10th Grade: A Novel

10th Grade: A Novel

3.8 13
by Joe Weisberg

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Jeremiah Reskin has big plans for tenth grade—he wants to make some friends and he wants to take a girl’s shirt off. It’s not going too well at first, but when he meets a group of semibohemian outcasts, things start to change. Soon he’s negotiating his way through group back rubs and trying to find the courage to make a move on Renee Shopmaker… See more details below


Jeremiah Reskin has big plans for tenth grade—he wants to make some friends and he wants to take a girl’s shirt off. It’s not going too well at first, but when he meets a group of semibohemian outcasts, things start to change. Soon he’s negotiating his way through group back rubs and trying to find the courage to make a move on Renee Shopmaker, the hottest girl in school. At the behest of his composition teacher, Jeremy’s also chronicling everything in his own novel—a disastrously ungrammatical but unflinching look at sophomore year.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Random House Publishing Group
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I’m starting right before the beginning. That way you’ll get to know some of the main characters like my parents and my 2 sisters even though they’re not really the main main characters. Anyway I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a camping trip in a National Park or anyplace like that so let me describe The Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming where it’s the end of summer. Believe me it gets very very dark there darker than in Hutch Falls or wherever you live because there aren’t any houses with lights and stuff and you’re surrounded by all the stars they’re talking about when they talk about there being billions of stars. And craters in the moon. Also the moon gets really low when you’re out there almost like it’s right over your head.

So picture this it’s a night like that but even darker it’s so dark we can see everything up there but not much down on the ground except our tents which were in our basement non-stop for about 2 years since the last time we used them and are glowing the color orange now because of the lanterns inside. So we can see them. And the tents are glowing and I swear it looks like we’re just floating out in the middle of space right in the middle of all the stars and planets and other stuff out there which in a sort of cosmic way I guess we are.

All the main characters in my family are here including my Dad my Mom and Claire and Beth (my 2 sisters). My Mom and Claire and Beth are inside 1 of the tents they’re whispering then laughing then sort of laugh-whispering you can see them moving from outside like shapes. My Dad’s with me by the campfire which by the way is burned out and he keeps getting up and walking around he’s wearing what he wears camping which is this blue mesh undershirt he thinks is the greatest undershirt ever yellow shorts black socks pulled up high and this is the worst a pair of old black dress shoes he used to wear to work.

“It’s alright” he says and he goes over to our car which is a station wagon which is parked a few feet away. The station wagon is yellow and it’s about 10 years old my Dad bought it 2 years before from my Uncle Henry who was selling it because no one in the world would want it because it was such an old yellow piece of crap except my Dad. He walks around the car looking at it like he’s checking it out like he did when he was thinking about buying it from Uncle Henry because if you ask me he had no idea how to look under the hood or check the engine or anything like that then he comes back to the fire.

“It’s OK it’s natural. Women” he says.

He comes back over to me.

“Women it’s OK you have to understand them very emotional” he says.

A few minutes before all this Claire came out of the tent and whispered something to my Mom my Mom was sitting there singing this song she sings that I hate about a guy who plays the saxophone and he finally finds this great girlfriend but she goes somewhere and then they can’t find each other again so I’m like shut up. Then Claire comes out and whispers I just hear the word “blood” and “panties”. But I’m not an idiot unless the tent exploded and Claire got some kind of weird piece of tent stuck in her upper upper leg she’s having her 1st Period. Which is fine with me I took Sex Ed in 8th grade and I know what’s going on even though it was hard to think in Sex Ed you’d be trying to think but everyone was trying to be so mature all the time and not laugh and you’d have to look around to see who was going to laugh and pretty soon you didn’t even remember the question then a girl would say “VAGINA” and everybody would be like “Hmm do I laugh now?” and before you know it all Hell breaks loose and it is not a learning environment. But it’s pretty easy to deduce that Claires panties have her Period all over them.

Here’s what my Mom looks like: She’s medium height with brown hair that’s short sometimes and long sometimes. She isn’t big or small. She doesn’t wear glasses. I don’t know if she’s pretty or not.

Anyway my Mom and my older sister Beth stood up and the 3 of them went into the tent Mom comes out later and says “everythings fine” and so Dad goes off to the bathroom which is about a 1/2 mile away by the ranger station not to go to the bathroom but because it’s the only place with lights so he can read. My Dad loves to read I mean loves. You can hear him laughing from all that way over there because he’s really into some book by a guy from England that he thinks is the funniest thing in the world and he laughs like crazy whenever he’s reading it. He always tells us everything about what he’s reading and when he was telling us about it he said it started with a scene of a guy “krepitating” which I had no idea what that was and I guess nobody else did either because we all looked at him which was when he informed us it actually means fart but he didn’t say the word fart I think he said passing gas. Which is not usually what my Dad thinks is funny but I guess this guy was so smart he made it funny. My Dad by the way always wants me to read more and I think it’s 1 of the great disappointments of his life that his only son me doesn’t like to read every second but would rather do stuff including watch TV sometimes.

Anyway this incident is very symbolic of Claire becoming a woman and my summer and my whole family sometimes they just treat me like I’m some kind of moron. Even though I think they usually think I’m pretty smart. And the girls and Mom are always like “Oh you men” so I guess we do sort of gang up on them or something but I don’t know what we’re ganging up on them about.

Anyway later when I was already in bed Dad came in the tent. He got in his wooly underwear and lay down on top of his sleeping bag and put his hands behind his head and started breathing in very slowly through his nose and out through his mouth which is what he learned from a book called Light On Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar for when you want to relax. I pretend to be asleep.

School was starting in a few days. Once when I was a kid and my Mom was sick my Dad made my lunch and he made sardines or more like he wrapped them up and I took them to school and ate them. Then I thought about Caroline Zisko. You know those girls who wear all black 100% of the time? That’s Caroline black fish-net stockings through which you can see her legs but also you can’t at the same time black pants black skirts black shirts. But her face is totally white so it’s like all this black and then this white face coming out of it like a dead body. Kind of a good looking dead body though. She’s got this blond hair that’s really nice even though it looks like she never combs it or washes it her face is sort of pretty even though it’s got these little pock marks all over it. Caroline was nice and I talked to her 1 time in 9th Grade it was near the end of the year and I was standing at the top of the stairs by the freshman lockers about to go home I guess it was Friday Caroline was walking by and then she stops and looks at me.

“So what are you doing this weekend?” she asked.

“Um I’m gonna go see a movie” I said pretty much because I knew “nothing” was a bad answer “nothing” was like “I never do anything I never have done anything not once with anybody.”

“A movie. Cool” she said nodding her head up and down like she totally believed me.

And then she went down the stairs and right before she turned I saw her black T-shirt pulled very tight over her Breasts which were small but looked huge in that shirt.

I stood there and wondered if I should of said a specific movie like Raiders Of The Lost Ark. I wondered if there was any chance that she was going to invite me somewhere if I gave a different answer when she said “what are you doing this weekend?” or if maybe it wasn’t a question but it was more like she wanted for me to ask her to do something like “I’m just hanging out want to go see Star Wars?” Or maybe she meant that her and a bunch of her friends (who all wore tons of eye-shadow everywhere and had gross yellow cigarette stains on their teeth that were supposed to be white) were going to hang out in a basement and light candles and play creepy music and they wanted me to come over and sit on the couch and hang out and even though they were weird and freaky they were kind of hot too.

From the Hardcover edition.

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