One night, in my room early as usual, I was laying in bed, trying to sleep, trying not to sleep. My light was still on and I looked at my big red numbers on my large-print alarm clock, doing math problems with the numbers as always. It was 8:17. One and seven made eight. 8:24. Twenty-four divided by eight was three. Two times four made eight. Suddenly I remembered something. It came to me out of nothing. A long time ago, maybe when we first moved in to our house four years ago, Dad had said something about a crawl space or something in our basement. It might be almost like a secret passage.
At every indiscretion—a not perfect grade on a test, talking in class when I wasn’t supposed to, not coming in from the playground in a timely manner after recess, not doing my homework completely or on time (a bad habit I’d quickly slid back into), reading during lunch instead of socializing with kids who made fun of me—Mrs. Domaracki called my mom. Even if it was just one thing in a day, it always counted for two warnings.
Night after night, several nights a week, I was sent to bed at seven. I lay in bed, watching the sky still light out outside my windows. Sometimes I’d stare at the tree out my east-facing window by my bed. Or stand at the south-facing window across the room with no big trees outside it but way more sky. I listened to the fire siren as its moan ebbed and flowed. In my head, I talked to my Care Bears on the white shelves near the south-facing window, telling them why it, whatever it was that day, wasn’t my fault. Sometimes they believed me. Sometimes they sided with Mom and Mrs. Domaracki.