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Authors: Rachel Vail

Not That I Care

BOOK: Not That I Care
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Is Morgan ready to show her true self?

“Bring Yourself in a Sack” Mrs. Shepard called this project when she assigned it last Friday as part of our unit on creative writing. There was a brown paper lunch bag on each desk when we got to class after lunch. Mrs. Shepard said, “Fill the bag with ten items that represent you in all your many aspects.” Maybe she said facets. Either way, I thought it sounded like a cool project.

Anyway.

I’m lying low in my seat, now, clutching the bag and squeezing my eyes shut as Mrs. Shepard speaks. “I want to hear a clear, concise explanation of each item, why you chose it, and what, about your character, the item symbolizes.”

We have to explain? I would’ve chosen all different things.

I don’t know what I was thinking would happen with this Sack. Definitely NOT that I would have to unload my life from this brown paper bag like spreading my lunch on the cafeteria table for everybody to inspect and judge. No, no. Thanks anyway.

 

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PUFFIN BOOKS

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC

375 Hudson Street

New York, New York 10014

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penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

First published in the United States of America by Scholastic Inc., 1998

Published by Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2014

Copyright © 1998 by Rachel Vail

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.

Puffin Books ISBN 978-0-698-13956-5

Version_1
Contents

Is Morgan ready to show her true self?

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Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

chapter one

chapter two

chapter three

chapter four

chapter five

chapter six

chapter seven

chapter eight

chapter nine

chapter ten

chapter eleven

chapter twelve

chapter thirteen

chapter fourteen

chapter fifteen

chapter sixteen

chapter seventeen

chapter eighteen

chapter nineteen

chapter twenty

chapter twenty-one

chapter twenty-two

chapter twenty-three

chapter twenty-four

chapter twenty-five

Special Excerpt from
What Are Friends For?

to Ronnie and Ed, in anticipation of future celebrations

one

N
o way. I didn’t know we were
going to have to stand up in front of the entire class. There’s no sound in the classroom except the
click, click
of Mrs. Shepard’s pointy pumps on the tile floor. She’s behind me now, so I can’t see her. She hasn’t even said hello. Creative writing and American history are too important, I guess, and we are too shockingly ignorant to waste a second. Mrs. Shepard seems insulted that our sixth-grade teacher thought we were ready for her class.

“When I call your name,” she says, “please bring your Sack to the front of the room and stand beside my desk.”

I don’t know what to look at. This is a new thing with me. Lately my face has trouble knowing what to do. I catch myself blinking too hard, or chewing my upper lip, or with my mouth hanging open. My face can’t relax, like it used to. It doesn’t quite fit me anymore.

I blow my bangs off my eyelashes and try to sit still.
Count to five without moving
, my mother keeps telling me,
I can’t stand how fidgety you are lately, Morgan
. One, two, three, I can’t do it. I have to shift my shoulders around.

“Bring Yourself in a Sack” Mrs. Shepard called this project when she assigned it last Friday as part of our unit on creative writing. There was a brown paper lunch bag on each desk when we got to class after lunch. Mrs. Shepard said, “Fill the bag with ten items that represent you in all your many aspects.” Maybe she said facets. Either way, I thought it sounded like a cool project.

Lou Hochstetter, who sits behind me, had complained that we don’t usually get homework over the weekend. Mrs. Shepard raised one eyebrow and stared at poor Lou for a mini-eternity, until he sunk down so low his feet clanged my chair’s legs. “Welcome to the seventh grade, Mr. Hochstetter,” she said. That cracked me up.

After school, my best friend, CJ Hurley, got asked out. She called me right away to tell me, of course, but I was out riding my bike around. Friday had been a stressful day, socially. CJ left me a message on the machine: “Hello, this is a message for Morgan—Morgan? Tommy Levit just asked me out. Call me.” All weekend I kept meaning to call her back, but I just didn’t get a chance. Not that I wasn’t happy for her. I don’t like Tommy anymore.

I just really got into this project, searching for ten perfect things. I barely talked to anybody. “Bring Yourself in a Sack?” my brother asked. “I remember that project.” But I didn’t want his help.

I was in a great mood when I got to school this morning, with my Sack full of ten complicated, meaningful symbols. The janitor was just unlocking the front doors, I got to school so early. I slid my bike into the rack and waited on the wall for CJ.

When her mother dropped her off, CJ ran over and climbed up onto the wall beside me. She didn’t say anything about my not calling her back; she knows I’m really bad about that and she’s used to it. Or I thought so, anyway. We talked about Tommy. I told her not to worry that they didn’t talk all weekend, after the asking out; when I went out with him last year he never called me, either. Then we talked about whether Tommy’s twin brother, Jonas, would ask me out today, like he was supposed to, and how fun it would be if the four of us were a foursome, and whether or not Jonas’s curly hair is goofy. CJ used to like Jonas, but now she’s going out with Tommy, which is fine with me.

Not that she cares.

I guess actually, now that I think about it, I was doing all the chatting. CJ wasn’t saying anything about becoming a foursome. She was just sitting there all pale, her deep-set green eyes looking anywhere but at me, her tight, skinny body even tauter than usual. I didn’t notice she was acting weird until too late.

Anyway.

Mrs. Shepard is walking up toward the front of the class. I hold my breath while she passes me. When my brother, Ned, was in seventh grade, four years ago, he said Mrs. Shepard was “real” because she wouldn’t paste stars on every pretentious, childish poem full of clichés. I took my poem off the refrigerator. I vowed I’d make Mrs. Shepard like me when I got to seventh grade. So far she doesn’t, particularly, but it’s only the third week of school. I still have a shot.

I’m lying low in my seat now, clutching the bag and squeezing my eyes shut as Mrs. Shepard speaks. “I want to hear a clear, concise explanation of each item, why you chose it, and what about your character the item symbolizes.”

We have to explain? I would’ve chosen all different things.

I don’t know what I was thinking would happen with this Sack. Definitely NOT that I would have to unload my life from this brown paper bag like spreading my lunch on the cafeteria table for everybody to inspect and judge. No, no. Thanks anyway.

“Are there any questions?” Mrs. Shepard asks.

Right. Nobody raises a hand with a question, of course. I can’t look around to see if everybody else seems relaxed and ready, if it’s just me who’s hiding under a desk.

“Good,” Mrs. Shepard says, turning her helmet-head to look at each of us. Her white-blond hair is pasted into the kind of hairdo that never moves, the kind that only gets washed once a week, at the beauty parlor. She reminds me of an owl, with her round, piercing eyes and small hooked nose. Maybe it’s the way she rotates her big head that’s plunked deep between her shoulders. I did a report last year on owls. They’re birds of prey. I sink down lower, imagining myself a field mouse trying to camouflage with the fake wood and putty-colored metal of my desk.

Please don’t call on me.

“Olivia Pogostin,” Mrs. Shepard calls.

Olivia Pogostin is my new best friend, as of today. I whispered with her all through lunch, which was a little awkward for both of us, but we managed. She was actually sort of witty, and she gets the pretzel sticks that come in an individually wrapped box in her lunch, definitely a plus. My mother would never waste the money on those. We buy economy-size everything, then take how much we need. We have one type of cookies for weeks at a time, until we finish and go back to Price Club. If there’s a big sale, she might let us get a sleeve of individual potato chip bags. I always feel good if I open my lunch and there’s a small sealed bag of chips in there. It looks so appropriate. CJ just gets a yogurt, every day, a yogurt, and that’s it. Not that they can’t afford more. She just has to worry, because of ballet.

BOOK: Not That I Care
12.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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