Trouble at Riverbank School
It is noisy in the hall. Every class from Riverbank School is walking to the gym.
“Do you know why Principal Porcupine called an assembly?”
“No.” Rudy Raccoon shakes his head. “Do you know why, Gordon Grizzly?”
Gordon does his “no” growl.
We all sit on the gym floor.
Principal Porcupine steps in front of the microphone. Oh no! His face is red and angry.
“Something has happened,” Principal Porcupine begins, “and I am not pleased at all.”
He nods toward Mr. Badger, the custodian. Mr. Badger wheels something into the gym on a large trolley.
I look at the long, metal object. It is all twisted and dented. Broken pieces stick out at the bottom.
I finally realize what it is. The new waterslide!
My tummy feels sick. I love that new waterslide. Just yesterday, I played on it for hours. I splashed into the school pond over and over. I quietly brush away a tear.
“When I came into school today,” Principal Porcupine says, “that is what I found.” The quills on his chin quiver with rage.
I feel frozen in place. Rudy Raccoon and Gordon Grizzly don’t move either.
“The only good news,” Principal Porcupine says, “is that I know who did this terrible thing.”
Everyone leans forward.
“It was the last person who used the waterslide. And that was—Orval Otter.”
Everyone turns and looks at me.
“But—but—” I say. “I didn’t do it.”
I look around. I can tell that nobody believes me. Not even my two best friends, Rudy Raccoon and Gordon Grizzly.
At that moment, I know what I have to do. I have to prove that I did NOT wreck the slide.
As we leave the gym, I get an idea. Clues! I’ll look for clues! I have to move fast.
I slide out the side door where Mr. Badger wheeled in the broken slide.
Yes! Sharp pieces of metal are scattered across the floor. They look like pieces from the slide!
“The slide must have been broken inside the school,” I mutter. “Not outside where I was playing. When I tell Principal Porcupine, he will have to believe me.”
At that moment, Principal Porcupine’s voice rings out.
“Mr. Badger, can you sweep up these metal pieces?”
I duck into a doorway so I can listen in.
“Sure,” Caretaker Badger says. “Where did they come from?”
“The senior class is collecting scrap metal pieces from old boats. They are going to build sculptures with them in art class. These are the leftover pieces that they don’t need.”
Oh no! These metal pieces are not from the slide after all! My heart drops down into my claws. That means I’m still in trouble. I need to think of another idea right away.
I stay hidden until Principal Porcupine and Caretaker Badger have left. Then I duck out the back door of the school.
I run to the pond. There must be clues here!
I splash around the edge of the pond. I don’t know what I’m looking for. But there must be something!
I’m all the way around the pond. I still haven’t seen anything unusual. As I step out of the pond, I kick at the long grass.
I grab onto my sore back paw and hop around on the other one. When it finally stops hurting, I reach into the grass. What did I just kick?
A toolbox. It has somebody’s initials on it: MB.
I open it up. It has screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches, a jigsaw, and some power tools inside.
Hey! Maybe someone used these tools to wreck the slide!
I’m standing up when I hear a noise. I spin around. It’s Mr. Badger.
“Don’t come any closer!” I say. “I know it was you. You broke the slide with these tools! The toolbox even has your initials on top.”
“That is not what happened.” Mr. Badger takes another step.
“I already told you—don’t come any closer. Or I’ll throw your expensive power tools into the middle of the pond!”
“Orval Otter, this is ridiculous,” he says. “I brought those tools out here this morning. The slide was twisted and broken, but it was still partly fastened to the base. Principal Porcupine told me to unscrew the slide so we could bring it inside. He wanted to show it to the students.
Oh, gargling grasshoppers! It sounds like he is telling the truth.
I don’t have another plan. My whole body feels heavy and sad. Everyone will still think that I broke the slide.
Beep. Beep. Bzzzzzzz.
I jump. “What’s that?”
Mr. Badger points up into the trees. “That’s a signal that the video camera needs to be reset. It’s almost out of film.”
“Video camera? Is it filming us right now? And was it filming everything around the pond last night?”
Mr. Badger nods. A smile glides across my face.
“Where can we watch the film?”
“In my office,” Mr. Badger says. “Principal Porcupine is the only other person who has a key.”
“Principal Porcupine? Oh no!”
Badgers and otters can run pretty fast. We’re soon at Mr. Badger’s office. We run through the door—then we skid to a stop. Principal Porcupine is sitting in front of the video screen, peering at it.
“Principal Porcupine,” I say. “Get your paws off of that video machine.”
As Principal Porcupine reaches for the ‘delete’ button, I slide the chair out from underneath him. He tumbles to the floor with a loud, chirpy squawk that echoes throughout the school.
Footsteps pound down the hall. Before we know it, most of the school has crowded into Mr. Badger’s office.
“Watch this, everyone.” I switch the video on.
The teachers and students all stare at the screen as Principal Porcupine slides down the waterslide again and again into the pond.
“But he’s too big,” Rudy Raccoon says.
“Yeah,” growls Gordon Grizzly.
“He’s going to break the slide!” Ms. Magpie covers one eye with her wing.
Crash! Bang! Thud! Splash!
With a sickening crunch, the bottom of the slide gives way. Principal Porcupine swerves to one side of the slide, then the other. After a wild tumble and a loud chirpy hiccup, he lands on the muddy riverbank. Then he rolls into the pond. And all that is left of the slide is the tangled, angry mess that we saw in the gym this morning.
I turn off the video and everyone starts talking at once. As Principal Porcupine rises to his feet, a silence falls across the room.
“I never had a real waterslide like that when I was a young porcupine,” he says with a sniffle. “I just had a nasty old plank that gave me slivers in my backside whenever I slid into the river on it.
“I just wanted to have some fun last night. But you saw what happened.” His head drops to his chest in shame.
Principal Porcupine turns to me. “I was so embarrassed that I didn’t know what to do.”
“So you blamed me? Principals aren’t supposed to behave like that!”
“You’re right. I am going to resign as your principal right away. I don’t deserve this job.”
“But who will be the principal of Riverbank School?” a young mole with a pink hairband asks.
“I don’t know,” Principal Porcupine says, “but I think Mr. Badger would be a fine choice.”
Mr. Badger shakes his head. “No,” he says. “My office is nicer than the principal’s office. I want to stay right here. How about you, Ms. Magpie?”
Ms. Magpie removes her wing from across her face. She puffs herself up. “I accept,” she says. “And the first thing I will do as your new principal is insist that we ALL apologize to Orval Otter.”
“We’re sorry, Orval Otter.” The students say it together.
“I didn’t hear you, Mr. Porcupine,” Ms. Magpie says.
“Okay, okay,” Mr. Porcupine says. “I’m sorry, Orval Otter.”
“You’d better be!” I say. “And don’t you forget it!”
I give Mr. Badger a high-five. Then I turn to go back to class. My friends carry me high on their shoulders the whole way.
Stay tuned for Part Two, where the grade 5/6 students from Kitaskinaw School share their ideas about the story, “Missing.”