“Grandma Fenton Says,” Friend, Mar. 1988, 20
Jeremy didn’t like walking to school by himself. He looked down the sidewalk to see if Russell was outside. Russell was in the driveway, tinkering with his bike, so Jeremy quickly crossed the street.
Russell saw Jeremy and rode across the street on his bike. “Hey, Squirt, what’s the password?”
“Leave me alone, Russell,” said Jeremy, walking on.
Russell rode right behind him, the wheel of his bike nipping at Jeremy’s heels. When Jeremy stumbled and dropped his books, Russell rode away, laughing.
I’d like to punch him good, thought Jeremy as he picked up his books.
That afternoon when Jeremy got home from school, he saw new people moving into the house across the street. Jeremy sat on his front steps and watched. Maybe they have a big boy I can walk to school with, he thought.
But all that they had was a scrawny little girl. Her name was Olivia. Jeremy’s mother made him walk to school with her.
Olivia jumped over cracks in the sidewalk. “My Grandma Fenton says that it’s bad luck to step on cracks,” said Olivia. Then, “Did you know that a queen termite can lay a thousand eggs a day?”
“No,” said Jeremy. Why couldn’t she have been a boy? he wondered.
“I like to use my brain. See, I have big feet. That means that I’m smart. Grandma Fenton says so.”
When they reached Russell’s house, he was tinkering with his bike, as usual. He jumped onto it and rode it in front of them. “Hey, who’s the new kid?”
“Olivia Fenton,” said Olivia. “Pleased to meet you.”
“Ho, ho, O Liver!” Russell mocked, blocking the sidewalk.
“Hey! You can’t do that!” yelled Olivia.
“Says me, Olivia Fenton. I’m a citizen. I have rights!”
It took quite a while to get around Russell. Olivia was still screaming about her rights. Russell was laughing and calling her “O Liver.” Finally Olivia and Jeremy got away.
“Is he always like that?” Olivia asked.
“Every single day.”
“He’s a bully. I don’t like bullies,” said Olivia.
The next morning Olivia was wearing a knitted cap with a red pom-pom on top. “Grandma Fenton made this cap for me,” said Olivia.
“It looks like trouble to me,” said Jeremy.
Russell was polishing his bike. When he saw Olivia’s cap, he started laughing and pointing. He snatched the cap off her head and put it on.
“Give me that!” screamed Olivia.
She grabbed the cap.
They both pulled. Suddenly Olivia was holding the cap, and Russell was holding the pom-pom. He tied the pom-pom to his handlebars and rode away.
“You can’t do that! Come back!” Olivia screeched.
But Russell just rode away, laughing.
“That does it!” sputtered Olivia. “I’m going to figure out a way to make Russell stop bothering us.”
“The only way to stop Russell is to beat him up. A pip-squeak like you doesn’t have a chance.”
“There has to be another way. Grandma Fenton always says that there’s more than one way to catch a skunk in a pumpkin patch.”
At recess that morning Jeremy saw Olivia hanging upside down from the bars. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m letting the blood run to my head.” She hopped down. “I’ve thought of a plan. Tomorrow we are going to ride our bikes to school.”
“You’ll see,” Olivia replied.
“I don’t understand,” said Jeremy, “but I hope it works.”
The next morning Jeremy rode his bike across the street to meet Olivia. Olivia was walking her bike.
“Aren’t you going to ride?”
“No,” said Olivia. “My bike’s broken.”
“Then why are you doing this?”
“You’ll see,” said Olivia.
Jeremy rode slowly so that Olivia could keep up with him.
Russell was waiting for them. “Hey, O Liver, why aren’t you riding your bike?” he yelled.
“It’s broken,” said Olivia.
“Let me look at it,” said Russell.
“Come on. I can fix it!” Russell said eagerly.
“OK, but be careful. Don’t make it worse.” Olivia handed over her bike.
Russell took it into his garage and got out his tools. He wiggled and adjusted and tightened. He looked very happy. “There. It’s fixed!”
Olivia got on her bike and rode down the driveway. “It is fixed—and you did it, Russell!”
Russell grinned. “I’d better ride along with you just to make sure it’s all right,” he said.
When they got to school, Olivia told everyone how Russell had fixed her bicycle. After that, Russell became the official bike repairman of Cherry Street. He was always busy working on someone’s bike. And every morning he rode to school with Jeremy and Olivia.
“How did you know that he could fix it?” Jeremy asked Olivia later.
“I just loosened a few nuts,” said Olivia. “Since he was always working on his bike, I figured that he would be able to fix it.”
“Pretty clever,” said Jeremy.
Olivia grinned. “Grandma Fenton says that you can catch more files with honey than with vinegar.”