Chapter 17

Fay dodged behind the kindergarten shuttlebus and pulled Barnaby after her.

“That is not Mr. Clobbins, the PE teacher,” said Barnaby, with a snort.

“And those kids are not playing kickball,” said Fay.

They crouched behind the front wheel, peering over the nose of the bus.
Fifteen first-graders, who were normally taught very good manners by their teacher, Mrs. Gulbert, were now being taught very bad manners by a fat bald pirate.

“TAKE THAT YA’ SLITHERING SLIME-EATER!” yelled fifteen first-graders in unison.

“Good!” yelled the fat pirate. “GOOD! Now swing your cutlass, like this!”

Fifteen first-graders gave the daisies they were clutching a mighty swing and petals flew everywhere.

“That’s al’right,” said the fat bald pirate encouragingly, “but it’ll look better when we fix you up wif’ real blades.”

This is not good, thought Fay. Not good at all. Sure, Mr. Clobbins’ fitness drills were deadly boring, but first graders with swords were likely to chop their babysitters’ feet off.

“I’m going to try to get inside,” whispered Fay, edging toward the front of the bus.

“Do you have a screw loose?” squeaked Barnaby. “They’ve probably barbecued everyone else by now! You’ll never come out alive!”

“Still,” said Fay. “What if I can do something? You can go get the cops or come in. Your choice, I don’t care.”

Fay looked back at the bald pirate with the first-graders. They were standing in a circle holding what was left of their daisies in the air and making ferocious faces at each other. She hoped their growling was loud enough to drown out her footsteps as she made a dash for the cafeteria workers’ door.

Squeezing through the door, careful not to squeak…she was inside! Then she froze. There were at least three pirates right here in the kitchen. She flattened herself against the giant steel refrigerator where the lunch ladies kept ice cream.

A gangly pirate with a curly red ponytail was looking out the window with a Jolly Rogers cereal box plastic spyglass. “Cain’t see no-one,” he said. “Must’ve been Jimbo out thar’ with the wee ones.”

“Well then he oughter’ shut up a little,” growled an old pirate with bad teeth, who was squinting as he tried to squidge a little plastic coin into his flippin’ eights cup with a big plastic coin.

“What…you wanna’ give me them flippin’ eights and you go teach them babies Hanky?” chuckled a bearded, brown-skinned pirate.

Hanky snarled and headed for the refrigerator. Fay slid for the dishwashing sink and ducked under it.

“I’m gonna eat them babies, if’n I can’t find anything better ‘round here,” replied Hanky, giving the refrigerator door an aggressive yank.
He gave a disgusted grunt. “Still nothin’ in this, whatchacallit, Friggy-dairy but that slimy cold stuff that makes me teeth ache,” he grumbled. “We gots to find us some more Jolly Rogers.”

Hanky slammed the refrigerator door and trudged over to the window. Fay scrambled on all fours from the sink to behind a stack of lunch trays. Then from the lunch trays to underneath a table. From a table to another table. From the table to the hallway.

A short, bony pirate with a Jolly Rogers spyglass was keeping guard at the school entrance across from the cafeteria. Every so often he took some practice swings at the cardboard policeman who always stood just inside the main door. Feeling confidant about her sneaking skills, Fay slid quietly along with her back to the lockers until she was surprised by an open locker door which slammed with a bang. For a moment she froze, alarmed that she’d be spotted. But it was not pirates who began to clammer and yell. It was the teachers, all of them, and the school principal, Mr. Squibbly, who were locked in the supply closet and wanted out now.

She peeked through the small window in the door and shrugged at them. I can’t let you out yet, she told them by mental telepathy, even though she was quite certain they didn’t understand. You’d end up skewered.

Teachers in a closet is not such a bad thing, Fay assured herself. But keeping kids at school unnecessarily late is completely unacceptable.
Fay could think of only one thing to do. But she’d have to get into the school office without being seen by the bony pirate. There had to be a way to distract him. Very quietly she opened the locker door behind her and felt around. Perfect. An orange. A nice squishy moldy orange.

Fay got a good softball grip on the orange and rolled a speedy grounder at the cardboard policeman. As Mr. Officer fell flat on his face, and the skinny pirate gaped at him in surprise, Fay made a silent sprint for the school office and ducked behind Mr. Squibbly’s desk.

Reaching up, she felt for the loudspeaker microphone from the desktop, pulled it down and made herself comfortable on the floor.
“Get ready to have your timbers totally shivered, you boneheads,” whispered Fay.

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