Some kids are good at art, or running, or basketball. Creed Gentry is good at being mean. Libby Thacken is good at showing me up at all the Irish Dance competitions since she moved to Cheyenne, no matter how hard I practice. Even my brother Sterling is good at teasing.
I'm good at the weirdest thing of all: being chosen at random for unpleasant things. I consider it a curse.
Just this year, my teacher, Mr. Jukes, chose me to play the part of the tooth in the sixth-grade skit about oral hygiene for the PTA. No one else had to wear a puffy, white, padded suit and get chased around the stage by sugar and tartar, pretending to get tooth decay. No one else had sweaty, frizz-head hair for the rest of the day. Just last month, the neighbors' enormous poodle chose me as his personal chew toy, and the lunch ladies chose me for three turns at lunchroom garbage duty. And, just yesterday, I was chosen at random for the worst thing of all.
People say that luck runs out, so I hoped the random-choosing-curse would run out, too. But, when the first tornado of summer twisted around the water tower on the hill behind our neighborhood, I knew it was coming straight for me. And it did.
And, keeping the rules of the random-choosing-curse, the tornado touched only my house. Libby Thacken's house, just next door, is fine. But my house is half-a-kitchen, with a lone bathtub in the rubble and a basement half-open to the Wyoming sky.
"Just think, Gemma," Dad says as he hands me several grocery bags full of "essentials" to carry, "how many other kids get to spend their summer in a hotel with a pool?"
I shrug and look up at the sign over the parking lot. It reads: Harvest Acres Extended-Stay Villas, Wi-Fi, Cable, Full Kitchen, Pool. It's odd that they need to advertise a full kitchen. I've never heard of a halfkitchen until the tornado hit my house.
"As soon as we get settled, you can invite your friends for a swim," Mom says, emerging from the car, holding her pregnant belly like she often does. I feel a twinge of guilt for my sour attitude. This is my fault, after all. They have me and my random-choosing-curse to thank.
I paste a smile on my face and hitch up the grocery bags in an attempt to look helpful. "Okay."
I don't mention that I no longer have a swimsuit, and I don't think Dad's quick shopping trip for "essentials" included swim gear. I wonder if the insurance company that's paying to fix our house, and paying for an extended-stay villa with a full kitchen, would also buy me a swimsuit.
"Thanks for letting us all share in your curse, Random," Sterling says, slinging his emergency backpack over his shoulder. He packed it himself, long before the tornado season started, and it's probably full of candy and video games. Sterling is two years older than me and has naturally curly hair that grows up instead of down. Nothing bothers him. Not even half-a-kitchen and a flattened bedroom.
I don't bother to tell him again not to call me Random. He won't stop. "Always willing to share, Silver."
Sterling whips around at my twist on his name. "You'd better be nice to me," he says. "I've got the treats." He pats his backpack and saunters in front of Dad to the Harvest Acres office, as though he owns the place.
Mom and I follow after them, the plastic grocery bags dangling from my fingers and cutting off the blood supply. I consider the possible locations of my thousand-dollar Irish dress, which disappeared in the tornado, along with most of the rest of my room. Perhaps it fell into the back of a truck in Nebraska. Some farmer will find it, see my name and phone number embroidered inside the bodice, and somehow return it to me in time for the regional championships. Perhaps it fell in a field and some cow is wearing it.
Perhaps, and this one is the most likely of all because of my curse, the tornado dropped it delicately into Libby Thacken's yard, and she'll think the luck o' the Irish gave it to her to wear at regionals.
Of all the random luck.
Celesta Rimington writes YA and Middle Grade fiction and blogs about kids and the writing life atCelestaRimington.blogspot.com. She's a musical theater performer, a dance mom, and a recovering Air Force kid who finds a never-ending supply of story ideas from all her years of moving across the country. She'll be attending both the LDStorymakers Conference and the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference this year.