Wednesday, March 5, 2014

BSC 19: Claudia and the Bad Joke

By Ann M. Martin. Published December 1988.

The BSC girls, along with half of Stoneybrook under the age of sixteen, attend a slapstick movie festival at the library.  For once Claudia doesn’t bitch about the library. Kristy has what seems like an unhealthy obsession with being covered in food. It’s a bit disturbing.

Claudia books a job with a new client, sitting for Betsy Sobak. She gets nervous after hearing from other kids who used to sit for her. Betsy is a hardcore practical joker, and the kids from her neighborhood won’t sit for her anymore.

When Claudia first gets there, Betsy gets her with a fly in a fake ice cube, a dribble glass, and hot pepper gum. Annoying, but innocent stuff.

Then Claudia decides they should go outside. Nothing bad could happen there, right? Betsy tells Claudia which swing to sit on, and watches her very closely, but nothing happens. Claudia suggests a swinging contest, and they both get into it. Then all of a sudden, there’s a metallic clunk, the bottom of the swing breaks away, and Claudia goes flying, straight onto the driveway. She hears a crunch, and her leg is definitely not how it’s supposed to be.

Claudia tells Betsy to go call 911, then Betsy’s parents. If she can’t reach them, to call at the Rodowsky’s, where Dawn and Mallory are baby-sitting a bunch of kids. Betsy does so, and soon Dawn, Mal, and a lot of kids turn up. Dawn calls Claudia’s parents, who will meet her at the hospital. Then the ambulance comes, and Dawn accompanies Claudia, leaving Mallory by herself with a shit-ton of kids. Probably not a good idea, but we don’t hear any more about that.

It’s a pretty bad break. Claudia has to stay in the hospital with her leg in traction for a week, then another week at home before she goes back to school. But she has lots of visitors, including sitting charges. That makes her happy.

But what doesn’t make her happy is the thought of sitting again. She’s decided it’s obviously too dangerous. She could have wrecked her hands so that she couldn’t do her art again.

The slapstick festival got other sitting charges, like the Pikes, into a practical joke mood. But it’s just innocent stuff, no leg breaking involved.

Claudia finally gets to go home, where Mimi is ready to take care of her. Claudia talks over possibly quitting the BSC with her, and Mimi suggests that she doesn’t like the thought of not being in control. Then they have a crazy time watching Wheel of Fortune.

At her first BSC meeting back, Claudia breaks the news that she’s maybe thinking about quitting the club. The girls definitely don’t like that. Kristy tells her that since she can’t sit for a while anyway, that she just think about it some more. Claudia agrees to that.

Then Mrs. Sobak actually has the freaking nerve to call and ask for a sitter. That takes some balls. The girls decide to declare a practical joke war on Betsy, to show her how it feels. Why don’t they just hire a hit man to take out her legs, that would really show her.

Mallory gets the first job with her, and they go back and forth pulling tricks on each other, and Mallory actually has fun. She decides this battle was a draw.

Then Dawn sits, and there are a couple of jokes played back and forth again. Then when Dawn runs out of tricks, Betsy gets her with shaving cream instead of whipped cream. Betsy won that battle.

Dawn doesn’t want to tell the Sobacks about Betsy’s behavior, because it would seem babyish, and seem like tattling. No, I think it’s doing your fucking job. The parents should want to know if there’s a problem with their child. But they didn’t ask me.

Claudia still hasn’t made up her mind about sitting, and everyone wants to know. Kristy gives her one more week to decide.

Kristy has her chance in the joke war. She’s supposed to take Betsy to a movie. Kristy lays down the law that there are to be no jokes, and Betsy agrees, then turns right around and gets Kristy with her joy buzzer. That’s just a damn disrespectful kid.

They see some kids Betsy knows, but she doesn’t want to talk to them. They don’t really like her, because of all the jokes she’s played on them.

They find seats, and then Kristy lets Betsy go get popcorn by herself. While she’s gone, Kristy switches seats, so when Betsy comes back, she can’t find her. The other kids laugh at her. Later, Kristy holds the popcorn, and sticks a fake, bloody thumb through the bottom. Betsy sees it, and freaks out. The kids laugh at her again.

They talk after the movie, and Kristy thinks Betsy finally gets how her tricks embarrass her victims. She asks about Claudia, and Kristy suggests they go see her.

Even though she had sent her a note, Betsy apologizes to Claudia again. They tell Claudia what happened at the theater, and Betsy says she was embarrassed. Then she asks Claudia if she was embarrassed. Claudia surprises herself by admitting that she was.

After Kristy takes Betsy home, she comes back to talk to Claudia. They discuss how Claudia was embarrassed, and about Mimi’s theory of her not being in control. They also talk about how much Claudia misses the kids. She says she’ll come back, as long as she doesn’t have to sit for Betsy. That seems fair.

Claudia finally gets her cast off. She freaks out at getting it cut off by the saw. I’ve never had a broken bone (which is shocking, trust me), but it sounds pretty scary to me, too. And then her leg is all thin from not using those muscles, so she still has to use crutches for a while. Bummer.

But she does get to set up a job for a few weeks later, and she’s thrilled with that. So, yay, Claud.

o   Claudia’s parents aren’t happy with her getting an eighty-one on a math quiz. I think that’s really good for her.

o   It took me until I was much older to understand the Prince Albert in a can prank call.

o   Claudia says Betsy nearly killed her. Dawn’s all “whatever”, but really, it could have been a lot more serious than a broken leg.

o   Claudia worries about missing so much school, and that she’ll be held back. Maybe they should have referenced this when she actually did have to go back. But I suppose too much time had passed between the two books.

o   I’m kind of surprised there wasn’t any talk of Claudia’s parents suing the Sobaks.

1 comment:

  1. When I was in fourth grade, my neighbor's au pair ran over my ankle with her car. By some miracle, it was only a bad sprain (I swear to you I felt the tire lift; maybe just lucky positioning with the curb, but I don't know). Anyway, the neighbor happened to work at the local hospital, and while there was no suing, she had her insurance take care of the medical bills.

    Also: the BSC makes Claudia pay dues while she's in the hospital! The best friends you'll ever have, indeed.