My name’s Billy. I’m a freckly, red-headed, ten-year old boy who likes dipping apple slices in ketchup and putting pickles in my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I admit, that’s sort of strange, but, hey, I like what I like. What I DON’T like is when my mom tries to dress me, which happens more often than it probably should…
Now, the story I’m about to tell you actually started with her pestering me with one set of clothes after another until I exploded! Okay, I didn’t really explode, but I said, “Nope. Not gonna happen. I’m not wearing those.” I folded my arms and turned my back towards her, which was pretty brave of me because Mom likes to throw things. But, to be honest, compared to the rest of my story, which is full of the craziest stuff you’ve ever heard, this is pretty mild. Heck, even if I had literally exploded, it still would have been mild compared to my story.
Anyways, normally, I would of had more patience with her, but this was my first day at my new school and she was, of course, way, way more excited than me. (Moms get weird about the weirdest things.)
“Oh, Billy,” she said. “Why not? This shirt is adorable.”
Apparently, it was opposite day, because that shirt was the opposite of “adorable”. It was bright green with a picture of the state of Michigan on the front. On the back, it read:
Welcome to Hello, Michigan. Where friendly hellos come with friendlier smiles!
“I don’t want to be adorable,” I said, pretending to puke. “I want to be cool.”
She pulled the t-shirt over my head anyway. “You are cool.”
“Sure I am,” I grumbled. “Until all the kids at school find out my mom dresses me…”
She smiled and pretended to pinch my nose off.
“Morning,” Dad said, coming into my bedroom holding a “Welcome to Hello, Michigan” coffee cup. She threw him my imaginary nose, and he caught it and ate it. Parents are so strange. Dad has red hair like me, but his is never combed because he’s a writer and I guess writer’s think they have a free pass from looking presentable.
“Cool shirt,” he said, taking a sip of his coffee.
I looked at myself in the mirror, first at my greener than green shirt, and then at my head. With my freckles and curly, bright-red hair, I looked like someone had set fire to a rainforest. “Ugh,” I said.
Dad smiled. “I don’t think you’re supposed to actually say, ‘ugh’, kiddo. I think it’s just a sound you make.”
I frowned at my shirt. In this case, “ugh” was short for Ugly.
After I got dressed, I ate a bowl of not-so-Yummy Oats cereal, then rushed out the front door for school. At my old school, I was a bus rider. But nope, not at my new school. I can see my new school from our front porch, so I didn’t have far to go. The strange thing is, our house isn’t even around other houses. Instead, it’s sandwiched between a donut shop and a coffee shop like someone loved breakfast so much they said, “Hey, let’s build a house here!” and pointed to where the jelly dripped from their donut and splattered onto the map.
Anyway, my parents hugged each other on our porch and watched me go. Dad shouted, “Have fun at school!” followed by Mom screaming, “And make plenty of friends!”
Embarrassed, I lowered my head, but the damage was done. Everyone in the entire universe looked right at me… Ugh.
“Hello,” the coffee shop owner said, holding up his own Hello, MI coffee cup.
I waved but looked away. Best not to make eye contact with strangers. Especially strangers who said “Hi” to other strangers! But little did I know, hellos were apparently as contagious as yawns in this town, because more and more people greeted me as I rushed to the corner.
The crossing guard held up her stop sign and blew her whistle. “Hello,” she said, as she motioned me across, followed by the hellos of a business man waiting in his car for me to pass, some other kids walking to school and some more shouting out of their school bus windows like a choir singing in unison.
A bicyclist also said hello, along with the lady at the styling salon, some hairy guy on a street bench covered up with a newspaper (who probably should have visited the lady at the styling salon), and the newspaper delivery man. He said it twice. Don’t ask me why.
The only time anyone said anything to me that wasn’t hello, was when two old dudes at a picnic table looked up from their chest board and said, “Yellow,” but I’m pretty sure that’s just what hello sounds like if you tried to say it with no teeth.
This was Weird, with a capital W.
It started raining then. I thought this was good news, thought that maybe now everyone would be too busy taking shelter to notice me. But I was wrong. People just pulled out their umbrellas and kept on saying hello to me, to each other, to themselves and even to their imaginary friends, because Heaven forbid they forget to greet anyone.
Ugh times 3! Everyone in this town was soooo annoyingly happy.
I wished we had never moved here. In fact, I wished we had moved to a town called Goodbye, Michigan instead.
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