This Is Not a Drill

Free This Is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell

Book: This Is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Beck McDowell
me once the thing that’s most embarrassing in life is when other people know you’re embarrassed. So if you just admit it up front, nobody makes fun of you because everybody knows how it feels.
    It’s one of the things I liked best about him from the beginning—that he’s totally unself-conscious. Lots of people
say
they don’t care what other people think, but Jake really doesn’t. He’s always the first one to get up and dance at a party—crazy dancing that’s so bad, it’s almost good.
    Sometimes he turns the car radio up and sings really loud. He pocket-dialed me once, and when I listened to my voice mail, I could hear him wailin’ on “Single Ladies,” singing with Beyoncé in this high girlie voice. When I played it back for him, he just laughed, and then he put my phone on speaker and played it for everybody in art class.
    For me, Champion Sociophobe of the Universe, he was a good teacher. He peeled away my shyness and taught me not to take myself so seriously. When I confessed to him how nervous I am when I think other people are watching me, he said, “I promise you, the world isn’t looking at you. Everybody’s too busy. And basically, most people just care about themselves, if you wanna know the truth.”
    When I admitted I’m paralyzed sometimes by fear of screwing up, he laughed and said, “You know, Em, if you do screw up, people will remember it for about two minutes until they move on to the next person who screws up—well, unless you’re Marilyn Holderfield and you wet your pants in fourth grade; people do kinda remember that one.”
    Jake makes everyone else feel like it’s okay to mess up. I’ll never forget the day this poor ninth grade girl tripped in the lunchroom and her food went all over her and she slipped and went down in the mess. The whole school was staring at her. People started laughing and pointing. The girl just sat there on the floor, her head down, about to burst out crying.
    And then, before she could even try to get back up, Jake was there. He sat down next to her on the floor, like they’d planned a big ole picnic, and started talking to her, telling her jokes and acting like nothing was wrong—he even picked up a cookie off the floor, gave her half, and started eating the other half.
    After everybody lost interest in them, he helped the girl up, looped her hand through his arm, and made a big production of escorting her to her table.
    Yep, you guessed it. The ninth grade girl was me.
    It was the beginning of my heart-stabbing, gut-twisting, butterfly-producing crush on Jake Willoughby.
    • • •
    “I’m hungry,” Mason Mayfield III yells at the top of his lungs, bringing my thoughts back to the first graders around me. “When do we eat?”
    “Is Mrs. Campbell coming back?” Rose asks.
    “No, but don’t you worry,” Jake tells her. “We’ll be just fine, Valentine.” He winks at me.
    “Quiet!” Stutts barks at them. “I’ve had about enough of all this racket.” But the racket continues.
    “There’s ants everywhere!” Mason yells. “All over the place.” He jumps up and starts stomping the floor around him like he’s doing some kind of war dance. Within seconds, all the kids are up and running, jumping across the ants that have appeared out of nowhere and are swirling in wavy lines across the floor.
    Lewis immediately begins to howl. “Stop! Don’t hurt ’em. They’re mine.” He shoves Mason to the floor. Mason gets up and makes a dive for Lewis, knocking him down. The two of them roll over each other on top of the scattering ants, punching and slapping and pulling hair, while the other kids gather around to yell encouragement. Great! Just what we need right now!
    “Hey, that’s enough!” Jake springs into action, grabbing Mason, so I wade into the fray and pull Lewis off the floor. He’s sobbing uncontrollably, trying to drop out of my hold.
    “They’re my ants. He killed my ants.”
    “Lewis, stop it,” I yell. “Lewis,

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