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Charile Bumpers and The Really Nice Gnome

Chapter 1

“Are your desks cleared?” Mrs. Burke asked. “Yes,” everyone answered. “Charlie,” Mrs. Burke said. “What’s that on the floor?”

I looked down. Somehow my math sheet had fallen on the floor. There was a sneaker mark on it. I picked it up and stuffed it in my desk. Mrs. Burke frowned and shook her head. But then she went back to her announcement. “Okay, all of you thespians,” she said. “Please listen carefully.”

“What’s a thespian?” I blurted out.

“Have you forgotten Burke’s rule number four, Charlie?” Mrs. Burke asked. “What do we do when we have a question?”

I needed to know. I raised my hand.

So did Samantha Grunsky.

“I know what a thespian is,” she said. That figures. Samantha Grunsky knows everything. Even stuff you don’t need to know.

“Yes, Samantha?” said Mrs. Burke. “It’s an actor,” Samantha said. I looked back at her, and she gave me one of her I-know-everything looks.

“That’s correct,” Mrs. Burke said, “and today I want to talk about our play.”

I could hardly sit still in my seat. Maybe she was going to tell us what our parts were in the play. I already knew the part I wanted.

Every year, each fourth-grade class does a special project. Mrs. L’s class designs an obstacle course for the whole school to run through. Ms. Lewis’s class was doing a lunch with food from all around the world.

But Mrs. Bumper’s project is the best. Her class always presents a play. Everyone comes to see it. Even the parents. There are lights and costumes and props and everything.

Last year the play was The Elephant’s Surprise, and it was pretty good even though the elephant’s cardboard trunk fell off halfway through the play and Mrs. Burke had to come out and hold it up every time the elephant talked.

But that was last year. This year the play was going to be The Sorcerer’s Castle. Mrs. Burke read it to us in class a couple of weeks ago and everyone liked it.

The Sorcerer was definitely the best part. He turned people into mice. There were four other boys who wanted it. And two girls.

Mrs. Burke picked up a big stack of papers. “I’m going to hand out scripts that will be yours to keep,” she said. “At the top of the first page I’ve stapled a piece of paper that says what your part is.” I was right! In only a couple of minutes we were going to find out who we would be in the play. My legs were twitching and my fingers wouldn’t be still. Even my hair felt all tingly.

I had to be the Sorcerer.

I knew that I could do the part really well. If I just got the chance.

Please give me the chance! I thought.

“The first thing you should do,” Mrs. Burke continued, “is to go through all the pages and underline the lines that are yours. Wherever you see the name of your character, underline that part.”

Samantha Grunsky waved her hand. “Yes, Samantha?” “I have a highlighter! Can I use a highlighter for my lines?” Mrs. Burke nodded. “You can do whatever you want, as long as you show which lines are yours.” Our teacher started calling people up to the front of the class to get their scripts. I sat on the edge of my seat, listening for my name. If she was going in alphabetical order, I would be soon, since my last name is Bumpers. But then I heard her say Cory Filkins, so she wasn’t going alphabetical.

Boogers. I couldn’t wait much longer.

The kids who had their scripts started whispering about their parts. I thought I heard Cory Filkins say something about “Sorcerer,” but then Manny Soares said, “Me, too,” so I figured they were the Sorcerer’s assistants.

Finally, after a million years, Mrs. Burke called my name.

My heart was really beating fast as I walked up. She handed me my script. “This is a big part, Charlie,” she said, smiling. “I know you can do it.” I nodded. This was a good sign. The Sorcerer was a big part.

When I got back to my desk, I looked down at the piece of paper stapled to the top of my script. I looked up at Mrs. Burke, then at the paper again.

“The Nice Gnome?” I said out loud.

“No-o-o-o! I can’t be the Nice Gnome!”