There is only a week before Winter Break and all the students are in rebellion mode. There are rumors of eggnog in the faculty lounge and everyone is getting away with murder.
David Petrakis is also fighting back about the freedom to speak. He comes to Mr. Neck’s class with a tape recorder which he turns on just as Mr. Neck begins to speak. Because of this, the man teaches the entire period in a straight manner for once and finally gets to the Revolutionary War. Melinda observes that the lecture is going to sound great on tape, but the tape will not pick up the anger in Mr. Neck’s eyes and the fact that he glares at David the entire time. David just stares back.
Melinda goes to the office for a “sound bite” or the gossip concerning David’s tape recorder. She overhears a secretary tell a PTA volunteer that David’s parents had hired a big, nasty, expensive lawyer who is now threatening the school district and Mr. Neck for everything from incompetence to civil rights violations. David is allowed to have a tape recorder in the class to document any potential future violations. Mr. Neck could get fired and the secretary doesn’t seem too unhappy about that. In addition, David must have mentioned to the lawyer that Mr. Neck had glared at him the entire class, because the next day there is a video camera set up in the back of the room. David Petrakis is Melinda’s hero.
The way that David Petrakis fights back is heroic to Melinda, because he has stood up to authority figures and has done it legally, using our system of justice. She admires him so much, because she wants to have a voice as big as his and so far has not found it. He is a role model, however, for her and because of this, there is hope that Melinda will eventually be able to speak and release her pain.
This chapter is Melinda’s exposé of the Winter Assembly, probably once known as the Christmas Assembly. She sits with Heather who has not been invited to sit with the Marthas and is very “bummed out.” She dresses like them, however, no doubt hoping they’ll still want her. She gives Melinda little bell earrings for Christmas and Melinda thinks she’ll get Heather a friendship necklace, because that kind of gift would suit her. There is no multicultural celebration like Christmas or Kwanza, because the school board won’t allow it. Melinda thinks that now they’re “no-cultural.”
The high point of the assembly is the announcement of the new name and mascot, which the student body had previously voted on. The winning name is the Merryweather Wombats. Melinda is amused on the way to the bus listening to the cheerleaders try to rhyme words with wombats. She thinks “democracy is a wonderful institution.”
This chapter is a perfect example of Melinda’s sarcasm, which is, by the way, nearly always right on the mark. The idea that the school would allow wombats as a mascot or that there would be no Christmas/Kwanza assembly in order to be politically correct is terribly amusing to her. However, her sarcasm is still her shield. She wears is out in front of her to avoid the pain that any other kind of emotional reaction might bring.
This chapter is also a further examination of the stupidities in the public education system. It’s no wonder, from the ridiculous behavior of the school board and school officials, that students with problems like Melinda’s fall through the cracks.