×

Wonder / (by R. J. Palacio, 2012) -

/

Wonder /  (by R. J. Palacio, 2012) -

Wonder / (by R. J. Palacio, 2012) -

, . , . , . . , - , - . , , , . , . . , , , . ? ? , , , . ?

:
: 4 275
:
Wonder / (by R. J. Palacio, 2012) -
:
2012
:
R. J. Palacio
:
Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd, Diana Steele
:
:
/ / / / / pre-intermediate
:
pre-intermediate
:
08:11:46
:
128 kbps
:
mp3, pdf, doc

Wonder / :

.doc (Word) palacio_r_j_-_wonder.doc [1.2 Mb] (c: 108) .
.pdf palacio_r_j_-_wonder.pdf [1.46 Mb] (c: 169) .
audiobook (MP3) .


: Wonder

:

( , ).


Doctors have come from distant cities just to see me stand over my bed disbelieving what they_re seeing They say I must be one of the wonders of god_s own creation and as far as they can see they can offer no explanation _NATALIE MERCHANT, _Wonder_ Fate smiled and destiny laughed as she came to my cradle _ _Natalie Merchant, _Wonder_ Ordinary I know I_m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. I mean, sure, I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball. I have an XBox. Stuff like that makes me ordinary. I guess. And I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don_t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don_t get stared at wherever they go. If I found a magic lamp and I could have one wish, I would wish that I had a normal face that no one ever noticed at all. I would wish that I could walk down the street without people seeing me and then doing that look-away thing. Here_s what I think: the only reason I_m not ordinary is that no one else sees me that way. But I_m kind of used to how I look by now. I know how to pretend I don_t see the faces people make. We_ve all gotten pretty good at that sort of thing: me, Mom and Dad, Via. Actually, I take that back: Via_s not so good at it. She can get really annoyed when people do something rude. Like, for instance, one time in the playground some older kids made some noises. I don_t even know what the noises were exactly because I didn_t hear them myself, but Via heard and she just started yelling at the kids. That_s the way she is. I_m not that way. Via doesn_t see me as ordinary. She says she does, but if I were ordinary, she wouldn_t feel like she needs to protect me as much. And Mom and Dad don_t see me as ordinary, either. They see me as extraordinary. I think the only person in the world who realizes how ordinary I am is me. My name is August, by the way. I won_t describe what I look like. Whatever you_re thinking, it_s probably worse. Why I Didn_t Go to School Next week I start fifth grade. Since I_ve never been to a real school before, I am pretty much totally and completely petrified. People think I haven_t gone to school because of the way I look, but it_s not that. It_s because of all the surgeries I_ve had. Twenty-seven since I was born. The bigger ones happened before I was even four years old, so I don_t remember those. But I_ve had two or three surgeries every year since then (some big, some small), and because I_m little for my age, and I have some other medical mysteries that doctors never really figured out, I used to get sick a lot. That_s why my parents decided it was better if I didn_t go to school. I_m much stronger now, though. The last surgery I had was eight months ago, and I probably won_t have to have any more for another couple of years. Mom homeschools me. She used to be a children_s-book illustrator. She draws really great fairies and mermaids. Her boy stuff isn_t so hot, though. She once tried to draw me a Darth Vader, but it ended up looking like some weird mushroom-shaped robot. I haven_t seen her draw anything in a long time. I think she_s too busy taking care of me and Via. I can_t say I always wanted to go to school because that wouldn_t be exactly true. What I wanted was to go to school, but only if I could be like every other kid going to school. Have lots of friends and hang out after school and stuff like that. I have a few really good friends now. Christopher is my best friend, followed by Zachary and Alex. We_ve known each other since we were babies. And since they_ve always known me the way I am, they_re used to me. When we were little, we used to have playdates all the time, but then Christopher moved to Bridgeport in Connecticut. That_s more than an hour away from where I live in North River Heights, which is at the top tip of Manhattan. And Zachary and Alex started going to school. It_s funny: even though Christopher_s the one who moved far away, I still see him more than I see Zachary and Alex. They have all these new friends now. If we bump into each other on the street, they_re still nice to me, though. They always say hello. I have other friends, too, but not as good as Christopher and Zack and Alex were. For instance, Zack and Alex always invited me to their birthday parties when we were little, but Joel and Eamonn and Gabe never did. Emma invited me once, but I haven_t seen her in a long time. And, of course, I always go to Christopher_s birthday. Maybe I_m making too big a deal about birthday parties. How I Came to Life I like when Mom tells this story because it makes me laugh so much. It_s not funny in the way a joke is funny, but when Mom tells it, Via and I just start cracking up. So when I was in my mom_s stomach, no one had any idea I would come out looking the way I look. Mom had had Via four years before, and that had been such a _walk in the park_ (Mom_s expression) that there was no reason to run any special tests. About two months before I was born, the doctors realized there was something wrong with my face, but they didn_t think it was going to be bad. They told Mom and Dad I had a cleft palate and some other stuff going on. They called it _small anomalies._ There were two nurses in the delivery room the night I was born. One was very nice and sweet. The other one, Mom said, did not seem at all nice or sweet. She had very big arms and (here comes the funny part), she kept farting. Like, she_d bring Mom some ice chips, and then fart. She_d check Mom_s blood pressure, and fart. Mom says it was unbelievable because the nurse never even said excuse me! Meanwhile, Mom_s regular doctor wasn_t on duty that night, so Mom got stuck with this cranky kid doctor she and Dad nicknamed Doogie after some old TV show or something (they didn_t actually call him that to his face). But Mom says that even though everyone in the room was kind of grumpy, Dad kept making her laugh all night long. When I came out of Mom_s stomach, she said the whole room got very quiet. Mom didn_t even get a chance to look at me because the nice nurse immediately rushed me out of the room. Dad was in such a hurry to follow her that he dropped the video camera, which broke into a million pieces. And then Mom got very upset and tried to get out of bed to see where they were going, but the farting nurse put her very big arms on Mom to keep her down in the bed. They were practically fighting, because Mom was hysterical and the farting nurse was yelling at her to stay calm, and then they both started screaming for the doctor. But guess what? He had fainted! Right on the floor! So when the farting nurse saw that he had fainted, she started pushing him with her foot to get him to wake up, yelling at him the whole time: _What kind of doctor are you? What kind of doctor are you? Get up! Get up!_ And then all of a sudden she let out the biggest, loudest, smelliest fart in the history of farts. Mom thinks it was actually the fart that finally woke the doctor up. Anyway, when Mom tells this story, she acts out all the parts_including the farting noises_and it is so, so, so, so funny! Mom says the farting nurse turned out to be a very nice woman. She stayed with Mom the whole time. Didn_t leave her side even after Dad came back and the doctors told them how sick I was. Mom remembers exactly what the nurse whispered in her ear when the doctor told her I probably wouldn_t live through the night: _Everyone born of God overcometh the world._ And the next day, after I had lived through the night, it was that nurse who held Mom_s hand when they brought her to meet me for the first time. Mom says by then they had told her all about me. She had been preparing herself for the seeing of me. But she says that when she looked down into my tiny mushed-up face for the first time, all she could see was how pretty my eyes were. Mom is beautiful, by the way. And Dad is handsome. Via is pretty. In case you were wondering. Christopher_s House I was really bummed when Christopher moved away three years ago. We were both around seven then. We used to spend hours playing with our Star Wars action figures and dueling with our lightsabers. I miss that. Last spring we drove over to Christopher_s house in Bridgeport. Me and Christopher were looking for snacks in the kitchen, and I heard Mom talking to Lisa, Christopher_s mom, about my going to school in the fall. I had never, ever heard her mention school before. _What are you talking about?_ I said. Mom looked surprised, like she hadn_t meant for me to hear that. _You should tell him what you_ve been thinking, Isabel,_ Dad said. He was on the other side of the living room talking to Christopher_s dad. _We should talk about this later,_ said Mom. _No, I want to know what you were talking about,_ I answered. _Don_t you think you_re ready for school, Auggie?_ Mom said. _No,_ I said. _I don_t, either,_ said Dad. _Then that_s it, case closed,_ I said, shrugging, and I sat in her lap like I was a baby. _I just think you need to learn more than I can teach you,_ Mom said. _I mean, come on, Auggie, you know how bad I am at fractions!_ _What school?_ I said. I already felt like crying. _Beecher Prep. Right by us._ _Wow, that_s a great school, Auggie,_ said Lisa, patting my knee. _Why not Via_s school?_ I said. _That_s too big,_ Mom answered. _I don_t think that would be a good fit for you._ _I don_t want to,_ I said. I admit: I made my voice sound a little babyish. _You don_t have to do anything you don_t want to do,_ Dad said, coming over and lifting me out of Mom_s lap. He carried me over to sit on his lap on the other side of the sofa. _We won_t make you do anything you don_t want to do._ _But it would be good for him, Nate,_ Mom said. _Not if he doesn_t want to,_ answered Dad, looking at me. _Not if he_s not ready._ I saw Mom look at Lisa, who reached over and squeezed her hand. _You guys will figure it out,_ she said to Mom. _You always have._ _Let_s just talk about it later,_ said Mom. I could tell she and Dad were going to get in a fight about it. I wanted Dad to win the fight. Though a part of me knew Mom was right. And the truth is, she really was terrible at fractions. Driving It was a long drive home. I fell asleep in the backseat like I always do, my head on Via_s lap like she was my pillow, a towel wrapped around the seat belt so I wouldn_t drool all over her. Via fell asleep, too, and Mom and Dad talked quietly about grown-up things I didn_t care about. I don_t know how long I was sleeping, but when I woke up, there was a full moon outside the car window. It was a purple night, and we were driving on a highway full of cars. And then I heard Mom and Dad talking about me. _We can_t keep protecting him,_ Mom whispered to Dad, who was driving. _We can_t just pretend he_s going to wake up tomorrow and this isn_t going to be his reality, because it is, Nate, and we have to help him learn to deal with it. We can_t just keep avoiding situations that __ _So sending him off to middle school like a lamb to the slaughter _,_ Dad answered angrily, but he didn_t even finish his sentence because he saw me in the mirror looking up. _What_s a lamb to the slaughter?_ I asked sleepily. _Go back to sleep, Auggie,_ Dad said softly. _Everyone will stare at me at school,_ I said, suddenly crying. _Honey,_ Mom said. She turned around in the front seat and put her hand on my hand. _You know if you don_t want to do this, you don_t have to. But we spoke to the principal there and told him about you and he really wants to meet you._ _What did you tell him about me?_ _How funny you are, and how kind and smart. When I told him you read Dragon Rider when you were six, he was like, _Wow, I have to meet this kid._ _ _Did you tell him anything else?_ I said. Mom smiled at me. Her smile kind of hugged me. _I told him about all your surgeries, and how brave you are,_ she said. _So he knows what I look like?_ I asked. _Well, we brought pictures from last summer in Montauk,_ Dad said. _We showed him pictures of the whole family. And that great shot of you holding that flounder on the boat!_ _You were there, too?_ I have to admit I felt a little disappointed that he was a part of this. _We both talked to him, yes,_ Dad said. _He_s a really nice man._ _You would like him,_ Mom added. Suddenly it felt like they were on the same side. _Wait, so when did you meet him?_ I said. _He took us on a tour of the school last year,_ said Mom. _Last year?_ I said. _So you_ve been thinking about this for a whole year and you didn_t tell me?_ _We didn_t know if you_d even get in, Auggie,_ answered Mom. _It_s a very hard school to get into. There_s a whole admissions process. I didn_t see the point in telling you and having you get all worked up about it unnecessarily._ _But you_re right, Auggie, we should_ve told you when we found out last month that you got in,_ said Dad. _In hindsight,_ sighed Mom, _yes, I guess._ _Did that lady who came to the house that time have something to do with this?_ I said. _The one that gave me that test?_ _Yes, actually,_ said Mom, looking guilty. _Yes._ _You told me it was an IQ test,_ I said. _I know, well, that was a white lie,_ she answered. _It was a test you needed to take to get into the school. You did very well on it, by the way._ _So you lied,_ I said. _A white lie, but yes. Sorry,_ she said, trying to smile, but when I didn_t smile back, she turned around in her seat and faced forward. _What_s a lamb to the slaughter?_ I said. Mom sighed and gave Daddy a _look._ _I shouldn_t have said that,_ Dad said, looking at me in the rearview mirror. _It_s not true. Here_s the thing: Mommy and I love you so much we want to protect you any way we can. It_s just sometimes we want to do it in different ways._ _I don_t want to go to school,_ I answered, folding my arms. _It would be good for you, Auggie,_ said Mom. _Maybe I_ll go next year,_ I answered, looking out the window. _This year would be better, Auggie,_ said Mom. _You know why? Because you_ll be going into fifth grade, and that_s the first year of middle school_for everyone. You won_t be the only new kid._ _I_ll be the only kid who looks like me,_ I said. _I_m not going to say it won_t be a big challenge for you, because you know better than that,_ she answered. _But it_ll be good for you, Auggie. You_ll make lots of friends. And you_ll learn things you_d never learn with me._ She turned in her seat again and looked at me. _When we took the tour, you know what they had in their science lab? A little baby chick that was just hatching out of its egg. It was so cute! Auggie, it actually kind of reminded me of you when you were a little baby _ with those big brown eyes of yours.__ I usually love when they talk about when I was a baby. Sometimes I want to curl up into a little tiny ball and let them hug me and kiss me all over. I miss being a baby, not knowing stuff. But I wasn_t in the mood for that now. _I don_t want to go,_ I said. _How about this? Can you at least meet Mr. Tushman before making up your mind?_ Mom asked. _Mr. Tushman?_ I said. _He_s the principal,_ answered Mom. _Mr. Tushman?_ I repeated. _I know, right?_ Dad answered, smiling and looking at me in the rearview mirror. _Can you believe that name, Auggie? I mean, who on earth would ever agree to have a name like Mr. Tushman?_ I smiled even though I didn_t want to let them see me smile. Dad was the one person in the world who could make me laugh no matter how much I didn_t want to laugh. Dad always made everyone laugh. _Auggie, you know, you should go to that school just so you can hear his name said over the loudspeaker!_ Dad said excitedly. _Can you imagine how funny that would be? Hello, hello? Paging Mr. Tushman!_ He was using a fake high, old-lady voice. _Hi, Mr. Tushman! I see you_re running a little behind today! Did your car get rear-ended again? What a bum rap!_ I started laughing, not even because I thought he was being that funny but because I wasn_t in the mood to stay mad anymore. _It could be worse, though!_ Dad continued in his normal voice. _Mommy and I had a professor in college called Miss Butt._ Mom was laughing now, too. _Is that for real?_ I said. _Roberta Butt,_ Mom answered, raising her hand as if to swear. _Bobbie Butt._ _She had huge cheeks,_ said Dad. _Nate!_ said Mom. _What? She had big cheeks is all I_m saying._ Mom laughed and shook her head at the same time. _Hey hey, I know!_ said Dad excitedly. _Let_s fix them up on a blind date! Can you imagine? Miss Butt, meet Mr. Tushman. Mr. Tushman, here_s Miss Butt. They could get married and have a bunch of little Tushies._ _Poor Mr. Tushman,_ answered Mom, shaking her head. _Auggie hasn_t even met the man yet, Nate!_ _Who_s Mr. Tushman?_ Via said groggily. She had just woken up. _He_s the principal of my new school,_ I answered. Paging Mr. Tushman I would have been more nervous about meeting Mr. Tushman if I_d known I was also going to be meeting some kids from the new school. But I didn_t know, so if anything, I was kind of giggly. I couldn_t stop thinking about all the jokes Daddy had made about Mr. Tushman_s name. So when me and Mom arrived at Beecher Prep a few weeks before the start of school, and I saw Mr. Tushman standing there, waiting for us at the entrance, I started giggling right away. He didn_t look at all like what I pictured, though. I guess I thought he would have a huge butt, but he didn_t. In fact, he was a pretty normal guy. Tall and thin. Old but not really old. He seemed nice. He shook my mom_s hand first. _Hi, Mr. Tushman, it_s so nice to see you again,_ said Mom. _This is my son, August._ Mr. Tushman looked right at me and smiled and nodded. He put his hand out for me to shake. _Hi, August,_ he said, totally normally. _It_s a pleasure to meet you._ _Hi,_ I mumbled, dropping my hand into his hand while I looked down at his feet. He was wearing red Adidas. _So,_ he said, kneeling down in front of me so I couldn_t look at his sneakers but had to look at his face, _your mom and dad have told me a lot about you._ _Like what have they told you?_ I asked. _Sorry?_ _Honey, you have to speak up,_ said Mom. _Like what?_ I asked, trying not to mumble. I admit I have a bad habit of mumbling. _Well, that you like to read,_ said Mr. Tushman, _and that you_re a great artist._ He had blue eyes with white eyelashes. _And you_re into science, right?_ _Uh-huh,_ I said, nodding. _We have a couple of great science electives at Beecher,_ he said. _Maybe you_ll take one of them?_ _Uh-huh,_ I said, though I had no idea what an elective was. _So, are you ready to take a tour?_ _You mean we_re doing that now?_ I said. _Did you think we were going to the movies?_ he answered, smiling as he stood up. _You didn_t tell me we were taking a tour,_ I said to Mom in my accusing voice. _Auggie _,_ she started to say. _It_ll be fine, August,_ said Mr. Tushman, holding his hand out to me. _I promise._ I think he wanted me to take his hand, but I took Mom_s instead. He smiled and started walking toward the entrance. Mommy gave my hand a little squeeze, though I don_t know if it was an _I love you_ squeeze or an _I_m sorry_ squeeze. Probably a little of both. The only school I_d ever been inside before was Via_s, when I went with Mom and Dad to watch Via sing in spring concerts and stuff like that. This school was very different. It was smaller. It smelled like a hospital. Nice Mrs. Garcia We followed Mr. Tushman down a few hallways. There weren_t a lot of people around. And the few people who were there didn_t seem to notice me at all, though that may have been because they didn_t see me. I sort of hid behind Mom as I walked. I know that sounds kind of babyish of me, but I wasn_t feeling very brave right then. We ended up in a small room with the words OFFICE OF THE MIDDLE SCHOOL DIRECTOR on the door. Inside, there was a desk with a nice-seeming lady sitting behind it. _This is Mrs. Garcia,_ said Mr. Tushman, and the lady smiled at Mom and took off her glasses and got up out of her chair. My mother shook her hand and said: _Isabel Pullman, nice to meet you._ _And this is August,_ Mr. Tushman said. Mom kind of stepped to the side a bit, so I would move forward. Then that thing happened that I_ve seen happen a million times before. When I looked up at her, Mrs. Garcia_s eyes dropped for a second. It was so fast no one else would have noticed, since the rest of her face stayed exactly the same. She was smiling a really shiny smile. _Such a pleasure to meet you, August,_ she said, holding out her hand for me to shake. _Hi,_ I said quietly, giving her my hand, but I didn_t want to look at her face, so I kept staring at her glasses, which hung from a chain around her neck. _Wow, what a firm grip!_ said Mrs. Garcia. Her hand was really warm. _The kid_s got a killer handshake,_ Mr. Tushman agreed, and everyone laughed above my head. _You can call me Mrs. G,_ Mrs. Garcia said. I think she was talking to me, but I was looking at all the stuff on her desk now. _That_s what everyone calls me. Mrs. G, I forgot my combination. Mrs. G, I need a late pass. Mrs. G, I want to change my elective._ _Mrs. G_s actually the one who runs the place,_ said Mr. Tushman, which again made all the grown-ups laugh. _I_m here every morning by seven-thirty,_ Mrs. Garcia continued, still looking at me while I stared at her brown sandals with small purple flowers on the buckles. _So if you ever need anything, August, I_m the one to ask. And you can ask me anything._ _Okay,_ I mumbled. _Oh, look at that cute baby,_ Mom said, pointing to one of the photographs on Mrs. Garcia_s bulletin board. _Is he yours?_ _No, my goodness!_ said Mrs. Garcia, smiling a big smile now that was totally different from her shiny smile. _You_ve just made my day. He_s my grandson._ _What a cutie!_ said Mom, shaking her head. _How old?_ _In that picture he was five months, I think. But he_s big now. Almost eight years old!_ _Wow,_ said Mom, nodding and smiling. _Well, he is absolutely beautiful._ _Thank you!_ said Mrs. Garcia, nodding like she was about to say something else about her grandson. But then all of a sudden her smile got a little smaller. _We_re all going to take very good care of August,_ she said to Mom, and I saw her give Mom_s hand a little squeeze. I looked at Mom_s face, and that_s when I realized she was just as nervous as I was. I guess I liked Mrs. Garcia_when she wasn_t wearing her shiny smile. Jack Will, Julian, and Charlotte We followed Mr. Tushman into a small room across from Mrs. Garcia_s desk. He was talking as he closed the door to his office and sat down behind his big desk, though I wasn_t really paying much attention to what he was saying. I was looking around at all the things on his desk. Cool stuff, like a globe that floated in the air and a Rubik_s-type cube made with little mirrors. I liked his office a lot. I liked that there were all these neat little drawings and paintings by students on the walls, framed like they were important. Mom sat down in a chair in front of Mr. Tushman_s desk, and even though there was another chair right next to hers, I decided to stand beside her. _Why do you have your own room and Mrs. G doesn_t?_ I said. _You mean, why do I have an office?_ asked Mr. Tushman. _You said she runs the place,_ I said. _Oh! Well, I was kind of kidding. Mrs. G is my assistant._ _Mr. Tushman is the director of the middle school,_ Mom explained. _Do they call you Mr. T?_ I asked, which made him smile. _Do you know who Mr. T is?_ he answered. _I pity the fool?_ he said in a funny tough voice, like he was imitating someone. I had no idea what he was talking about. _Anyway, no,_ said Mr. Tushman, shaking his head. _No one calls me Mr. T. Though I have a feeling I_m called a lot of other things I don_t know about. Let_s face it, a name like mine is not so easy to live with, you know what I mean?_ Here I have to admit I totally laughed, because I knew exactly what he meant. _My mom and dad had a teacher called Miss Butt,_ I said. _Auggie!_ said Mom, but Mr. Tushman laughed. _Now, that_s bad,_ said Mr. Tushman, shaking his head. _I guess I shouldn_t complain. Hey, so listen, August, here_s what I thought we would do today.__ _Is that a pumpkin?_ I said, pointing to a framed painting behind Mr. Tushman_s desk. _Auggie, sweetie, don_t interrupt,_ said Mom. _You like it?_ said Mr. Tushman, turning around and looking at the painting. _I do, too. And I thought it was a pumpkin, too, until the student who gave it to me explained that it is actually not a pumpkin. It is _ are you ready for this _ a portrait of me! Now, August, I ask you: do I really look that much like a pumpkin?_ _No!_ I answered, though I was thinking yes. Something about the way his cheeks puffed out when he smiled made him look like a jack-o_-lantern. Just as I thought that, it occurred to me how funny that was: cheeks, Mr. Tushman. And I started laughing a little. I shook my head and covered my mouth with my hand. Mr. Tushman smiled like he could read my mind. I was about to say something else, but then all of a sudden I heard other voices outside the office: kids_ voices. I_m not exaggerating when I say this, but my heart literally started beating like I_d just run the longest race in the world. The laughter I had inside just poured out of me. The thing is, when I was little, I never minded meeting new kids because all the kids I met were really little, too. What_s cool about really little kids is that they don_t say stuff to try to hurt your feelings, even though sometimes they do say stuff that hurts your feelings. But they don_t actually know what they_re saying. Big kids, though: they know what they_re saying. And that is definitely not fun for me. One of the reasons I grew my hair long last year was that I like how my bangs cover my eyes: it helps me block out the things I don_t want to see. Mrs. Garcia knocked on the door and poked her head inside. _They_re here, Mr. Tushman,_ she said. _Who_s here?_ I said. _Thanks,_ said Mr. Tushman to Mrs. Garcia. _August, I thought it would be a good idea for you to meet some students who_ll be in your homeroom this year. I figure they could take you around the school a bit, show you the lay of the land, so to speak._ _I don_t want to meet anyone,_ I said to Mom. Mr. Tushman was suddenly right in front of me, his hands on my shoulders. He leaned down and said very softly in my ear: _It_ll be okay, August. These are nice kids, I promise._ _You_re going to be okay, Auggie,_ Mom whispered with all her might. Before she could say anything else, Mr. Tushman opened the door to his office. _Come on in, kids,_ he said, and in walked two boys and a girl. None of them looked over at me or Mom: they stood by the door looking straight at Mr. Tushman like their lives depended on it. _Thanks so much for coming, guys_especially since school doesn_t start until next month!_ said Mr. Tushman. _Have you had a good summer?_ All of them nodded but no one said anything. _Great, great,_ said Mr. Tushman. _So, guys, I wanted you to meet August, who_s going to be a new student here this year. August, these guys have been students at Beecher Prep since kindergarten, though, of course, they were in the lower-school building, but they know all the ins and outs of the middle-school program. And since you_re all in the same homeroom, I thought it would be nice if you got to know each other a little before school started. Okay? So, kids, this is August. August, this is Jack Will._ Jack Will looked at me and put out his hand. When I shook it, he kind of half smiled and said: _Hey,_ and looked down really fast. _This is Julian,_ said Mr. Tushman. _Hey,_ said Julian, and did the same exact thing as Jack Will: took my hand, forced a smile, looked down fast. _And Charlotte,_ said Mr. Tushman. Charlotte had the blondest hair I_ve ever seen. She didn_t shake my hand but gave me a quick little wave and smiled. _Hi, August. Nice to meet you,_ she said. _Hi,_ I said, looking down. She was wearing bright green Crocs. _So,_ said Mr. Tushman, putting his hands together in a kind of slow clap. _What I thought you guys could do is take August on a little tour of the school. Maybe you could start on the third floor? That_s where your homeroom class is going to be: room 301. I think. Mrs. G, is__ _Room 301!_ Mrs. Garcia called out from the other room. _Room 301._ Mr. Tushman nodded. _And then you can show August the science labs and the computer room. Then work your way down to the library and the performance space on the second floor. Take him to the cafeteria, of course._ _Should we take him to the music room?_ asked Julian. _Good idea, yes,_ said Mr. Tushman. _August, do you play any instruments?_ _No,_ I said. It wasn_t my favorite subject on account of the fact that I don_t really have ears. Well, I do, but they don_t exactly look like normal ears. _Well, you may enjoy seeing the music room anyway,_ said Mr. Tushman. _We have a very nice selection of percussion instruments._ _August, you_ve been wanting to learn to play the drums,_ Mom said, trying to get me to look at her. But my eyes were covered by my bangs as I stared at a piece of old gum that was stuck to the bottom of Mr. Tushman_s desk. _Great! Okay, so why don_t you guys get going?_ said Mr. Tushman. _Just be back here in __ He looked at Mom. _Half an hour, okay?_ I think Mom nodded. _So, is that okay with you, August?_ he asked me. I didn_t answer. _Is that okay, August?_ Mom repeated. I looked at her now. I wanted her to see how mad I was at her. But then I saw her face and just nodded. She seemed more scared than I was. The other kids had started out the door, so I followed them. _See you soon,_ said Mom, her voice sounding a little higher than normal. I didn_t answer her. The Grand Tour Jack Will, Julian, Charlotte, and I went down a big hallway to some wide stairs. No one said a word as we walked up to the third floor. When we got to the top of the stairs, we went down a little hallway full of lots of doors. Julian opened the door marked 301. _This is our homeroom,_ he said, standing in front of the half-opened door. _We have Ms. Petosa. They say she_s okay, at least for homeroom. I heard she_s really strict if you get her for math, though._ _That_s not true,_ said Charlotte. _My sister had her last year and said she_s totally nice._ _Not what I heard,_ answered Julian, _but whatever._ He closed the door and continued walking down the hallway. _This is the science lab,_ he said when he got to the next door. And just like he did two seconds ago, he stood in front of the half-opened door and started talking. He didn_t look at me once while he talked, which was okay because I wasn_t looking at him, either. _You won_t know who you have for science until the first day of school, but you want to get Mr. Haller. He used to be in the lower school. He would play this giant tuba in class._ _It was a baritone horn,_ said Charlotte. _It was a tuba!_ answered Julian, closing the door. _Dude, let him go inside so he can check it out,_ Jack Will told him, pushing past Julian and opening the door. _Go inside if you want,_ Julian said. It was the first time he looked at me. I shrugged and walked over to the door. Julian moved out of the way quickly, like he was afraid I might accidentally touch him as I passed by him. _Nothing much to see,_ Julian said, walking in after me. He started pointing to a bunch of stuff around the room. _That_s the incubator. That big black thing is the chalkboard. These are the desks. These are chairs. Those are the Bunsen burners. This is a gross science poster. This is chalk. This is the eraser._ _I_m sure he knows what an eraser is,_ Charlotte said, sounding a little like Via. _How would I know what he knows?_ Julian answered. _Mr. Tushman said he_s never been to a school before._ _You know what an eraser is, right?_ Charlotte asked me. I admit I was feeling so nervous that I didn_t know what to say or do except look at the floor. _Hey, can you talk?_ asked Jack Will. _Yeah._ I nodded. I still really hadn_t looked at any of them yet, not directly. _You know what an eraser is, right?_ asked Jack Will. _Of course!_ I mumbled. _I told you there was nothing to see in here,_ said Julian, shrugging. _I have a question _,_ I said, trying to keep my voice steady. _Um. What exactly is homeroom? Is that like a subject?_ _No, that_s just your group,_ explained Charlotte, ignoring Julian_s smirk. _It_s like where you go when you get to school in the morning and your homeroom teacher takes attendance and stuff like that. In a way, it_s your main class even though it_s not really a class. I mean, it_s a class, but__ _I think he gets it, Charlotte,_ said Jack Will. _Do you get it?_ Charlotte asked me. _Yeah._ I nodded at her. _Okay, let_s get out of here,_ said Jack Will, walking away. _Wait, Jack, we_re supposed to be answering questions,_ said Charlotte. Jack Will rolled his eyes a little as he turned around. _Do you have any more questions?_ he asked. _Um, no,_ I answered. _Oh, well, actually, yes. Is your name Jack or Jack Will?_ _Jack is my first name. Will is my last name._ _Oh, because Mr. Tushman introduced you as Jack Will, so I thought __ _Ha! You thought his name was Jackwill!_ laughed Julian. _Yeah, some people call me by my first and last name,_ Jack said, shrugging. _I don_t know why. Anyway, can we go now?_ _Let_s go to the performance space next,_ said Charlotte, leading the way out of the science room. _It_s very cool. You_ll like it, August._ The Performance Space Charlotte basically didn_t stop talking as we headed down to the second floor. She was describing the play they had put on last year, which was Oliver! She played Oliver even though she_s a girl. As she said this, she pushed open the double doors to a huge auditorium. At the other end of the room was a stage. Charlotte started skipping toward the stage. Julian ran after her, and then turned around halfway down the aisle. _Come on!_ he said loudly, waving for me to follow him, which I did. _There were like hundreds of people in the audience that night,_ said Charlotte, and it took me a second to realize she was still talking about Oliver! _I was so, so nervous. I had so many lines, and I had all these songs to sing. It was so, so, so, so hard!_ Although she was talking to me, she really didn_t look at me much. _On opening night, my parents were all the way in back of the auditorium, like where Jack is right now, but when the lights are off, you can_t really see that far back. So I was like, _Where are my parents? Where are my parents?_ And then Mr. Resnick, our theater-arts teacher last year_he said: _Charlotte, stop being such a diva!_ And I was like, _Okay!_ And then I spotted my parents and I was totally fine. I didn_t forget a single line._ While she was talking, I noticed Julian staring at me out of the corner of his eye. This is something I see people do a lot with me. They think I don_t know they_re staring, but I can tell from the way their heads are tilted. I turned around to see where Jack had gone to. He had stayed in the back of the auditorium, like he was bored. _We put on a play every year,_ said Charlotte. _I don_t think he_s going to want to be in the school play, Charlotte,_ said Julian sarcastically. _You can be in the play without actually being _in_ the play,_ Charlotte answered, looking at me. _You can do the lighting. You can paint the backdrops._ _Oh yeah, whoopee,_ said Julian, twirling his finger in the air. _But you don_t have to take the theater-arts elective if you don_t want to,_ Charlotte said, shrugging. _There_s dance or chorus or band. There_s leadership._ _Only dorks take leadership,_ Julian interrupted. _Julian, you_re being so obnoxious!_ said Charlotte, which made Julian laugh. _I_m taking the science elective,_ I said. _Cool!_ said Charlotte. Julian looked directly at me. _The science elective is supposably the hardest elective of all,_ he said. _No offense, but if you_ve never, ever been in a school before, why do you think you_re suddenly going to be smart enough to take the science elective? I mean, have you ever even studied science before? Like real science, not like the kind you do in kits?_ _Yeah._ I nodded. _He was homeschooled, Julian!_ said Charlotte. _So teachers came to his house?_ asked Julian, looking puzzled. _No, his mother taught him!_ answered Charlotte. _Is she a teacher?_ Julian said. _Is your mother a teacher?_ Charlotte asked me. _No,_ I said. _So she_s not a real teacher!_ said Julian, as if that proved his point. _That_s what I mean. How can someone who_s not a real teacher actually teach science?_ _I_m sure you_ll do fine,_ said Charlotte, looking at me. _Let_s just go to the library now,_ Jack called out, sounding really bored. _Why is your hair so long?_ Julian said to me. He sounded like he was annoyed. I didn_t know what to say, so I just shrugged. _Can I ask you a question?_ he said. I shrugged again. Didn_t he just ask me a question? _What_s the deal with your face? I mean, were you in a fire or something?_ _Julian, that_s so rude!_ said Charlotte. _I_m not being rude,_ said Julian, _I_m just asking a question. Mr. Tushman said we could ask questions if we wanted to._ _Not rude questions like that,_ said Charlotte. _Besides, he was born like that. That_s what Mr. Tushman said. You just weren_t listening._ _I was so listening!_ said Julian. _I just thought maybe he was in a fire, too._ _Geez, Julian,_ said Jack. _Just shut up._ _You shut up!_ Julian yelled. _Come on, August,_ said Jack. _Let_s just go to the library already._ I walked toward Jack and followed him out of the auditorium. He held the double doors open for me, and as I passed by, he looked at me right in the face, kind of daring me to look back at him, which I did. Then I actually smiled. I don_t know. Sometimes when I have the feeling like I_m almost crying, it can turn into an almost-laughing feeling. And that must have been the feeling I was having then, because I smiled, almost like I was going to giggle. The thing is, because of the way my face is, people who don_t know me very well don_t always get that I_m smiling. My mouth doesn_t go up at the corners the way other people_s mouths do. It just goes straight across my face. But somehow Jack Will got that I had smiled at him. And he smiled back. _Julian_s a jerk,_ he whispered before Julian and Charlotte reached us. _But, dude, you_re gonna have to talk._ He said this seriously, like he was trying to help me. I nodded as Julian and Charlotte caught up to us. We were all quiet for a second, all of us just kind of nodding, looking at the floor. Then I looked up at Julian. _The word_s _supposedly,_ by the way,_ I said. _What are you talking about?_ _You said _supposably_ before,_ I said. _I did not!_ _Yeah you did,_ Charlotte nodded. _You said the science elective is supposably really hard. I heard you._ _I absolutely did not,_ he insisted. _Whatever,_ said Jack. _Let_s just go._ _Yeah, let_s just go,_ agreed Charlotte, following Jack down the stairs to the next floor. I started to follow her, but Julian cut right in front of me, which actually made me stumble backward. _Oops, sorry about that!_ said Julian. But I could tell from the way he looked at me that he wasn_t really sorry at all. The Deal Mom and Mr. Tushman were talking when we got back to the office. Mrs. Garcia was the first to see us come back, and she started smiling her shiny smile as we walked in. _So, August, what did you think? Did you like what you saw?_ she asked. _Yeah._ I nodded, looking over at Mom. Jack, Julian, and Charlotte were standing by the door, not sure where to go or if they were still needed. I wondered what else they_d been told about me before they_d met me. _Did you see the baby chick?_ Mom asked me. As I shook my head, Julian said: _Are you talking about the baby chicks in science? Those get donated to a farm at the end of every school year._ _Oh,_ said Mom, disappointed. _But they hatch new ones every year in science,_ Julian added. _So August will be able to see them again in the spring._ _Oh, good,_ said Mom, eyeing me. _They were so cute, August._ I wished she wouldn_t talk to me like I was a baby in front of other people. _So, August,_ said Mr. Tushman, _did these guys show you around enough or do you want to see more? I realize I forgot to ask them to show you the gym._ _We did anyway, Mr. Tushman,_ said Julian. _Excellent!_ said Mr. Tushman. _And I told him about the school play and some of the electives,_ said Charlotte. _Oh no!_ she said suddenly. _We forgot to show him the art room!_ _That_s okay,_ said Mr. Tushman. _But we can show it to him now,_ Charlotte offered. _Don_t we have to pick Via up soon?_ I said to Mom. That was our signal for my telling Mom if I really wanted to leave. _Oh, you_re right,_ said Mom, getting up. I could tell she was pretending to check the time on her watch. _I_m sorry, everybody. I lost track of the time. We have to go pick up my daughter at her new school. She_s taking an unofficial tour today._ This part wasn_t a lie: that Via was checking out her new school today. The part that was a lie was that we were picking her up at the school, which we weren_t. She was coming home with Dad later. _Where does she go to school?_ asked Mr. Tushman, getting up. _She_s starting Faulkner High School this fall._ _Wow, that_s not an easy school to get into. Good for her!_ _Thank you,_ said Mom, nodding. _It_ll be a bit of a schlep, though. The A train down to Eighty-Sixth, then the crosstown bus all the way to the East Side. Takes an hour that way but it_s just a fifteen-minute drive._ _It_ll be worth it. I know a couple of kids who got into Faulkner and love it,_ said Mr. Tushman. _We should really go, Mom,_ I said, tugging at her pocketbook. We said goodbye kind of quickly after that. I think Mr. Tushman was a little surprised that we were leaving so suddenly, and then I wondered if he would blame Jack and Charlotte, even though it was really only Julian who made me feel kind of bad. _Everyone was really nice,_ I made sure to tell Mr. Tushman before we left. _I look forward to having you as a student,_ said Mr. Tushman, patting my back. _Bye,_ I said to Jack, Charlotte, and Julian, but I didn_t look at them_or look up at all_until I left the building. Home As soon as we had walked at least half a block from the school, Mom said: _So _ how_d it go? Did you like it?_ _Not yet, Mom. When we get home,_ I said. The moment we got inside the house, I ran to my room and threw myself onto my bed. I could tell Mom didn_t know what was up, and I guess I really didn_t, either. I felt very sad and a tiny bit happy at the exact same time, kind of like that laughing-crying feeling all over again. My dog, Daisy, followed me into the room, jumped on the bed, and started licking me all over my face. _Who_s a good girlie?_ I said in my Dad voice. _Who_s a good girlie?_ _Is everything okay, sweetness?_ Mom said. She wanted to sit down beside me but Daisy was hogging the bed. _Excuse me, Daisy._ She sat down, nudging Daisy over. _Were those kids not nice to you, Auggie?_ _Oh no,_ I said, only half lying. _They were okay._ _But were they nice? Mr. Tushman went out of his way to tell me what sweet kids they are._ _Uh-huh._ I nodded, but I kept looking at Daisy, kissing her on the nose and rubbing her ear until her back leg did that little flea-scratch shake. _That boy Julian seemed especially nice,_ Mom said. _Oh, no, he was the least nice. I liked Jack, though. He was nice. I thought his name was Jack Will but it_s just Jack._ _Wait, maybe I_m getting them confused. Which one was the one with the dark hair that was brushed forward?_ _Julian._ _And he wasn_t nice?_ _No, not nice._ _Oh._ She thought about this for a second. _Okay, so is he the kind of kid who_s one way in front of grown-ups and another way in front of kids?_ _Yeah, I guess._ _Ah, hate those,_ she answered, nodding. _He was like, _So, August, what_s the deal with your face?_ _ I said, looking at Daisy the whole time. _ _Were you in a fire or something?_ _ Mom didn_t say anything. When I looked up at her, I could tell she was completely shocked. _He didn_t say it in a mean way,_ I said quickly. _He was just asking._ Mom nodded. _But I really liked Jack,_ I said. _He was like, _Shut up, Julian!_ And Charlotte was like, _You_re so rude, Julian!_ _ Mom nodded again. She pressed her fingers on her forehead like she was pushing against a headache. _I_m so sorry, Auggie,_ she said quietly. Her cheeks were bright red. _No, it_s okay, Mom, really._ _You don_t have to go to school if you don_t want, sweetie._ _I want to,_ I said. _Auggie __ _Really, Mom. I want to._ And I wasn_t lying. First-Day Jitters Okay, so I admit that the first day of school I was so nervous that the butterflies in my stomach were more like pigeons flying around my insides. Mom and Dad were probably a little nervous, too, but they acted all excited for me, taking pictures of me and Via before we left the house since it was Via_s first day of school, too. Up until a few days before, we still weren_t sure I would be going to school at all. After my tour of the school, Mom and Dad had reversed sides on whether I should go or not. Mom was now the one saying I shouldn_t go and Dad was saying I should. Dad had told me he was really proud of how I_d handled myself with Julian and that I was turning into quite the strong man. And I heard him tell Mom that he now thought she had been right all along. But Mom, I could tell, wasn_t so sure anymore. When Dad told her that he and Via wanted to walk me to school today, too, since it was on the way to the subway station, Mom seemed relieved that we would all be going together. And I guess I was, too. Even though Beecher Prep is just a few blocks from our house, I_ve only been on that block a couple of times before. In general, I try to avoid blocks where there are lots of kids roaming around. On our block, everybody knows me and I know everybody. I know every brick and every tree trunk and every crack in the sidewalk. I know Mrs. Grimaldi, the lady who_s always sitting by her window, and the old guy who walks up and down the street whistling like a bird. I know the deli on the corner where Mom gets our bagels, and the waitresses at the coffee shop who all call me _honey_ and give me lollipops whenever they see me. I love my neighborhood of North River Heights, which is why it was so strange to be walking down these blocks feeling like it was all new to me suddenly. Amesfort Avenue, a street I_ve been down a million times, looked totally different for some reason. Full of people I never saw before, waiting for buses, pushing strollers. We crossed Amesfort and turned up Heights Place: Via walked next to me like she usually does, and Mom and Dad were behind us. As soon as we turned the corner, we saw all the kids in front of the school_hundreds of them talking to each other in little groups, laughing, or standing with their parents, who were talking with other parents. I kept my head way down. _Everyone_s just as nervous as you are,_ said Via in my ear. _Just remember that this is everyone_s first day of school. Okay?_ Mr. Tushman was greeting students and parents in front of the school entrance. I have to admit: so far, nothing bad had happened. I didn_t catch anyone staring or even noticing me. Only once did I look up to see some girls looking my way and whispering with their hands cupped over their mouths, but they looked away when they saw me notice them. We reached the front entrance. _Okay, so this is it, big boy,_ said Dad, putting his hands on top of my shoulders. _Have a great first day. I love you,_ said Via, giving me a big kiss and a hug. _You, too,_ I said. _I love you, Auggie,_ said Dad, hugging me. _Bye._ Then Mom hugged me, but I could tell she was about to cry, which would have totally embarrassed me, so I just gave her a fast hard hug, turned, and disappeared into the school. Locks I went straight to room 301 on the third floor. Now I was glad I_d gone on that little tour, because I knew exactly where to go and didn_t have to look up once. I noticed that some kids were definitely staring at me now. I did my thing of pretending not to notice. I went inside the classroom, and the teacher was writing on the chalkboard while all the kids started sitting at different desks. The desks were in a half circle facing the chalkboard, so I chose the desk in the middle toward the back, which I thought would make it harder for anyone to stare at me. I still kept my head way down, just looking up enough from under my bangs to see everyone_s feet. As the desks started to fill up, I did notice that no one sat down next to me. A couple of times someone was about to sit next to me, then changed his or her mind at the last minute and sat somewhere else. _Hey, August._ It was Charlotte, giving me her little wave as she sat down at a desk in the front of the class. Why anyone would ever choose to sit way up front in a class, I don_t know. _Hey,_ I said, nodding hello. Then I noticed Julian was sitting a few seats away from her, talking to some other kids. I know he saw me, but he didn_t say hello. Suddenly someone was sitting down next to me. It was Jack Will. Jack. _What_s up,_ he said, nodding at me. _Hey, Jack,_ I answered, waving my hand, which I immediately wished I hadn_t done because it felt kind of uncool. _Okay, kids, okay, everybody! Settle down,_ said the teacher, now facing us. She had written her name, Ms. Petosa, on the chalkboard. _Everybody find a seat, please. Come in,_ she said to a couple of kids who had just walked in the room. _There_s a seat there, and right there._ She hadn_t noticed me yet. _Now, the first thing I want everyone to do is stop talking and __ She noticed me. __ put your backpacks down and quiet down._ She had only hesitated for a millionth of a second, but I could tell the moment she saw me. Like I said: I_m used to it by now. _I_m going to take attendance and do the seating chart,_ she continued, sitting on the edge of her desk. Next to her were three neat rows of accordion folders. _When I call your name, come up and I_ll hand you a folder with your name on it. It contains your class schedule and your combination lock, which you should not try to open until I tell you to. Your locker number is written on the class schedule. Be forewarned that some lockers are not right outside this class but down the hall, and before anyone even thinks of asking: no, you cannot switch lockers and you can_t switch locks. Then if there_s time at the end of this period, we_re all going to get to know each other a little better, okay? Okay._ She picked up the clipboard on her desk and started reading the names out loud. _Okay, so, Julian Albans?_ she said, looking up. Julian raised his hand and said _Here_ at the same time. _Hi, Julian,_ she said, making a note on her seating chart. She picked up the very first folder and held it out toward him. _Come pick it up,_ she said, kind of no-nonsense. He got up and took it from her. _Ximena Chin?_ She handed a folder to each kid as she read off the names. As she went down the list, I noticed that the seat next to me was the only one still empty, even though there were two kids sitting at one desk just a few seats away. When she called the name of one of them, a big kid named Henry Joplin who already looked like a teenager, she said: _Henry, there_s an empty desk right over there. Why don_t you take that seat, okay?_ She handed him his folder and pointed to the desk next to mine. Although I didn_t look at him directly, I could tell Henry did not want to move next to me, just by the way he dragged his backpack on the floor as he came over, like he was moving in slow motion. Then he plopped his backpack up really high on the right side of the desk so it was kind of like a wall between his desk and mine. _Maya Markowitz?_ Ms. Petosa was saying. _Here,_ said a girl about four desks down from me. _Miles Noury?_ _Here,_ said the kid that had been sitting with Henry Joplin. As he walked back to his desk, I saw him shoot Henry a _poor you_ look. _August Pullman?_ said Ms. Petosa. _Here,_ I said quietly, raising my hand a bit. _Hi, August,_ she said, smiling at me very nicely when I went up to get my folder. I kind of felt everyone_s eyes burning into my back for the few seconds I stood in the front of the class, and everybody looked down when I walked back to my desk. I resisted spinning the combination when I sat down, even though everyone else was doing it, because she had specifically told us not to. I was already pretty good at opening locks, anyway, because I_ve used them on my bike. Henry kept trying to open his lock but couldn_t do it. He was getting frustrated and kind of cursing under his breath. Ms. Petosa called out the next few names. The last name was Jack Will. After she handed Jack his folder, she said: _Okay, so, everybody write your combinations down somewhere safe that you won_t forget, okay? But if you do forget, which happens at least three point two times per semester, Mrs. Garcia has a list of all the combination numbers. Now go ahead, take your locks out of your folders and spend a couple of minutes practicing how to open them, though I know some of you went ahead and did that anyway._ She was looking at Henry when she said that. _And in the meanwhile, I_ll tell you guys a little something about myself. And then you guys can tell me a little about yourselves and we_ll, um, get to know each other. Sound good? Good._ She smiled at everyone, though I felt like she was smiling at me the most. It wasn_t a shiny smile, like Mrs. Garcia_s smile, but a normal smile, like she meant it. She looked very different from what I thought teachers were going to look like. I guess I thought she_d look like Miss Fowl from Jimmy Neutron: an old lady with a big bun on top of her head. But, in fact, she looked exactly like Mon Mothma from Star Wars Episode IV: haircut kind of like a boy_s, and a big white shirt kind of like a tunic. She turned around and started writing on the chalkboard. Henry still couldn_t get his lock to open, and he was getting more and more frustrated every time someone else popped one open. He got really annoyed when I was able to open mine on the first try. The funny thing is, if he hadn_t put the backpack between us, I most definitely would have offered to help him. Around the Room Ms. Petosa told us a little about who she was. It was boring stuff about where she originally came from, and how she always wanted to teach, and she left her job on Wall Street about six years ago to pursue her _dream_ and teach kids. She ended by asking if anyone had any questions, and Julian raised his hand. _Yes __ She had to look at the list to remember his name. _Julian._ _That_s cool about how you_re pursuing your dream,_ he said. _Thank you!_ _You_re welcome!_ He smiled proudly. _Okay, so why don_t you tell us a little about yourself, Julian? Actually, here_s what I want everyone to do. Think of two things you want other people to know about you. Actually, wait a minute: how many of you came from the Beecher lower school?_ About half the kids raised their hands. _Okay, so a few of you already know each other. But the rest of you, I guess, are new to the school, right? Okay, so everyone think of two things you want other people to know about you_and if you know some of the other kids, try to think of things they don_t already know about you. Okay? Okay. So let_s start with Julian and we_ll go around the room._ Julian scrunched up his face and started tapping his forehead like he was thinking really hard. _Okay, whenever you_re ready,_ Ms. Petosa said. _Okay, so number one is that__ _Do me a favor and start with your names, okay?_ Ms. Petosa interrupted. _It_ll help me remember everyone._ _Oh, okay. So my name is Julian. And the number one thing I_d like to tell everyone about myself is that _ I just got Battleground Mystic for my Wii and it_s totally awesome. And the number two thing is that we got a Ping-Pong table this summer._ _Very nice, I love Ping-Pong,_ said Ms. Petosa. _Does anyone have any questions for Julian?_ _Is Battleground Mystic multiplayer or one player?_ said the kid named Miles. _Not those kinds of questions, guys,_ said Ms. Petosa. _Okay, so how about you.__ She pointed to Charlotte, probably because her desk was closest to the front. _Oh, sure._ Charlotte didn_t hesitate for even a second, like she knew exactly what she wanted to say. _My name is Charlotte. I have two sisters, and we just got a new puppy named Suki in July. We got her from an animal shelter and she_s so, so cute!_ _That_s great, Charlotte, thank you,_ said Ms. Petosa. _Okay, then, who_s next?_ Lamb to the Slaughter _Like a lamb to the slaughter_: Something that you say about someone who goes somewhere calmly, not knowing that something unpleasant is going to happen to them. I Googled it last night. That_s what I was thinking when Ms. Petosa called my name and suddenly it was my turn to talk. _My name is August,_ I said, and yeah, I kind of mumbled it. _What?_ said someone. _Can you speak up, honey?_ said Ms. Petosa. _My name is August,_ I said louder, forcing myself to look up. _I, um _ have a sister named Via and a dog named Daisy. And, um _ that_s it._ _Wonderful,_ said Ms. Petosa. _Anyone have questions for August?_ No one said anything. _Okay, you_re next,_ said Ms. Petosa to Jack. _Wait, I have a question for August,_ said Julian, raising his hand. _Why do you have that tiny braid in the back of your hair? Is that like a Padawan thing?_ _Yeah._ I shrug-nodded. _What_s a Padawan thing?_ said Ms. Petosa, smiling at me. _It_s from Star Wars,_ answered Julian. _A Padawan is a Jedi apprentice._ _Oh, interesting,_ answered Ms. Petosa, looking at me. _So, are you into Star Wars, August?_ _I guess._ I nodded, not looking up because what I really wanted was to just slide under the desk. _Who_s your favorite character?_ Julian asked. I started thinking maybe he wasn_t so bad. _Jango Fett._ _What about Darth Sidious?_ he said. _Do you like him?_ _Okay, guys, you can talk about Star Wars stuff at recess,_ said Ms. Petosa cheerfully. _But let_s keep going. We haven_t heard from you yet,_ she said to Jack. Now it was Jack_s turn to talk, but I admit I didn_t hear a word he said. Maybe no one got the Darth Sidious thing, and maybe Julian didn_t mean anything at all. But in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Darth Sidious_s face gets burned by Sith lightning and becomes totally deformed. His skin gets all shriveled up and his whole face just kind of melts. I peeked at Julian and he was looking at me. Yeah, he knew what he was saying. Choose Kind There was a lot of shuffling around when the bell rang and everybody got up to leave. I checked my schedule and it said my next class was English, room 321. I didn_t stop to see if anyone else from my homeroom was going my way: I just zoomed out of the class and down the hall and sat down as far from the front as possible. The teacher, a really tall man with a yellow beard, was writing on the chalkboard. Kids came in laughing and talking in little groups but I didn_t look up. Basically, the same thing that happened in homeroom happened again: no one sat next to me except for Jack, who was joking around with some kids who weren_t in our homeroom. I could tell Jack was the kind of kid other kids like. He had a lot of friends. He made people laugh. When the second bell rang, everyone got quiet and the teacher turned around and faced us. He said his name was Mr. Browne, and then he started talking about what we would be doing this semester. At a certain point, somewhere between A Wrinkle in Time and Shen of the Sea, he noticed me but kept right on talking. I was mostly doodling in my notebook while he talked, but every once in a while I would sneak a look at the other students. Charlotte was in this class. So were Julian and Henry. Miles wasn_t. Mr. Browne had written on the chalkboard in big block letters: P-R-E-C-E-P-T! _Okay, everybody write this down at the very top of the very first page in your English notebook._ As we did what he told us to do, he said: _Okay, so who can tell me what a precept is? Does anyone know?_ No one raised their hands. Mr. Browne smiled, nodded, and turned around to write on the chalkboard again: PRECEPTS = RULES ABOUT REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS! _Like a motto?_ someone called out. _Like a motto!_ said Mr. Browne, nodding as he continued writing on the board. _Like a famous quote. Like a line from a fortune cookie. Any saying or ground rule that can motivate you. Basically, a precept is anything that helps guide us when making decisions about really important things._ He wrote all that on the chalkboard and then turned around and faced us. _So, what are some really important things?_ he asked us. A few kids raised their hands, and as he pointed at them, they gave their answers, which he wrote on the chalkboard in really, really sloppy handwriting: RULES. SCHOOLWORK. HOMEWORK. _What else?_ he said as he wrote, not even turning around. _Just call things out!_ He wrote everything everyone called out. FAMILY. PARENTS. PETS. One girl called out: _The environment!_ THE ENVIRONMENT. he wrote on the chalkboard, and added: OUR WORLD! _Sharks, because they eat dead things in the ocean!_ said one of the boys, a kid named Reid, and Mr. Browne wrote down SHARKS. _Bees!_ _Seatbelts!_ _Recycling!_ _Friends!_ _Okay,_ said Mr. Browne, writing all those things down. He turned around when he finished writing to face us again. _But no one_s named the most important thing of all._ We all looked at him, out of ideas. _God?_ said one kid, and I could tell that even though Mr. Browne wrote _God_ down, that wasn_t the answer he was looking for. Without saying anything else, he wrote down: WHO WE ARE! _Who we are,_ he said, underlining each word as he said it. _Who we are! Us! Right? What kind of people are we? What kind of person are you? Isn_t that the most important thing of all? Isn_t that the kind of question we should be asking ourselves all the time? _What kind of person am I? _Did anyone happen to notice the plaque next to the door of this school? Anyone read what it says? Anyone?_ He looked around but no one knew the answer. _It says: _Know Thyself,_ _ he said, smiling and nodding. _And learning who you are is what you_re here to do._ _I thought we were here to learn English,_ Jack cracked, which made everyone laugh. _Oh yeah, and that, too!_ Mr. Browne answered, which I thought was very cool of him. He turned around and wrote in big huge block letters that spread all the way across the chalkboard: MR. BROWNE_S SEPTEMBER PRECEPT: WHEN GIVEN THE CHOICE BETWEEN BEING RIGHT OR BEING KIND, CHOOSE KIND. _Okay, so, everybody,_ he said, facing us again, _I want you to start a brand-new section in your notebooks and call it Mr. Browne_s Precepts._ He kept talking as we did what he was telling us to do. _Put today_s date at the top of the first page. And from now on, at the beginning of every month, I_m going to write a new Mr. Browne precept on the chalkboard and you_re going to write it down in your notebook. Then we_re going to discuss that precept and what it means. And at the end of the month, you_re going to write an essay about it, about what it means to you. So by the end of the year, you_ll all have your own list of precepts to take away with you. _Over the summer, I ask all my students to come up with their very own personal precept, write it on a postcard, and mail it to me from wherever you go on your summer vacation._ _People really do that?_ said one girl whose name I didn_t know. _Oh yeah!_ he answered, _people really do that. I_ve had students send me new precepts years after they_ve graduated from this school, actually. It_s pretty amazing._ He paused and stroked his beard. _But, anyway, next summer seems like a long way off, I know,_ he joked, which made us laugh. _So, everybody relax a bit while I take attendance, and then when we_re finished with that, I_ll start telling you about all the fun stuff we_re going to be doing this year_in English._ He pointed to Jack when he said this, which was also funny, so we all laughed at that. As I wrote down Mr. Browne_s September precept, I suddenly realized that I was going to like school. No matter what. Lunch Via had warned me about lunch in middle school, so I guess I should have known it would be hard. I just hadn_t expected it to be this hard. Basically, all the kids from all the fifth-grade classes poured into the cafeteria at the same time, talking loudly and bumping into one another while they ran to different tables. One of the lunchroom teachers said something about no seat-saving allowed, but I didn_t know what she meant and maybe no one else did, either, because just about everybody was saving seats for their friends. I tried to sit down at one table, but the kid in the next chair said, _Oh, sorry, but somebody else is sitting here._ So I moved to an empty table and just waited for everyone to finish stampeding and the lunchroom teacher to tell us what to do next. As she started telling us the cafeteria rules, I looked around to see where Jack Will was sitting, but I didn_t see him on my side of the room. Kids were still coming in as the teachers started calling the first few tables to get their trays and stand on line at the counter. Julian, Henry, and Miles were sitting at a table toward the back of the room. Mom had packed me a cheese sandwich, graham crackers, and a juice box, so I didn_t need to stand on line when my table was called. Instead, I just concentrated on opening my backpack, pulling out my lunch bag, and slowly opening the aluminum-foil wrapping of my sandwich. I could tell I was being stared at without even looking up. I knew that people were nudging each other, watching me out of the corners of their eyes. I thought I was used to those kinds of stares by now, but I guess I wasn_t. There was one table of girls that I knew were whispering about me because they were talking behind their hands. Their eyes and whispers kept bouncing over to me. I hate the way I eat. I know how weird it looks. I had a surgery to fix my cleft palate when I was a baby, and then a second cleft surgery when I was four, but I still have a hole in the roof of my mouth. And even though I had jaw-alignment surgery a few years ago, I have to chew food in the front of my mouth. I didn_t even realize how this looked until I was at a birthday party once, and one of the kids told the mom of the birthday boy he didn_t want to sit next to me because I was too messy with all the food crumbs shooting out of my mouth. I know the kid wasn_t trying to be mean, but he got in big trouble later, and his mom called my mom that night to apologize. When I got home from the party, I went to the bathroom mirror and started eating a saltine cracker to see what I looked like when I was chewing. The kid was right. I eat like a tortoise, if you_ve ever seen a tortoise eating. Like some prehistoric swamp thing. The Summer Table _Hey, is this seat taken?_ I looked up, and a girl I never saw before was standing across from my table with a lunch tray full of food. She had long wavy brown hair, and wore a brown T-shirt with a purple peace sign on it. _Uh, no,_ I said. She put her lunch tray on the table, plopped her backpack on the floor, and sat down across from me. She started to eat the mac and cheese on her plate. _Ugh,_ she said after the swallowing the first bite. _I should have brought a sandwich like you did._ _Yeah,_ I said, nodding. _My name is Summer, by the way. What_s yours?_ _August._ _Cool,_ she said. _Summer!_ Another girl came over to the table carrying a tray. _Why are you sitting here? Come back to the table._ _It was too crowded,_ Summer answered her. _Come sit here. There_s more room._ The other girl looked confused for a second. I realized she had been one of the girls I had caught looking at me just a few minutes earlier: hand cupped over her mouth, whispering. I guess Summer had been one of the girls at that table, too. _Never mind,_ said the girl, leaving. Summer looked at me, shrugged-smiled, and took another bite of her mac and cheese. _Hey, our names kind of match,_ she said as she chewed. I guess she could tell I didn_t know what she meant. _Summer? August?_ she said, smiling, her eyes open wide, as she waited for me to get it. _Oh, yeah,_ I said after a second. _We can make this the _summer only_ lunch table,_ she said. _Only kids with summer names can sit here. Let_s see, is there anyone here named June or July?_ _There_s a Maya,_ I said. _Technically, May is spring,_ Summer answered, _but if she wanted to sit here, we could make an exception._ She said it as if she_d actually thought the whole thing through. _There_s Julian. That_s like the name Julia, which comes from July._ I didn_t say anything. _There_s a kid named Reid in my English class,_ I said. _Yeah, I know Reid, but how is Reid a summer name?_ she asked. _I don_t know._ I shrugged. _I just picture, like, a reed of grass being a summer thing._ _Yeah, okay._ She nodded, pulling out her notebook. _And Ms. Petosa could sit here, too. That kind of sounds like the word _petal,_ which I think of as a summer thing, too._ _I have her for homeroom,_ I said. _I have her for math,_ she answered, making a face. She started writing the list of names on the second-to-last page of her notebook. _So, who else?_ she said. By the end of lunch, we had come up with a whole list of names of kids and teachers who could sit at our table if they wanted. Most of the names weren_t actually summer names, but they were names that had some kind of connection to summer. I even found a way of making Jack Will_s name work by pointing out that you could turn his name into a sentence about summer, like _Jack will go to the beach,_ which Summer agreed worked fine. _But if someone doesn_t have a summer name and wants to sit with us,_ she said very seriously, _we_ll still let them if they_re nice, okay?_ _Okay._ I nodded. _Even if it_s a winter name._ _Cool beans,_ she answered, giving me a thumbs-up. Summer looked like her name. She had a tan, and her eyes were green like a leaf. One to Ten Mom always had this habit of asking me how something felt on a scale of one to ten. It started after I had my jaw surgery, when I couldn_t talk because my mouth was wired shut. They had taken a piece of bone from my hip bone to insert into my chin to make it look more normal, so I was hurting in a lot of different places. Mom would point to one of my bandages, and I would hold up my fingers to show her how much it was hurting. One meant a little bit. Ten meant so, so, so much. Then she would tell the doctor when he made his rounds what needed adjusting or things like that. Mom got very good at reading my mind sometimes. After that, we got into the habit of doing the one-to-ten scale for anything that hurt, like if I just had a plain old sore throat, she_d ask: _One to ten?_ And I_d say: _Three,_ or whatever it was. When school was over, I went outside to meet Mom, who was waiting for me at the front entrance like all the other parents or babysitters. The first thing she said after hugging me was: _So, how was it? One to ten?_ _Five,_ I said, shrugging, which I could tell totally surprised her. _Wow,_ she said quietly, _that_s even better than I hoped for._ _Are we picking Via up?_ _Miranda_s mother is picking her up today. Do you want me to carry your backpack, sweetness?_ We had started walking through the crowd of kids and parents, most of whom were noticing me, _secretly_ pointing me out to each other. _I_m fine,_ I said. _It looks too heavy, Auggie._ She started to take it from me. _Mom!_ I said, pulling my backpack away from her. I walked in front of her through the crowd. _See you tomorrow, August!_ It was Summer. She was walking in the opposite direction. _Bye, Summer,_ I said, waving at her. As soon as we crossed the street and were away from the crowd, Mom said: _Who was that, Auggie?_ _Summer._ _Is she in your class?_ _I have lots of classes._ _Is she in any of your classes?_ Mom said. _Nope._ Mom waited for me to say something else, but I just didn_t feel like talking. _So it went okay?_ said Mom. I could tell she had a million questions she wanted to ask me. _Everyone was nice? Did you like your teachers?_ _Yeah._ _How about those kids you met last week? Were they nice?_ _Fine, fine. Jack hung out with me a lot._ _That_s so great, sweetie. What about that boy Julian?_ I thought about that Darth Sidious comment. By now it felt like that had happened a hundred years ago. _He was okay,_ I said. _And the blond girl, what was her name?_ _Charlotte. Mom, I said everyone was nice already._ _Okay,_ Mom answered. I honestly don_t know why I was kind of mad at Mom, but I was. We crossed Amesfort Avenue, and she didn_t say anything else until we turned onto our block. _So,_ Mom said. _How did you meet Summer if she wasn_t in any of your classes?_ _We sat together at lunch,_ I said. I had started kicking a rock between my feet like it was a soccer ball, chasing it back and forth across the sidewalk. _She seems very nice._ _Yeah, she is._ _She_s very pretty,_ Mom said. _Yeah, I know,_ I answered. _We_re kind of like Beauty and the Beast._ I didn_t wait to see Mom_s reaction. I just started running down the sidewalk after the rock, which I had kicked as hard as I could in front of me. Padawan That night I cut off the little braid on the back of my head. Dad noticed first. _Oh good,_ he said. _I never liked that thing._ Via couldn_t believe I had cut it off. _That took you years to grow!_ she said, almost like she was angry. _Why did you cut it off?_ _I don_t know,_ I answered. _Did someone make fun of it?_ _No._ _Did you tell Christopher you were cutting it off?_ _We_re not even friends anymore!_ _That_s not true,_ she said. _I can_t believe you would just cut it off like that,_ she added snottily, and then practically slammed my bedroom door shut as she left the room. I was snuggling with Daisy on my bed when Dad came to tuck me in later. He scooched Daisy over gently and lay down next to me on the blanket. _So, Auggie Doggie,_ he said, _it was really an okay day?_ He got that from an old cartoon about a dachshund named Auggie Doggie, by the way. He had bought it for me on eBay when I was about four, and we watched it a lot for a while_especially in the hospital. He would call me Auggie Doggie and I would call him _dear ol_ Dad,_ like the puppy called the dachshund dad on the show. _Yeah, it was totally okay,_ I said, nodding. _You_ve been so quiet all night long._ _I guess I_m tired._ _It was a long day, huh?_ I nodded. _But it really was okay?_ I nodded again. He didn_t say anything, so after a few seconds, I said: _It was better than okay, actually._ _That_s great to hear, Auggie,_ he said quietly, kissing my forehead. _So it looks like it was a good call Mom made, your going to school._ _Yeah. But I could stop going if I wanted to, right?_ _That was the deal, yes,_ he answered. _Though I guess it would depend on why you wanted to stop going, too, you know. You_d have to let us know. You_d have to talk to us and tell us how you_re feeling, and if anything bad was happening. Okay? You promise you_d tell us?_ _Yeah._ _So can I ask you something? Are you mad at Mom or something? You_ve been kind of huffy with her all night long. You know, Auggie, I_m as much to blame for sending you to school as she is._ _No, she_s more to blame. It was her idea._ Mom knocked on the door just then and peeked her head inside my room. _Just wanted to say good night,_ she said. She looked kind of shy for a second. _Hi, Momma,_ Dad said, picking up my hand and waving it at her. _I heard you cut off your braid,_ Mom said to me, sitting down at the edge of the bed next to Daisy. _It_s not a big deal,_ I answered quickly. _I didn_t say it was,_ said Mom. _Why don_t you put Auggie to bed tonight?_ Dad said to Mom, getting up. _I_ve got some work to do anyway. Good night, my son, my son._ That was another part of our Auggie Doggie routine, though I wasn_t in the mood to say Good night, dear ol_ Dad. _I_m so proud of you,_ said Dad, and then he got up out of the bed. Mom and Dad had always taken turns putting me to bed. I know it was a little babyish of me to still need them to do that, but that_s just how it was with us. _Will you check in on Via?_ Mom said to Dad as she lay down next to me. He stopped by the door and turned around. _What_s wrong with Via?_ _Nothing,_ said Mom, shrugging, _at least that she would tell me. But _ first day of high school and all that._ _Hmm,_ said Dad, and then he pointed his finger at me and winked. _It_s always something with you kids, isn_t it?_ he said. _Never a dull moment,_ said Mom. _Never a dull moment,_ Dad repeated. _Good night, guys._ As soon as he closed the door, Mom pulled out the book she_d been reading to me for the last couple of weeks. I was relieved because I really was afraid she_d want to _talk,_ and I just didn_t feel like doing that. But Mom didn_t seem to want to talk, either. She just flipped through the pages until she got to where we had left off. We were about halfway through The Hobbit. _ _Stop! stop!_ shouted Thorin,_ said Mom, reading aloud, _but it was too late, the excited dwarves had wasted their last arrows, and now the bows that Beorn had given them were useless. _They were a gloomy party that night, and the gloom gathered still deeper on them in the following days. They had crossed the enchanted stream; but beyond it the path seemed to straggle on just as before, and in the forest they could see no change._ I_m not sure why, but all of a sudden I started to cry. Mom put the book down and wrapped her arms around me. She didn_t seem surprised that I was crying. _It_s okay,_ she whispered in my ear. _It_ll be okay._ _I_m sorry,_ I said between sniffles. _Shh,_ she said, wiping my tears with the back of her hand. _You have nothing to be sorry about.__ _Why do I have to be so ugly, Mommy?_ I whispered. _No, baby, you_re not __ _I know I am._ She kissed me all over my face. She kissed my eyes that came down too far. She kissed my cheeks that looked punched in. She kissed my tortoise mouth. She said soft words that I know were meant to help me, but words can_t change my face. Wake Me Up when September Ends The rest of September was hard. I wasn_t used to getting up so early in the morning. I wasn_t used to this whole notion of homework. And I got my first _quiz_ at the end of the month. I never got _quizzes_ when Mom homeschooled me. I also didn_t like how I had no free time anymore. Before, I was able to play whenever I wanted to, but now it felt like I always had stuff to do for school. And being at school was awful in the beginning. Every new class I had was like a new chance for kids to _not stare_ at me. They would sneak peeks at me from behind their notebooks or when they thought I wasn_t looking. They would take the longest way around me to avoid bumping into me in any way, like I had some germ they could catch, like my face was contagious. In the hallways, which were always crowded, my face would always surprise some unsuspecting kid who maybe hadn_t heard about me. The kid would make the sound you make when you hold your breath before going underwater, a little _uh!_ sound. This happened maybe four or five times a day for the first few weeks: on the stairs, in front of the lockers, in the library. Five hundred kids in a school: eventually every one of them was going to see my face at some time. And I knew after the first couple of days that word had gotten around about me, because every once in a while I_d catch a kid elbowing his friend as they passed me, or talking behind their hands as I walked by them. I can only imagine what they were saying about me. Actually, I prefer not to even try to imagine it. I_m not saying they were doing any of these things in a mean way, by the way: not once did any kid laugh or make noises or do anything like that. They were just being normal dumb kids. I know that. I kind of wanted to tell them that. Like, it_s okay, I_m know I_m weird-looking, take a look, I don_t bite. Hey, the truth is, if a Wookiee started going to the school all of a sudden, I_d be curious, I_d probably stare a bit! And if I was walking with Jack or Summer, I_d probably whisper to them: Hey, there_s the Wookiee. And if the Wookiee caught me saying that, he_d know I wasn_t trying to be mean. I was just pointing out the fact that he_s a Wookiee. It took about one week for the kids in my class to get used to my face. These were the kids I_d see every day in all my classes. It took about two weeks for the rest of the kids in my grade to get used to my face. These were the kids I_d see in the cafeteria, yard time, PE, music, library, computer class. It took about a month for the rest of the kids in the entire school to get used to it. These were the kids in all the other grades. They were big kids, some of them. Some of them had crazy haircuts. Some of them had earrings in their noses. Some of them had pimples. None of them looked like me. Jack Will I hung out with Jack in homeroom, English, history, computer, music, and science, which were all the classes we had together. The teachers assigned seats in every class, and I ended up sitting next to Jack in every single class, so I figured either the teachers were told to put me and Jack together, or it was a totally incredible coincidence. I walked to classes with Jack, too. I know he noticed kids staring at me, but he pretended not to notice. One time, though, on our way to history, this huge eighth grader who was zooming down the stairs two steps at a time accidentally bumped into us at the bottom of the stairs and knocked me down. As the guy helped me stand up, he got a look at my face, and without even meaning to, he just said: _Whoa!_ Then he patted me on the shoulder, like he was dusting me off, and took off after his friends. For some reason, me and Jack started cracking up. _That guy made the funniest face!_ said Jack as we sat down at our desks. _I know, right?_ I said. _He was like, whoa!_ _I swear, I think he wet his pants!_ We were laughing so hard that the teacher, Mr. Roche, had to ask us to settle down. Later, after we finished reading about how ancient Sumerians built sundials, Jack whispered: _Do you ever want to beat those kids up?_ I shrugged. _I guess. I don_t know._ _I_d want to. I think you should get a secret squirt gun or something and attach it to your eyes somehow. And every time someone stares at you, you would squirt them in the face._ _With some green slime or something,_ I answered. _No, no: with slug juice mixed with dog pee._ _Yeah!_ I said, completely agreeing. _Guys,_ said Mr. Roche from across the room. _People are still reading._ We nodded and looked down at our books. Then Jack whispered: _Are you always going to look this way, August? I mean, can_t you get plastic surgery or something?_ I smiled and pointed to my face. _Hello? This is after plastic surgery!_ Jack clapped his hand over his forehead and started laughing hysterically. _Dude, you should sue your doctor!_ he answered between giggles. This time the two of us were laughing so much we couldn_t stop, even after Mr. Roche came over and made us both switch chairs with the kids next to us. Mr. Browne_s October Precept Mr. Browne_s precept for October was: YOUR DEEDS ARE YOUR MONUMENTS. He told us that this was written on the tombstone of some Egyptian guy that died thousands of years ago. Since we were just about to start studying ancient Egypt in history, Mr. Browne thought this was a good choice for a precept. Our homework assignment was to write a paragraph about what we thought the precept meant or how we felt about it. This is what I wrote: This precept means that we should be remembered for the things we do. The things we do are the most important things of all. They are more important than what we say or what we look like. The things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they_ve died. They_re like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the pharaohs. Only instead of being made out of stone, they_re made out of the memories people have of you. That_s why your deeds are like your monuments. Built with memories instead of with stone. Apples My birthday is October 10. I like my birthday: 10/10. It would_ve been great if I_d been born at exactly 10:10 in the morning or at night, but I wasn_t. I was born just after midnight. But I still think my birthday is cool. I usually have a little party at home, but this year I asked Mom if I could have a big bowling party. Mom was surprised but happy. She asked me who I wanted to ask from my class, and I said everyone in my homeroom plus Summer. _That_s a lot of kids, Auggie,_ said Mom. _I have to invite everyone because I don_t want anyone to get their feelings hurt if they find out other people are invited and they aren_t, okay?_ _Okay,_ Mom agreed. _You even want to invite the _what_s the deal_ kid?_ _Yeah, you can invite Julian,_ I answered. _Geez, Mom, you should forget about that already._ _I know, you_re right._ A couple of weeks later, I asked Mom who was coming to my party, and she said: _Jack Will, Summer. Reid Kingsley. Both Maxes. And a couple of other kids said they were going to try to be there._ _Like who?_ _Charlotte_s mom said Charlotte had a dance recital earlier in the day, but she was going to try to come to your party if time allowed. And Tristan_s mom said he might come after his soccer game._ _So that_s it?_ I said. _That_s like _ five people._ _That_s more than five people, Auggie. I think a lot of people just had plans already,_ Mom answered. We were in the kitchen. She was cutting one of the apples we had just gotten at the farmers_ market into teensy-weensy bites so I could eat it. _What kind of plans?_ I asked. _I don_t know, Auggie. We sent out the evites kind of late._ _Like what did they tell you, though? What reasons did they give?_ _Everyone gave different reasons, Auggie._ She sounded a bit impatient. _Really, sweetie, it shouldn_t matter what their reasons were. People had plans, that_s all._ _What did Julian give as his reason?_ I asked. _You know,_ said Mom, _his mom was the only person who didn_t RSVP at all._ She looked at me. _I guess the apple doesn_t fall far from the tree._ I laughed because I thought she was making a joke, but then I realized she wasn_t. _What does that mean?_ I asked. _Never mind. Now go wash your hands so you can eat._ My birthday party turned out to be much smaller than I thought it would be, but it was still great. Jack, Summer, Reid, Tristan, and both Maxes came from school, and Christopher came, too_all the way from Bridgeport with his parents. And Uncle Ben came. And Aunt Kate and Uncle Po drove in from Boston, though Tata and Poppa were in Florida for the winter. It was fun because all the grown-ups ended up bowling in the lane next to ours, so it really felt like there were a lot of people there to celebrate my birthday. Halloween At lunch the next day, Summer asked me what I was going to be for Halloween. Of course, I_d been thinking about it since last Halloween, so I knew right away. _Boba Fett._ _You know you can wear a costume to school on Halloween, right?_ _No way, really?_ _So long as it_s politically correct._ _What, like no guns and stuff?_ _Exactly._ _What about blasters?_ _I think a blaster_s like a gun, Auggie._ _Oh man _,_ I said, shaking my head. Boba Fett has a blaster. _At least, we don_t have to come like a character in a book anymore. In the lower school that_s what you had to do. Last year I was the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz._ _But that_s a movie, not a book._ _Hello?_ Summer answered. _It was a book first! One of my favorite books in the world, actually. My dad used to read it to me every night in the first grade._ When Summer talks, especially when she_s excited about something, her eyes squint like she_s looking right at the sun. I hardly ever see Summer during the day, since the only class we have together is English. But ever since that first lunch at school, we_ve sat at the summer table together every day, just the two of us. _So, what are you going to be?_ I asked her. _I don_t know yet. I know what I_d really want to go as, but I think it might be too dorky. You know, Savanna_s group isn_t even wearing costumes this year. They think we_re too old for Halloween._ _What? That_s just dumb._ _I know, right?_ _I thought you didn_t care what those girls think._ She shrugged and took a long drink of her milk. _So, what dorky thing do you want to dress up as?_ I asked her, smiling. _Promise not to laugh?_ She raised her eyebrows and her shoulders, embarrassed. _A unicorn._ I smiled and looked down at my sandwich. _Hey, you promised not to laugh!_ she laughed. _Okay, okay,_ I said. _But you_re right: that is too dorky._ _I know!_ she said. _But I have it all planned out: I_d make the head out of papier-m?ch?, and paint the horn gold and make the mane gold, too._ It would be so awesome._ _Okay._ I shrugged. _Then you should do it. Who cares what other people think, right?_ _Maybe what I_ll do is just wear it for the Halloween Parade,_ she said, snapping her fingers. _And I_ll just be, like, a Goth girl for school. Yeah, that_s it, that_s what I_ll do._ _Sounds like a plan._ I nodded. _Thanks, Auggie,_ she giggled. _You know, that_s what I like best about you. I feel like I can tell you anything._ _Yeah?_ I answered, nodding. I gave her a thumbs-up sign. _Cool beans._ School Pictures I don_t think anyone will be shocked to learn I don_t want to have my school picture taken on October 22. No way. No thank you. I stopped letting anyone take pictures of me a while ago. I guess you could call it a phobia. No, actually, it_s not a phobia. It_s an _aversion,_ which is a word I just learned in Mr. Browne_s class. I have an aversion to having my picture taken. There, I used it in a sentence. I thought Mom would try to get me to drop my aversion to having my picture taken for school, but she didn_t. Unfortunately, while I managed to avoid having the portrait taken, I couldn_t get out of being part of the class picture. Ugh. The photographer looked like he_d just sucked on a lemon when he saw me. I_m sure he thought I ruined the picture. I was one of the ones in the front, sitting down. I didn_t smile, not that anyone could tell if I had. The Cheese Touch I noticed not too long ago that even though people were getting used to me, no one would actually touch me. I didn_t realize this at first because it_s not like kids go around touching each other that much in middle school anyway. But last Thursday in dance class, which is, like, my least favorite class, Mrs. Atanabi, the teacher, tried to make Ximena Chin be my dance partner. Now, I_ve never actually seen someone have a _panic attack_ before, but I have heard about it, and I_m pretty sure Ximena had a panic attack at that second. She got really nervous and turned pale and literally broke into a sweat within a minute, and then she came up with some lame excuse about really having to go to the bathroom. Anyway, Mrs. Atanabi let her off the hook, because she ended up not making anyone dance together. Then yesterday in my science elective, we were doing this cool mystery-powder investigation where we had to classify a substance as an acid or a base. Everyone had to heat their mystery powders on a heating plate and make observations, so we were all huddled around the powders with our notebooks. Now, there are eight kids in the elective, and seven of them were squished together on one side of the plate while one of them_me_had loads of room on the other side. So of course I noticed this, but I was hoping Ms. Rubin wouldn_t notice this, because I didn_t want her to say something. But of course she did notice this, and of course she said something. _Guys, there_s plenty of room on that side. Tristan, Nino, go over there,_ she said, so Tristan and Nino scooted over to my side. Tristan and Nino have always been okay-nice to me. I want to go on record as saying that. Not super-nice, like they go out of their way to hang out with me, but okay-nice, like they say hello to me and talk to me like normal. And they didn_t even make a face when Ms. Rubin told them to come on my side, which a lot of kids do when they think I_m not looking. Anyway, everything was going fine until Tristan_s mystery powder started melting. He moved his foil off the plate just as my powder began to melt, too, which is why I went to move mine off the plate, and then my hand accidentally bumped his hand for a fraction of a second. Tristan jerked his hand away so fast he dropped his foil on the floor while also knocking everyone else_s foil off the heating plate. _Tristan!_ yelled Ms. Rubin, but Tristan didn_t even care about the spilled powder on the floor or that he ruined the experiment. What he was most concerned about was getting to the lab sink to wash his hands as fast as possible. That_s when I knew for sure that there was this thing about touching me at Beecher Prep. I think it_s like the Cheese Touch in Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The kids in that story were afraid they_d catch the cooties if they touched the old moldy cheese on the basketball court. At Beecher Prep, I_m the old moldy cheese. Costumes For me, Halloween is the best holiday in the world. It even beats Christmas. I get to dress up in a costume. I get to wear a mask. I get to go around like every other kid with a mask and nobody thinks I look weird. Nobody takes a second look. Nobody notices me. Nobody knows me. I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks. When I was little, I used to wear an astronaut helmet everywhere I went. To the playground. To the supermarket. To pick Via up from school. Even in the middle of summer, though it was so hot my face would sweat. I think I wore it for a couple of years, but I had to stop wearing it when I had my eye surgery. I was about seven, I think. And then we couldn_t find the helmet after that. Mom looked everywhere for it. She figured that it had probably ended up in Grans_s attic, and she kept meaning to look for it, but by then I had gotten used to not wearing it. I have pictures of me in all my Halloween costumes. My first Halloween I was a pumpkin. My second I was Tigger. My third I was Peter Pan (my dad dressed up as Captain Hook). My fourth I was Captain Hook (my dad dressed up as Peter Pan). My fifth I was an astronaut. My sixth I was Obi-Wan Kenobi. My seventh I was a clone trooper. My eighth I was Darth Vader. My ninth I was the Bleeding Scream, the one that has fake blood oozing out over the skull mask. This year I_m going to be Boba Fett: not Boba Fett the kid in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, but Boba Fett the man from Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Mom searched everywhere for the costume but couldn_t find one in my size, so she bought me a Jango Fett costume_since Jango was Boba_s dad and wore the same armor_and then painted the armor green. She did some other stuff to it to make it look worn, too. Anyway, it looks totally real. Mom_s good at costumes. In homeroom we all talked about what we were going to be for Halloween. Charlotte was going as Hermione from Harry Potter. Jack was going as a wolfman. I heard that Julian was going as Jango Fett, which was a weird coincidence. I don_t think he liked hearing that I was going as Boba Fett. On the morning of Halloween, Via had this big crying meltdown about something. Via_s always been so calm and cool, but this year she_s had a couple of these kinds of fits. Dad was late for work and was like, _Via, let_s go! Let_s go!_ Usually Dad is super patient about things, but not when it comes to his being late for work, and his yelling just stressed out Via even more, and she started crying louder, so Mom told Dad to take me to school and that she_d deal with Via. Then Mom kissed me goodbye quickly, before I even put on my costume, and disappeared into Via_s room. _Auggie, let_s go now!_ said Dad. _I have a meeting I can_t be late for!_ _I haven_t put my costume on yet!_ _So put it on, already. Five minutes. I_ll meet you outside._ I rushed to my room and started to put on the Boba Fett costume, but all of a sudden I didn_t feel like wearing it. I_m not sure why_maybe because it had all these belts that needed to be tightened and I needed someone_s help to put it on. Or maybe it was because it still smelled a little like paint. All I knew was that it was a lot of work to put the costume on, and Dad was waiting and would get super impatient if I made him late. So, at the last minute, I threw on the Bleeding Scream costume from last year. It was such an easy costume: just a long black robe and a big white mask. I yelled goodbye from the door on my way out, but Mom didn_t even hear me. _I thought you were going as Jango Fett,_ said Dad when I got outside. _Boba Fett!_ _Whatever,_ said Dad. _This is a better costume anyway._ _Yeah, it_s cool,_ I answered. The Bleeding Scream Walking through the halls that morning on my way to the lockers was, I have to say, absolutely awesome. Everything was different now. I was different. Where I usually walked with my head down, trying to avoid being seen, today I walked with my head up, looking around. I wanted to be seen. One kid wearing the same exact costume as mine, long white skull face oozing fake red blood, high-fived me as we passed each other on the stairs. I have no idea who he was, and he had no idea who I was, and I wondered for a second if he would have ever done that if he_d known it was me under the mask. I was starting to think this was going to go down as one of the most awesome days in the history of my life, but then I got to homeroom. The first costume I saw as I walked inside the door was Darth Sidious. It had one of the rubber masks that are so realistic, with a big black hood over the head and a long black robe. I knew right away it was Julian, of course. He must have changed his costume at the last minute because he thought I was coming as Jango Fett. He was talking to two mummies who must have been Miles and Henry, and they were all kind of looking at the door like they were waiting for someone to come through it. I knew it wasn_t a Bleeding Scream they were looking for. It was a Boba Fett. I was going to go and sit at my usual desk, but for some reason, I don_t know why, I found myself walking over to a desk near them, and I could hear them talking. One of the mummies was saying: _It really does look like him._ _Like this part especially _,_ answered Julian_s voice. He put his fingers on the cheeks and eyes of his Darth Sidious mask. _Actually,_ said the mummy, _what he really looks like is one of those shrunken heads. Have you ever seen those? He looks exactly like that._ _I think he looks like an orc._ _Oh yeah!_ _If I looked like that,_ said the Julian voice, kind of laughing, _I swear to God, I_d put a hood over my face every day._ _I_ve thought about this a lot,_ said the second mummy, sounding serious, _and I really think _ if I looked like him, seriously, I think that I_d kill myself._ _You would not,_ answered Darth Sidious. _Yeah, for real,_ insisted the same mummy. _I can_t imagine looking in the mirror every day and seeing myself like that. It would be too awful. And getting stared at all the time._ _Then why do you hang out with him so much?_ asked Darth Sidious. _I don_t know,_ answered the mummy. _Tushman asked me to hang out with him at the beginning of the year, and he must have told all the teachers to put us next to each other in all our classes, or something._ The mummy shrugged. I knew the shrug, of course. I knew the voice. I knew I wanted to run out of the class right then and there. But I stood where I was and listened to Jack Will finish what he was saying. _I mean, the thing is: he always follows me around. What am I supposed to do?_ _Just ditch him,_ said Julian. I don_t know what Jack answered because I walked out of the class without anyone knowing I had been there. My face felt like it was on fire while I walked back down the stairs. I was sweating under my costume. And I started crying. I couldn_t keep it from happening. The tears were so thick in my eyes I could barely see, but I couldn_t wipe them through the mask as I walked. I was looking for a little tiny spot to disappear into. I wanted a hole I could fall inside of: a little black hole that would eat me up. Names Rat boy. Freak. Monster. Freddy Krueger. E.T. Gross-out. Lizard face. Mutant. I know the names they call me. I_ve been in enough playgrounds to know kids can be mean. I know, I know, I know. I ended up in the second-floor bathroom. No one was there because first period had started and everyone was in class. I locked the door to my stall and took off my mask and just cried for I don_t know how long. Then I went to the nurse_s office and told her I had a stomach ache, which was true, because I felt like I_d been kicked in the gut. Nurse Molly called Mom and had me lie down on the sofa next to her desk. Fifteen minutes later, Mom was at the door. _Sweetness,_ she said, coming over to hug me. _Hi,_ I mumbled. I didn_t want her to ask anything until afterward. _You have a stomach ache?_ she asked, automatically putting her hand on my forehead to check for my temperature. _He said he feels like throwing up,_ said Nurse Molly, looking at me with very nice eyes. _And I have a headache,_ I whispered. _I wonder if it_s something you ate,_ said Mom, looking worried. _There_s a stomach bug going around,_ said Nurse Molly. _Oh geez,_ said Mom, her eyebrows going up as she shook her head. She helped me to my feet. _Should I call a taxi or are you okay walking home?_ _I can walk._ _What a brave kid!_ said Nurse Molly, patting me on the back as she walked us toward the door. _If he starts throwing up or runs a temperature, you should call the doctor._ _Absolutely,_ said Mom, shaking Nurse Molly_s hand. _Thank you so much for taking care of him._ _My pleasure,_ answered Nurse Molly, putting her hand under my chin and tilting my face up. _You take care of yourself, okay?_ I nodded and mumbled _Thank you._ Mom and I hug-walked the whole way home. I didn_t tell her anything about what had happened, and later when she asked me if I felt well enough to go trick-or-treating after school, I said no. This worried her, since she knew how much I usually loved trick-or-treating. I heard her say to Dad on the phone: __ He doesn_t even have the energy to go trick-or-treating._ No, no fever at all _ Well, I will if he doesn_t feel better by tomorrow._ I know, poor thing _ Imagine his missing Halloween._ I got out of going to school the next day, too, which was Friday. So I had the whole weekend to think about everything. I was pretty sure I would never go back to school again. Far above the world Planet Earth is blue And there_s nothing I can do _David Bowie, _Space Oddity_ A Tour of the Galaxy August is the Sun. Me and Mom and Dad are planets orbiting the Sun. The rest of our family and friends are asteroids and comets floating around the planets orbiting the Sun. The only celestial body that doesn_t orbit August the Sun is Daisy the dog, and that_s only because to her little doggy eyes, August_s face doesn_t look very different from any other human_s face. To Daisy, all our faces look alike, as flat and pale as the moon. I_m used to the way this universe works. I_ve never minded it because it_s all I_ve ever known. I_ve always understood that August is special and has special needs. If I was playing too loudly and he was trying to take a nap, I knew I would have to play something else because he needed his rest after some procedure or other had left him weak and in pain. If I wanted Mom and Dad to watch me play soccer, I knew that nine out of ten times they_d miss it because they were busy shuttling August to speech therapy or physical therapy or a new specialist or a surgery. Mom and Dad would always say I was the most understanding little girl in the world. I don_t know about that, just that I understood there was no point in complaining. I_ve seen August after his surgeries: his little face bandaged up and swollen, his tiny body full of IVs and tubes to keep him alive. After you_ve seen someone else going through that, it feels kind of crazy to complain over not getting the toy you had asked for, or your mom missing a school play. I knew this even when I was six years old. No one ever told it to me. I just knew it. So I_ve gotten used to not complaining, and I_ve gotten used to not bothering Mom and Dad with little stuff. I_ve gotten used to figuring things out on my own: how to put toys together, how to organize my life so I don_t miss friends_ birthday parties, how to stay on top of my schoolwork so I never fall behind in class. I_ve never asked for help with my homework. Never needed reminding to finish a project or study for a test. If I was having trouble with a subject in school, I_d go home and study it until I figured it out on my own. I taught myself how to convert fractions into decimal points by going online. I_ve done every school project pretty much by myself. When Mom or Dad ask me how things are going in school, I_ve always said _good__even when it hasn_t always been so good. My worst day, worst fall, worst headache, worst bruise, worst cramp, worst mean thing anyone could say has always been nothing compared to what August has gone through. This isn_t me being noble, by the way: it_s just the way I know it is. And this is the way it_s always been for me, for the little universe of us. But this year there seems to be a shift in the cosmos. The galaxy is changing. Planets are falling out of alignment. Before August I honestly don_t remember my life before August came into it. I look at pictures of me as a baby, and I see Mom and Dad smiling so happily, holding me. I can_t believe how much younger they looked back then: Dad was this hipster dude and Mom was this cute Brazilian fashionista. There_s one shot of me at my third birthday: Dad_s right behind me while Mom_s holding the cake with three lit candles, and in back of us are Tata and Poppa, Grans, Uncle Ben, Aunt Kate, and Uncle Po. Everyone_s looking at me and I_m looking at the cake. You can see in that picture how I really was the first child, first grandchild, first niece. I don_t remember what it felt like, of course, but I can see it plain as can be in the pictures. I don_t remember the day they brought August home from the hospital. I don_t remember what I said or did or felt when I saw him for the first time, though everyone has a story about it. Apparently, I just looked at him for a long time without saying anything at all, and then finally I said: _It doesn_t look like Lilly!_ That was the name of a doll Grans had given me when Mom was pregnant so I could _practice_ being a big sister. It was one of those dolls that are incredibly lifelike, and I had carried it everywhere for months, changing its diaper, feeding it. I_m told I even made a baby sling for it. The story goes that after my initial reaction to August, it only took a few minutes (according to Grans) or a few days (according to Mom) before I was all over him: kissing him, cuddling him, baby talking to him. After that I never so much as touched or mentioned Lilly ever again. Seeing August I never used to see August the way other people saw him. I knew he didn_t look exactly normal, but I really didn_t understand why strangers seemed so shocked when they saw him. Horrified. Sickened. Scared. There are so many words I can use to describe the looks on people_s faces. And for a long time I didn_t get it. I_d just get mad. Mad when they stared. Mad when they looked away. _What the heck are you looking at?_ I_d say to people_even grown-ups. Then, when I was about eleven, I went to stay with Grans in Montauk for four weeks while August was having his big jaw surgery. This was the longest I_d ever been away from home, and I have to say it was so amazing to suddenly be free of all that stuff that made me so mad. No one stared at Grans and me when we went to town to buy groceries. No one pointed at us. No one even noticed us. Grans was one of those grandmothers who do everything with their grandkids. She_d run into the ocean if I asked her to, even if she had nice clothes on. She would let me play with her makeup and didn_t mind if I used it on her face to practice my face-painting skills. She_d take me for ice cream even if we hadn_t eaten dinner yet. She_d draw chalk horses on the sidewalk in front of her house. One night, while we were walking back from town, I told her that I wished I could live with her forever. I was so happy there. I think it might have been the best time in my life. Coming home after four weeks felt very strange at first. I remember very vividly stepping through the door and seeing August running over to welcome me home, and for this tiny fraction of a moment I saw him not the way I_ve always seen him, but the way other people see him. It was only a flash, an instant while he was hugging me, so happy that I was home, but it surprised me because I_d never seen him like that before. And I_d never felt what I was feeling before, either: a feeling I hated myself for having the moment I had it. But as he was kissing me with all his heart, all I could see was the drool coming down his chin. And suddenly there I was, like all those people who would stare or look away. Horrified. Sickened. Scared. Thankfully, that only lasted for a second: the moment I heard August laugh his raspy little laugh, it was over. Everything was back the way it had been before. But it had opened a door for me. A little peephole. And on the other side of the peephole there were two Augusts: the one I saw blindly, and the one other people saw. I think the only person in the world I could have told any of this to was Grans, but I didn_t. It was too hard to explain over the phone. I thought maybe when she came for Thanksgiving, I_d tell her what I felt. But just two months after I stayed with her in Montauk, my beautiful Grans died. It was so completely out of the blue. Apparently, she had checked herself into the hospital because she_d been feeling nauseous. Mom and I drove out to see her, but it_s a three-hour drive from where we live, and by the time we got to the hospital, Grans was gone. A heart attack, they told us. Just like that. It_s so strange how one day you can be on this earth, and the next day not. Where did she go? Will I really ever see her again, or is that a fairy tale? You see movies and TV shows where people receive horrible news in hospitals, but for us, with all our many trips to the hospital with August, there had always been good outcomes. What I remember the most from the day Grans died is Mom literally crumpling to the floor in slow, heaving sobs, holding her stomach like someone had just punched her. I_ve never, ever seen Mom like that. Never heard sounds like that come out of her. Even through all of August_s surgeries, Mom always put on a brave face. On my last day in Montauk, Grans and I had watched the sun set on the beach. We had taken a blanket to sit on, but it had gotten chilly, so we wrapped it around us and cuddled and talked until there wasn_t even a sliver of sun left over the ocean. And then Grans told me she had a secret to tell me: she loved me more than anyone else in the world. _Even August?_ I had asked. She smiled and stroked my hair, like she was thinking about what to say. _I love Auggie very, very much,_ she said softly. I can still remember her Portuguese accent, the way she rolled her r_s. _But he has many angels looking out for him already, Via. And I want you to know that you have me looking out for you. Okay, menina querida? I want you to know that you are number one for me. You are my __ She looked out at the ocean and spread her hands out, like she was trying to smooth out the waves, _You are my everything. You understand me, Via? Tu es meu tudo._ I understood her. And I knew why she said it was a secret. Grandmothers aren_t supposed to have favorites. Everyone knows that. But after she died, I held on to that secret and let it cover me like a blanket. August Through the Peephole His eyes are about an inch below where they should be on his face, almost to halfway down his cheeks. They slant downward at an extreme angle, almost like diagonal slits that someone cut into his face, and the left one is noticeably lower than the right one. They bulge outward because his eye cavities are too shallow to accommodate them. The top eyelids are always halfway closed, like he_s on the verge of sleeping. The lower eyelids sag so much they almost look like a piece of invisible string is pulling them downward: you can see the red part on the inside, like they_re almost inside out. He doesn_t have eyebrows or eyelashes. His nose is disproportionately big for his face, and kind of fleshy. His head is pinched in on the sides where the ears should be, like someone used giant pliers and crushed the middle part of his face. He doesn_t have cheekbones. There are deep creases running down both sides of his nose to his mouth, which gives him a waxy appearance. Sometimes people assume he_s been burned in a fire: his features look like they_ve been melted, like the drippings on the side of a candle. Several surgeries to correct his palate have left a few scars around his mouth, the most noticeable one being a jagged gash running from the middle of his upper lip to his nose. His upper teeth are small and splay out. He has a severe overbite and an extremely undersized jawbone. He has a very small chin. When he was very little, before a piece of his hip bone was surgically implanted into his lower jaw, he really had no chin at all. His tongue would just hang out of his mouth with nothing underneath to block it. Thankfully, it_s better now. He can eat, at least: when he was younger, he had a feeding tube. And he can talk. And he_s learned to keep his tongue inside his mouth, though that took him several years to master. He_s also learned to control the drool that used to run down his neck. These are considered miracles. When he was a baby, the doctors didn_t think he_d live. He can hear, too. Most kids born with these types of birth defects have problems with their middle ears that prevent them from hearing, but so far August can hear well enough through his tiny cauliflower-shaped ears. The doctors think that eventually he_ll need to wear hearing aids, though. August hates the thought of this. He thinks the hearing aids will get noticed too much. I don_t tell him that the hearing aids would be the least of his problems, of course, because I_m sure he knows this. Then again, I_m not really sure what August knows or doesn_t know, what he understands and doesn_t understand. Does August see how other people see him, or has he gotten so good at pretending not to see that it doesn_t bother him? Or does it bother him? When he looks in the mirror, does he see the Auggie Mom and Dad see, or does he see the Auggie everyone else sees? Or is there another August he sees, someone in his dreams behind the misshapen head and face? Sometimes when I looked at Grans, I could see the pretty girl she used to be underneath the wrinkles. I could see the girl from Ipanema inside the old-lady walk. Does August see himself as he might have looked without that single gene that caused the catastrophe of his face? I wish I could ask him this stuff. I wish he would tell me how he feels. He used to be easier to read before the surgeries. You knew that when his eyes squinted, he was happy. When his mouth went straight, he was being mischievous. When his cheeks trembled, he was about to cry. He looks better now, no doubt about that, but the signs we used to gauge his moods are all gone. There are new ones, of course. Mom and Dad can read every single one. But I_m having trouble keeping up. And there_s a part of me that doesn_t want to keep trying: why can_t he just say what he_s feeling like everyone else? He doesn_t have a trache tube in his mouth anymore that keeps him from talking. His jaw_s not wired shut. He_s ten years old. He can use his words. But we circle around him like he_s still the baby he used to be. We change plans, go to plan B, interrupt conversations, go back on promises depending on his moods, his whims, his needs. That was fine when he was little. But he needs to grow up now. We need to let him, help him, make him grow up. Here_s what I think: we_ve all spent so much time trying to make August think he_s normal that he actually thinks he is normal. And the problem is, he_s not. High School What I always loved most about middle school was that it was separate and different from home. I could go there and be Olivia Pullman_not Via, which is my name at home. Via was what they called me in elementary school, too. Back then, everyone knew all about us, of course. Mom used to pick me up after school, and August was always in the stroller. There weren_t a lot of people who were equipped to babysit for Auggie, so Mom and Dad brought him to all my class plays and concerts and recitals, all the school functions, the bake sales and the book fairs. My friends knew him. My friends_ parents knew him. My teachers knew him. The janitor knew him. (_Hey, how ya doin_, Auggie?_ he_d always say, and give August a high five.) August was something of a fixture at PS 22. But in middle school a lot of people didn_t know about August. My old friends did, of course, but my new friends didn_t. Or if they knew, it wasn_t necessarily the first thing they knew about me. Maybe it was the second or third thing they_d hear about me. _Olivia? Yeah, she_s nice. Did you hear she has a brother who_s deformed?_ I always hated that word, but I knew it was how people described Auggie. And I knew those kinds of conversations probably happened all the time out of earshot, every time I left the room at a party, or bumped into groups of friends at the pizza place. And that_s okay. I_m always going to be the sister of a kid with a birth defect: that_s not the issue. I just don_t always want to be defined that way. The best thing about high school is that hardly anybody knows me at all. Except Miranda and Ella, of course. And they know not to go around talking about it. Miranda, Ella, and I have known each other since the first grade. What_s so nice is we never have to explain things to one another. When I decided I wanted them to call me Olivia instead of Via, they got it without my having to explain. They_ve known August since he was a little baby. When we were little, our favorite thing to do was play dress up with Auggie; load him up with feather boas and big hats and Hannah Montana wigs. He used to love it, of course, and we thought he was adorably cute in his own way. Ella said he reminded her of E.T. She didn_t say this to be mean, of course (though maybe it was a little bit mean). The truth is, there_s a scene in the movie when Drew Barrymore dresses E.T. in a blond wig: and that was a ringer for Auggie in our Miley Cyrus heyday. Throughout middle school, Miranda, Ella, and I were pretty much our own little group. Somewhere between super popular and well-liked: not brainy, not jocks, not rich, not druggies, not mean, not goody-goody, not huge, not flat. I don_t know if the three of us found each other because we were so alike in so many ways, or that because we found each other, we_ve become so alike in so many ways. We were so happy when we all got into Faulkner High School. It was such a long shot that all three of us would be accepted, especially when almost no one else from our middle school was. I remember how we screamed into our phones the day we got our acceptance letters. This is why I haven_t understood what_s been going on with us lately, now that we_re actually in high school. It_s nothing like how I thought it would be. Major Tom Out of the three of us, Miranda had almost always been the sweetest to August, hugging him and playing with him long after Ella and I had moved on to playing something else. Even as we got older, Miranda always made sure to try to include August in our conversations, ask him how he was doing, talk to him about Avatar or Star Wars or Bone or something she knew he liked. It was Miranda who had given Auggie the astronaut helmet he wore practically every day of the year when he was five or six. She would call him Major Tom and they would sing _Space Oddity_ by David Bowie together. It was their little thing. They knew all the words and would blast it on the iPod and sing the song out loud. Since Miranda_s always been really good about calling us as soon as she got home from summer camp, I was a little surprised when I didn_t hear from her. I even texted her and she didn_t reply. I figured maybe she had ended up staying in the camp longer, now that she was a counselor. Maybe she met a cute guy. Then I realized from her Facebook wall that she_d actually been back home for a full two weeks, so I sent her an IM and we chatted online a bit, but she didn_t give me a reason for not calling, which I thought was bizarre. Miranda had always been a little flaky, so I figured that_s all it was. We made plans to meet downtown, but then I had to cancel because we were driving out to visit Tata and Poppa for the weekend. So I ended up not seeing either Miranda or Ella until the first day of school. And, I have to admit, I was shocked. Miranda looked so different: her hair was cut in this super-cute bob that she_d dyed bright pink, of all things, and she was wearing a striped tube top that (a) seemed way inappropriate for school, and (b) was totally not her usual style. Miranda had always been such a prude about clothes, and here she was all pink-haired and tube-topped. But it wasn_t just the way she looked that was different: she was acting differently, too. I can_t say she wasn_t nice, because she was, but she seemed kind of distant, like I was a casual friend. It was the weirdest thing in the world. At lunch the three of us sat together like we always used to, but the dynamics had shifted. It was obvious to me that Ella and Miranda had gotten together a few times during the summer without me, though they never actually said that. I pretended not to be at all upset while we talked, though I could feel my face getting hot, my smile being fake. Although Ella wasn_t as over-the-top as Miranda, I noticed a change in her usual style, too. It_s like they had talked to each other beforehand about redoing their image at the new school, but hadn_t bothered to clue me in. I admit: I had always thought I was above this kind of typical teenage pettiness, but I felt a lump in my throat throughout lunch. My voice quivered as I said _See you later_ when the bell rang. After School _I hear we_re driving you home today._ It was Miranda in eighth period. She had just sat down at the desk right behind me. I had forgotten that Mom had called Miranda_s mother the night before to ask if she could drive me home from school. _You don_t have to,_ I answered instinctively, casually. _My mom can pick me up._ _I thought she had to pick Auggie up or something._ _It turns out she can pick me up afterward. She just texted me. Not a problem._ _Oh. Okay._ _Thanks._ It was all a lie on my part, but I couldn_t see sitting in a car with the new Miranda. After school I ducked into a restroom to avoid bumping into Miranda_s mother outside. Half an hour later I walked out of the school, ran the three blocks to the bus stop, hopped on the M86 to Central Park West, and took the subway home. _Hey there, sweetie!_ Mom said the moment I stepped through the front door. _How was your first day? I was starting to wonder where you guys were._ _We stopped for pizza._ Incredible how easily a lie can slip through your lips. _Is Miranda not with you?_ She seemed surprised that Miranda wasn_t right behind me. _She went straight home. We have a lot of homework._ _On your first day?_ _Yes, on our first day!_ I yelled, which completely surprised Mom. But before she could say anything, I said: _School was fine. It_s really big, though. The kids seem nice._ I wanted to give her enough information so she wouldn_t feel the need to ask me more. _How was Auggie_s first day of school?_ Mom hesitated, her eyebrows still high up on her forehead from when I_d snapped at her a second earlier. _Okay,_ she said slowly, like she was letting out a breath. _What do you mean _okay_?_ I said. _Was it good or bad?_ _He said it was good._ _So why do you think it wasn_t good?_ _I didn_t say it wasn_t good! Geez, Via, what_s up with you?_ _Just forget I asked anything at all,_ I answered, and stormed dramatically into Auggie_s room and slammed the door. He was on his PlayStation and didn_t even look up. I hated how zombified his video games made him. _So how was school?_ I said, scooching Daisy over so I could sit on his bed next to him. _Fine,_ he answered, still not looking up from his game. _Auggie, I_m talking to you!_ I pulled the PlayStation out of his hands. _Hey!_ he said angrily. _How was school?_ _I said fine!_ he yelled back, grabbing the PlayStation back from me. _Were people nice to you?_ _Yes!_ _No one was mean?_ He put the PlayStation down and looked up at me as if I had just asked the dumbest question in the world. _Why would people be mean?_ he said. It was the first time in his life that I heard him be sarcastic like that. I didn_t think he had it in him. The Padawan Bites the Dust I_m not sure at what point that night Auggie had cut off his Padawan braid, or why that made me really mad. I had always found his obsession with everything Star Wars kind of geeky, and that braid in the back of his hair, with its little beads, was just awful. But he had always been so proud of it, of how long it took him to grow it, of how he had chosen the beads himself in a crafts store in Soho. He and Christopher, his best friend, used to play with lightsabers and Star Wars stuff whenever they got together, and they had both started growing their braids at the same time. When August cut his braid off that night, without an explanation, without telling me beforehand (which was surprising)_or even calling Christopher_I was just so upset I can_t even explain why. I_ve seen Auggie brushing his hair in the bathroom mirror. He meticulously tries to get every hair in place. He tilts his head to look at himself from different angles, like there_s some magic perspective inside the mirror that could change the dimensions of his face. Mom knocked on my door after dinner. She looked drained, and I realized that between me and Auggie, today had been a tough day for her, too. _So you want to tell me what_s up?_ she asked nicely, softly. _Not now, okay?_ I answered. I was reading. I was tired. Maybe later I_d be up to telling her about Miranda, but not now. _I_ll check in before you go to bed,_ she said, and then she came over and kissed me on the top of my head. _Can Daisy sleep with me tonight?_ _Sure, I_ll bring her in later._ _Don_t forget to come back,_ I said as she left. _I promise._ But she didn_t come back that night. Dad did. He told me Auggie had had a bad first day and Mom was helping him through it. He asked me how my day had gone and I told him fine. He said he didn_t believe me for a second, and I told him Miranda and Ella were acting like jerks. (I didn_t mention how I took the subway home by myself, though.) He said nothing tests friendships like high school, and then proceeded to poke fun at the fact that I was reading War and Peace. Not real fun, of course, since I_d heard him brag to people that he had a _fifteen-year-old who is reading Tolstoy._ But he liked to rib me about where I was in the book, in a war part or in a peace part, and if there was anything in there about Napoleon_s days as a hip-hop dancer. It was silly stuff, but Dad always managed to make everyone laugh. And sometimes that_s all you need to feel better. _Don_t be mad at Mom,_ he said as he bent down to give me a good-night kiss. _You know how much she worries about Auggie._ _I know,_ I acknowledged. _Want the light on or off? It_s getting kind of late,_ he said, pausing by the light switch at the door. _Can you bring Daisy in first?_ Two seconds later he came back with Daisy dangling in his arms, and he laid her down next to me on the bed. _Good night, sweetheart,_ he said, kissing my forehead. He kissed Daisy on her forehead, too. _Good night, girlie. Sweet dreams._ An Apparition at the Door Once, I got up in the middle of the night because I was thirsty, and I saw Mom standing outside Auggie_s room. Her hand was on the doorknob, her forehead leaning on the door, which was ajar. She wasn_t going in his room or stepping out: just standing right outside the door, as if she was listening to the sound of his breathing as he slept. The hallway lights were out. The only thing illuminating her was the blue night-light in August_s bedroom. She looked ghostlike standing there. Or maybe I should say angelic. I tried to walk back into my room without disturbing her, but she heard me and walked over to me. _Is Auggie okay?_ I asked. I knew that sometimes he would wake up choking on his own saliva if he accidentally turned over on his back. _Oh, he_s fine,_ she said, wrapping her arms around me. She walked me back into my room, pulled the covers over me, and kissed me good night. She never explained what she was doing outside his door, and I never asked. I wonder how many nights she_s stood outside his door. And I wonder if she_s ever stood outside my door like that. Breakfast _Can you pick me up from school today?_ I said the next morning, smearing some cream cheese on my bagel. Mom was making August_s lunch (American cheese on whole-wheat bread, soft enough for Auggie to eat) while August sat eating oatmeal at the table. Dad was getting ready to go to work. Now that I was in high school, the new school routine was going to be that Dad and I would take the subway together in the morning, which meant his having to leave fifteen minutes earlier than usual, then I_d get off at my stop and he_d keep going. And Mom was going to pick me up after school in the car. _I was going to call Miranda_s mother to see if she could drive you home again,_ Mom answered. _No, Mom!_ I said quickly. _You pick me up. Or I_ll just take the subway._ _You know I don_t want you to take the subway by yourself yet,_ she answered. _Mom, I_m fifteen! Everybody my age takes the subway by themselves!_ _She can take the subway home,_ said Dad from the other room, adjusting his tie as he stepped into the kitchen. _Why can_t Miranda_s mother just pick her up again?_ Mom argued with him. _She_s old enough to take the subway by herself,_ Dad insisted. Mom looked at both of us. _Is something going on?_ She didn_t address her question to either one of us in particular. _You would know if you had come back to check on me,_ I said spitefully, _like you said you would._ _Oh God, Via,_ said Mom, remembering now how she had completely ditched me last night. She put down the knife she was using to cut Auggie_s grapes in half (still a choking hazard for him because of the size of his palate). _I am so sorry. I fell asleep in Auggie_s room. By the time I woke up __ _I know, I know._ I nodded indifferently. Mom came over, put her hands on my cheeks, and lifted my face to look at her. _I_m really, really sorry,_ she whispered. I could tell she was. _It_s okay!_ I said. _Via __ _Mom, it_s fine._ This time I meant it. She looked so genuinely sorry I just wanted to let her off the hook. She kissed and hugged me, then returned to the grapes. _So, is something going on with Miranda?_ she asked. _Just that she_s acting like a complete jerk,_ I said. _Miranda_s not a jerk!_ Auggie quickly chimed in. _She can be!_ I yelled. _Believe me._ _Okay then, I_ll pick you up, no problem,_ Mom said decisively, sweeping the half-grapes into a snack bag with the side of her knife. _That was the plan all along anyway. I_ll pick Auggie up from school in the car and then we_ll pick you up. We_ll probably get there about a quarter to four._ _No!_ I said firmly, before she_d even finished. _Isabel, she can take the subway!_ said Dad impatiently. _She_s a big girl now. She_s reading War and Peace, for crying out loud._ _What does War and Peace have to with anything?_ answered Mom, clearly annoyed. _It means you don_t have to pick her up in the car like she_s a little girl,_ he said sternly. _Via, are you ready? Get your bag and let_s go._ _I_m ready,_ I said, pulling on my backpack. _Bye, Mom! Bye, Auggie!_ I kissed them both quickly and headed toward the door. _Do you even have a MetroCard?_ Mom said after me. _Of course she has a MetroCard!_ answered Dad, fully exasperated. _Yeesh, Momma! Stop worrying so much! Bye,_ he said, kissing her on the cheek. _Bye, big boy,_ he said to August, kissing him on the top of his head. _I_m proud of you. Have a good day._ _Bye, Daddy! You too._ Dad and I jogged down the stoop stairs and headed down the block. _Call me after school before you get on the subway!_ Mom yelled at me from the window. I didn_t even turn around but waved my hand at her so she_d know I heard her. Dad did turn around, walking backward for a few steps. _War and Peace, Isabel!_ he called out, smiling as he pointed at me. _War and Peace!_ Genetics 101 Both sides of Dad_s family were Jews from Russia and Poland. Poppa_s grandparents fled the pogroms and ended up in NYC at the turn of the century. Tata_s parents fled the Nazis and ended up in Argentina in the forties. Poppa and Tata met at a dance on the Lower East Side while she was in town visiting a cousin. They got married, moved to Bayside, and had Dad and Uncle Ben. Mom_s side of the family is from Brazil. Except for her mother, my beautiful Grans, and her dad, Agosto, who died before I was born, the rest of Mom_s family_all her glamorous aunts, uncles, and cousins_still live in Alto Leblon, a ritzy suburb south of Rio. Grans and Agosto moved to Boston in the early sixties, and had Mom and Aunt Kate, who_s married to Uncle Porter. Mom and Dad met at Brown University and have been together ever since. Isabel and Nate: like two peas in a pod. They moved to New York right after college, had me a few years later, then moved to a brick townhouse in North River Heights, the hippie-stroller capital of upper upper Manhattan, when I was about a year old. Not one person in the exotic mix of my family gene pool has ever shown any obvious signs of having what August has. I_ve pored over grainy sepia pictures of long-dead relatives in babushkas; black-and-white snapshots of distant cousins in crisp white linen suits, soldiers in uniform, ladies with beehive hairdos; Polaroids of bell-bottomed teenagers and long-haired hippies, and not once have I been able to detect even the slightest trace of August_s face in their faces. Not a one. But after August was born, my parents underwent genetic counseling. They were told that August had what seemed to be a _previously unknown type of mandibulofacial dysostosis caused by an autosomal recessive mutation in the TCOF1 gene, which is located on chromosome 5, complicated by a hemifacial microsomia characteristic of OAV spectrum._ Sometimes these mutations occur during pregnancy. Sometimes they_re inherited from one parent carrying the dominant gene. Sometimes they_re caused by the interaction of many genes, possibly in combination with environmental factors. This is called multifactorial inheritance. In August_s case, the doctors were able to identify one of the _single nucleotide deletion mutations_ that made war on his face. The weird thing is, though you_d never know it from looking at them: both my parents carry that mutant gene. And I carry it, too. The Punnett Square If I have children, there_s a one-in-two chance that I will pass on the defective gene to them. That doesn_t mean they_ll look like August, but they_ll carry the gene that got double-dosed in August and helped make him the way he is. If I marry someone who has the same defective gene, there_s a one-in-two chance that our kids will carry the gene and look totally normal, a one-in-four chance that our kids will not carry the gene at all, and a one-in-four chance that our kids will look like August. If August has children with someone who doesn_t have a trace of the gene, there_s a 100 percent probability that their kids will inherit the gene, but a zero percent chance that their kids will have a double dose of it, like August. Which means they_ll carry the gene no matter what, but they could look totally normal. If he marries someone who has the gene, their kids will have the same odds as my kids. This only explains the part of August that_s explainable. There_s that other part of his genetic makeup that_s not inherited but just incredibly bad luck. Countless doctors have drawn little tic-tac-toe grids for my parents over the years to try to explain the genetic lottery to them. Geneticists use these Punnett squares to determine inheritance, recessive and dominant genes, probabilities and chance. But for all they know, there_s more they don_t know. They can try to forecast the odds, but they can_t guarantee them. They use terms like _germline mosaicism,_ _chromosome rearrangement,_ or _delayed mutation_ to explain why their science is not an exact science. I actually like how doctors talk. I like the sound of science. I like how words you don_t understand explain things you can_t understand. There are countless people under words like _germline mosaicism,_ _chromosome rearrangement,_ or _delayed mutation._ Countless babies who_ll never be born, like mine. Out with the Old Miranda and Ella blasted off. They attached themselves to a new crowd destined for high school glory. After a week of painful lunches where all they would do was talk about people that didn_t interest me, I decided to make a clean break for it. They asked no questions. I told no lies. We just went our separate ways. I didn_t even mind after a while. I stopped going to lunch for about a week, though, to make the transition easier, to avoid the fake Oh, shoot, there_s no room for you at the table, Olivia! It was easier just to go to the library and read. I finished War and Peace in October. It was amazing. People think it_s such a hard read, but it_s really just a soap opera with lots of characters, people falling in love, fighting for love, dying for love. I want to be in love like that someday. I want my husband to love me the way Prince Andrei loved Natasha. I ended up hanging out with a girl named Eleanor who I_d known from my days at PS 22, though we_d gone to different middle schools. Eleanor had always been a really smart girl_a little bit of a crybaby back then, but nice. I_d never realized how funny she was (not laugh-out-loud Daddy-funny, but full of great quips), and she never knew how lighthearted I could be. Eleanor, I guess, had always been under the impression that I was very serious. And, as it turns out, she_d never liked Miranda and Ella. She thought they were stuck-up. I gained entry through Eleanor to the smart-kids_ table at lunch. It was a larger group than I_d been accustomed to hanging out with, and a more diverse crowd. It included Eleanor_s boyfriend, Kevin, who would definitely become class president someday; a few techie guys; girls like Eleanor who were members of the yearbook committee and the debate club; and a quiet guy named Justin who had small round glasses and played the violin, and who I had an instant crush on. When I_d see Miranda and Ella, who were now hanging out with the super-popular set, we_d say _Hey, what_s up,_ and move on. Occasionally Miranda would ask me how August was doing, and then say _Tell him I say hello._ This I never did, not to spite Miranda, but because August was in his own world these days. There were times, at home, that we never crossed paths. October 31 Grans had died the night before Halloween. Since then, even though it_s been four years, this has always been a sad time of year for me. For Mom, too, though she doesn_t always say it. Instead, she immerses herself in getting August_s costume ready, since we all know Halloween is his favorite time of year. This year was no different. August really wanted to be a Star Wars character called Boba Fett, so Mom looked for a Boba Fett costume in August_s size, which, strangely enough, was out of stock everywhere. She went to every online store, found a few on eBay that were going for an outrageous amount, and finally ended up buying a Jango Fett costume that she then converted into a Boba Fett costume by painting it green. I would say, in all, she must have spent two weeks working on the stupid costume. And no, I won_t mention the fact that Mom has never made any of my costumes, because it really has no bearing on anything at all. The morning of Halloween I woke up thinking about Grans, which made me really sad and weepy. Dad kept telling me to hurry up and get dressed, which just stressed me out even more, and suddenly I started crying. I just wanted to stay home. So Dad took August to school that morning and Mom said I could stay home, and the two of us cried together for a while. One thing I knew for sure: however much I missed Grans, Mom must have missed her more. All those times August was clinging to life after a surgery, all those rush trips to the ER: Grans had always been there for Mom. It felt good to cry with Mom. For both of us. At some point, Mom had the idea of our watching The Ghost and Mrs. Muir together, which was one of our all-time favorite black-and-white movies. I agreed that that was a great idea. I think I probably would have used this weeping session as an opportunity to tell Mom everything that was going on at school with Miranda and Ella, but just as we were sitting down in front of the DVD player, the phone rang. It was the nurse from August_s school calling to tell Mom that August had a stomach ache and should be picked up. So much for the old movies and the mother-daughter bonding. Mom picked August up, and the moment he came home, he went straight to the bathroom and threw up. Then he went to his bed and pulled the covers over his head. Mom took his temperature, brought him some hot tea, and assumed the _August_s mom_ role again. _Via_s mom,_ who had come out for a little while, was put away. I understood, though: August was in bad shape. Neither one of us asked him why he had worn his Bleeding Scream costume to school instead of the Boba Fett costume Mom had made for him. If it annoyed Mom to see the costume she had worked on for two weeks tossed on the floor, unused, she didn_t show it. Trick or Treat August said he wasn_t feeling well enough to go trick-or-treating later in the afternoon, which was sad for him because I know how much he loved to trick-or-treat_especially after it got dark outside. Even though I was well beyond the trick-or-treating stage myself, I usually threw on some mask or other to accompany him up and down the blocks, watching him knocking on people_s doors, giddy with excitement. I knew it was the one night a year when he could truly be like every other kid. No one knew he was different under the mask. To August, that must have felt absolutely amazing. At seven o_clock that night, I knocked on his door. _Hey,_ I said. _Hey,_ he said back. He wasn_t using his PlayStation or reading a comic book. He was just lying in his bed looking at the ceiling. Daisy, as always, was next to him on the bed, her head draped over his legs. The Bleeding Scream costume was crumpled up on the floor next to the Boba Fett costume. _How_s your stomach?_ I said, sitting next to him on the bed. _I_m still nauseous._ _You sure you_re not up for the Halloween Parade?_ _Positive._ This surprised me. Usually August was such a trouper about his medical issues, whether it was skateboarding a few days after a surgery or sipping food through a straw when his mouth was practically bolted shut. This was a kid who_s gotten more shots, taken more medicines, put up with more procedures by the age of ten than most people would have to put up with in ten lifetimes, and he was sidelined from a little nausea? _You want to tell me what_s up?_ I said, sounding a bit like Mom. _No._ _Is it school?_ _Yes._ _Teachers? Schoolwork? Friends?_ He didn_t answer. _Did someone say something?_ I asked. _People always say something,_ he answered bitterly. I could tell he was close to crying. _Tell me what happened,_ I said. And he told me what happened. He had overheard some very mean things some boys were saying about him. He didn_t care about what the other boys had said, he expected that, but he was hurt that one of the boys was his _best friend_ Jack Will. I remembered his mentioning Jack a couple of times over the past few months. I remembered Mom and Dad saying he seemed like a really nice kid, saying they were glad August had already made a friend like that. _Sometimes kids are stupid,_ I said softly, holding his hand. _I_m sure he didn_t mean it._ _Then why would he say it? He_s been pretending to be my friend all along. Tushman probably bribed him with good grades or something. I bet you he was like, hey, Jack, if you make friends with the freak, you don_t have to take any tests this year._ _You know that_s not true. And don_t call yourself a freak._ _Whatever. I wish I_d never gone to school in the first place._ _But I thought you were liking it._ _I hate it!_ He was angry all of a sudden, punching his pillow. _I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!_ He was shrieking at the top of his lungs. I didn_t say anything. I didn_t know what to say. He was hurt. He was mad. I let him have a few more minutes of his fury. Daisy started licking the tears off of his face. _Come on, Auggie,_ I said, patting his back gently. _Why don_t you put on your Jango Fett costume and__ _It_s a Boba Fett costume! Why does everyone mix that up?_ _Boba Fett costume,_ I said, trying to stay calm. I put my arm around his shoulders. _Let_s just go to the parade, okay?_ _If I go to the parade, Mom will think I_m feeling better and make me go to school tomorrow._ _Mom would never make you go to school,_ I answered. _Come on, Auggie. Let_s just go. It_ll be fun, I promise. And I_ll let you have all my candy._ He didn_t argue. He got out of bed and slowly started pulling on his Boba Fett costume. I helped him adjust the straps and tighten the belt, and by the time he put his helmet on, I could tell he was feeling better. Time to Think August played up the stomach ache the next day so he wouldn_t have to go to school. I admit I felt a little bad for Mom, who was genuinely concerned that he had a stomach bug, but I had promised August I wouldn_t tell her about the incident at school. By Sunday, he was still determined not to go back to school. _What are you planning on telling Mom and Dad?_ I asked him when he told me this. _They said I could quit whenever I wanted to._ He said this while he was still focused on a comic book he was reading. _But you_ve never been the kind of kid who quits things,_ I said truthfully. _That_s not like you._ _I_m quitting._ _You_re going to have to tell Mom and Dad why,_ I pointed out, pulling the comic book out of his hands so he_d have to look up at me while we were talking. _Then Mom will call the school and everyone will know about it._ _Will Jack get in trouble?_ _I would think so._ _Good._ I have to admit, August was surprising me more and more. He pulled another comic book off his shelf and started leafing through it. _Auggie,_ I said. _Are you really going to let a couple of stupid kids keep you from going back to school? I know you_ve been enjoying it. Don_t give them that power over you. Don_t give them the satisfaction._ _They have no idea I even heard them,_ he explained. _No, I know, but __ _Via, it_s okay. I know what I_m doing. I_ve made up my mind._ _But this is crazy, Auggie!_ I said emphatically, pulling the new comic book away from him, too. _You have to go back to school. Everyone hates school sometimes. I hate school sometimes. I hate my friends sometimes. That_s just life, Auggie. You want to be treated normally, right? This is normal! We all have to go to school sometimes despite the fact that we have bad days, okay?_ _Do people go out of their way to avoid touching you, Via?_ he answered, which left me momentarily without an answer. _Yeah, right. That_s what I thought. So don_t compare your bad days at school to mine, okay?_ _Okay, that_s fair,_ I said. _But it_s not a contest about whose days suck the most, Auggie. The point is we all have to put up with the bad days. Now, unless you want to be treated like a baby the rest of your life, or like a kid with special needs, you just have to suck it up and go._ He didn_t say anything, but I think that last bit was getting to him. _You don_t have to say a word to those kids,_ I continued. _August, actually, it_s so cool that you know what they said, but they don_t know you know what they said, you know?_ _What the heck?_ _You know what I mean. You don_t have to talk to them ever again, if you don_t want. And they_ll never know why. See? Or you can pretend to be friends with them, but deep down inside you know you_re not._ _Is that how you are with Miranda?_ he asked. _No,_ I answered quickly, defensively. _I never faked my feelings with Miranda._ _So why are you saying I should?_ _I_m not! I_m just saying you shouldn_t let those little jerks get to you, that_s all._ _Like Miranda got to you._ _Why do you keep bringing Miranda up?_ I yelled impatiently. _I_m trying to talk to you about your friends. Please keep mine out of it._ _You_re not even friends with her anymore._ _What does that have to do with what we_re talking about?_ The way August was looking at me reminded me of a doll_s face. He was just staring at me blankly with his half-closed doll eyes. _She called the other day,_ he said finally. _What?_ I was stunned. _And you didn_t tell me?_ _She wasn_t calling you,_ he answered, pulling both comic books out of my hands. _She was calling me. Just to say hi. To see how I was doing. She didn_t even know I was going to a real school now. I can_t believe you hadn_t even told her. She said the two of you don_t hang out as much anymore, but she wanted me to know she_d always love me like a big sister._ Double-stunned. Stung. Flabbergasted. No words formed in my mouth. _Why didn_t you tell me?_ I said, finally. _I don_t know._ He shrugged, opening the first comic book again. _Well, I_m telling Mom and Dad about Jack Will if you stop going to school,_ I answered. _Tushman will probably call you into school and make Jack and those other kids apologize to you in front of everyone, and everyone will treat you like a kid who should be going to a school for kids with special needs. Is that what you want? Because that_s what_s going to happen. Otherwise, just go back to school and act like nothing happened. Or if you want to confront Jack about it, fine. But either way, if you__ _Fine. Fine. Fine,_ he interrupted. _What?_ _Fine! I_ll go!_ he yelled, not loudly. _Just stop talking about it already. Can I please read my book now?_ _Fine!_ I answered. Turning to leave his room, I thought of something. _Did Miranda say anything else about me?_ He looked up from the comic book and looked right into my eyes. _She said to tell you she misses you. Quote unquote._ I nodded. _Thanks,_ I said casually, too embarrassed to let him see how happy that made me feel. You are beautiful no matter what they say Words can_t bring you down You are beautiful in every single way Yes, words can_t bring you down _Christina Aguilera, _Beautiful_ Weird Kids Some kids have actually come out and asked me why I hang out with _the freak_ so much. These are kids that don_t even know him well. If they knew him, they wouldn_t call him that. _Because he_s a nice kid!_ I always answer. _And don_t call him that._ _You_re a saint, Summer,_ Ximena Chin said to me the other day. _I couldn_t do what you_re doing._ _It_s not a big deal,_ I answered her truthfully. _Did Mr. Tushman ask you to be friends with him?_ Charlotte Cody asked. _No. I_m friends with him because I want to be friends with him,_ I answered. Who knew that my sitting with August Pullman at lunch would be such a big deal? People acted like it was the strangest thing in the world. It_s weird how weird kids can be. I sat with him that first day because I felt sorry for him. That_s all. Here he was, this strange-looking kid in a brand-new school. No one was talking to him. Everyone was staring at him. All the girls at my table were whispering about him. He wasn_t the only new kid at Beecher Prep, but he was the only one everyone was talking about. Julian had nicknamed him the Zombie Kid, and that_s what everyone was calling him. _Did you see the Zombie Kid yet?_ Stuff like that gets around fast. And August knew it. It_s hard enough being the new kid even when you have a normal face. Imagine having his face? So I just went over and sat with him. Not a biggie. I wish people would stop trying to turn it into something major. He_s just a kid. The weirdest-looking kid I_ve ever seen, yes. But just a kid. The Plague I do admit August_s face takes some getting used to. I_ve been sitting with him for two weeks now, and let_s just say he_s not the neatest eater in the world. But other than that, he_s pretty nice. I should also say that I don_t really feel sorry for him anymore. That might have been what made me sit down with him the first time, but it_s not why I keep sitting down with him. I keep sitting down with him because he is fun. One of the things I_m not loving about this year is how a lot of the kids are acting like they_re too grown-up to play things anymore. All they want to do is _hang out_ and _talk_ at recess. And all they talk about now is who likes who and who is cute and isn_t cute. August doesn_t bother about that stuff. He likes to play Four Square at recess, which I love to play, too. It was actually because I was playing Four Square with August that I found out about the Plague. Apparently this is a _game_ that_s been going on since the beginning of the year. Anyone who accidentally touches August has only thirty seconds to wash their hands or find hand sanitizer before they catch the Plague. I_m not sure what happens to you if you actually catch the Plague because nobody_s touched August yet_not directly. How I found out about this is that Maya Markowitz told me that the reason she won_t play Four Square with us at recess is that she doesn_t want to catch the Plague. I was like, _What_s the Plague?_ And she told me. I told Maya I thought that was really dumb and she agreed, but she still wouldn_t touch a ball that August just touched, not if she could help it. The Halloween Party I was really excited because I got an invitation to Savanna_s Halloween party. Savanna is probably the most popular girl in the school. All the boys like her. All the girls want to be friends with her. She was the first girl in the grade to actually have a _boyfriend._ It was some kid who goes to MS 281, though she dumped him and started dating Henry Joplin, which makes sense because the two of them totally look like teenagers already. Anyway, even though I_m not in the _popular_ group, I somehow got invited, which is very cool. When I told Savanna I got her invitation and would be going to her party, she was really nice to me, though she made sure to tell me that she didn_t invite a lot of people, so I shouldn_t go around bragging to anyone that I got invited. Maya didn_t get invited, for instance. Savanna also made sure to tell me not to wear a costume. It_s good she told me because, of course, I would have worn a costume to a Halloween party_not the unicorn costume I made for the Halloween Parade, but the Goth girl getup that I_d worn to school. But even that was a no-no for Savanna_s party. The only negative about my going to Savanna_s party was that now I wouldn_t be able to go the parade and the unicorn costume would be wasted. That was kind of a bummer, but okay. Anyway, the first thing that happened when I got to her party was that Savanna greeted me at the door and asked: _Where_s your boyfriend, Summer?_ I didn_t even know what she was talking about. _I guess he doesn_t have to wear a mask at Halloween, right?_ she added. And then I knew she was talking about August. _He_s not my boyfriend,_ I said. _I know. I_m just kidding!_ She kissed my cheek (all the girls in her group kissed each other_s cheeks now whenever they said hello), and threw my jacket on a coatrack in her hallway. Then she took me by the hand down the stairs to her basement, which is where the party was. I didn_t see her parents anywhere. There were about fifteen kids there: all of them were popular kids from either Savanna_s group or Julian_s group. I guess they_ve all kind of merged into one big supergroup of popular kids, now that some of them have started dating each other. I didn_t even know there were so many couples. I mean, I knew about Savanna and Henry, but Ximena and Miles? And Ellie and Amos? Ellie_s practically as flat as I am. Anyway, about five minutes after I got there, Henry and Savanna were standing next to me, literally hovering over me. _So, we want to know why you hang out with the Zombie Kid so much,_ said Henry. _He_s not a zombie,_ I laughed, like they were making a joke. I was smiling but I didn_t feel like smiling. _You know, Summer,_ said Savanna, _you would be a lot more popular if you didn_t hang out with him so much. I_m going to be completely honest with you: Julian likes you. He wants to ask you out._ _He does?_ _Do you think he_s cute?_ _Um _ yeah, I guess. Yeah, he_s cute._ _So you have to choose who you want to hang out with,_ Savanna said. She was talking to me like a big sister would talk to a little sister. _Everyone likes you, Summer. Everyone thinks you_re really nice and that you_re really, really pretty. You could totally be part of our group if you wanted to, and believe me, there are a lot of girls in our grade who would love that._ _I know._ I nodded. _Thank you._ _You_re welcome,_ she answered. _You want me to tell Julian to come and talk to you?_ I looked over to where she was pointing and could see Julian looking over at us. _Um, I actually need to go to the bathroom. Where is that?_ I went to where she pointed, sat down on the side of the bathtub, and called Mom and asked her to pick me up. _Is everything okay?_ said Mom. _Yeah, I just don_t want to stay,_ I said. Mom didn_t ask any more questions and said she_d be there in ten minutes. _Don_t ring the bell,_ I told her. _Just call me when you_re outside._ I hung out in the bathroom until Mom called, and then I snuck upstairs without anyone seeing me, got my jacket, and went outside. It was only nine-thirty. The Halloween Parade was in full swing down Amesfort Avenue. Huge crowds everywhere. Everyone was in costume. Skeletons. Pirates. Princesses. Vampires. Superheroes. But not one unicorn. November The next day at school I told Savanna I had eaten some really bad Halloween candy and gotten sick, which is why I went home early from her party, and she believed me. There was actually a stomach bug going around, so it was a good lie. I also told her that I had a crush on someone else that wasn_t Julian so she would leave me alone about that and hopefully spread the word to Julian that I wasn_t interested. She, of course, wanted to know who I had a crush on, and I told her it was a secret. August was absent the day after Halloween, and when he came back, I could tell something was up with him. He was acting so weird at lunch! He barely said a word, and kept looking down at his food when I talked to him. Like he wouldn_t look me in the eye. Finally, I was like, _Auggie, is everything okay? Are you mad at me or something?_ _No,_ he said. _Sorry you weren_t feeling well on Halloween. I kept looking for Boba Fett in the hallways._ _Yeah, I was sick._ _Did you have that stomach bug?_ _Yeah, I guess._ He opened a book and started to read, which was kind of rude. _I_m so excited about the Egyptian Museum project,_ I said. _Aren_t you?_ He shook his head, his mouth full of food. I actually looked away because between the way he was chewing, which almost seemed like he was being gross on purpose, and the way his eyes were just kind of closed down, I was getting a really bad vibe from him. _What project did you get?_ I asked. He shrugged, pulled out a little scrap of paper from his jeans pocket, and flicked it across the table to me. Everyone in the grade got assigned an Egyptian artifact to work on for Egyptian Museum Day, which was in December. The teachers wrote all the assignments down on tiny scraps of paper, which they put into a fishbowl, and then all us kids in the grade took turns picking the papers out of the fishbowl in assembly. So I unfolded Auggie_s little slip of paper. _Oh, cool!_ I said, maybe a little overexcited because I was trying to get him psyched up. _You got the Step Pyramid of Sakkara!_ _I know!_ he said. _I got Anubis, the god of the afterlife._ _The one with the dog head?_ _It_s actually a jackal head,_ I corrected him. _Hey, you want to start working on our projects together after school? You could come over to my house._ He put his sandwich down and leaned back in his chair. I can_t even describe the look he was giving me. _You know, Summer,_ he said. _You don_t have to do this._ _What are you talking about?_ _You don_t have to be friends with me. I know Mr. Tushman talked to you._ _I have no idea what you_re talking about._ _You don_t have to pretend, is all I_m saying. I know Mr. Tushman talked to some kids before school started and told them they had to be friends with me._ _He did not talk to me, August._ _Yeah, he did._ _No, he did not._ _Yeah, he did._ _No he didn_t!! I swear on my life!_ I put my hands up in the air so he could see I wasn_t crossing my fingers. He immediately looked down at my feet, so I shook off my UGGs so he could see my toes weren_t crossed. _You_re wearing tights,_ he said accusingly. _You can see my toes are flat!_ I yelled. _Okay, you don_t have to scream._ _I don_t like being accused of things, okay?_ _Okay. I_m sorry._ _You should be._ _He really didn_t talk to you?_ _Auggie!_ _Okay, okay, I_m really sorry._ I would have stayed mad at him longer, but then he told me about something bad that had happened to him on Halloween and I couldn_t stay mad at him anymore. Basically, he heard Jack bad-mouthing him and saying really horrible things behind his back. It kind of explained his attitude, and now I knew why he_d been out _sick._ _Promise you won_t tell anyone,_ he said. _I won_t._ I nodded. _Promise you won_t ever be mean like that to me again?_ _Promise,_ he said, and we pinky swore. Warning: This Kid Is Rated R I had warned Mom about August_s face. I had described what he looked like. I did this because I know she_s not always so good at faking her feelings, and August was coming over for the first time today. I even sent her a text at work to remind her about it. But I could tell from the expression on her face when she came home after work that I hadn_t prepared her enough. She was shocked when she came through the door and saw his face for the first time. _Hi, Mom, this is Auggie. Can he stay for dinner?_ I asked quickly. It took a second for my question to even register. _Hi, Auggie,_ she said. _Um, of course, sweetheart. If it_s okay with Auggie_s mother._ While Auggie called his mother on his cell phone, I whispered to Mom: _Stop making that weirded-out face!_ She had that look like when she_s watching the news and some horrific event has happened. She nodded quickly, like she hadn_t realized she was making a face, and was really nice and normal to Auggie afterward. After a while, Auggie and I got tired of working on our projects and went to hang out in the living room. Auggie was looking at the pictures on the mantel, and he saw a picture of me and Daddy. _Is that your dad?_ he said. _Yeah._ _I didn_t know you were _ what_s the word?_ _Biracial._ _Right! That_s the word._ _Yeah._ He looked at the picture again. _Are your parents divorced? I_ve never seen him at drop-off or anything._ _Oh, no,_ I said. _He was a platoon sergeant. He died a few years ago._ _Whoa! I didn_t know that._ _Yeah._ I nodded, handing him a picture of my dad in his uniform. _Wow, look at all those medals._ _Yeah. He was pretty awesome._ _Wow, Summer. I_m sorry._ _Yeah, it sucks. I really miss him a lot._ _Yeah, wow._ He nodded, handing me back the picture. _Have you ever known anyone who died?_ I asked. _Just my grandmother, and I don_t really even remember her._ _That_s too bad._ Auggie nodded. _You ever wonder what happens to people when they die?_ I asked. He shrugged. _Not really. I mean, I guess they go to heaven? That_s where my Grans went._ _I think about it a lot,_ I said. _I think when people die, their souls go to heaven but just for a little while. Like that_s where they see their old friends and stuff, and kind of catch up on old times. But then I actually think the souls start thinking about their lives on earth, like if they were good or bad or whatever. And then they get born again as brand-new babies in the world._ _Why would they want to do that?_ _Because then they get another chance to get it right,_ I answered. _Their souls get a chance to have a do-over._ He thought about what I was saying and then nodded. _Kind of like when you get a makeup test,_ he said. _Right._ _But they don_t come back looking the same,_ he said. _I mean, they look completely different when they come back, right?_ _Oh yeah,_ I answered. _Your soul stays the same but everything else is different._ _I like that,_ he said, nodding a lot. _I really like that, Summer. That means in my next life I won_t be stuck with this face._ He pointed to his face when he said that and batted his eyes, which made me laugh. _I guess not._ I shrugged. _Hey, I might even be handsome!_ he said, smiling. _That would be so awesome, wouldn_t it? I could come back and be this good-looking dude and be super buff and super tall._ I laughed again. He was such a good sport about himself. That_s one of the things I like the most about Auggie. _Hey, Auggie, can I ask you a question?_ _Yeah,_ he said, like he knew exactly what I wanted to ask. I hesitated. I_ve been wanting to ask him this for a while but I_ve always lost the guts to ask. _What?_ he said. _You want to know what_s wrong with my face?_ _Yeah, I guess. If it_s okay for me to ask._ He shrugged. I was so relieved that he didn_t seem mad or sad. _Yeah, it_s no big deal,_ he said casually. _The main thing I have is this thing called man-di-bu-lo-facial dys-os-tosis_which took me forever to learn how to pronounce, by the way. But I also have this other syndrome thing that I can_t even pronounce. And these things kind of just morphed together into one big superthing, which is so rare they don_t even have a name for it. I mean, I don_t want to brag or anything, but I_m actually considered something of a medical wonder, you know._ He smiled. _That was a joke,_ he said. _You can laugh._ I smiled and shook my head. _You_re funny, Auggie._ I said. _Yes, I am,_ he said proudly. _I am cool beans._ The Egyptian Tomb Over the next month, August and I hung out a lot after school, either at his house or my house. August_s parents even invited Mom and me over for dinner a couple of times. I overheard them talking about fixing Mom up on a blind date with August_s uncle Ben. On the day of the Egyptian Museum exhibit, we were all really excited and kind of giddy. It had snowed the day before_not as much as it had snowed over the Thanksgiving break, but still, snow is snow. The gym was turned into a giant museum, with everyone_s Egyptian artifact displayed on a table with a little caption card explaining what the thing was. Most of the artifacts were really great, but I have to say I really think mine and August_s were the best. My sculpture of Anubis looked pretty real, and I had even used real gold paint on it. And August had made his step pyramid out of sugar cubes. It was two feet high and two feet long, and he had spray painted the cubes with this kind of fake-sand paint or something. It looked so awesome. We all dressed up in Egyptian costumes. Some of the kids were Indiana Jones_type archaeologists. Some of them dressed up like pharaohs. August and I dressed up like mummies. Our faces were covered except for two little holes for the eyes and one little hole for the mouth. When the parents showed up, they all lined up in the hallway in front of the gym. Then we were told we could go get our parents, and each kid got to take his or her parent on a flashlight tour through the dark gym. August and I took our moms around together. We stopped at each exhibit, explaining what it was, talking in whispers, answering questions. Since it was dark, we used our flashlights to illuminate the artifacts while we were talking. Sometimes, for dramatic effect, we would hold the flashlights under our chins while we were explaining something in detail. It was so much fun, hearing all these whispers in the dark, seeing all the lights zigzagging around the dark room. At one point, I went over to get a drink at the water fountain. I had to take the mummy wrap off my face. _Hey, Summer,_ said Jack, who came over to talk to me. He was dressed like the man from The Mummy. _Cool costume._ _Thanks._ _Is the other mummy August?_ _Yeah._ _Um _ hey, do you know why August is mad at me?_ _Uh-huh._ I nodded. _Can you tell me?_ _No._ He nodded. He seemed bummed. _I told him I wouldn_t tell you,_ I explained. _It_s so weird,_ he said. _I have no idea why he_s mad at me all of a sudden. None. Can_t you at least give me a hint?_ I looked over at where August was across the room, talking to our moms. I wasn_t about to break my solid oath that I wouldn_t tell anyone about what he overheard at Halloween, but I felt bad for Jack. _Bleeding Scream,_ I whispered in his ear, and then walked away. Now here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with one_s heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye. _Antoine de Saint-Exup?ry, The Little Prince The Call So in August my parents got this call from Mr. Tushman, the middle-school director. And my Mom said: _Maybe he calls all the new students to welcome them,_ and my dad said: _That_s a lot of kids he_d be calling._ So my mom called him back, and I could hear her talking to Mr. Tushman on the phone. This is exactly what she said: _Oh, hi, Mr. Tushman. This is Amanda Will, returning your call? Pause. Oh, thank you! That_s so nice of you to say. He is looking forward to it. Pause. Yes. Pause. Yeah. Pause. Oh. Sure. Long pause. Ohhh. Uh-huh. Pause. Well, that_s so nice of you to say. Pause. Sure. Ohh. Wow. Ohhhh. Super long pause. I see, of course. I_m sure he will. Let me write it down _ got it. I_ll call you after I_ve had a chance to talk to him, okay? Pause. No, thank you for thinking of him. Bye bye!_ And when she hung up, I was like, _what_s up, what did he say?_ And Mom said: _Well, it_s actually very flattering but kind of sad, too. See, there_s this boy who_s starting middle school this year, and he_s never been in a real school environment before because he was homeschooled, so Mr. Tushman talked to some of the lower-school teachers to find out who they thought were some of the really, really great kids coming into fifth grade, and the teachers must have told him you were an especially nice kid_which I already knew, of course_and so Mr. Tushman is wondering if he could count on you to sort of shepherd this new boy around a bit?_ _Like let him hang out with me?_ I said. _Exactly,_ said Mom. _He called it being a _welcome buddy._ _ _But why me?_ _I told you. Your teachers told Mr. Tushman that you were the kind of kid who_s known for being a good egg. I mean, I_m so proud that they think so highly of you.__ _Why is it sad?_ _What do you mean?_ _You said it_s flattering but kind of sad, too._ _Oh._ Mom nodded. _Well, apparently this boy has some sort of _ um, I guess there_s something wrong with his face _ or something like that. Not sure. Maybe he was in an accident. Mr. Tushman said he_d explain a bit more when you come to the school next week._ _School doesn_t start till September!_ _He wants you to meet this kid before school starts._ _Do I have to?_ Mom looked a bit surprised. _Well, no, of course not,_ she said, _but it would be the nice thing to do, Jack._ _If I don_t have to do it,_ I said, _I don_t want to do it._ _Can you at least think about it?_ _I_m thinking about it and I don_t want to do it._ _Well, I_m not going to force you,_ she said, _but at least think about it some more, okay? I_m not calling Mr. Tushman back until tomorrow, so just sit with it a bit. I mean, Jack, I really don_t think it_s that much to ask that you spend a little extra time with some new kid.__ _It_s not just that he_s a new kid, Mom,_ I answered. _He_s deformed._ _That_s a terrible thing to say, Jack._ _He is, Mom._ _You don_t even know who it is!_ _Yeah, I do,_ I said, because I knew the second she started talking about him that it was that kid named August. Carvel I remember seeing him for the first time in front of the Carvel on Amesfort Avenue when I was about five or six. Me and Veronica, my babysitter, were sitting on the bench outside the store with Jamie, my baby brother, who was sitting in his stroller facing us. I guess I was busy eating my ice cream cone, because I didn_t even notice the people who sat down next to us. Then at one point I turned my head to suck the ice cream out of the bottom of my cone, and that_s when I saw him: August. He was sitting right next to me. I know it wasn_t cool, but I kind of went _Uhh!_ when I saw him because I honestly got scared. I thought he was wearing a zombie mask or something. It was the kind of _uhh_ you say when you_re watching a scary movie and the bad guy like jumps out of the bushes. Anyway, I know it wasn_t nice of me to do that, and though the kid didn_t hear me, I know his sister did. _Jack! We have to go!_ said Veronica. She had gotten up and was turning the stroller around because Jamie, who had obviously just noticed the kid, too, was about to say something embarrassing. So I jumped up kind of suddenly, like a bee had landed on me, and followed Veronica as she zoomed away. I could hear the kid_s mom saying softly behind us: _Okay, guys, I think it_s time to go,_ and I turned around to look at them one more time. The kid was licking his ice cream cone, the mom was picking up his scooter, and the sister was glaring at me like she was going to kill me. I looked away quickly. _Veronica, what was wrong with that kid?_ I whispered. _Hush, boy!_ she said, her voice angry. I love Veronica, but when she got mad, she got mad. Meanwhile, Jamie was practically spilling out of his stroller trying to get another look as Veronica pushed him away. _But, Vonica _,_ said Jamie. _You boys were very naughty! Very naughty!_ said Veronica as soon as we were farther down the block. _Staring like that!_ _I didn_t mean to!_ I said. _Vonica,_ said Jamie. _Us leaving like that,_ Veronica was muttering. _Oh Lord, that poor lady. I tell you, boys. Every day we should thank the Lord for our blessings, you hear me?_ _Vonica!_ _What is it, Jamie?_ _Is it Halloween?_ _No, Jamie._ _Then why was that boy wearing a mask?_ Veronica didn_t answer. Sometimes, when she was mad about something, she would do that. _He wasn_t wearing a mask,_ I explained to Jamie. _Hush, Jack!_ said Veronica. _Why are you so mad, Veronica?_ I couldn_t help asking. I thought this would make her angrier, but actually she shook her head. _It was bad how we did that,_ she said. _Just getting up like that, like we_d just seen the devil. I was scared for what Jamie was going to say, you know? I didn_t want him to say anything that would hurt that little boy_s feelings. But it was very bad, us leaving like that. The momma knew what was going on._ _But we didn_t mean it,_ I answered. _Jack, sometimes you don_t have to mean to hurt someone to hurt someone. You understand?_ That was the first time I ever saw August in the neighborhood, at least that I remember. But I_ve seen him around ever since then: a couple of times in the playground, a few times in the park. He used to wear an astronaut helmet sometimes. But I always knew it was him underneath the helmet. All the kids in the neighborhood knew it was him. Everyone has seen August at some point or another. We all know his name, though he doesn_t know ours. And whenever I_ve seen him, I try to remember what Veronica said. But it_s hard. It_s hard not to sneak a second look. It_s hard to act normal when you see him.

  • WALL-E / - (Disney, 2012)    WALL-E / - (Disney,
  • Dumbo /  (Disney, 2012) -   Dumbo / (Disney, 2012)
  • The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts /   :    (by Gary Chapman, 2010) -   The Five Love Languages: The
  • 200       .  .. (2014, 336 + mp3) 200 2014,

, , .

  • .

  • ,