“I’m going to count to three!” Mom growls through
gritted teeth. I see her fingers curl into her palms, making fists. “One—”
I grab a toothpick-stabbed mini-bite, dip it in the mustard, and shove the whole thing in my mouth. I
savor the juicy explosion of flavor. But it’s gone too soon.
a hostile disagreement face-to-face
My mom doesn’t shy away from much.
frown with displeasure
“What are food stamps?” I ask.
“Don’t worry about it,” Mom repeats, but this time, she
scowls at me.
a sharp hooked claw especially on a bird of prey
She unwrinkles eight one-dollar bills, then counts out 97 cents, mostly in pennies. Her hands tense up, her fingers looking like
talons. She says, “I’m a little short.”
try to manage without help
Mom smiles this cruel smile, saying, “Did you know, a hundred years ago, parents just kicked their kids out on the street? They had to
fend for themselves. Like ‘Hansel and Gretel.’ Too bad it’s not still like that.”
someone who is clumsy
Before I sit in the seat he saved for me, he asks, “What’d you do to your face this time,
incited, especially deliberately, to anger
Students behind me are getting
aggravated. “What’s the holdup?” “Come on, man.” “I’m hungry.”
a substance used to kill microorganisms and cure infections
“Growing up, two of my sisters died because they got sick.
Antibiotics could have saved their lives. But my parents did not have money for the medicine. Do you think that was fair? No. My life has not been easy. But we made it work. And you will make this work too.”
an animal or plant that lives in or on a host
“Butt pain?” Abuela laughs. “When I was a little girl, my sister had
Parasites are very common in Mexico. They are giant tapeworms that grow inside your intestines to eat your food and steal your nutrients...."
sneers. “You’re not getting both. It’s a waste of money. You can get the notebooks with the hole punched paper. Then you can pull it out if you need it.”
worn away or tattered along the edges
I argue, “But it’ll have the
frayed edges. I can’t turn in my homework like that—”
the trait of firmly controlling your own behavior
It takes all my
willpower to not point out Abuela sent forty.
look with amazement
She wheels past the
gawking and horrified mothers, her head held high and proud, saying, “What are you looking at?”
inferior in size or quality
Birmingham Middle has sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. So everyone’s bigger than me. I’ve always been kinda short and
scrawny for my age.
a formal written statement of relinquishment
I wait until Mom stops grilling Sam about finding work. Then I pull the football
waiver from my pocket and slide it into the center of the table. “I want to join the football team.”
a noisy fight in a crowd
Even behind the thin, plastic door, we can still hear it, feel it. Hear the
brawl, the screams turning into thuds and gasps for air.
complex system of paths in which it is easy to get lost
But I have cardboard boxes from our last move. I have thumbtacks to pin my sheets to the walls, creating new walls, and alleys and roofs, so we’re hidden away in a
not representing or imitating external reality
A huge crater now lives in the wall, like an
deserving or inciting pity
She glares at me the way Derek glares at me. Like I’m filth. Dirty and disgusting. Like I’m wrong, and