Excerpted from Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look Copyright © 2009 by Lenore Look. 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.
Believing in Henry
you will know some things about me if you have read a book called Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things. But you won’t know all about me, so that is why there is now this second book.
In case you missed it, my name is Alvin Ho. I was born scared and I am still scared. Things that scare me include:
Long words (especially “hippopotomonstro- sesquipedaliophobia,” which means fear of long words).
Punctuation. (Except for exclamation points! Exclamations are fantastic!!!)
The dark (which means I have nyctophobia).
The great outdoors. (What’s so great about it?) Lots of things can happen when you’re outdoors:
The end of the world.
I am scared of many more things than that. But if I put all my scares on one list, it would mean years of therapy for me. And I already go to therapy once a month on account of it’s supposed to help me not be so scared. But my brother Calvin says when you’re born a certain way, that’s the way you’ll always be, so you might as well hug your inner scaredy-cat.
My brother Calvin, he gives good advice.
I am not so good with advice. I can never think of any, except maybe this: When in doubt, always ask, “What would Henry do?” Henry is Henry David Thoreau. He’s a dead author, which is really creepy. But he is also our school hero, which is not so creepy, and he was a lot like me—he had stuff figured out, even when he was little. He was born in Concord, Massachusetts, just like me. And—gulp—he died in Concord too.
Of course, I could never say, “What would Henry do?” at school, where I never say anything. This is on account of school is mortifying. And when I am mortified, which means totally scared to death, I can’t scream, I can’t talk, I can’t even grunt. Nothing comes out of my mouth, no matter how hard I try.
Having a lot in common with Henry can be very useful. For example, we learned in music class today that Henry played the flute. And whenever he played, a mouse would come to listen, and Henry would feed it with the extra pieces of cheese that he kept in his pocket.
“My brother has a flute,” I told the gang on the bus after school. “He rented it for lessons . . . and we have cheese in the refrigerator.”
“Let’s go,” said Pinky.
So when the bus stopped at the end of my driveway, the gang followed me to my house. Usually, it is a tricky business getting them to play with me unless it is Pinky’s idea. Pinky is the biggest boy and the leader of the gang, and no one plays with me unless Pinky does.
Except for Flea. Flea plays with me no matter what. But the problem with Flea is that she’s a girl. And girls are annoying.
Fortunately, my mom was at work and my gunggung, who comes to watch us after school, was fast asleep on the sofa. So I left the gang in the kitchen and tiptoed past the sofa . . . to fetch Calvin’s flute from the top of the piano where he had put it for safekeeping. No problem.
The only problem was Anibelly. She’s four, she’s my sister, and she was wide awake, following me everywhere and getting in my way as usual.
“That’s Calvin’s,” said Anibelly.
I stopped. I pretended I didn’t see Anibelly. But it is hard not to see her. She’s like a stoplight in the middle of my life and there’s just no avoiding her. I can’t go anywhere without going past her or taking her with me if I’m in a hurry.
“But Calvin’s practicing his karate moves at Stevie’s house,” I said. “And I need his flute for a little experiment.”
“What spearmint?” asked Anibelly.
“Well, you live in Concord, Massachusetts, don’t you?” I asked.
“You believe in Henry David Thoreau, don’t you?”
Anibelly nodded again.
“Well, then, if you keep quiet,” I said, “I’ll let you watch.”
So Anibelly kept quiet.
First I put Calvin’s flute together.
Then I went back into the kitchen where the gang was waiting and looked for some cheese.
Actually there was quite a lot of cheese, all chopped up and zipped inside a plastic bag. It was very yummy. And we were hungrier than a pack of starving mice. By the time we finished snacking, there were only a few crumbs left to put in my pocket. But I was sure that our teacher, Miss P, had said that Henry had pieces of cheese, not crumbs.
“I’d heard pieces too, not crumbs,” said Sam, who usually always pays better attention in class than I do. “A mouse isn’t going to come for crumbs.”
So we cobbled all our crumbs together to make a piece of cheese, which I put in my pocket. Then I picked up Calvin’s flute, put it to my lips and blew.
“Pshhhhhffffffffrrrrrrrrrrr.” It sounded like a sick worm blowing its nose. So I blew again, harder. “Pshhhhhhrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!”
“Lemme try,” said Pinky, snatching the flute and the piece of cobbled cheese from my pocket. “Pssssssssuuurrrgggggh!” He sounded worse than I did!
Then Nhia took a turn. Then Sam. Then Jules and Eli and Hobson. By the time Calvin’s flute was finally passed to Flea, it was drooling worse than our dog, Lucy, on a hot day, and the cobbled cheese that ended up in her pocket was hardly recognizable as cheese, except for the smell.
From the Hardcover edition.