It was a wonderful morning on Learning Book Island, the location of the James Sanderson Learning Center. The sun was shining, and the bees were buzzing. This particular morning, Laurie Locketbox woke up and quickly got out of bed. She had to hurry to meet Daniel and Arthur about their “Save the Beavers” project. She walked out of her dorm and noticed there were not many boys on the school grounds; in fact, there were only girls. “Weird,” she thought. Then she walked to the playground where she was supposed to meet Daniel and Arthur. They weren’t there even though Daniel was always on time. “Maybe we were supposed to meet at the boys’ dorm,” she thought. She walked the other way to the boys’ dorm, but the boys weren’t there, either. Only Little Boy Jeremy was there, sitting on the front steps. That’s when Laurie put two and two together.

She mumbled angrily to herself, “The Fan Club,” and marched into a nearby school building, heading straight for the basement. A crowd of boys was lined up at the door of a big, usually empty lecture room. A fat kid wearing a pocket protector and a green bow tie was letting boys into the meeting and marking their names on a piece of paper. George Ramsley was President of the Sally Fan Club. He and his BFFs, Chet, Bret, and Andy were madly in love with Sally and organized the Fan Club in her honor. Laurie despised the Fan Club. It had the most ridiculous activities — it made Laurie angry to even think about it. Laurie knew that Sally hated the club, too. But they followed Sally around and bugged her non-stop until, occasionally, she gave in and agreed to perform just to get them off her back. Apparently, today was one of those days. After George checked off the last name on the list, he walked into the room and closed the door behind him. A moment later, the door opened again, and George stuck a sign on the outside. It said, “Do Not Disturb – Club Meeting in Progress.” Laurie ignored the sign and went in.

Laurie, of course, was the only girl in the audience. She scanned the crowd, looking for Daniel and Arthur. Some of the boys were wearing the “I Love Sally” merchandise that the Club sold to pay for its activities. Laurie made a disgusted sound at the sight of the hats and t-shirts. But she almost gagged when she saw several boys waving “I Love Sally” fans. George made the fans himself. He glued two paper plates together and mounted the plates on popsicle sticks. One side of the “fan” had a heart drawn on it; the other side was decorated with a drawing of Sally blowing a kiss. Sally’s most hard-core fans waved them whenever Sally performed. “If it wasn’t so sick, it would be funny,” Laurie thought.

Just as the lights dimmed, Laurie spotted Daniel and Arthur. They were sitting next to Trent Troutbone, a self-absorbed boy. The boys stopped talking and stared, mesmerized, at the stage in the front of the room. Laurie couldn’t stand it — she needed to get Daniel and Arthur out of there. But before she could push her way to their seats, the curtain parted, and the stage lights came on. Chet and Bret pushed a giant fake clam shell onto the stage. Slowly, the clamshell opened. Inside, Sally was sitting cross-legged. A cheer went up from the crowd. The boys went wild, waving their arms and screaming. Laurie couldn’t see Daniel and Arthur in all the commotion. Sally blew the crowd a two-handed kiss. Laurie turned away and headed for the door. She looked at the stage once more before she left and saw Sally dancing on stage. Laurie went back to her dorm and angrily set to work on her “Save the Beavers” project, muttering about the uselessness of boys.

Later, Laurie came upon Daniel and Arthur talking to Trent. They were all excited, talking about how awesome Sally’s performance was. Laurie decided to keep walking. She did not want anything to do with that conversation. Turning the corner, Laurie bumped into Sally, who was still wearing her dance costume. Laurie tried to keep walking, but Sally said sheepishly, “Saw you in the fan club today. You look upset. Is everything OK?” Laurie glared. “No,” she said. ” I was supposed to meet Daniel and Arthur to work on my beaver project. But they were busy.” “Well, that stinks,” said Sally. “I just want you to know this whole fan club thing wasn’t my idea.” Laurie just nodded and walked away. She didn’t care whose idea it was.

Two days later, Daniel and Laurie were talking about Mr. Cobbler’s class, “Advanced Math.” The class was their worst one. The class earlier that day had been even worse than usual because, in front of everyone, Mr. Cobbler had accused Daniel of stealing his bath candles. “The guy is a lunatic,” Daniel said. Laurie was just opening her mouth to agree when Sally walked up. “Hi, Daniel. Hi Laurie! What are you talking about?” she said.

“We’re talking about Mr. Cobbler,” said Daniel.

“Yeah, that guy is completely out of line sometimes,” said Sally. Daniel nodded his head in agreement Laurie looked on, incredulous. She was still mad about Sally and this Fan Club thing, so she was certainly not ready to let Sally just barge into her conversation with Daniel.

“Um, hey, Daniel, don’t you want to hear my opinion?” But Daniel must not have heard her and continued to talk to Sally, which only made Laurie madder. Sally looked over at Laurie and said, “Oh, sorry. Did I interrupt?” Laurie was now very angry; she hissed at Sally, “Yes. you did, and you should really pay more attention before you barge into someone else’s conversation, you big jerk! You’re a big jerk with dragon breath and ugly hair!” Daniel was stunned. He had never heard Laurie talk like that before.

There was a brief silence. Sally looked at Laurie and said coolly, “OK, is that all?” Laurie was completely quiet but looked as if steam might come out of her ears. “Please, take your time,” said Sally. “Any more thoughts about me or my appearance? Or my breath?” Laurie’s face turned so red that Daniel thought she might explode. “Y-y-you….,” she stammered and quickly walked away.

All the next day, Laurie was unusually quiet, but Daniel didn’t ask her what was wrong. He knew what was bothering her and was hoping it would blow over.

That afternoon, Chad, the Vice-Principal, taped a poster for a talent show in the school hallway. Laurie stood looking at it for a long time, then wrote her name on the sign-up sheet; then she ran back to the dorm. Later that day, she walked purposefully from her dorm to the School Library and soon came back carrying an armload of books about famous female vocalists. As she passed the poster for the talent show, she glanced at the sign-up list. The names listed were Kyle Penesco, Daniel Smith, Arthur Sinsupper, Drake Del, Mark Samuel, Penelope Plotpire, and ….. Sally Mitchell. “Naturally,” Laurie thought, rolling her eyes.

Laurie thought hard about the talent show and decided she had at least two major obstacles to keep her from winning. One of them was Penelope Plotpire, who was the school’s best ballet dancer and absolutely loved pink. She would do well, without a doubt. The other obstacle was Sally– she was good at dancing and singing, and she was a natural performer. But, in spite of that, Laurie felt she had a pretty good chance if her performance went well.

For the whole week that followed, Laurie practiced her performance in secret between classes.

Then the day of the talent show arrived, and the whole student body took their places in the auditorium. Laurie went backstage, but she could hear the other students taking their seats and laughing and carrying on. Chad, the Vice-Principal, was backstage to direct the performance. He was sweating through his shirt as he yelled directions to the students who controlled the lights and effects. Laurie saw Kyle giving Daniel a hard time and saying his performance was a dud while boasting about Kyle’s own skateboard tricks.

Laurie sat down in the dressing room backstage. She was beginning to feel a little nervous about whether her performance would be a success. But Laurie shook off her nervousness; she knew she could do this if she just pushed herself. That’s when she saw Penelope Plotpire peering out the side of the curtains. She looked nervous and was repeating, “Oh no,” over and over to herself. Laurie walked over to Penelope to see what was wrong. “Everything alright?” asked Laurie. Penelope shook her head. “No, take a look. George Ramsley is a judge for the show.” Laurie peeked around the stage curtain and, sure enough, George was sitting at the judge’s table, looking smug. James Sanderson, Mr. Cobbler, and Miss Winkle were seated beside him. Laurie couldn’t believe her eyes. “George’s mom is Chad’s sister, and she probably set this up for him,” said Penelope. Laurie turned and walked away from the curtains. Now she was angry, too. She stormed back to the girls’ dressing room, trying to contain her frustration. “How could they let George, the President of the Sally Fan Club, be a judge of the show, especially when Sally is in it?” Laurie thought angrily. “This competition is rigged.”

That’s when she spotted Sally sitting in front of a mirror, putting on makeup. On the counter in front of her was a coral mermaid carving. Sally took the mermaid and held it to her chest, saying, “Wish me luck, Mom,” and then she kissed it. Laurie was disgusted. “So immature,” she thought. “But then, she’s Sally, the ‘pretty girl,’ the “cute girl.”

Laurie went over to where Sally was sitting and said, “You happy?”

Sally looked up. “Huh?”

“Your boyfriend’s a judge,” said Laurie.

Sally looked confused. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“George Ramsley is a judge,” said Laurie.

“Oh,” said Sally. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know. How’d he become a judge?” Laurie just walked away, shaking her head.

Just then, the band struck up the musical introduction, and the curtain went up. As Chad welcomed the audience and introduced the show, Daniel came up to Laurie and said, “Hey, listen. I know you’re upset, but you have got to stop being jealous of Sally.”

Laurie scowled and said, “Me? Jealous? What are you talking about?”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” said Daniel.

Meanwhile, Chad was announcing the rules of the show. “After a student performs, each judge will assign a score based on how impressive their talent was. The scores will be tallied at the end of the show, and whoever has the highest score, in the end, will win the Golden Trophy. Now,” Chad said, “to start off our show, we have Drake Del performing his talent: Juggling!”

Drake was a skinny tall kid who liked to rollerblade. He swaggered onto the stage and bowed to the audience. Then he took three juggling balls out of his coat pocket and started to juggle. He was quite good, and the audience murmured with approval. But halfway through his act, a sandbag crashed down onto the stage from the rafters above the stage. Drake let out a short scream and tried to scramble away, but his foot caught on a rope. Drake flailed his arms, looking for something to grab hold of, but it was too late. He flew backward and his juggling balls went everywhere.

The judges looked confused and concerned at what had just happened. Chad, however, assured everyone that it had just been an unfortunate accident and the show would go on! Principal James Sanderson gave Drake 4 points for his performance. Ms. Winkle gave him 2 points, Mr. Cobbler gave him 3 points, and George Ramsley gave him a measly 1 point. Drake stormed off the stage, embarrassed as could be.

Daniel looked at the sandbag that had fallen and had been dragged off stage. Something was weird about the bag. “Hmmm…” said Daniel. “It looks like this didn’t break at all; it had to have been cut, and ropes don’t cut themselves.” Daniel started to think about who would cut the rope and why, but right then, Chad started to announce the next act, distracting Daniel from his thoughts.

“Okay, next up is Mark, performing 21 Back Flips in a Row!”

Mark Samuel was a whiny kid who liked to pull pranks. Mark confidently positioned himself at the edge of the stage. He smiled at the audience, and a drum roll began. Mark began to backflip his way across the stage. He did amazing backflips all over the stage, but then something strange happened. Right after his 9th backflip, his hands slid out from under him. Mark embarrassingly fell flat on his face. Some people in the crowd even laughed. He finished his performance red in the face and obviously eager to get it over with. He stormed off stage, cursing under his breath.

The judges were not all that impressed either. Principal James Sanderson gave Mark 9 points. Ms. Winkle gave him 6 points. Mr. Cobbler, sneering, gave him 2 points. And George Ramsley gave him absolutely nothing, 0 points.

Mark plopped himself down on a chair backstage, furious. Daniel felt bad for Mark and went over to talk to him.

“Hey Mark, are you ok? I’m sorry you fell. What do you think happened?” asked Daniel.

“I’ll tell you what happened! Someone put grease on that part of the stage — I felt it the minute my hands hit the ground!” Mark said angrily.

Daniel frowned and said, “But who would want to try and sabotage your act?”

“I don’t know, but I can tell you this: It’s just not fair!” moaned Mark.

Daniel wondered, “Why would someone want to ruin Mark’s act?” But just then, Sally came running up to him, panting. “Did I miss my cue?” Sally asked as she tried to catch her breath.

“Wait a minute. Where were you?” asked Laurie.

“I was in the bathroom; I felt sick,” said Sally.

Laurie frowned and said, “Then you should tell Chad and go to the infirmary.”

“Oh no, I’m feeling better now,” Sally said.

Laurie looked at her suspiciously. Even Daniel felt uncomfortable. It was a bit weird.

Right then, Chad announced the next act. It was Arthur doing his Double-Handed Yo-Yoing! Arthur picked up his yo-yos and started to walk on stage.

“Hey!” said Kyle. “Where did Sally go? She was right here a minute ago.”

“Hmmm…,” Laurie thought.

Meanwhile, on stage, Arthur was performing quite a spectacle, with yo-yos flying in every direction. But just as Arthur started his finale, two yoyos broke right off their strings. One flew backward and landed on the left corner of the stage; the other one flew straight ahead toward the judge’s table and hit Mr. Cobbler directly in the eye. “Yowch!” Mr. Cobbler shrieked, covering his eye. “You putrid rodent!” Mr. Cobbler cried.

Then Mr. Cobbler gave Arthur’s performance a score of -10 points. George Ramsley gave him a score of -20 points, which pretty much wrapped things up for Arthur. Arthur stalked off stage, shaking his head angrily. Sitting backstage, he looked closely at his yoyo strings. Both strings were broken in the exact same place. “Since when do 2 yoyos break in the same place at the exact same time?” mumbled Arthur to himself.

Daniel walked over to have a look. “I don’t know who’s doing it, but I’m almost positive that someone is messing up everyone’s performances on purpose,” said Daniel.

“Who do you think it is?” asked Arthur.

“I don’t know,” said Daniel, clearly thinking hard about it.

While Daniel and Arthur spoke, Vice-Principal Chad introduced Kyle and his Amazing Skateboarding Tricks! Daniel couldn’t help but notice that Sally was still nowhere in sight. Chad left the stage to give Kyle room for his tricks. But Kyle walked on stage, not with his skateboard, but with a small reddish-purple book.

“Well,” Kyle explained, “I was going to show you my radical and totally tubular skateboard tricks. But on my way to the auditorium tonight, a friend gave me this,” Kyle said, holding up the small book. “And I think you’ll find this far more entertaining. So, I give you… little boy Jeremy’s personal diary!”

“Somebody stop him!” screamed a girl from the crowd, but Kyle had already smashed the lock with his foot and started to read aloud. “Dear diary, I think I love her…”

Chad hurried back on stage, but Kyle avoided him and continued to read. “I don’t love her as much as my mom,” he continued, “but I AM madly in love with her…” Chad was advancing toward Kyle again, but Kyle darted away. Kyle went on, “I mean it, I truly love her, I am completely in love with…” Kyle paused, then dramatically blurted out, “Penelope Plotpire!” Kyle darted towards the backstage door with the book still in hand, laughing cruelly.

Little boy Jeremy ran out of the auditorium sobbing, and Penelope Plotpire looked ill. Chad, who was trying to keep the situation under control, decided to continue with the show and announced the next act. “The next act up – Penelope Plotpire!” Penelope was very pale, but she bravely walked on stage. She was obviously trying hard not to listen to the snickering and kissing noises coming from the audience. She walked to the middle of the stage, turned to face the audience, and arranged herself into her starting ballet position. She was clearly anxious, but, despite that, she got ready to dance. When the first notes blasted out of the sound system, it was not her classical music, it was White and Nerdy by Weird Al Yankovic. It was a parody of a rap song with goofy words. Penelope Plotpire took a few tentative steps but when she realized she had begun dancing to the wrong music, she burst into tears and ran off stage.

“Somebody switched my music!” she cried as she ran out the backstage exit.

But just as Penelope ran out, Sally came running in.

Laurie was determined to question her about where she had been. Even Daniel was suspicious by now.

Just then, Sally was called on stage. The other kids watched in amazement as she sang through her whole song beautifully and without a hitch. Each of the judges gave her 10 points, except for George, who gave her 203 points.

When Sally came backstage smiling, everyone glared at her.

“I notice your song wasn’t sabotaged,” said Drake. “How do you explain that?”

“Yeah, your song came went perfectly. Why is that?” complained Mark.

Sally looked surprised, and then tears sprung into her eyes. “I don’t know,” she stammered and ran to the bathroom.

When Sally left again, Daniel went over to Arthur and Laurie and said, “Come on, guys. I’ve got an idea. Let’s go.”

The trio moved farther backstage, away from the other kids. As they huddled together, Daniel lowered his voice so only his two friends could hear. “I have no idea why she’s doing it, but it seems pretty clear that Sally has been ruining everyone else’s acts,” Daniel whispered.

“Daniel, I think it’s more than just “pretty clear,” said Laurie. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that Sally’s behind all the sabotage,” said Laurie quietly

Daniel nodded. “I have a plan to catch her in the act.”

Daniel went to a closet and pulled out a handheld movie camera from a stack of old film equipment. He set it up in front of the device they used to play music for the show.

“OK, guys. I’m up next,” Daniel said. “When Sally comes to switch the music for my performance, the camera will catch her on tape.”

“Yeah,” Laurie muttered. “I can’t wait.”

“It’s just kinda weird,” said Arthur. “I thought Sally was our friend.”

Daniel opened his mouth to answer, but before he could say anything, he heard his name being announced on stage.

Laurie and Arthur stood at the side of the curtain to watch.

Daniel’s talent was tap dancing, and he was actually a very good dancer. But sure enough, halfway through his performance, the music stopped. Then it switched to what sounded like someone singing loudly and off-key in the shower.

When Daniel realized what was playing, he turned bright red and stopped dancing.

Principal Sanderson gave Daniel 8 points. Ms. Winkle was awarded 7 points. 1 point from Mr. Cobbler, and George Ramsley gave him -11 points. The low score stung a little bit, but Daniel hurried backstage to find Laurie and Arthur.

“OK, not exactly what I was hoping for, but at least now we can see who’s on the tape,” Daniel said. Daniel, Laurie, and Arthur pushed their way through the throngs of kids backstage until they reached the camera they had set up earlier.

The red lights were blinking; it was still recording. They quickly rewound the recording.
“Well, we’ve got her now,” said Laurie with finality.

Daniel started to replay the recording, and the three friends gathered around to watch. What they saw was not Sally, but Gorge Ramsley tiptoeing towards the screen and looking around cautiously as he grabbed the CD player and switched the CD for one he took out of his pocket. Then he darted out of sight, heading back in the direction of the stage.

Just as the recording ended, Sally joined them.

Daniel looked at his friends and said, “I think we should show her this video.” Arthur and Laurie silently nodded. Daniel slowly walked over to Sally and showed her the video of George switching the CDs.

Sally watched with absolute seriousness. When it ended, her face changed to an expression of complete rage. Without saying a word, Sally marched on stage, interrupting the performance of a small second-year student. She stormed up to the astonished kid and grabbed the microphone from out of his hands.

Chad immediately appeared from backstage. “Hey! Sally! You’ve had your turn. You can’t do that!” he sputtered.

Sally ignored him and, without hesitation, spoke into the microphone.

“I know who has been messing with everyone’s performances,” she said. Sally extended her arm with her finger pointed straight ahead. “It’s George Ramsley,” she said. “Daniel has a tape of him changing the music.”

Taking that as a signal, Daniel ran on stage and showed the recording to Chad. With one look, Chad was furious, and his face turned purple.

“Can someone get me some hall monitors to escort Mr. George Ramsley to detention?” he asked. Hall monitors seemed to appear from nowhere and quickly converged on George’s seat at the judges’ table. They grabbed George by the arms.

“Bu—ut Sally, I’m your b-b-biggest fan! How could you do this? W-w-w- wait!” The hall monitors yanked George out of his seat and started escorting him up the aisle. “Well, just you wait!” he yelled towards Sally. “You’ll see that what goes around comes around. I mean it!” George cried.

“Can it, buster,” said an angry, muscular hall monitor, who continued to drag George toward detention.

Laurie watched all of this unfold from her vantage point at the side of the stage. She noticed that during George’s exit, Sally was tearing up. But then Sally stood tall, shook herself, and spoke into the microphone. “I’m giving all my points to the other performers; they truly deserve it.”

The crowd cheered loudly.

Then Sally ran off stage and headed straight out the backstage exit.

Laurie couldn’t help but have a bad feeling in her gut. She had been a total jerk to Sally and had blamed her for ruining everyone else’s performance. In spite of that, Sally still had the grace to be generous and kind to her fellow performers.

Laurie sheepishly followed Sally out the backstage door and down the hall. That’s where she found Sally crying just outside the girls’ bathroom. Laurie felt awful about how she’d behaved and slowly lowered herself to the ground until she was sitting next to Sally.

“Hey Sally,” said Laurie. Sally glanced up at her but kept crying.

“I really messed things up for everyone, didn’t I?” Sally sobbed.

“NO! Wait, listen,” said Laurie quickly. “I just wanted to say how sorry I am,” she continued.

Sally shifted and said, “For what?”

“For truly thinking you were behind all of this — messing up everyone’s acts.”

Sally kept crying but looked up at Laurie with red eyes and a puzzled expression.

“It wasn’t fair of me to act like that. In fact, I did it because I was, well, ….” Laurie hesitated and then said, “… jealous of you. And I’m sorry.”

There was a long pause.

“Thank you for saying that. It must have been hard. But it’s OK,” said Sally, whose tears had started to dry. “Besides, if anyone should be apologizing, it’s Gorge Ramsley, not you!” said Sally.

“You mean you’re not mad at me?” asked Laurie

“No way,” answered Sally. She had stopped crying now.

“So, friends?” asked Laurie awkwardly.

“Friends,” Sally said, smiling and leaning in for a hug.

Sally suddenly started and looked at Laurie. “Come to think of it, I think it’s got to be time for your act!”

Laurie looked surprised, too. With everything that had transpired, she had almost forgotten she was supposed to perform. But Laurie nodded and walked back towards the stage arm in arm with Sally.

The kids cheered as Laurie took the stage.

Laurie took a deep breath and sang with a voice and a feeling that she had never had before.

The End