Anastasia's Chosen Careerby Lois Lowry
In her seventh adventure, the irrepressible Anastasia decides that charm school is the answer to her career dilemmas.
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“Everybody in the whole world skis, except me,” announced Anastasia as she reached for another helping of dessert. It was apple crisp, one of her favorites. “I don’t ski,” said her brother, Sam, with his mouth full. “Well, you’re only three years old,” Anastasia pointed out. “Everybody else skis.” Mrs. Krupnik, Anastasia’s mother, wiped her mouth with a paper napkin. “Mr. Fosburgh, across the street, doesn’t ski,” she commented. “Mr. Fosburgh has been in a wheelchair for thirty-four years,” Anastasia said. “Everybody else skis.” Anastasia’s father looked up. “I was just reading an article about tribespeople in the Kalahari Desert in Africa. It didn’t mention that they ski.” Anastasia gave her entire family a look of disgust. It wasn’t easy, because it meant that she had to maintain a look of disgust while turning her head slowly to focus first on Sam, then on her mother, then on her father. “I meant,” she said after a moment, after she had completed her look of disgust, “that it seems as if everyone in my class skis. Everyone in the seventh grade. Winter vacation starts next week, and all my friends are disappearing. They’re all going skiing.” “No kidding,” her father said. “Everyone? Are they all going together? Why didn’t they invite us?” He reached over and took some more apple crisp. “No,” Anastasia said gloomily. “Not all together. Daphne’s going with her grandmother. Daphne’s grandmother is taking her to Austria to ski. Can you imagine that? Daphne’s grandmother skiing? She’s ancient!” “Well,” Mrs. Krupnik said, “she’s also extremely rich. Somehow extremely rich people seem to be able to do extremely amazing things.” “And Meredith,” Anastasia went on. “Meredith’s family isn’t rich. But every single winter they go to New Hampshire to ski. They have these special ski outfits and everything. Meredith’s is blue.” Anastasia sighed, thinking about the blue skiing outfit Meredith Halberg had shown her. “It has snowflakes embroidered on the sleeves.” “I bet anything I could knit a sweater with snowflakes on the sleeves,” Mrs. Krupnik said. “Remember I made that sweater for Sam last winter, with a cow across the chest? What ever happened to that sweater, Sam? You didn’t lose it, did you?” Sam shook his head. “It’s under my bed,” he said. “Would you like me to make you a sweater with snowflakes on the sleeves, Anastasia?” “No,” Anastasia said, emphatically. Then she added, “Thank you anyway.” Myron Krupnik took a third helping of apple crisp. “How about Steve Harvey?” he asked. Anastasia groaned. “Steve Harvey is going with his father to Colorado because his father is covering some world championship ski races for NBC. Talk about lucky. I wish you were a sportscaster, Dad.” He laughed. “I think I’ll stick with being a college professor and a poet. I don’t know a soccer ball from a coronation ball. Anyway, even if I did, I could never be a sportscaster because I have arthritis in my neck and shoulders.” Anastasia stared at him. “So? What difference does that make? You could sit up straight and stare into a camera just fine. And they’d put powder over your bald spot so it wouldn’t glisten. Maybe they’d even give you a toupee, if you were a sportscaster.” “My neck doesn’t swivel. Picture me trying to announce a tennis match.” Anastasia pictured a tennis match, and she could see that her father was correct. You definitely needed a swivelly neck to announce a tennis match. Just her luck, to have a father with an unswivelly neck and a boring job. Mrs. Krupnik stood up and began to collect the dessert plates. “Are you finished, Myron, or do you want to lick the bowl?” Dr. Krupnik grinned and scraped the last invisible bits of apple crisp from his plate. Then he handed the empty plate to his wife. Sam had climbed down from his chair and removed his shoes. In his stocking feet, he ran suddenly across the dining room to the place where the rug ended, and slid across the wooden floor out into the hall. Anastasia and her parents could hear the crash as Sam ran into the wall and fell against a small table that had been piled with books. They heard the books hit the floor. After a moment Sam came back into the dining room, rubbing his behind. “I was skiing,” he explained. “But it wasn’t that much fun.”
Anastasia trudged up the stairs to her third-floor bedroom after The Cosby Show ended. She wondered if Bill Cosby’s family went skiing, and decided that they probably did. It sure was boring, living in a family that never did anything truly exciting, especially during school vacations. Sometimes they went to the New England Aquarium. Big deal: penguins and turtles. Sometimes they went to the Museum of Science. Big deal: exhibits about friction and gravity, two of the most boring things in the world. Sometimes they went to the Museum of Fine Arts. Big deal: paintings, and statues of naked people, usually with their more interesting parts crumbled. In her room, Anastasia first did the thing she almost always did every evening. She sat in front of the mirror and stared at herself. She gathered up her hair in one hand and tried to arrange it in various styles. First she gathered it into a big ball on top of her head. Then she tried it pulled entirely to one side, hanging down beside her left ear. Next, she parted it in the middle and pulled it into two ponytails, one on either side of her head. Each time, she sighed, staring at her reflection, and let her hair drop again into its ordinary thick, shoulder-length mass. She pushed her glasses down farther on her nose and pursed her lips into a tight, refined look. She stared at herself and decided that she looked like a schoolmistress from the nineteenth century. Then she pushed her glasses back up where they belonged and tried a broad, toothy smile. She turned sideways, flung her head back, and looked at herself out of the corners of her eyes. She moved her shoulder forward, turned her neck—her neck swiveled, at least—and sucked in her cheeks, although it meant that she couldn’t smile. She pulled some hair over her face and tugged at the neck of her sweatshirt until one shoulder was exposed. There. She held that pose, her favorite, for a moment. She liked it: haughty, disheveled, devil-may-care, flagrant. Anastasia liked the idea of being flagrant, even though she wasn’t exactly sure what the word meant. She stood up and wandered over to her unmade bed where her schoolbooks were strewn. She flipped through her history book, glanced at her homework paper, and decided she’d done enough, even though she’d answered only ten questions out of the twelve. She could do the other two in study hall before history class. Anastasia lay down on her bed, wiggled a little to keep the corner of her notebook from poking her in the back, and thought about the coming weeklong vacation from seventh grade. She had absolutely nothing to do during vacation except to work on her school project: a paper called “My Chosen Career.” Gross. How could you write about “My Chosen Career” when you hadn’t even chosen one yet? Worse: all the seventh-graders were supposed to interview a person already working in their chosen career. Meredith was going to cheat; she was going to interview the owner of the ski lodge where her family always stayed. Then she was going to pretend that she wanted to own a ski lodge when she grew up. Steve Harvey was going to interview his own father, for Pete’s sake. Talk about easy. Daphne had already interviewed the guy her mother worked for, and now she was pretending that she wanted to be a lawyer. What a fake. Everybody knew that Daphne wanted to be an actress when she grew up. But Anastasia could sympathize with Daphne’s problem; Daphne had written letters to Katharine Hepburn, Debra Winger, and Joanne Woodward, asking for interviews. All she got back were autographed pictures, and the autographs weren’t even real—when you licked your finger and tried to smear them, they didn’t smear at all. It really wasn’t entirely true that everyone was going skiing. Daphne was going to Austria with her grandmother; that was true. They were flying from Boston tomorrow, and Daphne got to miss a whole day of school. Meredith’s family really was going to New Hampshire, as they always did. And Steve Harvey was leaving for Colorado with his father on Sunday. But Sonya Isaacson—one of Anastasia’s very best friends—would be around. The Isaacson family didn’t ski, maybe because every one of them was a little bit plump, Anastasia thought; maybe that would make skiing difficult. Anastasia wasn’t plump at all. I am slender, she thought, and held up one arm to look at it, hoping it would look long-limbed and graceful. Long-limbed and graceful my foot, she thought. I’m bony. Skinny and bony. Tall and skinny and bony. And my hair is gross. My posture is disgusting. I’m nearsighted. I have a chickenpox scar on my forehead, and I hate my nose. Even if my parents bought me a pale blue skiing outfit and took me to New Hampshire—no, took me to Austria—I would still be me, Anastasia thought. I would still be a tall, skinny, bony, gross-haired, slump-shouldered, nearsighted, big-nosed freak of a person. She pictured a gorgeous, tan, blond ski instructor named—what? Hans. He would be named Hans. He would be wearing goggles pushed up over his blond hair and a black turtleneck sweater, she decided. His ski pants would be skintight, and she would be able to see the rippling muscles in his long, slim, ski instructor legs. His even white teeth would gleam in the Austrian sunshine. He would smile at her—gleam, gleam, gleam. And he would say in a deep, masculine, ski instructor voice— Anastasia groaned aloud. She knew exactly what he would say. And he would say it in a sexy-ski-instructor Austrian accent, which made it even worse. He would say, “Young lady, you vill have to leave dis mountain immediately. Ve don’t allow skinny, bony, nearsighted, big-nosed people to come to ski slopes. Go back to Boston and improve yourself.” Anastasia sat up. That did it. A daydream did it: made a decision for her. “Thanks, Hans,” she said. “You’ve forced me to face reality.” She reached over to the drawer of the table beside her bed. On the table, in his bowl, her goldfish looked at her with amazed eyes. “Don’t bug me, Frank,” Anastasia said to her goldfish. “Just don’t bug me.” She opened the drawer and took out the piece of paper that had been stored there for several months, ever since the day it had appeared under the windshield wiper of her father’s car when they came out of the Paris Cinema after seeing a Woody Allen movie. With the paper in her hands, she opened the door to her room and called down the stairs. “Mom? Dad?” No answer. Far below, on the first floor, she could hear the television. They were watching Hill Street Blues, their favorite TV show. Anastasia went down to the second floor, tiptoed past the bedroom door where Sam was sleeping, and then went partway down the stairs to the first floor. She sat down on the stairs, pressed her face against the railing, and called into the study. “Mom? Dad?” Her mother came into the hall from the study and looked up at Anastasia. “What?” she asked. “Mom,” Anastasia said, “you said that you and Dad would talk over what I asked you, about going into Boston all by myself on the bus during school vacation. Did you? Did you talk it over?” Sounds of gunshots came from the television. Mrs. Krupnik was standing there, but it was obvious to Anastasia that her mother hadn’t even listened to her question. Her mother was listening to the television. Talk about supportive parents. “To take that course, Mom. Remember?” “Katherine!” Dr. Krupnik called urgently. “They’ve taken Bobby Hill hostage!” “Go on back, Mom,” Anastasia said with a sigh. “I’ll discuss it with you at breakfast.” Anastasia read the paper again as she wandered back up to the third floor to get ready for bed. She had had it memorized for several weeks, but still she read the words over and over. “Frank?” she said. She looked over at her goldfish. Frank opened and closed his mouth several times, very slowly. If Frank could talk, Anastasia thought, he would say nothing but “Oh. Oh. Oh.” “Frank,” Anastasia told him, “if my parents will let me go all by myself into Boston on the bus during school vacation next week—” Frank flipped his translucent tail and executed a languid somersault through the water. “And they’d better let me, because I’m old enough—I’m thirteen, after all—well, then my school vacation isn’t going to be at all boring. Because I’m going to do something absolutely incredible! And educational, too. And to prepare me for my chosen career: how about that, Frank?” Frank stared at Anastasia and moved his mouth again. “Oh. Oh. Oh,” he said silently, as if maybe he knew something that she didn’t. Anastasia sighed, opened her notebook, and began to work on her school project.
My Chosen Career
After a great deal of careful thought about my future, I have chosen a career which will be exciting, glamorous, and
Meet the Author
Lois Lowry is the author of more than thirty books for young adults, including the popular Anastasia Krupnik series. She has received countless honors, among them the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the California Young Reader’s Medal, and the Mark Twain Award. She received Newbery Medals for two of her novels, NUMBER THE STARS and THE GIVER. Her first novel, A SUMMER TO DIE, was awarded the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award. Ms. Lowry now divides her time between Cambridge and an 1840s farmhouse in Maine. To learn more about Lois Lowry, see her website at www.loislowry.com.
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