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The julian chapter, p.3
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       The Julian Chapter, p.3

           R. J. Palacio
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  “Mrs. Albans,” said Ms. Rubin, “I know you’re upset.…”

  “I’m assuming the kid will get expelled, right?” said Dad.

  “Dad!” I yelled.

  “We will definitely deal with this matter in the appropriate way, I promise,” answered Ms. Rubin, trying to keep her voice calm. “And now, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll leave you guys alone for a bit. The doctor will be back and you can check in with him, but he said that nothing was broken. Julian’s fine. He lost a lower first molar, but that was on its way out anyway. He’s going to give him some pain medication and you should keep icing it. Let’s talk more in the morning.”

  It was only then that I realized that poor Ms. Rubin’s blouse and skirt were completely covered in my blood. Boy, mouths do bleed a lot!

  Later that night, when I could finally talk again without it hurting, Mom and Dad wanted to know every detail of what had happened, starting with what Jack and I had been talking about right before he hit me.

  “Jack wath upthet becauth he wath paired up with the deformed kid,” I answered. “I told him he could thwitch partnerth if he wanted to. And then he punched me!”

  Mom shook her head. That was it for her. She was literally madder than I’d ever seen her before (and I’ve seen my mom pretty mad before, believe me!).

  “This is what happens, Jules!” she said to Dad, crossing her arms and nodding quickly. “This is what happens when you make little kids deal with issues they’re not equipped to deal with! They’re just too young to be exposed to this kind of stuff! That Tushman is an idiot!”

  And she said a whole bunch of other things, too, but those are kind of too inapro-pro (if you know what I mean) for me to repeat.

  “But, Dad, I don’t want Jack to get ecthpelled from thkool,” I said later on in the night. He was putting more ice on my mouth because the painkiller they had given me at the hospital was wearing off.

  “That’s not up to us,” he answered. “But I wouldn’t trouble myself about it if I were you. Whatever happens, Jack will get what he deserves for this.”

  I have to admit, I started feeling kind of bad for Jack. I mean, sure, he was a total dipstick for punching me, and I wanted him to get in trouble—but I really didn’t want him to get kicked out of school or anything.

  But Mom, I could tell, was on one of her missions now (as Dad would say). She gets like that sometimes, when she gets so outraged about something that there’s just no stopping her. She was like that a few years ago when a kid got hit by a car a couple of blocks away from Beecher Prep, and she had like a million people sign a petition to have a traffic light installed. That was a super-mom moment. She was also like that last month when our favorite restaurant changed its menu and they no longer made my favorite dish the way I liked it. That was another super-mom moment because after she talked to the new owner, they agreed to special-order the dish—just for me! But Mom also gets like that for not-so-nice stuff, like when a waiter messes up a food order. That’s a not-so-super-mom moment because, well, you know, it can get kind of weird when your mom starts talking to a waiter like he’s five years old. Awkward! Also, like Dad says, you don’t want to get a waiter mad at you, you know? They have your food in their hands—duh!

  So, I wasn’t totally clear on how I felt when I realized that my mom was declaring war on Mr. Tushman, Auggie Pullman, and all of Beecher Prep. Was it going to be a super-mom moment or a not-so-super-mom moment? Like, would it end up with Auggie going to a different school—yay!—or with Mr. Tushman blowing his nose in my cafeteria food—ugh!

  It took about two weeks for the swelling to go completely down. Because of that, we ended up not going to Paris over winter break. Mom didn’t want our relatives to see me looking like I’d been in a “prize fight.” She also wouldn’t take any pictures of me over the holidays because she said she didn’t want to remember me looking like that. For our annual Christmas card, we used one of the rejects from last year’s photo shoot.

  Even though I wasn’t having a lot of nightmares anymore, the fact that I had started having nightmares again really worried Mom. I could tell she was totally stressed out about it. Then, the day before our Christmas party, she found out from one of the other moms that Auggie had not been through the same kind of admissions screening that the rest of us had been. See, every kid who applies to Beecher Prep is supposed to be interviewed and take a test at the school—but some kind of exception had been made for Auggie. He didn’t come to the school for the interview and he got to take the admissions test at home. Mom thought that was really unfair!

  “This kid should not have gotten into the school,” I heard her telling a group of other moms at the party. “Beecher Prep is just not set up to handle situations like this! We’re not an inclusion school! We don’t have the psychologists needed to deal with how it affects the other kids. Poor Julian had nightmares for a whole month!”

  Ugh, Mom! I hate your telling people about my nightmares!

  “Henry was upset as well,” Henry’s mom said, and the other moms nodded.

  “They didn’t even prepare us beforehand!” Mom went on. “That’s what gets me the most. If they’re not going to provide additional psychological support, at least warn the parents ahead of time!”

  “Absolutely!” said Miles’s mom, and the other moms nodded again.

  “Obviously, Jack Will could have used some therapy,” Mom said, rolling her eyes.

  “I was surprised they didn’t expel him,” said Henry’s mom.

  “Oh, they would have!” answered Mom, “but we asked them not to. We’ve known the Will family since kindergarten. They’re good people. We don’t blame Jack, really. I think he just cracked under the pressure of having to be this kid’s caretaker. That’s what happens when you put little kids into these kinds of situations. I honestly don’t know what Tushman was thinking!”

  “I’m sorry, I just have to step in here,” said another mom (I think it was Charlotte’s mom because she had the same bright blond hair and big blue eyes). “It’s not like there’s anything wrong with this kid, Melissa. He’s a great kid, who just happens to look different, but …”

  “Oh, I know!” Mom answered, and she put her hand over her heart. “Oh, Brigit, no one’s saying he’s not a great kid, believe me. I’m sure he is. And I hear the parents are lovely people. That’s not the issue. To me, ultimately, the simple fact of the matter is that Tushman didn’t follow protocol. He flagrantly disregarded the applications process by not having the boy come to Beecher Prep for the interview—or take the test like every one of our kids did. He broke the rules. And rules are rules. That’s it.” Mom made a sad face at Brigit. “Oh dear, Brigit. I can see you totally disapprove!”

  “No, Melissa, not at all,” Charlotte’s mom said, shaking her head. “It’s a tough situation all around. Look, the fact is, your son got punched in the face. You have every right to feel angry and demand some answers.”

  “Thank you.” Mom nodded and crossed her arms. “I just think the whole thing’s been handled terribly, that’s all. And I blame Tushman. Completely.”

  “Absolutely,” said Henry’s mom.

  “He’s got to go,” agreed Miles’s mom.

  I looked at Mom, surrounded by nodding moms, and I thought, okay, so maybe this is going to turn out to be one of those really super-mom moments. Maybe everything she was doing would make it so that Auggie ended up going to a different school, and then things could go back to the way it used to be at Beecher Prep. That would be so awesome!

  But a part of me was thinking, maybe this is going to turn into a not-so-super-mom moment. I mean, some of the stuff she was saying sounded kind of … I don’t know. Kind of harsh, I guess. It’s like when she gets mad at a waiter. You end up feeling sorry for the waiter. The thing is, I know she’s on this anti-Tushman mission because of me. If I hadn’t started getting nightmares again, and if Jack hadn’t punched me, none of this would be happening. She wouldn’t be making a big deal about Aug
gie, or Tushman, and she’d be concentrating all her time and energy on good stuff, like raising money for the school and volunteering at the homeless shelter. Mom does good stuff like that all the time!

  So I don’t know. On the one hand, I’m happy she’s trying to help me. And on the other hand, I would love for her to stop.

  The thing that annoyed me the most when we got back from winter break was that Jack had gone back to being friends with Auggie again. They had had some kind of fight after Halloween, which is why Jack and I started being bros again. But after winter break was over, they were best buds again.

  It was so lame!

  I told everyone we needed to really ice Jack out, for his own good. He had to choose, once and for all, whether he wanted to be on Team Auggie or Team Julian and the Rest of the World. So we started completely ignoring Jack: not talking to him, not answering his questions. It was like he didn’t exist.

  That’ll show him!

  And that’s when I started leaving my little notes. One day, someone had left some Post-it notes on one of the benches in the yard, which is what gave me the idea. I wrote in this really psycho-killer handwriting:

  Nobody likes you anymore!

  I slipped it into the slits in Jack’s locker when no one was looking. I watched him out of the corner of my eye when he found it. He turned around and saw Henry opening his locker nearby.

  “Did Julian write this?” he asked.

  But Henry was one of my peeps, you know? He just iced Jack out, pretended like no one was even talking to him. Jack crumpled the Post-it and flicked it into his locker and banged the door shut.

  After Jack left, I went over to Henry.

  “Hollah!” I said, giving him the devil’s sign, which made Henry laugh.

  Over the next couple of days, I left a few more notes in Jack’s locker. And then I started leaving some in Auggie’s locker.

  They were not—I repeat, not—a big deal. They were mostly stupid stuff. I didn’t think anyone would ever take them seriously. I mean, they were actually kind of funny!

  Well, kind of. At least, some of them were.

  You stink, big cheese!


  Get out of our school, orc!

  No one but Henry and Miles knew that I was writing these notes. And they were sworn to secrecy.

  I don’t know how the heck Mr. Tushman found out about them. I don’t think Jack or Auggie would have been dumb enough to rat on me, because they had started leaving me notes in my locker, too. I mean, how stupid would you have to be to rat someone out about something that you were doing, too?

  So, here’s what happened. A few days before the Fifth-Grade Nature Retreat, which I was totally looking forward to, Mom got a phone call from Dr. Jansen, the headmaster of Beecher Prep. He said he wanted to discuss something with her and Dad, and asked for a meeting.

  Mom assumed it probably had to do with Mr. Tushman, that maybe he was getting fired. So she was actually kind of excited about the meeting!

  They showed up for the appointment at ten a.m., and they were waiting in Dr. Jansen’s office when, all of a sudden, they see me walking into the office, too. Ms. Rubin had taken me out of class, asked me to follow her, and brought me there: I had no idea what was up. I’d never even been to the headmaster’s office before, so when I saw Mom and Dad there, I looked as confused as they looked.

  “What’s going on?” Mom said to Ms. Rubin. Before Ms. Rubin could say anything, Mr. Tushman and Dr. Jansen came into the office.

  Everyone shook hands and they were all smiles as they greeted one another. Ms. Rubin said she had to go back to class but that she would call Mom and Dad later to check in. This surprised Mom. I could tell she started thinking that maybe this wasn’t about Mr. Tushman getting fired, after all.

  Then Dr. Jansen asked us to sit on the sofa opposite his desk. Mr. Tushman sat down in a chair next to us, and Dr. Jansen sat behind his desk.

  “Well, thank you so much for coming, Melissa and Jules,” Dr. Jansen said to my parents. It was strange hearing him call them by their first names. I knew they all knew each other from being on the board, but it sounded weird. “I know how busy you are. And I’m sure you’re wondering what this is all about.”

  “Well, yes …,” said Mom, but her voice drifted off. Dad coughed into his hand.

  “The reason we asked you here today is because, unfortunately,” Dr. Jansen continued, “we have a serious matter on our hands, and we’d like to figure out the best way to resolve it. Julian, do you have any inkling of what I might be talking about?” He looked at me.

  I opened my eyes wide.

  “Me?” I snapped my head back and made a face. “No.”

  Dr. Jansen smiled and sighed at me at the same time. He took off his glasses.

  “You understand,” he said, looking at me, “we take bullying very seriously at Beecher Prep. There’s zero tolerance for any kind of bullying. We feel that every single one of our students deserves the right to learn in a caring and respectful atmosphere—”

  “Excuse me, but can someone tell me what’s going on here?” Mom interrupted, looking at Dr. Jansen impatiently. “We obviously know the mission statement at Beecher Prep, Hal: we practically wrote it! Let’s cut to the chase—what’s going on?”

  Dr. Jansen looked at Mr. Tushman. “Why don’t you explain, Larry?” he said.

  Mr. Tushman handed an envelope to Mom and Dad. Mom opened it and pulled out the last three Post-it notes I had left in Auggie’s locker. I knew immediately that’s what they were because these were actually pink Post-its and not yellow ones like all the others had been.

  So, I thought: Ah-ha! So it was Auggie who told Mr. Tushman about the Post-it notes! What a turd!!

  Mom read through the notes quickly, raised her eyebrows, and passed them to Dad. He read them and looked at me.

  “You wrote these, Julian?” he said, holding the notes out for me.

  I swallowed. I looked at him kind of blankly. He handed me the notes, and I just stared at them.

  “Um … well,” I answered. “Yeah, I guess. But, Dad, they were writing notes, too!”

  “Who was writing notes?” asked Dad.

  “Jack and Auggie,” I answered. “They were writing notes to me, too! It wasn’t just me!”

  “But you started the note writing, didn’t you?” asked Mr. Tushman.

  “Excuse me,” Mom interjected angrily. “Let’s not forget that it was Jack Will who punched Julian in the mouth, not the other way around. Obviously, there’s going to be residual anger—”

  “How many of these notes did you write, Julian?” Dad interrupted, tapping on the Post-its I was holding.

  “I don’t know,” I said. It was hard for me to get the words out. “Like, six or something. But the other ones weren’t this … you know, bad. These notes are worse than the other ones I wrote. The other ones weren’t so …” My voice kind of drifted off as I reread what I’d written on the three notes:

  Yo, Darth Hideous. You’re so ugly you should wear a mask every day!


  I h8 u, Freak!

  And the last one:

  I bet your mother wishes you’d never been born. You should do everybody a favor—and die.

  Of course, looking at them now, they seemed a lot worse than when I wrote them. But I was mad then—super mad. I had just gotten one of their notes and …

  “Wait!” I said, and I reached into my pocket. I found the last Post-it that Auggie and Jack had left for me in my locker, just yesterday. It was kind of crumpled up now, but I held it out to Mr. Tushman to read. “Look! They wrote mean stuff to me, too!”

  Mr. Tushman took the Post-it, read it quickly, and handed it to my parents. My mom read it and then looked at the floor. My dad read it and shook his head, puzzled.

  He handed me the Post-it and I reread it.

  Julian, you’re so hot! Summer doesn’t like you, but I want to have your babies! Smell my armpits! Love, Beulah

the heck is Beulah?” asked Dad.

  “Never mind,” I answered. “I can’t explain.” I handed the Post-it back to Mr. Tushman, who gave it to Dr. Jansen to read. I noticed he actually tried to hide a smile.

  “Julian,” said Mr. Tushman, “the three notes you wrote don’t compare at all to this note in content.”

  “I don’t think it’s for anyone else to judge the semantics of a note,” said Mom. “It doesn’t matter whether you think one note is worse than the other—it’s how the person reading the note reads it. The fact is, Julian’s had a little crush on this Summer girl all year long, and it probably hurt his feelings—”

  “Mom!” I yelled, and I covered my face with my hands. “That’s so embarrassing!”

  “All I’m saying is that a note can be hurtful to a child—whether you see it or not,” Mom said to Mr. Tushman.

  “Are you kidding me?” answered Mr. Tushman, shaking his head. He sounded angrier than I had ever heard him before. “Are you telling me you don’t find the Post-its your son wrote completely horrifying? Because I do!”

  “I’m not defending the notes!” answered Mom. “I’m just reminding you that it was a two-way street. You have to realize that Julian was obviously writing those notes as a reaction to something.”

  “Look,” said Dr. Jansen, holding his hand out in front of him like a crossing guard. “There’s no doubt there’s some history here.”

  “Those notes hurt my feelings!” I said, and I didn’t mind that I sounded like I was going to cry.

  “I don’t doubt that their notes hurt your feelings, Julian,” Dr. Jansen answered. “And you were trying to hurt their feelings. That’s the problem with stuff like this—everyone keeps trying to top one another, and then things escalate out of control.”

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