The Big One-Oh
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Charley Maplewood has never been one for parties? that would require friends, which he doesn?t have. But now that he?s turning ten?the big oneoh? he decides to throw a birthday party for himself. Of course things don?t work out as he plans. In trying to make friends, he ends up inviting the class bully, and that?s before he ruins the cake and sets the garage on fire. Will Charley be able to pull it together before the big one-oh . . . becomes the big OH-NO?
“Well. Cuz Stacy, my girlfriend . . .” then he corrected himself: “my ex-girlfriend . . . she was always telling me how boring I can be.” “No,” I assured him. He crinkled up his nose. “Really?” “Really.” I gestured around the room. “Just look at this—it’s awesome! The spaceships and the creatures and the squishy feet—we could talk about this stuff for hours, and I would never get bored.” So that’s just what we did. 13 When I ran into the kitchen late that afternoon and started telling Mom
between all the trees, and kids were all running around, blowing noisemakers and swatting at balloons. There was even a man giving all the kids pony rides, but the pony clip-clopped around his temporary corral so slowly that it looked like about as much fun as watching paint dry. And, just as I’d figured, I didn’t know anyone. So it was a good thing I had smuggled in some comic books. “Geez, Charley! Can’t you go one day without Monsters & Maniacs?” Dad groaned when he found me by myself,
the first time in my life, kids greeted me in the halls and waved to me on the playground. I felt like an Invisible Man who suddenly appears in the middle of a vast and appreciative crowd. Donna and Dina and Dana cleared a place for me to sit with them at lunch, and Leo winked at me as he hobbled by on his crutches. Darryl challenged me to a chess game, which he won with seven moves, but I didn’t care. Even Cougar and Scottie didn’t smash me into walls anymore. And Jennifer had trimmed her
presents and potato chips and pickles scattered as far as the eye could see. Jamie Wiggerty was crying into his mother’s dress, and when they saw that, a few other kids started sobbing, too. So Dad and I left real fast. I never pinned a tail on a donkey, I never got to eat ice cream and cake, and I never sang “Happy Birthday, dear Ja—mie!!” And after that, I never got invited to another birthday party. I shook off that horrible memory and steadied my trembling hand, in which I was still
Have a great Tenth Birthday. Love, Dad.” “No way! He finally got the day right,” Lorena laughed. I snarled at her: “He didn’t get it right! Mom told him!” She could see I was getting upset. “So what? At least you got balloons.” “Big deal!” “You know, you can be such an ungrateful jerk,” she exploded. “After all the crap that you’ve pulled, you should just be happy you’re having a party!” And that’s when I lost it. All the frustrations and hopes and disappointments and sleepless nights of