Wonder, p.21

Wonder, страница 21

 

Wonder
 

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  There was no sign of the seventh graders anywhere.

  “Where do you think they went?” said Jack.

  “Back to the food trucks,” said Amos. “They’re probably thinking we’re going to report them.”

  “Are we?” asked Henry.

  They looked at me. I shook my head.

  “Okay,” said Amos, “but, little dude, don’t walk around here alone again, okay? If you need to go somewhere, tell us and we’ll go with you.”

  “Okay.” I nodded.

  As we got closer to the screen, I could hear High on a hill was a lonely goatherd, and could smell the cotton candy from one of the concession stands near the food trucks. There were lots of kids milling around in this area, so I pulled what was left of my hoodie over my head and kept my face down, hands in pockets, as we made our way through the crowd. It had been a long time since I’d been out without my hearing aids, and it felt like I was miles under the earth. It felt like that song Miranda used to sing to me: Ground Control to Major Tom, your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong …

  I did notice as I walked that Amos had stayed right next to me. And Jack was close on the other side of me. And Miles was in front of us and Henry was in back of us. They were surrounding me as we walked through the crowds of kids. Like I had my own emperor’s guard.

  Sleep

  Then they came out of the narrow valley and at once she saw the reason. There stood Peter and Edmund and all the rest of Aslan’s army fighting desperately against the crowd of horrible creatures whom she had seen last night; only now, in the daylight, they looked even stranger and more evil and more deformed.

  I stopped there. I’d been reading for over an hour and sleep still didn’t come. It was almost two a.m. Everyone else was asleep. I had my flashlight on under the sleeping bag, and maybe the light was why I couldn’t sleep, but I was too afraid to turn it off. I was afraid of how dark it was outside the sleeping bag.

  When we got back to our section in front of the movie screen, no one had even noticed we’d been gone. Mr. Tushman and Ms. Rubin and Summer and all the rest of the kids were just watching the movie. They had no clue how something bad had almost happened to me and Jack. It’s so weird how that can be, how you could have a night that’s the worst in your life, but to everybody else it’s just an ordinary night. Like, on my calendar at home, I would mark this as being one of the most horrific days of my life. This and the day Daisy died. But for the rest of the world, this was just an ordinary day. Or maybe it was even a good day. Maybe somebody won the lottery today.

  Amos, Miles, and Henry brought me and Jack over to where we’d been sitting before, with Summer and Maya and Reid, and then they went and sat where they had been sitting before, with Ximena and Savanna and their group. In a way, everything was exactly as we had left it before we went looking for the toilets. The sky was the same. The movie was the same. Everyone’s faces were the same. Mine was the same.

  But something was different. Something had changed.

  I could see Amos and Miles and Henry telling their group what had just happened. I knew they were talking about it because they kept looking over at me while they were talking. Even though the movie was still playing, people were whispering about it in the dark. News like that spreads fast.

  It was what everyone was talking about on the bus ride back to the cabins. All the girls, even girls I didn’t know very well, were asking me if I was okay. The boys were all talking about getting revenge on the group of seventh-grade jerks, trying to figure out what school they were from.

  I wasn’t planning on telling the teachers about any of what had happened, but they found out anyway. Maybe it was the torn sweatshirt and the bloody elbow. Or maybe it’s just that teachers hear everything.

  When we got back to the camp, Mr. Tushman took me to the first-aid office, and while I was getting my elbow cleaned and bandaged up by the camp nurse, Mr. Tushman and the camp director were in the next room talking with Amos and Jack and Henry and Miles, trying to get a description of the troublemakers. When he asked me about them a little later, I said I couldn’t remember their faces at all, which wasn’t true.

  It’s their faces I kept seeing every time I closed my eyes to sleep. The look of total horror on the girl’s face when she first saw me. The way the kid with the flashlight, Eddie, looked at me as he talked to me, like he hated me.

  Like a lamb to the slaughter. I remember Dad saying that ages ago, but tonight I think I finally got what it meant.

  Aftermath

  Mom was waiting for me in front of the school along with all the other parents when the bus arrived. Mr. Tushman told me on the bus ride home that they had called my parents to tell them there had been a “situation” the night before but that everyone was fine. He said the camp director and several of the counselors went looking for the hearing aid in the morning while we all went swimming in the lake, but they couldn’t find it anywhere. Broarwood would reimburse us the cost of the hearing aids, he said. They felt bad about what happened.

  I wondered if Eddie had taken my hearing aids with him as a kind of souvenir. Something to remember the orc.

  Mom gave me a tight hug when I got off the bus, but she didn’t slam me with questions like I thought she might. Her hug felt good, and I didn’t shake it off like some of the other kids were doing with their parents’ hugs.

  The bus driver started unloading our duffel bags, and I went to find mine while Mom talked to Mr. Tushman and Ms. Rubin, who had walked over to her. As I rolled my bag toward her, a lot of kids who don’t usually say anything to me were nodding hello, or patting my back as I walked by them.

  “Ready?” Mom said when she saw me. She took my duffel bag, and I didn’t even try to hold on to it: I was fine with her carrying it. If she had wanted to carry me on her shoulders, I would have been fine with that, too, to be truthful.

  As we started to walk away, Mr. Tushman gave me a quick, tight hug but didn’t say anything.

  Home

  Mom and I didn’t talk much the whole walk home, and when we got to the front stoop, I automatically looked in the front bay window, because I forgot for a second that Daisy wasn’t going to be there like always, perched on the sofa with her front paws on the windowsill, waiting for us to come home. It made me kind of sad when we walked inside. As soon as we did, Mom dropped my duffel bag and wrapped her arms around me and kissed me on my head and on my face like she was breathing me in.

  “It’s okay, Mom, I’m fine,” I said, smiling.

  She nodded and took my face in her hands. Her eyes were shiny.

  “I know you are,” she said. “I missed you so much, Auggie.”

  “I missed you, too.”

  I could tell she wanted to say a lot of things but she was stopping herself.

  “Are you hungry?” she asked.

  “Starving. Can I have a grilled cheese?”

  “Of course,” she answered, and immediately started to make the sandwich while I took my jacket off and sat down at the kitchen counter.

  “Where’s Via?” I asked.

  “She’s coming home with Dad today. Boy, did she miss you, Auggie,” Mom said.

  “Yeah? She would have liked the nature reserve. You know what movie they played? The Sound of Music.”

  “You’ll have to tell her that.”

  “So, do you want to hear about the bad part or the good part first?” I asked after a few minutes, leaning my head on my hand.

  “Whatever you want to talk about,” she answered.

  “Well, except for last night, I had an awesome time,” I said. “I mean, it was just awesome. That’s why I’m so bummed. I feel like they ruined the whole trip for me.”

  “No, sweetie, don’t let them do that to you. You were there for more than forty-eight hours, and that awful part lasted one hour. Don’t let them take that away from you, okay?”

  “I know.” I nodded. “Did Mr. Tushman tell you about the hearing aids?”

  “Yes, he cal
led us this morning.”

  “Was Dad mad? Because they’re so expensive?”

  “Oh my gosh, of course not, Auggie. He just wanted to know that you were all right. That’s all that matters to us. And that you don’t let those … thugs … ruin your trip.”

  I kind of laughed at the way she said the word “thugs.”

  “What?” she asked.

  “Thugs,” I teased her. “That’s kind of an old-fashioned word.”

  “Okay, jerks. Morons. Imbeciles,” she said, flipping over the sandwich in the pan. “Cretinos, as my mother would have said. Whatever you want to call them, if I saw them on the street, I would …” She shook her head.

  “They were pretty big, Mom.” I smiled. “Seventh graders, I think.”

  She shook her head. “Seventh graders? Mr. Tushman didn’t tell us that. Oh my goodness.”

  “Did he tell you how Jack stood up for me?” I said. “And Amos was like, bam, he rammed right into the leader. They both crashed to the ground, like in a real fight! It was pretty awesome. Amos’s lip was bleeding and everything.”

  “He told us there was a fight, but …,” she said, looking at me with her eyebrows raised. “I’m just … phew … I’m just so grateful you and Amos and Jack are fine. When I think about what could have happened …,” she trailed off, flipping the grilled cheese again.

  “My Montauk hoodie got totally shredded.”

  “Well, that can be replaced,” she answered. She lifted the grilled cheese onto a plate and put the plate in front of me on the counter. “Milk or white grape juice?”

  “Chocolate milk, please?” I started devouring the sandwich. “Oh, can you do it that special way you make it, with the froth?”

  “How did you and Jack end up at the edge of the woods in the first place?” she said, pouring the milk into a tall glass.

  “Jack had to go to the bathroom,” I answered, my mouth full. As I was talking, she spooned in the chocolate powder and started rolling a small whisk between her palms really fast. “But there was a huge line and he didn’t want to wait. So we went toward the woods to pee.” She looked up at me while she was whisking. I know she was thinking we shouldn’t have done that. The chocolate milk in the glass now had a two-inch froth on top. “That looks good, Mom. Thanks.”

  “And then what happened?” she said, putting the glass in front of me.

  I took a long drink of the chocolate milk. “Is it okay if we don’t talk about it anymore right now?”

  “Oh. Okay.”

  “I promise I’ll tell you all about it later, when Dad and Via come home. I’ll tell you all every detail. I just don’t want to have to tell the whole story over and over, you know?”

  “Absolutely.”

  I finished my sandwich in two more bites and gulped down the chocolate milk.

  “Wow, you practically inhaled that sandwich. Do you want another one?” she said.

  I shook my head and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand.

  “Mom? Am I always going to have to worry about jerks like that?” I asked. “Like when I grow up, is it always going to be like this?”

  She didn’t answer right away, but took my plate and glass and put them in the sink and rinsed them with water.

  “There are always going to be jerks in the world, Auggie,” she said, looking at me. “But I really believe, and Daddy really believes, that there are more good people on this earth than bad people, and the good people watch out for each other and take care of each other. Just like Jack was there for you. And Amos. And those other kids.”

  “Oh yeah, Miles and Henry,” I answered. “They were awesome, too. It’s weird because Miles and Henry haven’t even really been very nice to me at all during the year.”

  “Sometimes people surprise us,” she said, rubbing the top of my head.

  “I guess.”

  “Want another glass of chocolate milk?”

  “No, I’m good,” I said. “Thanks, Mom. Actually, I’m kind of tired. I didn’t sleep too good last night.”

  “You should take a nap. Thanks for leaving me Baboo, by the way.”

  “You got my note?”

  She smiled. “I slept with him both nights.” She was about to say something else when her cell phone rang, and she answered. She started beaming as she listened. “Oh my goodness, really? What kind?” she said excitedly. “Yep, he’s right here. He was about to take a nap. Want to say hi? Oh, okay, see you in two minutes.” She clicked it off.

  “That was Daddy,” she said excitedly. “He and Via are just down the block.”

  “He’s not at work?” I said.

  “He left early because he couldn’t wait to see you,” she said. “So don’t take a nap quite yet.”

  Five seconds later Dad and Via came through the door. I ran into Dad’s arms, and he picked me up and spun me around and kissed me. He didn’t let me go for a full minute, until I said, “Dad, it’s okay.” And then it was Via’s turn, and she kissed me all over like she used to do when I was little.

  It wasn’t until she stopped that I noticed the big white cardboard box they had brought in with them.

  “What is that?” I said.

  “Open it,” said Dad, smiling, and he and Mom looked at each other like they knew a secret.

  “Come on, Auggie!” said Via.

  I opened the box. Inside was the cutest little puppy I’ve ever seen in my life. It was black and furry, with a pointy little snout and bright black eyes and small ears that flopped down.

  Bear

  We called the puppy Bear because when Mom first saw him, she said he looked just like a little bear cub. I said: “That’s what we should call him!” and everyone agreed that that was the perfect name.

  I took the next day off from school—not because my elbow was hurting me, which it was, but so I could play with Bear all day long. Mom let Via stay home from school, too, so the two of us took turns cuddling with Bear and playing tug-of-war with him. We had kept all of Daisy’s old toys, and we brought them out now, to see which ones he’d like best.

  It was fun hanging out with Via all day, just the two of us. It was like old times, like before I started going to school. Back then, I couldn’t wait for her to come home from school so she could play with me before starting her homework. Now that we’re older, though, and I’m going to school and have friends of my own that I hang out with, we never do that anymore.

  So it was nice hanging out with her, laughing and playing. I think she liked it, too.

  The Shift

  When I went back to school the next day, the first thing I noticed was that there was a big shift in the way things were. A monumental shift. A seismic shift. Maybe even a cosmic shift. Whatever you want to call it, it was a big shift. Everyone—not just in our grade but every grade—had heard about what had happened to us with the seventh graders, so suddenly I wasn’t known for what I’d always been known for, but for this other thing that had happened. And the story of what happened had gotten bigger and bigger each time it was told. Two days later, the way the story went was that Amos had gotten into a major fistfight with the kid, and Miles and Henry and Jack had thrown some punches at the other guys, too. And the escape across the field became this whole long adventure through a cornfield maze and into the deep dark woods. Jack’s version of the story was probably the best because he’s so funny, but in whatever version of the story, and no matter who was telling it, two things always stayed the same: I got picked on because of my face and Jack defended me, and those guys—Amos, Henry, and Miles—protected me. And now that they’d protected me, I was different to them. It was like I was one of them. They all called me “little dude” now—even the jocks. These big dudes I barely even knew before would knuckle-punch me in the hallways now.

  Another thing to come out of it was that Amos became super popular and Julian, because he missed the whole thing, was really out of the loop. Miles and Henry were hanging out with Amos all the time now, like they switched best friends. I
d like to be able to say that Julian started treating me better, too, but that wouldn’t be true. He still gave me dirty looks across the room. He still never talked to me or Jack. But he was the only one who was like that now. And me and Jack, we couldn’t care less.

  Ducks

  The day before the last day of school, Mr. Tushman called me into his office to tell me they had found out the names of the seventh graders from the nature retreat. He read off a bunch of names that didn’t mean anything to me, and then he said the last name: “Edward Johnson.”

  I nodded.

  “You recognize the name?” he said.

  “They called him Eddie.”

  “Right. Well, they found this in Edward’s locker.” He handed me what was left of my hearing aid headband. The right piece was completely gone and the left one was mangled. The band that connected the two, the Lobot part, was bent down the middle.

  “His school wants to know if you want to press charges,” said Mr. Tushman.

  I looked at my hearing aid.

  “No, I don’t think so.” I shrugged. “I’m being fitted for new ones anyway.”

  “Hmm. Why don’t you talk about it with your parents tonight? I’ll call your mom tomorrow to talk about it with her, too.”

  “Would they go to jail?” I asked.

  “No, not jail. But they’d probably go to juvie court. And maybe they’ll learn a lesson that way.”

  “Trust me: that Eddie kid is not learning any lessons,” I joked.

  He sat down behind his desk.

  “Auggie, why don’t you sit down a second?” he said.

  I sat down. All the things on his desk were the same as when I first walked into his office last summer: the same mirrored cube, the same little globe floating in the air. That felt like ages ago.

 
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