AMELIA FOOTE ROLLS ON
Pea Soup and Marshmallows
I hated pea soup more than anything. It smelled like my
brother’s sweaty socks, it looked like baby poop, and I didn’t know
any words bad enough for what it tasted like. But pea soup was how I
It didn’t matter that I was in my favorite looking at the
world spot – the window seat under the giant picture window in our
living room. And it didn’t matter that I was in my favorite
watching-the-world position – standing on my head with my feet against
the wall for balance. I still felt absolutely, positively rotten.
When my lips started tingling, I lowered myself down and
settled back in with my knees tucked up under my chin. I turned my
head all the way to the left and then all the way to the right.
Upside down or right side up, nothing at all was happening on
I cranked the window open and let the breeze come inside.
It rained last night, so the outside smelled clean and wet. I stuck
my nose up against the screen and breathed in as far as I could,
trying to fill myself up with that clean air.
It didn’t work. My best friend was really and truly gone,
and there wasn’t room for anything but the pea soup feeling that
started in my toes and didn’t end until it got to the top of my head.
Then I heard it. The rattling, banging sound that meant one thing.
I craned my head to the left. Across the street and down
two houses, I could see the tip top of a pile of black hair. It was
Wheeze. His name was Weatherby St. James, but everybody called him
Wheeze. He was sitting on his porch playing Boggle. By himself.
Like he did every single day.
In the middle of me feeling the teeniest bit sorry for
Wheeze for always having to stay on his porch on account of his bad
asthma and always playing by himself because no other nine-year-old
kid – including me – wants to play Boggle all the hours of the day, a
thought jumped right into my head.
It’s not like I hadn’t seen Wheeze playing Boggle by
himself every day that summer. But that was when he was Wheeze and I
was one half of ‘Amelia and Caroline.’ But I wasn’t half of ‘Amelia
and Caroline’ anymore. I was sitting here, by myself, with nothing to
do and no one to do it with.
Just like Wheeze.
Right in the middle of thinking that thought, I made a gasp
so big that it turned into a cough and then a choking fit. The
curtains pulled back and a hand clomped me on the back. I peeked over
my shoulder and saw it was my dad.
“Are you okay?”
I nodded and tried to say, “uh huh,” only nothing but
another choking sound came out. So I just looked down at my feet and
shook my head back and forth.
My dad nudged me over and sat on the window seat next to me.
He didn’t say anything; he just sat there with me and hummed a hum
After a couple minutes, I took some extra deep breaths until
I got one to go all the way down and back up without making a hiccupy
I peered out the window again. I could still see the tip top
of Wheeze’s sticking up hair. And I could hear the rattle clomp of
him starting a new game of Boggle.
“I have a problem.” I said it without turning around.
My dad stood up. “Marshmallows?”
And because he was right and marshmallows were exactly what I
needed, I shuffled along behind him into the kitchen and slumped into
My dad rummaged around in the cupboard and pulled out a mostly
full bag of jumbo marshmallows. He tilted his head to the side and
squinted his eyes at me, then pulled four marshmallows out of the bag
and tossed them to me.
Four marshmallows meant a big problem.
After grabbing two bottles of apple-grape juice out of the
fridge, my dad sat down across from me. Then he looked at me with his
whole self and made his eyebrows go up so high they disappeared under
the floppy front part of his hair.
“I don’t have any friends.” After I said it, I stuffed two
marshmallows in my mouth to take away the taste of saying something so
“Because of Caroline?”
My dad’s mouth was full of marshmallows and apple-grape juice,
so he did that sideways wave thing with his hand that meant for me to
“I mean, yes it’s because of Caroline moving away, but it’s not
just that.” I crammed two more marshmallows in and tucked my chin
down so far it touched the top of my t-shirt. “There’s no one else.”
“Amelia?” My dad reached across the table and captured my
hand, the one that was sitting on the table like a dead fish.
“She was my only friend.”
“That’s not true. You have other friends.” My dad’s voice
went up the tiniest bit at the end. I don’t think he meant it to
sound like a question, but it did.
I shook my head and drew figure eights on the table with the
water from the outside of my juice bottle.
“School starts in 13 days.” Starting fourth grade with no best
friend was the worst problem I could think of.
“I know it’s hard when a friend moves away, but I know when you
think about it – really think about it – you’ll see that you have lots
of other friends.”
When I peeked up at my dad through my too long bangs that were
the same dark brown as his hair, he was smiling a smile that looked
like it hurt.
Instead of trying to smile back, I took four more marshmallows
out of the bag, stuffed them down into my side pants pocket, and
shoved my chair back from the table.
“I’m going for a skate.” My brain did its best thinking when I
“Good idea.” My dad started cleaning up our mess. I was
almost to the back door when he said, “Do me a favor?”
“Don’t forget about the marshmallows in your pocket. It’s my
week to do the laundry.”
I turned and grinned my dad a real grin. “Promise.
Unlucky Number Thirteen
When I stepped into the garage, I saw my skates were
flopped over onto their sides and there were clumps of dirt and grass
stuck to them, especially the pom-poms.
My lamebrain brother Teddy, who I wasn’t supposed to call a
lamebrain but sometimes I couldn’t help it because he was one, had
dumped his soccer cleats on top of my skates. Again.
I dug my special pom-pom fluffing comb out of the side
pocket of my pants that wasn’t full of marshmallows. The grass and
dirt came off the skates with some swiping and a little spit and,
after a thorough combing, the pom-poms looked as good as new. Still,
I stuck my tongue out at my brother’s stupid cleats and then knotted
the laces together so it would take him forever to get them undone the
next time he wanted to play.
Once my skates were on, I shimmied between my mom’s
minivan and my dad’s truck and swooped down the driveway. I swerved
right without slowing down, my skates carrying me faster and faster
down the street.
My favorite feeling was my eight wheels on the sidewalk,
that great ba-bump, ba-bump noise that they made going over every
crack in the sidewalk. And the way skating felt was the best. It made
the bottoms of my feet tickle and, when I kept my teeth sandwiched
together, it made a zinging, singing noise in my head, like music.
As I skated, I thought about the number 13. School
started in 13 days, which meant I had 13 days to make a friend.
Because the only friend I did have moved away. To Santa something,
California. But her moving away wasn’t even the worst part.
The worst part was that she was excited to go. Okay, they
were moving to California and she was going to be able to see the
actual ocean from her new bedroom and go to a special school for kids
who were really good at art, which she was.
But I was going to be here, in boring old Grand Hills,
Michigan which wasn’t very hilly and wasn’t even a little bit grand.
I thought that anywhere your best friend lived was a better place to
live than anywhere else. But I guess my forever and always – at least
until she moved away – best friend, Caroline McPhee didn’t think so.