Class is not dismissed, p.1
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       Class Is Not Dismissed!, p.1

           Gitty Daneshvari
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Class Is Not Dismissed!


  Text copyright © 2010 by Cat on a Leash, Inc.

  Illustrations copyright © 2010 by Carrie Gifford

  All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

  Little, Brown and Company

  Hachette Book Group

  237 Park Avenue

  New York, NY 10017

  Visit our website at

  Little, Brown and Company is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

  The Little, Brown name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

  First eBook Edition: September 2010

  The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

  ISBN: 978-0-316-12288-7

  For Sophia Coco






























  The wilderness outside Farmington, Massachusetts

  (Exact location withheld for security purposes)

  Direct all correspondence to: PO Box 333, Farmington, MA 01201

  Dear Contestants,

  Much like homework, pimples, and puberty, your second summer at School of Fear is not optional. Any acts of insubordination such as claiming death of a beloved pet, amnesia, or enrollment in sleepaway camp will be met by my lawyer Munchauser—quite literally. The man with the dirtiest fingernails in all of America shall arrive at your home with dental floss in hand. Munchauser, who has only thrice been to a dentist, shall then proceed to floss his small yellow teeth mere inches from your face. This is an act from which you will not recover.

  The summer course shall begin promptly at 9:00 AM on Saturday May 29th at the base of Summerstone. And do remember to guard School of Fear’s anonymity by running the bath, blaring the television, and playing the harmonica whenever discussing our institution. On behalf of myself, my comb-over-clad assistant Schmidty, Macaroni the bulldog, and my highly trained cats, we look forward to seeing all of your Vaseline-coated smiles terribly soon.

  Fondest regards,


  Headmistress, School of Fear

  49-Time Pageant Winner

  P.S. Munchauser is not the slightest bit interested in seeing any of you again, and requested that I tell you all as much.



  Heliophobia is the fear of the sun.

  The sun is not the sun. And that isn’t to say that the sun is the moon, for that is most definitely not the case. The sun is simply far more than the center of the solar system or a bright shiny thing in the sky. Day after day the sun wrestles us from darkness, bringing with it the many secrets we hide from others and occasionally even ourselves. Oh yes, the sun is the guardian of truth, whether we like it or not.

  Thirteen-year-old Madeleine Masterson breezed into Boston, utterly delighted to have escaped the dreary skies of London. With a beaming smile the fair-skinned, blue-eyed girl with raven locks just shy of her shoulders led her parents into the blazing heat and humidity. The entire Masterson family stood outside warming their chilly British bones in the extraordinary sunshine. For the English, the sun is a bit like the Queen; they know she exists but they simply don’t see her that often.

  Only a year earlier, Madeleine had been a shell of her current self, walking through life in abject terror, certain that enemies lurked around every corner, or rather in every corner. Mr. and Mrs. Masterson’s only child had long suffered from a dreadful phobia of spiders and other insects. In addition to wearing a netted veil and a belt of repellents at all times, Madeleine had refused to enter any building that had not been fumigated recently by an exterminator. As one might imagine, most of her classmates’ parents refused to meet the extensive and expensive guidelines necessary before Madeleine could enter their residences. Thus Madeleine missed out on slumber parties, birthdays, and all outdoor activities.

  Most fortunately for all involved, Madeleine had spent the previous summer at the highly clandestine, word-of-mouth institution known as School of Fear. Much to her parents’ delight, Madeleine had returned veil- and repellent-free, an absolutely changed child. Well, not entirely changed; the young girl remained fascinated by world leaders, often listing United Nations delegates in alphabetical order for entertainment. But long gone was her crippling arachnophobia.

  “Mummy and Daddy, not to be impertinent, but why are you sending me back for another summer? I’m cured, fixed, or however you care to put it. Might I remind you that I am now a member of the Spider Appreciation Club as well as Eight-Legged Creatures for Social Change?”

  “Yes, we know, dear. Your father and I are both terribly impressed with your progress,” Mrs. Masterson said with a smile.

  “Aren’t you the only member of those clubs?” Mr. Masterson inquired.

  “That is hardly the point, Daddy,” Madeleine replied huffily.

  “Unfortunately, as we’ve explained, it’s a contractual issue. Mrs. Wellington’s attorney, that ghastly man Munchauser, had us sign a two-summer agreement. He claims the second session is necessary to reinforce the progress you made last summer. But not to worry, dear. Next summer you will be free to do anything you like.”

  “Well, I suppose another summer won’t hurt me too badly. Plus I am terribly keen to see the others again and have a proper catch-up,” Madeleine acquiesced as the town car turned onto a narrow cobblestone road. Within seconds the car was shrouded in darkness cast by the trees and sticky vines that grew from one side of the road to the other, creating a tunnel. Although hard to decipher in the faint light, a multitude of homemade signs warned against entering the Lost Forest. The densely wooded area had quite the reputation for chewing people up and not spitting them out.

  The car slowed as the foliage tunnel opened at the base of a large granite mountain. Mr. and Mrs. Masterson had planned to exit the vehicle and meet this Schmidty character they had heard so much about. However, the soaring temperatures quickly dissuaded the London natives from leaving the air-conditioned confines of their car. Sporting an orange tartan dress with a matching headband and a massive grin, Madeleine bounded out of the sedan. Technically speaking, it was more of a saunter than a bound, due to the blistering weather. Madeleine was beginning to understand what people meant by too much of a good thing.

  Seated on lawn chairs under a large umbrella were Schmidty, School of Fear’s trusty cook/groundskeeper/wig groomer, and Macaroni, the English bulldog.

  “Schmidty!” Madeleine yelped joyfully, before stopping. The young girl was utterly gobsmacked and unable to speak. The plump old man was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, polyester black shorts, and open-toed sandals that showcased his furry feet and jagged brown toenails. But most offensive was the sight
of his fallen comb-over; a mess of gray ringlets was all that remained. Madeleine stared for a few seconds before regaining her composure and assessing how best to handle the delicate situation.

  “Schmidty, I’m awfully sorry to inform you, but your hair—”

  “Please, Miss Madeleine,” Schmidty interrupted, “it’s too painful to hear confirmation. I’m attempting a state of denial, but you know it’s much harder than Mrs. Wellington makes it look.”

  Madeleine nodded in agreement before patting Schmidty on the shoulder. In light of the heat and the fallen comb-over, Madeleine thought it best to avoid a hug.



  Syngenesophobia is the fear of relatives.

  As Madeleine fanned both herself and Macaroni with a magazine, a bumper-sticker-covered VW bus screeched around the corner, smoke literally rising off the cobblestones. Through the condensation and bug-covered windshield Madeleine was able to make out a teenager behind the wheel. No more than nineteen, the young man was wearing a baseball cap and large sunglasses.

  Seconds later the VW bus jerked to a standstill and the back door swung open, releasing a wobbly Theodore Bartholomew. The chubby brown-haired boy with glasses was dressed in salmon golf shorts, a turquoise polo shirt, Top-Sider sailing shoes, and a plaid fanny pack. All in all, there was very little that was redeeming about his outfit.

  “I’m telling Mom and Dad, Joaquin! Do you hear me? You promised them you wouldn’t drive over forty miles an hour. And even with my life flashing before my eyes, I could see that the speedometer was at fifty,” thirteen-year-old Theo shrieked at his older brother as he unloaded two bags.

  Theo was a nervous New Yorker, a child who had grown up worrying that danger or even death was waiting for him and his family around every bend. The youngest of seven children, Theo had exhausted his family with his theatrical displays of concern, most notably his Dead or Alive tracking system. Prior to attending School of Fear, Theo had tracked his family relentlessly, logging their status dead or alive, in his trusty notebook. He had also spent vast quantities of time writing letters to the mayor of New York on ways to make the city safer. Much to Theo’s annoyance, the mayor never responded—not even to his proposal for a citywide law requiring all residents to use antibacterial hand sanitizer on an hourly basis. Theo had seen the slogan as something catchy yet firm: “The mayor says use Purell or we’ll lock you in a cell.”

  Under the blazing summer sun, Joaquin stared at his high-strung younger brother and sighed.

  “Listen, grandpa,” Joaquin mumbled in response to Theo’s speeding accusation.

  “Do not take our grandfather’s name in vain. And for the last time, this is sportswear casual, not retirement chic. And I will have you know, it’s very in this summer.”

  “Can’t you ever just chill?” Joaquin remarked with obvious annoyance.

  “Seriously, Theo, chill,” Lulu Punchalower seconded as she exited the front seat of the van dressed in an old tee shirt, denim shorts, and a pair of black Converse sneakers. Thirteen-year-old Lulu’s strawberry blond hair had grown longer and wavier in the year since she’d left School of Fear. However, the green eyes Lulu so often rolled back in her head still shone as bright as ever among her sea of freckles.

  On the surface the Providence, Rhode Island, native had changed very little since coming to School of Fear. Lulu remained hardheaded, sarcastic, with more than a penchant for speaking her mind. However, if one looked closer, there were multiple small yet important shifts. Lulu was now able to enjoy water and other beverages throughout the day, forgoing her ban on liquids to avoid using restrooms without windows. Before School of Fear, Lulu had been a claustrophobic who would have done almost anything to avoid confined spaces, including handcuffing herself to cars, toilets, and even the odd stranger. Thankfully Lulu now left the job of carrying handcuffs to law-enforcement officers and a few overzealous mall cops.

  “Chill,” Theo repeated back to Lulu. “Don’t imitate Joaquin’s speech. He is a derelict. A true degenerate. Did you know that he is currently in the process of repeating the twelfth grade? And they won’t even let the juvenile delinquents hang out with him because they think he’s a bad influence on them. He was voted most likely to shoplift from Rite Aid. That is not a good thing!” Theo bellowed as his glasses steamed over from the intense humidity.

  “Theo, don’t be jealous. Your brother’s just naturally cooler than you are.”

  “See ya, Lu,” Joaquin said before offering Lulu a fist bump and heading back to the car.

  “Lu? You gave her a nickname? What about me? I am your own flesh and blood, and I have been asking for a nickname for years!”

  “Later, Theo,” Joaquin mumbled as he slammed the van door and started the engine.

  “Don’t embarrass our DNA; give me a hug goodbye,” Theo shrieked as the van pulled away. “I should have been Italian; they appreciate family… and pasta.”

  “Lulu! Theo!” Madeleine exclaimed cheerfully as she ambled out from under the umbrella toward her friends.

  “Now this is a proper reaction to seeing a friend,” Theo said judgmentally to Lulu before embracing Madeleine.

  “Will you relax? I’m not much of a hugger. Big deal,” Lulu snapped back while offering her fist to Madeleine.

  “I’m terribly sorry, Lulu, but what exactly do you expect me to do with that? Is it like rock, paper, scissors?”

  “Guys, this is how cool people say hello. They bump fists. Joaq taught it to me; apparently everyone does it, even Obama.”

  “All right,” Madeleine said cheerfully before bumping fists with Lulu. “I do enjoy learning how dignitaries greet people.”

  Theo cleared his throat loudly while shooting daggers at Lulu.

  “What?” Lulu asked with a shrug of the shoulders.

  “Not only did you not hug me…”

  “I bumped fists with you. Same thing, Theo. Even Maddie knows that, and she’s from England.”

  “There are a multitude of manners to greet someone, Theo. We shouldn’t be critical of which one Lulu prefers,” Madeleine said calmly. “In Japan people bow, and in France they kiss each other on the cheeks.”

  “She punched me!” Theo yelled with sweat dribbling off his eyebrows, down his glasses, and onto his red chipmunkesque cheeks.

  “No! You fell on my fist, which makes it totally your fault,” Lulu passionately explained.

  “Fell on your fist? If this were a court of law, the judge would laugh in your face. Perhaps even spit in your eye,” Theo said as he attempted to wipe his forehead on his sleeve. “Does anyone have a handkerchief? I’m drowning here.”

  “Miss Lulu, Mister Theo, I’m terribly sorry to interrupt, but—”

  “Oh, Schmidty,” Theo whimpered sweetly as he waddled with open arms toward the old man. “I’ve missed you so. There were even days when I almost missed the Casu Frazigu, and please note I said almost, so don’t put any of it in my food.”

  “Dear Mister Theo, I don’t know what to say. I’m terribly touched that you’ve thought of me, and Madame’s fondness for maggot cheese, at all.”

  “Schm, you and I are like family, only we’re not related,” Theo said dramatically. “If there weren’t a variety of serious health risks, I’d prick my finger and make you my blood brother.”

  “Did you just call him Schm?” Lulu asked harshly.

  “Oh, I’m sorry, do you and Joaq have a monopoly on nicknames?” Theo hit back.

  “How I’ve missed the endless and pointless arguments of Miss Lulu and Mister Theo,” Schmidty muttered to himself.

  “Hey, Schmidty,” Lulu said warmly while putting out her fist, which Schmidty willingly bumped.

  To reinforce the fact that even Schmidty knew how to fist-bump, Lulu shot Theo an unmistakably victorious glare, which he pretended not to see. And when Theo purported not to see something, he shot his eyes dramatically from right to left, then from sky to ground. He had never been very adept a
t subtlety.

  “Macaroni. Oh, Macaroni,” Theo uttered joyfully as he dropped next to the panting dog. “You really are man’s best friend—not that anyone would have ever mistaken Lulu for that.”

  Lulu looked at Schmidty and Madeleine with an exasperated expression. “I’ve been stuck with him for almost five hours,” she said, “which is four hours and fifty-five minutes over my limit.”

  “Miss Lulu, I must inquire how and why the two of you wound up in the same car.”

  “That was Theo’s idea. Plus my parents didn’t really want to make the drive again. They said they’d rather play golf.”

  “That’s the thanks I get for saving the planet,” Theo said before taking a long pause. “Carpooling is not a crime; it’s an environmentally good time.”

  “He wrote that himself,” Lulu deadpanned.

  “I did,” Theo said proudly. “I see big things for that slogan, B-I-G.”

  “Why do you feel the need to spell big? We all know how to spell big, Theo,” Lulu said with cresting annoyance.

  “The important thing is that you’re both here. I’ve been so keen to see you and hear about your terms,” Madeleine interjected in a rather obvious attempt to break the tension.

  “I totally forgot how you use weird English words like keen.” Lulu smirked. “It’s not a bad thing, I had just totally forgotten until now.”

  “Ah, the underhanded Lulu insult. Bet you’ve missed that,” Theo said loudly to Madeleine.

  Unsure how to defuse the situation, Madeleine decided it was best to smile. As the young girl grinned, a light creepy-crawly sensation tickled her left arm. Without thinking, Madeleine jumped while simultaneously slapping herself.

  “Oh, sorry, I thought I felt something on my arm. Not a spider, of course. Not that it would have bothered me, because I’m rather fond of spiders now. I was only concerned that it was an aggressive hummingbird, but it turns out it was just a strand of hair; it’s rather easy to confuse the two.”

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