Authors: Patricia Reilly Giff
he weekend was too short.
Monday was too long.
The afternoon bell rang.
Mitchell went down the hall. He trailed his fingers along the wall.
His thumb hit Zelda A. Zigzag’s picture.
He stopped to straighten her up.
She had been the principal a hundred years ago.
Poor Zelda had a crumpled-up face. She looked as tough as a wrestler.
She probably ate nails for lunch.
He tried to remember the new principal’s name. He snapped his fingers. Mr. Randolph, that was it.
Mitchell kept going. He banged his head against a shelf. It was Angel’s class shelf. Angel’s castle was in the middle.
At home he had fallen over it. He had bashed in the tower.
Angel came down the hall. “My castle looks like a gas station,” she said. “All your fault.” Her eyes watered.
“I’m sorry.” Mitchell pulled at his
T-shirt. His grandmother had given it to him. Nana thought he was Number One.
Angel said he was Number Eighty-seven.
“It’s time for Afternoon Center,” Angel said, “Down in the basement.”
Mitchell sighed. “Go ahead. I’m coming in a minute.”
“It’ll be fun. If you pay attention to things.” Angel sped away.
Mitchell went downstairs. He sat on the bottom step. He wasn’t ready for the Afternoon Center.
Habib clattered down behind him. “I’m a first-class juggler.” He threw two mud balls into the air.
They went flying—
Straight into the kindergarten shelf.
The shelf was filled with scribbly paper shapes. They went flying, too.
Now kids were pounding down the stairs.
Mr. Oakley raced by. He was the grandfather who helped out.
“Are you going to Afternoon Center?” Habib asked.
Mitchell leaned away from Habib’s poison-ivy arm. “I have to go,” he said. “My mother signed my slip. All because of Angel.”
Angel was getting to be a real tattletale.
Then Mitchell remembered. “My slip is still upstairs. It’s in my desk.”
He saw Angel in a doorway. She was watching him. Frowning.
“I have to get my slip,” he told Habib.
He saw a mask on the floor. It had cut-out eyes and a clown nose.
He stuck the mask on his face. “Bonk,” he said.
“Bonk,” Habib said back.
Mitchell headed for his classroom. He probably wasn’t supposed to be there after school.
He kept the mask on. No one would know who he was.
The school might be filled with tattletales. Like Angel!
He threw his books out of his desk.
The slip was all the way in the back. It was crumpled up like Zelda A. Zigzag’s face.
He went downstairs again. He barreled around Jake the Sweeper.
He dropped the mask on the bottom step.
“Hey,” Jake said. “Don’t make a mess.”
Jake was a little grouchy.
So was his cat, Terrible Thomas.
Terrible Thomas sneaked into school sometimes.
Mitchell put the mask on a table in the hall.
Habib was standing next to the table.
“You should see the sign-up line,” he said. “It’s like a jungle fight. Everyone wants to be first.”
“Not me.” Mitchell peeked in at the gym.
Ms. Katz sat at a table.
She must be the boss of the Afternoon Center.
In front of her was a girl in Mitchell’s class.
What was her name? Sumiko.
Her mother and father were from Japan.
It was in the Arctic Circle somewhere. Or maybe the equator. You couldn’t drive there, anyway.
Sumiko was probably the smartest kid in the school. She knew seven Japanese words.
Hello. Goodbye. Your room is a mess
Angel was stuck in line with Yolanda. They were standing behind that monster Peter Petway.
Mitchell hoped Angel was safe there.
He didn’t want to go near Peter Petway.
“Let’s go out to the schoolyard,” he told Habib. “See what’s going on.”
“Why not?” Habib said.
Mitchell grabbed the mask. He followed Habib upstairs and out the door.
utside, Ramón was playing ball with some of the kids. He was a helper from college.
Mitchell sank down against a wall. It was the end of summer. Even the bricks were hot.
He and Habib listened to the noise inside.
Mitchell put on the mask. He crawled over to the basement window.
He crawled carefully. Junk was all over the
ground. Crushed-up Doritos. Old pens. Ants.
Jake’s cat, Terrible Thomas, was eating Doritos. Maybe he was eating ants, too.
Mitchell looked in the open window. It was covered with wire. Inside was the lunchroom.
Kids raced down the aisle. They dumped their backpacks on the tables.
The lunch lady came out with a tray. She wore a shower cap. Only her ears stuck out.
“Snacks?” Habib said. “No one told me about that.”
“No one told me, either,” Mitchell said.
He tried to see what was on the tray. They were probably healthy snacks.
But healthy snacks were better than nothing.
“I’m starving to death,” he told Habib. “I haven’t eaten since lunch.”
It had been a terrible lunch. Cheese poppers, bread things with cheese stuck all over them. The cheese tasted like plastic.
Habib poked him with his arm. The poison-ivy arm.
“Look what they’re giving out. The rest of the cheese poppers.”
Yolanda looked up. “Hey. Someone with a mask! I think it’s a robber.”
Someone else screamed.
Not a robber
, Mitchell thought.
That made him sad.
He backed away.
He and Habib crawled to another window.
They looked in at the storeroom. It was filled with old desks.
Angel was hopping across the desks. She waved her skinny arms. It was a good thing Ms. Katz wasn’t around to see her.
Angel looked up and screamed.
Mitchell jumped. The mask!
Angel would be having nightmares tonight. Screaming like a baboon.
He sighed and lifted the mask. “It’s just me. And Habib.”
“Whew.” She stopped hopping.
“Did you sign up for the Center?” She narrowed her eyes. “Mom said—”
“Don’t worry.” Mitchell crossed his fingers. “I’m in.”
“You don’t look in to me.” She waved her arms. “I’m practicing. Afternoon Center has swimming. It’s at the Y.”
She leaped across a desk. “They’re giving prizes. Next Monday. I want to win one.”
A prize! He’d never won a prize. Not unless you counted a monkey on a stick. He’d won it at the carnival.
It had fallen apart in two minutes.
What if he could win a prize?
That monster Peter Petway would say he was terrific.
“Let’s go sign up,” he told Habib.
They went into the gym.
Ms. Katz smiled. “I thought you’d forgotten.” She looked at the slip. “Your mother signed you up for a lot of things.”