The putrid smell of rotting fish filled the small, square, tightly packed office like a heavy cloud. Contained in the office were two boys looking up into an old, cranky, and wrinkly face that resembled a maze. This face belonged to the principal of Dumas Middle School, which was located in the proud town of Obscureville, USA. This principal’s name was Mr. Grumps. Unfortunately for the whole of Dumas Middle School, Mr. Grumps’ attitude directly mirrored his name. The two boys Mr. Grumps was glaring at were named Kevin and Harold. Kevin and Harold were both sitting in small, ugly metal chairs that appeared as if they were straight out of a prison. Kevin was a short and slightly plump boy with brown hair and a set of abnormally large ears and eyes. Harold, on the other hand, was an average-sized skinny boy with blue piercing eyes and thin cheeks. If compared to animals, Kevin would be a panda and Harold would be a fox.
The reason both boys found themselves in the predicament of sitting in Mr. Grumps’ office goes as follows: Earlier that morning, Harold, being the rowdy troublemaker he is, stole two dead fish from the cafeteria and purposely placed them on Mr. Grumps’ big leather chair. The only problem with Harold’s brilliantly executed plan, however, was that Kevin saw the whole ordeal. The instant Mr. Grumps arrived at school, Kevin tattled on Harold and, much to the inconvenience of all three parties, the boys landed in the office. Then when Kevin told the grumpy Mr. Grumps what Harold had done, Harold quickly responded that Kevin was framing him for an act that Kevin himself had committed.
“I didn’t do it, sir. I promise,” Kevin wailed. “I saw Harold do it.”
“Shut up! Liar,” shouted Harold. “I would never put dead fish on Mr. Grumps’ chair. I love him. He’s my favorite principal.”
“That’s not true,” retorted Kevin as he felt the sensation of walls closing in on his panicked brain.
“Grrrrrr,” said Mr. Grumps. “I didn’t have breakfast, and I’m hungry at this point. I don’t really care which one of you did it, so you’re both suspended.”
The weight of these words dropped on the two boys like bombs. Kevin was flattened. He felt as if all the air had run away from him, and there was nothing left to support his limp body. He had never really been in trouble before. This was certainly a first. As the meaning of what happened really started to hit him, Kevin slowly allowed himself to give way to a glimmering cage of tears. Harold, on the other hand, was furious, just furious, as he and Kevin were escorted out the office. It wasn’t so much that he had gotten suspended that bugged him. In fact, he couldn’t really care less about that. It was the fact that he had been caught with the two fish, and someone had tattled on him. Kevin’s words had ensnared Harold just as he was about to get away. Harold, with clenched fists, a sweaty brow, and a tomato red face, set out to find Kevin. This did not take Harold long at all because Kevin was where he was suspected to be — at his locker.
With an abundance of built-up fury, Harold violently began to yell at Kevin. He immediately ceased his own yelling when Kevin, shockingly, let out a shrill scream that silenced the hallway. Then Kevin burst, and without really knowing what he was doing, he flung a pencil case at Harold’s face. Kevin’s throw, wildly off target, missed Harold by a foot and smashed into the school’s art teacher Mrs. Spacey’s cup of warm coffee. The coffee subsequently splashed all over Mrs. Spacey’s face and glasses, trapping her eyes in an unpleasant world of brown. Unluckily for the two boys, at that very moment, Mr. Grumps turned the corner and saw the whole ordeal.
“That’s it!” yelled Mr. Grumps. “Both of you, pack your bags, call your parents, and get out of my face.”
Then Mr. Grumps sharply turned around and left, muttering something about how terrible kids were these days. The boys called their parents. Kevin’s parents arrived at school first. Without saying anything, Kevin quietly slid into the backseat of his car. He tried to shake off his parents’ disapproving glares and not look at Harold, who was giving him the evil eye. Now confined in the small, limited, musty back seat of his car, Kevin, instead of feeling anger, began to worry. He worried if suspension in seventh grade would affect his college applications. He worried about how he would ever make up the lost class time and homework. Most of all however, he was worried about how much he had disappointed his parents, who had always been nice to him, but were not talking to him now. They sat up front looking bleakly and sadly out of the window.
Harold’s parents came twenty minutes late, just as they usually did. As Harold climbed into his narrow, restricting, car he was met with yells. These shouts consisted of the usual, which was along the lines of, why are you so stupid? Can’t you ever do anything right? Harold, angrily, just told his parents to drive as he peered out of the car window. He thought to himself that his current predicament was far from fair and fantasized about different ways to ruin the lives of Kevin and Mr. Grumps.
By the time Kevin got home, it was almost dark outside. He angrily locked himself in his room with nothing better to do. Kevin sat in his favorite chair by the window still worrying about college applications, but a new thought also crossed his mind. This, surprisingly, was the first time he had really thought about the part Harold played in his suspension. Slowly the thought that his suspension was all Harold’s fault crept into Kevin’s troubled mind. Out of habit, Kevin looked out the window and looked away again before quickly looking back, not believing what he saw.
At the same time, Harold, who was also in his room, happened to look out the window. What the boys both saw astonished them. In the middle of a field, visible from both the boys’ houses, was a flickering blue and red orb that quickly engrossed them. Slowly they became light-headed, and they had a vague feeling of being lifted off the ground. There was a boom of thunder and a crack of lightning, and heavy rain started to fall. The boys started to drift faster and floated through the walls like they weren’t there. In a ghostly trance, without knowing what was happening, they glided to the orb. Now closer to the orb, the boys, still going faster and faster, became fully encircled by blue light that separated them from the outside world. The last image both of them remembered as they sped into the thick, all surrounding center of the orb, was the disturbing sight of each other’s faces as they crashed into each other. The world shook, and darkness fell.
Both Kevin and Harold knew something was remarkably wrong when they woke up. They felt as if they had been stuffed into an undersized box. On the outside, they resembled a normal human being. Their body was much like Harold’s, average-sized and thin. Their face, however, resembled Kevin’s with giant monkey-like ears and eyes. When Kevin woke up, nothing felt right, and his head hurt. Although he was in a room that was familiar, it was not his. He had no idea how he got there. The only experience he remembered from the day before was his suspension.
When Harold awoke he was also confused as to where he was. He tried to sit up, but he couldn’t, as he felt some force not allowing him to move. Then he heard a grumble in his head, and his mouth opened, letting out a little burp. Harold’s first instinct was stop. And suddenly he was able to sit up, but then he heard a confused voice asking what was happening in his head. With a joking half smile, Harold asked, “Who’s there?”
To Harold’s astonishment, a familiar voice responded, “Who are you? Where are you?”
“What do you mean?” Harold, now frightened, dared to ask aloud. “I’m here in the bed.”
“What are you talking about?” said the voice, now sounding close to tears. “I’m in the bed, not you”
Strangely, Harold’s eyes began to water, and, with difficulty, he moved his hand to wipe them away. Suddenly he was able to place that familiar voice and in doing so his mood severely changed for the worst.
“Is that you, Kevin?” Harold demanded. “You must be hiding, show yourself, or else I’ll get you arrested.”
“What do you mean?” squealed Kevin’s voice. “ I told you. I’m in the bed.”
“ No! I’m in the bed;” shouted Harold.
“Well,” Kevin said. “If I think I’m in the bed, and you think you’re in the bed, than we both have to be in the bed.”
“That’s impossible” Harold retorted grumpily, “ I cant see u”
“No!” Kevin responded “don’t you see” I can hear you, but not see you. Nothing feels right. We might be somehow stuck in the same body”.
“Oh no,” Harold thought, the truth slowly dawning on him. “Out of all the people in Obscureville you’re the last person I would want to be in a body with.” Harold now realizing the extreme nature of the situation was about to shout out, but was interrupted by a knock and the creak of a door opening.
An unfamiliar women’s face stuck out the door and said, “Karold. Wake up. Five minute warning to school, honey bun.”
“ Who’s Karold?” asked Harold.
“ She must mean us,” responded Kevin. “Quick, we don’t want to be late for school.”
“Who cares about school?” grumbled Harold.
“I do,” said Kevin, more forcefully now, and attempted to get out of bed.
Karold ended up toppling head first onto the floor, because Harold had resisted. The rest of the morning was just as difficult with the two boys fighting for control. It went just as badly until they finally managed to sit down in their homeroom. When they were in homeroom their teacher, Mrs. Bleak, read the morning announcements out loud.
“There are only two announcements,” said Mrs. Bleak dully. “Our first announcement is that we have a new student with us today named Karold. Would you like to introduce yourself to the class?”
Kevin started to say, “No that’s ok,” but was interrupted by a loud, “What’s up!” from Harold. These two sentences combined resulted in an awkward growl.
“Ok,” said Mrs. Bleak looking strangely at Karold. “Now, for my last announcement. Would anybody like to do my extra credit English paper with a theme of entrapment?”
Kevin, catching Harold by surprise, let out an excited, “I would like too.”
“What?” Harold made Karold say. “No way”
By this time the whole class was staring at Karold strangely, but Karold kept going.
“I don’t want to do stupid extra credit,” Harold forced Karold to scream.
“No, we’re doing it,” Kevin whined.
Then Harold raised Karold’s right hand and slapped Karold across his cheek. Kevin responded by driving Karold’s left foot into his right shin. Then Karold fell out of his desk. The class watched Karold rolling on the floor, with one hand punching himself in the stomach and the other being bitten by his mouth. The students stared at the spasmodic mess that Karold was in disbelief. Mrs. Bleak interrupted the students’ awe by slamming a ruler on her desk. She yelled, “Karold, go to Mr. Grumps office immediately. Do not say a word.”
Karold stuck out his tongue, which he quickly bit and let out a shrill squeak. After tripping over the leg of a desk, Karold limped out of the classroom, bruised and bloody.
When Karold entered the office, Mr. Grumps with a roll of his eyes growled, “You two again?” The boys’ response to this was instant because no one else seemed to know that they were two boys trapped in one body.
“ What do you mean, us two” Asked Harold tentatively.
Mr. Grumps quickly began coughing and said, “I didn’t say that. Karold, not the best way to start off at your new school. Mrs. Bleak tells me you were being extremely rude and disrupting class. We do not tolerate misbehavior at this fine establishment. I’m going to make this quick because I don’t want to see your face in this office again. If you can’t pull it together you will be expelled!”
When Karold left Mr. Grump’s office it was time for recess. Recess was Harold’s favorite part of the school day, other than dismissal. Harold liked recess so much because there was no stuffy boring class caging him in. Kevin was indifferent towards recess. He didn’t mind it, but he also didn’t look forward to it. The part of recess Kevin really didn’t like was playing sports, because he was terrible at them. Today all the boys on the playground were playing soccer. “Come on,” said Harold. “Lets play.”
“No. Why would we want to do that?” responded Kevin slightly, horrified.
“Because it’s fun,” Harold responded. “Let’s go.”
Karold jumped down the stairs to the playground. He then froze, fell down, and started making wheezing noises. Karold kept moving, though, crawling to the playground like a deranged lizard. Once at the playground, by coincidence, the soccer ball rolled to Karold’s feet.
“Pass!” shouted one of the boys. “Come on!”
Kevin’s heart froze and Harold calmly laughed, resulting in a strange thuuuumpety, thump, thump of Karold’s heart.
“Come on,” urged Harold. “Let’s kick it”.
Kevin, realizing it would be more embarrassing to just leave the ball than kick it, slowly moved his leg back and allowed Harold to kick the ball. The kick was perfect and rolled nicely to the kid who had called for it.
“Hey, you’re actually pretty good,” exclaimed the kid.
This comment greatly lifted Kevin’s mood, even after Harold responded, “I know.” Kevin had never been told he was good at sports before. He was so happy that out of the blue he said, “You were right Harold that was fun.”
“I know, right?” responded Harold enthusiastically. This was the first moment were Kevin and Harold reached an understanding and discovered they could like each other. The rest of recess Karold had a great time playing soccer. When the recess bell rang, Kevin was genuinely disappointed. He perked up when he remembered science class was next. For some odd reason, after recess, Harold and Kevin found it easier to be Karold. The more they liked each other, it seemed the easier they could walk. When Karold arrived at science class instead of their usual teacher Mr. Brain, they found Mrs. Spacey subbing for him.
After Karold took his seat, Mrs. Spacey announced, “Today the class will be doing a lab.”
Harold groaned, but Kevin was quick on his case, “Stop it, labs are fun. Just give it a try please? For me?” Harold, because Kevin had been nice to him and helped kick the soccer ball, decided to give the lab a shot. The lab was a dissection of a frog. This announcement further inclined Harold to try the lab. During the lab Harold legitimately became interested in dissecting the frog and was keen enough on seeing the correct result of the lab that he actually tried to do the lab with the right procedure. With Harold’s new – found enthusiasm and Kevin’s brains and experience, the lab turned out to be quite easy and enjoyable. At the conclusion of the lab, Harold admitted to Kevin that he enjoyed it. Despite their differences, the boys realized that they liked each other. Karold was in high spirits. When all the students were done with the lab and waiting for further instruction, Mrs. Spacey turned to Karold. No one took notice of Mr. Grumps who had just entered the room on a random class check.
“Karold,” she said. “I was watching you for most of the day, and you did an amazing job on the lab. You seem to be fitting into school extremely nicely.”
At that very moment, Karold locked eyes with Mr. Grumps. With a simple wink from Mr. Grumps, the whole world morphed into a vibrant sea of color with yellows, purples, greens, and reds flying and swimming freely. Slowly, as the other teachers and students started to fade away, Karold separated. What looked like two ghosts of Kevin and Harold slowly started to squeeze away from each other. Finally the last connection between the two boys was severed and the empty, jail like, shell that had confined the boys shattered on the ground into pieces. Both Kevin and Harold woke up in their different and real beds, in their real houses.
A year later Kevin and Harold, now best friends, were walking together passed Mr. Grumps office. Kevin dropped all his books just as he and Harold were passing the door to Mr. Grump’s office. Harold stooped to help Kevin pick his books up. They could hear everything that was happening in Mr. Grump’s office.
“James placed all the thumbtacks on your chair. I saw him,” a boy was saying.
“ Shut up! Liar,” a different boy retorted.
Then Mr. Grumps cut in and yelled “you’re, both suspended”.
A wave of déjà vu passed through Kevin and Harold. Karold and many of the other kids passing Mr. Grumps office stopped to think about what had caught their mind, but, not being able to recollect the memory they were searching for, carried on with the rest of their day.
Jack Wasserstein, Age 14, Grade 8, Trinity School, Silver Key