The Snickerdudels

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Gray: Third Grade

Third grade started, and I liked my teacher, but Tor was in a different class. Luckily, Rocco and Akita were in my class, so I wasn’t as lonely. On the first day of school I told some jokes I had learned, and other kids started talking to me and wanting to play with me at recess. It made me so happy that I always liked to tell jokes. I even made some up, and even though my friends said they didn’t make a lot of sense, they still laughed and it made me feel good.

I had more fun being funny and having friends than doing my work, which I was mostly bad at anyway. My teacher got mad at me a lot, but I also made him laugh a lot, so I guess he liked me.

Even though I had friends and I was pretty happy at school, home made me sad. I ran past Grandpa’s grave every morning before school. In the evenings, Grandma liked to sit in a chair in front of Grandpa’s grave and read to him from the newspaper. It always made me want to cry, and I wished Grandma would stop doing it.

One weekend, when my parents were at a birthday party with my little sisters, I heard crying when I came up the basement stairs. I thought it would be Grandma, but it was coming from Uncle Jeremy’s room. I knocked.

“Come in,” he sniffed.

I opened the door and walked over to Uncle Jeremy, who was sitting on his bed looking at photo book.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Uncle Jeremy laughed a little. “I’ll be okay.”

“What are you looking at?”

He sighed and patted the bed next to him. I went over and sat down.

“You’re too young to remember, but I had a wife and a daughter.”

“I knew about your wife. She died?”

He nodded.

“Is your daughter my cousin?”

He nodded again.

“How come I’ve never met her?” He sobbed, and I put my hand on his back. “Her name is Tia,” he said, pointing at a picture of a little baby.

“Did she die too?” I asked.

Uncle Jeremy shrugged. “I don’t know. That’s the kicker, isn’t it?”

“Why don’t you know?” I asked.

He wiped his nose. “When Tia was born, my wife had some problems that led to her not being a good parent.”

“Like what?” I asked.

Uncle Jeremy shook his head. “I don’t think your parents would want me to tell you. But these problems made her steal Tia and run away with her. I had to call the police, and I couldn’t stop crying. They found my wife and Tia, but because they knew that my wife wasn’t fit to be a mother, a lot of problems came up, and Tia got taken away from us.”

“Taken away?” I asked. I didn’t know the cops could take babies.

“Have you ever met anyone that was adopted?”

I shook my head.

“It means that a kid is being raised by people who aren’t actually their parents.”

“Why?”

“Because their real parents couldn’t be parents.” He started crying more, and I patted his back. “Tia was put in foster care, but I wouldn’t let her be put up for adoption. I thought it was a good idea, but then she disappeared.”

I didn’t know what foster care was, but Uncle Jeremy kept talking.

“She was in a good home with lots of kids, and then she was gone. And no one can tell me where she is. Not for years.”

“Sorry,” I said, hoping it was the right thing to say.

“Now I don’t have a wife or a daughter. I’m all alone.”

I gave Uncle Jeremy a big hug, because I knew how alone felt. “You have us. We won’t go away.”

“It doesn’t help that Dad died,” he said, rubbing his eyes.

Then I felt like crying too.

When we stopped, Uncle Jeremy showed me all of the pictures in his photo album.

“I hope I get to meet Tia someday,” I said.

“I hope I get to see her again,” he said. Then he turned to me. “Gray, it’s important that you don’t tell your parents that you know.”

“Why?” I asked.

“They… wanted it to be a secret from you kids.”

“Okay,” I said. “Is it because it’s a sad story?”

Uncle Jeremy shrugged. “Maybe. You promise you won’t mention it?”

“I promise,” I said.

I held it in for as long as I could, but I had to tell someone about my cousin. I had never had a real cousin before, just ones with names like “second cousin” and “first cousin once removed.”

At school, I always sat with Tor, Rocco, and Akita at lunch. We usually talked about a lot of things, so I told them about my cousin.

“I have lots of cousins,” Akita said. “I would be sad if I didn’t.”

Rocco shrugged. “My cousins are all older than me, so it’s no fun.”

“I met Tor’s cousins, and they’re really nice. I just wish I had one.” I said.

“Maybe we can find your cousin,” Tor said.

“How?” Rocco asked. “We don’t have a car.”

Tor shrugged.

We argued about ways to find my cousin until lunch was over, and I had no hope. I couldn’t find my cousin without a lot of things that I would probably never have.

In the spring, when it got warm outside again, Tor, Rocco, and Akita all came over to my house one weekend so that we could camp in my backyard. Tor brought his four-person tent so we could all sleep together.

Tor and I had a plan to walk out on the trail and camp in the circles, but Rocco and Akita wanted to be next to the house so they could go inside and go to the bathroom if they wanted. After a lot of arguing, Tor and I agreed to camp closer to the house.

We all brought water bottles, snacks, Pokémon cards, and flashlights. We played Pokémon until we were tired of it, then we took turns telling scary stories. Tor and I weren’t very good at it, but Akita and Rocco told some based off stories in one of their scary books, and we all screamed and then laughed. None of us knew what time it was until Dad came out to us with his own flashlight and told us that our screaming was waking up my little sisters and we needed to go to bed. When he was back inside, I said, “My sisters ruin everything,” and then we all cracked up laughing.

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