Chapters 20-21 Summary
One to Ten
August’s mom always asks him to rate pain on a scale of one to ten, ten being the worst. This started one time when he had jaw surgery and could not talk, but now she uses it any time she thinks he might be in pain. It is the first thing she asks when he walks out of school: “One to ten?”
After thinking it over, August rates his day a five. Mom seems fairly happy about this, and she suggests he was expecting worse. She tries to take his backpack for him, but he nudges past her and heads for home. He is eager to get away from the kids who are staring and pointing at him on his way out, but he does stop to say good-bye to Summer.
On the way home, Mom asks about Summer and about the kids he met on his tour. August dodges as many questions as he can. He says everyone was nice, and he decides against explaining Julian’s Darth Sidious comment. Mom’s questions annoy August, but he does not know why.
But Mom really wants to know how his day went, so she presses him to talk more about Summer. He says he sat with her at lunch. When his mom says Summer is pretty, August says they are “kind of like Beauty and the Beast.” After that, he runs home, unable to look his mother in the eye.
That evening, August cuts off his little braid. His dad, who always hated the braid, is really happy. But Via is angry. August and his friend Christopher grew those braids together, and it bothers her that August cut his off without telling Christopher.
At bedtime, August’s dad tucks him in and asks if the day was actually okay. August says it was actually pretty good, but he asks if he could stop going to school if he wanted to. His dad says yes, but August would have to explain why he wanted to stop.
August’s dad also asks if August is mad at Mom. Although August does not say yes, he says he thinks Mom is “more to blame” than Dad for the decision to send him to school. At this, Mom comes in, looking unsure of herself. She asks Dad to go check on Via, who seems upset.
When Mom sits down on the bed, August is scared she wants to have a big talk. He is relieved when she gets out The Hobbit and starts reading where they left off. While listening, he starts to cry without knowing why. She puts down the book and hugs him.
“Why am I so ugly, Mommy?” he asks. She says he is not, and she comforts him. But her words cannot change the truth.