Who's afraid?

Gavin tells us his list of worries: “I worry about vampires at the door. Outside, right there.” He points to the porch. “Ghosts in the walls. Crocodiles under my bed. And Papa and Tata’s horrible cat, Jalapeno.”

“Do you have any worries at school?” Mary asks.

“Yes. I worry I’ll be sent to the office.”

“Do you know anyone who was sent to the office?”

“Yes. Owen.”

“What did he do to get sent to the office?”

“He fell down and cut his face from here to here.” He draws a line down his jaw.

“Well, he was probably sent to the nurse.”

“They sent him to the office to call his mom.”


“What would be the worst thing that would happen,” Mary asks, “if you were sent to the office?”

“If I hurt a kid, or threw a brick–”

“No,” she says, “I mean, what would be the worst thing about being sent to the office?”

“If I wasn’t kind, or something.”

“Is your mom a good person, or a bad person?” Mary asks.

I’m so startled by this question, that I gape at her and miss his expression when he answers, “She’s a good person.”

“And how many times was she sent to the office?” They are both grinning now.

“A bunch of times.”

“So,” she says, “you can be sent to the office a bunch of times and still be a good person, right?”

He giggles. “Right.”

I can’t tell if they’re both giggling now because they like the idea of me being sent to the principal’s office a bunch of times or because of the expression on my face.

“Why’d you get sent to the office so many times?” he asks.

“Oh,” I say, waving my hand. “Various things.” Mostly for being caught, which has become my favorite part. The things I got away with are so much less interesting than the things I didn’t. The busted stories are mythical now, like vampires at the door. Those moments of disgrace and redemption, and their giggling aftermath.

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