We had a love-hate relationship with Mr. Thomas. We loved him because he entertained us. We didn’t really hate him, but we didn’t appreciate that he wouldn’t let us talk, throw spit wads, chase each other around the room, and otherwise put that lovely, carpeted library to some practical use.

That’s why people liked to torment him. You couldn’t do it openly or you’d get detention. There were a couple of seniors, Ricky Kendall and Billy Nurenburg, who existed for mischief.  We relied on their expertise in these matters.

During my library period, as Mr. Thomas was busy keeping it like a soundproof room, an alarm clock went off. Everyone turned toward the noise, which was from a wind-up clock that actually had a metal bell inside and something, maybe a small elf, hitting it with a miniature sledgehammer. The sound filled the room like a fire bell.

Mr. Thomas jerked to attention, then floated rapidly toward the noise. Just then another alarm started ringing on the opposite end of the library. He spun around, forgetting the first clock, and headed toward that one looking like someone pretending to be a choo-choo train. Two more clocks starting clanging, then another. It got really loud as more clocks went off. Mr. Thomas started spinning like a top n the middle of the library, jerking toward each new noise, putting his hands over his ears, starting toward a sound then changing directions.

My friends and I came out of the conference room to be a part of the action. Everyone was laughing, which added to the chaos. For a fleeting second I felt sorry for Mr. Thomas, but who knows where that came from, and it left me quick, with a “whoosh.”

Finally he went over and found an alarm clock. He turned it off and put it down, hard, on top of a bookshelf. He found another, and took it over by the first. When he went toward the back, somebody ran over and put the clocks back on alarm.

“Who did that?” he shouted. “Who did that?” It startled us, and we got quiet. “Someone is going to be in big trouble.”

Within a couple of minutes, the clocks had all wound down and the library got still.

“When I find out who did this, you’ll be out of this school,” Mr. Thomas said quietly, his chest rising and sweat starting to form at his hairline.

He never did find out, which is what led the guys to do the second huge prank of the year, which I’ll tell about tomorrow.