That night I cut off the little braid on the back of my head. Dad noticed first.
“Oh good,” he said. “I never liked that thing.”
Via couldn’t believe I had cut it off.
“That took you years to grow!” she said, almost like she was angry. “Why did you cut it off?”
“I don’t know,” I answered.
“Did someone make fun of it?”
“Did you tell Christopher you were cutting it off?”
“We’re not even friends anymore!”
“That’s not true,” she said. “I can’t believe you would just cut it off like that,” she added snottily,
and then practically slammed my bedroom door shut as she left the room.
I was snuggling with Daisy on my bed when Dad came to tuck me in later. He scooched Daisy over
gently and lay down next to me on the blanket.
“So, Auggie Doggie,” he said, “it was really an okay day?” He got that from an old cartoon about a
dachshund named Auggie Doggie, by the way. He had bought it for me on eBay when I was about four,
and we watched it a lot for a while—especially in the hospital. He would call me Auggie Doggie and I
would call him “dear ol’ Dad,” like the puppy called the dachshund dad on the show.
“Yeah, it was totally okay,” I said, nodding.
“You’ve been so quiet all night long.”
“I guess I’m tired.”
“It was a long day, huh?”
“But it really was okay?”
I nodded again. He didn’t say anything, so after a few seconds, I said: “It was better than okay,
“That’s great to hear, Auggie,” he said quietly, kissing my forehead. “So it looks like it was a good
call Mom made, your going to school.”
“Yeah. But I could stop going if I wanted to, right?”
“That was the deal, yes,” he answered. “Though I guess it would depend on why you wanted to stop
going, too, you know. You’d have to let us know. You’d have to talk to us and tell us how you’re
feeling, and if anything bad was happening. Okay? You promise you’d tell us?”
“So can I ask you something? Are you mad at Mom or something? You’ve been kind of huffy with
her all night long. You know, Auggie, I’m as much to blame for sending you to school as she is.”
“No, she’s more to blame. It was her idea.”
Mom knocked on the door just then and peeked her head inside my room.
“Just wanted to say good night,” she said. She looked kind of shy for a second.
“Hi, Momma,” Dad said, picking up my hand and waving it at her.
“I heard you cut off your braid,” Mom said to me, sitting down at the edge of the bed next to Daisy.
“It’s not a big deal,” I answered quickly.
“I didn’t say it was,” said Mom.
“Why don’t you put Auggie to bed tonight?” Dad said to Mom, getting up. “I’ve got some work to
do anyway. Good night, my son, my son.” That was another part of our Auggie Doggie routine, though
I wasn’t in the mood to say Good night, dear ol’ Dad. “I’m so proud of you,” said Dad, and then he got
up out of the bed.
Mom and Dad had always taken turns putting me to bed. I know it was a little babyish of me to still
need them to do that, but that’s just how it was with us.
“Will you check in on Via?” Mom said to Dad as she lay down next to me.
He stopped by the door and turned around. “What’s wrong with Via?”
“Nothing,” said Mom, shrugging, “at least that she would tell me. But … first day of high school
and all that.”
“Hmm,” said Dad, and then he pointed his finger at me and winked. “It’s always something with
you kids, isn’t it?” he said.
“Never a dull moment,” said Mom.
“Never a dull moment,” Dad repeated. “Good night, guys.”
As soon as he closed the door, Mom pulled out the book she’d been reading to me for the last
couple of weeks. I was relieved because I really was afraid she’d want to “talk,” and I just didn’t feel
like doing that. But Mom didn’t seem to want to talk, either. She just flipped through the pages until
she got to where we had left off. We were about halfway through The Hobbit.
“ ‘Stop! stop!’ shouted Thorin,” said Mom, reading aloud, “but it was too late, the excited dwarves
had wasted their last arrows, and now the bows that Beorn had given them were useless.
“They were a gloomy party that night, and the gloom gathered still deeper on them in the following
days. They had crossed the enchanted stream; but beyond it the path seemed to straggle on just as
before, and in the forest they could see no change.”
I’m not sure why, but all of a sudden I started to cry.
Mom put the book down and wrapped her arms around me. She didn’t seem surprised that I was
crying. “It’s okay,” she whispered in my ear. “It’ll be okay.”
“I’m sorry,” I said between sniffles.
“Shh,” she said, wiping my tears with the back of her hand. “You have nothing to be sorry about.…”
“Why do I have to be so ugly, Mommy?” I whispered.
“No, baby, you’re not …”
“I know I am.”
She kissed me all over my face. She kissed my eyes that came down too far. She kissed my cheeks
that looked punched in. She kissed my tortoise mouth.
She said soft words that I know were meant to help me, but words can’t change my face.
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Wake Me Up
when September Ends
The rest of September was hard. I wasn’t used to getting up so early in the morning. I wasn’t used to
this whole notion of homework. And I got my first “quiz” at the end of the month. I never got
“quizzes” when Mom homeschooled me. I also didn’t like how I had no free time anymore. Before, I
was able to play whenever I wanted to, but now it felt like I always had stuff to do for school.
And being at school was awful in the beginning. Every new class I had was like a new chance for
kids to “not stare” at me. They would sneak peeks at me from behind their notebooks or when they
thought I wasn’t looking. They would take the longest way around me to avoid bumping into me in
any way, like I had some germ they could catch, like my face was contagious.
In the hallways, which were always crowded, my face would always surprise some unsuspecting kid
who maybe hadn’t heard about me. The kid would make the sound you make when you hold your
breath before going underwater, a little “uh!” sound. This happened maybe four or five times a day for
the first few weeks: on the stairs, in front of the lockers, in the library. Five hundred kids in a school:
eventually every one of them was going to see my face at some time. And I knew after the first couple
of days that word had gotten around about me, because every once in a while I’d catch a kid elbowing
his friend as they passed me, or talking behind their hands as I walked by them. I can only imagine
what they were saying about me. Actually, I prefer not to even try to imagine it.
I’m not saying they were doing any of these things in a mean way, by the way: not once did any kid
laugh or make noises or do anything like that. They were just being normal dumb kids. I know that. I
kind of wanted to tell them that. Like, it’s okay, I’m know I’m weird-looking, take a look, I don’t bite.
Hey, the truth is, if a Wookiee started going to the school all of a sudden, I’d be curious, I’d probably
stare a bit! And if I was walking with Jack or Summer, I’d probably whisper to them: Hey, there’s the
Wookiee. And if the Wookiee caught me saying that, he’d know I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was just
pointing out the fact that he’s a Wookiee.
It took about one week for the kids in my class to get used to my face. These were the kids I’d see
every day in all my classes.
It took about two weeks for the rest of the kids in my grade to get used to my face. These were the
kids I’d see in the cafeteria, yard time, PE, music, library, computer class.
It took about a month for the rest of the kids in the entire school to get used to it. These were the
kids in all the other grades. They were big kids, some of them. Some of them had crazy haircuts. Some
of them had earrings in their noses. Some of them had pimples. None of them looked like me.
I hung out with Jack in homeroom, English, history, computer, music, and science, which were all the
classes we had together. The teachers assigned seats in every class, and I ended up sitting next to Jack
in every single class, so I figured either the teachers were told to put me and Jack together, or it was a
totally incredible coincidence.
I walked to classes with Jack, too. I know he noticed kids staring at me, but he pretended not to
notice. One time, though, on our way to history, this huge eighth grader who was zooming down the
stairs two steps at a time accidentally bumped into us at the bottom of the stairs and knocked me
down. As the guy helped me stand up, he got a look at my face, and without even meaning to, he just
said: “Whoa!” Then he patted me on the shoulder, like he was dusting me off, and took off after his
friends. For some reason, me and Jack started cracking up.
“That guy made the funniest face!” said Jack as we sat down at our desks.
“I know, right?” I said. “He was like, whoa!”
“I swear, I think he wet his pants!”
We were laughing so hard that the teacher, Mr. Roche, had to ask us to settle down.
Later, after we finished reading about how ancient Sumerians built sundials, Jack whispered: “Do
you ever want to beat those kids up?”
I shrugged. “I guess. I don’t know.”
“I’d want to. I think you should get a secret squirt gun or something and attach it to your eyes
somehow. And every time someone stares at you, you would squirt them in the face.”
“With some green slime or something,” I answered.
“No, no: with slug juice mixed with dog pee.”
“Yeah!” I said, completely agreeing.
“Guys,” said Mr. Roche from across the room. “People are still reading.”
We nodded and looked down at our books. Then Jack whispered: “Are you always going to look this
way, August? I mean, can’t you get plastic surgery or something?”
I smiled and pointed to my face. “Hello? This is after plastic surgery!”
Jack clapped his hand over his forehead and started laughing hysterically.
“Dude, you should sue your doctor!” he answered between giggles.
This time the two of us were laughing so much we couldn’t stop, even after Mr. Roche came over
and made us both switch chairs with the kids next to us.
Mr. Browne’s October Precept
Mr. Browne’s precept for October was:
YOUR DEEDS ARE YOUR MONUMENTS.
He told us that this was written on the tombstone of some Egyptian guy that died thousands of years
ago. Since we were just about to start studying ancient Egypt in history, Mr. Browne thought this was
a good choice for a precept.
Our homework assignment was to write a paragraph about what we thought the precept meant or
how we felt about it.
This is what I wrote:
This precept means that we should be remembered for the things we do. The things we do are the
most important things of all. They are more important than what we say or what we look like. The
things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to
honor heroes after they’ve died. They’re like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the
pharaohs. Only instead of being made out of stone, they’re made out of the memories people have
of you. That’s why your deeds are like your monuments. Built with memories instead of with
My birthday is October 10. I like my birthday: 10/10. It would’ve been great if I’d been born at
exactly 10:10 in the morning or at night, but I wasn’t. I was born just after midnight. But I still think
my birthday is cool.
I usually have a little party at home, but this year I asked Mom if I could have a big bowling party.
Mom was surprised but happy. She asked me who I wanted to ask from my class, and I said everyone
in my homeroom plus Summer.
“That’s a lot of kids, Auggie,” said Mom.
“I have to invite everyone because I don’t want anyone to get their feelings hurt if they find out
other people are invited and they aren’t, okay?”
“Okay,” Mom agreed. “You even want to invite the ‘what’s the deal’ kid?”
“Yeah, you can invite Julian,” I answered. “Geez, Mom, you should forget about that already.”
“I know, you’re right.”
A couple of weeks later, I asked Mom who was coming to my party, and she said: “Jack Will,
Summer. Reid Kingsley. Both Maxes. And a couple of other kids said they were going to try to be
“Charlotte’s mom said Charlotte had a dance recital earlier in the day, but she was going to try to
come to your party if time allowed. And Tristan’s mom said he might come after his soccer game.”
“So that’s it?” I said. “That’s like … five people.”
“That’s more than five people, Auggie. I think a lot of people just had plans already,” Mom
answered. We were in the kitchen. She was cutting one of the apples we had just gotten at the farmers’
market into teensy-weensy bites so I could eat it.
“What kind of plans?” I asked.
“I don’t know, Auggie. We sent out the evites kind of late.”
“Like what did they tell you, though? What reasons did they give?”
“Everyone gave different reasons, Auggie.” She sounded a bit impatient. “Really, sweetie, it
shouldn’t matter what their reasons were. People had plans, that’s all.”
“What did Julian give as his reason?” I asked.
“You know,” said Mom, “his mom was the only person who didn’t RSVP at all.” She looked at me.
“I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
I laughed because I thought she was making a joke, but then I realized she wasn’t.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“Never mind. Now go wash your hands so you can eat.”
My birthday party turned out to be much smaller than I thought it would be, but it was still great.
Jack, Summer, Reid, Tristan, and both Maxes came from school, and Christopher came, too—all the
way from Bridgeport with his parents. And Uncle Ben came. And Aunt Kate and Uncle Po drove in
from Boston, though Tata and Poppa were in Florida for the winter. It was fun because all the grown-
ups ended up bowling in the lane next to ours, so it really felt like there were a lot of people there to
celebrate my birthday.
At lunch the next day, Summer asked me what I was going to be for Halloween. Of course, I’d been
thinking about it since last Halloween, so I knew right away.
“You know you can wear a costume to school on Halloween, right?”
“No way, really?”
“So long as it’s politically correct.”
“What, like no guns and stuff?”
“What about blasters?”
“I think a blaster’s like a gun, Auggie.”
“Oh man …,” I said, shaking my head. Boba Fett has a blaster.
“At least, we don’t have to come like a character in a book anymore. In the lower school that’s what
you had to do. Last year I was the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.”
“But that’s a movie, not a book.”
“Hello?” Summer answered. “It was a book first! One of my favorite books in the world, actually.
My dad used to read it to me every night in the first grade.”
When Summer talks, especially when she’s excited about something, her eyes squint like she’s
looking right at the sun.
I hardly ever see Summer during the day, since the only class we have together is English. But ever
since that first lunch at school, we’ve sat at the summer table together every day, just the two of us.
“So, what are you going to be?” I asked her.
“I don’t know yet. I know what I’d really want to go as, but I think it might be too dorky. You know,
Savanna’s group isn’t even wearing costumes this year. They think we’re too old for Halloween.”
“What? That’s just dumb.”
“I know, right?”
“I thought you didn’t care what those girls think.”
She shrugged and took a long drink of her milk.
“So, what dorky thing do you want to dress up as?” I asked her, smiling.
“Promise not to laugh?” She raised her eyebrows and her shoulders, embarrassed. “A unicorn.”
I smiled and looked down at my sandwich.
“Hey, you promised not to laugh!” she laughed.
“Okay, okay,” I said. “But you’re right: that is too dorky.”
“I know!” she said. “But I have it all planned out: I’d make the head out of papier-mâché, and paint
the horn gold and make the mane gold, too.… It would be so awesome.”
“Okay.” I shrugged. “Then you should do it. Who cares what other people think, right?”
“Maybe what I’ll do is just wear it for the Halloween Parade,” she said, snapping her fingers. “And
I’ll just be, like, a Goth girl for school. Yeah, that’s it, that’s what I’ll do.”
“Sounds like a plan.” I nodded.
“Thanks, Auggie,” she giggled. “You know, that’s what I like best about you. I feel like I can tell
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