You’re In Trouble!


The static from the speaker directly above Old Mrs. Crabtree’s desk instantly put an end to the ear-numbing racket of her third-grade classroom, plunging it into silence — and for good reason.

Once the static dissipated, we anticipated the announcement to come. For one of us kids, our day was about to go from carefree to really, really bad. Somebody was going to the office. I just knew it wasn’t me. Or at least I didn’t think so.

We all held our breaths.

“Mrs. Crabtree, please send __ to the office.” 

I heard the name of who had just been summoned, the unfortunate kid whose day was just about to be thrown into the dumpster, but I didn’t believe it. It must’ve been a mistake. It was me!

Not that I hadn’t done anything worthy of a trip to the office and a meeting with Principal Baker. After all, we’d been in school for over seven months, and I done a bunch of stuff I shouldn’t have. But I was sure nobody had found out about it. Or so I thought.

What came next was predictable. The entire class in one voice sang, “You’re in troooouble.” 

Old Mrs. Crabtree banged on her desk sternly saying, “Class!” The class was silent, then she looked directly at me and added, “Don’t forget your books and coat.”

The class erupted again. “Wow, he’s going home.” “What did you do?” “Is he getting suspended? “Maybe expelled?”

After gathering my books and coat, Mrs. Crabtree walked me to the classroom door — then my day went from bad to worse. She handed me an envelope. Her instructions hit like a gut punch making me want to throw up. “Give this to your parents.” 

“He must be getting expelled!”

“Class! Enough!” Mrs. Crabtree’s stern look and warning were met with instant silence and then hushed murmurs. I couldn’t blame them. It’s not everyday that a kid gets told to gather their things, handed a note, and then instructed to go straight to the principal’s office. In fact, in all of the three years I’d been going to school at Mt. Olive, it had never happened. 

That is, until today.

Stuffing the envelope in my pocket, I started the lonely walk down the hallway, knowing my final destination was Principal Baker’s office. Thinking about all the stuff I’d gotten away with during the school year, I decided my best plan for minimizing any punishment was to come up a believable excuse for each of them.

Just before Thanksgiving break, why did I stuff ten water balloons in Down the Street Bully Brad’s locker? He smelled really bad that day. I was just trying to help him get a bath. At least that was going to be my excuse. Hopefully Principal Baker would believe me and so would my mom and dad.

Yes, it was me who had Jim, a fifth grader, push open the door to Old Mrs. Crabtree’s room and switch off the lights at 1:00 last Thursday afternoon. But there was a good reason for both actions. Jim needed lunch money for Friday, and I was just trying to help by paying for him to cut off the lights. And after working really hard all morning in her class, I felt we all needed an afternoon nap. Even Old Mrs. Crabtree said it had been a tiring day. So, you see, instead of doing something bad, I was actually doing something good. I’m sure Principal Baker would understand.

Pausing for a moment before entering the office, the dodge ball incident from last month came to mind. What happened would be hard even for me to make believable. I decided to rehearse my answer before walking through the office door.

The ball had just ricocheted off Down the Street Bully Brad only to bounce down the steep hill next to the playground. He ran over to retrieve the ball just to be helpful, but I knew better. He was gonna get the ball and throw it at the head of the person who just got him out. That person was me and that head was mine. 

Bully Brad paused at the top edge, looking for the best way down to retrieve the ball now resting in front of thick briars that covered the bottom half of the steep decline. Coming up behind, I gave him a little push in the right direction — just trying to help him retrieve the ball so we all could finish our game. How was I to know he’d roll down the hill ending up in the middle of that briar patch? 

There were a few more things I’d done, but these were the big ones. Walking into the main office, I was satisfied my explanations were all believable. Emboldened with confidence, immediately I turned to the left starting to walk back to Principal Baker’s office. This day isn’t so bad after all, I thought. The next voice I heard shattered any confidence I had of escaping punishment.

“Where are you going?” My mom had been sitting to the right of the office door, and I didn’t even notice. We walked out to the car without even going to Principal Baker’s office. She was asking me questions about my day, but I really wasn’t listening. Only one thought was in my head.

I am getting kicked out of school! 

When we got into the car, Mom told me the real reason I’d been pulled out of class in the middle of the day. And it wasn’t for any of the things I had done and gotten away with.

It’s been said only about ten percent of things you worry about are important, the rest aren’t. Then there’s the things you don’t even know about until it’s too late. Like getting pulled out of class by your mom so you can make it to your dentist appointment on time.

And what about that envelope from Old Mrs. Crabtree? It too was something I needn’t have worried about — a thank you note for the birthday gift she had gotten from my parents.

Only ten percent of things that happen in my life are worth worrying about. I just wonder which ten percent. Now that’s something to worry about.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]