Authors: Allison Gutknecht
I clamp one hand over my mouth and raise the other one in the air.
“Yes, Mandy?” Mrs. Spangle calls on me.
“John Kennedy was president a hundred years ago, right?” I ask.
“He was president during the 1960s, not one hundred years ago,” Mrs. Spangle says. “Boy, Mandy, you sure know how to make a teacher feel good.”
And I do not know for sure, but I think Mrs. Spangle is kidding with me then.
Mrs. Spangle takes us to the cafeteria to practice the Presidential Pageant on the stage for the first time. She calls it a “dress rehearsal,” which I think is silly because nobody is wearing a dress
since it is Gym Day. She says that “dress rehearsal” just means that we will practice like we are performing the show for real. Everybody who has a prop as part of their costume is allowed to bring it, so Natalie grabs an old suit jacket and Dennis places a fake black mustache on his lip. They do not even have their real costumes on yet, and I am already upset. Mrs. Spangle had told all my classmates to dress up on the day of the assembly however they think their president would have looked.
“What costume should I wear?” I had asked, and I had raised my hand and everything.
Mrs. Spangle had told me, “You can wear whatever you like, Mandy,” which is not the answer I wanted to hear.
I think it is only fair that if everybody else gets to wear a costume like they are going trick-or-treating, I should get to wear one too.
I told Mom that I wanted to wear my Rainbow
Sparkle costume from last Halloween, but she said that she does not think that is what Mrs. Spangle meant when she said I could wear whatever I want.
Natalie puts on her dad's suit jacket and pulls her dark hair into a low ponytail, and she does not look like George Washington one bit.
“Where is your white hair?” I ask. “You cannot be George Washington with no white hair.”
“My mom is making me a wig out of felt,” Natalie answers. “But it's not ready yet.” And I do not say anything then because I would like to have a wig made out of felt too.
I would also like to have a fake mustache like Dennis, even though Dennis cannot keep his mustache on his lip. If I could wear a fake mustache, I would know how to keep it on, but Dennis's is always on the ground, and I think this is a waste of a good mustache.
We get to practice with a microphone for the
first time, and that is pretty exciting because I love microphones. I had a toy microphone once, but then Dad hid it because he said he was getting a headache.
Mrs. Spangle has placed metal folding chairs in a line across the stage for us to sit on until it is our turn. Luckily, it is my turn a lot, so I do not have to sit too much. Also, I get to speak first, even though I am not George Washington, so I am pretty happy about that, too.
When I step up to the microphone for the first time, I put my mouth real close to it. “Four score andâ”
“Step back, Mandy,” Mrs. Spangle interrupts me, which I do not think you are supposed to do during a dress rehearsal.
I take a step back and then lean my face forward until my mouth is super close to the microphone again.
“Four score andâ”
“Move your face away from the microphone, Mandy.”
I move back, even though I do not think Mrs. Spangle knows how to use a microphone right.
“Four score andâ”
Natalie's part is right after my opening, which is not fun because this means she has to sit next to me onstage and we have nothing to talk about. Mrs. Spangle says we should not be talking onstage anyway, and I do not get a warning from her once during our dress rehearsal because Natalie is excellent at not getting in trouble.
What Natalie is not excellent at doing is exclaiming, so she reads her George Washington lines like a robot, even though she has memorized her whole part and gets every word correct. When she finishes and returns to her seat next to me, I
do not tell her that she did a good job because she didn't.
The rest of our dress rehearsal goes pretty wellâalthough Dennis's mustache falls to the ground three more times, so that is not great.
I think that it will be a good assembly, but I think it could be even better if Mrs. Spangle would let me stand closer to the microphone.
IT IS THE DAY OF
the big Second-Grade Presidential Pageant, and I am a bit nervous. After all, Mrs. Spangle said that I have the most important part in the whole show.
Mom bought me a new outfit to wear for the assembly, but she will not let me see it until right before I get dressed. I think this is a bad idea, because what if I hate it? But Mom says that it is a surprise.
“You won't hate it, Amanda,” she says, but I
do not know how she knows this for sure.
I wake up early because I feel very jumpy. I decide to practice all my lines one more time so that I will say them extra good at the assembly. I guess I am saying them super loud, though, because Mom barges in my room real fast when I am not even halfway through the show.
“It's good that you are practicing one more time,” she says. “But maybe you could do it a little quieter so you don't wake your brothers and sister.”
And I do not know how she thinks I am going to read with expression when I have to be quiet, but I try my best anyway, because Mom stays in my room to watch me.
“You are going to do a great job today,” Mom says. “Dad and I can't wait to see you.”
“And no twins, right?” I want to make sure.
“Nope, Grandmom is coming over to watch them, so it will just be us.”
“Good.” I nod real hard so she knows that I mean it.
“Are you ready to see your new outfit?” Mom asks.
“Does it have fancy-dancy periwinkle sunglasses?”
“You can't wear sunglasses at your Presidential Pageant, even if you are a star,” Mom says. “Let me go get it.” She pops out of the room and comes back with a hanger dripping in plastic. I rip the plastic off as fast as I can, and there it is: the most perfect, gorgeous periwinkle dress I have ever seen.
“Wahoo!” I throw my arms around Mom's neck tightly. “Best dress ever.”
“And real periwinkle, right?” Mom says. She looks pretty happy with herself.
“Yep.” I run to my box of 152 crayons and pull out the periwinkle one just to be sure. This crayon
is the shortest in the box because I use it so much. I hold it up to the dress, and it matches exactly, and I have never been so happy in my life.
Mom helps me put the dress on because it has a lot of snaggy zippers and finger-pinching buttons. She brushes my hair real straight, and I think it is still a little bit shiny from the sugar.
“Can I wear my Rainbow Sparkle headband?” I ask. It is a white headband with purple gemstones on it, and it matches my dress like a pair of mittens match each other. It is not a pair of fancy-dancy periwinkle sunglasses, but it is pretty close, I think.
“I don't see why not,” Mom says, and I push my hair back with the headband. I look at myself in the mirror, and I am almost perfect.
“I'm going to make you a big breakfast,” Mom says, “so you'll have lots of strength for your performance.” She shuffles out of my room quietly,
and I pull open my underwear drawer as soon as she leaves. As quickly as possible, I change out of my white underwear and into my favorite polka-dot pair, even though I said that I would never wear them again. I am pretty sure you cannot see through my periwinkle dress, so I will be safe. And also, they will bring me good luck, I think.
Now I look perfect, and I do not even feel so nervous and jumpy anymore.
Anya does not say one thing about my dress when she sees me at school, so I have to say, “Don't you love my dress?” so she knows she is supposed to. She says that she does, and I tell her I like hers, too, even though it is white and I hate white dresses. I am very polite, I think.
Everyone looks pretty excited, and even Mrs. Spangle looks like she is not one hundred years old. The only person who looks miserable is Natalie.
Natalie looks like she is going to throw up, actually. And I can't have her throwing up on my new periwinkle dress when we are onstage. No way! I will need to put a stop to this throwing-up face right away.
“Here is a rule: No throwing up on my dress,” I say to Natalie, and she clamps her lips together like she is a fish and looks at me like I have a monkey head.
“Huh?” I do not know why she can't understand what I am saying because I am very clear about the “No throwing up” rule.
“If you are going to throw up onstage, turn away from my dress, please,” I repeat. “It is new.”
“I'm not going to throw up,” Natalie says.
“You look like you are wearing a throw-up face,” I tell her. Her cheeks are as white as her George Washington wig, which I kind of want to try on, but I know Natalie will not let me
because she never lets me try on her glasses.
Natalie shakes her head. “I just feelÂ .Â .Â .Â ,” She does not finish, which should not be allowed, because I do not know if she feels like she is going to be sick on my dress any minute.
“I'm nervous,” Natalie tells me. And this is a big surprise to me, because Natalie does not seem like the jumpy type. “Aren't you nervous? You have so many lines.”
“I'm not nervous,” I tell her. “You want to know why?”
I lean in close to Natalie's ear and pull up one side of her George Washington wig, just to make sure she can hear me real good. “I am wearing my polka-dot underwear,” I confess. And Natalie's eyes get real big then, like I have told her something ridiculous.
And then Natalie starts laughing very loud, which startles me so much that I jump way up in the air because I have never, ever heard Natalie laugh.
“They are good luck, I think,” I tell her. “Because I was nervous like you this morning, but now I am not.” And this makes Natalie laugh even more, which I would think was rude if I did not like to hear her laughing. Natalie thinks I am funny, which is kind of fantastic because Natalie is not a giggly person at all.
“So if you get scared onstage, just look at me,” I tell Natalie. “And you will know what I am thinking about.”
“What?” Natalie stops laughing for only one second.
“Polka-dot underwear,” I whisper this part, too, so that Freckle Face Dennis cannot hear, because he is not part of the joke.
“I will. Thank you, Mandy,” Natalie says. “I feel much better now.”
“And no throw up on my dress, right?”
“Nope, I promise,” she says.
We get in line to go to our big Presidential Pageant, and I am happy to stand next to Natalie even though she is not Anya. I do not care anymore that Natalie gets to be George Washington and to wear that big fluffy wig, because I am the narrator, and that is a very important part.
Plus, that wig is white, and white things do not go with polka dots.
When my classmates and I take the stage, they are all dressed up in costumes to look like their presidents, but I am the only one who gets to wear a brand-new periwinkle dress. I take my seat in the line of chairs across the stage, and I sit in the first one because I get to speak earliest.
Because Mrs. Spangle is right: The narrator is the thread that holds the quilt together.
Mrs. Spangle thanks all the parents for coming, and I do not pay much attention, if I am being honest. Because I want to get to the microphone and do my part right away. Finally I hear the parents applauding, and Mrs. Spangle looks at me so I know it is my turn.
I approach the microphone but do not put my mouth on it, just like Mrs. Spangle said. I take a deep breath, and I begin.
In my grandest, loudest, most expressive voice, I say, “Four score and seven years agoÂ .Â .Â .”
The audience smiles huge grins at me, and I see Mom and Dad smiling the biggest. I finish my first part, and Natalie steps up to the microphone behind me.