Authors: Christopher Paul Curtis
Dedicated to the Pediatric R.E.A.D. (Reading Early Accelerates Development) Program Committee
Virginia Allibon Kampe
The Grade 5 students of Hetherington Elementary School
Lily and Emma Collins
to Daniel M. Mungai for his help with the Swahili
there was about a. 75% chance that it was his name that was being called. But he'd learned before that that wasn't quite high enough. It wasn't worth going through all the trouble of waking yourself up and answering unless you were somewhere around 88 to 90% sure that some annoying parent was trying to ruin another good night's sleep.
A few seconds later he was about 85.2% sure that his father was calling him. Close, but no cigar. But 85.2%
the level when Steven would start grumbling about having a good dream interrupted and would begin pulling sheets and pillows and covers over his ears.
“STEVEN DAEMON CARTER!”
Now, that was 100%!
All sleep and all grumbling and all dreams and pretty much all sheet and pillow pulling came to a dead stop.
“Are you up?”
“Really,” Steven thought, “what kind of a question is that? Does he think Zoopy has learned how to talk? Does he think …”
“Yes, Dad! I'm up!”
“No! Get up
Steven and his father had different definitions of the word
. In Dad's eyes
meant Steven had cleaned his room … okay, okay, had cleaned his room by shoving things under his bed, had brushed his teeth … all right, all right, had
about brushing his teeth, had washed his face … I know, I know, had wet at least one of his fingers to wipe the gray, lumpy gunk out of the corners of his eyes, was dressed and was anxiously standing in his doorway waiting to do whatever Dad wanted him to do.
In Steven's eyes
was being awake enough to know he needed another two or three hours' sleep.
But as Dad loved saying to his son, “When
start paying the rent around here,
can start saying what definitions are.”
Steven squinched his left eye shut, pulled the pillow from his face and got ready to let the morning's brightness come into his right eye. Only problem was when he opened his right eye, it saw nothing but darkness.
“I can't believe it! It's still dark outside! How early is he getting me up this time?”
His right eye looked at the alarm clock. What it saw was so shocking that he had to unsquinch his left eye to make sure this was real.
It was. The red numbers glared 4:21 a.m.!
Now Steven was
“D-a-a-a-d! Do you know what time it is?” he yelled from under his pillow.
“Ste-e-e-ven! Have you looked outside?”
Dad was doing it again! He would never allow his son to answer a question with a question, but he sure liked doing it himself.
Steven clomped to his window and pulled the curtain aside. It was unbelievable! This was the eighth time in two weeks that exactly two feet of snow had covered everything outside. Everything, that is, in the Carters' yard and their two next-door neighbors' yards. The odd thing was, once again, it looked like these were the only houses in the neighborhood that had more than just a coating of snow on them.
An even odder thing was that that same confused Canada goose was flying circles around the house again. Every time they got one of these weird snowstorms, this weird goose would show up too.
“Hmmm,” he said, watching the goose, “aren't geese supposed to fly in a V, not an O? Oh, well.”
Now, two feet of snow on only three houses and a goose
flying the wrong letter might seem like the kinds of mysteries that Steven, the president of the Flint Future Detectives, might want to investigate. But he couldn't be bothered, he had much more important things on his mind. Things like how could he get even with Dad for getting him up so early. Things like exactly how much longer he was going to be able to stay as president of the Flint Future Detectives. Things like how unfair it was that he was the one who was going to have to go out and shovel. It was bad enough that he had to do his family's sidewalk and porch and driveway, what was worse was that Dad made him go shovel out both neighbors too.
Steven flopped back onto his bed. “Dad, it's too early. I'll do it later.”
“Okay, mister! That's it!”
These were never good words to hear from Dad, especially when Steven's room looked like it did now. He jumped up and had half of last week's clothes stuffed under his bed before his bedroom door exploded open.
Dad said, “As of …”—he looked at his watch—“four-twenty-two a.m., Friday, November the tenth, you are banned from ever saying ‘I'll do it later.’ From this day until the time you introduce me to my first grandchild, when you want to say ‘I'll do it later,’ you will instead sing the first nine words of ‘Home on the Range,’ after which you will give a good old cowboy ‘Yee-haw!’, slap the ground twice and scream out, ‘Bra-zohs!’ ”
Dad made him do these weird, embarrassing things to discourage him from being so repetitious.
“Man,” Steven thought, “these word-substitute thingies are getting way too complicated. Maybe I
make a list of what I say too much and work on not saying the same things over and over.”
He was just about to start the list but then thought, “Naah, I'll do it late … oops!”
Before he could start singing “Home on the Range,” Dad said, “It's time you started showing a little more conscientiousness around here, young man, do you understand?”
Steven thought, “Are you kidding? I bet not even Richelle Cyrus-Herndon knows what that word means, and she's the smartest kid at Clark Elementary School.”
He knew better than to tell his father that he had no idea what
meant. That would cause another trip to look up the word in Great-great-grampa Carter's bad-dispositioned dictionary, something he really wasn't trying to do at any time, especially not at four-something in the morning. Oh yeah, the dictionary would give definitions, but only after it had insulted and disrespected Steven on its copyright page.
“Yes, Dad, I understand.”
“Good, put on some mittens, your boots and a hat and get out there and shovel the Millers' driveway and sidewalk, Dr. Taylor's, and finally ours. I've told you a million times that shoveling snow is dangerous for seniors. And I want those sidewalks
too. None of these little paths through the snow, I want to see the edge of the grass on both sides of the sidewalk when you're done. Do you understand?”
Steven thought, “I understand that that patch of brown skin on the top of your head looks like someone shoveled your hair all the way to the edges, I understand that I wish I had a couple of brothers and sisters so I could say you loved them more than you love me, I understand that if shoveling snow is dangerous for the Millers and Dr. Taylor, then it
be dangerous for—”
Steven went to wash up. He ran the warm water and stuck his finger under the tap. He dug the eye crud out of the corners of his eyes. He looked in the mirror to see if there were any drool marks to wipe off and if anything had migrated out of his nose overnight; clean on both accounts. That took care of face washing, next step teeth brushing.
AN IMPORTANT WORD FROM WALPOLE ISLAND'S BEST DENTIST, DR. JULIE FRANCES JONES!
Ninety-nine point seven percent of the dentists in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the continents of Africa, South America, Asia, and Europe, the Caribbean, Micronesia, the north side of Flint and two counties in England have declared that Steven Daemon Carter's dental-care techniques are hideous and should not be imitated. Dr. Julie Frances Jones of Walpole Island, Ontario, states, “This kid is so nasty and unhygienic that folks will soon be calling him
Gummy, because if he keeps this up, he won't have a tooth left in his head by the time he's fifteen years old.”
Here's what Steven did, which is exactly what you
He cupped his left hand and put it over his mouth and nose, then blew so that he could get a good whiff of his breath. His eyes didn't water and the room didn't start spinning around, so he said, “Ahhh, fresh as morning dew!”
He rewet his finger and ran it over each of his teeth … well, the front two anyway.
“I know it's a lot of work,” he said, looking into the mirror and giving a movie-star smile, “but taking care of your teeth is very important!”