Central Park Story Book Five–Sample Chapter:

 

September 8th

 

11:00 a.m.

I’D BARELY TAKEN MY SEAT in the back of history class when Ms. Higgenbottom, our substitute teacher, smacked her ruler on her desk, making everyone jump.

“As Mr. Cook announced in this morning’s assembly,” she stared down her gargantuan nose at us, “I will be standing in for Ms. Stannenbaum this year, teaching American history, starting with the Revolution and ending with the Civil War.”

Why would she choose the most boring part of American history to teach? Anything that might have been interesting—like rock and roll and skateboarding—took place after the Civil War, not before.

I sat back with a sigh and watched her wiggle from one end of the room to the other.

Everyone else stopped picking their noses and fiddling with their pencils to watch her too.

Either one leg was shorter than the other, or she had a trick knee that gave way when she put her weight on it.

“Maybe we ought to call her ‘Ms. Wigglebottom’,” Artie Finklehorn whispered.

“Or ‘Ms. W’ for short,” snickered Brian Aspinwall.

“Maybe Mr. Cook will ask her out on a date,” Arthur Levitt turned in the seat in front of us. “His belly wiggles as much as her butt, and I hear his wife passed away this summer.”

Ms. W must have overheard Arthur because she smacked her ruler on his desk in time with the wiggling of her butt.

“In order to make the history of our fledgling nation more readily understandable,” she continued, “I plan to use New York City as an illustration.” She wiggled to the other end of the room. “Settled by the Dutch,” she slapped her ruler on Ashley’s desk, making Ashley drop her phone on the floor, “acquired by the English in 1664,” she slapped her ruler on Artie’s desk, forcing him to lower his spitball cannon, “and adopted as the US Capitol from 1785 to 1789, New York, more than any other colonial city, acted as a microcosm of what took place throughout the rest of this country.”

As I finally dozed off, dreaming that everyone in colonial New York wiggled up and down the dusty streets, I felt a prick in my neck.

I thought Ms. W might have smacked me with her ruler. However, when I felt behind my ear, I discovered a spitball with a sharp-edged pebble in its center.

It only took one look at Artie to figure out who had fired it. As soon as the bell rang, I cornered him in the back of the room.

“How the heck did you—?!” I began, but before I could ask him how he got it to stick in my skin, he showed me an empty ink cartridge, wide at one end and narrow at the other. Dropping a spitball down the wide end, and taking careful aim at Devon as he approached Ms. W’s desk, he nailed him in his ear.

What the hell was that?!” Devon screamed.

Ms. W drummed her ruler on Devon’s chest.

“If you wish to comment on my lecture, young man, I suggest you choose your words more carefully, or next time you’ll be paying a visit to the headmaster’s office!”

Devon must have seen me doubled over with laughter. Without a single look at Artie, he stormed straight past me and down the hallway.

“I’ll get you for this, Middleton!” he grumbled. “You wait and see!”

Noon

As Jennifer and I grabbed two seats in the cafeteria, Ashley walked over and dropped her Gucci bag on our table as if she was planning to join us for lunch.

Ashley never sat with Jennifer so I felt like I was watching the sun suddenly change course and start orbiting the Earth.

It was only when I saw David grab a chair next to Ashley that the pieces finally fell together: now that Ashley was going out with David, and David was living with me beyond the range of Ashley’s spies, Ashley wanted to make sure I didn’t badmouth her to David in private, and the only way she could do this was to make a minor concession by pretending she was being friendly with Jennifer, with whom I was still going out.

That’s not to say she went as far as to acknowledge Jennifer’s right to speak in her royal presence. She completely avoided eye contact with her as she removed her carefully wrapped lunch.

“I can’t believe it’s the start of another year, can you, Christopher?” she said as she skewered a piece of cheese from her plate and nibbled on its end. “I should have stayed in France like Daddy offered. They have lots of schools on the Riviera, and some of them even serve croissants and coffee for breakfast.” She glanced sideways at David, probably hoping he’d object to her going to school abroad, but he chomped into his burger instead.

“I’m sure you’ll think of something to keep yourself busy in New York.” I looked around for possibilities. “Isn’t there someone here you can smush?”

She stared at me past her platinum-tinted lenses.

“There has to be a reason for me to smush someone,” she replied. “Not much of one, mind you, but something.”

I knew she meant I’d better not badmouth her to David or I’d be top on her list.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Devon, the person who was almost always at the top of her list, grab his tray and head in our direction.

He stopped in front of our table and looked down at Ashley with his usual crocodile smile.

“I came by to thank you for causing that little traffic accident this morning,” he said. “I assume it was you who told your driver to cut in front of my car?”

“Only because I knew the taxi that was tailgating you would run into you if I did.” Ashley took a sip of her cappuccino, pretending he was gone.

“Well, I’m going to ask my father to have a little chat with your father,” Devon added with a smirk, “so don’t expect to be allowed to use your limo again. You’ll have to take a taxi, or maybe the bus with losers like Christopher, whose only accomplishment in life is shooting spitballs in history class.”

“You mean they let your father out of jail?” Ashley arched her eyebrows.

“What?” Devon’s eyes narrowed.

“Don’t tell me they haven’t caught him yet!” She picked up her fork to snag another piece of cheese. “I guess it takes time to build a case against a high-profile criminal like Mr. Green.”

I watched Devon walk away like a dog with its tail between its legs.

I turned to Ashley.

“What did his father do to deserve going to jail?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” she shrugged, “but Devon clearly does or he wouldn’t have acted the way he did.” She packed away the rest of her lunch. “No, even Devon’s too easy of a target for me to smush.” She pulled the last of David’s burger away from his mouth, signaling it was time to go. “That’s the only problem with being in eleventh grade. Your choices in life actually become fewer.”

(end of the sample)