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GETTING RUN OVER
When I woke up and kicked the covers off, I moved my legs back and forth in the air like superpowered scissors. I did this because I needed to get my blood moving. I needed to move my blood from my legs to my head so that when I stood up, I wouldn't get light-headed. My mom and dad thought that the reason I got light-headed was because I had low blood sugar. They said I was hypoglycemic.
You might think that someone with low blood sugar would be allowed to eat a lot of sugar. But I wasn't that lucky. When I felt shaky, I had to eat cheese. My parents said that I had to eat every three hours to keep my blood sugar levels stable. This meant that I had to carry extra food with me to school in a cooler.
I was the only student at Rocky Mountain Elementary School who was allowed to eat during class. I could open up my cooler and pull out a ham sandwich right at my desk whenever I wanted. And I did.
You might be thinking that I was a pretty fat fourth grader, but I wasn't. I weighed less than sixty pounds. Five of those pounds were from my hair. I was very lucky. I didn't have long, stringy hair like Polly Clausen or Gracie Clop. I had movie-star hair. It was thick, caramel brown, and beautiful.
When I walked outside on a sunny day, the sun bounced off my hair, making every strand shine like gold. It's a really good thing that I had great hair, because it helped camouflage my head. Some people thought it was big. And they enjoyed pointing this out. You might think that a big head of hair drew more attention to a big head.
Well, it did. But when people said some mean thing like "Hey, soccer-ball head," or "Why do you have a blimp attached to your neck?" or "What's up, hippo head?" (I always hated that one), then someone else pointed out that maybe it was just my hair making my head look big. And then the first person would argue that it wasn't my hair but my big goofy head that made my head look big.
There would always be a debate about this. No one was ever sure. Listening to people fight about whether or not I had a big head made me feel terrible. Once, it got so bad that I thought about cutting off all my hair and mailing it to my cousin Binna in Colorado. She had always been a huge fan of my hair at family reunions. But I didn't have to do that.
One day, like magic, a new teacher showed up at my school. Ms. Golden. She came from New Jersey. And one of the things she brought with her to Rocky Mountain Elementary School was very large and powerful hair. When she walked down the halls, her hair spilled off her in curls and waves. And because everybody liked Ms. Golden, big hair became very popular. And nobody teased me anymore.
I mean, nobody teased me about my big head anymore. You see, one winter day, right after I kicked my legs back and forth in the air like superpowered scissors, something really bad happened. It was a Friday, the day my mother taught a morning kickboxing class at the gym. She didn't leave to teach it until after I went to school, but she was a very dedicated instructor, and she always practiced her routine several times in the den. So I had to get ready by myself.
That Friday, I got up and put on fresh thermal underwear. And jeans. And a fuzzy blue sweater that didn't itch me. Then I ate a bowl of cereal. And washed my face and brushed my teeth. And most important, like always, I fluffed my hair. For one whole minute. After that, I grabbed my books, pencils, chocolate-milk money, and cooler. I poked my head into the den and told my mother goodbye.
She appeared to be doing jumping jacks.
"See you when you get home," she said, panting.
When I went out to catch the bus, I thought it was going to be a great day. I walked down the front steps and blew a big cloud out into the cold February air in front of me. Then I took a deep breath. It was so cold that my lungs started to sting and my right nostril froze shut.
Of my two nostrils, it was usually the right one that froze shut. Because I was right-handed and my right arm was stronger than my left, I figured I was also right-nostriled. Which meant when I sucked in cold air, my right nostril sucked a lot harder than the left one, and that was why it would freeze shut.
But the awful thing that happened really doesn't have anything to do with my nostril.
I walked to the bus stop and stood in line behind Manny and Danny Hatten. They were identically mean twins and were in the sixth grade, which meant they were pretty tough. Nobody messed with those two, because Manny and Danny had muscles. Mostly in their legs. They were very good at kicking other people's backpacks and lunch boxes. And they were also very good at having greasy blond hair.
I lifted my right hand to my forehead to shade my eyes and look down the long, snowy road. In addition to the bus, I was also looking for my cat Checkers. I hadn't seen her for three years. But I still kept my eyes open just in case. I was what my mother called hopeful. I spotted my bus making its first stop at Coltman Road. It would be here in five minutes.
I lived on County Line Road. It was in the middle of nowhere. Across the street, there was a big hay field that stretched so far that it never stopped. During the winter, cows lived there. To keep them from escaping, a barbed-wire fence surrounded the field. And there was a steep drainage ditch that ran along the bottom of the field, next to the road. That was not a good place to wait for the bus. So we made our line on the side of the road with the driveways.
I checked my cooler to make sure that its lid was on tight; then I set it down in the snow. I didn't say anything to anyone. I wasn't much of a talker.