It was the day before the Fourth of July.
That morning, I had to run errands with my mother. We took Mrs. Zippy in for a checkup. Then Mrs. Zippy and I waited in the car while my mom picked up some things at the supermarket.
Mrs. Zippy is my dog. She's a wiener dog. We named her Mrs. Zippy because of the way she tears around. She's a good dog, too, except she sometimes gets kind of emotional.
That's what happened that day in the car. We were sitting there listening to the radio when she jumped on my lap and started yapping.
Something was going on in front of the store.
Oh my gosh, yes it was.
It was Miss Stiletto, the worst teacher in my school. People said that when it came to evil, Miss Stiletto made the Wicked Witch of the West look like an amateur. She was thin as a whip, had a face like a hatchet and always wore long black skirts and carried a cane.
She was so old that a lot of our parents had her when THEY were in school. I once asked my father if he had her, and the question put a strange twitch into his face.
Right now, she was yelling at this tall, skinny blonde girl I'd never seen before.
“You little troll!” Miss Stiletto hissed. “I'll set the cops on you!”
“Haven't you heard?” the skinny girl shouted, dancing around her. “School's out. You can't touch me. And tonight your trees are gonna be wearing THIS!” She waved a roll of yellow toilet paper in Miss Stiletto's face.
Miss Stiletto's face turned the color of boiling blood. She jerked her cane over her head like she was going to hit the girl.
That was too much for Mrs. Zippy. She dove out the window, shot across the parking lot, and sank her teeth into Miss Stiletto's long, black skirt. Growling like a toy motorboat, she tugged with all four of her stubby legs.
Miss Stiletto swung her cane at Mrs. Zippy.
I was running after her as fast as I could, shouting, “Mrs. Zippy! Mrs. Zippy!”
Both Miss Stiletto and the girl turned and looked at me like I was crazy.
And why not?
What they saw was this goofy-looking kid with black glasses charging across the parking lot yelling, “Mississippi! Mississippi!”
I grabbed Mrs. Zippy by the middle and lifted her up.
Mrs. Zippy's teeth were firmly set in the hem of Miss Stiletto's skirt and, when I snatched her up, I snatched up the skirt along with her, revealing for all the world to see Miss Stiletto's veiny blue legs.
This made Miss Stiletto madder. She swung her cane so hard it whistled past my ear.
And that made me duck and jump backward.
Bad move number two.
Because I held on to Mrs. Zippy and Mrs. Zippy held on to Miss Stiletto's skirt, there was a loud RRRRRIP!, and we fell backward onto the pavement.
Everything went black.
Not because I conked out, but because Miss Stiletto's skirt was on my head. And it was musty as my grandmother's basement.
Gasping for breath, I scrambled to get up. When I did, there stood Miss Stiletto, purple in her girdle.
My mother came out of the store. Just in time to see Miss Stiletto wave her cane at me and scream, “Give me back my skirt, you maggot!”
“Good Lord, Walter,” said my mother. “What on earth are you doing?”
“I was just trying to help this girl,” I stammered.
I turned to point to the tall, blonde girl. There was nothing there but empty air.
“What girl?” my mother asked.
I should have known right then she was trouble. I hadn't even met her yet, and already she was ruining my life.