Chapter 1

"Ralphie, get up! You'll be late for school!"

Ralphie groaned at the sound of his mother's voice, echoing from downstairs. It couldn't be morning already. He'd just gone to sleep! He opened his eyes, focusing on the Mickey Mouse clock that hung from his wall. Sure enough, it was time to get up. Wearily he climbed out of bed and peered through the blinds. A new snow had fallen, blanketing the backyard with soft white flakes.

Again he heard his mother calling; this time from the door. "I'm not going to tell you again, young man! Now I suggest that you get dressed and come down to breakfast."

"Okay mom! I'm coming! Give me a break, will ya?"
"I'll give him a break all right." He heard his father say. "Ralphie, you better be down here in five minutes or you'll be sorry!"

When the old man yelled at him, he meant business. Quickly, he put on the clothes that lay neatly folded on his dresser.

"Ralphie now! Your breakfast is getting cold!" His mother yelled again.

"Ralph, if you end up being late for school, I swear I'll..."

"Honey, please..." his mother said, interrupting his father."I'll take care of it. You just get yourself to work."

Ralphie grabbed his books, and ran downstairs, taking them two at a time.

"Ralphie, I've told you a thousand times to walk down the stairs! You'll fall and break your neck and then.... Oh my! Look at your hair! Go upstairs right now and comb it!"

"But Mo-om..." Ralphie whined.

"Do it, Ralphie!" she ordered.

Ralphie could hear his father arguing with the Bumpus hounds from next door. "Get out of my way, you mangy mutts! I have work to do!" The dogs barked like crazy as the family Oldsmobile pulled out of the driveway.

"Ralphie! I'm not going to tell you again!" His mother said.

He turned and ran up the stairs to the bathroom. Grabbing the first brush he saw, he quickly ran it through his hair. Who cared what he looked like? Flick certainly didn't and neither did Schwartz for that matter.

"RALPHIE!"

He raced down the stairs and into the kitchen.

"Here, eat your breakfast." His mother said, guiding him to the table. He ate the bowl of cereal in record time, then tossed the spoon into the sink; the metal clanking against the porcelain.

"Now Ralphie, remember..." his mother said, handing him his tin lunch box."Hold Randy's hand and don't let anything happen to him."

Like anything could happen to a kid whose winter coat made him look like a balloon in the Macy's parade.

Sometimes Ralphie felt sorry for his little brother, but he would never admit it.

He walked out of the house and headed for school, Randy tagging along close behind.

"Ralphie! Get going!" His mother called from the doorway. "You've got to be in school in fifteen minutes and Miss Shields will not tolerate tardiness!"

"Come on, Randy, let's go!" Ralphie yelled. They ran as best they could (which was barely faster than a snail's pace); breathless by the time they reached the school yard.

Whew! Just made it! Ralphie could see Flick and Schwartz, tossing a ball to each other.

"Hey Flick!" Ralphie called to his friend. To Randy he said "There's Tommy over there." He pointed to a short red-headed kid in an orange coat. Poor kid looked like a member of the coast guard. "I'll see you after school, okay?"

"But Ral-phie!" Randy whined.
"Go Randy!" Ralphie ordered.
Randy turned away, sulking. "Aww geez!"

"Where've you been, Ralphie?" Schwartz asked. Before Ralphie could answer, the bell rang. Throngs of kids rushed by them, heading for the front doors.

"Hurry up, Ralphie!" Flick yelled.

Another day of school. Another day of listening to Miss Shields complain about margins. It seemed to be the highlight of her day. He sighed as he ran into the school, just as the final bell rang.