Rupert was an ordinary child who wore glasses with black Croakies attached to prevent their slipping off. He was a wizard at Super Mario Brothers, yet his poor marks at school were a constant topic of discussion at the family dinner table. He was pudgy and wheezed if he became excited, petted a cat, or he ran too much. Soccer was out. He was, however, a very good flag-football center as centers run very little.
One snowy winter's morning Rupert's mother, Mrs. Begonia, a stern woman with a shape resembling two doughnuts donuts stacked one atop the other, walked upstairs to his room to awaken him for school. Nearly the entire neighborhood heard her chilling scream.
Mr. Begonia, a barrel chested fireman with a mustache thick as a shoe polish brush, rushed up the stairs into Rupert's bedroom expecting to see something hideous. He found Mrs. Begonia staring at Rupert as the teakettle on the stove downstairs trembled and whistled hysterically.
"How did you do that?" Mr. Begonia said with a proud grin.
"I know very well, how! It's those candies he eats, those Eyes of Terror Gumballs, those Dripping Boogers, and those Lick your Wounds Candy Scabs. I warned him, by golly I did! I said, if you keep eating ugly things you'll turn ugly one day!" shrieked Mrs. Begonia.
"What's wrong?" Rupert asked groggily, "What did I do, now?"
"Well, come look in the mirror," Mr. Begonia said.
Rupert pulled up the little wooden step stool he stood on to wash his face and brush his teeth. Then looked into the bathroom mirror. His eyes grew wide as yo-yos as he shouted, "Oh my God! How did I grow a beard?"
"It looks like a fireman's shovel's blade," Mr. Begonia said, "not bad!"
"Our boy is not going anywhere near school with that scraggily brush covering his face!" Mrs. Begonia said, "Shave it off!"
Suddenly a rare and original idea arose in Rupert's mind, "No other boy in the third grade has ever had a beard. I will have something no other boy can match!" he thought then said, "I prefer to keep it, mama."
"An eight 8-year-old can't 'prefer' to have a beard! Why, we'll be the laughing stock of Buttzville!"
"Well, I am sure there is no rule against it!" Mr. Begonia giggled.
"A rule?" Mrs. Begonia shouted, "Of course there's no rule! How moronic can you be? No child has ever had a beard! Shave the beard off!" Mrs. Begonia commanded.
As Rupert did not like to see his mother and father quarrel, he proposed the following, "Let me wear the beard to school and let my teacher, Mrs. Wriggle, decide."
"OK," Mr. Begonia said looking at Mrs. Begonia with tender eyes hoping she would relent and let little Rupert have his day in the sun.
"Well," Mrs. Begonia said crabbily, "I suppose one day won't matter!"
So Rupert's parents waved goodbye to Rupert as he boarded the bus, and whose pudgy face and full beard filled the window of the little yellow school bus as they wondered what Mrs. Wriggle would say. At dinner that night Rupert proudly reported that his classmates were amazed by his beard and that Mrs. Wriggle said he could keep it so long as it was well groomed.
"After all," she said, "some kids are tall and some are short. We can't send them packing because they're different, now can we?"
Special thanks to Bo Kim for her illustration. To see more of her work, visit bokim.com
For more Kids' Reading Room, visit latimes.com/kids.