Just About Nobody Likes John Harding

By Bette Davis

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    John Harding lives in the old gray house at the end of my street. My mother says that his yard is full of junk, but I don’t think so. One time he gave me a hubcap from an old car behind his house. I used it for a hood ornament on my go-cart.

    At school, John Harding sits by himself at the back of the room. I wanted to sit by him, but my friend Max told me not to. I wanted the teacher to assign some of us seats by John Harding so that he wouldn’t have to be alone, but she didn’t.

    The girls in the class think that John Harding is rude. He really isn’t; he just isn’t comfortable around girls. Besides, I think John Harding is tough!

    My teacher treats John Harding as though he’s dumb, and she often tells him to sit down and to be quiet. But next to my dad, John Harding is about the smartest person I know. In his backyard he built a tree house all by himself. It even has a manual elevator. I wish I could play in his tree house.

    Sometimes my friend Max and I follow him. We stay far behind so that he won’t see us. Max says that John Harding would punch us out if he caught us spying on him. John Harding is the only kid I know who can swing on a rope all the way across Holmgren’s Pond. I dared Max to try it once. He got wet.

    John Harding likes to be alone. Today I heard him yell at another kid that he didn’t care about anything or anyone.

    After school I ran from the room before Max could catch up with me. I wanted to follow John Harding, and I didn’t want Max along.

    John Harding walked toward Holmgren’s Pond. I knew that he was still angry because he walked fast.

    By the time I had caught up to him, he was skipping rocks on the other side of the pond. John Harding can make a rock skip all the way across the pond when he wants to.

    The rope he had used to swing on was tied to a big tree across the pond. Another rope was tied to a fence post on this side.

    More than anything else, I wanted to pick up that rope and swing across Holmgren’s Pond. My heart pounded inside my shirt, and my hands were cold with sticky sweat. I looked at the rope and then at John Harding. He had stopped skipping rocks and was watching me. Slowly I gripped my hands above a knot on the rope.

    Unexpectedly I heard John Harding yell at me, “Grip your hands higher on the rope, and take a long run with it!”

    I looked up at him again.

    “Come on!” he yelled. “You can do it.”

    Before I knew what was happening, I had swung across Holmgren’s Pond. John Harding caught the rope, and I fell on top of him. We tumbled to the ground, laughing. I had done it! I had swung across Holmgren’s Pond—and I didn’t get wet!

    That afternoon John Harding taught me a lot about swinging on ropes. I even learned to do it without closing my eyes.

    Later John Harding let me walk home with him. We kicked a can all the way to my house. I think he let me kick it farther than he did.

    That night in bed I decided that tomorrow I would sit by John Harding in school.

    Illustrated by Julie F. Young