My locker was stuck.
But no matter how hard I yanked the metal handle, my locker wouldn’t open. The handle wouldn’t even budge.
Around me, everyone else in my home base was trying out their lockers, opening them with what seemed like no effort. Locker doors slammed shut around me, backpacks were hung up and folders unloaded onto the shelves at the top. And I couldn’t even get mine open.
“No luck?” Mrs. Herz appeared beside me. She seemed like an okay teacher, not mean, but not overly friendly, either. Maybe middle school teachers didn’t have to be. I supposed I’d have to wait until third period science to judge for sure, though. According to the fresh copy of my schedule she’d handed me along with my locker combo a few minutes earlier, she was my science teacher, too.
“It’s not working.” I handed her the code and she tried, unsuccessfully, to open it. At least now I knew it wasn’t just me.
“Some of these lockers haven’t worked in ages. That’s why we do this, have everyone test theirs on the first day. That way, we can get you a new one if it doesn’t open. Follow me.” She went back into the classroom and rustled through a small stack of paper strips. She handed one of them to me. A new locker assignment. “Go try that one.”
Every locker was labeled with a set of numbers. The number on my new slip of paper was 1723, but I couldn’t find it in the line of lockers outside Mrs. Herz’s room. They were all 1760s. I continued down the hall, peering at the other lockers and watching the numbers descend. 1750s, 1740s…students were testing their lockers everywhere as I looked for mine.
I finally found it at the very end of the hallway outside room 220. Kids from that home base were testing their lockers, but the closest person was four or five lockers away. Some of them shot me curious glances, but I ignored them, focusing my gaze on the new combination. 28-5-17. I closed my eyes and tugged the handle, which flew up under my touch. The door opened, and I sighed with relief. Finally something had gone right today!
“You aren’t in my home base, are you?”
I was startled out of my silent celebration by a teacher who stood a few lockers down from me. He was tall, as tall as Dad, and had short brown hair that curled. He looked younger than Dad, though, and he was smiling curiously at me.
“No.” I shook my head. “I’m in Mrs. Hertz’s. My locker—my first locker, I mean—it wouldn’t open, I think it was broken. She gave me a new one, and it’s all the way down here.” The words tumbled out of my mouth, and I felt myself flush.
The teacher nodded. “Everyone says their worst fear before coming to middle school is not being able to open their locker. But now that it’s happened to you,” he continued with a grin, “things can only get better.”
I wanted to tell him he was wrong, that there were probably a hundred ways my day could get worse, but I found myself smiling anyway. “I hope you’re right.”
“Of course I’m right.” He started walking back to his classroom, stepping backwards so he was still facing me, and he spread his arms wide. “Your new locker is in the cool section of the hallway!”