I was almost looking forward to eighth grade starting. Not because I missed getting up early or couldn't wait to be saddled with homework again.
No, I was looking forward to school starting up again for the only reason anyone in junior high looks forward to it.
I'd get to see my friends every day.
My best friend, Marissa, was ready, too. Her family is in crisis mode, and I think going back to school seemed like a way for her to escape all that. Plus, we'd be eighth graders instead of lowly seventh graders, and last year's stress of being at a new school would be totally gone.
But then the first day of school arrived, and I got my final schedule.
"No!" I cried when I saw it.
"What?" Marissa asked.
"I've got Mr. Vince! For homeroom and history!"
"Eew," she said as she inspected my schedule. "Bad way to start the day."
Then I leaned over to see her schedule and saw that we only had one class together--drama, at the very end of the day. "No!" I cried again. "This is the worst schedule ever!"
Our friends Dot and Holly joined us, and I found out that they had three classes the same as Marissa . . . and that all of them had some guy named Mr. Jefferson for history instead of Mr. Vince.
"This is so unfair!"
"Maybe you can get switched?" Marissa said.
So I marched right up to the office. It wasn't just that I had only one class with Marissa, it was that I had only one class with Marissa and they'd stuck me with Mr. Vince.
Let's just say that there was no way I would survive the year with Bad Mood Bob. And that's not just because he hates kids. He may teach history, but he and I have history. Last year he covered up a total sabotage of my softball team by one of his players so his team could play at the Sluggers' Cup. That may not seem like a big deal to you, but in Santa Martina, the Sluggers' Cup is huge, and since I was part of why his little shenanigans backfired, anywhere near him is now definitely enemy territory.
So, yeah. As Grams would say, I had good grounds to demand a change. Trouble is, when I got to the office, I found out from the office lady that my counselor couldn't see me. "She's swamped, sweetie," Mrs. Tweeter said with a tisk. She leaned forward and whispered, "She's new this year, so have a little patience, all right?"
"But she put me in Mr. Vince's class!"
Her eyes did some rapid-fire blinking over the tops of her reading glasses, and I could tell she was remembering the Sluggers' Cup fiasco. "Oh my."
She took a prim breath and a little step back. "Well, Mr. Vince is a professional, dear. And if you stay on your best behavior--"
"No! This will never work!" I looked past her to the vice principal's office door. "Can I please see Mr. Caan? He'll straighten this out."
"Hmm. I would see about that," she said, drawing out the words, "but Mr. Caan no longer works here."
"He what? Wait. Why not?"
"Didn't you read the August newsletter, dear? He's now principal at the high school. Mr. Foxmore is our new vice principal."
"Mr. Caan is at the high school?"
"That's right, dear." She gives me a cheery smile. "So you'll reunite with him next year."
"Well, what about Dr. Morlock?" I ask. "Can I see him?"
She looks at me like, You're kidding, right? because Dr. Morlock is a totally absentee principal. I only saw him about three times last year, but one of those was at the Sluggers' Cup tournament, so he knows about me and Mr. Vince.
"He's not even here?"
"He was, dear, but he had a meeting." She reaches to answer the ringing phone. "I'm afraid you'll have to wait your turn to see Miss Anderson, just like everyone else. I'm sorry."
I left there so frustrated that even the janitor noticed. "Hey, hey, hold on now, Sammy," he said, catching up to me. "What's wrong?"
"Oh, hi, Cisco," I said, feeling bad for blasting right by him. I mean, Cisco may be "just" a janitor, but he's the coolest adult at school. He can talk about music or movies or sports, and he knows all the kids by name. So instead of answering "Nothing" like I would have with most other people, I said, "They put me in Vince's class, and nobody in the office seems to get why that's a disaster."
"Oh boy," he says, and I can tell that he completely gets it. He glances back at the office. "A lot of changes around here, man. Not all good, that's for sure. I coulda told them what to prune and what to transplant if they'd asked me, but of course they didn't."
I laugh and tell him thanks, and just knowing he understands why I'm unhappy makes me feel better.
A lot better, actually.
"Don't worry," he says with a wink. "Things'll work out."
After that I just tried to tell myself that my schedule would get changed. Things would get better. After all, they couldn't get much worse, right?
But when I walked into history third period, I found myself face to face with Heather Acosta.
"Hey, loser!" she sneered.
I stepped around her and found a seat, but wow. Talk about a rash of bad luck. I mean, anywhere near that vicious redhead is like being surrounded by poison oak. Get too close and your life will be covered in itchy, oozy bumps. Stumble in and you might actually die. The only real solution is to avoid her, but she makes that difficult.
For one thing, she's sneaky. Some days she's shiny and green, and people think she's, you know, a blackberry plant or some sweet little meadow clover.
Don't let her fool you. She's always poison oak, and when she finally shows her true colors, you'll just want to go drown yourself in calamine lotion.
So I steer clear.
Really, I do.
Trouble is, she likes to brush up against me.
Likes to camouflage herself in front of our teachers.
Likes to surround me and make my life as painful as she possibly can.
So after she calls, "Hey, loser!" she says, "I saw my brother hanging out with a hot girl at the high school yesterday. He is so over you!"
See? It's hard to ignore her. Especially when she says things you're secretly worried about. I mean, Casey isn't officially my boyfriend, but Marissa has been saying that it was inevitable for so long that I'd started to believe it.
I wanted to believe it.
But he's in high school now.
And he's still my archenemy's brother.
Whose dad is secretly going out with my soap-star mother.
Which makes everything . . . complicated.
And not at all inevitable.
And on top of all that, I haven't heard from him since he called me during his high school orientation, and that was over a week ago.
But anyway, as if having Heather in Mr. Vince's class wasn't painful enough, it turns out I also have her in science and drama.
Half of my classes!
Why not just move her in with me?
But after two weeks of trying to get my schedule changed, Miss Anderson told me that there's nothing she can do about it. Dr. Morlock is never around, and the new vice principal refuses to see me, which makes me really mad. I thought about following him to his car after school and making him hear me out, but I don't even know what he looks like!
Grams tried talking to him on the phone, but she couldn't get anywhere with him, either. And when Mr. Foxmore began asking questions about why she was calling instead of my mother, Grams gave up. "Why didn't I say I was Lana?" she moaned. She fluttered around the kitchen like a trapped little bird. "I'm sorry I botched that, Samantha. He made me so nervous! Maybe you can get your mother to call?"
I just rolled my eyes and snorted.
Like Lady Lana would want my sorry little scheduling problems to interfere with her soap-star life?
No, the bottom line is, I'm stuck with Mr. Vince for homeroom and history, and I'm stuck with Heather Acosta in history, science, and drama. "Oh, that's harsh," Cisco said when he asked me how things had turned out. "But that's what's happening around here, man. People don't listen."
"It's nice that you do," I told him.
"Too bad that's all I can do." He smiled and pushed his cleaning cart along. "Except clean up your messes."
"Hey! I throw out my own trash."
He laughs and waves. "I know you do, Sammy." Then over his shoulder he calls, "Believe me, I pay attention!"
Now, there is one good thing about my schedule, and that's Billy Pratt. Billy is also in history, science, and drama and totally makes those classes. For one thing, he's a good friend, but he's also like a chimp in a cage of hyenas.
A macaw swooping through a murder of crows!
A clown fish in a school of sharks!
He's so . . . Billy.
And although most teachers don't appreciate his hyper sense of humor, I sure do. Especially after it finally kicked in again during the third week of school.
"Are we gonna reenact battles in here?" he asked Mr. Vince on Tuesday.
"No, Mr. Pratt," Mr. Vince said with a frown.
"Are we gonna set up encampments in here?" he asked on Wednesday.
"No, Mr. Pratt. But you can set up camp in the principal's office, if you'd like."
"Are we gonna have guest speakers in here?" Billy asked on Thursday. "We could really use some guest speakers in here."
This made Mr. Vince scratch his hip, and eye him with a frown. "Are you implying that my class is boring, Mr. Pratt?"
Billy gave a little shrug. "I'm implying that we could really use some guest speakers in here."
Mr. Vince scratches his other hip as he looks around the classroom. "How many of you think we need guest speakers?"
Billy's hand shoots up, but everyone else just looks around at everyone else.
"Aw, come on," Billy says to us. "Flap your chicken wings in the air already. Don't you want to listen to some old Civil War dude? Or Rosie the Riveter? Or slaves that were hunted by hounds?"
Jake Meers' hand inches up. "I would."
David Olsen's follows. "That would be cool."
Soon almost everyone has their hand up, including me.
Well, not Heather Acosta, but that's because she's being her sneaky little shiny-leafed self.
Mr. Vince shakes his head and mutters, "I'm dealing with a roomful of retards." Then his face pops full of blood as he screams, "Those people are all dead! Dead, you hear me? They've died! They're DEAD!"
Billy jumps out of his seat. "We should have a seance!"
"GET OUT!" Mr. Vince yells, pointing an angry finger toward the door. "Go to the office NOW!"
So while Billy collects his stuff and trudges out the door, Sasha Stamos turns around in the seat in front of me and whispers, "I can't believe he called us retards. Doesn't he know that's offensive?"
I smirk. "He lives to be offensive." Then I add, "This place takes some adjustment, huh?" 'cause Sasha was homeschooled until just this year.
"Well, my little brother's autistic, and I shouldn't have to adjust to such an ignorant teacher." Then she gives me a we'll-just-see-about-this look and turns back around in her seat.
The trip to the office doesn't seem to dampen Billy's spirits, though, because on Friday he comes into history wearing a hodgepodge of clothes that sort of adds up to a Civil War soldier's uniform, including a blue hat with crossed rifles on it.
The hat comes off, though, when Billy notices a short man with soft features and receding red hair standing in a back corner of the classroom.
I catch Billy's eye and grin like, Guest speaker? But he shakes his head and gives me a warning look that means one definite thing.
The tardy bell rings, and Mr. Vince immediately clears his throat. "I'd like to apologize," he says, looking down at his shoes, "for using the word retard yesterday. It was in poor taste, and I shouldn't have done it."
He glances up from his shoes and sort of vultures a look at the class.
We just stare at him, not making a peep.
"I'd like to put the incident behind us, so please accept my apology."
We just stare at him some more.
Then suddenly he calls, "Mr. Foxmore, stay a minute, would you?"
We all whip around to see that the man with the receding red hair is in the middle of slipping out the door.
Now, through my head are flashing a million thoughts.
That's Mr. Foxmore? The new vice principal? The new discipline guy? The new Mr. Caan? The guy who flustered Grams and refused to see me?
It can't be!
He seems so . . . soft.
And he's short.
And his suit is all rumply!
I mean, if he can't even control his suit, how's he ever going to control eight hundred junior high kids?
But then it hits me that he just got Mr. Vince to do something that Mr. Caan--who looks and acts like a pro wrestler--had a really hard time getting him to do.
Sasha Stamos turns around and whispers, "My mom called the school about it yesterday!" She seems very proud and super excited, but then hesitates and adds, "Don't tell anyone, okay?"
I nod, and as Mr. Foxmore comes back inside the classroom, Mr. Vince reaches for the rope at the bottom of the projection screen, which is pulled down in front of the whiteboard. "I'd like to know," he says, looking around the classroom, "which one of you thought you could get away with this?"
Then he yanks the rope, rolling up the screen and exposing a big, bold, red-lettered message on his whiteboard.
A message that says, DIE DUDE!From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher by Wendelin Van Draanen. Copyright © 2010 by Wendelin Van Draanen. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.