Jack Adrift

Jack Adrift by Jack Gantos

Book: Jack Adrift by Jack Gantos Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jack Gantos
lip from either of you. Not a word.”
    â€œSo what do we-we-we do next?” Julian asked.
    â€œI’ll think of a tiebreaker tonight,” I said, “and I’ll announce it in the morning.”
    That night I worked on Miss Noelle’s homework assignment and didn’t make up the final test until we were all walking to school the next morning.
    â€œHere is the final test,” I announced. “As we all know, staying out of trouble at school is the sign of true genius. So, I want each of you to spend the whole day at school without ever going to class and without ever being sent to the principal’s office. You will have to use all your genius skills to both avoid being absent while never being present.”
    â€œI don’t get it,” Julian said. “You want us to be-be-be invisible?”
    â€œInvisible, but present at the same time,” I replied.
    â€œI think I get it,” Pete said. “You just hang out in the hall around the front office and if anyone asks what you are doing, you just say you are waiting for the secretary to call your mom because you have head lice.”
    â€œYeah,” I said. “Something like that.”
    â€œIt would be better,” Julian said, “to just tell-tell-tell everyone you are a substitute custodian and push a broom around.”
    â€œWhy don’t you just hang out in the bathroom all day and if a teacher comes in tell them you have a contagious kidney infection,” I suggested.
    â€œI’m psyched for this test,” Julian said, rubbing his hands together.
    â€œPiece of cake,” Pete said.
    â€œOne final thought,” I added. “Remember, Einstein said, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’”
    After we walked through the front door of the school they scattered.
    During the day I received permission to go to the bathroom twelve times, but never spotted them. I sneaked out to the courtyard and climbed up into the replica of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. They were not there. And they were not hunkered down inside the model of the Wright brothers’ first airplane. I volunteered to take a note from Miss Noelle to the front office and didn’t see them there. They did not come out for morning recess, or lunch, or they were hiding behind
the shelves in the library when I went there for more bird migration research. There was only a half-hour left in the day when suddenly the fire alarm went off.
    â€œOkay,” Miss Noelle directed. “You know what to do. Drop everything and follow me.”
    We did. All eighteen of us marched down the hall and joined the lines of other kids streaming out of classrooms. I stood on my tiptoes and searched for Pete and Julian. But I didn’t see them. We all gathered on the back playground. There was a funeral and kids rushed the fence to get a good look. I kept moving through the crowd, looking for Julian and Pete. What if the school is on fire? I said to myself. What if there is a gas leak and it’s going to blow up? What if a giant tidal wave is coming our way? I should tell someone, I thought. I turned and walked toward the open door.
    â€œJack Henry,” Miss Noelle shouted. “Get over here with our class.”
    I trotted over to her. “What if someone is trapped in there?” I asked.
    â€œIt’s a false alarm,” she said. “Some pinhead pulled the switch in the cafeteria. The janitor told me. If it were a real fire, the heat would have set off the sprinkler sensor.”
    â€œAre you sure?” I asked.
    â€œYeah,” she said.
    Then it occurred to me that one of them might have
gotten hungry and this would be a way to sneak into the kitchen and get some food. But that seemed impossible. Pulling a fire alarm when there was no fire was the stupidest thing in the world. Neither of them was a genius, but they weren’t that dumb either.
    Soon the fire trucks came, and five minutes later

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