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Sugar, Spice, Earthworms, and Entrails
by KJ Hannah Greenberg




When I return the last paper to the girl sitting in the back, my hand, for a quick second, makes a print on the window. I stop and stare, fascinated by the design. Less fascinating is sitting in Principal Spicer’s office. Mommy frowns when she picks me up.


Mommy doesn’t punish me, though. Instead, when my playdate arrives at our house, Mommy smiles at her and invites her in.


Baylee smiles back at Mommy.


Later, hidden away in my room, Baylee complains to me about those classmates of ours who make fun of her fourth arm. She doesn’t mention anyone by name, so I don’t interrupt her; I’m okay with other people’s venting as long as they’re expelling feelings, not trashing anyone else.


Baylee gets picked on a lot because of her extra limb. No one wanted her on their trampoline team, as their sewing machine partner, or for trading sandwiches.


I know that Baylee is a great person! I wish everyone else would value her. Maybe the problem isn’t everyone else, but me. Baylee cries more at my house than anywhere else. Maybe, my continuing to let her breakdown, here, keeps her a social wimp.


After Baylee goes home, Mommy comes up to my room. She shakes her two heads at me and asks why I have to make trouble. Apparently, Principal Spicer had wanted to expel me.


I cry purple tears. Mommy enfolds me. Sometimes, I wish Mommy had four arms like Baylee.


After dinner and a shower, and Mommy’s check of all of my homework, I return to my bedroom. I keep my notebook tucked under my bed so I can record things.


It seems that I’m hurtful even when I don’t mean to be. I’m not referring to feelings – that’s common among girls my age. I mean I physically injure people when I shake their hands, give them kisses, or pat their backs. My affections are damaging.


I take deep breaths. I will away the tears that drip down my cheeks. Mommy says there are no bad people, just bad choices. I’m still a good person. I just need to remember that my touch harms.


I cry myself to sleep, anyway.



It’s tomorrow. I’m giggling when I run home. I ask for Mommy’s okay to visit Baylee. As soon as Mommy says “yes,” I look both ways, run across the street, and then scramble up the path to Baylee’s door.  


Baylee and I play in her yard, eat snacks under her big tree, read books in her living room, and, eventually, do our homework. Her mom invites me to stay for dinner. Mommy gives permission.


When the stars are out, Baylee and her mom walk me home. I had such a wonderful stay at her house!



The next day, at the bus stop, Martha, of the glistening scales, makes a crack about my need for two seats and says something unkind about how I impact our bus’s suspension.


I count to one thousand and four. I know that my hugs wound and that my hits cripple. I also know that I can’t defend myself from school bullies who roughhouse me with more than words.


I glare at Martha. It’s unkind to look at someone that way, but it’s allowed. I then search for Baylee, but she never shows up. She’s not in class, either.


After school, Mommy lets me go to my friend. I find her sitting at her kitchen table drinking chamomile tea. Her mom says chamomile tea soothes sad feelings. Baylee has lots of sad feelings - her pet turtle has run away.


During the next few days, Baylee’s family repeatedly checks their email and their answering machine. Yet, no one calls or emails them about Baylee’s missing beloved. In the middle of the week, Tracy comes over to play with Baylee.


I almost like Tracy. She uses the laser power in her eyes to carve pictures on the boulders in Baylee’s backyard. The three of us laugh and laugh. I think Tracy almost succeeds in cheering up Baylee.


Weeks pass. Baylee’s turtle is never found. Although we hold a funeral for her pet, we lack a small, reptilian body to bury.


Mommy suggests a sleepover. She’s good at getting folks to take alternate routes.


I invite Tracy, Baylee, and my bestie, Emily.


Tracy remembers her visor. Baylee wears her sweater that’s decorated with puppy pictures. Emily swallows enough cough drops to keep her from flaming while she’s sleeping.


I know it’s hard to fake happiness when you’ve lost a pet, but popcorn and silly videos have a good bearing on Baylee. Emily’s campfire tales, too, get a chuckle from everyone. We four girls talk together for hours without jealousy or other types of meanness.


We giggle together, too, as we finally fall asleep. Surprisingly, everyone’s fallen asleep pretty quickly. Except for me, Baylee was the last to snuggle down.



It’s morning and I seem to be the only girl up early. If I don’t talk to Mommy now, I’ll have to wait until after school. As it is, I have only fifteen minutes to talk to her before I have to wake up everyone else.


Mommy and I talk about losing pets, about losing friends, and about making friends. Mommy tells me she’s proud of how I’m learning self-control and prouder of the kindnesses I share with my classmates. Maybe, Mommy even thinks I’m growing up!


I’m smiling again by the time I go back upstairs to wake up everyone. Tracy is snoring. Baylee is just stirring. Emily remains huddled silently under her blanket.


I announce earthworms and entrails for breakfast. Suddenly, everyone is flying out of their beds.


Over bowls of yummy, writhing breakfast, I look at my friends’ faces. I suppose there will always be people like Martha and like Principle Spicer. On balance, there will also always be people like Mommy, Tracy, Emily, and Baylee.





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