They finally asked Andy to be in the Third Street Tigers. His best friend, Michael, was already in the club. If only he wasn’t afraid to climb up to the tree house where they had the meetings! Wooden planks were nailed up the trunk like a ladder, but whenever Andy tried to climb anything, he got a funny feeling in his stomach.
One day he decided to try climbing while no one was looking. On the fourth step, his stomach did a double flip, and he dropped to the grass. Turning to go home, Andy found Montgomery blocking his way.
“You’re afraid! You’re afraid!” teased Montgomery.
“What do you mean?” Andy gulped.
“You chickened out. I saw you! You’ll never be a Tiger.”
“Leave me alone!”
Laughing, Montgomery pushed Andy. “Maybe you should join the preschoolers. They meet in the sandbox.”
In the morning, Andy told Michael what had happened. “It’s no use,” Andy sighed. “I’ll never get all the way up. Montgomery was right.”
“But you have to be a Tiger,” Michael said. “Best friends are always in the same club.”
“Yeah, but Montgomery …”
“Forget Montgomery. I know something that might help you build up your courage. Meet me at the gym after school,” Michael said as he headed back to class.
All day long, Andy wondered what Michael’s plan was and if it would work. He wanted to be in the Tigers more than anything.
The gym was crowded when Andy found Michael in a corner, watching a girl do a somersault on the balance beam.
“What’s the plan?” Andy asked.
“The balance beam.”
“You’re not getting me up there. I saw what that girl was doing.”
“Not the high beam,” said Michael. “There’s a lower beam over there.” As he talked, Michael pulled Andy across the room.
Andy put one foot on the beam, then jerked it down again. He hoped the Tigers were worth all this trouble. With Michael guiding him, Andy finally walked to the other end. Then he saw Montgomery watching him.
Andy stepped down to the floor. “What do you want?”
“I came to see if you’re still afraid.”
“Let’s go,” Michael said to Andy. “We’re done here, anyway.”
As they left, Montgomery shouted, “Hey, Andy, maybe you can join the Tigers when you grow up.”
On Friday, Michael talked Andy into trying to climb the tree again. As he got close to it, Andy felt a familiar flutter in his stomach. Hitching up his pants and crossing his fingers once for luck, he started up the tree.
First step, no problem. Second step, fine. By the third step, Andy felt as if he could make it. Then the plank pulled away from the trunk, and Andy tumbled to the ground.
Andy and Michael were both thinking the same thing: Montgomery must have loosened the step. “I’m going to find him,” Andy raged. He headed for Montgomery’s favorite hangout, the city park. By the time he got there, he’d cooled off. What’s the use? he thought. No matter what I say, Montgomery will never leave me alone.
He turned to go back to Michael, when he heard yelling and a dog barking. Andy ran toward the sound and found Montgomery backed up against a fence, his arms covering his face. In front of him stood a large, barking dog.
Wow! Tough Montgomery is afraid of dogs! Andy wanted to run and tell Michael, but then he remembered how he had felt halfway up the tree. I guess everybody’s afraid of something.
Andy grabbed the dog’s collar. “Calm down, Montgomery! Don’t you recognize Mr. Henry’s dog, Skipper? He only wants you to play with him.”
“Keep him away from me!” cried Montgomery.
“There’s nothing to worry about,” Andy told him. “Let him smell your hand.”
“No way! I’m getting out of here.”
“Watch me.” Andy bent down and held out his hand. The dog sniffed, then licked it. “Now you try,” Andy said.
Cautiously Montgomery put out his hand while Andy held the dog. When Skipper licked it, too, both boys began to laugh.
“It tickles,” said Montgomery.
The boys heard someone calling Skipper, and the dog ran off.
Montgomery jammed his hands into his pockets and played in the dirt with his shoe. “Thanks for saving me. Are you going to tell?”
“I don’t know,” Andy said. “It doesn’t seem right.”
“I’m sorry for picking on you,” Montgomery apologized. “If you want, I’ll help you climb the tree tomorrow—no tricks, I promise.”
“Isn’t that what friends are supposed to do?”
In the morning, Andy and Montgomery went to the giant tree early. Andy took a deep breath, then looked up. The Third Street Tigers clubhouse was up high!
“You can do it,” Montgomery said. “I’ll be right behind you. If you get scared, stop and rest.”
Andy swallowed hard. With shaky hands he grabbed the bottom plank. Nervously he pulled himself up. Counting to three, he moved on to the second step, then the third, which had been nailed on tight again. He bit his bottom lip and stopped to gather his courage.
Andy forced himself to continue from each step to the next. When he saw the opening of the tree house, he heard Montgomery say, “I knew you’d make it!”
They pulled themselves inside to wait for the rest of their friends. Andy could hardly believe that he’d done it. When Michael arrived, he asked, “What happened? How’d you do it?”
Andy and Montgomery just looked at each other and grinned.