ALL ABOUT STANLEY
Halloween was just two weeks away. Trick-or-treating and jack-o'-lanterns--that was all I could think about. But I still hadn't decided on my costume. I thought about dressing as a Blue Angel pilot for the U.S. Navy since that's what I planned to be when I grew up. But I didn't own a Blue Angel's uniform.
On the way to school, I asked, "Do you think the base is going to do anything special for Halloween?"
We lived at NAS Pensacola because our dad was a Navy chief.
"I'm going to be someone that I've never been before," my little sister, Sam, said.
"What's new about that?" I asked. "You're a princess every year." Sam would use any excuse to wear her crown.
Sam frowned. "I've never been Princess Elizabeth before."
"I thought she was Queen Elizabeth." I knew some things about the royal family.
"Queens have to be princesses first," said Sam.
"What are you going to be?" I asked Tori.
My big sister was sitting in the front seat with Mom. We had to drop her off at the middle school before Mom drove us to the elementaryschool where we went and where she worked as the art teacher.
Tori didn't answer me so I spoke louder. "Well, what are you going to be?"
She turned around and rolled her eyes. "Piper, Halloween is for little kids. I'm almost thirteen. I don't do dress up."
"You mean you have to stop having fun when you're a teenager?" I was sure glad I was in fifthgrade. That meant I still had a few good years left.
"I'll stay home and give out the candy," Tori said.
"Gosh," I said, "the trick-or-treaters won't stand a chance." My sister loved to eat. She'd probably empty the candy bowl before the first goblin rang our doorbell.
Tori glared at me. "Piper Reed, you're mean." Then her head snapped in Mom's direction. "Mom!"
Mom wasn't a morning person. She needed coffee. Lots of coffee. She probably didn't hear one word I said, but she went into her warning tone. "Girls, behave. It's too early for this."
Before the bell rang I met the other Gypsy Club members. We gathered in our usual spot near the front of the school sign. The twins, Michael and Nicole, were already there. But this time there was someone else standing inour circle--a boy with hair that stuck straight up like he forgot to comb it.
Hailey hopped off the bus and raced across the school yard. When she caught up with me, she asked, "Who's that boy?"
"I don't know, but he's in our meeting place."
"Hi, Piper." Nicole flashed her braces. She must have gone to the orthodontist because yesterday her rubber bands were fuchsia. Today she wore orange and black ones.
"Hi," I said, but I was staring at the new kid. He had the thickest glasses I'd ever seen on anyone.
"This is Stanley Hampshire," Michael said. "He just moved here." He punched Stanley's shoulder. He acted like Stanley was his new best friend.
"Oh," I said. "Hi, Stanley. I'm sorry, but this is a Gypsy Club meeting spot."
Hailey snapped, "Piper, you're mean!" That was the second time I'd heard that today and the morning bell hadn't even rang yet. Hailey was right. I was being mean. My dad was a Navy chief. I knew what it was like being the new kid. I'd moved a zillion times.
"I ... I was thinking," Michael stammered. "I was thinking Stanley could be in our Gypsy Club."
I gave Stanley a good look over. I'd only lived in Pensacola a year. That first day was hard until I started the Gypsy Club.
"He meets all the qualifications," Michael said. "His dad is in the Navy. He moves a lot, too. And he already knows the Gypsy Club creed."
"What?" I yelled.
Everyone stared at me.
"You taught him the Gypsy Club creed without asking permission of your fellow Gypsy Club members?"
Michael folded his arms across his chest. "I don't remember that being a rule."
"Well, some rules shouldn't have to be spoken."
"Am I supposed to read your mind?"
Stanley stared down at the ground. He was probably real smart and read a lot. Smart people had to wear glasses because they wore out their eyes from reading all those books. That meant my eyes had a lifetime guarantee.
Nicole spoke up. "I don't see anything wrong with Stanley being in the Gypsy Club. It's hard to be new and make friends."
Without saying a word, Stanley glanced around the playground. I guess he was the silent type. The smart, silent type, who had replaced me as Michael's best friend.
Everyone scowled at me. My face burned. I knew when I was outnumbered. Sometimes even a captain has to listen to her soldiers. I saluted him. "Welcome to the Gypsy Club, Stanley!"
All of a sudden, Stanley opened his mouth real wide and shouted, "Get off the bus!"
Then he started to talk very fast. "I mean thanks. You're really not going to regret this. I've never been a member of a club before, but I think I'll be good at it. I once was in the Boy Scouts of America. That's not really a club. The Boy Scouts of America is an organization, but, anyway, I was only a member for a short while. I never earned a badge though. I wanted to earn the knot-tying badge. I really wanted that one bad because my dad is a sailor. I mean, he's an officer, but he sails for a hobby. I go with him sometimes, but I'm not very good at it. Now my brother, Simon--"
The school bell rang. Kids raced by us and went inside the building. I usually dreaded that sound, but now I knew what it meant to be saved by the bell!
Nicole took off for her class while Hailey andI followed the boys. I wasn't sure about this new kid, Stanley. He'd already weaseled his way into the Gypsy Club. Now he was going to be in my class, too. That added up to a lot of Stanley Hampshire. At least he lived in the officer housing instead of the enlisted housing. That way I wouldn't be bumping into him on my street.
As usual Ms. Gordon made a big to-do about Stanley being the new kid. She always made it sound like a new kid was a gift to our class.
"Students," she said, "may I present Stanley Hampshire. He moved here from Norfolk, Virginia. Stanley, would you like to tell us a little about yourself?"
Uh-oh. For a teacher, Ms. Gordon sure had a lot to learn.
Stanley stood like he was running for mayor of Pensacola, Florida. He pushed up his glasses.He cleared his throat. "Well, my name is Stanley Hampshire, but you already know that. I was born in Germany, but I don't remember a thing about it because we moved by the time I was six months old, although my mom said I lived there long enough to develop a taste for Wiener schnitzel. But my dad says that's a fairy tale. Next we moved to Bremerton, Washington, and apparently we could see Mount Rainier from our backyard, but I don't remember that either because we moved before I was three. Then after that--"
Ms. Gordon said, "Okay, Stanley, thank you."
"But I didn't get to tell you about the otherplaces I lived or what my favorite color is or my favorite television show."
Ms. Gordon's right eyelid started twitching. "That's quite all right, Stanley. We need to start our day."
Stanley looked disappointed. "Well, all right, if you say so." He sat down.
Right off, I could see that I was going to have to make a new rule for the Gypsy Club--Gypsy Club members must not be blabbermouths.
At lunch, Michael, Hailey, Nicole, and I learned everything the rest of the class missed.
Stanley had also lived in Groton, Connecticut, and in Hawaii. His favorite color was blue, not the blue of the sky but the blue on his fourth-grade geography textbook. He had two brothers and, according to Stanley, his oldest brother was the smartest human being in theworld. "Simon will probably be president of the United States someday."
Stanley told us his favorite song was "Yankee Doodle." How could my favorite song be the same as his?
"'Yankee Doodle' makes me want to spin," said Stanley.
Hailey was about to take a bite when he said that. She put her sandwich down and asked, "Why?"
Stanley shrugged. "Beats me. I guess the rhythm makes me want to spin."
"'Yankee Doodle' makes me want to march," said Nicole.
"That's because 'Yankee Doodle' is a marching song," I said.
"If you say so," said Stanley. He chomped on his carrot and swallowed quickly. I knew what was coming next. More about Stanley Hampshire.
Right after lunch, Ms. Mitchell came into our classroom. I glanced at the clock. It was one thirty. I had already been to her room. She must miss me. Every morning I go to Ms. Mitchell's room. While the other kids have to read together in our classroom, I get to read alone with Ms. Mitchell. That's because I have dyslexia.
I love Ms. Mitchell's room. It has an orange beanbag chair I sit in while I read. And she stashes stickers in her drawer--zillions of stickers. She lets me pick out a sticker for my notebook every time I read good ... I mean, read well. That means I get a sticker every day because I've improved a lot since I started working with her last year. I grabbed my notebook and went to meet her at the front of the class.
"Hi, Piper," Ms. Mitchell said, smiling.
"Sit down, Piper," Ms. Gordon said.
"But I need to go to Ms. Mitchell's class," I told Ms. Gordon.
"Piper, I'm afraid it's not your turn," Ms. Mitchell said.
Ms. Gordon's eye twitched. "Piper, please return to your seat." Then she said, "Stanley Hampshire, please come here and meet Ms. Mitchell."
Stanley stood and we passed each other on my return to my seat.
Ms. Gordon said, "Stanley Hampshire, this is your reading teacher, Ms. Mitchell."
Then Ms. Mitchell--my Ms. Mitchell--held out her hand. "Stanley, I can't wait to get to know you."
"Well," Stanley started, "I was born in Germany, which I don't remember a thing about because we moved when I was six months--"
"That's enough, Stanley," Ms. Gordon said. "You'll have plenty of time this year to tell Ms.Mitchell about yourself. For now it's time to read."
"Go along now." Even from where I sat, I could see both of Ms. Gordon's eyes twitch.
PIPER REED, CAMPFIRE GIRL. Text copyright © 2010 by Kimberly Willis Holt.