Amber Brown Is Green with Envy
By Paula Danziger
Scholastic Paperbacks Copyright © 2004 Paula Danziger
All right reserved. ISBN: 9780439071710
I, Amber Brown, have had enough. "Dylan Marshall, you are driving me crazy."
Dylan looks at me and smiles. Then he pretends to be guiding a steering wheel. "Vrroooooom. Vrooooooooom. Zoom."
His older sister, Polly, looks up from the book she is reading. "Dylan, you are so immature."
"Thank you." He bows to her.
She sighs and goes back to her book.
Before my dad rented the downstairs half of their house, I used to think that Dylan was one of the BIG kids, a sixth grader.
Now I think that he's just a BIG doofus.
Dylan pretends to drive into his younger sister, Savannah.
She ignores him.
"Road pizza," he yells, pretending to run over their cat, Mewkiss Membrain.
"I'm going downstairs," I announce.
"You're supposed to stay up here until THE DADS come back from getting the groceries," Polly reminds me.
I sit down and look at a magazine, thinking about how my life has changed in the last few months.
THE DADS ... my dad and their dad ... if grown-ups can be best friends, I think that's what they are becoming.
My dad was not happy when he moved back from France.
I, Amber Brown, think that he wanted to get back with my mom, but it's too late ... she's going to marry Max.
Dylan comes over and makes an armpit noise at me. "I'm bored."
"You're boring." I smile at him.
"Thank you." He makes a bow.
Actually, I, Amber Brown, think that Dylan can be fun. But not today.
Today he is driving me crazy.
I'm staying at my father's house for Christmas vacation. So my mom went to California to visit her sister, my aunt Pam. Dad wants me to call his house "our house," but sometimes I forget because it doesn't feel like our house yet. Actually, I spent Christmas Day and one day after that with Mom at her house, which I do think of as my house because I've lived there all my life.
I, Amber Brown, have two houses because I, Amber Brown, am a shared-custody kid.
It's a little weird to live in two houses, especially since they are very different from each other.
In the house where I live with my mom, it's just me and Mom. Max visits a lot. It's going to be a little weird when they get married, but since it's only December and they're not getting married until June, I'm not going to think much about it now.
In this house, my dad rents the basement and first floor of the Marshalls' house. There are four Marshalls who live upstairs..... The dad, Steve..... Polly, who is in high school..... Dylan and Savannah. Inside the house, we don't keep the doors locked between the two places, so it's almost like we are all living together. In fact, the dads got a sign for the front door that reads:
Welcome to the ZOO
I hope that Dad stays here. He's made so many changes.... when he left our house, when he left the country, when he came back.
He promised me that he's not going to leave again.
He didn't promise me, though, that he would stay here forever.
It's not always easy being a shared-custody kid.
Dylan looks under the Christmas tree. "Where did I put my new computer game?"
He keeps searching, picks up a package and throws it to Savannah. "Catch."
It hits her on the foot.
"Ow." She glares at him.
It's the present that I gave her, a soap-making kit called Gross Soap.
"Amber," she says, "let's make soap today."
I was hoping that she would make the soap soon, but my dad said that I should wait to see what she wanted to do, because it was her present..... not mine.
I really wanted it for me, but my dad said that I had enough presents already. I gave it to Savannah so that maybe I could make the gross soap anyway.
"There's nothing else to do. So this is your lucky day. I'm going to make soap too," Dylan says. "But first, I am going to get a snack."
He leaves the room.
Polly looks up from her book. "Does anyone in this room want to play a joke on Dylan?"
Savannah and I raise our hands.
Savannah and I go over and sit on the couch in front of Polly.
She smiles at us. "That boy is driving me crazy."
"Me too," Savannah and I, Amber Brown, say at exactly the same time.
We link pinkies.
Polly says, "We have to talk quickly before Dylan gets back. Here's what's going to happen. I'm going to tell a joke that makes absolutely no sense..... no sense at all ... but when I get to the punch line, which is 'No soap. Radio,' you two are going to laugh a lot, and so will I. That will confuse Dylan."
I like that!
Savannah says, "I don't get it."
"Exactly," Polly explains. "The joke doesn't make any sense. Dylan will see us laugh and feel stupid that he doesn't get it. Or he will laugh, and then he'll feel stupid when we make fun of him for laughing at a joke that makes no sense."
She whispers, "When he hears the three of us laughing, he's going to think that he's missing something, and that will bother him. He's such a know-it-all."
We all smile at each other.
"Amber, when he comes in, tell a short joke. That way it will look like that's what we've been doing while he was gone." Polly looks at the doorway to see if he's on his way. "Okay, now."
Dylan rushes in. "I made popcorn, but it's just for me."
Sitting down, he shoves a huge handful of it in his mouth and goes, "Yum."
At least I think it's "Yum," because with the wad of popcorn in his mouth and the wet pieces spraying out, I'm not sure of the exact word.
I turn back to Savannah and Polly.
"What's the longest word in the English language?" I ask, and then yell out loudly, "Smiles! Because there is a MILE between each S.... sMILEs."
"I EW AT." More popcorn falls out of his mouth.
"I have a great joke." Polly leans forward.
Savannah and I pretend to be excited.
She leans down. "Two polar bears are sitting in a bathtub. The first one says, 'Pass the soap.' The second one says, 'No soap. Radio.'"
Immediately Savannah and I look at each other and laugh..... and laugh..... and laugh.
I start rolling around on the floor. "No soap. Radio."
Savannah rolls also. "No soap. Radio. That is so funny."
Polly says, "It's the best joke I've heard in years."
I sneak a look at Dylan.
He's stopped guzzling popcorn into his mouth.
He looks confused.
Polly looks at him and then talks to him in that older-sister voice. "Dylan. Don't you get it?"
He just looks at her.
She looks at him. "Dylan. Two polar bears. Bathtub. No soap. Radio. Savannah and Amber are younger than you..... and they get it."
I roll around some more. "No soap. Radio."
I sit up and try to catch my breath. "Dylan. Do you want me to explain it to you?"
"No." He looks annoyed. "You don't have to. I get it. I just had too much popcorn in my mouth before. I get it. It's very funny. No soap. Radio."
He laughs in a phony way.
Polly, Savannah and I look at each other, clap our hands and laugh even more.
"Sucker," Savannah yells. "We fooled you. Fool. Fool. Fool."
Dylan looks at Savannah.
Dylan looks at me.
Then he looks at Polly and says, "What's so funny?"
"You are." She smiles at him. "We got you. That really wasn't a joke. We pretended it was, and you believed us."
"Funny. Funny. Funny." Savannah rolls around the floor again.
"Noooooooooooo soap. Radio," I tease.
"Girls," he yells. "I hate girls. It was bad enough when I just had my two sisters here..... and now, you too, Amber Brown. It's like I have three sisters. Ugh. Yug. Barf."
He stomps out of the room.
We sit there quietly for a minute.
"There's nothing to do" Savannah says. "That was fun. Now I'm bored."
"Maybe we should turn on some music," Polly says.
I shake my head. "No radio. Soap."
It is time to make soap.
I just hope that Dylan doesn't do something to get even.
We're in the kitchen. It's Soap-Making-Time.
I wonder if the pioneers made soap the same way we will be making it.
We've got everything out..... the Gross Soap kit, the molds and extra supplies that my dad and Steve bought for Savannah.
Polly reads the instructions. "This looks simple enough. First melt the wax in a container."
I, Amber Brown, hold up a plastic measuring cup. "Container ready."
Polly continues. "Once it's melted in the microwave, the wax is to go into the molds."
"Molds." Savannah holds up some of the plastic molds.
"Choose objects to put into the hot wax once it is in the molds."
"Gross stuff." Savannah and I both hold up some of the creepy crawly things that came with the kit.
She's got a worm and a spider in her hands.
I've got a beetle and a cockroach in mine.
I'm glad that they are plastic.
Polly laughs. "I'm putting in some of the other things that the dads bought." She picks up a little rubber ducky and a mini mermaid.
Somehow I don't think that the pioneers made soap the way that we are.
Excerpted from Amber Brown Is Green with Envy by Paula Danziger Copyright © 2004 by Paula Danziger. Excerpted by permission.
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