Authors: Richard Peck
Lightning split the air, traveling down the rods on the roof. It clamped my hand to the doorknob. I couldn’t turn loose or turn back now. My skin sizzled, and the door blew in, jerking me half out of my boots.
Inside, the light like a white fog peeled my eyeballs and took me prisoner. The sounds I’d heard in the distance were clearer and nearer: the
alike. They were no noise of nature or the human voice
. . . .
“Comedy is a strong point. . . . Scenes will have readers laughing out loud.”
BOOKS BY RICHARD PECK
Are You in the House Alone?
The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp
The Great Interactive Dream Machine
The Ghost Belonged to Me
Ghosts I Have Been
A Long Way from Chicago
Lost in Cyberspace
Strays Like Us
A Year Down Yonder
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers,
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ, England
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia
Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England
First published in the United States of America by Delacorte Press,
Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1983
Published by Puffin Books,
a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2001
Copyright © Richard Peck, 1983
All rights reserved
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Peck, Richard, date
The dreadful future of Blossom Culp / Richard Peck
Summary: Blossom, not the most popular member of her freshman class in 1914, travels ahead seventy years, and returns in time to make Halloween a memorable night for her classmates and teachers.
[1. Time travel—Fiction. 2. Schools—Fiction. 3. Psychic ability—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.P338 Dq 2001 [Fic]—dc21 00-062668
Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
For Patsy and Ron Perritt, in friendship
NLESS YOU NEVER GOT OUT OF GRADE SCHOOL
, you’ll have noticed how life keeps making you start over.
In the year of 1914 my class went from being eighth graders at Horace Mann School to being freshmen at Bluff City High School, which is just across the road. Being the youngest and newcomers over there, we were all regarded as lower than a snake’s belly. I don’t know who sets such rules. My name is Blossom Culp, and I live by rules of my own.
I’ve been looked down on before, plenty, so turning into a freshman didn’t hit me as hard as some I could mention. Letty Shambaugh liked to die of shame. She’s lived all her fourteen-plus years with her nose in the air, her paw being the owner of the Select Dry Goods Company.
On the other hand, the last time my paw showed his face in Bluff City, my mama run him out of town. Above her head Mama waved an empty blended whiskey bottle, the blended whiskey itself being in Paw. Though she could outrun him sober, she kept just at his heels to the city limits.
I only mention this to show the difference between me and Letty Shambaugh. Her mama can keep her paw in line with one hand while running the Daughters of the American Revolution with the other.
Letty lives in the lap of luxury in a large all-brick house on Fairview Avenue, famous far and wide for its good taste. My mama and me occupy a two-room dwelling by the streetcar tracks just behind the Armsworths’ barn. Though Mama and me have made improvements on it, every election year some candidate or other promises the voters he’ll have our place demolished in the interest of progress.
Never mind. The world is full of Letty Shambaughs, and this includes the high school. But there is only one Blossom Culp, and I am her.
That’s more or less what Miss Mae Spaulding said to me on the last day of school. Miss Spaulding is both eighth-grade teacher and principal of Horace Mann, being not only a very learned woman but well organized.
When Miss Spaulding called me into her office, Letty Shambaugh and all her little club of girls pointed their fingers at me and hooted.
Letty, looking shapeless in her shell-pink graduation dress with a big corsage stuck to her shoulder, twitched her elbows and said, “I expect Miss Spaulding has bad news for Blossom. I have an idea Blossom is to be held back.”
All the girls in her club, which is called the Sunny
Thoughts and Busy Fingers Sisterhood, agreed with her, like they’re supposed to.
I didn’t dignify this charge with a reply. There was no earthly reason I’d be held back to repeat eighth grade. Nobody would. It was clear that Miss Spaulding had had enough of all of us, which is more or less what she said to me.
If you’ve ever been summoned to a principal’s office, you know the feeling. Decorating Miss Spaulding’s wall are a bust of the poet Longfellow, a portrait of President Woodrow Wilson, and a well-worn paddle. I’d been in there before, and there’s nothing homelike about it.
Though Miss Spaulding has no more figure than a runner bean, she makes up for it with posture. But on that day she was somewhat bent, as teachers get toward the end of a school year.
It had been a busy afternoon. We’d had the handing out of diplomas, several speeches, and the traditional maypole dance. Then we said the Pledge of Allegiance one last time and called it a day.
It had all tired Miss Spaulding worse than regular routine, and I hadn’t seen much point to it myself. She settled into her desk chair and seemed to wilt.
“Well, Blossom, we have lived to see this graduation day.”
“You and I have had our little differences over the years, have we not?”
I nodded, recalling several.
“Without checking the records,” she said, “I believe I saw you first in this office in fourth grade.”
“Yes, ma’am. That was the year me and my mama moved up here from Sikeston. And naming no names, a bunch of girls dragged me into the rest room and pretty nearly took me apart.”
Miss Spaulding sighed. “I am afraid, Blossom, it was something you must have said that . . . excited their curiosity.”
“Oh, well, shoot,” I said. “Any little thing will set them off.”
“Then along about sixth grade,” she continued, “there was that blue racer snake that Maisie Markham found in her lunch bucket. The poor child actually put her hand on that thing, thinking it was liverwurst sausage. You will recall how the experience affected her digestion.”
I remembered clearly. Anybody would. “She’s gained all that weight back since and then some.”
“The culprit, however, has never been brought to justice.”
“It wasn’t me,” I said.
Miss Spaulding said.
“I never thought it was.”
She sighed deeper. “What is past is past, I suppose. But I wonder if much progress has been made. I refer to the maypole dance today.”
She was closing in on me fast. But this is America, so I hoped to have a chance to defend myself.
“I am not referring to your dress, Blossom. Never think it.”
Letty Shambaugh had decreed that all the girls should wear shell-pink, made up of yardage purchased at her paw’s Select Dry Goods store. I was hanged if I’d go along with that. I wore my gray princess dress, which there is still some wear in. On my chest I planted my spelling medal. I’m a champion speller, which comes in handy in die writing of this true account.
I even perked up my outfit with a new purple sash, which was as far as I’d go. There was nothing to be done about my hair, which kinks in this weather.
“I am referring to the maypole dance itself,” Miss Spaulding said, “after all those rehearsals that went so well. How long did we rehearse our dance, Blossom?”
“Every dadburned night for a week,” says I, “weaving them ribbons around that pole, with Letty Shambaugh bossing us all like she was—”
“It would have been a lovely spectacle,” Miss Spaulding said, “so graceful with all the ribbons making pretty patterns. But it was not to be, was it?”
“Fate moves in mysterious ways,” I said.
“Who, Blossom, do you suppose went to all the work of digging around the maypole in the dead of last night and undermined its foundations? Who so unbalanced the pole that one sharp tug on a ribbon would bring the whole pole crashing down, barely missing Ione Williams’s head and grazing Letty’s corsage? Who, for that matter, gave a ribbon the
sharp tug? I grant you, it made all the boys laugh, if that was the intention.”
“Anything will make a boy laugh,” I said. It was a regular scandal how the finger of blame always pointed my way when any little thing went wrong.
“But we must let bygones be bygones.” Miss Spaulding sighed. She’d waved me into a chair, and there I sat, swinging my legs, waiting for her to come to her main point, which she always does.
“Next September, Blossom, you will be across the road at the high school. This is a first-rate opportunity, if you will but take it, to make a fresh start with a clean slate. You will find high school very different. It would be fortunate if high school did not find you so . . . different. Do you follow me?”