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       Wonder, p.14

           R. J. Palacio
 
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  “Yeah, well, this is more of a boy thing,” she explained. “The girls are staying neutral. Except Savanna’s group, because they’re going out with Julian’s group. But to everybody else this is really a boy war.”

  I nodded. She tilted her head to one side and pouted like she felt sorry for me.

  “Is it okay that I told you all this?” she said.

  “Yeah! Of course! I don’t care who talks to me or not,” I lied. “This is all just so dumb.”

  She nodded.

  “Hey, does Auggie know any of this?”

  “Of course not. At least, not from me.”

  “And Summer?”

  “I don’t think so. Look, I better go. Just so you know, my mom thinks Julian’s mom is a total idiot. She said she thinks people like her are more concerned about what their kids’ class pictures look like than doing the right thing. You heard about the Photoshopping, right?”

  “Yeah, that was just sick.”

  “Totally,” she answered, nodding. “Anyway, I better go. I just wanted you to know what was up and stuff.”

  “Thanks, Charlotte.”

  “I’ll let you know if I hear anything else,” she said. Before she went out, she looked left and right outside the door to make sure no one saw her leaving. I guess even though she was neutral, she didn’t want to be seen with me.

  Switching Tables

  The next day at lunch, stupid me, I sat down at a table with Tristan, Nino, and Pablo. I thought maybe they were safe because they weren’t really considered popular, but they weren’t out there playing D&D at recess, either. They were sort of in-betweeners. And, at first, I thought I scored because they were basically too nice to not acknowledge my presence when I walked over to the table. They all said “Hey,” though I could tell they looked at each other. But then the same thing happened that happened yesterday: our lunch table was called, they got their food, and then headed toward a new table on the other side of the cafeteria.

  Unfortunately, Mrs. G, who was the lunch teacher that day, saw what happened and chased after them.

  “That’s not allowed, boys!” she scolded them loudly. “This is not that kind of school. You get right back to your table.”

  Oh great, like that was going to help. Before they could be forced to sit back down at the table, I got up with my tray and walked away really fast. I could hear Mrs. G call my name, but I pretended not to hear and just kept walking to the other side of the cafeteria, behind the lunch counter.

  “Sit with us, Jack.”

  It was Summer. She and August were sitting at their table, and they were both waving me over.

  Why I Didn’t Sit with August

  the First Day of School

  Okay, I’m a total hypocrite. I know. That very first day of school I remember seeing August in the cafeteria. Everybody was looking at him. Talking about him. Back then, no one was used to his face or even knew that he was coming to Beecher, so it was a total shocker for a lot of people to see him there on the first day of school. Most kids were even afraid to get near him.

  So when I saw him going into the cafeteria ahead of me, I knew he’d have no one to sit with, but I just couldn’t bring myself to sit with him. I had been hanging out with him all morning long because we had so many classes together, and I guess I was just kind of wanting a little normal time to chill with other kids. So when I saw him move to a table on the other side of the lunch counter, I purposely found a table as far away from there as I could find. I sat down with Isaiah and Luca even though I’d never met them before, and we talked about baseball the whole time, and I played basketball with them at recess. They became my lunch table from then on.

  I heard Summer had sat down with August, which surprised me because I knew for a fact she wasn’t one of the kids that Tushman had talked to about being friends with Auggie. So I knew she was doing it just to be nice, and that was pretty brave, I thought.

  So now here I was sitting with Summer and August, and they were being totally nice to me as always. I filled them in about everything Charlotte had told me, except for the whole big part about my having “snapped” under the pressure of being Auggie’s friend, or the part about Julian’s mom saying that Auggie had special needs, or the part about the school board. I guess all I really told them about was how Julian had had a holiday party and managed to turn the whole grade against me.

  “It just feels so weird,” I said, “to not have people talking to you, pretending you don’t even exist.”

  Auggie started smiling.

  “Ya think?” he said sarcastically. “Welcome to my world!”

  Sides

  “So here are the official sides,” said Summer at lunch the next day. She pulled out a folded piece of loose-leaf paper and opened it. It had three columns of names.

  Jack’s side Julian’s side Neutrals

  Jack Miles Malik

  August Henry Remo

  Reid Amos Jose

  Max G Simon Leif

  Max W Tristan Ram

  Pablo Ivan

  Nino Russell

  Isaiah

  Luca

  Jake

  Toland

  Roman

  Ben

  Emmanuel

  Zeke

  Tomaso

  “Where did you get this?” said Auggie, looking over my shoulder as I read the list.

  “Charlotte made it,” Summer answered quickly. “She gave it to me last period. She said she thought you should know who was on your side, Jack.”

  “Yeah, not many people, that’s for sure,” I said.

  “Reid is,” she said. “And the two Maxes.”

  “Great. The nerds are on my side.”

  “Don’t be mean,” said Summer. “I think Charlotte likes you, by the way.”

  “Yeah, I know.”

  “Are you going to ask her out?”

  “Are you kidding? I can’t, now that everybody’s acting like I have the Plague.”

  The second I said it, I realized I shouldn’t have said it. There was this awkward moment of silence. I looked at Auggie.

  “It’s okay,” he said. “I knew about that.”

  “Sorry, dude,” I said.

  “I didn’t know they called it the Plague, though,” he said. “I figured it was more like the Cheese Touch or something.”

  “Oh, yeah, like in Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” I nodded.

  “The Plague actually sounds cooler,” he joked. “Like someone could catch the ‘black death of ugliness.’ ” As he said this, he made air quotes.

  “I think it’s awful,” said Summer, but Auggie shrugged while taking a big sip from his juice box.

  “Anyway, I’m not asking Charlotte out,” I said.

  “My mom thinks we’re all too young to be dating anyway,” she answered.

  “What if Reid asked you out?” I said. “Would you go?”

  I could tell she was surprised. “No!” she said.

  “I’m just asking,” I laughed.

  She shook her head and smiled. “Why? What do you know?”

  “Nothing! I’m just asking!” I said.

  “I actually agree with my mom,” she said. “I do think we’re too young to be dating. I mean, I just don’t see what the rush is.”

  “Yeah, I agree,” said August. “Which is kind of a shame, you know, what with all those babes who keep throwing themselves at me and stuff?”

  He said this in such a funny way that the milk I was drinking came out my nose when I laughed, which made us all totally crack up.

  August’s House

  It was already the middle of January, and we still hadn’t even chosen what science-fair project we were going to work on. I guess I kept putting it off because I just didn’t want to do it. Finally, August was like, “Dude, we have to do this.” So we went to his house after school.

  I was really nervous because I didn’t know if August had ever told his parents about what we now called the Halloween Incident. Turns out the dad wasn’t
even home and the mom was out running errands. I’m pretty sure from the two seconds I’d spent talking to her that Auggie had never mentioned a thing about it. She was super cool and friendly toward me.

  When I first walked into Auggie’s room, I was like, “Whoa, Auggie, you have got a serious Star Wars addiction.”

  He had ledges full of Star Wars miniatures, and a huge The Empire Strikes Back poster on his wall.

  “I know, right?” he laughed.

  He sat down on a rolling chair next to his desk and I plopped down on a beanbag chair in the corner. That’s when his dog waddled into the room right up to me.

  “He was on your holiday card!” I said, letting the dog sniff my hand.

  “She,” he corrected me. “Daisy. You can pet her. She doesn’t bite.”

  When I started petting her, she basically just rolled over onto her back.

  “She wants you to rub her tummy,” said August.

  “Okay, this is the cutest dog I’ve ever seen,” I said, rubbing her stomach.

  “I know, right? She’s the best dog in the world. Aren’t you, girlie?”

  As soon as she heard Auggie’s voice say that, the dog started wagging her tail and went over to him.

  “Who’s my little girlie? Who’s my little girlie?” Auggie was saying as she licked him all over the face.

  “I wish I had a dog,” I said. “My parents think our apartment’s too small.” I started looking around at the stuff in his room while he turned on the computer. “Hey, you’ve got an Xbox 360? Can we play?”

  “Dude, we’re here to work on the science-fair project.”

  “Do you have Halo?”

  “Of course I have Halo.”

  “Please can we play?”

  He had logged on to the Beecher website and was now scrolling down Ms. Rubin’s teacher page through the list of science-fair projects. “Can you see from there?” he said.

  I sighed and went to sit on a little stool that was right next to him.

  “Cool iMac,” I said.

  “What kind of computer do you have?”

  “Dude, I don’t even have my own room, much less my own computer. My parents have this ancient Dell that’s practically dead.”

  “Okay, how about this one?” he said, turning the screen in my direction so I would look. I made a quick scan of the screen and my eyes literally started blurring.

  “Making a sun clock,” he said. “That sounds kind of cool.”

  I leaned back. “Can’t we just make a volcano?”

  “Everyone makes volcanoes.”

  “Duh, because it’s easy,” I said, petting Daisy again.

  “What about: How to make crystal spikes out of Epsom salt?”

  “Sounds boring,” I answered. “So why’d you call her Daisy?”

  He didn’t look up from the screen. “My sister named her. I wanted to call her Darth. Actually, technically speaking, her full name is Darth Daisy, but we never really called her that.”

  “Darth Daisy! That’s funny! Hi, Darth Daisy!” I said to the dog, who rolled onto her back again for me to rub her tummy.

  “Okay, this one is the one,” said August, pointing to a picture on the screen of a bunch of potatoes with wires poking out of them. “How to build an organic battery made of potatoes. Now, that’s cool. It says here you could power a lamp with it. We could call it the Spud Lamp or something. What do you think?”

  “Dude, that sounds way too hard. You know I suck at science.”

  “Shut up, you do not.”

  “Yeah I do! I got a fifty-four on my last test. I suck at science!”

  “No you don’t! And that was only because we were still fighting and I wasn’t helping you. I can help you now. This is a good project, Jack. We’ve got to do it.”

  “Fine, whatever.” I shrugged.

  Just then there was a knock on the door. A teenage girl with long dark wavy hair poked her head inside the door. She wasn’t expecting to see me.

  “Oh, hey,” she said to both of us.

  “Hey, Via,” said August, looking back at the computer screen. “Via, this is Jack. Jack, that’s Via.”

  “Hey,” I said, nodding hello.

  “Hey,” she said, looking at me carefully. I knew the second Auggie said my name that he had told her about the stuff I had said about him. I could tell from the way she looked at me. In fact, the way she looked at me made me think she remembered me from that day at Carvel on Amesfort Avenue all those years ago.

  “Auggie, I have a friend I want you to meet, okay?” she said. “He’s coming over in a few minutes.”

  “Is he your new boyfriend?” August teased.

  Via kicked the bottom of his chair. “Just be nice,” she said, and left the room.

  “Dude, your sister’s hot,” I said.

  “I know.”

  “She hates me, right? You told her about the Halloween Incident?”

  “Yeah.”

  “Yeah, she hates me or yeah, you told her about Halloween?”

  “Both.”

  The Boyfriend

  Two minutes later the sister came back with this guy named Justin. Seemed like a cool enough dude. Longish hair. Little round glasses. He was carrying a big long shiny silver case that ended in a sharp point on one end.

  “Justin, this is my little brother, August,” said Via. “And that’s Jack.”

  “Hey, guys,” said Justin, shaking our hands. He seemed a little nervous. I guess maybe it was because he was meeting August for the first time. Sometimes I forget what a shock it is the first time you meet him. “Cool room.”

  “Are you Via’s boyfriend?” Auggie asked mischievously, and his sister pulled his cap down over his face.

  “What’s in your case?” I said. “A machine gun?”

  “Ha!” answered the boyfriend. “That’s funny. No, it’s a, uh … fiddle.”

  “Justin’s a fiddler,” said Via. “He’s in a zydeco band.”

  “What the heck is a zydeco band?” said Auggie, looking at me.

  “It’s a type of music,” said Justin. “Like Creole music.”

  “What’s Creole?” I said.

  “You should tell people that’s a machine gun,” said Auggie. “Nobody would ever mess with you.”

  “Ha, I guess you’re right,” Justin said, nodding and tucking his hair behind his ears. “Creole’s the kind of music they play in Louisiana,” he said to me.

  “Are you from Louisiana?” I asked.

  “No, um,” he answered, pushing up his glasses. “I’m from Brooklyn.”

  I don’t know why this made me want to laugh.

  “Come on, Justin,” said Via, pulling him by the hand. “Let’s go hang out in my room.”

  “Okay, see you guys later. Bye,” he said.

  “Bye!”

  “Bye!”

  As soon as they left the room, Auggie looked at me, smiling.

  “I’m from Brooklyn,” I said, and we both started laughing hysterically.

  Sometimes I think my head is so big

  because it is so full of dreams.

  —John Merrick in Bernard Pomerance’s

  The Elephant Man

  Olivia’s Brother

  the first time i meet Olivia’s little brother, i have to admit i’m totally taken by surprise.

  i shouldn’t be, of course. olivia’s told me about his “syndrome.” has even described what he looks like. but she’s also talked about all his surgeries over the years, so i guess i assumed he’d be more normal-looking by now. like when a kid is born with a cleft palate and has plastic surgery to fix it sometimes you can’t even tell except for the little scar above the lip. i guess i thought her brother would have some scars here and there. but not this. i definitely wasn’t expecting to see this little kid in a baseball cap who’s sitting in front of me right now.

  actually there are two kids sitting in front me: one is a totally normal-looking kid with curly blond hair named jack; the other is auggie.

&
nbsp; i like to think i’m able to hide my surprise. i hope i do. surprise is one of those emotions that can be hard to fake, though, whether you’re trying to look surprised when you’re not or trying to not look surprised when you are.

  i shake his hand. i shake the other kid’s hand. don’t want to focus on his face. cool room, I say.

  are you via’s boyfriend? he says. i think he’s smiling.

  olivia pushes down his baseball cap.

  is that a machine gun? the blond kid asks, like i haven’t heard that one before. and we talk about zydeco for a bit. and then via’s taking my hand and leading me out of the room. as soon as we close the door behind us, we hear them laughing.

  i’m from brooklyn! one of them sings.

  olivia rolls her eyes as she smiles. let’s go hang out in my room, she says.

  we’ve been dating for two months now. i knew from the moment i saw her, the minute she sat down at our table in the cafeteria, that i liked her. i couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. really beautiful. with olive skin and the bluest eyes i’ve ever seen in my life. at first she acted like she only wanted to be friends. i think she kind of gives off that vibe without even meaning to. stay back. don’t even bother. she doesn’t flirt like some other girls do. she looks you right in the eye when she talks to you, like she’s daring you. so i just kept looking her right in the eye, too, like i was daring her right back. and then i asked her out and she said yes, which rocked.

  she’s an awesome girl and i love hanging out with her.

  she didn’t tell me about august until our third date. i think she used the phrase “a craniofacial abnormality” to describe his face. or maybe it was “craniofacial anomaly.” i know the one word she didn’t use was “deformed,” though, because that word would have registered with me.

  so, what did you think? she asks me nervously the second we’re inside her room. are you shocked?

  no, i lie.

  she smiles and looks away. you’re shocked.

  i’m not, i assure her. he’s just like what you said he’d be.

  she nods and plops down on her bed. kind of cute how she still has a lot of stuffed animals on her bed. she takes one of them, a polar bear, without thinking and puts it in her lap.

 
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