March is windy in Santa Martina. And my theory is, it does something wicked to the air. Maybe it whooshes up devil dust and pixie pollen, I don't know. What I do know is, if you're a quiet, in-your-seat-when-you're-supposed-to-be kind of person in February, by the middle of March you'll be antsy. Hyper. Like all you want is to get outside and tear it up in nature's big gust bowl.
Which I guess is why I wasn't completely flattened when Marissa charged me out of nowhere between classes, practically swung around my neck, and cried, "Guess what!"
It's the kind of thing you learn to expect in the middle of March.
So I just hitched my backpack back on my shoulder and said, "What?"
"Danny wants to meet me at the Faire!" she says, whirling around with her arms spread wide.
"The Renaissance Faire?" I ask her, because Ms. Pilson's been talking it up all week in English class, saying it'll "tune our tympanic membranes" for some play her Drama Club is putting on next week.
Hop-hop, hippity-hop Marissa goes, like a manic March hare. "Yeah! Can you believe it? Can you even believe it?"
Well, no, I couldn't. Danny's one of those cool dudes, you know? The kind who walks cool and talks cool and even puts his jacket on cool. And since Marissa's a sucker for guys who put their jackets on cool, well, she's been sizzling for Danny Urbanski since elementary school. But since he's an eighth grader and we're only in seventh, I just figured it would never happen. Even if he did like Marissa. It would be too, you know, uncool to go out with a seventh grader.
I guess my eyebrows were stretched up pretty good, because Marissa giggles like you wouldn't believe, then runs off, saying, "Maybe Casey will ask you!"
I yell after her, "Shut up! He's Psycho-Heather's brother, remember?"
She just laughs over her shoulder and waves, and that's when I realize I'd yelled really loud. I mean, kids all around are looking at me, and I can tell--like lightning to a rod, this is going to find its way back to Heather.
I hurried off to class thinking, when, when am I ever going to learn to watch what I say? Especially at school, where gossip is king, and Heather Acosta is queen.
At least that's what she's angling for. Right now she's more like the evil step-princess or something, wearing her crown jewels all up and down her earlobes. But there's no doubt about it--that girl wants to reign supreme.
Anyhow, I blasted over to art class, and the minute I blew through the door, I could tell that our teacher Miss Kuzkowski had been outside, mixing it up with nature.
Now, Miss Kuzkowski is not real tidy looking to begin with. I think her hands are permanently stained with paint--especially her cuticles and under her nails. And even though she wears a smock and a beret when she's showing off, mixing up colors on her fancy wooden palette, she still manages to get paint in her hair and on her clothes, too.
But today she looked even messier than usual. Her hair was ratted around everywhere and falling over one eye--it was wild! She was all out of breath, too, rosy-cheeked and smiling. "Hi, guys!" she says when the tardy bell rings. "Glorious day, isn't it?"
Everyone peels off their backpacks and sort of eyes each other.
She notices some green paint on the heel of her hand and starts rubbing it away as she says, "Guys, I've been thinking . . ."
Half the class groans, because we know that when Miss Kuzkowski thinks, the rest of us suffer.
"Hang on! You're going to like what I have to say." She gives up on the paint and straightens her posture. Her hair, though, is still totally shock-waved. "I do think our section on art history was a good idea, only I've decided you're bored by it because you're not experiencing it. You don't feel it, ergo, you don't get it."
No one argued with that. For days she'd been putting us to sleep with endless names of painters and their different styles. You know--Gothic and Renaissance and neoclassicism and impressionism and post-impressionism and who-knows-what-else-ism. It was worse than regular history with Mr. Holgartner, and that's saying something.
It was also the opposite of what I'd wanted when I'd signed up for art. I was looking for a class where I could do something, not just sit like a brick, taking notes.
Anyway, Miss Kuzkowski's up front, pacing away, saying, "So I've decided . . . I've got to give you an assignment that will make you experience art. Feel art." She whips the hair out of her eyes, then clamps on to her podium with both hands and says, "Talking about art is like talking about the weather. What makes it come alive is actually experiencing it."
Tony Rozwell interrupts her with, "Does that mean we're finally gonna get a new project?"
"Yes," she says, shooting a finger up in the air. "But first I want you to walk with art, be with art, listen to your heart and spend time feeling art."
"Are you talking like at a gallery or something?" Emma Links next to me asks.
"Yes! Now, I know Santa Martina doesn't exactly have a fine art museum, but there is a gallery, and there just so happens to be an artist reception at--"
It was the loudest burp I'd ever heard. I swear the windows shook. Snap went twenty-seven heads. Gasp went twenty-seven mouths. And when we spotted little Trinity Jackson at the back table with her hand over her mouth and her cheeks on fire, twenty-seven kids all busted up.
Miss Kuzkowski stares at us a minute as we try to quit laughing, then she closes her eyes, shakes her head, and says, "Scratch that idea."
"Scratch what idea, Miz K?" Tony asks her.
"Never mind," she grumbles. "I don't need you embarrassing me in front of people I admire." Then she takes a big breath, and it's like she's putting the winds of March right back in her sails. "My other idea is probably much more in keeping with your level of appreciation anyway."
We all look at her like, Well?
"My other idea is that you should all go to the Renaissance Faire this weekend."
"The Renaissance Faire?" Matilda Grey asks.
"Yes!" She was definitely reinflating. She starts breezing around the room, saying, "Have you guys ever been? It's fabulous! The food, the atmosphere, the entertainment . . . you could have fun and learn about art."
"How art?" Emma asks her.
"There's an amazing amount of art, and the fabulous thing for you is, a lot of the artists are right there, in the booths! Think of the questions you could ask . . . think of the insight you could gain . . ."
"Think of the money you could lose," Tony says. "Last year it was like ten bucks to get in."
"Well, that's true," Miss Kuzkowski says. "So of course I can't make you go. But I would highly recommend it as a fun way to do your assignment."
We all look at her like, What assignment?
She smiles at us. A wicked, oh-it's-so-much-fun-to-torture-you smile. "Go to the Faire or check out a gallery. Choose an artist and either research them or interview them. Your marks will be higher for an interview with details about their process. Classify the art, then tell me how it affects you and why you like it or don't like it."
Copyright © 2003 by Wendelin Van Draanen. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.