Authors: R. L. Stine
Judith Bellwood deliberately tripped me in math class.
I saw her white sneaker shoot out into the aisle. Too late.
I was carrying my notebook up to the chalkboard to put a problem on the board. My eyes were on the scrawls in my notebook. I’m not the neatest writer in the world.
And before I could stop, I saw the white sneaker shoot out. I tripped over it and went sprawling to the floor, landing hard on my elbows and knees. Of course all the papers flew out of my notebook and scattered everywhere.
And the whole class thought it was a riot. Everyone was laughing and cheering as I struggled to pull myself up. Judith and her pal Anna Frost laughed hardest of all.
I landed on my funny bone, and the pain vibrated up and down my whole body. As I climbed to my
feet and then bent to pick up my notebook papers, I knew my face was as red as a tomato.
“Nice move, Sam!” Anna called, a big grin on her face.
“Instant replay!” someone else shouted.
I glanced up to see a triumphant glow in Judith’s green eyes.
I’m the tallest girl in my seventh-grade class. No. Correct that. I’m the tallest
in my seventh-grade class. I’m at least two inches taller than my friend Cory Blinn, and he’s the tallest guy.
I’m also the biggest klutz who ever stumbled over the face of the earth. I mean, just because I’m tall and slender doesn’t mean I have to be graceful. And believe me, I’m not.
But why is it such a riot when I stumble over a wastebasket or drop my tray in the lunchroom or trip over someone’s foot in math class?
Judith and Anna are just cruel, that’s all.
I know they both call me Stork behind my back. Cory told me they do.
And Judith is always making fun of my name, which is Byrd. Samantha Byrd.
“Why don’t you fly away, Byrd!”
That’s what she’s always saying to me. Then she and Anna laugh as if that’s the funniest joke they’ve ever heard.
“Why don’t you fly away, Byrd!”
Ha-ha. Big joke.
Cory says that Judith is just jealous of me. But that’s stupid. I mean, why should Judith be jealous? She’s not nine feet tall. She’s about five-two, perfect for a twelve-year-old. She’s graceful. She’s athletic. And she’s really pretty, with pale, creamy skin, big green eyes, and wavy copper-colored hair down to her shoulders.
So what’s to be jealous about?
I think Cory is just trying to make me feel better — and doing a
job of it.
Anyway, I gathered all my papers together and shoved them back into the notebook. Sharon asked if I was okay. (Sharon is my math teacher. We call all the teachers by their first names here at Montrose Middle School.)
I muttered that I was fine, even though my elbow was throbbing like crazy. And I copied the problem on the board.
The chalk squeaked, and everyone groaned and complained. I can’t help it. I’ve never been able to write on the board without squeaking the chalk.
a big deal —
I heard Judith whisper some crack about me to Anna, but I couldn’t hear what it was. I glanced up from the problem to see the two of them snickering and smirking at me.
And wouldn’t you know it — I couldn’t solve the problem. I had something wrong with the equation, and I couldn’t figure out what.
Sharon stepped up behind me, her skinny arms crossed over her ugly chartreuse sweater. She moved her lips as she read what I had written, trying to see where I had gone wrong.
And of course Judith raised her hand and called out, “I see the problem, Sharon. Byrd can’t add. Four and two is six, not five.”
I could feel myself blushing again.
Where would I be without Judith to point out my mistakes to the whole class?
Everyone was laughing again. Even Sharon thought it was funny.
And I had to stand there and take it. Good old Samantha, the class klutz. The class idiot.
My hand was shaking as I erased my stupid mistake and wrote in the right numbers.
At Judith. And at myself.
But I kept it together as I walked — carefully — back to my seat. I didn’t even glance at Judith as I walked past her.
I kept it together until Home Ec. class that afternoon.
Then it got ugly.
Daphne is our teacher in Home Ec. I like Daphne. She is a big, jolly woman with several chins and a great sense of humor.
The rumor is that Daphne always makes us bake cakes and pies and brownies so that she can eat them all after we leave the class.
That’s kind of mean, I think. But it’s probably a little bit true.
We have Home Ec. right after lunch, so we’re never very hungry. Most of what we make wouldn’t make good
anyway. So it mostly gets left in the Home Ec. room.
I always look forward to the class. Partly because Daphne is a fun teacher. And partly because it’s the one class where there’s no homework.
The only bad thing about Home Ec. class is that Judith is in it, too.
Judith and I had a little run-in in the lunchroom. I sat down at the far end of the table, as far away
from her as I could get. But I still heard her telling a couple of eighth-graders, “Byrd tried to fly in math class.”
Everyone laughed and stared at me.
“You tripped me, Judith!” I shouted angrily. My mouth was full of egg salad, which dribbled down my chin when I shouted.
And everyone laughed at me again.
Judith said something, which I couldn’t hear over all the noise in the lunchroom. She smirked at me and tossed her red hair behind her shoulders.
I started to get up and go over to her. I don’t know
I was thinking of doing. But I was so angry, I wasn’t thinking too clearly.
Luckily, Cory appeared across the table. He dropped his lunch down on the table, turned the chair around backwards the way he always does, and sat down.
“What’s four plus two?” he teased.
“Forty-two,” I replied, rolling my eyes. “Do you
Judith?” I asked bitterly.
“Of course I believe Judith,” he said, pulling open his brown lunch bag. “Judith is Judith.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I snapped.
He shrugged. A grin broke out across his face. “I don’t know.”
Cory is kind of cute. He has dark brown eyes that sort of crinkle up in the corners, a nose that’s a little too long, and a funny, crooked smile.
He has great hair, but he never brushes it. So he never takes off his cap. It’s an Orlando Magic cap, even though he doesn’t know or care about the team. He just likes the cap.
He peeked into his lunch bag and made a face.
“Again?” I asked, wiping egg salad off the front of my T-shirt with a napkin.
“Yeah. Again,” he replied glumly. He pulled out the same lunch his father packed for him every single morning. A grilled cheese sandwich and an orange. “Yuck!”
“Why does your dad give you grilled cheese every day?” I asked. “Didn’t you tell him it gets cold and slimy by lunchtime?”
“I told him,” Cory groaned, picking up half of the sandwich in one hand and examining it as if it were some sort of science lab specimen. “He said it’s good protein.”
“How can it be good protein if you throw it in the trash every day?” I asked.
Cory grinned his crooked grin. “I didn’t tell him that I throw it in the trash every day.” He shoved the rubbery sandwich back into the bag and started to peel the orange.
“It’s a good thing you came by,” I said, swallowing the last bite of my egg salad sandwich. “I was about to get up and go murder Judith over there.”
We both glanced down the table. Judith and the two eighth-graders had their chairs tilted back
and were laughing about something. One of the eighth-graders had a
magazine, I think, and she was showing a picture in it to the others.
“Don’t murder Judith,” Cory advised, still peeling the orange. “You’ll get into trouble.”
I laughed, scornful laughter. “You kidding? I’d get an award.”
“If you murder Judith, your basketball team will never win another game,” Cory said, concentrating on the orange.
“Ooh, that’s cruel!” I exclaimed. I tossed my balled-up aluminum foil at him. It bounced off his chest and dropped to the floor.
He was right, of course. Judith was the best player on our team, the Montrose Mustangs. She was the
good player. She could dribble really well without getting the ball tangled up in her legs. And she had a great shooting eye.
I, of course, was the
player on the team.
I admit it. I’m a total klutz, as I’ve said, which doesn’t get you very far on the basketball court.
I really hadn’t wanted to be on the Mustangs. I knew I’d stink.
But Ellen insisted. Ellen is the girls’ basketball coach. Ellen insisted I be on the team.
“Sam, you’re so tall!” she told me. “You’ve
to play basketball. You’re a natural!”
Sure, I’m a natural. A natural klutz.
I can’t shoot at all, not even foul shots.
not foul shots.
And I can’t run without tripping over my own Reeboks. And my hands are small, even though the rest of me isn’t, so I’m not too good at passing or catching the ball.
I think Ellen has learned her lesson:
Tall ain’t all.
But now she’s too embarrassed to take me off the team. And I keep at it. I work hard at practice. I mean, I keep thinking I’ll get better. I couldn’t get any worse.
If only Judith wasn’t such a hotshot.
And if only she was nicer to me.
But, as Cory put it, “Judith is Judith.” She’s always yelling at me during practice, and making fun of me, and making me feel two feet tall (which I sometimes wish I were)!
“Byrd, why don’t you give us a break and fly away!”
If she says that one more time, I’ll punch out her lights. I really will.
“What are you thinking about, Sam?” Cory’s voice broke into my bitter thoughts.
“About Judith, of course,” I muttered. “Miss Perfect.”
“Hey, stop,” he said, pulling apart the orange sections. “You have good qualities, too, you know.”
“Oh, really?” I snapped. “What are my good qualities? That I’m tall?”
“No.” He finally popped an orange section into his mouth. I never saw anyone take so long to eat an orange! “You’re also smart,” he said. “And you’re funny.”
“Thanks a bunch,” I replied, frowning.
“And you’re very generous,” he added. “You’re so generous, you’re going to give me that bag of potato chips, right?” He pounced on it before I could grab it away from him.
there was a reason for his compliments.
I watched Cory stuff down my potato chips. He didn’t even offer me one.
Then the bell rang, and I hurried to Home Ec.
Where I totally lost it.
What happened was this: We were making tapioca pudding. And it was really messy.
We all had big orange mixing bowls, and the ingredients were spread out on the long table next to the stove.
I was busily stirring mine. It was nice and gloppy, and it made this great
sound as I stirred it with a long wooden spoon.
My hands were sticky for some reason. I had probably spilled some of the pudding on them. So I stopped to wipe them on my apron.
I was being pretty neat — for me. There were only a few yellow puddles of pudding on
my table. Most of it was actually in the mixing bowl.
I finished stirring and, when I looked up, there was Judith.
I was a little surprised because she had been working on the other side of the room by the windows. We generally keep as far apart from each other as possible.
Judith had this odd smile on her face. And as she approached me, she pretended to trip.
she only pretended to trip!
And she spilled her whole mixing bowl of tapioca onto my shoes.
My brand-new blue Doc Martens.
“Oops!” she said.
That’s all. Just “Oops!”
I looked down at my brand-new shoes covered in gloppy yellow pudding.
And that’s when I lost it.
I uttered an angry roar and went for Judith’s throat.
I didn’t plan it or anything. I think it was temporary insanity.
I just reached out both hands and grabbed Judith by the throat, and began to strangle her.
I mean, they were
Judith started struggling and tried to scream. She pulled my hair and tried to scratch me.
But I held onto her throat and roared some more, like an angry tiger.
And Daphne had to pull us apart.
She pulled me away by the shoulders, then thrust her wide body between us, blocking our view of each other.
I was panting loudly. My chest was heaving up and down.
“Samantha! Samantha! What were you
that’s what Daphne was screaming.
I couldn’t really hear her. I had this roaring in my ears, loud as a waterfall. I think it was just my anger.
Before I knew it, I had pushed myself away from the table and was running out of the room. I ran out into the empty hall — and stopped.
I didn’t know what to do next. I was
If I had three wishes,
I told myself,
I know what they would be: Destroy Judith! Destroy Judith! Destroy Judith!
Little did I know that I would soon get my wish.
All three of them.