'The Meanest Thing to Say' Editor's note: When a new boy in his second grade class plays a game of insults, Little Bill shows him a better way to make friends.


March 22, 1998|By BILL COSBY

"I'm getting ready for a contest tomorrow," I said.

"A boxing match?" asked Mom.

"It's called Playing the Dozens, because you have twelve chances to say something mean to the other guy. I'm going to make a list of a million mean things to say. If I study that list really hard, I can't lose."

That's when my dad walked into the kitchen. He's Big Bill.

"Hey, buddy, what's this I hear about studying? Big test tomorrow?" he asked.

"No, dear. Our son is in a contest," Mom said. "He has to come up with a million mean things to say to someone at school."

"When I was a boy, we called that 'ranking,'" Dad said.

"This new kid at school said that I shoot like a girl!"

Dad shrugged his shoulders and said, So?"

"D-a-d. Michael Reilly is a creep!"


"Dad! He's bad."

My dad was about to say it again... "Soooooo?"

"Is that all you can say?" I asked. "So. So. So. You've said it about a million times. I...I..."

When I looked around the table, everyone was smiling.

L "It's easier than studying a million mean things," Dad said.

He got up and jumped around the kitchen like a boxer. He raised his hands in the air and said, "I was the World 'Ranking' Champion!"

And the rest of us said, "So!?"


The next day, Michael was waiting for me in the schoolyard. And I was ready for him!

"You smell like old egg salad," Michael started.

"So?" I said.

"So you're a stupid nerd who looks like a slimy slug," Michael said.


"You're a teacher's pet with bugs living in your hair," said Michael.

I thought that was funny and I laughed and said, "So?"

Soon, the other kids were laughing.

Michael was getting angry.

"This isn't how you play the game! You have to call me names. Call me stupid! Call me mean! I'm ugly!" Michael yelled.

I laughed harder. He was funny. "So?"

Michael yelled even more. "You're supposed to be getting angry. You should be crying by now. What's wrong with you anyway?"

"You're funny," I said.

The bell rang.

"I'm going inside," Michael said as he ran off.

I looked at Andrew. "So?" we said at the same time. And we laughed.

Then we walked to our classroom. Michael was sitting all alone at his desk. I kind of liked him and felt sorry for him.

"We're playing basketball during recess. Do you want to play?" I asked.

"Sure," Michael said quietly.

"You can be on my team," Andrew said.

"He's a lousy player," I said, grinning at Andrew.

Michael smiled, too, and said, "So?"

We all laughed together.

L Outside, I held out my hand and Michael gave me a high five.

From THE MEANEST THING TO SAY by Bill Cosby, illustrated by Varnett P. Honeywood. Published by CARTWHEEL BOOKS. Copyright 1997 by Bill Cosby. Reprinted by permission of Scholastic Inc. CARTWHEEL BOOKS is a registered trademark of Scholastic Inc.

Pub Date: 3/22/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.