School was starting in a few days, and I found myself far less nervous than the year before. My best friend, Jenny, and I were entering fifth grade, and my little brother, Diego, was entering fourth. Diego and I were much more comfortable since this was our second year at our school. Jenny and I had kept in touch over the summer, and we’d been over to each other’s houses. During the visits the Magicmals—a group of three cats and a dog with special powers—hung out with us as well.
Jenny had texted me about two weeks before our new school year started.
“Hey, I just found out I will be in Ms. Black’s class. Do you know what class you’ll be in yet?” she asked.
“I just got the letter in the mail today with my classroom assignment, and I will be in Ms. Black’s class too! This is awesome!” I texted back, excited.
“This is great, I can’t believe it!” she replied.
Jenny and I would have even more time to spend together now. She was still the best friend I’d ever had, and Diego liked to hang out with her as well.
The first day of school had finally arrived. As usual, when Diego and I walked into school, Jenny was waiting for us in the front hallway.
“Hi, Eva and Diego!” she said cheerfully.
“Hey, Jenny,” I said.
“Hey,” said Diego.
Jenny and I walked Diego to his class. His new teacher was Ms. Lake, the same teacher I had last year.
“Hi, Ms. Lake,” I said. “This is my brother, Diego. He is in your class this year.”
“Hello, Diego. Welcome to class. You can put your things over there and take whichever seat you’d like,” she said.
Diego said, “Okay,” looking a bit unsure.
“It’s all right,” I told him with a smile. “You’ll like Ms. Lake’s classroom.”
Diego seemed to be put at ease just slightly by my words.
Jenny and I said goodbye to Diego. We left and started walking down the fifth-grade hallway, looking for Ms. Black’s classroom.
We finally reached it. A few other students were already sitting at their desks. As we entered the door, Ms. Black said, “Welcome to your new class! What are your names?”
“I am Eva, and this is Jenny,” I said.
I saw Ms. Black make a mark on her clipboard. She must have been taking roll.
“You can place your bookbags in the back of the classroom and then have a seat wherever you’d like,” said Ms. Black.
Jenny and I headed to the back and placed our bookbags on the hooks. We then went and sat down in the middle row. None of the other students were talking, which I thought was odd. We had always talked before the bell rang in Ms. Lake’s class. Just then, the tardy bell rang.
Ms. Black walked to the front of the class and said, “I’d like to welcome you all to the fifth grade and to my classroom. This year we will be covering reading, writing, science, social studies, and math. For your math lessons, we will cover more advanced topics like geometry and algebra.”
Jenny and I looked at each other nervously. I looked around the classroom. The other kids seemed concerned, too. My mom was really good at math, so hopefully I would do okay, but I had never done any algebra before.
“Please get your science books out of your desks and open to page four,” said Ms. Black.
Well, she certainly wasn’t wasting any time! I got out my book and opened to page four as instructed. I looked around the classroom. The rest of the class was doing the same. I looked down at the page, which was about animal life cycles. Then I looked Jenny and said, “Well, this looks like something we haven’t learned about before.”
Ms. Black turned her head toward me and said, “No talking during lessons! This will be your only warning. Next time you will be sent to the principal’s office.”
I was shocked by this turn of events. I wanted to defend myself, but I figured that might not go over well. Instead, I said, “Yes, ma’am.”
I looked at Jenny. She seemed shocked, too. The rest of class went well, though no one dared to speak unless we were given permission. Lunchtime finally rolled around, and I was happy that Jenny and I could talk.
We sat down at a table in the cafeteria near the lunch line. I had my normal peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and Jenny had a turkey sandwich. Just then I saw Diego’s class enter the lunchroom.
“It looks like Diego has the same lunch period as us this year!” I said.
“That’s great,” said Jenny. We both waved to Diego to come over and sit with us.
When Diego noticed us, a big smile erupted on his face. He had wanted so badly to hang out with us at lunch last year. He came and sat down at our table.
“This is great! I will get to eat lunch will you everyday,” he said as he took his cheese sandwich out of his bag.
“Yes, I’m happy, too. How did your classes go with Ms. Lake?” I said.
“It was great. She is so nice, just like you said, Eva!” Then he noticed the look on my face. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing big,” I said. “It’s just that our teacher this year is mean. I said something to Jenny during class, and she yelled at me and told me if I talk again without permission, she’ll send me to the principal!”
“Wow, that’s harsh,” said Diego.
“I had heard she was strict. Guess it’s true,” said Jenny.
The rest of the day was uneventful. Mom was happy to see us when she picked us up from afterschool care.
“How was your first day?” she asked.
“It was great!” said Diego.
“Mine wasn’t so great,” I grumped. “My teacher is kind of mean, and we will be learning algebra.”
“How is your teacher mean, Eva?” Mom asked.
“Well, she got mad when I said something to Jenny and said if I did it again she would sent me to the principal,” I said.
“Were you supposed to be talking?” Mom said.
“No, I guess not. She said no one is supposed to talk during lessons,” I said.
“Then you need to follow the rules, Eva. I’m sorry she got mad. Don’t worry about the algebra, though. I will help you. I love math!” she said excitedly.
We arrived home, where my cat, Puma, was waiting for us in his normal spot on the couch. He had gotten so big in a year! He was now a fully grown cat. His black fur was still as shiny as ever. Puma looked up at us as we entered the door and nodded his head to say hello. We still hadn’t told Mom about any of the Magicmals, so he didn’t speak in front of her.
As Mom walked in, she said, “I have a surprise for you. It’s for the first day of school. Put your things away and then head into the kitchen.”
After sitting through six hours of Ms. Black’s class, a surprise was just what my day needed! I rushed to hang my backpack on the hook near the door. Diego was so excited that he didn’t go to hang his backpack. He aimed for the couch, threw it, and ran to the kitchen. Diego’s aim was often particularly bad. He didn’t make the couch, and his backpack was heading straight for the vase on the living room table. Within a second, I saw Puma, the vase, and Diego’s backpack disappear. Then Puma reappeared with the vase back on the table. He was holding the loop of Diego’s backpack with his paw.
Puma was able to travel through space and go back in time. This was his power as a Magicmal, and he’d used it to get us out of scrapes before.
As I took Diego’s bag and went to hang it on the hook, I said, “Great job saving the vase, Puma. Mom would have been upset!”
“Thanks, it’s almost like second nature now. I didn’t even think about it. I just reacted to it,” said Puma.
He had really harnessed his powers. I was impressed on how far he had come in a year.
Puma and I walked into the kitchen and saw Diego holding a cookie.
“Eva, Mom made chocolate chip cookies!” he said excitedly. Diego still loved chocolate chips cookies. That hadn’t changed.
I walked over and grabbed a cookie. “Sorry, Puma, you can’t have these.”
Puma looked like he didn’t care.
Diego and I began to do our homework.
“Mom, can you help me with my math homework?” I said.
“Oh course, honey,” she said.
Not surprisingly, my mom was able to help me with my algebra homework with ease. I was happy to have the help. I wouldn’t have been able to figure it out on my own.
On the second day of school, we arrived a few minutes early. Even so, Jenny was waiting for us. Her dad usually dropped her off pretty early on his way to work. We said our hellos, and I asked her, “Do you want to come over this Saturday? I figured we could go visit Snowball and Willie Whiskas.” It had been a while since we’d been to visit the other two Magicmal cats.
“Sounds good. I’ll check with my mom and text you when I get home,” she said.
We walked Diego to his class.
“Bye, Diego,” I said.
“Bye,” said Jenny.
“Bye, see you guys at lunch!” said Diego.
I could tell Diego was still super excited to be able to eat lunch with us. Last year he hadn’t made any close friends at school, but he really liked hanging out with Jenny and me.
Jenny and I arrived at our classroom. We put away our things and sat down in our seats. Ms. Black had told us that the seats we picked yesterday would now be our assigned seats.
After the bell rang, Ms. Black said, “All right, class. Please turn your math homework into the red bin on my desk, and then return to your desks and get your math books out.”
I walked up with the rest of the class and turned in my homework, feeling confident it was right because my mom had helped me.
“Class, please turn to page ten,” said Ms. Black.
I opened my math book and turned to page ten. It was the end of the chapter, where there were some test questions. Why was she making us turn to this page?
“Please get out your notebooks and complete questions one through five for your pop quiz,” Ms. Black said. She sounded pretty pleased with herself for springing this test on us.
I felt my stomach drop like I was going to fall out of my chair. A pop quiz? How could she give us a pop quiz on the second day of school? I turned to look at Jenny. She looked just as worried as the rest of our classmates.
I took out my paper and pencil and looked at the first question: 5 + __ = 10. I instantly relaxed. This question was easy, so maybe the others wouldn’t be so bad. I filled in the blank with the answer 5 and moved on to the next question. The next question was: 100 – __ = 51. Yes, this was easy! I put the answer 49 in the blank, and moved on to the third question.
My jaw dropped when I saw the question, though: 5 + a = 45. This was exactly the type of question my mom had helped me with the night before, but I couldn’t remember how she had solved the equation. I looked at questions four and five. They were similar to question three. What was I going to do? If I only got two questions out of five right, that will be less than 50% on the quiz! I thought to myself, Breathe, Eva, you need to calm down to figure this out. I thought for a few minutes about how to find the answer.
Ms. Black broke my train of thought by saying, “Five minutes remaining for the quiz.”
Great! Now it’s timed, too!? How could this get any worse?
I looked around the room. All of the other students looked deep in thought, working on their quizzes. I thought about it some more, and then I realized something. If I ignored the “a” and treated it as a blank, it would basically be the same as the first two questions. So, 5 + __ = 45. Yes, that would be 40! I quickly wrote down the answer.
“Two minutes remaining for the quiz,” said Ms. Black.
I looked at the next question. It was 10 + b = 100. If I pretended the “b” was a blank, it would be the same. I quickly jotted down 90 as the answer and moved on to the last question.
The last question was longer than all the rest: 10 + 12 – 10 - 12 = a. It looked like a hard question, but basically the subtracted numbers cancelled out the ones that had been added together. So, the answer had to be zero. I quickly jotted that down.
Just as I finished writing it down, Ms. Black said, “Time’s up! Pencils down.”
I looked around the classroom. Everyone still appeared flustered.
“Please pass your quizzes to the front of the class,” said Ms. Black.
When lunchtime came, we all headed for the cafeteria.
Diego was at our table waiting for us. His class must have come a few minutes early to lunch. As we got to the table, Jenny said, “That quiz was insane. I don’t know if I answered the questions right. I can’t believe we are having a quiz already!”
“I know, I was like, ‘Really?’ I was freaking out. I didn’t know how to answer questions three through five, but then I figured out a way,” I said.
“That’s great. I just kind of guessed at what they were,” said Jenny.
Diego, noticing the tension, said, “Sounds like you guys had a rough morning?”
“Yes, the teacher gave us a pop quiz,” I said.
“That’s not cool,” said Diego.
“No, it’s not,” Jenny agreed.
When we walked into our house that afternoon, Puma was sitting on the couch as usual. He got up and followed us to the kitchen where we started our homework.
“How was school today?” Mom asked.
“It was good!” said Diego with a smile.
“Mine was all right, other than we had a pop quiz in math!” I said annoyed.
“A pop quiz? Well, that doesn’t sound like any fun,” said Mom, trying to sympathize with me. “Do you think you did well on the quiz?”
“I think I might have. I was pretty upset when I first saw the questions, but I figured them out.”
“That’s great, honey!” Mom said. She looked proud of me.
I didn’t want to think about math any more than I had to. Changing the subject, I said, “Mom, would it be all right if Jenny came over this weekend?”
“Yes, of course. We don’t have any plans.”
I texted Jenny and asked her if she had checked with her mom yet.
She responded, “Yes, she said I can come over. I’ll be over around 9am on Saturday.”
I texted her back, “Sounds great!”
Saturday had finally come, and I was getting dressed before Jenny arrived. I decided to wear my pink unicorn shirt with pink leggings. I had recently become fond of unicorns. Mom had caught on and was really into buying me any clothes with unicorns.
Diego came out of his room. He was wearing his normal thrown-together type of outfit… if you could even call it that.
Puma strolled out into the hallway. “I let Luna know yesterday that we are going to go see Willie Whiskas and Snowball. She will be ready soon,” he said.
“Great! Thanks, Puma. Jenny should be here, and then we will head out,” I said.
I heard the doorbell ring. “She’s here!” I said.
Puma, Diego, and I rushed to the front door. My mom had already opened it, and Jenny was coming inside.
“Hey, Jenny!” I said.
“Hey,” Diego echoed, while Puma nodded his head.
“Hey, guys!” said Jenny.
We headed outside soon after. Luna was already waiting for us in the backyard.
“Hey, Luna,” I said.
Luna was a big, shaggy dog that lived next door. She was totally black with the exception of one small, white tuft of fur on her tail and another on her neck. Best of all, she was a Magicmal just like Puma.
“Hey, everyone,” said Luna, wagging her tail.
After checking that the coast was clear, I took out an old-looking pocket watch, tapped it once, and said, “Willie Whiskas.” This would get me in touch with the wizard cat of that name.
A hologram of Willie Whiskas appeared in the air. “Greetings,” the orange tabby said.
“Hello, can you open a portal for us to your house?” I asked.
Willie Whiskas lived in the loft of a warehouse near our town’s mall. It looked scary and abandoned from the outside, but inside it was beautiful, like a rich family had lived there for many years.
“Yes, of course. It is my pleasure,” said Willie Whiskas as a portal appeared in front of us.
We all walked through it and entered the top floor of his house. Willie Whiskas was standing next to the portal and said, “Hello, everyone.”
“Hey, Willie Whiskas!” I said. “Good to see you!”
“How are you doing?” asked Luna.
“I am doing well. Thank you for asking, Luna,” said Willie.
I saw Snowball laying on the couch. He had been born in the same litter as Puma. Like Puma, he was now fully grown. His fur was still sparkling white, and his eyes were an even deeper blue.
Puma walked over to his brother and sat down with him. “How have you been?”
“Really good. I feel like I can control my powers even better now,” said Snowball.
“That’s great! Me too, it’s like I can do it on reflex sometimes,” said Puma.
“Have you guys heard anything about Bluevery Systems since last year?” Jenny asked.
She was talking about an office we had snuck into last year. Before Snowball could get a handle on his ability to make things disappear, he had caused a big scene by vanishing some buildings downtown. When we tried to help him, we’d run into some bad guys who were investigating the area. They wanted to trap our Magicmals! We snuck into their office after fixing everything so that Willie Whiskas could use his powers to make them forget all about us.
“Nothing. We seem to have slipped their minds,” said Willie Whiskas, snickering.
Everyone burst out laughing.
“I have some snacks for everyone downstairs,” he said.
“You can cook?” asked Diego, surprised.
“Well, not exactly, but I know a few cooking spells,” said Willie Whiskas.
We headed down the gold spiral staircase into the living room. It wasn’t just a few snacks. It looked like a feast! A table was draped with a fancy white lace tablecloth, and the platters on the table were all made of fine, engraved sliver. There was a whole turkey on a silver platter with flowers engraved on the sides. There were several matching silver bowls with mashed potatoes in gravy, French fries, green beans, and broccoli. Near the end of the table there was another silver platter holding an entire cheese pizza! To the side there was another small gold table that had chocolate chip cookies, doggy milk bones, and several types of fish, which I assume were for the cats.
“Oh, my goodness, this is amazing!” I said.
“Eva, there are chocolate chip cookies!” Diego said, running to the table.
“Wow, this looks great! Seriously, you’ve done too much, Willie Whiskas. Thank you,” said Jenny.
“Thank you,” I agreed.
Puma, Luna, and Snowball looked equally excited and nodded their agreement and thanks.
Diego went straight for the pizza and cookies and started eating. Jenny and I sampled everything. It was all delicious.
I looked over at the small table, where Luna, Puma, and Snowball were chowing down. Snowball and Puma were sampling the fish, and Luna had scraped at least ten milk bones onto her plate with her paw.
“This food is very good. Maybe you should open up your own restaurant,” I said.
Willie Whiskas laughed. “I’m not sure humans would come to a restaurant were a cat is the chef.”
“Yeah, they might think he was serving rats or something,” said Diego.
Willie Whiskas gave Diego a vexing look.
Luna and Puma chuckled. Snowball didn’t seem to know whether he should laugh or ignore Diego’s comment.
“Thank you for the compliment, Eva,” Willie Whiskas said. “I just wanted to do something special for everyone. It’s been a while since we’ve all been together.”
“I know.” I looked at the time. “Oh! We should probably be heading back now. It’s getting late.”
“Oh course,” said Willie Whiskas. His eyes turned fiery red, and he opened up a portal to our front yard. “Come back to visit any time.”
“Bye, Snowball,” said Puma.
“Bye, everyone,” said Snowball.
“See you guys next time!” said Jenny.
After we got home, we said our goodbyes to Luna and headed into the house. Within a few minutes, Jenny’s mom had arrived to pick her up. Mom was getting dinner ready for the night. Both Diego and I were so stuffed from Willie Whiskas’ feast that we didn’t eat much at dinner! Everyone got ready for bed and headed off to sleep.