When your best friend is just a tiny bit psychotic, you should never actually believe him when he says, "Trust me. This is gonna be awesome."
Of course, you probably wouldn't believe a voodoo doll could work either. Or that it could cause someone's leg to blow clean off with one quick prick. But I've seen it. It can happen.
And when there's suddenly a doll of YOU floating around out therea doll that could be snatched by a Rottweiler and torn to shreds, or a gang of thugs ready to torch it, or any random family of cannibals (really, do you need the danger here spelled out for you?)well, you know that's just gonna be a really bad day ...
"Jeff Strand is hilariously funny and truly deranged." Christopher Golden, author of When Rose Wakes
Related collections and offers
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
"So what if we let the air out of his tires, and then we rig the car so it crushes his arms when he goes to check? He can't give you another F if he doesn't have arms."
"Seems extreme," I said.
"Well...maybe his arms don't actually have to come off. We could just make it so they don't work anymore."
Here's the thing about Adam: I knew he was only kidding, but a small part of me suspected that he really would help me rig Mr. Click's car to crush his arms if I asked. Does it make me look bad to admit that my best friend might be a tiny bit psychotic? I hope not.
"I don't want to do anything destructive," I said. "And nothing that could get me suspended. I'll be in enough trouble for the F."
For most of my life, I'd had pretty good luck with my teachers. There were only three of them that I didn't like. Mrs. Teeser, in third grade, was a yeller. She yelled about everything. "Finish your assignment!" "Line up for recess!" "Stop gluing your fingernails together!" My friends and I suspected that she had some sort of medical condition where her head gradually inflated throughout the day, and yelling was the only way to release the pressure. If she didn't yell, her head would pop. We cut her some slack for that.
In seventh grade biology, Mr. Greg was unbelievably strict. He didn't much appreciate jokes that his last name was really a first name, which is understandable, but he treated every moment of every class as if we were discovering a cure for cancer that we could totally screw up and lose forever if we lost concentration for a split millisecond. I have to admit that once the school year ended, I stopped disliking him quite so much, but he certainly wasn't one of my favorites.
Most of my other teachers were pretty cool, and I'd go so far as to say that Mrs. Rowell in fifth grade was a genuine life-changing inspiration.
But not Mr. Click.
Mr. Click, who taught my sophomore-year world history class, was just plain mean. Not in an ultra-strict "I want you to achieve excellence!" way like Mr. Greg, but in a "Kids suck!" way. I don't think he liked any of us. He didn't even like my girlfriend, Kelley, who got straight A's, always sat up front, and asked intelligent questions, all without being a smarmy, teacher's pet creep.
Maybe if I taught high school history for thirty years, I'd become mean and bitter too. He was a small man, short and thin, with a bushy black mustache and a large haircut-with-a-hole-in-it bald spot. He wore glasses but probably needed a new prescription, because he was always squinting.
Some teachers, when they give you a bad grade, seem like they're mad at you. Sometimes they're disappointed. Sometimes they're a little disgusted. Mr. Click always seemed delighted to hand out a bad grade, and he'd call kids out right in front of everybody. He wouldn't announce, "Hey, Kelley, here's your A-plus!" to the class, but he'd sure say, "Another D, Seth. That doesn't surprise me."
(I'm not Seth. I was just using him as an example.)
I'm Tyler Churchill. My report card was usually pretty good-A's and B's, but they didn't come easy. Except for art, which was a natural talent, I had to study for every test until my butt literally fell off.
(Kelley hated, hated, hated it when people used the word "literally" wrong, so I'll clarify: My butt did not actually detach itself from the rest of my body from the intensity of my studying.)
I wasn't mad at Mr. Click simply because he was pure evil. I was mad because we had a vicious test, the second of five tests that were each worth 10 percent of our grade, and I studied until my eyes figuratively dropped out of my head. And I don't mean that I was a total slacker until the night before and then did a desperate all-night, coffee-fueled cram session. I mean that I studied for that thing for a week. I mean that Kelley said, "Wanna hang out?" and I said no. And when she asked if I wanted to study together, I still said no because I knew we'd just end up making out.
Do you understand how hard I studied for this test?
I took the test that Friday and nailed it. We walked out of class, and everybody was complaining about how hard it was, especially Adam, but I knew every answer. One hundred percent, baby! Okay, maybe not 100 percent, but at least a 95. I had an awesome weekend.
Monday afternoon, on a cool February morning in Florida, I got my test back. F.
You're probably thinking, "You sure must be dumb to study so hard for a test and still get the answers wrong! Hard to believe you wrote a whole book!"
Nope. He hadn't even marked any of the questions. Just "0/100" and the F at the top.
Kelley turned around in her desk, which was right in front of mine. "What'd you get?"
I folded the test in half. "Ninety-two."
I spent the whole class feeling more than a little sick to my stomach. Our next classes were in the same direction, so normally, Kelley, Adam, and I would walk together, but when the bell rang, I told them to go on ahead. I went up to Mr. Click's desk. "Why'd I get an F?"
He squinted at me. "Cheating."
"Cheating?" What was he talking about? Except for the occasional game of Monopoly, I'd never cheated in my life!
"Your answers were exactly the same as Donnie's, word for word. Do you have another explanation?"
"Yeah, he copied off me!"
"It takes two to cheat. He also received a zero."
"But I didn't let him cheat! It's not my fault if he copied my answers! I can't help that!"
"This isn't fair."
"Let it be a lesson in personal responsibility."
He really said that. I know, I know, you're outraged on my behalf, right? I bet you're thinking, "You should've punched that guy in the face!" You can't really punch teachers, though. I mean, you can, I suppose, but you really shouldn't. I sure wouldn't.
"I'll retake the test," I said, even though I knew that at least 70 percent of what I'd studied had leaked out of my brain over the weekend. "That'll prove it."
Mr. Click shook his head. "Life and my classroom share a common trait: no second chances."
I stormed out of the room, furious enough to strangle a cute small animal, though the feeling would pass long before I encountered a cute small animal. This was beyond unfair. This was go-to-the-principal unfair. This was "call the local TV station (on a slow news day)" unfair!
I spent all of eighth period economics fuming. And believe me, I can fume.
When school let out, I headed straight to Donnie's locker. Now, I'm not a big guy. I look a bit taller than I really am because of my awesome posture, but my growth spurt was not yet all I hoped it would be, and most other sophomores had a couple of inches on me. Still, I wasn't some scrawny little weakling-I ran track and did well on the swim team-and I did not live in fear of getting beat up or shoved into lockers.
Donnie, on the other hand, was a big guy.
He was not the biggest guy in school. That was a senior named Hank whose flattop haircut emphasized the fact that his head really was kind of flat. But Donnie made the top five, easy, and though I knew we weren't living in a cartoon universe, I did sort of think that he could punch me so hard that my nose would fly off and stick to the wall.
Still, as you'll recall, I'd passed up the chance to make out with my girlfriend to study for this thing.
"Hey," I said, walking up to Donnie's locker.
"Hey," he said.
"I got a zero on that test."
He nodded. "Me too."
"It's because you copied off me."
"I didn't copy off you."
"Yes, you did."
"No, I didn't."
"You wrote down all the same answers."
"So you copied."
"You need to tell Mr. Click."
"Maybe you copied off me."
"I sit in front of you!"
Then he gave me a look, one that said You go bye-bye now or Donnie hurt you.
I guess I should've been way angrier with Donnie, but Mr. Click had been unpleasant and evil all year, whereas Donnie was like a big, dumb puppy that pees on your video games but doesn't really mean any harm.
Adam and I walked home while I ranted against my unfair treatment, which is when he said that stuff about squishing Mr. Click's arms with his car. "You definitely need to get revenge," he said.
"Maybe I'll talk to Principal Zelig. There's no way he'll let him get away with this."
"Nah, get revenge first. Egg his windows. TP his house. Leave a dead skunk in his desk drawer. Spread superglue on his chair. Spit in his coffee. Photoshop a picture and post it online. Have twenty or thirty pizzas delivered to his house. Get some laxatives and-"
"Where would I get a dead skunk?"
"I don't know. There's got to be one lying around somewhere."
"I'm just going to talk to Zelig."
"Okay, do me a favor. Don't talk to anybody until tomorrow morning. I think I've got an idea. If you're not cool with it, fine, you can tattle to the principal, but I think you'll like it."
"What is it?"
"You'll find out...tomorrow."
"It's not ready yet," Adam told me as we walked to school the next morning. "But Wednesday for sure."
"Can I borrow eighty bucks?" Adam asked on Wednesday morning.
"In what universe do I have an extra eighty bucks?"
"Do you have anything you could sell? A watch or something?"
"Not if you don't tell me what you need it for."
Adam considered that, for a long moment. "Never mind. Friday for sure."
On Friday morning, Adam handed me a wooden box about the size of the Spider-Man lunch box I used to have when I was a little kid. There were weird, curvy symbols on the lid.
"What's this?" I asked.
I opened the lid. Inside was a small doll.
"What's this?" I asked again.
Adam grinned. "It's your very own Mr. Click voodoo doll."