Excerpt of Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
(Page 3 of 4)
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I think I knew, if I was honest, then and there, that this was not just about the tie and the loss of a knot. It was the loss of Hector I couldn't stand. If only I knew where they had taken him. If only I knew he was all right, then maybe the knot in my stomach the knot which got tighter every day would go away.
Hector said the tie stood for something different. It was just the same as a collar round a dog's neck. It said you were a part of something more than you alone would ever be. Hector said a uniform was a way of making us all the same, just numbers, neat boy-shaped numbers to be entered in a book. Hector wasn't a neat number and I think they might have rubbed him out, but I can't be sure of that. What I knew was that Hector was right. The knotted tie represented survival.
Now I was stuck, tie undone, my shirt buttoned wrong, my shoelaces a dead loss. I was a mess.
The corridor smelled of disinfectant, milk, boys' pee, and polish. The striplights looked to me like loneliness. They were too bright; they revealed everything. They made the emptiness ten times worse, showed me there was no Hector. A glass door banged and Miss Phillips, one of the school wardens, came out of her office carrying a cup.
"What are you doing, Treadwell?" .
She had a hard, no-nonsense voice but I'd seen her in the queues like everyone else, getting a little extra on the side. She looked down the corridor and up at the camera that went round like clockwork. She waited until the all-seeing eye was turned elsewhere, then without a word she tied my tie, re-buttoned my shirt. She checked the camera, put her finger to her lips, and waited for it to turn back on us before saying in the same, no-nonsense voice, "Good, Treadwell. Now that is how I expect you to arrive at school every day."
Never would I have thought that the hard-boiled Miss Phillips had such a soft, sweet center.
The headmaster's office had a seat outside, a long bench, wood hard, bum sore, and just a bit too high. I reckon that was the genius of the seat because you ended up sitting there looking small and less of anything, with your feet dangling and your knobbly knees blushing red.
And all you heard was the sound of your classmates hardly daring to breathe. I sat there waiting for the bell to ring, which meant Mr. Hellman will see you now. I sat and waited, time drip-ticking away.
Before Hector came to this school, I hated it. I believed it was invented just so the bullies, with brains the size of dried-up dog turds, could beat the shit out of kids like me. A kid with different-colored eyes: one blue eye, one brown, and the dubious honor of being the only boy in the whole of his class of fifteen-year-olds who couldn't spell, couldn't write.
Yes, I know.
Standish Treadwell isn't bright . . .
How many times did the jerk-off bully boys sing that to me, egged on by the glory-arsed leader of the torture lounge, Hans Fielder. He knew he was important. Head Perfect, the teacher's pet. He wore long trousers, as did the rest of his gang. Tell you this for a bucketful of tar: there weren't many in our school who wore long trousers. Those that did thought themselves up there with the greats. Little Eric Owen wore shorts like the rest of us but he made his shorts longer by doing everything Hans Fielder required of the runt. If Little Eric was a dog he would have been a terrier.
His main duty was to see which way I was heading home every day and give the signal to Hans Fielder and his merry men. The boys needed something to get their teeth into. The chase would be on. I ended up being caught and beaten every frick-fracking time. Don't think I didn't give as good as I got, because I did. But I didn't stand much of a chance when there were seven of them.
Excerpted from Maggot Moon
by Sally Gardner. Copyright © 2013 by Sally Gardner.
Excerpted by permission of Candlewick Press. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.