The bus finally chugged into the parking lot of the school. Bernadine had decided that the bus was not nearly as much fun when you were sitting by yourself but it wasn’t totally horrible. She never really looked out the window on the drive to school before because usually she was too busy being goofy with Ollie to notice anything. But today, she saw a little old lady walking her cat on a leash just like it was a dog. The cat had a pink collar and was walking very prim and proper which looked funny. She saw a big transfer truck that honked its horn really loud three times. She even thought she saw two black ravens sitting in a big tree in the woods right across from her house. It looked an awful lot like they were talking to each other and one of them looked right at her with its beady black eyes and Bernadine was sure it smiled at her. Her mom used to read her fairy tales about glossy black ravens that turned into handsome princes that kissed dead princesses with shiny yellow hair and pale skin to bring them back to life. But Bernadine loved the stories about the little girls with blue-black hair and ruby red lips that got lost in the woods and were able to talk to the animals who would help them find their way back out of the forest the best. But anyway, it couldn’t have been a raven, she thought, as they picked up speed and pulled away from the bus stop…there are no ravens around here, only crows. And there are definitely no ravens that smile at you, except maybe in fairy tales, of course.
The mornings at school were always very busy. Everyone was pushing and shoving and running into each other up the stairs and down the hall even though the teachers would tell them to slow down! and don’t run! and hurry up, you are going to be late! Bernadine put her backpack on her hook and changed into her indoor sneakers as quick as she could and hurried into room 3b. She slid into her seat just as the first bell rang. Some kids didn’t care if they were in their seats when the first bell rang like you were supposed to be but Bernadine cared. She didn’t like to not follow the rules. She didn’t like to hear Miss Edwards say her name crossly. And she definitely did not ever want her name written up on the board under the big chalk sad face because not only did that mean she would miss recess but also, the other kids always teased you after and said “oooooooh, you’re in tr-ou-ble!” and she knew that Charlotte, especially, would love to see her get in trouble. Charlotte did lots of stuff that should have gotten her into trouble but Charlotte would always find a way to get out of it. Mostly, she just blamed someone else. And everyone was too scared of her to tattle. Sally and Jessica would always back her up. “Yes, Miss Edwards, we saw Billy mark on that desk” even though they all knew that Billy did not have a pretty pink marker and, if he did, he would not draw a heart on Charlie Peterson’s desk. But, somehow, Charlotte never, ever got in trouble.
“Good morning, room 3b” Bernadine looked up. That was not the familiar voice of Miss Edwards. Oh great, Bernadine thought, a substitute. Bernadine hated days when Miss Edwards was not there and they had to have a substitute teacher. For one thing, she didn’t really like change very much, especially change that was also a surprise. She liked everything to be as she expected. She liked things to happen at the same time on the same days in the same order with the same people. This day was not going at all as she had expected. First no Ollie and now, no Miss Edwards. But, her mom would say, “Well, it can’t get worse so it’s gotta get better” so Bernadine took a deep breath, took out her pencil case and notebook and waited to start her silent writing which was how class started every morning.
The substitute teacher was a skinny looking woman with a sharp, pointed nose that looked a little like a beak. She wore gym pants with a bright pink stripe on the side and a zip up jacket which Bernadine thought made her look like a gym teacher not a teacher-teacher. Miss Edwards always wore dresses with tiny flowers and little buttons at the neck that she paired with soft sweaters in pale pink or yellow. She always smelled like the purple lilacs that Bernadine’s mom loved to cut from the neighbor’s lilac bushes since Bernadine’s house didn’t have any lilac bushes of their own. This substitute teacher looked like she would smell like gym socks and that stuff you put under your arms to stop the sweat from coming out. “Quiet now! Quiet! My name is Ms. Crabbe and I will be…” There was a sudden burst of giggles from around the room. Did she really say her name was Ms. Crab, Bernadine thought? Crab like a crab, like in the water, bites at your ankles, cranky as a crab kind of crab? That’s weird.
The other kids must have thought so too because there were whispers of “crabbypatty crabapple crabby pants” and giggles and snorts of laughter going around the room like a little wave. This was part of the reason why Bernadine hated substitute teacher days because everyone, even the good kids, acted up a little. It was always a little noisier and a little more hectic and definitely more confusing. The new teacher would not know their names or where they were really supposed to sit or that right now, the class should be already writing in their journals silently. But this teacher didn’t seem to know that and was trying to talk and make everyone else quiet at the same time.
“Ms. C-r-a-b-b-e”, she wrote it out on the board as she said it out loud slowly. Billy Peters’ hand shot up into the air.
“Yes, you there? Boy in the yellow shirt…what do you need?”
“Um…don’t that spell Crabby. Cause, it’s like, crab – BE. Crabby. Right?” He looked around very proud of himself. Some of the other boys giggled.
“Doesn’t that” the teacher corrected him.
“Doesn’t that what?” Billy was confused.
“Doesn’t that spell Crabby?” the teacher said.
“Well…that’s what I’m asking ya? Don’t it spell crabby?”
At this point the teacher sighed very loudly and told them that her name was Ms. Crabbe that sounds like crabs that live in the sea and now can we just move on because we are wasting time.
Finally, thought Bernadine. Now maybe we can get back to normal and start doing our silent journaling. She took out her favorite pencil with the heart eraser and sat up straight, ready to work.
But the teacher, Ms Crabbe, had a different plan. A stupid plan, if you asked Bernadine. But she didn’t ask Bernadine. Instead, she said that everyone should go put their shoes and jackets on because they were going outside. Outside! In the morning! And it’s not even recess! AND they were supposed to be doing journaling…silent journaling…quiet silent all by yourself journaling…with your favorite pencil. And now instead, Bernadine was in a crowded hallway trying to find her other sneaker which was there just a little while ago but now seemed to have gone missing. She looked under backpacks and lunchboxes. The other kids were all pretty much ready to go but Bernadine was still hopping around on one foot trying to find her missing sneaker when Ms. Crabbe suddenly said “You! With the red hair! Stop playing around and wasting time. The whole class is waiting for you!”
Bernadine’s face felt like it had just caught on fire, it was so hot. The teacher had yelled at her. Out loud. In front of everyone. For something that wasn’t even her fault! She couldn’t help it that she couldn’t find her shoe. And now, her eyes were getting all full of tears and her nose was burning and she knew she was going to cry but she was trying really, really hard not to cry but she knew she was going to cry.
“Yes, Bernadine. Please hurry. You are making us all wait.” Charlotte’s know-it-all voice came from across the hall. That made Bernadine mad. She looked over at Charlotte and saw her sneaker on the floor right next to where Charlotte was standing. Charlotte smiled sweetly and then quietly kicked Bernadine’s shoe across the hall and right into the boy’s bathroom.
Bernadine did not know what to do. She obviously could not go in the boys bathroom! If only Ollie was here, he would have gone in and gotten her shoe for her. The crabby teacher was busy growling at another kid and didn’t see what Charlotte had done and Bernadine knew that she should just tell the teacher where her shoe was but she had already been yelled at once and felt like her voice was stuck somewhere down in her belly and wouldn’t come out.
Sally was standing next to Drew, the quietest boy in the class who liked to draw robots and dragons on all of his books. She whispered something to him...she wasn’t worried the teacher would hear, but she was scared that Charlotte would hear. Drew didn’t answer her but after a moment or two, he quietly walked into the boys bathroom and handed Bernadine her shoe when he came out. He didn’t say a word but went back to his spot in the line.
Charlotte looked like she had just swallowed fire. Her face got red and her eyes were all squinted-up mad like. She stared at Bernadine from across the hall but Bernadine would not look at her, concentrating very hard instead on putting her shoe on.
“All right then, everyone is finally ready, let’s go outside!” Ms Crabbe’s shrill voice called out and room 3b trooped outside. Bernadine breathed a sigh of relief now that the attention was not focused on her anymore. But Charlotte was not done with Bernadine yet.