#19: Claudia and the Bad Joke

Just from the cover of this book, you can tell shit is about to go down. But how does Claudia end up in the hospital (somehow still looking pretty glam)? Let’s find out…

The book starts with all of Stoneybrook’s under-16 population (including the members of the BSC and a lot of the kids they sit for) at a slapstick comedy film festival at the local library. It seems the whole practical joke thing really catches on with the Stoneybrook youngsters… including Kristy, of course. Claudia also gets a prank phone call from someone looking for “Prince Albert in a can”. She is not a fan of practical joke season… which is unfortunate, because she has a sitting job lined up for a new charge named Betsy Sobak. According to some other people who used to sit for Betsy, “she’s an incurable practical joker”.

Claudia finds out that Betsy has definitely still not been cured of her practical joke obsession. First she gives Claudia apple juice in a dribble glass (so the juice spills all over Claudia’s handmade shirt) with a fly-in-an-ice-cube prop, and then gives her trick gum that tastes like hot pepper. Claudia tries to outsmart Betsy by making her play outside, so they go out to the swing set. Betsy directs Claud to a specific swing (first warning sign) and they demands Claud to swing higher and higher (second warning sign). Eventually, the chain on the swing breaks and Claudia flies through the air, landing on the driveway with a sickening crack. Her leg is totes broken. YOU BLEW IT, BETSY!

Claudia directs Betsy to call 9-1-1 and to call Dawn and Mallory at the Rodowskys’, where they’re baby-sitting a bunch of kids. Dawn and Mal hurry over (with all the kids), and Dawn calls Claud’s mom to meet them at the hospital. Mallory stays at the Sobaks’ with all the kids and Dawn rides in the ambulance to the hospital with Claudia. (As much as Dawn sometimes annoys me, she handles this situation very well.)

Claudia gets a sleepy needle, and when she wakes up her leg is in a cast and in traction, and her parents are telling her she’s going to spend a week in the hospital and a few more days at home before she can go back to school – the break was bad. Claudia is scared, but then gets angry. What if she had broken her arm and couldn’t do her art? She’s pissed – at Betsy, at herself, at Kristy for even starting the BSC, and at the world in general. Claud gets a ton of visitors, flowers, and gifts, but when she’s alone she ruminates. And when Stacey calls to ask how she’s really doing, Claudia admits that she now considers baby-sitting a dangerous job… and she’s thinking of dropping out of the club.

At the next BSC meeting when Claud’s home, she tells the rest of the girls how she feels. They’re dismayed – and Kristy is legit angry – but they convince her to wait a while before deciding. After all, it’s going to be a few weeks before she can actually baby-sit again. Then Mrs. Sobak (Betsy’s mom) has the nerve to call the BSC again for a baby-sitter for Betsy. Seriously? Mallory has an idea – she wants the job, and she’s going to pull practical jokes on Betsy to teach her a lesson. (Go ahead, Mal, just break her leg – fair’s fair.)

Mallory and Dawn each baby-sit for Betsy, and play jokes on her – but Betsy is unflappable. She just plays jokes right back, no matter what. Nearly killing Claudia hasn’t slowed her down. But it has slowed Claudia down – she still doesn’t know if she wants to stay in the BSC, and the other girls give her a week to decide. She misses Jamie and the Perkinses and the Pike kids, but she is still scared of bad things that could happen.

Kristy baby-sits for Betsy next, and of course Kristy goes for the jugular. She pulls several jokes on Betsy in public – in front of her classmates – that really freak Betsy out and embarrass her. Kristy is like “DUH THAT’S HOW PEOPLE FEEL WHEN YOU DO IT TO THEM” and the lightbulb finally goes on over Betsy’s head. Kristy then takes Betsy to see Claudia, and Betsy fully apologizes, making Claudia realize that embarrassment was really what was making her consider quitting the club. She ends up deciding to stay in the BSC (of course) and everyone is super stoked about it. (She has one condition: she never has to baby-sit for Betsy again.)

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