THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL IS always the worst day of the year. It's like some crazy surgeon throws you on an operating table and removes a major organ from your chest called summer. He doesn't realize how much a kid
that organ, as much as a liver or a spleen.
I feel almost bruised being back at school, and I haven't even made it
to class yet. Maybe if I go to the nurse, she'll take pity on me and hook me up to an emergency life support system. But before I can make any last wishes, my friend Matt punches me in the arm and jolts me back from my daytime nightmare.
“This year definitely won't be as bad as the others.” Matt realizes the price tag is hanging from the sleeve of his shirt so he yanks it off as we talk.
When we found out we would have Mr. Maroni this year, Matt and I were
excited about school.
“It'll be great to finally have a guy teacherâI've never had one.” I imagine a school filled with male teachers, couches, potato chips, and flat-screen TVs.
Matt shakes me from my reverie
by making a buzzing noise like they use on game shows to get rid of a losing contestant. “They just announced that Mr. Maroni's father died two days ago, and Mr. Maroni is moving to Cincinnati to take care of his mother.”
“WHAT?” The first day of school is bad enough without getting hit with a massive curveball while you're still at your locker.
“Want to know who we have instead?” Matt asks.
I can't even begin to guess who'll be the master of my universe this year.
It's not that I dislike Ms. McCoddleâshe's nice, young, and has super-blond hairâbut Matt and I had her way back in kindergarten,
and even though we're totally grown up now, she still thinks of us as kids. It was fine when we were five and she told us to call her Ms. McCuddles and hugged us when we fell during recess, but now we're almost embarrassed when we see her in the hall.
I try to analyze our new situation. “Option oneâMs. McCoddle is easy on us since she's used to dealing with little kids, and we won't have to plug in our brains all year.”
Matt offers a different opinion. “Option twoâshe tries to make up for being a kindergarten teacher by being super hard on us.”
“The one year we're supposed to get a guy teacherâfigures something would happen to mess it up.”
Our worst fears are realized when Ms. McCoddle walks by. “Derek! Matt! Did you hear the good news?”
We look down at our sneakers and nod.
“I'm setting up the mats and juice boxes now. Want to help?”
Matt and I stare at her like she's just asked us to run over the principal with our skateboards.
Ms. McCoddle laughs so hard, she snorts. “I'm kidding! We're starting right in on the Civil War. Get ready for some fierce discussion.”
We watch her walk down the hall with a feeling of dread.
“Option two is officially in effect,” Matt says.
I barely hear him because I'm halfway down the hall, looking for the janitor, hoping he'll agree to knock me on the head with a mallet to put me out of my misery.