I should have known it was going to be one of those days. The kind of day that made a third grader want to stay home from school. It was raining. The kind of rain that started with the letter ‘r’ as explained in “Sesame Street.” I had to find my mom and let her know that I felt sick. I looked at my Care Bear watch and it read 7:45 a.m. Of all the kitchen joints, in all the towns, in all the world, I had to walk into hers. She was herding my brothers for school like a cowboy gathering the cattle in preparation for a day of grazing. The boys were dressed for school. I, on the other hand, was not. I wore Power Ranger PJs. I had a plan. I wasn’t really sick, see. I just needed a break from my teacher, see. She was “The Grand High Witch” from “The Witches” and not the beautiful version, but the terrifying one; the one where she looks around the room and brags about Formula 86. I was not going to turn into a mouse that day.
My mother looked at me with sympathy and touched my forehead. She looked right into my eyes the way a child looked at the last homemade chocolate chip cookie. She’d see right through me, but I was a smart dame; I’d get away with it. I was the only girl. I owned this town. My brothers knew it too, ratting me out like I was a mob boss named Johnny No Thumbs. I grabbed the cheap chocolate milk that had been reserved for me and took a swig. The cocoa was frothy and I wiped my mouth with my sleeve, not in the least bit ladylike, ignoring the outraged boys.
I was riddled with questions. The heat from the ceiling lights made me sweat and I adjusted my collar. I answered every question. Yeah, I feel sick. No, nothing is broken. What is it, then? Well, my heart hurts. No, I’m not dizzy. No, my chest doesn’t hurt. Yeah, I can breathe. My heart just hurts. My brothers laughed the way hyenas do when circling a lion. My mom gave me a look that said “nice one.” I’d never used that excuse before. She told me I was getting more creative. It was my turn to be outraged. I was as lost as a triplet at a twin convention. How could this not have worked? She shoved me toward the stairs and told me to get ready.
The jig was up. I was forced to go into the underbelly of the beast: school. I’d spend the rest of the day avoiding sweets and chocolates from the Grand High Witch the way Ronald Dahl must have avoided candy shops growing up. Meanwhile, I’ll make a better excuse. After all, tomorrow is another day. I passed a mirror in the hall, looked at my reflection and said, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
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