Chapter Excerpt

Chapter 1: . . . And Wished I Were an Only Child

You probably won't remember it later, but my name is Keats. I'm the smallest boy in my class. Actually, it's worse than that. I'm the smallest person in my grade. My third-grade teacher never calls on me for answers because she can't see me. I sit behind a tall girl with red poofy hair.

I wish I had red poofy hair.

My hair is the same color as dead grass in November.

My teacher is named Ms. Grant. Ms. Grant is from the South and says things like "y'all" and "fixin' to." My older sister Lulu was in her class a few years ago. Whenever we have to write a book report or do an art project, Ms. Grant shows us one of Lulu's old assignments as an example. When we made snowflakes to hang from the ceiling, she pulled one out from her closet that was covered in colorful sequins and battery-operated Christmas lights. Ms. Grant said, "Y'all, this was made by Keats's older sister," as she pointed to Lulu's school picture on her bulletin board.

The girl with the red poofy hair raised her hand and asked, "Who's Keats?"

I wasn't looking where I was cutting and cut myself with the scissors.

I had to go to the school nurse to get a Big Bird Band-Aid.

Lulu is president of the seventh-grade class. Mom calls her an overachiever. Lulu hates the sound of some words, likesaliva. I made her cry once by writing the wordspanty hoseon her math homework. One Halloween she used mascara to paint her eyebrows together, and put on a colorful dress that Mom bought for her in Mexico. She made a heart out of clay and carried it around. She said that she was Frida Kahlo, the tragic Mexican painter. I dressed up as a television news anchor. Instead of saying "Trick or treat," I said, "Our top story tonight: Children across America dress up in elaborate costumes in hopes of receiving handfuls of treats. More on this story after you give me some candy." Nobody knew what I was supposed to be.

My other older sister, India, usually dresses up as a butterfly for Halloween. In fact, most of the time she looks like a butterfly. She wears bright, rainbow-striped tights and flashy hair bows. She's the only girl at our school who carries a purse instead of a backpack. At the last parent-teacher conference her fourth-grade teacher told Mom and Dad that when she had asked India what she wanted to be when she grew up, India's response was, "I'm just going to get by on my looks." Dad laughed and Mom kicked him underneath the table. Dad thinks that India is going to be a brilliant clothing designer someday.

Dad says the wordbrillianta lot.

India has a sign on her bedroom door that says,DO NOT ENTER. THIS MEANS YOU, BELLY. Belly is my three-year-old baby sister, whose real name is Mirabelle. We call her Belly because she hates to wear clothes. One time my mom took Belly and me to the mall to buy me the bow tie that I wanted for my birthday. It was silk with yellow and blue stripes and looked exactly like the one that I had circled in the catalog. When we were inside the mall, Belly screamed with glee and ran to the fountain that was filled with glittering pennies on the bottom. I used to scream and run to the fountain when I was littler, but now I just racewalk. My mom dug through her purse for a penny so that I could toss it in and make a secret wish. While Mom was struggling to find a penny, Belly stripped naked and, before we could stop her, was stealing other people's wishes from the middle of the fountain. The grandmothers who were walking laps around the mall pointed and laughed at my sister's bare bottom bobbing up and down as she looked for pennies.

Mom grabbed Belly from the fountain and said, "You're crazy," like what she had done was cute.

I threw my penny in the fountain and wished I were an only child.Copyright ©2006 by Christian Burch

Excerpted from The Manny Files by Christian Burch
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