Craig, fifteen and scrawny, is the butt of taunting by the high school bullies, principally because his father is in jail for having killed someone. Craig was never told the circumstances of his father’s incarceration. When new student Jenny arrives at the school, she too comes in for cruel teasing because of a medical condition, Tourette Syndrome, which causes her to whistle involuntarily and twitch her shoulder. Things only get worse when suspicion falls on Jenny’s father after a series of thefts from the school. When Jenny says she wishes she were dead, Craig realizes she means it literally. But what can he do to help?
But the next day, in school, a similar thing happened in class when Jenny’s shoulder twitched and she dropped her pen, which clattered noisily to the floor. Several of the girls giggled, and Rudy said just loudly enough for Jenny to hear but not for the teacher to, “Go back where you came from! We don’t need any freaks in this class!”
“Yeah, Whistler. We’ve already got Killer. We don’t need you, too.”
By now word had gotten around that Jenny’s father was the night custodian, and in the lunchroom that day, Jeremy began taunting Jenny some more. “When your father dumps the trash at night, why doesn’t he take you out to the Dumpster?”
“Yeah, she’s nothing but trash,” echoed Rudy.
Jenny’s shoulder twitched twice in a row.
“Do you have a spring in your shoulder?” Jeremy asked.
“Let’s use her shoulder to launch the next rocket to Mars,” Evan said, snickering.
“Maybe her mother fed her Mexican jumping beans for breakfast,” Jeremy suggested.
Then Evan twitched his right shoulder imitatively. Jeremy did the same, adding a twitch in his left shoulder as well. Rudy did the same and for good measure whistled as well. Soon five or six of the boys were twitching their shoulders and whistling.
“Quiet down!” the lunchroom monitor called out. The boys cut out the whistling but twitched even more than ever.
Craig could see that Jenny was fighting back tears. Her eyes glistened wetly in the harsh light of the lunchroom, and she put down her fork although she hadn’t eaten half of her macaroni and cheese.