Sunday, July 5, 2015
First 5 Pages July Workshop - Wheeler
Name: Eric Wheeler
Genre: Middle Grade
Title: Olivia Boogieman
The cursive letters on the white board might as well taunt me as I mouth “Family day.” My family have a tendency to be scatterbrained and I hope they forgot about today even though I saw it this morning on our calendar written clearly in red ink, circled, underlined, and in hieroglyphics.
My homeroom teacher, Miss Santiago, sits at her desk. She wears a white turtleneck sweater, cute jeans with a bedazzled butt, and shiny, black, high heel shoes. Oh, I wish I could dress like that, but my parents would never let me. All I’m allowed to wear are these well-worn flats that are bulging at the seams.
Because I’m early, there is nobody in the classroom besides Ms. Santiago and myself. She smiles but I break eye contact and I stare at the glossy, red apple on her desk, which is probably a gift from Tattletale Tessa Thompson.
When the starting bell rings it startles me because I’m pretending to work silently at my desk. The other kids file into the classroom, laughing and having a good time. They make their ways to their desks and continue to talk with each other.
Now that we’re in fifth grade, the chairs with desks coming off to the side are getting too small for us. Gordon has already outgrown his desk and sits at the art supply table in an adult chair.
“Quite down students,” Ms. Santiago says. Once everyone takes their seats, she opens the door and the parents parade in. Most of the students brought their mothers but there are a few single dads shuffling in like clueless zombies. Gordon’s parents are the last to come through the door and I sigh with relief when I don’t see my family. Maybe they did forget.
A woman with short brown hair, that matches her eyes, pulls up a seat next to me. “Hello, I’m Tessa’s mom.” She pushes her chair so uncomfortably close I smell the coffee on her breath. When she speaks, all I can see is her tongue stained white from the excessive cream.
“I’m Olivia Boogieman.” I scoot back to give myself room.
“What a peculiar surname.” Mrs. Thompson lifts her nose in the air as if she’s sniffing my pedigree. If she wants to see peculiar, she should meet my family.
It’s like she wants to keep the conversation going because she keeps talking to me, leaning in closer with each word she speaks. “I’m a social worker. What do your parents do?”
“A, A, A,” I stammer. I feel the blush rise in my cheeks.
“Why don’t we get started?” Miss Santiago leans against her desk. I imagine the words “Family Day,” dancing behind her on the whiteboard. The thought of my parents in my class made my stomach turn summersaults all morning. My family is a bunch of monsters and I don’t mean they do awful things but they are literally monsters. My mom is a mummy from ancient Egypt and my dad is a hairy, scary, howl-at-the-moon werewolf. If that’s not bad enough my brother is a shape shifter, but not just a shape shifter but a troublemaker also, which makes living with him impossible. To round out our family, my little sister is a skeleton. It’s too big of a burden for a normal girl like me.
“Olivia, are you with us,” Ms. Santiago snaps her fingers in front of my face. She’s my favorite teacher at Middlebury Middle School because this is her first year at the school. She’s young, fun and best of all; she’s never had my brother in any of her classes.
Tessa’s mom leans into her daughter, brushes back the hair away from her ear, and whispers. “It’s a shame when a child’s parents don’t care enough to come to family day.”
“Welcome to our annual family day,” Miss Santiago says as the door opens. Daisy gasps, Emily weeps, and Mrs. Thompson covers Tessa’s eyes, which can mean only one thing, my parents are here.
“Sorry we’re late. I couldn’t find a thing to wear.” Mom lies. The same dirty white rags she’s been wearing for centuries dangle from her zombie-like arms. My father waves at me with his furry arm, he holds my sister’s boney fingers with his other hand. I sink into my chair, why couldn’t I’ve been born invisible.
“It is very nice that you could join us.” Miss Santiago’s eyes dart from my parents to me probably wondering how I became part of this family. “If you’d like to stand next to your student we can begin again.”
My mom stands behind me while my dad flops on the ground and scratches the fur on his back with his rear leg. “Fleas,” he says to Mrs. Thompson, whose lips turn down into a frown.
“Dad, please stop,” I plead.
He climbs back on two feet; his claws scrape across the floor sending goose bumps up my arms. Mom scratches his belly and his leg moves.
“As I was saying, welcome…” Suddenly a loud cough interrupts Miss Santiago. It’s just a lone cough at first and then a full-fledged coughing fit echoes through the room. Daisy covers her pink, lip-gloss covered mouth and giggles and I don’t even need to see whom she’s laughing at while Dad continues to cough, hack, and finally spit up a wad of fur onto the floor causing a slimy hairball to splat onto Tessa’s black Mary Jane shoes.
“Gross.” Tessa gasps kicking back her foot, sending the hairball in my direction.
“Don’t worry, I got it.” Mom clutches the hairball, as it squishes between her fingers. She shoves the hairball deep into her knockoff Coach handbag.
Miss Santiago grabs the trashcan filled with wadded papers, a paper airplane, and a few pieces of gum stuck to the side of the liner. She carries it to Mom.
“Heaven’s no, I collect these.” Mom reaches into her purse and pulls out the hairball where she displays it like a trophy.
“I am pleased so many parents could be here today.” Miss Santiago places the trashcan next to her desk with a shudder. “You’ll follow your student throughout the day so you can get a sense of what a typical day at Middlebury Middle School is like.”
My school has a panther for a mascot, and is home to a large population of feral cats. As my father raises his nose and sniffs the air, I grasp at his collar before I see the orange, black, and white calico pass the doorway. Dad jerks against my hold, drops to all four paws, and gives chase.
“No bad boy,” Mom scolds Dad as he races out the door with me attached to his collar. He drags me on the blacktop my knees scrape against the concrete. The cat jumps onto a picnic table and my dad runs under the bench chasing it across the playground. I hold tight as he drags me through the dew stained grass drenching me to the bone. The cat stretches its claws and digs into the bark of a nearby tree. It climbs the tree with no effort, while Dad stands at the base of the tree howling. I yank his collar but he digs his feet as he scratches the tree trunk. The cat smiles down at Dad with a big, white toothy grin, like that cat from Alice in Wonderland. “Cats don’t smile,” I mutter. The cat morphs into my brother, Vinnie.