Wonder, p.6R. J. Palacio
In the hallways, which were always crowded, my face would always surprise some unsuspecting kid who maybe hadn’t heard about me. The kid would make the sound you make when you hold your breath before going underwater, a little “uh!” sound. This happened maybe four or five times a day for the first few weeks: on the stairs, in front of the lockers, in the library. Five hundred kids in a school: eventually every one of them was going to see my face at some time. And I knew after the first couple of days that word had gotten around about me, because every once in a while I’d catch a kid elbowing his friend as they passed me, or talking behind their hands as I walked by them. I can only imagine what they were saying about me. Actually, I prefer not to even try to imagine it.
I’m not saying they were doing any of these things in a mean way, by the way: not once did any kid laugh or make noises or do anything like that. They were just being normal dumb kids. I know that. I kind of wanted to tell them that. Like, it’s okay, I’m know I’m weird-looking, take a look, I don’t bite. Hey, the truth is, if a Wookiee started going to the school all of a sudden, I’d be curious, I’d probably stare a bit! And if I was walking with Jack or Summer, I’d probably whisper to them: Hey, there’s the Wookiee. And if the Wookiee caught me saying that, he’d know I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was just pointing out the fact that he’s a Wookiee.
It took about one week for the kids in my class to get used to my face. These were the kids I’d see every day in all my classes.
It took about two weeks for the rest of the kids in my grade to get used to my face. These were the kids I’d see in the cafeteria, yard time, PE, music, library, computer class.
It took about a month for the rest of the kids in the entire school to get used to it. These were the kids in all the other grades. They were big kids, some of them. Some of them had crazy haircuts. Some of them had earrings in their noses. Some of them had pimples. None of them looked like me.
I hung out with Jack in homeroom, English, history, computer, music, and science, which were all the classes we had together. The teachers assigned seats in every class, and I ended up sitting next to Jack in every single class, so I figured either the teachers were told to put me and Jack together, or it was a totally incredible coincidence.
I walked to classes with Jack, too. I know he noticed kids staring at me, but he pretended not to notice. One time, though, on our way to history, this huge eighth grader who was zooming down the stairs two steps at a time accidentally bumped into us at the bottom of the stairs and knocked me down. As the guy helped me stand up, he got a look at my face, and without even meaning to, he just said: “Whoa!” Then he patted me on the shoulder, like he was dusting me off, and took off after his friends. For some reason, me and Jack started cracking up.
“That guy made the funniest face!” said Jack as we sat down at our desks.
“I know, right?” I said. “He was like, whoa!”
“I swear, I think he wet his pants!”
We were laughing so hard that the teacher, Mr. Roche, had to ask us to settle down.
Later, after we finished reading about how ancient Sumerians built sundials, Jack whispered: “Do you ever want to beat those kids up?”
I shrugged. “I guess. I don’t know.”
“I’d want to. I think you should get a secret squirt gun or something and attach it to your eyes somehow. And every time someone stares at you, you would squirt them in the face.”
“With some green slime or something,” I answered.
“No, no: with slug juice mixed with dog pee.”
“Yeah!” I said, completely agreeing.
“Guys,” said Mr. Roche from across the room. “People are still reading.”
We nodded and looked down at our books. Then Jack whispered: “Are you always going to look this way, August? I mean, can’t you get plastic surgery or something?”
I smiled and pointed to my face. “Hello? This is after plastic surgery!”
Jack clapped his hand over his forehead and started laughing hysterically.
“Dude, you should sue your doctor!” he answered between giggles.
This time the two of us were laughing so much we couldn’t stop, even after Mr. Roche came over and made us both switch chairs with the kids next to us.
Mr. Browne’s October Precept
Mr. Browne’s precept for October was:
YOUR DEEDS ARE YOUR MONUMENTS.
He told us that this was written on the tombstone of some Egyptian guy that died thousands of years ago. Since we were just about to start studying ancient Egypt in history, Mr. Browne thought this was a good choice for a precept.
Our homework assignment was to write a paragraph about what we thought the precept meant or how we felt about it.
This is what I wrote:
This precept means that we should be remembered for the things we do. The things we do are the most important things of all. They are more important than what we say or what we look like. The things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they’ve died. They’re like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the pharaohs. Only instead of being made out of stone, they’re made out of the memories people have of you. That’s why your deeds are like your monuments. Built with memories instead of with stone.
My birthday is October 10. I like my birthday: 10/10. It would’ve been great if I’d been born at exactly 10:10 in the morning or at night, but I wasn’t. I was born just after midnight. But I still think my birthday is cool.
I usually have a little party at home, but this year I asked Mom if I could have a big bowling party. Mom was surprised but happy. She asked me who I wanted to ask from my class, and I said everyone in my homeroom plus Summer.
“That’s a lot of kids, Auggie,” said Mom.
“I have to invite everyone because I don’t want anyone to get their feelings hurt if they find out other people are invited and they aren’t, okay?”
“Okay,” Mom agreed. “You even want to invite the ‘what’s the deal’ kid?”
“Yeah, you can invite Julian,” I answered. “Geez, Mom, you should forget about that already.”
“I know, you’re right.”
A couple of weeks later, I asked Mom who was coming to my party, and she said: “Jack Will, Summer. Reid Kingsley. Both Maxes. And a couple of other kids said they were going to try to be there.”
“Charlotte’s mom said Charlotte had a dance recital earlier in the day, but she was going to try to come to your party if time allowed. And Tristan’s mom said he might come after his soccer game.”
“So that’s it?” I said. “That’s like … five people.”
“That’s more than five people, Auggie. I think a lot of people just had plans already,” Mom answered. We were in the kitchen. She was cutting one of the apples we had just gotten at the farmers’ market into teensy-weensy bites so I could eat it.
“What kind of plans?” I asked.
“I don’t know, Auggie. We sent out the evites kind of late.”
“Like what did they tell you, though? What reasons did they give?”
“Everyone gave different reasons, Auggie.” She sounded a bit impatient. “Really, sweetie, it shouldn’t matter what their reasons were. People had plans, that’s all.”
“What did Julian give as his reason?” I asked.
“You know,” said Mom, “his mom was the only person who didn’t RSVP at all.” She looked at me. “I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
I laughed because I thought she was making a joke, but then I realized she wasn’t.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“Never mind. Now go wash your hands so you can eat.”
My birthday party turned out to be much smaller than I thought it would be, but it was still great. Jack, Summer, Reid, Tristan, and both Maxes came from school, and
At lunch the next day, Summer asked me what I was going to be for Halloween. Of course, I’d been thinking about it since last Halloween, so I knew right away.
“You know you can wear a costume to school on Halloween, right?”
“No way, really?”
“So long as it’s politically correct.”
“What, like no guns and stuff?”
“What about blasters?”
“I think a blaster’s like a gun, Auggie.”
“Oh man …,” I said, shaking my head. Boba Fett has a blaster.
“At least, we don’t have to come like a character in a book anymore. In the lower school that’s what you had to do. Last year I was the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.”
“But that’s a movie, not a book.”
“Hello?” Summer answered. “It was a book first! One of my favorite books in the world, actually. My dad used to read it to me every night in the first grade.”
When Summer talks, especially when she’s excited about something, her eyes squint like she’s looking right at the sun.
I hardly ever see Summer during the day, since the only class we have together is English. But ever since that first lunch at school, we’ve sat at the summer table together every day, just the two of us.
“So, what are you going to be?” I asked her.
“I don’t know yet. I know what I’d really want to go as, but I think it might be too dorky. You know, Savanna’s group isn’t even wearing costumes this year. They think we’re too old for Halloween.”
“What? That’s just dumb.”
“I know, right?”
“I thought you didn’t care what those girls think.”
She shrugged and took a long drink of her milk.
“So, what dorky thing do you want to dress up as?” I asked her, smiling.
“Promise not to laugh?” She raised her eyebrows and her shoulders, embarrassed. “A unicorn.”
I smiled and looked down at my sandwich.
“Hey, you promised not to laugh!” she laughed.
“Okay, okay,” I said. “But you’re right: that is too dorky.”
“I know!” she said. “But I have it all planned out: I’d make the head out of papier-mâché, and paint the horn gold and make the mane gold, too.… It would be so awesome.”
“Okay.” I shrugged. “Then you should do it. Who cares what other people think, right?”
“Maybe what I’ll do is just wear it for the Halloween Parade,” she said, snapping her fingers. “And I’ll just be, like, a Goth girl for school. Yeah, that’s it, that’s what I’ll do.”
“Sounds like a plan.” I nodded.
“Thanks, Auggie,” she giggled. “You know, that’s what I like best about you. I feel like I can tell you anything.”
“Yeah?” I answered, nodding. I gave her a thumbs-up sign. “Cool beans.”
I don’t think anyone will be shocked to learn I don’t want to have my school picture taken on October 22. No way. No thank you. I stopped letting anyone take pictures of me a while ago. I guess you could call it a phobia. No, actually, it’s not a phobia. It’s an “aversion,” which is a word I just learned in Mr. Browne’s class. I have an aversion to having my picture taken. There, I used it in a sentence.
I thought Mom would try to get me to drop my aversion to having my picture taken for school, but she didn’t. Unfortunately, while I managed to avoid having the portrait taken, I couldn’t get out of being part of the class picture. Ugh. The photographer looked like he’d just sucked on a lemon when he saw me. I’m sure he thought I ruined the picture. I was one of the ones in the front, sitting down. I didn’t smile, not that anyone could tell if I had.
The Cheese Touch
I noticed not too long ago that even though people were getting used to me, no one would actually touch me. I didn’t realize this at first because it’s not like kids go around touching each other that much in middle school anyway. But last Thursday in dance class, which is, like, my least favorite class, Mrs. Atanabi, the teacher, tried to make Ximena Chin be my dance partner. Now, I’ve never actually seen someone have a “panic attack” before, but I have heard about it, and I’m pretty sure Ximena had a panic attack at that second. She got really nervous and turned pale and literally broke into a sweat within a minute, and then she came up with some lame excuse about really having to go to the bathroom. Anyway, Mrs. Atanabi let her off the hook, because she ended up not making anyone dance together.
Then yesterday in my science elective, we were doing this cool mystery-powder investigation where we had to classify a substance as an acid or a base. Everyone had to heat their mystery powders on a heating plate and make observations, so we were all huddled around the powders with our notebooks. Now, there are eight kids in the elective, and seven of them were squished together on one side of the plate while one of them—me—had loads of room on the other side. So of course I noticed this, but I was hoping Ms. Rubin wouldn’t notice this, because I didn’t want her to say something. But of course she did notice this, and of course she said something.
“Guys, there’s plenty of room on that side. Tristan, Nino, go over there,” she said, so Tristan and Nino scooted over to my side. Tristan and Nino have always been okay-nice to me. I want to go on record as saying that. Not super-nice, like they go out of their way to hang out with me, but okay-nice, like they say hello to me and talk to me like normal. And they didn’t even make a face when Ms. Rubin told them to come on my side, which a lot of kids do when they think I’m not looking. Anyway, everything was going fine until Tristan’s mystery powder started melting. He moved his foil off the plate just as my powder began to melt, too, which is why I went to move mine off the plate, and then my hand accidentally bumped his hand for a fraction of a second. Tristan jerked his hand away so fast he dropped his foil on the floor while also knocking everyone else’s foil off the heating plate.
“Tristan!” yelled Ms. Rubin, but Tristan didn’t even care about the spilled powder on the floor or that he ruined the experiment. What he was most concerned about was getting to the lab sink to wash his hands as fast as possible. That’s when I knew for sure that there was this thing about touching me at Beecher Prep.
I think it’s like the Cheese Touch in Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The kids in that story were afraid they’d catch the cooties if they touched the old moldy cheese on the basketball court. At Beecher Prep, I’m the old moldy cheese.
For me, Halloween is the best holiday in the world. It even beats Christmas. I get to dress up in a costume. I get to wear a mask. I get to go around like every other kid with a mask and nobody thinks I look weird. Nobody takes a second look. Nobody notices me. Nobody knows me.
I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks.
When I was little, I used to wear an astronaut helmet everywhere I went. To the playground. To the supermarket. To pick Via up from school. Even in the middle of summer, though it was so hot my face would sweat. I think I wore it for a couple of years, but I had to stop wearing it when I had my eye surgery. I was about seven, I think. And then we couldn’t find the helmet after that. Mom looked everywhere for it. She figured that it had probably ended up in Grans’s attic, and she kept meaning to look for it, but by then I had gotten used to not wearing it.
I have pictures of me in all my Halloween costumes. My first Halloween I was a pumpkin. My second I was Tigg
This year I’m going to be Boba Fett: not Boba Fett the kid in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, but Boba Fett the man from Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Mom searched everywhere for the costume but couldn’t find one in my size, so she bought me a Jango Fett costume—since Jango was Boba’s dad and wore the same armor—and then painted the armor green. She did some other stuff to it to make it look worn, too. Anyway, it looks totally real. Mom’s good at costumes.
In homeroom we all talked about what we were going to be for Halloween. Charlotte was going as Hermione from Harry Potter. Jack was going as a wolfman. I heard that Julian was going as Jango Fett, which was a weird coincidence. I don’t think he liked hearing that I was going as Boba Fett.
On the morning of Halloween, Via had this big crying meltdown about something. Via’s always been so calm and cool, but this year she’s had a couple of these kinds of fits. Dad was late for work and was like, “Via, let’s go! Let’s go!” Usually Dad is super patient about things, but not when it comes to his being late for work, and his yelling just stressed out Via even more, and she started crying louder, so Mom told Dad to take me to school and that she’d deal with Via. Then Mom kissed me goodbye quickly, before I even put on my costume, and disappeared into Via’s room.
“Auggie, let’s go now!” said Dad. “I have a meeting I can’t be late for!”
Wonder by R. J. Palacio / Young Adult / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes