Get out of Gym for Free
by David Lubar
"All right, you toads -- line up!" Mr. Odzman screamed.
"What's he so angry about?" I asked.
"I heard he's always like that," my friend Curtis said.
"This is going to stink." I got in line in front of the bleachers with the rest of the
class. It was the first period of the first day of middle school, and we had gym. I
figured the gym teacher would be tough, but he looked like he was about to bite off
someone's head and spit it onto the floor.
"I know what you worms are thinking," he said. "You're thinking gym is going to
be awful. But you're wrong. It's going to be worse than awful."
He paused to stare, one by one, at each of us. As his eyes met mine, I felt all of my
organs contract into fleshy spheres. Even my lungs constricted.
"But you're wrong about something else, too," he said. "It won't be bad for all of
you. One of you is going to get a break. Whoever wins the free-for-all gets to skip
gym for the rest of the year. Sound good?"
We all nodded. It's hard to nod and tremble at the same time.
"I wonder what the rules are?" Curtis asked.
We found out a couple seconds later.
Mr. Odzman walked over to the door that led to the locker room. "Last man
standing gets out of gym. I'll be back in ten minutes to see who the winner is."
He step to the other side and pulled the door closed. I heard a bolt slide into place.
Last man standing? I looked at Curtis. "He's got to be kidding."
There was something dangerous in his eyes. I leaped back as he swung a fist at my
head. All around me, kids had exploded into action, punching or tackling whoever
Curtis staggered toward me, thrown off balance by his missed punch. I bent over
and rammed my head into his stomach. He grunted and toppled over. I started to
straighten up, but I felt a sharp pain in my back. Maybe using my head as a weapon
wasn't the best idea.
Groaning at the pain, I straightened up. Curtis managed to stand, too, but only
briefly. Someone flew past me and tackled him. I spun around, trying to spot any
The fight didn't last long. I got knocked down real hard and twisted my knee. I
couldn't get up.
Bobby Soames, who's been lifting weights since he was five, won the battle. He
was the only person standing when Mr. Odzman came back in.
"Very good," he told Bobby. "You get out of gym for the year. The rest of you, I'll
see you next week. Unless you're too injured to take class. You don't need a
doctor's note. I'll take your word for it."
Too injured? I staggered to my feet and tried to take a step. I felt like someone was
using my knee as a knife holder. It would be weeks before I could walk without
pain. All around me, kids were limping, groaning, and moaning.
As we stumbled into the locker room, Mr. Odzman walked over to his office,
plopped into his chair, and put his feet up on his desk. "He looks pretty happy," I
"You'd be happy, too, if you didn't have to do any work."
"I guess so. I think we're all going to bring notes." I headed for our next class. As I
reached the hall, a chilling thought hit me. "Curtis?"
I pictured gas fires, powerful acids, toxic fumes, and broken glassware. "You don't
think it will be like this in science class, do you?"
Curtis sighed. "I hope not."
I looked ahead of us, toward the science lab, where a plume of smoke poured out
the door. Kids were crawling out into the hallway, crying and moaning. It was
going to be a long day.