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Now Sal begins to tell her grandparents the strange story of Phoebe Winterbottom. She starts with the first time she ever saw Phoebe: the day she and her dad first arrived in Euclid, Ohio.
It's pretty clear that this memory is going to last a while, so we're going to tell it to you in the present tense. Here we go.
Margaret Cadaver (the red-haired lady whose house Sal and her dad are visiting) is trying really hard to be nice to Sal, but Sal doesn't like her.
Mrs. Cadaver asks Sal's dad if he's told her yet how they met, but Sal's dad says Sal doesn't want to know. She just doesn't give a hoot.
After a short little visit, Sal and her dad drive two blocks away to their new house. It's nothing like her old house in Bybanks: "tiny, squirt trees. Little birdhouses in a row – and one of those birdhouses was ours. No swimming hole, no barn, no cows, no chickens, no pigs. Instead, a little white house with a miniature patch of green grass in front of it. It wasn't enough grass to keep a cow alive for five minutes" (3.6). Yuck.
The house is tiny. Sal is not pleased. Her backyard is tiny, too, and there's a big fence around it. The movers cram their furniture into the house.
Three days later, Sal starts school. Her classmates are fascinated by her long hair, so they ask her annoying questions about it. The other girls all seem to have the same haircuts, the same new clothes, and braces.
Sal meets a whole boatload of fellow students. There's Mary Lou Finney (who says, "the most peculiar things"), jumpy Megan and Christy, "moody" Beth Ann, "pink-cheeked" Alex, and Ben, who draws cartoons all the time (3.12). Oh, and Sal's "peculiar" teacher is named Mr. Birkway.
Finally, she meets Phoebe Winterbottom for the first time, and she tells us that "Phoebe was a quiet girl who stayed mostly by herself" (3.14).
Sal and her dad eat over at Mrs. Cadaver's house three times that week. Ugh. While they are there, Sal sees Phoebe peeking out of the same next-door window a lot. She tries to wave at Phoebe, but Phoebe doesn't respond. Strange, right?
Then, one day at school, Phoebe sits down next to Sal and tells her how brave she is. Sal is totally surprised to hear this. Brave? Really?
Apparently, Sal saved a spider the other day in class and set it free outside. Her classmates were super shocked and impressed that she wasn't creeped out by the creepy-crawly.
At this point in Sal's story, Gram Hiddle interrupts to tell her just how brave she is and that the Hiddle family tree is full of brave people, like her father and her mother.
But Sal reminds them that her mom isn't a "true Hiddle." She remembers her mother used to say, "'You Hiddles are a mystery to me. I'll never be a true Hiddle.' She did not say this proudly. She said it as if she were sorry about it, as if it were some sort of failing in her" (3.25).
Sal takes this opportunity to tell us about her mother's parents (her other grandparents) who are very different from Gram and Gramps Hiddle. Her mother's parents are super stiff and very worried about being "respectable" all the time.
We learn that Sal's mother is named Chanhassen, which is "an Indian name, meaning 'tree sweet juice,' or – in other words – maple sugar." People call her mother "Sugar" for short (3.28).
Sal tells us that her mother is nothing like her mother's own stiff parents. She only gets a little rigid every once in a while.