Chapter 7 Summary
As The Souls continue to prepare for the contest against Knightsbridge, Mrs. Olinski's pack of note cards grows. The children become so familiar with the questions that they can often provide the answers before she is finished reading them. As this will cost them a penalty if it happens during the actual match, The Souls must get out of that habit, which they do after only one warning from their teacher. Now that her team has experienced such success, Mrs. Olinski is asked frequently how she originally chose its members. Although she offers several good answers, pointing out their intelligence, their ability to work together, and their willingness to work, in truth, Mrs. Olinski still does not really understand the exact reasons behind her choices.
The day before the district championship meet, Mrs. Olinski is visited by the principal of Knightsbridge, who unkindly reveals that she has told her coach that she "could expect to be hung if she lets [Epiphany's] sixth grade grunges beat [them]." Mrs. Olinski responds, with all due respect, that Knightsbridge had better start stocking up on rope.
Mr. Homer Fairbain, the deputy superintendent in charge of instruction for the district, will be the master of ceremonies for the district playoffs. His superior, Dr. Roy Clayton Rohmer, is worried. Mr. Fairbain is a well-meaning but bumbling individual known for his inopportune comments and his gross inability to read difficult words correctly. This is particularly embarrassing to the district because Mr. Fairbain, in his lofty position, is in charge of most aspects of instruction in the schools. Dr. Rohmer is so concerned that he arranges to give Mr. Fairbain the questions to be asked in advance. Mr. Fairbain will then be able to practice reading them correctly.
On the day of the contest, the Knightsbridge cafetorium is filled to capacity. Mr. Fairbain conducts himself reasonably well until he slips up on a question concerning the tribe of Geronimo. Julian respectfully corrects him. The good-natured Mr. Fairbain accepts the correction affably, but makes matters worse when he comments that Julian looks like an Indian himself and asks what tribe he is from. The audience responds by gasping in shock at the deputy superintendent's faux pas. Dr. Rohmer is "pale[s] to the point of translucence."
The contest gets under way. Julian answers the question that puts Epiphany ahead of Knightsbridge, and Ethan brings home the victory. In response to the losing school's principal's pompous declaration to Mrs. Olinski before the meet, the Epiphany sixth graders in attendance pull pieces of rope from their pockets and pin them on their shirts "in the place where a medal would go." The Souls come down off the stage, pushing Mrs. Olinski ahead of them. When they reach the back of the room, their supporters lift her up, "wheelchair and all," and carry her to the parking lot. Although there are other triumphs to come, this one is the sweetest.