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Authors: Jacqueline Turner Banks

Egg-Drop Blues

BOOK: Egg-Drop Blues
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Egg-Drop Blues
Jacqueline Turner Banks

Houghton Mifflin Company
Boston

Copyright © 1995 by Jacqueline Turner Banks

All rights reserved. For information about permission to reproduce
selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin
Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.

www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Banks, Jacqueline Turner.
Egg-drop blues / by Jacqueline Turner Banks,
p. cm.

Summary: Twelve-year-old Judge Jenkins has a low science grade
because of his dyslexia, so he convinces his twin brother Jury to work
with him in a science competition in order to earn extra credit.
RNF ISBN 0-618-34885-9 PAP ISBN 0-618-25080-8
[1. Brothers—Fiction. 2. Twins—Fiction. 3. Dyslexia—Fiction.
4. Schools—Fiction. 5. Afro-Americans—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7B22593Eg 1995 94-4917
[Fic]—dc20 CIP AC

Printed in the United States of America
HAD 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

I would like to thank Carol McNeal of Sacramento's
Carol's Books & Things and independent booksellers
across the country for their unwavering support.

To my family

Chapter 1

If ever a guy needed a competition, I needed the Einstein Rally. I imagine when you think about something as competitive as a science fair, you think the kids are there because they're really smart, or they like to compete, or maybe their science teacher forced them to do it, but that's not why I was in it. As far as I was concerned, my life depended on that stupid competition; at least my life as I knew it.

This is how it started.

At the beginning of the new year, the second half of sixth grade, my mother had a meeting with the counselor at school, Mrs. Norville. Mrs. Norville always has an odd expression on her face, like something is pinching her from inside and she would tell you about it but she's surprised to see you. I guess my mother noticed it too because when Mrs. Keats, the mean old
school secretary, took us into Mrs. Norville's office, my mother looked at Mrs. Norville and then reminded her that we had an appointment.

"Yes, Mrs. Jenkins, I remember," Mrs. Norville said, pointing to a couple of chairs.

Her expression was still that surprised look, as if she didn't know she had two chairs, or maybe she didn't know we had behinds that we used to sit.

"I asked you here to talk about Jury's situation," Mrs. Norville started.

"Judge," my mother said.

"I beg your pardon?"

"You asked me here to talk about Judge."

"Yes?"

"You said Jury," my mother told her.

"Oh, did I?"

That was when I saw her real surprised look—it wasn't much different.

"Before you came in, I had both boys' files out and I must have confused their names."

My mother nodded.

"I asked the two of you to come in to talk about Judge's situation," she said, going right back to where she left off.

I sat there for the next hour listening to my mother and Mrs. Norville talking about me like
I wasn't there and comparing me to my brother Jury.

"We're so fortunate to have a twin brother in this case to use for comparison. We can assume that, except for the learning problems, all other factors are pretty much the same for the two boys."

My mother surprised me by nodding. All other factors are pretty much the same! We're as different as any two people can be. We don't even share the same face that much anymore. My mother glanced at me when Mrs. Norville called me a "right-brain thinker." I could tell from her look that she wanted me to remember that so we could laugh at Mrs. Norville later, when we got a chance. I gave my mother a blank look. I wasn't in any mood to act silly with her; until Mrs. Norville started talking crazy, Mama had been on her side against me. Mrs. Norville handed my mother a booklet about how to deal with us right-brain thinkers, and she actually seemed grateful to get it. I hadn't been listening that much, but I could tell the conversation was coming to an end.

"Are there any other dyslexic children in Judge's class?" Mama asked while we were standing at the door.

"Learning disabilities are fairly common in every classroom across the country. I imagine we would find other kids in the school who exhibit some signs of being learning-disabled, but I can't talk about them. Our only concern right now is Jury."

"Judge."

"Yes, of course, Judge."

"Walk me to the car," she said, once we were outside. I didn't say anything, but I did start walking in the direction of the visitor's parking lot.

"That was very strange, wasn't it?"

I nodded, still wanting to show my attitude, but had to agree because she was right.

"Is she always like that?"

I shrugged.

"Did you notice how she danced around naming your reading problems dyslexia? What is wrong with calling it what it is? We aren't asking for a telethon. I'm going to phone Marilyn and ask her about it. Maybe they
have
to treat it when they give it a name."

We'd reached the van and I still hadn't said anything, but she didn't seem to notice. Marilyn is the mother of one of my best friends. My friend, Angela, is very smart and her mother is
a teacher who works as the director of a community center.

"And I thought those eyebrows went out when
I
was a kid. What would make somebody shave off their eyebrows and pencil on new ones? That's just weird." She started smoothing out my collar; she always does that just before she kisses me. I tried to turn away. My mother is one strong woman, not that big, but strong. She had a grip on my neck that would have broken it if I'd try to move too fast.

She put her face close to mine and kissed me on the nose. "Whatever that attitude is about, get over it before you get home today. Don't forget your grandparents are coming to dinner." She got in the van.

I hated it when she did that. A guy should be able to have an attitude without permission.

"I love you, baby," she said as she backed out.

"Yeah, yeah," I mumbled. I could hear her laughter as the van pulled away.

Jury was standing in the hall when I got back to class.

"What'cha do?" I asked.

"I have no idea."

"Yeah, right. Miss Hoffer just put you out here for no reason."

"Not Miss Hoffer. Hennessey is in there."

I tried to peek into the classroom without being seen. He was right. Ms. Hennessey, the science resource teacher, was standing at the front of the room. She was fresh out of college and it wouldn't be unlike her to kick my brother out for no particular reason.

"Suppose Mama had walked me back to the room? It would have hurt her to find you out here."

"I've got a feeling that's what Hennessey was counting on."

He was probably right again. I wouldn't be surprised if Ms. Hennessey saw our mother as she was coming in. She pushes a cart of science stuff from room to room, and I'll bet she was going to the other sixth-grade class, which is near the counselor's office, when Mama went by. But right or not, I get tired of Jury not thinking about Mama's feelings. Imagine how she would have felt if she and Mrs. Norville had walked me back.

"What did they talk about?" he asked.

"Me."

"Duh!"

"I'm going in. I don't need this from you, too."

He grabbed my arm before I could get to the doorknob.

"Need what? What are you talking about?"

"I don't need you trying to call me stupid, too." My voice cracked, which kinda surprised me.

"Because I said 'duh'? I would have said that to anybody who answered like you just did. I'm an equal opportunity teaser—you know that."

"Yeah, okay. I'll tell you about it later."

He tried to talk me into staying out there to keep him company, but I'm not like him—I was scared of getting caught.

Ms. Hennessey jumped when I walked in the room. It was a little nervous-type jump, but I definitely saw it. I started toward Miss Hoffer's desk to put the hall pass on it and I guess Ms. Hennessey thought I was coming toward her.

"What do you want?" she asked, a little loud, I thought.

"Nothing. I just have to put the hall pass here," I answered.

When I got back to my desk, Angela had already passed me a note.

Ms. Hennessey thought you were Jury and it scared her. Can you believe that?

Angela

I looked at Angela and shrugged my shoulders. She's pretty smart, and when I don't have
a clue, she usually seems to know what adults are thinking. She could be right. Maybe that's why Ms. Hennessey acts so strange with us; maybe she's afraid. But it that's true, she better forget about teaching. If the kids in a sleepy little town like Plank, Kentucky, can scare her, teaching might not be the best job for her.

I wanted to think about some of the stuff Mrs. Norville had said to my mother, but I knew I should listen to Ms. Hennessey. Ms. Hennessey is one of those kind of teachers whose test questions aren't always in the book. I learned that the hard way. We only had two tests and a quiz before Christmas and it wasn't until the second test, after I'd gotten a D on the first test, that I learned she used "other sources."

My three best friends are Tommy Maseka, Faye Benneck, and Angela Collins. With my brother, the five of us call ourselves the posse. We've been best friends forever. Tommy, Faye, and Angela are the three smartest kids in my class. I can't tell you which order of smartest they fall in, but they actually argue with each other about who's the smartest. We do a lot of things as a group, but we usually don't discuss grades or tests or anything like that. It's not that they don't discuss grades to keep from embarrassing me; they don't discuss grades because they don't
have to. Usually when we have a test and the teacher passes back their A's, they stick their papers in their binders and they're ready to go on to the next thing. Jury doesn't discuss grades because he can get a C on any test just by showing up that day. He thinks grades are boring. Sometimes he really makes me mad. If he would just study a little, I know he could make grades as good as Angela, Tommy, and Faye. I don't talk about grades because I don't want to let them know how hard it is for me.

Well, after that second science test, Angela and Faye were hot, and I don't mean hot good-looking, I mean hot
mad.
Angela stormed up to the teacher's desk with her paper in her hand. That girl's not afraid of anyone. I couldn't hear what she was saying, but her mouth was moving fast. She was still mad when she went back to her seat.

At first recess that day, all three of them were standing around talking by the time I got outside.

"What did she say?" I heard Faye ask Angela. "She said some of her questions will be from outside sources." Angela said "outside sources" like it was a curse word.

"Oh," Faye and Tommy said at the same time.

"Let's go play pom-pom tackle," Jury said.
They ignored him and talked some more about the test answers.

"What does she mean by outside sources?" I asked Angela.

"She said they could be her lectures or even the science page of the newspaper."

That was when I knew I was in trouble. I tried to listen in school. It's easier for me to remember stuff I hear than stuff I read, but most teachers don't hold us responsible for it. Usually they only tell us the same things we can read in the book. I have a hard time reading. First of all, I read slower than most people I know. I can't for the life of me figure out how some people can read so fast. Just last week, I saw Faye give Angela a book that she thought was "wonderful." Angela brought it back the next day and told Faye it was so good she read it all in one sitting. I thought for sure she was lying, but then the two of them started talking about the parts they liked.

The other problem I have with reading is that I misread some words. I can read and understand technical books better than I can the stuff that's supposed to be easy. My problem with reading books that are supposedly written for kids is that they have a lot of words like "the," "and," "or," and especially "what" and "want," "this" and "that," and "not." These words confuse me almost every time. There's a big difference between "oxygen not methane is in the air we breathe" and "oxygen and methane are in the air we breathe." At least half the time, I'll read "not" as "and," and I'll miss not only the question but the whole point of whatever I'm reading. I also have problems with numbers; I turn them around. I might read the number 879 as 798. It's very frustrating to have this problem, but it's a lot better knowing I have it than just thinking I'm a big dummy. I didn't learn I had dyslexia until last summer. I was at the community center and I got in a conversation with Ms. Collins about grades and stuff. I guess I started telling her about the trouble I was having. She asked me if I would take a test the next day.

"I'll call your mother tonight and ask her if it's all right with her."

I really didn't want to take a test; not taking tests is one of the good things about summer. But I figured if Ms. Collins was going to stay awake until after midnight to call my mother when she got off work, then the least I could do was take it. The test was dumb; it asked questions like "Which number is the highest, 424 or 242?" I remember thinking, Finally, a test I can ace. But apparently I didn't, because Ms. Collins had the test scored by a testing specialist. She was
fairly sure the results indicated that I'm learning-disabled, probably dyslexic. She gave my mother some stuff to read and put her in touch with the specialist. I remember my mother telling me that one theory about the cause had something to do with frequent ear infections as a child.

"If there's any truth to that it would certainly explain why you have it," she told me.

"Did I have a lot of ear infections?"

"My goodness, yes. It seems like I went back and forth with you to the doctor's every week."

"Jury didn't have any?"

BOOK: Egg-Drop Blues
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