One morning I slid off my top bunk and staggered over to the wall to measure myself. Maybe I’d grown overnight.
I grabbed a book and pencil, and made a mark.
My sleepy dog, Streak, leaped off the bottom bunk and ran around the room barking. What’s up? What’s up? What’s up?
“Aaaaaaaack!” I screamed again.
I burst out of my room.
“Mom! Mom!” I shouted, stumbling into the kitchen from my bedroom in the garage. “Something’s wrong!”
Mom grabbed my shoulders. “Settle down, Calvin, settle down.” Her face was a frown of concern. “Now . . . what’s wrong?”
“I’m shrinking, Mom! For real! I measured myself and--”
“Shrinking.” It wasn’t a question. She raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah, Mom, I’m getting smaller, not bigger.”
My six-year-old sister, Darci, sat frozen at the breakfast counter gaping at me, her spoon dripping milk into her cereal bowl. Stella, the tenth-grader who had come to live with us to help Mom, stood at the kitchen sink with her back to us. She didn’t care that I was shrinking to death. She didn’t even turn around.
Mom let go and brushed dog hair off my T-shirt. “What makes you think you’re shrinking, Calvin?”
“Well . . . I . . . I, uh . . .”
Calm down. Breathe.
I gulped. “I just measured myself on the wall in my room and I’m . . . I’m an inch shorter than I was last week. I’m not kidding, Mom, there’s something wrong with me . . . and . . . and . . .”
Maybe I was dying. Maybe my time was up.
I took a deep breath.
Mom tried really hard not to smile. “There must be some mistake, Cal. People don’t just go around getting smaller.”
Stella spurted out a laugh and staggered away from the sink.
Mom turned to look at her. “Stella,” she said, and left the word hanging--which was Mom’s way of hinting that laughing at a shrinking person wasn’t very nice.
Stella bent over, holding her stomach, laughing and laughing.
“Stop!” I said. “I’m . . . disappearing, and that’s not funny!”
Stella’s eyes were wet with tears. She pointed at me, trying to speak, but couldn’t. My shrinking problem was the funniest thing she’d ever heard in her entire life.
“Well, I am!” I said to her. “You’d be worried, too, if you were getting smaller!”
Mom studied Stella. “Stella, did you . . . ?”
Stella tried to stop laughing but burst out again, even louder than before.
Mom cupped the side of my face with her hand. “I think Stella just got you, sweetie.”
Stella ripped off a paper towel and dabbed at her eyes. Her shoulders bounced as she laughed. “Oh, oh, oh! This is just too good.”
Mom bent close and whispered, “Stella played a trick. I think she added a line to your measuring chart. You’re not shrinking.”
“A . . . what?”
“An extra line. Above the real mark. So it looks like you shrunk.”
Heat flushed over my face. I squinted at Stella. “I’ll get you. I’m not kidding. You better watch out.”
Stella laughed until she choked on her own spit. “Anyone could fool you, Stump. Anyone!”
“Yeah, well, you drive like an idiot and everyone laughs at you!”
That wasn’t a very good comeback, but it was all I could think of. Stella was trying to get her driver’s license. She already had her permit. Mom and Stella’s boyfriend, Clarence, were teaching her how to drive.
“Lame,” she said. “Really, really lame.”
That was just the beginning of a truly strange day.From the Hardcover edition.