The Brookies vs the Bully: Mackenzie Runs for President
By Molly Donovan
By snack time, Mackenzie had filled her nomination form. The other kids in Ms. Hopewell’s class practically lined up to sign her form.
“You’re going to be a great president, Kenz,” said Ben, as he signed his name right under Bailey’s.
Mackenzie flushed. “I’m not there yet, Ben,” she said.
Perry elbowed him in the ribs. “Yeah, don’t jinx it!”
Ben held up his hands. “I’m just saying,” he said. “You’re probably the most qualified kid who’s ever run for student council president. Even more qualified than George Watson.”
“Definitely more qualified than George Watson,” laughed Mackenzie. “He had only been a rep for two years when he won!”
“Plus,” butted in Priya, “I really like your campaign. I’ve been really nervous about going to sixth grade. My next-door neighbor said it was awful when she started—there were so many kids she didn’t know, and everyone separated into tight friend groups really fast. Plus, my little brother is starting kindergarten next year. I’d feel a lot better if he had a big-kid buddy!”
“That’s exactly what I think,” agreed Mackenzie. “I really think it would help!”
“If you win, at least you’ll actually accomplish something meaningful,” said Cara. “Unlike the person who’s running against you.”
“Who is it?” asked Mackenzie sharply.
“It’s Joey Patterson,” said Cara, rolling her eyes. “And you’ll never guess what his platform is.”
“It’s ‘bringing back ice cream.’ He wants to have weekly field trips to Dairy Queen in Fairbrook.”
“But that’s two towns over,” Bailey pointed out.
“I know,” said Cara. “Can you believe it? But it’s the closest ice cream shop to us. Joey’s been saying he’ll just borrow a school bus for an hour every Friday.” Methodical, organized Cara rolled her eyes again. Nothing bothered her more than a plan that made no sense.
Mackenzie, hearing Joey’s platform, felt herself relax. She hadn’t realized how tense her muscles were until she let all that tension sink into the floor. Now, she just felt even more energized about her own platform. She wanted to laugh.
“From what I heard in gym class, I don’t think his plan was all that thought-out,” said Rory. “Not that I’m complaining.” She winked at Mackenzie.
“Maybe Ben’s right,” Mackenzie said slyly, glancing from friend to friend. “Maybe I should start planning my acceptance speech.”
They all put their heads together and giggled.
It started with whispers in the hallway, snatches of conversation that Mackenzie and her friends could just barely make out.
“Ice cream Fridays are pretty much a Willowbrook tradition…”
“He’s really confident…”
“It’s her friend that made Ice Cream Ike quit in the first place…”
By lunchtime, Mackenzie was officially worried.
“Are you guys hearing this stuff?” she asked, climbing over the cafeteria table bench and sliding her tray next to Anjali’s. “Are people actually buying Joey’s platform?”
Rory and Cara looked at each other. Maya took a deep breath.
“I kinda think they are,” she said.
“It’s so illogical,” said Bailey angrily, her knees bouncing furiously under the table. “How does he think the school could afford to send hundreds of kids on one bus to Fairbrook every week? It doesn’t make any mathematical sense.” Bailey was always seeing things in terms of their number value.
“More than that,” said Mackenzie. “Does he get that parents would have to sign permission slips for their kids to go to Fairbrook every single week? Does he know that his little ‘ice cream Friday’ trip would technically be a field trip, and that a teacher or parent chaperone is required per group of 25 kids? It would be crazy expensive and really really hard to organize.”
“I think you’re giving him too much credit if you assume he knows that,” said Rory.
“He’s Looney Tunes,” concluded Perry succinctly.
“He has no clue how field trips work!” fumed Cara. “So far he’s just been saying he ‘won’t take no for an answer’ when kids ask him for more details. And he, uh,” she cleared her throat and conspicuously didn’t look at Perry. “He keeps blaming Ice Cream Ike leaving on ‘that student council girl and her friends,’ which is getting people kinda fired up.”
Perry buried her face in her hands.
Mackenzie shook her head. “This is nuts,” she said. “People don’t actually care about some crazy ice cream plan as much as they care about stopping bullying and breaking up cliques, do they?” She looked around the table. “Do they?”
“Well, we don’t, Kenz!” said Anjali hurriedly, patting Mackenzie’s arm. “But I don’t think any of us realized how much kids here would miss ice cream once it was taken away.”
“It was the one junk food left over after the healthy lunch campaign two years ago,” said Maya. She sighed wistfully. Maya’s brain was fully in support of Mackenzie, but her sweet tooth…well, that was a different story.
“But everyone loved what we ended up choosing!” said Mackenzie, crestfallen. “We picked healthy food that actually tasted good—and we stopped the teachers from choosing stuff that was seriously yucky.”
“I remember,” said Perry, grimacing. “Thank goodness you nixed those cottage cheese snack cups. Blegh,” she stuck out her tongue. “Those smelled like Bailey’s soccer cleats!”
“Hey!” said Bailey, then, thinking of it, shrugged and nodded her head.
“I don’t get why Joey is making a promise he can’t keep,” said Mackenzie.
“I don’t get why other kids are buying it,” said Cara, biting her lip.
Mackenzie was starting to feel nervous, and she hated that feeling. Mackenzie knew what nerves felt like—she felt dizzy and nauseous for about 30 seconds every time she was backstage before a debate. But she also knew how to quash them: over-prepare, and believe in what you’re saying. She knew that her platform was more important to kids than ice cream—especially an ice cream plan that simply couldn’t work.
“People are just not over the shock of no more Ice Cream Ike yet,” she said decisively. “Give them a couple days. I’m sure they’ll come back around.”
“I hope so,” worried Rory.
“In the meantime, let’s make sure you have a great sign and slogan ready for your official campaign kickoff tomorrow,” said Maya.
“Agreed,” said Mackenzie. “Let’s meet in the art room right after school. We can make the poster, and I’ll practice my speech about my platform.”
“Great!” sang Anjali. “Don’t worry, Kenz. We’ve got this.
On Tuesday morning, Mackenzie got to school before anyone else. She found the best spot in the hallway for her poster: a dazzling, six-foot-wide sheet of paper painted with all kinds of colors. Cara, who was a good artist, had drawn pictures of a big kid and a little kid holding hands going into Willowbrook Elementary, and of three kids—two wearing Willowbrook colors, one wearing a Sunnydale hat—eating lunch together in the middle school. Maya, who had the best handwriting, had written Mackenzie’s slogan across the top in glittery paint:
YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND IN MACKENZIE.
Mackenzie stood back and tilted her head to the side, surveying the artwork. It really was breathtaking, she decided.
Just then someone brushed against her shoulder. It was Joey Patterson, followed by his friends Cal and Sanjay.
“Look, it’s the enemy,” said Sanjay loudly.
“Why do we have to be enemies?” sighed Mackenzie. “We’re all in the same school. We all want to make it better.”
Joey smirked. “I want to win,” he said.
“Well, I do too,” said Mackenzie, standing up a little straighter.
“Like she has a shot,” said Sanjay. “Especially cuz her friend is the one who made Ike go away.”
“Your friend is, you mean,” said Mackenzie, gesturing at Cal. “He pushed her.”
Calvin held up his hands. “An accident,” he said. “If she hadn’t been so clueless, maybe your little campaign would be going better.”
“My campaign is going just fine, thanks,” said Mackenzie coolly. “Because, see, I actually have a platform to run on.”
“Oh, so do I,” said Joey. “See?”
He unraveled the scroll of paper he’d been carrying. It was sparse, much less decorated and pretty than Mackenzie’s. It had just five words on it, printed in block letters across the middle:
DON’T DESERT DESSERT
Mackenzie raised her eyebrows. “You think this is gonna cut it?” she said, folding her arms.
“I know it is,” said Joey.
“You’re on,” Mackenzie said. “May the best platform win.”
“Nah,” said Joey. “May the best winner win.”
Hope you enjoyed the excerpt! Find out what happens in the full book, now available for purchase.
© Willowbrook Girls Inc 2017