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The Ugly Duckling This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   When I was young my motheralways read me "The Ugly Duckling" and explained how I should neverjudge a book by its cover. I had no idea what she was talking about - untilfourth grade, when something happened that changed my life. I didn't realize itthen, but Mrs. Beaker's fourth-grade classroom was a cruel and vindictive place.No one would have known this better than Dexter Doodle. He was the joke of theclass, but not by choice. Dexter was short, pudgy, buck-toothed and an easytarget. One day I started calling him "Beaver-face" and the whole classfollowed suit. Soon everyone had almost forgotten his real name.

At lunchBeaver always ate by himself with his face nearly hidden in his lunch bag. Mytable would throw food at him as though he were an animal. Once in a while hewould try to retaliate by hurling something back, but he usually got caught.While the lunch monitor led him to the office, we would all laughhysterically.

At recess my friends and I had the most fun torturingBeaver-face. We would stand at the top of the slide and when we spotted him, we'dslide down and charge after him as if we were hunting a beaver. This would onlylast so long though, because soon he would go up to the recess aide and beg to goto the bathroom. He never came back, and we suspected he was hiding.

Niceteacher that she was, Mrs. Beaker always let everyone sit with his or herfriends, until one day. During quiet reading time, Bobby and Kyle startedthrowing paper. In a matter of minutes the entire class was involved, and thefloor was covered. For our punishment, Mrs. Beaker decided we would have apermanent seating arrangement. As she dictated who would sit where, there were afew sighs of relief and many groans of disappointment.

When she read myname, I wasn't at all upset because I had a couple of my friends nearby, not tomention Chris, my crush. Then the class erupted into laughter. I looked around tosee what was so funny, and I came face to face with Beaver. He was assigned tothe desk right next to me! I thought I was going to die! How could Mrs. Beaker dothis to me, one of her best students?

The next few days I ignored Beaver.Then my ex-best friend started a rumor that I liked him. That was the last straw.If sitting next to him was going to make me this miserable, I decided I wouldmake his life twice as terrible. I started passing a note around the room thatsaid Beaver smelled like fish, and that I didn't think he ever took a bath. Itold everyone that he didn't brush his teeth, and that I thought he had lice.Everyone in the class caught on.

Zack and Brian went up to Beaverduring recess and started singing "Beaver, Beaver, smelly fish eater."The fish song was stuck in everyone's heads for the rest of the day.

Thenone day at recess, when my friends and I were tired of playing tag and swingingon the monkey bars, we decided to find Beaver and have a little fun. Well, wefound him, but he did the usual bathroom routine. With 20 minutes still left Imischievously said to my friends, "Dare me to go in and get Beaver."Their eyes grew big with surprise, and filled with excitement. "Yes, yes! Goget Beaver!" they all cheered. I went up to the aide and asked if I coulduse the girls' room.

As I headed to the bathroom, I heard a small soundcoming from an empty classroom. I went closer, and it grew so loud that I couldhear sobbing. I saw Beaver huddled in a corner. He hadn't noticed me. As I stoodthere watching him, time seemed to stand still. I could see every teardrop rolldown his freckled face and drop to the ground. His sobs echoed in my mind and inmy heart. Every nasty prank I had ever played on him flashed before me. Watchinghim, I felt a tear slip down my own face. The longer I stood there, the more Irealized how awful we had made him feel. Guilt weighed on me until it waspractically pushing me toward him.

I walked over and laid my hand on hisshoulder. He flinched as if I'd punched him, and my heart ached. For a second Ididn't think he would even acknowledge my presence. But then he turned, stood upand looked me straight in the eye. I almost fell back from the force ofaccusations in his eyes.

We stood there staring at each other for whatseemed like eternity. When I finally found my voice, it came out in a whisper."I am so sorry." He stood there like a statue, his eyes never leavingmine. "I never knew how we were ..."

He held up his hand tostop me, and I thought for a moment that he wasn't going to listen, but insteadhe said, "I know."

With that he held out his hand and said,"A new beginning." Shaking hands, we began to laugh. "Wow, this isthe first time you have ever spoken to me," he exclaimed.

I realizedthat the boy I had always looked down on was much more mature than I had everimagined. Dexter and I talked until the bell rang, and then walked into ourclassroom, friends.

Dexter is one of my most trustworthy and loyal friendsnow, and I am not sure how I would survive without him. Not only is he alwaysthere for me when time gets rough, but he has taught me the lesson my mothertried to so long ago. "Never judge a book by its cover," because thetrue qualities lie beneath.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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This article has 6 comments. Post your own!

chuck123 said...
Apr. 15, 2013 at 9:12 pm:
Very inspirational story, AMAZING   
 
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Alon_FreevoiceThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jul. 2, 2011 at 8:25 am:
Wow! I could feel something in my chest!! Oh wait!!!

Ugh!!!! If I rate you 5 stars, will this thing in my chest go away?
 
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princess6 said...
Aug. 2, 2010 at 1:51 pm:
I'm glad you've realized your mistake but theres a thin line between words and wounds, plenty of kids commit suicide each year because they were harshly tormented by their peers, but coodos to you for realizing your harshness. ;)
 
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Blue-eyed_Hippy-chick said...
Jun. 16, 2009 at 1:04 am:
I totally get his side of the story. I was treated like that for a long time. That is really brave to be his friend. Coming from someone who is now popular but used to be made miserable by other people that is beyond amazing. You are probably an awesome friend. Really good story. You wrote very well.
 
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McKayla A. said...
Jun. 14, 2009 at 9:09 pm:
WOW! I Love this story. You are a great writter. ALL I CAN SAY IS WOW GREAT JOB
 
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Melissa S. said...
May 18, 2009 at 10:53 pm:
I realize that I am the first one to comment on this story, and I know why. It is amazing that you are admitting a mistake and a lesson well learned. I am impressed, and am inspired by the fact that there are people who will admit faults. Thank you for having the courage to write this.
 
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