Read The Trouble with Mark Hopper Online

Authors: Elissa Brent Weissman

The Trouble with Mark Hopper

BOOK: The Trouble with Mark Hopper
Table of Contents
A division of Penguin Young Readers Group
Published by the Penguin Group • Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and inci
dents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used
fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead,
business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2009 by Elissa Brent Weissman
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Published in the United States by Dutton Children's Books,
a division of Penguin Young Readers Group
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
eISBN : 978-1-101-10499-6

For Grant—together we're unstoppable
The Hoppers
Mark Geoffrey Hopper had brown hair that he wore gelled in a side part, blue eyes, and a splattering of freckles across his face that made him look like he'd fallen asleep on a freshly laid gravel driveway. He usually wore khaki pants, a tucked-in shirt, and a look that said he would not only get further than you in this afternoon's geography bee, but he would look cuter doing it, too.
Mark Geoffrey Hopper had brown hair that he wore parted to the side, though without gel, blue eyes, and a spread of freckles across his face that looked like they'd been splattered on with a paintbrush. He usually wore khaki pants, a tucked-in shirt, and a look that said he was impressed with everything around him, though he wasn't quite sure how he got there.
Mark Geoffrey Hopper did not really look like Mark Geoffrey Hopper, but if you were describing him to the principal because he'd called you a dim-witted doofus, or to a friend because you had a crush on him, you would describe him the same way. That was the trouble with Mark Hopper and Mark Hopper. Well, that and the fact that they had the same name.
Mark Hopper had lived in Greenburgh, Maryland, and had argued with most of its residents, for all eleven years of his life. The teachers at Ivy Road Middle School were tired just thinking that they might have Mark Hopper in their class when he started at the school next year, as they had just—finally!—gotten rid of Mark's older sister Beth, whose mouth was just as big and permanently sneered as her younger brother's. Beth didn't think school could teach her anything useful, and she made a point, daily, of asking each of her teachers how each lesson could possibly help her in real life. She was never absent, though—not once—since school was a good place to pull pranks. She'd pull them indiscriminately, on both teachers and students, which made her about as popular with her classmates as she was with the faculty. But that didn't stop her. On her last day of eighth grade, Beth placed gum on every seat in every classroom on her schedule. She then prided herself on having everyone stand in her honor all day. Mark prided himself on everything.
The other Mark Hopper and his mother and sister moved into Greenburgh the summer before Mark was to start Ivy Road Middle School. And this Mark's older sister Beth was just as quiet and pleasant as her little brother. Unlike Beth Hopper, Beth Hopper wasn't going to the local high school in Greenburgh, but to the Lefko School for Science, where she was getting a scholarship to do one of her favorite things: research earthworms. When she found out that she was accepted to the Lefko School and that she had gotten a scholarship, she kissed her favorite earthworm, Inty (so named for his internal circulatory system—all of her earthworms were named for their physiological features), right in front of Mark and some of his friends. After a few weeks of being called “Worm Lover” by everyone except his best friend, Sammy, Mark was kind of looking forward to moving to Greenburgh and starting at a new school.
Moving to Greenburgh also meant that Mark would get to spend lots of time with his grandpa, Murray. Mrs. Hopper found a nice big house for all of them: Mark, Beth, Grandpa Murray, herself, and her husband, who was only going to be living there on occasional weekends and holidays until he could find a job closer to Greenburgh and sell their old house in Massachusetts. Mark and Beth missed their father and couldn't wait for him to move in with them permanently, but they loved living with Grandpa Murray. He was absentminded when it came to things like picking up after himself—he left half-eaten apples on the kitchen table, half-read newspapers on the living room couch, his underwear on the bathroom floor after half a day—which their mom said had always been the case, but he never failed in coming up with ways to make everyday tasks fun, such as inventing themes for their dinners. Mark and Beth's favorite was the caveman dinner, which involved eating all of the food with their hands, using a rock or leaf for a napkin, and communicating only in grunts. In response, Mrs. Hopper suggested a royalty theme that required being very clean and polite and proper, but that idea was democratically voted down, three to one.
Mark and Beth Hopper would surely have enjoyed the caveman dinner, too—though they probably would have been more rowdy cavemen—if they knew Grandpa Murray and the Hoppers, which they didn't; not yet. And since the Hoppers had just moved in, they didn't yet know the Hoppers, either. But the Hoppers wanted to become a part of the community in their new town; they didn't realize that most people in Greenburgh had the same reaction to the name Hopper as they did to the term
routine dental work.
That was the trouble with the Hoppers and the Hoppers. Well, that and the fact that they had the same name.
Mark Hopper
Mark Hopper was smart. And he knew it. But he wasn't smart enough to know that nobody wanted to be reminded all the time of how smart he was and how he knew it. That was the main trouble with Mark Hopper.
The main trouble for people who knew Mark Hopper was that disagreeing with him was more hassle than it was worth. So he usually got his way. Which only made disagreeing with him more trouble.
For example: Mark got a perfect score on every spelling test in fifth grade, but on one test toward the end of the year he got a ninety-five because he spelled
That was the British spelling, and he knew it, so he argued with his teacher, but she would not raise his score to a hundred; she argued that they lived in America. In fact, the only reason Mark spelled
was that he knew it was the British spelling, and he wanted to argue with his teacher. And his teacher, and the rest of the class, suspected it. So when Miss Kelly wouldn't cooperate (or co-operate), he made an appointment with the principal of Farrow Park Elementary School, Mr. Graham.
“I have gotten a perfect score on every spelling test this year,” Mark said, pacing Mr. Graham's office in his khaki pants and tucked-in shirt and side-parted, gelled hair. “I do not think it is fair to penalize me for using the British spelling of the word
It is a perfectly good way to spell the word; it's just different. We did a whole unit this year about different cultures and how we have to be accepting of different people. In fact,” Mark added, “I got one hundred percent on my diorama about Sweden.”
This was not the first time Principal Graham had watched Mark pace and listened to him argue. It wasn't even the first time he had seen Mark that
for Mark had made an appointment to tell him that Frank Stucco had pushed J. T. Morris into a tree at recess on Monday. That time, Mr. Graham had told Mark to mind his own business, unless it was a very serious matter. This time, he thanked Mark for his mature argument, but told him that since he was in school in America, he was learning to spell things in American English. “If you spelled the word
in Swedish, you would lose points, too,” Principal Graham said.
Mark sneered.
“Besides,” the principal went on, “it is not so bad to not get a hundred on every single test.”
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