Authors: Frieda Wishinsky
“Hmm,” she said. She turned my face from left to right. Then she rubbed my face lightly with a cotton ball dipped in alcohol. The cotton turned pink.
“You have marker on your face!” she said. “Why didn't you tell me?”
“You kids. I'll never understand you. Why did you write on your face, and with marker, of all things?”
“I didn't,” I said. “My sister did.” I told her about Eloise.
“I see,” she said. She smiled for the first time. “I'll write your teacher a note.”
“Please don't tell her. Can't you just tell her I'm allergic to something? I could be allergic to sardines. Sardines make me turn colors.”
“I can't write that if it's not true,” she said. “Don't worry, though. I won't give you away. I have a little sister too. Here's some cream to help take off the marker.”
I thanked her and rubbed in a bit of the cream. It took off some of the marker, but not all.
“Give it time. The marker will fade. By tomorrow or the next day, you'll hardly see it.”
I walked slowly back to class. Tomorrow! The next day! I thought. My face is going to look like this all day!
I handed Ms. Parks the note from the nurse. “Thank you,” she said. “You may sit down.”
I slipped into my seat. I saw Joe poke Andrew in the arm. They both stared at me. They stared at me for the rest of the lesson. I stared at my science book. I learned all the parts of a flower. Ms. Parks talked on.
The recess bell rang.
Everyone raced to the door. Stewart and I were halfway down the hall when Joe caught up with us.
“Look, everybody! Dimples has a disease!” Joe shouted.
Twenty kids turned and stared.
Joe brushed against my shirt.
“Help!” he screeched, jumping away. “I touched him. It's the plague! I'll catch it. I'm going to die!”
“Come on. Ignore him,” said Stewart. “Let's play catch.”
I played catch, but I kept dropping the ball as if it was on fire. I felt like the whole playground was laughing at me and my face.
I was glad to get home that day. I was glad that the ink was fading. Maybe by tomorrow it would be all gone.
But Joe would still be there. My dimples would still be there. They would never go away.
I closed my eyes. I wished that my dimples would disappear. I wished that I would wake up with smooth cheeks.
I wished I had someone else's face.
I knew that wishing wouldn't help.
Then I had an idea. My dimples only showed when I smiled. If I stopped smiling, no one would
see them. Maybe they would forget I had dimples. Maybe they would leave me alone.
I decided to practice that night. My whole family, including Aunt Molly, was going to watch a funny movie.
“Five minutes till movie time!” sang my dad.
My mother turned down the lights. “Aunt Molly,” I whispered, “I'm sorry about the phone the other night.”
“I forgive you,” said Aunt Molly. She pinched my cheek with her long red nails. “But just this once.”
I winced. “Smile Control” was about to begin.
So was the movie.
Five minutes later, two men in the movie fell into a puddle of mud. Everyone laughedâeveryone but me. I held the laugh back. I sucked in my cheeks. I puckered my lips. A low cough-like sound came out.
I looked around to see if anyone had heard me, but everyone was too busy watching to notice.
The second time something funny happened, it caught me by surprise. I pulled back the laugh that tried to escape. The strangest sound, something between a snort and a hiccup, popped out.
This time my whole family turned around.
“Are you sick?” asked my mother.
“Caught a cold?” asked my father.
“Cover your mouth when you cough, dear,” said Aunt Molly.
“Stop making dumb noises,” said Eloise.
“I'm fine,” I said.
My family turned back to the movie. For the rest of the show, I didn't laugh. It was hard, and it wasn't fun.
But I did it. I made “Smile Control” work. And tomorrow at school I'd make it work again.
A block from school I saw Stewart walking toward me.
“Look what I can do!” he said. He twisted his tongue till it almost touched his ear. “ I practiced all night. Pretty funny, right?”
“Right,” I said.
“So why aren't you laughing?” he asked.
“I am laughing, inside,” I said.
“That's crazy. Listen to this. Why did the dinosaur order spaghetti at the restaurant?” asked Stewart.
“I don't know.”
“He didn't. Dinosaurs never eat in restaurants,” said Stewart. He howled.
I didn't howl. I didn't laugh. I didn't even smile.
“Why aren't you laughing?” Stewart asked. “Didn't you like the joke?”
“I liked it,” I said.
“Then why didn't you laugh?”
“I was laughing inside again,” I said.
“Sure. Sure,” said Stewart. “If your best friend won't laugh when you work all night to stretch your tongue to your ear or tell funny jokes, who will?”
Stewart looked so hurt that I had to tell him about “Smile Control.”
He listened. Then he laughed.
“What's so funny?” I asked.
“That's the craziest idea I ever heard. How can anyone stay serious all day?”
“I can. Just watch me.”
And I did.
I didn't laugh when Patty told Ms. Parks the parakeet pooped on her homework.
I didn't laugh when I saw Greg's socks, one green and the other white.
I didn't even laugh when Howie got so mad at Billy that he dumped orange juice down Billy's shirt.
“I told you I could do it,” I said to Stewart at lunch.
Just then, Joe leaned over our table.
“What's the matter, Dimple Boy? You look sad. Are you gonna cry?”
I didn't answer.
“Well I hope not,” said Joe. “I'd hate to see those big holes get all wet and soggy. It would make me sick.” And then Joe did his throw-up face again.
I wanted to hit him, but I couldn't.
“Smile Control” was a waste.
Joe was never going to forget about my dimples.
It was only the second week, but I felt like I'd been in school for a year.
I hated it. I wanted to hide or run away.
It was like this movie I once saw about jail.
In the movie, this one guy is innocent, but he's still accused of a crime and thrown in jail. In jail, these two mean guys hound him. The guards won't help. One day, the guy can't take it any more. He leaps from the jail wall into a moat and swims to safety.
The guy in the movie escaped to freedom.
I couldn't leap into a moat and escape to freedom. I couldn't get away from Joe and Andrew.
All that recess, Stewart and I played catch. I kept dropping the ball. I kept seeing Joe's face. I kept expecting Joe to show up and tease me. I kept expecting him to call me names and make the kids laugh at me.
“What's the matter, Lawrence?” asked Stewart.
“I don't feel that well today,” I said.
I think Stewart knew what I meant. He didn't ask anything else.
I was glad that, after recess, Joe had to go to the dentist. His dad picked him up at the classroom.
“What's taking you so long?” his dad barked as Joe picked up his papers and books. “You're always so slow and clumsy. I don't have all day.”
Joe tried to hide his face as his dad spoke. I could see his face turning red. Joe stuffed the rest of his papers into his bag. He hurried out of the room with his dad still frowning behind him.
For the next few hours I relaxed. But I knew Joe wasn't going to go to the dentist every day.
The home bell rang.
Outside, Patty tapped Stewart on the back.
“Heard any good dinosaur jokes lately, Toothpick?” she asked.
“Yeah!” he said. “Why did the dinosaur sleep in the haystack?”
“I don't know,” aid Patty.
”Because his new bed hadn't come yet.”
Patty and I laughed.
“That was pretty good, Toothpick,” she said.
Stewart smiled. It was weird. Patty called Stewart “Toothpick,” but Stewart didn't mind. He liked being called Toothpick.
I thought about it all the way home. A block from home, I knew. The answer was so clear. I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it before.
No one teases Stewart because Stewart teases himself !
Stewart calls himself a toothpick.
When Stewart got his new glasses, he was the first to laugh at how thick they were. “You've got to see these telescopes,” he said.
The whole class laughed with Stewart. The next day, three kids in class said they wanted glasses as “cool” as Stewart's glasses.
It was no fun teasing Stewart.
But it was fun teasing me!
I had to take the fun out.
I had to get used to my dimples. Maybe even like them.
I looked in the hall mirror.
I smiled as wide as I could.
My dimples were two holes. But what's so bad about holes?
Holes are nice. Holes are different. Holes are fun!
It all depends on how you see them.