Recap #160: Graveyard School #8: Let’s Scare the Teacher to Death! by Tom B. Stone by Jude Deluca
Title: Graveyard School #8 – “Let’s Scare the Teacher to Death!” a.k.a. “Teaching Ms. Cheevy”
Author: Tom B. Stone, a.k.a. Nola Thacker, a.k.a. “D.E. Athkins”
Cover Artist: Barry Jackon (US Cover), ???? (Russian Cover), ???? (UK Cover)
UK Tagline: It’s Miss-terious!!
Summary: But We Were Only Joking!
Mrs. Cheevy, the new math teacher at Graveyard School, is totally paranoid! She’s always looking over her shoulder, her voice continually quavers during math lessons, and she jumps when anyone asks a question. This makes her the perfect target for class clown Bentley Jeste, and soon all the kids get in on the act. Math has never been more hilarious, until one day a practical joker goes too far. Could Mrs. Cheevy’s second-period class have scared her to death?
The proportions on the US cover have always bothered me, because how much space is there between the desk and the chalkboard?
This is not one of my favorites in the series, but it’s more that I’m conflicted on how exactly I should be feeling on it. It’s the only book besides the first one that doesn’t have anything supernatural in it, but it’s interesting. It’s a rare event where we get to see things from the “Antagonist’s” point of view and learn their feelings on the situation, yet it’s hard for me to decide if there really IS an antagonist in this book.
Both sides of the conflict give as good as they get, and it’s like the equivalent of going to a race track to watch for car crashes instead of rooting for one particular side. Although, I’ll be real here, had I read this book before “Boo Year’s Eve” and “Escape from Vampire Park” I doubt Jordie Flanders would’ve become one of my faves.
Fair warning Wing, there’s a joke involving a rubber spider.
[Wing: Thanks for the warning!]
Bentley Jeste hid behind the door of Ms. Cheevy’s math class, eagerly waiting for the big, nervous teacher to enter the room so he could scare the wits out of her. Not that it was hard, mind you. Ms. Cheevy seemed to be scared of everything. She was always looking over her shoulder, she jumped at the slightest noise or sound, and whenever she sat down she kept her back pressed against the wall as if she didn’t want anyone to sneak up behind her. [Wing: Maybe this explains why the desk is so close to the chalkboard on the cover.]
The rest of the kids were all looking forward to Bent’s joke, except for Jordie “The Human Computer” Flanders. Jordie didn’t think Bent was funny but abstained from commenting on his pranks. Of course, she also felt Ms. Cheevy deserved whatever Bent unleashed upon her. In Jordie’s opinion, Ms. Cheevy was a horrible math teacher. She sucked all the fun out of Jordie’s favorite class; Cheevy would get confused over simple questions, and whenever Jordie asked something the answer she received was usually wrong. That meant Jordie believed Ms. Cheevy was not only a coward, but a bad teacher, and deserved whatever she got.
Bent could sense from behind the door as Ms. Cheevy hesitated to enter the classroom, no doubt fearing what would be on the other side. He briefly wondered why this large, nervous wreck of a woman had chosen to teach at Graveyard School of all places, but Bentley Jeste was never known for feeling sorry for a teacher. Ms. Cheevy opened the door a fraction, and all the kids put on the innocent act to appease the brown eye watching them. Realizing she had no choice but to enter sooner or later, Ms. Cheevy threw the door open so hard the knob caught Bent right in the stomach. Crying out in pain, Bent stumbled out in front of Ms. Cheevy.
“Aaaaah!” she screamed. She screamed so loudly that the windowpanes rattled. A piece of chalk fell off the chalk tray at the blackboard. Screaming, she threw her arms up in the air, and the stack of papers she’d been carrying flew everywhere.
Stumbling to his desk and clutching his stomach in pain, Bent took his seat. Soon laughter began to emerge in the classroom, but while everyone else was laughing at their math teacher, Jordie was laughing at how embarrassed Bent looked.
At the end of class, Jordie congratulated Bent on the face he made when the knob hit his gut. At the front of the room, Ms. Cheevy nervously erased her notes as twitchy as she always did, with sporadic jumping every time she heard a locker door slam in the hallway. Bent was upset such a simple trick had gotten derailed, and didn’t appreciate Jordie’s backhanded compliment. Park Addams, on the other hand, praised Bent’s joke for all the reasons Bent wanted to hear, and they reminisced on how high Ms. Cheevy leaped back when it happened. For a moment, Bent watched as Ms. Cheevy hesitated in opening her desk drawer, since things tended to leap out at her from those drawers on more than one occasion. Yet when teacher and student met each other’s gaze, Bent was shocked when he saw Ms. Cheevy’s eyes burn with something he’d never seen there before. As the teacher lowered her gaze to put some papers away in her briefcase, Bent was sure he was seeing things. He wondered if simply being in Graveyard School had turned the woman into a nervous wreck.
Bent passed the girls’ bathroom and paused to think of all the lovely potential for a good prank when he bumped into puke perfect Polly Hannah. Bent had gotten on Polly’s bad side when he slipped a whoopie cushion on her seat during the last assembly. Everyone laughed. She didn’t. But some people just don’t have a sense of humor. [Wing: So basically Bent is the antagonist in this book, right?] Polly warned Bent he was going to go too far someday. Bent assumed Polly wasn’t speaking to him, but she asserts it’s childish to not speak to someone and SHE is not childish. Bent doesn’t dignify her with a response and chooses to imagine setting a snake loose in the girls’ room and traumatizing Polly for life. Maria Medina is heading for the bathroom when she sees Bent and immediately gets suspicious of him. Yet for the first time in her life, Maria agrees with Polly and warns Bent if he’s not careful he’ll finally be caught in the act by Dr. Morthouse and not Vice Principal Hannibal Lucre. Bent scoffs and declares he’s not afraid of Herr Doktorr or her supposed silver fang. In fact, even if she DID catch him, he wouldn’t be afraid of her because he’s not like the rest of the pansy pants assclowns who go to this sc-she’s standing right behind him.
Bent jumps back as Dr. Morthouse apologizes for startling him. Polly thinks the principal knows what they were talking about, so the doctor zeroes in on her. Bent and Maria glare at Polly to get her to shut up, Bent because he doesn’t want Polly ratting him out, Maria because she believes snitching on other students is worse than Bent’s gags. When it looks as though Polly’s gonna break, Maria steps in and declares Polly meant Dr. Morthouse knows all about how good manners are so important. Maria hastily drags Polly into the bathroom before she can say anything, leaving Bent alone with the dreaded Doc M. Luckily for Bent, a skirmish is overheard in the boys’ bathroom down the hall. Bent didn’t stop to watch as Dr. Morthouse unleashed hell on the two poor bastards fighting in the bathroom.
The following afternoon, Jordie’s at home and is pretty pissed off. Turns out Bent frazzled Ms. Cheevy so bad she assigned them the same math problems from last week’s homework. She knew none of her friends would share in her disappointment since they weren’t mathheads like her, so she decided to get a head start on some of the next chapters. Mrs. Flanders came into Jordie’s room and asked how her day was.
“Mathematically deficient,” said Jordie.
Unfortunately for Jordie, her mom decided to pull out that tired speel about how Jordie should spend more time playing outside and having fun. Jordie points out most other parents would love to have a kid who enjoyed doing schoolwork, but Mrs. Flanders is adamant Jordie should PLAY. Barf.
Just as Jordie exited the house she ran into Algernon “Algie” Green in the middle of his paper delivery job. The newspaper had barely avoided hitting Jordie’s head, and Algie quipped if she were Bent she would’ve pretended to be knocked out or something. Jordie seethes that Bent is an immature jerk. Algie tries to play it neutral saying some of Bent’s jokes are old but they can be funny, yet he does feel bad for Ms. Cheevy since he knows what it’s like to get picked on. Jordie reminds Algie HE fought back against Jason Dunnbar, but Algie mentions he had some help (from a certain headless bicycle rider who may or may not be the sixth-grade class president). Algie wonders why Ms. Cheevy doesn’t do anything about Bent’s pranks, but Jordie’s convinced their teacher’s big, strange, and horrible at teaching chicken. Algie reminds Jordie the school DOES have worse teachers.
The conversation goes to baseball when Jordie compliments Algie’s next paper throw, and she has some interesting thoughts on the game.
“A very interesting game, statistically speaking,” said Jordie. “I mean, look at the designated hitter rule. What, mathematically speaking, has that done to the batting averages of the American League? Have you ever thought about that?”
Sadly, this flies over Algie’s head and he decides to continue on with his paper route. Jordie wonders if her mom was right about her having a boring childhood and considers getting a job like Stacey Carter when she hears someone up the block exclaim their bike brakes have failed. Jordie steps out of the way until she recognizes who the bike rider is. She then throws herself on the ground screaming about her ankle, just as Bent’s about to run her over with his bike. Bent wrenches out of the way at the last second and topples onto the grass. Jordie exclaims “Gotcha” and starts laughing at Bent again. Bent demands to know what’s wrong with Jordie since she could’ve killed him. Jordie calmly points out Bent could’ve killed HER as well. Bent is shocked and horrified when he looks at Jordie and feels a sense of something he never thought he’d see in her. Recognition.
Mrs. Flanders doesn’t know it, but she’s officially created a monster.
That had been fun. Multiples of fun. Fun to the x power.
Go out and play, her mother had said. Go out and have some fun.
Maybe her mother hadn’t meant go out and turn into a joke monster.
But Jordie wasn’t about to ask questions.
She just wanted to have more fun.
Bent’s father dropped him off at Graveyard School earlier than most of the other students. Mr. Jeste was rightfully suspicious of why his son would want to get to school before everyone else.
“I’ll be fine,” he told his father. “Don’t worry about me.”
Mr. Jeste stared at his oldest son for a long moment. Then he sad, “I’m not. It’s the rest of the world I worry about.”
Bent knew better than to say “Trust me.”
Bent tried his best to wave innocently to his father as Mr. Jeste drove off. Keeping his eyes open in case he runs into Dr. Morthouse or Basement Bart, Bent headed for Ms. Cheevy’s class. He knew she wouldn’t be at school yet; she was the last teacher to arrive and the first to leave. Bent thinks he should get to school earlier on a regular basis, given what lovely potential an almost-empty school has to offer. But Bent’s truly not as alone as he thought when he ran into Jordie. Jordie claimed she got to school early because of her math homework, but Bent knew they didn’t have homework that night. At the moment, the two hear Basement Bart coming down the hall and have to hide in Ms. Cheevy’s room. The two are crammed underneath the teacher’s desk as Bart’s hairy, werewolf-like hand reached into the room and turned the light on. The custodian from the dark side emptied the trash in Ms. Cheevy’s wastebasket, but he lingered for a moment. The kids feared he was gonna drag them out from the desk, but the janitor simply went “Hmmph” and went on his not-so-merry way.
Jordie thanks Bent for saving her life, but Bent responds he totally only did it to stop Jordie from squealing on him. Jordie is offended on a personal level that Bent believes she would do that and is more livid to learn Bent thinks she’s a teacher pet. Jordie defends herself saying just because she studies and gets good marks on her work doesn’t mean she sucks up to teachers, especially Ms. Cheevy. It then dawns on Bent how much Jordie really doesn’t like their math teacher.
“You don’t like Cheevy at all, do you? You’re always giving her math whacks.”
“She deserves them. She shouldn’t even be teaching,” said Jordie. “She doesn’t know a fraction from a fracture.”
Bent realizes she came here to do the same thing he wants to do. Jordie “The Human Computer” Flanders wants to pull a prank on a teacher!
In class that day, Ms. Cheevy let out a long suffering sigh as Jordie asked her a question. The teacher was dressed in her usual attire as she was explaining to the class how a point is the end of a line.
She was in her usual high-necked outfit: a blouse buttoned up to the chin that barely concealed her nervously bobbing Adam’s apple, a baggy, high-collared blue jacket, a long navy-blue shirt that stopped just above her ankles, and large, flat navy-blue shoes. The only bright color came from thick, pale blue tights. The stockings Ms. Cheevy wore were her fashion statements. Lots and lots of different kinds of tights in all kinds of stripes and patterns and colors.
But she did not look like a model in them.
[Wing: … bobbing Adam’s apple. I’m pretty sure I (a) know where this is going and (b) wish it was going somewhere else.]
Jordie asks how Ms. Cheevy can KNOW that? I mean, can you SEE a point? Is it just a flat dot? Ms. Cheevy responds it is what it is, but Jordie adds what she said isn’t in their books. Confused, Ms. Cheevy double checked the textbook, realizes it wasn’t, and tells the class to forget it then even though it’s true.
At that moment, Bent’s desk fell to the ground and he cried out in pain. The rest of the class turned and were horrified when they saw blood seeping out from behind his head! Jordie got up and tried to help Bent, but ended up slipping in the blood and landing on her back, her head smacking the floor as blood poured from her mouth. Polly screamed her head off as Ms. Cheevy told Maria to get help. She ran to check the two students when everyone started to laugh. Bent and Jordie got up and began to wipe off the “Blood” (ketchup) as Ms. Cheevy watched in shock. Polly warns them they’re gonna get it. Park thought it was hilarious, funnier than when Jaws Bennett pretended he’d been poisoned, and Maria was amazed Jordie had helped. But before Jordie can bask in adoration, she noticed the way Ms. Cheevy walked to the front of the room. So rigid, so stiff, so stately, so… UN-Cheevy. Was she going to report them to the principal? Jordie didn’t regret her role in the prank because she’d never had that much fun before when Ms. Cheevy finally spoke. She thought it was great she had some… creative students in her class. Now she’s decided, however, they’re going to have a nice, little test. But this test ain’t gonna be no joke, bitches.
Congrats Jordie, it was your first prank and you managed to break the teacher.
As the kids trudged out of Ms. Cheevy’s room, Polly blamed Bent for the surprise pop quiz. Bent was still reeling from the Evil Exam to End All Exams, a test filled with ten answers no one could’ve possibly known the answers to. Even Jordie was afraid she hadn’t aced this quiz and feared she might’ve gotten a Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-B! Jordie doesn’t let Bent take all the blame and owes up to her contribution in the prank. Maria asks what made Jordie do that when Park realizes Ms. Cheevy’s watching them from the door. She wasn’t slumped forward, she was standing proud and tall and pleased. And when they looked at her, Ms. Cheevy gave them a smile they’d come to know and fear. The Graveyard School Grin.
The kids fear Ms. Cheevy’s changed, but Bent halfheartedly thinks she’ll be over it by tomorrow. Jordie wants to believe him, but looking back at the usually-timid teacher smugly watching the students, Jordie feared if she was capable of doing such a quick 180 in the personality department.
Dr. Morthouse and Mr. Lucre watched the students from behind the front doors the next morning, as they always did. As Dr. M declared it was another great day for preparing little minds for the future, Lucre wasn’t sure if his boss was serious or if she was joking. They saw Ms. Cheevy march up the stairs, making her way through the crowds of students but in a way as if she didn’t know the kids were there. Dr. Morthouse immediately realized something was wrong on her principal’s radar. As Mr. Lucre shamelessly parroted the good doctor’s earlier words, Ms. Cheevy snapped she didn’t know what he meant and ordered him to move. Morthouse grabbed Cheevy’s sleeve and asked the woman if there was a problem. Ms. Cheevy was taller than Dr. Morthouse and looked down at her as she contemplated what to say. SHOULD she tell Dr. Morthouse about the behavioral problems in her class? Ms. Cheevy was left to wonder, as always, why she’d chosen to be a teacher. She decided, no, she wouldn’t tell Dr. Morthouse. It was better to just wait it out until she could finally retire.
Unless her class drove her to early retirement – the permanent, horizontal kind. The grim thought almost made her smile.
Ms. Cheevy responded it was nothing she couldn’t handle and made her way to her classroom.
Outside, the kids wondered why the principal had stopped their math teacher. Bent was wondering about the way Ms. Cheevy marched up the stairs. And what HAD she said to Dr. Morthouse? Had Ms. Cheevy told the good doctor all about the prank from yesterday. No, that couldn’t have been it. Because if Dr. Morthouse knew about the prank, Bent wouldn’t be alive right now.
It was worse than Jordie thought. She hadn’t aced the test, but she hadn’t gotten a “B” either. She’d failed. JORDIE FLANDERS FAILED A MATH TEST. Jordie got up and told Ms. Cheevy there was a mistake on her test, but the teacher responded they’d be going over the tests in a minute so SIT YO ASS DOWN, FLANDERS! Jordie was so shocked she did just that. Park and Bent thought aliens had taken over their teacher’s brain when she demanded to know if they had anything to share with the class. Everyone was in a silent state of disbelief at their teacher’s behavior, when they heard a car backfire in the parking lot. Ms. Cheevy briefly returned to her old self, jumping back as she heard the car and gripping her desk so hard her knuckle turned white. Jordie and Bent carefully watched their teacher hoping she’d fully return to her usual demeanor when instead she announced they’d be going over the test.
By lunchtime, Bent was feeling so guilty about what he’d done to Ms. Cheevy he didn’t even feel like putting his rubber cockroach in someone’s mystery meat. He really had gone too far, and now they were stuck with a Teacher from the Dark Side. Jaws Bennett, the boy who could eat anything (even roadkill) was overjoyed to learn they were having meatloaf for lunch.
“Meatloaf!” said Jaws proudly.
“Roadkill,” corrected Park.
Jaws shrugged and kept chewing. “Same diff,” he mumbled.
Algie is sympathetic to the kids in Ms. Cheevy’s second-period class. Park and the others fear what their parents will do when they find out about the abysmal scores. Bent asks Algie if Cheevy’s been acting this way in her other classes. Algie responds her behavior has indeed changed a bit. She’s fighting back against her jumpiness, and once in a while, she punishes the class the way the other teachers do. But when she does, she gets scary. Bigger, even. Bent’s sure she’s been taken over by aliens, but Park reminds him that only happens in books.
Jaws remembers how his parents suddenly changed one day too when they became *shudder* health food fanatics and gotten into a bunch of weird diets and exercise programs. It could’ve happened to Ms. Cheevy. Or maybe it was something she ate. Polly smugly declares it wasn’t something she ate, it was something someone did to her. Isn’t that right, BENTLEY? Polly declares all of Bent’s jokes, and then that last one by him and Jordie, are what changed their teacher, so it’s all Bent and Jordie’s faults. Bent laughs this off but is the only one. Even Jordie seems to agree with Polly.
“Although I don’t think much of your powers of reasoning, Polly, what you’ve said makes a kind of sense.”
Polly smiled. Then frowned. “Wait a minute,” she said, struggling to decide whether Jordie was insulting her or complimenting her.
Bent is insulted Jordie would side with Polly, but Jordie insists this isn’t about sides, it’s about problem-solving. Jordie explains Polly is saying their one joke, after Bent’s whole campaign of practical jokes, finally pushed Ms. Cheevy over the edge and warped her personality. Algie can attest he’s seen this happen before. The kids all turn to Ms. Cheevy, over at the faculty table in the lunchroom. Stacey Carter wonders if the change is temporary as Ms. Cheevy turns her gaze in their direction.
She stared. Then, still staring, she picked up her knife. Without looking at her plate, she stabbed it viciously downward and came up with a chunk of the caf’s mystery meat impaled on the end of it. She held it up. Then she bared big white teeth and bit down and ripped off a hunk like a shark.
Good luck with that thought, Stace. [Wing: … I love Ms Cheevy.]
The kids fear they’re good and screwed when Jordie suggests she and Bent have to apologize for they did. Bent would rather die, but with the way things look that’s a definite possibility. Polly even sweetly asks if Bent’s joking. Jordie reasons this is their fault and the other kids seem to think an apology might do the trick. Park tries to convince Bent this won’t be so bad since Jordie’s gonna help him, but Bent still thinks this is a mistake as the two head for the teacher’s table. Jordie and Maria both feel they should apologize now because the longer they put it off the longer Ms. Cheevy is likely to keep acting the way she is. And the more she does, the more she’ll like it.
Jordie asks Bent if he’s ever heard that thing about actions and consequences.
“I’ve been told I’m gonna get it if I keep it up, yeah.”
Jordie wonders if this’ll have an effect on Bent’s desire to pull crude jokes, but admits she had a lot of fun participating in their prank on Cheevy. Bent can’t believe the Human Computer’s admitting she had fun pulling a practical joke. As they reach the teachers, the apology immediately gets derailed when Bent adds the pranks were just “For fun.” Jordie doesn’t do much better, saying they were an “Unfortunate attempt to display a sense of humor” and then adds they wouldn’t have done that joke if they didn’t like Cheevy. Cheevy asks if all of Bent’s other jokes were his way of saying how much he “Liked” her as well. Cheevy’s so happy to know how much Bent believes in her as a teacher, and of course she accepts their apology…
Just like she plans to accept their homework tomorrow. All twenty-six pages of it.
After a moment of silence, Jordie thanks Ms. Cheevy for telling them what they could do with their apology. At that moment somewhere in the cafeteria, a girl fell backward and cried out as she hit the floor. When Cheevy’s attention was diverted away from her plate, Bent tossed something onto it. Jordie dragged Bent away as Cheevy began screaming once she saw the fake roach in her food. Jordie was livid Bent did something so stupid, but he doesn’t care. Cheevy essentially told them to go fuck themselves with their apology, so now it’s WAR.
Bent’s going over his joke and gag product catalogs to figure out the best way to get back at Cheevy when he has an unexpected guest. Mr. Jeste shows Jordie in, who explains she’s sure Bent’s studying for their next test. Mr. Jeste tries not to laugh too hard. Jordie’s surprised that Bent’s room isn’t as out there as she expected.
She wasn’t quite sure what she had expected. A moat with piranhas in it? The world’s largest collection of fake joke insects? A room decorated in Early Weird?
There was a collection of books on jokes, gags, magic tricks, and strange-but-true incidents, a collection of rubber insects on the dresser, a fake zombie hand sticking out of a drawer, and black curtains. Everything else seemed… normal. Jordie’s impressed by the book collection and asks if Bent knows any magic tricks. Bent explains he got those books to psych people out.
Jordie’s here because she believes Bent is correct in his declaration of war and wishes to extend her hand in taking Cheevy down. She’s mad she flunked the test and she’s still peeved that Cheevy’s a sucky teacher. Bent is suddenly feeling all warm inside that he’s got a compatriot until Jordie explains she wants to pursue Bent’s life of crime. Jordie apologizes for her poor choice of words but admits she finds his approach to life compelling and exhilarating. Bent’s not sure what she’s talking about but decides they’re gonna make Graveyard School Cheevy-proof forever.
The newer, meaner Cheevy slammed open the classroom door but still stopped to look inside before entering. Just because she was braver didn’t mean she was stupid. The teacher gleefully declared it was time for another pop quiz. Bent and Jordie kept their eyes on Cheevy, Bent noticing her black shoes looked similar to the kind worn by witches in old artwork. Cheevy declares the test will cover the nine chapters she had the kids read for homework, but Polly complains she couldn’t finish them all because her mom made her go to bed. Cheevy declares it’s not her fault if Polly doesn’t care about completing her work on time.
“Ah. Sleep. You know, as a teacher, I’ve had many a sleepless night worrying about class the next day. Particularly since I started teaching here. Perhaps you can appreciate that, Polly.”
*WARNING WING, SPIDER MENTION APPROACHING*
Polly, defeated, goes to working on the pop quiz. Neither Polly nor Ms. Cheevy noticed that everyone else in the class took out the same kind of paper to write their answers on. But Bent noticed how intently Ms. Cheevy was looking out the class window, as if she was watching for someone. Cheevy proceeded to rattle off ten impossible questions none of the kids would’ve been able to answer, not even Jordie. Yet the kids didn’t seem too bothered by these questions. They wrote their answers down quietly, quickly, even cheerfully. The kids handed in their tests, and as Cheevy put them away in her briefcase she declared she’ll be assigning the next nine chapters for homework. Of course, Polly’s got more to catch up o-SPIDER IN THE DRAWER!
A rubber spider was launched out of Cheevy’s desk drawer the moment she opened it. The rubber arachnid clung to Ms. Cheevy’s face and she freaked the fuck out. She desperately tried to get the fake creature off her face, but when it landed on her long skirt she did an erratic dance as she screamed and tried to get it off. The only kid laughing, amazingly enough, is POLLY. After Cheevy finished stomping on the rubber spider, Bent noticed something odd. Had her hairline… moved? Is she wearing a wig?
Bent proudly whispered to Park it was a brand new spider when Cheevy zeroed in on Polly and asked if she thought it was SO funny the way her teacher lost her shit. Polly quickly shuts up and says of course it’s not funny. Polly denies owning the spider.
“Anybody know where this spider came from?”
“Up your nose,” muttered Jordie clearly.
Ms. Cheevy swiveled in Jordie’s direction. For a long moment, the two locked eyes.
Cheevy decides if no one owns the spider, they won’t mind if she cuts it into little bits, will they? Bent feels his heart get ripped out through his nose as he watches his poor, innocent, expensive rubber spider gets hacked to bits with a scissor.
With a mean smile on her face, Ms. Cheevy began to cut the spider to bits. First she cut off its legs, one at a time, a little bit of each leg at a time. Next she cut its body into small, jagged chunks. She let the pieces fall in a rubbery shower into her garbage can. She stared down into the rubbery spider’s grave for a long moment with a peculiar expression.
Absentmindedly, Cheevy scratched her head and Bent was sure he saw her hair move as she scratched. Suddenly, Cheevy turned to the students and began another pop quiz. Question One: How many pieces did she divide the spider into?
Bent doesn’t believe their plan is working, but Jordie tells him to give it time. Bent feels they don’t have a lot of time, because the two of them are getting a lot of angry glares as they walk down the hallway.
“I feel in danger,” he said.
“Well, you aren’t endangered,” said Jordie.
“Listen, I’m the only one of me there is. Therefore, if anything happens to me, I become extinct. That makes me endangered,” said Bent.
Bent doesn’t feel safe until he gets out of the school, and he doesn’t feel safe taking the bus home so he walks alongside Jordie. He goes over the pranks they’ve pulled on Cheevy, the spider, the roach in her lunch, the Vaseline on the doorknob, and the test with the disappearing ink trick. Bent informs Jordie they’re not building Rome, they’re getting even with the teacher. And they need to hurry it up because no one’s laughing, and even worse, he’s not having fun anymore.
Cheevy returned to her drab, neat apartment building later that night. She carefully peeked out from behind her curtain before she sat down at her desk.
Ms. Cheevy lived, like a teacher in a bad old movie, in a small apartment with only two windows on the third floor of a four-story apartment building. Although Grove Hill was the home of the strangest elementary school in the known universe, it was not what most people would call a high-crime area. The last crime wave had been when someone went on a rampage and jammed gum in all the parking meters around the courthouse. The sheriff had investigated the usual suspects but made no arrests, although he did issue a sternly worded statement about the need for gum control.
FUCKING REPUBLICANS AND THEIR REFUSAL TO ACCEPT WE NEED BETTER GUM CONTROL.
Anyway, even with the low crime rate in Grove Hill, Cheevy couldn’t relax. She’d put burglar bars on both windows and installed a burglar alarm. Her curtains were thick and locks were on every door. They were the only things Cheevy bought to furnish the apartment, which already came with furniture. Had she left and never came back, no one would be able to tell she’d ever been there in the first place. The neatness of the apartment and lack of personal belongings made it obvious she was paranoid. [Wing: Actually, it makes me think she’s on the run from something serious.] A sound on the fire escape snapped her to attention, and Cheevy didn’t relax even when she saw it was a stray cat.
As she sat back down at her desk, Cheevy looked at the ugly shoes on her big feet and scowled.
She sat down and kicked them off with an impatient, disgusted sound.
“Someday,” she said aloud, “I’m going to have decent shoes again.” And she wondered for the thousandth time why it was so hard to find decent women’s shoes in anything but petite.
Bah. She hated the whole idea of petite. Women came in all shapes and sizes, including large. But what did the makers of shoes and dresses do? Make small clothes and try to convince women that it was they who were too big, not the clothes that were too small and all wrong.
Feminism in a YA horror novel, what a time to be alive.
Cheevy proceeded to take out the test papers from her second-period class and thought about the rubber spider. She knew exactly who was behind it, reveling in how her students believed she was clueless when she was more observant than they suspected. Now that she wasn’t pretending to be timid anymore, she was starting to enjoy being a teacher again. What made it better was that the students were fighting back. Whoever said “War is hell” had no idea what they were talking about. Yet when Cheevy inspected the stack of tests, she was confused when she saw every paper except Polly Hannah’s was blank. She was sure the papers had answers on them when the kids handed them in, and no one would’ve dared gone near her briefcase to switch them. Cheevy had to give credit where it was due and should’ve known not to underestimate Bent and Jordie’s tag team. Both were smart and twisted in their own way, the way truly smart and creative people were.
Thinking about how smug and obnoxious Polly Hannah is, Cheevy graded Polly’s test with a big fat A before giving every other paper an F. She gleefully imagined how insufferable Polly would be tomorrow after announcing this test would count double towards their grades, and the kids couldn’t complain because otherwise they’d have to admit they handed in blank papers. That’s what happens when you underestimate your teacher.
Polly was just as obnoxious as Cheevy hoped she’d be over her “A” while the rest of the kids stewed in anguish over their bad grades during lunch. Jordie declared they couldn’t let Cheevy see them being intimidated while Bent tried to think up an appropriate response. Polly responded if Bent hadn’t been so awful to Cheevy in the first place, but before she could finish Bent grabbed her lunch tray and headed over to the faculty table. Polly couldn’t stop him as Bent told Mr. Lucre Polly wanted to sit with the teachers. He told Cheevy this was Polly’s way of saying thanks for helping her do so well in math. Bent walked away as Polly turned sickly green; Jordie congratulated Bent on such a tactic. As he sat down, Bent figured out what to do and explained his killer joke.
After school, Bent, Jordie and the others hung around outside the building going over the plan. The first step involved pretending to be sweet, attentive, obedient students, much to Jordie’s disgust. They have to lull the target into a false sense of security before executing the plan. As Polly exited the building, she asked what the others were discussing. Jordie told Bent not to tell the teacher’s pet anything.
“You don’t think I’d tell on you, do you?” asked Polly.
“I think you’d sell your own dog for a good grade,” said Stacey.
“We don’t have a dog anymore,” said Polly. “She-“
Got made into Meatloaf Surprise WHA WHO SAID THAT?
Bent makes Polly promise to cross her heart and hope to die if she wants in on their plan to let Cheevy have it. Polly’s confused because she’s not sure what, exactly, they’re gonna do to her.
- Throughout the week, the kids pretend to be on their best behavior.
- By Friday, someone will stay behind to ask Cheevy for help on their homework.
- Cheevy will be kept at school until all the other teachers have left, even Basement Bart.
- The kid will ask Cheevy to walk her to the front door to unlock it.
- Cheevy will return to her classroom after letting the student out.
- Cheevy sees the ghost.
Polly asks where they’re gonna get a ghost? Simple. The ghost will be POLLY. Polly refuses at first until the others argue she truly wasn’t sincere about wanting to help them get revenge on Cheevy and really will rat them out. If she DOES want to prove she’s with them, she’ll be the ghost in order to scare Cheevy back to her old self. Polly proposes they get Jaws to be the ghost since he’s not here, so Bent asks if she’s trying to rat on Jaws now. Polly nervously asks if she’ll have a disguise on; Bent promises it’ll be so convincing Polly’s own mother wouldn’t recognize her even if she was a ghost too. Bent assures Polly all she has to do is jump out and scare Cheevy. Polly doesn’t care about the details but threatens Bent if she gets caught she WILL take them down with her. Bent swears pros like him don’t count. Polly huffs and says he should tell that one to Dr. Morthouse. After Polly leaves, Jordie’s worried.
“Maybe we shouldn’t let Polly do this after all. She could try to double-cross us and ruin everything. I don’t trust her.”
“Who does?” said Bent. “Who trusts anybody?”
Bent you’re like 11 years old, fucking unclench.
The following week was exhausting for everyone involved and Cheevy seemed disappointed the kids had supposedly given up in their war. Well, that’s what they thought. It was especially horrible for Jordie, who’d never needed to TRY and be a model student in the past. She’d suffered silently through more of Cheevy’s expert level quizzes, knowing it was all for a good cause.
By Friday Jordie helped Bent bring his bulging backpack, stuffed with everything they needed for Operation Let’s Scare Ms. Cheevy to Death. Jordie feared Polly would fake being sick to get out of the prank, but Bent took care of that. He’d called Polly’s house and said to Mrs. Hannah “Hi Polly! Are you going to fake being sick today like we planned so we can skip school.” Jordie was impressed by low and underhanded that was. As they reached Graveyard School, the wind blowing through the old graveyard sounded like an eerie moan and for a moment it seemed to turn into an evil chuckle. Bent hoped he was imagining things instead.
Reaching the top of the school, the two pranksters encountered Dr. Morthouse. Bent almost lost his cool while Jordie calmly, flatly, asked why the principal is always watching the kids from behind the front doors. Doc M replies “Reasons.” As the good doctor inquires to the contents of Bent’s overstuffed bag, Jordie quickly responds they’re working on a stupid special project.
“I’m sure it will only be as stupid as you make it,” purred Dr. Morthouse. She smiled. Something silver glinted in her mouth.
Later in the day, Bent was putting together Polly’s ensemble in the girls’ bathroom.
YOU SEE, ASHLEY KATCHADOURIAN? YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T FUCKING WATCH THE DOOR?!
[Wing: “Jenna Darabond’s in charge of the door, Ashley Katchadourian’s in charge of snacks. You know that, right?”]
Oh my God I’ve made a terrible mistake.
Anyway, Polly’s not just wearing a sheet over her head because Bent points out only people PRETENDING to be ghosts wear sheets. He’s special ordered a bunch of shit to make a truly gruesome and amazing ghost ensemble. Polly complains Jordie should be the one getting dressed up, but Bent reminds her Jordie’s the distraction. As Bent applied more Guaranteed Ghost make-up, he felt being in the girls’ room because he had to took the fun out of it and is disappointed he couldn’t talk Polly into going into the boys’ room. Bent tells Polly to keep her voice down in case Basement Bart hasn’t left yet and finishes getting Polly ready.
In her place, a pale child with faintly glowing skin looked back at herself in the mirror. Her eyes were rimmed with red. So were her ghastly pale lips. Her hair seemed to float around her shoulders. Her long, flowing, old-fashioned clothes, borrowed from Jordie’s mother’s hippie college days, floated weirdly around her body.
I knew Mrs. Flanders was an acid head.
Polly asks how Bent made her clothes float around her. Bent explains he used a special kind of spray before taking out a small light and a fan. Bent reveals the light will activate the make-up and turn her truly gruesome while the fan’s for wind effects. All Polly has to do is step on the small switch to turn the light on and make herself appear, but when it’s off she’ll be totally submerged in darkness like she’s vanished into thin air. For added effect, they’ll pull all the blinds down in Cheevy’s room, though chances are she already did that. Oh, and Bent advises her to stay absolutely silent and still for a creepier effect. Bent exits the girls’ room and sees Cheevy leave her classroom, realizing Jordie’s ahead of schedule. After a moment, Bent pulls Polly out and they proceed to enact Operation [INSERT TITLE HERE].
[Wing: I have to admit, that ghost setup sounds amazing.]
Bent positions Polly in Cheevy’s room while he waits outside, hidden in the hallway. He sees the silhouette of Cheevy coming down the hall, pressed up against the lockers for safety. He wondered if maybe she’d been raised in a haunted house in order to become so skittish. As Cheevy entered her room, Bent turned off the light switch in the hallway.
And then the screaming started.
Ms. Cheevy was screaming. She screamed more loudly than Bent had ever heard her scream. She screamed more loudly than Bent had ever heard anyone scream. She screamed more loudly than Bent thought was humanly possible. She screamed and screamed. Bent heard the sound of someone crashing against the door.
Then there was another crash.
Now Polly was screaming as she burst out of the classroom, screaming Cheevy’s dead! Bent tries to get Polly to calm down as he heads into the room. Bent searches for the light switch in the dark, and is greeted by a gruesome sight.
A pair of legs, wearing thick striped stockings and funny black shoes, was sticking out from behind the far side of the desk.
Bent asks Polly what the fuck happened. Polly stammers Cheevy just sort of fell over and asks if the teacher’s still breathing. Bent gets down and checks.
Polly done killed a bitch.
Now Polly’s terrified and begs Bent to help her. Bent asks what does she expect him to do? Polly babbles they’re in this together, he made her do it, he has to help her. Hey, she’d do that same thing for him! Probably.
And then Bent starts smiling because Polly fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Bent tells Jordie to get up from the desk and reveals Cheevy already left school. Turns out this was all a prank to get back at Polly for being so fucking obnoxious about Cheevy and everything. Polly starts swatting Bent and calls him a variety of names. Bent advises Polly to share her feelings with Jordie as well and asks Jordie to finally get up off the floor. Yeah Jordie, quit standing in the doorway dressed up like Cheevy and get off the-waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaait a minute.
If Jordie’s standing in the doorway, and Polly’s standing next to Bent, and Bent’s standing next to Polly, and Jesus is love, then who’s that underneath the-
Oh shit, it’s the real Cheevy.
OH SHIT, THEY REALLY DID KILL HER.
Jordie stammers she got held up because of Basement Bart, and somehow Cheevy didn’t leave early like she always does. Welp, now it seems Cheevy’s left the building. Permanently.
Polly screams it wasn’t her fault before running away, but a short while later Jordie and Bent hear footsteps that don’t sound familiar. The kids quickly hit the lights and hide behind the door as someone they’ve never seen before enters the room. A heavyset man in a coat and jacket enters, seeming pleased at having found someone. It looks as though the stranger’s attention is directed to Cheevy. The man’s disgusted and demands Cheevy get up and “Fight like a man.” Suddenly, Dr. Morthouse enters the room and wants to know who the fuck this guy is. When she sees Cheevy on the floor, she asks if there was some kind of accident, which the man finds funny. Morthouse walks over to Cheevy’s body, and then flatly announces the woman truly is dead.
Morthouse, in the same tone she used on students to make them confess and beg for mercy, demands to know if the man was responsible. The man stammers, much in the same way as Polly, that he just found Cheevy. The man asks if they can revive Cheevy, but the Doc s sure the woman’s long gone. Dr. Morthouse finally asks the man for his name, which he claims is “Bob Smith.”
Dr. Morthouse explains she hired Cheevy because she was told the woman wanted a nice, quiet job in a small town, due to doctor’s orders. The man adds Cheevy’s last job was very high-pressure. Doc M asks if they were friends and if he’ll want to try mouth-to-mouth. Smith vehemently turns that offer down as she stammers about how they used to work together before Cheevy retired and he tracked-I MEAN-located her in Grove Hill. As Dr. Morthouse expresses her condolences, Bent and Jordie both recognize that false sweetness she often utilized to get a confession out of someone. Smith still claims he found him-I MEAN-he found her on the floor like that. Doc M asks if Smith would like to sit down in her office while she calls the police. Oh gee look at the time Smith’s gotta go now NICE MEETING YOU BYE.
Dr. Morthouse can’t stop Smith from leaving, but she CAN stop Bent and Jordie from escaping as they try to make it down the hall. She’d like to know what they’re doing here so late, and unfortunately, Jordie cracks when she looks into Dr. Morthouse’s eyes. She then gets Bent to own up to his contribution as the two explain this was all a joke meant for Polly and they hadn’t meant to kill Cheevy. They didn’t even know she was in the school. Dr. Morthouse orders the two to follow her back into Cheevy’s classroom as Jordie assures the principal something like this will never happen again.
Cheevy feels Jordie shouldn’t make promises she can’t keeeeeeeeee-SHE’S A GHOST!
NO WAIT SHE’S ALIVE!
Bent and Jordie are so freaked out when Cheevy gets up off the floor they run right into Dr. Morthouse. For the first time ever Jordie’s glad to see Cheevy.
“Oh, Ms. Cheevy, I’m so glad!”
“Are you, Jordie? Somehow, I got the feeling that you don’t think much of my teaching abilities.”
Bent wants to know if this is a joke. Cheevy explains it isn’t as she, or should I say HE, takes off his wig. Suddenly it all makes sense to Jordie. The bad make-up and the huge, baggy clothes. At that moment, Dr. Morthouse introduces Bent and Jordie to Mr. Chalmers.
Bent thinks at first this is payback for all his practical jokes, but Doc M insists she has much better ways of dealing with him than this. Chalmers begins to explain to the kids what is going on, but it’s top secret. He works for the government in the business of information gathering, a.k.a. he’s a spy, as Bent and Jordie put it. His cover as an international covert photographer got blown last year and he was forced to go into hiding under a new name and identity before he got killed. It was admittedly a rush job, and he was supposed to stay in Grove Hill as “Ms. Cheevy” until the heat died down. Then they were gonna set him up with a new identity, somewhere safe and warm. That’s why he always seemed so skittish and nervous, he was terrified someone would find him. And it turns out Chalmers was right. Dr. Morthouse found out someone learned who Chalmers was when she got a call asking about wanting to hire Ms. Cheevy for a teaching job, but who would want to hire HER, the worst teacher out there? Chalmers recognized Smith’s car in the parking lot this evening and realized his old associate was nearby. Heading back into the classroom, when Chalmers saw Polly’s absurd ghost costume-
“Absurd? Absurd? Do you know how much that cost me?” Bent was outraged again.
So Chalmers decided to play dead when he saw Polly, to buy some time. Dr. Morthouse heard the screaming and knew Chalmers wasn’t really dead when she checked, but played along to fool Mr. Smith. Jordie asks what they’re gonna do about Polly. Bent wants her to keep thinking she killed Ms. Cheevy.
Dr. Morthouse said, “We can’t have that.”
“Why not?” asked Bent. He met Dr. Morthouse’s hard eyes and gave in. “Oh, all right.”
Dr. Morthouse leaves to make sure it’s safe for Chalmers to get out. Chalmers explains to Bent and Jordie he used to be a real math teacher, back when he got out of college, but it was a nightmare compared to working as a spy. Doc M returns and orders the kids to clear this up with Polly (that is, that Cheevy’s not dead). She tells Chalmers their janitor knows a way out but then orders Bent and Jordie to leave first.
A few days later, Polly is supremely pissed off she spent the weekend and the previous three days worrying she killed Ms. Cheevy for nothing when Bent and Jordie reveal their teacher “Retired” and the whole thing really was a joke on her. Polly demands to know why no one called her. The others ask why she was out sick for three days. Bent and Jordie figure she was letting them take all the blame for killing their teacher. Polly defends herself she wouldn’t have really while Maria wishes she could’ve seen Polly screaming her head off. Polly shrilly replies she wasn’t screaming and she knew Ms. Cheevy wasn’t really dead as she marches inside the school.
But as Bent watched Polly walk past Dr. Morthouse into the school, he had a terrible thought. What if… what if this whole thing was a joke Dr. Morthouse and Chalmers and even Smith had planned?
But then again, what kind of teacher and principal would conspire to scare their students to death? That’s sick, even by Bent’s standards.
If there’s anything to really comment on it’s that one part about how the fashion industry tries to convince women to hold themselves to their ridiculous body standards. I’m not sure if the reveal about Cheevy actually being Chalmers counts as transphobic or not, so if anything I’d be up for a discussion on it.
[Wing: I don’t think it’s transphobic, but I do think it undermines some of the commentary about the fashion industry. On the other hand, it also adds in some nuance about how men’s fashion is significantly less terrible about sizing than women’s fashion. (Not great, always, but less terrible.)]
Take this pop quiz – find out if your teacher makes the grade!
- How does your get to school? A: Car. B: Hearse. C: Yellow school bus. D: UFO.
- What color are your teacher’s eyes? A: Brown. B: Red. C: Blue. D: What eyes?
- What does your teacher usually eat for lunch? A: Tunafish. B: Monkey brains. C: Chocolate milk shake, jellybeans. D: Scrap metal.
- After school, your teacher can be seen: A: In the classroom, grading papers. B: In the graveyard. C: At the video arcade. D: Peeling off its skin.
- A typical homework assignment from your teacher is: A: Reading a chapter in a textbook. B: Making a smelly potion. C: Reading a comic book, cover to cover. D: Communicating with life on other planets.
- What is your teacher’s favorite sport? A. Soccer. B. Rat racing. C. Snowboarding. D: Interplanetary stickball.
- What is your teacher’s favorite drink? A: Diet cola. B: Dog-tail tea. C: Ice cream soda. D: Sand.
What are the number of times you’ve answered each letter?
A ( ), B ( ), C ( ), D ( )
If you’ve answered mostly
- A: Sounds like your teacher is a textbook case of normal
- B: Get out of your school as fast as you can! Your teacher is a monster!
- C: Are you sure this is your teacher? Cool!
- D: Your teacher is an alien!
Polly Hannah’s Wardrobe:
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