Actually, Brandon needed a lot of miracles.
For one thing, he had a boring family. Brandon knew life was going to be an uphill battle for him; great and famous people never come from boring families. And only a major miracle could make Brandon’s even marginally interesting—to turn his father into a racing car driver, for example, or a basketball star, or even just a rich guy.
Brandon would have settled for even a minor miracle, just enough to make his folks a little better at choosing birthday presents, a little more interested in taking Brandon on wild, exotic trips that would involve neither sisters nor school.
And this did not even begin to address the stresses and strains of living with an attention-sucking sister like Glory.
But these were just the basic problems. Every day brought with it a new set of troubles, a whole new raft of deficiencies. For instance, this week, right out of the blue, Mr. Sumoski had announced the Giant English Test. You would think a smart teacher like Mr. Sumoski would have better things to do with his life than thinking up hard tests. What do tests tell you anyway? Can they tell which kids are really prepared to live life to the fullest? Do hard tests have anything to do with health, wealth and the pursuit of happiness?
Sometimes, Mr. Sumoski acted like school was just a big game to him, and he was making up the rules as he went along. The day he’d told the class about the Giant Test, he’d rubbed his hands together with glee and laughed his patented villainous laugh. “All I can tell you,” he’d warned, “is that you better study for this one—unless you want to spend the entire class party in that corner of the room—” he pointed to the most boring part of the room, the back corner next to the cabinets where he kept the readers and the maps—“doing worksheets instead of gorging on pizza.”
The last thing Brandon wanted to do was end up sitting in the dummy corner while Jason Mason and his friends scarfed up all the pizza. He could just see it now, the way they’d hold the pizza high in the air over their faces, opening their mouths to catch the dripping cheese. Then they’d probably chew a little bit and open their mouths at each other, just to gross everybody out. They were so cool.
Those were the guys who always had the private jokes. And they always picked each other first for teams. What’s more, every one of them wore these incredibly desirable braided leather wrist bands so everybody could see they were tight with each other—like they were a club or a fraternity or a stupid boy-band or something.
Every kid in school, including Brandon, would have given his teeth to wear one of those wrist bands.
It wasn’t like Brandon didn’t have friends of his own. Brandon had plenty of friends. He had Shilo, for one. And Seth. And Murphy. But those guys were too much like Brandon, just normal, regular guys—no flash. No style. Jason Mason and his friends had this cachet of cool nobody else could figure out. They also had really, really good skates.
Worst of all, they were good at sports.
And that was, as Brandon aptly observed, where he needed the biggest miracle of all: it wasn’t enough that Mr. Sumoski was giving the Giant Test—of course, he had to schedule the Fake Tournament the same day.
This tournament was going to be a nightmare; Mr. Sumoski intended to hold a whole-school assembly in the gym, the sole purpose of which was to introduce the new and powerful wrestling team. “And heeeeeeere they aaaaaare,” Mr. Sumoski was going to say into the microphone, one hand way up in the air, “SUMO’S WRESTLERS!!” At that point, the team was supposed to run in through the cafetorium door, one at a time, yelling and prancing around and showing off. When he first heard about it, way back in the beginning, Brandon loved the idea. He saw himself flexing and posing and shoving around the smaller guys on the team while all the little kids looked on in admiration.
But of course, there had to be a catch: every guy on the team was going to have to wear his uniform for this. Those green skin uniforms, in front of every girl in the school.
Even that wasn’t the worst part. There was a reason they were calling it a Fake Tournament. Mr. Sumoski intended to pair up all the guys on the team and have them wrestle each other, right in front of everybody. He explained that it would be very educational for all the little kids to understand the rules of real wrestling. And Brandon could understand that, he really could: too many stupid kids who watch fake TV wrestling get hurt, hitting each other with chairs and body slamming. Mr. Sumoski wanted to expose that mess, once and for all.
“Besides,” Mr. Sumoski said, “it will be good practice for the team to do some wrestling in front of people when it doesn’t really count.” As if the fact that all the girls would be watching didn’t count. As if losing to some guy you had to see every day on the play ground didn’t count.
One thing Brandon knew for sure was that he was NOT ready to wrestle in front of anybody, let alone in front of everybody. And if he really had to do it, he was hoping to be paired up with Calvin Scrupper or Kenny Calupa, both of them green carrots with very deflated chests. But he had a terrible, sinking feeling that’s not the way things would turn out.
Fortunately, Mr. Sumoski hadn’t sent notes home about this. And if he had, Brandon would have eaten the note before he’d have let his parents see it. Because Brandon had the kind of mother who always supported her son, like it or not. And the last thing Brandon needed was to make a fool of himself in that uniform with his mother watching.