Authors: Patricia Reilly Giff
ast day of the week. Great!
Today the Afternoon Center kids were going swimming.
Mitchell had found his bathing suit before school. It was under his bed, still damp from the end of the summer.
It had a ton of sand in it.
He held it up to his nose. What a smell.
He hoped no one would notice.
He had forgotten his best lunch, too. A ham sandwich with enough lettuce for a rabbit.
Sumiko lent him money for hot lunch.
It was the worst lunch in the world: meat chunks in glue.
At last, the bell rang. The loudspeaker blared. “Time for swimming.”
They headed for the bus line.
Mitchell let Habib cut in front of him.
Habib let Destiny cut in front of him.
Sumiko cut in front of Destiny.
And some kid stepped in between Destiny and Sumiko. Mitchell thought his name might be Charlie.
Mitchell turned. Peter Petway was near the end of the line.
“Let’s get moving,” Peter said.
Mitchell hoped Peter didn’t know he had started all that cutting.
The bus pulled up. The kids packed in like meat chunks in glue.
Angel and Yolanda sat in front of Mitchell and Habib. “What’s that smell?” Yolanda asked.
“Someone’s wet bathing suit,” Angel said. “Eew.”
Mitchell took his bathing suit bag off his lap. He sat on it.
He watched Angel practice swimming in her seat. “Here I come, prize,” she said. She wiggled her arms.
Mitchell crossed his fingers. Maybe there were two prizes for swimming.
He wiggled his arms.
At last, they were there.
The boys went to one locker room. The girls went to another. Lockers banged. Everyone changed.
“Something smells around here,” a boy said.
Mitchell didn’t look up. It sounded like Peter Petway.
Mitchell raced out of the locker room.
He couldn’t wait to get into the pool. It would wash away the smell of his bathing suit. It would get rid of that ton of sand.
“Great suit,” Yolanda was telling Mr. Oakley.
Mitchell blinked. Mr. Oakley’s bathing suit had zigzags. It came down to his knobby knees.
Sumiko wore a red bathing suit. Mitchell’s favorite color.
Mitchell slid into the pool. “Yeow!” he yelled. It was up to his knees, and freezing.
They had to stay at the shallow end until they passed a swimming test.
Mitchell had to swim about a hundred miles to pass. He’d probably sink any minute.
But Mr. Oakley blew his whistle. “A-one effort, Mitchell,” he said. “You passed.”
Mitchell floated along, catching his breath. Then he went down to the bottom. He pretended he was a stingray.
He opened his eyes.
What were all those tan dots?
He shot up. His mouth was filled with water. So was his nose.
He tried to breathe.
Then he spotted Angel.
She had sunk to the bottom, too.
She might not be a stingray. She might be drowning.
He grabbed her mouse tail hair. He yanked hard.
She came up sputtering. She waded away.
Mr. Oakley blew his whistle. “No ducking, pushing, or pulling, guys,” he called. “Safety first.”
Mitchell began to swim across the pool.
The other side was far away.
Very far away.
He scrunched down. He waved his arms. He walked across the bottom.
“Good job. You swam halfway,” Ellie said. “I’ll give you a great sticker tomorrow.”
Mitchell knew it wasn’t a good job. Swimming with your feet on the bottom wasn’t really A-1.
Habib sat at the side of the pool. “Too bad I can’t go in,” he said. “Not with poison ivy.”
Mitchell waved to Sumiko. She was sitting on the high diving board. “I know the Japanese word for
she yelled down.
Mitchell tried to swim again. But his arms were tired. He turned over and floated.
Kids were splashing. Peter Petway was swimming underwater. Mitchell waded away from him.
Hey. Where was Angel?
What if she had drowned? He wouldn’t have a sister.
He dived down. She wasn’t there.
She wasn’t anywhere.
Then he saw her. Whew!
She was sitting behind a post. Was she hiding? Why was she there all by herself?
itchell thought the Afternoon Center would be closed on Saturday.
It wasn’t, though.
Not everyone was there. Some kids had other things to do.
But Mitchell didn’t have one thing to do. Neither did Habib.
Mitchell was a little sorry Ellie was there. He’d have to go to Homework Help.
Almost no one else ever went. Just him. And Habib.
Mitchell didn’t want Ellie to be lonely.
He went in and began to write:
Saturday was a day off in my old school
It was locked up
Sometimes I liked that
Sometimes I didn’t
Ramón came into the room. He was always carrying a math book.
He was studying math in college.
Today Ramón and Habib were going to work on numbers.
Mitchell shook his head. Ramón wasn’t so smart.
He should have learned numbers by fifth grade. Even Peter Petway must know all that stuff by now.
Mitchell kept writing.
Habib was counting under his breath.
Ellie began to talk to Ramón. She looked happy.
“You can go now,” she told Mitchell and Habib. She stuck flower stickers on their shirts.
In the hall, Mitchell and Habib looked at each other. “Flowers!” Habib said.
They peeled the stickers off.
They went down the hall to the art room.
On the way, Mitchell looked for Trevor’s mask.
He found crumbs from yesterday’s lunch.
But no mask.
Mrs. Farelli waved to them from her desk. She had art stuff all over the place.
Yolanda was drawing a picture. Maybe it was a lion. Mitchell asked her.
She shook her head. “No, it’s Terrible Thomas.”
“Good drawing,” Mitchell said.
What could he work on?
He had a great idea.
You’re a thinker
, he said to himself in a Mr. Oakley voice.
Angel came into the room. She took paper and colored pencils to an easel.
Angel liked to draw.
Habib found a box of rubber bands. He jumbled them into a ball. “Good for juggling,” he said.
Mitchell folded a piece of cardboard into four parts.
Angel looked over his shoulder. “What are you doing?”
“Making stairs?” Angel asked.
“Guess again.” Mitchell glued the edges together.
“Why do you always stick your tongue out?” Angel said. “You look like Maggie.”
Mitchell didn’t mind looking like Maggie. She was a good dog.
He found sparkly gold paint.
Angel began to smile. “I know. It’s a tower for my castle.”
“Right,” said Mitchell.
He dumped gold paint all over it.
He and Angel went to her shelf.
Mitchell’s hands were sticky. So was the tower.
It dripped all over the floor. Right onto a bunch of crumbs. They looked like gold nuggets.
Wait until Jake the Sweeper saw them.
Mitchell rubbed the dots with his feet.
One dot with his right foot.
Another dot with his left.
“Watch out,” Angel said.
Mitchell tripped across the floor.
The tower flew into Peter Petway.
“The tower is ruined!” Angel said. “I can’t believe it.”
Peter Petway was sitting on the floor. He was covered in gold dots.
“I’ve been looking for you,” Peter said.
Mitchell closed his eyes.
He thought about his old school.
Nothing scary like this ever happened there.