It was definitely going to be a boy. Mom and Dad were talking about it at dinner. Mom had taken some test to see that there were “no complications” with Baby-X and she’d just gotten back the results. The biggest complication for Baby-X was that he was going to be born into this dumb family.
My teenage, mall-rat sister, Clymene, asked them what they were going to name Baby-X. They wouldn’t say. I suggested Max or Bix. Clymene reminded them that I’d wanted to name our dog Max or Bix. She was pushing for Ajax, Argus or Ares. I told them if they wanted to go for a phony and pretentious Greek mythology name, like Clymene, they should go with Charon, since clearly this baby would be crossing into hell. Mom was miffed. But Dad laughed and said they would take our suggestions under advisement and let us know. Sure thing.
This name thing with Clymene and I went way back. She says she’s named after a Greek goddess because Mom and Dad were still in love when they had her and spent a lot of time thinking about names, while I was an accident and they just slapped on the first thing that came into their heads. But my dad says they named me Daisy because his aunt Daisy, who was a famous flapper that was the toast of the town, whatever that means, had just died, and someday I would understand—like that’s some excuse. No offense if you’re named Daisy too, but Daisy is a stupid name.
When we got back from Moken Island, which you can read about in the first book, I had to jump right into school. I’d missed a couple of weeks. You’d think maybe after you’d been ship wrecked, fought off pirates, recovered a stolen treasure and survived a typhoon or two, people would give you credit. Not likely. Sixth grade cliques had formed faster than buboes on a plague victim. I was thrown in with Lucia Sarir and Ted Morgenstein.
Ted I knew from third grade. Lucia was a new student. She had yellow hair and thick glasses and was thin and shy and hardly said anything to anybody. I think her parents were from another country, because she wore slightly weird clothes, like they were purchased in a department store in Bulgrungastan or something. She got picked on constantly.
On my second day back, Ted, Lucia and I got lumped together for a geography project. That was fine with me because, even though Ted has a cool-rating of below zero, he’s the brainiest kid in the class and it turned out Lucia, once she got over being shy, was clever and funny and had a nutcase, high-pitched giggle that cracked me up. Plus she had a butterfly collection and played killer chess.
Being back in civilization was weird. I think it was for all of us. Mom seemed perpetually grumpy and skittish, Dad remote and prone to sighing, Clymene, who had lost twenty pounds on the island and looked like a super model, was in boy-crazed hyper-drive. She linked up with Todd the Toad again, but it was clear from Facebook and texting traffic that she was enjoying her newfound thin-girl status.
One day, after school, Todd pulled up beside me in his car and asked if I wanted a lift home, cause he was going that way. Like sure. Like I’m going to get into a car with this nit. And even if it was okay, why would I want to get in the middle of one of Clymene’s boy-dramas? As it was I had her cross-examining me all evening. “What did you say to him? Were you rude? Did you act like a moron? What did he say? His exact words? What was his tone? Did he make any faces?”
Gees, chill already.
Two days later, Todd the Toad came over to take Clymene out, like on a date or something, except Miss Mall-Rat was running late. So Mom had Todd sit in the living room and wait and when I walked by he started talking to me. He was actually polite and funny and we talk about teachers he remembered from sixth grade, and books we liked, and other stuff, but of course I had to wonder why he wanted to hang out with my sister. When Clymene finally came down, it was like I became invisible and then they went out.
Later that night, Clymene snuck in. I got up for a drink of water and saw her in the bathroom, staring at the mirror, looking forlorn or something. She started telling me about how confusing boys were but how they were so great too and the trouble was they were all so beautiful that it was just impossible.
I started laughing. “You are so wrecked, Clymene. Wait till I tell Mom.”
Oh, she got so mad. You should have seen. She was hissing like a snake and threatening to cut me in pieces and leave me at the curb in black trash bags. I just laughed harder. Then she laughed too, and got all sentimental, and hugged me and said I was her favorite sister ever and we should be friends because she could teach me so much about life.
Then she started talking about how we were going to have a baby brother to take care of soon and how hard that was going to be but how beautiful it would be too. She was really wrecked. Pretty soon she started throwing up in the toilet and I went back to bed.
Things started happening fast after that. I was supposed to have Lucia and Ted Morgenstein over on the weekend to make a salt map of Mesopotamia. Already we’d been labeled the “Odd Squad.” When I saw Martin Blindenbok making fun of Lucia in the hall, I turned and walked the other way, so I wouldn’t be seen with her. I felt like a total creep afterwards.
Martin Blindenbok needed a good sock in the chops. So, okay, Lucia walked like a baby giraffe that didn’t quite know how to stand on its legs, and her clothes were weird and she was shy to the point of invisibility, but that’s no reason for Martin to follow behind her and mimic her while everybody laughed. When she turned, he pretended he wasn’t doing anything, while everybody cracked up even more.
It made me sick that I was such a coward. I even pretend to laugh so they wouldn’t turn on me. How could I be so rotten? I used to face off with sharks and pirates and now I was afraid to do anything. How low a worm could I be?
That night, Clymene smashed up Mom’s SUV. It was really late and everyone was asleep and Clymene must have been really wrecked cause she just drove the thing full speed right over the lawn and into the garage door. Some neighbor called the police and they came over and Mom and Dad were out there in bathrobes and when I came down to check it out they both yelled at me to get back in the house this very instant. Cly broke her nose, the nit. She’s going to be grounded for like ten years or something, but of course when I came down for breakfast and asked Mom what happened, Mom was all CIA about it.
So then I went off to school and socked Martin Blindenbok as hard as I could.
I wasn’t planning on it. But when he went up behind Lucia and knocked her books out of her arm, I yelled at him. And he said, “Oh, yeah? Protecting your dyke girlfriend?” Martin is a whole head taller than me and weighs twice as much as me, but I didn’t care, I just let him have it as hard as I could. His nose exploded blood and he fell and hit his head on a locker and crashed down in a blob, out cold.
Students screamed and teachers came running and grabbed me. They even called an ambulance. Then later, when Mom picked me up, the principal told her Martin appeared to be okay, like that was supposed to be some kind of good news, and I blurted, “I hope he rots in hell.” Not a good move, Daisy.