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Readers will laugh along with Martin Snodgrass as he endures the comic trials of life in the fourth ...
Readers will laugh along with Martin Snodgrass as he endures the comic trials of life in the fourth grade, as well as the tribulations of being the middle child.
Did you ever wonder if you were born into the wrong family? I think about that a lot. It's as if some angel decided to play a practical joke on the day I was born. "See that Snodgrass family down there on earth?" he said to the other angels. "They live in New Albany, Ohio. Everyone in town knows they're special. The dad's a doctor, and in a few years the mom's going to be mayor. They have a sports star son and a brainy daughter. Now baby number three is coming along. Let's put an ordinary kid in the family for a change and see what happens. Then later we'll give him a really cute little brother."
When I was little, friends of my parents adopted a baby. For a long time after that, I was sure that I had been adopted, too. One day I finally got enough courage to ask my mom about it. She just pointed to our family picture that's sitting on the coffee table. There we all were, lined up. There was my brother Tim, my sister, Caroline, my little brother Robbie, and me. All of us with our red hair and freckles just like Dad's.
"What do you think?" Mom asked.
"Maybe I just got put in the wrong body," I said.
I know I could never be like my brother Tim. His whole room is about to sink with the weight of all his sports trophies. I'm pretty good at math, but that's nothing compared to Caroline. She's eleven, only a year older than I am. But she is two years ahead of me at school because she's so smart. When I look in the mirror I see a fairly nice face, but of course Robbie, my little brother, is much cuter.
My sister, Caroline, has a theory aboutit. "If you ordinary, boring people weren't around," she said, "how would anyone know he or she was amazing? Take me, for instance," she added brightly. "Next to you I positively shine."
I have to admit her theory does make sense.
I guess I really don't have much to complain about. I have a new puppy named Sam, and he's finally housebroken, so Mom and Dad let him sleep in my room at night. He's supposed to sleep on the floor, but every morning when I wake up, he's on the bed beside me.
My fourth-grade teacher, Miss Lawson, is the prettiest teacher in the whole school. When I started fourth grade, Jamie was my best friend. He decided that this was our year to be popular, but I got bored hanging around with the cool kids. I ended up with a new best friend named Willie and even a girlfriend named Marcia -- although sometimes I wished that I hadn't. So mostly, things were going along pretty well.
Then one Saturday a letter came. I was on the couch, miserable with a sore throat and cold. It was my third cold that winter, and it was only the middle of January.
Dad carried the letter in from the mailbox. He held it between his fingers as if he were holding a piece of moldy bread. "I suppose this is from one of your crazy relatives," he teased as he handed it to Mom. "Henrietta Somebody? The name is pretty smudged."
Mom fingered the envelope. "Henrietta," she repeated. "I do have a cousin Henrietta. But why would she be writing from a post office box in Washington, D.C.?"
Dad got a strange look on his face. "Cousin Henrietta. Is she the one who gave our wedding present to a perfect stranger?"
"No," Mom said, "That was Aunt Abigail. And she didn't mean to give our present away. She got mixed up and went to the wrong wedding."
Caroline looked up from the thousand-piece puzzle she was putting together on the dining room table.
"Your aunt went to the wrong wedding?" she asked. Mom's weird relatives were the subject of many family stories.
"Not on purpose," Mom said, a little defensively. "She hadn't seen me for years, and the other wedding was only a block away."
"So which one is Cousin Henrietta?" Dad asked. I can't seem to place her. Where does she live?"
Mom was a long time answering. "Nowhere, really."
Tim tore his eyes away from the basketball game he was watching on television. "Your cousin is a bag lady?" he screeched. Actually it didn't start out as a screech. Tim's voice has been doing strange things lately.
"Of course not," Mom said. "Most of the time she stays with Aunt Abigail. But they don't always get along. So every now and then Cousin Henrietta visits people. The last I heard, she was visiting my brother John."
Dad had a wild look in his eye. "Just how long has she been visiting John?"
"About six months," Mom mumbled.
"Read the letter," Dad ordered. He looked grim.
Mom meekly tore open the envelope. We all sort of held our breath and stared at her as she read.
"Well?" Dad asked after several minutes.
"She's on her way," Mom said in a small voice. It was quiet for a minute.
"On her way now?" asked Dad.
"There is one thing, though," Mom said. A smile twitched in the corners of her mouth. "It's not my cousin Henrietta. It's your aunt Henrietta."
Dad grabbed the letter and stared at it. "I haven't seen Aunt Henrietta since I was about twelve years old. I don't remember very much about her. She's my father's sister. She works for an international relief organization of some sort. Come to think of it, it was based in Washington. I know she was teaching school in India. Before that, she lived in South America. I .can't imagine why she would be coming for a visit after all these years."Toenails, Tonsils, and Tornadoes. Copyright © by Bonnie Pryor. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.