Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The solution to homelessness? Mansions! (Duh!)

Ah, the elementary school journal. This is where I first learned the art of bullshitting, although I probably wouldn't have called it that at the time. I actually didn't swear much until middle school; in third grade, my concerned friends forced me to undergo recess "Swearing Lessons," of which they were the instructors. But I digress.

Anyway, the way it worked was that at the beginning of Language Arts (that's what Reading/English was called at our elementary school—and I so hope that it still is), the teacher would write a topic on the board and you would spend 10 minutes or so writing down pretty much whatever you could pull out of your ass. Seriously, check out these topics and my "essays" on them. The first couple are presidential-themed, because, hey, that seems topical.


Journal topic: "A bottle on the beach"

So I immediately run home and ask my dad what I should do. He takes me to the mayor. I show him the message and the bottle. He is amazed.

Uh, what does the message SAY? That probably would have been a good jumping-off point.

He ships it off to Washington D.C. The president wants to meet me. I buy a new dress
and I'm still nervous. What is he going to tell me?

If you think it will be something that gives us a clue as to the message's content, you are shit out of luck.

"This message is historical." he says. "We are putting it in the museum. Your name will appear next to the words 'founded by'. Here." he hands me a fifty dollar bill. I'm at a loss for words!

You could buy kids off pretty cheap in the '80s. Today, I could have sold that bad boy on eBay. Founded by, schmounded by...

I see the message in the museum. It's pretty boring. My name is next to the words 'founded by'. I always forget what the message is about when I leave. Well, at least I got fifty dollars.

So you see, the historical message wasn't at all important because it was BORING. History? Zzzzzzz... Oh, sorry. What were talking about? Huh... I don't remember, but I think I got 50 bucks. Sweet!

Journal topic: Washington D.C.

I'd never known what to say to the president. I hadn't thought about it until then. The class was pushed forward into the president's "chambers," as they said.

Nobody really knew what to say. Most of us just stood there, akwardly shifting from one foot to the other. "The levy isn't fair." someone spoke up. "Yeah!," and then, "All we'll get to do is work." "I hate work." someone yelled.

The levy was always of great concern to us in elementary school, as every year they threatened to take away Art, Music, and all the other fun stuff unless everybody ponied up.

Ronald Reagan was stunned. He thought we'd stand there for 15 minutes and then leave. WRONG! "Ahem," he said, clearing his throat, "I really can't do anything about that." We were all disappointed. "Yes you can!" someone piped up. "You're the president." We all nodded. "No, children, I can't. I have to eat lunch." Children! Lunch is better than us! I should've known. Well, at least we'd told him what we thought. That counts.

My, I was a cynical child. However, it's true that Reagan would not have been able to rig our levy for us. (Though the lunch bit is a nice touch.)

As you can see, I was not fond of Reagan. In first grade, I had voted against him in our school-wide "election" in favor of Mondale (or, to be honest, mostly Ferraro, because she was a girl), and in fifth grade I would pick Dukakis over him as well. Neither of my parents were registered to vote (for an embarrassingly long amount of time, actually; they were finally badgered into it once we, their children, neared adulthood) and they were generally disinterested in politics, so I think the anti-Reagan thing may have been all me.

But lest you think I was preoccupied with school levies and couldn't see the big picture, I bring you Journal Entry #3 (still political, but blessedly Reagan-free)...

Journal topic: If you had the power, what would you wish

I would be rich. I would have a mansion, expensive cars, a big pool out back, and giant rooms in my house. I have animals to care for at my house, too.

Hi, it was the '80s. Did you guys play MASH like we did? It stood for Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House and was a kind of crude fortune-telling "game" that would predict your future mate, abode, vehicle, and number of offspring (and sometimes career—I believe we added that in a later version). For every facet of your grown-up life you had to list four options—and in our rules, at least one of those options had to be crappy (i.e., along the lines of "shack"). Basically, you really wanted to end up living in a mansion with Kirk Cameron, driving your three children around in your Porsche. Worst-case scenario: You lived in a shack with some dorky boy from your class, drove a Yugo, and had 13 kids.

In my house there is so much room and I have so much money so, I let the poor come in. There I give them a place to sleep, clothing, and food. If they are sick, they are taken to a doctor. That kind of stuff is important.

Even at age 10, I could see the need for universal healthcare.

At my house it is like a zoo, with all the animals I own. I let people come and see my animals for free. My animals are tame so, people can pet them. The kids love it!

I like when I talk about kids as if I'm not actually one of them.

I am so powerful that I can make world peace. There will never be another war again! I travel all over the world telling everyone why peace is so important. Some people know what I mean while there are some I have to convince. Soon the world is peaceful.

That IS powerful. But note the clear '80s message that money can buy you power. And also turn your mansion into a lovely homeless shelter!

But I was 10, so it was obviously not ALL about passing the school levy and saving the world...

Journal topic: Free choice

Most of my "free choice" journal entries detailed my exciting weekends of ice skating, sleepovers, and watching films of questionable merit (e.g., Harry and the Hendersons or The Secret of My Success, which I claimed was "a good movie"). This one, for instance, is devoted to discussing the Crocodile Dundee sequel:

On Saturday night I went to the movies with my whole family—my mom, Halle, my dad, Chuck, my sister, Genie, and my brother, Will, and me. We saw "Crocodile" DUNDEE II. Here's what I thought:

All right, Crocodile Dundee returns! This time he's living in New York with his girlfriend, Sue. Her x-husband sends her some photos in the mail and—WHAM-O. These cocaine dealers are kidnapping her. This adventure takes them out of the state, out of the country, out of the continent, into Austrailia! See this movie!

My dad said it was as good as the first movie. I agree with him! They are both great movies, funny, full of adventure, and sometimes suspenseful. See these movies.

WHAM-O! I was going to make a joke about how you should never trust a 10-year-old's taste in movies, but honestly? Now I kind of want to rewatch the Crocodiles Dundee. Is it wrong?

Okay, yes, it's wrong.

NEXT TIME: Our first guest author, also known as my sister! Her untitled fourth grade masterpiece is possibly one of the funniest things I've ever read. Also, maybe this will guilt her into reading my blog more often.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Try, try again

The following are ideas for a few stories I was considering writing for a school assignment in fourth grade—but ultimately decided against. What made me think that these were unsuitable plotlines compared to, say, the nonadventures of a dim-witted punk Valley girl and her motorcycle gang? That's something we may never know. But the exciting part here is that we get to see actual ACTION! Or, uh, the outline of action anyway.

Plot Treatment #1:

A. My friends

1. Theme – If at first you don't suceed, try, try again

2. Plot – My friends and I are stuck under the water

3. Characters – My friends and I

4. Setting – The Beach, underwater, summer

We are swimming and suddenly Jessica is pulled underwater. We all follow. We can breathe! INCREDIBLE! We find all the wonders of the sea. We collect shells, see fish, make faces at sharks—everything! We want to get home but none of us can find a way out. Ty finds a cave. GREAT. It leads us to a fierce whirlpool. The one that brought us down here. We should try to swim back up. No luck. Stand under, Katie says. It pulls us up. AIR! FREEDOM! WONDERFUL.

So, how exactly is the theme of that story "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again"? If at first you don't succeed at swimming up a fierce whirlpool, try, try to stand under it and it will probably spit you out on dry land? It seems to me the theme was more along the lines of "Being able to breathe underwater is totally friggin' awesome!!!" Which—let's be honest—is a way better theme, although taunting sharks is maybe not the best idea, gill-like capabilities or not.

This book idea was definitely born out of my fervent childhood desire to be a mermaid. It was a desire that had probably lessened in intensity by fourth grade, but you can be sure I had spent many, many a former bath playing with my Sea Wees and/or pretending I was Daryl Hannah. Sometimes, as a rare treat, my mom would even let me pour some salt in the bathwater à la Madison in Splash! In reality, I've never really liked putting my head underwater. But if I could BREATHE while doing so? Hellooo, wonders of the sea!

Plot Treatment #2:

A. The Bikini Summer, Off at Camp, Beach Ball Baby, Perfect, Friends

I think those are all possible titles for the story. My vote's with The Bikini Summer. Nothing hotter than fourth graders in bikinis. Yeow! (Beach Ball Baby totally sounds like a Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello movie.)

1. Theme – Things aren't always as bad as they seem

2. Plot – Four girls are sent to camp and become an unlikely group

3. Characters – Four girls

4. Setting – At camp, summer

At Camp
['Scuse? No Bikini Summer??? I'm just going to pretend I didn't see this. La la la . . . ]

Ami Steinburger – beautiful, perfect, spoiled
Joy Linlar
– funny, a bit plump, short
Carrie Trailor – bossy, leader, tall
Barbie Jenson – hates name, hates water, talks a lot

For some unknown reason, I was obsessed with the name Joy Linlar (???). Don't be surprised if J.L. pops up in another story.

Girls try to sneak away from camp. By accident a goat dog named Fifi follows. The girls are caught. Barbie gets away. The only way out is by Ami's dad's boat. Barbie can't do it. She can't control the boat. She is tossed overboard in the middle of the lake. Thank god for life-jackets. She finds that water isn't so bad. Phone calls to the other girls' parents. They don't know where Barbie is. They all are given a second chance. A soaked Barbie is lying in bed. She feels better and changes her name to Barb. Ami makes everyone stop calling Barb 'Beach Ball Baby'. Barb competes in swimming for the camp and comes in 2nd. Ami's drawings are printed. Joy

CRAP! That's it!!! What happens to Joy Linlar???

So, just to recap: We're back at camp, which is, as we all know, the perfect setting for a book. Why is this "unlikely group" trying to run away from such a perfect setting? And where are they planning on GOING? God only knows. Then that stupid goat DOG gets them caught! DAMN YOU, FIFI. And yet somehow Beach Ball Barbie manages to break free and steal Ami's dad's boat, which is inexplicably located on the camp grounds, and which she inexplicably has the keys to. Then she overcomes her fear of water by being THROWN OVERBOARD FROM AN OUT-OF-CONTROL BOAT. Not only does this seemingly traumatic event—which leaves her stranded in the middle of a lake, mind you—cure her aquaphobia (and, it would appear, her depression), it magically makes her an amazing swimmer able to kick the asses of other children who have probably been swimming for longer than, say, a week. Oh, and she changes her name to Barb. Getting thrown from a boat is totally empowering, guys. She probably joins the Olympic swim team directly after camp ends. Go Barb!

But let's not forget about the other girls. I like how they're all given a "second chance" EVEN THOUGH THEY STILL HAVEN'T FOUND BARBIE AND SHE COULD BE FLOATING FACE-DOWN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LAKE FOR ALL THEY KNOW. And there's the whole matter of, you know, the hijacked boat. But whatevs. Those girls deserve another shot at, like, NOT running away from camp. Ami Steinburger, you have some drawings to publish. Joy Linlar and Carrie Trailor . . . I don't know, but I hear that you're a bit plump and bossy, respectively, so I'm sure you have many talents as well. And if you don't? Whatever. Things aren't always as bad as they seem. I'm sure that's exactly what Barbie was thinking when she was in the middle of the lake, dodging a runaway boat and trying to figure out how to swim. Oh no, that's right, what she was thinking was, "This water . . . why, it isn't bad at all! In fact, I think I kind of LOVE swimming! Call me Barb, everyone. Call me fucking BARB."

Next is the outline for the book I actually ended up writing, which I'm sure you'll agree is TOTALLY INFERIOR to The Bikini Summer.

Plot Treatment #3:

A. My brother and his friends

1. Theme – Young people have good imaginations

As opposed to crotchety old 10-year-olds like me?

2. Plot – Four little boys create their own land in outer space

3. Characters – Four little boys and me

4. Setting – In outer space, daytime

Noah, Jeremy, Josh, Will
[my brother, who was on the verge of turning four when I wrote this], and me. They dream us into outer space. We have to get back in time for dinner. The boys are fighting over who should be the king of our new-found planet. I have a headache. Jeremy, Josh, and Noah's mothers are at home. They wonder where we are. Josh finally realizes we are lost. I find we can dream ourselves back. All of us. Noah wants to stay. We force him to get us back. Now we're in a jungle. We go through all of it again. The North Pole. Brrr. It's cold and Noah gives in.

Sorry, but BO-RING. Who wants to read about four-year-old boys in the North Pole when we can be reading about Joy Linlar? In a bikini? At camp? I hear she's funny . . .

NEXT TIME: A peek at my fourth grade journal, which contains a fair amount of Reagan-bashing. For serious!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Runaways, dogs, and crippled children—oh my!

That's right, it's book report time! As I've said before, I devoured books as a child. This is just a sampling of what I had on my plate in fourth grade.

Book Report #1
The assignment: A picture and a paragraph about my favorite character
Title: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Author: E. L. Konigsburg

Type: Newbery Award

I think someday I'd like to have lunch with the Newbery Committee or something. I seriously still love this book:

For the insane few of you who have never read it, here's the back cover spiel:

When Claudia decided to run away, she planned very carefully. She would be gone just long enough to teach her parents a lesson in Claudia appreciation. And she would live in comfort—at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She invited her brother Jamie to go, too, mostly because he was a miser and would have money.

The two took up residence in the museum right on schedule. But once the fun of settling in was over, Claudia had two unexpected problems: she felt just the same, and she wanted to feel different; and she found a statue at the museum so beautiful she could not go home until she had discovered its maker, a question that baffled even the experts. The former owner of the statue was Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. And without her help Claudia might never have found a way to go home.

If you think the copywriter got a little dramatic at the end, well, let me assure you, they had nothing on 10-year-old me. But first things first: My favorite character was Claudia, obviously. (No offense to Jamie, but draw a picture of a BOY? It would have to be a cold day in hell.)

I seem to have been determined to draw every last one of Claudia's eyelashes.

Here's what I had to say about Claud:

Claudia is running away. She doesn't want to be running away but, running to somewhere. She picks the Art Museum. She runs away because she is treated unfairly. She is the oldest child and only girl in the family. When she and younger brother, Jamie, move in, they discover "Angel". Claudia's determination and Jamie's money lead them to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler . . . . and the secret of Angel.

Despite the fact that I give zero explanation about the oh-so-mysterious "Angel," you can see that I was BORN to write juvenile marketing material. I think I may have missed my calling.

From the Mixed-Up Files is, in my opinion, the quintessential YA running away book, and woo boy, did I ever enjoy reading—and writing—about running away. (I mean, what could be cooler than living in the art museum? I ask you, WHAT?) In sixth grade, I actually plagiarized the bejesus out of this book in a story creatively titled "Running Away." You will totally get to read it once sixth grade rolls around.

Book Report #2
The assignment: A letter to the author
Book Report: Judge Benjamin: The Superdog Secret
Author: Judith Whitelock McInerney
Type: Animal Story
Pages: 140

Judith Whitelock McInerney wrote a whole slew of books about the redheaded O'Riley clan and their long-suffering Saint Bernard, Judge Benjamin (not to be confused with Judge Reinhold—man, there were way too many Judges in the '80s), who also happens to be the narrator. This was the only Judge Benjamin book that we owned, but it was also my favorite because it involved a mobile home. I was utterly fascinated with mobile homes after viewing a two-minute clip about them once on Sesame Street. I was all, "You can sit at a table and eat breakfast WHILE YOU'RE DRIVING? And play cards? And watch TV? WHILE YOU'RE DRIVING??? Sign me the fuck up!"

But back to the Saint Bernard:

The back of the book gives us this terse synopsis:

The O'Rileys are a big, happy family. There's Mr. & Mrs. O'Riley and their four children—Kathleen, Seth, Maura, and Annie. There's also Judge Benjamin, their 200-pound dog. One day Mr. O'Riley announces that they're all going on vacation in their new camper. All of them except Judge Benjamin, that is. But Annie has other ideas!

Yes, they somehow manage to hide a Saint Bernard in a mobile home. Don't ask. Here's what I had to say to ol' Judes about it:

Dear [left blank even though it CLEARLY states the author's name at the top of the page]

I think the Judge Benjamin books are great! I have read The Superdog Secret, The Superdog Surprise, The Superdog Rescue and the Superdog I forget!
. I am writing this letter about The Superdog Secret. I think it is neat how you write it from Judge's point of view. I love the characters, too! Just like a real family: sometimes caring, fighting, sweet, firm, etc., but always loving. It was funny how the kids decided to hide Judge in the tiny tub in the trailer. How could he manage smelly socks on his nose and bras on his tail from Decatur to Canada? Poor Judge! But in the end he always comes through. Nothing is more important than his family!


P.S. Keep Writing!

Yes, words of encouragement from a 10-year-old to a published author.

Book Report #3
The assignment: A diary for a week
Title: With Love From Karen
Author: Marie Killilea
Type: Non-fiction

I was a pretty strict fiction reader, but I made one critical exception: true stories about crippled children. Preferably written many decades earlier. I had a particular soft spot for blind children or—even better!—blind and deaf children. But Karen Killilea somehow managed to be the QUEEN of the crippled children, even though she still had all of her senses intact. For one thing, her book actually had a SEQUEL (reported on here; both books were written by her mom). And yeah, she had cerebral palsy, but she also had a Pollyanna-esque perkiness that made YOU wish that you had been born crippled just so you could learn to walk with crutches for the first time too! Also, the Killileas had about 78 million pets, and I was jealous because I had something that was maybe even WORSE than cerebral palsy: allergies.

Here's Karen with one of her 10,000 dogs:

The back cover copy hilariously reads:

For the thousands of people who personally wrote to ask, "What has happened to Karen since her story was published?" and for the millions whose hearts went out to this freckle-faced, pig-tailed little girl and wondered in silence about how she grew up, this book is a personal reply—written with tender appreciation, with love from Karen.

It was published in 1963, if that's any sort of excuse.

Anyway, my mom maintains that this book report is brilliant because I wrote it all in the decidedly sentimental style of Marie Killilea. I also used a different pen or pencil for each "diary entry," to give it that authentic feel:

Diary of Karen Killilea

[written with pencil]:

I feel that I have made the right decision. No more will I be in the crutch's prison. Well, now that I have this diary "Mom Pom" gave me to keep up my good handwriting, I feel I should explain myself.
I have cerebal palsy. Well time to eat dinner. Good-bye, dear diary!

With love,

Saturday [written with pencil]:

Today we took Ocean Borne to a dog show. Ocean Borne and Peri are our Newfoundlands. Today, at the show, I had a surprise. Ed Doll was there! I remember when I sent him the telegram telling him that Ocean Borne went BOB (best of breed). He said WHO'S BOB? When I saw him we hugged and he said, "How's BOB?" So, I know he has not forgotten either. Soon, Gloria, Russ, Mary, and Evelyn will be home. I'M SO HAPPY.

But I miss Shanty

With Love,

[written with pink pen!]:

Dear Diary,
How foolish I've been to not explain my spectacular family to you. There is "Mom Pom", Daddy, Gloria, Marie, Rory, and Kristen. And our animals! Shanty was my dog but, alas, he has passed away. Hmmmmmm. Now there is Ocean Borne, Peri, and Pierre. Our cats are many. One is Misty Morning. Another, Kristen's companion, is Etcetera, our darling Siamese with points! We also have 2 birds and more cats (of course). Glo and Russ (+ kids) lived in Florida and on Tuesday they are coming back.


With Love From,

P.S. We also have an alligator, Gigidinella, and a talking parrot, Gazebo

[written with black pen]:

Dear Diary,
So much to do in so little time. Glo, Russ, Mary, and Evelyn will be here tomorrow "for keeps" says Glo. Let me tell you all about my important decision. I chose between riding in my wheelchair (FREEDOM) and the crutches (PAIN). Naturally I chose the wheelchair. I am free. Well, I still have to help prepare the surprise party for GLO AND RUSS! Excitement is in the air. I can smell it.


With Love From,

[written with blue pen]:

Dear Diary,
Glo and Russ and Mary and Evelyn came home today. Evelyn is the most darling baby. Kristen loves her. (So does Etcetera.) And more animals! Glo presented me with a tank of the most beautiful tropical fish. Our menagerie grows! Rory came for a visit!!!!!!!!!! His girlfriend, Virginia McGuire, brought us a puppy, a beutiful Golden Retriever, who Virginia claimed she was called Shannon. (I guess Rory told her about Shanty.) Glo is back and they are looking for a house. Jean, our neighbor, said things were back to normal. Even Marie, her husband, Ronald, and son were there.


With all My Love Family + Friends From,

[written with pink pen]:

Dear Diary,
Today, oh, today was a glorious day. We went to the beach. It was warm enough. Virginia does the most remarkable dives. Shannon joined our 3 dogs (2 Newfs, 1 Daschund) in a water/romp game of fetch-the-frisbee. What fun. Kristen is learning to hold her breath! Mary can swim!!!! It is nice to see us all together. I happily took note that Marie and Gloria are the same fantastic swimmers they used to be. Glo, Mare, Ginia (VIRGINIA), and myself raced, swimming, in the water. I had some tough competition. Later, Mommy told me we were all very impressive.


All My Love,

[written with pencil]:

Dear Diary,
Today Rory and Ginia went away. (AGAIN!!!!!) Glo and Russ have already found the perfect house. I suspect mommy was hunting for them when they were in Florida. Now they are getting a Labrador. We used to have one named Highland Lark (Lark for short). Mary wants to get a dog named "fishy". She is hilarious! Today was OK, I guess.


With Love from Karen

Wow. Two things:
1) I definitely read those books way too many times.
2) I kind of want to write everything
à la Marie Killilea from now on. Ahem:

This trip down memory lane has been such glorious fun! How lucky I was to have such impressive authors to emulate and such remarkable books to plagiarize. And how foolish I've been not to write like the spectacular Killileas all along!

WHAT FUN I HAD WRITING THIS BLOG ENTRY I WILL REMEMBER FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. Well, time to eat dinner. Good-bye, my dear, darling readers!

With love,

NEXT TIME: Plot treatments for some stories that never were, but definitely should have been (hi, The Bikini Summer?).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sisters, Sisters

This next book deals with familial relations, specifically between sisters. A whole mess of sisters. (At least I was honest with myself about one thing: I did not know crap about boys.) The sisterly bonds are a subject I would return to many, many, many times in my writing, but this book about the McCormick girls seems to be my first effort. What it lacks in plot I think you'll agree it makes up for in pictures. Plus, it has maybe the best character EVER in eldest sister Daphne. Oh, just you wait . . .

The McCormick Girls

Chapter 1: Daphne's Gang

"Whoa. Hey, Moni, I was like totally excepted."
"What's the motorcycle gang called again, anyway? 'The Pea Brains'?" said Monica, laughing.

ANOTHER motorcycle gang? What was wrong with me???

"Ha, ha, ha. Really, sure, like we're called 'The Fried Worms'." said Daphne, acting hurt.
"That's a good one. No, now, be serious." answered Monica.
"Oh, man, totally. Now, I WAS SERIOUS."
"Ooooops, Daffy, I'm REAL sorry."
"I'll bet, dude, gosh, really."
"Who's in it?" asked Monica.
"Matt, Joyce, Barb, Candy, Jim, Bob, Helen, uh, that's it." Daphne smiled, glad her sister was taking an interest in her life.

Who do you guys think would win in a rumble: the Light(e)ning Bolts or the Fried Worms?

Chapter 2: Meet the girls

The four McCormick sisters had never really gotten along . . . . . . . one year everything changed.

Don't worry, we won't find out why. (And to be honest, it seems like they actually get along pretty well.)

Daphne, sometimes called Daffy, was the oldest, 18. She was a valley girl and a punk, not caring about life, and doing anything against her parent's will.

I have to gloss over "not caring about life" because, uh, a Valley girl AND a punk? It's very obvious that I had not seen Valley Girl yet, or Nicolas Cage would have already schooled me that there's NO SUCH THING. I do remember that my friend Katie had a Valley girl dictionary and we would read through it to learn, like, totally tubular new phrases. And of course, it was 1987, so I really wanted to be punk. Except I thought that being punk meant being like Cyndi Lauper or Boy George or—dear God—even Punky Brewster. In other words, you had crazy hair and wore a lot of brightly colored, mismatched clothing. TOTALLY PUNK!

My sister and I LOVED to have punk dress-up days, and I was even punk for Halloween one year, either in third grade or fourth. Since I didn't have the foresight to mine my family photo albums for blog-relevant pics, I'll just have to describe to you what I can remember of my
überpunk costume: a neon (and I mean NEON) orange v-neck sweater; a hot pink leather miniskirt; a pair of light blue tights with multicolored polka dots, the feet cut off and many runs painstakingly applied; white jelly shoes; scads of jewelry. When we were stay-at-home punks, my sister and I would get crazy with the ribbons in our hair, but for this special occasion I purchased spray-on red hair dye, which I applied in several large streaks. (Why do I remember this outfit so vividly??? Please, everyone, leave a comment describing your most memorable preteen punk ensemble!)

That said, my artistic rendering of Daphne the punk Valley girl is surprisingly on the mark (punk-wise, I mean; I had no effing clue what Valley girls looked like):

The hair is just . . . WOW. And I like how she has a little junk in the trunk.

Monica, called Moni, was 16. A pretty and dainty young lady everyone called her. Daphne envied her with her life and still loved her. [Daphne, no need for the petty jealousy. You are so much cooler than Monica!]

Dainty! Please note that her lipstick matches her dress.

Ashley, 13, had no nickname and liked it that way. She loved to read and model make-up and clothing. She used older sister, Monica, as a role model.

You see what I mean about the excessive eye makeup?

Courtney, or Tootsie, named for her love of Tootsie Rolls [the hell?], was 8. She thought Daphne was the best and grew up following her and all she did.

Tootsie's hair is kind of awesome. (By the way, she's never referred to as Tootsie again.)

Chapter 3: Courtney's Friend
"Hi!" called Courtney, walking in. "Am I interrupting anything? Huh, Daffsie?" Daffsie was Courtney's nickname for Daphne. "Lookit what I found."
A dog walked in and Monica screamed. Courtney knew how scared of dogs Monica was.

I suppose it comes with being dainty.

That made Monica mad.
"Mimi!" yelled Courtney. "Please leave Bo-Bo outside. Monica isn't very, uh, confident about dogs."
"O.K." Then a fair-haired and green-eyed girl about Courtney's age walked in. "Hi."
"This is Mimi." said Courtney proudly. "She's the new kid AND my new friend. We're gonna eat some cookies, okay."
"O.K. If you insist. I have some homework ANYWAY. Come on, Daffy."
"Like, okay, man. 'Bye, Mimi, dude."
"Bye!" called Mimi, cheerfully.

So, by "lookit what I found" she meant the new kid. That's weird, right?

Chapter 4: Monica's big chance

"Moni!" called Ashley. "MAIL!"
"Male WHAT?" Monica called back.
"A letter!"
Monica ran over. "Thanks Ash." she said.
"Call me Ashley, all right?"

Ashley is fiercely anti-nickname.

"Sure, Ash-ley."
"Omigod!" she shrieked, opening the envelope. "I'm gonna be on 'Wheel of Fortune'!"


"You'll miss school, though." said Ashley.
"Me too because I'm gonna stay home and tape it. I'll call in sick." said Daphne happily.

Was Wheel of Fortune ever on during the day or was I smoking crack? And is Daphne still in high school? I'm assuming she wouldn't be going to college because of the whole "not caring about life" thing.

A week later
"What a bummer." said Courtney.
"You bet." said Monica. "All I won was a walkman and an electric curler. Not that I need it." She pulled on her long black curls. "I'm sooooo mad."

Do you remember the days when you solved a puzzle on Wheel of Fortune and instead of getting cash you'd get an amount to spend in their prize room, which was always filled with hideous bedroom sets and giant ceramic dogs? Man, I always wanted people to buy the ceramic dogs!

"Oh, Monica!" cried Ashley, hugging her.
"Gee, Moni, like, uh, better luck next time, man. Like, sorry, dude." said
[Spicoli, er,] Daphne.

Chapter 5: Ashley's loss

"Remember," said Ashley. "When I said Justine was my best friend? Forget I ever said that."
"Uh-oh, dudes." cried Daphne

I'm kind of embarrassed to admit how much of Daphne's vernacular I use on a daily basis.

"What happened?" Courtney asked coolly.
"She joined a club and said Beth Larson was her best friend. She told me she hated Beth Larson. She said Beth Larson was a stuck-up, spoiled, dirty, rat of a brat."
"THAT JERK!" shreiked Monica.
"Wait till I tell Kristin, Mimi, and Candice. They BETTER not do that to ME." said Courtney.
"Heavy." said Daphne.

Best! Ever!

"TRAITOR!" screamed Monica.
"PHONE ASHLEY!" yelled mom.
"Got it. Mom, you can hang up now."
"Hi, Ashley. This is Justine. I'm sorry I hurt your feelings. I wanted to join that club real bad. But, I dropped out. It was really dumb. Will you still be my friend?"
"Sure, Justine."

Well, hey, that conflict was resolved right quick!

Chapter 5: Trouble on the loose

"Courtney, phone!"
"O.K. Monica, hang up!" said Courtney.
"This is Mimi. I can't find Bo-Bo. He's been gone for two days and I'm worried."

Mimi, I know you're eight and all, but you probably shouldn't wait TWO DAYS to start looking for a lost dog.

"I'll be right over."
"That's what Kristin and Candice said. They still aren't here."

Don't get your panties in bunch, Mimi. This story was written by a fourth grader, so I'm sure Bo-Bo is fine.

"Well, I'll be there! 'Bye."
"You all got here at the same time. Good. I made some signs to tack up around here and all. Let's go searching!" called Mimi.
"Bo-Bo. Come here, boy. Come to Kristin. Come on Bo-Bo."
"Bo-Bo. Candice wants you to come here. Come here, Bo-Bo. Come on, boy."
Mimi whistled. No answer.
"Bo-Bo. Courtney loves you. Come on, Bo-Bo, come on."

Why do they all refer to themselves in the third person when calling the dog? Is that something Bo-Bo's into?

"Young lady," said an old woman. "Is this your dog?"
"No." said Mimi, glancing down.
"Bo-Bo!" yelled Kristin, running over to him.
"This dog's name is Violet." said a man.
"This dog's name is Bo-Bo." said Candice, pulling a frightening dog out of the bushes.

. . . And that's all she wrote. Literally. (See, Sada can refer to herself in the third person too, Bo-Bo.) At least you can all sleep tonight knowing that Bo-Bo is safe.

So, how did this year change everything? I'm thinking maybe the Wheel of Fortune curling iron burns the house down, killing Mr. and Mrs. McCormick—but sparing the girls, of course—making 18-year-old Daphne, like, totally the guardian of the other sister-dudes. Heavy! Being not only parentless but also homeless, they will then have to move in with the rest of the Fried Worms and wackiness will ensue. Discrete bits of wackiness that will have their entire story arc in a single chapter. Oy.

NEXT TIME: We know what I was writing in fourth grade, but what was I reading? Let's take a look at some old book reports and find out!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Journalistic Integrity

Fourth grade. For me, it was 1987–1988. I was twice scandalized by George Michael: first, with all the butt wiggling (I had never before realized that the rear end could be a desirable body part), then with the song that had the word "sex" (!!!) in the title. (Which I LOVED, being that I was a very sensual 10-year-old. Or that songs with the word "sex" in the title made me giggle. Okay, maybe they still do.) Fourth grade was also the year I was given the World's Most Unfortunate Haircut, which was spawned at the Best Cuts at the mall and involved thick bangs that looked as if they were trying to fly away from my face. (I finally managed to grow out the Bangs of Satan by ninth grade, but the whole thing was so traumatic that I don't think I can ever have bangs again.)

And of course, I wrote a bunch more stories of debatable quality, starting with this one, which was written for school and is dated September 14, 1987:

The New Newspaper Writer

"Mom, mom, guess what?" called Teresa "I'm the new newspaper writer. Isn't that great? Mom . . . . . "
"Rese, is that you, honey? I'm in the attic. Congratulations."
[Why is she in the attic? What's she doing up there? It will forever remain a mystery.]
"Thanks, mom. I'm gonna work on a story right now."
Teresa ran to her room and started writing.

Teresa's articles are all written in cursive, while the rest of the story is printed, so I think this means I have to use a "newspaper" font.

'Say Farewell To Our Beloved Slide'
by Teresa Lanes
The slide that stands high and tall in the playground will be no more. The slide has proved to be dangerous and unsafe. All next week construction will be taking place. The slide will be torn down and hopefully they will build us another slide.

This was a page torn from real life. Except they never built us a new slide. Jerks.

Then she typed it.
The next day it was in the school paper.
[That's some turnaround!]
"Teresa, great story!" exclaimed Mandy, her best friend.

Holy CRAP! Teresa and Mandy??? Could these be our old friends forever?! (Or was I just too lazy to come up with different names for my characters?) Can we just say it's them? I'd like to believe that Teresa came out of her terrible illness with a carpe diem attitude that led her to discover a passion for journalism.

Just then the bullies walked by, Mona, Ted, Liza, and Barry.
"Great story!" snorted Mona, copying Mandy.
"Our beloved slide!" grunted Ted.
"What a baby!" cried Liza.
"Tell us something we don't know!" said Barry.

Okay, the slide thing probably isn't breaking news, but what is in fourth grade? However, the bully names are kind of awesome. Barry, I'm looking at you.

"They have no respect!" And Mandy was right.

This was, if you'll remember, the era of Rodney Dangerfield.

They next day a pair of twins appeared in the 5th grade. Boys.
What a great story! Teresa wrote:

'Twins New To School'
by Teresa Lanes
Maybe you've seen them around. If you have not-look. I'm talking about the new twins who paraded in yesterday.
[Paraded? Teresa kind of has a flair for the dramatic, doesn't she? I guess we should have seen it coming, what with the fainting spells and all.] Dave and Brett may look the same but they are quite different, as the boys say. Basketball, baseball. Red, green.

What kind of ending is that? I hate to say it, guys, but Teresa is getting sloppy.

The next day people really noticed the twins. Teresa felt proud.

Their newspaper gets published EVERY DAY? That's some serious business for an elementary school.

But when she got her paper back she felt sick. She only got 2 answers right.
She quit the newspaper comitee.

Whoa! That came out of NOWHERE!

"Hey, guess what?" asked Mandy.
"I'm the new newspaper writer!"
"Oh, gosh!" said Teresa.
[Cue the drum roll, please.]


Wow, what a back-ass-ward moral! She really seemed to enjoy being the new newspaper writer, didn't she? And it's not like those articles were incredibly lengthy and time-consuming. Does anyone know the Latin for "let the day totally pass you by"?

My teacher's comment, however? "Very nice." With a smiley face.

In other news, someone was led to this blog by Googling "does mary lou retton smoke." My guess is NO (not only is she an athlete, she just seems too perky to be a smoker), but I hope he or she enjoyed Gymnastics Camp! Or learned a valuable lesson from "Cynthia's Friend."

NEXT TIME: The McCormick Girls, a novel about four sisters who have nothing in common but each other—and a tendency toward excessive eye makeup.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Too cool for cigarettes: "Cynthia's Friend"

Hello, and welcome to our third story with the word "friend" in the title! In this gem, new-kid-in-town Cynthia is faced with the age-old question: unpopularity or lung cancer?

On a side note, this is also the first of my stories to be written on a typewriter. Yes, I was in third grade, but I was serious, people. Conveniently, my grandfather owned a store that sold used office furniture, so my sister and I were soon outfitted with not only typewriters, but metal typewriter stands and wheeled desk chairs as well. Wheeee! But back to the ethical dilemmas . . .

Cynthia's Friend

"Nancy, can my friend, Sara Blakes, come for dinner?" Cynthia asked.

I believe Nancy is the housekeeper. There are actually several upcoming stories that feature housekeepers. (Thanks, Harriet the Spy and/or any number of television shows from the '70s and '80s.) I never at any point in time had a housekeeper myself, but they seemed cool.

"Does Jhonny have a friend?" Nancy asked. "He's not done a thing since we been moved. I think he misses all his friends."

"Since we been moved?"
Sweet Jesus, tell me that is not Ebonics! I'm really, really hoping not, as I grew up in a neighborhood that was about 50% black (and, oddly enough, about 25% ultra-Orthodox Jew), and—especially in elementary school—I had a ton of black and biracial friends. It hadn't really occurred to me at this point that someone's race would be a factor in, well, ANYTHING. Plus, a large number of the TV housekeepers were white (or those housekeepers with starring roles, anyway—thanks, media). And when they were black, I was always sensing sexual tension between them and the white characters. Like when I would watch Gimme a Break, I was always waiting for Nell Carter and the dad to hook up. Tony and Angela were making out, so clearly Nell and her employer were next. (Mr. Belvedere, on the other hand, definitely did not have genitalia. You cannot convince me otherwise.) However, it's hard to argue with "since we been moved." Yikes.

"He'll get over it" Was the answer "Besides . . . he has Spot."
"I know." Nancy admitted. "Just go along and get your friend. Can't stop it anyhow."
"Oh, Nancy, thanks! So much!" And she ran outside.
"Sara, you can! You can come to dinner! Thanks for waiting! Oh, thanks!"
"No problem." Sara was just too cool, thought Cynthia. Too cool!
"Hey," continued Sara "you got a cigarette?" Cynthia was stunned.

As am I, since they are, after all, nine.

"A cigarette?" asked Cynthia.
"Yeah. You got one?"
"You smoke?"
"Yeah." she said. "So?"
"Well," Be strong, she told herself. "I--don't."
"Well, you aren't good enough to be my friend."

Because smoking makes you eeeeeeeeevil.

[in a puff of cigarette smoke!] Sara Blakes was gone forever.

I also like to picture her riding off into the sunset with the Marlboro Man. Possibly atop Joe Camel.

"Oh, Nancy, forget Sara. She smoked." Cynthia told her.
"Check next door. There's a girl-Elizabeth."

I appreciate that Nancy doesn't take advantage of this obvious opportunity for an anti-smoking sermon. She's pretty much like, "Whatevs, you crazy (possible smoker) third graders! Can't stop it anyhow."

"Okay." And she went next door.
"Hello." a tall, thin, girl asked when she knocked.
"Are you Elizabeth?"
"Yeah. You can call me Liz." she said. "You move in next door?"
"Great! Hey, don't look so sad. I know what moving's like. Leavin' friends. Findin' new ones. It's hard. It is. I moved in last year."
"Really? Hey, you want to come to dinner?"

Shouldn't she, like, check Liz's fingers for nicotine stains first or something?

"Sure." Liz said. "What's your name?"

"Cynthia. I'll be right back."

Oh man! She invites her over before she even introduces herself? I fear for Cynthia when she starts dating.

She ran into the kitchen.
"Nancy, can Liz come to dinner?"
"Oh, Nancy, thanks! Thanks-so much."


Ahhh . . . third grade really was a simpler time, wasn't it? Do you remember how much anti-smoking, -drinking, and -drugging propaganda they used to throw at us? I have a hilarious anti-drug poster I drew (in crayon, thank you) of me and my siblings sticking our tongues out at drugs. Nyah nyah, drugs! Unfortunately, I just moved and I have no freaking clue which box it's in. Or if it would fit in my scanner anyway. I have to admit, though, I have never—to this day!—taken even a drag on a cigarette. So some of that crap must have sunk in.

NEXT TIME: Fourth grade in the hizzy! Although I'm not quite sure where to start . . .

Thursday, July 3, 2008

USA GIRLS!: A radio program

One of my prized possessions in elementary school was my tape recorder. I'm not talking about some hulking boombox either; this thing was silver, moderately sleek, and—as much as it could be in 1987—compact, meaning I could carry it around with me, oh, EVERYWHERE. At some point all of the following were recorded for posterity:

  • Spy missions in which my sister and I would tape our parents unawares. Unfortunately, these were usually extremely boring. Sometimes we'd have to intervene to get the juicy conversation flowing, which would generally lead to my dad saying things like, "What do you guys want? I'm trying to read the paper."

  • Songs performed by the Punkettes (aka me, my sister, and our neighbor Tawana), including a cover of "The Greatest Love of All" as well as original compositions like the inspirational "You Can Do It If You Try." (I might have to dedicate some later posts to my second career as a singer/songwriter.)

  • Greetings from assorted classmates. (I would then immediately have to stop the tape and rewind it so they could hear themselves.)

  • About 8,000 songs—taped off of the radio by holding the tape recorder next to the speaker. If anyone entered the room and dared to SPEAK while I was in the midst of recording, they would face my wrath.

And then there were the radio shows. Many, many radio shows. See, my friends and I were pretty convinced that we were all celebrities who just hadn't been discovered yet. One of the ways to prep for our eventual fame was to host talk "radio" shows on a variety of subjects, either as ourselves or in character (which more often than not meant affecting an accent that would make Meryl Streep want to stick hot pokers in her ears).

Following are the scripts (yes, they were SCRIPTED!) for two episodes of USA Girls, one of our early efforts and the brainchild of my friend Jessica and me. It was a news show of sorts, covering all the areas of interest for a nine-year-old girl—in other words, clothing, pop culture, and boys. And occasionally the weather.

Man, it's a good thing podcasts didn't exist back then.

Episode 1:

J: Introducing our new show "USA Girls!" And here they are.

First there's the lyrically amazing theme song:

Girls! USA Girls! We're girls! USA Girls! Girls! We're USA girl girls! USA GIRLS!

S: Now the movie reports. "Light of Day" is given an A. And we think you should see "Manican" even though we haven't. Thank you.

Yeah, that's right, Light of Day, starring Joan Jett and Michael J. Fox as rocker siblings trying to make it big in Cleveland (as a native Clevelander I say, good luck!). Doesn't sound like a kids' movie? That's because it's totally not. Yet we somehow badgered my friend Katie's mom into taking us. In another tape recording from this same time period, Katie and I are discussing the film and she thoughtfully remarks, "I think that the reason why Michael J. Fox's last name is Fox is because he is SUCH a HUNK of CHEESE." Where did we come up with this crap??? Also, don't worry, we ended up seeing Mannequin eventually, and it was even BETTER than Light of Day! A+!!! (My God, children have the most undiscerning taste ever.)

J: Now the weather. It is SO cold out there, it'll bite your butt off.
[Adding the word "butt" into your newscast = instant hilarity!] I went walking and I froze to death. Fortunately, someone rescued me. Thank you. Now time for a song!

I'm pretty sure the songs were those I had taped off the (actual) radio and involved Debbie Gibson.


J: I have this boyfriend. He keeps dumping me. What should I do.
S: You should dump him.
J: Thanks a bunch.

S: No Boys like me! How do I get them to like me?
J: I think you should act sexy personally.
S: Thanks for your advice.
J: Your wellcome.

I don't even want to know how a nine-year-old would act sexy.


Good Bye

If nothing else, USA Girls was succinct.

Episode 2:

J: Now "USA girls!"

Girls! USA Girls! We're girls! USA Girls! Girls! We're USA girl girls! USA Girls!

S: Now we will have the Animal reports. What animal should you choose? Rabbits, fish, birds, hamsters, and guinea pigs are best. Dogs doo-doo. Cats scratch. But the ones I've mentioned are just great. Thank you.

Did I really think dogs were the ONLY animals that pooped?

J: Now we'll have the clothes reports. Whats in style? Mini skirts, jeans, strech pants, bright colors, and fancy dresses are in style. The colors are hot pink, bright purple, light blue, maroon, white, and black. Thank you.

Fancy dresses! Are those going to make a comeback next? In maroon? Or bright purple?

Now a Song

S: Now we will interview
[my sister] Imogene. What boy do you like?
I: Too personal.
S: How is he.
G [her nickname is Genie, so I just went ahead and switched to G here]: Cute and smart.

Doesn't it seem like her reply should be more along the lines of "Fine; thanks for asking"? At least we valued a boy's intelligence as much as his looks.

S: What's your favorite food?
G: Chinese food
J: What's your favorite color?
G: purple
J: What's your favorite T.V. show?
G: Pee Wee's Playhouse
J: What's your favorite song?
G: Papa don't Preach
S: Thank you!


S: Goodbye
J: See you next time

What do the children of today do without tape recorders? Seriously?

NEXT TIME: Anti-smoking propaganda in the guise of a story!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Gymnastics Camp

First off, I apologize if anyone's RSS readers sent them here a few days ago to find, uh, NOTHING. I accidentally pressed the wrong button combo on my itty-bitty keyboard and published this one WAY prematurely. Here it is, for real this time:

In second grade I wrote a report on Mary Lou Retton, and my fascination with gymnastics was born. Never mind that I was consistently picked last in Gym due to my general sport apathy and a severe lack of coordination. My sister and I began diligently practicing headstands on our parents' bed (against the wall, because you better believe that otherwise we would have fallen right over) and forced my mom to watch us execute lopsided cartwheels in the front yard. "Was that one straight?" I would ask her. "Was that one?" They never were.

As a class assignment in third grade (I think it was third grade—I found it in a folder with other third grade stuff, so I'm going with it), we had to write a short play, and the best ones (as selected by our teacher) would be performed in a lunch-hour production. The following is an abridged version of my entry, Gymnastics Camp, about the cutthroat world of elementary-aged gymnasts. Needless to say, it did not get picked.

Gymnastics Camp [Not only did I not do gymnastics, I hadn't even been to camp when I wrote this.]

Part 1

Setting: At Julie's house

[I've found that if you imagine all of the narrator's lines being read in the voice of the Moviefone guy, this play is way more entertaining. Trust me.]: Julie is as happy as ever. Her parents are letting her go to gymnastics camp.
Timmy: Juwie is goin' ta natic cap.
Julie: It's gymnastics camp. (Julie flips.)
Trisha: Is she going to flip forever?
J's Mom: I hope not. I think she's just excited.
Trisha: Excited! She's more than excited. She's doing flips and cartwheels and this and that.
Julie: I'm practicing. You can't even hop!
Trisha: I can!
Julie: Let's see. On one foot.
Trisha: (Hops twice and falls over) Oooof!
Julie: (giggling) I told you. (Julie flips)
Timmy: (giggling) Tisa tan't hopa!
Trisha: (getting up) I can too. I wasn't ready. Julie doesn't give anybody time.
Julie: (Julie flips) I do. I'm in a hurry. (Julie cartwheels) I have to practice.

So far we have learned that Julie is somewhat of a beyotch.

Part 2
Setting: At Emily's house

Narrator: Emily is feeling wonderful. She, too, is going to gymnastics camp.
Marcia: What's she doing now?
Patrick: Shhh. Emmy is toncetating.
E's Mom: She'll probably do a back flip.
Emily: I will. Wait! Now! (Emily back flips.)
E's Dad: Wow! She's getting good.
Patrick: Yep! Wewwy dood!
[What's up with my preteen obsession with speech disorders???]
Marcia: O.K.! I agree.
E's Mom: All right! It's time for dinner my little acrobats.
Patrick: Otay! Otay!
Marcia (closing a book): I'm coming.
Emily: Just a second. (Emily cartwheels)

Julie and Emily both appear to have families like mine (imagine that!): two parents, slightly younger sister, and much younger brother. Emily, however, does not seem nearly as irritating as Julie. Yet.

Part 3
Setting: At the bus stop. Both familys are waiting for the gymnastics bus.

Narrator: Emily and Julie's familys are waiting for the bus. It seems as if it will never come.

Here's where I start the abridging: There's some unimportant bickering between siblings (we are treated to further evidence of Trisha's inability to hop), and then the bus shows up.

Driver: All on! All on! All on! All on! All on the Gymnastics bus! Tickets please. Tickets please. All on! All on!
People on the bus: Ooooh! I gotta window! Don't push. No! Mommy! No! Eeeek! Stop! Don't push. I'll write soon! 'Bye!
[Are the people all saying that simultaneously? That's what I like to imagine.]

Emily and Julie then bid their families adieu in an extremely long-winded fashion. Julie's dad calls her "cupcake" (which would be cute if he wasn't talking about Julie), and Trisha and Timmy ominously warn her to be careful.

Part 4
Setting: At the camp.

Narrator: Everyone is at camp. They are being introduced to each other.
Mary: I'm your counselor. This is Amy. This is Emily. This is Wendy. This is Julie. Finally, this is Stephanie. Say Hi!

They each say hi, Amy doing so "in a shy voice."

Mary: Hi! (chuckling) Well, everyone did say "hi" now didn't they!
5 girls: Yessssss counselor Maaaaryyy!
Mary: Oh, All right! Enough is enough already. Goodness gracious.

Part 5
Setting: In the gym room

Narrator: All of the girls are doing well. There are mats. There are bars. There is a balance beam.

Wow, the narrator is just useless in this play. Sorry, Mr. Moviefone!

Mary: Near the mat. Oh, I mean in front of the mat. Sorry. There. Good.

I am totally intrigued by the perpetually flustered counselor Mary. What led her to gymnastics camp? And will she ever want to work with children again?

Mary: Now we'll somersault.
Amy: Oh!
Julie: Huh!
Emily: Why?
Stephanie: Really, now.
Wendy: We already know how to, counselor Mary.
Julie: Yep, we do.

They are so obnoxious. I feel for you, counselor Mary.

Mary: We have to anyway. Orders from the chief, ya know.
[Excuse me? What chief? The GYMNASTICS chief?] So, we have to.

Blah blah, they all somersault.

(Everyone walks over to the balance beam.)
Mary: Now can you get across this in 5 steps?
5 girls: Yes counselor Mary, we can.

. . . And then they do. I told you this was riveting!

(Everyone walks over to the bars.)
Mary: Can you all do flips over this?
5 girls: Yes counselor Mary, we can.

Then they all flip over the (parallel?) bars.

Mary: O.K.! Good workout. Time to go.
5 girls: Hurray! (jumping) Hurray!

That so did not deserve a "hurray." And call me crazy, but shouldn't they be, you know, learning some stuff at gymnastics camp?

Part 6
Setting: In the camp

Narrator: This is a happy time. Mary has a terrific announcement to make. Let's see what it happens to be.
Mary: Okay, girls, stop what you're doing and come here. I have an announcement to make.
5 girls: Oh goody! Counselor Mary has a very, very important announcement to make. Oh goody. Yeaaa! Goodyyy!
Mary: Calm down, nowwww! My announcement is (clears throat) is that this group. Group 12 that is . . . . . . . um . . . . is . . . . .
5 girls: Yesss! Yesss! Tell usss!
Mary: Group 12 is having a gymnastics show, well, like contest. Contest-show! That's it! Well, that's over with.
5 girls: Oh wow! Only usss! Goody Ohhh!

Only them? That's suspiciously convenient. You'd think it would involve, say, the whole camp. Counselor Mary is totally going to head back to the bunk and pop some Xanax.

Part 7
Setting: In the gym room

Narrator: Everyone is ready. But, Amy refuses to take part. She claims she is too shy. We won't find out why, even if we try.

The rhyming? Uncalled for. And don't I seem to be bizarrely comfortable with my inability to tie up loose ends in my writing? I'm practically flaunting it. But about the shyness: I was crazy shy at this age (like, so shy that I would sometimes cry if I got called on in class and didn't know what to say), so if I had miraculously been flexible enough for gymnastics camp, I might not have wanted any part of their "contest-show" either.

Mary: O.K. You four are ready to roll! Go!
Stephanie: Hello! I'm Stephanie Blake. I will do a front flip, back flip, cartwheel, and somersault.
Crowd: Hey Stephanie! Go girl! Way to go! Knock 'em dead! Yea Steph! Go Stephy!
Stephanie: Thank you! (flip and fall over)
Judge: Out! Next!

Yeesh! That's kinda harsh. Is this a reality show??? I pretty strictly avoid reality shows these days, but I would watch the crap out of Gymnastics Camp!

Crowd: Too bad Stephanie! Toooo baddd!
Julie: Hello, I'm Julie Trink. I'll do a front flip, back flip, cartwheel, and somersault.
Crowd: You can do it. Gooo Julieee!
J's Mom: You can, sweetie, you can!
J's Dad: You got this far, Honey!
Trisha: Flip forever and ever and ever!
Timmy: Ip faeva an' eva an' eva! You tan!
Julie: (bows) Thank you! (front flip) whew!
Crowd: Ohhhh!
Julie: Now! (back flip) Ohhh!
Crowd: Ahhhh!
Julie: This is simple! (cartwheel) Seee!

I hate Julie.

Crowd: Ohhh! Myyy!
Julie: Easiest of all. (somersault) Welllll!
Crowd: Yeaaaaaaaaa!

Julie: Thank you! Thank you!!!!!!!!!
Judge: Thank you, Miss Trink. You are qualified to participate in the finals.
Julie: Yesss! Thank youuuu!
Judge: You're very welcome, Miss Trink. Next!
Wendy: I'm Wendy Stanz. I'll do what they did, okay. Is that okay Mary?
Mary: Yes, fine, dear, go on now. Ohh!
Wendy: Nobody's gonna cheer?
Crowd: Go onnn! You cannn!
Wendy: Thanks! (flips and trips and falls) Ohhh! Nooo!
Judge: Out! Next.

Apparently she cannn't.

Emily: I'm Emily West. I will do a front flip, back flip, cartwheel, and somersault. No cheers, please. I must concentrate. A front flip. (Front flip) Good. (back flip) There. (Cartwheel) Done (somersault) Easy! Thank you, but no cheers, please!

Now I also hate Emily.

Judge: Thank you, Miss West. You are qualified to participate in the finals. Is that the last one?
Mary: Yes, that's all of them. Come girls.

Part 8
Setting: In the camp. The girls are in bed.
Narrator: The girls are very excited about what happened and what is to happen. Lets take a look.

What that should actually say is:
Narrator: The girls are about to talk some smack. Let's take a look.

Wendy: Hey, Em? Ya know what?
Emily: What do you want Wendy?
Wendy: You were real good . . . . . .
Emily: Thank you, Miss Stanz.
Wendy: But I was better. Much better.
Emily: Oh well, good night.
Wendy: Good night to you to.

Creepy! Do you think Wendy knows Jeff Gillooly? You better watch your back, Emily. And your knees.

Stephanie: Julie, are you up?
Julie: Huh, oh, yeah I'm up.
Stephanie: Good, I think Wendy made a fool of herself . . . .
Julie: Completely!
Stephanie: But you were good. I wasn't.
Julie: Oh, I'm sorry. Good night!
Stephanie: Good night.
Mary: Stop talking and go to sleep.

I love Mary.

Part 9
Setting: In the gym.

Narrator: It's time for the finals! Mary is excited. Group 12 is excited. The crowd is excited. Even I am excited!

Crowd: Ohhhhh! It'ssss startinggg!
Mary: We're glad to have you here for the finals. Emily!
Emily: Hello my name is Emily West. First I will do a front flip. (flip and fall) Owwww! It hurts.
(Two people rush on stage and take Emily away.)
Judge: We will wait to see what has happened.
Mary: Here's a letter! Here's a letter.
Judge: What does it say?
Mary: Oh, yes, I forgot. It says: Dear Mary, Emily has been hurt badly. She has sprained her ankle.

WHAT? Did that just happen INSTANTANEOUSLY? She JUST fell and then Mary magically had a letter (a LETTER!) explaining what happened! Like, immediately!!!

Judge: That means Julie wins!
Crowd: Yeaaaa Julieeee!
Julie: Thank you.
Judge: Here. (hands her trophy and ribbon)
Julie: Thank you.
(Emily enter with family)
Julie: I cannot except this. It's not fair. (Hands the trophy to Emily) That's fair.
Emily: Thank you.
Crowd: Yeaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!
Julie: Are you all right?
Emily: Yes.

Narrator: That's the story of Gymnastics Camp. Emily and Julie learned about friendship and the ways people do things, how good they really are at gymnastics, and what's fair and what's not. They taught everyone a lesson in caring. The End.

I love this ending. The ways people do things? What the fuck does that even mean? I also like how it was only unfair because Emily hurt herself when she fell; when Wendy fell they were all, "Bwa ha ha, Wendy's an ass." A lesson in caring indeed.

NEXT TIME: The USA Girls "radio show" scripts. Ever wanted dating advice and movie recommendations from nine-year-olds? If so, you are totally in luck!