Nobody likes Mira. All the kids say she looks like a witch because she has a hooked nose. They say she has a wart on it too, but Thandie has never seen a wart. They also say Mira has the cooties. Nobody wants to go near Mira or touch her because they dont want to get the cooties from her.
Mira is from Africa. Thandie is from Africa too, and small like Mira, but nobody says that Thandie has the cooties. Thandie has no friends either, but everyone leaves her alone like shes not really there.
Mira doesnt like that everybody picks on her, and Mira doesnt like Thandie. Mira tells everybody that Thandie has the cooties too, but nobody listens to her. They all just say, "Go away cootie-face," and "Dont come near me! Youll give me the cooties!"
One day, in art class, Thandie is painting a picture of a horse when the teacher steps out of the room. Mira comes and taps Thandie on the shoulder, "I bet I could take you in a fight." Thandie shrugs her shoulders and continues painting. Mira says it louder, "I bet I could beat you in a fight!"
Thandie stops painting, puts down her brush and looks around. Some of the other kids have stopped what they were doing and are waiting for Thandie to answer.
"No you cant." says Thandie in a voice just as loud as Miras.
"Yes I can!" says Mira angrily, "Why dont you meet me after school at the bottom of the hill outside the schoolyard, and Ill prove it?"
Thandie doesnt know what to do. She doesnt like fights, and doesnt want to fight Mira. But now everyones looking at her. She shrugs, gives a little smirk, and picks up her paintbrush again. She hopes everyone will just go back to what they were doing.
"Are you a chicken Thandie?" asks Jasmine from behind Mira. They both have a little smile on their faces.
Thandie shifts in her seat. "No," she says. Being a chicken is worse than having the cooties.
"Then why dont you fight her?" asks Georgette from the back of the classroom. Thandie looks around. She hopes the teacher would come back right now. But he doesnt. Thandie looks down at her sneakers. She has no choice.
"I will." she mumbles. Then she looks at Mira who seems very pleased with herself and says, "Ill meet you after school."
The rest of the afternoon seems very long to Thandie. Her stomach is starting to hurt, and she wishes this would all just go away. She doesnt want to fight, but there seems to be no way out of it now. Word has spread fast, and the whole school knows about the fight. Lots of people will be there to watch.
When the clock points to 3:15, the bell rings, and several of the kids from class run up to Thandie. "Were on your side," they say, "we want you to win." Thandie is surprised. It feels good to have people on her side. She wonders if this wont be so bad after all, maybe people will like her better. She puts her hand on her stomach. Its still hurting.
Outside the schoolyard, there is a crowd of kids from every grade in the school. They are everywhere, on top of the hill, sitting on the sides, and waiting with Mira at the bottom. There is a circle where there are no people, thats where Thandie and Mira will fight. Everyone has come to see the fight between the two little African girls.
When Thandie gets there, she is surrounded by kids. They tell her to "kick her in the shins!" or "scratch her face!" or "pull her hair!" Thandie nods to them and someone helps her take her jacket off. As soon as its off, Mira grabs one of Thandies arms and swings her around.
Thandie lands face down in the grass. She scrambles back up as fast as she can, but Mira is already grabbing her by the hair. Mira yanks Thandies head back and pushes her into the crowd. The crowd surrounds Thandie, and again she hears "get her Thandie!" and "punch her in the nose!" and "scratch her eyes out!" But Thandie doesn't want to do any of these things.
The crowd parts and Thandie sees Mira stepping back into the circle. Thandie really doesnt want to go back in there. She just wants to go home. But, she cant walk away now, that would make her a chicken. She takes a step toward Mira, then stops.
Someone has grabbed her wrist. Its Michelle. She looks straight into Thandies eyes and says, "Thandie, you dont have to do this." Thandie stares at Michelle. Everyone around them quiets down as they wait for the fight to begin again. Then, Stacy, whos just behind Michelle, says "Yeah, Thandie, just stop. This is ridiculous." Michelle and Stacy are in Thandies class and are best friends. Theyre not popular, but theyre tough and no one messes with them. They dress different, chew gum all the time, and dont care what anyone says to them.
The other kids around her are saying, "you cant stop!" and "dont be a chicken!" but Thandie has heard Michelle and Stacy.
Michelle takes Thandies jacket from Georgette, and gives it to Thandie. "Come on," she says, "well walk you home."
Thandie looks around as the crowd begins to chant "Thandie is a chick-en! Thandie is a chick-en!" Mira has a triumphant grin on her face. She thinks she has raised her status from being the least-liked girl in the school to the second-least-liked girl in the school.
With Thandie in the middle, both girls drape an arm over her shoulders Stacy on the left, and Michelle on the right. The three of them begin to walk away from the school.
Behind them, the whole crowd is chanting together, "Thandie is a chick-en!" But the sound gets farther and farther away. Thandie looks at Michelle and Stacy. They are already talking about something else. Stacy is saying something about Britney Spears new video, "
did you see when she did that? It was so ridiculous!" Wow, Thandie thought that she was the only one who felt that way about the new Britney Spears video!
A smile tugs at the corners of Thandies mouth. Suddenly, she doesnt feel like a chicken at all. She actually feels a bit victorious. By simply being herself, Thandie has found the one and only thing Mira had hoped to get out of this fight. Thandie has found friendship.
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