Josh Plowman, fourteen, in distress and disgrace on his first visit to ancient and peculiar Aunt Clara, who reads his poems without asking (""Mum, she's taken a liberty you'd never dream of"") and packs him a ""donkey's lunch"" to open in front of the strangely hostile country boys she pushes him to play with. . . Harry and the others sneering and treacherous, tripping him at the gate, setting a rabbit trap for him, threatening (""Don't go to Cricket. They'll get you""). . . predatory fat Laura jumping off a bridge to impress him. . . Bill maliciously supplying him with cricket pants made for ""a dwarf with an elephant's belly"". . . Josh picking a fight with Bill, getting the worst of it, causing the game to be cancelled. . . thwarted players from both towns converging on Josh, whooping, ""pushing him through bushes, bouncing and wrenching him, flying wildly through the air, water crashing all around him. . . Josh drowning"". . . suddenly remorse, rescue, solicitude (""No, no. Don't resuscitate me. I couldn't stand it""). . . Josh not ratting. . . Later, the air cleared, Aunt Clara smiling: ""'They respect you now, Josh. You've been what this town needed, a catharsis.' 'Oh Aunt Clara, what a horrible thing to call me.'"" Josh's dilemma in accessible trickles of consciousness, sharp dry bursts of humor relieving the painful immediacy, Southall's sure instinct for making the most of a misunderstanding propelling these Australian antagonists along, and you with them.