Prior to third grade, I'd been flirting with the idea of being an artist when I grew up, or maybe a teacher, or possibly even an art teacher. But once I turned nine, it was time to stop dicking around and get serious about the writing. (Plus, I figured I could always illustrate my own books. Genius!)
This zealousness was in part the result of meeting Marilyn Gould, a childhood friend of my grandmother's and an ACTUAL PUBLISHED AUTHOR—of young adult books, no less! She lived in the decidedly more glamorous state of California, but she was coming back to Ohio to see the old 'hood, visit with my grandma, and—more importantly—give a talk at my elementary school about what it was like to be a real, live author!
By the time she arrived, I had read all of her books. But she ended up giving my sister and me a copy of her latest work in progress, which was amazing for two reasons:
1) It was semi-autobiographical and contained a character based on my grandma (her name was even on the dedication page!), which was possibly the coolest thing ever, AND...
2) It was a MANUSCRIPT, making it pretty much my nine-year-old wet dream (although at this point I hadn't yet read Then Again, Maybe I Won't, so I didn't know that wet dreams even existed).
At any rate, the manuscript was seriously inspiring stuff. It was called Max, Braunschweiger, and Me, and basically it was about three friends, a voodoo doll, cooking potatoes in mud, and pretending not to be rich when actually you are. Oh, and something about a war and Nazis. I was like, "Heck! I can do this!" Here's what I came up with:
That's What Friends Are For
To My Friends - Katie and Jessica
If Marilyn Gould taught me anything, it was that you need a dedication page. And if Katie and Jessica were anything like my grandma, having a book dedicated to them might make them cry.
Chapter 1: Liz Craw—Me
My name is Liz Craw. First, I will describe myself. I have long blond hair and blue eyes. I have rosy cheeks and a pink little mouth. My nose is small and my eyelashes long. I am short and thin. I wear clothes that are in style. I have long finger nails. I am the coolest girl in the 3rd grade at Treeline Elementary. At least everyone says so. I'm smart and cute.
I know she's only nine, but I'd like to serve Liz a large slice of humble pie. And in case you're having a problem envisioning her pink little mouth:
Wow, Liz looks kind of like a nine-year-old Tammy Faye. And as you can see, I thought that cropped, uh, vests(?) and matching capris were cool! Completely cool!
I have a younger sister and an older brother. My sister is 5. My brother is 11.
...And that's the last we'll hear about those two.
I am 9. Now I will begin my story.
Phew! Now that we've gotten all of the really important details (like fingernail length) out of the way, we can get down to business!
Chapter 2: T.M.—Tiffany Markerton
PLAGIARISM ALERT! This next bit is completely lifted from Max, Braunschweiger, and Me (which was eventually published under the inferior, singsongy title Friends True and Periwinkle Blue). In Marilyn's book, during recess on the first day of school, the narrator meets a girl with two long red braids who demonstrates her prowess on the uneven bars by doing an impressive array of loop-de-loops. Afterward, the two become friends. Knowing that, see if you don't have a feeling of déjà vu while reading Chapter 2...
On the first day of school at lunch recess in the corner of the playground I saw kids yelling. They said, "Go T.M. Go T.M. Go, go, go, T.M.!" I skipped over there, and, in the middle of the crowd was a girl with long red ponytails doing what she called a "double flipped headstand marcher."
Just so you know, I have no idea what that would look like either. I'm hoping it involves a majorette hat.
When she was done, the children left. I was alone with her. I spoke up. "What's your name?" I asked sweetly.
Add that to the list! Liz: COOL, cute, smart, sweet... did I mention COOL?
She looked at me. "Tiffany Markerton." She answered in one breath, which meant she wasn't out of breath from her performance.
"Oh, yes, the great T.M." [Holy bitchface, Liz!]
"Yes, who're you?" she questioned.
"Liz Craw." I answered coolly.
Oh, Liz! As if you could answer any other way! You're so cool! COMPLETELY COOL!
"The coolest girl in the 3rd grade?"
"Wow." She was impressed. "Neato." She acted strangely.
Um, if Liz is the coolest girl in the third grade, wouldn't the other kids, like, know what she looks like?
I could get a good look at her now. She had long red, red ponytails. She had big green eyes. Like a cat. She had thick lashes.
Apparently I believed eyelashes to be an integral part of one's appearance.
Her cheeks and lips were a bright red and she had ribbons in her hair. Her clothing was out of style. She had an orange shirt, short overalls, and green new-shoes.
Oh my God, an orange shirt??? Liz is just a saint to make friends with her. Oh, and "new-shoes"? Yeah, that's a term I coined when my sister and I used to play department store. I would make little catalogs filled with drawings of the many fashionable items my sister could purchase, e.g., furry hooded jacket, "Jungle Girl" dress, new-shoes. In actuality new-shoes were flats; I just didn't know what they were called.
She had short fingernails and I liked her right away.
Is there some sort of correlation between those two things? Anyway... oh, what's that? You can't quite wrap your mind around those short overalls and new-shoes? Fine:
Something weird seems to be going on with her nose, but I'm glad to see her eyes aren't all smooshed together (ahem, Liz). And I couldn't fit it in the scan, but in the original drawing, next to her name it says "out of it," because that's how fucking uncool Liz thinks she is.
Chapter 3: The Dark Family
What I'd heard about the Dark family was bad.
I heard these:
#1. You must wear nothing but black and gray.
#2. No friends.
#3. Do things quietly.
#4. Mind your elders.
#5. Act proper.
#6. Defend your beliefs (our belief).
#7. Know everything. [Seems slightly unrealistic. Just sayin'.]
#8. Own only things that are dark in color.
#9. No parties.
#10. Live in a black house.
Whoa! The Dark Family (whoever they are) are either modern-day Puritans or just really, really, really goth. Like, A BLACK HOUSE? When the frick have you ever seen a black house?
That's all 10. Some kids say the house is a witch's house. A girl named Allyson is in that family and my class. She seems to follow those rules.
Once, when I walked down Stray Ave. [awesome], I saw a car stop. (A black car.) A line of children came out. They lined up in size order.
I had watched The Sound of Music too many times and thought all strict parents with lots of kids would operate à la Captain von Trapp.
They were all wearing black. A pretty woman in black counted them. A man in black [Johnny Cash???] said, "Hurry back in. All of them are here." They followed that order promptly. Then they were gone. That was 'The Dark Family'. It gave me the creeps.
Chapter 4: Allyson Prie
I thought Allyson was Pretty. So did T.M. Let me tell you about Allyson. She had long brown hair and thick bangs.
Of COURSE she had brown hair. Popular media had already ingrained in me the Hair Color Holy Trinity—we already have a blond and a redhead, so clearly the next character must be a brunette! It's only logical.
She had bright brown eyes. She had red lips and pink cheeks. She had black nail polish. She always wore a black pearl necklace. You know about her clothes. Also, she has black new-shoes with straps. (Cool! Mine don't have straps!)
Hmmm... she seems overly accessorized for a Puritan:
And yet that dress has "Pilgrim" written all over it. Either that or "Wednesday Addams."
I had a plan.
Later walking home. "Yo, T.M.!"
She jumped. "Huh?"
"It's me—Lizzy Craw. Remember?"
"Right, yeah. Whew." [???]
"We got work, Tiff." T.M. followed me. "Ya know Allyson Prie—top secret."
She cackled. "Dark, dark, dark." she chanted.
I rolled my eyes. "Quit it." I mumbled. [Oh shut it, Liz! You're nine! It's, like, your job to be annoying.]
"So what're we gonna do?"
"Gotcha!" [Uh, wha? How did "tomorrow" clarify anything?]
I'm not entirely sure what just transpired.
Chapter 5: Plans
My plan (on a piece of paper): To Fix Up Allyson Prie by Liz Craw. Helper – Tiffany Markerton.
Yes!!! Just what this book was needing: a makeover! (You know, so far, this plot is a lot like an Olsen twins movie.)
Allyson needs a nickname: Ally
New clothes in colors: Pink, purple, blue, yellow, and red (A little black) Also, white (of course)
New clothes like: Pants and shorts and overalls and short tops and long sweaters.
Wear hair up: Braids. Ponytail(s). Pigtail(s). Bun(s). (Or any other thing)
Odds and ends: Jewelery. Long nails. Nail polish. Toys. High Heel Shoes? (or not) Friends. Talk louder. Thank You!
That was it. Not too good. It was good enough.
Let's review. First of all, orange and green? Way uncool. (I hope you're taking notes, T.M.) Second, hold the phone! Overalls are cool? As long as they're not short overalls? You guys, being cool is so complicated. I'm just going to toss my hair in a bun, put on a long purple sweater, and call it a day. Maybe I'll even slip on some high-heeled shoes. Or not. Since I'm nine. Also, I like how Liz considers friends to be in the "odds and ends" category. This speaks VOLUMES.
I just thought of something. At my age I was out on dates. [!!!] I had a date after school at the mall [where else?] with Henry McCaw. I didn't like him that much. I turned down another date for him. Well, I had to break it.
She doesn't even like him, but she turned down another date for him? What's up with that? Wait, why am I trying to make sense of this? They are NINE YEARS OLD.
At recess I walked over to Henry.
"Henry." I said.
He looked at me. "Yes, Liz?"
"I have to break our date."
"What?!" he almost yelled.
"I have to do something with my girlfriend."
"Your girlfriend?!" Yick! "Well, if a girlfriend is more important than me then...." [He's already passive-aggressive at age nine. Run, Liz! Run!] What, what? "You have a girlfriend?"
Oh, no! "I'm not gay. You, you..."
"Ha! Ha! HA! Liz is gay!!!!"
I turned red!
WOW. Now watch me awkwardly attempt to defend my nine-year-old homophobia: You guys, I was raised in a liberal (albeit Midwestern) city by open-minded parents, but I obviously believed that being labeled "gay" would be the biggest social catastrophe that could befall you in the third grade. That is how afraid kids are of being perceived as "different." Did I really have a problem with gay people? I don't think so. I mean, I remember thinking it was "gross"—but I also thought that French kissing was "gross," and I definitely ended up changing my tune about that. Actually, one of my best friends in second grade was very likely transgendered. And I say this not because she liked to wear a tie rather than a skirt when she had to get dressed up (although that's also true), but because one day on the playground she said to me, "If I ever get a sex change, my name is going to be David. And we will not fall in love." I was like, "Cool. Let's go play on the monkey bars."
NEXT TIME: Liz gets her revenge on Henry, and it involves the n-word: nerd!
9 months ago