Authors: Gordon Korman
Scholastic Canada Ltd.
604 King Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5V 1E1, Canada
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012, USA
Scholastic Australia Pty Limited
PO Box 579, Gosford, NSW 2250, Australia
Scholastic New Zealand Limited
Private Bag 94407, Botany, Manukau 2163, New Zealand
Scholastic Children's Books
Euston House, 24 Eversholt Street, London NW1 1DB, UK
Text copyright Â© 1985 by Gordon Korman.
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read this e-book on-screen. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher, Scholastic Canada Ltd., 604 King Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5V 1E1, Canada.
first eBook edition September 2012
For the real Mike Otis, wherever he may be
And for Marilyn E. Marlow, who helped me over the high fences
“There are a lot of things at this school I don't understand.”
Student Body President
Don Carey High School
r. Morrison beamed at his homeroom class of twenty-eight students. “Okay, are all the autobiographies finished?”
A vague, indifferent hum rose from the group.
“Good. When you bring your papers up to me, I can also check your class schedules to make sure there aren't any problems. I'm going to do the class in rows, starting from the left.”
The entire class stood and began a lackadaisical shuffle toward the front of the room. Paul Abrams looked around in bewilderment. He was the only student still sitting. Hadn't the teacher said “starting from the left”? Maybe he'd heard the instructions wrong. He grabbed his schedule and his half-page autobiography and joined the swarm.
Mr. Morrison regarded the first person in line. “Well, where's your schedule?”
The girl dug through her pockets. “I didn't bring it. Maybe I didn't get one.”
“But everybody got one. It was mailed to your house during the summer. You'll have to go to the office after homeroom and have a new one made up.”
The girl looked dubious. “You think so?”
“Of course. How are you going to know what classes to go to if you don't have a schedule?”
“I figured I'd just sort of wing it.”
Paul stared in disbelief. The second person in line didn't have a schedule either. The third had a schedule but it was somebody else's. The fourth was in the wrong homeroom. Paul was fifth, and the first to be checked through. He handed in his autobiography and returned to his seat, noting that Mr. Morrison was already covered in perspiration.
“What kind of schedule is this?” the teacher was exclaiming in agitation. “You're supposed to have six classes and a lunch! You have six lunches and a class!”
“Yeah?” The boy looked vaguely pleased. “That's pretty good.”
“And you!” Mr. Morrison was already on to the next schedule. “You have no lunch at all! And you're going to the same Spanish class five times a day! You've had this for at least a month! Why didn't you check it over?”
“Maybe I didn't notice it.”
Before Mr. Morrison could go on to the next student, she announced, “Mine's blank.”
By the time the exercise was over, less than half the class had been checked through. The others were instructed to go to the office after homeroom and stand in the Problem Line. Paul couldn't believe the vacant, disinterested expressions on the faces of even those with serious class schedule conflicts, or no schedules at all.
Mr. Morrison had turned his attention to the autobiographies.
“Now we'll all get to know each other. I'm going to read them out loud. This first one here is byÂ â” he glanced at the paper “âÂ it looks like Wayne Stitsky. Stand up, Wayne.”
In the very back row, a tall, slim boy with long blond, flyaway hair raised himself three inches from his chair and settled back down again. Mr. Morrison smiled and read:
“âHi. I'm Wayne-o. I'm in the tenth grade at Don't Care HighÂ â'” Mr. Morrison put the paper down. He looked up sternly. “Now, this is one thing I want to get straight right here on the first day of school. This is
Don't Care High. This is Don Carey High School. That awful nickname has been haunting this fine old school for years, and this is where it ends. We have pride and school spirit, and the maintaining of that self-destructive attitude of not caring is an insult to the memory of Don Carey, one of the most civic-minded public works commissioners this city has ever had. He was, as you all know, the designer and builder of our modern sewer system, and that is a remarkable contribution indeed.”
Another hum rose just like the first.
“Now,” Mr. Morrison went on, “we'll read a paper that doesn't have quite such a defeatist attitude.” He began to shuffle through the stack, his brow clouding over, his mouth hardening into a thin line. “âDon't Care' âDon't Care.' Ah, here we go. âMy name is Cindy Schwartz, and I'm fifteen years old, and it's been seven years since I started shopping at Bloomingdale's. I like Bloomingdale's becauseâ¦'” He stopped reading and skipped his eyes down the page. “All right, where's Cindy? You didn't mention a word about school. This is all about Bloomingdale's.”
There was an awkward silence, then someone called, “She left.”
“You told her to go to the office to get her schedule changed.”
“But I said
Â âÂ Oh, never mind.” He returned to sifting through the autobiographies. “Here it is again. âDon't Care Highâ¦Â Don't Careâ¦Â Don't Careâ¦Â It looks like this group is going to take a lot of deprogramming. Ah, here's one. Paul Abrams. Where's Paul?”
Timidly, Paul raised his hand.
Mr. Morrison beamed anew. “Okay, let's see what you've got here. âMy name is Paul Abrams, and I originally come from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. My family moved to New York over the summer, and I enrolled this morning at Don Carey High School. I'm in the tenth grade, and it's my ambition toÂ â'”
“Hey!” came a surprised voice from the back of the class. “Get a load of the guy with the ambition!”
The hum swelled again as Paul felt scarlet red creep up the back of his neck and flood his face.
Mr. Morrison rapped on his desk with a ruler. “Quiet down, everybody. I'd like to finish reading this paper. Then maybe you'll find out what a real Don Carey student should be like. This is exactlyÂ â”
Just then the public address system came alive with a voice that resembled the lower register of a bassoon.
May I have your attention, please. Welcome to another year of school. Just a few announcements. As you may or may not have noticed, this year's welcoming committee did not convene due to lack of interest
A request from the cafeteria staff asks me to remind you that there are garbage cans strategically placed in the dining area
It has been brought to my attention that, while some students must do without, some of you have as many as eight or nine lockers. This seems excessive
Also, we'll be accepting nominations for student body president as of today
Normally this process would have taken place last spring, but again, due to lack of interest, no names were entered, rendering the election redundant. In a fit of optimism, we have decided to try again
Finally, due to the disrepair of clocks in this school, I would ask that everyone synchronize watches. It is now fifteen seconds to first period. That's all. Have a good day
Paul watched as the class stood up and began to file out the door. He looked for a signal from Mr. Morrison that class was dismissed, but the teacher had returned to some paperwork. Tentatively, he rose.
“Hey, Ambition, aren't you coming?”
Paul's attention shifted to the doorway where a husky, sandy-haired boy stood watching him. Paul scowled. Only an hour into the school year, and already he was the butt of jokes.
The boy laughed. “Don't look at me like that. I'm harmless. It's just that anyone with ambition is going to need a guide around this place. At this time of the year, everyone's ambition is Christmas vacation. After that, they wait till June.”
Still wary, Paul picked up his notebook and followed the other boy into the hallway.
“The name's Sheldon Pryor.” He looked at Paul intently. “You do talk, don't you?”
Paul grinned. “Yeah, I talk. I'm almost afraid to, though, in this place. What's wrong with ambition?”
Sheldon laughed. “Seeing as how you're new here, I'll lay the cards right on the table. Morrison's wrong. This is not Don Carey High School. This is Don't Care High. It's more than a nicknameÂ âÂ it's a concept. The school spirit here is so low that it's off the scale. There are twenty-six hundred kids roaming around these halls, and I defy you to find me one of them who gives a hoot about anything school-related.” Paul looked dubious. “And it's all contagious. The school doesn't care about the community, so the community doesn't care about the school, so the board lets the place get all run down because they know that nobody cares.”
“No offence,” said Paul, “but I don't think I can believe that.”
Sheldon laughed. “You want proof? Look at that teacher over there.” He indicated a thin, cadaverous man standing in front of a classroom, a distant expression in his eyes. “That's Mr. Knight. Five years ago he was teaching in the suburbs. They called him âSuper Teacher.' He was known everywhere as the guy who could motivate a rock.” Sheldon shook his head sadly. “But then, you know, you're riding on top of the world, and you get cocky. Maybe he said the wrong thing to a school board member, or took someone's parking place, but whatever the reason, they transferred him to Don't Care High. Now he's a zombie like everybody else. They say the only thing he cares about is his European bottle cap collection.”
Paul frowned. “How could he have changed like that? He might have found different kinds of kids here, but he should still stay the same kind of teacher.”
“Simple,” Sheldon replied. “His whole style was class discussion. He had to take all sides of every argument because no one else participated, and from this he developed a multiple personality. After a few years, he took some time off for psychiatric examination, and when he came back, he was like this. He picked up the bottle cap thing from a fellow patient.”
“Mr. Morrison isn't a zombie,” Paul pointed out. “He seems to care.”
“You can't go by Morrison. He's the guidance counsellor, which makes him the loneliest guy in the building. He's so desperate for someone to talk to that he sees some fancy high-priced analyst uptown who motivates him to motivate us.”