Set the Record Straight! (4 page)

BOOK: Set the Record Straight!
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Typical. My mom has ESP, I'm sure of it.
How else
could she hit the nail on the head within the first two minutes?

“It's . . . okay,” I said.

Now my mom knew she was on to something. She leaned in closer, still
whispering, “Are the letters tough?”

I nodded, and put my finger to my lips. I didn't want Allie to hear
anything. Not that she could, all the way upstairs, but still.

“Hard to give advice?” she asked again.

I nodded again.

She sighed. “I know how you feel. It's kind of like being a
parent,” she said.

Hmm. Now this might be interesting. “How?” I asked in a normal
voice. Allie wouldn't know what we were talking about, anyway. Besides, even if it
crossed her mind that I was Dear Know-It-All, she'd probably laugh off the whole
idea, thinking I wasn't qualified.

My mom continued. “People need to learn from their own mistakes. You
can't protect them from everything. You need to let them find their own way.
That's why I think it's important to
keep advice
open-ended, unless you have a very strong conviction about something. I mean, if an
issue is black and white—like, don't cheat, don't steal, don't
smoke—by all means give specific advice. But when it comes to choosing a path,
sometimes people have to go through a process on their own.”

“Okay,” I said. “But then what do I tell people to do? It
would be kind of a lame column if all I said was, ‘Follow your

“Would it?” my mom asked.

I shrugged. “Most of the time, yes.”

My mom thought for a minute. “Then I guess . . . just be
conservative. Don't tell anyone to do anything you wouldn't do

Oh great. Now she tells me. I sighed.

“Too late?” she asked with a smile.

I nodded.

“Oh boy. Can you fix it?” she asked.

“I don't know. Maybe.”

“Well, it's never too late to try,” she said. She walked
over to give me a hug. I rested my head against her shoulder. She's still a little
taller than I am. It was relaxing.

“Thanks,” I said, pulling away.

“Thanks for letting me hug you,” she said with a wink.

“Anytime,” I said with a smile.

I climbed the stairs feeling a little better. From now on, I would keep my
advice open-ended and not recommend that people do anything I wouldn't do. That
was a good rule of thumb. And maybe there was a way I could get an apology note to
Tired. I'd ask Mr. Trigg when he got back. It could certainly wait a few days.
It's never too late to try!
Journalist Saves Sinking

Feeling charitable, I knocked and opened Allie's door.

“Hello? Privacy?” she said, without turning around from her
computer screen.

I rolled my eyes. “Google someone named Mrs. Moseby. She has healthy
snacks on her family cooking blog.”

I started to close the door, and Allie said, “What were you and Mom
whispering about down there?”

ARGH! See what I mean about a nose for news?
“Nothing,” I said.

“Yeah, right,” replied Allie.

I closed the door and went to my room to get changed for bed. On my computer
I saw that Hailey had IM'd me, so I clicked to read it.

Hellllppp! I think he likes someone else!!!!

Scott Parker, of course.

I couldn't even
about advice anymore
tonight. I quickly typed back to Hailey.

So sorry. Bummer. Will discuss first thing in a.m. I
promise! Hitting the hay. See you tomorrow.

Then I hurried to shut off my computer and get ready for bed.

Chapter 4


I had an e-mail from Michael when I woke up the next morning.


Let's meet at lunch to discuss lunch (the article. Get it?).


That was a great way to start the day, I must say!—with an invitation to lunch from your major crush. Even if he does call you by your horrible kindergarten nickname.

I decided to look at everything through rose-colored glasses. Tired of Waiting had gotten every
thing off her chest and, I'm sure, was now moving on, as I should.

Humming, I went online and skimmed the New York Times website, along with CNN, Time magazine, the Huffington Post, and the Daily Beast. I am pretty good at knowing which articles I should read and which I should skip. It's hard though. Sometimes I'll skip one, and then my social studies teacher brings up that topic that very day, and I feel like a dunce.

An IM popped up from Hailey.

Meet me @ locker. B early.

I looked at the clock and saw that if I left now, I could meet Hailey before homeroom.

At school I found Hailey waiting for me with a dramatic look on her face.

“Okay. Why do you think he likes someone else?” I asked immediately.

“Shh!” She looked around and then stared angrily at me. “Someone might hear you!” she hissed.

I looked around. There was almost no one there yet, and the people who
there were far away and very busy. No one could hear us. And anyway, how would they know who on Earth we were talking about?

“So you think he likes someone else?” I whispered.

Hailey nodded miserably.

“Why?” I asked.

She pouted. “I saw him leaving school with Amanda Huxtable yesterday. She's older. An eighth grader!”

Oh no. This was not good.

“That doesn't mean she's his girlfriend, silly!”

“It doesn't mean she's his mom, either!” Hailey's eyes flashed.

“Well, does he have any idea how much you like him?” I asked. Based on my own not-extensive experience, I know you can sometimes think someone knows you like them, but it turns out they don't know at all.

Hailey shook her head. “No.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

She shook her head harder. “I'm positive.”

“Wait, when you talk to him, do you flirt or what?” I asked.

Hailey looked away. “I've never talked to him. I don't even know if he knows my name!”

“Whaaaat?! Hails, how do you even know if you like him, then?”

She met my eyes. “He's really cute and he's really good at soccer. He seems nice.” She shrugged.

“And that's all it takes?” I asked.

She shrugged again. “I don't know. I guess. I've never really had a crush before, except kind of on Michael. And
picked him.”

I took a deep breath to keep from strangling her. Then I tried hard to remember my mom's advice about
Let people work through their own process. But don't give advice that you wouldn't take yourself.
I started slowly, not wanting to blurt out anything I couldn't take back. “Okay, first of all, you need to find out if Amanda Huxtable is really his girlfriend. Then, if not, and he is unattached, then . . . you need to actually speak with him before
this goes any further. He might be a total nerd!”

“How am I supposed to speak with him?” she wailed.

I pressed my lips together, and thought hard. After a few seconds I had an aha moment! “Can you ask your coach to do a boys' and girls' varsity soccer practice together?”

Hailey looked at me in shock and then her whole face lit up. “You're a genius! I love you! You always give the best advice! I'm telling you, next year, they'd better make you Dear Know-It-All or else they're going to hear from me!” She gave me a huge hug and then trotted off happily.

Well, maybe I'm not totally terrible at this advice stuff!

I gathered my books and then headed off to class. As I passed the
Cherry Valley Voice
office, I happily poked in my head, feeling confident about helping Hailey and armed with my mom's new advice. There wasn't anyone in there, so I hopped onto the computer farthest from the door and went onto the server to see what had come in for Dear Know-It-All. Unfortunately, there was only one
e-mail, and it was about school lunch and “Why can't they make it better?” Well, at least I was on the right track with that!

I logged out and quickly crossed the room, locking the office door so no one could go in. I whipped out Trigger's taxi keychain and hastily opened the Dear Know-It-All mailbox, grabbed a letter from inside, and slammed it shut, relocking it. Then I darted out into the hall, wedging the letter down into my messenger bag. My heart was pumping hard. I guess now I could see why Trigger thought of all this as spyish. I felt like James Bond completing a mission. I couldn't imagine
getting caught, especially getting the letters out of the mailbox, so it felt like a major victory. Phew.
Journalist Success at Top-Secret Assignment!

The only bummer was, after all that, I wouldn't be able to mention the lunch letter to Michael at our lunch about lunch! Ugh!

“Okay, what do we know?”

Michael looked distractingly adorable in his
long-sleeved turquoise T-shirt. His eyes reflected the shirt's color, and his dark skin and hair looked amazing against the brightness of his shirt.

“Hmm?” I asked, caught daydreaming about going on a date with him to the movies and holding hands.

Michael snapped his fingers. “Hello? Earth to Pasty! Let's hear back that list of what we know about school lunch.”

“Right.” The word “Pasty” snapped me right out of it. I began to read back what we'd brainstormed. “Gross food, unhealthy choices, bad ingredients, sits out too long.” I looked at Michael after I finished. He was biting his lip in this cute way he has when he thinks hard.

“Okay. So what are our next steps?”

I read down the other list we'd compiled. “We need to interview the chef; get some man-on-the-street interviews from kids, kitchen staff, teachers, and parents; do a kitchen visit; maybe speak to Mr. Pfeiffer.” I winced, and so did Michael. The principal didn't like us much after the last article we did about the new curriculum, but so be it. That was journalism for you. “If you make
all the people happy all the time, then you're not doing your job,” Trigger always says.

“Good. Let's divvy it up.”

We split the assignments and agreed to see the school chef and kitchen staff together, and then Mr. Pfeiffer, and then our kitchen visit. Then we'd pool all our facts and come up with a thesis for the story. That's how we worked last time, and it came out really well.

“Look, I'm not worried about Pfeiffer. The whole article is going to be really light and easy. I mean, school food is gross. It's not exactly new news, right?”

“Yeah. We'll make it funny, too. I'm still thinking of a headline, like… ‘Mac 'n' Queasy!' or something,” Michael said with a mischievous grin.

“Yeah, or we could do a questionnaire format, like a survey piece: What do people hate the most? What's the grossest thing they've ever eaten in the cafeteria? Most fattening? Most unidentifiable?”

We were having fun. We laughed for a minute, but then I spotted Hailey across the room, giving me the thumbs-up sign with a big smile on her face. I
gave her the thumbs-up back, but then she crooked her finger, beckoning me over. Ugh. Now I wished I hadn't seen her. Was it too late to pretend I had? I didn't want to leave Michael and the rosy glow of coauthorship.

But Hailey was now waving me over impatiently, using her whole arm. I sighed.

“You know what? I need to run,” I said. “Sorry.”

Michael turned to follow my gaze over his shoulder. He saw Hailey, and nodded. “Got it. Okay. Well, maybe you can interview her since it was her idea.”

“Great. Bye,” I said. Leaving gorgeous Michael Lawrence alone at a table felt like a crime, but duty called.

“What's up?” I asked Hailey when I reached her.

“The coaches said yes! You're a genius! They thought it was a brilliant idea, and we're doing it tomorrow! Thank you, Sammy!”

I smiled. “Great. Let me know how it goes.”

“Oh no, you're coming to watch. I need your feedback on my interaction with Scott. You
come, can't you? Please? Please?” Hailey
whined. She knows it drives me crazy when she whines and that I'll do anything to shut her up.

“Fine! Stop whining!” I could always do my homework while I watched from the bleachers. “But then you owe me an interview, okay?”

“Fine. About what? Soccer stardom? Romance?” Hailey fluffed her blonde hair with her fingers until it stuck up all over her head.

“School lunch.”

“Yuck. Fine. After practice tomorrow at your house.”

“Thanks. See ya.” I had to go to the bathroom and I wanted to use it as my excuse to read my new letter from the Know-It-All mailbox. This day was going so well, there had to be a fabulous new question for the next issue.

BOOK: Set the Record Straight!
2.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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