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"Where's he going to stay? We don't have a guest bedroom."

"Well, I thought.... you know..."

"He can't share my room!" If I wasn't almost an adult, I would have stomped my foot.

"Honey, it's only for three months."

"That's a quarter of a year! I thought we were broke," I say. "How are we going to pay for all that extra food?"

"We're not that broke, and obviously, your aunt and uncle will help pay for groceries."

"Isn't he a spoiled brat?"

"You haven't seen him in ten years," Mom says.

"Well, ten years ago he was a spoiled brat."

"I'm sure he's fine now."

"Doesn't he have any friends he can stay with in California?"

My mom sighs. "Rodney, he's family. Family is always welcome in our home."

I hope I'm not coming off as whiny and selfish. If a hurricane tore the roof off their house and they lost all of their worldly possessions, sure, I'd happily donate half of my room to Cousin Blake while they rebuilt their lives. But asking me to give up my privacy so Aunt Mary and Uncle Clark can go on a luxury cruise seems kind of unreasonable.

However, I'm pretty sure this is a done deal, and my mom has enough stress in her life without me continuing to protest.

"All right," I say.

"Thank you." Mom gives me a hug. "I think you'll enjoy having him here."

Who knows? Maybe I will. Maybe my cousin is a really cool guy. Maybe he has good taste in music. And maybe he's witty and entertaining. And maybe he'll be willing to help with emergency cleanup if we're having a wild party and Mom calls suddenly to say she's on her way home early.

We might end up being the best friends that any two cousins could ever be. We'll giggle and frolic and be inseparable.

But probably not.

I can't believe I have to share my room.

I return to making my lunch. I'll try to be optimistic and pretend that these will be the best three months of my life. How bad could it be?


UPON FIRST GLANCE into my bedroom, you can be forgiven for believing that I'm a vile, disgusting slob. Organization of my personal belongings is not one of my strongest traits.

But it's not like there are dirty dishes or long-forgotten pizzas or sweaty clothes that have been on the floor for more than forty-eight hours. If you see anything that's green, it was always that color. Gas masks, though a nice fashion accessory, are completely unnecessary to breathe the air. Your pets would be perfectly safe in there.

C'mon, I'm in a punk rock band! You wouldn't want my room to be immaculate, would you? Nah. My current housekeeping, where it takes a moment to figure out which mound is the desk and which is the bed, is the way to go. And though it may look messy to an outsider, there's sort of a method to the madness. I can usually find stuff I'm looking for on the seventh or eighth try.

I like my room the way it is, but I have this sneaking suspicion that Mom will ask me to clean it before Blake arrives. I can't blame her for that. Blake might be a raging neat freak, and I don't want to start off on a bad note.

I stand in the doorway for a moment, surveying my room and trying to work out a plan of cleaning attack. If I had a bulldozer, I could just push everything from one half of the room to the other and be done with it. Sadly, I don't own a bulldozer, and the hallway to my bedroom is too narrow to get one through. We have a one-story house, so technically, I could drive a bulldozer through the wall, but that would end up making more of a mess, don't you think?

Yes, I am procrastinating on cleaning my room by thinking about driving a bulldozer through the side of my house. Welcome to my mind.

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