VARIOUS TEXTS: LOCKER 160 by Lee Busselmann

It was my idea, I guess, in the first place. "Let's put a hate note in someone's locker*," I said to Julie, half as a joke. We were waiting for biology class to begin. She smiled and raised her eyebrows. "Another one of your great ideas, Karen ? Whose locker do you suggest we put it in?"

I glanced around the room. "Oh – Miriam.“ It wasn't that we really - I mean really - hated Miriam. That is, we both said "Good morning" to her and "See you tomorrow." But she was just - well, different. In spite of the fact that she was pretty, with long, black hair and a graceful figure, she wasn't popular. Miriam always kept to herself. Besides that, she wrote poetry - that weird*, free verse kind that nobody can understand.

That was how it began.

The next morning, Julie and I arrived at school early. We planned to write a note and put it in Miriam's locker, number 160. "What should we say?" I asked. I held my pencil over a piece of notebook paper.

"Something simple. How about 'You stink' I printed the message in large, untidy letters. "There," I said, handing the paper to Julie.

"I don't want it. You take it." She pushed the note back. "I'm scared."

I didn't want to, but I took the paper. My hands trembled as I walked down the hallway. I heard the loud clack of my footsteps on the linoleum. As I came near locker 160, I looked around to make sure nobody was watching. There was only Julie, peeking around the corner of the hall. I opened Miriam's locker. The books were neatly piled on the metal shelf. A notebook with "Miriam Laker" written on it was beside them.

I placed our note on her notebook, where she would be sure to see it. I closed the locker door and walked away, with a pleasant feeling of relief. We stayed in the hall almost 15 minutes, waiting for Miriam to arrive. Then Julie nudged* me and whispered, "Here she comes."

Miriam went directly to her locker.

"Look," Julie whispered. "Look at her face." We burst out laughing. It was clear that Miriam had seen the note. Her face looked as if she had been hit with a wet dish rag. Julie and I fled, giggling, to the rest room.

After that it was easy.
The next day, we arranged an open plastic bag of marbles in Miriam's locker. When the hundreds of marbles went bouncing and clattering down the hallway, I wonder how she explained it to the principal*. He was standing nearby when it happened.

After that, Julie got the idea of making a voodoo* doll of Miriam. I must say we did an excellent job. We used a large carrot for the body, and a small onion with black yarn for the head.

After we drew the face on in ink, we stuck a huge hat pin through the onion. Then we hung a tiny sign on the doll that said "Miriam". I thought it looked rather cute* on the shelf of Miriam's locker.

We reached a new height the next day. Julie had a petition to change the school dress code. It had been signed by almost our whole class, but it hadn't beengiven to the principal yet. We traced* all the names onto another sheet of paper, which said: "We, the undersigned, do hereby declare that Miriam Laker is weird, and do hereby announce that we hate her." Julie put that little gem in Miriam's locker, just before biology class.

We waited in the biology room for Miriam to come in. We wanted to see how she had taken our last surprise. The tardy bell* rang, but Miriam still hadn't come.

"Maybe she isn't here today," Julie whispered to me. "She's never been late for a class before."

The period was almost over when we heard the rescue squad arrive at school. Our teacher left the room to find out what had happened. I could hear him talking to another teacher in the hall.

"What's all this about?" our teacher asked.

"Oh, some girl - last name's Laker, I think - locked herself in the Home Ec* room. She turned on the gas from all four stoves. They got her out just in time." "Did you hear that?" I asked Julie. She nodded in amazement. "Well," I whispered, "I always knew that anyone who wrote poetry would come to a bad end."

We began to laugh.
760 words

Source: Copyright by Scholastic Inc, 730 Broadway, New York, N. Y. 1003, USA

*locker - small cupboard for keeping things in (at school)
*weird - strange, unnatural
*to nudge - to touch or push gently
*principal - head of a Am. school
*voodoo - Zauber, Hexerei
*cute - AE. pretty
*to trace - here: to copy
*tardy bell - (AE) signal that class is about to begin
*Home Ec - abbreviation for Home Economics, a course for girls in homemaking skills

1. What is Karen's idea?
2. What nasty tricks do the two girls play on Miriam Laker?
3. Why does it become easier for them to do unkind things to Miriam as time goes on?
4. Is Miriam's reaction to the situation a normal one ?
5. What is the basic theme of the story?
6. How does Miriam appear to Karen?

7. Write a characterization of Karen.
8. Try to divide the text up into sections. Explain why you chose these subdivisions.
9. Describe the setting of the story and say in what respect it contributes to the development of the conflict ?

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