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Excerpt from The Why, Oh Why's of Serena Dunson

A Young Adult Novel

Published by Ava Blu Wilson

     Ready? Set? Um, no…


     “Wake up, wake up, wake up! This is 93 FM WZAK with your favorite Cleveland, Ohio, DJ bringin’ you all the jams and tellin’ you to wake yo’ tired behind up! It’s time to—,”

“Shut up.”

  Nothin’ says “Good mornin’ you’re disoriented” like a loudmouth radio DJ at six in the mornin’. I flung one arm out of bed and felt around the top of the nightstand for the little, black, off switch on top of the clock radio.


  My fingers found the switch, and my head found the side of the bedpost.

   No matter how hard I try not to bump my head, I do it at least once a week anyway; otherwise known as, one of the ridiculous things that happen to me, Serena M. Dunson, most mornin’s at 603 Carpenter Avenue.

   Thank you very much, DJ Loudness.

I rubbed my palm across my forehead and sat up on the bed. My eyes adjusted and landed on the thumbtacked, poster-sized calendar on my bedroom wall with “1986” in neon colors arched across the top. Four more weeks and tenth grade will be history. I’m more than lookin’ forward to it too because I’m past ready to kick the school year to the curb—especially the wakin’ up before daylight.

  The whole get-your-education thing starts way too early in the o’clock. I mean who can even think that early? It isn’t me, and I know that for a fact. My brain doesn’t even wake all the way up until some number of minutes after eight.

Regardless of what my thoughts are about the whole early mornin’ situation, bottom line is, when the alarm goes off, I gotta get up whether I want to or not, and if for some reason I don’t, I can always count on one of the neighbors as a backup alarm.

     And it begins…


  I pushed the baby blue curtains over my window to one side and peeked under the shade. Our cross-door neighbor, Mr. Johnson, in all of his mismatched glory, was bent over in his driveway tuggin’ away at the ripcord on his lawnmower. Back and forth, back… and… forth.

 Not only did that sound mean "get up" it also meant it would be a pretty nice day since it usually was when he dragged his lawnmower out.

  Six o’clock in the a.m. was entirely too early for that foolishness too, but I was used to it, and so was the rest of the neighborhood. Everybody on the block referred to Mr. Johnson as “the nice, old man who helped everybody —even if they didn’t need it.”

  If he wasn’t mowin’ a lawn in the summer, he was blowin’ snow in the winter. If it was gonna storm, he was outside before it did un-rufflin’ plastic and coverin’ prize-winnin’ flowers. Whatever it was, he was out at the crack of o’clock doin’ it.

  Ten pulls and a grunt later, the lawnmower revved up into its annoyin’ rumble—just in time for the mornin’ noise box to run up and down the hall and yell his silly head off. This noise box also serves as my fail-safe alarm, the thunderin’ nuisance, otherwise known as my little brother, Joey Dunson—a seven-year-old mini-maniac.

  By age and height, Joey resembles a second grader, but, by deed and ritual, he’s an old-school Scooby-Doo villain. He doesn’t have to be at school until nine o’clock, but he’s up bein’ annoyin’ anyhow. Now, if I had the choice, I’d choose sleep, but that’s just me—Joey, well, he’s a whole different kind of unpleasant experience. He gets up early as possible just to get a jumpstart on irkin’ my brain, and he’s got it down to a science.

  I never have to wonder whether or not he’s gonna do somethin’ to torture me because it’s against his religion not to. Top that off with the fact that “His Joey-ness” usually gets his way no matter how much mental health he squeezes out of me, and I bet a blind man could take a clear snapshot of my life.

   Joey has a plot, a plan, and his intentions are loud and clear—just like the neighbor and his lawnmower.

  By 6:06 a.m., I can bet a loan shark’s money Joey’s outside my door doin’ some crazy Spiderman thing with his arms. Spiderman’s his hero. In fact, I think he actually believes Spiderman’s gonna pass him the webs when he gets too old to do the Spiderman thing himself. Joey’s footsteps stopped.

  “Ahhh! It’s awake! It’s awake! The girl-faced monster is awake!”

  Great. Good mornin’ to me.

  “Shut-to-the-up, Joey.”

 I scooted out of bed, shuffled across the carpet, and over to the bedroom door. I turned the gold-colored doorknob and cracked the door just enough to peek out and tell Joey to get lost. Like I pictured, he was standin’ in front of my bedroom door covered neck-to-thigh in Spiderman Underoos doin’ the Spiderman thing. Only in my version, he wasn’t wearin’ the Spiderman mask from last Halloween. He popped one of his chubby arms out toward the door and hit it. The door opened wider and bounced off my forehead.

  “Dang it, Joey! Ouch!”

  My forehead met wood for the second time of the mornin’, and I wasn’t happy about it. Joey pressed his two middle fingers down in the middle of his palm.


  “Joey, you made me bump my head!”


  “Quit it. You have no webs, crazy.”

  “Do too!”

  He got down on one knee a leaned in closer.

  “Joey, what are you—,”


  “Go away, Joey. It’s too early for all that junk.”

 I closed the door in his face. Five seconds later, I heard a “bump” against the bottom of the door. A whole five seconds later.

  “Ouch! I’m tellin’, Serena.”

  “Boy, it didn’t even hit you. Faker.”

  “Yeah-huh, and I’m tellin’!”

  There was nothin’ new about that. Tellin’ on me is Joey’s passion. He’s more like Tattleboy than Spiderman. I opened my door again but this time I pulled it open all the way. Unfortunately for me, my bedroom faces down the hallway; the place where all the action was about to come from.

  I shuffled back to my bed and plopped down on the edge. I knew what was comin’ next. It was part of the whole mornin’-with-Joey thing; somethin’ I’d been used to ever since the kid learned to make full sentences at a year old. He bounded down the hallway and stopped like the Roadrunner in front of Mom and Dad’s bedroom door—the countdown began.

  Five, four, three, two… aaand go!

  “Mom. Serena shut the door on my face, and then, and then she said a bad word. She called me a really bad name too and told me to shut up and go away.”

  Yep. I’d done all that, but, unfortunately, he didn’t go away. Instead, he stood in the hallway bein’ a tattletale while lookin’ like Spiderman’s elf. Mom snatched her bedroom door open. Joey stumbled backward but didn’t fall. I closed my eyes and prayed for a do-over. No do-over was granted.

  I scooted further back on the bed. Dad was on the road, so he wouldn’t be able to help me out this time. He’s a trucker and is usually gone for a couple weeks at a time, and it’s the first of one of those weeks.

  What was about to go down made me wanna pull my blankets over my head and just sit there like a silent mountain of me, but it wouldn’t make what was happenin’ un-happen or go away, so I didn’t bother. I closed my eyes instead.

  Mom charged down the hall and stopped at my doorway. I opened one eye. She had her fuzzy, pink bathrobe on; a thing so bright and soft it should’ve equaled fun and happiness, but there was nothin’ fun, or happy about the expression on her face.

  Her left eyebrow arched up closer to her hairline, and her lips were so tight they pulled her chin into dimpled chaos. Her nostrils flared. She propped one hand on her hip, while her other hand steadied a curlin’ iron connected to a long, brown extension cord in her hair. A curl somethin’ like Shirley Temple’s, but not quite, bounced in front of her face between her eyes; she flipped it to the back.

  It always tripped me out how someone that beautiful could change it up just like—that. I wanted to close my eye back but thought it best at that point to just open the other one too.

  “Mornin’, Mom?”

  There’s nothin’ like the distinct sound of crickets after askin’ a half-statement question. I didn’t see where I shouldn’t have tried though. She propped her left elbow against my doorframe to hold the curlin’ iron in place.

  Joey wrapped both arms around one of Mom’s legs—more drama. Great. I had an audience, and no matter what anyone thinks, havin’ an audience at 6:08 in the mornin’, especially one without a response, was never, ever a good thing.

  Mom pulled the curlin’ iron out of the section of hair it was rolled up in, rolled it back up in another, and propped her elbow back against the doorframe. Tension filled my room along with a mixture of Oil of Olay, hot coconut hair grease, and bratty, little boy mornin’ breath.

  “It is too early for all this foolishness, Serena, and I do not have time for it, do you hear me?

  I felt the urge to roll my eyes, but there was a one-hundred-and-fifty percent chance I wouldn’t own a pair anymore if I did; I nodded instead.

  “Now you know it’s not all right to tell people to shut up and go away,” she said, “especially, not your little brother, it’s rude.”

  Now, of course, Joey’s her son, the very child she gave birth to last, but I wondered if she’d ever truly met him. She continued.

     “There are much nicer and better ways to express what you want and get what you want. You do know that, right?”

     I did know that, but the chances of any of them even halfway workin’ with Joey were exactly slim to none.

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