Read an Excerpt
The SOS File
Have you ever needed to call 911, but you didn't have a phone? Have you ever needed to run, but your legs were like spaghetti? Have you ever needed to yell "help!" but your throat was dry with fear?
For fun and extra credit write your story and put it in this file.
Mr. T. Magro
"Good morning, class."
"Good morning, Mr. Magro."
"Well, today's the day. The file is full. Everyone has turned in an SOS for the file."
"Mr. Magro, did you read them?"
"Which was your favorite?"
"I liked them all."
"Did we get extra credit?"
"All of us?"
"Well . . . all except one."
"Who didn't get extra credit, Mr. Magro?"
"Calm down, class. You will each have a chance to read your story, and I will read the last one. Now, sit back and enjoy the first SOS."
by Robbie Robinson
The old lady across the road is named Meany. Mrs. Meany. And she sure lives up to her name. She's the meanest woman in the county, in the state, in the world. Everybody said so.
Now, I've got a goat named Billy. Here's how I got him. My friend Tom's family was moving to the city, and you can't have goats inside the city limits, so he asked me if I wanted Billy. I said, "I'll ask Mom."
My mom's a writer. I always wait till she's writing to ask for things, because she says, "Yes, but don't bother me."
So I went in and said, "Mom, can I have a goat?" She said, "Yes, but don't bother me," and when she came downstairs an hour later, there was Billy.
"Where did that come from?" she asked. "Mom, it's my goat. You said I could keep him."
"I did not."
"You did! I said, 'Mom, can I have a goat?' and you said, 'Yes, but don't bother me.'"
"I'll tell you one thing," Mom said. "You better keep him out of Mrs. Meany's yard. You don't want to get on the wrong side of Mrs. Meany."
I said, "I didn't know Mrs. Meany had a right side. I'll keep him fenced up in the back yard," and that's what I did.
Only, one hot summer day the gate was left open, and the next time I looked out the front window, Billy was disappearing into Mrs. Meany's cornfield.
I ran across the road. Then I pretended to be just strolling along, calling quietly, "Billy, come on, Billy. Do you want to get killed, Billy?"
I could hear rustling deep in the field, and I knew I had to go in after him. I slipped inside one of the rows.
It was August, and the corn was way over my head. It was like being in a forest, and I kept going deeper and deeper. I'd hear a noise over there, and I'd go that way. A noise over here, and I'd go here. Pretty soon I stopped. I didn't hear anything.
This was a big cornfield. I was in the middle of it, and not only couldn't I find my goat, I was lost. It was like being in a maze. This is how rats must feel.
At last I heard a noise.
"Billy, Billy! Over here!"
The noise got closer.
"Over here, Billy! But keep quiet or the old hag will-"
At that moment the corn parted, and there stood the old hag. We looked at each other, and all of a sudden the corn just started spinning around me. I felt like I was in a whirlpool, twirling down a drain of green water.
I knew what was happening. All the men on my dad's side of the family have been known to n0 faint. When Mama gave birth to me, it was Dad who passed out. My uncle fainted in the army, right in front of the general. Granddad fainted watching eye surgery on TV.
I didn't stay out very long-not as long as I'd have liked. When I came to, I could hear Mrs. Meany's voice. She was talking to somebody. "Well, do you think he needs mouth-to-mouth resuscitation?"
She was talking to the goat. About me! About mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
I opened my eyes fast.
Mrs. Meany said-still talking to the goat-"Do you think he can get up by himself, or does he need a hand?"
Billy said, "Baaaa."
I struggled to my feet.
"Follow me," Mrs. Meany said to the goat.
And she led the way out of the cornfield. I followed. When we got out to the road, she said to Billy, "Now you keep him out of my corn, you hear?"
Billy said, "Baaaa."
I said, "Thank you," and Billy and I went home.
I never will forget that day-my SOS day-because of three things:
1. I stopped being afraid of Mrs. Meany,
2. I learned that goats know what's being said to them, and
3. I passed out like a man.
I don't know a worse SOS than being held back in first grade. And I was.
Being held back was humiliating because I was big. Worst of all, my little sister was across the hall in first grade. She was already ahead of me in reading. Everybody was.
Well, the first week our teacher, Mrs. Kincaid, had us draw pictures of our families and sign our names. She handed back the papers, calling out the names: "Sara . . . Bobby . . . Freddie . . . Mot." She stopped and read it again. "Mot." No one came up to get the paper. "Do we have a Mot?"
Everyone laughed. Finally all the papers were handed out, and I didn't have one. Mrs. Kincaid gave me a smile and came back and put the paper on my desk.
When the bell rang, Mrs. K stopped me and asked me to stay for a minute. I stayed. She complimented me on my picture but didn't say a word about my name.
She had figured out right away what was wrongI was dyslexic. Words looked backward to me. We worked together. She started out by letting me draw. I was good at that. Then she had me label the pictures. Pretty soon I was doing cartoons with dialogue.
Because of Mrs. Kincaid, not only did I pass first grade but I was able to finish high school and college. I even became a teacher. Now, when I sign my cartoons I always sign them Mot.
"It's you Mr. Magro! You were held back in first grade."
"I didn't know you were held back."
"I didn't know you could be a teacher if you were held back."
"You can be anything you want if you work hard."
"And I guess you don't get extra credit because you're the teacher."
"Right. I give all the credit to Mrs. Kincaid, who answered my SOS."
Text copyright © 2004 by Betsy Byars, Betsy Duffey, Laurie Myers
This text is from an uncorrected proof.