What's the good news? More time for blogging! Er... that is, if I can find any time in between the giant book I'm proofreading and my many, many cookie breaks. And don't worry, I'll schedule a makeup trip to the Cleve at some point. So, onward!
One of my favorite books circa fifth grade was Just as Long as We're Together. Don't even get me started. The Benjamin Moore poster? Jeremy Dragon's chartreuse jacket? Cousin Howard's claim that burping is a compliment to the chef? The words comely and fusty? Steph's gluts? Allison's talking dog? Rachel Robinson's designer jeans and lampshade top? Steph's shirt with the little animals marching on it? Oh man, I am so jonesing for a reread right now.
Plotwise, In the History of the World bears no resemblance to Just as Long as We're Together (no Richard Gere posters named after paint cans here... or parents separating... or long-time friendships dissolving...) but I really think I was trying to imitate Judy Blume's writing style. See if you notice any Judyisms as you read. My story also features a protagonist who is not at all loathsome! I know, I know, it's kind of crazy.
In The History Of The World
If there has ever been a nicer day in the history of the world, I will be very surprised.
We got out late for winter break this year. It was the 23rd. The 5th grade got to watch a good movie, 'A Christmas Story'. I love that movie.
This is based on real life. The only movie we watched more at school parties was The Neverending Story. Oh my sweet lord, ALWAYS with The Neverending Story. Periodically they'd shake things up with, say, Flight of the Navigator or even a heartwarming faux-kidnapping film like Savannah Smiles.
I got to sit with my two best friends, Amanda Thompson and Georgia Libb. I gave them red heart-shaped pins that say, 'FRIENDS FOREVER' in black letters that go across. I have one, too. Georgia gave me a little monkey figure. I think it's a Chimpanzee. I named it Tarzan.
This is also based on real life; I know because I mentioned a stuffed monkey named Tarzan in one of the journal entries in my last post. And I hate to nitpick—especially when it involves a monkey—but technically shouldn't that chimp's name be Cheetah?
Amanda made us shirts that say, 'WILD THING' in splashy, bright pink, well, hot pink letters. On the back are our names. She gave me Georgia's and she gave Georgia mine by mistake.
OMG. Hot pink puffy-painted WILD THING shirts? Amanda, you've outdone yourself!
Then the best thing happened. [Better than the WILD THING shirts?! Do tell!] This boy in my class, Adam Craine, came up and gave me a gift. I'm not kidding. I was so surprised.
Definitely NOT based on a real life. However, receiving a gift from someone with a Y chromosome (who was not related to me!—very important stipulation) was an event that I fervently wished would occur.
"Don't open it until Christmas." he said as he walked away. I guess he was really nervous.
Amanda and Georgia were freaking out. So was I. A boy had given me a present. I hadn't liked Adam before, but I was starting to. He was very nice and he looked all right. [What a glowing endorsement!]
"I can't imagine what it is." squealed Georgia.
"Do you think it's perfume, Loni?" asked Amanda.
"I don't know." I answered, looking at the box. It was wrapped in holiday wrapping paper. There were little elves on it. It was like a shoe box, only shorter and higher.
Is it possible for something to be simultaneously shorter and higher? And how much does it weigh? Throw us a bone here, Loni. A bottle of perfume does not have the same heft as, say, a stuffed bunny.
"It must be a big bottle of perfume." remarked Georgia.
"I guess." I said.
Do fifth graders really wear perfume? Yikes.
"What does the card say?" asked Amanda.
The card said,
"Dear Loni,"LOVE." shrieked Amanda and Georgia at the same time.
Here's wishing you the best holiday season ever and a great new year.
Love, schmove! No checkboxes? No poetry? No complimentary prose regarding Loni's pants? BO-RING!
"He sure does have a thing for you." teased Amanda.
"Omigod. Loni, he's looking at you right now." said Georgia.
"And he's smiling." said Amanda. "Take a look."
I looked. They were right. Adam was staring and smiling. I was going to smile back, but he looked away. I guess he was really, really nervous.
"Oh, well." said Amanda just as Georgia said, "Awww, darn."
Our class party was neat. I sat with Stacy [who I renamed Beth Robbins after I Friendship-ified the story]. Amanda isn't in my class. Georgia isn't in my class, either. We had pizza, candy canes, all this other candy, and cake. Then Miss Kudje [yessss! The Kudje is back!] opened her presents. I gave her this thing my mom stitched. It says, 'BEHIND EVERY GREAT STUDENT IS A GREAT TEACHER'. She liked it. My mom loves to stitch. She is going to teach me how. The party was fun.
Whatever you do, don't tell Miss Kudje about your gift from a boy, unless you want her to launch into a soliloquy about what her cute, semi-delinquent boyfriend, Tim, bought her for Christmas in fifth grade. (My money's on cigarettes. You?)
I met Amanda and we walked home together. Georgia's mom picked her up. They are going to Florida for Christmas. Her grandparents live there. Georgia is really lucky. I stay home for Christmas. Last year Amanda went to California, but this year she's staying home, like me.
"You are so lucky." said Amanda as we walked. "I wish a boy gave me something. Georgia is real jealous. She told me after your class left the movie. I am too. I never guessed ADAM. I didn't really notice him. He's OK, though. I mean he's nice."
I knew what Amanda was saying. That Adam didn't look too hot. She was right, of course.
I like how so far the moral of this story is You Can Like a Boy Who Isn't Cute as Long as He Gives You Gifts.
"Just because he isn't really cute doesn't mean I can't like him. A lot of people aren't really cute. Like Michael Finnegahn." Right away I knew I could have said someone else. Amanda turned red. She likes Michael. I thought she would kill me, but she didn't say anything.
"I'm sorry." I said.
"That's OK." Amanda said after awhile. "I guess we're even." We both smiled.
WHAT? Normally that exchange would have led to a knock-down, drag-out fight in which one or both of the girls would throw her new heart-shaped FRIENDS FOREVER pin to the ground and stomp off in a huff. Instead we have... APOLOGIES and SMILING? This must be Judy's influence.
"Don't look, but here comes Lover Boy."
I wanted to strangle Amanda. Instead we just laughed.
When Adam got close I said, "Thank you."
"You didn't open it, did you? I said to wait until Christmas." Adam practically screamed.
"No." I said. I was surprised by his outburst. [Me too! There isn't a strange ticking sound coming from that package, is there?] "I didn't open it."
"Ok" He said as he ran away. I guess he was really, really, really nervous.
"Talk about moody." Amanda said. "Shy one moment, fierce the next."
I am totally picturing Adam as Tyra Banks right now. Or maybe Jay Manuel.
"I'll say." I said.
"Call me on Christmas between 2 and 3 o'clock. Okay?" called Amanda as we approached her street.
"OK." I yelled. We waved to each other and I headed towards my street, feeling very excited.
Right when I walked through the door, Matthew threw himself at me. "Tabby had babies." he breathlessly announced.
"She did?" I shouted.
"She did. She did." repeated Danielle.
Tabby is our cat. Danielle and Matthew are my sister and brother. I also have another younger sister named Monika.
If you're truly interested, there's a little sheet of paper in the book's folder upon which is typed the following:
Mr. JosephAh, old stitch-loving Wilhemina.
Tabby had had her babies..... in a pile of dirty clothes on my floor. [I can't believe their cat isn't spayed. Bob Barker would be outraged.] "In my room." I exclaimed. "I feel so honored."
"I'll bet." said Monika.
I was about to say something really mean to her when dad burst through the door. I thought he was happy because it was his last day of work for a week.
My dad owned a diner, so my grasp of "vacation time" was loose at best.
"You'll never guess," shouted dad as we all ran downstairs. "Starting next week, I'll be the president of Straton & Co."
"Oh, Joseph." said mom and they hugged. Matt made gagging sounds and Danni laughed.
"Mr. Straton is retiring and since the vice president moved away last week, he asked me."
In 10-year-old logic, that makes total sense.
Then the phone rang. It was gramme. She wanted to take the kids in our family out to lunch on the 1st.
Then dad took us all out to celebrate with Chinese food. I almost forgot to put Adam's present under the tree. I did right as I got into bed. I tip-toed downstairs. Mom and Dad wanted to know who it was from so, I said a friend at school which wasn't a lie, but I know they checked it out when I left.
Loni neglected to mention the bow earlier. Does anyone else suspect Adam's mom had a hand in this gift?
On the 24th I woke up thinking about the dream I had the night before.
I dreamt I was walking on air to find the rainbow. I was going up and up and up. Then I fell through a cloud. I was falling, falling, falling. I saw Georgia lounging in a huge indoor swimming pool, Amanda talking to Michael Finnegahn, who looked like a sick dog [I think that means he was showing interest in Amanda, not that he needed to hurl], Matt and Danni opening their gifts, Monika snooping in my room, Gramme out at lunch (without me). I saw the pavement below me and I screamed at it. I was going to hit the ground just as Adam caught me. He held me in his arms and whispered into my ear, "Loni, I...."
"Oh, wake up already, geek burger." yelled Monika. She never fails.
"Oh, shut up already, monkey-butt breath." I yelled.
"I don't shut up I grow up and when I look at you I throw up."
"Then you come around the corner and lick it up." We both yelled.
"JINX." screamed Monika, slamming the door.
Okay, that was pretty awesome. Geek burger and monkey-butt breath? That sounds like some sort of amazing crime-fighting duo! Except, wait, how exactly does one acquire monkey-butt breath? Never mind, I don't think I want to know.
My friends and I were huge fans of the "I don't shut up I grow up..." line, as featured in Stand By Me. Our other favorite movie to poach insults from was Pee-wee's Big Adventure: "I know you are, but what am I?", "I don't make monkeys, I just train 'em!", "Why don't you take a picture? It'll last longer!", etc., etc.
Then I wanted to call Amanda or Georgia, but I couldn't. Amanda was having a party and said not to call, she'd be real busy. [Yes, I believe she has you scheduled from 2:00–3:00 on the 25th.] And Georgia was in Florida. I really wanted to tell them about my dream. I think Adam was saying, "Loni, I love you." I'd smile and say, "I love you, too, Adam." Then we'd kiss. Not a long, slimy, slurpy french kiss. [Thanks for that visual.] A little peck would suit me fine.
Now she loves him?! Loni, you might want to hold off on the L-word until you find out what's in that box. It might not be the best trade-off for a bottle of Electric Youth.
I kept hoping either Amanda or Adam would call me. No one called me. I was really depressed. Matt and Danni went sledding with their friends. I was really, really depressed. I was bored.
We went from the nicest day in the history of the world to slit-your-wrists ennui in less than 24 hours!
And that was actually where I left off in fifth grade. Fortunately, I started a rewrite in sixth grade and—this has to be a Christmas miracle!—I actually added new material. Well, only about a page of new material, but let's not knock it. Also of note: I deleted all the lines about depression and left off with this:
All day I kept hoping Amanda or Adam would call me, but no one did.
My family came over for Christmas Eve dinner. Gramma [Gramme got renamed Gramma—lame], Uncle Ward, Aunt Irma, and my cousins, Clyde, Cheryl, Ernest, Lynn, Juliann, Wade, Sheila, Roy, and Dina were all there. I know, my aunt and uncle have nine kids.
And rather eclectic taste in names.
Dad told them all about how he became president of Straton & Co. It was very boring.
In the rewrite, Mr. Hopkins was the current veep of Straton & Co., which makes his presidential rise much more plausible, albeit just as boring. What kind of business do you think Straton & Co. IS anyway? Let's Google it!
Omigod, the only one listed is an ELECTRICIAN, I shit you not. Maybe Loni can whip up some phone bugs later and find out what kind of trash Adam's talking to all the fifth grade dudes. I'll bet Rich Alzone has a thing or two to say about that present.
Then I saw Juliann and Sheila, who are eleven and thirteen, looking around under the tree.
"Do you have a boyfriend, Loni?" asked Sheila, the one who is thirteen.
"No." I said, looking at Adam's present in her hands.
"Who else would sign a card 'LOVE'?" Juliann asked. What could I say?
"This boy at my school who has a crush on me." I said finally. "Could I please have my present back?"
"Not so fast." Sheila put the gift behind her back. "Come here, Juliann." she said and whispered something in her ear. Juliann nodded. Sheila smiled smugly. I glanced at her. The present was still behind her back.
Geez, do they have nothing better to do than taunt a 10-year-old? Excuse me, 10½-year-old?
Juliann got her sisters, Cheryl and Lynn, who are fifteen [i.e., way too old for this crap!] and eight. They were all talking and giggling. Then, all four of them ran up into the bathroom with the present.
I was right behind them as they ran into the bathroom, but they managed to slam the door in my face.
This doesn't sound good.
After what seemed like two zillion hours, but was really only about fifteen minutes, they came out. They didn't have the gift with them. I ran into the bathroom, searching frantically for it.
I found it in the toilet.
The wrapping paper was on the floor and the box had been opened, but I think the present was still inside. I pulled it out [ick!] and put it on the floor.
I sat on the edge of the tub and cried. If it was perfume, it was definitely ruined.
AND THAT'S IT! First off, Loni's cousins are twats. Worst cousins in the history of the world. Second, I'm pretty sure that if it was perfume, it would be okay. I mean, what's a little toilet water to toilette water? A stuffed animal, on the other hand, would be pretty screwed.
Sadly, I have no memory of what the gift was going to be (probably because I hadn't decided yet), so your guess is as good as mine: Smurf figurines? Snap bracelets? The La Bamba soundtrack on tape? What did a 10-year-old boy buy a girl in 1988? That's not a rhetorical question, by the way; I really have no idea.
NEXT TIME: My New Year's resolutions from 20 years ago. Woo boy, do I feel old.