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The Only Girl in School

Natalie Standiford


  Title Page


  Part 1: Boys Island: September

  Chapter 1: Yucky Gilbert Sits Next to Me

  Chapter 2: Pow-Pow

  Chapter 3: Poison Pizza

  Chapter 4: The Clubhouse

  Chapter 5: Soccer Practice

  Chapter 6: Swifty Surprise

  Chapter 7: I Get Upset

  Chapter 8: I’ll Show Everyone

  Chapter 9: New Crew

  Chapter 10: We Interrupt This Letter for a Message from Yucky Gilbert

  Chapter 11: First Rule: No Slobbering

  Chapter 12: Bathroom Invasion

  Chapter 13: Race Day

  Part 2: The Ghost of Foyes Island: November

  Chapter 14: Holiday Play

  Chapter 15: Stinky Scrooge

  Chapter 16: Later the Same Day …

  Chapter 17: Cast List and a Trap

  Chapter 18: Today in Soccer Horror

  Chapter 19: A Ghost Gives Me an Idea

  Chapter 20: A Clue, and a Problem

  Chapter 21: Strikeout

  Chapter 22: Even My Own Mother Is Against Me

  Chapter 23: Gorillas vs. Turtles

  Chapter 24: A Ghostly Shadow

  Chapter 25: The Food Is Gone

  Chapter 26: Humbug

  Chapter 27: Operation Make Henry Be My Friend Again

  Chapter 28: Who Needs Boys?

  Chapter 29: Opening Night

  Part 3: Dance of the Squares: April

  Chapter 30: Bowling

  Chapter 31: The Bathroom Prowler Strikes Again

  Chapter 32: I Ask Henry to the Square Dance

  Chapter 33: How to Get Revenge on Webby

  Chapter 34: Party Invitation

  Chapter 35: Party Invitation Part Two

  Chapter 36: Party Invitation Part Three

  Chapter 37: The Square Dance

  Chapter 38: A Doubloon?

  Chapter 39: Who Keeps Breaking into My Clubhouse?

  Chapter 40: Gilbert Is a Bad Artist

  Chapter 41: My Birthday Party

  Chapter 42: Attack of the Killer Deer

  Chapter 43: Webby Has Nerve

  Part 4: Smuggler Joe’s Treasure: June

  Chapter 44: The Social Studies Fight

  Chapter 45: The Ghost of Smuggler Joe

  Chapter 46: Henry Is Skeptical

  Chapter 47: Fish, Fish, Fish

  Chapter 48: To the Lighthouse

  Chapter 49: The Boat Shed

  Chapter 50: To the Finder of This Map

  Chapter 51: History Day

  Chapter 52: Another Mystery Solved

  Chapter 53: I Make History

  Chapter 54: Fifth Grade Is Finally Over

  About the Author


  To: Bess Calhoun

  San Francisco, California

  From: Claire Warren

  Foyes Island, Maryland

  Dear Bess,

  Here’s how I imagine your first day of school:

  You hated it. The kids are mean. Your teacher is mean. And boring. It’s very strict with lots of dumb rules that make no sense, like No one is allowed to go to the bathroom without a buddy. Which means you can never go to the bathroom at school, ever, because there is no other girl IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE SCHOOL to be your bathroom buddy.

  Oh, wait. That was MY first day.

  But you hated yours too, right? Please say you are begging your parents to move back to Foyes Island right now. If they don’t move back, you’ll run away and live here with me.

  I miss you. Can you tell?

  I know it’s not your fault you moved away. And I know it’s not your fault that our town is so small and our school is so teeny and that through some freak coincidence, all the other students happen to be boys. It wasn’t bad when it was just the two of us. I liked it when it was the two of us.

  I do not like it when it’s just the one of me.

  I thought it might be SORT OF okay because I still had Henry. You know, Henry Long, the third-fastest sailor on Foyes Island (after me and you), my other best friend? Ha ha ha.

  Henry was supposed to pick me up this morning so we could walk to school together, just like we’ve done every school day since first grade. Only this year Gabe was going to go with us. Gaby was wearing a bow tie and everything, in honor of his first day of first grade. He’s a cute little dork.

  Gabe and I waited on our front porch for an hour.

  No Henry.

  Finally it was 8:15 and Henry still hadn’t showed. Poor Gaby was frantic. He didn’t want to start his very first day of school ever, not counting kindergarten, by being late. He kept saying, “My teacher will think I’m bad and I’ll never be able to change her mind!”

  “Don’t worry,” I told him. “He’ll be here soon. Henry never lets me down.”

  Mom came out and said, “You’re still here? You’re going to be late for your first day!” So Gabe and I gave up on Henry and ran all the way to school. The whole time I was thinking, What happened to Henry? Oh my gosh I hope he’s okay!!!!! What if he got hit by a car on the way to my house? What if he’s got a deadly bacterial infection? What if he died???!!!?

  Because what else could keep Henry from walking to school with me, just like always? What else besides the end of the world?

  But when I got to school, there he was, hanging out by his locker with Webby and those guys, perfectly safe and healthy and not the least bit dead.

  “Henry!” I was shocked. I couldn’t understand what he was doing there.

  “Oh, hi, Claire.” He said it all casual, like, Oh, hi, Person I Barely Know.

  It doesn’t make any sense, does it?

  I stood in the hall for what felt like a million seconds, flapping my jaw open and closed, trying to understand why Henry was acting so weird. Finally I said, “Henry, what are you doing here?”

  “What do you mean?” he asked, like it was the stupidest question he’d ever heard. “It’s, you know, school.”

  “Yeah, so why didn’t you stop at my house to walk over with me like you always do?”

  As soon as I asked this, Webby snort-laughed. I officially hate Webby and his snort-laugh. Since when is Henry friends with him anyway?

  “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Henry told me.

  Before I could ask him if he’d had a brain transplant over the summer, or at least a complete memory wipe, the bell rang. We had to go to class. Webby and Henry walked into Mr. Harper’s room and sat down next to each other. Henry took an end seat, so I couldn’t sit on his other side.

  I sat down in the second row. The seat next to me was the last free desk in the room. It was strange to see boys all around me, and to be the only girl. When you were here, it wasn’t as obvious, because I could compare what I was wearing to what you were wearing, or I could flash a look your way, and you’d know what I meant. I was not the only creature of my kind. But now I’m like an alien, a castaway from the planet Girl, stranded on Boys Island.

  I counted the number of kids in the class: six boys and me. There was one boy missing. I looked around to see where Yucky Gilbert was … and he wasn’t in class yet.

  Oh no.

  Oh yes.

  Mr. Harper was just closing the door when Yucky Gilbert ran in. Yucky G. looked around for an empty seat, spotted the one next to me, and grinned so wide the sunlight flashed off his braces, temporarily blinding me. He dashed over to plant his butt next to mine. He smacked his slobbery lips and said, “Hi, Claire.” There was a little string of drool dripping off his braces, between his upper teeth and his lower teeth. It stretched while he talked but never broke. Yucky Gilbert’s drool is strong, like a spider
’s web.

  I read his mind. Here’s what he was thinking:

  Hi, Claire. Welcome to another year of me constantly trying to kiss you. And this year I’m going to triumph.

  I swear, Bessie, I could see it in his eyes.

  What am I going to do? I used to have you and Henry to shield me from Yucky G., but now you’re three thousand miles away and Henry is acting like I don’t exist. I pray that Mr. Harper won’t make us keep these seats permanently for the rest of the year. Because if I have to spend a whole year fending off Yucky G., my life will be one continuous saliva shower.

  I know you’re squirming and gagging and saying, “Claire stop being gross,” so I’ll stop the Yucky G. Report for today.

  Later tater,


  Day One, continued

  Dear Bess,

  I know this letter is really long, but a lot happened today and almost ALL of it was HORRIBLE.

  While Mr. Harper was telling us about the upcoming school year, I could hear Y.G. slobbering over his braces and feel him staring at me with his big, googly blue eyes. Then it was time for gym.

  Mr. Harper shouted at us to file out in an orderly fashion, but we didn’t. We burst screaming into the hallway. I turned around and Gilbert was RIGHT behind me, practically glued to my back. His lips are always wet. His freckles look like tiny fleas on his face. We should call him Flea Face. He grinned, and then puckered up and leaned forward. He was trying to kiss me right there in the hallway!

  Mr. Unitas was walking by just at that moment. I thought, Oh good, the principal. He’ll save me.

  I cried, “Mr. Unitas, help!”

  But Mr. Unitas hardly even looked down at us. He just patted me and Gilbert on the back.

  “Good to see you again, kids,” he told us. “Let’s have a productive year this year!”

  He swam through the flood of kids mobbing the hallway, his eyes straight ahead, not looking any of us in the face. I guess you can get away with that when you’re really tall and built like a football player.

  At least it stopped Yucky G. from getting close enough to make contact. I was happy for about three seconds.

  Then I got to gym.

  You know how I feel about gym. Gym is never good.

  Today, Mr. Powell was in a great mood. Which is like saying a shark is in a great mood. Or a tiger. Their mood is not really the point.

  “Let’s take it easy and have some fun, huh, kids?” Pow-Pow offered. “How about a little game of dodgeball?”

  I used to like dodgeball. Those days are over.

  Anyway, this game wasn’t really dodgeball. It was more like Pummel the Girl.

  Team captain: Webby Peterson.

  Pow-Pow divided us into two teams and put three balls on the centerline of the basketball court. I was on Webby’s team. So was Henry. Gilbert was on the other team.

  Webby and Zach M. raced to the line and snatched up two balls. Cal grabbed a ball for the other team. We all ran back to our sides of the court. Cal threw his ball at me, but it bounced and I caught it. I was winding up to throw the ball at Gilbert when a ball bonked me on the back. I turned around. Webby was grinning at me. “You’re out.”

  “But I’m on your team!” I protested.

  Webby didn’t care. “Rules are rules,” he said. “Henry, throw your ball at her.”

  “No, Henry!” I countered. I was sure he could see how unfair this was. You’re not supposed to throw the ball at your own teammates! I looked at Mr. Powell but he was just standing on the sidelines with his fist on his hip, staring at his phone.

  Henry threw his ball at me, hard. That made me mad. I threw my ball at him.

  “Mr. Powell!” Webby shouted. “Claire is throwing the ball at us!”


  Pow-Pow didn’t even look up. Which Webby took as permission to scream, “Get her!”

  All the boys—my team, the other team—threw balls at me. One ball would bounce off me and another boy would catch it and throw it back at me. I shielded my face and shouted, “This isn’t how you play dodgeball! Mr. Powell! Mr. Powell!”

  FINALLY Mr. Powell blew his whistle. I thought, Okay, good, justice, but then he hollered, “Claire Warren, you’re out!”

  “But, Mr. Pow—”

  “Go on.” He ushered me toward the bleachers. I didn’t protest. At least if I was out I would be safe from getting pummeled.

  Or at least that’s what I thought.

  Pow-Pow blew his whistle again. “Resume play!”

  Then he resumed his texting. Or whatever he was doing on his phone.

  The boys picked up the balls and bounced them on the floor. Yucky Gilbert had one, but Webby took it from him. The other boys looked at Webby, who glanced at Pow-Pow—still out of it—then nodded. All at once, the boys threw the dodgeballs at me! All of them!

  “Hey!” I screamed. “I’m out!!!!”

  Mr. Powell didn’t do anything to stop it. I don’t know why. He kept looking at his phone.

  When Gilbert caught one of the balls, he reared back like he was really going to heave it at me. But then he stopped.

  “Throw it, Mellencamp!” Webby yelled.

  Yucky Gilbert clutched the ball to his chest and shook his head.

  “Wuss,” Webby spat out.

  He picked up a ball and smashed it at me.

  Luckily he was so obvious about it, I was able to dodge the dodgeball.


  Webby didn’t like that at all.

  Before he could get his hands on another ball, I called out Mr. Powell’s name again, to get his attention.

  Pow-Pow held up one finger. “I’ll be right back, kids. I have to take this important call. Everybody hang tight.” He ran out of the room. He left me there, all alone, with all those boys.

  One of the balls rolled on the floor. Henry reached down to get it. I gave him my most pleading puppy-dog look: Please, Henry, don’t pummel me. I’m your oldest friend!

  “Get her, Henry,” Webby ordered.

  You know Henry pretty well, Bess. What do you think he did?

  If you guessed He pummeled Claire, then you know him better than I do.

  This story is making me feel so sad I have to take a break. I’ll finish writing to you about the rest of the day after supper. We’re having crabs and corn, last of the season. Bet you don’t have that out in San Francisco.

  Or maybe you do.

  Later tater,


  Hi Bess,

  My story, continued:

  After gym we had lunch. Pizza Day.

  Okay, I thought. Pizza is never bad.

  I went to the cafeteria and got in line. I got my pizza and salad and looked for a place to sit. Henry was sitting with Webby and his friends. I didn’t want to sit anywhere near them, not after what happened in gym. But the cafeteria was pretty full.

  And noisy. Food was flying everywhere. The second graders were singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in burps.

  For one happy second I imagined myself somewhere, anywhere else. I imagined myself at your new school—flowers on the tables, girls calling other girls over to sit with them and talk about what happened at the most recent slumber party, sharing cupcakes and cookies with each other, maybe even getting up to teach each other dance moves.

  That’s what it’s like at your school, isn’t it, Bess? If it isn’t, I don’t want to know.

  There was room at the first graders’ table, but when I went over there, Gabe gave me the stink eye. I guess he was embarrassed to have his big sister sit with him at lunch. The only other table with any room was next to Webby’s. It was full of fourth graders.

  I put my tray down. A fourth grader scowled at me.

  (By the way, whenever I refer to any person at school, any fellow student, assume it is a boy. Because it is a boy. Remember, I am THE ONLY GIRL.)

  “Why don’t you go sit with your own grade?” the fourth grader said.

  “No room,” I told him. I made mys
elf tall so he would get a good sense of my fifth-grade superiority. He backed down.

  But then I realized I’d forgotten to get milk. I went to the drink station to get it. When I got back to my table, the fourth graders snickered. That made me suspicious.

  I scanned my tray for signs of sabotage, but everything looked okay. I sat down.

  I picked up my pizza and took a bite.

  My mouth felt like it was on fire.

  Someone had doused my slice in hot sauce. Tons of hot sauce.

  It looks just like tomato sauce, so I didn’t notice until it was too late.

  I spat out the pizza. The fourth graders laughed and looked over at the table next to us. Webby’s table.

  “Who put hot sauce on my pizza?” I demanded.

  They all cracked up. Somebody shouted, “Smuggler Joe did it!”

  Sure. Whenever something goes wrong, Smuggler Joe did it.

  Smuggler Joe spray-painted Class of 2015 Rocks on the water tower.

  Smuggler Joe stole Mrs. Grimes’s cat.

  Smuggler Joe made Webby late for his sister’s wedding.

  Smuggler Joe haunts the old bait and tackle shop.

  Smuggler Joe cut Mr. Pitovsky’s boat loose.

  Smuggler Joe sends flashlight signals to his ghost buddies across the river.

  And now he put hot sauce on my pizza.


  The boys in my class were laughing even harder than the fourth graders.

  “Tell me!” I shouted. “Who did it?”

  Webby pulled a little glass bottle out of his jacket pocket and wagged it at me.

  Tabasco Sauce. Half empty.

  I sprang to my feet.

  “You ruined my lunch!” I tried to grab the bottle from Webby, but he tossed it to Zach M. I lunged for it, spilling Henry’s milk. Mrs. Grimes stormed over and coughed twice. Then she growled, “What’s all the commotion?”

  “Claire attacked me!” Webby shrieked.

  That little liar!

  “I did not!” I said. “He tried to poison me!”

  Mrs. Grimes stared me down. “I don’t see any poison. But I did see you run over to this table in a fury and knock over a carton of milk.”

  She marched to the wall and wrote my name on the Bad Board!