I’ve been worried all day about Timmy. He’s my best friend, and he’s been sick a lot this year. First it was the flu, then some stomach problems. He was out of school yesterday and today, so I decide to drop in on my way home to see him.
When I knock on their door, I hear his mom on the other side. “Come in!” She’s on the phone in the little office in the front of the house – some work stuff, I guess. Goldie, their golden retriever, runs up to greet me, almost knocking me over with her big, dirty paws.
“Hunter.” Mrs. Olsen ends her call and apologizes. “Sorry. It’s hard doing business from home. I’ve been on the phone and the computer all day.”
“No problem.” I brush the dirt off my jacket. Mrs. Olsen is a lawyer, but she manages to stay home whenever her son gets sick. “How’s Timmy?”
She walks me back to the family kitchen. “He vomited this morning and has a fever. I’ve been letting him sleep. He’ll be so glad to see you.” She goes to the back stairs and shouts up. “Timmy! Hunter’s here. Do you want any soup?”
“No, thanks,” says this soft, raspy voice from upstairs.
Timmy’s mother checks the cabinets. “I thought I had some vegetable beef soup, but I guess not. Why don’t you take him some brownies?”
“Sure,” I say. If Timmy doesn’t want a brownie, there’ll be more for me.
Mrs. Olsen fixes a tray with brownies and two glasses of milk. Goldie scratches at the back door. But when she sees me going up the back stairs with the tray, she follows, almost knocking me over again.
Timmy is in bed, the covers up to his neck. He’s pale and weak-looking, and every few seconds he shivers. But he’s glad to see me. “Hunter. How was school? I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it tomorrow. I hope so.”
“Pretty boring, huh?”
“I’ve been in bed all day,” he says. “With no one but Mom. And she’s working.”
Timmy and I split a brownie and talk about school. A few minutes later, we hear Mrs. Olsen calling up the stairs. “Timmy! I’m taking Goldie for a walk. Poor thing hasn’t been out since this morning. Goldie!” Goldie hears her name and races out of the room, barking as she goes.
I wait until I hear the door close, glad that there’s no one else in the house. “I know you’re faking it.”
“Faking what?” he says defensively. “I have a fever and the chills. And vomiting. Ask Mom.”
“Parents are easy to fool,” I say. “You can rub a thermometer between your fingers to get the temperature up. Or you can hold a little hot water in your mouth, then swallow it before the thermometer goes in. As for the vomit, my guess is you ran to the bathroom, made some disgusting noises then dropped vegetable beef soup in the toilet. That’s pretty clever.”
“I’m sick,” he insists. “I can barely move.”
“You’re faking it, and that’s okay. But you’re missing a lot of school and that’s not okay.”
“You don’t know. You’re just guessing.”
“Well, I know you’re lying. And you shouldn’t lie to your best friend.”
HOW DOES HUNTER KNOW TIMMY IS LYING?
“You haven’t been in bed all day,” I tell Timmy. “While your mom was working, you got bored. You sneaked down the back stairs and took Goldie out. Probably through the kitchen door where she wouldn’t see you.”
“I did not,” he says.
“Then how did Goldie’s paws get dirty?”
“What do you mean?”
“When I came in, Goldie jumped up and got dirt on me. But your mom says the dog hadn’t been out since this morning. If she’d been in the house, the dirt would have worn off. I’m thinking you took her out in the backyard, probably in the last half hour.”
My best friend looks embarrassed and guilty. Also a little scared. “Don’t tell mom, please.”
“Why are you doing it? I thought you liked school.” Timmy’s always been a great student, doing his homework early and raising his hand. I’ve even seen a couple of seventh grade boys teasing him about being a teacher’s pet. And then it hits me. “Are you being bullied?” I ask. He doesn’t admit it, but I can tell. “We have to tell your parents. And the school. My mom has handled bullying before. It’s not your fault.”
And for once, my best friend listens to me.