For a period of three years, in my early teens, I possessed a rudimentary sense of humour, though I have long since misplaced it. I do not like or understand children, who appear to me to be somewhat distasteful in their personal and social habits. I once had a creative thought, but have unfortunately forgotten what it was. Throughout my teaching career, I have relied on networking and unashamed are-licking for the promotions I have received. In turn, I have promoted people like myself. As a consequence, every school I have taught at has been dominated in the upper echelons of management by grey and unimaginative minds.

I have continued to keep abreast of educational developments, recently completing my Advanced Diploma in Senior High School Information Technology. I am proud to be able to write Dip. Shit after my name. Given my background of mediocrity and managerial incompetence, I feel I am over-qualified for the position described. I also feel that your remuneration package of $120,000 per annum, plus company car, would allow me to comfortably see out my time to retirement.

Yours Faithfully,

Liam J Di Matteo


Using a similar tone to Calma, imagine what Miss Payne might have written in her job application. Be sarcastic, be clever, be interesting! You might write about:

• Miss Payne’s unique approach to classroom management

• The fear and terror she’s inspired in students at other schools

• How her educational philosophy has been influenced by the great dictators of our time


Define the following words: dubious, irony, ambience, insubstantial, mercenary, clairvoyant, silhouette, disembodied, semaphore, gingerly, swaddle, baleful, exploit, discriminate.

Key quotations

• Calma says she loves Miss Payne because she’s loyal to her good friend, p.59.

• “Funnily enough, I’d never actually been to his house before, but I knew where he lived. It was not the kind of neighbourhood that you tended to go into if you could avoid it.” p.81.

• “The place stank of old socks, sweat, tobacco and despair.” p.82.

• “No one has never done nothing like that for me.” p.83.

• “I’ve spent my whole life deal thing with people who think I’m a step below a cockroach. Do I let that worry me? Hell, I am what I am.” I don’t look for people’s approval and you shouldn’t neither.” p.84

• “I don’t look for people’s approval and you shouldn’t neither. What you did for me was real good, a real nice thing to do.”

• “…the evidence of Kiffo’s bleak existence.” p.85

• Calma notices a picture frame in Kiffo’s house that had “obviously been polished recently.” p.86.

• “I’m not pretending to be anything, Calma. I’m me, that’s all.” p.87.

• “Dad’ll be home soon, full of grog and wanting dinner. If it’s not ready for him, there’ll be trouble.” p.89.

• “I had little first-hand knowledge of the kind of life he led, but I knew that it was loveless and full of casual cruelty.” p. 89.

• Calma is being threatened by a bully, Kiffo defends her, p.108.

• Calma lets Kiffo copy from her during a test, p.129.