”The school time is seven thirty-nine. Have a great day!”
There was a slight pause, where normally the muffled clatter of the microphone getting put back would signal the end of the announcements.
But, after a half-pause more, it didn't come.
”Oh, I nearly forgot,” the voice from the speaker remarked, almost as if she didn't know the whole school was still listening. “Has anyone ever heard about The Treasure Of Lonely Oak?”
With that, the usual, almost ceremonious clatter of the mic getting put back, finally concluded the morning announcements.
Right away, the class started glancing around at one another.
Rini looked back at the rabbit sitting behind her—directly behind. She had noticed that Lyza moved up a desk when she came in.
Lyza's pupils flitted up to match Rini's and she shrugged, going back to her book to try and finish the page she was on.
Murmurings in the room rose to chatter, but Ms. Hupp did nothing to quiet it down as she normally did. She remained at her desk, leafing through some papers, licking her finger every now and again.
Chatter turned to conversation, the voice-levels rising much higher than Ms. Hupp usually let them this early in the morning.
Lyza sighed, unable to concentrate, and closed her book.
”Ms. Hupp!” Kimberly called from her desk.
”Just a moment, please,” the teacher responded, continuing to sort her desk, or whatever it was she was doing.
”What did she mean?” Kimberly questioned, despite her teacher's response.
Ms. Hupp set her papers down and stood up. “All right; tone it down, tone it down.” She said, getting softer and softer, the class following. “Tone... It... Do...wn...”
”What's the Treasure!?” Kimberly squeaked.
”Kimmy, raise your hand please.”
The mousette's hand stuck up in the air.
”Kimmy?” The teacher called.
”What's the Treasure!?” She asked again, in the same tone.
”What treasure?” The teacher asked, her mask tilting with her head in confusion.
”The one in the announcements!” The mousette replied, as the class started to murmur again. “She said there was a treasure, what's it mean!?”
”I have no clue what you are talking about,” the teacher replied, with a peculiar annunciation. “Class, tone it down,” the teacher repeated. “This morning's routine will be a little different.” She mentioned, her hand pressing the air as if to let them know to stay calm. “Pretty soon we'll be get—”
A knock at the door interrupted her.
”Oh! There they are. Okay, everyone: be on your best behavior.” She said, and glanced at the lion cub.
”Wha'!?” Ritzer snarled.
She used her two fingers to go from her eyes to pointing at him, back and forth a few times as she walked to the door.
He slumped back, folding his arms.
Ms. Hupp opened the door a crack, and then wider, bursting with a cheery, “hello!”
”Hi!” Matched an equally cheery greeting as an unfamiliar group entered the room.
There was a rather plump porcupine that gave their teacher a hug, like they were old friends. As she entered the room, four kids followed her in tow: two boys, and two girls.
One of the boys looked about Ritzer's age, but was taller and broader. The other boy looked to be about Ket's age, but he was thin like William, and had thick-framed glasses.
The girls were even taller than the boys, looking like high schoolers. But, just like they boys, they both wore the signature red shirt, with the top of the left shoulder dyed orange.
”Everyone,” Ms. Hupp said, leading the group into the room. “This is Mrs. LeBlanc. She and her helpers here,” the teacher gestured to the four kids, “are vising from Redcliff.”
”Hell-oooooo Ms. Hupp's class,” the porcupine greeted, painting a wave.
”Hello Mrs. LeBlanc.”
”—Mrs. LeBonk,” Ritzer's voice was clearly heard, slightly delayed from the unison greeting.
”Ritzer,” Ms. Hupp glanced a dagger his way.
”I hope you all are having a very good morning. Before I start yammering, how many of you are excited about going to middle school next year!?” She asked, with a sense of enthusiasm that was far beyond what anyone wanted in that hour.
A few kids raised their hands.
”Good! Is anyone maybe a little scared, or nervous, about middle school?” She asked.
At first, no one raised their hand. Then, a yellow-orange, striped arm lifted up.
Then, another, colored like the foam of a root-beer float.
Within the next few seconds, more and more hands raised, until nearly all had come up.
”Well, I can stand up here, and yammer on about how it's different, but not too much, than how things are here, but,” the porcupine stepped back a pace. “Who wants to listen to an ol' fudd like me?”
The kids let out a nervous chuckle.
”That's why I have some of my students here,” Mrs. LeBlanc introduced the four children, who were rather quiet. “Cameron and Liz,” she hovered her hands over the heads of the boy with glasses, and the shorter of the two girls, “are both in sixth grade—the grade you will all be going to.” She stepped behind the other pair. “Megan is in seventh grade, and Joey is in eighth,” she did likewise when introducing the older girl and boy.
”They are all in JLO, does anyone know what that is? Yes,” the woman called on the rabbit that raised her hands.
”That's Jell-O, right?” She asked.
”Um... Some call it that,” the woman responded.
”My brother's in it,” the girl said. “It's the Junior Leadership Organization.”
”That's right,” the porcupine nodded. “These guys and gals are here as your Junior Leaders, volunteering to answer any questions or concerns you might have about going to middle school. So, if anyone has any questions, they'll be happy to answer.”
”We don't get recess, right?”
”Emmy, please raise your hand,” Ms. Hupp admonished.
Emeral raised her hand. When she was called, she repeated her question.
At first, the four kids from middle school were quiet, but then Joey, the oldest boy, took a breath. “So, there's no recess, but there are sports teams you can join, and P.E. is sometimes kinda like recess.”
”Ket,” Ms. Hupp called.
”Are any of you from here?” The tiger asked.
Joey nodded. “I am.”
”Not everyone goes from Lonely Oak to Redcliff,” Mrs. LeBlanc interjected. “Just like not everyone at Redcliff came from Lonely Oak; you'll meet plenty of new faces.”
”Um... So... You said P.E., uhm... Is it... Is it true that... Like...”
”C'mon already,” Kelly-Elly muttered.
”It's okay,” the porcupine said, encouragingly, “there's no such thing as a silly question.”
”Well... I mean,” the mousette glanced to the dalmatian. “Is it true that you, like, change... In front of everyone?”
”Megan,” the counselor called for her to answer.
”So, like...” The girl looked up for a second, thinking. “At Redcliff, you do have to change before and after P.E. You kinda learn to change in ways that still keep you covered-up, and stuff.”
”There's separate locker-rooms for boys and girls,” Mrs. LeBlanc added. “We also don't allow any silly behavior; you change clothes, and go.”
”Kelly,” Ms. Hupp called.
”How do you be a cheerleader?” She asked.
”It's an elective,” the older girl answered again. “But, you have to make the try-outs, and it's only for eighth-graders.”
”Is there lotsa homework?” The chihuahua asked with a groan.
”Sometimes,” replied Cameron, pushing his glasses up. “But it's not too bad.”
”Just a couple more,” the porcupine warned. “Yes, you?”
Rini lowered her hand. “Is it really confusing going from class-to-class, or like... I dunno... Just seems weird.”
”You get plenty of time between classes,” replied Liz, the other sixth-grader. “And you get a locker, so you can swing by to drop off and pick up books.”
”I've gone to the wrong class a couple times, so it can get confusing when you first start,” Joey added. “You'll learn the school really quick, there's lots of little short-cuts and stuff.”
”And... Last one, go for it.”
The lion cub's hand slammed down on his desk. “S'how ya join the foo'ball team?” He asked.
”My advice:” the large boy said, directly to the lion cub, “Let the coaches know, practice with some friends, and then toward the end of the year you can try out for it to start in seventh grade.”
”Okay,” Mrs. LeBlanc clapped her hands together once. “I know you guys might have more burning questions, but we have more classrooms to get to. If you have any more questions, your counselors here will be able to help answer them.”
”Everyone say thank you and goodbye,” Ms. Hupp instructed, as she went to open the door for the group.
They waved as they departed into the hall, amidst the almost chanting drone of the students doing as their teacher said.
Ms. Hupp closed the door, and went to her desk. “Now, to follow up with that little visit,” she stood in the front of the room, and held up brightly-colored papers that she had in her hand. “You will all be making a very important decision: What elective you want to take next year. Does anyone know what that word means?”
After a moment, the white rabbit raised her hand. When she was called, the rat in front of her leaned a bit to the side so she didn't block sight between her and the teacher.
”It's a subject we choose to take; the opposite of a prescribed subject, like math or science.”
”That's actually a very good way of putting it,” the teacher smiled. “So, yes. An elective is one of a few subjects you can choose to take. Each year, you will pick an elective, and in later grades you'll get to pick two, or even more.”
Ms. Hupp walked to the rat, and began handing each row some of the papers from her hand.
”Each of these sheets has three colors: white, blue, and yellow. When you write on the top, it will get copied to the pages underneath. Start filling out the information at the top, and then wait until everyone is all caught up.”
Pencils began scribbling on the pages as the kids filled out the top section. They put their names, their teacher's name, their school, and few other blanks and checkboxes about themselves.
”Panda?” Ms. Hupp called.
”What if... We... Might not be going to Redcliff next year?”
”It'll still be good to follow along, just in case.”
She gave the students a few more minutes. The scratching of pencils began to fall away to murmurs and giggles.
”Is everybody done?” She asked, and the voices hushed. “Is anyone still filling out the top?” A few hands raised. “Okay, let's hurry along, keep voices down.”
Once the stragglers were finished, she took one of the blank papers and used it for a reference.
”Now, you'll be choosing your elective. You have one of three choices: band, choir, or orchestra.”
”Where's D?” Ritzer asked.
”D?” Cathy repeated, glancing at the lion in confusion.
”Non'th'bove,” he smirked.
”You have to choose from one of those three, this year,” Ms. Hupp told them. “In seventh grade, you'll have more to choose from.”
”So, uhm...” Kimberly raised her hand. “What's the difference between band and orchestra?”
”Someone fell asleep in music class,” Kelly-Elly remarked, and the kids nearby her giggled.
”Why don't you answer, then?”
The poodle's eyes went wide, realizing she'd been heard. “I... Uh...”
More of the class started to chuckle.
”It's about the instruments,” a voice finally spoke amidst the rumbling.
Eyes looked to the rabbit.
”Orchestra is string-instruments, like violins, cellos, and basses. Band is percussion, brass, and some woodwinds.”
The class was still for a few seconds.
In the silence, the rabbit's ears swiveled up. “...Choir is singing,” she added.
”Now that everyone's on the same page,” the teacher said, “please rank the three electives using the numbers one through three, where one is the one you'd want to be in the most, and three is the one you'd rather not be in unless you had to be.
”And no,” she looked at the lion cub, “you can't just put three down for each one—or four,” she interrupted, as he was about to say something.
He sputtered his lips and leaned on his desk.
”Feel free to talk with your friends. There's a chance you could get the same classes together, including the electives.”
Right away the children began standing from their desks.
Rini turned to the girl behind her. “You know your ranking?” She asked.
Lyza replied by orienting her sheet so the rat could see it. “Not really a surprise,” she shrugged. “I already know how to play the flute. Don't care to learn another kind of instrument, and I don't even sing in the bath.”
”So: choir, orch, then band,” Kelly-Elly said, as she set her paper down on Rini's desk. “That's what we'll all do,” she swept her finger over herself, Rini, Lyza, and the twins. “Except you,” she pointed to the rabbit, gesturing an X in the air with her finger. “You're not a part of this conversation.”
”Didn't wanna be,” she said, getting up and walking away.
Rini tapped on her desk as the rabbit left her peripheral vision. “So, why that order?” She asked the poodle.
”Cuz, choir's a cinch. Don't have to learn a new instrument, and there won't be any stupid boys around. If there are any boys, they'll either be sissies or so desperate for a girl to notice them, we could probably get them to do our homework.”
Rini took her pencil and started ranking her electives.
”No, band is three, choir is one, orch is two.”
”For you,” the rat replied. “I want to be in band.”
”You know that loser's probly picked band, too, right?” Kelly-Elly asked rhetorically, pointing to Lyza's empty seat.
Rini closed her eyes for just a second before speaking calmly. “My brothers all took band,” she explained. “So... I want to take band. If I can't, then I'll see you in choir.”
Lyza made her way to Panda's desk, slumping into the empty next to him. “Hey.” She said.
”Hey, you pick, yet?”
”Yeah,” she replied, straightening her paper out. “Three guesses as to what's my first pick.”
”I wish art was one,” he sighed. “Stinks we have to pick from all music ones.”
”What makes you say you're not going to be at Redcliff next year?” She asked.
The bear sat back. “I dunno... Just feel like mom and dad will want me to stay with them. But...” He set his pencil down. “I'd like to go to Redcliff, and stay with gramps.”
They looked up as Ket and Emeral came up to them from the other side of the bear. “Yello,” Panda said with a weak wave.
”What're you guys picking?” Emeral asked.
”Band,” Lyza answered. “If not, orchestra.”
”I'm the other way around,” Ket said. “I always kinda wanted to learn how to play a string-instrument.”
”I don't like any of 'em,” the tigress said.
”Hm... Guess I'll do band,” the bear said. “I don't wanna be caught dead in choir.”
”I don't think any boy does,” Emeral joked.
All four looked to the lazy voice.
The lion cub was sitting on the desk just behind and to the side of the tigers.
”Cuz I'd if y'was,” he said with a smile. “Don' mind sing'n.”
””No,” the tigress replied. “That's not my first pick.”
”D'n whas' it?”
”This is, of course, presuming you make it out of fifth-grade purgatory,” the rabbit interjected, dryly.
”Ooo, Miss' A's goss' jokes,” the lion cub smirked, quickly hopping the desk over to the rabbit. He snatched the papers out of her hand, looking at them. “Hm... Guess I's goin' band, then.” He tossed the paper up, letting it fall wherever it may.
Lyza looked down at them, landed-split at her feet.
Ket took Panda's pencil, and started scratching on his paper.
”Whatchya doin'?” The bear asked.
”Swapping orchestra for band,” the tiger replied.
”Me, too,” the tigress said, taking the pen from him.
”Okay, everyone, it's about time to finish up,” the raccoon said, ringing the bell she used to normally end their quizzes. “Remember that this ranking isn't final; it's just to get a head-start on your schedule next year. You'll get a chance to change the rankings...”
She continued to speak over the children, slowly managing to get their attention and coral them back to their desks, back to the regular routine of the day.