The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story (4 page)

“I hope you’re planning on burning that,” I said. And I wasn’t joking.

“No, darling,” said Mom, sitting on the other side of me. “We don’t need to burn anything. Look what I’ve done.”

She picked up a different photo from the nightstand and handed it to me to look at. At first, I thought it was just another copy of the class picture, because it was exactly the same size as the class picture Dad had in his hands, and everything in it was exactly the same. I started to look away in disgust, but Mom pointed to a place on the photo—the place where Auggie used to be! He was nowhere in the photo.

I couldn’t believe it! There was no trace of him!

I looked up at Mom, who was beaming.

“The magic of Photoshop!” she said happily, clapping her hands. “Now you can look at this picture and not have to have your memory of fifth grade tarnished,” she said.

“That’s so cool!” I said. “How did you do that?”

“I’ve gotten pretty good at Photoshop,” she answered. “Remember last year, how I made all the skies blue in the Hawaii pictures?”

“You would never have known it rained every day,” answered Dad, shaking his head.

“Laugh if you want,” said Mom. “But now, when I look at those pictures, I don’t have to be reminded of the bad weather that almost ruined our trip. I can remember it for the beautiful vacation that it was! Which is exactly how I want you to remember your fifth-grade year at Beecher Prep. Okay, Julian? Good memories. Not ugly ones.”

“Thanks, Mom!” I said, hugging her tightly.

I didn’t say it, of course, but even though she changed the skies to light blue on the photos, all I ever really remembered about our Hawaii trip was how cold and wet it was when we were there—despite the magic of Photoshop.

Look, I didn’t start out being mean. I mean, I’m not a mean kid! Sure, sometimes I make jokes, but they’re not mean jokes. They’re just teasing jokes. People have to lighten up a little! Okay, maybe sometimes my jokes are a little mean, but I only make those jokes behind someone’s back. I never say stuff to anyone’s face that will actually hurt someone. I’m not a bully like that! I’m not a hater, dudes!

Attention, people! Stop being so sensitive!

Some people totally got the whole Photoshop thing, and some didn’t. Henry and Miles thought it was so cool and wanted my mom to email their moms the photo. Amos thought it was “weird.” Charlotte completely disapproved. I don’t know what Jack thought, because he had gone over to the dark side by now. It’s like he totally abandoned his peeps this year and only hangs out with Auggie now. Which bugged me, because that meant I couldn’t hang out with him anymore. No way was I going to catch the “plague” from that freak. That was the name of the game I invented. The Plague. It was simple. If you touched Auggie, and you didn’t wash off the contamination, you died. Everyone in the whole grade played. Except Jack.

And Summer.

So here’s the strange thing. I’ve known Summer since we were in third grade, and I never really paid any attention to her, but this year Henry started liking Savanna and they were like, “going out.” Now, by “going out” I don’t mean like high school stuff, which would be kind of gross barf disgusting. All it means
when you’re “going out” is that you hang out together and meet each other at the lockers and sometimes go to the ice cream shop on Amesfort Avenue after school. So, first Henry started going out with Savanna, and then Miles started going out with Ximena. And I was like, “yo, what about me?” And then Amos said, “I’m going to ask Summer out,” and I was like, “no way, I’m asking her out!” So that’s when I started kind of liking Summer.

But it totally bit that Summer, like Jack, was on Team Auggie. It meant I couldn’t hang out with her at all. I couldn’t even say “wassup” to her because the freak might think I was talking to him or something. So I told Henry to have Savanna invite Summer to the Halloween party at her house. I figured I could hang out with her and maybe even ask her to go out with me. That didn’t work, though, because she ended up leaving the party early. And ever since then, she’s been spending all her time with the freak.

Okay, okay. I know it’s not nice to call him “the freak,” but like I said before, people have to start being a little less sensitive around here! It’s only a joke, everyone! Don’t take me so seriously! I’m not being mean. I’m just being funny.

And that’s all I was doing, being totally funny, the day that Jack Will punched me. I had been totally joking! Fooling around.

I didn’t see it coming at
all
!

The way I remember it, we were just goofing together, and all of a sudden, he whacks me in the mouth for no reason! Boom!

And I was like,
Owwwww! You crazy jerkface! You punched me? You actually punched me?

And the next thing I know, I’m in Nurse Molly’s office, holding one of my teeth in my hand, and Mr. Tushman is there, and I hear him on the phone with my mom saying they’re taking me to the hospital. I could hear my mom screaming on the other end of the line. Then Ms. Rubin, the dean, is leading me into the back
of an ambulance and we’re on the way to a hospital! Crazy stuff!

When we were riding in the ambulance, Ms. Rubin asked me if I knew why Jack hit me. I was like,
duh, because he’s totally insane!
Not that I could talk much, because my lips were swollen and there was blood all over my mouth.

Ms. Rubin stayed with me in the hospital until Mom showed up. Mom was more than a little hysterical, as you can imagine. She was crying kind of dramatically every time she saw my face. It was, I have to admit, a little embarrassing.

Then Dad showed up.

“Who did this?” was the first thing he said, shouting at Ms. Rubin.

“Jack Will,” answered Ms. Rubin calmly. “He’s with Mr. Tushman now.”

“Jack Will?” cried Mom in shock. “We know the Wills! How could that happen?”

“There will be a thorough investigation,” answered Ms. Rubin. “Right now, what’s most important is that Julian’s going to be fine.…”

“Fine?” yelled Mom. “Look at his face! Do you think that’s fine? I don’t think that’s fine. This is outrageous. What kind of school is this? I thought kids didn’t punch each other at a school like Beecher Prep. I thought that’s why we pay forty thousand dollars a year, so that our kids don’t get hurt.”

“Mrs. Albans,” said Ms. Rubin, “I know you’re upset.…”

“I’m assuming the kid will get expelled, right?” said Dad.

“Dad!” I yelled.

“We will definitely deal with this matter in the appropriate way, I promise,” answered Ms. Rubin, trying to keep her voice calm. “And now, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll leave you guys alone for a bit. The doctor will be back and you can check in with him, but he said that nothing was broken. Julian’s fine. He
lost a lower first molar, but that was on its way out anyway. He’s going to give him some pain medication and you should keep icing it. Let’s talk more in the morning.”

It was only then that I realized that poor Ms. Rubin’s blouse and skirt were completely covered in my blood. Boy, mouths do bleed a lot!

Later that night, when I could finally talk again without it hurting, Mom and Dad wanted to know every detail of what had happened, starting with what Jack and I had been talking about right before he hit me.

“Jack wath upthet becauth he wath paired up with the deformed kid,” I answered. “I told him he could thwitch partnerth if he wanted to. And then he punched me!”

Mom shook her head. That was it for her. She was literally madder than I’d ever seen her before (and I’ve seen my mom pretty mad before, believe me!).

“This is what happens, Jules!” she said to Dad, crossing her arms and nodding quickly. “This is what happens when you make little kids deal with issues they’re not equipped to deal with! They’re just too young to be exposed to this kind of stuff! That Tushman is an
idiot
!”

And she said a whole bunch of other things, too, but those are kind of too inapro-pro (if you know what I mean) for me to repeat.

“But, Dad, I don’t want Jack to get ecthpelled from thkool,” I said later on in the night. He was putting more ice on my mouth because the painkiller they had given me at the hospital was wearing off.

“That’s not up to us,” he answered. “But I wouldn’t trouble myself about it if I were you. Whatever happens, Jack will get what he deserves for this.”

I have to admit, I started feeling kind of bad for Jack. I mean,
sure, he was a total dipstick for punching me, and I wanted him to get in trouble—but I really didn’t want him to get kicked out of school or anything.

But Mom, I could tell, was on one of her missions now (as Dad would say). She gets like that sometimes, when she gets so outraged about something that there’s just no stopping her. She was like that a few years ago when a kid got hit by a car a couple of blocks away from Beecher Prep, and she had like a million people sign a petition to have a traffic light installed. That was a super-mom moment. She was also like that last month when our favorite restaurant changed its menu and they no longer made my favorite dish the way I liked it. That was another super-mom moment because after she talked to the new owner, they agreed to special-order the dish—just for me! But Mom also gets like that for not-so-nice stuff, like when a waiter messes up a food order. That’s a not-so-super-mom moment because, well, you know, it can get kind of weird when your mom starts talking to a waiter like he’s five years old.
Awkward!
Also, like Dad says, you don’t want to get a waiter mad at you, you know? They have
your
food in
their
hands—duh!

So, I wasn’t totally clear on how I felt when I realized that my mom was declaring war on Mr. Tushman, Auggie Pullman, and all of Beecher Prep. Was it going to be a super-mom moment or a not-so-super-mom moment? Like, would it end up with Auggie going to a different school—yay!—or with Mr. Tushman blowing his nose in my cafeteria food—ugh!

It took about two weeks for the swelling to go completely down. Because of that, we ended up not going to Paris over winter break. Mom didn’t want our relatives to see me looking like I’d been in a “prize fight.” She also wouldn’t take any pictures of me over the holidays because she said she didn’t want to remember me looking like that. For our annual Christmas card, we used one of the rejects from last year’s photo shoot.

Even though I wasn’t having a lot of nightmares anymore, the fact that I had started having nightmares again really worried Mom. I could tell she was totally stressed out about it. Then, the day before our Christmas party, she found out from one of the other moms that Auggie had not been through the same kind of admissions screening that the rest of us had been. See, every kid who applies to Beecher Prep is supposed to be interviewed and take a test at the school—but some kind of exception had been made for Auggie. He didn’t come to the school for the interview and he got to take the admissions test at home. Mom thought that was really unfair!

“This kid should not have gotten into the school,” I heard her telling a group of other moms at the party. “Beecher Prep is just not set up to handle situations like this! We’re not an inclusion school! We don’t have the psychologists needed to deal with how it affects the other kids. Poor Julian had nightmares for a whole month!”

Ugh, Mom!
I hate your telling people about my nightmares!

“Henry was upset as well,” Henry’s mom said, and the other
moms nodded.

“They didn’t even prepare us beforehand!” Mom went on. “That’s what gets me the most. If they’re not going to provide additional psychological support, at least warn the parents ahead of time!”

“Absolutely!” said Miles’s mom, and the other moms nodded again.

“Obviously, Jack Will could have used some therapy,” Mom said, rolling her eyes.

“I was surprised they didn’t expel him,” said Henry’s mom.

“Oh, they would have!” answered Mom, “but we asked them not to. We’ve known the Will family since kindergarten. They’re good people. We don’t blame Jack, really. I think he just cracked under the pressure of having to be this kid’s caretaker. That’s what happens when you put little kids into these kinds of situations. I honestly don’t know what Tushman was thinking!”

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