Derringer in the Dining Hall


Whenever there was any excitement in the air, Diane Baker was sure to be a part of it. Friendly and vivacious, she possessed an infectious grin and sparkling, mischievous brown eyes.

She never had done anything really bad—not terrible enough to get her into any serious trouble with the faculty that is. But she dearly loved to play what sbe called “slick nicks,” or practical jokes. ln spite of her many lessons, her work in the cafeteria, and her class activities, she still had time for fun.

So the school year· went merrily on—until April Fool’s Day. April first dawned bright and balmy. All day Diane tried to think of a good prank to play on someone, but nothing came to mind. She wanted lo do something different from anything she had ever done before.

She remembered the day she gave the girls in her phys. ed. class a good scare by slipping a harmless little grass snake into the locker room. She chuckled at the memory of the sounds that had erupted from the room when the snake was discovered. But one performance of that was enough.

Then there was the little gag of offering someone a stick or gum. The person would always smile and say “Thanks.” His letdown would come when he tore the wrapper off and found there was no gum inside. One variation was to have the gum inside but nicely flavored with soda or some other not-so-tasty ingredient. No good, she decided. That joke had been overworked.

Opportunity came knocking at suppertime. Johnny Burk, who was in her youth guidance class, stood behind her in line. As they chatted, she noticed him smiling mysteriously as he patted his right front pocket.

”What are you up to, Johnny?” she asked.

“You’ll see soon,” he replied, still wearing that same strange smile.

Diane noticed, to her surprise, that she was the only girl seated at the table. She would be seatmate to five boys. Oh, well, she wouldn’t have any trouble talking with them. She would remind Johnny of his promise to show what he had hidden in his pocket. His object-whatever it was sure to be a good conversation piece.

Looking furtively around to make certain that no cafeteria workers were in sight, Johnny drew from his pocket a small pistol!

“Wh-what,” Lester gasped , are you doing with that thing? Is it loaded with real shells?”

“0f course not,” Johnny scoffed. ”I’d have better sense than to bring a dangerous weapon to the dining room!”

Pointing it toward Diane, he asked her what she thought of it. If he had expected her to be afraid, he had misjudged her entirely.

“A very clever little gun,” she said.

“Not a gun, a derringer,” he corrected.

“Derringer then. Why did you bring it here?” Then a sudden inspiration struck her. “I dare you to shoot it!”

“You’re kidding!”

“No, I mean it.”

What a spot this put Johnny in.

How could he wiggle out? Regaining his composure, he challenged, “Darers go first!”

Diane hesitated only a few seconds.

“Is it cocked, loaded, and ready to fire? Hand it here!”

“You’re chicken!” Howard said. “You won’t shoot it.”

“Is that so?” Diane said coolly. “Well, here goes!”

Diane put her left hand under the table, concealing the pistol. She squeezed the trigger. “Blam!” The sound of the explosion rocked the whole room. Everyone jumped.

“Good thing that was a blank shot!” Tom grinned. Diane and the boys could hardly control their laughter.

The air was electric. Everybody was wondering aloud what had caused that sudden “Bang!”

The supervisor lost no time sending her hosts and hostesses to inquire at every table. But nobody seemed to know what had happened or how.

Then Diane saw Doug Copeland, the head host, heading for their table.

“Shh,” she warned. “We’d better put on straight faces.”

“Which one of you fellows set off that firecracker?” Doug demanded.

“Firecracker? l don’t have any firecrackers,” replied Johnny with injured innocence. “The very idea! Accusing me of such a thing.”

“What about the rest of you guys?” Doug looked at them sternly.

“We didn’t do anything,” they protested.

“I don’t believe it. I’m almost positive the noise came from this table.

The culprit will be shut out of the dining hall for two weeks. He will have to come through the back door of the kitchen for his meals and eat them back there. Unless he confesses, all you boys will get the same punishment! And you won’t be able to choose your food. You’ll just have to eat what is set in front of you!”

Diane groaned inwardly. How would such an apparently innocent bit of fun have mushroomed to such monstrous proportions! She must act, and fast, or five boys would suffer for her misdeed. ” Honest, Doug.” She pleaded. “The boys didn’t set off any firecrackers.”

“I’ll take your word for it.” Doug went away to ask someone else. He didn’t even suspect her!

After supper as she washed the dishes and Doug rinsed them, Diane remarked casually, “Did you ever find out who caused the commotion in the cafeteria this evening?”

“No. Do you know who it was?”

“Yes, I know the guilty party.”

“Friend of yours?”

“Rather. It was I.”

Doug couldn’t believe his ears.

“Oh, Diane! Say it wasn’t. I don’t want to have to tell Mrs. Duff it was you!”

“If she asks you, Doug, you’ll just have to tell her the truth.”

I wonder what will happen next, Diane thought to herself. She spent a restless, tortured night. She dreaded going to work the next morning!

She trembled from her brown curly bob to the toes of her black loafers when Mrs. Duff called, “Diane, come here a minute. I want to talk to you.”

Very slowly Diane entered the inner office.

“So you were the cause of all the excitement last night?”

Blushing, Diane admitted that she had shot the derringer. ”I’m sorry,” she added. “I’ll take whatever punishment you mete out.”

Perhaps Mrs. Duff would fire her or dock her pay. That she couldn’t afford! Suddenly her “little bit of fun” didn’t seem funny! She almost fainted when Mrs. Duff said, “I’m disappointed, Diane, that you, a senior, would set such an example for your underclassmen. You have quite an influence over them.

They think that anything you do is ‘in’ or smart. If you will promise to avoid a repetition of this kind of behavior, I will consider the matter closed.”

Somehow the thought that Mrs. Duff had lost confidence in her hurt Diane worse than if she had been given a stiff punishment. Quickly Diane gave her word and thanked the supervisor for her leniency.

On her way from the office she met Doug. “I didn’t want to tattle,” he apologized,”but Mrs. Duff asked me pointblank and I had to tell her the truth. I hope I didn’t get you into too much trouble.”

“Don’t worry,” Diane assured him. “I was let off pretty lightly. But believe me, that’s the last of my mischief-making for this year! I had no idea how much just one little shot could backfire!”

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Derringer in the Dining Hall

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