I hate being sick, but there was a time when I prayed real hard for the chicken pox.
It was about a week before the fifth grade Spring Festival. Our whole class had to dance for the PTA on Saturday night. That was bad enough, but I, Mike Foster, had to dance with Veronica Rose. Veronica was the tallest girl in the whole school. She always wore patched jeans. A short pigtail bobbed on each side of her head. The kids called her Veronica Rose, Patched-Up Clothes. Mr. Beesley must really hate me if he’s making me dance with Veronica, I thought.
“Just stay home,” Bill suggested after school one day.
“I can’t,” I answered. “Mom’s in the PTA, and she already knows about the program. She’ll make me come.”
“I’d rather die than dance with old Patched-Up Clothes,” Jason said.
I felt the same way. I hoped that I’d get kidnapped on the way home and that no one would find me until after the festival, but I didn’t.
When I got home, I found my brother, Ryan, lying on his bed. He had red bumps on his face. Mom said they were chicken pox.
Right then, I knew that I had a way out. I’d get the chicken pox! I always caught everything Ryan had. I guess maybe it’s because we sleep in the same room. I had a whole week. Mom couldn’t make me go to the festival if I had chicken pox. I stayed in our room with him the rest of the afternoon.
When I came out to eat supper, Mom said, “Mike, it’s surely good of you to amuse Ryan. Would you do it after supper too? I want to get the closets cleaned tonight.”
“Sure,” I said. “Do you have something I could put on his pocks? He says they itch.”
“Why, yes, I do,” Mom said with a surprised look.
I rubbed the lotion all over Ryan. I figured that if I touched the pocks, it’d help me catch them faster.
I kept putting my face close to his and breathing deep. Come on, germs, I said to myself, do your stuff. Just to be sure, I prayed hard every night. When Friday came, I looked all over my body but couldn’t find even one little bump. I was starting to get worried. If only Mom wasn’t so smart, I could pretend to have chicken pox. But she always knows when I’m faking.
We had to practice dancing all day in school, and it was pure torture.
On the way home from school, I had to walk past Veronica’s house. Veronica lived with her mom and five younger brothers in an old house that needed painting. Their yard was mostly weeds. As I walked past, I could hear Veronica wailing.
“But, Mom, I can’t go to the festival. I don’t even have a dress, and I’m the only girl in fifth grade with pigtails. Besides, I have to dance with Mike Foster. He only comes up to my waist.”
That isn’t true. I’m almost up to her shoulder, I thought, disgusted. Anyway, I’m the second tallest boy in fifth grade.
I could hear her mother’s voice, but I couldn’t understand the words.
Suddenly it hit me. Veronica had feelings too.
When I got home, I asked, “Mom, you know those clothes that we grew out of? Could we give them to the Rose family instead of Deseret Industries?” I told her about Veronica. “I bet some of Amber’s dresses would fit Veronica, and Ryan’s clothes and mine would probably fit some of her brothers.”
“Why, yes, Mike, that’s a good idea.”
I wrapped the box with colored wrapping paper and tied it with a ribbon. Then I waited until after dark and took it to Veronica’s. I put it on their front porch, knocked on the door, and ran around the corner of the house. When they took the box inside, I went home.
On Saturday morning, I almost hoped I didn’t have chicken pox or that at least they’d be where I could cover them up. What would Veronica do if she didn’t have a partner? I wondered.
That night Bill met me at the school door. “Wait till you see Veronica,” he said.
I looked around at the girls. You couldn’t miss Veronica—she was a whole head taller than the rest. But tonight she looked different. She was wearing a frilly pink dress. It used to be Amber’s, but no one else knew that. Her hair was all in curls, and she actually looked pretty.
The gym was decorated with crepe paper flowers and ribbons. All the kids wore their best clothes.
The festival went smoothly. Our dance didn’t last too long, and not even one of the guys teased me. I think that that’s the day we all decided that Veronica was human.
My prayers were answered the next Friday. I woke up with the chicken pox all over me. There was no way I could cover them up. And wouldn’t you know, it was Field Day at school!
The whole class made cards for me—even Veronica.