Double Dog Dare
An Excerpt From
Double Dog Dare

1.

A pair of boys’ underwear
 

One.

Two.

Those were the numbers written on either side of the chalkboard in Miss Sparks’s fourth-grade classroom on Thursday morning. Francine stared at them as she drummed her fingers on her desktop, waiting for Media Club to officially start. Waiting for Kansas to walk through the classroom door. He was taking forever.

One.

Two.

Francine had only been in this war with Kansas for two days, and already she was behind. She had one point, and Kansas had two. Yesterday, when she’d been dared to hang upside down from the monkey bars for all of second recess, the blood had rushed to her head somewhere around the eleventh minute or so, and she’d gotten dizzy and suddenly found herself—PLOP!—facedown on the grass with a raging headache. Kansas had been able to do hisdare, no problem—telling the yard monitor, Mr. DuPree, that he needed to smell his armpit for a science project—so he was ahead, two points to one. But did that mean he was more worthy of being the news anchor than Francine was? No, of course not.

Francine just had to prove it.

“Francine?” Natalie asked, nudging her in the side with her elbow. “You want some pudding?”

Francine looked over at her friend, who was sitting at the desk next to her. Natalie was holding out a pudding cup from her lunch bag.

“But it’s not lunch yet,” Francine said. Francine’s mother was morally opposed to any food that tasted good, so Natalie always shared hers. Chocolate pudding days were especially exciting. “If I eat it now, all I’ll have for lunch is fava bean salad.”

“Take it,” Natalie said, pushing the pudding cup closer to Francine’s nose. She dug a plastic spoon out of her lunch bag, too. “You look like you need it.”

“Thanks,” Francine replied, taking the pudding and the plastic spoon. She was particularly grateful for the spoon. Natalie’s mom usually packed real silverware in her daughter’s lunch, but when there was chocolate pudding, Natalie always tried to sneak in a plastic spoon for Francine. That’s because Francine felt strongly that chocolate pudding tasted one thousand times more delicious with a plastic spoon, instead of a metal one. She couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t eat it that way.

Francine peeled the foil lid off the pudding cup and licked the underside. The chocolate melted on the outside edges of her tongue, smooth and creamy and perfect. Just what she needed. “I guess I am a little jumpy,” she told Natalie. Her eyes drifted to the backpack on her desk, where she was keeping her secret weapon—the thing that was going to help her defeat Kansas Bloom for sure.

Only … what if it didn’t?

“You’re really going to do it?” Natalie asked, her eyes focused on Francine’s backpack, too.

Francine gulped down a mouthful of pudding, and did her best to sound confident. “Yep,” she said.

“Well”—Natalie crumpled her lunch bag closed, just as Kansas strolled through the door—“good luck.” And she stood up and joined the other members at the clump of desks in the corner, where they were studying that morning’s newspaper.

“Thanks,” Francine said, scraping out the last dregs of chocolate pudding. But she knew that real winners didn’t need luck. Real winners needed courage.

When she was sure that Miss Sparks was distracted on the other side of the room, searching through her desk drawer for something, Francine made her way over to the other members of the club. With his floppy hair and ruddy cheeks, Kansas was looking cool and calm, just like the King of Dares he thought he was. Well, Francine would show him. Not even the King of Dares would do what she had planned for him.

Taking a deep breath of courage, Francine plopped her backpack dead center on the group of desks.

“What’s that?” Luis asked.

“That,” Francine replied, allowing herself the smallest of smiles, “is Kansas’s new dare.” And, while everyone watched, Francine slowly, tooth by tooth, tugged open the zipper of her backpack. Then, with the eraser end of a number-two pencil, Francine pulled out her secret weapon and raised it from her backpack for everyone to see.

A white pair of boys’ underwear, slightly used.

Emma squealed. Luis’s eyes went huge, his lips round as he whistled out a “nooooooo way!” Andre snorted and thumped Kansas square on the back. “Oh, man,” he said, shaking his head. “Oh, man.”

But Kansas was silent.

“Whose are they?” Brendan asked.

Francine paused a moment. If there was anyone in that room who should know whose tighty whities they were, it was Brendan King. After all, he’d been the one who swiped them from the boys’ locker room during PE yesterday while Kansas was changing. Francine had paid him five bucks to do it. The whole dare had been his idea. But he was probably just trying to cover up so no one would suspect him of being an underwear thief.

Francine stood up a little straighter, swinging the briefs from her pencil like a pendulum. “See for yourselves,” she told them. And she flung the underwear down in front of Kansas’s perched elbows so that the name on the waistband was completely visible.

Kansas Bloom. The words were written in neat, square permanent marker.

Emma squealed again, so loudly that Miss Sparks popped her head up from behind her desk to see what was going on. Alicia had the sense to cover for them, fanning out the pages of the morning’s newspaper and exclaiming loudly, “I cannot believe this thing about the strike in Greece!”

Miss Sparks went back to rummaging.

Luis inspected the briefs. “You write your name in your underwear?” he asked Kansas.

Kansas was doing his best to ignore the underwear just two inches from his left elbow. “No,” he said, flicking his eyes up to meet Francine’s, “I don’t.”

Brendan snorted. “Well, then I guess your mom does,” he replied.

“What’s the dare?” Alicia asked, scrunching the newspaper aside to get a closer look at the underwear.

This was it, Francine thought. This was the moment when Kansas would say, “Fine, I give up, you got me.” This was the moment when Francine would finally, officially, win the war and be declared the future news anchor of Media Club for spring semester. Just the way it should’ve been all along.

“I double dog dare you,” she told Kansas, her stomach fluttering with the excitement of the moment. This must be how generals felt when they were about to defeat their enemies. “To string your underwear up the flagpole.”

The members of the Media Club gasped. “Wow,” Alicia said. “That’s good.”

“We need to vote on it,” Luis reminded them, “before it’s an official dare. All in favor?”

They were all in favor.

Francine turned to Kansas. She wanted to be sure to catch the exact moment when he threw his hands up in the air and quit.

But he didn’t do that at all. Instead, as cool as ever, Kansas scooped his underwear off the table and said, “You want me to do it right now?”

“Wait,” Francine said. “You mean you’re actually going to do it?”

“Of course I’m going to do it,” Kansas said, rolling his eyes. Like Francine’s dare was nothing to him. Like she was nothing. “I told you, I’ve never turned down a dare in my life. I’m the King of Dares.”



Double Dog Dare

Double Dog Dare