Authors: Joan Bauer
BEST FOOT FORWARD
CLOSE TO FAMOUS
HOPE WAS HERE
RULES OF THE ROAD
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First published in the United States of America by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2014
Copyright Â© 2014 by Joan Bauer
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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Bauer, Joan, date.
Tell me / Joan Bauer.
Summary: Feeling scared and powerless when her father's anger escalates and her parents separate, twelve-year-old Anna spends the summer with her grandmother and decides to make a difference when she sees what seems to be a girl held against her will.
[1. Fathers and daughtersâFiction. 2. ParentsâFiction. 3. FearâFiction. 4. RescuesâFiction.] I. Title.
Excerpt from “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” from the book
The Poetry of Robert Frost
edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright Â© 1923, 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, copyright Â© 1951 by Robert Frost. Reprinted by permission of Henry Holt and Company, LLC. All rights reserved.
For Evan, who listens
This isn't just a story about a girl (me) and and my intense training in drama.
It's not just about Things Happening in a Family, either.
You've got to trust me when I tell you, that's just part of it.
Mostly it's about seeing, really seeing, and not telling yourself you didn't see it.
It's about telling what you saw.
And then deciding you've got a bigger role to play.
I'll remember her eyes forever.
Big, scared, baby animal eyes.
And the questions that wouldn't let me go.
Did I see something?
Is a girl in trouble?
What can I do?
What should I do?
I meanÂ .Â .Â .
What should anybody do?
This is the story of what I did, along with the amazing people who put themselves out there to help.
âAnna M. McConnell, age 12, Philadelphia
I am in the mall dressed like a cranberry, feeling the emotion of the moment.
What do I want to leave them with?
I've been seriously trained to ask this question.
I sit here thinking, and sitting isn't easy because of the outfit I'm wearing. Every time I move, it puffs up.
“We're ready, Anna.” That's Lorenzo Lu, my best friend and acting partner.
“I'll be right there.Â .Â .Â .”
What do I want to leave them with?
Sometimes I think in big, fat letters.
I study myself in the scratched mirror. My face is
covered with red makeup, and my lips shine with ruby lipstick. I smooth out my round, red costume, adjust my red gloves, scratch my red tights. I think I'm allergic to these tights. I look at the pile of 20 percent off coupons from the Wide World of Cranberries store and feel a major surge of energy.
I want them to be happy they came.
I want them to know that this cranberry cares.
Lorenzo is wearing jeans, a red and white striped shirt, red socks, white shoes, and a big button that reads,
I'M WITH THE CRANBERRY.
I wiggle my hips, aim my voice to the corner of the room. “Do I look fat in this?” My voice echoes back. Very few kids can do this trick.
Lorenzo laughs. “You look fat, Anna, because you are packed with antioxidants.”
Antioxidants are major players in the cranberry world.
Lorenzo sighs. His dad is Chinese and his mother is Italian; he's got the best blend in his face. “I wish you didn't have to go.”
Out in the mall, the music starts playing.
I can hear Mr. Dimsdale shout into his microphone, “And now, are you ready for the big fun?”
“Of course they are.” I scratch my tights again.
“I might have to go to the bathroom,” Lorenzo mentions.
I shake my head at him. The rule of performers everywhere in the galaxy is,
The Show Must Go On.
“Heeeere she is!”
Lorenzo and I run out into the mall to wild applause.
A little girl shrieks, “Hi, Miss Berry!”
Lorenzo and I move to the beat.
The music makes you want to dance.
OneÂ .Â .Â .
TwoÂ .Â .Â .
ThreeÂ .Â .Â .
FourÂ .Â .Â .
I raise my hand and do a twirl; Lorenzo gets down and does a breakdance move.
The crowd loves this.
I do a shimmy as Lorenzo takes the mic from Mr. Dimsdale and declares, “For years, the cranberry was taken for granted.Â .Â .Â .”
I slump and look sad.
“For years the cranberry's nutritional contents were known to only a few.Â .Â .Â .”
I look pathetically unappreciated. People laugh.
“But, the truth is now known.Â .Â .Â .”
I jump up and make a noise.
“Cranberries are among the world's healthiest foods!”
I spin around at this news.
“So healthy that an entire store has been dedicated to cranberries in every form.”
I point to the Wide World of Cranberries store and clap my hands.
Then Lorenzo goes off script. “Cranberries,” he shouts. “They're not just for UTIs anymore.”
Women laugh hard. Fred Dimsdale looks nervous.
“What's a UTI?” a little boy asks his mother.
“Urinary tract infection,” the mother says quietly.
Lorenzo has three older sisters and knows about these things. “This,” he declares, “is the sale of the century!”
Actually, the store has only been open since April, but you get the idea. I run into the shop and people follow me.
I look at the anti-aging supplement display, bounce my voice there.
“Let's hit it!” I say and my voice echoes back.
A little boy yells, “How did you do that?”
Years of practice, child
. That's the short answer.
I dance with kids. I do the slide. I say, “We're so glad you're shopping with us today!”
When someone buys something, I have to shout, “Antioxidants rule!” It's not an easy line.
But I know how to deliver.
Fred Dimsdale, the owner of the cranberry store, saw me perform one of my most heartbreaking roles as a radish at the Children's Drama Workshopâa lonely, rejected radish singing my heart outâand he was deeply moved.
“Can you play other produce, kid? Something cheerier? I felt your pain with the radish, butÂ .Â .Â .”
The song I sang as a radish was written by Charlie Chaplin, a famous mime who made a fortune by saying absolutely nothing, but he wrote a song about how you've got to smile no matter what.
“I can play other produce,” I assured him.
The cranberry is a non-singing part, which is fine by
me. I've had some issues singingâmy mouth gets dry. I get hoarse and nervous.
But that moment as a singing radishâI sang like I always hoped I could.
Lorenzo and I have been doing four shows a day every weekend since the store opened. Fred Dimsdale offered to extend us through the summer, but I'm not going to be in town.
I've got to go stay with my grandmother in Virginia because of all the things happening in my family.
My mom and dad's marriage isn't doing so well.
“Puffy hug!” I shout, and little kids run up and hug my padding.
I added the hug move last week. Mr. Dez, my drama coach, always says, “Use a part of what you need in the role you're playing.”
More and more these days, I really need a good hug.
Fred Dimsdale hands me my check. “You brought the heart of a cranberry to every performance, kid. I'm going to miss you. It won't be the same.” He looks over at Jeremy Pearlmutter, who is going to play the cranberry after me. Jeremy is here to observe me doing the act, but so far all he's done is yawn and scratch his neck. He hasn't asked me one question about the experience. I
don't think Jeremy will lose himself in the role.
“Thanks for giving me a job, Mr. Dimsdale.”
“Call me when you get back, kid. First thing.” He sounds desperate.
“I will.” I shake his hand.
I walk to the back of the store, into the little office, and change out of the costume. Usually I wear it homeâwhen a cranberry is walking down the street, people want to know more.
I put the costume on a hanger, use makeup remover to get the red off my face.
In real life, I look nothing like a cranberry.
I'm medium height. I have curly auburn hair that falls in my face. People say I'm pretty. I've got dark brown eyes like my dad.
I used to be closer to my dad than I am now.
Lorenzo and I walk to the escalator.
“Tell me again why you're leaving,” he says.
I sigh. “I know it's a bad time for me to go.”
Lorenzo throws back his head. “There would never be a good time for you to go. I'm going to have to work in my uncle's drug store this summer, Annaâthree days a weekâtotally exposed to sick people. I mean, if some major viral strain breaks outÂ .Â .Â .” Lorenzo squirts
antiseptic cleaner on his hands. “And we're going to have to talk about our future! Eighth grade isn't looking good!”
I know that, too. The high school has an after-school drama program, but we're not in high school yet. The middle school has nothing. We're too old for the Children's Drama Workshop. They kick you out on your twelfth birthday into the big, cold world.
We head down the escalator.
I wonder what's going to happen with my parents while I'm away.
I wonder if staying with Mim, my grandmother, is the right thingâmaybe my parents need me around and they just don't know it.
Lorenzo puts his hand on my shoulder. “Just remember, Anna, cranberries are the bravest fruit.”
I square my shoulders to prove he's right.
We walk to the entrance of the mall. I feel all the mess twisting me up inside. It's easy to pretend everything is fine when you're in a cranberry suitâyou can hide from the world because no one can see the real you.
When it's just you and your face and heart out there, it's so much harder.