Authors: Patricia Reilly Giff
Mitchell liked the look of Mr. Oakley. He had puffs of hair coming out of his ears. Like little earmuffs.
“Up ahead is the Steven Z. Zigzag Nature Center,” said Mr. Oakley.
“Maybe that’s Zelda Zigzag’s husband,” Mitchell said.
“You’re right! I see you’re a thinker,” Mr. Oakley said.
Too bad Angel hadn’t heard that.
They walked up a skinny path. “Look.” Mr. Oakley pointed toward the bushes. “Don’t go close.”
Mitchell hoped it wasn’t a pack of wild animals. Maybe coyotes. They could be hiding in the weeds.
They’d bite your leg right off.
Was a nature prize worth having to walk around with just one leg?
Angel was right next to the bushes. In danger.
He darted up to her. He pushed her out of the way. She landed in a pile of bushes.
Angel gave him her worst look. A pushed-up nose and squinty eyes.
“Sorry,” Mitchell said.
Mr. Oakley helped her up. “I was going to tell you. Those plants are poison ivy. So don’t touch. See? Three leaves, shiny green.” He shook his head. “You can get an itchy rash. Better wash when you get home.”
“I have poison ivy in my yard,” Habib said. He sounded proud.
Mr. Oakley looked at Habib’s arm. “So I see.”
Habib was probably going to win the nature prize, Mitchell thought.
Mr. Oakley bent over. Mitchell hoped he wouldn’t fall into the poison ivy, too. He started forward.
Before Mitchell could save him, Mr. Oakley stood up. “Here is one of my favorite creatures.” He pointed at the ground.
All Mitchell saw was a skinny worm.
“A worm!” Mr. Oakley sounded as if he had just opened a treasure chest.
Mitchell tried to look as if he’d opened a treasure chest, too.
“They tunnel through the earth,” Mr. Oakley said. “They make the soil fluffy. Plants have room to grow.”
Like poison ivy
, Mitchell thought.
“Now for the best part,” said Mr. Oakley.
They walked about a hundred miles.
“I’m ready to fall on the ground,” Habib said. “I don’t think I’m a nature person.”
“Me neither,” Mitchell said. “Not if we have to walk till our feet fall off.”
At last, they saw a bunch of trees. “Apple trees,” said Mr. Oakley. “Take an apple.”
“I’ll take a couple,” Habib said. “I’ll juggle with them.”
Everyone jumped up to pick apples.
Mitchell was too tired to jump. He scooped two apples off the ground. One for him. The other for Angel. To make up for the poison ivy.
“Don’t take them from the ground,” Mr. Oakley said.
It was too late. Mitchell bit into his apple …
Right into one of Mr. Oakley’s favorite creatures.
He dropped the apple. The other half of the favorite creature was still wiggling. “Sorry, worm,” he said.
“Eww!” Angel spit out her bite of apple. She began to scream. She grabbed her throat. “I swallowed a worm!”
“Oh, no!” Yolanda yelled. “Angel’s been poisoned!”
“I might end up in the hospital.” Angel wiped her mouth hard.
She stared at Mitchell. “Because of you, Mitchell ‘Number Eighty-seven’ McCabe.”
Mr. Oakley sighed. “You’re all right. A worm won’t hurt you.”
Mitchell sighed, too.
He wasn’t going to win a nature prize.
itchell stopped at the kindergarten shelf. He saw Clifton’s mask. The mask had big teeth. There was a big
on one tooth. There was a
on the other.
But where was Trevor’s mask?
Mitchell had to find it before Peter Petway found out he had lost it.
It wasn’t on the stairs.
Maybe it was in the schoolyard.
Too bad it was raining outside. The Zelda A. Zigzag School smelled like his dog, Maggie.
Mitchell took another sniff. It smelled a little like his old school, too.
It was time to search. But now his raincoat had disappeared.
He never could find anything! Angel was right about that!
He’d go outside to look anyway.
He’d have to skip Homework Help. He’d have to skip Ellie with her three freckles.
What about snack?
He couldn’t skip that. He’d have a hole in his stomach.
Mitchell dashed to the lunchroom. He was fast enough to be first in line for leftover pizza.
Habib was right behind him. They looked out the windows.
Habib twirled his hand around. “It’s dark out there. Windy. It looks like a—a what-do-you-call-it?”
Mitchell frowned. “Something like a tomato.” Wasn’t that a big wind that carried people away?
Never mind. He still had to go outside. He had to find that mask.
He took a bite of pizza. It looked like cardboard. It tasted like cardboard, too.
“Could I have the pizza box?” Mitchell asked the lunch lady.
She tucked one ear in her shower cap. She handed him the box.
Mitchell took another pizza slice.
He went up the stairs and opened the door.
Wow! It was raining hard. He could hardly see the schoolyard. Maybe there was a flood. He might drown.
He went out anyway.
“Yeow.” He held the box over his head. It made an almost-umbrella. He took a bite of pizza.
He splashed through the giant puddles. He looked for the mask. It wasn’t in the playground area. It wasn’t near the windows.
His #1 T-shirt was stuck to his back.
Pizza sauce ran down his face.
He jumped into the air. He landed in the mud.
It felt great.
Angel called from the storeroom window. “Is that blood all over you?” She sounded worried.
Mitchell sighed. “It’s pizza sauce.”
“You’re going to be soaked. You can get sick from all that rain.”
Mitchell checked behind the bushes. No mask. Just Terrible Thomas hiding from the rain.
“Miiiiitchell!” Angel screeched.
“I’m coming,” he yelled.
“I won’t even have a brother.”
“I’m coming in right now.” He dropped the pizza box into the litter basket.
In the hall, he shook himself like Maggie. Drops flew all over.
Ms. Katz stood there. She held his raincoat out with one finger. “Get a towel from the boys’ room. Wipe yourself off.”
Mitchell took his raincoat. “Thanks.”
“It was in the lunchroom. Under a table.” Ms. Katz sighed. “Everyone was stepping on it.”
He remembered now. He had left it there at lunchtime.
Ms. Katz leaned forward. “I lose things, too. My gloves, my umbrella.”
She grinned at Mitchell. Then she hurried away.
He went into the boys’ room.
Trevor was looking at himself in the mirror. “Eeeee
” he yelled.
Mitchell ducked out again. He had a terrible feeling about the mask.
He shivered. He wrapped his raincoat
around him. He was soaking wet and freezing.
He sat on the bottom step.
Peter Petway came down the stairs.
Mitchell hid his face. He certainly looked like a loser. He was covered with mud. And pizza sauce.
Peter jumped over him and ran off.
Then Mitchell thought about Angel.
Sometimes she surprised him.
She was worried about him.
That made him feel pretty good.
He sat up straight. Maybe he wasn’t such a loser after all.