Authors: Vicki Grant
Tags: #JUV000000, #Young Adult
Shane, like, hissed at me, “Keep your face down!” Then he started whistling. What an idiot. If Ms. Creaser didn't think he was guilty before, she sure did when he started doing that zippity-do-dah stuff. He was trying way too hard to look innocent.
“What happened here?” she said.
Shane shrugged and went, “Huh? What do you mean? I've just been enjoying
the scenery. Nothing happened that I know of.”
“Nothing?” she said. “Then why's your friend here bleeding?”
Shane went, “Oh, right! Sorry, I forgot about that.” He patted me on the back. “Daniel has a nosebleed. He gets them all the time, poor guy.” Another one of those big yellow smiles.
Ms. Creaser leaned over and lifted my chin. She looked at me and my bloody face and my broken glasses, then she looked at Shane. She looked at Shane for a long, long time. After a while, he stopped smiling. You could tell she thought he was an idiot.
She said, “I don't suppose you're the famous Mr. Coolen now, are you?”
He clicked his tongue and winked at her. Who did he think he was? Brad Pitt?
“Yup,” he said. “That's me. The famous Mr. Coolen!”
“It's nothing to be proud of,” she said. “You and I and the principal are going to have a little talk later.”
“I'm looking forward to it,” he said. “Not as much as I am,” she said. Then she waved for me to come with her.
She smiled at me and went, “And you are Mr....?”
That was just too good to be true.
“Why, that's Mr. Hawgg!” Shane screamed out in this dumb goofball accent.
Everyone cracked up. Ms. Creaser sighed and shook her head. It was nice she was so disgusted, but it didn't help much. Even from the front of the bus I could hear Shane going, “Sooey! Sooey!”
It was going to be a long, long day.
Ms. Creaser did her best to help. She told me about a friend of hers whose last name was Outhouse and another guy whose real name was Donald Duck. She swore it was true. I think she was just trying to be nice. She made me squeeze my nostrils together to stop the bleeding and got out the first-aid kit.
I guess most of the kids who go on
field trips are little, because the bus driver only had Cookie Monster Band-Aids. Ms. Creaser used one to put my glasses back together. I was too embarrassed to tell her I had duct tape in my backpack. Only a jerk would carry duct tape around with him.
The bleeding wouldn't stop, so she got me to stuff some Kleenex up my nostrils.
Could my life get any worse?
Coke bottle glasses held together by a Cookie Monster Band-Aid. Kleenex stuffed up a bloody nose. Swollen lips over buckteeth. At least I didn't smell bad. I knew it was going to be a stressful day. I really piled on the deodorant.
Ms. Creaser asked me about my hobbies and my friends. I made some stuff up so she wouldn't feel any worse for me than she already did. I didn't mind talking to her. She was pretty nice. We were at the farm before I knew it.
The bus pulled into the yard. A bunch of geese flew off in a panic. Some goats
turned around and looked at us. Clearly, an actual motor vehicle was a big deal around here.
The farm sure didn't look like much. The house was okay, I guess. It looked like the kind of house you'd see in a picture book. It was white with a black roof and had windows with those little crosses in them. There was a green door right in the middle, a few flowers in the front. It was nothing special.
Everything else was pretty ratty. The fences were made of old logs leaning on top of each other. The barn was unpainted and missing a bunch of boards up top. Other than that, there were just some animals in pens, a skuzzy pond and an old log building out past the barn. I figured it was going to be pretty hard to find something to do around here for the next four hours. I hated the thought of Shane having time on his hands.
Ms. Creaser stood at the front of the bus and gave everyone their orders. She made that usual teacher's speech about
how we're ambassadors for the school. “I expect you all to be on your best behavior.” She looked right at Shane when she said that.
“Oh, you can count on me, Ms. Creaser!” he said.
“Yup,” she said. “I know that. And that's why you can count on me watching you.” Then she reminded us to leave our backpacks on the bus and told us to file out.
I should have grabbed my allergy pills and my Kleenex, but I was too embarrassed. I was right at the front, and everyone was piled up behind me waiting to get out. I covered my face with my hand and turned my head like I was going to sneeze. I didn't want anyone to see. I shoved the Kleenex up my nose so it wouldn't show and got out of the bus.
Ms. Creaser knocked on the farmhouse door. I tried to stay as close to her as I could without looking like I was trying to stay close to her. I'd rather get pounded for being myself than get pounded for being a teacher's pet.
She knocked again. No answer. She looked in the little windows that ran down the side of the door and shrugged.
“He must be in the barn,” she said. The kids were all using this little setback as a chance to goof around, but she wasn't going for it. She just stared at them and they all stopped.
“Okay,” she said. “C'mon, you guys. Keep up.”
Everyone did what they were told. That was pretty strange. Ms. Creaser was just a substitute teacher. Usually, the class went crazy when we had substitutesâbut everyone listened to her. I don't know why. She wasn't big and mean and possibly insane like that Mr. Laffoley we had once. He managed to keep everyone under control but only because we were terrified. Even Shane shut up.
Ms. Creaser was actually kind of little. Not short reallyâbut thin. Half the class was bigger than her. She sure couldn't force anyone into doing what she said. She didn't need to. There was just something about
the way she said stuff. People listened.
We followed her to the barn.
Other than the cows, it was deserted too. It was dark inside except for this stream of sunlight that came in through the grubby windows. You could see those little dust things dancing around in the light. Just looking at them made my nose itch. I hoped those wads of Kleenex would stop the sneezing or I was in big trouble.
Ms. Creaser stepped into the barn like it was haunted or something.
She called out, “Mr. van Wart?... Hello?...Mr. van Wart?”
Nothing except, of course, for Shane laughing.
Ms. Creaser came storming out of the barn.
“What's so funny?” she said.
“Funny?” he went. “I'm not laughing. I'm
. I'm just worried about Mr. van...
.” He screwed up his face and said “Wart” like he was going to throw
upâthen he started to laugh again. People snickered, but nobody came right out and laughed with him.
You should have seen the look on Ms. Creaser's face. She went right up to him. She didn't care that he was about a foot taller and a hundred pounds bigger than she was.
“You listen to me,” she said. “You might be too immature to understand this, but I'm telling you anyway. Mr. van Wart is Dutch. His name is Dutch. It doesn't mean the same thing in English as it does in Dutch. He is also our host. If you make one more of your silly jokes or so much as crack a smile when I introduce him, you will be very, very sorry. Have I made myself clear?”
Shane had a smirk on his face, but he didn't say anything. He just nodded.
Ms. Creaser turned to the rest of us. “Mr. van Wart might have a thick accent. If you have trouble understanding him, I'll try and step in. Got it? Okayânow, best behavior,” she said.
She went around behind the barn.
She was going, “Mr. van Wart! Mr. van Wart!”
These big, fat, spotted pigs all started grunting and snorting like they were answering her. Shane knew better than to come right out and laugh, but I knew he loved it. I knew he loved the idea of hogs making gross noises and rolling around in their own manure. I'd hear all about it the next day for sure. There was no way he was going to let me forget it.
“He's not here,” Ms. Creaser said and led everyone away from the pigs. She gave me this lame smile. I think she was kind of embarrassed for me. You know, that whole hog thing.
She looked around. “I don't see him in the field either,” she said. “If he's not in that log building over there, we may have to find something else to do today...”
There was a big whoop of excitement over that. She waved everyone quiet and started calling for Mr. van Wart again. A couple of seconds later, the door to the
log house opened. Everyone groaned. It wasn't just me. Ms. Creaser swung around, ready to clobber us. We shut up. She turned back.
“Mr. van Wart?” she said.
He locked the door behind him, then he said, “Who are you?”
He looked kind of madâand he didn't look much like a farmer either. I expected some old guy in a straw hat and overalls. He had the overalls, but he wasn't old. He looked like he was in his thirties. His head was shaved. He had tattoos on his knuckles. I don't know why I was surprisedâI mean, who says farmers can't have tattoos?âbut I was.
“I'm Ms. Creaser. I'm sorry. You must have been expecting Mr. Benvie,” she said. “He would have loved to come, but he's got the flu.”
The guy didn't say anything. No “that's too bad” or “give him my best” or anything like that. Mr. Benvie said they were friends, but the guy looked like he couldn't care less. After a while, Ms.
Creaser just started talking again.
“The class has been learning about traditional agriculture, and we're all thrilled that you invited us to tour your farm.” That was stretching it a bit. I mean, I for one was not thrilled to be there. She smiled at him again. He just nodded.
“How did you get here?” he said.
“By bus,” Ms. Creaser said. You could tell she was wondering what she'd got herself into.
“How long are you staying?” he said.
“Well, we have to be back at the school by 3:15 so we'll leave about 2:00.”
The guy nodded again. He looked at us. He looked at the bus. He chewed on a wad of something. He didn't say anything for a long time. It was like he was figuring out what to do with us.
“Okay,” he said after a while. “Let's go.” He finally smiled. At least he was trying.
His tour really sucked. I thought at first that it was a language thing, but after a while I realized that wasn't the problem.
He didn't have an accent. He spoke English as well as we did.
We walked through the barn. He was going, “That's a shovel. That's a pitchfork. That's a cat...”
Seriously. That's what he was doing. I mean, how stupid did he think us city kids were? Like we wouldn't know what a cat was? Everyone was rolling their eyes and sighing. Ms. Creaser glared at us.
She tried to make the tour more interesting. We walked by these cows, and she asked how old they are when they start producing milk.
The guy went, “Eighteen.”
Ms. Creaser said, “Really? Eighteen years old? I didn't think cows lived that long.”
She was just surprised. She didn't say he was lying or anythingâbut he swung around with this look on his face like he wanted to kill her.
“What?” he went. “You think I don't know what I'm talking about? That what you're saying? Huh?” He swore under his breath. We all heard him. We were totally shocked.
You don't talk to Ms. Creaser like that.
Everyone went quiet and just stared at the guy. Ms. Creaser was all red in the face. She was smiling, but it wasn't a nice smile.
She said, “Excuse me, Mr. van Wart, do you mind if we talk outside for a moment?”
I wouldn't have wanted to go outside with that guy, but Ms. Creaser held the door open like he was a kid in trouble. They both left. She closed the door behind her.
All I could think about was getting stuck here in the dark with Shane and that pitchfork. Everyone was buzzing about how Ms. Creaser was really going to give it to van Wart. I hoped that would keep Shane occupied until she got back. I edged closer to Anna McCrae, just in case. She's the nicest girl in class and pretty too. Shane usually tried to act halfway human around her.
They were gone a long time. Shane had just made his first hog jokeâ“Anyone feel like a pig roast?”âwhen the door opened.
The guy walked in. He was all red in the face. I figured he was embarrassed about being such a jerk.
“Your teacher isn't feeling well,” he said. “I'm in charge now.”
“Now we can have some real fun,” he said.
At first people were kind of nervous. Everyone was asking what was wrong with Ms. Creaser and saying maybe we should just go home and can we see her and stuff like that.
I was afraid the guy was going to blow up again. He looked kind of irritated. But he just rubbed his head with his hands a few times and asked everyone to quiet down.
His face changed. He sounded almost nice.
He said, “Look...Ah...I owe you an apology. See, I wasn't really expecting you guys. I got a lot of stuff to do today. I got a little stressed out when you showed up.” He gave this weird shrug. I almost felt sorry for him. You could tell it was hard for him to say this stuff.
He looked at the ground and just sort of blurted the rest out. “I apologized to your teacher and promised to manage my anger better. She thanked me and everything was going good, but then she didn't feel so hot anymore. I told herâ don't worry; I'll look after you guys. She thought that was real nice.”
He looked up and smiled. He had a gold tooth.
“We'll let her lie down for a while,” he said, “and then why don't we...”
I never found out what he planned to do with us. Before the guy could say another word, my allergies kicked in. Kicked in big-time.