Amber Brown Goes Fourth
An Excerpt From
Amber Brown Goes Fourth


“You’re the kid who has to put her right shoe on before her left.” The salesman comes up to me with the foot-measuring thing.

“Yup.” I nod. “You remember!”

“How can I forget?” The salesman puts my right foot into the measurer. “The one time I didn’t do it your way, you refused to get any shoes . . . . and you accused me of ruining your day . . . . and you threatened to report me to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Who Need to Put Their Right Shoe On Before Their Left.”

I hold out my right foot and wonder why he’s acting like that’s so strange. I’m sure that I’m not the only person in the whole entire world who likes to have some things done a certain way. With the way my life goes, it’s nice to be sure of some things . . . and I’m sure that I like to put my right shoe on before my left. It makes me feel weird if my left shoe goes on first. In fact, it messes up my entire day.

A little kid comes over and grabs my foot, the left one.

“Foot,” she says.

Her mother picks her up. “Sorry she’s bothering you. She’s learning the names for body parts.”

I’m glad that the foot is the part of the body she decided to name.

All around us there are kids . . . . trying on shoes . . . . blowing up balloons . . . . . yelling, “I want those”; “I hate those.”

One kid is throwing a temper tantrum because his mother won’t buy him sandals for school.

The salesman continues, “And you’ve got that very colorful name.”

I sigh.

My mother looks at her watch.

He thinks for a minute. “Ebony Black. . . . . No, that’s not it. Pearl White. No.”

“AMBER BROWN,” I remind him, “and I don’t like to be teased about it.”

“Isn’t there another family that you always come in with to buy shoes for the new school year?” he asks. “With two little boys, one about your age?”

“They’ve moved away,” my mother says softly.

All of a sudden, I get this empty feeling inside of me.

This will be the first time in my life that I’ll be starting school without my best friend, Justin Daniels.

I try not to think about it.

I’ve been trying not to think about it all summer, especially since I got back from England with my aunt Pam.

My mother puts her hand on mine. “She’d like to see the sneakers with the rhinestones on them.”

The man puts down the measurer and looks up information on a card file. “She’s grown. Up another shoe size. . . . . Oh, well . . . . it could have been worse. She could have grown another foot. Then you’d have to buy three shoes.” He laughs at his own joke. “Just a little shoe-business humor.”

As he goes to the back of the store, he sings, “There’s no business like shoe business.”

I look at my mother.

She looks at me and shrugs. “The shoes are good quality and cheaper here than the other store. I know he drives you nuts . . . but think what you would be like if you had to be with children and their feet all day.”

“It would be a real feat.” I giggle.

“You would have to put your heart into it, body and soles.”

We both start to laugh.

By the time the guy comes back, my mother and I are both singing, “There’s no business like shoe business.”

He joins in.

I try on my new shoes.

They’re perfect.

Amber Brown Goes Fourth

Amber Brown Goes Fourth

Written by: