As the bell at Third Street School rang to signal recess, Miss Grotke's class groaned and mumbled. Over the past few days, they'd come to loathe that bell.
"Now class," a naive Miss Grotke addressed them, "I know you'd all love to hear more about how the Civil War could've been avoided by the pompous windbags who started it, but I'm afraid you'll all just have to wait until after recess. History will still be here when you get back."
Unenthusiastically, her students stood and marched from the room. Slowly they and the rest of the school made their way out the school's rear doors and onto the playground. Here, they stood around blandly.
"Man, this whomps." grumped T.J., "I hate not bein' able to do nothin'…" He stuffed his hands in his coat pockets and hunched.
"I don't see why you guys won't let me just cream the little worm." glowered Spinelli, "I guarantee, one whuppin' from me an' he'll never wanna be this snitch-happy again." She pounded her fist into her palm to emphasize.
Seemingly from nowhere, Randall suddenly appeared beside her. He pointed at her, waving one hand wildly and calling, "Miss Finster, Miss Finster! Spinelli just threatened to viciously pummel me!"
"Aw, maaan!" cringed Spinelli. In another instant Miss Finster had appeared and taken a firm grip on Spinelli's ear.
"There will be no threatening to inflict pain on this playground, missy." Miss Finster scolded, "To the office with you; march!"
She tossed Randall a cookie and then hauled a huffing Spinelli away. Randall scarfed his cookie and then leered at the rest of the group. They grinned nervously and remained silent until Randall decided to go hunt for victims elsewhere and had slinked off.
"Man, he's got the entire playground wrapped around his finger." complained Vince, "Kids can't even talk without worrying about getting tattled on!"
"I know Vince. I know." sympathized T.J.
"I wish we could make him see what it feels like to be tattled on all the time." Gus said angrily.
"I'm afraid that's rather impossible Gus." Gretchen informed, "Randall never does anything wrong, at least not in the eyes of Miss Finster. So even if we did manage to pin something on him, I doubt it would be enough to get him punished, much less teach him a lesson."
"Oh why does fate so cruelly mock us!" lamented Mikey.
T.J. was rubbing his chin in contemplation. "Hold on you guys." he said suddenly, "What if we did make it so that Randall did something wrong? A whole lot of something? Even Miss Finster couldn't ignore multiple rule violations."
"But how would we do that?" puzzled Gus.
"Simple Gus," replied T.J., "but we're gonna need help. So right after I finish explaining this, split up and inform the people. On second thought, scratch that. Tell them tomorrow before school and during morning classes. That way you're less likely to get snitched on. Alright?"
The group gave a sharp nod.
"Alright. Now huddle up." The group complied, and T.J. began whispering to them his plan.
The next morning, after filling Spinelli in on the plan, the group split up to tell all the kids they could. Before school Vince told the Ashleys, Mikey told Upside-down Girl, Gus told the Diggers, et cetera. In class T.J. passed a note around the room, filling everyone in on what to do.
When the bell rang for recess today the students eagerly clamored for the doors like normal children. When Randall came out and saw them all running about and climbing on things, he stopped in shock.
"What the-!" he gaped, "Why isn't everyone standing around scared that I'll snitch on them?" He looked around, wrists on his hips, as if monitoring a badly behaved pet.
"Oh well," he reasoned, "with all of these kids running around, it should be no problem finding somebody to tattle on. I'll have them back in the palm of my hand in no time." That said, he wandered off to find himself his first patsy.
He found Gordie by the jungle gym, about to open a pack of gum. "Moist." Randall said, rubbing his hands together before sneaking up behind the boy.
"Aha! Caught you red-handed!" Randall shouted, swiping the gum and startling Gordie. Randall opened his mouth to call for Miss Finster.
"Miss Fiiinsteerrrr!" Gordie called loudly.
"Huh?" a confused Randall questioned.
"Miss Finster! Randall's got gum!" Gordie called again, pointing at Randall.
Miss Finster came running up. "What?!" she demanded. She spotted the gum in Randall's hand. "My word, it's true! Randall! How could you!"
"What? No, I-I-!" flustered Randall.
"Save it, Randall." Miss Finster cut him off, "I've heard it all before. Now, give me the gum." Randall handed it over, not quite sure what was happening here.
"Good boy." nodded Miss Finster, "Now since this is your first offense I'll let you off with a warning, but if you ever do something like this again I'll have no choice but to punish you. Is that clear?"
"But Miss Finster-!" Randall started.
"Is that clear?!" Miss Finster restated.
Randall looked down. "Yes ma'am." he mumbled.
"Good." She walked off. Randall glared at Gordie, who blew him a raspberry and ran off. Randall stood in shock.
Deciding to shake off the event with a snack, Randall went and got himself a Winger Dinger. He ate it by a trash can at one of the building's corners and then tossed the wrapper. From the shadows around the corner, Butch moved the can so that the wrapper missed it, then sprang out, calling, "Miss Finster! Randall just threw a wrapper on the ground! Right next to a trash can, even!"
"Huh?" Randall puzzled, but before he could even try to make sense of it, Miss Finster was bearing down on him once again.
After another chewing out from Finster, Randall figured he needed a walk to clear his head. He wandered over to the basketball court area, rubbing his forehead as we did. He wasn't paying attention to his surroundings, and as he walked the pavement, Phil suddenly came up behind him and gave him a shove.
"Whoa-oa-oa-oah!" Randall cried out, pedaling forward, arms flailing. He bumped into Lawson, one arm knocking him in the face and causing his hat to fall off.
Randall cringed, expecting Lawson to throttle him, but Lawson instead screwed up his face and wailed.
"Waaah!" he cried, "Miss Finster, Miss Finster! Randall hit me! He's a big meanie!"
"Whaaa?!" Randall's eyes bugged. He couldn't make sense of this! He tried to run, but found himself bumping straight into none other than Miss Finster. He gulped.
Everywhere Randall went he found himself being framed for things he hadn't done, and every bust backfired. And worst of all, Miss Finster didn't believe a word he said! In fact, about halfway through recess, she told him that she just couldn't have a snitch who misbehaved so badly. And so, she had fired him.
Randall was stunned. Now he sat in the cheese box, replaying all that had happened to him and rocking back and forth. As he was muttering to himself, a certain sextet came by to pay him a visit.
"Boo." Spinelli greeted with a smirk.
"Dyaaaah!" Randall screamed, "I'm not doing anything! I swear! Please don't tell on me!" He shielded himself from them.
"Relax Randall," T.J. told him, "we're here to make a deal."
"A-A deal?" Randall stammered, "What kind of deal?"
"A deal for our freedom." T.J. elaborated, "It's simple. You stop tattling on us, and we'll stop tattling on you."
"What?!" Randall burst, "You can't be serious! The Snitch is all I am! I can't stop tattling on everyone; it's what I do!"
"Well then, I guess you'll just have to keep having some serious dosing of your own medicine." T.J. turned to his friends, "Guys?" They nodded, and lifted their hands to call Finster.
Randall sweated. T.J. narrowed his eyes at the boy and smirked.
"Wait!" Randall shouted, and then slumped against the cheese box's walls in defeat. "Ok, you win! I won't rat on anyone anymore, just please don't call Finster on me again."
The group exchanged smiles.
"Glad you could see it our way." T.J. patted Randall on the back, and the group headed off. Randall climbed out of the cheese box and glared after them.
"You'll be sorry!" he yelled at their backs, "This playground needs a snitch! You'll see! You'll all be sorry!"
"Miss Finster, Miss Finster!" Upside-down Girl pointed from her perch, "Randall's shouting threats at everyone!"
The next day at recess, word had been spread that Randall wasn't going to tattle anymore, and kids were quite excited to experience their first snitch-free recess.
As soon as recess started, the ball bin was toppled, and Randall could do nothing but watch. Kids ran all over the place showing no regard for the signs. They ran up and down the slides, drew on the basketball courts and tagged the dodge ball walls. Randall could do nothing, and it was aggravating.
When he ran into T.J. and his friends, Spinelli took out a stick of gum and slowly unwrapped it; and then equally slowly she put it into her mouth and dropped the wrapper on the ground, maintaining eye contact the whole time.
Randall tugged at his hair and ran away, crying out in frustration. He heard them laughing at him as he ran.
"Man oh man, did you see the look on his face?" Vince asked, wiping a tear from his eye.
"Yeah!" laughed Spinelli, clutching her gut, "He was sooo mad! It was hilarious!"
"Most amusing..!" Gretchen concurred with a chortle.
Gus laughed so hard he got hiccups.
"Come now, friends," Mikey argued somberly, "we shouldn't take pleasure in another's pain. Why, that makes us no better than Randall. Do we really want to stoop to his level?"
They thought that over.
"No…" Spinelli concluded, "But that look on his face sure was funny!!" A new wave of laughter erupted. Gus's hiccupping increased.
T.J. gave him a few slaps on the back. "Hey Gus, you ok?" he asked.
Gus hiccupped. "Think I-hic!-need a-hic!-drink of water..!" he managed.
"Sure thing Gus." T.J. told him, "Go ahead and get one. We'll be right here."
Gus nodded, and, wobbling slightly from the force of his hiccups, made his way across the asphalt to the drinking fountain. As he started to drink, an ominous shadow fell over him.
"Hey fourthie," a cold voice shot, "get outta my way. I was here first."
Gus turned around to find Sue Bob Murphy glowering down at him. Gus hiccupped.
"I saaaid, get outta my way fourthie. Or else I'm gonna pound you till your face turns purple!" Sue Bob punched an intimidating fist into her other palm. "Aw, heck, I think I'll just pound you anyway!"
"Ee-hic!-eep." Gus trembled. Looking about frantically he called, "Miss Finster! Miss-hic!-Finster! Help!"
Sue Bob sneered. "Miss Finster's not around little fourthie..!" she said in a baby voice, "So I guess that means you're outta luck..!" She grabbed Gus by the collar with one hand, and raised the other into the air.
The gang was still at the same spot they said they would be at, laughing away at more about Randall. Mikey didn't approve, and so stood separate from them. As a result, he was first to spot Gus staggering toward them.
"Gus..?" he questioned, worry etched into his face. His friends looked over and saw the injured boy being lifted and brought over by Mikey. He sported a black eye and a few dirty scrapes.
"Gus, what happened?" T.J. demanded.
"Come on little friend, you have to tell us. Who did this to you?" Mikey pried gently.
"It…was…Sue Bob." Gus managed, "No one…around. No…help. Needed…Finster."
This information slowly sank in.
"Guys," T.J. finally stated heavily, "I think I just spotted a really big downside to this whole no snitching thing…"
"What're you talking about Teej?" Spinelli argued, "Just let me go pummel Sue Bob. No way she'll bother Gus again after I get through with her."
"And what's to stop her from going after some other poor unfortunate kid?" T.J. argued back, "Some kid we don't know about? Heck, what's to stop bullies from taking over the playground? Without us knowing where Miss Finster is, the bullies could torment us all they want! Just look at poor Gus!" T.J. looked panicked. "I think we need to talk to Randall."
"But T.J., we were able to call Miss Finster when we were framing Randall." reminded Vince, "Why shouldn't we be able to call her now?"
"Because that stuff was a set-up!" T.J. cried, clutching his head, "We only framed Randall when we knew Miss Finster was around! When we could see her! The bullies could just as easily beat us up when they don't see Miss Finster. We might hate him, but with Randall around, the bullies are kept in check. I'm telling you, we've got to get him back..!"
The group exchanged looks that showed they knew T.J. was right.
"Only one problem." Gretchen pointed out, "What makes you think Randall will agree to reclaim his snitching position? I mean yes, the boy loves to snitch, but we did make him promise never to snitch again by rather devious means."
"He's got to agree. He's just got to." T.J. said resolutely.
"…And so that's why we want you back." T.J. finished, "To keep this from happening to all kids of the playground." He nodded at Gus, who was still being held by Mikey.
Randall looked back and forth from Gus to T.J. Then his face broke into a grin. And then he laughed.
"I knew it!" he gloated, "I told you you'd all be sorry! I told you!" He laughed some more.
"Alright alright, you told us already." spat Spinelli, "Now will you take back the snitching job or what?"
Randall scratched his chin in mock thought. "Mmm, no." he said.
"What?!" Vince gasped.
"Whaddya mean 'no'?" T.J. demanded.
"I'm sorry, but I was under the impression that you guys never wanted me to snitch again." Randall reminded them, "And, after that little stunt you pulled this morning, I'm not so sure I feel like helping you."
"But Randall," T.J. pleaded, "We've realized our mistake. We see now how you've been protecting us by snitching. Sometimes. Please, we just want what's best for everyone."
"Well I think what's best for everyone is to see just how needed a snitch is around here." Randall replied coolly, "Maybe after you've all been given the Griswold treatment, I'll think about coming back."
"Come on Randall, I'm sorry about the gum thing." Spinelli chipped in, "So forget about the deal and get back to snitchin' already."
"Sorry guys." Randall shrugged, "I may be a weasel, but I don't back out on a deal."
"Randall, look inside your heart." Mikey spoke up, "Surely you can find sympathy for our fallen friend, and for those who will surely follow. Will you not please reconsider? We want you to back out on the deal."
Randall's face saddened. "You know what Mikey..?" he asked quietly.
"What?" Mikey returned hopefully.
"NO!" Randall shouted, and then he turned and walked away, laughing arrogantly.
"Why that little creep!" Spinelli raged, "I'll pulverize 'im!"
"I have a feeling that would be most unwise Spinelli." Gretchen told her, "It seems Randall won't do as we wish until we curry his favor. I believe pulverizing him would only make it worse." Spinelli crossed her arms in a pout.
"So if Randall's got us right where he wants us, then how're we going to convince him to start tattling again?" Vince asked.
T.J. pondered. "We gotta show him how much he's needed on the playground. Maybe if we play to his ego, he'll be too drawn by all the attention to remember the deal."
Vince shrugged. "It's worth a shot…"
"Ok, then here's the new plan…" T.J. said, and motioned for his friends to gather round.
When the next recess rolled around, all the kids had new instructions. As Randall walked the playground, he was greeted by several odd scenes.
"Oh, I'm so scared sit-ting here all al-one with my lunch-box." Cornchip Girl fretted in fragmented lines as she sat on the merry-go-round, "If on-ly there were some-one ar-ound who would rush and get help if I were to be bull-ied."
Randall quirked a brow, but moved on.
The Ashleys stood in a group in the grass. "Oh like how I to-tal-ly miss Ran-dall." Ashley A. strained to say.
"Yes," Ashley Q. strained to agree, "When Ran-dall was ar-ound we had no-thing to fear."
"For sure." Ashley B. nodded. All four Ashleys strained toothy grins.
Randall 'hmm'ed suspiciously, a knuckle to his chin, but again moved on.
As he approached Old Rusty, Randall found King Bob crawling along the ground. King Bob stopped, and then raised his arms dramatically to the sky and cried out, "Whyyy! Why must Randall be gone! For he was like our shining knight, protecting us all from the evils of bullydom!" He threw an arm over his face and held his cape out with the other.
"Oh yeah…" Randall remembered, "I almost forgot how much I enjoyed having this place wrapped around my little finger." He shrugged. "Oh well. A loss is a loss."
He walked away, whistling.
King Bob peeked from under his arm. Seeing Randall gone he stood and straightened his cape.
"How was my performance? Was it too overdone?" he nervously asked his drones in the shadows.
"No my liege, it was performed most excellently." Jordan answered.
"Yes, not a thing out of place, your kingliness." Jerome nodded. King Bob puffed with confidence.
Meanwhile, as Randall walked through more grass, he fell suddenly into a hole. Upon hitting the ground, he saw Sam and Dave cowering in a corner, holding each other.
Randall dusted himself and asked, "What are you guys doing?"
"We are hid-ing." Dave answered.
"Yes, hid-ing from bull-ies. We are scared." Sam added.
"No one will pro-tect us." Dave said.
Randall shrugged. "Oh, well, good luck with that." He hoisted himself back out of the hole, and not twenty feet later ran into T.J. and the gang. Gus was standing on his own today.
"Hiya Randall." T.J. greeted with a smile, "Have you been noticing how needed you are by any chance?"
Randall folded his arms. "Nice try T.J." he commented, "The Ashleys missing me? King Bob worrying about bullies? How dumb do you think I am? I can see through your little ploy. You can't get me back that easily."
T.J. frowned. "Ok, well…how easily can we get you back?" he asked.
Randall considered. "You really care that much?" he inquired.
"Hey, if snitching will help protect innocent kids, I'm all for it." T.J. answered simply.
Randall nodded concurrently. "Alright, tell ya what. I'll make you another deal. I'll start snitching again, if I get one free snitch on all of you."
Spinelli reared up instantly. "No way, dream on, weasel face!" she shot at him.
T.J. held his arm out to silence her.
"Only if you promise to never take over recess again." he offered.
"If that's the case, then I want two snitches." countered Randall.
"How 'bout I give you three snitches on me?" T.J. tried. His friends gasped collectively.
"Plus one on everyone else?" Randall asked.
"Guys?" T.J. looked to his pals. They murmured and looked in several directions.
"Come on guys, for the safety of the playground." T.J. urged them, "Sure we might get tattled on, but think about what you'd be doing it for..!"
There was a silence, and then Gus stepped forward. "Well, I don't want some poor little kid to get beat up like I did. I'll do it."
Mikey beamed proudly at his little friend. "If Gus is doing it, I'm doing it." he said, stepping forward as well and placing a hand on Gus' shoulder.
Gretchen stepped forward too. "I must agree the odds all point to a greater good in the end." she deduced, "I'm in as well."
Vince came forward. "For the greater good." he said bravely. They all looked back at Spinelli.
After a few seconds, she threw up her arms and joined them, bursting, "Ok, ok, I'll do it already! Sheesh!" The group smiled at her. She just sulked.
"Alright Randall," T.J. turned his attention to the boy, "Looks like we agree to your terms."
Randall grinned, his fingers tented. He extended his hand to T.J., and T.J. shook it. "Moist." said Randall.
Just as the two's hands fell, Lawson came running up, bawling again. "Waaaah!" he cried, "Randall, you gotta save me from all those big mean bullies out there! Won't you please start bein' a dirty rat fink again?"
"Um, Lawson? You don't have to do that anymore." T.J. informed him, "Randall's the Snitch again. We just got him to agree."
Lawson blinked. "…Oh. In that case…" He suddenly looked angry and shoved Randall. "Stupid Snitchy! I don't want nothin' to do with you! Get lost before you catch me doin' somethin' I'm not supposed to!"
Randall stumbled backwards but regained his balance. He sneered connivingly at Lawson, savoring the moment, then took a deep breath and called out loudly, "Miiiiiiss Fiiiiinsteeeerrrr!"
Lawson slumped. "Ah, crud."