It was meant as a way to say thank you. I mean, at least that’s how it started. Well, that’s how I like to believe I meant for it to start. Why couldn’t I have just said, “Thank you, Matilda?” I guess I could have. And, I guess I know why I didn't.
The words thank you didn’t seem like they were enough. The words thank you just didn’t seem supercalifragilisticexpialidocious enough. And that’s the best way I can describe what Maltida did when she stood up and said, “You can do it, Brucey!”
I never heard those words before.
You can do it.
Okay, of course I’ve heard the words before, but never directed at me. I take that back. I’ve heard the words directed at me before, but never directed at me with care. When I’m told I can do something, it’s when someone is hoping to see me fail. They think I don’t see them laughing, but I do see. They think I can’t tell when they’re trying their best not to laugh, but I can tell. They think I don’t notice when they elbow their friends to join in on the fun, but I do notice. I’m everybody’s clown and I don’t even need a red nose or wig to be a good one. All I do is show up and be me.
When Matilda stood up and said, “You can do it, Brucey,” it felt amazing. I felt like a former boxing champion fighting to reclaim his title. I could hear an entire symphony orchestra in my head playing just for me.
The soaring trumpets. “You can do it Brucey!”
The echoing booms of the drum. “You can do it!”
The strings instruments lifting everything up. “Brucey, Brucey, Brucey!”
And the strike of the Gong. It sounded amazing. I felt amazing. Most of all, I felt like people cared.
And trust me, I know what it’s like to not feel care. I know it every day I walk through that school. Our headmaster, Agatha Trunchbull, doesn’t make walking through the school any easier.
Miss Trunchbull walked through the school in the same way as I did. We didn’t care for her much either. And somehow she cared for us even less. I was round, soft, and a little big for my age. I wanted friends. However, there was nothing soft about Miss Trunchbull. She was tall, burly, and walked like her mission in life was to save the world from smiling children.
When she called me into her office, I didn’t know what to think. Her office smelled like cupcakes and old gym socks. She had a blazing hot fireplace in one corner and a very large stuffed blue ox in another. I barely heard her say to me, “Bruce, I don’t like how you’re treated by the other kids.” It almost sounded like she cared. Her voice was soft, warm, and motherly. It didn’t sound anything like the Miss Trunchbull we all feared. I was shocked.
Maybe she was spooked a little, too. Her left nostril started to twitch. She squinted her left eye and scanned the room slowly in the direction of the ox. Then she squinted her right eye and scanned the room slowly in the opposite direction. I’m not sure what she was trying to focus on. Maybe it was all those Highland Games trophies stacked up against the wall or that awful shrine to some guy named Roald Dahl. The shrine had a bunch of old candles, black roses, and a border made of golden tickets. Everyone says it’s her dead husband she poisoned with a giant peach.
She looked up to the ceiling without moving her head as if expecting something to crash down on her at any moment. Then she looked at me. Her hair was suddenly drenched in sweat. Her eyes became wild and she started this low humming sound in her throat. It was followed by a warm but mildly sinister smile.
It was the kind of smile that widened in slow motion.
It was the kind of smile the bus driver makes when the students won’t stay quiet and a road sign appears with the words: BUMPY ROAD AHEAD, DRIVE CAREFULLY.
Miss Trunchbull jumped on top of the desk. I thought she was going to do the same diving elbow wrestling move she did to Nigel Hicks in the lunchroom. The one she did after he stood up to her in class.
She leaned over within an inch of my face. The cupcake and gym sock smell now included turtle water and boiled cabbage. I felt droplets of sweat trickle down my ears joining the pool already in my armpits. With my heart beating so fast, I just knew it was going to leap out of my body. I guessed the only reason my heart didn’t leap out of my body was that it was more afraid of facing Miss Trunchbull than me.
“Bruce. Oh, lovely, lovely Bruce. I don’t like how you’re treated by the other kids.”
Now that was the voice of Miss Trunchbull I knew. And, I became positive she ate corned beef with her boiled cabbage.
“I have a slice of chocolate cake that Miss Cookie, our lovely, beautiful chef, made especially for me. Do you want to have it? I want you to have it.”
You know, when Miss Honey taught us about irony in class, I didn’t understand it then. Somehow, Miss Trunchbull made it easier to learn about irony.
I hadn't eaten all day, but at that moment I’d never felt so full. And I love chocolate cake. I slowly shook my head side to side with my eyes frozen on the ice blue eyes of Miss Trunchbull.
“But you have to eat it before Miss Cookie returns from the store or else she will be sad that I didn’t eat it myself. Do you understand? Miss Cookie loves me dearly.”
I held my stomach with both hands and groaned. It was my best tummy ache impression. It didn’t work.
“Oh, yes, your belly will love it,” she said with her strange smile widening.
Miss Trunchbull told me where to find the cake. She told me when to eat the cake. Then she even gave me a large golden fork that had engraved on it: The Property of Captain Hook, Yarrrrr.
I thought to myself, maybe she wanted me to be scared. Maybe she was making this easy so she could really enjoy me running away in fear. At that moment, I decided to stand up to Miss Trunchbull and eat the dodgy slice of chocolate cake. Maybe I would become a school legend and not everyone’s punchline for a change. Besides, I loved to eat cake.
“Now don’t forget the right time to eat the cake my lovely, talented, intelligent, oh so kind Brucey bear.”
I found the slice and ate it. It wasn’t anything special. It looked good. It was soft, moist, and chocolatey, but I’d tasted better. I was proud of myself for not being scared and for not failing the challenge. Little did I know Miss Trunchbull wanted Miss Cookie to see me eating it.
So when Miss Trunchbull called me up to the stage at the emergency school meeting, I knew she was going to try and make me fail at something. After all, I stood up to her like Nigel Hicks did before she did the flying elbow. What I didn't expect was how she would try and make me fail. I never imagined her challenge would be the one thing she asked me to do earlier. On top of that, it was the one thing people laughed at me the most for.
“Did you eat my slice of cake?”
That’s it, she wants me to hurt Miss Cookie’s feelings in front of everyone.
“What cake?” I felt quick on my feet.
Well, she forced me to eat another slice. I didn’t feel that bad, though. After all, it was twice that I’d bested Miss Trunchbull. I was starting to feel good about myself.
“Miss Cookie has the rest of the cake.” Miss Trunchbull had a look of victory and satisfaction on her face.
When Miss Cookie came out, I’d never seen so much cake before. Now, I had to eat an entire cake!
Lucky for me, Miss Cookie made a cake more delicious than the first one. Unfortunately for me, I was failing. This time was full and my tummy was actually aching. I could feel every thread of my shirt pressing against my belly. I could no longer feel my fingers and my throat felt like it was clogged full of dirt. I was just about to quit. I thought, after this, the name Bruce Bogtrotter alone would make people laugh hysterically. I won’t need to even show up. Then it happened. Matilda made everyone else cheer for me to succeed. And it was right in front of Miss Trunchbull.
After that day, people were nicer to me. Our gym teacher would motivate kids by saying, “You have to keep going like Brucey!” During recess, whenever a team was losing badly, someone would always say, “Let’s make a comeback like Bruce!” The same kids who bullied me asked if they could help me run for student council.
I never actually thanked Matilda so I wanted to find a way to say, Thank You. That was all I meant to do.
So, I got a health inspector to pay a little visit to Miss Cookie. I wanted better food for everyone. I wanted Miss Cookie to be embarrassed like I almost was. I wanted no more chocolate cake for Miss Trunchbull. And I just so happened to know the perfect time for the inspector to come, while Miss Trunchbull was having her daily slice of chocolate cake. As a special touch, I wrote this anonymous note to Miss Cookie that simply stated: Everyone in the school wants the food to be better, especially your chocolate cake.
The day after the inspection, I went into school early and headed straight to the kitchen. I wanted to see what my good deed did. I was going to share the news with Matilda afterward.
Amazing aromas filled the kitchen. It was like a humongous bakery in there. There had to be hundreds of cakes, tarts, pies, cookies, and puddings. Each one had a hand-written, thank-you note to a student at our school. Then something even sweeter caught my nose. It was the most delicious, syrupy, chocolatey scent I’d ever smelled. I followed the deliciousness into Miss Cookie's office. The office was filled with slices of chocolate cake. Each slice had a huge bite missing except for one.
In the middle of the office was Miss Cookie, unconscious with a frozen smile on her face. They said she probably fell into a sugar coma shortly before I got there. Next to her was a beautiful piece of chocolate cake and a note to Miss Trunchbull. On the note, it read: Thank You, Agatha, for believing in me. Love, Gloria Cookie.
As we all know, Miss Cookie is still in her coma.
So, I am here today to say, Thank You, Miss Cookie, for the delicious treats.