Cory Coleman, Grade 2by Larry Dane Brimner, Karen Ritz
Cory is turning seven, and his best friend convinces him to "investigate" the birthday present his mother has hidden away. But when they open it and it doesn't work they're afraid they've broken it! As if that isn't bad enough, the class bully tries to ruin Cory's birthday party at the skating rink. It looks as if second grade is off to a bad start for Cory Coleman
Cory is turning seven, and his best friend convinces him to "investigate" the birthday present his mother has hidden away. But when they open it and it doesn't work they're afraid they've broken it! As if that isn't bad enough, the class bully tries to ruin Cory's birthday party at the skating rink. It looks as if second grade is off to a bad start for Cory Coleman.
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Cory Coleman, Grade 2
By Larry Dane Brimner, Karen Ritz
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 1990 Larry Dane Brimner
All rights reserved.
"Hey, watch it!" Cory Coleman snapped. He jerked back his hands.
Delphinius Lane chuckled. The book had barely missed Cory's fingers.
"I suppose you're going to make me," Delphinius challenged.
"Well —" Cory hesitated. He bit his thumbnail while he thought. There was no way he was going to make Delphinius do anything. Delphinius was the biggest kid in class.
"Delphinius," said Ms. Ricks. She sighed. "Reading can't begin until everyone has a book. I know you are going to be an outstanding book monitor this week."
"Yes, Ms. Ricks," Delphinius said, as polite as could be. Then he smirked at Cory. His hand made a slicing motion at his neck. He whispered, "Next time, Curly, I'll get your whole hand."
Delphinius continued down the row of desks. He dropped a book on each one.
Cory pulled at a snip of yellow hair. When he let go, it sprang back into place — boing — right over his right eye.
"Worms," Cory said. He said that when he was cross. "Worms to you, Dumb-phinius!" But he didn't say it so loud that Delphinius could hear.
Dumb-phinius. Cory had thought of it first. Back in September.
Delphinius was supposed to be in third grade. But he had been held back. When Cory found out about that, he got the idea. Dumb-phinius. Cory thought it fit better than Delphinius.
And it stuck. Everyone began to call him Dumb-phinius — as long as Delphinius wasn't around to hear.
Ms. Ricks said, "Open your books to page twelve. After we have read the story, we will answer some questions. Pay very close attention."
"Can I read?" asked C.J. Lewis. She waved one hand round and round like the propeller of a helicopter. The other hand fished inside her briefcase for her glasses.
"Thank you, Constance," said Ms. Ricks. "You may."
"C.J.," corrected C.J., and she began to read.
Cory pretended to pay very close attention. But he was not thinking about reading. He was thinking about show-and-tell. Today, Cory had something to tell. He sneaked a peek at the clock.
The big black hand was only on the two. It had to go all the way to the nine before it would be time for show-and-tell. The minute hand just poked along — tock tock tock — in no more hurry than a snail in cool shade.
Cory sighed. "Worms!" he said. The word just slipped out.
"Cory," said Ms. Ricks, "will you read next?" Ms. Ricks did not like it when people let words slip.
Cory read. He was a good reader. He liked to read. In fact, Cory liked everything about school. Except maybe arithmetic. But even that seemed to be getting easier now that everyone in Ms. Ricks's class had an arithmetic buddy.
Cory finished the paragraph.
"Delphinius, please read next," said Ms. Ricks.
Delphinius looked up, surprised. He'd been poking around inside his desk. And his book wasn't even open.
Ms. Ricks did not like it when people did not pay attention, either.
Delphinius turned red. He was not a good reader. He opened his book. He tried to look at Elizabeth Ann Martin's book to find out the page. She covered the page with her arm.
Josh Reynolds held up his book for Delphinius to see. He pointed at the word Delphinius was to read.
Ms. Ricks waited for Delphinius to find the place. "Delphinius, please read next," she said again.
Delphinius read. "'Th — the dr — dream — er —'"
"'Drummer,'" whispered Elizabeth Ann.
"I know," said Delphinius.
"Then why didn't you say it?" asked Elizabeth Ann. "Ms. Ricks, we don't have time for him to read. Let someone else read."
Cory looked at the clock. There was not time for Delphinius to read. The big hand was on the nine.
Ms. Ricks looked at Elizabeth Ann. She used her one-eyebrow-up look. Everyone knew what that meant.
"Elizabeth Ann," said Ms. Ricks. "I am certain you did not mean that the way it sounded. I know you want everyone to have a turn to read."
Elizabeth Ann swallowed hard. Then she mumbled something that sounded like an apology.
"Delphinius," said Ms. Ricks. "Would you like to continue, please?"
Delphinius banged his book shut. He folded his arms and scrunched his mouth into a tight little circle. When he did, the freckles on his face smashed into each other and became one big freckle.
Cory thought, Delphinius looks like a spot of rust. A giant spot of rust that isn't going to read no matter what.
Ms. Ricks sounded tired when she said, "Tim, will you finish reading for Delphinius, please?"
Tim Giovanni finished the story. He was in Cory's reading group. He was a good reader too.
"Please take out a piece of paper and copy the questions off the chalkboard," said Ms. Ricks. "You may answer them for homework."
Everyone moaned when she said "homework."
"We could answer them now," she said, "but then there would be no time for show-and-tell."
"We should do it now," said Amy Andrews. "We need to play after school."
"After school," said C.J., "I have a Future Leaders meeting." She snapped her briefcase shut as though that settled it.
"No," said Josh. "I brought something for show-and-tell."
"And I have something too," said Cory.
"Let's vote," said Ms. Ricks.CHAPTER 2
"Show-and-tell wins," said Ms. Ricks. "Copy the questions. And don't forget the heading."
The big black minute hand wasn't a snail anymore. Now it seemed to race — tickety tock, tickety tock — toward the twelve. Cory hurried to print the heading onto his paper. He wrote: Cory Coleman, Grade 2, Reading.
Worms! Cory thought. Wasted words. Wasted time.
In no time at all, Josh raised his hand. "I'm done," he announced. "Can I share first?"
"I should be first," said Elizabeth Ann. "I'm a girl, and girls always go first." She pointed her nose in the air.
Cory copied the last question. He folded the paper inside his book. Then everyone seemed to finish.
"Let's not squabble," Ms. Ricks said. "We'll do what is fair. We'll draw straws."
"Oh, let her go first," said Josh. "We don't have time for straws. She's probably got something dumb to share anyway."
"It is not dumb," Elizabeth Ann said. Then she told all about being in her aunt's wedding.
The minute hand was getting closer and closer to the twelve. Cory thought, Elizabeth Ann's show-and-tell is dumb, and if she doesn't hurry up, I won't have time to tell my news.
"And — and," said Elizabeth Ann, "I caught the bouquet!"
Finally, Cory thought. Then he whispered, "Hurry up, Josh. There isn't much time."
"We're waiting, Josh," said Ms. Ricks.
Josh dug around in his desk. Then he buried his head in his book bag.
"Just a minute," Josh said. He ran to the coat room and rummaged through his coat pockets.
The minute hand was almost on the twelve.
When Josh turned around, he said, "I — I guess I forgot it."
Cory thought, Worms! Worms! Worms! That is just like Josh Reynolds. He can't remember from one second to the next.
"Cory," said Ms. Ricks. "What did you want to share?"
Cory sat up straight and tall. "It's something important," he said. "It's really great."
Everyone was watching Cory. The clock's big black hand skipped a minute closer to the twelve.
"Saturday's my birthday, and I'll be seven," said Cory.
"It's about time, Curly," said Delphinius. He smirked. Everyone else oohed and aahed.
Cory tried to pretend that Delphinius wasn't there. "I — I'm having a party. A skating party. And everyone is invited."
Everyone oohed and aahed even louder. Except Delphinius. Then the clock's big black hand skipped to the twelve, and the bell rang.
"A skating party will be fun," said Ms. Ricks. "Right now, though, I have yard duty. We'll talk about the party tomorrow. Push in your chairs. Everyone may leave."
Suddenly there was the clatter of chairs and the buzz of voices and the shuffle of feet.
"Don't forget to do your homework," reminded Ms. Ricks.
Cory watched Delphinius push and shove his way toward the door. A book slammed to the floor. It belonged to Delphinius. Delphinius turned and kicked the book. It skidded between the legs of the desks.
"Delphinius!" Ms. Ricks said. "I'd like to see you."
Delphinius jerked to a stop. He jabbed his fists into his pockets. He lowered his head. He shuffled to Ms. Ricks's desk.
Cory picked up the book and put it on top of Delphinius's desk.
"Thank you, Cory," said Ms. Ricks.
Cory slipped out of the room. But instead of leaving, like he knew he should, he stood in the hall just outside the doorway. If Delphinius got a scolding, Cory wanted to know all about it.
But Cory was disappointed. Instead of scolding him, Ms. Ricks told Delphinius how important she thought he was because he was the oldest and could set an example.
"I'm counting on you," Ms. Ricks said to Delphinius.
Cory couldn't believe his ears. He thought, If it was anyone else —
At that moment Delphinius darted out of the doorway. He rounded the corner so suddenly that Cory didn't see him coming. Delphinius must not have seen Cory either. Smack! Delphinius smashed right into Cory.
Cory thought, "Uh-oh."
But Delphinius just gave him a mean look. Then he hurried out of the building.
Cory heard keys. It was Ms. Ricks rushing out of the room. She was surprised to see Cory.
"Cory," she said, locking the door. "I thought you'd be on your way home by now."
"I'm waiting for my friend," Cory said. He nodded toward the closed door across the hall.
"Your birthday certainly sounds exciting. Am I invited to your party?"
"Sure," said Cory.
Ms. Ricks smiled and headed toward the playground.
At the same time, Cory was wishing Delphinius would find something better to do than go to his party.CHAPTER 3
The Delphinius Problem
Cory waited in the hall.
For a while he counted squares of tile on the floor. Just the dirty brown ones, not the yellow ones. Then a voice interrupted him.
"Ms. Ricks never makes you guys line up." It was Baltimore Romero. He ran up to Cory.
Baltimore and Cory had been best friends ever since preschool. Even before. They had always lived next door to each other, and they had done everything together until this year.
This year Baltimore was in the other second grade, with Mrs. Culbertson. Mrs. Culbertson was old, old, OLD. And she was mean. She made her class line up for everything. They lined up to go outside. To come inside. To sharpen pencils. To pass papers. Some older kids said she made kids line up to be sick. They also said she was a witch. Cory was glad he was in Ms. Ricks's room.
"You always get out early," Baltimore said. The pair walked out the door, down the steps, and past a coffee- colored statue of Ulysses S. Grant. Mr. Grant had been the eighteenth president of the United States. It said so on the block of shiny gray stone under the statue. Under that, on a bigger block of the same kind of stone, it said:
Cory saluted as he went by the statue. Then he teased, "You always get out late."
Baltimore made cross-eyes at Cory. "It's Mrs. Culbertson's fault," he said. "It's all that lining up she makes us do. It's just not fair."
Cory looked around. "What's not fair is Dumb-phinius Lane," he said. He was serious now.
"Argf!" Baltimore said. Delphinius had given Baltimore a bloody nose on the first day of school — just because Baltimore had told him third grade was upstairs. "I hope he's not coming to your party."
"My mom said to invite everyone or no one," Cory said.
"What's that mean?" asked Baltimore.
"It means Dumb-phinius is coming," Cory said. "Unless he has something better to do."
"What's better than skating?" Baltimore asked. Then he added, "You'll be sorry if he comes."
Cory knew Baltimore was right. Delphinius bullied everybody. Especially Cory. It had been that way since September. And although he wasn't very good at arithmetic, there was one thing Cory knew for sure: Dumb-phinius + party = trouble.
Something had to be done. But what?
The pair crossed Maple Leaf Avenue and turned down Orchard Lane. Baltimore had an idea.
He said, "Don't tell Dumb-phinius where your skating party will be."
"That wouldn't work," Cory said. "Everyone knows there's only one rink in Northwood."
"So tell him we're skating at the pond." Baltimore seemed to think about that. "No good," he said. "It's only November. The pond isn't frozen yet."
"Worms!" Cory said. "It's no use."
Cory turned up his walk. Baltimore tagged along behind him. When they reached the porch, Cory unzipped his jacket and fished inside his shirt for the key that hung on a chain around his neck.
"Presto!" he said, and held up the key. He unlocked the back door.
Both boys banged their books down on the kitchen table. Cory dragged a chair over to the sink. He pushed a flashlight out of the way and stood on top of the counter. While he reached up for two glasses, Baltimore took a carton of milk out of the refrigerator.
When they sat down at the table, Baltimore scrunched his eyebrows together. That made him look like a fuzzy black caterpillar was resting right in the middle of his forehead. "What did you just say?" he asked.
"Nothing," Cory said, and lifted the top off of the cookie jar.
"No. Just now. Outside. You said something," Baltimore said. He helped himself to a cookie. "Mmmm," he added. "Chocolate chip."
Cory chewed on his thumbnail and thought. At the same time, he held up a cookie with his other hand. He studied the cookie as though it might help him to remember what he'd just said. He shrugged his shoulders. "Only thing I can remember," he said, and popped the cookie into his mouth, "isspwesdo."
Cory gulped. "Presto," he repeated.
"That's it!" said Baltimore. "That's it."
"What's it?" Sometimes Cory thought Baltimore was a little strange.
"Presto." Baltimore snapped his fingers together. "No more Dumb-phinius Lane."
Cory was really confused now.
Baltimore sighed. "It's your birthday. Ask your mom for that magic kit down at Carson's Toys and make him disappear. I bet it tells how to do it."
This time Cory sighed. It was the dumbest idea. It would never work. Magicians didn't really make people disappear. Besides, if somehow it did work, he figured he'd get into trouble. A lot of trouble.
It would be a neat trick, though. Cory made his fingers snap. He smiled as he thought about Delphinius disappearing into a puff of smoke.
Cory bit at a sliver of thumbnail, and carefully pulled it loose with his teeth. "If it didn't work," he said, "Dumb-phinius would kill me. If it did, my mom would take care of the job for him. Anyway, I already told her I want a Monster Wheels with power remote." He flicked the tiny piece of thumbnail toward the floor.
"Yeah?" said Baltimore. He seemed to forget the Delphinius problem. "Do you think you'll really get one?"
Cory shifted his shoulders. "Mom's sold a lot of houses. She said it's been a good year, so maybe. But — maybe not. You never know until you open your presents."
Baltimore made cross-eyes at Cory. When he did, his black eyes sparkled with mystery. "What do you mean, you never know until you open your presents? Don't you ever peek?"
Cory shook his head. The mop of yellow curls danced.
Cory shook his head again.
"Well, I always know what I'm getting," said Baltimore. "Mom and Dad hide everything in the basement. Right behind the furnace. All it takes is a peek. I — I like to know what I'm getting. Then I can practice being surprised."
"Practice?" Cory didn't understand why someone would need to practice being surprised. Either you were or you weren't. What did practice have to do with it?
"All right," said Baltimore, "so I just can't stand it when someone knows something I don't."
"I like to be surprised," Cory said.
"But all it takes is a peek," Baltimore said again. "Let's look."
"I — I don't know," said Cory. "It's — it's sneaky." But Cory was curious. He had wanted a Monster Wheels for a long time.
"Come on," said Baltimore. "What's wrong with a little peek?"
A peek. Just a little peek, Cory thought.
Then Cory repeated Baltimore's words. "What's wrong with a little peek?"CHAPTER 4
It didn't take long to find it. Cory lifted a box of his mother's old shoes out of the way. Behind that, right on the top shelf in her closet, sat another box. A smaller box.
On the front of the smaller box was a picture. It showed a truck with giant wheels, monster wheels. It was driving over other, ordinary trucks. Smashing them. Crunching them like toys.
The picture was all Cory needed to see. He yipped with joy. "A Monster Wheels! I'm really getting a Monster Wheels." He let his fingers gently touch the picture.
"Let me see." Baltimore climbed on top of the chair and pushed beside Cory. For a moment both boys stared at the picture.
"Let's try it out." It was Baltimore.
"I don't know," said Cory. "It's not right."
"It's your birthday present, isn't it?" Baltimore said.
"Yeah, but —" Cory thought. He bit at his thumbnail. There wasn't enough left to catch between his teeth. He bit off a pinch of skin instead. "S — something might happen."
"Like what?" asked Baltimore. He crossed, then uncrossed his eyes. "It's a Monster Wheels. A Monster Wheels is indestructible. It says so on TV."
"If my mom ever found out, she'd kill me," Cory said.
"She'll never know."
Cory scrunched up his face. "It's not a good idea." This time his voice was weak.
"Come on," said Baltimore. "We'll stack up some shoes and see if it climbs over them. Then we'll put it back just like we found it."
Cory sighed. Then he whispered, "I guess it'll be okay. But Mom will be home from work soon."
"All right!" Baltimore slapped his knee and jumped from the chair with the box in his hands. He sat on the floor and took out the truck. It was hot red. With giant black wheels. Monster wheels.
Cory stacked up some of his mother's shoes.
Baltimore aimed the remote control at the truck. He pushed on the lever. Nothing happened.
"Something's wrong," Baltimore said. He shook the control. He banged it against the floor. Then he took aim again.
Still nothing happened.
Cory felt his heart hop into his throat and stomach at the same time. "You broke it," he whispered.
Baltimore didn't seem to hear. He wiggled a clip and the end of the control box popped open.
Cory's eyes became as big as the truck's monster wheels. He gasped and clamped a hand over his mouth to keep his heart from flying out of his body.
"Needs batteries," Baltimore said.
Cory didn't move. His hand was still pressed against his mouth.
"Cor, it needs batteries," Baltimore repeated. He held up the control box and showed Cory where two batteries should be.
Slowly, Cory let out his breath. "Batteries?" he said, like he didn't know what batteries were.
"You know. To make it go."
Cory's funny feeling was gone as quickly as it had come. His heart went back to where it should be.
Cory remembered the flashlight on top of the kitchen counter. There were batteries inside the flashlight. "Just a minute," he said, and disappeared from his mother's bedroom.
Excerpted from Cory Coleman, Grade 2 by Larry Dane Brimner, Karen Ritz. Copyright © 1990 Larry Dane Brimner. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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