This summer I will travel to England. Why? Because those people are smart, that’s why. Recently they have had a serious pigeon problem. Seems the pigeons have decided they don’t want to just stay in the park and outer-city limits. They want to be in the heart of Liverpool. I guess these Liverpoolians apparently feed the birds fast food, and if you are going to be passing out free cheeseburgers, naturally word travels fast. Even in the bird community. I’m sure the government warned them about trespassing into the center of town, but did the pigeons heed this? No.
So what is any intelligent city going to do? Get RoboFalcons. That’s right—robotic falcons. Why? Because falcons eat pigeons. Welcome to Liverpool, Pigeons, our robots will eat you. It does send a scary, scary message. But for many of us, cheese burgers are always worth the risk.
So these robots will sit on rooftops and flap their wings and squawk loudly to scare their victims away. The local government says it is for the birds’ own good though, claiming they are getting obese on all the fast food thrown their way. And what goes in must come out, so I guess it’s hacking them off that the “city council uses the equivalent of 88 man-hours a day cleaning droppings from the streets and buildings.” You know what’s really expensive, Liverpool? Paying someone to COUNT those bird-poop cleaning man hours. “What’s your job?”“I am a PPMHC—Pigeon Poop Man Hour Counter.” That would be a fun badge to flash.
Next, I would like to discuss Alec Baldwin. If you haven’t heard the hideous things he has said to his daughter, Ireland, just know there was cursing, threats, and a comparison of his daughter to a swing. Dude is insane. Today he made the talk show circuit (The View and Dr. Phil) to explain himself and apologize. He said it was “inappropriate.” Okay, inappropriate is tooting in a packed elevator. What you did was inhumane and child abuse. But according to his interview on The View, HE'S the victim, in case you were confused in whom to feel sorry for.
And onto American Idol. Oh, my gosh. Ryan Seacrest, you little rascal. You got me, okay, you got me. Everyone I’ve talked to said they totally saw that ending coming. I guess I’m slow—I didn’t. I really thought Jordin was a goner. Anyone who experienced the Great Dethroning of Daughtry 2006 (I’m STILL not over it), couldn’t help but buy into this week’s fake out. We have seen a great tossed off the show like he was day old fish, so it was totally plausible that Jordin Sparks might be voted off.But Ryan Seacrest, that stinker, fooled us. Soooo funny. I’m sure Chris Daughtry thought it was hilarious.
As for Grey’s Anatomy, I must say Izzy + George = STUPID. They don’t fit together, they have no chemistry, and you know Izzy would never tango with someone who is married to Callie because Callie could LAY YOU OUT. We girls who are not scrappy have this sixth sense about who could do us the most bodily harm should a fight ever ensue. And thus, you do everything you can to avoid such an occurrence. So, to girls like Callie you say things like, “Could I wash your car for you?” And to girls like, oh, I don’t know…Lindsey Lohan you say, “Are you staring at me? You bring it, Lohan. You bring it!”
In other news, what about Hugh Grant getting arrested for lobbing some baked beans at someone? That is crazy. What are the odds of being in that moment of anger and BAKED BEANS being available? When I’m totally ticked off, I’m usually within arm’s distance of cotton balls. Or grapes. Or bread. Never something as disgusting, shirt-staining, and gas-inducing as baked beans. You can’t just go to the bathroom and wipe that out of your hair, you know? But grapes? They don’t even break on impact. Just ask my students…
And now a side note to Tori W. in Arkansas. Thanks, girl, for my sweet message. I’m glad you liked the book. I was afraid since it didn’t include Tinkerbell or mermaids it would be chunked out the window. You made my week!
Watch this video of the smartest dog in the world. Like many of us, he wants in the pool, but yet he doesn't want to get his hair wet. Who can't relate? Watch Mr. Barkie Von Schnauzer solve this age-old dilemma.
While this does score high points for some great valley girl improv, I'd give our girl Britney Spears an "F" for continuing the trainwreck that is her media persona. What does she need more than substance abuse rehab? A PR intervention. Check out this recent interview where she tells the world what she thinks of her management team and her time in rehab. Do I smell a reality series coming on?
And finally, just a random oddity. I think I would be more interested if it were a mask of George Clooney or Matthew McConaghey. I want Einstein's face checking me out because...?
Have a great weekend. And thanks to all who have sent messages of support for my Jen Hearts Prince Wills Very Muchcampaign. I have no progress to report, but I will not give up. Camilla never did and look how well that turned out.
Dear Prince William, I am so, so sorry to hear of your recent breakup with Kate Middleton. I applaud you for dating someone who's middle class. Middle class has a lot to offer. Like me. I do believe I would be the perfect Mrs. William...um...of Wales? Mrs. William Future King of England? Mrs. William Son of Man with Big Ears?
I know there would be a small age difference. But I'm willing to overlook it.
We'd be perfect. I don't cook. You have an entire kitchen staff. I don't clean. Helllewww, maids and butlers all over the place at your house! You like to buy people gifts. I like to GET gifts! You like to stay out of the public eye. Me, too! I have successfully managed to NEVER get my picture in the Enquirer, Star, or Girls Gone Wild.
We have other things in common, as well. You like children. Perfect! I'm a teacher. I have 150 kids you can HAVE! FREE! I've noticed your cheeks get pink when helping starving, underpriveledged children in the cold. Mine, too. Er, when I'm out in the cold, that is. Going through the McDonald's drive-thru.
May I be so bold as to assume you like water? Well, guess what, big boy? ME TOO!!!!
And they say you marry those like your family. Well, I, too, have the occassional lack of fashion sense, so your grandmother and I would get along famously!
Give it some thought, Will. I understand you're still reeling from the split. But know that I'm totally willing to quit my job, enjoy the first class ticket to London you'd buy me, and devote my hours to being your rebound girlfriend. And if that doesn't scream, "We have a future!" then I don't know what does.
As we pull into the driveway, the gravel path crunches under the tires of the green machine. Suddenly I do not want to get out. I want to stay in the minivan and drive and drive forever. Mrs. Smartly will be the pilot and I, her trusty navigator. We can see the world from our vinyl seats, and nothing can stop us from our life of adventure—and many, many convenience store hot dogs.
My Cruisin’-America dreams come to a screeching halt as I spot what must be the Scotts standing at the end of the drive.
Waiting for me.
The green beast lurches then shimmies to a stop, as does my stomach. Mrs. Smartly looks at me, shoving her Hollywood sunglasses (circa 1985) on top of her teased updo. Oh, no. She’s giving me the sympathy. I can’t stand the sympathy. But her heart is in her eyes, and it’s like I’m receiving her telepathic messages. She feels sorry for me. She’ll miss me. She believes in me. I am the wind beneath her wings.
Here it comes.
I sigh. “Yes, Mrs. Smartly.” Tell me what’s on your heart. Just get the gooshy stuff over with.
“You have a french fry stuck to your leg.”
I swat it off. Couldn’t she at least manage one tear? One measly tear?
“Out you go. Time to meet the Scotts.”
I peel my legs off the vinyl seat and prepare to take my first step out of the vehicle and into who knows what.
“We could’ve been so good together,” I utter miserably to the van, giving the seat a final parting pat.
“Welcome! Welcome!” The woman who must be Mrs. Scott yells, waving her hands like she’s trying to signal a B-52 in for landing.
“Behave, Katie. Put your sweet-girl face on,” Mrs. Smartly whispers in my ear. So little time spent with her, yet she knows me so well.
Taking Mrs. Smartly’s cue to ignore my bags, I dutifully walk toward the waiting couple. They appear trim and tan and look to be in their forties, but I know from sneaking a peak at their paperwork that James and Millie Scott are both in their fifties. They are probably counting the days until they get their senior citizen discount at Gus’s Getcher Gas. Millie’s chin-length, highlighted blonde hair spirals and curls in various directions, and the slight breeze seems to make her hair dance all over her head. She is thin and slight, and her brown eyes look at me—expectant, hopeful. Like I’m a big surprise package unwrapping before her layer by layer. Don’t get too excited, I want to tell her. Katie Parker is just passing through.
This woman before me, who exudes kindness, has me wrapped up in her delicate arms before I know what hits me, before I can inform her of the Katie Parker no-hugging policy. My temporary mom smells of potting soil and fabric softener, and for a moment I allow myself the luxury of breathing it in.
“Your picture didn’t do you justice. You are just as cute as you can be. Isn’t she, James?”
Millie Scott takes a step away from me, keeps her hands on my shoulders, and holds me out for further scrutiny. I have to wonder what my new mom and dad (insert sarcasm here) are thinking about me. I’m not so unsightly that I need to wear a Tucker’s Grocery bag over my head, but I also don’t presume to be Miss Teen USA material, either. As I stand there in all my sixteen-year-old glory, I hope they see my overly-processed hair as strawberry blonde and not an unfortunate battle between red and yellow (with no clear winner). My Madonna T-shirt is vintage, not garage-sale castoff. I hope they know this morning I had some decent looking makeup on, but now it’s probably streaking down my face, all Gothic-like. I want them to look at my five-foot-nine frame and see potential, and I don’t mean for the Chihuahua basketball team. I want . . .
Oh, forget it. Enough of the “Let’s gaze upon our new teenager time.” Enough of the inspection. If they ask to look at my teeth, I’m so out of here.
Her husband smiles at me and luckily opts for a shoulder pat instead of a hug. James Scott stands at least a foot taller than his little wife and looks like the football player to her cheerleader. He is broad and solid, and there is something about him that gets your attention. I notice he has khakis on, and I’m proud to say he doesn’t have them pulled up and belted below his armpits. His short-sleeve polo shirt has an insignia over the left pocket, and I read In Between Community Church.
Mrs. Smartly mentioned he worked for a church in some capacity. Nice uniform, I want to say.
As he smiles at me, I notice his dark gray hair, eyes settled behind oval glasses, leather shoes that scream out “I’m comfortable, but stylish too.” But mostly I notice his caution. As I quit my assessment of my would-be dad, I stare straight into his face. His blue peepers meet mine, and in this moment I know. I know that, number one, James Scott is carrying around some hurt of his own; and number two, he’s not really sure he wants me around to see it.
“Hey, let’s get your bags, young lady, and we’ll show you around, get you all settled in.” James drops his hand from my shoulder and walks to the van to collect all my worldly possessions.
Mrs. Scott’s arm snakes around me as I’m led toward the house. We walk up a cobblestone path with flowers on either side. The house in which I am now to live looms before me. It doesn’t look scary, but my stomach does a triple flip anyway. The cream-colored house is anything but new. My new digs have obviously been around for a long time and have seen much TLC and restoration, unlike a certain girl’s home, which will go unnamed.
Aside from some pretty scary looking yard gnomes, my own mother never really got into home maintenance, so I am reluctantly impressed by the Scotts’ home. Black shutters hang at every window, and the two-story abode is topped off by a tall brick chimney. I’m sick at the thought of staying here, but I’ve been in the system long enough to know things could be worse.
“We’re so excited you’re here, Katie.” Mrs. Scott gushes with enthusiasm, and I wait for her to add a sporty “Yay!” I offer the woman a weak smile but find I don’t really have anything substantial to say.
With a brief look at Iola Smartly, Mrs. Scott tries again. “We have a room for you all set up, but it needs a teenager’s touch. So later in the week we can go shopping for things to make you feel more at home, okay?”
She’s trying really hard. I’ve got to give her that.
Mrs. Smartly clears her throat and jerks her head, signaling me to acknowledge Mrs. Scott.
I shrug a shoulder. “Yeah. Thanks.”
Mrs. Smartly’s eyes roll around and she shakes her big, poofy head.
Look, until I know the Scotts’ motivation, until I know I’m here for upright reasons and not to clip their dog’s toenails on a daily basis or be the resident toilet scrubber, I have got to play it cool. Sure James and Millie look like nice people, but I hear a lot of psychopathic serial killers are quite charming, too. If there is one thing I learned from Trina, the Knife Wielder, it’s always be on your guard.
We enter the house, and I instantly get a whiff of homemade chocolate chip cookies. Do these people think they can woo me with cookies? Do they really think I’m that weak?
I hope they don’t have nuts in them.
Various antiques surround me, but surprisingly not in a “don’t touch me” sort of way. The Scott home is cozy, with overstuffed furniture, walls adorned with decorative plates, the occasional botanical print, and family pictures spanning decades. I scan the perimeter to make sure the heart of any home is here—the television. Luckily, it’s not an antique, but it’s not exactly a sixty-inch flat-screen either. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for cable. That’s right, I hope these people don’t do me bodily harm, and I hope they have VH1.
Mrs. Smartly is looking this place over like she’s committing it to memory. I hope she’s doing this for caution’s sake and not with the thought that I’m gonna steal that blue and white platter hanging over the fireplace.
“So, Miss Katie, you’re awfully quiet. How are you feeling about all of this?” Millie Scott asks.
Mrs. Smartly looks at me with such intensity I’m afraid her eyes are going to laser through mine.
With a bored (yet artfully haughty) glance at the house I mutter, “It’s okay.”
I know my face is speaking volumes, though. I know my face is saying, “You people don’t impress me. I don’t want to be here. Your efforts are useless.” Apparently, I need to come up with a “Yes, I will take milk with my chocolate chip cookies” expression too. I mean, seriously, when is the woman going to break out the baked goods?
“Maybe we could see Katie’s bedroom?”
A light enters Millie Scott’s eyes at Mrs. Smartly’s suggestion, and you can tell she thinks that’s a grand idea. My room had better not be upstairs. If I need to make my great escape, I don’t know how I would get down. Let’s be realistic. That bit of tying a bunch of sheets together can’t possibly work in real life. “Girl falls to her death--insufficient thread count to blame.” Plus I am not hoofing it up and down stairs all the time.
“If you’ll follow me upstairs, I’ll show you your room.”
Sheesh, can’t an underprivileged, displaced ward of the state ever catch a break?
At step number 260 (okay, okay, it was step number seven) we are met by the largest dog I have ever seen in my life. I’m throwing mental daggers at Mrs. Smartly. She said nothing about a dog. I don’t like dogs. They slobber and they smell, and this one looks like a giant, mutant horse.
“Now get out of the way, Rocky. Oh, look, he’s excited to see you, Katie.”
We are forced to stop and observe the dog out of respect for Mrs. Scott, and the dog takes this moment to sniff me in ways I find totally inappropriate and surely should be documented in that file Mrs. Smartly is carrying around with her. Mrs. Scott watches me with her dog, hoping no doubt for a connection. With a polite pat on the head to her little snookums, I continue up the stairs. Rocky decides we are racing and darts ahead of me, taking the stairs three at a time. Their mongrel had better not be going to my room. A girl’s gotta draw the line somewhere.
“Here we go. This is your room, Katie.”
Millie Scott leads us into my bedroom, and for the briefest of seconds my breath catches and time stops. It’s like I’m a character in a Hilary Duff movie. I’m surrounded by pink walls—not a Barbie pink, but a spunky, rockin’ pink, with crisp white trim outlining the room. There’s a bookshelf, filled from top to bottom with books (I guess a bookshelf filled from top to bottom with People magazines was too much to hope for), a white shaggy rug stretched over the worn wooden floor, and a dangling crystal light fixture that boldly declares sophistication and class. (Granted, what do I know of sophistication? But I’m betting that light doesn’t respond to a clapper.)
In a corner stands a white wooden desk with an empty bulletin board hanging over it. On the opposite wall is a bed. My bed. It’s white and big and covered with various floral quilts someone with patience, skill, and a whole lot of free time must’ve pieced together and stitched.
“What do you think? I did the best I could, but it definitely needs a teenager’s flair.” Mrs. Scott fluffs a bed pillow.
The room is amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never had anything like it. I would like to say I’m not touched by the effort Millie Scott put into creating this space for me, but I am. This bedroom looks, well, safe. I look at this room, and I think, I could make a home here.
But I’m not.
“Did you buy all these things for me?” I drag my hand across the desktop.
Mrs. Scott looks at the floor. “Ah, well, not all of it. A lot of this furniture we already had, and I just spruced it up a bit. A little paint and polish, you know.” Her eyes sweep the room. A hint of sadness steals across her face just before the serene smile returns. Interesting. I tuck this information away.
My attention returning to the room, I turn in a circle to make sure I’m taking it all in. Just for good measure, I twirl in another circle, seeing the paint, the fluffy bed, the big, fuzzy rug, my desk, the curtains, the lights, the pictures on the wall, the starched pillowcases, the—
The underside of a dog.
“Rocky! Get off her! Oh, Katie, I’m so sorry.”
I’m dying. This is it. I’m flat on my back with Rocky, the two-hundred-pound canine freak show on my chest, his tail wagging every three milliseconds and hitting my leg like it’s going to break the skin any minute now.
“Rocky, off! My goodness, he just came out of nowhere! Sweetie, I’m so sorry!” Mrs. Scott tries in vain to remove her dog. “Really, he’s never a problem, Mrs. Smartly. I hope you don’t think we would ever let Rocky endanger Katie.”
From my spot on the floor, I look up at Mrs. Smartly, my beloved guardian angel these past six months, and give her my best pitiful look. Please, oh, please don’t leave me here with Mr. Slobbers.
“I’m not the least bit worried, Millie. I think Katie’s going to be just fine.” Mrs. Smartly has the nerve to give me a wink, like I, too, think this is just a precious Polaroid moment.
The dog, apparently deciding we’re all playing a super-nifty game, plants his whole body on my legs, sitting patiently, waiting for what comes next.
“Yes, Katie’s definitely in the right place,” says Mrs. Smartly with a parting nudge to my leg with her orthopedic shoe.
Copied from In Between, by Jenny B. Jones, copyright 2007, by permission of NavPress, www.navpress.com. All rights reserved.
In Between came out today. Not that I knew it would. Cause I didn't. A student happened to see it this weekend at Christian Book Outlet. BUT IT'S OUT!!!!!!
Very excited about it. There's a wee bit of a shortage in this area, so ask those book seller's if you can't find it. I don't think Meg Cabot has this problem... ; )
Here's a sample chapter. Today's chapter one. Chapter two will follow later in the week.
I’m what you call an orphan, I guess. Officially, I’m a ward of the state of Texas. Knowing that your greatest achievement to date is becoming a dependent of an entire state can totally blow a girl’s confidence.
Life can change so fast. One minute I’m living the single-wide-trailer dream with my mom and a few stray cats, and the next I’m sleeping in a room with eight other girls at the Sunny Haven Home for Girls. And just as soon as I get my sock drawer organized and figure out which girls at Sunny will do me the least amount of bodily harm, I find myself shipped out again. It was just last week Mrs. Iola Smartly, the director, laid the news on me. I would be leaving.
And how did I feel about that? Scared, confused, worried. Oh, and don’t forget nauseous. I mean, I have been a resident of Sunny for six months, and then Mrs. Smartly tells me I’m getting new parents. Foster parents.
Fast forward one week, one nail-biting week, and here I am, with Mrs. Smartly at the wheel, riding in the finest on-four-wheels the Texas Department of Child Services has to offer (translation: one nasty minivan), zipping down the highway, bound for some hole in the earth called In Between.
“You’re going to love In Between, Katie.” Mrs. Smartly adjusts the volume on the radio so I can hear her.
I turn my head and look out the window. “Great. I’m going to live in a town inhabited by citizens not even smart enough to pick a decent name for their city. Why couldn’t I be going to Dallas?”
Dallas—now those people know what they’re doing.
“You’re going to live with some wonderful people.”
“I guess it gets me out of the state home.”
She gives my knee a playful shake. “Now, Sunny Haven is a fine establishment. It wasn’t that bad.”
My jaw drops. “Are we talking about the same place? The very name is sheer irony. Sunny Haven?” I laugh. “Puh-lease. There is not a single sunny thing about that place.”
Mrs. Smartly dismisses me with a snort, which ticks me off even more.
“And what particular aspect of the home do you find so endearing, Mrs. Smartly? Could it be the dingy gray walls? And I mean ick gray. That’s not a color Lowe’s is carrying these days. Or maybe you’re all about the lights that run up and down the halls? You know, the ones that hum and whine at decibel levels bound to disturb the local dog population.”
“Tell me how you really feel.” Mrs. Smartly turns on the windshield wipers to swipe some bug guts away.
Well, since you asked . . . “The floors are always cold. My tootsies are too sensitive for that. And in line with the whole prison décor theme, the floors are a color that tends to remind me of vomit.”
She pulls out her directions for a quick check. “Go on. Don’t hold back now.”
“Okay, Sunny Haven a home for girls? Whatever. That place is an insult to the word home.”
Many of us girls at Sunny may not have had a real accurate sense of what home should be, but if Sunny Haven is it, please find me a pack of wolves or some killer bees to reside with instead.
“You had a roof over your head, you were fed, and most important, you were safe.” She slaps my feet off the scarred dashboard.
“Safe? Are you kidding me?”
Mrs. Smartly takes her eyes off the road for a brief moment and looks my way. “You appear fine to me. When, Ms. Parker, did you think your well-being was in question?”
“Okay, I offer up exhibit A: Trina.” Enough said.
Trina, one of my roommates, would just as soon slit you with the knife she hides under her King James Bible as she would befriend you. Mrs. Smartly knows this.
See, Sunny Haven houses twelve- to seventeen-year-old girls, like Ms. Prison-Bound Trina or just plain ol’ strays like me, who have been taken out of their parents’ custody for one reason or another.
I like to say my mom and dad ran off and joined the circus, and due to the fact that I’m allergic to spandex and heavy stage make-up, I could not join their trapeze act. Sometimes I add that I’m just hanging out at Sunny until I can perfect my fire-eating routine.
“Even though we may not be up to your Pottery Barn standards, Katie, I think we provide a pretty good home for girls who don’t have one of their own.”
I bristle at this. My mother happens to be in prison right now. The only bright side about that is she is probably getting better food than I have been. My mother was one of those high-rolling entrepreneurs. She was doing so well, and it just all caved in on her. One of those dot-com businesses, you might inquire? Corporate takeover, perhaps? You know, those are all really great suggestions, but the fact is Mrs. Parker (a.k.a. my mom) found not everyone liked her products or appreciated her business skills.
Funny how the police just don’t see all the potential in drugs that people like Mrs. Bobbie Ann Parker do.
If my mom had pushed Mary Kay cosmetics with as much zeal as she had the narcotics, I’d be living the pink Cadillac life and never have darkened the doors of Sunny Haven Home for Girls. And I sure wouldn’t be on the way to Nowhere, Texas to live with two complete strangers.
Mrs. Smartly’s comment bothers me, but I’ll run naked at high noon through my new hometown before I admit it.
I rest my head on the window, getting sleepier by the minute. I was a little worked up last night and didn’t exactly get all my beauty rest. I could’ve counted sheep, but even they don’t dare visit Sunny.
“This is some pretty country, isn’t it, Katie?”
Pieces of Texas pass us by. Restaurants, shops, houses. I don’t know any of them. I guess I don’t get out much.
After my dad left, I wrote a letter to one Miss Reese Witherspoon, asking her to come get me and let me live with her in Hollywood. While she did mail me a nice eight-by-ten glossy, she never sent a stretch limo to my house to pick me up. I really think we would’ve gotten along quite well. It’s not like I carry knives in my King James Bible.
I clear my throat and decide to broach the topic of my new guardians. “So . . . Mrs. Smartly. James and Millie Scott?” (That’s who read my file and said, “We’ll take her.”)
It’s like I want to know about these people, but I don’t want Mrs. Smartly to think I’m too interested. Or scared. The thing with foster care is you have way too much uncertainty. I knew where I stood at the girls’ home. I knew who to be nice to, who to totally avoid, and what the lumps in the dining hall mashed potatoes really consisted of. But foster care? Ugh. I don’t know.
“Are you worried?”
“No,” I mutter in my best duh voice.
“Okay, then.” She returns her attention to the road and bobs her head to the beat of the radio, completely dismissing me.
Well, how rude. She could tell me a bit more about the Scotts. You know, just for the sake of small talk to pass the time.
Mrs. Smartly shoves her big, totally unfashionable sunglasses down and stares at me for a few seconds. “You sure? No fears at all?”
I shake my head and raise my chin. “Not even a little.”
She turns the radio up a few notches and begins to sing.
I lurch out of the seat and punch buttons until the music is off. “Okay.” I take a deep breath. “First, Mr. and Mrs. Scott could be total lunatics. Kooks. They could be scary, scary people with evil, evil plans.” All right, let’s not even delve into that line of thought.
I keep on babbling. “Next, there is the idea they only get foster children for slave labor. I mean, I am their temporary kid, and since they will be my temporary parents, I am expected to obey their every command. Like ‘No dinner for you until you’ve cleaned the refrigerator!’ Or how about ‘No water for you until you’ve filed our taxes, waxed our vehicles, washed the dog, patched the roof, and given Grandma Scott her pedicure.’
“Or maybe they are do-gooders who think I’m the evil one, and they’ll try to mold me into some goody-goody freak of nature, who never stops smiling, sings show tunes, and says crazy stuff like, ‘Yes, ma’am, I’d love to watch more public television tonight.’”
The possibilities are endless.
“Are you done?” With one hand Mrs. Smartly turns the tunes back up, then reaches into her purse between the seats and grabs a pack of gum. She holds the package out to me.
I shake my head, refusing her pity gum.
I close my eyes for a moment, embarrassed at my little outburst. Inhale . . . and exhale. Okay, I’m better. No more freak outs from this point on.
Wait, is that Ricky Martin on the radio? Is Mrs. Iola Smartly belting out Ricky Martin at the top of her lungs? Oh, no way. I’m sticking some tissue in my ears and forcing myself to go to sleep.
Maybe when I wake up this car ride will be over, and the sight of Mrs. Smartly shaking her bon-bon in her bucket seat will be just a dim memory.
“Katie,” a voice calls from the driver’s seat.
I’m ignoring this voice.
“Katie, wake up. We’re almost to the Scotts’ house.”
The fog in my head clears as I wake up, and I remember I’m in a shabby minivan bound for a life of sheer bliss and sunshine at my new “parents” house in Wacko, Texas. Mrs. Smartly nudges my leg, trying to wake the sleeping beauty I am. I give her my possum routine. Plus, I’ve been asleep in the same position so long I can’t seem to move my head.
“Katie Parker, you’re drooling on your seat belt. Now wake up.”
After I readjust my neck, which got stuck in that awkward sleeping-in-the-car position, I tidy up my ponytail and remove all traces of saliva from my face. I arise to see we are zooming past a big red sign indicating we have arrived in good old In Between, Texas. It says, Welcome to In Between. At the center, you’ll find we’re all heart. They may be all heart, but they’re certainly not all brainiacs. Did a first-grader come up with that slogan?
“Well, Ms. Parker, what do you think?” Mrs. Smartly takes off her sunglasses to look at me.
What do I think? I think she has some ketchup on her chin from her lunch value meal, that’s what I think.
“Are you excited? Nervous? Scared?”
She looks at me with genuine interest and concern. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m probably gonna be right back at Sunny Haven within six weeks, I would miss Iola Smartly. The poor woman was given the job of operating a run-down orphanage in a building that hasn’t seen improvements since a guy named Abe Lincoln was in office. Mrs. Smartly had to contend with one ornery building, plus make sure none of us girls skipped school, ran away, or robbed any convenience stores. No wonder she has so much gray in that dark hair she keeps piled up on top of her head.
“Katie. I’m talking to you.” My driving companion wears her exasperated look. She is quite used to my daydreaming and my tendency to ignore people.
I search my brain for a response and give her what I’ve got.
All I’ve got.
“I don’t know, Mrs. Smartly. I just don’t know.”
We pass a park where children are playing and running. I try not to think how lucky those children are. Moms to push their swings. Dads to wipe the dirt off scraped knees.
Beyond the park there’s a water tower just suffering for a paint job. Mrs. Smartly and I eye the tower and can’t help but simultaneously read aloud the poorly painted lettering on it, Home of the In Between Chihuahuas. Oh, this is getting worse by the minute. Their school mascot is the Chihuahua?
“Well, Katie, you’ll be a Chihuahua, it seems,” Mrs. Smartly says with a friendly smirk. The last school I was at, their mascot was a tiger. Tigers eat Chihuahuas.
“Maybe my foster parents will be into homeschooling.”
“No such luck, sweetie. I’m sure you’ll adjust.”
City hall. May’s Quilt Shop. Gus’s Getcher Gas. Tucker’s Grocery and More. In Between Public Library. Bright Mornings Daycare. Micky’s Diner. I’m in a small town nightmare. Can you call it a town if there isn’t even a McDonald’s? How does a person survive without easy access to chicken nuggets?
Mrs. Smartly squints hard at her directions and passing street signs, making lefts and rights with her prized minivan. As we wind through the town, my panic builds with every new sight. Are we going too fast for me to jump out of the van? I think I could live with a broken arm. But on second thought, what if she’s going at the speed just prime for a broken neck?
Deciding I like my neck right where it is, I resign myself to the fact that In Between is where I’m at.
Where I’m staying.
Ready or not.
Copied from In Between, by Jenny B. Jones, copyright 2007, by permission of NavPress, www.navpress.com. All rights reserved.
It took less than a chapter for Katie Parker, the main character in Jenny B. Jones's new novel, In Between, to win me over completely. Sixteen-year-old Katie, now a ward of the state of Texas after her mom's recent imprisonment, says, "Knowing that your greatest achievement to date is becoming a dependent of an entire state can totally blow a girl's confidence."
About the time Katie gets used to being at the Sunny Haven Home for Girls, she finds herself shipped out to foster parents who live in In Between, Texas. Now what kind of town would name itself In Between? And, have as its high school mascot a Chihuahua?
Her new foster parents, James and Millie Scott, are nice enough people, in spite of the fact that Katie is shocked to find out James is the senior pastor of In Between Community Church. Now why would a family like that want her? Besides, she's heard the horror stories from the other girls at Sunny Have. Moving from one foster home to another--never staying in one place for long. Katie figures the sooner she can get herself sent back to Sunny Haven, the easier it will be on everyone.
However, when her best attempts to get the Scotts to send her back only seem to strengthen their caring and support, Katie begins to realize that maybe her life can be something better than it has been. And James and Millie Scott are surprised to find that Katie might also have a lesson or two to teach them.
With great supporting characters such as Mad Maxine, Millie Scott's "gum-smacking, energy-drink guzzling, wheelie-popping demon" of a mother, Jenny B. Jones has created a humorous and heart-touching book seen through the eyes of a foster kid on the outside looking in. Katie Parker will make you laugh out loud and, by the time you finish the last page, I have no doubt she will have won your heart as she did mine.
I eagerly look forward to the next book in the series, On the Loose, scheduled to be released in September 2007.
Armchair Interviews says: Wonderful story for young adult readers.
I am a teacher in one of the largest high schools in the state. I'm also a writer of Young Adult novels and am currently working on a brand new series. Book three in the Katie Parker Production series, The Big Picture, will hit shelves in April 2008. Stay tuned!