Notes From a Liar and Her Dog

Ant is sure she must belong
in a different family….

“So,” Mr. Borgdorf continues, “we thought we’d have a little talk today and straighten this all out.”

“Just tell me what to say so I can get out of here,” I mutter, looking at the ceiling.

“Antonia,” my mother’s voice shoots out, as if it has been gathering force until now. “Don’t play your games with me. You’re not adopted and you know it.”

“What about your dad?” Just Carol persists. “Is he your real father?”

“No,” I say, speaking to the floor. “I have a whole other family. Only Pistachio is real. He’s my real dog. When my real parents come, he’s going with me.”

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Gennifer Choldenko

PUFFIN BOOKS

An Imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To
Jacob Ayer Cholden Brown

With special thanks to:

Erica Calcagno at the Oakland Zoo
for answering all of my many questions.
Alan Blum, Linda Dakin-Grimm,
Libby Ellison, Paula Friedman, Elizabeth Harding,
Nancy Harvey, Glenys and Grey Johnson, Barbara Kerley,
David Macaulay and Susan Miho Nunes. My team.
Ian and Kai Brown for sharing me with my keyboard.
And Kathy Dawson, who wouldn’t let me settle.
What a gift that is.

PUFFIN BOOKS
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Young Readers Group, 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
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(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
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(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
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Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published in the United States of America by G. P. Putnam’s Sons,
a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2001
Published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2003, 2010

Copyright © Gennifer Choldenko, 2001

All rights reserved

THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE G.P. PUTNAM’S SONS EDITION AS FOLLOWS:
Choldenko, Gennifer, date
Notes from a liar and her dog / Gennifer Choldenko.
p. cm. Summary: Eleven-year-old Ant, stuck in a family that she does not like,
copes by pretending that her “real” parents are coming to rescue her, by loving
her dog Pistachio, by volunteering at the zoo, and by telling lies.
[1. Family Life—Fiction. 2. Honesty—Fiction. 3. Dogs—Fiction. 4. Zoos—Fiction.]
I. Title. PZ7.C446265 No 2001 [Fic]—dc21 00-055354

Puffin Books ISBN: 978-1-101-65112-4

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that
it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise
circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover
other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition
including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume
any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

CONTENTS

 1. W
OLF

 2. H
ARRISON
E
MERSON

 3. L
ITTLE
B
ROWN
A
CORN

 4. P
ISTACHIO

 5. T
HE
V
ET

 6. Z
OO
T
EENS

 7. K
IGALI

 8. T
HE
L
IONS

 9. A H
IPPOPOTAMUS
O
ATH

10. D
INNER
AT
THE
M
AC
P
HERSONS

11. T
HE
P
OSTCARD

12. E
LIZABETH’S
D
RESS
R
EHEARSAL

13. T
HE
E
MERSONS

14. H
UMBLE
P
IE

15. J
UST
C
AROL

16. N
OSE

17. O
THER
D
OGS
’ S
TINK

18. A R
IDE

19. T
HE
M
ATH
-
A
-
THON

20. F
AMILY
N
IGHT

21. M
Y
R
EAL
P
ARENTS

22. M
y
M
OM’S
P
LAN

23. T
HE
K
EY

24. M
ARY
-J
UDY

25. E
LIZABETH

26. A
NT

27. T
HE
F
ACTS

1
W
OLF

“I
don’t even know what I did this time,” I say to my best friend, Harrison Emerson. We watch my mother park her car in the school’s visitor parking slot.

“Could be she’s here because of Kate. Maybe Kate’s in trouble,” Harrison suggests. He is sitting on the asphalt in the shade of the backboard, drawing a chicken in his math book. He always draws during recess, until a noon aide makes him play.

“Oh, right. My little sister’s idea of getting in trouble is putting a book back upside down,” I say, mopping the sweat off my forehead with the tail of my shirt. I sock the handball hard against the backboard.

“Antonia MacPherson, please come to the office.” The loudspeaker sounds patchy and too loud. A kid I don’t know screams, “You cheat!” Another kid smacks the tetherball behind me.

“Antonia MacPherson, please come to the office.” The loudspeaker lady is mad now, like if she has to walk all the way out to the playground to find me, my butt will be butter.

“Want me to come?” Harrison asks. Harrison is
working on the chicken’s wing feathers. I know he hates stopping in the middle of the feather part, but I can’t help it. I need him.

“Yeah,” I say.

It’s been a while since I’ve been called to the office. I got bored of it, really. The assistant principal, Mr. Borgdorf, always makes everything sound as if it is life or death, like if you put one foot outside the crosswalk, you are headed for the penitentiary. He loves rules. He has them written all fancy and hung on the walls of his office.

We take the long way to Mr. Borgdorf’s office, stopping for a drink at the water fountain. The water is hot and tastes like pennies. I get a big mouthful and spit it out on Harrison’s shoes. Then Harrison gets a big mouthful and spits it out on my shoes. We are wet up to our knees when Cave Man comes along. Cave Man is our teacher. His real name is Mr. Lewis, but everyone calls him Cave Man because he’s all hairy like one of those monkeys in our history book—the ones that walk stooped, then turn into men. Cave Man escorts us to the office.

“Antonia? Is that you?” the assistant principal calls out as soon as he hears us in the main office. He knows me by name. This is not an honor, my mother always says.

“You go first,” I tell Harrison.

Harrison nods. Harrison is short. His T-shirt is almost as long as a dress and his cargo pants are dirty and frayed at the bottom from stepping on them.

“Harrison Emerson, why am I not surprised to see
you,” my mom says. My mom is sitting in Mr. Borgdorf’s office with her legs neatly crossed. She is wearing a work skirt and blouse with a scarf around her neck, held in place with a pin. She is glaring at Harrison. My mom hates Harrison because he eats with his mouth open, walks his pet chicken on a leash, and because he’s always scratching at something. I’m not friends with Harrison because my mom doesn’t like him, though. I’m friends with him because I like him. That my mom doesn’t like him is something extra, like a bonus.

“Hey, Harrison, Ant, how are you two doing today?” asks Just Carol. Just Carol is our art teacher. We call her Just Carol because she always says, “Just call me Carol.” Not Miss or Ms. or Mrs. Anything. I wonder what she is doing here.

Harrison blushes so red, his freckles disappear. He loves Just Carol. He has her picture thumbtacked over his bed and everything.

“Mr. Emerson,” says the assistant principal, who is bald except for a strip of hair that runs from ear to ear like a collar. “I’m glad you accompanied your friend Antonia here. But I’m afraid our business is with her. Would you mind waiting outside, young man?”

“No,” Harrison says. Harrison is still staring at Just Carol. She’s wearing dozens of bracelets that jangle every time she moves, earrings that look like the mobiles they put over baby cribs, and a bright gauze dress. She looks as if she is on her way to Hawaii.

“Now,” Mr. Borgdorf says once the door is closed behind Harrison. “Miss Samberson says—”

“Who’s that?” I ask.

“Carol.” The assistant principal clears his throat as if saying her name plain like this gives him phlegm.

“Carol here says you’ve been telling people you’re adopted…that your real parents are going to come and take you away to your real life. And, frankly, she is worried that something is going on.” He glances at my mom. “At home.”

I stare at Just Carol. My face feels hot, as if I have a fever. How could she have blabbed something like this?

“So,” Mr. Borgdorf continues, “we thought we’d have a little talk here today and straighten this all out.”

“Just tell me what to say so I can get out of here,” I mutter, looking at the ceiling. One of the white panels is missing and there is brown paper underneath. Aren’t you supposed to build buildings out of something more substantial than paper?

“Antonia,” my mother’s voice shoots out, as if it has been gathering force until now. “Don’t play your games with me. You’re not adopted and you know it.”

“Fine. I’m not adopted. Can I leave now?”

“Look, Ant …” Just Carol leans forward in her chair. “I don’t want to embarrass you, but I am concerned. It seems as if you’re disturbed about something. I wanted to try to understand here. I thought we could all sit down and work it out.”

“Butt out,” I say without looking at her.

“Antonia!” my mom and Mr. Borgdorf call out in unison, then Mr. Borgdorf takes over. “I expect you to
conduct yourself in an appropriate manner, young lady, with courteous and respectful language, otherwise I will put you on probation, on the spot. Consider yourself warned.”

“Maybe you’d rather I hadn’t brought this to the attention of Mr. Borgdorf,” Just Carol says. “But I thought there was a problem that needed to be addressed. And I still believe that. Why is it you think you’re adopted?”

“Because I am, that’s all,” I say, looking around for a window. It’s twice as hot in this office as it is outside. How can Mr. Borgdorf stand to sit in here all day without a window?

“But there must be some reason you think this.”

They are all staring at me. I know I’m not going anywhere unless I say something. “I don’t look like my sisters. And I certainly don’t act like them, because I never would behave as stupid as they do. And I wasn’t named after a queen of England, like Your Highness Elizabeth and Katherine the Great.”

“Antonia, you were named after your uncle Anthony. You know that,” my mother says.

“Mrs. MacPherson, your daughter is unhappy. I don’t think she feels a part of her family. Kids don’t make up stories for no reason,” Just Carol says.

“I didn’t make it up,” I say.

“Look, you don’t know Antonia. She has a strange way of looking at things. She carries everything to the nth degree, and lying is a problem we’ve had over and over again. But we’re working on it, aren’t we,
Antonia?” My mother flashes her fake smile. “I appreciate your concern, truly I do, but I don’t think this is the way to handle this.”

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