Claudine's Somewhat-Abnormal Day
When Claudine woke up Tuesday morning, the entire world had been turned upside down.
Now, a lot of grownups will say just that sort of thing when life becomes confusing, but Claudine knew that was just what old people called a "Met-A-Four", which was just a fancy way of not saying what you really meant.
But, for Claudine, the world really was upside down.
"Boy-howdy-bonkers, this sure is going to make it hard to get to school," she said as she lay on the ceiling of her bedroom, trapped in the small cave made by her overturned bed.
Claudine was quite proud of saying "Boy-howdy-bonkers". It was something she had made up, all by herself, and she used it all the time for all sorts of reasons. Lately, Carla Sniggens had started saying "Boy-howdy-bonkers" too, claiming she was the one who made it up.
"No you didn't!" Claudine had shouted at her during recess the other day, when the ongoing argument had flared up again.
"Yes I did!" Carla had shouted right back.
"Oh, yeah?! I made up boy-howdy-bonkers last year, all by myself, when I was seven!"
"Oh, yeah?! Well, I made it up, way back a long time ago, way back when ... when I was only ... only ... only one year old!" Carla had shrieked, as if she could prove what she was saying through nothing but sheer, ear-piercing noise.
Claudine, her wild hair blowing in her face and her cheeks red with anger, turned on her heel and stomped across the dusty playground, kicking up little clouds of whirling dirt. She had merely meant to go find a quiet corner where she could sit and talk to her best friend, Mr. Plinkles, but her anger had gotten the best of her and a single, naughty word leaked past her lips just as she had stomped by the principal, Mrs. MacGoovy.
Instead of a nice, calming chat with Mr. Plinkles, Claudine had spent the rest of the recess sitting on an uncomfortable stool in Mrs. MacGoovy's office, staring at the thick, white paint on the cinder block walls.
She passed the time wondering why all schools were built from stacked blocks of cement, yet all houses were built with wooden boards. Was there something school-builders knew that they weren't telling the house-builders? Or, and Claudine decided this was the more likely answer, the schools were built of heavy cement blocks to prevent kids from tunneling through the walls to escape from Math class.
"Boy-howdy-bonkers!" she exclaimed again, her bed tipped upside-down over her, the blankets twisted around her like the wrappings on a mummy.
She crawled out from beneath the mattress, then quickly darted back under again. Moments later, she wriggled back out from beneath the pile, this time firmly holding her favorite stuffed toy in the crook of her arm.
"So sorry about that, Mr. Plinkles," she said in a very serious voice. "This whole business with the world turning upside-down has me completely out of sorts."
She patted her friend in an absent-minded way as she wandered about the mess of her room. Sure enough, it was pretty clear that some time during the night, the whole world had flipped on its head. She was standing on her ceiling, the green-carpeted floor overhead. Everything that had been in its place the night before now lay in a jumbled pile around her. Her books had spilled off their shelves, her drawers had fallen out of her dresser and dumped her clothes all over the place, and her toy box (which was where she kept what she considered the world's most-fabulous collection of toy frogs) had burst open when it fell, spilling its prized contents in a gush of unblinking, plastic amphibians.
It was no small miracle her fish bowl, once perched atop her bedside table, had managed to land upright and intact, nestled in a pile of spilled socks. Her goldfish, The Right Honorable L. Q. Malarky, swam in small circles, seemingly undisturbed by the night's events.
"Boy-howdy-bonkers," Claudine said quietly for the third time that morning as she walked to her bedroom window. Her thick, green curtains lay bunched up at her feet as they hung from the curtain rod at the top of the window, which due to the night's unfortunate events, was now the bottom. She gave a long, low whistle as she looked outside. Sure enough, things were definitely topsy-turvy everywhere and not just in her room. A bright blue sky speckled with a few puffs of cloud stretched out below her, making Claudine feel as if she was standing at the lip of a bottomless chasm.
The view made her head dizzy and she pulled back away from the window. Above her, her family's uncut lawn stretched out to where it met the neighbor's neatly trimmed grass. An unwatered Maple tree hung upside down in the front yard, its branches sagging down towards the sky. A quick peek told her that everything in the yard not somehow fastened down was gone. Her purple bike, her soccer ball, her dad's grill - all of it must have fallen off the Earth!
Claudine wondered how the school bus was ever going to make it down her street to pick her and the other neighborhood children up. Oh, no! What if it couldn't?!
School was one of Claudine's favorite things in the whole world and missing it was the last thing she wanted.There was so much to see and do at school and Claudine wanted to see and do every single thing she could.
Her teacher, Mrs. Wollerman, was just the neatest person she had ever met and was always showing her new things. Today was the day Mrs. Wollerman had promised she was going to show the class a brand new discovery! Scientists, working tirelessly night and day and using some of the most powerful microscopes in the world, had discovered a brand new number sitting smack dab between five and six that no one had ever heard about before! It sounded very exciting.
The discovery had caused quite an uproar amongst math teachers, abacus builders, and those preschoolers still counting to ten on their fingers.
After hearing the news, Claudine had rushed home to tell her mom about the fascinating announcement. She figured her mom would be just as excited and interested in the news since she was an accountant and it was her job to work with numbers and math all the time while counting money.
However, her mother had just nodded and patted Claudine on the head and told her to go wash her hands for dinner. Claudine's shoulders slumped in disappointment. Being told to go wash for dinner was her mother's Standard Reaction No. 3.
Claudine's mom had eight different ways in which she might react to any news her daughter tried to share with her. Others include Standard Reaction No. 2, also known as being told it was time for bed, and Standard Reaction No. 5, which was being asked if she had any homework to finish up. She hated that one the most, probably because Claudine always finished all her schoolwork during the day since she loved school so much, and her mother really ought to have known that by now.
There were also Special Standard Reactions 8 through 11, but those were only used during the holidays and family vacations.
Staring out the window of her room, Claudine decided there was no way she was going to miss school on a day as exciting as this one promised to be, upside-down world or not! She quickly plucked an outfit from the jumbled clothes in her room, dressed, and stepped over the frame of her doorway onto the ceiling of the hallway.
Peering into her parent's room she saw that somehow her mom and dad had slept through the chaos of the night and were still slumbering beneath a mound made of blankets, pillows, mattress, box spring, and bed frame. Her mom's head stuck out from the pile and her dad's loud snores could be heard emanating from deep inside, like the growl of a bear hiding in its den.
Climbing up the sloped ceiling of the stairway proved an interesting challenge and Claudine giggled at the idea of going up to get downstairs.
"Boy-howdy-bonkers, Mr. Plinkles, this is great!"
Breakfast proved to be a bit of a challenge, but Claudine climbed through the pile of spilled items from the cupboards to the over-turned fridge and hastily built herself a breakfast from whatever she could find. After a serious discussion with Mr. Plinkles, she decided it would be okay to skip brushing her teeth, just this once, since going back down to the upstairs to get her toothbrush seemed like too much to tackle, especially when she still had to figure out how to get to school.
Claudine gathered her backpack from where it had fallen, jammed a pair of shoes onto her feet, and marched out the door, ready to learn!
Two seconds later, she marched right back in, shaking with fear.
"Boy-howdy-bonkers, Mr. Plinkles, I almost fell down into the sky! Gosh! Do you think I would have fallen all the way into outer space?"
Mr. Plinkles didn't have an answer for that and so wisely kept quiet.
Claudine sat on the family's over-turned couch and tapped her chin in thought. What would Mrs. Wollerman tell her to do? Her teacher was very good at getting Claudine to think through a problem and work things through, start to finish. Claudine's normal way of tackling problems tended to be more of a blurt-out-the-first-thing-that-came-to-her-head sort of approach.
She could hear her teacher's voice in her head. "Picture the problem. See it in your head. Draw it out if you have to." This was usually accompanied with a teasing pinch of Claudine's cheeks. Claudine was pretty sure there was something in the school's rules that said the teachers weren't allowed to pinch the student's cheeks, but didn't want to get her teacher in trouble by telling anyone.
Rubbing absent-mindedly at her cheek as she thought about her teacher, Claudine forced herself to focus. What, exactly, was the problem? What did she need to get through it?
She sat on the couch, thinking just as hard as she could about the situation. She thought so hard, sweat broke out on her forehead and ran down into her eyes.
"Well, I'll tell you what the gosh-danged problem is!" she finally said in a frustrated voice to Mr. Plinkles. "It's that the whole, entire gosh-danged world has turned upside-down! Boy-howdy-bonkers, what I need is some way to not go falling down into the sky, that's what I need! Come on, Mr. Plinkles, let's get to work!"
Motivated by her own anger, she jumped up off the couch. Like a squirrel frantically burying acorns for an early winter, she scurried from room to room while her parents slumbered on beneath her in their room upstairs, unaware of their daughter's preparations.
Using nothing but some left-over clothesline rope from the storage racks in the garage and a pair of her mother's high heels, she quickly made her way across the lawn to Johnny Hermbecker's house next door. Mr. Plinkle's rode along in her backpack. He didn't let loose with a peep of fear as the endless sky dropped away beneath Claudine's feet, not even once.
She swung hand-over-hand along the chain link fence behind Anthony Marconelli's house, noting with some satisfaction that the Marconelli's dog, Bruiser, was crouching terrified inside his upside-down doghouse. Claudine felt bad for the frightened pup, but only for a minute. In the past, Bruiser had always taken great joy in chasing her whenever she cut through his yard. More than once he had ripped a hole in the cuff of her jeans with his teeth.
She scampered through Old Man Slattery's overgrown garden. His backyard had long since been overgrown by creeping vines and Claudine was glad their deep roots didn't pull from from the soil as she clambered through the thick tangle of leaves like a monkey climbing through a tangle of jungle vines.
At one point, she looked up and could see Mr. Slattery, looking very confused, peering out through an upside-down window and shouting at her to get out of his yard. She and Mr. Plinkles stuck their tongues out at him and kept going, figuring that technically they weren't in his yard if they were hanging several feet below it from a tangled nest of woody vines.
Crossing Bloomer Street turned out to be a real challenge, one that stumped her for several long minutes as she clung to Mrs. Donahoo's mailbox by the curb. Eventually she solved the problem with a pack of bubble-gum from her backpack, three sheets of paper torn from her social studies notebook, and a shoelace.
The school's playground jungle gym turned out to be as easy to scamper across upside-down as it was right-side-up and soon Claudine was standing on the ceiling of her school's entryway.
"We made it, Mr. Plinkles!" she exclaimed victoriously, pulling her best friend free of her backpack. The school was eerily quiet. "Gosh, where do you suppose everyone is?"
There wasn't another soul in sight. Where were all the other kids? Where were the teachers? Surely they weren't going to let a little thing like a flip-flopped world keep them home on a day like this! Surely they all wanted to know all about the brand new number!
Claudine had just started to wonder what she was going to do if Mrs. Wollerman hadn't made it to school, when the large, upside-down doors opened and there stood her teacher with a warm smile on her face, welcoming Claudine inside.
Mrs. Wollerman was wearing a motorcycle helmet with a hook made from a bent clothes hanger taped to its top, one scuba flipper and one ski boot, and football shoulder pads, over which a coil of thick rope had been slung. Claudine should have known her teacher would easily find a way to make it to school.
"Why, hello Claudine!" said her teacher brightly. "I'm so glad to see you!"
Mrs. Wollerman gave Claudine a hand as she climbed over the upside-down frame of the doorway. "I just knew you'd be in today," she said in a conspiratorial voice, "even with all the difficulties out there that made this morning's walk to school a bit of an adventure."
Hand in hand, they walked down the ceiling of the school's main hallway. They walked by Mrs. MacGoovy's office where the files on all the school children had tumbled out of their cabinets, past the gymnasium where all the basketballs had bust through a skylight and tumbled down into the endless sky below, and to Mrs. Wollerman's brightly decorated classroom.
Claudine helped to finish tidying up the messy room, then took her seat at desk one, row four, and smiled up at her teacher as Mrs. Wollerman starting drawing on the chalkboard and telling the fascinating story about the new number discovered smack dab between five and six.
Claudine snuck a peek at Mr. Plinkles, who sat attentively in Carla Sniggens' empty desk next to her. She shot him a sly wink and a grin, but her friend seemed too occupied with Mrs. Wollerman's presentation to notice. Claudine turned back to the chalkboard, a warm, fuzzy feeling of happiness and excitement bubbling up inside her.
It was going to be a good day.