I hated the Science Fair. And this was one feeling that I shared with just about every other kid in Franconia—except, of course, for a handful of kids who had parents that liked to do Science Fair projects and put their kids’ names on them.
In sixth grade the Fair had been optional—and guess what? About six kids in the entire school entered it. There were more judges than kids! Anyway, I guess that embarrassed the school, so Mr. Gisborne had told us at the beginning of the year that everyone was required to do a project for the Science Fair. When we heard that, there was lots of booing and carrying on, but Mr. Gisborne was firm … he had to be.
Well, I figured I would do some dumb little thing, just enough to fulfill the requirement, the usual thing: get some seeds, four little clay pots, vary the amounts of water and sunlight given to each seed, write up a little report, make a stupid poster, get a “B,” and forget about it.
But some kids convinced Mr. Gisborne that the Science Fair projects would be better if we could work in pairs. He said he would think about it.
I had totally forgotten about it until I saw the list on the top of my desk. And now I was really upset: Not only did I have to do a project, but I had to do it with Gil, the kid who was already butting into my life. I would talk to Mr. Gisborne about this the next day. Let him know that there was no way I would do any Science Fair project with Gil … did this kid even have a last name? If I’d ever heard it, I sure didn’t remember it.
Next day, right after science class, I waited up by Mr. Gisborne’s desk. He was in a hurry, jamming our homework papers into one of those brown expanding files, bulging with ungraded work, putting on his coat.
“Mr. Gisborne, could I talk to you a minute about the Science Fair?”
“Uh, look,” he said, avoiding saying my name because he probably didn’t know it. “I’m in a big hurry. Football practice. Can’t be late.”
“Oh. Well, this will just take a second.” I used a Helpless Little Girl voice, hoping he might have a soft spot in his hard head. He did.
“Hurry up,” he sighed, looking at his watch.
“Okay, I was just wondering if I could change partners. I mean, I don’t have anything against Gil, but—”
“Absolutely not,” he said sharply.
“Look-it,” he said, “once I start letting people switch, well, then the whole thing turns into a game of Musical Chairs. And I just don’t have time to re-do all my charts just because some kid doesn’t like their partner. Hey,” he added, apparently having an insight, “nobody’s asking you to marry the kid. Just be his partner on a project. No big deal.”
And with that, he hurried out of the room, leaving me wondering if Father would mind moving to another town.