Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

from a paint stain on the sidewalk - Splotch by Anne & Kenneth Hicks

Alice’s parents refuse to let her have a dog, so when Alice sees a paint stain on the sidewalk that looks like a dog, she decides that she will make him a virtual pet.


Published: January 2018

Alice’s parents refuse to let her have a dog, so when Alice sees a paint stain on the sidewalk that looks like a dog, she decides that she will make him a virtual pet. She calls him Splotch and downloads a picture of him to her computer. To her surprise, he escapes from the computer and begins to act as Alice’s self-appointed protector. Unfortunately, he sees most people as potential enemies of Alice, including her teacher and the school principal, and he is not shy about giving those various enemies a bite.

When Splotch starts to attack Alice’s best friend, Alice knows there is a big problem. But how will she get Splotch to stop being a guard dog and go back into the computer?


Because of all that went on with Splotch and Hannah and Johnny, I didn’t get around to reviewing the spelling lesson for that morning. Of course, Mrs. Crabtree called on me first. Of course. Gaaahhh!

“Alice,” she said. “Please spell ‘xylophone.’”

I stood up and took a deep breath. Sitting on my right was a girl named Hilda who had to be the best speller in the whole world. Behind me sat Johnny Riggs, maybe the worst speller in the entire world, (other than me). Hannah sat on my left. She was average.

“Xylophone,” I repeated. “Z-i …”

Hilda’s hand shot up, even before Mrs. Crabtree could say, “Incorrect, Alice. Can you spell it, Hilda?”

At that point, Hilda stood up so straight behind her desk that it seemed her dress had been starched twice. Maybe three times.

“X-y-l-o-p-h-o-n-e. Xylophone.”
“Correct,” said Mrs. Crabtree.

Hilda sat down. Her hands were folded on top of her desk. She had a smug smile on her face. I gave her a good sneer.

“Alice, shall we try another?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“The word is ‘evaporate.’”
I smiled. That’s an easy one, I thought.
“E-v-a-p-e-r-a-t-e. Evaporate.”

Hilda’s hand shot up again. Mrs. Crabtree gestured toward her, and she stood and correctly spelled the word. Then Hilda sat down with that same annoying look on her face. She glanced over at me, and as she did she let out a yell.

“Yeow!” She bent over to rub her ankle.

My heart felt like a bass drum in my chest. There was Splotch, slinking away into a corner of the room.

“What happened, Hilda?” Mrs. Crabtree asked. She walked down the aisle and saw the red mark on Hilda’s ankle.

“I think Alice pinched me,” she said. “And it hurts.”
“I didn’t pinch her,” I said.

Mrs. Crabtree frowned at me.

“If you didn’t pinch Hilda, how did her ankle get red?” Mrs. Crabtree asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “That’s a good question.”
“And you better have a good answer, my dear.”
“I know, Mrs. Crabtree,” a voice said from behind me. It was Johnny Riggs.
“Yes, Johnny?”

“Well, I was watching the whole time and Alice didn’t pinch Hilda. I think maybe Hilda banged her ankle into the chair as she sat down.”

Mrs. Crabtree looked skeptical.

“Hmmmmph," she said. “I will be watching carefully. Any pinching or hurting by any means will not be tolerated. Am I clear?”

“Yes, Mrs. Crabtree,” the entire class said in unison.

Mrs. Crabtree returned to the front of the class. She positioned herself so that she had a clear view up the aisle that separated Hilda and me. Now it was my turn to sit ramrod straight. My hands were clasped on the desk in front of me so she could see them at all times.

“You’re really weird, Alice,” Johnny whispered.
“Shut up, Johnny,” I hissed back.

“You will have one more chance to spell a word correctly from the list you were supposed to memorize last night,” Mrs. Crabtreee said. “If you miss it, I will have to send a note home to your mother tonight.”

She spoke in a very unfriendly, ominous tone. The whole classroom grew quiet. All eyes were on me.

“The word is ‘broccoli,’” she said.
“Gosh, I hate that stuff,” I said.
“I didn’t ask you to eat it, my dear. I asked you to spell it.”

The whole class tittered at her joke, although I did not think it was funny at the time. In fact, I was completely miserable and thought I might start crying. Why does anyone have to learn how to spell such a dumb word? Isn’t that why we have the internet?

“Broccoli,” I said. “B-r-o-c-o-l-l-i.”

Hilda’s hand of doom shot into the air beside me. The frown on Mrs. Crabtree’s face deepened, but somehow, she did not seem sad that I had missed the word.

“Incorrect,” she said. “You will get an F for today’s class work, Alice. And I will expect your mother to sign the note I will be sending home with YEOW!”

At the same time that Mrs. Crabtree screamed, she jumped about a half a foot straight into the air and pivoted around in a circle. Then, quicker than I have ever seen a teacher move, she pulled her dress up to her thighs and climbed on top of her desk chair. Her steely gaze swept the floor.

“Oh boy,” said Hannah, beside me.

I was speechless. But Johnny Riggs started laughing so hard that I laughed too. Soon, Hannah broke into giggles.

Now Mrs. Crabtree was very angry.

About the authors:
Anne Rothman-Hicks is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College where, in 1969, at a college dance, she met a student from Haverford named Kenneth Hicks. They have been together pretty much ever since, getting married, having children, writing books, making art, and generally conspiring to live lives that are happy, creative, and good.

Anne and Ken’s most recent novels and stories are set in New York City, where they have lived for most of their married lives. 

Their middle reader series, Alice and Friends, features Alice, a 10-year-old girl with a vivid imagination that gets her into and out of trouble. The titles are, STONE FACES, BROWNSTONE FACES, and SPLOTCH.

In Ken and Anne’s tween book, THINGS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM, Jennifer and James find a pigeon in Central Park whose foot was caught in a bit of string attached to a fence. Only this pigeon was actually a man before he was turned into a pigeon over a hundred years earlier. Now he needs some help to be turned back into a man before a certain hawk captures and eats him instead. 

A sequel, REMEMBERING THOMAS, has been published by MuseItUp Publishing in March of 2018.

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