Authors: Dandi Daley Mackall
For Lawson Pento—Happy Birthday!
My name is Natalie 24, and I’ve got a secret surprise.
That secret surprise is about my name.
’Cause in case you didn’t notice, my name is also a number. Twenty-four. My very favoritest number in the whole wide world.
My bestest friends and parents can call me “Nat 24,” since that is my nickname, which is also my nick-number.
But that’s not the secret surprise.
My mom and dad get very aggravated at me when I spill out their secrets and surprises.
is what other moms and dads call “mad.”
So I will just give you another
On account of a hint is not really telling the secret or spoiling the surprise.
Here is another
Take my favorite number, 24, and pull those numbers apart, and you get a 2 and a 4. And that 2 can stand for Month Number Two, which goes by the name of February. And 4 can stand for Day Number Four. So that makes February 4. Get it?
February 4 is coming tomorrow. That’s what.
And that’s a huge
for you about the secret surprise.
Plus also, here are some more
in case you’re having a bad day or maybe not paying good attention:
I am getting a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.
That chocolate cake will have a picture of a white cat named Percy on top of it.
There will be candles on there too. Six candles.
There will be presents! For
I am five and a half years old today. But tomorrow, on February 4, I won’t be that anymore
or ever again, which is a tiny bit sad, only not so much. Tomorrow, I will be six! Like Peter and Chase and some other kids in my kindergarten.
I love secret surprises and especially this one.
A secret is something you know and other people don’t.
A surprise is something coming that you don’t know about or don’t know when it’s coming.
So if you think about it, maybe this isn’t a secret since I know it already and so do a bunch of people.
Plus also, maybe this is not a surprise. We know when it is coming. Tomorrow. February 4.
So maybe telling this isn’t like spilling out a secret surprise that will make your mom and dad aggravated at you.
’Sides, I can’t stand keeping this secret any longer. This secret feels like a balloon inside of my head getting bigger and bigger until it pops out of my mouth.
Here is the secret surprise that may not be a secret surprise after all:
I am going to have a birthday!
Plus also, a big fat birthday party. That’s what.
Only it’s kind of a secret surprise. So don’t tell anybody.
I walk up the school sidewalk with my bestest friend who is a girl, Laurie. This is a happy thing and kind of a surprise on account of I didn’t know when Laurie would get here. Her mom drives her, and my mom drives me. And my mom drives much faster than Laurie’s mom. So I am usually here first and have to wait for Laurie.
“I got your birthday party invitation!” Laurie shouts to me, even though I am right here by her.
“You did?” I ask. Only I know she did. My bestest friend, Laurie, is a truther and not a liar.
Plus also, I know she’s coming to my birthday party. We have talked very much about this party.
My party is going to happen on Saturday instead of on my real birthday that’s on Friday, which is tomorrow. And that can get mixed up in your head if you let it.
your invitation!” Laurie says.
“I picked them out myself,” I tell her. This is a true thing. I picked an invitation with a cake ’cause I will have one of those cakes at my party.
Laurie and I hold hands and skip up the sidewalk.
“Don’t step on that crack,” Laurie warns. “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.”
I jump over that crack. I love my mother’s back.
Laurie and I are both wearing purple gloves. We love that purpley color. We are holding our lunch boxes in our outside hands and holding each other’s hands with our inside hands.
We get to the front school step, when somebody whizzes right in between us. That somebody crashes into our arms and breaks our hand-holding. That someone is Sasha.
“Ouch!” Laurie cries. She drops her lunch box and has to pick it up.
“Sasha!” I yell. “That wasn’t nice.”
Sasha doesn’t slow down or turn around or say sorry. She runs right into our classroom. This is how she gets her nickname, “Sasha-the-Not-So-Nice.” She is best friends with “Peter-the-Not-So-Great.”
Laurie and I tippytoe up the hall together, even though we don’t have to. I stop us before we go in. “Laurie,” I say, “do you think there are too many days in this week?”
“I think there’s the regular amount of days, Nat,” Laurie answers. “This is Thursday, and tomorrow is Friday, our last school day this week.”
I know this week is taking longer than any other kindergarten week. It has been going to be my birthday forever. “Do you think there are more hours in the kindergarten days this week?” I ask Laurie.
Laurie folds in her lips and scrunches up her nose, ’cause that’s how she does thinking. “You know, I think you’re right, Nat. Yesterday’s kindergarten went on and on and on.”
I smile at Laurie ’cause I know she just agreed with me because she’s my best friend. And that’s a nice thing.
Farah runs up to us when we’re hanging up our coats and putting our lunch boxes and packs in our cubbies. She has gorgeous hair that she can sit on. “I got your invitation,” she whispers.
She glances at Sasha, who is hanging up a beautiful purple coat in her cubby. I have never seen this coat before. I have trouble stopping staring. I would very much love a purple coat exactly like that. Only different.
“You don’t have to whisper,” I tell Farah. “My mom made me invite everybody in the whole class—even Peter and even Sasha—so nobody would feel bad.”
Farah grins. “You have a nice mother, Natalie.”
“Thank you, Farah,” I say. “So do you.” I haven’t met her mother, but she must be nice like Farah. I’m thinking Farah should call me Nat, like Laurie does. But before I can tell her so, Bethany
dashes over to us, grabs Farah’s elbow, and runs off.
I whisper to Laurie, “My mom is bringing cupcakes tomorrow for a classroom party.”
“Cool!” Laurie says. “What kind of cupcakes?”
“We still have to make them, but they will be very chocolate,” I tell her. “Granny and I are cooking the cupcakes tonight, and she loves chocolate. As soon as school’s over, Mommy and I are going to the grocery store to get the ’gredients that go into cupcakes. Like chocolate. And icing. And maybe sprinkles.”
“I love the grocery store,” Laurie says. “Unless Mom has a list or she brings Brianna with us.”
Brianna is one of Laurie’s older sisters. And she is the bossy, gripey one.
“Let’s go see Ham,” Laurie says. She pulls me with her to the cage of our classroom pet.
Inside that cage is our hamster, who goes by the name of Ham the Hamster.
I stare in at Ham’s big eyes and funny nose. But I don’t put my face too close to the cage. This is one of the gazillion rules we have in this kindergarten place.
“Did you tell Ham a joke yet?” asks Jason. Jason is my bestest friend who is a boy. And that’s not the same thing as a boyfriend. He’s been chasing kids around the room, but he stops at Ham’s cage and
waits for me to answer his question.
I started telling Ham jokes the second day of kindergarten. Now I do it every kindergarten morning. I am a very good joke-teller. This is ’cause I have practice telling my cat, Percy, cat jokes. And sometimes dog jokes.
“Okay. How come the hamster crossed the road?” I ask Ham. I have a gazillion of these crossing-the-road jokes.
Ham doesn’t answer. He never answers. And
that is a good thing. It gives me time to think of the joke answer.
I am thinking of a very funny answer to this joke. Like,
Why did the hamster cross the road? Because Sasha was on this side.
Only I won’t say this answer on account of Jesus wouldn’t, not even if it was a very funny answer and people laughed, and Jesus loved people laughing. He wouldn’t say mean things, even just to make people laugh. I have a bracelet with letters that proves it and reminds me to do what Jesus would do. Even though I don’t have this bracelet on today because it’s not purple, I remember anyway.
“So what’s the end of the joke?” Peter-the-Not-So-Great demands.
Instead of using the Sasha answer, I answer, “Because its bestest friend, who goes by the name of Laurie Hamster, is on the other side already. That’s what.”
Laurie laughs her head off.
Jason makes car engine noises. Then he takes off running. “I’m crossing the road!” he screams.
Sasha makes a frowny face and says, “I don’t get it.”
Peter makes a frowny face and says, “That’s not funny.”
This turns Laurie and me into giggle boxes.
I am having a very fun time. And it’s not even my birthday.