Underpants on My Head, page 1
Table of Contents
G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
A division of Penguin Young Readers Group.
Published by The Penguin Group.
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80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England.
Text copyright © 2009 by Jessica Harper.
Illustrations copyright © 2009 by Jon Berkeley.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Harper, Jessica. Underpants on my head / Jessica Harper ; illustrated by Jon Berkeley.
p. cm. “Uh-oh, Cleo.” Summary: When Cleo and her family go on vacation, they
experience a freak August snowstorm while hiking on Mt. Baldy. [1. Hiking—Fiction.
2. Vacations—Fiction. 3. Family life—Fiction.] I. Berkeley, Jon, ill. II. Title.
eISBN : 978-1-101-01493-6
With gratitude for memories and Emerys.
Two things you hardly ever see are snow in summer and underpants on my head. But if you’d been on Mount Baldy last August 19th, you’d have seen both at once!
I kind of hope that was your last chance.
It all started when we flew out west for our family vacation. Here’s what we brought: three car seats, eight suitcases, five backpacks and Mom’s Super Bag. (Plus two parents and six kids.)
When we squeezed past the flight attendant to get to our eight seats, she counted us and her eyebrows popped up. If she knew our last name, she’d have laughed her head off, like everyone does: “Bah, hah! The Small family! You gotta be kiddin’ me!”
Quinn hated it when Mom buckled him in next to her. “Yah! Yah! Yah! Yah!” he shouted.
I was going to sit behind Quinn, but Jenna barged past me and plopped her Harry Potter down on the seat I wanted.
“I get the window!” she said, all loud, like she was barking.
“Mom said I could, since I get carsick.” I tried not to sound a hundred percent crabby.
“This isn’t a car.” Jenna fastened her seat belt.
“I mean motion sick, Jenna. You know what I mean,” was what I said. Miss Boss of the World, was what I thought. Already that day she: 1) made ME feed Lucy, our dog, which is HER job, but SHE was “too busy.” And 2) she jammed a bunch of HER stuff in MY suitcase, so now it was a big bursting mess. Plus, 3) she made me put HER snacks and water in MY backpack, so she’d have room in hers for HER precious Harry Potter.
“Just chew gum,” Jenna said. She settled in and got busy reading.
“Cleo, take the other window,” Dad said, but Jack already had that seat behind Jenna. “Let’s go, Jack, scoot over.” Dad was carrying Lily and Ray (who’s Quinn’s twin) and his backpack and he was almost as crabby as me.
“Awwwwww.” Jack took about a year and half to move to the aisle seat.
When I squished past him to sit down, he handed me a throw-up bag. “Here you go, Barf Girl.”
Dad plunked Lily down next to Jenna and sat with Ray behind me and Jack. Ray was chewing on a tractor. He flipped a switch that made the tractor play “The Farmer in the Dell.” He switched it off, he switched it on, over and over while he chewed.
“Yah! Yah! Yah! Yah!” Quinn wouldn’t stop. Mom pulled his purple spider toy from the Super Bag, but Quinn just threw it all wild, like babies do. It flew over Mom and hit the old guy across the aisle, smack, right on his bald head. He made a loud noise that sounded like “GOPHER!”
“Whoa, jeez, sorry about that, terribly sorry.” Dad tried to apologize, but the bald guy just flapped open his newspaper and stuck his face in it.
Jenna was so busy reading, she missed the whole thing. She was gone, in wizard land. She didn’t even hear Lily next to her playing Bears-and-Barbie. Lily’s blond Barbie was whining at the pocket-size Bear Family:
“What will I do without my magic shoe-laces?!”
“Oh, Mrs. Kleenex, we will save you from the bad dragon!” Papa Bear said in Lily’s low Papa voice.
Jenna kept reading, right through all the whining and growling. I think she could read Harry Potter even if her pants were on fire.
I like to read too, but I’m not interested in all those wizard books. I’d rather read books about regular kids who lose their pet or there’s a bully in their class or something. You know, normal stuff.
But who could read on this airplane, anyway? (Besides Jenna.) There was Jack’s Game Boy chirping away like a little robot, and “The Farmer in the Dell,” and Mrs. Kleenex shrieking and Quinn’s yah-yahs. I mean, who could concentrate?
The bald guy kept rattling his newspaper and looking at us sideways.
When the seat belt sign got turned off, Mom put Quinn in the aisle. He shot up and down, holding his spider up like an airplane: “BrruuUMMMM !”
Ray joined in with his tractor: “Brummm, rrrRRUUUUMMMMM ...”
A lot of passengers reached for their headphones.
When Quinn passed us, Jack grabbed his Spiderplane and held it high. Quinn screamed SO loud, like a lady seeing a mouse. “EEEEEEEEE!”
“Spider-Man, my Spider-Man, Spidaspidaspidaspida Spider-Man . . .” Jack sang.
“ EEEEEEEEE! ”
Even Jenna looked up. “Quinn, jeesh, STOP!”
“ EEEEEEEEE! ”
The bald guy slammed his newspaper shut and went to the bathroom.
“Oh, Jack, for heaven’s sake!” Mom was on her feet. She took Jack by the arm and put him with Dad and gave Ray to me. Then she took Quinn in her lap and stuck a lollipop in his mouth. He went quiet like Ray’s tractor does when you switch it off.
Ray was pretty squirmy after all the excitement, but I gave him my charm bracelet and he calmed down. In the middle of s
“Oh, Mrs. Kleenex, the bad dragon has gone away to a tea party in the ocean!”
I watched the movie for a while. It was about a family with TWELVE children. That’s TWO TIMES as many as we have. Wow. Imagine being on an airplane with them.
I smooshed my face to the window and looked down. I saw snowy mountains, which meant we were almost there. Gram was probably parking her old gray car right now. I was hoping she’d bring brownies for us, like she did last summer, because I was starving and all I had was a tangerine and a cheese stick.
The mountains got closer.
“One, one thousand, two, one thousand . . .” I counted the seconds until we finally bumped down in Denver. I got up to 1,042.
Gram looks EXACTLY like Mom but older. I was the first one to spot her in the crowd at the airport. I recognized her hair first. It’s poofy and gray, like smoke almost. Then I saw that bright red lipstick she always wears. I rushed over and put my arms around her middle. “Gram!”
Up close I could see her dress was covered with little Chinese lanterns.
She kissed me on the cheek. Then she noticed she’d left lipstick marks there. “Oopsy!” She spat in a Kleenex and wiped the spot. I put my hand on my cheek and smiled. Then Jenna and Jack and Ray and everybody came crashing into Gram.
“Okay, everybody gets a big red kiss!” Gram left a trail of lipstick on everybody’s cheeks.
“All right, Jenna, you and Cleo take Lily and go with Gram,” Dad said when he got the keys to the car. He rented one because there were too many of us to fit in Gram’s. The rental was bright blue. I mean, so blue it was funny. It was even funnier when it was packed with three boys and two parents and diapers and bags and all.
“Ha!” Gram laughed. “It looks like the clown car in the circus! ”
That’s when a small, goofy car comes out stuffed with so many clowns that it seems impossible. They’re all sticking out of the windows and yelling at each other and the crowd goes nuts laughing.
Gram’s car wasn’t so funny. It was just, you know, gray.
The minute me and Jenna were squished in the back next to Lily’s car seat, Jenna snapped open her book.
“What’s that you’re reading, Jen?” Gram asked.
“Harry Potter.” Jenna floated right off to wizard land again.
“It’s a wizard book,” I explained.
“Yes, so I’ve heard,” Gram said. “Have you read it?”
“Nah, I don’t like wizard books. Do you?”
“I do, but then I’m a bit of a wizard myself.” Gram waved her arms like she was casting a spell. “Watch this: Zing, zang, alacazam!”
I laughed. She looked more like a music conductor than a wizard.
“Presto!” Gram opened the glove compartment: brownies!
“Yes!” I took one and passed the plastic bag to Lily and Jenna. Lily ate her brownie crumb by crumb, singing a song:
“The little red bird eats the little raisins, then she eats a little worm . . .”
Gram smiled and pulled the old car out onto the busy road.
Gram’s house is small and brick and has a special smell, like lamb chops and old furniture. Her kitchen is jammed with food when we come, good things like cinnamon buns and potato chips. She has piles of clean white sheets and we sleep all over the house.
Of course, Jenna took the best bed. It’s the one in the guest room, with a pink quilt. I got the trundle under it with the brown, plaid blanket. Plus: 1) JENNA got to put cookies in the oven and pass them out at bedtime. And 2) JENNA got to call the neighbors back home to see how Lucy was. And 3) JENNA got to be in charge of the alarm clock.
“Ahhh, this bed is SO cozy,” she said when we finally went to bed. She fluffed around in her quilt and poofed her pillows. Then she pulled out that stupid book again.
“Jen, Dad said lights out.” My blanket was itchy and my pillow was rubbery and I just wanted to go to sleep.
“One more chapter,” Jenna said. Chapters in Harry Potter are about a mile long. But I didn’t fight about it since fights with Jenna are big and loud and I was just too tired. I pulled the covers over my head.
Sometimes I wish I was a wizard like Harry. I’d make Jenna disappear. Whoosh, good-bye, Miss Boss of the World.
The next day, Mom and Dad packed up the Big Three (me and Jack and Jenna) all over again to go to the mountains for a couple of days. The Little Three were staying with Gram.
“Are you sure you’re okay with these monkeys?” Mom asked her.
Quinn was eating Gram’s necklace while Ray vroomed around her feet with a toy car.
“Gram dance! Gram dance!” Lily kept begging.
“Piece of cake,” Gram said, but she wasn’t exactly smiling.
I sat between Jack and Jenna in the car so they wouldn’t fight. Jenna read H.P. the whole time. I can’t read in a car (barf!), so I closed my eyes and pretended the Clown Car was alive.
“Uunnnhhhh . . .” He had to drag us all the way up the mountain to Uncle Chuck’s cabin.
“I know you can make it,” I said. (In my mind, of course, not out loud.)
“Awwwww . . . oooph.” The Clown Car was a real complainer.
About every ten minutes, Jack shouted, “Are we there yet?” just to annoy Jenna.
She was in wizard land, but after about the eighth “ARE WE THERE YET?” she lost it.
“WILL YOU JUST SHUT UP!?”
“Jack, please,” Mom said.
“Are we there yet?” He said it in a tiny girl voice.
Jenna blew. “Shut up!”
That was when Dad slammed on the brakes.
“Okay, knock. It. Off.” He said it, or yelled it I guess, in that way he has, which pretty much stops all fights fast.
The Clown Car was SO happy to rest for a minute. “YES!” he cried.
But a minute later Dad stepped on the gas.
“Noooooooooo,” the Clown Car moaned.
When we finally got to the cabin, the Clown Car was panting like our old dog, Lucy. I gave him a pat. “Good job,” I said.
“Aaaahhhhh.” He went right to sleep.
The cabin was just one big room. It had two triple bunk beds, a stove and a fridge. And one mouse, who left really fast.
We had hot dogs and chips and apples and carrots for supper and Dad told us about Mount Baldy.
“We’ll need an early start tomorrow. It’s fourteen thousand feet high: a big hike. It’s like climbing nine Empire State Buildings. Hah! ”
I could just see nine buildings on top of each other, all teetering, with us climbing up the sides.
That night I looked out the little window by my bunk and saw about a billion stars. It was like someone threw glitter up at the black sky and it stuck. I tried to count the stars just in one corner of the window, but I fell asleep.
I dreamed I was in a cabin with twelve children and a giant purple spider.
Dad woke us up like they do in the army. He blew an invisible trumpet:
“Doo, doo, DOODOOdoo, doo DOO DOODOOdoo,
Doo, DOO, DOODOOdoo, doo, DOOOO, doo.”
He was already dressed. He stretched his arms high. “Uuuuuup!” and then he swung down and touched his toes. “Dooowwwwnn!” Mom joined in while me and Jack and Jenna got some Cheerios. I ate slowly, watching the little circles, all lazy in the milk. They were on vacation, happy as can be. No hiking for them today.
I don’t really like hiking all that much. The thing is, Dad forgets that his legs are twice as long as mine. To keep up, I have to move them twice as fast as he moves his. He’ll go STEP STEP and I’ll have to go stepstepstepstep. So my legs ache like mad.
“OH-kay, let’s saddle the horses! Yep!” Dad sure was peppy.
That was just an expression about the horses. I wished we actual
The Clown Car took us to the foot of Mount Baldy and I could tell he was happy to stay behind as we headed up the steep path.
STEP STEP. Stepstepstepstep. I was sweating and panting in about three minutes.
Mom sang her hiking song to keep me going:“I think mountain hiking is not to my liking,
It’s not just like climbing up stairs.
It takes a lot longer,
your legs must be stronger,
And mountains are loaded with bears!”
After about an hour (which seemed like a million years), we stopped for a break.
We were in a meadow that was full of blue flowers and butterflies rushing around. Dad gave each of us a hunk of chocolate from this big, melty bar he carried.
“Don’t eat too fast or you’ll barf.” Jenna licked her chocolate carefully.
“Blaaaaahhhhh!” Jack fake-barfed just to be annoying.
Mom sang her chocolate song:“Spinach may be full of vitamin E,
But of all vegetables, be suspicious.
For lettuce will lure you,
And carrots will cure you,
But chocolate is much more delicious!”
There was a stream that cut the meadow in half.
“Hey, let’s go stream swimming!” I said to Jack.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!” Jack started to get undressed. See, we usually go stream swimming in our underpants, and carry extras to change into after. Of course, if anyone else had been around, like Pete Landon (yikes!) or Flip Bimstein (ick!), I’d never go swimming in my UNDERPANTS . But it was just us, so who cares.
But right when we got our toes wet, a bunch of clouds showed up, moving fast. ZIP, they covered the sun. We put our pants back on and pulled out our jackets.