Authors: R. L. Stine
I shrugged. “I don't know any bullies,” I said. “I think they're probably only in books.”
She gazed at the wall clock on the far wall. “I think we have to wrap this up,” she said. “But before you go, I just want to say a few more things to you.”
She kept talking, but I stopped listening to her. I was thinking hard. My mind was spinning because of what she had told me. The other kids didn't want me to be in the play. That's why I was stage manager.
They didn't want me. They didn't want Rick Scroogeman.
Miss Dorrit was saying something about the Golden Rule. But I didn't hear a word. I could feel the anger bubbling in my chest.
They didn't want me. They didn't want me onstage with them.
Suddenly, I knew what I had to do.
I had to find a way to pay them all back.
And guess what?
I had a really fun idea.
After dinner, Mom,
Charlie, and I were in the den. Mom sat on the edge of the soft couch, knitting a Christmas sweater for one of our cousins.
She was always knitting sweaters for our cousins. She never did one for Charlie or me, and I was glad because her sweaters always weigh a ton and they're totally itchy. They itch you right through your shirt. Right through your skin. Seriously.
Mom had the Weather Channel on the TV. She's obsessed with the Weather Channel in winter. She likes all those snowy scenes of cars stranded on the highway and roofs collapsing under six feet of snow. She loves snow disasters.
Mom has a good sense of humor, like me.
Charlie was down on the floor in front of the coffee table. He had a big bag of jelly beans in his lap. I dropped down beside him and swiped the jelly bean bag out of his hand.
“Heyâ!” He grabbed for it. Missed.
“Where'd you get these?” I asked.
“Left over from Halloween,” he said. “They're mine. Give them back.”
“Wow. Look at that car stranded on an icy river,” Mom said, pointing at the TV. “How horrible.”
“Jelly beans aren't good for you,” I told Charlie. “And these are stale.”
“Jelly beans don't get stale,” he argued. He's very bright for seven. “Give them back.”
“Tell you what,” I said. “Since I'm a nice guy, I'll share them with you. It's almost my birthday, right? So we can divide them up.” I tilted the bag and poured them all onto the rug.
I started making piles. “Two for me, one for you. Three for me, one for you.”
He made an ugly face and punched me in the shoulder. He's so skinny and lightweight, I could hardly feel it. “Stop it, Rick. You're cheating!” he whined.
“What are you learning in school?” I asked him.
He thought for a moment. “We're learning about the different states,” he said.
“Charlie, tell me what things you learned about the states,” I said.
He likes to show off about school stuff. He started to talk about California and then Nevada. Then he moved on to Wyoming.
While he talked, I gobbled up a handful of jelly beans. I figured if I could keep him talking, I could eat most of the candy before he finished.
I ate about two dozen, and I saved him five jelly beans. He
my brother, after all.
“Mom, Rick ate my jelly beans,” Charlie wailed.
“I shared them with him,” I said.
Mom had her eyes on the TV. “Rick, I think I'm going to buy you new snow boots for Christmas,” she said.
I almost gagged. “Huh? Boots for Christmas? You're joking, right?”
“He only saved me five,” Charlie complained.
I took one out of his hand and ate it.
“You need new boots,” Mom said.
“But not for Christmas,” I said. “I already gave you my wish list, Mom. Snow boots were
on the list. I need the presents I put on the list.”
She set down her knitting and turned to me. “I'm a little worried about you, Rick. You had twenty gifts on your list. Why do you think you should get so many?”
“You know why,” I snapped. “Because it's my birthday, too. How unlucky is that?” I reached for another jelly bean, but that little pig Charlie had eaten all four of them.
“Most kids have
days to get presents,” I said. “But because my birthday is December twenty-fifth, I only have one day. It's totally not fair.”
gets twenty presents, I want twenty presents,” Charlie said, crossing his skinny arms over his skinny chest.
“See what a bad influence you are on your brother?” Mom said, frowning at me. “I really think you are being selfish. And you are forgetting the whole meaning of Christmas.”
“No, I'm not,” I insisted. “The meaning of Christmas is to buy me lots and lots of presents.”
“That's not funny,” Mom said.
“I'm serious,” I said.
“Could I have another bag of jelly beans for Christmas?” Charlie chimed in. “I want a
of presents, just like Rick.”
“Do you only think about
presents? What about
presents?” Mom asked me.
“I'm just a kid,” I said. “I don't give presents. I only get them.”
Mom shook her head. “Rick, you're making me very sad. I think you should go to your room now and think about what the real meaning of Christmas is.”
“Okay, okay,” I said. I climbed to my feet, pushing my hand down on Charlie's head to help myself up. Then I strode quickly to my room at the end of the hall.
I dropped down on the edge of the bed. But I didn't think about the meaning of Christmas. I pictured those kids who didn't want me to be in the Christmas play. And I thought about
I don't get
nervous when I have to speak or read in front of the whole class. I know I'm good at it.
A few mornings later, I strode up to the front of Miss Dorrit's class, swinging my essay at my side. Of course, I tromped really hard on Josh Cratchit's foot as I passed by him.
I couldn't believe how loud he screamed. Who told him to sit with his big foot in the aisle?
Miss Dorrit sat on the edge of her desk. Today she wore faded denim jeans and layers of red and green T-shirts. I stepped up next to her and raised my papers.
“What is the title of your Christmas essay?” she asked.
“My paper is called âWhy I Hate Hate Hate Christmas,'” I answered
Some kids laughed. I saw Lucy Copperfield roll her eyes. Shamequa Allen, sitting right in front of me, flashed me a thumbs-down.
Miss Dorrit squinted at me. “Is that really what your essay is about?”
“I'm not joking,” I said. “I hate Christmas.”
“Okay,” she replied. “I think we're all a little surprised. But go ahead and read it.”
I cleared my throat and started to read. I read about how much I hated the old Christmas movie about Ebenezer Scrooge. And how Christmas is also my birthday, so I get cheated out of a whole day of presents.
The class was totally silent as I read the part about how stupid it is to decorate a Christmas tree. When I finished reading, no one made a sound.
I lowered my paper to my side. Miss Dorrit let out a long whoosh of air. “WellÂ â¦ that was certainly
, Rick,” she said. “Has anyone else written a paper about how much they hate Christmas?”
No hands went up. Of course.
They all wrote sickening papers about waking up Christmas morning, opening their Christmas stockings, and going to visit Granny. I made my way back to my seat in the back row. Josh Cratchit pulled his foot inâbut not fast enough. I gave it another good hard stomp as I passed.
Ha-ha. He'll never learn.
“You're totally sick,” Lucy Copperfield said as I took my seat next to her.
is making me sick!” I shot back. We always kid each other like that. I took my thumbs and smeared her glasses.
But I had more important things to think about.
The first dress rehearsal of the Christmas play was after school. The first time the actors would be in their costumes. As stage manager, I was in charge of all the costumes and all the props.
It was a big job. And I wanted to make sure I did it right. The Rick Scroogeman way.
Mr. Pickwick, the school drama teacher, met me at the stage door to the auditorium. He's a big guy, in his forties, I think, with a round pink face and long black hair streaked with gray, all curly on his head. I don't think he ever brushes it.
He always has a stubble of black beard on his cheeks, as if he hasn't shaved for a few days. And he wears the same outfit to school every dayâbaggy khaki pants, a soft white shirt, very wrinkled, and a blue blazer that hangs down nearly to his knees and he never buttons.
Mr. P always seems to have twelve things on his mind at once. He doesn't walkâhe darts. I mean, he kind of shoots from one place to another. It's like he's always excited. Like he has too much energy. He looks like someone put him on fast-forward.
He wrote the Christmas play himself. All the songs, too.
I don't think he likes me. Sometimes during rehearsal, I see him watching me from the side of the stage. Like he expects me to do something bad or wrong.
Ha-ha. He's pretty smart.
“Can you help me with these buttons?” Davey Pittman crossed the stage to Mr. Pickwick, holding up both sleeves of his ruffled elf shirt. Davey plays the leader of the elves.
The whole play takes place in Santa's workshop at the North Pole. Santa was run over by a reindeer, and the elves have to take over. They all work day and night to make sure kids will have a wonderful Christmas, even without Santa.
A family from Ohio with five kids arrives at the North Pole. They are looking for Santa Claus. But when they hear what happened to him, they pitch in and work, making toys beside the elves. They say it's their best Christmas ever.
Gag me with a spoon.
How babyish is that?
ButÂ â¦ some of the jokes are funny, and the songs are pretty good. Especially “The Reindeer Rap,” performed by four kids with antlers sticking out of their heads.
Mr. P helped Davey button the sleeves of his elf shirt. I passed out pointy elf shoes to some of the other elves. They were all practicing their tiny elf voices. I waved to Lucy Copperfield. She plays Davey's elf wife. She pretended she didn't see me.
“Mr. P, should I wear the beard today?” the kid who plays Santa asked. He's a fifth-grader named Billy O'Brian. But I call him Belly O'Beast because he's the fattest kid in school. I mean, he totally is a beast.
I like to grab his big belly with both hands, jiggle it up and down, and shout, “Earthquake!” Especially when there are girls watching. Belly's fat face always turns bright red. It's a riot.
I held Belly's red Santa jacket and helped him squeeze into it. Then I fixed the long white wig on top of his head. “You look awesome,” I said. “Like a mountain with snow on top.” I made sure Mr. P wasn't looking. Then I gave Belly a hard punch in the belly for good luck.
“Places, people! Places!” Mr. P was shouting. “You all look wonderful in your costumes.” He motioned with both hands. “Can I get the elves all lined up over here? Where is Mrs. Santa? I need Mrs. Santa stage right.”
Debra Davis, who plays Mrs. Santa, was struggling to get her long apron tied behind her back. The strap kept getting caught in the red-and-green vest she wore over her long red dress.
She hobbled toward Mr. P on her high-heeled red shoes. “Mr. P, there's something wrong,” she said. She began scratching her side. Then she scratched her shoulder.
The elves were all lined up, Davey Pittman at the front of the line. I saw that they were scratching, too. Davey squirmed as he slapped at the back of his neck. Lucy Copperfield was bending over to scratch her knees. Belly O'Beast pulled off his Santa beard and rubbed his chin and cheeks.
“People? What are you doing?” Mr. P demanded. “What is going on here?”
I watched from the wings. Everyone onstage was twisting and squirming and scratching. I couldn't keep a big smile from spreading across my face.
“Ants!” an elf shouted. “Look! I'm covered in ants!”
“Me too!” Davey cried. He pulled an ant out of his elf shirt and held it up in front of him. “My sleevesâthey're filled with ants!”
The auditorium walls echoed with groans and cries as the kids realized they had ants crawling all over them.
“IâI don't understand!” Mr. P cried.
Some kids were sprawled on their backs, scratching. Others were frantically pulling off their costumes. I saw ants scurry out of the clothes and over the stage. Ants crawled all over Belly's cheeks and forehead.
“I'm covered in ants!” Lucy screamed, twisting and squirming. “Ohh, it itches! It
! Oww! They're
That made me laugh.
Mr. Pickwick was tearing at his hair with both hands. His eyes were bulging, and his mouth hung open. I think he was in shock.
But then he turned to me, and his expression changed. He blinked a few times. I could see a lightbulb go on above his head. “Rick, the costumes were
responsibility,” he said, narrowing his eyes at me.
I raised both hands. “I swear I don't know howâ”
Belly O'Beast interrupted. “Scroogeman brought a huge ant farm to science class this afternoon.”
“Yes, he did,” Davey Pittman chimed in. “He was showing off how the ants were building their own city. He said he had at least two thousand ants in the plastic case.”
All eyes were on me now. Kids were scratching their arms and legs, scratching the backs of their knees, furiously scratching at their hair. And staring at me.