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"Look, we've all talked it over, and we've agreed unanimously to give you one more chance to join us again. What do you say?”

“I don't know. Anyway, what's it to you if I study?”

“Don't you see? If you study and receive high marks, you establish a benchmark. It makes my grades look bad to the teacher. It makes me look stupid. If I had my way, I'd abolish studying entirely. Better yet, I'd demolish every schoolhouse.”

“I don't agree. For one thing, my study habits don't detract from your academic record, which is based solely on your test scores. For another, you don't have to remain a mediocre student. You can do what I do—spend most of your time studying instead of trying to have fun all the time.”

“And have everyone think I'm a puritanical spoilsport like you? I don't think so. I have more important things to do with my life.”

“Like what? You're just being lazy.”

“Lazy? Don't call me that! Don't ever call me that! You better take that back right now!”

“Make me!” said Pinocchio, with a defiant forward thrust of his chin.

“Take it back, I said, or you'll be sorry!”

When the puppet still refused to retract the statement, the boy gave Pinocchio's shoulder a poke. The puppet, to show that he was not the least bit intimidated by the other, immediately answered that with a shove. That was the catalyst that triggered the beginning of an all-out fight. In a few moments, it raged hot and heavy.

Pinocchio was so dexterous with his hard wooden hands and feet that his opponent was forced to recede. Wherever on the other boy those hands and feet landed, they left a painful mark. The most vulnerable part of his body proved to be his shins, which had already been kicked several times, causing him to howl.

Because he was unable to get close to Pinocchio without being kicked, the boy picked up his schoolbooks and starting hurling them at the puppet. A barrage of reading books, history books, and science books flew threw the air. But the onslaught accomplished nothing. With his sharp eyes and agile movements, Pinocchio was able to predict their trajectories and then jump to the side or duck to avoid being struck.

Now the boy looked around for new ammunition. Seeing Pinocchio's bundle of books lying nearby, he ran to it and snatched it up.

One of the books, a compilation of hundreds of mathematical tables, was very large and heavily bound in leather. Of all his books, Pinocchio loved that one best, for he had an unusual aptitude for mathematics.

Thinking it would make a fine weapon, the boy took hold of it and threw it

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