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Authors: Melody Carlson

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BOOK: My Name Is Chloe
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I’ve no doubt she’ll need some real lessons, but we played some CDs and tried to play along, and it was pretty hilarious. Still, I’m not sure that Allie has what it takes to be a really close friend. And that makes me kind of sad. Like maybe I’m too picky.

I got an e-mail from Caitlin today. She seems lonely, and I’ve been trying to encourage her not to give up on her roommate (who actually sounds like someone I would be friends with, although she’s a little on the mean side). But last week, I’d told Caitlin how I was struggling to understand what’s real truth and what’s not. And now, after hearing Allie go on about Wicca, I feel even more confused.

But in Caitlin’s e-mail, she challenged me to find a Bible that has Jesus’ words written in red—so they show up in contrast against the black words. “And then try to read only the redlines,” she said. “I know you’re not into the Bible. But give it a try.
Just the redlines
.” So today, after Allie went home, I rode the bus over to the mall and went into the Christian bookstore where the lady looked at me like I had accidentally walked into the wrong place. But then I said, “Do you have those Bibles where Jesus’ words are written in red?”

She smiled. “Sure, honey, they’re right over here.”

And so tonight, I was just reading the red-lines. But I only read three pieces—the first ones I found. And the weird thing is that these three verses almost make sense to me. Almost. And for the first time in several days I actually tried talking to God again. I asked him to show me what’s the truth and what’s not and to show me whether he’s for real or not. I figure it can’t hurt to ask.

JUST THE REDLINES
jesus says:
bread alone won’t keep you alive
you need the word of god to survive
he says:
do not tempt the lord your god
and he says:
be gone, satan!
only worship and serve god

Five
Sunday, September 29

I called Josh over and over last week, and after leaving about three messages he finally called back. “What’s up, sis?”

“Sheesh, I can’t believe it’s really you. I thought you might’ve moved to another country or something. Don’t you ever stay home?”

He laughed. “There’s a lot going on here. But let’s not talk about that. How are you? How’s high school?”

Without going into all the grueling details, I managed to paint a fairly positive picture. Then I asked, “Remember your old drum set?”

“Sure. Are you planning on taking up drums now too? Going to become a one-woman band?”

“No. But I have a friend and she’s kinda poor, you know, and she wants to play drums.”

“Give them to her. I’m sure Mom’ll be glad to have them out of the attic.”

“Thanks, Josh. She’ll really appreciate it.”

“Does she know how to play?”

“No, not really. But she seems like she’d be a natural. And I thought it would be fun to have someone to jam with.”

“Hey, I know a guy who’d probably give her lessons for free.”

“You’re kidding. Who?”

“Willy Johnson. He plays drums at the church.”

“At the church?” I sighed. “You mean with the hymns and stuff?”

Josh laughed. “They don’t exactly do hymns at that church. Besides, Willy used to play with a pretty good rock band that toured the country in the seventies. I can’t remember their name, but they actually cut a record.”

“Really? And he plays at the church? The one you and Caitlin went to?”

“Yeah. Call up Pastor Tony and he’ll give you Willy’s number.”

We talked a little longer, then he told me Tony’s number. I almost told Josh that Allie was looking into becoming a witch (or possibly already was one), but I knew how he’d react. I’d probably get a long lecture or sermon, and he’d be all worried and might even change his mind about the drums. Plus he’d probably tell Caitlin. And, well, I just don’t need that kind of stress right now. So I kept this information to myself.

I tried to call Allie last night but kept getting the busy signal. At first I was irritated, thinking why doesn’t she have call-waiting or e-mail, then I remembered that costs more money—so much I take for granted! I also remembered how she said her mom talks on the phone a lot. So I decided not to hold it against Allie.

The next morning, I spotted Allie in the hallway and immediately told her the good news.

“You’re kidding? Free drums and lessons?” Her eyes lit up. “I think this Wicca thing is really working for me. It’s like good karma.”

That’s probably when I made a strange face.

“What’s wrong?”

“Well, the guy who might be willing to give the free lessons plays drums in a church.”

“In a church? I didn’t know they allowed drums in churches.”

“Apparently they do in this one.”

She shrugged. “Well, is he a good drummer?”

“Josh says so. He played in a rock band that actually cut a record in the seventies.”

“That’s cool. If he doesn’t mind teaching someone like me, I don’t mind learning from someone like him.” She paused. “Well, as long as he doesn’t try to convert me, that is.”

So later that afternoon, I called up Tony Berringer and told him I was Josh’s sister and
that he’d recommended Willy as someone who could teach drums.

“I remember you,” he said. “You helped Caitlin out with the cultural fair last year.”

“Yeah, that’s right.” I’d almost forgotten about that.

“Are you going to be involved again this year?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Great.” Then he gave me Willy’s number.

“Uh, Mr. Berringer?”

“Just call me Tony. Everyone else does.”

“Okay. But can I ask you a question? And can I trust you with some sort of client privilege or whatever you might call it in your profession?”

“Of course, Chloe. It comes with my job. What’s up?”

“Well, it’s about my friend, the one who needs free drumming lessons. The thing is, she’s into witchcraft or Wicca. And I just don’t want this whole thing to turn into something ugly, you know? Like if Willy found out she’s a witch and then got mad. Or if he tried to convert her and made her feel bad. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Yes. And I don’t think you need to worry. Willy is a good guy. And he’s seen a lot of stuff. I don’t think he’d judge your friend for her beliefs.”

“But would he try to convert her?”

“I don’t think so. But I’m sure he’ll be honest about what he believes.”

“That’s okay. I mean, that seems pretty normal to me.”

So after I hung up, I decided to call this Willy guy myself. I thought it might be better to just lay the cards on the table, in case he wasn’t interested in giving lessons to a witch, or even a wannabe witch.

But Willy was cool. When I told him what Allie was into, he acted as if it was no big deal. “Hey, I used to dabble in those same kinds of things myself,” he told me. “Man, I was into all sorts of weird stuff during the seventies.”

“So you won’t try to convert her?” I asked just to be sure.

He laughed. “It’s my belief that only God can do the converting. I try to love and respect people for who they are. I leave the rest of the business to God.”

“Sounds good to me.”

So it’s all set. Allie’s first lesson is on Tuesday at five. Fortunately her apartment complex is only a few blocks from the church—that’s where Willy’s going to teach her, since he keeps his drum set there. He said he’ll see how it goes before he decides whether it’ll be a regular thing or not. “I don’t mean to sound exclusive,” he told me, “but I don’t like to waste my time on someone with no talent.”

“Hey, that sounds fair to me. She’s never had a
lesson but she’s been playing around on my brother’s old drum set, and I think she has talent.”

“Well, we’ll see.”

WITCH ON DRUMS
okay, witchy woman
go ‘head and cast your spell
let’s see if you’ve got rhythm
or play drums real well
old willy knows his business
and the cross is on the wall
let’s see you work your magic
if it is real at all
cm

Tuesday, October 1

Allie just called. She had her first lesson with Willy and was really excited. “He says I have real talent,” she gushed. “And that we can have lessons twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

“Cool. I thought you were a natural.”

“But he wants me to practice every day.”

“Do you want to move the drums to your place?”

“No way. My mom already said to forget it. She says we’ll get kicked out of the apartment for sure if I make that kind of noise. Willy gave me a
practice pad and some drumsticks to use at home. But he said I need to play on real drums at least every other day.”

“That’s okay. You can come over here.”

“Will your parents mind?”

“If you came over right after school, they wouldn’t even be home.”

“Cool.” She paused. “But how about you? Would you mind?”

“No, of course not. Why do you ask that?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Sometimes it seems as if you’re my friend, and other times I feel kinda like you’re pushing me away, like maybe I irritate you. Minda like with my mom. She says I get on her nerves. It might be that way with you.”

“It’s not like that at all.” But even as I said the words I knew it wasn’t totally true. “But I’m at a weird place right now. It’s like I’m trying to figure things out about myself and a lot of things, and maybe I’m just sort of confused. You know?”

“Yeah. That’s how I felt before I found out about Wicca. But it’s like helping me to feel more centered.”

I didn’t mention how she seemed a little off center to me sometimes, because, hey, who knows? Maybe that’s centered for her. But I think I want something more for my life. I’m just not sure what it is.

Tonight I read the redlines again. So far I’ve read some things I kind of get. Like the section that talks about when people are poor or meek or hungry and how things will improve for them eventually. It made me think that Jesus really cared about the down-and-outers. I like that. But I’ve also read some things that confuse me. Like how we’re not supposed to be angry and that being angry is as bad as murdering someone.

Now I just don’t get that. I mean, I’m still angry with Tiffany and her thugs. But, hey, I didn’t murder them. Okay, I wanted to back then, but I don’t really want to now. Just the same, I’m still angry and I don’t think I’ll ever forgive them—especially that Tiffany dweeb. And if looks could kill, I swear that girl would be dead a hundred times over. But then so would I. So what’s up with this anger thing? Does Jesus honestly expect me not to be angry? Those girls beat me up for absolutely no reason, except that I look different. Why shouldn’t I be angry?

SOMETHING’S KISSING
my life’s a puzzle
pieces strewn
in a tantrum
‘cross my room
missing words
that never rhyme
thoughts that tumble
through my mind
socks get lost
in the dryer
where do i
go find the fire
passion burns
a cigarette
that goes out
when it gets wet
what is real
the missing part
that will heal
this aching heart?
cm

Friday, October 4

Allie wasn’t too pleased to hear that I’d invited Laura Mitchell over to jam with us tomorrow.

“Why her?” she asked when I told her at lunch today.

I set down my fork. “Why not?”

“Laura Mitchell? She seems pretty cool.” Spencer peered over at Allie. “What’s up with you anyway? You got some kind of bigotry going on or something?”

Allie tossed a blistering look his way.

“Yeah, Allie.” Cesar pointed his finger at her.
“You got something against folks who ain’t as white as you?”

“You guys make me sick!” She stood up as if she were going to leave.

“Hey, chill, Allie,” I said quietly. “They’re just teasing.”

She sat back down.

“But what’s the deal, Al?” Spencer continued. “You got a problem with Laura?”

“That’s not it.”

“Well, what is it then?” I looked her right in the eye. “Because if you’ve got a problem with Laura, I want to know what it is.”

She shrugged. “It’s not a racial thing. I just don’t think she’d want to do the same kind of music that we want to do.”

“What kind of music do you think
she’d
want to do?” asked Cesar. “Rap?” He started rapping out a beat on the table. “You think that cuz that girl, is black, all she know to do is rap? Just cuz she ain’t white as you, ya think she can’t do music too?”

We all laughed and Allie looked slightly mortified. “I don’t know,” she said quietly.

“Okay, guys, no more teasing,” I said. “Allie, that’s not it, is it? You’re not judging her just because she’s different.”

“I really don’t want to talk about this anymore.” Allie stared down at her lunch.

“Maybe you need to talk about it,” I said. “And you’re with friends.”

Cesar reached over and patted her arm. “Hey, I’m just fooling with ya. We all have our hangups, Al.” He pointed at Jake. “Man, Jake just about threw me off the balcony yesterday when I called him Carrottop. And I get pretty fried when Spencer calls me Taco Bell. Man, I don’t even eat tacos.”

Allie looked up. “I shouldn’t have said that about Laura. I’m sorry. The truth is I’ve never had a—an African-American friend.”

I smiled. “Well, maybe it’s time. And if it makes you feel any better, Laura has an amazing voice and she’s great at harmony—a perfect second soprano.”

“But I thought you were a second soprano,” said Allie.

“That’s what I sing in choir, but I’ve got a wide range.”

“So what’s up anyway?” asked Jake. “Are you guys putting together a chick band?”

“Like the Spice Girls?” teased Cesar.

“Ugh!” I punched him in the arm.

“Or maybe you’re going to all dye your hair blond and be the Dixie Chicks,” said Jake.

“One of them isn’t blond anymore,” said Allie.

“We’re just getting together to jam and have fun,” I finally said. “Let’s just leave it at that.”

“But did you know that Chloe might be playing at the Paradiso Café?”

“Allie!” I scowled at her.

“Well, it’s true!”

“Really?” Cesar looked at me with interest. “That’s a cool place. I heard they’re going to start having live music sometime this fall.”

BOOK: My Name Is Chloe
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