“Everybody in the whole world skis, except me,” announced Anastasia as she reached for another helping of dessert. It was apple crisp, one of her favorites.
“I don’t ski,” said her brother, Sam, with his mouth full.
“Well, you’re only three years old,” Anastasia pointed out. “Everybody else skis.”
Mrs. Krupnik, Anastasia’s mother, wiped her mouth with a paper napkin. “Mr. Fosburgh, across the street, doesn’t ski,” she commented.
“Mr. Fosburgh has been in a wheelchair for thirty-four years,” Anastasia said. “Everybody else skis.”
Anastasia’s father looked up. “I was just reading an article about tribespeople in the Kalahari Desert in Africa. It didn’t mention that they ski.”
Anastasia gave her entire family a look of disgust. It wasn’t easy, because it meant that she had to maintain a look of disgust while turning her head slowly to focus first on Sam, then on her mother, then on her father.
“I meant,” she said after a moment, after she had completed her look of disgust, “that it seems as if everyone in my class skis. Everyone in the seventh grade. Winter vacation starts next week, and all my friends are disappearing. They’re all going skiing.”
“No kidding,” her father said. “Everyone? Are they all going together? Why didn’t they invite us?” He reached over and took some more apple crisp.
“No,” Anastasia said gloomily. “Not all together. Daphne’s going with her grandmother. Daphne’s grandmother is taking her to Austria to ski. Can you imagine that? Daphne’s grandmother skiing? She’s ancient!”
“Well,” Mrs. Krupnik said, “she’s also extremely rich. Somehow extremely rich people seem to be able to do extremely amazing things.”
“And Meredith,” Anastasia went on. “Meredith’s family isn’t rich. But every single winter they go to New Hampshire to ski. They have these special ski outfits and everything. Meredith’s is blue.” Anastasia sighed, thinking about the blue skiing outfit Meredith Halberg had shown her. “It has snowflakes embroidered on the sleeves.”
“I bet anything I could knit a sweater with snowflakes on the sleeves,” Mrs. Krupnik said. “Remember I made that sweater for Sam last winter, with a cow across the chest? What ever happened to that sweater, Sam? You didn’t lose it, did you?”
Sam shook his head. “It’s under my bed,” he said.
“Would you like me to make you a sweater with snowflakes on the sleeves, Anastasia?”
“No,” Anastasia said, emphatically. Then she added, “Thank you anyway.”
Myron Krupnik took a third helping of apple crisp. “How about Steve Harvey?” he asked.
Anastasia groaned. “Steve Harvey is going with his father to Colorado because his father is covering some world championship ski races for NBC. Talk about lucky. I wish you were a sportscaster, Dad.”
He laughed. “I think I’ll stick with being a college professor and a poet. I don’t know a soccer ball from a coronation ball. Anyway, even if I did, I could never be a sportscaster because I have arthritis in my neck and shoulders.”
Anastasia stared at him. “So? What difference does that make? You could sit up straight and stare into a camera just fine. And they’d put powder over your bald spot so it wouldn’t glisten. Maybe they’d even give you a toupee, if you were a sportscaster.”
“My neck doesn’t swivel. Picture me trying to announce a tennis match.”
Anastasia pictured a tennis match, and she could see that her father was correct. You definitely needed a swivelly neck to announce a tennis match. Just her luck, to have a father with an unswivelly neck and a boring job.
Mrs. Krupnik stood up and began to collect the dessert plates. “Are you finished, Myron, or do you want to lick the bowl?”
Dr. Krupnik grinned and scraped the last invisible bits of apple crisp from his plate. Then he handed the empty plate to his wife.
Sam had climbed down from his chair and removed his shoes. In his stocking feet, he ran suddenly across the dining room to the place where the rug ended, and slid across the wooden floor out into the hall. Anastasia and her parents could hear the crash as Sam ran into the wall and fell against a small table that had been piled with books. They heard the books hit the floor.
After a moment Sam came back into the dining room, rubbing his behind. “I was skiing,” he explained. “But it wasn’t that much fun.”
Anastasia trudged up the stairs to her third-floor bedroom after The Cosby Show ended. She wondered if Bill Cosby’s family went skiing, and decided that they probably did. It sure was boring, living in a family that never did anything truly exciting, especially during school vacations. Sometimes they went to the New England Aquarium. Big deal: penguins and turtles. Sometimes they went to the Museum of Science. Big deal: exhibits about friction and gravity, two of the most boring things in the world. Sometimes they went to the Museum of Fine Arts. Big deal: paintings, and statues of naked people, usually with their more interesting parts crumbled.
In her room, Anastasia first did the thing she almost always did every evening. She sat in front of the mirror and stared at herself. She gathered up her hair in one hand and tried to arrange it in various styles. First she gathered it into a big ball on top of her head. Then she tried it pulled entirely to one side, hanging down beside her left ear. Next, she parted it in the middle and pulled it into two ponytails, one on either side of her head. Each time, she sighed, staring at her reflection, and let her hair drop again into its ordinary thick, shoulder-length mass.
She pushed her glasses down farther on her nose and pursed her lips into a tight, refined look. She stared at herself and decided that she looked like a schoolmistress from the nineteenth century. Then she pushed her glasses back up where they belonged and tried a broad, toothy smile. She turned sideways, flung her head back, and looked at herself out of the corners of her eyes. She moved her shoulder forward, turned her neck—her neck swiveled, at least—and sucked in her cheeks, although it meant that she couldn’t smile. She pulled some hair over her face and tugged at the neck of her sweatshirt until one shoulder was exposed. There. She held that pose, her favorite, for a moment. She liked it: haughty, disheveled...