This year is going to be different at school. I have my spy notebook right here in HQ1 to write in just like Harriet and my brain is almost as smart as The Great Brain's. I have solved hours' worth of Minute Mysteries this summer and in case you didn't notice I have just used math to make a joke and the apostrophe goes after the "s" in hours because it is something called possessive which I know all about because my Grammie Donner taught me. This is the first paragraph in my spy notebook.
My name is Alexander and I am going to be in the fifth grade in two weeks, which is 14 days. Do not ask me about having terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-days because I am sick of hearing all about that stupid little kids' book and I have mostly good days.
My mom is weird. She always says silly things like "you're funny but looks aren't everything" and "oh, fishsticks." My little sister Violet always laughs in her stupid giggly way even though she is only seven. My baby brother Rowan usually just cries and wails. (That does not mean he is a whale. He is a baby eleven months old and just screams all the time.)
Like I said, I am writing this from HQ1, which is up in our apple tree. HQ is short for headquarters and I have three of them. HQ1 is my plywood desk board that I pulled up with a rope. Then I climbed into the apple tree and nailed the wood to one of the branches way up as high as I could go.
HQ2 is down our driveway in between some sumac trees and blackberry bushes.
HQ3 is deep out back of the house in some black raspberry bushes by the cornfield. (Black raspberries are different than blackberries, in case you didn't know, because black raspberries are smaller and sweeter and ripen earlier and are much better.)
I found an old hose out there near HQ3 and put an old funnel from the garage in one end of it and stuck it in a bush branch so I can take out my penis and go piss in it and my pee goes away down the hose and it doesn't smell bad in the HQ. It is my invention. Piss is what my dad says, even though mom says it is rude. Penis is rude too. Lots of things are rude to my mom, but I am going to be in fifth grade and am mature for my age even if I did not do well in school last year. Mostly because fourth grade was incredibly stupid and our classroom was in a smelly relocatable, which means a trailer that is always very hot or very cold.
My dog Angus is taking a nap in the sun down below HQ1. He is a black Labrador retriever mutt. My dad said has some flat-coat in him and I was not sure what that meant so I looked it up in the dictionary and it turns out that a flat-coat retriever dog is English, just like my Grammie Donner who got married to Grampie after World War II because he was a soldier from America and they met and danced while the bombs fell.
Grammie tells lots of stories about Grampie and how she moved to the United States and had my Dad and Uncle Pete and Aunt Shirley, but Grampie died when I was Rowan's age, which is one, in case you have forgotten, so I don't remember Grampie at all. Grammie has lots of stories and likes her sherry and always talks about how she misses Grampie Donner a lot. They were not in the Donner Party, which was some people who got stuck in snow out in California and had to eat each other to stay alive. Grammie makes sure that I tell people that I am not related to them because our last name is Donner too. Eating other people is gross.
The name Angus is a pun because he is an all-black dog and a Black Angus is a kind of fancy all-black cow, not a dog. Most people around here have Holstein cows, which are black and white, and some farmers have a couple of Jerseys, so my mom thinks it is funny that she thought of the name Angus even though no one else really gets that it's a joke. But she is still very proud of herself.
Even though she named him, Angus is my dog because I am very responsible (no matter what my horrible fourth-grade teacher Ms. Lince says) and I take him out in the morning when he needs to piss and give him his dry food and water and take him for a walk before supper every day out in the cornfields and the woods and sometimes we wade across the stream and go all the way to the big crick. I carry Milk Bone biscuits with me for when he is a good dog, which is most of the time.
We live in a place called the Mohawk Valley in New York State in the United States, and it is very old and famous because people fought in the Revolutionary War here against the British, which is another word for English, which is what my Grandma and Angus are. The valley was made by glaciers that dug a huge ditch in the ground where there used to be oceans and when I am walking with Angus sometimes I find really cool rocks with seashells and little worms in them that are called fossils. I am kind of a rock hound, which is an expression I learned from a book I read called Rock Hounds about some kids who really like rocks. I put the fossils that I pick up on our walks in a big pile by the garden except for the really cool ones, which I keep on a shelf in my bedroom.
Our garden has tomatoes and peas and beans and squash and corn and lettuce and peppers and onions and lots of potatoes. My dad likes to grow potatoes and says that the soil of the Mohawk Valley is the best for potatoes and they are better than Irish ones from Ireland. They are pretty good especially when dad mashes them together with butter that we get from some of the people who have Holsteins, which is a kind of cow (in case you have forgotten). Butter comes from cow milk and we get it fresh from the farmers and not from the store like city people.
In the fall, like now, there are lots of vegetables to pick and my mom puts them all into jars. My favorite thing is her pickled green beans, and when we have spaghetti in the winter my dad goes down into the basement to get a jar of tomatoes that are from the garden and makes sauce out of them.
Fifth grade starts in 14 days and when I get off of the bus after class that is not in a stupid trailer I will take Angus for his walk and play in the leaf piles and listen to WSYR AM sports talk on my transistor radio to see if the Mets are going to make the baseball playoffs and go to the World Series. And this year will be different because I will not be distracted. I will do all my homework and go to bed on time instead of staying up reading books that I am not supposed read to under the covers with a flashlight and then almost missing the bus every morning. Right now I like to read ones about the Revolutionary War like this one called My Brother Sam Is Dead that I found at the library sale and snuck it into a bag because I knew stuff about dead brothers was not something I was supposed to read about but it was a very good book.
I will try harder in math this year because it's very important for my future and I am writing this in my notebook because it will help me remember to do these things. I will do all my homework even if I hate it. And now it is getting late and the sun is going down and I have to go set the table for supper because it's one of my chores, but I will write more tomorrow. I will do a great many things.
Signs of Life