I was born under a harvest moon during the longest drought Blairsburg, Iowa had ever seen. Not many of the crops survived that season and Momma would always swear that was the first sign I was gonna be nothin' but trouble. And of course, I aim to please.
"Frederick Moore, come up here please," my teacher, Mrs. Fledgling called. I knew that tone all too well. Here it was only the second week of school and I was already in trouble.
I let out a worried breath and reluctantly slid out from behind my desk. With my hands nervously tugging at my sweater I slowly shuffled down the center aisle toward my teacher's large foreboding desk. The desk was almost as tall as I was, so the closer I got the less of my teacher I could see behind it. I finally stopped when I was right in front and waited.
The students behind me were giggling and shuffling around in their seats, which just made me all the more nervous. Suddenly, my teacher's ginormous arm came crashing over the top of the desk and handed me a sheet of paper. I tentatively took it between my fingers as I slowly began to realize what it was. It was the paper I had turned in last week. In the top right-hand corner with a fatty red marker was the letter F.
"I want you to read that out loud to the class," Mrs. Fledgling's voice boomed from behind her desk.
Everyone knew that there were only two reasons the teacher ever had you read something out loud: if it was really good, or really bad, and there was no way I could convince anyone that my paper was really good.
"Do I have to?" I whispered.
Mrs. Fledging never responded but I could feel her nodding her head. She did that a lot when she was angry. She'd nod her head and cross her arms and give you the nastiest look ya ever saw.
I let out a sigh as I turned to face the class. "What I did on my summer vacation," I started. "On summer vacation I did a lota fishin'. Sometimes my Momma would make me take my sisters along which really wasn't good for business. One day, I was tryin 'ta catch some fish and they was splashin' in the pond, scaring 'em all away. When suddenly out of the murky water rose a huuuge alligator and it gobbled up my sister, Jane!"
I slammed my arms together to mimic the powerful jaws of an alligator. "I leapt off the log I was sittin' on and grabbed up my little sister and like a flash of lightnin' I got her to safety! I sent Lulu home and ran all the way into town and told Mr. Baker what had happened. He gathered the town's biggest men and they went down to the pond and killed that alligator. Everyone said that the alligator must've got there because of all the rain we'd had lately and since the pond is a popular place for kids to play, I was declared a hero who'd saved a lot of lives. But unfortunately, it was too late for Jane. The End."
"Now class, who would like to tell Frederick what's wrong with his paper?"
A bunch of hands shot into the air like someone was giving out free ice-cream. My head sunk down between my shoulders as I looked away. I liked my paper; it had to be more interesting than anyone else's.
"Ellie," the teacher called on one of my classmates.
I whipped my head around and sorta smiled at the little curly redheaded girl.
With her shoulders squared, she stared directly at Mrs. Fledgling. "The assignment was to write about something you did over the summer. We were supposed to write about something real but Freddie's story is obviously a work of fiction."
"Hey! You don't know that," my friend Steven said as he half stood up in his chair. He was just doing the good friend thing and sticking up for me even though he knew Ellie was right.
Ellie gave him a sharp look. "Of course I do," she said with a slight downward nod, like she was talking to a baby. "I just saw Jane walking with her friends this morning and she was NOT wearing an alligator."
I had always kinda liked Ellie … until now. Now she was a big fat traitor.
When we were little, Ellie, Steven, and me would play Knights and Dragons; somehow, I was always stuck as the dragon and Steven always got to be the hero. You'd think being the dragon would be kinda fun right? Wrong. All I got to do was run around and roar until Steven smacked me with a stick and shoved my face in the dirt. We don't play that game no more.
Anyway, the rest of the school day wasn't much better than the morning. Mrs. Fledgling was PO'd at me all day and I don't even really know why. I did her stinkin' assignment, and I really did go fishin' during summer break. I also really wished Jane had been eaten by an alligator. I imagined it so many times it might as well be real.
At the end of the day when the bell rang Mrs. Fledgling stuck her spotty old hand right out in front of me to block my way to the door.
"Frederick, we need to have a talk," and she said it so sickeningly sweet that it made my stomach turn.
"I have baseball." I held up my mitt as proof.
"It'll only take a minute. Now, do you remember that conversation we had last year?"
I nodded my head even though I had no idea which conversation she was referring to. Was it the one where she told me that if she caught me bringing another wild animal into school she'd eat it for lunch? Or maybe it was the time she told me about how important it was for my homework to look neat and not like I'd dropped it in a mud puddle and jumped up and down on it.
"Then why are you starting this up again so early in the year?"
Now I remembered which conversation she was talking about; it was the one where she told me that making up stuff was a lie and a lie was a sin and a sin is from the Devil and I shouldn't wanna be doing the Devil's work.
"It was just a story, and it was mostly true."
Mrs. Fledgling crossed her arms and pursed her lips. "Have you heard the story about the boy who called wolf?"
"No Ma'am, but I'll go out on a limb and say it's about a boy who calls wolf."
"Yes, except there are no wolves. The boy is making them up until real wolves come and eat him. Do you understand what I'm telling you?"
I shrugged my shoulders as I looked up at her. "I guess you're saying I'm calling alligator. But honestly Missus, I really wouldn't mind if a real alligator showed up and swallowed up Jane. I could use one less sibling, honest."
Mrs. Fledgling's bottom jaw jetted out as she ground her teeth together, that's how you could tell she was about to go ape.
"This is the only warning I'm going to give you, Frederick. There will be no making up stories in my class unless I give a creative writing assignment, am I understood?"
My nails dug into my palms as I nodded my head. "Yes, Ma'am," I said and then took a step towards the door. "But I think that story about the boy who called wolf was made up too!" I rushed out the door and ran like heck to the field before Mrs. Fledgling's head could explode.
All the other players were already waiting for me at the field and a few even gave me the stink eye for being late to one of the last games of the season. I just ignored them because they don't really matter.
I'm a much better baseball player than my whole team put together. And that's not bragging; it's the truth. That's why we lose a lot.
There are very few things that I'm actually good at in this world and baseball is one of them. I have my brother Benjamin to thank for that. He was a real baseball star around here and he taught me everything he knew; I'm still not half as good as he was and I think everyone knows it too.
I'm actually pretty good at this game but on this particular day, I played like horse manure. I don't know if maybe I was still thinking about Missus's 'talk' or the bad grade she gave me on my first paper. She was probably going to tell my parents on me. Whatever the reason, my head just wasn't in the game and we got creamed for it.
"Hey Freddie, don't you ever get tired of eating our dust?" James Henderson, the Caption of the other team, mocked as he walked by me.
I clenched my jaw and kicked my foot into the dry dirt causing a cloud of dust to reach out into the air all around me. "Go away," was all I said.
James smiled and started to sing. "Frederick Moore gets awfully sore when he doesn't get the winning score!" he chimed.
I could feel my face turning red with anger and probably a little embarrassment too.
"Oh yeah!" I hollered, "Well, James Henderson gets-gets uhh . . . " I tried to think of something clever to say but Henderson doesn't really rhyme with anything. I kinda hated my last name right now. "Go to hell!" I shouted.
See, I figured if I couldn't come up with anything smart to say then I might as well say something really bad to at least leave an impression. And it did leave an impression. As soon as the words had left my mouth my coach spun around and his eyes scanned over each and every one of us.
"Who said that?" he demanded.
My eyes widened as every single player on the field pointed their dirty little fingers at me.
I hate today.
A/N: This is an old Halloween story I wrote back in 2012. It's still one of my favorite things that I've written and I hope at least one person enjoys it. Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated because it's really hard to crawl inside a reader's head without it ;)