Chapter 2: Style

"The clothes may make a man, but all a girl needs is a tan."

It was six o'clock, and the girls volleyball team was practicing for the upcoming game against St. Mathilda's Inquisitors.

More specifically, it was six in the morning and Moze had forced the girls to come in and practice for a game that night.

"Come on!" she screamed at the current server. "You put that like you had your eyes closed!" The girl in question was currently sleeping standing up. This technique is mastered by the monks of the Western Bedouins after years of training, but if Moze was your team captain, you had to be able to do it within the first week of school.

"We're tired!" Samantha groaned from the other side of the net. "Why do we have to do this before the Sun comes up?"

"First, the sun's been up for a whole twenty minutes." answered Moze. "Second, the Inquisitors were at practicing all through winter break, so we need to cram in more practice if we want a chance." The girls were persuaded to continue practicing for another two hours by the logic that absolute authority brings. At ten 'till eight, Moze told them to hit the showers.

"Good work, team." she said as they washed away the residue of practice. "If we all fit in a nap after school, or maybe during study hall, we'll be in tip-top condition." She got into her street clothes and made her way to Room #102 for first hour Heuristics.

Heuristics was a fun class. She suspected that Ms. Frizzle knew everything. So far, they had learned how to get blood out of upholstery, how to calculate sales tax in your head, and how to roast a turkey in a microwave in under three minutes. Ned was loving the new tips he was getting. Ned was also getting very involved in his other elective, Home Ec. He had invited her over tonight after the game to sample a new recipe he'd learned. She wondered if he was at school yet, and reached for her phone to call him.

To her dismay, it wasn't in her usual pocket. She searched her luck. She hoped with all her heart that it had dropped out in her gym locker. She ran back to the gym, but stopped short at the doors when she heard her teammates talking angrily.

"I don't see how she even made captain." she heard from Samantha. "She take a whole half an hour to haul those thunder thighs across the court."

"Yeah," she heard from Gloria. "The last time she fell down they had to refinish the gym floor."

There was more, but Moze had already walked away.

Ned was still trying to reach Moze on her phone as he walked into Room #102. He had called her three times since he got into the building. Everyone was in their seats and he found her in her usual seat at the front of the classroom.

"Hey, why didn't you pick up?" he asked, sitting next to her. She didn't answer. "Moze?" She didn't even turn to him. "What's wrong?"

"Good morning class!" a voice came from the front of the class.

"Good morning Ms. Frizzle." the class responded.

"Today, we're going to talk about Style." she said. "Style is the unique way you express yourself. It has two major components: How you look and how you act."

"Clothes are the easy part." she said. "Your body is hard to change. Black is always in style and Jeans go with everything. More importantly, this dress is fabulous." She indicated the Ball gown she was wearing. It appeared to be made of equal parts silk and diamonds.

She told them about sales tricks they could use. If you bought an item before it went on sale the store was legally obligated to refund you whatever extra money you paid more than what they were now charging for the item. She advocated the use of iron on patches and decals to add any extra flare to your wardrobe. Clothes that you can buy cheaply are usually just as good as the name brand rigmarole, and they're machine washable.

"The second component of style are your actions." she said. "You must walk with your head held high. Even on your worst day you have to strut like you have oil wells pumping in your backyard."

They spent a few minutes walking around the classroom with textbooks balanced on their heads, trying to look dignified. She covered the importance of elocution. Speaking clearly is an important aspect of hire-ability.

"Repeat after me:," she said. "I'm a thistle-sifter. I have a sieve of sifted thistles and a sieve of unsifted thistles, because I'm a thistle sifter." They spent the rest of class trying to get this right. She also offered: "I'm not the pheasant-plucker, I'm the pheasant-plucker's mate, and I'm only plucking pheasants 'cause the pheasant-plucker's late."

She concluded class, telling them: "Always remember what the immortal bard said: You're amazing just the way you are."

"Ms. Frizzle was onto something with the iron on decals." said Cookie. It was their lunch break and they were all seated in their usual table. Moze was glaring at her beans rather than eating them. "I can use specialized paper to print out the artwork I've been making and come out with my own fashion line."

"Somehow," said Ned as he looked at one of Cookie's printouts, "I don't think the aesthetic of a backhoe fighting a bunny rabbit is going to catch on."

"You have no imagination." Cookie rebuffed.

Moze, meanwhile, was still glaring at her entrée. Samantha was totally out of line! She was not fat. Was she? Of course not. She wasn't any bigger than, well there were a lot of people bigger than her. Then again, a lot of people were smaller than her, too. Maybe loosing a few inches wouldn't kill her. She only needed to eat half the lunch. She could probably get by on a quarter. If she missed it, dinner wasn't that far away.

"Moze!" Ned said, finally snapping out of her prognostication. She faced him startled.

"What?" she asked.

"What is the matter with you today?"

"Um..." she thought for a second and came up with nothing. "Oh, there's the bell!" she said and she ran off.

Cookie looked around the room, no one had moved. "The bell didn't ring." he said, confused.

Eight period gym rolled around and Ned took a seat on the gym floor after getting dressed in his gym sweats. He was still wondering what had Moze so preoccupied. He knew she could take care of herself, but still...

"Alright class!" yelled Coach Dirga from the outside doors of the gym. "Follow me!" she turned and went outside. The class got up a followed her out the door. She led them down to the La Cross field. They were all unified in the horror they felt as they gazed at her latest scheme.

She had set up a series of obstacles all around the field.

"This is an obstacle course." Coach Dirga yelled, cementing their fears. "You are to go clockwise around the field. You are going to start on the balance beam and walk across without falling off. Then, you go to the Rope Net and crawl under it until you reach the other side. From there, you climb across the monkey bars. After that, you climb over the climbing wall and down the other side. Run through the tires that are set up without falling over. Last, you swing across on the ropes provided. Then you do it again. After you go around the course four times, you're done for the day."

Ned started out on the balance beam thinking this class would be over fast. By the time he finished the monkey bars for the second time, he was surprised he wasn't coughing up blood. He should have paid more attention to the ambulance that was parked by the field when class started.

Moze blew past him and latched on the climbing wall. As she began her ascent she relished this chance to burn off a few unwanted calories. The fact that she didn't have any extra calories left was a detail she disregarded entirely.

"Moze!" cried Ned. He had put on a burst of speed and was climbing right along side her. "What are you doing?" he asked.

"I'm running the course!" she shouted back.

"You've passed me five times!" Ned shouted. "You should be chilling on the bleachers!"

"Nonsense!" she yelled as she crest the top of the wall.

"You're red as a bell pepper!" he cried, now very worried that she had lost it.

Moze swung her leg over the wall and turned to Ned to yell at him again, but when she did no air came out. She couldn't feel the anything. The lights were going dark around her. The last thing she could clearly register was Ned looking horrified.

Moze tasted something sweet. There was a welcomed moisture in her dry mouth. She vaguely heard some one chanting "You are very thirsty." She opened her eyes and was greeted by an explosion of red.

"Welcome back." said Ms. Frizzle who was holding a juice box to her lips. "Keep drinking." As Moze sipped obediently she looked around the room. She was in the nurses office. Nurse Hunsucker was taking her pulse with one hand and holding an ice pack against the back her neck. Ms. Frizzle was sitting directly in front of her with a stare that strongly conveyed the importance of this juice box being consumed.

"You fell off the climbing wall in gym." Ms. Frizzle said. "Ned pulled off some acrobatics and caught you before you hit the ground."

Moze's eyes widened in shock. She would normally bet against Ned being able to catch a falling party balloon. She finished the juice box.

"Now this one," said Ms. Frizzle as she pulled out another juice box. "Ned also told me," Ms. Frizzle continued, "that you had been around a four trip obstacle course 5 times. On an empty stomach." She gave Moze a look clearly conveying that this was a very stupid thing to do. She finished the second juice box.

"Now, eat." Ms. Frizzle said as she handed move a granola bar. "I don't think Coach Dirga would have put you to death if you went around the obstacle course at a leisurely pace. Or at the very least a non-fatal pace. What were you thinking?"

"Just getting some exercise." Moze said unconvincingly. "Feeling the burn." Ms. Frizzles eyes were threatening to burn right into her brain if the truth didn't first exit via her mouth. "Burning some calories."

"Oh, for heaven's sakes." said Ms. Frizzle. "Is this about what Samantha was saying this morning?"

"How did you know about that?" Moze asked startled.

"I hear things." she said dismissively. "Ned! Get in here!" she called over her shoulder. Ned burst through the door of the nurses office looking frantic. Moze thought he must have been waiting out there. He looked frantic until he saw Moze sitting upright, at which point his entire body unclenched.

"Moze..." he started, relieved.

"Ned," Ms. Frizzle interrupted, "is Moze pretty?" Moze looked at Ms. Frizzle in shock. Nurse Hunsucker lost count of the pulse beats.

"Yeah. She's a beautiful girl." he answered as clinically as if he was answering a science question.

"Prettier than..." Ms. Frizzle waved her hand around while she searched for a name. "Missy Meanie?" she decided.

"Of course." Ned answered immediately.

"Prettier than Suzie Crabgrass?" she asked.

"Uh..." he hesitated.

"About the same?" she offered.

"Yeah." he said, feeling he'd just dodged a bullet.

"Thank you," said Ms. Frizzle. "You may go." and she shut the door on him. "You see," she said turning back to Moze, "you are physically attractive."

"Ned doesn't count." said Moze, getting over the shock. "He's my best friend."

"Exactly." said Ms. Frizzle. "He likes you so you look prettier to him. On the other end of the spectrum, you're going to look downright ugly to Samantha who hates you for getting her up at the crack of dawn."

"Ah," said Moze. Of course, it was all empty insults. She had let herself get all worked up over something someone had said in a fit of anger.

"She's looking good." said Nurse Hunsucker as she jotted down something on her clipboard. "Nothing else seems wrong, she can go home and play in the Volleyball game tonight."

Moze got up to leave and Ms. Frizzle opened the door for her.

"Good luck tonight, Jennifer." Ms. Frizzle said. "Kindly remember, being healthy is more important than looking pretty."

That night, Ned and Moze met up in Ned's kitchen. He was preparing a caramel apple pie he'd learn to make in Home Ec. While Moze was recapitulating what happened at the game.

"...then I spiked the ball right in her face!" she said from her chair at the table as Ned brought the pie over.

"Nice." Ned said cutting her a good sized slice.

"We won by a landslide." she said happily. "The Inquisitors will never rise from the ashes of their humiliation. Cut the piece a little bigger."

"Sure," said Ned, adding another wedge. "So, the team isn't still unhappy about the early morning practice?"

"They told me I was the best captain ever and they carried me out on their shoulders." she said. "They offered to take me shopping this weekend."

"You can hide at my house." Ned offered.

"Thanks." said Moze. "I'll tell them I'm at Disney Land. I can't believe I nearly killed myself over someone else thinking I was ugly. This pie is amazing." She continued digging in.

"You're amazing, Moze." said Ned, like it was as obvious as apples will fall when dropped. "Just the way you are."