Chapter 1

 

        The alarm clock rang on the dark, damp morning and Derek could not believe that the summer had come and gone and that another school year was about to begin. As he awoke and rubbed the night out of his eyes, he started thinking back to all the great things he and his best friend Brandon had done during the summer. He remembered the time they went to the carnival to see the three-headed rats. The time they spent down at the river swinging and leaping into the water from the rope that hung from the old maple tree. And the time they hung Brandon’s younger brother Stan by his underwear on the doorknob in Brandon’s room.

Derek soon pulled himself out of his bed and lumbered to the bathroom. There, after having brushed his teeth, he admired himself in the mirror. He saw a short boy, around 4 feet 7 inches tall with freckles on his face. He had brown hair and blue eyes and a rather large head when compared to the rest of his body.  As he washed his face, he started thinking about all the unpleasant things that the new school year would bring. “Would I get along with Ms. Regna?” he muttered to himself. “Would I have to do more writing this year?” he thought.

Derek reluctantly got himself ready for school and then ate his breakfast.

        “It’s almost 7:45 Sweetie. You’re going to be late for your first day,” his mom said.

        Derek picked up his bag, kissed his mother good-bye, and headed out for school.  He and his mom lived on Majestic Lane. (Derek’s parents were divorced) He lived in the second house from the end of the street on the left hand side. It was a nice street and he had very friendly neighbors. None of which were his age. Many joked that the name of his street should be Fogey Lane since no one on his street, except for his mother and himself, were under the age of 60. As he walked down Majestic Lane, he noticed the white picket fences which lined the street. Many of which had baskets of flowers hanging from them.  He also saw that the trees, which happened to form a canopy across his street, were beginning to change colors.  He could see the slightest bits of red and orange pushing their way through the sea of green that blocked the blue sky from above. When he finally stopped looking up, he looked down toward the corner of Majestic Lane and Mutille Boulevard, and there he saw his best friend, Brandon, running toward him.

        He was a fair skinned boy, slightly taller than Derek. He had brown hair and eyes and when he smiled his teeth gleamed from the braces he wore.

        “Can you believe that we have to start school again!” cried Brandon.

        “I know exactly how you feel,” Derek mumbled.

        Derek and Brandon were not too excited about having to sit through another year of listening to their teacher tell them what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. They also weren’t too happy with having Ms. Regna again. You see Ms. Regna was their teacher in third grade and boy did she have a bad temper. One time, when Sean Shmoopy called Wendy Wagner a cockroach, she dragged him by his lip over to the sink and rinsed his mouth out with soap.

        As the two boys neared the school they wondered who would be in their class.

        “Do you think Erma Bagerma will be in our class again?” Derek asked.

        “I hope not! I don’t think I can take another year of watching her chew her fingernails and then spit them on me,” Brandon moaned.

        You see, Erma Bagerma was the fourth grade bully. She was a mountain of a girl. She stood 5 feet 7 inches tall. She weighed 140 pounds. She had legs like telephone polls and cannons for arms.  And she had the most evil looking eyes around. She was so feared that many had nicknamed her The Erminator and Mount Erma. However, no one ever dared call her these names to her face.

        “Well, who knows, maybe we’ll get lucky this year and she won’t get Ms. Regna again,” Derek replied.

         Soon the boys rounded the corner of Mayberry Lane. As they turned the corner, they saw Lavelle Elementary School. It was your basic elementary school. The grades went from kindergarten to fifth grade. It had an auditorium, gym, cafeteria, library, and music and art rooms. It was an L-shaped building with a canopy covering the main entrance. The outside of the building was covered in red brick, and windows lined the portion of the building that ran alongside the sidewalk of the school. There were oak trees and flowers that lined the walk and at the very end, waved Old Glory atop the school’s flagpole.

The boys quickly noticed the mountain herself, Erma Bagerma. She was standing right in front of the Lavelle Elementary’s flagpole.

        “I see some things just don’t change,” Brandon said disgustedly.

        “I know what you mean.”

        Erma was stationed right in front of the flagpole doing her favorite morning activity before the teachers had bus duty. She was forcing all the first and second graders to salute her as they passed her.

        Brandon and Derek proceeded on. They thought that they could possibly sneak past Erma without having her see them. As the boys walked up the flower lined concrete walk to the front door, they heard Erma’s all too familiar voice.

        “Hey, Doody Head and Thumb Sucker, aren’t you gonna say hi?”

        The boys stopped dead in their tracks. They knew it was no use trying to pretend they didn’t hear her. Erma had the loudest and deepest voice in all of Lavelle Elementary.

        Derek turned around. His face was beat red. “I thought I told you last year not to call me Doody Head!”

        Derek truly hated this name. It all started when Derek’s third grade class went on a trip to Blungeon Park. The class was there to study the animals and to take a nature walk through the woods. During the morning Derek fed the ducks and the sheep and he watched as his best friend got kissed by a horse. The nature walk was set to begin at 1:30, right after lunch. All the students finished their lunches and waited for the park ranger to come. As Derek and Brandon waited they noticed a hawk flying high in the sky. The two boys stood in amazement as the hawk circled the clear blue sky looking for food down below. It was at this point, while the boys were looking up high in the sky that the hawk pooped on Derek’s forehead. Derek couldn’t believe it! He was so embarrassed. He didn’t know what to do. All the other kids were staring at him. And then a voice shouted.  

        “Hey, Doody Head, you’re not gonna cry are you?”

        Derek turned his head and saw Erma Bagerma standing right next to him.

        “Look everybody it’s Derek the Doody Head!” Erma shouted. Now everyone was laughing and calling Derek this terrible name. He didn’t know what to do, so he just stood there crying. And ever since this terrible day, Erma has been calling him “Doody Head.”

        “I heard you last year, but I’m still gonna call you it,” Erma replied. “And what about you Thumb Sucker, do you have anything to say?”

        Brandon was given this name by Erma because every time he got nervous in first grade he would suck his thumb.

        “Oh, oh, oh no, I…I…I wouldn’t think of it,” Brandon stuttered.

        “Well, I heard you got Ms. R again. It looks like we’re gonna be in the same class for the fourth straight year. I am really looking forward to having some fun with you boys this year,” she said with a devilish look in her eye.

        The boys didn’t know what to do. Should they respond to her or should they just walk away. Luckily for them the school bell rang and it was time to head for Ms. Regna’s fourth grade class.

 

 

Chapter 2

 

        The boys walked into Ms. Regna’s class with looks of worry on their faces. They weren’t sure what Erma meant when she said she was looking forward to having some fun with them. The only thing they knew for sure was that it wasn’t a good thing.

        The boys sat down and waited for Ms. Regna to speak.

While he waited, Derek took notice of the classroom. It was a square shaped room with a brown chalkboard. It had disgusting yellow paint on the walls. He thought it looked like the room had thrown up on itself. It also had four computers along one wall and a row of windows on the opposite wall. He also took notice to the classroom library, which he knew he would be spending as little time as possible in.

        “Hurry up and sit down! We don’t have all day!” the tall, old woman with penetrating eyes and red hair hollered.

        All the boys and girls hustled to their seats. Once everyone was seated and paying attention Ms. Regna began her speech.

        “Boys and girls, I want to tell you that fourth grade is a very important grade.”

        Brandon leaned over and whispered to Derek, “Didn’t she say the same thing last year about third grade?”

        Derek nodded his head in agreement.

        “Who’s that talking in the back!” she shouted. “Is that Brandon Bascilla and Derek Delveany whispering to one another?"

        And then the sweetest voice said, “Yes, Ms. Regna. It was Brandon and Derek.”

        The two boys quickly whipped their heads around to see that it was Erma Bagerma who had ratted them out.

        Erma was famous for having a thunderous voice outside on the playground, but inside the school she always made sure her voice sounded as sweet as a robin’s chirp.

        The two boys hated this about Erma. She had every teacher wrapped around her finger, and especially the principal, Mr. Verklemp. They all thought she was the sweetest girl in the building. But they had never encountered Erma outside when she wasn’t so polite.

        Ms. Regna thanked Erma and then proceeded to give the two boys the evil eye. Derek and Brandon got the message and quickly averted their eyes from hers.

        Ms. Regna went on to tell the class about what would be expected of them this year. She went through all the usual items they should have, such as 2 pencils, 1 pen, 1 box of crayons, 5 notebooks, and a daily homework pad to write down homework assignments. She then began telling the class about what they would be studying this year. She spoke about electricity, oceans, the Revolutionary War, and many writing assignments.

        The two boys gave each other disgusting looks when she mentioned the writing.

       

        As the morning continued on the students received their textbooks and workbooks and a copy of this year’s class schedule.

        The boys quickly looked over the schedule and realized they were about to have lunch in five minutes.

        Ms. Regna advised the students to take the next five minutes to organize their desks. The boys carefully put their items away. They knew that Ms. Regna was a stickler for neatness. Just as the boys finished organizing their desks, the bell rang and they were off to lunch.

        The two boys hurried to the cafeteria. They wanted to make sure they had enough time to eat and talk about the class schedule.

         The cafeteria had wooden tables and green chairs. The walls were a faded shade of blue that had not been painted since the school was constructed. The back of the room was lined with windows that gave a view of the blacktop and woods that surrounded the school.

        The boys quickly scampered to the lunch line, got their lunches, and then sat down across from each other.

        Brandon dove right into his lunch. He was shoveling food so fast into his mouth that Derek thought he hadn’t eaten in weeks.

        “When was the last time you ate, July 4th?” Derek asked wisely. “Are you going to eat the tray, too?”

        “Oh crack jokes why don’t you. But don’t you remember how Erma likes to take our food and stick it in our ears?”

        Derek’s eyes opened wide and his chin hit the floor. “Oh my God, I can’t believe I forgot. How could I forget? I was fishing green beans out of my ears for two weeks after school ended,” he quickly remembered.

        Derek and Brandon didn’t say another word to one another until they each had finished every scrap of food on their plates.

        “Whew, we did it,” Derek said.

        “And just in the knick of time. Look who’s coming this way,” Brandon replied.

        It was none other than Erma Bagerma. She was walking proudly as she carried her two trays of food to the table behind Brandon. Erma placed her trays down on the table and turned around. “Well, I see you remembered to eat all your green beans Derek,” she said chuckling. “I hope you didn’t forget how much I like to play with your food.”

        Erma gave a sinister look to Brandon and then turned back around to eat her two helpings of food. Erma was a human vacuum. She could easily polish off two helpings of food in a matter of minutes. Erma finished her food and threw her trays away. On the way back from the garbage can she stopped at the boys’ table.

        “Remember boys, I have big plans for you this year,” her voice rumbled. The two boys stopped talking and looked up at her in fear.

        “Not to worry Doody Head and Thumb Sucker, I’m gonna let you enjoy the rest of today. But don’t think I’m gonna be so kind tomorrow or the next day!”

        As she walked away, the two boys became so worried that they didn’t even want to talk about the class schedule.

        “What do you think she’ll do?” Brandon frightfully asked.

        “I don’t know. But she sure has it in for us this year,” Derek replied.

        “Well at least we know we’ll make it through the rest of the day all right,” Brandon stated.

        “Or maybe she was lying and this is all part of her so called plans for us,” Derek replied.

        The two boys sat there worrying until the bell rang signaling them back to class.

        The boys returned to their classroom and proceeded to finish out the day by doing some review math problems and writing the ever so boring “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay. This helped to keep their minds off of the imposing Erma Bagerma.

        The day had ended and the two boys quickly gathered their items and hurried out the front of Lavelle Elementary. They wanted to make sure that they left the building before Erma. As the boys walked outside, Brandon said, “Erma’s still in the classroom. So let’s hurry up and get outta here before she catches up to us.”

        “Good idea, Brand.”

        The boys were silent the whole way home. The only thing on their minds was…what did Erma have in store for them this year. 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

        The two boys soon arrived at the corner of Majestic Lane and Mutille Boulevard. At the corner, the boys silently waved good-bye to each other. Each of them was much too preoccupied with trying to figure out what Erma would do to them this year.

        Soon the two boys each arrived at their own homes. As soon as Brandon got home he was quickly distracted from his thoughts. It seemed that while Brandon’s mom was talking on the phone, his 3-year old brother, Stan, was putting peanut butter and jelly all over the kitchen walls. Brandon volunteered to help clean up the mess and soon forgot about Erma.

        Derek, however, didn’t forget about Erma that easily. He just couldn’t shake the thought of having to deal with Mount Erma for another year.

        “I don’t know if I’ll be able to take another year of her menacing looks and foolish pranks,” he thought. “What if she really goes overboard and I get hurt, and what if I wind up in the hospital?” he pondered.

        Derek was now terrified. He quickly left his room and went downstairs to talk to his mother.

        Derek entered the kitchen huffing and puffing.

        “You’re all pale and sweaty, Sweetie. Do you feel all right?” she asked.

        “No, Mom. You’ll never guess who’s in my class again for the FOURTH STRAIGHT YEAR!” he answered in a rising tone.

        “Please, Honey, tell me you’re not talking about Erma Bagerma. Please tell me it’s that sweet and adorable Veronica Vogler.”

        Derek’s head just dropped. He needn’t say anything more.

        “Well I am going to call Mr. Verklemp and recommend that he change you to Ms. Ecin’s class,” she forcefully said.

        “Please, Mom, don’t do that. Everyone will think I’m a wimp!” he cried. “Besides, she hasn’t even bothered me yet.”

        “OK, Sweetie, but the first time I hear of trouble, I’m going to call the school.”

        Derek picked himself up from his chair and slowly climbed his way up the stairs to his room. As he entered his room, the shock of what just happened hit him.

        “How could I be so stupid? I can’t believe I just lied to my mother?” he thought. “But what else was I supposed to do? I don’t wanta be known as a wimp or a wuss.”

        Derek couldn’t decide on what to do. Should he go back and tell his mother the truth or should he just try to solve this one on his own. He mulled this problem over for a few minutes and then decided it was best to handle it on his own.

        Derek spent the rest of the night eating his dinner, tidying up his room and getting himself ready for tomorrow’s school day. Once he had finished packing his bag, Derek decided to go to bed. He was physically exhausted from having to get up early for school. And he was mentally drained from worrying about Erma Bagerma.

        Derek turned out the lights, hopped in bed and quickly fell asleep.

 

        The next morning Derek woke to the sound of rain pelting on his window. He had hoped that a good night’s sleep would stop all his worrying about Erma Bagerma. But it hadn’t. As soon as he awoke, he was back to thinking about her.

        “I don’t know what to do about her,” he thought. “I certainly can’t go through another year of worrying about Erma and her terrible pranks.”

        As he finished his sentence, he thought back to all the trouble Erma had brought him. Not only did Erma hurt him physically, but she also hurt him mentally. Because of Erma’s constant pranks and bullying, Derek had become extremely fearful of Erma. He became so fearful that his grades began to drop and he couldn’t eat. Derek found that all he would think about, all day long, was how to avoid her.

        Derek sat at the foot of his bed thinking and thinking. Then, finally, he said to himself, “I don’t want to feel like this anymore!” It was at this point that he had decided that he wasn’t going to be Erma’s punching bag anymore.

 

 

Chapter 4

 

        Derek looked at the clock on his nightstand and realized that he was going to be late for school if he didn’t hurry. So he quickly got dressed, grabbed his umbrella, and ran out the door.

        As he ran down the rain soaked street, he felt very happy about the decision he had made earlier that morning.

        Soon, he came to the corner of Majestic Lane and Mutille Boulevard. There, he found his best friend kicking rocks into a puddle.

        “Where have you been?” Brandon asked.

        “I’m sorry I’m late, but I got caught up thinking about something important this morning,” Derek replied.

        “Oh yea, and what could be so important that you leave your best friend standing out in the rain waiting!”

        “Well, I’m glad you asked. I’ve decided that I’m no longer gonna let Erma push me around.”

        Derek had hardly finished his sentence before Brandon starting laughing hysterically.

        “Oh yea,” he said sarcastically. “And just how do you plan on doing this? Don’t you remember what happened to the last boy who tried to stand up to Erma?”

        Derek’s face turned white. He had forgotten all about Perry Pleckis.

        Perry Pleckis was in Derek and Brandon’s third grade class. He was also Erma’s whipping boy. Erma would make Perry kiss her shoes at recess, carry her book bag to and from school, give her his lunch money, and even clean up after her at lunch.

        “Don’t you remember what Erma did to Perry when he wouldn’t clean up after her?” Brandon asked.

        “She grabbed him by the neck, forced his head down to her shoe and made him lick the bottom of it,” Derek answered softly.

        “And don’t forget that Perry was now so scared of Erma that his mother enrolled him in private school,” Brandon reminded him.

        “How could I have forgotten that? It was at that time that Erma began bullying me and picking on you,” Derek said.

        Derek was now weak. He knew if the bigger and stronger Perry Pleckis couldn’t stand up to Erma, then how could he.

        Brandon took a step towards Derek and put his hand on his shoulder. “It looks like you’re just gonna have to deal with her bullying,” he said.

        Derek looked down at the puddle and saw his reflection. He saw the fear in his face and started crying.

        “I can’t take another year of this!” he cried. “Last year, she ruined my life. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or study because of her. And I know I can’t go through that again.”

        Brandon saw the look of hopelessness in his friend’s face.

        “Why don’t you just ask your mom to call the principal and switch your class?” he suggested.

        “Because everyone will think I’m a mama’s boy and make fun of me.”

        The two boys stood looking at each other for a moment. Neither one of them knew what to say. Then, Brandon realized they were going to be late for school.

        “We’re gonna be late for school,” he frightfully said.

        “I don’t care,” Derek replied.

        “Well you better. Don’t you remember how angry Ms. Regna gets if we’re late?”

        Derek quickly picked his head up and remembered that Ms. Regna loved giving a week’s worth of detentions to students that were late. Even though he was scared of Erma, he was terrified of his teacher.

        The two boys began running and sloshing through puddles on their way to school. Soon, with their pant cuffs dripping water and their sneakers squeaking, they arrived in Ms. Regna’s class, just before the bell had rung, to see Erma placing a note on Derek’s desk.

 

 

Chapter 5

 

        Derek and Brandon quickly sat down. Brandon pulled out his notebook and Science book. Derek, however, just sat at his desk staring at the note.

        “Well go on and read it Doody Head,” Erma ordered.

        Derek could feel the beads of sweat breaking through the skin on his forehead. He knew that whatever was written in that note wasn’t good for him. He also knew that if he opened it, he probably wouldn’t be able to concentrate on his schoolwork. So, Derek took the note, placed it in his desk and took out his notebook and Science book.

        During the morning the boys were actively involved in class. They both were busy doing a static electricity activity. And they both enjoyed the guest speaker who came in to talk about the basic parts of an atom and how they cause static electricity. But even with all those distractions, Derek could not stop thinking about Erma’s note.

        It seemed that every moment Derek wasn’t thinking about static electricity, he was thinking about the note. He could no longer take the suspense. Derek quietly placed his hands in his desk and took it out. He carefully opened it, so he wouldn’t interrupt Ms. Regna’s speech on positive and negative atoms. When he finally unfolded the last piece, he saw Erma’s all too familiar handwriting.

       

            Hey Doody Head,

There once was a boy

Who was just like you.

He didn’t listen to me

And he licked my shoe.

So, if you are wise

And do what I say,

You’ll live to enjoy

Another shoeless day.

 

          Derek was now terrified. He had never received a threatening note from Erma before. He now began to sweat all over. His face was clammy and pale, and his hands were dripping wet. Derek didn’t know what to do. He looked to his right and saw Brandon looking back at him. Brandon didn’t have to say a word. He could see the fear in Derek’s eyes.

Derek was now starting to feel very sick. His face drooped, his eyes glazed over and his skin was turning green.

        Ms. Regna noticed how Derek looked and asked him if he wanted to see the nurse. Derek nodded and got up out of his seat. As he rose, he heard a snicker come from behind him. He didn’t have to turn around. He knew it was Erma, and he knew she was getting the best of him.

        Derek left the classroom, got a drink of water from the fountain outside the room and then proceeded to the nurse’s office.

        As he walked down the hallway, all he could think about was why Brandon hadn’t received a note. Erma loved to pick on him just as much as she loved to pick on me. Derek kicked the idea around in his head but couldn’t come up with an answer.

        He soon arrived at Nurse Noostril’s office. He walked inside and told the nurse he wasn’t feeling well. She instructed him to go get an ice pack, lie down and place it on his head. Derek lay down on the bed in Nurse Noostril’s office. As he lay there, he knew this would be a regular occurrence if he didn’t do something about Erma.

        But what could he do? She already told him if he tried to stand up to her, he would receive the same punishment Perry Pleckis did. He also knew he couldn’t tell his mom, or then, the other kids would start picking on him. Every way Derek thought about it, it was a lose lose situation for him.

        Derek lay in the nurse’s office for fifteen minutes, and then the nurse told him to go to lunch. Derek picked himself up, put the ice pack back in the freezer and then walked to the cafeteria.

        Derek was having mixed emotions while he walked through the halls to the cafeteria. On the one hand, he was happy about going to lunch because he would be able to discuss his problem with Brandon. But, on the other hand, he wasn’t very hungry and he knew Erma would just be waiting to pick on him.

        Derek finally made it to the cafeteria. He gave a quick look around for Brandon, and of course Erma. He quickly found Brandon waiting on line for his lunch. He hustled his way over to him and asked him if he could cut the line. Brandon nodded and told him to get in. The two boys got their lunches and made their way back to their table.

        As usual, Brandon was inhaling his lunch. He wanted to make sure he was done before Erma got there. Derek, on the other hand, was just playing with his food.

        “What are you doing?” Brandon asked.

        “I don’t feel like eating,” Derek replied.

        “I know you want to talk about your problem, but it’ll have to wait until we finish our lunches. Now hurry up and start eating before Erma takes your carrots and stuffs them up your nose!”

        “What does it matter? Even if I finish my carrots, she’ll still find something horrible to do to me.”

        Brandon gave Derek a quick glance and then filled his mouth with a spoonful of corn.

        “Why did you buy lunch if you weren’t hungry?” Brandon mumbled.

        “Because if I don’t buy lunch, my mom will know that I’m not spending my lunch money. You see, it’s either buy my lunch and let Erma use it against me, or don’t buy my lunch and have my mother know that Erma’s bullying me,” Derek hopelessly replied.

        Derek paused and waited for Brandon to stop chewing his corn.

        “Why do you think Erma only sent a note to me and not to you?” Derek asked. “Remember, she said she had big plans for the both of us.”

        “I don’t know. Maybe she forgot about me?”

        Brandon had just finished his sentence when he noticed The Erminator swaggering towards them.

        “Uh oh, here she comes,” he whispered to Derek.

        “Well, well, well, if it isn’t my two pals Doody Head and Thumb Sucker,” Erma bellowed. “I hope you enjoyed the note I sent you.”

        Derek’s hands began to tremble and his knees began to shake.

        “Oh, don’t look so disappointed Doody Head. It was just a reminder of what can happen to you if you don’t play by Erma’s rules. And, oh yeah, before I forget, Thumb Sucker, I’ve decided to keep you out of this year’s torment. I want to focus all my time and energy on the Doody Head.”

        Once again, Derek’s face turned green. Now he knew that Erma was going to do everything she could to make his life miserable.

        Erma gave Derek an arrogant smile and sat down to gobble up her lunch. No sooner had Erma sat down, before she was back up throwing her lunch trays away.

        Erma threw out her trays and stopped at the boys’ table.

        “Just be glad I don’t make you clean up after me!” she thundered. “And you should also be thanking me for not making you wear your carrots on your head.”

        Derek just sat there motionless. He didn’t have the faintest idea of what to do. He felt trapped, as if he was Erma’s prisoner. He just gazed off into the distance hoping this was all a bad dream until he heard Mr. Verklemp’s voice.

        “How are we doing today?” he said to the three of them.

        “Hi, Mr. Verklemp. I was just asking Derek and Brandon if they enjoyed this morning’s discussion on static electricity,” Erma replied.

        “I see. And how did you boys like the discussion?”

        Erma gave Derek a menacing look. He knew he better go along with what Erma was doing.

        “I really liked it, Sir,” Derek answered.

        “Me too,” Brandon added.

        “Well, that’s great. I love to see students discussing what they learn in class. And I’m very proud of you, Erma, for beginning such a discussion.”

        “Thank you, Mr. Verklemp,” Erma said proudly.

        Mr. Verklemp smiled at Derek and Brandon and then walked away. Erma gave the two boys a sinister look and then followed after Mr. Verklemp.

        “I hate when she does that!” Derek cried. “I hate that every teacher in this building thinks she’s as sweet as pie.”

        “Well, what can you do about it?” Brandon asked.

        There was a long pause while Derek thought, and then, with his shoulders slumped, he sadly said, “Nothing.”

        Brandon and Derek both sat there looking at each other searching for an answer to Brandon’s question. Neither one of them could come up with anything. And then suddenly, Brandon smiled and said, “I’ve got it!”

        “All you have to do is get Mr. Verklemp or Ms. Regna to see Erma in action.”

        “But won’t she bully me around even more, if I get her in trouble.”

        “No, that’s the beauty of it. Once Erma has lost her innocent reputation, she’ll no longer be able to secretly torment you or any other kid in this building. She’ll have to behave because all the teachers will be watching her.”

        “That sounds like a good idea, but how do I have Mr. Verklemp or Ms. Regna catch her in the act.”

        “I don’t know, but I promise I’ll help you plan it.”

        The two boys sat there trying to come up with ideas when, suddenly, the lunch bell rang. The boys quickly deposited their trays into the trashcan and began walking back to Ms. Regna’s room.

         While they walked to her room, Derek’s spirit began to improve. Soon, Brandon and he were quietly laughing and joking about how they would turn the tables on the fourth grade mountain, Erma Bagerma.

 

 

Chapter 6

 

        The two boys finished out the day by writing detailed explanations about how positively and negatively charged atoms cause static electricity. .

        Soon, the bell rang signaling the end of the day. The boys quickly packed up and were eager to start planning Erma’s demise.

        As they walked home from school, they thought about what the best way would be to set up Erma.

        “You know, maybe before we start thinking of a plan, we should come up with some ground rules,” Brandon suggested.

        “What do you mean?” Derek replied.

        “Well, for starters, we have to make sure that our plan doesn’t get us in trouble. We need to make sure that no one knows that we set up Erma. If the teachers find out we set her up, then we’ll get in trouble and she’ll still be sweet and innocent Erma.”

        Derek nodded his head in agreement and then asked Brandon about the other ground rules.

        “We must use the element of surprise to catch Erma off guard, and we must make sure the plan works the first time,” Brandon answered.

        “And why do we have to make sure it works the first time?” Derek questioned.

        “If it doesn’t work the first time, then Erma will make an example out of us, just like she did to Perry Pleckis,” Brandon replied.

        “Good point. I can’t believe I keep forgetting about what she did to Perry. Especially after she sent me that terrible poem,” Derek said.

        The two boys continued walking until they came to the corner of Mutille Boulevard and Majestic Lane.

        “Well now that we have the ground rules in place, all we have to do is come up with a plan!” Derek said excitedly.

        “Don’t get too excited, Derek. Remember, this is Erma Bagerma we’re talking about here. This plan is gonna have to be perfect in order for it to work. If it has any holes, you can bet Erma will see it coming.”

        With that, the boys said their good-byes and agreed that they would spend the night thinking of possible plans.

       

        Later that night, after Derek had finished his homework and eaten his dinner, he sat down and began to think about how he could get even with Erma.

        So, with his notebook in hand, Derek sat at his desk and wrote down the three ground rules Brandon had told him.

 

1.       The plan mustn’t get us in trouble.

2.     The plan must surprise Erma.

3.     The plan must work the first time.

 

As Derek finished writing down the third rule, he thought for a minute. He kept staring at rule number three. And then, he wrote Perry Pleckis in big bold print next to it.

“This will serve as a reminder of what will happen if the plan fails,” he said to himself.

        Derek sat at his desk brainstorming ideas. It seemed as though every idea he had wouldn’t work. The idea either would surprise Erma, but would get them in trouble; or it wouldn’t get them in trouble, but it wouldn’t surprise Erma.

Derek was becoming very frustrated. He sat at his desk for almost two hours thinking of ideas, just to have every one of them fall to one of Brandon’s ground rules. Derek soon became so frustrated, he couldn’t think of anymore ideas. And then a thought hit him. If Brandon was smart enough to come up with the ground rules, then he’ll be smart enough to come up with a plan. Derek was now feeling relaxed and decided to go to bed.

        As Derek slept, he dreamt about meeting Brandon on the corner of Majestic Lane and Mutille Boulevard. He dreamt that Brandon was telling him the great idea he had come up with. He dreamt that Erma Bagerma would no longer be the intimidating fourth grade mountain.

       

        It was 7:45 when Derek’s alarm clock went off. He couldn’t help but think about the dream he had. He was so excited to meet Brandon and hear about his great idea that he forgot to brush his teeth.

        Derek grabbed his school bag and headed out the front door. While he quickly walked to the corner of Majestic Lane and Mutille Boulevard, he kept replaying his dream over and over in his head. When he arrived at the corner, he found Brandon waiting, and he couldn’t wait to hear his great idea.

        “I know he’ll have the best idea,” he said aloud.

        Soon, Brandon arrived at the corner and the boys started talking.

        “What did you come up with?” Brandon asked.

        “I couldn’t think of anything. What did you come up with?” he excitedly asked.

        He knew, for sure, that Brandon would have the greatest idea. However, to his shock, Brandon just looked down at the ground and shook his head.

        “Don’t tell me you couldn’t come up with anything either!” Derek cried.

        “I was up all night, but I just couldn’t think of anything that would definitely work,” Brandon replied.

        Once again, Derek was feeling hopeless.

        “I’ll never escape Erma!” he cried. “She’ll be bullying me forever.”

        Brandon didn’t know what to say. He knew that nothing he said would take away Derek’s worry. So, Brandon did what every good friend would do. He put his arm around Derek and told him that he would do his best to come up with a plan, but for now, they had to get to school.

        The boys arrived at Lavelle Elementary and headed for Ms. Regna’s class. On their way there, they heard Erma’s sweet voice talking to Mr. Verklemp.

        “She’s at it again!” Derek said angrily.

        “Don’t worry about it. She’ll get hers,” Brandon assured him.

        The boys entered Ms. Regna’s room and waited for the rest of the class to arrive.

        Soon, Erma came walking into the room. She gave Derek a sly look and sat down right behind him, at her desk.

        “Having a nice day, Doody Head?” she whispered.

        Derek didn’t acknowledge her. He took out his Science book and waited for Ms. Regna to begin class.

        Finally, all the students were seated and waiting for class to begin.

        Ms. Regna finished taking attendance and the morning lunch count. She then instructed everyone to take out his or her Science book before they all said the Pledge of Allegiance.

        “Who would like to start us off?” she asked.

        “I would love to start,” Erma’s sweet voice said.

        Derek and Brandon each looked at one another and rolled their eyes.

        “Thank you, Erma,” Ms. Regna said.

        Erma began the Pledge of Allegiance and then the class began saying it with her.

        Erma finished the Pledge and Ms. Regna thanked her again before beginning Science.

        She began Science class by reviewing some of the key ideas that were discussed the day before. And then she started talking about what today’s lesson would be about. She told the class they would be learning about the science behind a static shock.

        Ms. Regna just began talking about protons, neutrons, and electrons when she remembered that there was a fourth grade assembly during first period.

        She quickly lined the students up and hurried them down to the auditorium. The students entered the auditorium and moved hastily to their seats. Once all the students from Ms. Regna’s class and Ms. Ecin's class were seated, Mr. Verklemp began his speech.

        “Boys and girls, I am excited to inform you that this year the students in the fourth grade will be participating in a video contest. Channel 34 is sponsoring the contest for the purpose of showing the students the importance of video media. Each student pair will be responsible for creating a video presentation on any topic they want. The contest will end one month from today on October 14. On that date, two judges from Channel 34 will come to our school to watch the videos and pick a winner. Now, since some of your topics may center on school and what you are learning, you are allowed to bring in video cameras. However, the cameras can only be used before or after school. Please remember that the school is not responsible for any lost, stolen, or damaged cameras. Are there any questions?”

        Immediately, five hands were thrown into the air as if they were shot out of cannons.

        “Yes, Erma,” Mr. Verklemp said.

        “I think you forgot to tell us what we get if we win the contest,” she replied softly.

        “Well, yes I did. Thank you, Erma, for being such a good listener.”

        Derek nudged Brandon and whispered,”There she goes again.”

        Brandon nodded his head in agreement and the two boys eagerly listened to Mr. Verklemp’s response.

        “The winners of the contest will each receive free passes to the Miwinkle Amusement Park.”

        With that, a loud cheer rose from the students.

        “Now, if you have anymore questions, please direct them towards your homeroom teacher.”

        At this time, Ms. Regna stood up and instructed the students to proceed back to the class. As the students walked through the halls, all they could think about was the contest.

        “What do you think we should do ours on?” Derek whispered to Brandon.

        “Are you kidding me?”

“No.”

“You really don’t know what we should do it on?” he replied.

        “No, I don’t.”

        “I have the best idea. But, you’ll have to wait until we walk home.”

        “Why?”

        “Because I don’t want anyone to know what we are doing.”

        Derek gave Brandon a disappointing look and proceeded into the classroom. He was so anxious to find out what Brandon’s great idea was. He tried getting him to tell him during morning snack, at gym, and lunch. However, Brandon was not giving up his idea. Each time Derek asked him about it, he gave the same response. “You’ll have to wait until we walk home.”

        Derek was so eager to hear what Brandon had to tell him, he couldn’t concentrate on his afternoon assignments. He couldn’t take his eyes off the classroom clock. All he did, the entire afternoon, was count the hours, minutes, and seconds until the end of the day.

        Finally, the end of the day came and Derek and Brandon were out the door. They quickly scampered to the corner of Mutille Boulevard and Majestic Lane.

        “Well, what’s your idea?” Derek asked excitedly.

        “We’re going to do our presentation on how Erma has the teachers and Mr. Verklemp fooled,” Brandon replied.

        “Well how are we going to do that? Don’t you remember, Ms. Regna told Timmy Tubra all topics had to be Okayed by her?”

        “I know. All we have to do is come up with a topic that will allow us to videotape Erma before and after school.”

        “Are you saying we should lie to Ms. Regna about our topic?” Derek questioned.

        “Yea!” Brandon replied. “You do want to get Erma off your back, don’t you?”

        “I don’t know. I already lied to my mom and now I’m going to lie to my teacher. It just doesn’t seem right”   

        “I know it doesn’t seem right. But what else can we do. We already tried thinking of ideas to turn the tables on Erma and we couldn’t. This is the only decent plan we’ve come up with.”    

        Derek didn’t know what to do. So, he sat down at the corner and began weighing his options. He thought about how lying was wrong, and how he didn’t like being pushed around by Erma. Derek sat there for a good five minutes mulling the decision over in his mind, when suddenly he sprang up and said, “I know lying is wrong, but being bullied by Erma is worse.”

        With that, Brandon gave him a smile and told him to go home and decide on a topic that would allow them to look as though they were doing their project, but would also allow them to videotape Erma doing some of her terrible deeds.

        Derek gave Brandon a smile and told him not to worry. Because come tomorrow morning, he would have the best topic in the whole world.

 

 

Chapter 7

 

        Brandon proceeded on his merry way home, while Derek feverishly began to rack his brain for ideas. As he moved down Majestic Lane toward his home, he thought about the three ground rules Brandon had told him: 1. Make sure the plan doesn’t get us in trouble 2. Use the element of surprise, and 3. Make sure it works the first time. He couldn’t help but think that no matter what plan he came up with, Erma was going to know that he set her up. Derek soon became discouraged and began to feel hopeless again.

        He decided that the best thing to do would be to call his best friend and explain his problem. He quickly picked up the phone and pressed the speed dial for Brandon’s house.  Mrs. Bascilla picked up the phone and said, “Hello.”

Derek hastily asked to speak with Brandon. Mrs. Bascilla could hear the urgency in his voice and asked, “Is everything OK, Derek?”

Derek slowed his breathing and replied, “Yes, ma’am, everything is OK.”

Brandon finally came to the phone and he and Derek began to discuss the Erma Bagerma situation. Derek told Brandon how no matter what plan he thought of Erma would know he was the one who set her up. Brandon began to calm his friend’s fears and told him that maybe showing the video to the people from Channel 34 wasn’t the best idea. Derek didn’t know what his friend meant.

“Why wouldn’t we show it to the people from Channel 34?” Derek asked.

“Well, if we show it to those people then Erma will know you videotaped her.”

“No kidding,” Derek sarcastically replied. “That’s my point!”

“I know it’s your point. My point is maybe we can use the videotape of Erma as leverage to get her to stop harassing you.”

“I don’t understand.”

“We’ll take the video of Erma as we planned, but instead of showing it to the people from Channel 34, we’ll show it to Erma.”

“Then won’t Erma know that I set her up?” Derek questioned.

“Yes and no. She’ll know that you have been secretly videotaping her bullying everyone throughout the school, but we’ll tell her if she stops bullying everyone, we won’t show the tape to the people from Channel 34.”

Derek sat quietly on the other end of the phone for at least two minutes mulling over Brandon’s somewhat brilliant, yet conniving plan. And with one quick “OK” the plan was set in motion.

Brandon reminded Derek that Erma cannot know that she is being videotaped or the plan will never work. “Remember, if she knows we are taping her, then she’ll be sweet as pie.”

With that final reminder, Brandon and Derek said good-bye. Now that Derek had a plan, he still had to come up with a reason for videotaping at school.

Derek was now re-energized. As he sat at the kitchen table thinking of ideas his mother walked in the door.

“How was school today, Sweetie? Any problem with Erma Bagerma?”

“School was just fine, Mom. And as for Erma, I think this year is going to be different from last year.”

Derek’s mom smiled, nodded, and began to get supper ready. He, on the other hand, continued to try to think of ideas at the kitchen table. It was no use, though. He kept drawing a blank. It seemed that no matter what he thought of Erma was going to know that he and Brandon were really videotaping her. Discouraged and tired, Derek decided that the best thing for him to do right now was to watch some television and then eat dinner.

 

Once dinner was over, Derek helped his mom clean up and then he went to his room to do his homework. Upon completing his homework, Derek thought he would give it another shot at thinking of presentation ideas. However, he was so drained from this emotional roller coaster day that as soon as he lay in bed to think of ideas, he fell asleep.

 

 

Chapter 8

 

As Derek was sleeping, he began to toss and turn and turn and toss. His body was still wound up from the day’s events.

This display of nighttime gymnastics continued for about an hour. Then, suddenly, as if he had been hypnotized, he was completely relaxed and sleeping calmly. As he slept through the night, he had a few dreams. One was of him getting in trouble in class for talking back to Ms. R. Another was of Brandon and him playing manhunt in the woods. However, the most important dream he had during the night, was the one that he hoped would eventually help free him from the menacing Erma Bagerma.

        Derek woke up the next morning before his alarm clock went off. He was so excited he couldn’t sleep, and for once, he was actually excited about going to school. While he hastily brushed his teeth, got dressed and ate his breakfast, he thought about how he could turn his innocent idea into a foolproof plan that would eventually lead to the demise of Erma. Once he completed his morning routine he raced out the front door and jogged down to the corner where he and Brandon met every morning. Because Derek was in such a rush this morning, he arrived at the corner five minutes early. While he was waiting for his friend, he paced back and forth. He was so excited to tell his friend about his great idea. Then, just when it seemed like Derek was going to bust from the excitement, he saw his friend walk out his front door and head for the corner.

 

        “Well, this is a surprise. I’m usually the one waiting for you,” Brandon said.

        Derek didn’t respond to his friend’s comment he just blurted out, “I’ve got it!”

        “You’ve got what?”

        “Traffic!”

        “Huh! What about the traffic?” Brandon asked.

        “This is the idea we are going to submit to Ms. Regna,” Derek replied.

        “You might as well be speaking Yiddish because I have no idea what you are talking about.”

        “OK, I’ll explain. We are going to tell Ms. Regna that we are doing our video presentation on the bus and car traffic problem in front of Lavelle Elementary before and after school. While we are pretending to videotape the buses and cars, we will be secretly videotaping all of Erma’s antics. I figure we’ll be able to tape her making the first and second graders salute her and bullying me.”

        “How are you going to tape her bothering you?”

        “I’m not, you are. Every morning for a week I’ll leave you out in front of the building videotaping while I walk into school. Hopefully, she’ll torment me like she always does. Then after a week of taping we’ll tell her we have the goods on her!”

        Brandon stood there thinking about the plan and then said, “I think it’ll work.”

        “Good, so do I!”

        The two boys stood at the corner grinning at each other and then they realized they would be late for school if they didn’t hurry. As they ran towards the school, the two boys agreed that they would finalize the plan after school.

 

        The boys had just made it into Ms. Regna’s class. As they walked to their seats, they saw Erma rubbing her fist into her hand.  Derek frightfully looked at Brandon. Brandon pulled himself close to Derek and whispered, “Remember the plan.”

        This excellent advice soon calmed Derek down and allowed him to focus his attention on his schoolwork.

        The day was a normal day.  The boys went through the usual morning activities and then went to lunch. As always, they quickly ate their lunches and unsuccessfully tried to avoid Erma’s pranks. After lunch, the boys went back to class where they read a story and completed a story map. The day finally ended and the boys walked to the corner of Mutille Boulevard and Majestic Lane. Once they reached the corner, they decided they should both go home and do their homework. Derek then told Brandon he would call him at exactly 4 o’clock to finalize the big plan. Brandon agreed and the two boys parted ways.

        Derek rushed home and finished his homework in a flash. He didn’t care whether the multiplication problems he did were right or wrong. He placed his pencil down and watched the clock. Tick…Tock…Tick…Tock. Finally, 4 o’clock had arrived. He vaulted out of his chair, picked up the phone and called Brandon’s house. The phone barely rang once before it was picked up.

        “Hello,” Brandon said.

        “Hi, Brand, it’s me, Derek.”

        The two boys started to discuss the plan that Derek had suggested that morning. They both decided that the plan was good, but wouldn’t work unless Derek continued to play the part of Erma’s lackey.

        “You are still gonna have to act as though Erma is getting under your skin or she’ll think something is up.”

        “Good point! But there’s one more thing. We can’t take anything for granted. If Erma finds out we were attempting to set her up, well, let’s just say…. Perry Pleckis!”

        The boys agreed and decided that they would submit their idea to Ms. Regna in the morning and if the project was approved they would start videotaping the buses, the cars and, of course, Erma Bagerma on the following day.

 

 

Chapter 9

 

        The next morning came and the two boys met at the corner and walked to school. As they walked to school, they decided that it would be better for Derek to ask Ms. Regna about their idea because Brandon tended to stutter when he got nervous.

        The boys had finally arrived at school. They saw Erma doing her morning ritual of forcing the first and second graders to salute her. Since Erma was busy, the boys were able to walk up the walkway that led to the front doors of Lavelle Elementary without Erma bothering them.  The boys were just about to enter the school when Brandon reminded Derek that he still needed to be Erma’s lackey.

        The boys quickly scampered down the hallway to their classroom. They rushed through the door and almost knocked Ms. Regna over.

        “What’s wrong with you two? Don’t you boys know by now that there is no running in the halls?”

        Ms. R gave the boys a disappointing shake of her head and proceeded to write the day’s homework on the board.

        The boys were now worried. They weren’t sure if Ms. Regna would approve of their presentation idea since they had almost run her over. Nonetheless, Derek was too excited about the idea to keep it inside.

        “Ms. R?” Derek asked.

        “Yes, Derek,” she answered in a disgusted tone.

        “The reason we were running in the halls is because we are very excited to ask you if our video presentation idea is okay.”

        “Well, what is it!” she snapped.

        “Brandon and I would like to do our presentation on the bus and car traffic that is in front of the school before and after school.”

        Ms. Regna paused to think the idea over.

        “I don’t know. With all the traffic out front, I am concerned that if you get too close to it, you could be injured.”

        “What if we promise to stay on the sidewalk?” Brandon suggested.

        “If you promise to stay on the sidewalk then it’s okay. But if I hear that you were even one step off the curb, the project is off!”

        “Okay!” the two boys excitedly responded.

        Brandon and Derek hustled to their seats and took out their Science books. Within a few minutes all the students in the class, including Erma, were filing in and proceeding to their desks.

        As Erma walked down the row that led to her desk, she stopped and gave a quick peak over her shoulder to see what Ms. R was doing. She noticed that she was still writing the homework on the board. As she turned around, Derek noticed a grin on her face that went from ear to ear.  Erma continued walking. When she got close to Derek’s desk, she stuck her tongue out, licked her hand, and smacked Derek right on his forehead. “Thwack!”

        Derek quickly reached for his forehead. He was beat red from embarrassment. All the other students in the class were snickering at him. Some laughed because they thought it was funny, and others laughed because they wanted to get on Erma’s good side. Either way, Derek felt like a big spotlight had been shone down on him.

        Ms. Regna heard the snickering and quickly turned around. She noticed that everyone was looking at Derek.

        “Derek, why is everyone laughing at you?” she asked.

        By this time, Erma was already sitting in her seat. She slouched in her chair and gave Derek’s chair a convincing kick. Derek felt the kick and knew that it was no accident. He was now under the gun. He knew he couldn’t tell the truth. He had to think fast.

        “I was making a funny face at Brandon and he started to laugh, so everybody else looked and started to laugh,” Derek nervously answered.

        “Just when I thought you boys were getting serious about school, you turn into a couple of clowns. How do you expect me to trust you out by the traffic, when I can’t even trust you in school?” she hollered.

        Derek bowed his head in shame and muttered, “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

        “It better not, or I’ll put an end to your project!” she sternly said.

        Derek nodded his head and looked at Brandon. He felt badly that he had gotten his best friend in trouble. However, he knew Brandon would understand why he lied.

        As Derek sat in class that morning, he kept thinking about how Erma was going to get hers. He was playing and replaying the plan over and over in his mind.

        Soon, the bell rang sending the fourth graders to lunch. As usual, Derek and Brandon were one of the first students on the lunch line. They got their lunches and scoffed them down without talking. Once their lunches were gone, they began to talk quietly about how they were going to get Erma. They talked about whose video camera they would use and where they would stand on the sidewalk so they would be able to view the buses, the cars and the fourth grade mountain.

        Surprisingly, during lunch, Erma had left the boys alone. She didn’t threaten to place Derek’s food in his nose or in his ears. She just sat there, ate her lunch, and quietly talked to Timmy Tubra.

        The boys were thankful to have the rest of the lunch period in peace. They kept their voices down so Erma wouldn’t hear them. They weren’t sure if Erma had forgotten about them or just didn’t feel like bothering them. Either way, they weren’t about to attract any attention to themselves.

       

The boys went back to class and wrote paragraphs about how their lives would change if they were not able to use electricity. The end of the day came and Ms. Regna reminded the class about what the homework was. The boys rummaged through their desks getting out all the books they would need to complete the assignments listed on the board. They hastily packed their bags and made sure that Ms. Regna saw them calmly walk out of the room.

The boys hurried to the corner. While they were there, they agreed that Brandon should ask his mom for the video camera. Mrs. Bascilla was always willing to get Brandon what ever he needed for school, while, on the other hand, Ms. Delveany was always tight with a buck and probably would not want to risk something happening to her camera. The two of them were also in agreement about where to videotape. They felt the best spot was near the big oak tree at the end of the school driveway. They selected this spot for a few reasons. First, the tree was at the end of the school’s driveway. This would allow them to be far away from Erma and since much of the traffic was situated by the front door of the school, it gave them an excuse to point the camera back towards the front of the building. Secondly, they felt the oak tree was large enough to provide cover for the both of them. Lastly, they knew there was no way Erma could miss Derek walking up the long walkway to get into the school. This would ensure that she would bother him.

Derek told Brandon he had to be very convincing with his mother or they wouldn’t have a camera, and Brandon told Derek that he needed to remember to be Erma’s lackey.

The boys gave each other a big smile, said their good-byes and parted company. There was nothing else they could do but go home, get a good night’s sleep and hope that come tomorrow Erma would be her usual self, thus causing her own downfall as Lavelle Elementary’s school bully.

 

 

Chapter 10

 

        Derek made his way back to his house. He walked in the door, gave his a mother a kiss, and sat down at the kitchen table to have a snack.

        “How was your day, Sweetie?” Derek’s mom asked.

        “Just great, Mom!” he exclaimed.

        “Good! So I guess Erma is not bothering you?” she questioned.

        Derek had to think quickly. He knew if he hesitated the slightest bit his mother would know something was up. With that, Derek quickly blurted out, “No, Mom. She’s not bothering me at all.”

        His mom looked at him and gave him a smile. Derek felt uneasy. He could not finish his snack. He had done it again. He lied to his mother about the trouble he was having with Erma. However, there was nothing he could do. He needed to be the one to rid himself of Erma. Feeling guilty, Derek pushed himself away from the table, got out of the chair and walked up to his room to begin his homework.

        He did his homework, watched some television and, then, ate dinner. After dinner he went back to his room and went over the “Erma Bagerma Plan.” Derek had no reservations. He believed in his heart that in a matter of days he would be rid of her.

 

        Derek awoke the next morning to see the sun streaming through his window. He thought what a perfect day for a perfect plan.  He went through his typical morning routine. He took a shower, brushed his teeth, got dressed, ate breakfast, told his mom good-bye and headed for the corner to wait for Brandon.

        He arrived at the corner of Mutille Boulevard and Majestic Lane just in time to see Brandon walking out of his house with a large black case. He smiled, pumped his fist and told himself, “This is the day my fear of Erma ends.”

        Brandon arrived at the corner with a huge grin on his face.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

        “You bet!” Derek exclaimed.

        The boys stood at the corner for about five minutes. They finalized the plan and reminded each other that they had only one shot to make it work.

        The boys cautiously proceeded down the block towards Lavelle Elementary. They wanted to do their very best to avoid Erma. They needed the element of surprise in order to catch the crafty fourth grade mountain. Erma was no where to be found, so the boys crossed the street and walked to the far end of the school driveway.  There, they unpacked the video camera and waited for the buses and Erma to arrive. Suddenly, as if a movie director had shouted “action,” Erma and the buses had arrived. The boys placed themselves behind the large oak tree and waited for Erma to assume her position out in front of the flagpole. She did and the boys began rolling. As they videotaped Erma, they made sure that every so often they turned the camera towards the buses and the traffic out in front of the school. They taped her for about five minutes while she taunted and bullied the younger students of Lavelle Elementary.  Most of the students had made their way into the school, and Erma was finishing up on her daily routine of harassment. It was at this point that Derek made his move.

        “Make sure you get this on tape,” he said as he walked away from Brandon up the tree-lined sidewalk that ran along the driveway.  As he walked towards Erma, his palms began to sweat and his breathing became more rapid. He was both nervous and excited.

        Soon, he was within ten feet of the flagpole. Erma had just finished badgering the last of the younger students and turned around just in time to see Derek walking right in front of her.

        “Aren’t you gonna say hello to me, Doody Head?”

        Derek stopped and slowly turned towards Erma. He was now ten times more nervous than he was a few minutes ago.

 “Hi,” he nervously responded.

        “Where’s your little friend, Brandon?”

        Oh no! Derek thought. How am I going to explain where Brandon is? I can’t say he is sick because he’ll be in class, and I need a reason that will last a couple of days.

        Derek paused and paused and paused. He had no answer. He did not have the faintest idea what to say.  He could see Erma was about to let him have it if he did not answer her. Then, suddenly, he blurted out, “His mom doesn’t want him walking to school with me anymore because she thinks I‘m a bad influence on him.”

        As if just stung in the arm by a bee, Derek cringed and thought what a dumb thing to say. She’s never going to believe that. I’ve been best friends with him forever.

         Like a statue, he stood completely still in front of Erma waiting for her response.

        “Well, I could’ve told her that!” she exclaimed.

        Derek could not believe it. Erma had actually believed his ridiculous explanation.

        “I knew you were no good when I first met you.”

        Derek had no response for this. But it did not matter, because as soon as Erma finished her sentence the bell rang and the two of them were off to Ms. R’s room.

        As they walked to their room, Erma stopped by the office to say a quick hello to Mr. Verklemp. This, again, bothered Derek to no end.  However, this time he was not harping on it so much. He was busy hoping that Brandon would be able to pack up the camera and get to class before Ms. Regna took attendance.

        Derek and Brandon and, unfortunately, Erma all made it to class on time.  The boys gave each other a quick glance and a smile. They were eager to talk about what had happened earlier. However, they both knew Ms. R would catch them if they tried to communicate.  They knew they would have to be patient and wait until lunch time to talk.

       

        The boys couldn’t believe how long the morning lasted. It seemed as though time stood still. Every passing second seemed like a minute and every minute seemed like an hour. Finally, the bell rang and the boys went to lunch.

        The boys followed the usual routine and then sat and talked about what had taken place before school had started. They made sure that they were very quiet so no one else would know what they were up to.

        “Did you get it on tape?” Derek asked.

        “Yea, I got it,”

        “Well, how did it look?”

        “It looked okay, but it just looked like you two were talking. It didn’t look like she was bothering you.”

        “That’s okay because we’ll be able to hear what she said to me.”

        “No we won’t! The only thing I was able to hear was the sound of the bus engines.”

        Derek slumped in his seat. He was a defeated boy. He didn’t know what to do.

        “If the camera doesn’t pick up what she says to me, then there is no way we can catch her in the act.”

        The boys sat there thinking about how the plan they had put so much thought into was not going to work. But then, there was a twinkle in Brandon’s eye followed by a frown.

        “What?” Derek asked.

        “It’s nothing. It will never work.”

        “What is it? I want to know!” Derek demanded.

        “Okay. I was thinking we can still get Erma if we make her hit you.”

        “Have you completely lost your mind? There is no way I am letting her hit me.”

        Just as Derek finished his sentence, Erma walked in to the lunchroom and threw an elbow into Derek’s back. Derek’s head and neck snapped forward and then back. He quickly turned his head to see what had just run him over. It was no surprise to him that it was his disgusting nemesis.

        As Erma strutted away, Brandon apologized to Derek for not letting him know that Erma was sneaking up behind him. But there was nothing he could do. While Erma was creeping up behind Derek, she threw a glance at Brandon and made a fist. Brandon got the message and knew to keep his mouth shut.

        “Don’t worry about it. You know what, you were right. I need to have her hit me because I can’t take it anymore.”

        Brandon gave his best friend a reassuring look and the two of them headed back to class.

        When they got back to class, Mrs. Regna had the class work on math problems dealing with place-value and estimating.  Since both boys were excellent math students, they had no trouble with the work.

        During the last period of the day, the class made acrostic poems about their names. Ms. R told the students to think carefully about themselves and write only those ideas that truly described them. The boys had some difficulty at first but soon got the idea of what their teacher wanted. Derek, with the assistance of a dictionary, was finished first and showed his poem to his teacher.  His poem read:

       

 

        D elightful

        E nergetic

        R ealiable

        E ffective

        K een

 

 

Ms. R told Derek that he had done a nice job and should go back and finish his poem by decorating his paper.

        Brandon was a slower worker than Derek, and he had barely finished writing his acrostic poem before time was up. Ms. R told everybody who had not finished decorating their papers to take them home and finish them for homework. Brandon frowned and then began to pack up his belongings to go home.

        The bell rang and the boys, as usual, quickly hustled out of school. They were almost about to cross the street when they realized they needed to take more video of the car and bus problem in front of their school. They needed to make it look like they were actually doing their project. Brandon and Derek walked down to the last oak tree and began shooting. The boys had never realized it before, but the area in front of the building was an accident waiting to happen. There were just too many cars and too many buses in one place at one time. The boys had counted 5 near accidents and 1 fender bender before the driveway was devoid of vehicles.

As the last car pulled away, the boys looked at each other and in unison said, “I’m sure glad we walk to school.”

        The boys walked to the corner and Derek told Brandon that he had not changed his mind from lunch.

        “Even though it will be painful, I have to let her hit me in order to get her on tape.”

        Brandon nodded his head and gave Derek a pat on the back.

        “Don’t worry about it. Once we catch her on tape, she’ll be out of your hair forever.”

        “I hope so.”

        With that, the boys went their separate ways. Brandon to his house to see what trouble his younger brother had gotten into, and Derek to his house to see if he would be able to lie to his mother again.

 

 

Chapter 11

 

        Derek arrived home and his mother asked him how his day went. As was becoming customary, he lied to her and told her school was going great. He reassured her that Erma had not been giving him any trouble. And as usual, the feeling of guilt made him no longer wanting his afternoon snack.

        That night, after he had gotten over his guilt and had eaten dinner, Derek decided that he needed to come up with something that would force Erma to lay her hands on him. He needed something that would make her lunge after him.  He needed something that would make her extremely angry.  But what, he thought to himself. As he lay on his bed and shuffled through the ideas he had come up with, he realized that no planned idea would work. He realized that his plan would have to be spontaneous.  He realized that he would have to react to whatever Erma was saying to him, not the other way around. He knew that he needed to be the one to steer her in the direction he wanted her to go.

        Relaxed and calm, Derek quickly fell asleep.

 

        Derek woke up the next morning and went through his normal routine. After he finished his breakfast, he gave his mother a kiss and headed off to the corner.

        He arrived at the corner and waited for Brandon to arrive. Soon, he did and the boys began walking to school.

        “So, are you ready?” Brandon asked.

        “I’m as ready as I’ll ever be,” Derek replied.

        “Well, what’s your plan?”

        “I don’t have one.”

        “You don’t have one! Are you crazy?”

        “No.”

        As the boys continued walking, Derek told Brandon about the plan he had come up with the night before.

        “I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Brandon said.

        “Neither am I, but I know if I try to plan something out she’ll see right through it. You just make sure you get it on tape. I don’t want to have to go through this twice.”

        “Don’t worry. I won’t let you down,” Brandon confidently said.

        The boys arrived at school and took up their position down at the end of the driveway. Derek reminded Brandon to take some video of the traffic so he didn’t look suspicious. Brandon nodded his head and began to videotape the buses as they arrived.  Within minutes, Brandon felt a tap on his shoulder.

        “She’s here,” Derek murmured.

        Brandon could see his friend was having second thoughts.

He told him he would be all right and if worse came to worse he should just forget the whole thing and go right to class.  Derek agreed and with one big sigh he was off.

        He slowly walked toward the flagpole where the imposing fourth grade mountain stood. As he moved, he felt his heart beating faster and his pulse quicken. I’ll never be able to pull it off he thought to himself. His legs were now becoming heavy and he was starting to sweat. He thought about turning around, but it was too late. He was there, at the flagpole, face to face with the one thing that had wreaked havoc on him for so long.

        “Hi, Doody Head,” Erma sarcastically said.

        “Don’t call me that!” Derek angrily replied.

        “What are you going to do about it?”

        Derek didn’t know what to say. He was too nervous. He didn’t think he would be able to do it, when suddenly the answer came to him.

        “I don’t have to listen to your big mouth anymore.”

        Erma’s face turned red and smoke came out of her ears. She was furious. No one in Lavelle Elementary, not even fifth graders, spoke to Erma like that.

        “You don’t have to listen to me anymore? Don’t you remember Perry Pleckis?”

        “I remember him, but I won’t lick your shoe like he did.”

        Erma took a step toward Derek. Derek, although very nervous, stood his ground and did not back up. He was determined now. He was in too far to turn around. He needed to finish this no matter how much pain it caused him.

        “You can’t intimidate me anymore with your name calling and teasing.”

        “I can do whatever I want. I am Erma Bagerma and I tell people what to do, not you!”

        “Well not anymore.”

        Derek could see that Erma was becoming more and more aggravated with him. He could see that his plan was working. She was very close to doing something she would soon regret. All he needed to do was push her a little bit more.

        “I am tired of coming to school and being bothered by you.”

        Derek didn’t realize it, but that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Before he knew it, Erma had grabbed him by the arm and spun him around so his back was facing her. She pulled his arm up behind his back so high that Derek thought it was going to break. He was in so much pain that he started to cry.

        “You’re not going to take what anymore?”

        Derek’s crying continued.

        “Don’t you forget who runs things around here! It’s me. Erma Bagerma and nobody else.”

        Derek’s arm was now in extreme pain. The only way he could make this incident end was to apologize to Erma.

        “I’m sorry. I’ll never do it again!” he cried.

        “You better make sure this doesn’t ever happen again or next time I’ll snap this arm like a twig!”

        Erma was now satisfied that Derek had gotten the message, and with one forceful shove, Derek was freed from her clutches.

        “Don’t you forget what I said Delveany.  Next time, I’ll break it!”

        By now Derek was bent down on one knee with his arm hanging lifelessly in front of him. He looked up at Erma, with tears streaming down his face, and nodded his head. Erma knew that he had gotten the message and headed inside for the start of the school day. Once she entered the building and was out of sight, Derek turned around to find Brandon scurrying up the sidewalk toward him.

        “Are you all right?”

        Derek wiped the tears from his face and took a couple of deep breaths. “I’ll be all right. Did you get everything on the video camera?”

        “Yea, I got everything.”

        Brandon helped Derek up from the ground and told him he was the bravest kid in the whole school for what he had done. Derek dusted himself off and the boys hurriedly walked to Ms. Regna’s room.

 

        When the boys arrived, they found Erma sitting at her desk with a menacing grin. This was just for affect. Just in case Derek had somehow forgotten what had taken place just a few minutes earlier. The boys avoided eye contact with her and proceeded to their desks. Brandon had it easy compared to his friend. For one, he wasn’t on Erma’s hit list, and he didn’t have to sit right in front of her.  Derek sat down and knew that this would be the worst and best day of his life. He knew that Erma was going to make his life miserable today. But he also knew he had the video to make it all end.

        Derek was absolutely correct about this day being a nightmare. Erma started off by peppering the back of his head with spit balls every time Ms. R wrote something on the board. As if that wasn’t enough, she made it look like an accident when she purposefully dumped one of her plates of food on him at lunch. Erma wrapped up the day by kicking the legs out from under Derek’s chair when he made the mistake of leaning back on it. Luckily, Derek wasn’t hurt. He was just embarrassed.

        The end of the day could not have come sooner. Derek could take no more. He made sure he and Brandon were the first ones out of class when the bell rang. The boys bolted out of school and headed for the corner.  They decided to meet at Brandon’s house at 4:00 because he had a VCR in his room. This meant they could watch the tape in privacy.

        Both boys went home. Derek’s mom greeted him as usual and Derek lied as usual. The only thing that made it bearable was that this would be the last time he would have to lie to his mother.  Derek had a snack and then told his mother he was going over Brandon’s to play.

        Derek arrived at Brandon’s house at 4:00 sharp. He knocked on the wooden door and Brandon opened it. Derek went inside and waved to Mrs. Bascilla who appeared to have her hands filled with her younger son.

        The boys scampered to Brandon’s room, went inside and locked the door. Brandon was not allowed to lock his door, but given the severity of the situation, he was willing to take the risk. No one but the boys and Erma could see the tape. If Brandon’s mom saw the tape, she would immediately call Ms. Delveany who would then know that Derek had been lying the whole time. Brandon loaded the tape into the VCR and the boys watched. The tape showed it all. The boys had Erma dead to rights. There was no way she could lie her way out of this one.

        The boys decided to make a copy of the tape for safe- keeping. It took some doing, and after many attempts, they figured out how to hook up Stan’s VCR to Brandon’s to make a copy. They made the copy and decided to keep it at Brandon’s house.

        The boys were extremely excited about turning the tables on Erma. The only thing left to determine was how the two boys were going to break the news to the fourth grade mountain.

       

 

Chapter 12

 

        Derek went home and ate dinner. His mother asked him if he had fun at Brandon’s and he told her yes. Derek finished his dinner and then decided that he would stay downstairs and watch television with his mother. The two of them sat on the couch laughing and joking while they watched sitcoms.  Eventually, it was time for Derek to go to bed. His mother gave him a kiss good night and sent him off to his room. But before he jumped in his bed, Derek sat at his desk and wrote a note. He put it in an envelope and wrote Erma Bagerma on it.

 

        The next morning came and everything was perfect. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, the leaves were turning colors, and Erma Bagerma was finally going to get hers.

        Derek woke up and made sure he placed the envelope into his bag. The last thing he wanted to do was leave it at home. With a quick bite of some toast and a kiss for his mother, Derek was out the door to meet his best friend.

        The boys met at the corner of Mutille Boulevard and Majestic Lane. They made sure they had the note and then went on to school.

        The boys were the first ones at school. They went right inside so they didn’t have to be bothered by Erma. They figured why give her one more free shot when they didn’t have to. The boys went directly to their classroom and gave Ms. R a smile and a hello.

        Ms. R looked puzzled to see them.

        “Boys, correct me if I’m wrong but shouldn’t you be videotaping the traffic problem in front of the school?”

        The boys had no idea what to say. They had worked so hard to make everything just right and now their teacher was going to bust them. Brandon and Derek looked at each other hoping that some telepathic signal would trigger and answer in one of their minds.  Unbelievably, it worked.

        “My mom said I was being careless with the camera and she won’t let me use it anymore,” Brandon replied.

        “Somehow I knew you boys wouldn’t be able to handle the responsibility that went along with this assignment.”

        Ms. Regna gave the boys a disappointed look and told them to put their belongings down.

        The boys plan was now going to work. They had decided that Brandon would wait by the door and he would signal Derek when Erma was coming down the hallway. When Derek saw the signal, he would place the envelope on Erma’s desk and meet Brandon by the door.

        Brandon went by the door and took up his post, while Derek sat anxiously at his desk. Within a few minutes, Erma was coming down the hall. Brandon spotted her and winked at Derek. Derek quickly turned and placed the envelope onto Erma’s desk. He then got up and met Brandon by the door.

        Erma came swaggering past the boys and bumped into Derek. Soon she arrived at her desk. There, she found the envelope. Without wasting a second, Erma tore into the envelope. She opened up the piece of paper and read it to herself. The note read:

       

     

Since it’s rhymes that you like

      Give this one a try.

      We’ve seen what you do

      By playing I spy.

      You thought you were smart

      But you never knew.

      Go to Brandon’s at 4

      There’s a surprise for you.

 

        Erma’s head whipped around to the right. She spied Derek and Brandon with a menacing stare. The boys were a little frightened but they knew they had Erma right where they wanted her.

        Luckily for Derek, today was the day Ms. R decided to move seats. He now sat in front of Timmy Tubra and didn’t have to endure his final day of punishment from Erma.

        The day went by very quickly. The only contact the boys had with Erma was at lunch. But fortunately for them, Mr. Verklemp was standing right by and Erma had to be nice.

        The day ended and the boys hustled right to Brandon’s house. When they got there, Derek called his mom to tell her he was staying at Brandon’s for a little while.

        Brandon’s mom made the boys a snack and went off to take care of Stan. As the boys were finishing up, they heard a knock at the door. It was Erma Bagerma. The moment of truth had finally arrived.

        The boys were very calm. They knew Erma would not cause any trouble inside Brandon’s house. Brandon walked to the door and invited Erma in.

        “So what’s the surprise?” Erma demanded.

        “Come this way and you’ll see.”

        Brandon and Derek walked Erma down to Brandon’s room. Brandon made sure he locked his door again. Brandon reached under his bed and pulled out the tape.

        “Do you know what this is?” Derek asked.

        “No,” Erma replied.

        “This our project for the Channel 34 contest,” Derek said.

        “Right, that stupid traffic project you two are doing.”

        “Wrong! This has something even better. Would you like to see? Brandon asked.

        “Is this the surprise?”

        “Yea!” the boys said in unison.

        “Then put the tape in and stop wasting my time!” Erma ordered.

        The boys put the tape in and pressed play on the VCR. The beginning of the tape showed the cars and the buses out in front of Lavelle Elementary. Erma did not seem to be too interested with what was on the tape. But then, something caught her attention. It was her. The tape no longer showed cars and buses it showed Erma perched out by the flagpole. Erma was now at full attention. She knew that this was the surprise. As the tape continued, Erma saw herself bending Derek’s arm behind his back. She saw the evil look in her eye and the tears on Derek’s face. Erma looked like a deer caught in headlights. It appeared that Erma was in shock by what she saw. She just sat at Brandon’s desk with her mouth wide open.  The boys couldn’t believe what happened next.

        The fourth grade mountain actually began to cry.

        “What are you going to do with this tape?” she cried.

“Please don’t show it to my mom? She’ll ground me for a month if she sees it.”

        The boys were stunned. They had no idea this was the type of reaction they were going to get. They thought Erma would threaten to beat them up or break the tape. They had no idea she would crumble like a house of cards.

        Derek told Erma to stop her crying and that they weren’t going to show the tape to her mother under one condition.

        “If you ever bother me, Brandon, or anybody else at school again, this tape will find its way into your mother’s hands.”

With a shake of the hand Derek and Erma agreed that as long as Erma was on her best behavior, the tape would stay hidden.

        Erma quietly left Brandon’s house and the two boys sat down to reflect on what had taken place.

        “I can’t believe she cried,” Brandon said.

        “Me either.”

        “Do you really think she’ll change her ways?”

        “I think she will,” Derek replied.

        There was nothing left to be said. All the boys could do was wait until tomorrow to see if The Erminator would live up to her end of the bargain. 

 

 

Chapter 13

       

        Derek woke up and did his usual routine. He met Brandon at their usual meeting place, and, as usual, they walked to Lavelle Elementary.

        However, when they arrived at the school it was anything but a usual day. First, the boys did not see Erma at her usual post in front of the school’s flagpole. She was no where to be found. Today, the younger students were free to enter the school without having to deal with Erma’s harassment.

        The next unusual event occurred when the boys entered Ms. Regna’s class. The boys were expecting to see Erma sitting at her desk giving the boys her usual evil stare. However, Erma was not giving the boys an evil stare. She actually gave a warm and inviting smile to the two of them.

        The third unusual event took place in the place that Derek had grown to dislike, the cafeteria. This was the place where Erma really tormented him. But today was different. When the boys arrived at the lunch line, Erma waved them over and allowed them to cut in front of her. The boys could not believe it. She was actually being nice to them.

        For the first time, the three of them sat at the same lunch table. And while no words were spoken between the boys and Erma, the boys felt that their plan had worked and that things were going to be different.

        The boys, as usual, ended the day by getting packed up. However, this time Derek did something unusual. As he and Brandon were leaving the classroom, he stopped at Erma’s desk, thanked her for letting them cut in line, and told her good-bye. Erma looked down at the boy she had given so much grief to over the last year and replied, “I’ll see ya tomorrow.”

        With one good-bye, Derek now knew his plan really did work. With the help of his best friend, he had freed himself from the clutches of Erma.

        As usual, he and Brandon walked to the corner of Mutille Boulevard and Majestic Lane. There, the boys talked about what had taken place over the past week.

“Do you think it was worth it?” Brandon asked.

        “Was what worth it?”

        “Was it worth lying to your mother to get Erma off your back?”

        “Yea, it was. I know lying is wrong and I felt terrible doing it, but I had to do it. I had to stand up for myself and solve this problem on my own.”

        Before the boys parted company, Derek thanked his best friend for all his help. Brandon gave his best friend a smile and the two boys went their separate ways.

        Derek was now unburdened. He had nothing left to worry about. There was no more school project, no more lying to his mother, and, best of all, no more fourth grade mountain.