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School of Fear: Class Is Not Dismissed!
By Daneshvari, Gitty
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Copyright © 2010 Daneshvari, Gitty
All right reserved. ISBN: 9780316033282
School of Fear
EVERYONE’S AFRAID OF SOMETHING: Heliophobia is the fear of the sun.
The sun is not the sun. And that isn’t to say that the sun is the moon, for that is most definitely not the case. The sun is simply far more than the center of the solar system or a bright shiny thing in the sky. Day after day the sun wrestles us from darkness, bringing with it the many secrets we hide from others and occasionally even ourselves. Oh yes, the sun is the guardian of truth, whether we like it or not.
Thirteen-year-old Madeleine Masterson breezed into Boston, utterly delighted to have escaped the dreary skies of London. With a beaming smile the fair-skinned, blue-eyed girl with raven locks just shy of her shoulders led her parents into the blazing heat and humidity. The entire Masterson family stood outside warming their chilly British bones in the extraordinary sunshine. For the English, the sun is a bit like the Queen; they know she exists but they simply don’t see her that often.
Only a year earlier, Madeleine had been a shell of her current self, walking through life in abject terror, certain that enemies lurked around every corner, or rather in every corner. Mr. and Mrs. Masterson’s only child had long suffered from a dreadful phobia of spiders and other insects. In addition to wearing a netted veil and a belt of repellents at all times, Madeleine had refused to enter any building that had not been fumigated recently by an exterminator. As one might imagine, most of her classmates’ parents refused to meet the extensive and expensive guidelines necessary before Madeleine could enter their residences. Thus Madeleine missed out on slumber parties, birthdays, and all outdoor activities.
Most fortunately for all involved, Madeleine had spent the previous summer at the highly clandestine, word-of-mouth institution known as School of Fear. Much to her parents’ delight, Madeleine had returned veil- and repellent-free, an absolutely changed child. Well, not entirely changed; the young girl remained fascinated by world leaders, often listing United Nations delegates in alphabetical order for entertainment. But long gone was her crippling arachnophobia.
“Mummy and Daddy, not to be impertinent, but why are you sending me back for another summer? I’m cured, fixed, or however you care to put it. Might I remind you that I am now a member of the Spider Appreciation Club as well as Eight-Legged Creatures for Social Change?”
“Yes, we know, dear. Your father and I are both terribly impressed with your progress,” Mrs. Masterson said with a smile.
“Aren’t you the only member of those clubs?” Mr. Masterson inquired.
“That is hardly the point, Daddy,” Madeleine replied huffily.
“Unfortunately, as we’ve explained, it’s a contractual issue. Mrs. Wellington’s attorney, that ghastly man Munchauser, had us sign a two-summer agreement. He claims the second session is necessary to reinforce the progress you made last summer. But not to worry, dear. Next summer you will be free to do anything you like.”
“Well, I suppose another summer won’t hurt me too badly. Plus I am terribly keen to see the others again and have a proper catch-up,” Madeleine acquiesced as the town car turned onto a narrow cobblestone road. Within seconds the car was shrouded in darkness cast by the trees and sticky vines that grew from one side of the road to the other, creating a tunnel. Although hard to decipher in the faint light, a multitude of homemade signs warned against entering the Lost Forest. The densely wooded area had quite the reputation for chewing people up and not spitting them out.
The car slowed as the foliage tunnel opened at the base of a large granite mountain. Mr. and Mrs. Masterson had planned to exit the vehicle and meet this Schmidty character they had heard so much about. However, the soaring temperatures quickly dissuaded the London natives from leaving the air-conditioned confines of their car. Sporting an orange tartan dress with a matching headband and a massive grin, Madeleine bounded out of the sedan. Technically speaking, it was more of a saunter than a bound, due to the blistering weather. Madeleine was beginning to understand what people meant by too much of a good thing.
Seated on lawn chairs under a large umbrella were Schmidty, School of Fear’s trusty cook/groundskeeper/wig groomer, and Macaroni, the English bulldog.
“Schmidty!” Madeleine yelped joyfully, before stopping. The young girl was utterly gobsmacked and unable to speak. The plump old man was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, polyester black shorts, and open-toed sandals that showcased his furry feet and jagged brown toenails. But most offensive was the sight of his fallen comb-over; a mess of gray ringlets was all that remained. Madeleine stared for a few seconds before regaining her composure and assessing how best to handle the delicate situation.
“Schmidty, I’m awfully sorry to inform you, but your hair—”
“Please, Miss Madeleine,” Schmidty interrupted, “it’s too painful to hear confirmation. I’m attempting a state of denial, but you know it’s much harder than Mrs. Wellington makes it look.”
Madeleine nodded in agreement before patting Schmidty on the shoulder. In light of the heat and the fallen comb-over, Madeleine thought it best to avoid a hug. Continues...
Excerpted from School of Fear: Class Is Not Dismissed! by Daneshvari, Gitty Copyright © 2010 by Daneshvari, Gitty. Excerpted by permission.
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