Jirst Bluefin's biggest problem is being ignored. Kacela Middleton is the one person in the world who is never ignored. Jirst is about to discover that sometimes it's better to be ignored for no reason than it is to be ignored for nothing at all.
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Four, Five, Four, Five
Second day of share week. I’ve been thinking about that since I woke up. I look around the floor of my room. Maybe there is something here I can share. One sock, a plastic dinosaur and a pair of underwear.
I could share the one sock. Tell how horrible this sock feels to be missing the other sock. Where is that other sock? I could have worn them again. Oh well, I’ll get a clean one.
I could share the underwear. Put them on the plastic dinosaur. Nope, they’re too big.
I could share my poem. How did it go again? It’s a dark park, don’t bark. Something like that. It’s stupid anyhow. Share week is stupid.
Back at my desk, I check my pencil. It’s still cracked but not broken. I’m glad it didn’t break overnight. I want to be there when it breaks. I was afraid that someone might have used it after I left school yesterday. Like the janitor might have wanted to write a letter to his Aunt Jenny. He would be right in the middle of sweeping Ms. Forget-my-names floor, see my pencil on my desk, grab some of my paper and start writing.
Dear Aunt Jenny,
How are you and Uncle Joe? Things here at Cracked Pencil Elementary School are going well. I’m just finishing sweeping ~~~~~~~ Snap!
He gently places the two halves of my pencil back on my desk, crumples Aunt Jenny’s letter into a ball and tosses it into the trash. Now my pencil is broken and Aunt Jenny gets no mail.
That’s OK. I’m not really a big fan of Aunt Jenny. Her perfume stings my nose and neither her or Uncle Joe wave to me when I walk around the park.
Ms. Forget-my-name is taking attendance. Brittany Aberdeen, James Beckman, Ali Donaldson. . . there, see that? She skipped me. I’m Jirst Bluefin the First. I should come right between James Beckman and Ali Donaldson. I’m even ignored alphabetically.
Next thing we are going to do is math. I cross my arms, stretch my legs and fall deep into my chair. If I’m going to have to listen to a bunch of numbers I might as well get comfortable.
I tap my left hand against my pants pocket. The coins in my pocket click together. I hope it’s all still in there. Sounds right. Four quarters, five dimes, four nickels and five pennies. I tap it again. Four, five, four, five. That will buy my lunch today.
Usually, I pack my own lunch. I make a really good peanut butter and banana sandwich. Except for the banana. Most days we don’t have any bananas in my house. I ask my mom to buy some and she says, “That’s nice dear.” But she never buys any. So I use peanut butter and pretend the rest.
Today is different because I’m buying lunch. I don’t get to buy school lunch very often because it takes me a long time to save enough money. Sometimes I find coins that fell back in the couch. It’s a good place to look. Another second good place to look is around the washer and dryer.
When I finally have enough coins, like I do today, four, five, four, five, I don’t pack myself a lunch. I pack my pocket. Four, five, four, five.
By now I have tapped my pocket one hundred and forty fives times. I tapped it every minute through all of math, every minute through science and every minute during the spelling test. Five more taps and we go to lunch. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. . . Come on, come on. The last minute always takes the longest. Tap.
“Line up for lunch, class,” says Ms. Forget-my-name.
We walk single file toward the lunchroom. I’m last. What are they serving? If I was first in line, I could already see. We enter the cafetorium. I breathe deep. Smells like old French fries and soggy table rags. I’m so hungry. I hope it’s pizza. Nope, pizza is Friday. Always Friday. I could have waited till Friday. Bought pizza. Nope, I couldn’t wait.
Other classes are already in the cafetorium. They are walking off the lunch line carrying trays. I think they have chicken nuggets. I love chicken nuggets. I think it is. Yes, it is. Best lunch ever!
It’s my turn. The lunch lady with the plastic bag on her head hands me a yellow, Styrofoam tray. It feels spongy. I love that feeling. Five compartments. Six chicken nuggets. A spot for the French fries. Corn pieces in the middle. A place to hold my carton of chocolate milk and a sugar cookie. No, wait. Two sugar cookies! I bet she only meant to give me one but I got two. This might be the best lunch ever.
Time to pay. I need money. I tap my pocket. Nothing. No sound. No click. Where’s my money? Oh, wait. Wrong pocket. Other pocket. Tap. Click. Sounds right. I shove my hand I into my pocket and grab the coins.
“Four, five, four, five,” I tell the lunch lady.
She takes my money. “$1.75. Next!”
It’s Kacelia. She’s behind me. She’s buying lunch too. Chicken nuggets. She said hi to me. Nobody says hi to me. What should I do? I guess say hi back.
“What are you doing?” Tanisha asks Kacelia.
“Saying hi to Jirst,” says Kacelia.
“Who?” asks Tanisha.
“Jirst.” She jingles her fingers at me. “Hi, Jirst,” she says again.
I want to jingle my fingers too but I’m holding my tray. Chicken nuggets. I don’t want to drop my tray. I won’t jingle. Just speak.
“Why are you saying hi to him?” asks Tanisha.
Tanisha rolls her eyes. Kacelia jingles her fingers at me again and walks to her seat. I jingle back only this time I’m not thinking about my tray. The milk carton is too heavy. The yellow tray snaps in half. Six chicken nuggets, corn pieces and two sugar cookies hit the floor. I save the milk. The rest is gone. Look at the floor. That’s my lunch. Four, five, four, five. Gone.
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