Authors: Wendelin Van Draanen
“Wait! No. It doesn't have anything to do with that. It's just… it's just this girl at school that's got me all, you know, tweaked.” And because I was embarrassed that she thought I was grumpy because she wasn't paying me, I wound up blurting out a whole lot more than I normally would have.
When I finally shut up about Heather Acosta, Mrs. Willawago let out a little cackle and said, “Heather sounds a lot like Coralee Lyon.”
“Coralee Lyon. You don't read the paper?”
I scowled. “I live in this town—I sure don't want to read about it.”
She nodded, then said, “Well, Coralee Lyon—or Coralee Abbot, as she'll always be to me—now rules the roost of our city council, but back in junior high school she was not pleased with her place in the pecking order. She did all manner of sinful things to remedy that.” She gave me a knowing look. “Lucifer still dwells deep in Coralee's heart, but people don't see him because she's learned to disguise her tactics.”
“Oh great,” I grumbled. “So you're telling me Heather'll never change?”
She laughed. “Who but God can write history in advance? But until she walks through the door of repentance, it'd be easiest on you to simply avoid her. I haven't spoken to Coralee in years.” She looked toward the ceiling. “Thanks be to God.”
So you see how much help talking to Mrs. Willawago was. And talking to Grams wasn't much better. “Good heavens, Samantha,” she said. “If her end goal is to win some popularity contest, let her. Besides, the popular people in
junior high and high school all fizzled.”
“But what if she turns out like Coralee Lyon?”
“Some brat Mrs. Willawago went to school with who's now ruling the roost on the city council.” I hesitated. “What
the city council, anyway?”
Grams laughed. “A group of people who make decisions about Santa Martina's growth and development.” She eyed me. “In other words, she's not ruling much of a roost.”
Still. I didn't sleep very well that night thinking about how people like Heather and Coralee Lyon shouldn't be allowed to rule roosts of
kind, even flea-infested ones like Santa Martina or William Rose Junior High.
The next morning I woke up ridiculously early and started brooding about the Class Personality nominations some more. And since there was no way I was going to get back to sleep, I finally just got up, took a shower, ate
breakfast, packed a lunch, and went to school. And instead of tearing onto campus at the last second like I usually do, I arrived a whole fifteen minutes early.
There were other kids around and everything, but I didn't see my friends, so I decided to go drop off my backpack and skateboard in homeroom. That's one nice thing about Mrs. Ambler—unlike a lot of the other teachers, she unlocks the classroom early so you
drop off your backpack or just meet up with your friends and get in out of the cold. Usually she's at her desk grading papers or reading a book, but lots of times she's going between the classroom and the office, taking care of teacher business.
Now, since I was so early, it crossed my mind that I might have the chance to ask Mrs. Ambler how Heather got on the ballot. Or maybe I'd just ask her how kids on the ballot were nominated.
Of course on
thought, that might make it look like I was sore because
hadn't been nominated for anything, which I didn't care about, but I didn't want it to
like I cared. I mean,
like you care is way worse than actually caring.
But thinking all that through turned out to be a big waste of mental energy, because when I arrived at the classroom, no one was there. Well, no
, anyway. The birds were there, but it wasn't until I was inside that I noticed that one of them was out of the cage. And flapping for the open door.
The doors at my school are heavy-duty metal. Every one of them has a small wire-mesh window, a kick-down doorstop, and a hydraulic closer so it automatically shuts. Most of the classrooms have a whole wall of windows right next to the door, so I don't know
they're such heavy-duty doors, but they are.
And in all my junior high experience I can honestly say that I'd never been in a hurry to
a classroom door before. Open and dash in, yes. Close? Never.
So when I whipped around and pushed on the door to make sure the bird didn't escape, I learned something new about hydraulic closers—they can't be rushed. I mean, there I am, pushing like crazy on that door, but the stupid thing's fighting back, taking its old sweet time, closing at its own sweet pace.
So I drop my skateboard, plant both hands on the door, and really
into it. And all of a sudden
, the closer gives way and the door slams shut.
I look up for the flyaway bird but freeze with both hands still on the door. There, a foot above my head, is one beautiful, fluffy, blue-and-green bird butt sticking straight out of the doorjamb. And above it, pointing up to heaven, is one perfectly still, outstretched wing.
I cry, whipping the door back open. But with a little
, the bird drops to the floor.
I pick him up and whimper, “Oh no! Oh no, no, no!” but it's plain to see—little Tango has danced his last
dance. I hold him in the palm of my hand and stare. There isn't even any blood. He's just kind of… broken. And inside
feel broken, too. How can this be?
And as I'm standing there, holding this poor broken bird in my hand, I glance up, and through the door's window I see someone coming up the walkway toward the classroom.
My heart stops midbeat.
It's not Mrs. Ambler.
No, it's someone much,
Published by Yearling
an imprint of Random House Children's Books
a division of Random House, Inc.
Text copyright © 2004 by Wendelin Van Draanen Parsons
Illustrations copyright © 2004 by Dan Yaccarino
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in
any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the
written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law. For
information address Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.
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