Shenanigans at Sugar Creek
Short post today because I have to work. These last few chapters are actually interesting, but they kind of drag out for too long.
The chapter opens with Bill telling us about all the fun the gang were having at Poetry’s house, even Dragonfly, who is allergic to pretty much everything, poor kid.
There’s a few paragraphs about another kid coming over and a ping pong game, which Bill loses. He goes to join his friend, Dragonfly, who is hanging his head out the window to get some fresh air, which helps with his allergies.
Mr. Black comes over and asks to take pictures of the boys doing various things. No you perverts, not those kinds of things. God.
Well, I can’t tell you all that happened for the next fifteen minutes, on account of I have to hurry with the rest of this story,
Then why didn’t you skip all that other inane stuff you told us about? I mean, here we at least could have had tension and character development. I’d rather read about how the boys interact with Mr. Black in their own home than pages and pages of blather about pigeons.
but Mr. Black was very kind to us boys. He came down into the basement, and took a flashlight picture of us with our pingpong balls and paddles and with Little Jim at the organ, and didn’t say a word about the snow man we knew he’d seen yesterday, or the book, or anything. He was very nice, and a little later when he rode away on his great big beautiful prancing saddle horse, I thought maybe he was going to be a good teacher after all.
Why? Because he took pictures of you and ping pong paddles?
The last thing he said to us just before he swung prancing Prince around and jogged up Poetry’s lane to the house, was, “Well, I’ll see you boys in the morning at school…. I’m going to ride over now and get the fire started. I let it go out over Saturday to save fuel…. But the weather report is for a cold wave tonight, so I think I’ll get the fire going good, and it’ll be cozy as a bug in a rug tomorrow morning when everybody comes.”
Do you tell everyone about this, Mr. Black? Because that would explain a few things.
Poetry grabs a pair of binoculars and the gang trots outside to play.
Little Jim grinned when he noticed there wasn’t any snow on the roof of the chicken house, and said, “That certainly was a good sermon this morning,” then he grunted and sat down astride the chicken house roof, right close to a little tin chimney out of which white smoke was coming, there being a kerosene heater inside the chicken house.
“It sure was,” Poetry said, with the binoculars focused in the direction Mr. Black had gone.
We get it, book. Bill wasn’t listening to the sermon, and it was a good one, whatever it was about. We do, unfortunately, get told what the sermon topic was, it just takes him for stinking ever to get around to it. The author is trying to create suspense, but I personally just think he is annoying the shit out of his readership.
“Here, Bill, look at him, will you…. He’s stopping at Circus’s house. Suppose maybe he’s going to take a picture of one of Circus’s sisters?”
Bill’s face turns red because he fancies one of Circus’s sisters, who is “a real honest to goodness girl who isn’t afraid of mice and spiders.”
Those other girls are just fake girls, I guess.
Because you’re only a “real honest to goodness girl” if you display stereotypically “masculine” traits such as “not being afraid of mice and spiders.”
A jiffy later I was looking at Mr. Black stopping his big horse at Circus’s house. Just that second, Dragonfly shoved his hands against my knees behind me, and both my knees buckled, and I swung around a little, and when I looked again toward Circus’s house, the binoculars were focused, not on his house, but on our red brick schoolhouse farther across the field, and all of a sudden I let out a gasp and a yell, and felt a queer feeling inside of me, for right there on the north side of the schoolhouse was a ladder leaning up against the eaves and—yes, I could see it as plain as day, there was something that looked like a flat board lying right across the top of the schoolhouse chimney….
So, they’re not just creepily spying on their neighbors. Cuz, uh, that was kinda weird.
It was even plainer than day what had happened, and that was that Shorty Long and Bob Till had been to our house and barn while we were in church and had stolen Snow-white and some other pigeons and then seeing how nice and light and easy to carry Pop’s new ladder was, and remembering the story of The Hoosier Schoolmaster, and both of the boys not liking the Sugar Creek Gang, and Shorty Long especially not liking me terribly much, they had borrowed the ladder and had used it to put the board on the chimney, so Mr. Black would be smoked out when he started the fire, and I, Bill Collins, and maybe all the Sugar Creek Gang, would get into even more trouble with Mr. Black, and—
There’s a few paragraphs telling us where Bill was standing, and the rest of the gang’s reaction after taking the binoculars and looking.
Bill decides they need to get to the schoolhouse right quick, before Mr. Black gets there and starts a fire in the stove. He’s worried about Mr. Black thinking it was him, but to his credit, he’s also worried about the school catching on fire, especially since they still have their school Christmas tree up. I don’t know what month it is or where we are in the timeline, but we are told that the pine needles are dead and will easily catch fire.
Poetry who was my best friend, almost, was as mad as I was, and he said, behind me between his short breath, “Those dirty bums! They’re the cause of all our trouble with our new teacher!”
And would you believe it? Little Jim heard him say that, yelled to us, and said, “Are you sure?” Imagine him not being sure.
Much as I hate to admit it, Little Jim’s got a point. There is reason to suspect Shorty Long and Bob Till, but, as the boys are being framed, you’d think they’d be willing to give Shorty and Bob the benefit of the doubt until it can be known for sure.
They get to the schoolhouse and use the binoculars to find out that Mr. Black is still at Circus’ house.
I saw him out in their back yard and a whole flock of girls was lined up against their woodshed and he was taking their picture. I didn’t see Circus there anywhere, and I wished he was with us, on account of he could run faster than any of us and also climb better.
Then, a few sentences later as the boys are running, we get this:
All of a sudden, Poetry stopped and said, “We’re crazy, Bill, we can’t make it. Look! There he goes now, right straight toward the schoolhouse. Quick! Drop down! “
He must’ve taken those pictures quickly, then.
There’s a whole paragraph telling us exactly how Mr. Black lights the fire in the stove, and it’s kind of interesting, because it’s historic. I get the feeling this is a book you should read more for the details of how life was lived than for plot and character.
I knew it would take Mr. Black only a little while to lay the fire, and in a few minutes the fire in the stove would be roaring away. But with the board on the chimney, the smoke couldn’t get out, and it’d have to come out of the stove somewhere, which it would, and the schoolhouse would be filled with smoke in a jiffy; also I remembered the Christmas tree which we’d left up since Christmas, wasn’t more than fifteen feet from the stove, and its needles were dry enough to burn….
Bill’s plan is to zip up and take off the board the minute Mr. Black gets inside the school, in the vain hope that he won’t notice all the noise he makes up there on the roof, or the noise he makes as he drags the ladder into the bushes and hides it till he can take it back home without anyone’s noticing.
There’s 3 whole paragraphs about Bill climbing the ladder, but once he reaches the top things go from bad to worse.
I took hold of the wide, flat board, I couldn’t any more get it off than anything. I gasped out-loud when I saw why I couldn’t get it off, and that was that there was a nail driven into each end of it, and a piece of stove pipe wire was wrapped around the head of each nail and then the wire was twisted around and around the brick chimney, down where it was smaller, and that crazy old board wouldn’t budge—an almost new board, rather, and as soon as I saw it, I knew it was the board out of the swing which we have in the walnut tree at our house…. Why, the dirty crooks! I thought. They wanted it to be sure to look like Bill Collins put it up here.
Which is why you’re standing on the roof of the schoolhouse holding the board in your hand. You know, it still wouldn’t be ideal, but a good idea at this point would be for one of those boys to go in and warn Mr. Black about what’s going on. They could tell them “hey we’ve been framed, and we’re worried it’s going to start a fire.” They might still get switched, but at least they’d avoid any real damage occurring. Nope. That doesn’t happen. Instead, they go ahead and let Mr. Black start the fire. The smoke rises, but has nowhere to go.
What on earth to do, was screaming at me in my mind…. Then Poetry had an idea and it was, “Come on down quick, and let’s run. Let’s leave the ladder and everything!”
Ummm terrible idea.
knowing I couldn’t get the board off the chimney, and guessing what might happen if I got caught, it seemed like Poetry’s idea was as good as any
Go in there and tell Mr. Black. Though if it is truly too late to start a fire, running for your lives might actually be your best option. Go to your pop, tell him what’s happened. He trusts you so much, he’ll believe you. This has already been established.
Bill’s foot slips on the ladder. He scrabbles to hold onto the roof, but he falls off. As he does so, a nail tears a hole in his trousers and cuts him. The chapter ends with Bill sliding off the roof and landing in a snowbank.
A better place to end this chapter would be Bill sliding off the roof. That would be a much better cliffhanger than, “Bill landed safely in a snowbank, with a scratch on his leg and a sprained dignity.” That last sentence would’ve been a good place to begin chapter 10.