knew without looking what she was referring to, but
she couldn't help looking anyway. There they were, taking up an entire page,
twenty-eight letters to the editor from the students of Wakeman Junior High. And
hers was at the very top.
Before Katie could answer her mother, the telephone rang
"You'd better let me get that," said Willie,
jumping up from the sofa and heading into the kitchen.
It was probably someone else calling about the letters,
Katie thought. By now her heart was pounding so loudly that she wasn't sure she
would be able to hear her mother's side of the conversation as she followed her
to the phone. Not only that, but Willie looked really steamed. It had never
occurred to her that her mother would have a problem with kids' sending their
letters to the Post.
"Oh, Clarence. What a nice surprise," said Willie,
rolling her eyes apprehensively at Katie.
"Oh . . . certainly . . . certainly , Mr.
Newkirk. But . . . but . . ."
Katie could see Willie gulp hard as she struggled with her
end of the conversation. It must be bad, Katie thought, since her mother had
just gone from calling him Clarence to Mr. Newkirk.
"Sir!" Willie said indignantly. "I'll have you
know that I would never do anything to bring shame or dishonor to Wakeman
Junior High. But sir! If you'd just listen. Mr. Newkirk ! "
Willie's shoulders sagged, and she gave the receiver a
puzzled frown before replacing it on the hook. "He hung up," she said
in a small voice.
"It was about the letters?" Katie asked
Her mother nodded.
"And they got you into trouble?" She knew the
answer before she asked.
Willie nodded again, and Katie could sec fire building
behind her eyes. "The nerve of that man. He accused me of inciting the students. Inciting them. Can you believe that? You would think that I caused a
riot instead of a letter-writing campaign. He even said that he took personal
offense over the matter because he was head of the English department and my
seminars were his responsibility."
"Wow!" said Katie.
"And what's more," Willie went on, "he said
that because of those letters, the paper printed an editorial saying that the
students should have some hand in choosing what the cafeteria serves. He was
furious about that, too, saying that it was up to the school to make that kind
Katie glanced down at the paper, which was still in her
hand. "He was right about the editorial," she admitted. "It's
right here in black and white. It says, 'While the final responsibility for nutritional,
good-tasting lunches lies with the school, the students deserve to have some
say in deciding what will be served.'"
Willie took the paper and skimmed the editorial. Then she
read down the letters. "And yours, " she said, glaring at
Katie. "Yours is the very first letter on the page."
Katie could feel her scalp starting to crawl. "Tony
said it was the best, and he put it on top of the stack so that they would read
it first," she offered weakly.
"Tony Calcaterra!" Willie cried. "So he was
the one responsible for all of this. I remember now. His letter mentioned that
several other students would be writing about the cafeteria food, and there
were twenty-five or so letters turned in to me on that subject."
"Twenty-eight," Katie corrected.
"I should have known it was someone like Tony causing
this. He just can't stay out of trouble, can he?"
"Mom!" Katie exploded. "You of all people!
Nobody understands him. Can't you see that he's just trying to do something
good for other people. And he's taking a stand for something he believes in?"
Spinning around, Katie stormed out of the room.
She spent the entire evening in her room. She didn't want to
cross paths with her mother if she didn't have to, and apparently Willie felt
the same because she didn't call Katie down to supper. Thursday was usually
cold-cut night anyway, so she knew she could slip down to the kitchen and make
a sandwich anytime she wanted to.
She sat down at