Okay, so imagine the day your great-great-grandmother was born. Got it? Now go back another hundred years or so. And then another hundred. That's about when they built Hills Village Middle School. I think it was a prison for Pilgrims back then, but not too much has changed. Now it's a prison for sixth, seventh and eighth graders.
See also: Interview with James Patterson.
I've seen enough movies that I know when you first get to prison, you basically have two choices: (1) pound the living daylights out of someone so everyone else will think you're insane or (2) keep your head down, try to blend in, and don't get on anyone's bad side.
You can probably guess which one I chose. As soon as I got to homeroom, I went straight for the back row and sat as far from the teacher's desk as possible.
There was just one problem with that plan, and his name was Miller. Miller the Killer, to be exact. It's impossible to stay off this kid's bad side, because it's the only one he's got.
But I didn't know any of that yet.
"Sitting in the back, huh?" he said.
"Yeah," I told him.
"Are you one of those troublemakers or something?" he said.
I just shrugged. "I don't know. Not really."
"'Cause this is where all the juvies sit," he said, and took a step closer. "In fact, you're in my seat."
"I don't see your name on it," I told him, and I was just starting to think maybe that was the wrong thing to say when Miller put one of his XXXL paws around my neck and starting lifting me like a hundred-pound dumbbell.
I usually like to keep my head attached to my body, so I went ahead and stood up like he wanted me to.
"Let's try that again," he said. "This is my seat. Understand?"
I understood all right. I'd been in sixth grade for about four and a half minutes, and I already had a fluorescent orange target on my back. So much for blending in.
I decided to move to some other part of the room. Like maybe somewhere less hazardous to my health.
But then, when I went to sit down again, Miller called over. "Uh-uh," he said. "That one's mine too."
Can you see where this is going?
By the time our homeroom teacher, Mr. Rourke, rolled in, I was just standing there wondering what it might be like to spend the next nine months without sitting down.
You may also like: Jacquelyn Mitchard on starting over at age 50.
From Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts with illustrations by Laura Park, copyright © 2011 by James Patterson, reprinted with permission of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.