An excerpt from The Rage of Sheep

The Rage of Sheep by Michelle Cooper

I waited until they'd made their rowdy way down to the back of the bus, then climbed up the steps in a quietly dignified manner, just to show them how it was supposed to be done. Unfortunately, Bruce decided to drive off before I was quite ready for it. Clutching at the back of a seat, I regained my balance and looked up just in time to see my Maths teacher, Ms Olivier, zip past in her red hatchback. Mr Everett was slouched beside her in the passenger seat, his knees propped against the dashboard, and I remembered I'd often seen them talking together. Which reminded me that Natalie hadn't got around to telling me whatever it was that 'everyone' was saying about Mr Everett. She'd had a glint in her eye as she'd said it, the kind of look she got whenever she had an especially juicy piece of gossip to relate. It never ended up being as interesting as she made out, though. Mostly it involved people getting engaged, or pregnant, or both – generally people I'd never heard of.

'Here! Catch!' shouted someone behind me. A freckled redhead dashed up the aisle, making futile snatches at a beanie that was being tossed from seat to seat.

'Youse lot better sit down or I'm stoppin' right here and youse can all bloody walk!' shouted Bruce. As usual, everyone ignored him. Scowling, he swerved violently off the highway onto the Vale of Clwyd road. We were now practically in my backyard – I could even see the sheets hanging snap-frozen on our Hills Hoist – but the stupid bus route took us another five kilometres along a meandering dirt road before I could get off at my stop. I stared out the window as we rattled along between rock-strewn paddocks, the shadows of the gum trees stretching long and thin towards the cliffs. Just past the bridge, we startled a grey clump of sheep huddled next to the fence. They gaped at us for a moment, then made the collective decision to bolt uphill in a mad panic. We passed those sheep every morning and every afternoon, and they always reacted the exact same way. What did they think we were going to do? Leap the fence and eat them? Sheep were so dumb.

We stopped to drop some kids off next to their hayshed and my thoughts wandered back to Mr Everett. I tried to imagine what his shocking secret could possibly be. It wasn't very likely he was pregnant. Maybe he was secretly engaged to Ms Olivier, although that really wasn't very scandalous. Unless he was already married to someone else. I didn't think he was. He didn't seem married –

Suddenly a banana skin whizzed past my ear and slapped wetly against the window.

'Oops, slipped out of me hand!' shouted Julie Jameson, and the back of the bus rocked with laughter.

I ground my teeth. Karen had told us that if we ever found ourselves tempted to behave in an unChristian way, we just had to ask ourselves, What would Jesus do? And then do that.

Something hard pinged off the back of my seat and bounced down the aisle.

And I realised then that I had far more important things to think about than Mr Everett's love life. Right now, I needed to concentrate on what Jesus would have done if the Jameson sisters had started chucking Jaffas at His head.

Excerpted from The Rage of Sheep © Michelle Cooper
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Random House Australia. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.