Thursday, September 15, 2011

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I got up on the wrong side of the bed. One eye was opened half-way. The other eye didn't bother to open at all. I sat up, turned my legs around to the side of the bed next to my alarm clock. The nightstand fits just right in between the bed and the wall – I don't. I took a step toward my area rug. But it wasn't there. The wall was.

My big toenail, already loose, ripped the wallpaper before falling off. I bent down to pick it up. My forehead knocked against my beach poster. Sister, in the next room yelled, “Who is it?” Just as well, I thought, Mom had asked me to wake her up.

I pushed the off-button on my alarm. I fell back onto my bed and swung my legs to the right side. Stood up. Reached up. Breathed in and out.

I smelled eggs scrambling. Something extra important must be happening. Mom only makes eggs if we are going to the swimming pool, have gym class, or...a test. My math test! I had forgotten to study. Well, I had studied in the sense that I looked at the equations. I had seen lots of plus and minus signs. I had seen numbers past the equal signs, but I just hadn't looked close enough to figure out how they got there.

I walked into the kitchen keeping my chin close to my chest and stood in front of my chair. I wrapped my hands around the bottom of the seat and pulled myself closer. In fact, I had only grabbed underneath the cushion. Luckily it was tied onto the chair. So, instead of me flying underneath the table I only caused the chair legs to gallop forward. My little sister ran down the hall yelling, “Can I play horse with you?”

The steam from my fluffy yellow eggs drifted into my nostrils for only a second before I grabbed my fork and knife. The blade dripped of melted cheddar as if it was sticking its tongue out at me. Cheddar cheese?! What else was going on today?

Mom smiled, kissed my forehead, and shuffled her slippers out of the kitchen.

As the last cheesy bit of egg slid down my throat, I pushed back my chair and stood up with my plate. With one eye on the sink, the other watched my hands. My heels and toes rocked slowly back and forth to get me across the kitchen. The knife laid calmly on a crust of bread. My milk glass teetered on the handle of my fork.

My little sister yelled, “We're late!”

Her breath was enough to knock me over, but I kept steady. I opened the dishwasher and put my dishes proudly onto the top rack. Then, I saw the silverware shining and the bowls dripping with clear water. And then, I watched the last of my cheese ooze like an orange bungee chord from my rainbow-painted plate towards the bottom rack. I grabbed it and flung it into the sink. Midair, the plastic flying saucer yanked the cheese away from all clean surfaces. Saved, I ran upstairs to brush my teeth.

Mom, Sister and Brother were already in the car by the time I rolled out my school bag. I heaved it into the trunk, slammed the door and climbed over knees to the middle seat.

Sister yelled, “We're going to run out of gas!” That's why we were in a rush. We had to stop at the gas station.

The odor of the gasoline made me taste my eggs in my throat. The pump was stuttering, stopping, starting, ck-cklick-ck-ckclick. I asked Mom if I could run into the restroom while she pumped the gas. She rolled her eyes but motioned with her free arm toward the gas station shop.

The cashier handed me a little key on a long wooden plank. Neon green letters spelled “Restroom”. My gurgling tummy reminded me of the math test. Numbers appeared in my head. They were dancing into order.

Bang! Bang!

“Come on!” My brother, for a change, was yelling through the door, “ and why did you follow me in?” Sister. Dad had taught her to unhook her car seat strap on her last birthday.

I buttoned my pants, squirted some sanitizer in each palm and opened the door. Before it shut, I squeezed back through, picked up the key-chain from the floor, and ran to the cashier. She was about to hang up the chunk of wood when Brother's legs froze next to the drink display. He was staring at Mom. My eyes followed his. Mother was standing next to the driver's side door, her hands over her cheeks.

I wondered why and what my little sister was yelling about now. She was swinging her arms above her head and back down. She was jumping up and down so fast, her pants stayed in place while her backside played peek-a-boo.

I took a few steps toward my brother and took his hand. We walked to the car together, slowly and silently. We hadn't been that close, willingly, since he started middle school.

Each step turned up Sister's voice another notch. “I want to go to school!”

Mom's chest rose. She exhaled and reached for my shoulder and Sister's hand. The four of us walked back into the station shop. Mom asked to use the phone. She dialed a number. “I'll wait....Can you bring me the spare car key?....When will your meeting be over?.... No, it would take longer to walk home...No, it would take even longer to walk to school...ok, see you then.” Mom placed the phone back onto the counter as if she thought it would explode. I thought maybe she would.

Mom told us to pick out a juice and a snack. We were going to wait a while. The door with cold drinks didn't open as easily as our fridge door. I pulled but the suction was stronger. Brother said he could do it. I told him to pull hard. I must have loosened the suction a bit because when he pulled, it opened, and smacked my nose. I was too shocked to blink.

Mom gave the cashier some money, unscrewed the cap on Sisters drink and placed my bottle on my face. I might have looked silly, but at least I knew my friends wouldn't be walking in to see this. Everyone was at school by then, I thought, but me. Everyone had handed in their homework by then, but me. Everyone was probably taking their math test, but me...but me!

While we waited for Dad to arrive with an extra car key, Mom read travel magazines. Brother read music magazines. Sister re-organized the magazines by color instead of topic. I added up the prices of the magazines in each row. I subtracted the top row prices (the highest row I could reach) from the bottom row prices. I added up the prices of all the sports magazines. I subtracted the total price of TV guides from the price of fashion magazines.

Dad drove into the parking lot just as Sister started stacking cookie boxes like construction blocks. His face was as red as the sports car he's always talking about.

Mom's stress escaped into a low sigh. But, the cashier, she sighed as deep as my teacher does at the final bell.

Mom ran out the sliding doors, almost too fast, and flung her arms around Dad. He pushed the button to unlock the car. We three scrunched back into our places in the backseat.

“Now, have a good time at school.” He said to us before looking just at me. “Are you ready for the try-outs?” He winked a smile. “Good luck!”

That's what the extra cheesy eggs were for! I couldn't believe I forgot...ok, I could believe it. But, I was ready.

And, the next day, I was ready to make-up my math test.

Everything was all right.

What do you think?
*What is you favorite breakfast on days when you need extra energy or brain power?
*Have you ever forgotten to do your homework or study for a test? How does that feel?
*What actually went right in the story?

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