Authors: R. L. Stine
The day we decided to scare Courtney was the day of our class field trip.
Mr. Melvin, our teacher, and Ms. Prince, the other sixth-grade teacher, stood counting us as we boarded the yellow school bus.
Courtney was first in line, of course. Courtney makes sure she is always first in line. Her friend Denise boarded right behind her.
It was a gray day. Dark storm clouds rolled overhead, blocking the sun. The guy on the radio said there was a ninety percent chance of rain.
I didn't care. I was happy to be getting out of school.
I pushed my friend Hat into the kid in front of him. His real name is Herbie, but everyone calls him Hat. That's because no one has ever seen him without a baseball cap on his head. I've known Hat since fourth grade, and I don't think I've ever seen his hair.
The kid in front spun around and shoved Hat back at me.
“Hey â give me a break!” Hat shouted. He slugged me hard on the shoulder. “You made me swallow my gum, Eddie.”
“Hey, guys, be cool,” Mr. Melvin said, frowning at us. He's the kind of teacher who always says things like “be cool” and tries to act like he's our friend. But he's a pretty good teacher, anyway.
And he takes us on a lot of field trips, which
“Why are we going to a forest?” Hat grumbled, slipping another piece of bubble gum into his mouth. “What are we supposed to look for?”
“Trees, I guess,” I replied. I didn't remember why we were going to Greene Forest. I just remembered we were supposed to take notes.
“Eddie, want some bubble gum?”
I turned around to see my friend Charlene right behind me in line. She and my other friend Molly had big gobs of grape gum in their mouths and were chewing hard.
“Molly, how can you chew that stuff with braces?” I asked.
She opened her mouth in a wide grin, showing me her teeth. “It doesn't stick too much,” she said.
Molly's braces are red and blue. She's always showing them off. I don't know why.
Molly and Charlene look so much alike, almost like sisters. They both have short brown hair and
brown eyes. They're both about my height, five two. They both wear faded jeans and oversized T-shirts all the time. The only difference between Molly and Charlene is that Molly wears glasses and has braces, and Charlene doesn't.
“I'll protect you two in the deep, dark forest,” I teased. “You know. In case you're attacked by fleas or something.”
“Eddie's a real macho guy,” Hat said, grinning. “He's real brave.” He punched my shoulder. Hard.
I pretended it didn't hurt.
“You both have fleas,” Charlene said.
Eddie,” Molly offered. “There might be some vicious worms there!”
Hat, Molly, and Charlene burst out laughing. Molly was teasing me about the time the four of us went fishing at Muddy Creek, and I had a little trouble putting a worm on my hook.
“I wasn't afraid of that worm!” I cried angrily. “It was just yucky, that's all.”
I scowled at Molly, but I wasn't really angry. I'm used to being teased. Kids always make fun of my freckles and my red hair. And my older brother, Kevin, calls me Bugs. He says I look just like Bugs Bunny because my two front teeth stick out.
“What's up, Doc? What's up, Doc?” That's all Kevin ever says to me. He and his high school pals think it's a riot.
I climbed onto the bus and scrambled past Hat
to get a window seat. Courtney and Denise had taken the front seat, of course. Courtney was brushing her long, blond hair, using the bus window as a mirror. Denise was writing something in her notebook.
Hat slammed into me, and I stumbled down the aisle. He quickly slid into the seat and moved to the window. “Hey â no fair!” I shouted.
He giggled his high-pitched giggle and grinned at me. Hat is my best pal, but I have to admit he's sort of goofy looking. I mean, he's always grinning, sort of like Dopey in
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
And he has really big ears that bend down beneath his baseball cap, sort of doubled over.
He's a good guy. He really makes Molly, Charlene, and me laugh all the time.
“I get the window going back,” I said, slumping down beside Hat. Charlene messed up my hair as she walked past.
“Why do they call it Greene Forest?” Hat asked, pressing his nose against the window, watching it steam up from his breath. “Why not Blue Forest or Red Forest?”
“A guy named Greene used to own it,” I told him. “He gave the land to the city when he died.”
“I knew that,” Hat said. What a liar.
I spun his cap around till it was backward. He really hates that. But he deserved it for grabbing the window seat.
A few minutes later, the bus was bouncing toward Greene Forest. A few minutes after that, we were piling out of the bus, staring at the tall trees that reached up to the dark, cloudy sky.
“Make two columns on your work sheet,” Ms. Prince was telling everyone. “One for wildlife and one for plantlife.”
down as plantlife,” I told Charlene.
She stuck her tongue out at me with the big purple blob of bubble gum on the tip. Hat slapped her on the back really hard, and the wad of bubble gum went flying.
Charlene cried out angrily and tried to slug him, but Hat backed away to safety. He was too fast for her.
The teachers divided us into groups, and we began to explore the forest. We followed a narrow dirt path that twisted through the trees.
It was cooler in the forest and dark. I wished the sun would come out.
“What's that green stuff on that tree?” Hat asked me, pointing. “Is that moss? Is moss wildlife or plantlife?”
“You should know,” I told him. “You have it growing on your back!”
Molly and Charlene laughed, but Hat didn't. “Can't you ever be serious?” He scribbled something on his work sheet.
I glanced down at mine. I hadn't written
anything yet. I mean, I'd only seen a bunch of trees and some weeds. Who cared about writing
“The creatures are hiding,” Ms. Prince was telling the group of kids ahead of us. “Search for their hiding places. Look for holes in the ground and in trees. Look for hidden nests.”
I gazed up at the trees above my head. The leaves were too thick to see any nests. I was about to tell Hat he should look under some rocks because that's where he came from. But before I could, I heard a hushed cry behind us.
Look! A deer!”
We all turned back to see who had called out. Of course it was Courtney. Who
would be the first to spot a deer?
She and Denise were frozen like statues, staring into a narrow space between the trees. Courtney kept raising her finger to her lips, signaling for everyone to be silent.
Hat, Molly, Charlene, and I went running over to see the deer. “I don't see anything,” I said, squinting hard into the trees.
“It ran away,” Courtney told me.
“You missed it,” Denise added. I watched her write
on her work sheet under wildlife. She already had four other creatures on her list. I didn't have any.
“Did you see the sleeping bat?” Courtney asked me.
“Bat?” I don't like bats. They're so ugly. And what if one bites you?
“It was hanging on that tree,” Courtney said, pointing behind us. “How could you miss it?”
“There's a birch tree,” Denise told Courtney. “And there's a weeping beech tree. Add them to the list.”
Hat, Molly, and Charlene had moved on along the trail, and I hurried to catch up to them. Courtney and Denise were working too hard, in my opinion. Field trips are supposed to be for goofing and having fun away from school.
We made our way slowly through the forest. After a while, the sun came out and sent shafts of yellow light down through the trees.
I tried to push Hat into a huge patch of poison ivy. But he dodged away from me, and I went sprawling facedown in the dirt.
I was still brushing myself off when I saw the snake.
Right beside my left sneaker.
It was bright green and big.
I stopped breathing. I stared down at it.
I had nearly stepped on it.
As I stared helplessly, it arched its head, opened its jaws, and darted forward to bite my leg.
I opened my mouth to scream, but no sound came out.
The snake dived toward me. I shut my eyes and waited for the stab of pain.
“Ohh.” A low, frightened cry escaped my lips.
I opened my eyes to see Courtney holding up the snake. “Courtney âI â I â” I stammered.
“Eddie, you're not scared of
are you?” Courtney demanded, raising the snake to my face. Its black eyes stared up at me. It flicked its tongue.
“It's a harmless green snake, Eddie,” Courtney said. “You
be afraid of a green snake!”
I heard Denise snickering behind me.
Courtney petted the snake, stroking it, letting it slide through her fingers.
“Uh â¦ I wasn't really scared,” I muttered. But my voice trembled. I could tell Courtney didn't believe me.
“A harmless green snake,” she repeated. She set the snake down on the ground.
I jumped back. I thought it was coming for me again.
But it slid silently into the weeds.
Hat laughed. A high-pitched, nervous laugh.
Denise shook her head scornfully.
“Add that to the list,” Courtney told her. “Green snake. That makes seven in the wildlife column.”
“We should write down
Denise said, staring at me. “That would make eight.”
“Cluck, cluck,” I replied bitterly. I motioned for my friends to follow me, and we hurried up the path. We could hear Courtney and Denise both laughing.
“Don't feel bad,” Hat said to me, patting my shoulder. “Just because she made you look like a total jerk.”
Molly laughed, but Charlene didn't. “Courtney was just showing off,” Charlene said to me. “For a change.”
“I wish that snake had bitten her perfect nose,” Molly added. “You know. Put a little dent in it.”
“I really wasn't afraid,” I insisted shrilly. “The snake surprised me, that's all. I knew it was harmless.”
“Yeah. Right,” Hat replied, rolling his beady little black eyes. I made a swipe at his cap but missed.
“Coming through! Coming through!” Courtney called. She and Denise hurried past us, swinging
their work sheets in one hand as they passed by. Denise turned and hissed at me like a snake. Courtney laughed.
“I suppose they'll be teasing me about the green snake for the next hundred years,” I said with a sigh.
tease you about it for a hundred years,” Molly promised.
I trudged unhappily along the path. Golden sunshine filtered down through the trees, but it didn't brighten my spirits. A cute red-furred squirrel scampered across the path. I wasn't interested.
My day had been ruined.
Ruined by Courtney and that stupid green snake.
I could hear kids up ahead laughing about it. Every time I looked at Hat, he grinned at me as if to say, “You really blew it today, Eddie.”
It's not a big deal
, I kept telling myself.
So I got scared of a snake. And I had to be rescued by Courtney. So what?
“Look out, Eddie. There's a caterpillar. It might bite!” some kid called from a clump of tall weeds up ahead.
“Give me a break!” I cried angrily.
As I made my way along the path, the forest became a bright green blur to me. Other kids were busy adding to the lists on their work sheets.
But I couldn't see anything to add. The air became hot and damp. My T-shirt stuck
to my back. Little white gnats flew around my face.
I was really glad when the path ended and we stepped out near the parking lot. We had made a complete circle. The school bus stood at the edge of the grass, its door open invitingly.
But no one was getting on the bus.
To my surprise, I saw a big crowd of kids huddled in a circle several feet from the bus. They were standing silently, staring straight ahead.
“What â what's up?” I called to Charlene, who was hurrying toward the silent circle of kids.
“It's Courtney!” she called back.
I began running, too.
The kids were huddled so silently. No one moved.
Had something terrible happened to Courtney?