Today's Reading


I remember everything about that first day.

Ms. Witt showed up for class fifteen minutes late. She had on a pair of old Levi's, a wrinkled light-blue button-down oxford shirt under a thread-bare gray cardigan. She wore mud-splattered red Jack Purcell high-tops. Her straight brown hair hung loose and tangled, like she'd just rolled out of bed. She looked like she didn't care about anything. She was definitely pretty, but she wouldn't cause any traffic accidents. Her features were all kind of standard. From a distance, she was just another white woman with long brown hair. But, up close, you could see her wide brown eyes tracking everything. And when she flashed a smile, I saw her twisted tooth. It made her look dangerous or something. I liked her right away.

But when she found the dead rat, that's when I knew she was special.

I'd heard that morning about Gabe's planned prank. He was so stinking proud of himself, everyone knew. When Witt opened her desk drawer, she gave up nothing, like a gangster. She squinted, at first, like she wasn't sure what she was looking at. Then there was the recognition, an eyebrow raise. Not even a millisecond of fear. The rodent was contained in a Ziploc bag, which Witt removed from the drawer and held from the corner edge.

"Is Ratatouille, may he rest in peace, property of the biology department or nature?" Ms. Witt asked.

Her eyes scanned the classroom, waiting for a response.

"We dissect mice, not rats, here," said Bethany Wiseman.

"Thank you," Witt said.

Gabriel Smythe was being a total spaz. His attempts to tamp down his laughter made it look like he was having a seizure. Witt lasered in on him.

"You, with the tie around your head, what's your name?"

"Uh, uh, Cornelius...Web-ber...Mc...Allister," Gabe said.

Gabe's fake names are always unfunny because he takes so damn long to come up with them.

Witt dropped the dead rat on Gabe's desk and said, "Please take this creature to his final resting place."

"You want me to bury him?" Gabe said.

Gabe was totally freaking out by then. His face was bright red, his zits even redder. The class was dead silent.

"Well, he's not going to bury himself," Witt said.

Jonah let out a guffaw. I saw a slight smirk on Witt's face.

"Chop chop," said Witt.

Gabe quickly stood up and took the bagged rat out of the classroom. Then Ms. Witt returned to her desk and completely ignored us, as if nothing had happened.

My phone buzzed with a group text from the Ten.

Mick: Holy fuck. What was that?
Adam: That was kinda hot, right?
Tegan: Damn she cold
Rachel: What is she wearing?
Hannah: Weirdo
Mick: Def hot
Tegan: moths r obv drawn 2 her
Emelia: pretty, needs blush
Jonah: I think I'm in love
Mick: u r freak Jonah. Wish I could see her ass in those jeans
Jack: gd mouth
Rachel: sm mouth. Think it could hold your entire dick?
Hannah: OMG. Can u see that snaggletooth? Bitch could cut you
Emelia: 2 early in the day 2 think about Jack getting blown
Jack: never 2 early
Jonah: I like her teeth
Adam: Jonah = lunatic

The Ten refers to the top ten percent, give or take, of each class, which generally works out to around ten students. No one's a Nazi about the precise number except Mick Devlin, who really likes it to be exactly ten. The tier has nothing to do with academic credentials; it's a pure social hierarchy. Members come and go depending on a voting system that is so nebulous, I wouldn't be surprised if there were some preppy wizard from years past pulling the strings somewhere.

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