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Tangled in twine, Frankie flopped onto his living room floor. He was too busy wiggling around to notice the stares of the other Possum Scouts.
“How did you get so twisted up?” said Frankie’s mom, who was also the troop’s Marsupial Mother. “You were only supposed to tie a basic sailor’s loop.”
Frankie tried to shrug, but his arms were pinned to his chest. He glanced over at the other scouts. They had all tied their knots correctly. “That one looked too easy,” said Frankie. “I wanted to come up with a super-duper knot.”
“Why didn’t you just ask for help?” said Mom. She tugged at the rope. “This is way too tight to undo by hand.”
“I get extra points for that, right?” said Frankie.
“Not when it’s the wrong kind of knot.”
The other scouts started to snicker. They’d probably be laughing their lungs out if Frankie’s mom wasn’t there. Even his best friend Kenny had a hard time keeping a straight face.
Frankie had to do something to impress them. “I know how to get free without any help.” He sucked in as much air as he could, then tried with all of his strength to snap the ropes, like a superhero. That only made the knots tighter. The ropes burned his skin.
“Stop that before you pop something!” said Mom. “I need to cut you loose.”
“Would you like to borrow my safety scissors?” said Carter Hawkins. “I always keep a pair in my emergency utility pouch.”
“This . . . isn’t . . . an emergency . . . ,” said Frankie, turning an odd shade of bluish-purple.
“Why, thank you, Carter,” said Mom. “That’s very handy of you.”
“A Possum Scout is prepared for anything,” said Carter.
And Carter always was. Like the time when Kevin twisted his ankle and Carter made a splint out of Popsicle sticks. Or when Oliver got stung by a bee, Carter knew to put mud on the bee sting. And when Lucas got woozy from being hungry, Carter had an extra snack pack. He was such a scout superstar that some of the other kids were convinced he actually was part possum.
Carter unzipped the pouch around his waist and fetched the scissors for Frankie’s mom. Then she went to work snipping Frankie’s ropes—and pride—into little pieces.
© 2010 Eric Wight
After Frankie was finally untangled, it was time to hand out the merit badges. Everyone gathered on the living room floor around a fake campfire Mom had made from toilet paper tubes and orange tissue paper. Argyle, the troop’s mascot, wore a yellow scarf for the occasion.
“This is a very special ceremony,” said Mom. “Today marks the last meeting of the fall session. All of you who have completed the knot-tying badge have earned enough Possum Points to move up in rank from Pygmy to Shrew.”
The boys all cheered. Moving up in rank was a big deal. It meant you now got to do stuff that was too dangerous for Pygmies, like shoot a bow and arrow, make fire, and go camping in the woods. It was like being inducted into the League of Awesome.
There had to be some kind of mistake. How could Frankie not become a Shrew Scout with the rest of his Possum Troop?
“I’m sorry, Frankie,” said Mom. “You didn’t complete the knot assignment, so I can’t award you the badge.”
“But I’m your son,” said Frankie.
“You have to earn it the same as everyone else,” said Mom.
Frankie could hear the other scouts whispering. Now was not the time for him to plead his case.
“That’s cool,” he said. “I’ll catch up with you guys at the next rank.”
But truthfully, it was ANYTHING but cool.
© 2010 Eric Wight