Title: Spinetinglers #25 – The Curse of the Cheerleaders, a.k.a. “Who the FUCK are you?!”
Author: M.T. Coffin, a.k.a. George Edward Stanley
Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus
Tagline: Gimme A D! Gimme An I! Gimme An E!
Summary: Kill Team Kill
Diane is thrilled when she makes cheerleading… but not for long. The captain, Carla, is hateful, yet all the cheerleaders are completely under her control. Every girl is terrified of her…
When she leads a cheer, lightning strikes, hitting the opposing team and turning the game around. No one on the squad dares to reveal the secret of such sudden storms… no one except Diane.
Because Carla’s evil power goes way beyond the playing field…
Here we have our last commissioned recap. My dear commissioner, if you’re reading this right now you are an absolute gem. I am so sorry for how long this took and I swear on my life I’ll make it up to you.
For those who aren’t aware, the past year and a half’s been absolute hell. I know for all of us, but to run down what I’ve been going through since the pandemic started:
- My grandfather was in and out of hospitals repeatedly since November 2019, suffering through multiple urinary tract infections, a fractured cheek, nose, and eye, COVID, a stroke, pneumonia, until he finally passed away in December a week before my 30th birthday (which my mom and brother ruined).
- August into September of 2020 I worked for the U.S. Census, which included dealing with racist old people, being screamed at, having one guy threatening to sic his dog on me thinking I was after his credit card info, and one guy threatened to shoot me. My coworkers were nice people but it was an overall horrid experience.
- In January of this year I contracted COVID myself and was lucky enough to skate by with minor symptoms and no lasting damage.
- May of this year my mother was diagnosed with bile duct cancer which is manageable but has still been causing problems and forced me to step in and make sure my immediate family members don’t interact without me giving the go-ahead.
- I didn’t get a tax return last year because my mom made a mistake and claimed me as a dependent, and neither of us have gotten this year’s return yet which would’ve been a big help like five goddamn months ago when we finally had the roof fixed.
- Unemployment’s been utterly screwed up and they’ve owed me since like January which, again, would be a BIG help even though I’m already doing two part time jobs.
- I’ve been back at Yankee Stadium this year but it’s clear a lot of people didn’t return so my stand’s frequently short-staffed with me as the only prep forcing my stand manager (an honest gem of a woman) to help even though that shouldn’t be her job. So managing that and still dealing with the comic store has worn me down a lot.
- We spent five days without hot water because that fucking hurricane submerged my boiler room and partially flooded the basement apartment. We had to worry about spending $1400 to buy a new hot water heater before our friends managed to get it working again.
Okay, so, with that out of the way…
The Curse Of The Cheerleaders was one of the earliest Spinetinglers books I managed to get my hands on back in the early 2010s. It was a Christmas gift and while I don’t remember which year I know it was the same Christmas I got Dark Night of the Scarecrow on DVD and Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii.
In terms of cheerleading fiction this book genuinely surprised me. Our main character Diane immediately makes it clear she’s not interested in popularity hierarchies, and the adult characters are refreshingly competent with an actual reason given as to why they aren’t more involved.
[Wing: I love cheerleaders + horror, and I’m excited to read this, no matter how long it’s been waiting for me to comment and schedule.]
Sixth grader Diane was ecstatic and she didn’t care who knew when she saw her name on the roster for Grafton Elementary School’s cheerleading squad. Her best friend Sue Peters was equally excited for Diane, even if Sue wasn’t that interested in cheerleading overall.
On their way into class, Diane noticed Sue’s gorgeous dress and was amazed to hear Sue’s mother had sewn it for Sue. Apparently Mrs. Peters is an incredibly seamstress who can copy just about any expensive design with no one capable of telling the difference. Gee with this kind of info dropped early in the book I wonder if it’ll be relevant later on…
Diane and Sue slipped into their class, hoping their teacher Mrs. Durshill wouldn’t notice. The one person who did notice was a certain Carla Brett, giving Diane a ugly glare. Diane regretted that Carla was the one downside to joining the cheer squad. Carla’s squad captain, and had a habit of making life miserable for anyone who got on her bad side. Even knowing that, Diane still auditioned.
Well Mrs. Durshill finally notices Diane and Sue were late and asks them for an excuse. Several people (Carla not one of them) clap when Sue explains they were checking out the cheer roster and Diane made the team. Durshill softens a bit, momentarily spacing out as she recalls being a cheerleader many, many years ago. Diane and Sue have a hard time imagining their teacher, as she is now, in a cheerleading uniform jumping up and down with pompoms.
[Wing: Hee, teachers are people too, kids. I love this.]
Diane has trouble focusing during class thanks to her excitement at making the squad. Now it’s backstory time!
So Diane and her mom moved to Grafton at the start of the school year, after Diane’s father died. Mrs. Mom remembered Grafton from a trip she went on with Mr. Dad, and it seemed like the perfect place to start over. Grafton was suitable for a children’s book author like Diane’s mom to thrive in. Diane had some reservations about moving because she planned to join the cheer squad at her old school, but figured the most important thing was for her mom to have a place to focus on writing.
The first thing Diane did when she got to Grafton Elementary was put her name down for cheer tryouts. There was one slot available after a previous cheerleader moved away during the summer. Diane was afraid she’d be judged unfairly just because she was new in town, but apparently her fears were unfounded.
However, Diane couldn’t grasp how someone as nasty and unpleasant as Carla Brett was captain of the cheerleaders. Because Diane has apparently never watched, read, or consumed any mainstream form of media depicting American cheerleaders, she believes a head cheerleader should act as a leader and not as a bully or tyrant. Because yes, just because you’re a leader doesn’t give you the right to terrorize those beneath you.
(As a side note I’m explicitly pointing towards MEDIA featuring cheerleaders and NOT cheerleaders in real life, as we all know how popular fiction tends to demonize cheerleaders as either vapid bores or utterly horrible people. Or vampire hunters.)
Carla Brett also didn’t care about studying or doing homework, having barely skittered by with the basic grade average to stay on the team. From the way Carla kept staring at Diane, it was like there was something… evil about her.
Not like Sue. Sue and Diane hit it off immediately and became great friends. Diane was determined to make sure cheerleading didn’t interfere with their friendship.
Once class ended, Carla quickly tried to call the shots in Diane’s life. As everyone left for lunch, Carla ordered Diane over to her and informed her one always stands when Carla Brett speaks to them. Feeling both annoyed and slightly intimidated, Diane nevertheless tried not to starts things off on the wrong foot when Carla talked about certain… changes Diane will have to make in her life. Carla wasn’t talking about just practicing, but rules and specific ways to act. Starting off with how cheerleaders always eat lunch together.
Diane apologized to Sue since they planned to have lunch together, explaining the cheerleaders are having a meeting when Carla snapped at Diane to move it. Carla wouldn’t even give Diane time for Sue to finish inviting Diane over for the weekend.
Diane quickly found herself receiving disgusted expressions from two other members of the squad, Jeanna Kellogg and Abigail Davis.
“I will not be kept waiting,” Carla hissed at me.
“I’m sorry, but Sue and I had planned to eat together, so I had to tell her…”
“You didn’t have to tell her anything,” Carla interrupted me. “Now that you’re a cheerleader, you don’t have to explain anything to anyone who’s not a cheerleader. Do you understand that?”
“Actually, Sue’s a good friend of mine,” I said, “so I’ll probably be talking to her a lot.”
Carla looked like she’d been slapped in the face. Jeanna and Abigail gasped.
OH SNAP GIRL JUST GOT SHOT DOWN. I love it when characters pull shit like this and don’t even realize they’re talking back to someone.
Unfortunately, as Carla looks like she’s turning red from anger she’s apparently channeling her inner Darth Vader because it feels like someone’s squeezing Diane’s throat. As soon as Carla exhales, Diane’s able to breathe again. Abigail warns Diane to never do that again.
In the cafeteria, Diane gets in line with the rest of the squad including Mandy Manners and Betsy Padgett. The two seemed okay at Diane’s tryout, but they were both scowling at her like Abigail and Jeanna did. Upon being told of the little scuffle in the hallway, Mandy warns Diane to NEVER question Carla.
Carla is the leader.
Carla knows best for everyone.
[Wing: Carla is a cult. C U L T, people. Cult.]
Diane has no clue what is wrong with these girls. It’s just cheerleading. It’s supposed to be fun, yet Diane feels like she’s been trapped inside some cult or something. Part of her wants to run over to Sue and act like she never met Carla Brett, but then we wouldn’t have a book would we?
Abigail orders lunch for Diane, a a greasy hamburger and fries which is the last thing Diane wants but it seems all the cheerleaders are getting it. Diane goes with it for now but vows tomorrow things are gonna change. She’s not going to let Carla or the rest of the cheerleaders ruin her fun. Cheerleading’s not supposed to be some secret society where you act like you’re better than everyone else and mindlessly obey the commands of your supposed leader. It’s not right.
Seriously I’m kind of loving Diane’s rejection of this type of shit.
The cheer squad sits at a table in the center of the lunchroom, and Diane notices the other kids are smiling at the squad but it seems forced. Like they’re afraid of NOT smiling.
As soon as Diane sits down, the squad does a 180 in the personality department. Suddenly Carla and the other girls are all brightly smiling and congratulating Diane on making the squad. Amid the congratulations, Diane realizes this is all a show. The girls are sitting in the center of the room so everyone can see them and think “Oh wow these girls are so nice and welcoming aren’t they awesome?”
Carla explains everyone’s meeting at her house after school to pick up their uniforms. Mrs. Brett ordered them from the cheerleading camp Carla attended during the summer. [Wing: Seems like a weird source for uniforms, but okay.] They’ll also be learning some special cheers Carla was taught at the same camp. These will really help Grafton Elementary’s football team.
[Wing: I wasn’t certain I’d like a story like this, which is normally given to teenagers, set in an elementary school, but I am delighted by this, mostly because Diane is a joy and a gift.]
While the girls ate lunch (or in Diane’s case tried to eat lunch), Diane started to relax a bit. Maybe she was just a little jittery and wasn’t judging Carla or the others very fairly. Maybe Carla’s just really focused on cheerleading because she plans to be one professionally when she grows up. A positive attitude might be the key to make things better.
Yet when Diane looks at Carla, she sees Carla’s no longer smiling. Carla looks as though she was reading Diane’s mind.
After school, Diane was dropped off at Carla’s house fifteen minutes later than planned (That mom and her errands). Diane couldn’t believe how enormous Carla’s house was, and was especially shocked when Carla opened the front door and WASN’T mad.
What really left Diane speechless was Carla’s cheerleading uniform. It was utterly gorgeous, and looked just as good on Carla as it did the rest of the team. Diane’s given her uniform, but warned it might be a bit big for her. Apparently the uniform was originally measured for Janet George, the girl Diane replaced on the team. Seems Janet was also supposed to be team captain instead of Carla, but her family mysteriously moved away during the summer…
Diane heard people say Carla and Janet were like twins. The thought of two Carla Bretts was too much for one mind to handle.
Hey Wing I wonder which one would be Elizabeth and which would be Jessica in this situation.
[Wing: Sounds like two Jessicas, really.]
Diane changed in Carla’s bathroom, putting on the red, black and white cheer outfit with a sparkly “G” on the red sweater. The excitement of having her own cheer uniform was making Diane’s experiences earlier in the day feel like a bad dream she was waking up from.
Arriving back in the parlor, the rest of the team applauds Diane in her uniform. Carla states they’ll practicing some moves and cheers, thanks to the parlor area being so big there’s room for the girls to jump and move about without breaking anything.
That’s when things started to get weird.
Carla handed each girl a slip of paper with a new cheer for them to try out. She got the cheer from the same place she got the uniforms. At…
THE SECRETS OF THE ART OF ANCIENT CHEERLEADING SCHOOL CAMP
I think I’ve heard of this place.
While Diane’s left wondering about what ancient secrets cheerleaders could have, Carla reveals their new cheer.
THUNDER AND LIGHTNING
STRIKE THEM NOW!
Diane can see a bolt of lightning streaking across the sky as the girls finish the cheer, but she seems to be the only one to notice.
[Wing: I am utterly besotted by this story. Hearts in my eyes and all.]
Carla attempts to explain the significance of the cheer.
“It means that our football team is like a thunderstorm, and that when we’re on the field, we’re full of thunder and lightning, and we’ll strike the other team down.”
[Wing: Much like a good joke, if you have to explain the cheer…]
Diane’s all “Okay…” even though she and I both know that explanation is akin to trying to find subtext in Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake.
The squad rehearses the cheer a few times until Carla’s satisfied with their arm and leg movements, while outside it’s begun to rain heavily. Except for Diane, no one else seems bothered by the heavy amount of thunder and lightning.
Carla announces the team’s ready to unveil the cheer at their first game. Which is tomorrow. [Wing: The timing on this is very suspect. One day of rehearsal for the new girl when the last one moved away over the summer, so surely they’ve had time to fill the spot sooner? They literally only just got their uniforms with no guarantee that they’d fit, at least Diane’s. Rush rush rush rush.] Diane secretly hopes they do some cheers which make sense. Again Carla seems to read Diane’s mind as the squad caps off their practice by doing some standard cheers and routines.
On the way home, Diane realizes it was bright and sunny when she arrived at Carla’s house, and bright and sunny when her mom picked her up. Where oh where did those storm clouds come from? When Diane’s mom says it’s too bad Sue wasn’t on the cheer squad, Diane thinks maybe it’s for the best Sue wasn’t on the team. Away from Carla and the rest of the girls, Diane’s uncomfortable feeling has returned. Like some sort of hold’s been taken off Diane’s mind.
Diane spends a half hour trying to call Sue, who apologizes stating she was on the phone with Derrick. Sue’s apparently REALLY good at math, because she’s basically helping a high school student with his math homework. Derrick’s family lives across the street from Sue’s, and his folks run the local dry cleaners.
Diane tries to tell Sue about the weirdness at cheer practice, but when Sue asks how weird it could’ve been Diane second-guesses herself. She brushes it off and asks if Sue wants to come over later so they can work on their homework. Diane helps Sue with science, Sue helps Diane with math. Everybody wins!
However, Diane’s instincts get the better of her and she feels she HAS to tell Sue about the cheer practice. Sue gushes over Diane’s cute uniform when Diane explains everything that happened. At the mention of
THE SECRETS OF THE ART OF ANCIENT CHEERLEADING SCHOOL CAMP
Sue thinks it’s an obvious rip-off, and then Diane mentions the cheer involving thunder and lightning. Diane emphasizes the weirder part happened DURING the cheer, when it began raining buckets outside Carla’s house. Sue’s not sure what Diane’s talking about saying it didn’t rain at her house. YOU DON’T SAY?
Well, even though Sue believes Diane, she figures the rain was just “weird weather phenomena” and doesn’t dwell on it. But even while she tries to study, Diane’s thoughts are all about Carla Brett. And even though she doesn’t admit it, Sue’s thinking about Carla too.
At school the next day, Carla and Diane are the only two cheerleaders who’ve got their shit together. The rest of the team are nervous wrecks who keep asking Carla about the new cheer. Sue doesn’t get what the big deal is. The other girls are acting like some famous Hollywood agent is gonna be at today’s football game.
Diane had no way of knowing that game would change her life forever.
Mrs. Brett drove the cheerleaders to the game an hour after school ended. The sixth grade football team’s allowed to play on the junior high field. MUCH better than where the fifth graders played. [Wing: Wait, why in the world are sixth graders still in elementary school?] Diane couldn’t say she was impressed or why the girls were acting like it was an Olympic-esque stadium.
Armed with their pompoms, the cheer squad made their way onto the field. They were here for their team and they were gonna get everyone pumped!
Sadly, the players on the opposing team from Carlson were bigger than Grafton’s players. The score was down to 7-0 and Grafton was losing. Badly. Mandy thought they should cheer loud, while Carla was pacing back and forth and looking up at the sky.
Diane got nervous when Carla decided they’d use the new cheer. Her nervousness became confusion when the rest of the team silently nodded in agreement. The old Carla, the one who was mean and nasty, came back as she ordered Diane to get in position. Diane felt herself moving almost against her will while the rest of the team all focused on Carla.
Once Carla was sure they were ready, I mean REALLY ready, they unleashed their new cheer.
As soon as the cheerleaders finished, the sky darkened and a bolt of lightning burst from the clouds. Carla seemed please and told the team to cheer it again as the thunder and lightning intensified. Despite the darkened sky and threats of rain, the game wasn’t cancelled. Carla started to cheer one player in particular. Tim Wilson, Grafton’s best player who just happened to be Carla’s boyfriend.
One of Carlson’s players went after Tim went a bolt of lightning struck RIGHT in front of him, allowing Tim to move forward. The same thing happened when another Carlson player tried to bring Tim down. Diane was horrified that Carla wanted the girls to keep cheering, even after that one kid got his feet struck by a lightning bolt. Hell, they didn’t even take him off the field yet!
Carla brushed off Diane’s concerns as the Carlson kid was taken off the field, leading the rest of the cheerleaders into chanting for another touchdown. Diane kept her mouth shut as she slowly connected the dots from yesterday and today.
For a third time the cheer squad unleashed the “Lightning and Thunder” cheer, and for a third time lightning tried to strike a Carlson player. Emphasis on TRY, because the bolt of lightning seemed to have a life of its own and was CHASING AFTER THE POOR KID.
A bolt of lightning flashed from the black clouds above us, right in front of the player with the ball. He tried to dodge it, but the bolt of lightning kept trying to strike him.
“What’s going on here?” I cried. [Jude: GEE WHAT DO YOU THINK, DIANE????]
The player with the ball was now running in circles all over the field. The bolt of lightning kept following him. Each time it tried to strike, the player would duck.
Finally, the bolt of lightning chases the player off the field, and the referee blew the whistle.
The Carlson player kept gesturing to the sky while the people in the stands were trying to figure out what the fuck just happened.
[Wing: I cannot get this out of my head.
Carla, meanwhile, had a huge smile on her face. Abigail ran over to the coaches to find out what was happening (and for a moment almost caught Carla’s ire when she acted without Carla’s permission). She returned with news of Carlson forfeiting out of fear of the lightning. Carla was more than pleased with such an easy victory, despite that Grafton didn’t really win if the other team gave up. Diane’s alone in her assessment that this wasn’t really a victory worth feeling good about.
Sue rushed over to Diane to make sure she was okay after that weirdness, but Diane had to reconvene with the cheerleaders for Carla’s mom to drive them home. Once again the dark clouds dissipated as quickly as they appeared. Diane squirmed in the van with Carla and the others, realizing she was in the clutches of a group that appeared to possess an evil power. Who would ever believe of cheerleaders having the power to make whatever they cheer come true?
Diane was surprised to see Carla’s mom drove everyone back to her house. Carla put on her friendly face again, explaining the cheerleaders always reconvene at Chez Brett after a game for snacks. It’s a tradition. And Mrs. Brett makes the best desserts, like the kind you get at a fancy French restaurant.
Wow, Diane’s mom is a professional illustrator. Sue’s mom is an exceptional seamstress. And Carla’s mom can bake on the same level as a professional pastry chef. The moms in this book are killing it.
Oh, and there’s also a short practice too. The girls watch a video recorded by Mrs. Brett so they can review their performances and figure out what needs to be improved. Diane found it a bit much when Jeanna declared it was like they were all movie stars.
They’d also be learning another new cheer Carla got at camp.
First the girls helped themselves to the desserts whipped up by Mrs. Brett. Then they started watching the video tape on Carla’s VCR, because it was the 90s you see! At first Carla and the others were making fluff comments until the tape got to the part with the storm. Diane realized Mrs. Brett had departed the room just as the tape reached this section, and suddenly all the girls remained quiet. Their eyes focused on the screen as they watched the lightning go after the Carlson team.
When the tape was over, the girls sans Diane turned to Carla. She flatly stated they could’ve done better but they accomplished their goal. Even though Diane pointed out forfeiting and winning aren’t really the same thing, no one else cared. If it went on the record as a win, that was all that mattered.
No matter what was done to achieve it.
Mandy added they needed to keep cheering that cheer until the lightning did what it was SUPPOSED to do, at which Diane stopped pussyfooting and asked what, exactly, that means.
The rest of the team turned to Carla yet again, who figured she didn’t have to pretend. And she knew DIANE didn’t have to pretend either.
“I think you know what we mean. I don’t think I need to explain any of this to you,” Carla finally said.
“You wanted to be a cheerleader at any cost. You got your wish.”
Diane wished Mrs. Brett had stayed in the room when Carla handed out the slips with the new cheer.
THE GRASS IS GREEN.
THE GRASS IS MEAN.
THE GRASS WILL PULL YOU
FROM THE SCENE.
Diane could only imagine what horrors this new cheer would unleash.
[Wing: This is only half as cool as the last one, if that. Maybe twenty-five percent. Fail, Carla and cheer camp.]
Sue couldn’t believe Diane would remain on the squad despite the rampant creep factor. Diana couldn’t believe it either, loathing how Carla and the others had taken her dream of being a cheerleader and turning it into something evil. Sue asked why they don’t simply do something about stopping Carla, but what could they do?
We sat and thought for several seconds.
“I don’t know,” Sue finally said. “The only things I can think of are illegal.”
“I know what you mean,” I said. “I’ve probably already thought of those myself.”
WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU TWO BEEN THINKING OF, FRAMING CARLA FOR RUNNING A METH LAB OR MURDERING THE TOWN MAYOR?????
That’s when Diane thought they could talk to Mrs. Durshill. After all, Durshill said she was a cheerleader. Sue admitted she never really thought about cheerleaders getting older. She always imagined they remained young and perky, making Diane wonder if she’d still be cheering when she was geriatric.
Diane wanted to play this cool, as she didn’t want Mrs. Durshill to go straight to the school principal Mr. Nomerack. If she did, Diane feared Carla and the others would deny everything and make Diane look like a fool. Again, who would believe that cheerleaders have evil powers? So Sue figured they play it cool and get Durshill to believe Carla and the others are doing weird shit. In a perfect world, they might have a new cheer squad and Sue could try out.
Even though cheerleading went against every value Sue stood for. Present company excluded of course, Diane.
The girls didn’t have a chance to speak with Durshill alone until Thursday. They pretended to take their sweet time looking over their answers on a test, getting a few minutes after the end of class.
Durshill could tell something was wrong, but Diane had gone over this a million times in her head unsure of how she would sound. She finally asked if Durshill really was a cheerleader when she younger, then explained her problem had to do with cheerleading. Specifically, that something strange was happening.
Diane feared she said too much, but then believed maybe they do need someone else to help them figure out what’s happening and put a stop to it before anyone’s hurt. Durshill is told about the weird cheer and the events of the football game involving the lightning. The teacher mentions she heard about the game seeming odd but wasn’t told about what the cheerleaders were saying. Sue figures no one noticed because they were more focused on the game.
Diane tells Durshill the first cheer involving thunder and lightning, then reveals the new one involving the grass.
Here’s where things took an unexpected turn as Durshill… seemed to believe Diane and Sue! Not to the degree of going “Of course I can see the cheerleaders somehow have the power to make their cheers come true.” No, Durshill recognized something odd’s going on and stated she’ll speak with the principal about it. Diane figured if she spoke to Mr. Nomerack herself, he’d think she was only trying to get Carla off the cheer squad to become the new captain or something. Durshill saw where Diane was coming from, but felt they do need to act before the next football game.
I just… an adult can understand a strange event is happening without jumping to “you’re imagining things” or “oh yeah it’s totally evil cheerleaders no doubt???” I love it when a character can get suspicious of an event without immediately deducing it’s supernatural or anything like that. It’s more realistic for someone to recognize something out of the ordinary and say “This is weird” without quickly thinking it’s something outlandish.
Diane felt better than she had for a while, until she left the classroom with Sue and found Carla staring at them from across the hall. Boy Carla that test sure was a doozy, huh?
Yeah there’s no way Carla didn’t know what Diane and Sue were up to, and even if Diane put on a brave front she worried about what else Carla Brett was capable of.
Well they didn’t have to worry for long, because the next morning Diane and Sue learned they were having a substitute. Carla “helpfully” explained she heard about Durshill being sick. Like, REALLY sick. Mr. Carla’s dad just happened to be a doctor, after all. Oh BTW Diane, that uniform’s not looking so good on you as you thought it did.
Sue tried to assure Diane things’ll be okay, but Diane didn’t believe that at all. When Diane sat down, she realized someone left a slip of paper at her desk. Making sure no one was looking at her, Diane carefully read the note.
ASK CARLA WHY JANET GEORGE REALLY LEFT TOWN
Diane mused on Janet George leaving town the previous summer, wondering what Carla must’ve done to drive Janet away. Would Carla do the same thing to get rid of Diane? Diane didn’t want anything to do with Carla Brett, but knew she had to stay on the cheer squad. Not because she wanted to be a cheerleader. Diane understood Carla had some awful power at her disposal, power she was using to hurt people, and Diane needed to stop Carla before it was too late.
Diane wanted to talk to Sue about the note immediately, but Carla beat her to the punch. She’d gotten permission from their sub to let the cheerleaders leave for lunch early, to go over their plans for the football game that afternoon. Diane tried to curtail Carla’s plans by loudly reminding Carla they went over the routine yesterday afternoon. Undeterred, Carla announced she changed her mind about the routine. Captains can do that, you know. Got a problem with it, DIANE?
Well the lunch bell rang and Carla seemed utterly pissed off, but she refrained from lashing out at Diane. And it turned out Carla hadn’t changed their routine for the game after all. Diane was still so rattled she didn’t touch her food.
When the cheerleaders arrived at the field for the football game, Carla approached Diane away from the others and had some choice words for her.
“You shouldn’t have talked to Mrs. Durshill, Diane. You’ve created a very serious problem for her. I just hope she makes it.”
For a minute, I couldn’t speak. “What are you saying?” I finally managed. “What did you do to her?”
“You know the rules, Diane. You don’t talk to anyone about what goes on in cheerleading practice. She’s where she can’t tell anyone what you told her.”
I began to shiver. “What about…” I stopped.
“What about Sue? What about, let’s say, your mother? Is that what you were going to say?”
“No, no, I wasn’t. Sue doesn’t know anything. I haven’t told her anything.”
“You’re lying, Diane, and you’re not very good at it.”
I could hardly get the words out. “What are you going to do to her?”
Carla just looked at me for a couple of seconds, then she grinned. “I’m not going to do anything, as long as you keep your mouth shut except when you’re cheering. You will say nothing to anyone about what goes on during cheerleading practice. Is that understood?”
Horrified at the implications of what Carla could do, Diane felt defeated and nodded.
Of course that’s only the ending of chapter 4 so Diane’s not down yet, though at the moment she couldn’t see a way out of her situation.
The Grafton football team was up against Webster, and Carla told Coach Arthur the cheerleaders would lead the team onto the field. They’ll need all the inspiration they can get, and who was more inspiring than Grafton’s cheerleaders?
Diane went through with the opening routine as the cheerleaders and football players marched onto the field. She was too anxious at the thought of what Carla would do if she screwed up. After all the jumping and cartwheeling and cheering mixed with her internal dread, Diane was just about ready to puke when the game started.
When a Webster player seemed ready to score a touchdown, Carla decided the cheerleaders would unveil their newest cheer.
After cheering about the grass pulling people from the scene, Diane could hardly believe it when the grass proceeded to do just that. The Webster player trying to make the touchdown was stopped when several blades of grass elongated like snakes and shot outwards, wrapping around his ankles and dragging him down.
To everyone in the stands, it seemed like the kid tripped. Carla and the other cheerleaders feigned ignorance but Diane knew what happened. Oh Diane, stop being so silly. Grass can’t pull someone down. You’re imagining things.
The cheerleaders were then ordered to do the same cheer again when the same player almost scored. In Diane’s case, she was threatened.
Carla looked at me. “If you don’t cheer, Diane, Mrs. Durshill may never come back to school!”
Diane knew this was no idle threat.
This time, the grass didn’t settle for tripping the player. It wrapped around the poor guy’s arms and legs as he screamed in terror. Diane feared he was going to choke to death while Carla smugly stated it was his own fault for trying to score against Grafton.
[Wing: I feel like you might not understand the point of a game, Carla.]
The Webster coach and rest of the team tried to help the trapped player when the grass instantly attacked them as well. The football team writhed in agony, trying to free themselves as the grass constricted around them like snakes, while the coach kept trying to dodge the living turf.
Diane had enough and ran out onto the field to help the Webster players. Sue tried to help, but the moment she set foot on the playing field the grass attacked HER. Diane screamed at Carla for being evil and tried to help Sue while the parents of the Webster team tried to help their children.
Having just barely managed to save Sue from choking to death, Diane turned and saw as the Webster parents were being attacked too. On top of the screaming victims Diane could hear sirens in the distance. Diane and Sue ran to help the opposing team, joined by several adults from the Grafton side while the cheer squad watched. It seemed less likely for Carla to try anything with the Grafton parents on the field.
Diane and Sue managed to free one woman, who then went to help her son. By the time the players and parents from Webster were all freed, the horror turned to anger. Webster’s coach announced they would never play against Grafton again. Some of the Webster parents mentioned hearing about the previous game and decided this town must be full of freaks.
After everyone from Webster left the field, the Grafton parents were left puzzling over the weird events. Sue and Diane discussed amongst themselves and figured this was a problem they had to solve themselves. Diane was still worried about Carla trying to hurt Sue or her mom, but Sue wasn’t afraid. Sure you’re not.
Diane told Sue to leave when she saw Carla and the cheerleaders heading their way. After Sue was nudged away by Diane, Carla laid down the cheer law. You don’t desert your squad, Diane. You don’t EVER desert your squad. She then added the cheerleaders will be wearing their uniforms on Monday for something… special.
On the ride back in Mrs. Brett’s van, it was Mandy who asked why they’d be wearing their uniforms when there’s no game planned for Monday. Carla redundantly stated they wear their cheer uniforms because they’re cheerleaders. They give the school spirit.
Oh you’re giving the school SOMETHING, Carla.
Diane AND Mandy didn’t feel comfortable with Carla’s answer while Betsy whined about her uniform being too small. Carla continued on, stating to everyone it’s important the school knows who they are. And what they’re capable of. Diane figured the school knew exactly who Carla and the squad were, and what they were capable of. People stayed out of their way. They didn’t get in trouble. What more did Carla have to prove and how long until she’s finally satisfied?
Why the FUCK did Diane have to move to the one town with the one cheer squad controlled by a raging egomaniac willing to do whatever she wants with no regarding the wellbeing of others? Why couldn’t Diane have moved to somewhere with a normal cheer squad, like Shadyside?
Or Overland Park?
Diane was dropped off at her house instead of being brought to Carla’s place; she wouldn’t be joining the team for the post-game snack and gab. While she thanked Mrs. Brett for the ride home, Diane wondered how Carla’s mom was so nice when Carla was so NOT. Or was it an act and Mrs. Brett was as much a monster as Carla? Or worse?
Just before entering her house, Diane was startled when Sue popped out of the bushes. You really know how to make an entrance there, Sue-girl. Sue explained she saw the van coming and hid before Carla noticed her.
Inside, Diane’s mom apologized for not making the game since she had to fax her latest chapter to her editor in New York. When informed they’re going out to eat later (which Diane mentions they almost always do), Diane asked if Sue can join them. Sue and Diane’s mom got along great, because Sue always had great suggestions for Ms. Diane’s Mom to use in her books. Seems Sue wanted to be a writer too.
Oh, but before they eat, they can go visit Mrs. Durshill.
Diane’s told they got a call from Durshill’s doctor at the hospital. It appeared Mrs. Durshill kept asking for Diane, but her mom wasn’t told why. The doctor didn’t understand either. It took the hospital staff a while to figure out what Durshill was talking about. She was apparently very incoherent when she was brought in. Diane might be able to help the doctors understand what Durshill’s trying to say. She was VERY sick.
Up in Diane’s room, she hoped this was their chance to prove Carla was responsible for the awful shit happening. Sue didn’t understand why everyone else had a hard time understanding what was going on. First the lightning and then the grass. Diane reasoned they know SOMETHING is wrong, but they probably don’t attribute it to the cheerleaders. They’d think it’s some weird science phenomena; lightning can act weird and there’re plants which behave similarly to the grass on the field. Sue retorted even the weirdest plants don’t just grab or try to choke people. Maybe this is a mutation. The way Diane sees it, they have to stop this without telling people the cheerleaders are causing it.
When it was time to leave for dinner, Diane remembered she was still wearing her cheer uniform. She felt uncomfortable being seen with it on in public, afraid people might associate her with the weirdness going on. But whatever, maybe no one would realize it was a cheerleader’s uniform.
[Wing: Diane, until this moment you have been incredibly smart. Why must you have this ridiculous thought? OF COURSE IT IS A CHEERLEADER’S UNIFORM. It’s not like they’re subtle.]
On the way down, Diane thought about her mom not understanding why Diane cared so much about cheerleading. Boy, it sure is weird how some kids can be totally different from their parents.
Oh, it turned out Sue’s family almost never ate out for dinner. Sue’s mom was not only a talented seamstress but also a great cook.
Sue’s family never seemed to eat out. She said her Mom was a great cook and they could never find a restaurant that prepared meals as good as hers. I told her once that was usually not the point of eating out.
But first Diane’s mom drove to the Grafton hospital so they could visit Mrs. Durshill. Inside the hospital, Diane felt self conscious when several people grinned at her upon seeing her uniform. The nurse said only Diane could see Mrs. Durshill. Apparently Durshill’s attending physician didn’t think Durshill’s well enough to handle more than one visitor at a time. Since Durshill kept mentioning Diane’s name, it made more sense for her to go in.
Between the nurse, Diane, Sue, and Diane’s mom, the doctors were willing to try anything. They really didn’t know what was wrong with the poor woman.
Diane was brought to Mrs. Durshill’s room when a buzzing sound down the hall meant something else the nurse needed to deal with. Left alone, Diane was uncomfortable when she saw the state Mrs. Durshill was in. Aside from all the wires and tubes hooked into her, Mrs. Durshill appeared to have lost a significant amount of weight and was deathly pale. Just what the fuck did Carla DO to her????
Diane gently tried to get Durshill’s attention. But when Durshill’s eyes slowly opened, she started blinking rather rapidly. It was like Durshill couldn’t comprehend what she was seeing as she looked at Diane and started wheezing.
That was when Diane realized Durshill was looking at Diane’s UNIFORM.
That was when Durshill started screaming.
Diane didn’t know what to do as her teacher violently shook and tried to get out of bed, get away from Diane while screaming at the top of her lungs. When the nurse ran back into the room, Durshill screamed at Diane to get away from her while Diane was on the verge of crying from confused fear.
When Diane realized Durshill was scared of the cheer uniform, not her, a thought occurred to Diane. Taking a cheerleader stance directly in front of her teacher, Diane cheered at the top of her lungs:
STOP, STOP, STOP YOUR SCREAM!
Just like that, Durshill got so quiet it was like she never started screaming in the first place. Disturbed by what just happened, the nurse told Diane to leave.
[Wing: Already abusing that cheerleader power. That was fast, Diane.]
Diane was shaking from fear, fear of Carla Brett, fear of the condition Mrs. Durshill was in, and the fear of revelation as she now understood the true power behind the cheer squad.
Back inside her mom’s car, Diane conferred with Sue over learning the truth about Carla’s powers. Diane wanted to wait until later, as she didn’t want her mom to overhear them talking. After dinner and back at her house, Diane (after finally taking her uniform off to have it washed) explained it’s not the cheers. It’s the UNIFORMS.
Diane extrapolated how Mrs. Durshill got scared the moment she noticed what Diane was wearing. So if Durshill was scared of the uniform, it meant Carla probably had it on when she did… whatever she did to Durshill. Sue didn’t understand how the uniforms could have the power when the chants seem more likely. You’ve heard of magic chants, who ever heard of a magic uniform? Diane countered with how unlikely this entire situation was, and added how Carla’s mom got the uniforms from that weird cheerleading camp Carla attended.
As to how Diane thought the uniforms were powerful, she told Sue about her method of making Durshill stop screaming. Specifically, she didn’t TELL Durshill to stop. Diane CHEERED for Durshill to stop. So whatever magic the uniforms had can only be activated by someone cheering. Everything else the cheerleaders cheered about came true, so unless Sue has other ideas…
The girls were briefly interrupted when the doorbell rang, but Diane assumed it was a visitor for her mom. Sue decided their best way to prove Diane’s theory was the simplest. Put the uniform back on, have Diane cheer something, and see if it happens. Diane worried about what to cheer FOR; if she wasn’t careful, ANYTHING could happen. This could be some real Monkey’s Paw fuckery going on.
Unfortunately, Diane and Sue took too long to think of something because when they went to get the uniform from the laundry room it was gone. When Diane asked her mom where it was, she was all “Oh hey Diane your little friend Carla came by to pick up the uniform for dry-cleaning. Her mom wants all the uniforms dry-cleaned because washing them so much is making the colors fade. Wasn’t that nice of her?”
“And don’t worry, Carla said you’ll have the uniform back by Monday. She’s so nice.”
Diane and Sue were left to imagine all the horrific possibilities of Carla Brett with an entire school, nay, an entire TOWN at her mercy thanks to a set of fucked-up skirts and sweaters. Diane wondered if Carla got rid of Janet George because Janet was also a threat to Carla’s plans. Or maybe Carla usurped Janet because Janet had the same thing in mind, and Carla wouldn’t settle for being the Co-Head-Vice Captain like that subpar handjob supplier Brittnay Matthews.
Diane thought she might have a chance to get A uniform when she remembered Betsy’s complaining earlier in the day. She’d go over to Betsy’s and offer to trade. Oh but don’t worry, Betsy could have Diane’s uniform when it’s “Done being washed.”
Diane was sure Betsy wouldn’t tell anyone, especially Carla, if it meant Betsy “Having a uniform that doesn’t make her look fat.” Wow. Thanks for that, Diane.
Betsy’s house was a couple of blocks from Diane’s, so the girls didn’t ask Diane’s mom to bring them over. However, Sue could tell Diane looked like she was ready to lose it. Diane hoped she could pull this off if they successfully played on Betsy’s “vanity.”
Well Diane did her best to play it cool, even if Betsy was firmly on Carla’s side. Trying not to make Betsy feel too self-conscious, Diane quickly offered to switch uniforms. They don’t HAVE to tell Carla everything that happens, now do we Betsy? Between the possibilities of pissing Carla off and looking HAWT, Betsy went with the latter.
Diane was JUST out of the room when the phone rang and Betsy’s answering machine (Because it was the 90s, you see!) came on.
It was Carla.
Who was on her way to pick up Betsy’s uniform for dry-cleaning.
And to talk about their Diane problem.
Diane ran out of the house with the stolen goods in hand before Betsy could register she’d been played.
Diane and Sue ran until they were out of sight of Betsy’s house, then hid in the bushes. Instead of taking the uniform home, Diane told Sue to stash it at her place for the time being. If Carla or the others tried to find it, they’d be more likely to search Diane’s place. [Wing: That is absolutely untrue, Carla already knows Diane has told Sue about the cheering, she’d send someone to check there, too. Or simply cheer Diane or Sue into telling her where they’ve hidden it.] Sue didn’t feel comfortable having the uniform, but agreed to keep it hidden until Monday.
“It almost looks alive.”
“It may be,” I said. “I know it’s evil.”
After stashing the uniform in the back of Sue’s closet, Diane needed to head home. Sue said she would call to make sure Diane returned to her house okay, and she meant it. By this point, Sue’s as scared as Diane. Diane made sure to use the back way in case Carla’s lackeys were scoping the front of Diane’s place.
Diane’s mom wanted to know why she’d been lurking around in the backyard, because she has a phone call.
Why it’s Carla.
But Carla said nothing before Diane finally realized she’d hung up. Diane later phoned Sue, fearing Carla’s silence was an implied threat about knowing they’d stolen Betsy’s uniform. Carla certainly had the power to make anyone to confess to anything. What would she do next?
By Monday morning, nothing happened. Diane was still up and about rather early, which was a rare occurrence and a sign something was wrong. She got Sue to come under the excuse of having breakfast; Sue brought the uniform with her. Meanwhile, Diane’s mom apologized for not doing anything with her over the weekend. She was engrossed in working on her latest book, and it might be the best one she’s created so far.
“I think it’s my best one yet, Diane. I think it’s an award winner. In a couple of days, I want you to read what I’ve written so far.”
“I wouldn’t let you send it to your editor if you didn’t,” I said, smiling.
At my last school, all my friends had been really impressed that I read mom’s manuscripts and suggested changes before she sent them off.
I really love how supportive Diane is of her mom’s writing.
Diane and Sue barely tasted their breakfast as they dreaded heading to school, but knew they had to face whatever the cheerleaders planned.
By the time they got to class, Mrs. Palmer immediately told Diane she had to go to the principal’s office. And boy did she sound steamed. Diane noticed Carla and the other cheerleaders weren’t in class. She found them all in Mr. Nomerack’s office, with Betsy crying about Diane’s theft.
Mr. Nomerack calmly but sternly asked if Diane stole Betsy’s uniform; it’s clear he wasn’t pleased but didn’t take for Betsy shouting and calling Diane a liar. Diane asserted this was her uniform when Betsy stated her maid had seen “someone” rummaging in her room before the uniform was taken. Diane is shocked. Offended. Hurt, even! Like she would steal someone’s uniform when she already has a perfectly good one of her own.
Then you wouldn’t mind us checking to see if Betsy’s initials are on the sweater’s tag, right Diane?
Realizing the principal’s secretary Mrs. Rogers was going to check the tag, Diane cheered “STAY WHERE YOU ARE.” The woman immediately stopped.
Carla rallied the other girls to cheer for Mrs. Rogers to check the label while Diane cheered for her to stay still. It was like the poor woman kept waking up and falling into a trance.
Diane had no idea what to do other than running out of the office and back to class. She realized this was a stupid thing to do in the heat of the moment; she should’ve just left the school. But by the time she was about to leave, Carla and the other cheerleaders were back in class. [Wing: I love that Diane not only makes a mistake but acknowledges it.]
Surprisingly, the cheerleaders made no move to control Diane or anyone else.
That’s when they heard the sirens.
Everyone watched as paramedics entered the building, and quickly had Mr. Nomerack on a stretcher!
Several minutes later, the teachers revealed Nomerack collapsed in his office. There was no other info on his condition. Mrs. Palmer was clearly unnerved by the events. By the recess bell Diane practically jumped out of her seat.
Diane and Sue watched Carla, Abigail and Jeanna head for the playground, whispering to one another. The thought of being near those three made both girls practically ill, so they asked Mrs. Palmer for a pass to the school’s media center. Usually the kids who used the media center were the ones who didn’t like playing outside or had colds.
…oh Christ the thought of sick kids being kept inside with others just doesn’t sit well with me right now.
Mrs. Herbert, the teacher who monitored the media room, liked it when kids used it during recess though.
Diane explained her little stand-off with Carla and the others, figuring Nomerack saw too much and he was taken out of the equation like Durshill. The girls wondered when Carla would make her move against Diane while Sue pleaded that Diane had to stop this before it was too late. Diane was at a loss for how to stop Carla, and she didn’t want more people to get hospitalized.
When recess ended, Mrs. Herbert asked if Diane and Sue could help her shelve a few books after school (the usual parent helper is out sick). Diane didn’t feel comfortable staying late at school, but Mrs. Herbert’s always super nice so Diane didn’t turn her down.
At lunch, Diane sat with Sue and they both saw Betsy wearing a uniform again. It was most definitely the one Carla stole from Diane’s house. Sue figured Diane could stop Carla and the others by cheering to undo their commands. Unfortunately, Diane only reacting put a damper on things. Carla and the rest could cheer up all kinds of awful things away from Diane. She wouldn’t know what they’ve done until it was too late, and who’s to say it wouldn’t incapacitate Diane beforehand?
By the time school was over, Sue wondered if she could ask Mrs. Herbert for help in dealing with Carla. Diane didn’t think it would help because of how ridiculous it all sounded.
When they saw how many books Mrs. Herbert needed to shelve, the girls figured to call their parents to let them know they’d be late coming home. It was a good thing Diane called because her mom’s confused about what’s happening outside.
Diane why are Carla Brett and the cheerleaders outside?
Diane immediately began screaming at her mom not to go outside or hang up the phone when her mom stated the doorbell rang. That’s when Diane heard her mom gasping in pain. Diane began cheering over the phone that her mom was okay, but she had to keep cheering because of whatever Carla was doing.
When Sue and Mrs. Herbert overheard Diane screaming, she told them to call the police and tell them to stop the cheerleaders. Diane was stuck having to cheer over the phone as Carla kept trying to most likely KILL her mom. By now Diane’s mom was begging for her help as Diane kept cheering to save her mom’s life. Diane kept ordering her mom not to hang up the phone, desperately undoing Carla’s commands again and again.
[Wing: This is heartbreaking. All that fear. I hate it.]
Over the phone, Diane could hear sirens when her mom said the cheerleaders were TALKING TO THE COPS. Realizing she couldn’t stay at the school any longer, Diane left with Sue but not before telling Mrs. Herbert the cheerleaders were trying to kill her mom. The girls ran from the school to Diane’s house when they saw a police car going down the street. Diane was afraid of her mom being left alone again when it suddenly got windy.
Very, VERY windy.
Dark clouds materialized in the sky and rain began to pour. Diane could see the shingles being torn off her roof as she got drenched in the storm. The girls had to dodge falling debris and downed power cables. Sue only just avoided being electrocuted. The girls struggled to make it into Diane’s house, wondering about the full extent of the storm’s ferocity and if it was destroying the rest of the town.
By the time Diane could find her mom, she saw her on the floor.
The BLOODY floor.
Water was pouring from the ceiling and Diane feared the roof had been torn off. As the rain continued to pour, Diane FINALLY stopped and realized what to do if she hadn’t been so scared for her mom’s wellbeing. Diane cheered away the rain and wind as her mom struggled to get up. The violent tempest disappeared as Diane’s mom got her bearings. Thankfully it was a light wound on her head from a book that fell off her shelf.
Too bad the entire house was ruined.
Diane and Sue tried explaining to Diane’s mom that Carla and the cheerleaders caused this destruction. How Carla tried to make Diane’s mom sick by cheering for it. Diane’s mom couldn’t understand what they were talking about, and none of them were in a state to really discuss it.
Oh and surprise, surprise. Sue’s house was bone dry. The storm “somehow” only effected Diane’s house.
Sue suggested Diane and her mom try and find whatever’s not damaged. The two could stay at Sue’s house until they figure out what to do. God knows the cheerleaders are probably still hanging around somewhere. Diane’s mom mentioned after the squad talked to the policemen, they ran and hid behind some bushes. Well, they didn’t TALK to the cops. One officer headed for the house, then he started to turn around and they drove away.
After tending to the light wound on her mom’s head, Diane found a few salvageable things to bring with her to Sue’s. Diane’s mom bemoaned the loss of her computer, but she thankfully had back-up disks stored in a waterproof container in case of an emergency.
At Sue’s house, Diane was able to calmly explain to her mom what happened since she became a cheerleader. Diane’s mom absolutely believed her, but wished Diane had told her sooner because of the danger she’d been in. Diane was worried about getting them both killed.
The girls called the police and convinced them to come down and see the damage down to Diane’s house. They recalled encountering the cheerleaders earlier; Carla apparently had some excuse about cheering “Happy birthday” for someone. Diane told the cops the same story, and they were convinced by seeing how storm-damaged a SINGLE house was when every other neighborhood was pristine and devoid of any water. That ain’t right.
Diane warned the cops Carla Brett was pure evil when the officers discussed bringing this to their chief to figure out what to do about it. One of the officers will patrol the neighborhood, keeping an eye on Sue’s house in case the cheerleaders return.
Sue’s parents were more than willing to let Diane and her mom stay with them indefinitely, but Diane just wanted to get out of Grafton ASAP. It then occurred to Diane that Carla probably did something exactly like this to drive away Janet George. The thought enraged Diane, and made her resolve to stop Carla from destroying anyone else’s life.
Even though Diane still had her uniform, she needed a more permanent solution than just cheering against Carla for the rest of her life.
By the next morning, things were pretty bleak. Because all that cheering coupled with exposure to the storm meant Diane could barely talk! Sue could barely hear her! But Diane had to go to school because she needed to figure out what Carla was planning. Carla Brett was too dangerous to be left alone.
Diane hated having to keep wearing the uniform even though it was such a mess after yesterday. About a block from the school, Diane and Sue could faintly hear cheering in the distance. Getting a dreadful feeling, the girls took the back way and from a distance saw a crowd near the school. Diane was certain Carla and the others were building a crowd against them.
Sure enough, inside the school kids began running after Diane and Sue. They weren’t safe in the classroom when Mrs. Palmer started walking towards them like a woman possessed. The whole school was most likely being controlled by the cheerleaders, and Diane’s voice was too weak to do anything about it.
The girls had to hide inside the tall metal cabinet on the other side of the room. While cornered, Diane heard Carla ask what they should do to the two prisoners. As Carla wasted time having the controlled kids discuss a proper punishment, Diane ordered Sue to switch clothes with her. There was barely enough room to move, but Sue managed to get Diane’s uniform on so SHE could cheer instead.
At the very last moment, Sue managed to start cheering for the kids to stay away from them. Screaming like an inhuman beast, Carla refused to let this stop her and told the cheerleaders to blow them away. They proceeded to summon a tornado in the middle of the classroom!
Sue cheered at the tornado to leave the room, but Diane urged her to cheer it into nonexistence before it did any damage to the town. By the time the tornado vanished, the other kids and Mrs. Palmer were getting their bearings back while checking out the damage caused by Carla.
With the first-aid kit out, Diane and Sue tried to explain to Mrs. Palmer and the other kids what Carla and the cheerleaders did to them. When Mrs. Palmer asked what Carla was after, a voice from the back said SHE knew.
It was Mandy! The one cheerleader who stayed behind. Diane told Sue to cheer for Mandy to stay away, but Mandy didn’t attempt to cheer or cause any damage. Mandy was sick of cheering. She didn’t want to be a cheerleader anymore if this is what it caused. Like when Carla terrorized Janet George into leaving town.
Janet George was the previous captain, but when Carla got back from that evil camp she had plans to usurp Janet. Mandy left that note on Diane’s desk when Diane finally asked what Carla was after.
…she doesn’t want to study.
Diane and Sue were at a loss as Mandy explained that Carla HATED studying. She HATED doing school work. ALL school work. Carla’s ready to do anything possible to get good grades EXCEPT study. With the special uniforms from that camp, Carla can coast her way through life getting whatever she wants as long as cheers it into existent. She can get straight As, her boyfriend can keep playing football. All she has to do is cheer, and Carla’s life is set. Carla’s boyfriend sucks at football but when Carla and the cheerleaders work their magic, he’s a star.
Diane and Sue are both disappointed by what a God awful motive that is. Too bad Carla LOUDLY disagrees with them as she pulls a Darth Vader on Diane.
“I want life to be the way I want it t be, Diane. Why can’t you see that?” Carla said. “You can have it your way, too, Diane, if you just join forces with me. Think of the power we’d have. We can do anything we want to do!”
“You’re wrong, Carla. That’s not the way life is,” I said. “You have to work for what you get. You can’t just cheer for it.” It was hard to keep my voice from trembling.
“No, you’re wrong, Diane. I will win in the end. You can’t beat me,” Carla said. She looked over at Mandy and shook her head. “We cheerleaders are still strong and we will prevail in the end. We will get everything we want by cheering for it.”
“That is terrible, young lady!” Mrs. Palmer shouted.
Carla whirled on her. “TALK LIKE A TURKEY.” she cheered.
“Gobble! Gobble!” Mrs. Palmer said.
“TALK LIKE A PERSON!” Sue cheered.
Mrs. Palmer blinked. “Well, goodness!” she said.
Carla sneered and marched away with the remainder of the squad. Mrs. Palmer was certain Carla had fully lost her marbles when the heard the approaching fire engine. Someone probably called 911 due to the tornado damage.
Diane and Sue decided to leave, figuring Carla would be after Diane’s uniform AND Mandy’s now that she was quitting. The girls needed to get the rest of the uniforms to squash Carla’s reign.
Since the rest of school had been cancelled, Diane and Sue returned to Sue’s house while brainstorming a way to get the uniforms. Sue motioned to the one she was wearing and questioned the quality; her mom could do a better jo-
HER MOM COULD DO A BETTER JOB!
What followed was a complicated gambit to recreate several cheerleading uniforms and swap them out in a plan to rid the world of a megalomaniacal sixth grader’s power. They can get Sue’s mom to create identical copies of the cheerleading uniforms, and switch them out with the real deals. Sue’s confident in her mom’s ability to copy the most intricate design patterns you ever saw.
But how are they gonna switch the uniforms?
On cue, the girls avoided being hit by a yellow van that said ROBERTSON CLEANERS on the side. Oh yeah, that high school kid Sue helps out, his parents own the local dry cleaners.
All the pieces fell into place.
Carla’s mom will probably have all the cheerleading uniforms sent out to be dry-cleaned after how messy they got in the storm. They’ll get their hands on the uniforms at the dry cleaners. Sue’s certain Derrick (the kid she’s been helping) will lend a hand. If not for her, he would’ve flunked math ages ago. He OWES her. Plus he can’t stand Carla either. She’s always such an ass whenever he picks up Carla’s uniform at her house.
Diane and Sue managed to get Sue’s parents AND Diane’s mom to agree to the plan. While the moms went to get the material needed, Sue called Derrick and he did indeed have all the uniforms. They needed to be ready by tomorrow morning. Derrick said he’d make sure the duplicates were bagged and tagged so no one would could tell the difference.
Derrick could definitely Carla Brett was capable of ruining a person’s life by cheerleading. She’s just that nasty.
But now they had to worry about Mandy. Sure, Mandy SAID she was defecting, but what if that was a false flag operation? Sure, when Diane called Mandy SAID she cut up her uniform into pieces and threw them out, but did she really? To play it safe, Diane told Mandy they hadn’t figured out a way to beat Carla just yet. Mandy asked to be kept informed, claiming she wanted to stop Carla as much as Diane did right now.
Diane had Sue run reconnaissance to make sure Mandy wasn’t fibbing. While Sue left with a plastic bag to inspect Mandy’s trash, Diane hoped Sue’s mom could make decent copies based on the messy uniform they had right now.
Thankfully, Mandy was indeed telling the truth when Sue returned with the uniform scraps. There were only a couple of pieces missing, but Sue managed to retrieve most of the outfit.
That night, Sue’s mom got to work on making the dummy uniforms. She had two finished by the time Diane and Sue went to bed. Sue’s mom reported school was still on tomorrow when it finally came to Diane. They’ve been worried about how no one would believe them about the cheerleaders. What if… what if Carla and the others had been explicitly cheering so people WOULDN’T believe them? After all the ridiculous shit going on, the lightning, the grass, the storms, people getting spontaneously sick, SOMEONE should’ve realized something strange was happening. All Carla has to do is cheer for people to think these were all freak incidents, and that’s it.
Diane and Sue were only able to sleep a few hours since time was NOT on their side. The crunch was on to get the new uniforms swapped with the originals before Carla’s mom get them from the cleaners. Derrick told the girls the uniforms were stashed in the delivery van in the driveway of his house across from Sue’s.
Thankfully, Derrick’s mom was able to distract Carla and Mrs. Brett when Derrick dashed out of the house and drove the van to the back of Sue’s place. Derrick explained his mom (who also can’t stand the Bretts), lied and said Derrick left the uniforms at the cleaners. The switch completed, Sue and Diane could see Carla ready to kill someone on Derrick’s porch. She grabbed the uniforms from Derrick as soon as he returned, and then the Bretts drove off to blight someone else’s day.
Back inside the house, Diane saw Sue’s mother had mended the tattered uniform. That gave Diane an idea of how to finish this once and for all…
Dressed in her cheer uniform, Diane left with Sue for school even though Sue, her mom, and Diane’s mom didn’t know what she had planned. Upon arriving to the school, the girls saw the cheerleaders (minus Mandy) waiting for them. Carla’s boyfriend Tim was nearby. This would be too easy.
For a moment, Diane worried she was wrong about it being the uniforms. But as Carla and the rest cheered for Diane’s uniform to fall apart, nothing happened. Diane was relieved. Carla was seething. As Carla screamed unspeakable things at her squad, Diane got into position. The cheerleaders looked like they would shit themselves wondering what horrors Diane would unleash. It was worse than Carla Brett could’ve ever imagined.
MAKE CARLA BRETT SMART! MAKE HER WANT TO STUDY!
MAKE TIM PIONEER A GREAT FOOTBALL PLAYER!
(Editing error! Tim’s name was said to be WILSON)
Carla and Tim both seemed to be having seizures as their bodies violently shook. Once they stopped, Carla looked down at her clothing in confusion. A cheerleading uniform? Why in God’s name would Carla Brett be wearing something so gauche as a cheerleading uniform? She simply MUST get into school and study.
I don’t think anyone will have to worry about Carla Brett any time soon.
Oh, and Diane cheered for Mrs. Durshill and Mr. Nomerack to get better.
But what’s Diane gonna do after taking down Carla Brett?
As she looked at her uniform, Diane thought about all the ways she could make the world a better place.
IT’S DONE IT’S DONE IT’S FINALLY DONE.
And with that all three of the commissioned recaps have been completed, and it only took about a year and two months for that to happen.
This book was delightfully ridiculous even if all the foreshadowing was painfully obvious from the way the author dumped the tidbits about Sue’s mom being a copycat seamstress at the very beginning.
But what does it say that there’s a camp out there giving cheerleaders uniforms with the power to make anything happen, and how that got buried underneath Carla Brett’s delusions of grandeur. Even IF Diane neutralized Carla, there’s probably a lot of other cheer squads in the world that are doing far worse?
DIANE THE CHEERLEADER SLAYER.
[Wing: On the one hand, I love the idea of Diane the cheerleader slayer, and the ending was clever, but I hate the idea that Carla no longer wants to be a cheerleader because she’s too smart for it now. That’s fucked up. Otherwise, though, this is such a fucking cute book, and I love Diane as our main character, her friendship with Sue, the way Diane and her mother get along, Sue and her mom being great, just all of that, it was wonderful.]