I hold my breath as Alfie’s robot zips across the classroom floor. Wheels spinning, it races into the maze and takes the first corner without slowing down. Left! Right! Right! Left! The little purple robot navigates the wooden block corridors with reckless speed.
When it reaches the exit it beeps twice, flashes its lights and does a triumphant bunny hop over the finish line. Then, whistling a cheery tune, it buzzes around Mrs Glock’s desk, rockets past the line of fire extinguishers, dodges an attempt by Colin Murphy to catch it in a wastepaper basket, and finishes with a victory lap around our class model of the Harbour Bridge.
Alfie picks up the robot and gives it a pat. ‘Great work, Alfie Junior! That was totally molten!’ He turns to me and grins like he’s just won a lifetime supply of chocolate. ‘See, Wednesday? I told you it was easy.’
I roll my eyes. ‘Alfie, you know I love you, right?’
And before you start, I don’t mean it like that. Obviously.
Alfie knows what I mean. ‘Of course, you do,’ he says, spreading his arms wide. His white school shirt is buttoned all the way to the top, he has a hankie folded in his top pocket, and his black hair sticks up like the bristles on a brush. ‘What’s not to love?’
Alfie’s my best friend – okay, technically my only friend – and I know it’s not his fault he’s a genius. But sometimes – especially times like now, when my whole future is on the line and I’m trying to concentrate – I wish he could dial it back a little. That’s all. You know, just a smidge.
I just don’t know how to tell him without coming across like a total grouch.
I let out a sigh. ‘Never mind.’
I look down at my own blue robot, sitting motionless on the carpet. Apart from the colour, it’s identical to Alfie Junior – like a rectangular grapefruit with eyes and four-wheel-drive tyres. I know I’ll never be able to get my robot to perform like Alfie’s, but that’s okay. I don’t need it to do anything fancy. All I need to do is get it through the maze. Or, at least, past the second corner. Mrs Glock told us everyone who gets past the second corner will pass the assessment.