Excerpts for Water Balloon


Water Balloon


By Audrey Vernick

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Copyright © 2011 Audrey Vernick
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780547677859

Brightly Colored Happiness
The blitzing began five years ago, in second grade, on one of those amazing spring days that remind you how hot summer can be. I was sitting outside, waiting for my best friends to come over. I knew we’d spend the day outside—the weather was the kind of gorgeous that makes you feel stupid if you spend a minute indoors.

I have no idea why I had a bag of balloons in the garage, but I did. Before Leah and Jane arrived, I blew up a ton with the hose and filled this big planter behind my dad’s grill with water balloons.

Whenever we hung out, we played Monopoly. We were inventing our own rules, our own way to play. Whoever bought Park Place had to get drinks for all players. If you landed on Marvin Gardens, the other players had to quickly come up with a new hairstyle for you. That kind of thing. These days, there’s an action associated with every space. (Except Baltic. If you land on Baltic, you can just relax.) But on that day, we were still making it up.

So there we were, playing our evolving version of Monopoly on the wooden picnic table in the backyard. Leah was leaning back to get some sun on her face. Jane was focused on the game, like me. She had a pad next to her, keeping track of the random action we applied to each space.

I landed on B&O Railroad, which, according to our rules, meant I had to go get pretzels for them. Instead, I went to the planter.

Was there a minute, a pause, before I started throwing the balloons? A second when I realized that something way beyond awesome was about to take place? I wish I could remember.

What I do remember is the identical look on their faces. I managed to hit Jane and Leah within seconds of each other, and it was as if they had no idea what had happened. Did the sky just fall? Did a bird crap on them? Did their heads explode? How could they suddenly be wet, sitting outside on a hot spring day? Almost before it was humanly possible, they were right there beside me, pulling balloons out and attacking me right back. There was water everywhere, wet everything, balloons flying, breaking apart, arms throwing and trying to deflect, voices squealing, screaming, laughing. We were running, trying to get away, running back, getting more balloons from the planter. It was wet and brightly colored happiness of the splatted, splattered water balloon variety.

Rig raced out barking, running circles around us. My parents ran out of the house too; all the noise must have set off their Parent Alerts. Mom and Dad took it all in: how wet we were, how hard we were laughing, the red and yellow and blue and purple balloon splats everywhere. Instead of yelling at us to clean it all up, or did we realize we had nearly drenched a perfectly good Monopoly game, or even What the hell is going on out here?, my mom found one balloon that had landed unbroken and smashed it directly on my dad’s head.

She looked so happy! Almost proud, in a goofy way. Dad had that look of wonder he always got—as if he couldn’t believe how great she was. Or how lucky he was. A look I haven’t seen in so long.

First Water Balloon Blitz. Quite possibly the best water balloon fight in the history of mankind.
***

The next year, Jane ambushed Leah and me at the park. She had her brother and father help her hide a stash in this big bin behind the playground, and she just totally blindsided us with a water balloon attack of pure excellence.

What impressed me most was not the total shock factor, or the way Jane made an annual tradition out of what we all had thought of as the greatest ever onetime event. I just loved the Jane way she went about it. It was so well planned. I mean, she brought the full water balloons to the park in a bucket half filled with water so they wouldn’t break. Seriously—that was taking it to a whole other level.

Over the years, rules evolved. We came up with a points system.

The Water Balloon Blitz can only be after school ends, and there can be only one blitz per year. Points are given in the following categories:

Number of witnesses to water balloon blitzing.

Number of days since last day of school—in other words, the longer you wait, the more points you get. Of course, there’s also a greater the chance of someone else bombing you first.

Bonus points for courage—it’s a lot easier to launch a surprise balloon attack on your best friends when it’s just the three of you in a backyard than it is in a public place or when your friend’s parents might kill you.

Which is why Leah is reigning champion. Her attack at Jane’s sister’s birthday party two years ago was a thing of great beauty. And utter surprise. Leah wasn’t exactly a follower, but she sure wasn’t a leader. She mostly went along with what Jane and I did. So for her to come up with this blitz, this most incredibly courageous blitz, well, Jane and I were nearly speechless for days. And Leah was never the same herself.

All these older neighbors were there, not to mention Jane’s mega-uptight mother and grandmother, but Leah went all out, bombing Jane and me. Most of the other guests, too. Jane and I kneeled down before her at the end of that party. Literally.

The weird thing is that last summer, there was no blitz. All through August, I was sure I’d score with a ton of points by waiting so long, but the days slipped by, and Jane and Leah were so busy all the time. I never blitzed them. They never blitzed me. Then seventh grade started. And life went on.

Well, life didn’t exactly go on. My life got a little stopped for a while. Or it felt like it did, when Dad moved out. Brightly Colored Happiness

The blitzing began five years ago, in second grade, on one of those amazing spring days that remind you how hot summer can be. I was sitting outside, waiting for my best friends to come over. I knew we’d spend the day outside—the weather was the kind of gorgeous that makes you feel stupid if you spend a minute indoors.

I have no idea why I had a bag of balloons in the garage, but I did. Before Leah and Jane arrived, I blew up a ton with the hose and filled this big planter behind my dad’s grill with water balloons.

Whenever we hung out, we played Monopoly. We were inventing our own rules, our own way to play. Whoever bought Park Place had to get drinks for all players. If you landed on Marvin Gardens, the other players had to quickly come up with a new hairstyle for you. That kind of thing. These days, there’s an action associated with every space. (Except Baltic. If you land on Baltic, you can just relax.) But on that day, we were still making it up.

So there we were, playing our evolving version of Monopoly on the wooden picnic table in the backyard. Leah was leaning back to get some sun on her face. Jane was focused on the game, like me. She had a pad next to her, keeping track of the random action we applied to each space.

I landed on B&O Railroad, which, according to our rules, meant I had to go get pretzels for them. Instead, I went to the planter.

Was there a minute, a pause, before I started throwing the balloons? A second when I realized that something way beyond awesome was about to take place? I wish I could remember.

What I do remember is the identical look on their faces. I managed to hit Jane and Leah within seconds of each other, and it was as if they had no idea what had happened. Did the sky just fall? Did a bird crap on them? Did their heads explode? How could they suddenly be wet, sitting outside on a hot spring day? Almost before it was humanly possible, they were right there beside me, pulling balloons out and attacking me right back. There was water everywhere, wet everything, balloons flying, breaking apart, arms throwing and trying to deflect, voices squealing, screaming, laughing. We were running, trying to get away, running back, getting more balloons from the planter. It was wet and brightly colored happiness of the splatted, splattered water balloon variety.

Rig raced out barking, running circles around us. My parents ran out of the house too; all the noise must have set off their Parent Alerts. Mom and Dad took it all in: how wet we were, how hard we were laughing, the red and yellow and blue and purple balloon splats everywhere. Instead of yelling at us to clean it all up, or did we realize we had nearly drenched a perfectly good Monopoly game, or even What the hell is going on out here?, my mom found one balloon that had landed unbroken and smashed it directly on my dad’s head.

She looked so happy! Almost proud, in a goofy way. Dad had that look of wonder he always got—as if he couldn’t believe how great she was. Or how lucky he was. A look I haven’t seen in so long.

First Water Balloon Blitz. Quite possibly the best water balloon fight in the history of mankind.
***

The next year, Jane ambushed Leah and me at the park. She had her brother and father help her hide a stash in this big bin behind the playground, and she just totally blindsided us with a water balloon attack of pure excellence.

What impressed me most was not the total shock factor, or the way Jane made an annual tradition out of what we all had thought of as the greatest ever onetime event. I just loved the Jane way she went about it. It was so well planned. I mean, she brought the full water balloons to the park in a bucket half filled with water so they wouldn’t break. Seriously—that was taking it to a whole other level.

Over the years, rules evolved. We came up with a points system.

The Water Balloon Blitz can only be after school ends, and there can be only one blitz per year. Points are given in the following categories:

Number of witnesses to water balloon blitzing.

Number of days since last day of school—in other words, the longer you wait, the more points you get. Of course, there’s also a greater the chance of someone else bombing you first.

Bonus points for courage—it’s a lot easier to launch a surprise balloon attack on your best friends when it’s just the three of you in a backyard than it is in a public place or when your friend’s parents might kill you.

Which is why Leah is reigning champion. Her attack at Jane’s sister’s birthday party two years ago was a thing of great beauty. And utter surprise. Leah wasn’t exactly a follower, but she sure wasn’t a leader. She mostly went along with what Jane and I did. So for her to come up with this blitz, this most incredibly courageous blitz, well, Jane and I were nearly speechless for days. And Leah was never the same herself.

All these older neighbors were there, not to mention Jane’s mega-uptight mother and grandmother, but Leah went all out, bombing Jane and me. Most of the other guests, too. Jane and I kneeled down before her at the end of that party. Literally.

The weird thing is that last summer, there was no blitz. All through August, I was sure I’d score with a ton of points by waiting so long, but the days slipped by, and Jane and Leah were so busy all the time. I never blitzed them. They never blitzed me. Then seventh grade started. And life went on.

Well, life didn’t exactly go on. My life got a little stopped for a while. Or it felt like it did, when Dad moved out.

Continues...


Excerpted from Water Balloon by Audrey Vernick Copyright © 2011 by Audrey Vernick. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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