It was the first day of school. Mabel stood in her room with a long list in her hand. As she read each item, she checked it off.
“New paper, new folders, new erasers, new backpack. Check,” she said.
“Books read over the summer, listed in alphabetical order. Check,” she said
“Sharp pencils, lined up by color in new case. New box of crayons. Check,” she said.
“‘What I Did on My Summer Vacation,’ parts one, two, and three. Check.”
“Hair brushed and tied back with ribbon. Face washed. Nails cleaned. Teeth brushed. Check.”
“White blouse, plaid kilt. Check. Day-of-the-week underwear, Monday. Check.”
She sighed with satisfaction.
Mabel was ready for third grade. Just like she was always ready for everything.
This year, her teacher was Mrs. Worthing. She was an old-fashioned, strict teacher who gave plenty of homework. She demanded good behavior from her students.
Mabel had heard that Mrs. Worthing never gave perfect report cards, but Mabel was determined to get one.
This year, Mabel was going to get not only straight A’s, but straight E’s for effort, cooperation, and attitude.
“E” was for excellent.
Mabel intended to be the best student in the class.
The door opened. Mabel’s little sister, Violet, walked into the room.
“I got dressed up for kindergarten,” she announced.
Mabel stared at her in dismay.
Violet wore a lime polka-dotted shirt, aqua pants, pink socks, and tangerine high-top sneakers with blue laces.
Her hair was combed in the front, but not in the back.
One hand had nails with sparkly orange nail polish. The other had bright purple nails.
Violet looked like a bag of brightly colored Halloween candy. Or like a package of Magic Markers had exploded.
And Mabel had to walk her to school.
Mabel glanced at her watch. There was still time for Violet to change.
“Shall I help you pick out another shirt?” she offered.
“I like this shirt,” Violet said. “It’s beautiful.”
“Maybe plain sneakers,” Mabel suggested. “They’d look so nice.”
“I don’t think so,” Violet said.
“Blue socks to match your pants?” Mabel coaxed.
Violet shook her head.
Mabel silently counted to ten. Then she picked up her brush.
“What if I just fix your hair? It’s a little tangled in the back.” Mabel edged closer to her sister. “You don’t want nasty snarls, do you?”
“Snarls are good,” Violet insisted.
“Oh, never mind,” Mabel said angrily. She threw her brush on the bureau.
The two sisters went downstairs.