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Funny Coming of Age Middle School

My name is Lynley. I am eleven years old, and I attend middle school. My teacher, Miss Galloway, asked us to write a story about a conversation we shouldn’t have heard, either by accident or because we deliberately eavesdropped. Eavesdropping means standing below a house’s eaves to overhear a conversation you have no business listening to. Nowadays, it means you can be anywhere unseen, hanging out for private and scandalous snippets of news. It is like being a detective.


I had fallen over and sprained my left hand. The bad thing about spraining your left hand is your teacher expects you to still write everything with your right, and I’m righthanded. Even chores at home are no exception. I must use my other hand. I managed to get out of doing dishes, which was a small victory because I always do them. I explained to Mum that I couldn’t do an excellent job with one hand. She reluctantly agreed. But I had to set the table, make my bed, and dress myself. She agreed to do my buttons up for me but reminded me that some people only have one arm, and they manage because they have to. Why was I born the oldest? I never have a break.


As for playing at school, my favorite games at recess and lunchtime involve both hands. Swinging on the monkey bars is impossible. (I can’t tuck my school dress under my knickers). No way will I hang upside down. I can curl my legs around, and then I’d be stuck with my dress falling over my head and my knickers showing for all to see. The fact that we all wear the same color is a small comfort. I can’t pull myself back up with one hand. Ball games are out. I can’t catch and throw without both hands for netball, four-square, or volleyball. I tried throwing the stone with my left hand for hopscotch. Hopeless.


One of my favorite pastimes is reading, and our classroom is located next to the school’s library. However, we’re not allowed in there during recess or lunch. One day, during recess, I decided to sneak in and read. After all, what else could I do with my sprained hand? I found a cozy corner on the floor and started reading a book about earthworms. I’ve always had a unique interest in worms, aside from caterpillars. 


At my last school in wintertime, I’d pick the poor frozen wrigglers off the pavement on my way to school. They crawl out of their tunnels when it rains and get lost, trying to find higher ground. They are blind, you see. Then the frost gets them. Later, the sun shrivels them. I’d go into class before the bell rang and put them all in my desk, neatly lined up on one side so I didn’t disturb them during the day. Somehow, I got away with it. Imagine if anyone had opened my desk. They would have screamed, for sure. The heat from the wood burner kept the classroom toasty, and most of them gradually defrosted and became wriggly again. I carried them home in my empty lunch box and released them into our garden. We lived on a hill, so the soil wasn’t as soaked with rain. I think they were happy I’d saved them.


I didn’t do that when I turned eleven. Our teacher seems to know everything we get up to, and my classmates are too curious about what I do. A girl named Dianne is always in my face.


For a while, I loved reading books by Paul Gallico. I ordered a book called Manx Mouse, which wasn’t in our library. Dianne snatched it and handed it around to everyone. The picture on the front was too cute for words and made it look like a child’s book. They all laughed at me. That girl, Dianne Tonkin, mocked me terribly. 

“I love animals and reading about them. Paul Gallico is a great Author,” I said in my defense. My friend Rowan, who had asked to read it after me, changed her mind due to the others’ opinions. It made me sad. It’s a great story.


While I sat in the library, a secret conversation happened between two non-friends, Dianne and Marilyn. The trouble with non-friends is they never pretend to like you, so you never get a break. Therefore, they are not frenemies. Frenemies are not good, either. They pretend to be. I can see through facades. Both Dianne and Suzie think I’m weird. They could be correct, but they shouldn’t talk about it to others or constantly look for choice examples in my school life. I’m sure I provide many, but that’s beside the point. One thing I will not provide for them is a trade secret. They’d be sure to hear and spread it, the way they sneak around.


Our teacher, Miss Galloway, also gave us homework. We have to write our own poetry book. Over two weeks, we have to write at least five poems, make the sheets of paper into a booklet, list the poems in a table of contents, illustrate them, and hand in our anthology.


I sat in the library minding my business, resting my sore hand, and thinking about a poem I could write about worms. I heard Dianne and her friend Marilyn talking meanly about me on the other side of the tall bookcase. It’s so nasty, especially as we’re not supposed to be here. The problem with telling on them is I’d also be telling on myself! 


I sat as quietly as a Manx-mouse. It's easier than being as quiet as a mouse as I am tailless. This will be my eavesdropped conversation. I didn’t need to say where I heard it, just that I had listened secretly. I discovered that Dianne loved pulling my plaits, teasing me, and getting everybody to laugh at me. These were no spur-of-the-moment pranks. She looked for opportunities to do her dastardly deeds. She set out to make my life miserable. Sadism personified. However, she had failed. She annoyed me, but mostly, I wasn’t worried about what anyone thought of me. And now I knew the perfect way to get my revenge. I would write the eavesdropping story about this scheme I am listening to now and feature her in my poetry book, describing her most horribly—only the truth.


After their hate session, the girls left. I snuck out, making sure they didn’t see me.

First, I worked on my essay. I wrote it like a mystery and didn’t give names or the place. The teacher will know who the essay is about from the description. She will be astounded at Dianne’s evil stunts, secret bullying, and the clear intention and planning that goes into it due to the eavesdropped conversation.


I guess that’s why she asked Dianne and me to see her a few days later after the end of school . . .

“Do I have to worry about you two?”

“Not at all, Miss,” said Dianne.

“Yes, you do, Miss. My story is the truth.”

Dianne looked at me. “What do you mean?”

“I listened to you and Marilyn plotting and scheming about what you do to me and wrote the eavesdropping story about it.”

“You two need to be friends. I won’t have this carry-on in my classroom or outside it.”

“I haven’t done anything to her,” I said.

“You must have been in the library that day!” said Dianne, aghast. 

“Is that your usual lair for planning your pranks? I had a good excuse. I had sprained my hand and had a book to read. You and Marilyn sat there discussing what you would do to me.”

“If the library was out of bounds at the time, neither of you should have been there,” said Miss Galloway. “Make up and stop your silliness!”

I glared at Dianne. “Yes, stop your silliness.”

I had never seen Dianne smile so sweetly. “Of course I will.”

The teacher dismissed us, but Dianne turned on me as soon as we got out of the classroom. “Not! Not! Not! You wait, Lynley Oaten.”

I had already been working on my revenge. “Bring it on, Dianne. You’ll be sorry.” The trouble with saying that is it doesn’t help the situation. I’m also not a mean person. Now, I will have to keep my promise.


THE ANTHOLOGY

My first poem was a beautiful one about the ocean. I pretended to be a mermaid living ‘Under the Sea’: “The seaweed is as green as green, and all the fish are silvery clean.” It rhymed and became my first poem—a masterpiece. The trouble with writing such a good poem is that I don’t believe I can keep it up.

I wrote one about caterpillars eating lettuce and one about earthworms, though I didn’t write about saving them. I described what happens in the rain, frost, and sunshine—a bit gross. It’s a horror poem. 


Then, I wrote a sort of riddle-me-ree poem.

The Bully

My first is in danger; she’s a danger to me.

 My second is in vain; she’s as prim as can be.

My third is in plaits, which she yanks with glee.

My fourth is in ‘never’; she doesn’t stop, you see.

My fifth is in ‘need,’ and I want her to cease.

My last is in enemy, but please don’t be.

Who am I?


The last poem I called ‘Dianne Tonkin,’ straight up.

I described in verse her mousey frizz tied in bunches like two hairy balls. Her tiny freckles are like fly spots all over her face. Her chewed nails. Her sneer which only turns into a smile when she thinks of something mean to do. The fact that she pulls my plaits mercilessly and her associated catchphrase, “I just can’t resist them!”. She puts horrible things in my desk, like worms, as if that would worry me! Snatches and throws my schoolwork into the rubbish bin. Removes stuff out of my school bag and hides it. Where I used her name, I played on it. Dianne Stinkin’, Dunkin Sunken, Died and Taken, Dying Stink-bomb. You could say the worm had turned.


On the day we had to hand in our poetry, we had to first swap with our partners, read each other’s, and talk about them. When I handed mine to a girl called Suzie, I whispered to her, “Please keep this a secret. It’s for Miss Galloway’s eyes only.”  

While I read hers, I kept an eye on her face. She didn’t look pleased reading the one about the worms. She looked at me with her mouth open.

“Seriously, Lynley!” she said. On the last page, she smiled, grinned, and finally laughed. She pulled the sleeve of the girl next to her and handed my poetry to her, open on that page.

“Give it back,” I hissed.

I sank lower and lower in my seat as the anthology went from student to student. They all laughed in turn. When it got halfway around the room, the students who hadn’t read it knew something was afoot. So did Miss Galloway. Dianne reached across and grabbed the booklet and stared first at the caricature of herself and then at the poem above it. She became Mount Vesuvius, about to erupt.

“What is going on?” demanded our teacher.

Dianne flicked to the front cover to check who had written it. “It’s Lynley. She’s written a simply awful poem about me!”

Miss Galloway demanded that all the booklets be handed to her immediately. Her eyes settled on me, and the look wasn’t pleasant.

“I’ll see you and Dianne after school,” she said. “Now, let’s get on with our schoolwork.”

“I don’t know why you want to see me,” said Dianne. “I didn’t do anything.”

Miss Galloway glowered at her. “Enough!”


After school, we both went to her desk and waited for everyone to leave. The lunch hour had been a case of role reversal. Instead of Dianne being nasty to me, the other students were mean to Dianne. They thought my names for Dianne were hilarious and joked around. Everyone called her by one or other of the awful names. She looked depressed. Maybe she began to realize how others feel when teased. She looked at me, but not precisely with remorse. I felt I’d won a pyrrhic victory with both of us in trouble. A pyrrhic victory is a fancy way of saying you’ve won the battle and lost the war. Or you get your revenge and then receive what’s coming to you. It's not a good feeling.

Miss Galloway started. “I’ve had time to read your poem about Dianne. Frankly, I’m disappointed in you, Lynley.”

“I haven’t called her those names at all, Miss. I didn’t know my poems would travel around the class. I asked Suzie to give my booklet back.”

“So why did you even write such a horrible poem?”

“Because last time, after you told us both to stop being silly, Dianne said she wouldn’t and threatened me.”

“I did no such thing,” said Dianne. “You asked me to ‘bring it on!’”

“Lynley doesn’t lie,” said Miss Galloway. “Unfortunately, the truth hurts. I’m disappointed that you stooped to Dianne’s level, Lynley. It surprised me.”

Dianne looked astounded. “Down to my level? She’s the one who always stoops to telling the blasted truth!”

“I’m sorry I did it. It’s the truth,” I said.

“Sorry?” said Dianne. “The kids will never stop calling me all those disgusting names you invented!”

“It’s a small price for all the revolting things you have done to Lynley. I hope you are learning your lesson. If I hear any more about the matter from either of you, there’ll be detention, and I’ll call your parents. Understood?”

We both nodded. For the first time, we were in unison. But only because we were worried.

‘You can go now, Dianne . . . Lynley, a word, please.”

I wondered what it could be. Dianne went on her way.

“Lynley, I’ve read your poems. Apart from the ones about Dianne, I’m curious about your first poem. Did you write it?”

I stared, gaping . . . “Yes, I did. It’s my best one.”

“I had to ask. It’s a great poem, but so . . . different from the others. I didn’t believe you’d take it from someone else.”

“That’s the trouble with writing an excellent poem. After I wrote it, I ran out of . . . poetic inspiration. But I like caterpillars and earthworms. Writing lovely poems about worms dying of frostbite or a caterpillar eating lettuce is hard. If I was Frank Loesser, I could have included the words to the ‘Inch Worm’ song. It would have made a great poem.”

“Yours were . . . interesting. But I expected more like the first. It’s good enough to be submitted for the school magazine. I just had to ask . . . Don’t worry about it.”

“It’s alright, Miss. I don’t plan on being a poet. Goodbye, then.”

“And before you go. Please let me know if Dianne is bullying you anymore. I believe she may have finally learned her lesson. Don’t you?”

“I hope so. She’ll be worried about getting called dreadful names by the others now.”

Miss Galloway stifled a smile and shook her head.

“Thank you for understanding, Miss.”

The End


May 16, 2024 11:49

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12 comments

Kristi Gott
22:28 May 20, 2024

The characters' personalities and conflicts are cleverly revealed through dialogue, the assignment, and action without too much narrative exposition. This draws the reader into the plot as it moves along from each step of the story. Very well done!

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02:02 May 21, 2024

Thanks Kristi. Praise indeed.

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Jim LaFleur
20:53 May 18, 2024

Your story captures the essence of middle school challenges with humor and heart. Well done! 😊

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04:42 May 19, 2024

Thanks, Jim. I think Lynley is funny because she is so serious.

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Darvico Ulmeli
11:41 May 18, 2024

I understand Lynley perfectly. I managed to use my knowledge to find my way through the circle of bullying. You describe it so vividly. Love it.

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04:41 May 19, 2024

Thanks, Darvico. I enjoy writing this character.

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McKade Kerr
03:09 May 17, 2024

Oh Lynley, what a funny kid. It was great to see her again! You do a great job narrating the story in her voice, it’s really easy to get a good feel for her personality. Great job!

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06:11 May 17, 2024

Thank you. My husband read the La Luna one and didn't even laugh and told me it was a bit bland and matter of fact and sounded a bit like me. Oh, dear. I thought I'd nailed this 11 yr old. She is rather pedantic. That's my excuse. Thank you for your encouraging comment.

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Alexis Araneta
01:59 May 17, 2024

As someone terribly bullied for being different all throughout secondary school, I can 100% relate to Lynley's struggles. However, the experience made me vow to do what I can to never make others feel as small as I did; if others were mean, let me be kind. I...had imagined doing what Lynley did and publishing an anonymous poem/piece about my bullies (especially as an editor at our school newspaper), but ultimately, I thought it was silly. All this to say your piece does a great job evoking emotions. I also loved how the tone was very 11 ye...

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02:11 May 17, 2024

Thanks for reading and your comments, Alexis.

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Mary Bendickson
17:41 May 16, 2024

Trials and tribulations of middle school. Which wrist was injured? Her dominate one or not?

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00:07 May 17, 2024

"The bad thing about spraining your left hand is your teacher expects you to still write everything with your right, and I’m righthanded." - sorry you must have missed it. I wanted to write the 'dominant hand' and though this girl is brainy in a pedantic way she may not have used the terminology. Thanks for reading.

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