I didn’t know anyone at school, so I stood with my face crammed against the classroom window and looked out at all the rain as I waited for class to start.
“Look at the new kid,” someone shouted. “School hasn’t even started and he’s homesick.” The kid, whoever he was, snorted.
I ignored him.
He started to say something else, but my new teacher, Mr. Green, entered the classroom. Mr. Green was tall and balding and his eyes were way, way too small for his glasses. They looked like dull brown marbles beneath a magnifying glass.
I went back to my desk while he put his wet coat and umbrella in the corner.
“Wow,” he said. “It sure is raining cats and dogs out there.” He set his briefcase on his desk and grabbed a clipboard. “Now, for attendance.” He began calling our names and checking us off his list one at a time. When he got to my name, he did a very uncool thing. “Class,” he said, smiling at me. “I’d like to introduce you to our new student, Billy. Let’s give him one of our special Hello, Michigan welcomes.”
Oh, no, OH NO!!! If I heard another hello, my head was going to explode!
And then it did. My head. Exploded.
Okay, it didn’t really explode this time either, but everyone did say “Hello”, which was super annoying. Someone even decided to make the hello more special by adding in a loud farting noise.
All the students (but me!) laughed.
“Hmm, that sound tells me Donald is here today,” Mr. Green said, checking off another name.
“You bet your bottom I’m here,” the Donald kid said from the back of class.
I recognized his voice. He was the one who made fun of me earlier. I rolled my eyes. Bullies are everywhere. I hoped he’d be a tiny shrimp, but he was the opposite. He had a buzzed haircut and a head shaped like a sandbag. He looked like a sixth grader who time-traveled back to the fourth grade and still didn’t know the quiz answers.
Mr. Green said, “Congratulations, you’re here now, and you’ll also be here after school.” Donald seemed confused, so Mr. Green added, “Because you have detention.”
“Now,” Mr. Green said, turning his attention back to the class, “for our Word-of-the-Day. Who knows what this word means?” He grabbed a piece of chalk and wrote — IDIOM — on the board.
There were a lot of “Ums,” and “Uhs” and “Hmms,” before Donald said, “It means not smart. Like, the new kid is an idio—”
“Incorrect,” Mr. Green interrupted, putting his hands on his hips. “And uncalled for. So congratulations again, you now have detention tomorrow, too.”
I looked at Donald and he glared back at me. If making friends was going to be as easy as making enemies, I was going to be one popular guy. I didn’t even realize kids our age could get detention. This new school was full of surprises.
“Come on, class,” Mr. Green said. He took a brown book out of his briefcase and held it up for us all to see. “I found this buried in my backyard over the weekend.”
Backyard? It looked ancient, like something you’d dig up in a mummy’s tomb!
He stretched the book out further. “You won’t understand what this is unless you learn what the word idiom means.”
“I already know what that is,” Donald grumbled. “It’s a book, duh.”
Mr. Green ignored him. “Who else wants to take a guess? Come on, what does the word idiom mean?”
I definitely did not raise my hand. In fact, out of the entire class, only some kid in a blue hoody and a girl in a flowery dress raised their hand. The kid in the blue hoody was just yawning and stretching, so Mr. Green pointed at the smarty-pants girl.
“Ah, Hannah,” he said. “What is an idiom?”
Hannah had blonde hair and looked like she’d smell like a cupcake, but like she’d get mad if someone actually took a bite out of her. (Note to self: Don’t bite Hannah!)
She said, “An idiom is a silly saying that doesn’t make much sense because it isn’t meant to be taken seriously.”
“Yup, you’re right,” Mr. Green said, and Hannah smiled, proud of herself until he added, “But you’re also wrong.” Suddenly her frown turned upside down and all her teeth fell out…
Okay, her teeth didn’t really fall out, but that would have been funny!
Mr. Green said, “What you should have said is an idiom can’t be taken ‘literally’. For example, when I said ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’, I didn’t mean it’s raining real life cats and dogs. That would be silly. I only meant it’s raining an awful lot. You see? An idiom is just a creative saying.” He giggled like a little kid excited on Christmas morning. “I’ve liked idioms since before I could even read and this book is full of idiom stories and spells.”
“Spells?” I said, perking up.
“Yup. When I was a kid, my father would tell me stories from it.” He opened to the front page of the book and showed us an odd, dark symbol that clearly meant STAY AWAY in some ancient language. “But,” he said, tapping the sumbol, “this is a handwritten message warning people not to read the spells out loud. My father was a curious man, but he was far from reckless. He’d never actually read the stories to me, he’d just sum them up.”
“Can you tell us one?” Hannah asked.
Mr. Green looked at the clock on the wall. “Absolutely, but all in due time.” He shut the book. “Maybe tomorrow, we have Math to learn today. But, do you all at least understand what an idiom is now?”
Hannah nodded excitedly, but none of the rest of us did. Well, the kid in the blue hoody nodded, too, but I think he was just nodding off back to sleep. Maybe Donald was right. Maybe we were all idioms.
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