THE ROTTENEST ANGEL
“How You Doin’?”
A beautiful morning at Rotten School. The apple trees shimmered in the morning sunlight. The grass on the Great Lawn still sparkled with dew. I strolled happily, singing the Rotten School Song to myself: “Rah, rah, Rotten School!
I’d rather be in Rotten School—
Than NOT in school!”
It was Saturday, and I—Bernie Bridges—didn’t have a care in the world. Did I know that BIG trouble—with a capital BIG—was just minutes away? No with a capital NO. “Dudes! Wait for Bernie B.!” I shouted. I waved to my three buddies and ran to catch up with them. Feenman and Crench had one of Belzer’s shoes. They were tossing it back and forth, playing keep-away. Fun-loving dudes! “How you doin’?” I asked. “How YOU doin’?” Feenman replied. “How YOU doin’?” Belzer asked. “How you doin’?” I said. “How YOU doin’?” “How YOU doin’?” We usually do this for at least half an hour. I don’t know why we think it’s so funny. But it really cracks us up. “How you doin’?” “How YOU doin’?” Saturday morning is when we go to the Student Center to study. Mainly we study air hockey, pinball, and the new PlayStation games. We don’t like to mess up our weekends doing homework. I checked out my three friends. Feenman and Crench are tall and thin and kinda dance when they walk—real loose. Belzer is short and pudgy. He looks like his name—he’s definitely a Belzer. I shook my head. “Yo—you dudes are looking shabby,” I said. “What’s up with your clothes? They’re totally wrinkled—and they don’t even fit!” Feenman sighed. “Bernie, our room is too small,” he said. “All three of us are jammed in so tight, we have to take turns breathing!” “It used to be a broom closet,” Belzer said. “So? What’s that got to do with your clothes?” I asked. “There’s no room for a closet. We keep all our stuff in a big pile on the floor,” Crench said. “We can’t tell whose is whose!” “Look—I’m wearing Feenman’s shirt,” Belzer said. The shirt came down to his knees. He raised his arms. “See these armpit stains, Bernie? They’re not mine—they’re Feenman’s!” “It’s so crowded,” Feenman said, “we have to sleep standing up!” “Dudes, I hope you’re not complaining,” I said. “I hope you’re not hinting that I should share my room.” Feenman squinted at me. “Well, Big B, you ARE all alone in that huge room. . . . ” “You know I need a lot of space,” I said. “I need space for plotting and planning and scheming.” I put a hand on Feenman’s shoulder. “And who do I plot and plan and scheme for? I do it all for you guys, right?” “Right,” Belzer agreed. “Who convinced Nurse Hanley that Skittles are actually vitamin pills? Bernie did.” “That was a good thing,” Feenman and Crench muttered. “And who got Mrs. Heinie to give us extra credit if we don’t burp up our breakfast in class?” Belzer asked. “Bernie did.” “That was a good thing, too,” Feenman and Crench said. “I’m always thinking of you guys,” I said. “That’s why I need the extra space.” And that’s what this story is about—my extra space. Because guess what? An hour or two later I walked back to our dorm—Rotten House. I climbed the stairs to my room on the third floor. And, yo! I stopped in the doorway—and stared at another boy unpacking a suitcase. He had wavy, blond hair that glowed in the sunlight pouring through my window. He had a round face with big, blue eyes and rosy cheeks. He turned to me and flashed me a warm smile, his blue eyes twinkling. “Who—who ARE you?” I stammered. “I’m Angel Goodeboy,” he said. “No. Really,” I said. “Who are you, and what are you doing in my room?”
A Bad Allergy
The boy pulled a sweater from his suitcase and carefully folded it. He flashed me another smile. “I’m Angel Goodeboy,” he said again. He walked over and shook my hand. What was up with this guy? I stared at him. I’d never met a kid who shook hands before! “Well, I’m sorry, dude,” I said. “But you’re in the wrong room. I’m Bernie Bridges. This is my room.” His cheeks turned bright red. He really did look like an angel. He just needed a halo, and he’d be perfect. “I’m in the wrong room?” he gasped. “Oh, my gosh and goodness! I’m so sorry. Mrs. Heinie showed me in here.” “I guess Mrs. Heinie didn’t clean her glasses this morning,” I said. Mrs. Heinie is our fourth-grade teacher and dorm mother. She is so nearsighted, she can’t find her nose without a map! “She made a mistake,” I said. “Let me help you get packed up again.” “Oh, my gosh and goodness! I’m so, so, so sorry,” he said. “I hope you will forgive me.” “No problem,” I said. “Just pack up your stuff. Maybe you could share the room across the hall with Feenman, Crench, and Belzer. There’s plenty of room over there.” I heard footsteps in the hall, then a voice in the doorway. “Oh. Have you two boys met?” I turned to see Mrs. Heinie peering at us through her thick glasses. I flashed her my best smile. “Mrs. Heinie, you’re looking wonderful!” I said. “That red bracelet on your arm—is it new? Very pretty!” “I’m not wearing a red bracelet,” she said. “I have a skin rash.” “Well, it looks very nice on you,” I said. “I’m just helping the new kid pack up. He’s in the wrong room.” Angel clasped his chubby little hands together. “I’m so, so, so, so sorry,” he said. “I don’t want to crowd Bernie’s space.” Mrs. Heinie made a choking sound. “He’s in the right room, Bernie. You’ll just have to learn to share.” “But—but—but—” I sputtered. I pulled Mrs. H. into the hall. “You know I can’t have a roommate,” I whispered to her. “I brought a doctor’s note. I’m allergic.” I sneezed as hard as I could. Mrs. Heinie wiped off the front of her sweater. “See?” I said. “That Angel kid is making me sneeze already!” I grabbed my neck. “My throat—it’s closing up,” I whispered. “Hard to breathe. I’m allergic to roommates. You understand, right?” Mrs. Heinie stepped back into the room. Angel was waiting patiently, hands in his khaki pockets. “Angel is staying,” Mrs. H. said. “I put him in here, Bernie, because I hope a little bit of his goodness will rub off on you!” Angel’s eyes twinkled again. I’m not sure how he made them twinkle like that. He flashed us another angelic smile. “Mrs. H., please—” I begged. “I’m allergic to that smile! Look. It’s making me ITCH all over!” I started scratching my whole body. Mrs. Heinie scowled at me. “I don’t want any trouble from you,” she growled. “And don’t try to teach him any of your sneaky tricks. He’s a good boy, and he’d better stay that way!” Angel’s little red mouth formed a pout. “Oh, my gosh and goodness. I’m sorry if you don’t want me, Bernie,” he said in a soft, sad voice. “I’ll stay out of your way. I’ll stay in that corner over there.” He pointed. “Tell you what,” he said. “I’ll sleep in the closet. And in the morning I’ll get dressed out in the hall. You won’t even see me.” Mrs. Heinie squinted at me. “Do you see what an angel he is? See how kind and generous?” I started scratching my chest and arms. “Mrs. H., check it out. He’s making me ITCH again! Please—he has to go!” I had to do something. No way I could share my room with an angel! But what could I do?
He Acts Like An
I scratched so hard, I shredded my T-shirt. But Mrs. Heinie paid no attention. She pointed. “Angel, why don’t you take that bed by the night table?” “But that’s MY bed!” I cried. Angel shook his head. “I don’t want to be a bother,” he said. “I don’t want to take Bernie’s bed away from him.” He grinned at me. “I’ll sleep UNDER the bed. Bernie won’t even know I’m here.” He dropped onto his hands and knees and looked under my bed. “It’s a tight fit,” he said. “But I don’t mind. If it will make Bernie happy.” “Angel, you’re so GOOD!” Mrs. Heinie gushed. Behind her thick glasses she had tears in her eyes. “Angel will take the bed. No more talk.” Angel’s grin grew wider. Everyone knows I’m a talker, not a fighter. So why did I have the sudden urge to punch the kid in the stomach? Maybe because I knew what he was doing. He was trying to out-scheme me, the king of schemes. That angel act had to be an act. The dude was too good to be true! I knew I had to keep my guard up. What was he really up to? Mrs. Heinie turned to me. “I’ll get you a cot, Bernie. I’m sure you’ll get used to it.” “A c-c-cot?” I stammered. “But I’m allergic—” She pressed a hand over my mouth to shut me up. “And now that you’re sharing your room,” she said, “take down that awful poster on the wall.” I spun around. Could she be talking about my favorite poster? The big color poster of ME? “I can’t take it down,” I told her. “Every time I look at it, it inspires me. It reminds me to be GREAT!” Angel dug around in his suitcase. “I brought a poster that might inspire us BOTH!” he said. He pulled out a poster and unrolled it. Then he held it up for us to see. A poster of naked angels with white, fluffy wings and baby faces, floating in the clouds. I wanted to hurl. Naked angels hanging on my wall?! Mrs. Heinie clapped her hands together. “How beautiful!” she cried. “Here, Angel, I’ll help you put that up.” They pulled down the awesome Bernie Bridges poster and carried it to the closet. Then they hung the naked, baby-faced angel poster in its place. My head swam. The room spun in front of me. This CAN’T be happening to me! What am I going to DO? Mrs. Heinie patted Angel on the shoulder. She stepped back to admire the poster. I could see that Angel had her wrapped around his little finger. What was his angle? I knew he was up to something. Before I could duck away, Angel put an arm around my shoulders. “Bernie is such a cool guy,” he said to Mrs. H. “I think we’re going to be best friends—forever.”
The Rottenest Angel, Copyright © 2007 by Parachute Publishing, L.L.C. All Rights Reserved. HarperCollins Publishers