The Clueless Girl's Guide to Being a Genius

Table of Contents
 
 
DUTTON CHILDREN'S BOOKS
A division of Penguin Young Readers Group
 
Published by the Penguin Group | Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. | Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) | Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England | Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) | Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) | Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India | Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) | Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa | Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
 
Copyright © 2011 by Janice Repka
 
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, or broadcast.
 
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Published in the United States by Dutton Children's Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
www.penguin.com/youngreaders
 
 
ISBN : 978-1-101-51774-1

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for Daisy
1
Aphrodite Wigglesmith Gets It Started
H
ere's something fun you can do. First, get out of your chair. (I'm trusting you on that.) Next, stand in an open space. (Trusting you again.) Now spin like a quantum mechanical particle. (Or a top or tornado, whatever.) Faster. Faster. STOP. Did you feel it? That slip-in-time moment when your brain hadn't caught up with your body and it felt like you were still spinning? I love that. It's like my body has outsmarted my brain, which is not easy to do. Excuse the pun, but my brain kind of has a mind of its own. If you put a math problem, no matter how hard, in front of my eyes it sets off this switch and I have to try to solve it. So my life's been a little weird, I guess you could say.
The weirdness started the day someone flushed a firecracker down a toilet in the boys' bathroom on the second floor of Carnegie Middle School. The potty shattered, a weak pipe burst, and sewage water rained into the school office below.
“Holy crap!” Principal DeGuy yelled to his secretary. “Get someone here fast.”
My mother, Cecelia Wigglesmith, was the “plumber on call” that day. She loaded crescent wrenches and extra piping into her truck while I climbed into my car seat. Although only four years old, I was already a mini-version of my mother physically—petite, with pale skin and black hair. But intellectually, I was bored silly and hungering for stimulation. To keep busy on the way to the plumbing job, I counted each church we passed on the left and each bar we passed on the right and kept a working ratio.
A few miles later, a sign announced we had reached Carnegie Middle School, “home to the division champion wrestling team, the Carnegie Spiders.” The school was ten times as long as my house and five times as wide. Inside the office, Mother set me down on a desk.
“You stay here while I find the shutoff valve,” she said. She turned to the secretary. “I hope you don't mind keeping an eye on my daughter. I'll be back as soon as things are under control.”
The secretary was also perched on top of a desk. She was wearing a flamingo pink dress and held up her right foot. Her right shoe, which must have dropped when she hopped up, was floating out the door. The smell alone would have reduced most four-year-olds to tears, but to me, it just smelled like Mother had come home from work.
After Mother left, a piece of soaked ceiling tile fell and splattered us with sewage water. The secretary screamed and I jumped. The office phones began to ring. I counted the number of rings. I counted the number of ceiling chunks that fell and the number of times we screamed and jumped. I found that: 5 rings + 1 splash = 1 scream + 1 jump.
“You've got a shattered toilet and a burst pipe in the boys' bathroom,” Mother said when she returned.
“Can you fix it?” asked Principal DeGuy, following her. He was middle-aged, but most of his hair hadn't made it that far. What was left covered his lower head in a U-shape. “We're scheduled for state testing in the morning, so I can't cancel school tomorrow.”
“Once the pipe's repaired, I'll have to bail,” said Mother. “Pumps will only pull so many gallons per hour. You've got four inches of water on the first floor, eighteen in the basement. Goodness knows how long that could take.”
“Three hours and twenty-five minutes,” I said.
Despite his ample ears, Principal DeGuy did not seem to hear. “I'm not interested in what goodness knows,” he told Mother. “How long will
you
need to get this water out?”
“Three hours and twenty-five minutes,” I repeated.
“Whose child is this?”
Mother picked me up and held me against her hip. “She's mine. Do you have a calculator?” Principal DeGuy pulled out his computerized planner. Mother told him the formula to figure out how long it would take.
“Three hours and twenty-five minutes,” he said.
They stared at me.
“How did you do that?” Mother asked.
I shrugged and counted the number of teeth in the principal's open mouth.
“You gave her the answer,” he said.
“I'm sure it was just a coincidence,” Mother replied. “Aphrodite is usually so quiet you don't know she's in the room.”
A chunk of ceiling tile fell and splashed Principal DeGuy with water. The secretary screamed again.
“I'd better get those pumps started. Would you mind?” Mother handed me to the principal and splashed her way out. He set me on a desk.
“How many polka dots are on my tie?” he asked.
I used my method for counting cereal boxes at the supermarket, the number up multiplied by the number sideways. Then I took some away because of the funny shape at the bottom of the necktie. “One hundred and fifty seven,” I answered.
Principal DeGuy hopped onto the desk with me and emptied the water from his shoes. “Who is the queen of England?”
“I don't know.”
“What is 157 multiplied by 23?”
I pushed the bangs out of my eyes. “3,611.”
He ran the numbers. “Holy human calculator!”
The secretary handed him a telephone, and he dialed the number for the Office of Special and Gifted Testing. “Little lady,” he told me, “if you are what I think you are, your whole world is about to change.”
And, boy, did it ever. Not that I'm complaining. Once they found out my IQ was 204, they let me start school early. It was like a game to see how quickly I could pass each grade (fifth took only eight weeks and I skipped second, sixth, and tenth grades completely). But then, when I was eleven, they ran out of grades, so I had to go away to college. Now I'm a thirteen-year-old graduate student at Harvard University.
At Harvard, everybody's brain is in overdrive all the time. So sometimes, when my brain is full of numbers and feels like it's going to explode, I slip away to an empty field on the edge of campus. Then I stretch out my arms and I spin.
2
Mindy Loft Tells It Like It Was
T
he reason I ramble is that I don't stay focused when I talk; at least that's what my eighth-grade English teacher told me at the beginning of this school year. So if I get a little off track, try not to get your poodle in a fluff. Anyway, if I had to pick, I'd say it all began the day that Miss Brenda shared her awful secret. I hadn't even met Aphrodite yet. I was thirteen years old and living with my mom in the apartment above her beauty shop, Tiffany's House of Beauty & Nails. We had a sign that Mom changed each week with stupid sayings like “Come on in and be a beauty, from your head to your patootie.”
Mom made me help at the shop, doing gross stuff like sweeping piles of severed hair, boring stuff like refilling the spray bottles, and a little bit of cool stuff like trying out the new nail polish. At least I got an allowance. But no matter how much I got paid, there was no way I was going to be a hairstylist for the rest of my life. My dream was to be a famous baton twirler.
When she was nineteen, my mom had been first runner-up for Miss Majorette of the Greater Allegheny Valley. My dad, John Loft (God rest his soul), had been one of the judges, and they had eloped before her trophy was back from the engraver. He became her manager, and they toured all over the country in a baby blue RV with a bumper sticker that said TWIRL TILL YOUR ARMS FALL OFF
.
“With my panache and your talent, we're gonna set the world on fire,” he told her, and they did.
Not the whole world, maybe, but at least part of the small town of Hermanfly, Nebraska. You see, there was this stupid Hermanfly Fourth of July Spectacular Parade. Dad was in a giant firecracker costume marching next to Mom, who was twirling a fire baton. They got too close and his fuse caught fire. Mom dropped the baton and screamed for help, and some woman in the crowd pulled a pair of scissors from her purse and clipped Dad's fuse just in time. That was the good news. The bad news was that by that time Mom's flaming baton had rolled over to a storefront, which was where they were storing the fireworks for the big show.

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