Read an Excerpt
There was a red post out in front of Marvin Redpost's house. The rest of the fence was white. Marvin tapped the post for luck as he walked through the gate on his way to school.
He wore a pair of blue jeans with a hole over each knee. It was "hole day" at school.
Every day had been special this week. Monday, he had to wear socks that didn't match. Tuesday, everyone wore T-shirts that came from a vacation. Wednesday, yesterday, had been hat day. And today, everyone had to wear clothes with holes.
His two best friends, Nick and Stuart, were waiting for him at the corner.
"Do you think Mrs. North will wear clothes with holes?" asked Stuart.
"Sure, why not?" asked Marvin.
"No way!" said Nick. "I'll bet you a million dollars!"
Nick had also said there was "no way!" Mrs. North would wear mis-matched socks. He had also said there was "no way!" she would let the kids wear hats in class.
So far, he owed Marvin two million dollars.
Nick was wearing a T-shirt that had a large hole under his right armpit. It had been torn in a fight.
"She probably doesn't even own any clothes with holes," Nick said. "How could a teacher get holes in her clothes?"
"Moths," said Marvin. "She might have a wool sweater. Moths eat wool."
"Actually, moths don't really eat wool," Stuart pointed out. "Everybody thinks that, but really, it's the caterpillars that eat the wool."
Stuart was wearing a T-shirt that also had a large hole under the right armpit. It had been torn in a fight.
It was the same fight.
Nick and Stuart had fought each other. But now they were friends.
"You want to come over after school today?" Nick asked.
"Okay," said Stuart.
"I can't," said Marvin. "My mom is taking me to the shoe store. I'm going to my cousin's bar mitzvah on Saturday."
When they got to school, everybody they saw had holes in their clothes. Travis wore a shirt that was more hole than it was shirt. Clarence had a hole in his sneaker and his sock, so his big toe stuck all the way through.
"You should clip your toenail," said Marvin.
"You should clip your mouth!" said Clarence.
That didn't really make sense, but Marvin got the point. Clarence was the toughest kid in his class.
The bell rang, and everybody lined up and went to class.
Mrs. North was waiting in the classroom. She had a large hole in her shirt, over her stomach.
Marvin stopped and stared. He could see Mrs. North's belly button.
Nick now owed him three million dollars.
Casey Happleton sat at the desk next to Marvin. She was absent today.
Marvin was disappointed to see her desk empty. She was a funny girl, and he knew she would have liked "hole day."
"I must say," said Mrs. North, "you are all so well dressed today. I've never seen a better-looking group of third graders."
"How'd you get a hole in your shirt?" Kenny asked.
"I was working in my garden," said Mrs. North. "My shirt got snagged on a thorn from a rosebush."
Marvin nodded. He should have guessed.
"We should dress this way all the time," said Judy Jasper. "That way, nobody would feel bad if their parents were too poor to buy them new clothes."
"That's a good idea," said Mrs. North.
Marvin thought so, too.
"And the holes keep you cool on a hot day," Stuart pointed out.
"You're right," said Mrs. North.
Marvin agreed. Holes made perfect sense. He wondered why nobody had thought of it before.
A child's voice came over the P.A. system. "Please rise for the Pledge of Allegiance."
Every day, a different kid got to lead the school in the pledge.
"That's Casey!" said Judy Jasper.
Marvin recognized Casey's voice as she recited the pledge. She sounded very serious.
He put his hand over his heart and said it along with her.
When Casey came back to class, she told Mrs. North that Mr. McCabe wanted to see her. Mr. McCabe was the principal.
"Did he say why?" Mrs. North asked.
Casey shook her head.
Casey wore a shirt that was way too big for her. Marvin guessed it was her father's. Not only did it have holes in it, but it also had paint spilled on it.
Mrs. North told the class she would be gone for only a minute. She said she expected everyone to behave and to use their time wisely.
After she left, Nick said, "I bet you Mrs. North got in trouble for wearing torn clothes!"
"No, Mr. McCabe is also wearing torn clothes," said Casey. "I saw his elbow."
"What did it look like?" asked Judy.
"Pink and bumpy," said Casey.
Casey had a ponytail that stuck out of the side of her head instead of the back. She sat down next to Marvin. The ponytail was on Marvin's side. Sometimes, when Casey laughed really hard, her ponytail went around in circles.
Mrs. North was gone for a lot longer than a minute. When she returned, she had a very strange expression on her face. She looked lost. She opened her mouth, but didn't say anything.
"Are you all right?" asked Kenny.
Mrs. North looked at Kenny, but still didn't say anything. Finally, she spoke. She said, "We are..." then stopped.
She started again. "There will..."
That was as far as she got.
She tried again. "I expect..."
Her mouth shut tight. She tapped her desk with her fist.
At last she managed to say a complete sentence. "We are going to have a visitor today."
Marvin couldn't wait to hear who it was. From the way Mrs. North was acting, he thought it must be somebody weird.
"Who is it?" asked Warren.
"Is it somebody I've heard of?" asked Nick.
"Oh, I hope so, Nick," said Mrs. North. Then she took a deep breath and said, "The president will be coming here."
Marvin was a little confused. He wasn't sure which president Mr. North meant. Did she mean the president of the United States? Or did she mean the president of something else, like the president of a shoe company?
Marvin's school was in Maryland. It was less than twenty miles from Washington, D.C. His father worked in Washington, D.C. So it was possible that Mrs. North meant the president of the United States. But why would the president of the United States come to his school?
He raised his hand.
Pasty Gatsby raised her hand, too.
"Yes, Patsy," said Mrs. North.
"The president of what?" Patsy asked.
Mrs. North stared at her as if she thought Patsy was an alien from another planet. "The president of the United States," she said.
"Duh!" said Travis.
"Sometimes I wonder about you, Patsy," said Mrs. North.
"What'd you think? The president of Mexico?" asked Clarence.
Marvin turned red, too, but nobody noticed. He lowered his hand.
"Yes, Marvin, did you have a question?" asked Mrs. North.
He shook his head. "No, I was just stretching."
Mrs. North explained that even Mr. McCabe hadn't known the president was coming until ten minutes ago. It had been kept secret for security reasons.
"Now, I know I don't have to tell you how to behave when the president gets here," she said.
Then she told everybody how to behave.
"Be respectful. Be attentive. If you get a chance to speak to him, remember to speak loud and clear. You should call him 'Mr. President.' 'Yes, Mr. President.' 'Thank you, Mr. President.' Remember to "
Mrs. North suddenly stopped talking. "Oh, my gosh!" she exclaimed. "I have to change my clothes!"