IT IS NOT MY FAULT that there is chocolate pudding in Timmy’s hair.
Mom says that it is my fault, of course. She thinks that just because I pulled the pudding cup away from Timmy, and it squirted on his face when I squeezed it, that this whole chocolate pudding thing is my problem.
But I promise that it is not.
“You said I cannot eat pudding for breakfast,” I tell Mom, still holding the almost-empty pudding cup in my hand. She lifts Timmy onto the counter to sit and begins running a wet paper towel down his bangs.
“You can’t,” Mom answers.
“But Timmy was,” I point out. “And that is not allowed.”
“You’re right, that’s not allowed,” Mom says. “But you had no business grabbing the cup away from him like that. You should’ve just told me.”
“Then you would have called me a tattletale,” I tell her, which I think is a pretty good point.
Mom sighs an enormous gust of breath—so enormous that the tippy-top of Timmy’s hair blows a little from her nose wind.
“Timmy should not have been eating pudding for breakfast—do you hear that, Timmy?” Mom lifts his chin up to face her, and he nods his head, even though he is still licking chocolate from his lips. “But, Mandy, you did not have to intervene. Next time—and there better not be a next time, Timmy—just come get me.”
“So I should tattletale.”
“Mandy,” Mom says with a warning in her voice. “Enough.”
When Mom’s back is turned, I stick my longest finger inside the pudding cup and swoop up the last bite. Then I drop the cup onto the counter, because I am not cleaning up a three-year-old’s trash. No way!
“Mandy eat pudding,” I hear Timmy call then, and I whirl around on my heel to face him. He is pointing at me as Mom wrings his hair into wet tangles. “Mandy eat pudding too. I saw.”
“Worry about yourself, Timmy,” Mom says. “And, Mandy, throw that pudding cup away for me, please.” I pick the cup back up in my hand and stomp toward the trash can, and I wiggle my finger through the pudding one more time, just to swipe up the last of it, before I toss it in the garbage.
“You’re welcome, Timmy,” I call, and he does not even say thank you for throwing out his trash, which I think is rude. I am pretty sure that if Timmy had to throw out my trash after I ate pudding for breakfast, I would have had to say thank you, so I stick my tongue out at him.
“Okay, I think it’s all out now,” Mom says, and she grunts as she hoists Timmy off the counter. But I think she should have left the pudding in his hair, because then at least the front of it would have been brown like mine. Not that I would like to look like Timmy, but I also do not like that he gets to have blond hair and I do not. At least the pudding would have made things even.
“You’re going to be late for your bus, Mand,” Mom says as she rinses her hands off in the sink.
“Mandy,” I correct her.
“I know your name, silly,” Mom says. “Mand is just short for Mandy. It’s affectionate.”
“I do not like it,” I tell her.
“I thought you didn’t like Amanda.”
“I do not like that, either,” I say. “I like Mandy. With a y. The y is the best part.”
“You have a lot of rules, you know that?” Mom says, and she kisses the top of my head. “Skedaddle. Your bus will be here in two minutes. Remember your jacket. And be careful of the twins on your way out, please.”
I trot out of the kitchen and Timmy calls “Bye, Mandy!” after me, but I do not answer him. The twins are lying on the living room carpet like blobs, looking at mobiles. I hold my nose as I step over them, because one of them always seems to stink like a dirty diaper.
I grab my book bag and open the front door before I remember.
“When is Paige coming?” I call to Mom.
“Tonight,” she yells back.
“But what time?” Paige is my favorite cousin in the whole world, and I haven’t seen her since last Christmas, which I think is way too long.
“After dinner. Grandmom is going to pick her up at Uncle Rich’s house this afternoon,” Mom tells me.
“And she is going to sleep in my room, right?” I ask. “Like a slumber party?”
“That’s the plan,” Mom answers.
“Wahoo!” I open the front door all the way and then slam it behind me, dragging my book bag along the ground as I gallop like a pony toward the bus stop.
Because if there is one thing that puts me in an excellent mood, it is Paige, because Paige is fabulous. That is her favorite word—“fabulous”—which is perfect because that is exactly what she is. Paige looks like a princess with very wavy hair and real pierced ears, and her lips are so pink that she always looks like she is wearing lipstick, even though she is not. Plus, Paige does not have any brothers or sisters, which is what I would like to have, except that sometimes I like to pretend that Paige is my sister. She would be a much better sister to have than the twin, because even though Paige is already ten years old, she never cares that I am only eight. Because I am her favorite cousin too, just like she is mine.
And favorite cousins are absolutely the best kind to have visit you.
* * *
“Psst.” I lean against my desk and hiss at Dennis. “Psst, Freckle Face.” I tap on the edge of his desk, which is now right next to mine. This is Mrs. Spangle’s way of making sure that Dennis and I get along more than we argue with each other.
I do not think this plan is working out so well.
“What?” Dennis runs his hand over the top of his Mohawk. We are supposed to be creating maps of our neighborhoods with construction paper, but Dennis doesn’t seem to be doing much more than petting his own hair.
Though I have always wondered what the top of a Mohawk would feel like, if I am being honest.
“Are you done?” I point to his paper, which looks even worse than the artwork Timmy makes in preschool.
“Can I use your glue stick?” I whisper. “Mine ran out.” I screw up the bottom of the stick all the way so Dennis can see that it’s empty.
“Because I said so, Polka Dot,” Dennis says.
“But it’s right there.” I point to his glue stick, which is lying next to scraps of multicolored construction paper. “You didn’t even put the cap on. It’s going to dry up if you don’t let me use it.”
“Too bad for you,” Dennis says, and he thumps his head on his desk and pretends to nap. I look toward Mrs. Spangle, and she has her own head buried in her bottom desk drawer, digging through her handbag. I peer over the side of Dennis’s desk until I can see his face, and he has his eyes closed, ignoring me.
So I reach very slowly around his head, and I lift his glue stick with the very tips of my fingers. Careful not to create any breeze near his Mohawk, I pull my arm back as gently as possible. Success! I pump a silent fist in the air, still clutching Dennis’s glue stick, and that’s when I see Natalie staring at me.
I pull my other hand across my mouth and then stretch my lips tight, as if I had just zipped them closed, and Natalie nods her head to show she understands that she shouldn’t say one thing. Natalie is almost like a real friend ever since she helped me hide Mom’s red lipstick on Picture Day. Not like a best friend, like Anya is, but she is okay sometimes.
I use Dennis’s glue stick to finish putting together my map, and I think about returning it to his desktop before he notices. But Dennis didn’t even let me use his glue stick in the first place, so I don’t think he deserves to have it back, at least not yet. I grab the cap from where it is resting just above his Mohawk, place it on the stick, and put it in my own desk. Then I place my empty stick by Dennis’s head.
“I like how nicely you’ve all been working on your maps,” Mrs. Spangle says as she stands. “Anything you don’t have completed can be wrapped up after recess—you’ll all have five minutes to finish. Right now, though, let me see whose group is ready to line up for lunch.”
I fold my hands neatly on my desk and sit up super-duper straight, just like Natalie always does. Dennis still has his head resting on his desk, and he is going to ruin it for our whole team. “Psst, Freckle Face.” I try to kick him under our desks, but I can’t reach. “Wake up.”
“I am up,” Dennis says, but he still does not lift his head, which means Mrs. Spangle is never going to call us to line up first. I stop sitting super-duper straight, since Dennis is wrecking it for our whole group anyway, and instead, I rustle through my desk until I find my sticker book. Anya and I, and sometimes Natalie, have been collecting stickers and trading them, but mine are some of the prettiest, I think. My favorite kinds of stickers are filled with gel, and when you press them, the gel spreads out and looks glittery. I even traded most of my Rainbow Sparkle stickers for Anya’s gel ones, because that is how much I love them.
“Mandy and Dennis, I’ll wait,” Mrs. Spangle says, so I place my sticker book on my lap and fold my hands again on top of my desk. Dennis places his chin on his hands but still doesn’t lift his head.
“Sit up!” I whisper-yell at him, and he does, but not even super-duper straight like he is supposed to.
“Okay, Mandy’s group,” Mrs. Spangle finally announces. “You can grab your things from the cubbies and get in line.” I stand and hold my sticker book up in Anya’s direction to make sure she has hers too, and she nods at me. Then I scramble to grab my lunch box and get in line as quickly as I can so I won’t be all the way in the back, because Dennis always likes to be the caboose. And there is no way I want Dennis to ruin my appetite today.
* * *
“Why’d you steal Dennis’s glue stick?” Natalie asks me when we reach our table in the cafeteria.
“I didn’t steal it, I took it,” I explain.
“Isn’t that the same thing?”
I think about this for one second. “No, because if I stole it, I can never give it back, like when Dennis stole my gummy bears and ate them all. If I took it, I can give it back. I just don’t want to yet.”
Natalie nods her head like this makes sense, and I am a very good explainer, I think.
I whip my sticker book onto the table and open to the center page, which has all of my favorite gel stickers in a row. “Aren’t they beautiful?” I ask.
“They are,” Natalie agrees. “My mom said she would take me to the teacher store and look for more stickers this weekend.” Teacher stores are one of the best places for getting stickers, because teachers like to buy them almost as much as we do. I have never been to a teacher store, even though I have wanted to go to one my whole entire life. Mom says we do not have to go there because no one in our house is a teacher, but Mom doesn’t understand important things like sticker collecting.
“I wonder if Paige has any stickers she would trade,” I begin. “Did I tell you she is coming tonight?”
“Only like a thousand times,” Anya answers. “I know, you’re excited.”
“Who’s Paige?” Natalie asks.
“Her cousin,” Anya answers for me. “Her favorite cousin.” She drags out the word “favorite” and wiggles her head back and forth as she says it.
“Why is she your favorite?” Natalie asks.
“Because she is fabulous. That is Paige’s favorite word, you know—‘fabulous.’ And that is what she is,” I tell her.
“But what makes her so fabulous?” Natalie asks.
“She has wavy hair that looks just like a yellow ocean,” I explain. “And she wears boots with little heels that click-clack on the floor. And she has more Rainbow Sparkle stuff than anyone in the universe, and she always draws a heart in her name above the i. Oh, and she does not have any brothers or sisters, and that is what I want to have.”
“You mean that’s what you don’t want to have?” Natalie asks, and sometimes I wish Natalie would stop listening so much to everything I say, so I sigh an enormous breath at her.
“You know what I mean,” I tell her. “Or maybe I would take Paige as my sister. That would be good too.”
“Why is she visiting?” Natalie asks.
“Her school is on vacation,” I explain. “She will be here for one whole week.”
“You’re lucky to have a cousin your age,” Anya tells me. “All of my cousins are very old. Like, teenagers.” And I nod because I agree that I am lucky.
But if I could, I would definitely trade in Timmy and the twins to have Paige as my sister. Then I would be the luckiest girl of all.
(And Other Lessons I’ve Learned)
Pizza Is the Best Breakfast
(And Other Lessons I’ve Learned)
Mandy Berr is super excited that her favorite cousin in the whole world, Paige, is coming to visit. After all, Mandy is usually stuck at home with the twins and annoying little brother, Timmy, so the chance for some fun girl time is definitely worthy of many “wahoos!”
But when Paige arrives, she is not the fun cousin that Mandy remembers. To start, Paige wants to call her “Manda,” with no “y.” She no longer likes Rainbow Sparkle, their favorite TV show. She doesn’t want to bounce on the bed or play dress-up. And, in the ultimate betrayal, Paige actually likes hanging out with the twins and Timmy. Mandy does not like these changes one bit.
To try and help bring the girls together, their grandma suggests the girls make some recipes out of a special cookbook—if they can work together, she will take them to a carnival at the end of the week. But having two bosses in the kitchen isn’t working out, and it looks like Mandy's visit with Paige is about to go up in smoke. Can the two cousins clear the air and whip up a fancy meal for the family?
- Aladdin |
- 176 pages |
- ISBN 9781481429610 |
- March 2015 |
- Grades 2 - 5 |
- Lexile ® 880L