LAST TIME: Liz, the coolest girl in the 3rd grade, made friends with woefully unstylish (but limber!) T.M. in spite of her short fingernails and green shoes. She then hatched a plot to make over Allyson Prie (member of the puritanical, possibly goth, definitely weird Dark Family) even though she had never spoken a word to her. All in a tizzy to start picking out pastel shades of nail polish and high-heeled shoes for "Ally," Liz canceled her after-school date with Henry, who retaliated by calling her (what else?) a lesbian.
Chapter 6: Rumors
During math everyone was whispering and I was nervous. I'll bet Henry got a rumor going. That, that... nerd! [Ooh, BURN!] That's it—nerd. Henry is a nerd. Henry The Nerd. I'll get a rumor out about him. Ooooo! I'm mad.
So I'm sure every nine-year-old pretty much lives in fear of being called a homo, but come on, Liz! You're the coolest girl in the third grade! What's the big deal? Methinks she doth protest too much.
"Liz." Huh? "Liz." It was the teacher. "Liz, dear, are you okay. You look sick. You're so.... so.... red." Ooooo!
"No, Miss Laney. It's just a sunburn."
Good one, Liz! Way to cover!
That's over with. Whew!
Uh-oh! I'd better get going! Math!
I finished my paper just in time. Now I could go home. Once outside. "T.M. Over here. What did he say? What did he say? Tell me!"
"Okay, he said 'Liz Craw is gay. She has a girlfriend.'"
Oh, really? You guys, I'm starting to think this rumor might have the ring of truth.
"A girl that's a friend."
"Yeah, well, anyway, all the girls and boys are ganging up on him in..." She looked at her watch. "5 minutes at the river bank."
Chapter 7: At the Riverbank
Tiff and I raced each other to the riverbank. She won.
Suddenly, she stopped.
I looked back. "What?"
"They beat us."
There were kids in a circle. They had their faces wrinkled and their fists clenched. I suspected Henry was in the middle.
"Go!!!!" I yelled and ran down the hill. T.M. followed. We joined the circle shortly afterward.
He was in the middle.
Everyone made room for me. I gave orders. "Throw him in the river." I commanded.
Yeesh, Liz. He calls you a lesbian and you decide to... KILL HIM? That seems a bit harsh.
"No, no, please!" he pleaded.
I was disgusted. "Now!" I yelled.
That's what they did.
Wow. Don't fuck with Liz and her third-grade minions.
Now, while Henry was freezing in the river, a black car pulled up.
"Beat it!" I screeched. It was 'The Dark Family.'
She's probably more worried about the aquamarine outfit she has on than the attempted homicide.
The pretty lady came out. She said, "Oh George, dear, there's a boy drowning in the river. Fish him out. We'll take him home and fix him up."
I love how calmly she says this, like she and George come upon drowning victims on a daily basis.
I saw Allyson roll her eyes.
"Allyson!" Obviously, so did her mother. "Mind your manners." she snapped.
Allyson smiled sweetly.
Then, they drove away.
Chapter 8: Allyson, dear, where are you?
Word was Allyson Prie had run away.
All of a sudden, Liz sounds like a detective from the '40s.
I decided Tiff and I were going to do some spying at the dark, dark, dark, witch black house. I told T.M. and she agreed right away.
"Yippee!!!!" she said. "Dark, dark, dark. The Darkest, darkest, dark." She went on and on and on and on. "Dark, dark, dark. It's darkest at the Dark's Park. It's dark, dark, dark."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. I know. O.K.?"
Those two are like an old married couple. INTERESTING.
"Mmmm! Yes, I understand. No more. End of discussion. Zip!"
"Quit acting like a robot."
"Immediately." She shut her mouth.
"Acting like a robot" might be the single most realistic thing a nine-year-old has done in this story.
Off to the 'Dark' house we went.
"Shhh!" I ordered.
"Okay. Okay." Tiff answered.
This is what we saw:
A pretty lady in gray was walking around saying, "Allyson, dear, where are you?" It was true. The rumor was true. Wow!
You know, I want to poke fun at Mrs. Prie's terrible parenting, but truthfully, every time I "ran away" in elementary school, I was usually somewhere in the yard. Once I made it to the end of the block.
"Hey, Tiff, you here that? The rumor was true. She's really, really gone. Wow!"
"She's more gutsy than I thought she was." Agreed T.M.
Then, "Oh, George, how's that dear boy we pulled out of the river?"
He's still at their house??? I guess if you pull a boy out of a river, he's fair game. Getting thrown in a river? Practically makes you an orphan.
"Oh, don't you think he'd make a nice addition to the family?"
"Yes, of course. But, he has parents. [BAD parents apparently, if they leave him with strangers for days after he NEARLY DROWNS.] You know that Lana."
"Yes, yes, I know. I mean with Allyson, if she turns up, in the future."
"I see what you mean. I'll think about it."
"Yes, dear, see you later." He left and she went back to calling, "Allyson, dear, where are you?"
Um, excuse me? Discussing arranged marriages for your nine-year-old missing child? (If she turns up, that is.) Mrs. Prie is genuinely creepy! I can see kidnapping a boy you find in the river, but I draw the line at pimping out your third grader.
Chapter 9: The Ally Cat
Over the weekend T.M. and I decided to have a search party for Allyson.
We searched high and low.
Under and over.
Here and there.
We looked near moss grove, but, didn't dare go in.
I'd like to point out that "Moss Grove" is a completely un-sinister name. It sounds like a nice spot for a picnic and a nap.
"Should we go in?"
"But we gotta!"
"She might be in there."
"I don't think she's that way."
??? How much do you guys want to bet that Moss Grove is the local lesbian bar? (Er, all-ages lesbian club? I keep forgetting that they're nine, what with the high heels and dating and all.)
"She ran away."
"Okay, we'll try it, satisfied?"
We went in.
Suddenly, we heard, "Meow!!!!"
Ally cats! I thought. We screamed.
I don't get it. Moss Grove is an alley? I thought it was, you know, a GROVE. (...Or a lesbian bar.) Also, they're afraid of CATS? What in God's name?
Chapter 10: Charlotte
We heard a voice. "Allyson, cut that out."
"Aww, Charlotte, come on. It's fun."
T.M. and I giggled.
Then, a head popped up.
Soon, another head.
The second head was Allyson Prie's.
"I told you." said T.M. She was bragging.
"Nah, nah, nah."
"We found her."
"So! We found her. And all you can say is 'SO'?"
The heads giggled.
"Hello, Liz. Hello, Tiffany. This is Charlotte."
The first head smiled.
This "head" thing is getting weird. Quit giving me head, Liz!
This is a description of Charlotte: A regular sized 8-year-old. She had curly blond hair, pink lips and cheeks, green little eyes. She had pink polish on her nails. She had a shirt with a pink butterfly on it. She also wore pink shorts.
But what about her eyelashes??? Great, now I have NO IDEA what she looks like.
"Nice to meet you." she said.
"Yes." I said. "We have to take Allyson home. [Whatever, Liz. Quit harshing everyone's mellow!] Allyson?" I looked at her.
"Your mother is worried. Please, come home."
So, we took Allyson home and we—the four of us—were a great team.
Chapter 11: Trademark
After school the next day when Tiffany came out of the building I called, "Trademark. Trademark."
"What?" she answered confused.
"Crazy people, crazy names, boy." she mumbled.
"Hey!" I jumped in front of her face. She stepped back and fell over. Her knee was bleeding.
Jesus, Liz is an asshole.
I got down on the ground. "You okay?" I asked.
"Yeah. Yeah. Just fine." She got up and wiped her hands on her jeans.
"I'll walk with you," I said, changing the subject. [SMOOTH.]
"Okay" she said. "I don't have dance class today."
"What's so funny?"
I giggled again. "You" I said. "dance class."
So T.M. is kind of butch. Doesn't mean she can't take a dance class. Free your mind, Liz.
"Yes." she answered. "Who were you calling 'Trademark'?"
"You." I answered.
She didn't take it kindly. She stubbled [yes, stubbled] backwards and this time I caught her. I stood her up. "T.M. stands for trademark."
This is me trying to show off, in the dorkiest possible way. I had just learned what all those little ™ symbols I was seeing everywhere stood for—and I reasoned that if I didn't know, other kids didn't either, so I thought it my duty to educate my readers.
"Boy, you have some weird teachers." She laughed.
Then, Allyson and Charlotte came over to us. "We know some sign language." They said together and started laughing. "We can sing 'Row, row, row your boat.'" They said together again. They started laughing all over again.
"Taffy taught it to us!" Charlotte said.
"To you." Allyson said. "
I taught it to you." Charlotte said.
"Taffy." mumbled Allyson. Then, they laughed again.
"These people have the laughing disease." I said.
"How do you cure it, Doc?" Tiff asked.
"I dunno. There's no cure yet." I answered.
"We'll show you!" suggested Charlotte.
"Good idea!" answered Allyson.
Because sign language comes across SO well in a book.
They showed us 'Row, row, row your boat.' Not the cure.
"That's great." I said. "Who's Taffy?"
"A friend." answered Charlotte. "Hey, my mom's bakin' chocolate chip cookies. You guys wanna come over?"
"Sure!!!" We all answered together and laughed.
Boringest. Chapter. Ever. Sign language? Cookies??? Where's the intrigue in that? We need a plot twist STAT.
Chapter 12: At Charlotte's House
"Race ya!!!!" screamed Allyson at the top of her lungs [in total violation of Dark Family Rule #3]. She won and I was last.
"You're the rotten nag! You're the rotten nag!" chanted Tiff.
This was something my sister and I used to say; we thought ourselves incredibly witty.
"Nobody said anything about rotten eggs!" I complained.
"Rotten nag!" she corrected.
"Let's forget about it." suggested Charlotte.
"Tiffany." She inspected her carefully with a cat's eye.
Again with the "cat's eye"! I'm assuming I picked this up from other YA authors. I don't think I was spending too much time contemplating feline eyeballs myself.
"Okay." was the answer that finally came.
"Good. Now we can go inside. I'm starved." was Allyson in a desprate voice.
We walked in.
"Mom." called Charlotte. "Mom."
We put our bags down.
"Guess she's not home yet."
"No cookies?" cried Allyson.
"Yes cookies." answered Charlotte. "Just made 'em few munites [munites!] ago. Just had to go to store for somethin'."
"How would you know?" questioned Tiff.
You read my mind, T.M.
"Mind-reader." was the answer.
You did NOT read my mind, Charlotte.
We followed her to the kitchen.
"See, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies."
Maybe I shouldn't knock the cookies. That actually sounds delicious right about now.
Allyson grabbed one and started munching on it.
"Allyson, shame on you!" cried Charlotte.
But soon we were all grabbing and munching.
Are we still talking about cookies?
Suddenly, a car pulled into the driveway.
"Mom?" called Charlotte. "Mom?"
She looked out the window and then turned around stiff and pale.
Ooh, cookies PLUS intrigue!
"What?" I asked. "Who is it?" My mouth was full of food.
"Hey, Charlotte, you okay?" Allyson walked over to her.
"I don't know who it is." She said. "It's a stranger."
Dun dun DUN!
NEXT TIME: The not-so-thrilling not-so-much-a-conclusion. On the plus side, it does involve T.M. in a bathing suit (Liz is so psyched!) and midgets. Sort of.
11 months ago