“Finally, as they pass by, you jump out and make them scream their pants off. Then, you block them, so that they don’t run away. Now, here comes the best part!”
“NO, Eddie!” I scream loudly.
I mean, it wasn’t that loud, but I mean, like, it was still pretty loud.
He is SO annoying. Eddie growls at me but does not say a word.
I am Catherine Rose Henry, and my twin brother is Eddie Marc Henry. We have a game, a really cool game.
Some say it is bullying, but bullying is when you, like, push and shove, and become physical, so they are, like, totally, wrong. Anyways, so first, you have to choose a dumbbell, like Opal or Flora or Ned, or someone like them. Next, you have to find them. The best spot is the old tree by Eagle Street.
Finally, as they pass by, you jump out and make them scream their pants off. Then, you block them, so that they don’t run away. Now, here comes the best part! You start yelling things that are strange or different about them.
So anyway, today, we find John Benson. He loses in practically everything. Even soccer tryouts. (He didn’t get on the team of course.)
“Hello, John,” says Eddie, trying to make John stop to talk.
“Uh, hi,” he says, nervously. (He knows our game.)
“What’s up, loser?” I say, laughing.
“I am not a loser!” He says, bursting into tears.
“Bye, cry baby!” says Eddie, smirking.
“See you at school.” I snicker.
The thing is: John does not actually like school. These days, he’ll race to school and back. I am not sure why.
The rest of the way to school, Eddie and I talk about lunchtime plans. We plan to find Bob Tyler. Most people think of him as a soccer star captain for the grade, but we think of him as a maggot with a mop head because of his floppy, red hair.
By the time we get to school, the classroom is almost full. Except, the teacher has gone to get something, so we have some fun with Lena. Lena is really popular. She has a great, great-aunt, named Rosy. She often says that Rosy is her best friend and that, if anyone dares to hurt her, Rosy would save her. But a few days earlier, Rosy had died of old age.
So, she is a victim in our game. We walk over to her and she moves out of our way, knocking her open backpack off her chair. Everything spills out of it, and then, something catches my eye: a book. In fancy letters, it spells, “My Diary”.
Slowly, I pick it up, hold it in the air, and shout, “Wittle Wena’s got a diawy! I wonder what wittle Wena wote?”
There is a long, deafening silence, and then suddenly Lena shouts, “Give that back! It’s mine!” She continues to shriek. Her shrieks are like knives that she lashes at us, like a shark trying to eat a fish out of his reach.
“Come and get it if you want it,” I laugh. Lena starts to jump up to get the diary but doesn’t succeed.
“No more Aunt Wosy to save you,” I say. Suddenly, the teacher, Ms. Cally, walks into the classroom.
“Catherine, put Lena’s diary down,” she says, sternly. “Opal, take Lena to the nurse.” The backpack had fallen on Lena’s toe, and her toe was bleeding.
Ms. Cally goes to her desk, takes a post it note, scribbles something quickly, and hands it to me and Eddie.
“Give this to your mother as soon as you get home, and don’t look at it.”
When we get home, we throw our backpacks on the floor and rush upstairs. Mom, however, looks through our bags to see if we have homework, but instead, she finds the note.
“Catherine! Eddie!” She shouts.
“Yeah, Mom?” I say, trying to act natural.
“You come down here this instant and sit down,” she clenches her teeth.
When we are seated, Mom says, “Do you have any idea what this is about?” She holds up the crumpled note that Ms. Cally had written.
“No,” Eddie and I say in unison, which isn’t true.
“Then read it, and go to your room,” she shouts. “You should be ashamed of yourselves!”
I go to my room and flop on my bed. When you first walk into my room, the dresser is to the right, and my bed is to the left. I have a twin bed, which I used to think I had because I was a twin. My bedroom is painted white, but I sometimes pick at the paint, so it is a little dirty. My floor is kinda messy ‘cause cleaning up is definitely not my thing. I just lay there for quite a few minutes thinking. Then, suddenly, I ask myself: when did this game start? So, I think back to when it started. It was after my parents’ divorce.
Here’s the story…
How the game started:
We were in the kitchen.
“Where’s Daddy?” I had asked.
“Gone.” Mom had said, as if it was obvious.
“Where?” Eddie and I had wailed.
“Look, we filed for a divorce last night. He moved out, and I don’t know where he is!” She had shouted in a no-questions tone.
But we hadn’t cared about questions. We just raced upstairs to our closet, in our room, that had three sliding doors. One set in my room, one in Eddie’s room, one next door, and one to connect them in the middle. So, Eddie and I had shut ourselves in our closets (with blankets), and we opened the middle doors and cried.
While crying, we had realized something. We had realized that it’s not okay to be different. So, we decided that we had to make everybody seem more different than we were. Then, we decided to make up: OUR GAME.
I am still thinking about it when I hear Mom calling us for dinner. By the time we finish dinner, I completely recover from my flashback, and am back to my normal self. But when bedtime comes, I can’t sleep. I don’t know what has come over me.
A few days later, Ms. Cally announces that the fifth grade play is coming up. A great time for our game, I think, and I suspect Eddie would think that too.
“What’s the story?” Someone calls out.
“Please don’t call out, Robert,” Ms. Cally says.
“It’s Rob, please,” he reminds her.
“So,” Ms. Cally continues. “The whole fifth grade will be doin–” She says, but she is interrupted by Rob again.
“What’s the story?” Rob repeats, more impatiently.
“Robert, please don’t call out,” Ms. Cally reminds him, in a slightly sharper tone.
“It’s Rob, okay?” Rob says.
“Anyways,” Ms. Cally says, ignoring Rob. “As I was saying, the whole fifth grade will be doing it together. For that, we must work together as a grade, okay?”
“Yes, Ms. Cally,” choruses the whole class (except Rob, of course).
“But,” says Rob, “WHAT’S THE STORY??!!”
“Rob!” Ms. Cally shouts angrily. “I’m going to call your mother! Go and sit in the time-out chair!” Sulkily, Rob stomps towards the awful, the dreaded, time-out chair.
Take that, Rob! I think. You deserve it.
Ms. Cally goes on about the play, but I sort of tune it out.
Rob must’ve done the same, because Ms. Cally shouts, “Rob, you just missed the story!”
“What is it?!” Rob says, annoyed with himself for tuning out.
Ms. Cally says, “It is about a mean man, named Tom, and a nice man, named Ned, and they both want to be king, so they split the land, and whomever wants to be on the bad guy’s side stays there, unless they are permanently moving forever, and the same with the good guy. Well, it started out pretty evenly, but then, gradually, people started moving to the good guy’s side, until no one was on the bad guy’s side, and that’s when the bad guy gave up.”
Rob glances at me and then says, “Okay.”
“Excuse me, Ms. Cally?” Opal says.
“Yes, sweetheart?” Ms. Cally answers, glad to have a new topic.
“May I use the bathroom?” She asks. Ms. Cally nods.
“Me too?” I ask.
“Yes, yes,” sighs Ms. Cally. I zoom to the girl’s bathroom. Opal isn’t there yet because she’s pretty slow, but when she comes in, the fun begins. I shove her against the blue tiled wall.
“P-p-please s-s-stop!” Opal cries, trembling. “I-I f-fell on th-that a-arm y-yesterday,” she whispers, still trembling. “C-can y-you l-loosen y-your grip?”
“NO,” I say through clenched teeth. Opal’s legs are trembling. Then, I remember: Opal still has to use the bathroom. Boy, is this going to be fun.
“P-p-please,” Opal manages to force out, through my grip. Suddenly, I have the most amazing idea. If you laugh while trying to wait for the bathroom, it’s really hard to hold it. I am going to make Opal laugh.
“Hey Opal, ya wanna hear a joke?”
“S-sure,” she says, desperately.
“Orange.” I tighten my grip on Opal’s legs, so that she can’t run away.
“Orange, who?” She asks, and we go on from there with the orange joke.
When I am finished, Opal begins to giggle. All of a sudden, I feel a warm, wet liquid on the hand that is holding her pants. She wets her pants. I feel a leap of triumph within me as Opal looks like a tomato, flushing.
“Hey, Opal. I’m loving those pants!” I tease. Opal’s lip quivers.
Suddenly, she slips right out of my grasp and runs into the classroom. I run after her. As I take my seat again, I sneak a note to Eddie, saying that I made Opal wet her pants. He reads it and grins. Suddenly, Ms. Cally strides over to where Eddie is sitting and lifts the note out of Eddie’s reach. She reads it and eyes Opal.
“Opal, may I speak with you?” Ms. Cally says, leading Opal into the hall. I feel good.
I think school is going well. I think. I hope. But, like, I need time to play Our Game, so, besides my MILLION TUTORS, I need to still have time for that. Mom says I fail in school, and I have learning issues. Catherine says that I care too much about how school is going and not enough about Our Game.
“Hey, Cath, a little help with my homework?”
“UGH, okay. So you kind of just long divide here, and then add it with the original number, and multiply it by thirteen, and then write the answer.”
“JUST?!” I cry, incredulously. “My goodness, why do they give us so much homework? And they make it SO complicated.”
“It’s as easy as pie, Eddie, come on.” Catherine say, sounding annoyed.
Finally, I am fed up with her telling me how stupid I am, so I decide to give her a piece of my mind.
“Hey, Cath – the – new – teacher’s – pet / goody – two – shoes / smartest – kid – in – the – universe.”
I can see Catherine’s anger rising, uncontrollably, like a pitcher of hot water spilling.
Finally, we jump out of our seats, rolling on the ground, wrestling, like professional wrestlers. But, of course, I win, pinning her to the ground.
“Now, who’s the ‘Eddie – the – new – teacher’s – pet / goody – two – shoes / smartest – kid – in – the – universe?’” Catherine asks, squirming out of my hold.
I stare at Catherine as if she is the stupidest person.
“Really, Catherine, wrestling class?”
Before I know it, Catherine is upstairs. Well, I don’t waste any time following her upstairs. I know she is in her room, so I run into my room and through the double closet.
The rest is a blur.
The next thing I know, I am in a hospital bed and a stupid hospital gown.
Then, I am at home.
Mom says something through tears, and then, tells me that I had passed out.
Catherine and I aren’t in school because, for whatever reason, Catherine is still in the hospital, (Mom and Dad still haven’t been able to tell me without bursting into tears) and I am still woozy.
Suddenly, without warning, the phone rings.
“I’ll get it.” I lunge for the phone, but Dad gets it first, and Mom holds me back. Then, something that has never happened before happened: Mom starts trembling and clutching me, and Dad’s face becomes white and worried. They exchange worried looks before we all go running to the car. I have absolutely no idea what is going on. All I know is that it is nighttime, and we are in the car.
Before I know it, we are at my least favorite place. If you guessed school, you’re wrong. We are at the hospital.
A rush of understanding flows through me.
“What happened to Catherine?” I ask. I don’t get an answer.
“We’re here to see Catherine Rose Henry.” Dad informs the receptionist.
The receptionist takes one look at me and says, briskly, “How ald ayre ya?”
“Ten.” I say, honestly.
“Ya nat allawed upsais untail ya twailve.” She gives me a huge, fake grin. “Ya cayn staiy dayn here aynd rayd the fayshin maygazaines. Too bayd foyr ya.”
Mom and Dad exchange worried glances and give me a sympathetic look. Dad glares at the receptionist.
I sit down on the bench and flip through the newspaper to see if the sports section is in there. No sports section.
Then, an unfamiliar voice says, “Eddie?” It is a kind voice.
“Huh?” I say, looking into the eyes of a doctor.
“I am Catherine’s doctor, Dr. Sellsnack. Apparently, it’s been difficult for them to tell you about your sister. As I have heard, a closet door was opened-”
“That was me.” I tell him before he says anything else.
“That’s okay, but anyways, back to Catherine. So, she was sitting in the closet, and the door hit her head. She was knocked unconscious, and she isn’t responding. We think she may have a concussion.”
Concussion. The word cuts under my skin like one of the sewing needles that my mom has in the tackle box, shoved in the back of the hall closet, from the two weeks that she was in the sewing club before she quit.
“Oh. It’s my fault.” I say.
The doctor pats me on the back and says, “That’s okay.” Then, he leaves.
Okay? Like that was true.
A few days later, old Catherine is back. I try to hide that I care.
Back to school. What the heck? I was actually doing okay staying home everyday. More than okay.
Catherine has this huge, bulky cast on her head. Her head is shaved completely.
Back at school, we play Our Game a few times.
The next morning, I awake to ominous, gray clouds that look like gray shirts on a clothesline. I know something bad will happen.
And it does. Well, it isn’t exactly bad, but it isn’t necessarily good either. It is just plain weird: Catherine doesn’t play Our Game. She did, in the morning, but not wholeheartedly. By the end of the day, she has completely stopped.
“What’s wrong with you?” I ask Catherine.
“What do you mean, what’s wrong with me?” she snaps.
“Well, you haven’t been playing Our Game this afternoon.”
“It isn’t your business what I do, and what I don’t do.” She replies.
The next morning, Catherine and I walk to school separately, me stopping at the big, old tree by Eagle Street.
Later that morning, Ms. Cally announces who is in the fifth grade play. I’m not. I had tried out, knowing that I wouldn’t get in, but even so, when Catherine is called, I turn green with envy. I always wished that I had the talent that Catherine has.
Suddenly, I see Lena pass Opal a note. As Opal grabs the note with her small, grubby hand, I snatch the note away. On it, in Lena’s dainty handwriting, says:
Look at the big, white-head
Who is the ‘big, white-head’? And then it comes to me. Catherine.
I almost glare at them, but with an afterthought, I don’t.
They’re just big, fat bullies, is my first thought.
They’re copying Our Game, is my second thought.
How dare they make fun of Catherine? is my third thought.
Then, they start to come together.
If they’re copying Our Game, doesn’t that mean that Catherine and I are also big, fat bullies? Did people feel like, “How dare they make fun of _____(so and so)?”
I feel like thanking Lena.
That same day, I am walking home from school. Suddenly, I know what I have to do.
“I’m sorry.” I whisper to Catherine, almost in tears.
Catherine’s hard face softens, but then she says, “I’ve got rehearsal” and runs back to the school yelling, “Last one there is the rotten egg!” I follow, waving to Opal, Lena, Flora, John, and Ned, as we pass.