Third Grade Heist
Mrs. Battig wrote my name on the chalkboard for talking during penmanship practice. Never could control my big mouth! But what really made me mad was that it wasn’t me talking. My best friend Maggie was actually saying something to me when the teacher looked up from what she was doing. She clipped over to the blackboard board in her high heels, picked up the chalk and wrote … my name! Not Margaret but Frances.
You see, Maggie is teacher’s pet. She works hard to be the perfect kid, always wanting to please Mrs. Battig. And it has paid off. She never gets in trouble. If by some chance, she actually does something wrong, teacher overlooks it. Even if she does the exact same thing as me… I get in trouble, she doesn’t. But when I complain to Mom, she says, “Life isn’t fair, so stop feeling sorry for yourself. Live with it!”
I looked at the board again. I was the fourth name on the list with all the regular troublemakers. I was so mad. But all of a sudden, I thought of a plan. First let me explain about Maggie. We’ve been friends since we were 3. But the truth is I’m the one who makes up our games. I start the tag and then run and hide till she starts to cry. She follows me around at every Brownie meeting, does whatever I say.
So at bathroom break, I called Maggie over. I was standing in the hallway where the heater hums under the window so no one could hear. I leaned in close, “Listen, I want you to…” I looked around to make sure nobody was close, “erase my name from the board, so I don’t have to stay after school.”
She jerked back. “I can’t do that! I’ll get in trouble.” She started biting her nails, already so stubby that you can’t hardly see them.
“You’re such a goodie-two-shoes! Teacher’s pet.” I turn away, mad all over again. She started to walk away. “Wait, it’d be easy! During reading groups, just walk past the board and drop something in the wastebasket. Mrs Battig is always busy with a group. You could rub against my name and make it disappear. It would just take a second… You won’t get caught. Besides, she’d never suspect you.”
“I don’t know…” Maggie looked nervous.
“Remember, you were the one talking! It should’ve been your name on the board. But no. You never get in trouble. She just figured it was me. It’s not fair!”
Still, she hesitated. I had no choice but to pull out my last card. “Do it! Or I won’t play with you anymore.”
My threat hung heavy as we returned to our seats for arithmetic. I tried to concentrate, but the numbers in the division problems floated in front of me like balloons in a bouquet. All I could think about was how unfair it was.
Finally, the lunch bell rang. We all threw our books and papers into the desks and began talking . “Line up!” Mrs Battig commanded. “Quietly” She put her finger to her lips, waiting. Slowly the talk stopped and we stared at her, hardly able to control our quivering feet. “Dismissed!” she said sharply. We all jimmied to get through the door first.
Maggie smiled at me as we headed down Maple Terrace toward Cedar Street where we lived. The winter snow was slushy and leaked into my red rubber boots. I could feel my socks getting wet. “What’re you so happy about?” I asked bitterly.
“Did you see the balckboard?”
“I know, and I’m still mad at you.” I stomped ahead of her. “I’ll be sitting after school while your outside playing.”
“But I did it! I erased your name on the way out just now. Mrs. Battig wasn’t looking.”
I turned to her with renewed respect. “You did? Really?” She nodded, clearly proud of herself.
“Well, that’s great. I hate staying after.”
“You won’t now. What’cha want to do after school? Wanna come to my house?”
Mom had tomato soup and peanut butter sandwiches on the table when I got home. I hummed, slurping my soup. Kristine was telling Mom about her latest fight with Vicki in Mrs. Witt’s 6th grade class, a world away from me. I felt pretty darned good thinking of the fast one we’d pulled off on Mrs. Battig. I interrupted Krissy’s chatter, “Can I go over to Maggie’s after school?”
The afternoon lessons dragged. We were reading outloud about Indians in our social studies book. I was looking out the window at a squirrel running up a tree. “Frances,” Mrs. Battig said sternly, “continue reading, please.” I had no idea where we were. I frantically flipped the pages as though a magic yellow star would appear at the exact spot I was to start.
“You need to pay attention!” Paul leaned over and showed me the place. I cleared my throat, and began reading in my most expressive voice. Didn’t miss a word!
In music class, I boomed out “My Grandfather’s Clock,” drowning out the rest of the kids, as I moved my head back and forth to the beat. Usually my loud voice gets me in trouble, but not in music class. Mrs. Williams beamed over at me.
By the time we returned to the classroom, it was three o’clock. Mrs. Battig handed out our papers and made some announcements. Then we put on our jackets, gathered our folders, and sat talking at our desks, waiting for the bell. I wasn’t paying attention, feasting on the thought of our upcoming freedom.
“Now, who’s staying after school today?” The room became suddenly silent. She turned to the blackboard and read, “Billy, Roger, Marsha, Gary.”
The bell rang. We all jumped up. “Wait! There’s one more name. It’s smeared.” She walked over close. “I can’t read it…” We stood like statues, ready to run. The sun was shining through the west window. Mrs. Battig gazed around the room as time stood still. We all stared back at her. And then her eyes stopped… at me.
“Oh yes, I remember…Frances! You were talking to Maggie this morning during penmanship. Keep your seat, Frances, and the others on the board.” Then she smiled out to her pupils. “The rest of you may go.”