Olivia Rushin

It was clearly once the world, but nothing’s where it should be.

The lumpy sphere has swivelled off its axis; the wire orb frame underneath is all warped and lopsided. A piece of Australia — cobbled together out of juice bottles and covered over with sheets of painted newspaper — dangles from an unravelled piece of tape on one side. North America hangs tenuously nearby, having somehow slipped down and hooked itself on the crooked hoop of the equator.

Even half-collapsed, the globe is too big for the kid to properly bend his elbows in. His arms sprout from two jagged holes cut into the top, like knobbed twigs stuck into the sides of a snowman. He waddles down the corridor, and when he inevitably gets stuck on the way into the office, leans his weight forward to pop himself through the door.

The whole contraption rotates as he pauses to size up the well-worn chair in front of the desk. He reverses up to it, hops, and plants his butt as far back as he can.

It’s a squeeze — the already mangled costume bends even more, scraping streaks of blue and green paint onto the metal arms of the chair as he settles in. Loose continents of takeaway containers groan on gaping fault lines. Bottle-cap mountain ranges clink and quake. He clutches the seat of the chair for stability.

 “Right, so. David, isn’t it? Want to tell me what happened?”

David’s bottom lip quivers nearly as much as the slumped mess of detritus caught in his orbit. The principal senses a long and sniffly silence stretching out, so breaks it before it grows.

“Miss Thornberg told me you gave an excellent presentation to the class today.”

Still nothing. David just droops and stares down at his bruised shins.

The principal tries again. “After we had our talk, I found these behind the science block. Want them back?”

She holds out a stack of dirt-smeared palm cards. David’s wobbly printing is a little smudged but still legible. The top card reads:

Good morning, 2B. My name is David and for my presentation today I am Earth. 

David’s eyes flick up, and he leverages himself forward to grab the cards. He picks at the corners until the sharp card turns blunt.

 “My costume was way better than this,” he says eventually. “Mum said I should use paper maché but I told her that was bad for the environment so we did it with not-smelly things from the bin instead.”

“I can see that. Very clever of you, David.”

He swallows, nods, and turns to look out the window. His gaze is distant, fixed somewhere beyond the wattle trees swaying outside.

“Yeah. I did the cutting myself for the cereal boxes and the newspaper so we could make a smooth surface for the…” he hesitates and grimaces, eyebrows contorting with effort as he tries to remember the term without his palm cards.

“The Earth’s crust?”

His face relaxes, blooms a smile.

“Yeah. And the oceans.”

The principal smiles back. 

“I bet it looked awesome when it was all in one piece. Hope you and your mum took a photo?”

David shakes his head solemnly.

“Oh. Well that’s okay. All of your classmates saw it, didn’t they? I’m sure it made a big impression.”

David squints again.

“What’s —”

“A big impression just means that they saw it, and they’ll probably remember it because it made them think. You can think of it like planting a seed in their brains. A seed that might grow into something really positive one day.”

David’s shoulders sag, and it’s like planet Earth heaves a sigh with him. 

“Od-viously I didn’t plant anything, then,” he says, huffing. He starts prodding the wrinkles of a scrunched up plastic bag, adrift on a swathe of blue cardboard still miraculously in tact at his front.

“I had a bit where I told them facts about the Great Specific —” He sucks in a breath.  “— Pacific Garbage Patch. Like how it’s as big as three times France and mostly made of fishing nets and how it tricks the turtles by making them eat bags.”

The principal sits back, taps her pen. Eyes the takeaway coffee cup on her desk.

“I’m sure your classmates will have learned a lot, David.”

David shakes his head emphatically, and again everything clatters.

“No. Because as soon as I left for morning tea, Harper and Brayden and Isabella came and told me that I was a garbage patch and should be called The Germ-inator and that my Earth looked like a dumb piñata.”

He looks right at the principal, gauging her reaction. 

“And they said that if they kept hitting it maybe lollies would come out.”

“I see.”

There’s a pause. David goes back to rustling he plastic bag and shrugs.

“I didn’t put any lollies in it.” he says. “They’re not recycled.”


Miss Thornberg keeps the culprits back at lunch. She herds them up through the playground and back to the science block, where fragments of David’s costume pepper everything from the bag racks to the bushes. They collect up all the scattered bits and bottle caps, dump them unceremoniously in the red bin, and leg it back to the playground as soon as they’re let go.

Lunch break’s nearly over by the time Brayden manages to sneak back to the bin.

After checking none of his friends bothered to follow, he dives in head first, bent at the waist, and tosses out every last piece of rubbish they threw in before clambering out to sort it meticulously into piles on the concrete.

One pile for hard plastic, one pile for soft plastics — shopping bags, mostly (the things that trick turtles, he thinks, as he pins them down with a rock) — and a last pile for the cardboard and paper.

He sorts them and checks them, then ferries each lot to the corresponding bin, until every last piece is in its place.

  • Olivia Rushin
  • 24
  • Melbourne
  • Wordcount: 1000

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