Sample text for The Wednesday wars / by Gary D. Schmidt.
Bibliographic record and links to related information available from the Library of Congress catalog
Copyrighted sample text provided by the publisher and used with permission. May be incomplete or contain other coding.
Of all the kids in the seventh grade at
Camillo Junior High, there was one kid
that Mrs. Baker hated with heat whiter
than the sun.
And let me tell you, it wasn't for
anything I'd done.
If it had been Doug Swieteck that Mrs.
Baker hated, it would have made sense.
Doug Swieteck once made up a list of 410
ways to get a teacher to hate you. It
began with "Spray deodorant in all her
desk drawers" and got worse as it went
along. A whole lot worse. I think that
things became illegal around Number 167.
You don't want to know what Number 400
was, and you really don't want to know
what Number 410 was. But I'll tell you
this much: They were the kinds of things
that sent kids to juvenile detention
homes in upstate New York, so far away
that you never saw them again.
Doug Swieteck tried Number 6 on Mrs.
Sidman last year. It was something about
Wrigley gum and the teachers' water
fountain (which was just outside the
teachers' lounge) and the Polynesian
Fruit Blend hair coloring that Mrs.
Sidman used. It worked, and streams of
juice the color of mangoes stained her
face for the rest of the day, and the
next day, and the next day--until, I
suppose, those skin cells wore off.
Doug Swieteck was suspended for two
whole weeks. Just before he left, he
said that next year he was going to try
Number 166 to see how much time that
would get him.
The day before Doug Swieteck came back,
our principal reported during Morning
Announcements that Mrs. Sidman had
accepted "voluntary reassignment to the
Main Administrative Office." We were all
supposed to congratulate her on the new
post. But it was hard to congratulate
her because she almost never peeked out
of the Main Administrative Office. Even
when she had to be the playground
monitor during recess, she mostly kept
away from us. If you did get close,
she'd whip out a plastic rain hat and
pull it on.
It's hard to congratulate someone who's
holding a plastic rain hat over her
Polynesian Fruit Blend-colored hair.
See? That's the kind of stuff that gets
teachers to hate you.
But the thing was, I never did any of
that stuff. Never. I even stayed as far
away from Doug Swieteck as I could, so
if he did decide to try Number 166 on
anyone, I wouldn't get blamed for
But it didn't matter. Mrs. Baker hated
me. She hated me a whole lot worse than
Mrs. Sidman hated Doug Swieteck.
I knew it on Monday, the first day of
seventh grade, when she called the class
roll--which told you not only who was in
the class but also where everyone lived.
If your last name ended in "berg" or
"zog" or "stein," you lived on the north
side. If your last name ended in "elli"
or "ini" or "o," you lived on the south
side. Lee Avenue cut right between them,
and if you walked out of Camillo Junior
High and followed Lee Avenue across Main
Street, past MacClean's Drug Store,
Goldman's Best Bakery, and the Five &
Ten-Cent Store, through another block
and past the Free Public Library, and
down one more block, you'd come to my
house--which my father had figured out
was right smack in the middle of town.
Not on the north side. Not on the south
side. Just somewhere in between. "It's
the Perfect House," he said.
But perfect or not, it was hard living
in between. On Saturday morning,
everyone north of us was at Temple
Beth-El. Late on Saturday afternoon,
everyone south of us was at mass at
Saint Adelbert's--which had gone modern
and figured that it didn't need to wake
parishioners up early. But on Sunday
morning--early--my family was at Saint
Andrew Presbyterian Church listening to
Pastor McClellan, who was old enough to
have known Moses. This meant that out of
the whole weekend there was only Sunday
afternoon left over for full baseball teams.
This hadn't been too much of a disaster
up until now. But last summer, Ben
Cummings moved to Connecticut so his
father could work in Groton, and Ian
MacAlister moved to Biloxi so his
father could be a chaplain at the base
there instead of the pastor at Saint
Andrew's--which is why we ended up with
Pastor McClellan, who could have called
Isaiah a personal friend, too.
So being a Presbyterian was now a
disaster. Especially on Wednesday
afternoons when, at 1:45 sharp, half of
my class went to Hebrew School at Temple
Beth-El, and, at 1:55, the other half
went to Catechism at Saint Adelbert's.
This left behind just the
Presbyterians--of which there had been
three, and now there was one.
I think Mrs. Baker suspected this when
she came to my name on the class roll.
Her voice got kind of crackly, like
there was a secret code in the static
"Holling Hoodhood," she said.
"Here." I raised my hand.
Mrs. Baker sat on the edge of her desk.
This should have sent me some kind of
message, since teachers aren't supposed
to sit on the edge of their desks on the
first day of classes. There's a rule
"Hoodhood," she said quietly. She
thought for a moment. "Does your family
attend Temple Beth-El?" she said.
I shook my head.
"Saint Adelbert's, then?" She asked
this kind of hopefully.
I shook my head again.
"So on Wednesday afternoon you attend
neither Hebrew School nor Catechism."
"You are here with me."
"I guess," I said.
Mrs. Baker looked hard at me. I think
she rolled her eyes. "Since the
mutilation of "to guess" into an
intransitive verb is a crime against the
language, perhaps you might wish a full
sentence to avoid prosecution---something
such as, 'I guess that Wednesday
afternoons will be busy after all.'"
That's when I knew that she hated
me. This look came over her face like the
sun had winked out and was not going to
shine again until June.
And probably that's the same look that
came over my face, since I felt the way
you feel just before you throw up--cold
and sweaty at the same time, and your
stomach's doing things that stomachs
aren't supposed to do, and you're
wishing--you're really wishing--that the
ham and cheese and broccoli omelet that
your mother made for you for the first
day of school had been Cheerios, like
you really wanted, because they come up
a whole lot easier, and not yellow.
If Mrs. Baker was feeling like she was
going to throw up too, she didn't show
it. She looked down at the class roll.
"Mai Thi Huong," she called. She looked
up to find Mai Thi's raised hand, and
nodded. But before she looked down, Mrs.
Baker looked at me again, and this time
her eyes really did roll. Then she
looked down again at the roll. "Daniel
Hupfer," she called, and she looked up
to find Danny's raised hand, and then
she turned to look at me again. "Meryl
Lee Kowalski," she called. She found
Meryl Lee's hand, and looked at me
again. She did this every time she
looked up to find somebody's hand. She
was watching me because she hated my guts.
I walked back to the Perfect House
slowly that afternoon. I could always
tell when I got there without looking
up, because the sidewalk changed.
Suddenly, all the cement squares were
perfectly white, and none of them had a
single crack. Not one. This was also
true of the cement squares of the
walkway leading up to the Perfect House,
which were bordered by perfectly
matching azalea bushes, all the same
height, alternating between pink and
white blossoms. The cement squares and
azaleas stopped at the perfect
stoop--three steps, like every other
stoop on the block--and then you're up to
the two-story colonial, with two windows
on each side, and two dormers on the
second floor. It was like every other
house on the block, except neater,
because my father had it painted
perfectly white every other year, except
for the fake aluminum shutters, which
were painted black, and the aluminum
screen door, which gleamed dully and
never, ever squeaked when you opened it.
Inside, I dropped my books on the
stairs. "Mom," I called.
I thought about getting something to
eat. A Twinkie, maybe. Then chocolate
milk that had more chocolate than milk.
And then another Twinkie. After all that
sugar, I figured I'd be able to come up
with something on how to live with Mrs.
Baker for nine months. Either that or I
wouldn't care anymore.
"Mom," I called again.
I walked past the Perfect Living Room,
where no one ever sat because all the
seat cushions were covered in stiff,
clear plastic. You could walk in there
and think that everything was for sale,
it was so perfect. The carpet looked
like it had never been walked on--which
it almost hadn't--and the baby grand by
the window looked like it had never been
played--which it hadn't, since none of us
could. But if anyone had ever walked in
and plinked a key or sniffed the
artificial tropical flowers or
straightened a tie in the gleaming
mirror, they sure would have been
impressed at the perfect life of an
architect from Hoodhood and Associates.
My mother was in the kitchen, fanning
air out the open window and putting out
a cigarette, because I wasn't supposed
to know that she smoked, and if I did
know, I wasn't supposed to say anything,
and I really wasn't supposed to tell my
And that's when it came to me, even
before the Twinkie.
I needed to have an ally in the war
against Mrs. Baker.
"How was your first day?" my
"Mom," I said, "Mrs. Baker hates my
"Mrs. Baker doesn't hate your
guts." She stopped fanning and closed
"Yes, she does."
"Mrs. Baker hardly knows you."
"Mom, it's not like you have to know
someone well to hate their guts. You
don't sit around and have a long
conversation and then decide whether or
not to hate their guts. You just do. And
"I'm sure that Mrs. Baker is a fine
person, and she certainly does not hate
How do parents get to where they can
say things like this? There must be some
gene that switches on at the birth of
the firstborn child, and suddenly stuff
like that starts to come out of their
mouths. It's like they haven't figured
out that the language you're using is
English and they should be able to
understand what you're saying. Instead,
you pull a string on them, and a bad
I guess they can't help it.
Right after supper, I went to the den to
look for a new ally.
"Dad, Mrs. Baker hates my guts."
"Can you see that the television is on
and that I'm watching Walter Cronkite?"
We listened to Walter Cronkite report
on the new casualty figures from
Vietnam, and how the air war was being
widened, and how two new brigades of the
101st Airborne Division were being sent
over, until CBS finally threw in a
"Dad, Mrs. Baker hates my guts."
"What did you do?"
"I didn't do anything. She just hates
"People don't just hate your guts
unless you do something to them. So what
did you do?"
"This is Betty Baker, right?"
"The Betty Baker who belongs to the
See what I mean about that gene thing?
They miss the entire point of what
"I guess she belongs to the Baker
family," I said.
"The Baker family that owns the Baker
"Dad, she hates my guts."
"The Baker Sporting Emporium, which is
about to choose an architect for its new
building and which is considering
Hoodhood and Associates among its top
"Dad . . ."
"So, Holling, what did you do that
might make Mrs. Baker hate your guts,
which will make other Baker family
members hate the name of Hoodhood, which
will lead the Baker Sporting Emporium to
choose another architect, which will
kill the deal for Hoodhood and
Associates, which will drive us into
bankruptcy, which will encourage several
lending institutions around the state to
send representatives to our front stoop
holding papers that have lots of legal
words on them--none of them good--and
which will mean that there will be no
Hoodhood and Associates for you to take
over when I'm ready to retire?"
Even though there wasn't much left of
the ham and cheese and broccoli omelet,
it started to want to come up again.
"I guess things aren't so bad," I said.
"Keep them that way," he said.
This wasn't exactly what I had hoped
for in an ally.
There was only my sister left. To ask
your big sister to be your ally is like
asking Nova Scotia to go into battle
But I knocked on her door anyway.
Loudly, since the Monkees were playing.
She pulled it open and stood there, her
hands on her hips. Her lipstick was the
color of a new fire engine.
"Mrs. Baker hates my guts," I told her.
"So do I," she said.
"I could use some help with this."
"She says that Mrs. Baker doesn't hate
Silence--if you call it silence when the
Monkees are playing.
"Oh," she said. "It might hurt a
business deal, right? So he won't help
the Son Who is Going to Inherit Hoodhood
"What am I supposed to do?"
"If I were you, I'd head to
California," she said.
She leaned against her door. "Mrs.
Baker hates your guts, right?"
"Then, Holling, you might try
And she closed her door.
That night, I read Treasure Island
again, and I don't want to brag, but
I've read Treasure Island four times and
Kidnapped twice and The Black Arrow
twice. I even read Ivanhoe halfway
through before I gave up, since I
started The Call of the Wild and it was
a whole lot better. I skipped to the
part where Jim Hawkins is stealing the
Hispaniola and he's up on the mast and
Israel Hands is climbing toward him,
clutching a dagger. Even so, Jim's in
pretty good shape, since he's got two
pistols against a single dagger, and
Israel Hands seems about to give in.
"I'll have to strike, which comes hard,"
he says. I suppose he hates Jim's guts
right at that moment. And Jim smiles,
since he knows he's got him. That's guts.
But then Israel Hands throws the
dagger, and it's just dumb luck that
And I didn't want to count on just
Mrs. Baker eyed me all day on Tuesday,
looking like she wanted something awful
to happen--sort of like what Israel Hands
wanted to happen to Jim Hawkins.
It started first thing in the morning,
when I caught her watching me come out
of the Coat Room and walk toward my desk.
By the way, if you're wondering why a
seventh-grade classroom had a Coat Room,
it isn't because we weren't old enough
to have lockers. It's because Camillo
Junior High used to be Camillo
Elementary until the town built a new
Camillo Elementary and attached it to
the old Camillo Elementary by the
kitchen hallway and then made the old
Camillo Elementary into the new Camillo
Junior High. So all the rooms on the
third floor where the seventh grade was
had Coat Rooms. That's where we put our
stuff--even though it was 1967 already,
and we should have had hall lockers,
like every other seventh grade in the
So I caught Mrs. Baker watching me come
out of the Coat Room and walk toward my
desk. She leaned forward, as if she was
looking for something in her desk. It
But just before I sat down, I figured
it out: She'd booby-trapped my desk--like
Captain Flint would have. It all came to
me in a sort of vision, the kind of
thing that Pastor McClellan had
sometimes talked about, how God sends a
message to you just before some
disaster, and if you listen, you stay
alive. But if you don't, you don't.
I looked at my desk. I didn't see any
trip wires, so probably there weren't
any explosives. I checked the screws.
They were all still in, so it wouldn't
fall flat when I sat down.
Maybe there was something inside.
Something terrible inside. Something
really awful inside. Something left over
from the seventh-grade biology labs last
I looked at Mrs. Baker again. She had
looked away, a half-smile on her lips.
Really. Talk about guilt.
So I asked Meryl Lee Kowalski, who has
been in love with me since she first
laid eyes on me in the third grade--I'm
just saying what she told me--I asked her
to open my desk first.
"How come?" she said. Sometimes even
true love can be suspicious.
"'Just because' isn't much of a
"Just because there might be a
She lifted the desk top. She looked
under English for You and Me,
Mathematics for You and Me, and
Geography for You and Me. "I don't see
anything," she said.
I looked inside. "Maybe I was wrong."
"Maybe I was wrong," said Meryl Lee,
and dropped the desk top. Loudly. "Oh,"
she said. "Sorry. I was supposed to wait
until you put your fingers there."
Love and hate in seventh grade are not
far apart, let me tell you.
At lunchtime, I was afraid to go out for
recess, since I figured that Mrs. Baker
had probably recruited an eighth-grader
to do something awful to me. There was
Doug Swieteck's brother, for one, who
was already shaving and had been to
three police stations in two states and
who once spent a night in jail. No one
knew what for, but I thought it might be
for something in the Number 390s--or
maybe even Number 410 itself! Doug
Swieteck said that if his father hadn't
bribed the judge, his brother would have
been on Death Row.
We all believed him.
"Why don't you go out for lunch
recess?" said Mrs. Baker to me.
"Everyone else is gone."
I held up English for You and Me. "I
thought I'd read in here," I said.
"Go out for recess," she said, criminal
intent gleaming in her eyes.
"I'm comfortable here."
"Mr. Hoodhood," she said. She stood up
and crossed her arms, and I realized I
was alone in the room with no witnesses
and no mast to climb to get away.
I went out for recess.
I kept a perimeter of about ten feet or
so around me, and stayed in Mrs.
Sidman's line of sight. I almost asked
for her rain hat. You never know what
might come in handy when something awful
is about to happen to you.
Then, as if the Dread Day of Doom and
Disaster had come to Camillo Junior
High, I heard, "Hey, Hoodhood!"
It was Doug Swieteck's brother. He
entered my perimeter.
I took three steps closer to Mrs.
Sidman. She moved away and held her rain
"Hoodhood--you play soccer? We need
another guy." Doug Swieteck's brother
was moving toward me. The hair on his
chest leaped over the neck of his T-shirt.
"Go ahead," called the helpful Mrs.
Sidman from a distance. "If you don't
play, someone will have to sit out."
If I don't play, I'll live another day,
"Hoodhood," said Doug Swieteck's
brother, "you coming or not?"
What could I do? It was like walking
into my own destiny.
Copyright © 2007 by Gary D. Schmidt.
Reprinted by permission of Clarion Books
/ Houghton Mifflin Company.
Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Coming of age -- Fiction.
Shakespeare, William, -- 1564-1616. -- Plays -- Fiction.
Junior high schools -- Fiction.
Schools -- Fiction.
Family life -- Long Island (N.Y.) -- Fiction.
Long Island (N.Y.) -- History -- 20th century -- Fiction.