"Come on, Dante. You just gotta do it this once, and then you'll be in the club."
Dante looked at the four older boys.
What second-grader wouldn't be flattered to be asked to join a club of fifth-graders? But he knew that
what they wanted him to do was wrong.
"Look," another boy urged him, "it'll just take a minute, and nobody will ever know you did it."
"That's right. We do it all the time, and we've never been caught. Or are you afraid to take a chance
because your Dad is the police captain?"
"No," Dante said, "I don't want to do it because it's wrong."
"Because it's wrong," mocked one of the ten-year-olds.
"He's just chicken," said another.
"No," Dante answered, "I'm not chicken."
"Prove it. Pull the handle."
"No," Dante said, but less firmly. After all, these ten-year-olds were giving him, a seven-year-old, a chance to be in their club.
The older boys flapped their arms and made "bawk bawk bawk" noises.
"Is it the club," taunted one of the older boys, "or the chicken coop?"
Was it the chance of being in a club with fifth-graders? Was it the taunting?
Dante pulled the alarm.
Good work, kid," said one of the older boys. "Now let's get out of here!"
"Aren't we going to watch for the fire engines?" Dante asked.
"Are you nuts?" another boy retorted. "You want them to catch us? Let's GO!"
Dante fled with the other boys.
When they stopped running, he said, "So I guess I'm in the club now, right?"
The fifth-graders just laughed.
"There ISN'T any club!"
"Yeah, and even if there WAS, we sure wouldn't let a little second-grade pipsqueak join."
Dante stared at them.
"You tricked me! You made me turn in that alarm for NO REASON!"
"If you didn't WANT to turn in the alarm," said one of the boys, "you didn't HAVE to."
"That's right. Now get lost, kid."
Dante walked home very slowly, kicking a stone.
"Dumb, dumb, dumb!" he said to himself. "Just plain dumb."
He was mad at those boys. He was a lot madder at himself.
A few hours later, he was feeling much worse.