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[1 of 5] Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu (2017) Chapters 1-5

Author: Jennifer Mathieu

Mathieu, Jennifer. “Chapters 1-5.” Moxie: A Novel, Square Fish, Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2017.

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Jun 14
Brandy Y (Jun 14 2022 11:26AM) : Add as many Notice & Note comments and replies as you can in Chapters 1-5 as you read and listen. Watch this GIF (1 min. 20 secs.) to see six reasons to pause your reading, double-click on a sentence or paragraph and comment using the sentence starters. [Edited] more

For all the teenage women fighting the good fight.

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And for my twelfth-grade Current Topics teacher for calling me a feminazi in front of the entire class. You insulted me, but you also sparked my interest in feminism, so really, the joke is on you.

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Revenge is best served cold, you jerk.

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CHAPTER ONE

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My English teacher, Mr. Davies, rubs a hand over his military buzz cut. There’s sweat beading at his hairline, and he puffs out his ruddy cheeks. He looks like a drunk porcupine.

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The drunk part may be true. Even if it is before lunch on a Tuesday.

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“Let’s discuss the symbolism in line 12 of the poem,” he announces, and I pick up my pen so I can copy down exactly what he says when he tells us what the gold light behind the blue curtains really means. Mr. Davies says he wants to discuss the symbolism, but that’s not true. When we have our unit test, he’ll expect us to write down what he told us in class word for word.

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I blink and try to stay awake. Half the kids are messing with their phones, grinning faintly into their groins. I can sense my brain liquefying.

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“Vivian, what are your thoughts?” Mr. Davies asks me. Of course.

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Jun 2
Harry B (Jun 02 2022 2:12PM) : Memory Moment [Edited] more

These simple two words, says alot about either the question, or the person.

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Jun 20
Harry B (Jun 20 2022 6:24PM) : Words of the Wiser more

Interesting that this question, to me, represents someone (teacher?) saying something to another, (student) while asking a question. Meaning, this tells us what type of teacher this is by the question asked.

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Jun 29
Jaylynn V (Jun 29 2022 9:44AM) : yeah i was a little confused on that too
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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:38PM) : Words of the Wiser more

Jaylynn, soooo, out of the various types of thoughts we can pick, which one do YOU think fits this sentence best?

“Well,” I say, folding in on myself and staring at the Xeroxed copy of the poem on my desk. “Uh…” My cheeks turn scarlet. Why does Mr. Davies have to call on me? Why not mess with one of the groin grinners? At least I’m pretending to pay attention.

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Jun 2
Harry B (Jun 02 2022 2:22PM) : Aha Moment? Maybe? [Edited] more

This is HYSTERICAL! love the phrase but the fact that both words start with “g” seem to make it stick even more in memory.

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Jun 29
Kelsey L (Jun 29 2022 9:09AM) : Literary device more

This would be an example of alliteration right?

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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:39PM) : Alliteration more

YES! Nice grab Kelsey, the consonant sounds repeating, definitely that literary device. I am curious of this will be a pattern as we keep reading?

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Jun 29
Jaylynn V (Jun 29 2022 9:44AM) : i would agree
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Neither of us says anything for what feels like a third of my life span. I shift in my seat. Mr. Davies stares. I chew my bottom lip uncertainly. Mr. Davies stares. I search my brain for an answer, any answer, but with everyone’s eyes on me I can’t think straight. Finally, Mr. Davies gives up.

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“Lucy?” he says, calling on the new girl, Lucy Hernandez, who’s had her hand up since he asked the question. He stares at her blankly and waits.

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“Well,” Lucy starts, and you can tell she’s excited to get going, even sitting up a little straighter in her chair, “if you think about the reference the speaker makes in line 8, what I’m wondering is if the light doesn’t indicate, a, um, what would you call it … like a shift in the speaker’s understanding of…”

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There’s a cough that interrupts her from the back of the room. At the tail end of the cough slip out the words, “Make me a sandwich.”

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Jun 29
Jaylynn V (Jun 29 2022 9:31AM) : I don't know why they think its funny to say stuff like that. Like it has to be something in their brain.
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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:41PM) : Comment meaning more

I never knew this – meant this-https://www.dictionary.com/e/memes/make-me-a-sandwich/ it is like saying women should be in the kitchen making men meals? Cavemanish. Which category of comments would this fit in? Do you think?

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Jul 6
Jaylynn V (Jul 06 2022 9:24AM) : i would think this is an a contrast and contradiction type of comment.

And then there’s a collection of snickers and laughs, like a smattering of applause.

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I don’t have to turn around to know it’s Mitchell Wilson being an asshole, cheered on by his douche bag football friends.

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Lucy takes in a sharp breath. “Wait, what did you just say?” she asks, turning in her seat, her dark eyes wide with surprise.

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Mitchell just smirks at her from his desk, his blue eyes peering out from under his auburn hair. He would actually be kind of cute if he never spoke or walked around or breathed or anything.

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“I said,” Mitchell begins, enjoying himself, “make … me … a … sandwich.” His fellow football-player minions laugh like it’s the freshest, most original bit of comedy ever, even though all of them have been using this line since last spring.

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Jul 6
Axel a (Jul 06 2022 10:52AM) : Explanation more

I think that this means the boys there only believe that girls should be in a kitchen and should be under the rules of the boys.

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Jul 20
Harry B (Jul 20 2022 5:19AM) : Aha Moment more

I had to look this up but have you ever heard this? I never have!

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Jun 29
Jaylynn V (Jun 29 2022 9:34AM) : I like the ways he used minions because it kind of gives a picture of what to think.
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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:41PM) : giving a picture- more

Would this, do you think, be an A ha moment?

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Jul 6
Jaylynn V (Jul 06 2022 9:26AM) : i would say yes this is an Aha moment.
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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:44PM) : Minions more

If you can, try to go ahead and experiment with the highlight too to match a color with the type of comment category this falls under, I was thinking maybe contrasts and contradictions when I read what that meant? Do you think possible?

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Jul 6
Jaylynn V (Jul 06 2022 9:25AM) : okay!

Lucy turns back in her seat, rolling her eyes. Little red hives are burning up her chest. “That’s not funny,” she manages softly. She slips her long black hair over her shoulders, like she’s trying to hide. Standing at the front of the room, Mr. Davies shakes his head and frowns.

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“If we can’t have a reasonable discussion in this classroom, then I’m going to have to end this lesson right now,” he tells us. “I want all of you to take out your grammar textbooks and start the exercises on pages 25 and 26. They’re due tomorrow.” I swear he picks those pages blind. Who knows if we’ve even gone over the material.

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Jun 29
Jaylynn V (Jun 29 2022 9:36AM) : I HATE when teachers do that only do it because of one students when they can just remove the student.
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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:46PM) : teachers.. more

There is so much to say about this as a teacher and a former student, and my famous question, which category comment do you think this would fall under? Also, there are underlying reasons why teachers used to do this, are you aware what the teacher was maybe hoping to do? (Epic fail I would say)

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As my classmates offer up a collective groan and I fish around in my backpack for my book, Lucy regains some sort of courage and pipes up. “Mr. Davies, that’s not fair. We were having a reasonable discussion. But they”—she nods her head over her shoulder, unable to look in Mitchell’s direction again—“are the ones who ruined it. I don’t understand why you’re punishing all of us.” I cringe. Lucy is new to East Rockport High. She doesn’t know what’s coming.

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“Lucy, did I or did I not just announce to the class that it should begin the grammar exercises on pages 25 and 26 of the grammar textbook?” Mr. Davies spits, more enthusiastic about disciplining Lucy than he ever seemed to be about the gold light behind the blue curtains.

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“Yes, but…,” Lucy begins.

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“No, stop,” Mr. Davies interrupts. “Stop talking. You can add page 27 to your assignment.”

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Jun 29
Jaylynn V (Jun 29 2022 9:36AM) : that just makes my blood boil
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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:46PM) : Boil more

Category wild one, which comment category? LOL (and yes, this is a bad way to “teach”

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Jul 6
Jaylynn V (Jul 06 2022 9:30AM) : contrast and contractions
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Jun 29
Wilvenska M (Jun 29 2022 11:49AM) : Mr.Davies more

The way Mr.Davies responds to the situation seems to be as if he chose to belittle Lucy. It also seems to be because of who Mitchell’s father is, mr.Davies chooses to blame Lucy for the end of the the discussion.

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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:48PM) : Mitchell's father more

oooooh,, GOOD point Wilvenska! If you had to pick which color and type of category, what do you think? I like the fact that you see this “favoritism” is present based on actions and comments made here initially. Wonder if this changes at all as the story progresses?

Mitchell and his friends collapse into laughter, and Lucy sits there, stunned, her eyes widening as she stares at Mr. Davies. Like no teacher has ever talked to her like that in her life.

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A beat or two later Mitchell and his friends get bored and settle down and all of us are opening our textbooks, surrendering ourselves to the assignment. My head is turned toward the words subordinate clauses, but my gaze makes its way toward Lucy. I wince a little as I watch her staring at her still-closed textbook like somebody smacked her across the face with it and she’s still getting her breath back. It’s obvious she’s trying not to cry.

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When the bell finally rings, I grab my stuff and head out as fast as I can. Lucy is still in her seat, her head down as she slides her stuff into her backpack.

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I spot Claudia making her way down the hall toward me.

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“Hey,” I say, pulling my backpack over my shoulders.

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“Hey,” she answers, shooting me the same grin she’s had since we became best friends in kindergarten, bonding over our shared love of stickers and chocolate ice cream. “What’s happening?”

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Jun 29
Jaylynn V (Jun 29 2022 9:38AM) : i love the ways he described that
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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:49PM) : description more

What did you like specifically? What made this resonate with you and guess what my next question is? What category of question (or comment) do you think this falls under? LOL

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I sneak a look to make sure Mitchell or one of his friends isn’t near me to overhear. “We just got all this grammar homework. Mitchell was bugging that new girl, Lucy, and instead of dealing with him, Mr. Davies just assigned the entire class all these extra pages of homework.”

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“Let me guess,” Claudia says as we head down the hall, “make me a sandwich?”

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“Oh my God, however did you figure that one out?” I answer, my voice thick with mock surprise.

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“Just a wild guess,” says Claudia with a roll of her eyes. She’s tinier than me, the top of her head only reaching my shoulder, and I have to lean in to hear her. At 5′10″ and a junior in high school, I’m afraid I might still be growing, but Claudia’s been the size of a coffee-table tchotchke since the sixth grade.

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“It’s such bullshit,” I mutter as we stop at my locker. “And it’s not even original humor. Make me a sandwich. I mean, dude, you could at least come up with something that hasn’t been all over the Internet since we were in middle school.”

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“I know,” Claudia agrees, waiting as I find my sack lunch in the cavernous recesses of my messy locker. “But cheer up. I’m sure he’ll grow up sooner or later.”

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I give Claudia a look and she smirks back. Way back when, Mitchell was just another kid in our class at East Rockport Middle and his dad was just an annoying seventh-grade Texas history teacher who liked to waste time in class by showing us infamous football injuries on YouTube, complete with bone breaking through skin. Mitchell was like a mosquito bite back then. Irritating, but easy to forget if you just ignored him.

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Fast forward five years and Mr. Wilson managed to climb the Byzantine ranks of the East Rockport public school hierarchy to become principal of East Rockport High School, and Mitchell gained thirty pounds and the town discovered he could throw a perfect spiral. And now it’s totally acceptable that Mitchell Wilson and his friends interrupt girls in class to instruct them to make sandwiches.

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Jun 29
Jaylynn V (Jun 29 2022 9:39AM) : that's why he doesn't get into any trouble
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Jun 29
Wilvenska M (Jun 29 2022 11:44AM) : Mitchell's behavior more

I agree. I believe Mitchell has the audacity to act the way he does because of that security of his reputation due to the high power status his father holds.

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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:51PM) : Mitchell more

Good way of explaining this, what category of comment do you think this might fall under?

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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:51PM) : Trouble more

Can you explain a bit more? Because he knew Mr Wilson, or Mr Wilson favored/liked him because of sports? Just try to lay some specifics on me :)

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Once we get to the cafeteria, Claudia and I navigate our way through the tables to sit with the girls we eat lunch with every day—Kaitlyn Price and Sara Gomez and Meg McCrone. Like us, they’re sweet, mostly normal girls, and we’ve known each other since forever. They’re girls who’ve never lived anywhere but East Rockport, population 6,000. Girls who try not to stand out. Girls who have secret crushes that they’ll never act on. Girls who sit quietly in class and earn decent grades and hope they won’t be called on to explain the symbolism in line 12 of a poem.

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So, like, nice girls.

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We sit there talking about classes and random gossip, and as I take a bite of my apple I see Lucy Hernandez at a table with a few other lone wolves who regularly join forces in an effort to appear less lonely. Her table is surrounded by the jock table and the popular table and the stoner table and every-other-variety-of-East-Rockport-kid table. Lucy’s table is the most depressing. She’s not talking to anyone, just jamming a plastic fork into some supremely sad-looking pasta dish sitting inside of a beat-up Tupperware container.

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I think about going over to invite her to sit with us, but then I think about the fact that Mitchell and his dumb-ass friends are sitting smack in the center of the cafeteria, hooting it up, looking for any chance to pelt one of us with more of their lady-hating garbage. And Lucy Hernandez has to be a prime target given what just happened in class.

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Jul 6
Mitchels G (Jul 06 2022 9:08AM) : contrasts and contradictions more

I think she should invite her, because she is new and she doesn’t know about the boy’s and their rules about stereotype’s.

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Jun 29
Jaylynn V (Jun 29 2022 9:41AM) : I think she should of gone over no matter if mithell was there or not. Being the new girl is tough and I know that from exprince
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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:53PM) : Tough question more

Back me up on this, but wouldn’t this fall under being a touch question type of comment, because in essence, the character IS making a decision and asking herself something, correct?

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Jul 6
Jaylynn V (Jul 06 2022 9:50AM) : i would have to agree
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Jul 6
Diana A (Jul 06 2022 9:44AM) : I think that Viv should still have gone to where Lucy was or have invited her because Lucy is alone. [Edited]
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So I don’t invite her to sit with us.

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Maybe I’m not so nice after all.

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Jun 29
Jaylynn V (Jun 29 2022 9:41AM) : i guess not
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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:53PM) : Not? more

What held this character back?

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Jul 6
Jaylynn V (Jul 06 2022 9:51AM) : maybe the judgement she could get
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Jul 20
Harry B (Jul 20 2022 5:22AM) : Again and again or aha more

Interested to see as the novel goes on, if this is a repetitive act or an aha moment.

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CHAPTER TWO

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Our ancient tabby cat, Joan Jett, is waiting for me when I open the front door after school. Joan Jett loves to greet us when we come home—she’s more dog than cat that way—and she lives to meow and howl and get your attention, which my mother says makes her a good match for her namesake, the human Joan Jett, this woman who was part of an all-girl band in the 1970s called The Runaways before she started her own group. When Claudia and I were younger, we used to make videos of Joan Jett the cat dancing to songs of Joan Jett the singer.

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I give Joan Jett a quick pet and then find a note on the counter from my mother. She could just text me, but she likes what she calls “the tangible quality of paper.”

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Working late tonight. Meemaw and Grandpa said come over for dinner if you want. Pls fold laundry on my bed and put away. Love you. xoxoxo Mom

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I’m old enough now to stay by myself if my mom has a late shift at the urgent care center where she works as a nurse, but when I was little and she had weird hours, Meemaw would pick me up from school, and I’d go to her house and eat a Stouffer’s frozen dinner with her and Grandpa, and then we’d all try to guess the answers on Wheel of Fortune before they’d tuck me into bed in the room that had been my mother’s when she was young. Meemaw had redecorated it by then in soft pinks and greens, not a trace of my mom’s old punk rock posters and stickers left, but I used to peek out the window of my mom’s old room and imagine her being young, being wild, being set on leaving East Rockport one day and never coming back. Even though she only managed half the plan, my mother’s youth still fascinates me.

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Back in those days I’d drift off and, depending on how tired my mother was when she got home, I’d either wake up to my grandpa watching the Today show, or I’d be shaken awake in the middle of the night to make the ten-second walk back to our house, clutching my mom’s hand, catching a whiff of the minty, antiseptic smell that always follows her home from work. Nowadays I only head over to my grandparents’ house for dinner even though they still try to get me to spend the night like the old days.

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My phone buzzes. Meemaw.

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“Hey, sweetie, I’m heating up chicken enchiladas,” she tells me. “Want to come over?” Meemaw and Grandpa eat breakfast at 5, lunch at 11, and dinner at 4:45. I used to think it was because they’re old, but my mom says that’s how they’ve been all their lives and that when she moved out at eighteen she felt like a rebel for eating after dark.

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Jun 29
Jaylynn V (Jun 29 2022 9:42AM) : wow that pretty early if she is talking at 11am but if she means 11pm then thats very late
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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:55PM) : eating more

HOWEVER- is this mentioned because times of eating in certain places indicate a custom of a particular country? (cough) not giving anything away about which country… lol and THIS IS TOTALLY a A ha moment because if this clue, don’t you think?

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“Okay,” I tell her, “but I have to fold the laundry first.”

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“Well, come on over when you’re done,” she says.

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I grab a piece of cheese from the fridge for a snack and answer a few texts from Claudia about how irritating her little brother is before I figure I should get the laundry over with. Joan Jett scampers off after me, wailing away as I head to the back bedroom where I find a mountain of laundry in the middle of my mother’s unmade bed. I start folding pastel-colored underpants into nice, neat squares and hanging damp bras up to dry in the bathroom. It’s strictly lady laundry. My dad passed away when I was just a baby after he crashed his motorcycle while driving the streets of Portland, Oregon—which was where he and my mom and I used to live. His name was Sam, and I know it’s kind of strange to say about my dad even if I can’t remember him, but from pictures I know he was kind of a total babe, with dirty-blond hair and green eyes and just the right amount of muscles to be attractive but not so many as to be creepy and gross.

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My mom still misses him, and one night about a year or so ago when she’d had too much wine, she’d told me it was weird that she kept getting older but Sam would always be the same age. That’s how she referred to him, too. Sam. Not “your dad” but Sam, which is really who he was to her more than anything, I guess. Her Sam. Then she went to her room, and I could hear her crying herself to sleep, which is not my no-nonsense mom’s usual approach. Sometimes I feel guilty that I don’t miss him, but I can’t pull up even the tiniest sense memory. I was only eight months old when he died, and after it happened Mom and me moved back to East Rockport so my grandparents could help take care of me while my mom went back to school and finished her nursing degree. And now, sixteen years later, we’re still here.

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I’m hanging up some of my mom’s simple sundresses when my eye catches on a fat, beat-up shoe box she keeps on her closet’s top shelf. In black Sharpie it’s labeled MY MISSPENT YOUTH. I slide the final dress into place, tease the shoe box out of its resting spot, and take it to my bedroom. I’ve looked in this box before. Back when Claudia and I went through our Joan Jett dancing cat video phase, I used to love to take down this box and study the contents, but I haven’t pawed through it in years.

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Jun 29
Terrin J (Jun 29 2022 9:41AM) : Vivian's mom box is labeled misspent youth her mom seems to be ashamed. more

This is properly due to the social norms of growing up and how your suppose to be.

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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:56PM) : Misspent youth more

INTERESTING, when I read this over, I began to sense this meant she was PROUD of those moments instead of ashamed, do you think possible? I think this is an example of an AHA moment, what do you think?

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Now I open it up and carefully spill the cassette tapes and old photographs and neon-colored leaflets and dozens of little photocopied booklets with titles like Girl Germs and Jigsaw and Gunk out onto my bed. I pick up a Polaroid of my mom where it looks like she was just a few years older than I am now, maybe nineteen or twenty. In the photograph, she has a platinum-blond streak in her long dark hair, and she’s wearing a tattered green baby doll dress and combat boots. She’s sticking her tongue out at the camera, and her arms are around the neck of another girl who has dark eyes and a piercing through her eyebrow. In black marker written down one of my mom’s arms are the words RIOTS NOT DIETS.

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Jun 29
Terrin J (Jun 29 2022 9:43AM) : the box is neon colored and booklet titles more

which was a big pop culture thing in the 80’s

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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:57PM) : pop culture more

EXCELLENT eye for detail! Seriously, an Aha Moment, right?

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Jul 6
Terrin J (Jul 06 2022 9:21AM) : yh i think its because its the 80-90 u know
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Jun 29
Terrin J (Jun 29 2022 9:52AM) : it states "In black marker written down one of my mom’s arms are the words RIOTS NOT DIETS." more

she protesting against the social norms of diets and being small.

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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:58PM) : Riots not Diets more

What does this say about her as a character in the story? ALSO – what type of comment category do you think this falls under?

My mom doesn’t talk too much about her younger years before she met my dad in Portland, but when she does, she always grins a little with pride, maybe remembering how she graduated from high school and drove an ancient Toyota she’d bought with her own money to Washington State just because that’s where her favorite bands lived and played. Bands with names like Heavens to Betsy and Excuse 17. Bands made up almost entirely of girls who played punk rock and talked about equal rights and made little newsletters they referred to as zines.

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Jun 29
Yeimi G (Jun 29 2022 11:48AM) : Her Past Life more

Since her mom is no longer that way, every time she remembers what/who she used to be it’s like a little flashback. Since she smiles, no matter what she did, she did it and it’s all just a story now.

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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:59PM) : flashback more

“…she did it and it’s all just a story now.” I want to hear from you what you think this means- I like this comment ALOT – and what type of comment category do you think you are seeing this fall under?

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Jul 6
Yeimi G (Jul 06 2022 11:30AM) : Her Past Life pt.2 more

The category this comment falls under is memory moment. As in the quote which you stated, not only for her but everyone who knows her was a character in her life story. We can say that she was the “main character” in her school because of what she did. It’s a core memory since she can never go back and change what she did, rather then smile when she remembers- like a book once posted and finished there’s no going back to change what you wrote but to admire what has been done.

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Jul 20
Harry B (Jul 20 2022 5:25AM) : Memory Moment, Aha and /or Words of the Wiser more

Somewhere between the categories above, I think we find this character.

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They called themselves Riot Grrrls.

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Jun 29
Terrin J (Jun 29 2022 9:53AM) : They have a group named riot GRrrl more

they’re rebels

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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 6:59PM) : GRrrl more

LOL, I can HEAR you saying this, hysterical.

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Jul 6
Terrin J (Jul 06 2022 9:17AM) : 🤣 more

😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

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My mother was wild back then. Wild like with half her head shaved and black Doc Martens and purple lipstick the color of a serious bruise. Even though my mom is pretty relaxed compared to a lot of moms—like she’s always been up front with me about sex stuff and she doesn’t mind if I swear in front of her once in a while—it’s still hard to reconcile the girl in the Polaroid with the mom I know now. The mom in butterfly-covered, lavender nursing scrubs who sits down at the kitchen table once a month to balance her checkbook.

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I shift positions to get more comfortable on my bed and stare at a page in one of the Riot Grrrl zines. It has a cutout of a vintage cartoon Wonder Woman with her hands on her hips, looking fierce. The girl who made the zine drew words coming out of Wonder Woman’s mouth, warning men not to mess with her when she’s walking down the street unless they want a smack to the face. I grin at the image. As I flip through the pages, I find myself wishing that Wonder Woman went to East Rockport High and that she was in all of the classes I have with Mitchell Wilson. When Joan Jett meows for her dinner, I have to force myself to pack the box up and tuck it back into my mom’s closet. I can’t explain why, exactly, but something about what’s inside the box makes me feel better. Understood somehow. Which is weird because Riot Grrrl was a million years ago, and none of those girls know me. But I can’t help but wish I knew them.

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* * *

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Meemaw has a rooster obsession. Roosters on dishtowels, roosters on plates, roosters made of ceramic walking the length of the kitchen windowsill like they’re part of a rooster parade. She even has salt and pepper shakers shaped like—guess what—roosters.

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Jul 6
Terrin J (Jul 06 2022 9:30AM) : They're boring people
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Jul 20
Harry B (Jul 20 2022 5:26AM) : Boring more

Boring, or just rural, hometown and willing to stay rooted versus those wanting to “fly the coop” ?

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I take the salt shaker in my hand and raise an eyebrow at the rooster’s perpetual friendly grin.

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“Do roosters actually smile?” I ask, sprinkling salt on my side serving of canned veggies.

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“Sure,” says Meemaw. “They’re very sociable.”

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My grandpa just grunts and digs his fork through his plate of Stouffer’s chicken enchiladas. “How many roosters have you known personally, Maureen?” he asks.

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“Several,” says Meemaw, not skipping a beat, and Grandpa just sighs, but I know he loves that Meemaw never lets him have the last word.

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I appreciate how utterly grandparentesque my grandparents are. I like listening to their banter, to their gentle teasing, to the way two people who have been together for over forty years communicate with each other. I like how my grandpa has funny little sayings that he trots out over and over again and delivers in a voice of authority. (“Remember, Vivian, you can pick your friends, you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.” ) I like how Meemaw has never once solved a puzzle on Wheel of Fortune but still insists on watching it every night and yelling out whatever answers strike her in the moment. (“Mr. Potato Head! Fried Green Tomatoes! Sour cream and onion potato chips!” )

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They’re cozy, basically.

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But like most grandparents, they’re totally out of it when it comes to knowing what it’s like to be, like, a girl and sixteen and a junior in high school.

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“Anything exciting happen at school today?” Meemaw asks, wiping the sides of her mouth with her napkin. I push my green beans around with my fork and consider my day and the homework still waiting for me in my backpack.

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“Nothing too exciting,” I say. “I got stuck with a bunch of extra work in English because Mitchell Wilson and his friends are jerks.”

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Grandpa frowns and Meemaw asks what I mean, so I find myself telling them about Mitchell’s stupid comment.

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“I don’t even understand what that means,” says Meemaw. “Why would he want someone to make him a sandwich?”

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I take a deep breath. “He didn’t really want a sandwich, Meemaw,” I say. “It’s just, like, this stupid joke the boys use to try and say girls belong in the kitchen and they shouldn’t have opinions.” My voice gets louder the more I talk.

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“I see. Well, that certainly wasn’t very nice of Mitchell,” Meemaw offers, passing Grandpa the salt.

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I shrug, briefly fantasizing about what it must be like to be retired and able to spend your days puttering around with your ceramic rooster collection, totally oblivious to the realities of East Rockport High School.

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“What he said…” I pause and picture the bright red hives of embarrassment burning up all over Lucy Hernandez. Remembering makes me burn for a moment, too, from my scalp to the tips of my toes, but it’s not embarrassment I’m feeling. “Well, I think it’s totally sexist.” It feels good to say it out loud.

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“I suppose, I’d expect better manners from the principal’s son,” says Meemaw, sliding past my last remark.

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“Can you imagine what Lisa would have done over something like that?” my grandfather says suddenly, looking up from his enchiladas at my grandmother. “I mean, can you even picture it?”

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Jun 29
Yeimi G (Jun 29 2022 11:50AM) : Parents & Their Daughter more

The parents then remember the things their daughter used to do and how she would voice her opinion and wasn’t afraid.

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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 7:01PM) : parents/grandparents/children more

I think the category this comment falls under says alot about what we are seeing unfold in this story – what do you think?

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I look over at Grandpa, curious. “What?” I ask. “What would Mom have done?”

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“I don’t even want to think about it,” Meemaw says, holding her hand out like a crossing guard ordering us to stop.

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“Your mother wouldn’t have done just one thing,” Grandpa continues, scraping his plate for one last bite. “It would have been a list of stuff. She would have started a petition. Painted a big sign and marched around the school. Exploded in rage.”

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Of course my mother would have done all of those things. The tales of her teenage rebellion started long before she moved to the Pacific Northwest and took up with the Riot Grrrls. Like the time she showed up at East Rockport High with her hair dyed Manic Panic Siren’s Song blue the day after the principal announced the dress code would no longer allow unnatural hair colors. She got suspended for a week and my grandparents had to spend a fortune getting it covered up without my mom’s hair falling out. I briefly imagine what it must have felt like to walk down the main hallway of school with everyone staring at you because your hair is the color of a blue Fla-Vor-Ice. I cringe just thinking about it.

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Jun 29
Kelsey L (Jun 29 2022 8:48AM) : Memory Moment more

Knowing that Viv will eventually start to voice her opinions with the zine, her saying this provides a clear start to her character development. This Viv wouldn’t have had the courage to start Moxie.

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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 7:01PM) : Viv and character more

Excellent point made Kelsey, way to go – what category of a comment would this fall under do you feel?

“The problem was your mother was always looking for a fight,” Meemaw continues before draining the rest of her sweet tea. “She had more than her necessary share of moxie. It made things so difficult for her. And us, too, as much as we love her.”

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“Yeah, I know,” I say. I’ve heard this speech before. And maybe it did make things difficult for Meemaw and Grandpa, but the girl in the Polaroid picture from the MY MISSPENT YOUTH shoe box didn’t seem to find life so tough. She seemed to be having fun. She seemed to enjoyed starting battles, even if she didn’t always win.

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“The good news,” Meemaw announces definitively, “is that the rebellious gene seems to have been some strange mutation.” She smiles at me and starts stacking the dirty dishes.

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“Our dutiful Vivian,” Grandpa offers. He even reaches over and ruffles my hair with his big, callus-covered grandpa hand, like I’m ten.

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I smile back, but I’m prickly all of a sudden. I don’t like feeling prickly toward my grandpa. Or Meemaw. But I don’t like being called dutiful either. Even though it’s probably—no, definitely—true. So I don’t say anything. I just smile and try to bury the prickliness.

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Jun 29
Kelsey L (Jun 29 2022 8:51AM) : Again & Again more

Viv uses the phrase “feeling prickly” whenever she is bothered by something. I just think this word choice is great as it’s something you can imagine and almost feel. Her saying this makes it clear she is uncomfortable.

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Jul 5
Harry B (Jul 05 2022 7:03PM) : "Prickly" more

Curious, when you say “whenever she is bothered” do you see this happing as a pattern? If so, I would see this falling under you noticing this as a Again and Again comment category? What do you think?

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Jul 6
Harry B (Jul 06 2022 8:16AM) : Again and again? more

Is that the type of comment this could be?

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After dinner I do my homework (of course), and then I join my grandparents in the family room (or what Meemaw and Grandpa call “the TV room”) to watch Wheel of Fortune. I laugh as Meemaw shouts out ridiculous answers (“‘Luck Be a Lady Tonight!’ Lady and the Tramp! My Fair Lady!” ). I accept Grandpa’s offer of decaf coffee with cream and sugar. But my mind keeps remembering Lucy’s hurt face and the snickering coming from Mitchell and his stupid friends. The burning sensation that flashed through my body during dinner twists my stomach. Makes me restless.

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After the bonus round on Wheel, I tell my grandparents I have to be heading home, and they do their typical protest to try and get me to stay just a little longer, at least through Dancing with the Stars. But I beg off and kiss them each on the cheek and thank them—dutifully—for having me over.

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“Of course, sweetie,” Grandpa says, walking me to the door and hugging me tight, and I feel guilty for getting so irritated with him earlier.

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* * *

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After I get home and watch some dumb television and mess around on my phone, I decide it’s time to get ready for bed, so I throw on my pajamas—boxers and an old Runaways T-shirt my mom gave me for Christmas one year, featuring a very young Joan Jett (the human one). While I’m brushing my teeth, I hear the front door open.

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“Mom?” I say, stepping out into the hallway that leads to the kitchen.

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“Hey, lady,” she answers back, tossing her car keys onto the counter where they skid to a stop by the blender. Then she stops in the middle of our postage-stamp-sized kitchen and stares up at the ceiling before letting loose a loud exhale. “Oh man, what a night,” she says, unwinding the bun on top of her head. Her thick black hair slides down her back like a curtain after a performance. She walks over to the fridge and peeks inside, and I finish brushing my teeth and join her.

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“Where’s that leftover Chinese?” she asks me as she shifts around takeout containers and cans of Dr Pepper.

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“I finished it the other night,” I say, giving her a sorry face as she shoots me a friendly scowl over the refrigerator door.

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“Dang,” she mutters. “Well, ice cream for dinner at 10 p.m. never killed anyone. At least not that I’m aware of.” She pulls a pint of mint chocolate chip out of the freezer and makes her way to our little den next to the kitchen, the room where we spend most of our time together. I follow her and watch as she collapses into her regular spot on the well-worn couch and then pats the space next to her as a sign that I should join her.

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“You okay?” I ask as she swallows a spoonful of ice cream and finally relaxes her body a bit.

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“Yeah, just tired,” she says, frowning and digging around for another big scoop. “We were slammed from the minute I got there until the minute I walked out.”

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“Anything gross or scary?” I ask. I watch as she swallows her ice cream and tips her head back to rest, closing her eyes briefly. My mom is still beautiful, even in her cheeseball pink nursing scrubs covered in tiny white daisies. Her dark hair stands in such contrast to her pale skin, and she moves her tall body with total grace. Meemaw says we look alike even if we don’t act alike, and I hope it’s true even though I’m pretty sure it’s not.

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“No, fortunately nothing too weird. Just urinary tract infections and ear infections all night long.” Sometimes my mom comes home with strange stories that make us both laugh, like the time a kid stuck a bunch of Flintstones vitamins up his nose.

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We sit in silence for a bit, and I reach out and stroke one of her long, pale arms. She looks at me and smiles.

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“How was school?” she asks.

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“The usual,” I answer. “School.”

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“Such a detailed report.”

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“There’s really nothing to say,” I insist. Which isn’t true, of course. On a different night I would talk through Mitchell Wilson’s stupid remark and how sorry I felt for Lucy and how annoyed Mr. Davies made me in English class when he punished all of us instead of dealing with the actual problem. I might even be able to admit that Meemaw and Grandpa annoyed me by calling me dutiful. But I can tell from the way my mom wrinkles her forehead to try and keep her eyes open that she’s exhausted.

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“Well, it’s late anyway,” she tells me, “and you should get to bed. I smell like an urgent care center, but kiss me good night anyway, would you?”

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I lean in for a hug and a peck on the cheek and as I head to my bedroom, I hear my mom turning on the television to unwind. After shutting my door, I slide under the covers and turn off my bedside lamp. The glow-in-the-dark stars I stuck on my ceiling light up like they’re saying hello. Sliding my headphones on, I think about my mom’s MISSPENT YOUTH shoe box. I scroll through my phone, looking for Riot Grrrl music, and play a song called “Rebel Girl” by a band named Bikini Kill.

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Jul 6
Diana A (Jul 06 2022 9:57AM) : Again & Again. Vivi's moms' "MISSPENT YOUTH BOX"
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It starts with this pounding drumbeat that’s so strong and angry that I think if I listen to it loud enough I might fly off the bed. Then the guitar kicks in.

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But the best part is when the lead singer starts singing and her voice shoots out of her gut like a rocket launching.

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That girl thinks she’s the queen of the neighborhood

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She’s got the hottest trike in town

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That girl she holds her head up so high

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I think I wanna be her best friend, yeah

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Rebel girl, rebel girl

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Rebel girl, you are the queen of my world

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The music thuds and snarls and spits, and as I listen, it’s hard for me to imagine that the tired, ice-cream-eating, scrubs-wearing mom on the couch is the same mom from the MY MISSPENT YOUTH box. The same girl with the platinum-blond streak in her hair and tongue sticking out and dark eyes that aren’t afraid to fight back.

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And I know that now she’s tired and exhausted and worried about paying all the bills. But there was a time when she listened to this music. When she raged and roared and rioted. When she wasn’t dutiful. There was a time when she lived out loud. And no one can take that away from her.

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When the song ends I lie there for a moment in silence and then hit repeat, waiting once more for the drums to begin their attack.

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CHAPTER THREE

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The week continues like it always does. On Wednesday I go to school, and Mr. Davies doesn’t even check the stupid extra homework he made us do in the grammar book. Lucy Hernandez doesn’t raise her hand once all class. I go home and do my homework and text Claudia and listen to music and go to sleep. Thursday is pretty much the same routine. It’s been the same each year since middle school. Every fall starts with me thinking maybe this year something will be different—something will happen that will shake up my merry-go-round life. But I’m so used to the sameness of every year at East Rockport, I can’t even identify what I want that Something to be. I only know that by the end of September it’s obvious another school year is sitting in front of me like a long stretch of highway.

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The only thing that makes today, Friday, feel at all unique is, of course, that the fate of the East Rockport High football team will be decided a few short hours after the final bell rings.

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East Rockport is just a 3A town, so it’s not like the big cities or anything, but our football team is pretty good. And by that I mean when I was in the fifth grade we made it to the state championships but we lost, and people still talk about that day more than they talk about the fact that the one of the first astronauts to fly around in space was born right here in East Rockport. On Fridays in the fall, class feels like an excuse to legally require us to come to school so we can admire the football players’ lockers decorated with orange and white crepe paper streamers and attend the mandatory pep rally before lunch and participate in the call and response cheers and observe Mitchell Wilson and his crew walking down the hallways like the second comings of Tom Landry and Earl Campbell. And the fact that I even know who Tom Landry and Earl Campbell are should tell you I really have been born and bred in this state.

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“So we’re driving out together tonight, right?” Claudia says as we file into the bleachers for the pep rally. “My mom said we could take her car. She’s staying home with Danny because he isn’t feeling good.”

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“Yeah, okay,” I say, plunking my rear end down on one of the top bleachers. I can hear the pep band’s horn section getting warmed up. I wince. It sounds like a pack of elephants mourning the loss of their leader or something. In the corner of the gym, the cheerleaders are finishing up their final stretches, dressed in uniforms the color of a Creamsicle.

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Jul 6
Stefania a (Jul 06 2022 9:54AM) : like how it describes the sound
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Jul 20
Harry B (Jul 20 2022 5:27AM) : Imagery more

There is SO MUCH packed into this one sentence, and done well, wow. Great sentence.

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Claudia and I aren’t big football fans, really, but we go to all the games, even the away games like the one tonight in Refugio. That’s what you do here. You go to the games. Even Meemaw and Grandpa wouldn’t miss one. Grandpa likes to use white shoe polish to write GO PIRATES! on the rear window of their car even if Meemaw always worries he won’t be able to drive safely because of it. Claudia and I always sit in the student section on game nights, but usually on the edge of it, like we do at the pep rallies. We split a box of super salty popcorn from the Booster Booth, and we clap our greasy hands along half-heartedly while Emma Johnson and the other cheerleaders lead us in cheers, their voices veering up and down like seesaws. “LET’S go PI-rates.”—clap, clap, clapclapclap—“LET’S go PI-rates.”—clap, clap, clapclapclap.

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“Come on, let’s get this show on the road,” Claudia mutters, her eyes darting around to make sure none of the teachers patrolling the perimeter of the gym are watching us before she pulls out her phone to mess with it.

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That’s when I happen to glance over my shoulder and see him. Two bleachers in back of us and maybe like five people over.

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A new boy.

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In my experience the new boy is always someone’s cousin who’s just moved here from Port Aransas or wherever, and he’s a total goober with an incredible talent for picking his nose in class when he thinks no one is looking. That’s the new boy. That’s been the new boy since the sixth grade.

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Until right now. Because there’s nothing about New Boy that reads East Rockport. First of all, he’s wearing tight black jeans and a gray T-shirt and his long, dark hair is hanging in front of his eyes like he’s trying to hide behind it. He turns his head a little to scratch the back of his neck, and I can tell the hair on the back of his head is cut short, almost shaved. Boys in East Rockport don’t cut their hair like this. Boys in East Rockport have their mothers and their girlfriends cut their hair into neutral guy haircuts while they sit on stools in the middle of their kitchens. Boys in East Rockport go down to Randy’s Barbershop on Main Street and flip through Playboys from 2002 while they wait for Randy to charge fifteen dollars for the same terrible cut he’s been giving them since preschool. The one that makes their ears stick out for weeks.

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New Boy must never go to Randy’s. Ever.

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In addition to the super cool haircut, he’s got olive skin and full lips and dark eyes like two storm clouds. He’s watching the activity on the gym floor below him with confused interest, like the pep rally is part of some documentary on one of those strange tribes in the Amazon that has never had contact with modern civilization.

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I nudge Claudia.

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“Don’t look in, like, a super obvious way, but who is that guy a few rows behind us? He’s new, right?”

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Claudia turns and glances, then flares her nose a little in disgust, like New Boy is a stain on her favorite shirt, which is so unfair considering how deeply unstainlike New Boy is.

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“Him? Yeah, I know who he is.”

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My mouth pops open and Claudia grins, relishing the moment.

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“Oh, come on, don’t hold back,” I say. Of course at a school as small as East Rockport High it’s only a matter of time before I’ll learn New Boy’s name anyway, but still, it would be nice to know it as soon as possible so I could begin fantasy boyfriending him right away. I’m much more experienced with fantasy boyfriends than actual boyfriends.

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Claudia carefully twirls her long hair with one finger, dragging out the suspense. “His name is Seth Acosta, and he’s a junior, too,” she says. “His parents are these weird artist types from Austin, and they’re renting from my parents. Their house and this finished garage that they’re using as their gallery space. Down by the bay.”

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“Near the mansion?” I ask. The Oakhurst Mansion was originally owned by some guy named Colonel Oakhurst who served in the Republic of Texas Army. Once a year each year in elementary school we were all forced to tour a musty house built in the late 1880s that didn’t have any toilets. One of the singular experiences of an East Rockport childhood, I guess.

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“Yeah, by the mansion,” Claudia offers. “Why? Are you thinking of saying hello to a real live boy for once?”

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I shoot her a look and feel my cheeks flush. I’m so awkward around boys that I don’t talk to them except when absolutely necessary—like when a teacher puts us in groups to do stupid projects. And Claudia knows it.

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