The Bottle Flippers League

‘Just focus.’ Eleven-year-old Billy Nottage tried desperately not to think about his pathetic turns in the Bottle Flippers League that morning. But when his bottle barely touched the edge of the desk before thudding to the floor, the whole miserable picture flooded back to him. Then his mother’s voice came up from the lounge. ‘Billy, would you please stop the thud- thudding for a bit? My head can’t stand it.’

Billy rolled his eyes. Parents just didn’t get this stuff. He was skinny and awkward and always picked last for games but, for once, he’d made it into a good league in one of the competitions that Year Six played at break. So, he was doing everything he could to keep that spot. And that meant everything.

He flipped again. The bottle fell straight to the ground.

This time, his mother’s voice was louder – much louder. ‘I said st-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-p!’

Billy flung himself into his chair and video- called his best and only mate, Tommo, who soon answered.

‘I just tried a triple flip,’ Tommo told him. ‘Landed two out of three.’

‘Well, that’s not gonna get you off the bottom of the ladder. Danny Albretti flipped eight in a row last week.’

‘I’ve never got so close to a triple before. I’m happy.’

Tommo was always happy. He never got upset, never bothered when he came bottom of everything. All that not minding… Billy just didn’t get it.

‘Robert Baker’s got a whole room set up for practice. It used to be their dining room, but his mum doesn’t mind cos he’s not staring at a screen all day.’

‘Yeah, that’s why he’s fourth on the ladder and we’re bottom,’ Billy grumped.

‘I’m third bottom,’ Tommo corrected him. ‘Anyway, my mum doesn’t mind me practising, she just can’t see the point.’

Wow! Somewhere to flip bottles all day without being told to stop. Billy thought about the rooms in his house as Tommo talked.

‘Anyway, we can—’

‘Wa-a-a-it,’ Billy cut in. ‘Back in thirty. I’m gonna check out an idea.’ He ran up the wooden staircase to the attic and peered in. It was dim, dusty and almost full of junk: suitcases, a battered pram, even an old mattress leaning against a post. But it was a space that no one used and a long way from everyone else in the house. Billy sneezed with the dust and stepped inside.