Wonder, p.17R. J. Palacio
“What is so wrong with my not telling you about a stupid play?” Via practically screamed. “I don’t even have a speaking part in it!”
“Your boyfriend does! Don’t you want us to see him in it?”
“No! Actually, I don’t!”
“You screamed first! Just leave me alone, okay? You’ve been really good about leaving me alone my whole life, so why you choose high school to suddenly be interested I have no idea.…”
Then I don’t know what Mom answered because it all got very quiet, and even my bionic Lobot ears couldn’t pick up a signal.
By dinner they seemed to have made up. Dad was working late. Daisy was sleeping. She’d thrown up a lot earlier in the day, and Mom made an appointment to take her to the vet the next morning.
The three of us were sitting down and no one was talking.
Finally, I said: “So, are we going to see Justin in a play?”
Via didn’t answer but looked down at her plate.
“You know, Auggie,” said Mom quietly. “I hadn’t realized what play it was, and it really isn’t something that would be interesting to kids your age.”
“So I’m not invited?” I said, looking at Via.
“I didn’t say that,” said Mom. “It’s just I don’t think it’s something you’d enjoy.”
“You’d get totally bored,” said Via, like she was accusing me of something.
“Are you and Dad going?” I asked.
“Dad’ll go,” said Mom. “I’ll stay home with you.”
“What?” Via yelled at Mom. “Oh great, so you’re going to punish me for being honest by not going?”
“You didn’t want us to go in the first place, remember?” answered Mom.
“But now that you know about it, of course I want you to go!” said Via.
“Well, I’ve got to weigh everyone’s feelings here, Via,” said Mom.
“What are you two talking about?” I shouted.
“Nothing!” they both snapped at the same time.
“Just something about Via’s school that has nothing to do with you,” said Mom.
“You’re lying,” I said.
“Excuse me?” said Mom, kind of shocked. Even Via looked surprised.
“I said you’re lying!” I shouted. “You’re lying!” I screamed at Via, getting up. “You’re both liars! You’re both lying to my face like I’m an idiot!”
“Sit down, Auggie!” said Mom, grabbing my arm.
I pulled my arm away and pointed at Via.
“You think I don’t know what’s going on?” I yelled. “You just don’t want your brand-new fancy high school friends to know your brother’s a freak!”
“Auggie!” Mom yelled. “That’s not true!”
“Stop lying to me, Mom!” I shrieked. “Stop treating me like a baby! I’m not retarded! I know what’s going on!”
I ran down the hallway to my room and slammed the door behind me so hard that I actually heard little pieces of the wall crumble inside the door frame. Then I plopped onto my bed and pulled the covers up on top of me. I threw my pillows over my disgusting face and then piled all my stuffed animals on top of the pillows, like I was inside a little cave. If I could walk around with a pillow over my face all the time, I would.
I don’t even know how I got so mad. I wasn’t really mad at the beginning of dinner. I wasn’t even sad. But then all of a sudden it all kind of just exploded out of me. I knew Via didn’t want me to go to her stupid play. And I knew why.
I figured Mom would follow me into my room right away, but she didn’t. I wanted her to find me inside my cave of stuffed animals, so I waited a little more, but even after ten minutes she still didn’t come in after me. I was pretty surprised. She always checks on me when I’m in my room, upset about stuff.
I pictured Mom and Via talking about me in the kitchen. I figured Via was feeling really, really, really bad. I pictured Mom totally laying on the guilt. And Dad would be mad at her when he came home, too.
I made a little hole through the pile of pillows and stuffed animals and peeked at the clock on my wall. Half an hour had passed and Mom still hadn’t come into my room. I tried to listen for the sounds in the other rooms. Were they still having dinner? What was going on?
Finally, the door opened. It was Via. She didn’t even bother coming over to my bed, and she didn’t come in softly like I thought she would. She came in quickly.
“Auggie,” said Via. “Come quick. Mom needs to talk to you.”
“I’m not apologizing!”
“This isn’t about you!” she yelled. “Not everything in the world is about you, Auggie! Now hurry up. Daisy’s sick. Mom’s taking her to the emergency vet. Come say goodbye.”
I pushed the pillows off my face and looked up at her. That’s when I saw she was crying. “What do you mean ‘goodbye’?”
“Come on!” she said, holding out her hand.
I took her hand and followed her down the hall to the kitchen. Daisy was lying down sideways on the floor with her legs straight out in front of her. She was panting a lot, like she’d been running in the park. Mom was kneeling beside her, stroking the top of her head.
“What happened?” I asked.
“She just started whimpering all of a sudden,” said Via, kneeling down next to Mom.
I looked down at Mom, who was crying, too.
“I’m taking her to the animal hospital downtown,” she said. “The taxi’s coming to pick me up.”
“The vet’ll make her better, right?” I said.
Mom looked at me. “I hope so, honey,” she said quietly. “But I honestly don’t know.”
“Of course he will!” I said.
“Daisy’s been sick a lot lately, Auggie. And she’s old …”
“But they can fix her,” I said, looking at Via to agree with me, but Via wouldn’t look up at me.
Mom’s lips were trembling. “I think it might be time we say goodbye to Daisy, Auggie. I’m sorry.”
“No!” I said.
“We don’t want her to suffer, Auggie,” she said.
The phone rang. Via picked it up, said, “Okay, thanks,” and then hung up.
“The taxi’s outside,” she said, wiping her tears with the backs of her hands.
“Okay, Auggie, open the door for me, sweetie?” said Mom, picking Daisy up very gently like she was a huge droopy baby.
“Please, no, Mommy?” I cried, putting myself in front of the door.
“Honey, please,” said Mom. “She’s very heavy.”
“What about Daddy?” I cried.
“He’s meeting me at the hospital,” Mom said. “He doesn’t want Daisy to suffer, Auggie.”
Via moved me away from the door and held it open it for Mom.
“My cell phone’s on if you need anything,” Mom said to Via. “Can you cover her with the blanket?”
Via nodded, but she was crying hysterically now.
“Say goodbye to Daisy, kids,” Mom said, tears streaming down her face.
“I love you, Daisy,” Via said, kissing Daisy on the nose. “I love you so much.”
“Bye, little girlie …,” I whispered into Daisy’s ear. “I love you.…”
Mom carried Daisy down the stoop. The taxi driver had opened the back door and we watched her get in. Just before she closed the door, Mom looked up at us standing by the entrance to the building and she gave us a little wave. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her look sadder.
“I love you, Mommy!” said Via.
“I love you, Mommy!” I said. “I’m sorry, Mommy!”
Mom blew a kiss to us and closed the door. We watched the car leave and then Via closed the door. She looked at me a second, and then she hugged me very, very tight while we both cried a million tears.
Justin came over about half an hour later. He gave me a big hug and said: “Sorry, Auggie.” We all sat down i
“She really is the greatest dog in the world,” said Via.
“I know,” said Justin, rubbing Via’s back.
“She just started whimpering, like all of a sudden?” I said.
Via nodded. “Like two seconds after you left the table,” she said. “Mom was going to go after you, but Daisy just started, like, whimpering.”
“Like how?” I said.
“Just whimpering, I don’t know,” said Via.
“Like howling?” I asked.
“Auggie, like whimpering!” she answered impatiently. “She just started moaning, like something was really hurting her. And she was panting like crazy. Then she just kind of plopped down, and Mom went over and tried to pick her up, and whatever, she was obviously hurting. She bit Mom.”
“What?” I said.
“When Mom tried to touch her stomach, Daisy bit her hand,” Via explained.
“Daisy never bites anybody!” I answered.
“She wasn’t herself,” said Justin. “She was obviously in pain.”
“Daddy was right,” said Via. “We shouldn’t have let her get this bad.”
“What do you mean?” I said. “He knew she was sick?”
“Auggie, Mom’s taken her to the vet like three times in the last two months. She’s been throwing up left and right. Haven’t you noticed?”
“But I didn’t know she was sick!”
Via didn’t say anything, but she put her arm around my shoulders and pulled me closer to her. I started to cry again.
“I’m sorry, Auggie,” she said softly. “I’m really sorry about everything, okay? You forgive me? You know how much I love you, right?”
I nodded. Somehow that fight didn’t matter much now.
“Was Mommy bleeding?” I asked.
“It was just a nip,” said Via. “Right there.” She pointed to the bottom of her thumb to show me exactly where Daisy had bitten Mom.
“Did it hurt her?”
“Mommy’s okay, Auggie. She’s fine.”
Mom and Dad came home two hours later. We knew the second they opened the door and Daisy wasn’t with them that Daisy was gone. We all sat down in the living room around the pile of Daisy’s toys. Dad told us what happened at the animal hospital, how the vet took Daisy for some X-rays and blood tests, then came back and told them she had a huge mass in her stomach. She was having trouble breathing. Mom and Dad didn’t want her to suffer, so Daddy picked her up in his arms like he always liked to do, with her legs straight up in the air, and he and Mom kissed her goodbye over and over again and whispered to her while the vet put a needle into her leg. And then after about a minute she died in Daddy’s arms. It was so peaceful, Daddy said. She wasn’t in any pain at all. Like she was just going to sleep. A couple of times while he talked, Dad’s voice got trembly and he cleared his throat.
I’ve never seen Dad cry before, but I saw him cry tonight. I had gone into Mom and Dad’s bedroom looking for Mom to put me to bed, but saw Dad sitting on the edge of the bed, taking off his socks. His back was to the door, so he didn’t know I was there. At first I thought he was laughing because his shoulders were shaking, but then he put his palms on his eyes and I realized he was crying. It was the quietest crying I’ve ever heard. Like a whisper. I was going to go over to him, but then I thought maybe he was whisper-crying because he didn’t want me or anyone else to hear him. So I walked out and went to Via’s room, and I saw Mom lying next to Via on the bed, and Mom was whispering to Via, who was crying.
So I went to my bed and put on my pajamas without anyone telling me to and put the night-light on and turned the light off and crawled into the little mountain of stuffed animals I had left on my bed earlier. It felt like that all had happened a million years ago. I took my hearing aids off and put them on the night table and pulled the covers up to my ears and imagined Daisy snuggling with me, her big wet tongue licking my face all over like it was her favorite face in the world. And that’s how I fell asleep.
I woke up later on and it was still dark. I got out of bed and walked into Mom and Dad’s bedroom.
“Mommy?” I whispered. It was completely dark, so I couldn’t see her open her eyes. “Mommy?”
“You okay, honey?” she said groggily.
“Can I sleep with you?”
Mom scooted over toward Daddy’s side of the bed, and I snuggled up next to her. She kissed my hair.
“Is your hand okay?” I said. “Via told me Daisy bit you.”
“It was only a nip,” she whispered in my ear.
“Mommy …” I started crying. “I’m sorry about what I said.”
“Shhh … There’s nothing to be sorry about,” she said, so quietly I could barely hear her. She was rubbing the side of her face against my face.
“Is Via ashamed of me?” I said.
“No, honey, no. You know she’s not. She’s just adjusting to a new school. It’s not easy.”
“I know you know.”
“I’m sorry I called you a liar.”
“Go to sleep, sweet boy.… I love you so much.”
“I love you so much, too, Mommy.”
“Good night, honey,” she said very softly.
“Mommy, is Daisy with Grans now?”
“I think so.”
“Are they in heaven?”
“Do people look the same when they get to heaven?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
“Then how do people recognize each other?”
“I don’t know, sweetie.” She sounded tired. “They just feel it. You don’t need your eyes to love, right? You just feel it inside you. That’s how it is in heaven. It’s just love, and no one forgets who they love.”
She kissed me again.
“Now go to sleep, honey. It’s late. And I’m so tired.”
But I couldn’t go to sleep, even after I knew she had fallen asleep. I could hear Daddy sleeping, too, and I imagined I could hear Via sleeping down the hallway in her room. And I wondered if Daisy was sleeping in heaven right then. And if she was sleeping, was she dreaming about me? And I wondered how it would feel to be in heaven someday and not have my face matter anymore. Just like it never, ever mattered to Daisy.
Via brought home three tickets to her school play a few days after Daisy died. We never mentioned the fight we had over dinner again. On the night of the play, right before she and Justin were leaving to get to their school early, she gave me a big hug and told me she loved me and she was proud to be my sister.
This was my first time in Via’s new school. It was much bigger than her old school, and a thousand times bigger than my school. More hallways. More room for people. The only really bad thing about my bionic Lobot hearing aids was the fact that I couldn’t wear a baseball cap anymore. In situations like these, baseball caps come in really handy. Sometimes I wish I could still get away with wearing that old astronaut helmet I used to wear when I was little. Believe it or not, people would think seeing a kid in an astronaut helmet was a lot less weird than seeing my face. Anyway, I kept my head down as I walked right behind Mom through the long bright hallways.
We followed the crowd to the auditorium, where students handed out programs at the front entrance. We found seats in the fifth row, close to the middle. As soon as we sat down, Mom started looking inside her pocketbook.
“I can’t believe I forgot my glasses!” she said.
Dad shook his head. Mom was always forgetting her glasses, or her keys, or something or other. She is flaky that way.
“You want to move closer?” said Dad.
Mom squinted at the stage. “No, I can see okay.”
“Speak now or forever hold your peace,” said Dad.
“Look, there’s Justin,” I said to Dad, pointing out Justin’s picture in the program.
“That’s a nice picture of him,” he answered, nodding.
“How come there’s no picture of Via?” I said.
“She’s an understudy,” said Mom. “But, look: here’s her name.”
“Why do they call her an understudy?” I asked.
“Wow, look at Miranda’s picture,” said Mom to Dad. “I don’t think I would have recognized her.”
“Why do they call it understudy?” I repeated.
“It’s what they call someone who replaces an actor if he can’t perform for some reason,” answered Mom.
“Did you hear Martin’s getting remarried?” Dad said to Mom.
“Are you kidding me?!” Mom answered, like she was surprised.
“Who’s Martin?” I asked.
“Miranda’s father,” Mom answered, and then to Dad: “Who told you?”
“I ran into Miranda’s mother in the subway. She’s not happy about it. He has a new baby on the way and everything.”
“Wow,” said Mom, shaking her head.
“What are you guys talking about?” I said.
“Nothing,” answered Dad.
“But why do they call it understudy?” I said.
“I don’t know, Auggie Doggie,” Dad answered. “Maybe because the actors kind of study under the main actors or something? I really don’t know.”
I was going to say something else but then the lights went down. The audience got very quiet very quickly.
“Daddy, can you please not call me Auggie Doggie anymore?” I whispered in Dad’s ear.
Dad smiled and nodded and gave me a thumbs-up.
The play started. The curtain opened. The stage was completely empty except for Justin, who was sitting on an old rickety chair tuning his fiddle. He was wearing an old-fashioned type of suit and a straw hat.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio / Young Adult / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes