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Authors: Sally Warner

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BOOK: Excellent Emma
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And Ms. Sanchez’s beautiful lacy veil might get tangled up in all those parachute strings. The whole wedding could easily be a
disaster,
and that is no way to start being married! Being married seems to be hard enough when you start out the normal way—judging from my own mom and dad, who got divorced when I was two.
I hate divorce, which is why I’m never getting married.
Annie Pat’s parents seem happy, though. So far, so good, anyway.
Since it’s Friday today, Ms. Sanchez has obviously decided to squeeze in an art lesson instead of trying to teach us Spanish, which is what she usually does on Friday afternoons. At this school, it’s music and art on Fridays—but only when there’s nothing better to do. That’s the way they look at things here in Oak Glen, I guess.
My old school was Magdalena, which was girls only. Magdalena is twenty miles away from Oak Glen Primary School, but it might as well be a million miles away, and not just in distance. At Magdalena, we got to have music and art every single week. Orchestra
and
chorus! Painting
and
drawing
and
collage
and
ceramics!
But then my mom lost her job as librarian for a big company two years ago, right about the time Dad got remarried, and Mom and I had to sell our house and move to a condo in Oak Glen to save money. Now Mom works at home correcting things other people write. She says she likes it okay, though.
Ms. Sanchez probably feels guilty because our class hasn’t done any art at all since Thanksgiving, when we each used a pattern to cut out an autumn leaf for a fluttery Open House tree—which, I heard from a fourth-grader, is something that Ms. Sanchez’s class does every year. And then we wrote our names on the leaves in our most perfect cursive, and we got to use glitter paint, even though you can tell Ms. Sanchez hates glitter, because it gets all over the place. And she also hates glue bottles, because they’re always stopped up.
I don’t exactly call construction-paper leaves
art
, however. It is just cutting on the line, really—which most kids learn to do pretty well when they’re four or five.
Ms. Sanchez isn’t that great at art, to tell the truth. It’s one of her few faults. She either has us do an easy holiday craft project, the kind you see in magazines—only our projects never come out looking right—or she teaches us the color wheel.
Over and over again.
“Now, use your rulers to draw a big triangle,” she calls out.
The color wheel
. I could do this in my sleep!
“Excuse me, excuse me,” Heather says, waving her hand in the air so much that her ponytail bounces. Heather usually also has one long skinny braid hanging down over her face for decoration, and it is swinging today like a skinny little vine in the Amazon jungle, which is a place I want to go to study nature someday. I love the Amazon! Except for giant snakes like the anaconda, but I am trying—not very hard, I admit—to get over that. “What color do you want the triangle to be this time?” Heather asks.
Heather likes to get things exactly right, and she’s not the only one. Cynthia Harbison is even worse, and so are the two girls who are best friends from church. I’m not that “persnickety,” to use one of my mom’s favorite words, unless it’s about something important, like nature. Or dinner. I can be
wa-a-a-y
persnickety then.
Don’t try to sneak any lima beans past me, that’s all I’m saying.
Or brussels sprouts.
“The triangle can be any color at all, Heather,” Ms. Sanchez says, but her face pinches up a little at the words
this time
.
I don’t mind repeating boring assignments, though, even when they’re in a subject that’s supposed to be fun, like art. That’s because boring assignments give me a chance to think, which is something you almost never get to do in school. And what I am thinking about right now is Corey Robinson, and how he’s so good at swimming.
I wish
I
was good at something. I mean, really good at something people could actually see. Not just knowing stuff about nature, because like I said before, that’s invisible.
I want to be good at something that will impress my dad.
In fact, I want to be
excellent.
“Emma?” Ms. Sanchez is saying.
“Yes!” I shout, jumping in my seat at the sound of her voice, which makes Cynthia snicker loud enough for a few kids to hear.
“I was asking you what the complementary color of blue is,” Ms. Sanchez says, sounding a little fakey-patient, to tell the truth.
Complementary
means
opposite
, on the color wheel. I don’t know why.
“Orange,” I say automatically.
“That’s correct,” she says, smiling and surprised. “And I thought you weren’t paying attention.”
So I sit up straighter in my chair and try to look as though I
am
paying attention—because I like Ms. Sanchez that much.
Also, I want her to finish this lesson so we can hear the mysterious big announcement.
4
Is That a Threat Or a Promise?
“And now, boys and girls,” Ms. Sanchez says after the last ruler and marker have been put away, “we have a special visitor who has something really fun to share with us.” I sneak a look at the wall clock and see that there are only twenty minutes left in the school day.
The classroom door opens a little. “Please welcome our wonderful room mother, EllRay’s mom, Mrs. Jakes,” Ms. Sanchez says, and Mrs. Jakes walks into the our room. She is medium-brown like EllRay, and she has sparkling eyes, and short hair with lots of pretty curls in it, but she looks nervous.
And we’re just a bunch of third-graders!
EllRay looks surprised, proud, and embarrassed—all at the same time—the way any kid would if their mom or dad came to class.
“Hello, boys and girls,” Mrs. Jakes says, standing next to Ms. Sanchez at the front of the class.
“Hello,” our combined raggedy voices mumble back at her.
EllRay’s mom clears her throat. “The PTA has decided that we should all be doing more to encourage active lifestyles among the kids at Oak Glen,” she announces, and she gives us a great big encouraging smile.
Active lifestyles. Oh, I think suddenly—this idea probably came from one of those
kids-are-too-fat-and-lazy-today!
reports they keep showing on TV. I can just picture all the grown-ups in the PTA—the Parent Teacher Association—sitting around eating squares of sheet cake while they talk about it.
People like to be experts about everybody else, that’s what I think.
“A week from this Friday,” Ms. Jakes says, “Oak Glen Primary School will be starting a new tradition. We will have our First Annual Winter Games Day. All the parents and grandparents will be invited, and it promises to be a lot of fun.”
A puzzled silence fills the room, and EllRay sinks lower in his chair. “Winter Games Day?” Fiona asks. You mean like—like skiing? Because I have really, really weak ankles, and—”
“And it never snows in Oak Glen,” Heather says, as if she is finishing Fiona’s sentence. “This is Southern California. With palm trees,” she reminds everyone. Heather is the queen of saying the most obvious thing in the world.
“But we still have winter, don’t forget,” Kry Rodriguez points out. Kry is really pretty, and her long straight bangs fall past her eyebrows and almost hide her eyes. Her parents are divorced, too, but that’s not the only reason we’re friends.
“One at a time, please,” Ms. Sanchez reminds us. “And raise your hand if you have something to contribute.”
Heather Patton raises her hand, and Ms. Sanchez tries to hide her sigh. “Yes, Heather?” she says, sounding patient.
Heather stands up as if she is about to pledge her allegiance. “I want to contribute a question,” she says, “which is, what kind of stuff are they going to make us do on games day?”
“Good question, Heather,” Ms. Sanchez says with fake enthusiasm, probably trying to make up for her sigh.
“It’s not all firmed up yet,” Mrs. Jakes says, “but of course there will be the usual foot races, and distance jumping, and so on. And some special competitions we’re thinking of just for that one afternoon.”
Cynthia Harbison frowns. “But we’re all gonna win a prize, right?” she ask. “That’s my contribution,” she adds hastily, seeing Ms. Sanchez’s expression.
“Well, yes,” EllRay’s mom says, sounding a little uncertain. “You’ll win a prize if you win one of the contests. I’m afraid the PTA can’t afford prizes for
everyone
.”
“We should win something just for trying,” Stanley Washington says, keeping his voice low.
“Yeah,” Heather chimes in.
“Hands in the air if you have a
contribution
,” Ms. Sanchez reminds us icily. But no more hands go up. “Was there anything else, Mrs. Jakes?” Ms. Sanchez asks, smiling her encouragement.
“I think that’s pretty much it,” EllRay’s mom says, looking a little flustered. “I mean, as Krysten said, we do have winter here in Oak Glen, even if it doesn’t snow. And the school board decided that Winter Games Day would be a fun way for all the children in our school to enjoy some much-needed exercise.”
BOOK: Excellent Emma
11.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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