Excerpted from The Diary of Melanie Martin by Carol Weston Copyright © 2001 by Carol Weston. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
home in bed
You will never in a million years guess where we're going.
Nope. Guess again.
Never mind, I'll tell you. Italy! We're going to ITALY!
In Europe!! ACROSS THE OCEAN!!!
I even have a passport. It's really cool except I'm squinting my eyes in the photo, so I look like a dork.
At least that's what my brother said. I call him Matt the Brat. You would too.
He is so annoying it's not even funny. He copies me, hides my hairbrush, brags that he has no homework, and spies on me when I have friends over. When he's extra annoying, I'll hit him lightly, he'll cry, and then I'll get in trouble.
Or take tonight. We went out for Chinese food, and I ordered beef and broccoli. Sometimes I use chopsticks, sometimes I use a fork, but I always eat all the meat and only one broccoli—two if Mom is watching. Anyway, after I drank up all my Sprite, Matt took his straw and started blowing bubbles into his. Really loudly. I said, "You are so disgusting!" He smiled and said, "I know." And Mom beamed at him like he's so adorable.
He used to be adorable. Back when he was a newborn, six years ago. I guess he must still be kind of cute because everyone always makes a fuss over his blue eyes and long lashes and dinky freckles.
People used to call me cute too, but they don't anymore. No one notices me much.
I don't mind. Who wants to be called cute when you're already ten?
Okay, maybe I mind a little. I miss when people called me cute and I didn't have homework and no one expected me to set the table or put away dishes or make my bed or act my age.
Mom reminds me that now that I'm older, I get an allowance. Four dollars because I'm in fourth grade. Sounds good, right?
Well, half the time she forgets to give it to me and I forget to remind her. Then when I do say, "Mom, you must owe me twenty dollars by now," she'll hand me just four and tell me she's always buying me stuff.
Like this new diary, for instance.
Anyhow, Dad got a bunch of frequent-flier miles because he frequently flies for his job. He said we could all fly somewhere for free, and he let Mom pick where. She picked Italy because it's full of art and she loves art.
She even loves teaching it. She teaches in the middle school on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. It can be embarrassing having Mom in the same building as me. Like when she waves or wears something weird or talks to my teachers or puts her arm around me in the hall.
But I like knowing she's close by.
Right now we're both counting the days until spring break.
Uh-oh, it's already ten—like me! I better turn out the light.
at my desk
BAD NEWS. I told Miss Sands that my family was going to Italy for ten days and that since the planes were full on the weekend, we'd be leaving next Thursday afternoon, so I'd miss one and a half days of school. Big deal, right? One and a half puny days. I expected Miss Sands to say, "Italy! Lucky you!" or something.
But she didn't. She said that in Social Studies the class will be doing a chapter called "The Family," so while we're away, she wants me to think about my "place in the family." She also said I'll have to write a poem and bring in postcards to share with my classmates.
Miss Sands can be so strict. Family? Who does she think I'm taking the trip with? Friends? Strangers? It would be impossible not to think about my family! And postcards sound okay—but a poem? How will I know what to write?
I asked her if it could be short, and she said to make it at least thirty lines.
I wouldn't mind writing a haiku or a limerick—but thirty lines!
Miss Sands has been teaching us poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Langston Hughes and Shel Silverstein. Sometimes she makes us memorize poems. The one I memorized was by Robert Louis Stevenson. It has two lines:
The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.
I was as happy as a king (or queen), except now I'm starting to worry about writing that stupid poem.
Mom says I worry too much.
I'm even a little worried about going away.
I mean, I've never flown over the ocean. And I've never spent ten days nonstop with just my family and nobody else. And I've never been to a faraway place where the food is different and the language is different and everything is different. And who am I supposed to play with for all that time? Matt? Usually I spend half my vacation in my jammies hanging around the apartment avoiding Matt. The other half I spend at Cecily's.
Cecily is my best friend. She and I have been friends since kindergarten. She lives with her mom about ten blocks away. She has a bunny who bites and a cat who purrs. Cecily and I have the exact exact exact same taste in boys. Right now we both like a boy named Christopher.
It can be bad when two friends like the same boy. In our case it's not, though, because Christopher never says hi to either one of us.
Not only do we like the same boy (Christopher), but we hate the same boy (Norbert).
Norbert's new, and nobody really likes him. He just moved to New York over Christmas. (I forget where he's from. Cecily says Mars.) Even his name is weird. Norbert. He never talks much, and he has a little bit of an accent. One time he was talking about a magazine subscription and said, "Ten issues for fifteen dollars," and everyone thought he said, "Tennis shoes for fifteen dollars." We all laughed, but later when I told Mom about it, she defended him saying that "ten issues" and "tennis shoes" do sound a lot alike. (Sometimes Mom just doesn't get it.)
Cecily calls him Nerdy Norbert. She said he once picked his nose in the library—and ate it—but I really don't know if that's true. Norbert is tall with brown eyes, and his hair always sticks up in the back. That is true. He has a bad hair day every day. Plus his shirts are purple and orange and green, which is too rainbow bright. And his backpack has a pair of fuzzy dice dangling from it. How out is that?
Anyway, I'm going to miss Cecily when we're in Italy. Ten days with nobody to hang out with except Matt the Brat! What if I die of utter boredom? What if Matt annoys me to death?
in the kitchen
School was so so so embarrassing today! At lunch there was a potato bar so I asked for a baked potato with bacon bits, and I also got peach slices and milk. But somehow I tripped and fell and dropped my tray, and my potato rolled off and the milk splattered, and as if all that wasn't bad enough, it was Norbert who came running over to ask if I was okay and to help me pick up my potato and everything. I wish I could have flown away to Italy that very second.
Tonight Dad and I couldn't find Matt anywhere. Mom was at a meeting, and Dad and I were calling "Matt! Matt! Matt!" at the top of our lungs.
When Matt finally walked in, Dad yelled at him (hee hee). Matt had gone up in the elevator of our apartment building by himself without asking permission. He said he wanted to say good-bye to Lily. Lily is in first grade with him and she and Matt are madly in love.
At bedtime Dad tucked me in but left the light on so I could write. I kind of like it better when Mom tucks me in, even though she can be too mushy and says stuff like "Sleep tight, Precious" and "Sweet dreams, Sweet Pea."
Lately she's been teaching me Italian words. Some words are easy. Like spaghetti is spaghetti (Spa Get Tee). Impossible is impossibile (Im Po See Bee Lay). But most words are hard. To say good morning, you have to say buon giorno (Bwone Jor No). Good night is buona notte (Bwo Na Note Tay).
The reason why Dad tucks me in faster than Mom is because he usually has work to do or a book to read or a game to watch. Tonight, though, he sat on my bed and started talking. He said he is counting on me to be well behaved in Italy. He said he expects me to help take care of Matt because it's a big deal that we're going overseas and most parents in their right minds would not take kids with them on such an adult trip. He said that since Matt is always wandering off, he wants me to help keep an eye on him.
I'm excited about going on a grown-up trip and everything, but I am still a kid. If Mom and Dad can hardly keep track of Matt, what makes them think I can? Sometimes I can't even keep track of my glasses or homework or stuffed animals.
I hope I'll be able to fall asleep.
Here's a poem I wrote:
One more day till We're on our way— Doesn't that seem Im Po See Bee Lay?
on board ! ! !
We're on the plane, and we're about to take off, and I have to go to the bathroom really really really badly, but the Fasten Your Seat Belts light is still on.
I told Mom, and she said I should have gone at the airport when everyone else did.
Thanks a lot, Mom.
I can't believe I'm stuck sitting next to Matt for eight whole hours. At least I got the window seat. Matt has the airplane headphones on. He wants to play Go Fish, but we have to keep our tray tables in the upright and locked position. I'm a little old for Go Fish anyway.
Plus I'm about to pee in my pants.
I wish we would take off already.
We're up in the air. Outside I saw the tops of skyscrapers, and now I can see a whole blanket of clouds. It looks like snow out there. It looks like you could put on boots and go tromping around. I showed Matt, but it worries him to be up so high—he keeps asking me to pull down the window shade.
He also keeps asking me to play Twenty Questions. I'd be happy to play Twenty Questions with a normal person, but Matt always picks Snoopy or Bamm-Bamm or Tony the Tiger, and then he can't even answer the most basic question, like "Dead or alive?" or "Man or woman?" Talk about pathetic.
Dad came over and showed us a map in the airline magazine. Right now we are flying over the Atlantic Ocean. Next stop: Italy!
But first there's going to be a movie.
I finally went to the bathroom. When I got to the back of the plane, one door said Vacant and one said Occupied, and for a second I wasn't sure which meant what, but I figured it out and went in the vacant one.
Good thing there was a vacant one.
It was a close call.
It was also a tiny little bathroom, and when I flushed, the noise was so loud, I almost freaked out.
Matt and I have already played War and Crazy Eights, and now he's coloring and making puppets out of barf bags. I used to like to do that. Now I'd rather play Hangman with Mom, but she's sitting with Dad. He's organizing his new travel wallet.
The flight attendants gave us little bags of pretzels, and Matt tried to make his bag last longer than mine, but I hid my last pretzel, so I won. We are about to have dinner. I hope it's Chinese food.
It wasn't. It was salmon or chicken, so I ordered chicken, but it was rubbery white chicken (I like dark meat) with disgusting mushroom gravy. Also, the fork and knife were freezing cold. Also, the plane started bumping up and down, and that made Matt spill some of his peas, and a few landed on me.
The pilot said the bumps were because of air pockets. Pants pockets, I understand. But air pockets? Matt gripped my arm so hard, he left fingernail marks. I was tempted to yell at him, but I didn't since he was scared. Dad said we probably just bumped into a cloud. Then he told me to pass my chicken if I wasn't going to eat it. (Sometimes Dad can be a Big Pig.)
I hope we don't run out of gas up here.
Mom told me not to worry. She also made us ask for milk, which I didn't think was fair considering there was Sprite and Mom and Dad asked for champagne. The champagne was free because we're on an international flight.
I hope Mom and Dad are not drunk. They're all smiley and stuff. They keep saying this trip is like a honeymoon—only with kids. Their anniversary is next week. They have been married thirteen years.
Uh-oh. Thirteen is an unlucky number!
Mom and Dad are now asleep.
Matt is too. He looks goofy because his mouth is wide open.
I'm too excited to sleep. Mom told me to try to sleep so I don't get jet-lagged.
You see, when we left New York, people in Italy were already asleep. And when we arrive, even though to us it will feel like the middle of the night, in Italy it will be the morning of a new day. Why? Because the sun rises in the east, and we're flying east.
Maybe I will try to sleep after all. I hope I don't miss the movie.
From the Trade Paperback edition.