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When I Realize I Need to Find My Thing
Fridays are my second favorite day of the week for obvious reasons, but today started out even better than most.
For one thing, I woke up having a killer hair day without even trying-which, with my crazy head of curls, happens about as often as I win the lottery. Then my mom made me pumpkin pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Of course, I ate them together sandwich-style, even though my BFF Stella says that's the most disgusting combination in the entire food universe.
I've tried arguing with her-hello? What about Cheerios and clam sauce? Banana pudding and onions? Chocolate chip cookies and gravy? But Stella can be as stubborn as any mule you ever met, and she insists she'd pick any of those over my dream-team breakfast. Someday I may have to make her a hot-fudge-and-fish-sticks sundae. I'll bet she comes around.
The third awesome thing about today is we're having a huge pep rally first thing. It's supposed to get us all pumped up about this weekend's big basketball game against Washington Middle School, but I'm excited because I hear the pep rallies at Pinkerton (my new school since my dad lost his job) last, like, three hours, and that means I get to miss social studies. Don't get me wrong; normally it's one of my favorite classes. But the teacher, Mrs. Grossbottom, throws a "surprise" pop quiz every Friday (which makes it not much of a surprise, but it's not like anybody is going to point that out). I'm definitely not bummed to be missing out on that action.
I cruise on my bike into the Pinkerton parking lot, and the first thing I notice is a huge group of boys wearing suits. I'm talking about business suits, like my dad used to wear every day, with ties and everything. That's weird, I'm thinking when I notice a different group of guys and girls wearing bathrobes. Even weirder! What is this, dress-crazy day? I'm locking up my bike when Alicia pulls up next to me.
Alicia is my PBF (Pinkerton best friend). It's not that she's not as cool as my BFF Stella, but I haven't known Alicia very long. Besides, you can only have one BFF and Stella scored that title a million years ago. Anyway, Alicia is funny and cool and practically the mayor of Pinkerton. Usually she's a stylish dresser, but today she's wearing soccer shorts and a Pinkerton Pit Bull jersey. Yeah, our school mascot is a dog that's not known to be the friendliest breed around. Don't get me started.
"You ready to rally?" Alicia squeals, slinging her backpack onto her shoulder and holding up her hand for a high five.
"What's with the outfits?" I ask, giving her hand a hearty smack. My palm stings after I do it, but I firmly believe if you're going to do something, no matter what it is, you should give it your all.
"Oh my gosh, didn't I tell you?" Alicia asks, looking worried. "On pep rally days everyone wears their team uniforms! Oh Maggie, I feel terrible! I can't believe I didn't think of it."
"It's okay," I tell her. "I'm not on a team anyway."
"But Maggie, you have to be on a team! Otherwise where will you sit at pep rallies? The teams all sit together. Plus, being on a team is really fun. Hey, are you any good at soccer? We could use a few more strong players!"
"I'm positively awful at soccer," I admit as we make our way through clusters of cheerleaders and flocks of feather-headed marching-band kids.
"Bummer," Alicia says.
"What's with the bathrobes?" I whisper.
"Swim team," she explains.
"And the suits?" I ask.
"Debate team," Alicia says. "You'd be good at that!"
"I don't really like arguing," I tell her. "Besides, I hate having things tight around my neck. I'd suffocate in a tie."
"The girls don't have to wear ties," she says, laughing. "They wear these cute little scarf thingies."
"I just don't think I'm debate team material," I say, shaking my head.
"Fair enough," Alicia agrees. I give her a weak smile. "Don't worry," she adds. "You'll find something." I look around and don't see a single kid not wearing some sort of team getup. A marching band guy next to me bends down, and his feather pokes me right in the nose.
"It looks like I'm going to have to find something," I tell her.
We're gathered with everyone else outside the Pit Bull Arena, which is the name for the school gymnasium. The energy in the crowd is intense and people are getting pretty impatient. I'm starting to worry there's going to be a stampede or something when I spot Mr. Mooney, the principal, waving his arms at the front of the throng.
"Can I please have your attention?" he shouts. Nobody stops talking or even pays him one lick of attention, so the office secretary, Mrs. Dunst, hands him a giant megaphone. I cover my ears.
"Can I please have your attention?" Mr. Mooney bellows into the thing, and this time you could hear an ant hiccup.
"Thank you very much," he continues, his words echoing off into space. "Everyone, please line up with your teammates and I'll call you in alphabetical order. We'll start with the band and then the baseball team."
Everyone starts milling around and forming into matching groups, and I have no idea what to do. Does every single kid at this school belong to a team? And what if you belong to two or three, say soccer and yearbook and chess club? I guess you go with the one that comes first in the alphabet. Or maybe the one with the coolest uniform.
I feel a tug on my arm. It's Elizabeth, the other new-ish girl who moved to Pinkerton the same week I did.
"Are you on a team?" she whispers. Elizabeth is a super-quiet talker, so a lot of the time I only get about every third word. But today I know exactly what she's saying because I was about to ask her the same thing.
"Nope," I say. "You?"
She shakes her head sadly.
"What do we do?" she asks. "Where do we sit?"
"I don't know," I tell her. "I guess we go in last."
We stand there looking-and feeling-totally lost. The computer club is called and then the cross-country team. Elizabeth and I watch helplessly as group after group is admitted to the arena: Lacrosse. Math team. Quilt club. Spanish. Volleyball. Wrestling. Yearbook. Finally the only ones left are the teachers and me and Elizabeth, and maybe a dozen other kids. We shuffle into the gym and make our way to the only seats left: nosebleed section, far corner. I settle in next to Mrs. Shankshaw, my million-year-old biology teacher.
"Tums?" she says, reaching into her sweater pocket and offering up a lint-covered roll.
"Oh, I'm good. Thanks," I lie. My stomach is actually a mess-but I don't think it's anything a dusty Tums will fix.