Authors: David A. Adler
Copyright Â© 2014 by David A. Adler
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For my ever-lovely wife RenÃ©e
I'm warning you. I'm about to say two mean and nasty words.
If I say them at school, kids shudder and run away. If I say them at home, my sister Karen says I should be punished for talking dirty.
Are you ready?
Here are the two words:
She's my teacher and she's super mean and nasty.
She makes lunch checks. She won't let any of us have soda, hard candy, cherries, or pomegranate juice. She says that's so we eat nutritious lunches and don't get red stains on our clothes.
She won't let Annie Abrams wear her favorite yellow headband.
“It's not becoming,” she told Annie.
There are so many rules in our class that my friend Calvin Waffle tells me, “It's lucky she lets us breathe.” But he doesn't tell that to Mrs. Cakel. You can't tell her anything.
Everyone is afraid of her.
At parent-teacher conferencesâyou know, when the teacher tells parents what's wrong with their kidsâshe told my mother not to slouch, to sit up straight. She told her not to mumble. And do you know what? Mom sat up and spoke up. And Mom is not a fourth-grade student. She's a chemical engineer. I don't know exactly what she does, just that she works in a laboratory and has to wear a large white coat.
Dad was also at school that night.
“I didn't talk to your teacher. I didn't ask her anything,” Dad told me later. “I was afraid to.”
I tell you. Everyone is afraid of that woman.
Once our principal, Mr. Telfer, walked into class and he was chewing gum. It was a medicated gum to help him stop smoking. Mrs. Cakel pointed to the big NO sign that lists all the things we're not allowed to do in our class.
Then she held a garbage can under Mr. Telfer's chin and made him spit out the gum. She did that in front of our entire class.
And he's the principal!
It's Monday morning. I sit by my desk and copy the work on the board. It's easy. When it's done, I doodle. That's what I do when I'm bored. That's pretty much what I always do. I love to doodle.
Mrs. Cakel tells us to take out our homework. We had lots this weekend and now she's checking it. I take mine out of my book bag.
Jason's Lawn Care?
This is not my homework. It's the bill from the gardener.
I think about this morning. I had Sugar Flakes for breakfast and they tasted like toothpaste. I was tasting toothpaste. I hadn't rinsed enough when I brushed my teeth so I went back to the bathroom, only Karen was in there. I think she does her homework in the bathroom, or tries to make herself look normal, or something that could take forever.
She finally came out, smiled, patted her hair, and went downstairs.
I went in, rinsed, and rushed to eat the flakes that no longer tasted like toothpaste but were really soggy. I grabbed my homework and my lunch and hurried out.
I reach in my desk, take out my lunch bag, and look inside. Lipstick? Mineral body lotion? Face powder? Eyeliner? What is this stuff? Where are my sandwich, pretzels, and apple?
This morning I took all the wrong stuff. I bet right now Mom is sending my homework to the gardener and putting my sandwich in the medicine cabinet.
Here comes Mrs. Cakel.
She'll get bogey-eyed when I tell her I don't have my homework. She'll make me copy all the
words in the dictionary.
are for homework,” she'll tell me. “Once you copy those words maybe you'll remember to do yours.”
She'll make me stay in class during lunch and do my homework, and the worst part is, she'll be in the room with me. How could I eat looking at her? I'll lose my appetite.
Oh! That's right. I don't have a lunch. All I have is lipstick, lotion, powder, and eyeliner.
She stands by my desk.
“I did my homework,” I say, “but I left it at home.”
“Bring it in tomorrow,” she says and walks to Greg. He sits behind me.
Huh? Who said that?
It gets worse, or better. I'm not sure if it's good or bad when Mrs. Cakel is nice. I'm not sure it's Mrs. Cakel.
She is teaching us about the American Revolutionâyou know, when George Washington and the Continental Army fought the British. She asks my friend Calvin Waffle, “Who fired the first shots at Lexington and Concord?”
“Not me,” Calvin answers. “I don't even have a gun.”
, I think.
She's going to explode.
I hold my hands over my ears. But she doesn't yell. She just calls on my friend Douglas Miller and asks him.
“The British fired the first shots,” Douglas answers. “They had lots of guns and fancy red uniforms.”
I must be in some alternate universe. Up is down. Big is small. Vinegar is sweet and so is Mrs. Cakel.
I'm right-handed, so I try doodling with my left hand. It comes out as just scribbles. If I was in a true alternate universe, my left-hand doodles would look to me like my right-hand doodles. I look up. There it is: the ceiling. In an alternate universe, I would look up and see the floor. I'm not the one in an alternate universe. Mrs. Cakel is.
Now, I bet, when she looks in a mirror, she sees Mrs. Herman, my kindergarten teacher. Nothing ever upset Mrs. Herman.
The bell rings. It's time for lunch. I buy a container of milk. Then I tell Calvin, Annie, and Douglas about my lunch of lipstick, lotion, powder, and eyeliner, and they each give me something to eat.
Annie gives me celery sticks. Douglas gives me some of his pressed fruit roll. And Calvin gives me half of his marshmallow-banana-carrot-on-whole-wheat-bread sandwich.
I look at the whole wheat with white marshmallow ooze dripping out.
“Do you like this stuff?” I ask.
Calvin shakes his head. He doesn't.
“Why don't you ask your mother to make you something else for lunch?”
“She doesn't make my lunch,” he answers. “I do.”
I wonder why Calvin would make a lunch for himself that he knows he won't like. There's probably no good answer to that question. It's just hard to explain Calvin Waffle.
I bite into the sandwich. The marshmallow and banana are sweet. The carrots give it a crispy crunch. Those parts are good, but I don't like the bread.
I try not to think about what I'm eating. I think about Mrs. Cakel.
“Something is wrong,” I say. “Something is bothering Mrs. Cakel.”
“Yeah, she's all sweet and lovey,” Douglas says. “She's acting like Mrs. Herman.”
Calvin doesn't know about Mrs. Herman. He just moved here with his mother. He told me his father is on some spying mission. That's right. He says his father is a spy, but I'm not sure that's true.
Douglas tells Calvin about Mrs. Herman.
“She gave us animal crackers for snack, and the first time I got a horse cracker, I threw it on the floor and stepped on it. I didn't like horses.”
“You also stepped on the moose,” Annie says.
“That's because I thought they were horses with horns.”