Robin Barberg slouched in her plastic desk, suffering through civics. She lined up a paper football to Amy Gilbert across two rows.
A sharp knock startled them. The teacher looked over.
Principal Whitaker stepped in. “I’m sorry to interrupt. Barberg. Come with me.”
A chorus of barks and woofs erupted.
She chuckled and waved.
As they walked, he chided her. “In all my years I’ve never seen a young lady stoop to such lows.”
She tried not to laugh, but snorted instead.
“I don’t think you see the gravity of the situation. I’ve already called your parents.”
“Guardians. My aunt and uncle are my…”
“You know what I meant.” He held the door to his office where Uncle Paul and Aunt Carol were already seated.
Robin pressed her lips together and sat down.
Uncle Paul cleared his throat. “You said on the phone there was an urgent matter about a class prank. I can’t imagine what that could be.”
Principal Whitaker flushed red. “Robin thought it quite humorous to replace the contents of a Beef Jerky bag with Gaines-burgers and offer it to members of the junior class. This morning she put up empty dog food wrappers marked with ‘Class of 78’ written on them.”
Uncle Paul turned his head. “Really, how did you get it to stick together?”
Her aunt elbowed him.
Robin choked down a laugh.
Aunt Carol glared. “So, Mr. Whitaker, what exactly are the consequences of allowing classmates to consume products deemed safe enough for canines?”
“I’m considering expulsion.”
Robin shrugged. He said consider. Not a done deal.
Uncle Paul said, “Well, now, let’s hold on. No one got sick or anything. She didn’t make them eat it. Can’t you cut her some slack?”
Robin smirked. Go ahead, Mr. Witless, answer that. She tried to put on a remorseful expression, but failed.
The squeaking of basketball shoes announced the arrival of Robin’s favorite teacher, Coach B. She shot Robin an apologetic look. “Mr. Whitaker, I searched her locker.” She held up a half empty package of cigarettes.
Robin pursed her lips. Thank God they had finished the pint of Bacardi yesterday. The betrayal stung more than the punishment she was going to get. Aunt Carol’s nostrils were flaring.
Mr. Whitaker said, “Contraband. Students under the age of eighteen aren’t supposed to have cigarettes in their possession.”
Uncle Paul gestured to the overflowing ashtray on the desk. “Oh my God, you have a smoking room for students. Really?”
“For seniors who are of age.”
Robin mumbled, “And stupid juniors.”
Coach B shot her the “shut up” look. “I have to go. I have a class coming in.”
“Thank you for your trouble.” Mr. Whitaker pushed a button on an intercom. “Ms. Swan. Can you bring in the attendance records for Robin Barberg.”
Robin sucked in a breath. Three strikes. No graduation. She’d already ordered a pony keg for the gravel pit party. A fine sweat started across her forehead.
The woman immediately came in with the folder and laid it on the desk. Mr. Whitaker picked it up, surveying it as if this was his first review. “It seems that Miss Barberg is not a fan of regular attendance, with multiple absences scattered across all classes. Even study hall. It appears that she missed English 3 just yesterday.”
Aunt Carol sighed. “We’ve done the best we could, but you know it was a very difficult situation for the children.”
If she was playing the orphan card, Robin was dead when they got home.
Mr. Whitaker cleared his throat.
Uncle Paul said, “I assure you that there will be severe consequences for Robin. She’s our sixth teenager. We know how to handle these sorts of things.”
Aunt Carol nodded.
Robin held her breath.
Mr. Whitaker stared at Robin. “In lieu of the extenuating circumstances in your home life, I will waive the expulsion. You are suspended for two days, starting today.”
Robin pressed her lips together to keep from launghing. She followed her aunt and uncle our into the hall.
Amy Gilbert ran up behind them. “What did Witless say? Are you expelled?”
Robin shook her head. “Nah, they played the ‘get out of jail card’ so it’s good.”
When they got into the car, Uncle Paul started to laugh. “Oh my God, that is the best prank ever. How did you think of that?”
Carol snickered, “Remember when her brother used weed killer to put the year for the class behind him on the front lawn? The junior class sat in the cafeteria all day because no one would confess. Robin, could you at least hang your head a little to make this look good?”
Uncle Paul started the engine. “I’m surprised you smoke those crappy cigarettes? Can’t you afford Camels?”
Robin laughed. “Those were Amy’s. Seriously, thank you both.”
“No problem. Witless is an idiot.” Uncle Paul gave Carol a knowing look.
Carol asked, “I hope this is the last of the big surprises from you, young lady.”
Robin swallowed. Not by a long shot.