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Mind Games

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Mind Games

  Mind Games

  Jeanne Marie Grunwell

  * * *



  * * *

  Copyright © 2003 by Jeanne Marie Grunwell

  All rights reserved. For information about permission to reproduce

  selections from this book, write to Permissions,

  Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South,

  New York, New York 10003.

  The text of this book is set in Eureka (FontShop).

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Grunwell, Jeanne Marie.

  Mind games / by Jeanne Marie Grunwell.

  p. cm.

  Sumary: Each of the six members of Mr. Ennis's Mad Science Club

  presents a report of his or her experiences

  working on a science fair project to investigate ESP,

  which resulted in their winning the Maryland lottery.

  ISBN 0-618-17672-1 (hardcover) ISBN 0-618-68947-8 (paperback)

  [1. Science—Experiments—Fiction. 2. Extrasensory perception—Fiction.

  3. Lotteries—Fiction. 4. Schools—Fiction. 5. Science—Exhibitions—Fiction.]

  I. Title.

  PZ7.G9338Mi 2003

  [Fic]—dc21 2002010820

  ISBN-13: 978-0618-17672-4 (hardcover)

  ISBN-13: 978-0618-68947-7 (paperback)

  Manufactured in the United States of America

  HAD 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  * * *


  * * *


  THANKS TO MY PARENTS, WHO ALWAYS TAUGHT ME by example; Mr. Micklos, who introduced me to the scientific method; Mrs. Weingarten and Mr. Bennett, who made writing fun; the students and faculty of the MFA in Writing for Children program at Vermont College—especially Susan Fletcher, Randy Powell, Jane Resh Thomas, and Carolyn Coman; and thanks to Bonnie.

  * * *

  Mind Games


  Benjamin D. Lloyd

  Brandon Kelly

  Marina Krenina

  Ji Eun Oh

  Claire Phelps

  Kathleen Phelps



  * * *


  by Benjamin D. Lloyd

  Exhibit A: Waverly Times..........................[>]

  Experimenter Comments......................[>]

  Claire Phelps


  Marina Krenina

  Exhibit B: Paranormal Pursuits:1 Astrology..........................[>]

  Ji Eun Oh


  Benjamin D. Lloyd

  Exhibit C: Paranormal Pursuits: Telepathy..........................[>]

  Claire Phelps


  Kathleen Phelps

  Exhibit D: Paranormal Pursuits: Clairvoyance..........................[>]

  Benjamin D. Lloyd


  Brandon Kelly

  Exhibit E: Paranormal Pursuits: Out-of-Body


  Kathleen Phelps

  Experimentation: Part One..........................[>]

  Ji Eun Oh

  Exhibit F: Paranormal Pursuits: Dreams..........................[>]

  Brandon Kelly

  Experimentation: Part Two..........................[>]

  Claire Phelps

  Exhibit G: Paranormal Pursuits: Life After Death..........................[>]

  Marina Krenina


  Marina Krenina..........................[>]

  Brandon Kelly..........................[>]

  Benjamin D. Lloyd..........................[>]

  Kathleen Phelps..........................[>]

  Claire Phelps..........................[>]


  Benjamin D. Lloyd



  Exhibit H: Clearview Gazette..........................[>]

  Exhibit I: Waverly Times..........................[>]

  Exhibit J..........................[>]

  Exhibit A

  Experimenter Comments

  Claire Phelps

  LAST NIGHT I WAS SUPPOSED TO READ OUR REPORT straight through and eliminate all typographical errors, missing commas, bad grammar, stupid-sounding parts, etc.

  Considering that six of us worked on the same experiment and witnessed mostly the same events, I didn't think I would be too surprised by anything I read. Well, let's just say that my extreme cluelessness could be used as evidence against our hypothesis.

  What I decided after reading our report was that six people worked on this project—six people who wrote what they wanted to write. Why should I change a word?

  Of course I'm not thrilled about teachers and other people reading a lot of these things. I wish I never had to read them. But seeing yourself through other people's eyes is not such a bad thing. In a way, I guess that's what our project ended up being about.

  I still feel we present a strong case for our hypothesis. But ultimately, the verdict rests with you, the reader. See what you think.


  Marina Krenina

  MR. ENNIS SAYS THAT THE INTRODUCTION IS SUPposed to be short, because this is not the interesting part of the project. Of course I was given the short assignment.

  This is very well, but it is not so short to explain how we began.

  I have recently learned the word coincidence. Certainly, that is one way to describe all that has happened. But if you wish to call it that, you have no need to read further in this report.

  At our school, we have one class each week that we choose for our own enjoyment. This is the only reason we go. It is called a club. This is a strange thing for me, for we do nothing like this in Russia, where I come from.

  The second week of school, in homeroom, we are asked to choose the club we wish to join. At this time, my family is in America only one month, and my English is not yet so good. Of course I study some English in Russia, but I do not know it as much as German or French. So when the teacher talks fast, and all the students are also talking, I suddenly understand only a few words, like shut and up and detention.

  We have a paper to complete for the clubs, and I think this is a test. I cannot read so many words on this sheet. For example, there is the place to write my name, and there is the word basketball.

  Next to me sits a boy named Ben Lloyd. Ben is very, very smart. Do not ask me how I know this, but I know. I see the answer he writes on his paper, and I think this must of course be the right answer to the test. So even though I understand it is a bad thing to do, I write the same answer on my club paper.

  And that is how I came to be in Mr. Ennis's Mad Science Club.

  At this time, I know only a few people at the school. Therefore, I think I will not know anyone who wants to study Mad Science besides Ben. But I am surprised at once. For I go to this club class, and here again is the girl with red hair.

  On the first day of school I notice this girl immediately because of her thick braid, which is the color of the orange jam that my mother and I take every morning in our tea. I am admiring this beautiful hair tied with bright ribbons of green and gold, and all the while the girl is walking nearer to me. She is smiling. And suddenly she clutches my hair into her fist and draws it up to her nose. I am astonished. But then I think perhaps this is some American greet
ing which I have not yet observed. The girl shouts, "Cat fur!" I do not know what this means, but I see people stop in the hall to look at us, and I hurry away. I have not yet learned the meaning of this custom. It is a long while before I see it practiced by anyone else.

  As I fear, on this day in Mr. Ennis's class the red-haired girl again takes my hair in her fist. But before she can make a nice sniff, her sister comes and begins to yell at her. I know it is her sister because of her red-blond ponytail and her voice, which resembles mine when I am angry with my younger sister, Lilia. However, it is difficult to know between these sisters which is the older. Their height is exactly the same shortness.

  "Kathleen, don't do that!" the one sister shouts.

  And Kathleen lets go of me, although not before she takes a tiny smell. "You smell so good," she tells me. "Like a pond in the woods." This makes me happy, because in Russia our dear dacha (summer home) was near a little lake in the forest. But I have not been there in two years, since the time we begin saving money to move to America. And I know my hair smells only of apricot and vanilla, which is the shampoo I use each morning, and probably too of Papa's cigarette smoke—the reason for me to use such nice shampoo.

  When we are assembled in the classroom, we are at first five in addition to the teacher. Then is another surprise, for Brandon who is in my homeroom comes at the very last moment and sits next to me. Though he eats a Snickers bar plump with peanuts and sweet caramel, he seems to taste bitterness. I think I know why, for I have seen him mark the basketball space on his club paper. And I see he wears those shoes which make the nice squeak on the basketball court. I see this plainly, for his feet are on my chair.

  At this time, Mr. Ennis introduces himself. Then he turns water into wine! And he turns it back!

  Wine is not permitted in American public schools, and we are all very amazed, except for Brandon, who yawns. I see Ben and the girl named for the letter G leaning forward in their seats with much interest. But then Mr. Ennis says he never made wine. He shows us how his chemicals make the water change colors.

  I do not watch the chemicals. I watch instead the lizard as it catches a cricket with its long tongue, and the turtles, three hiding very still among the rocks. I look in the third cage, but I see only a log and a dish that says Alice.

  "Who is this Alice?" I whisper to Brandon.

  "Alice?" he says. "My grandma."

  Grandma, I think. I know this word. Dear Babushka, whose only fault is her snoring—and through many years of sharing a room, to this I have grown accustomed—is my grandma. Babushka, even if she were slim, would never fit in such a cage.

  "I killed Alice," Kathleen says, quite cheerful as though she has just plucked a beautiful flower. Then she begins to cry. The sister produces a handful of tissues even before I notice a single tear.

  "It is okay, Kathleen," I say. "Do not cry." Though in truth I cannot believe I am in the same room with the person who has killed the dear babushka of Brandon.

  The sister whispers could I please try not to make Kathleen feel better. Or she will cry for an even greater time.

  And then Brandon yawns. And Mr. Ennis talks some more about these chemicals. And Kathleen sobs and hiccups and finally is silent.

  I look forward to returning to my ESL (English as a Second Language) class, where everything is simple—"How are you?" and "It is cloudy today." It is always cloudy today in Maryland.

  Then I hear Mr. Ennis say homework.

  "Dang, Mr. Ennis," Brandon says. "This is club. We're not supposed to have homework in club."

  "That's right," G says.

  I am thinking, how can I ever do this homework? I am not smart like these other people who have lifelong English.

  Kathleen says, "I can't do the same homework as everybody else. I'm not smart like everybody else. I'm just stupid." She cries once more into her sister's tissues. I watch her sister take charge of these tissues—it is even more amazing than the water and the wine. Then Kathleen blows her nose, and I am truly amazed. Never have I heard the human nose make such a sound—not even Babushka's at night when she dreams her deepest dreams of home.

  "You will do your homework together. Each of you will have your own part. Each of you will have something to contribute," Mr. Ennis says. "You are going to prepare a project for the school science fair in January."

  Ben raises his hand immediately. "Can I work on anything I want? I have a great idea. What about the county science fair? And the state? Will you be my sponsor?" He gasps for breath now, as though he has in fact been to basketball rather than Mad Science.

  "Assuming you win the school science fair," Mr. Ennis says, "you will go to the county science fair in February. Assuming you place in the county science fair, you will go on to the state science fair in March. You are going to accomplish these things by researching a great mystery of science—together. And together, maybe you are going to solve it. Write down some ideas, and we will discuss them next week."

  Ben puts his fists in the air, as though he is crossing the finish line after an Olympic race.

  "The great mystery of science," G whispers to the tissue sister, "is Ben Lloyd."

  I am surprised to discover I am a little bit interested in this project. I think of many questions I would like answered, such as which is better—Coke or Pepsi? And why must people grow old and die? And why is it always cloudy in Maryland?

  When one week has passed and we again see Mr. Ennis, he asks us to write down one science mystery and hand it in without putting our name on the paper. I cannot write enough English for my idea, so I do nothing.

  Mr. Ennis reads aloud from each paper.

  "Does God exist?"

  "Are dogs smarter than cats?"

  "Hallucinogenic drugs and the blood-brain barrier."

  "Solution of a seventeen-variable polynomial."

  "Computation of the Hubble constant."

  Mr. Ennis coughs. "I don't think all of us have turned in an idea," he says. "And I think one of us has turned in several."

  We all look at Ben. He smiles like he knows he is important.

  I raise my hand. "Mr. Ennis," I say, "I am not able to write my idea."

  "That is fine, Marina," he says. "Can you tell us, then?"

  I think Coke-Pepsi and cloudy weather do not sound so good after this Hubble constant. Therefore, I say, "Why must people grow old and die? Oh—but that is two questions." I feel myself growing flustered, and all the English words fly from my brain.

  "How about dying without getting old?" Brandon kicks the desk with his nice basketball shoe.

  "Claire didn't give you a question," Kathleen sings out, and she is glad to say something bad about her sister. This is very plain.

  Claire's face turns pink and white, like a rabbit's.

  "I know what her question would be," Kathleen says. "She wants to solve the mystery of how to make my ... situation disappear."

  Claire's face is now pinker and whiter than even a rabbit's. It is like a watermelon, the type with the white seeds. And her freckles are the dark seeds.

  "But I don't want anyone experimenting on me," Kathleen says. "Anyhow, you can't fix it. So it wouldn't make a very good science project, would it?"

  I think this will be another time for the tissues, but I am wrong.

  "Kathleen, you have made an excellent point," Mr. Ennis says, and Claire pats her on the shoulder.

  Kathleen beams, showing many straight teeth.

  "If you are going to solve a scientific problem, you must be able to carry out an experiment. The Hubble constant? Seventeen-variable polynomials? Maybe someday when you are astrophysicists and mathematicians. For now, let's think realistically of what we can do. And please—no hallucinogenic drugs, either, regardless of their effect on the blood-brain barrier. The school board might frown on that kind of experiment."

  Ben frowns on Mr. Ennis. "Geez," he says, "I was kidding. Doesn't anybody have a sense of humor around here?" The bell rings. Ben lifts his giant backpack on
to his shoulders. "I hate this class," he murmurs as he races from the room. No one seems to hear him but I.

  Brandon shakes his head. "Homework. Reading. I knew I was gonna hate this class."

  "Me, too," says G.

  "Us, too," say Kathleen and Claire.

  "I guess we're all on the same wavelength," G says.

  I have said nothing. Therefore, I do not know if G feels my opinion does not matter, or rather if she knows my opinion even though I do not speak. But I, too, am on the same wavelength. Now that I know what this means, I can say it for certain.

  And that is when it happens.

  "That's it!" G shouts. "I've got a great idea for our experiment!"

  The next week, Mr. Ennis writes the subject of our experiment in big letters on the chalkboard. I later discover that we are solving the great mystery of ESP. And what this is, I have then not the least idea.

  Exhibit B: Paranormal Pursuits: Astrology

  Ji Eun Oh

  TASK: Examine my horoscope for five days. Record what really happens. Count how many things come true (i point per correct prediction).

  AMENDMENT: Also count how many things are too vague to count (o points each).

  PURPOSE: To see whether astrology can accurately predict the future.

  My parents subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. It doesn't have a horoscope section, which is okay, because my parents are Presbyterian and therefore anti-horoscope. However, we do receive the Waverly Times. My parents have no choice because, horoscope or not, this paper is delivered free every week.

  Ben Lloyd says the horoscope writer for the Waverly Times isn't even a professional astrologer but a plain old reporter disguising her name out of embarrassment. As editor of the school newspaper, I tried not to take "plain old reporter" as an insult. I asked Ben how he knew this information, and that was the last I heard from him on the subject.

  Because I was forced to use a weekly paper, evaluating five horoscopes took much longer than five days. (Sorry, Mr. Ennis.) Here are the results:

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