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Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Blast from the Past, Page 2

Meg Cabot

  Not something that had to do with me being irresponsible either. At least, not in my opinion.

  Like the time in first grade when my class got to go to the ice-skating rink as a very special prize for not talking in line on the way to the art and music rooms all semester?

  I got the chickenpox.

  Getting the chickenpox was not my fault. That can happen to anyone.

  And the time in second grade, when my class was scheduled to go to the state park to learn about nature preservation?

  The day before we were supposed to go, there was an unprecedented flooding event, so all the trails in the park were washed out for the season and the trip was cancelled.

  How was that my fault? I can’t control the weather.

  But OK, the thing in third grade? In third grade our whole class was supposed to take a bus into the city to go to the Children’s Museum.

  This was a very big deal because the Space-Quest planetarium (with a DigiStar sky-projection system . . . in 3-D) had just opened there.

  And so had the Dinosphere, where you got to explore what it was like during the Cretaceous period, more than 65 million years ago.

  But I guess most importantly it had an exhibit of rare collectable Barbies. Not that I cared about that. I mean, very much.

  I was very excited, just in general, about going to the Children’s Museum.

  So was my best friend Mary Kay Shiner. Mary Kay was so excited about it that she said I should give her my signed permission slip to hand in, because back then I had a tendency to lose things (not like now. I’m very responsible about that kind of thing now). She wanted to be especially sure I wouldn’t make the colossal mistake of losing something as important as the signed permission slip to go to the Children’s Museum with the rest of our class.

  I never imagined at the time that Mary Kay and I would have a big fight (even though throughout our entire friendship, we fought every day) and that Mary Kay would hand in her permission slip, but accidentally on purpose forget to hand in mine . . .

  . . . something I wouldn’t find out until the day of the field trip, when it was too late to do anything about it.

  Because that’s the kind of friend Mary Kay was. Which was no friend at all.

  So where was I while my class was having fun watching the wonders of the universe at the planetarium in the Children’s Museum (in 3-D glasses), and being chased by animatronic dinosaurs, and seeing rare collectable Barbies?

  I was sitting in the Walnut Knolls Elementary School principal’s office drawing pictures of dogs while Mrs Jones, the principal’s administrative assistant, babysat me (although she did say I draw excellent pictures of dogs, which is true. They’re based on my own dog, Marvin).

  Mary Kay and I became friends again of course. Because after she came back from her super-fun day at the Children’s Museum she cried and said she was sorry and begged me to forgive her.

  Mom and Dad said, Don’t trust something important (such as handing in a permission slip) to somebody flaky (and mean), like Mary Kay. That’s a rule.

  But if you ask me, I just have the worst field-trip luck of anyone. It’s pretty much a rule that If there’s going to be afield trip and Allie Finkle is scheduled to go on it, you can just count her out.

  But not this time. The minute I heard Mrs Hunter say the words field and trip, I knew this was going to be different.

  Because now in fourth grade I was finally, finally going to get to go on a field trip! I was responsible enough now that I knew I wasn’t going to let anything stand in my way. I didn’t even care where we were going . . . just so long as I was going to get to go somewhere.

  And on a bus! A real school bus!

  Of course . . . I never had gotten to go to the Children’s Museum, much less see that exhibit of rare collectable Barbies (which had turned out to be a travelling exhibit, and had left the city shortly after my class had seen it).

  But maybe this was going to be my lucky chance! Maybe the Barbie exhibit had come back!

  Of course the minute the chattering, farting noises and barking died down, Cheyenne O’Malley’s hand shot up into the air.

  ‘Um, excuse me, Mrs Hunter,’ she said.

  Mrs Hunter heaved a tiny sigh. Probably only I heard it. Because I hear everything Mrs Hunter does.

  ‘Yes, Cheyenne?’ she asked.

  ‘I’d like to nominate where we go on our class field trip,’ Cheyenne said, putting her arm down.

  I didn’t know we could nominate where we could go! If so, I wanted to nominate the Barbie exhibit.

  ‘Cheyenne,’ Mrs Hunter said, ‘that’s already been decided.’

  Cheyenne looked furious.

  ‘But we never even got any say in the matter!’ she said. ‘And it’s my understanding that the new Taylor Swift movie is opening this weekend at the mall!’

  ‘Well, Cheyenne,’ Mrs Hunter said patiently as M and D and the rest of the girls in Room 209 sucked in their breath eagerly and the boys made various noises in imitation of throwing up or gagging at the idea of going to a Taylor Swift movie, ‘that is very interesting. However—’

  It was right then that something hit one of the classroom windows.

  Not hard enough to break it. Just hard enough to make a sharp RAP! noise. Not SMACK! or THUD! like the body of a bird accidentally flying into a window would either.

  Everyone looked over at the windows.

  That’s when it happened again. RAP!

  Of course everyone jumped up from their seats and hurried over to the windows to see who would be throwing rocks at our classroom, even though Mrs Hunter was saying, ‘Class, please remain in your seats. I’ll take care of this.’

  When we looked down into the playground, we were disappointed to see a tall man with brown hair, wearing a suit and carrying a small suitcase, reaching down to pick up another handful of gravel at the bottom of the flagpole to throw at our windows. When he looked up and saw all of us pressing our faces to the glass, he straightened, smiled and waved at us in a very excited way.

  We waved back automatically.

  ‘Who is he?’ everyone wanted to know. ‘Why is he throwing gravel at our windows?’

  ‘He looks nice,’ a lot of the girls said.

  ‘He’s crazy,’ several of the boys said. ‘Maybe he’s homeless.’

  ‘But he has a suitcase,’ the girls said.

  ‘He’s not homeless,’ Mrs Hunter said. She looked like she was trying not to laugh. ‘He’s just an old friend who’s being very silly.’

  Mrs Hunter waved for her silly old friend to leave. He put both hands over his chest and staggered around the flagpole like his heart was breaking and he was dying. I tried not to laugh, just like Mrs Hunter. But it was hard not to. Even Mrs Hunter was smiling, though she looked like she was trying to keep her expression disapproving as she pulled the string to lower the blinds.

  Everyone groaned. We wanted to see what Mrs Hunter’s silly old friend would do next.

  ‘Go back to your seats everyone,’ Mrs Hunter said. But she was still smiling. ‘The show is over. I’m sorry for that interruption. My friend was just trying to be funny.’

  ‘Mrs Hunter,’ Cheyenne asked, ‘was that your boyfriend?’

  I was kind of shocked that Cheyenne asked that. Asking teachers about their boyfriends was against the rules, I always thought. I was glad when Mrs Hunter said, ‘I’m afraid that’s none of your business, Cheyenne.’

  Then as we were all taking our seats again, and Mrs Hunter began to explain how attending the new Taylor Swift movie was never going to be something she’d have considered us doing as a class during school hours because of its lack of educational merit, I wondered if Mrs Hunter did have a boyfriend. I knew she was divorced and that she had a little son.

  But she was also very pretty and not that old. At least, not as old as my mom.

  So why wouldn’t Mrs Hunter have a boyfriend?

  And why wouldn’t he be funny, and do something like throw rocks at
her classroom windows to show her how much he liked her? Because Boys do weird things to show girls that they like them, such as try to wipe boogers on them. That’s a rule.

  Still, it was weird to think of Mrs Hunter with a boyfriend. Did Mrs Hunter go on dates, like to the movies and restaurants and stuff, like Erica’s older sister Missy says she’s going to do, just as soon as she meets a boy who isn’t completely immature, and likes doing gymnastics as much as she does?

  I don’t know why, but the thought of Mrs Hunter going on dates with the man from the flagpole made me feel weird.

  ‘Psst.’ Rosemary was leaning back in her chair and whispering to me. She too had been relegated to the last row in our class in the hopes of being a positive influence. Although I suspect mainly it’s because she’s way bigger than Patrick, Stuart and Joey are. ‘I think you’re finally going to get to ride on a bus.’

  ‘I know,’ I whispered back. This was much better than thinking about Mrs Hunter’s maybe boyfriend.

  ‘Where do you think we’re gonna go?’ Rosemary asked.

  ‘Honeypot,’ Patrick Day, who sits on the other side of Rosemary, whispered to us out of the side of his mouth.

  ‘If you ever call me that again, I’ll make you eat this,’ Rosemary said, showing him the side of her fist.

  Patrick looked bored. ‘No. I meant the one-room schoolhouse at Honeypot Prairie. We just started that unit on pioneer settlers to our area, remember? When Mrs Danielson’s class next door started their unit on pioneer settlers, they had to go to Honeypot Prairie. So why wouldn’t we?’

  Rosemary and I exchanged horrified glances.

  And sure enough, the next thing we knew, Mrs Hunter was saying, ‘Class, for our field trip this Friday we’ll be going to Honeypot Prairie to visit their restored one-room schoolhouse and living-history museum that recreates the lives of the pioneer settlers to our area.’

  Rule #4

  Living History Museums Are Totally Boring

  No. This could not be happening.

  Not on top of the cellphone thing with my mom, and Mrs Hunter and her maybe, possible boyfriend.

  Because Honeypot Prairie, according to what we’d heard from all the kids in Room 208, the other fourth grade class at Pine Heights Elementary School, was supposed to be totally boring.

  Well, what wouldn’t be boring compared to the Children’s Museum, with its SpaceQuest planetarium (with DigiStar sky-projection system that shows you all the wonders of the universe. . . in 3-D!), but also the Dinosphere, where real (animatronic) dinosaurs actually try to attack you as you walk down a path through a jungle simulated to be exactly like it was during the Cretaceous period, more than 65 million years ago.

  Not only that, but they’ve got a thirteen-foot-tall giant beating heart you can actually walk through in order to learn how all the ventricles and arteries and stuff actually connect (important for me to know as someone who wants some day to be a veterinarian slash actress) in their You and Your Body exhibit.

  I know all this because my ex-best friend Mary Kay told me all about it after she got back from the field trip I missed because of her losing my permission slip. Mary Kay said it was amazing (she said the Barbie exhibit was the best thing of all. You could interactively design your own Barbie or Ken).

  They don’t have anything animatronic at Honeypot Prairie. According to Mrs Danielson’s class, all they had at Honeypot Prairie were people dressed in old-timey clothes, who talked in old-timey talk, refusing to answer the simplest question like, ‘Where is the bathroom?’ without going, ‘Well there, young feller. If you want to take a bath, you have to pay five cents to do it at the grand hotel! That’s the only tub in town. But if it’s ye olde water closet you’re talkin’ about, you’ll find it down the milking trail, behind the bakehouse, but to the right of the ye olde covered bridge!’

  Oh, OK. Thanks for that. That explains everything.

  And that’s not even mentioning ye olde blacksmith shoppe or the fact that, according to the kids in Mrs Danielson’s class, there hadn’t been a juice box to be found on the entire property.

  I wasn’t sure even the fun of riding a bus for the very first time would be worth that.

  Let’s face it. Living history museums are totally boring. That’s a rule.

  ‘At Honeypot Prairie,’ Mrs Hunter said, while we stared at her in stunned silence, ‘we’re going to learn how to shoe a horse, make bread from scratch and build a wigwam, just like the pioneers and Native Americans from our area that we’ve been reading about!’

  Rosemary and I looked at one another with sceptically raised eyebrows. It was true we’d been learning about this stuff in class.

  But who needs to know how to make bread when you can very easily buy it in a store?

  I would much rather have been chased by a fake dinosaur.

  ‘At Honeypot’s one-room schoolhouse,’ Mrs Hunter said, ‘we’ll read aloud from the recitation bench and copy math problems from the board on to our own slates, just like children in the eighteen fifties used to, because books and paper were too expensive and very rare in those days. We’ll even learn how to make our own kickballs!’

  An interative game where you could design your own kickball, like the one for the Barbies at the Children’s Musem, didn’t sound so bad.

  ‘Because, as we’ve been learning,’ Mrs Hunter went on, ‘the parents of children in those days were too poor to afford toys, so the children would make their own. By wrapping any leftover string or twine they could find around and around a rock, and then covering it with a piece of fabric, they would make a kickball, like the ones you use in the playground at recess!’

  Rosemary, who’d been leaning her chair back on its hind legs, abruptly lowered it to all four feet with a thump.

  It was clear from her expression that there was no way she was going to enjoy making a kickball from string and a rock. That was a little too interactive.

  I knew exactly how Rosemary felt.

  And I thought my parents were harsh for not letting me have a cellphone. The pioneer kids had it way harsher.

  Cheyenne shoved her hand into the air.

  ‘Excuse me, Mrs Hunter,’ she said.

  ‘Yes, Cheyenne,’ Mrs Hunter said, sounding a bit tired.

  ‘It’s my understanding,’ Cheyenne said, ‘that when Mrs Danielson’s class went to Honeypot Prairie, they were encouraged to wear period clothing. Will we too be encouraged to wear period clothing?’

  Period clothing? I would just like to say that no one had to wear period clothing when they went to the Children’s Museum.

  ‘That’s a good point,’ Mrs Hunter said. ‘Because the museum staff will themselves be in period costume, and because they like everyone who comes to the park to immerse themselves in the culture and lifestyle of the early settlers to our area, I strongly encourage all of you to dress the way you would have if we too were living in the early to mid eighteen hundreds.’

  A lot of the girls in the class – with the exception of Rosemary of course – perked up considerably at this.

  Which I guess I could understand. Who didn’t love a chance to dress up?

  The boys, however, all groaned.

  ‘Does that mean I have to wear knickerbockers?’ shouted Stuart Maxwell. ‘Because I’m not wearing knickerbockers!’

  ‘You don’t have to do anything, Stuart,’ Mrs Hunter said. ‘I said you’re strongly encouraged. And for those of you who do try, there will be fifty points of extra credit.’

  Everyone began buzzing about the extra credit.

  I didn’t really need any extra credit . . .

  But a personal rule of mine is that Extra credit is always nice to have, just in case.

  Patrick Day flung his hand in the air.

  ‘Yes, Patrick,’ Mrs Hunter said.

  ‘People in those days all had guns,’ he said. ‘Will it count as extra credit if I bring my Super Soaker: Bottle Blitz water gun to school as part of my period costume?’

Patrick,’ Mrs Hunter said. ‘It most definitely will not.’

  Patrick put his arm down and said, ‘Dang.’

  ‘I’m going to wear a hoop skirt,’ Cheyenne informed everyone around her. ‘That’s what girls used to wear in those days. My mother knows the owner of a company in New York that rents realistic period costumes, so she’ll be able to get one for me.’

  M and D seemed impressed.

  But I saw Erica, who sat near Cheyenne, look a little envious. Like Mrs Harrington, Erica’s mother, who owns a shop downtown where she sells fine collectables – many of which she makes herself - Erica loved anything to do with dolls, olden times and dressing up.

  I could tell Erica would have dearly loved to wear a rented hoop skirt to school.

  What I thought Erica would have loved even more would have been the exhibit of rare collectable Barbies at the Children’s Museum. You could dress the Barbies up in hoop skirts. I was almost sure.

  ‘I’m sure a rented costume would be lovely, Cheyenne,’ Mrs Hunter said. ‘However, as we’ve all been learning in class, the pioneers gave up everything they had in order to move out west and make their homesteads here, and couldn’t afford store-bought clothes. They made their clothes themselves out of a material called homespun. While I’m not saying all of you who choose to dress in period clothing have to spin your own clothes, if would be more in the spirit of the homesteaders if you used your imagination and assembled your own costumes from clothing you already have in your closets . . . something that might resemble what children who actually lived on Honeypot Prairie might have worn.’

  I saw Erica perk up at this. She had a pretty big imagination and lots of clothes in her closet.

  So did I, actually. Although a lot of them were wadded up at the bottom of it. Possibly on top of my DS.

  Still. Wearing a costume wasn’t going to make a place as boring as Honeypot Prairie any better.

  ‘I’m glad you’re all so excited about this,’ Mrs Hunter said.

  I couldn’t understand what Mrs Hunter was talking about. No one in Room 209 looked excited about going to Honeypot Prairie except Cheyenne.