Feeling Sorry for Celia
By Jaclyn Moriarty
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2002 Jaclyn Moriarty
All right reserved. ISBN: 0312287364
Dear Ms. Clarry,
It has come to our attention that you are incredibly bad at being a teenager.
I mean, take a look at your bedroom.
You haven't got any posters on your wall. (Don't try to tell us that that picture counts. A kitten drowning in a strawberry milkshake? Designed by your mother as an ad for carpet cleaner? Give us a break.)
You have a paper chain made of old Christmas cards hanging from your curtain rod. The only makeup you have is banana-flavored lip gloss and it's melting all over your Little Mermaid quilt cover. (Actually, we don't think that lip gloss counts as makeup at all.)
Not to hurt your feelings or anything, but you are an embarrassment to teenagerhood. Therefore, could you please climb into the refrigerator and wait very quietly until your teenage years end?
PS. Also, you don't seem to understand how to get a snow tan. You look like a slice of watermelon.
!!!! IMPORTANT !!!!! LOOK AT THIS NOTE !!!! !!! ELIZABETH !!!! OVER HERE !!!! ON THE FRIDGE !!!!! LIBBY.
I HOPE YOU SAW THIS NOTE.
EAT THE OATMEAL IN THE BIG, SILVER SAUCEPAN ON THE STOVE. PUT SOME ALOE ON YOUR FACE.
DON'T BURN YOUR FACE LIKE THAT AGAIN, YOUR SKIN WILL ALL PEEL AWAY AND THERE WILL BE NOTHING LEFT BUT BONES AND BRAIN AND EYEBALLS.
IT IS VERY AND EXTREMELY COLD TODAY, WEAR SEVEN PAIRS OF STOCKINGS.
HAVE A NICE FIRST DAY BACK AT SCHOOL.
LOVE FROM YOUR THOUGHTFUL AND CONSIDERATE MOTHER.
Take it easy. I saw the note.
I didn't eat the oatmeal, I gave it to Lochie. I hate oatmeal. If you really cared about me, you would know that.
I am not wearing any stockings at all. It's not that cold. You have some kind of body temperature problem.
The really weird thing is that I didn't burn my face like this on purpose.
And I'm not using aloe because it's disgusting. Thank you for your nice warning about the bones and brains and eyeballs though.
Dear Ms. Clarry,
It is with great pleasure that we invite you to join our Society.
We have just found out about your holiday. It's so impressive! You had four assignments, an English essay, and a chapter of math to do. And you didn't do one single piece of homework!
Also, we have a feeling that you have a history test today. And you're trying to study now? On the bus? With the Brookfield boys climbing onto each other's shoulders to get to the emergency roof exit? And with Celia about to get on the bus at any moment? And you think that's going to make a difference!!!
That's really very amusing, Elizabeth. We like you for it.
You're perfect for our Society and we're very excited about having you join.
The Society of People Who Are Definitely Going to Fail High School
A LETTER TO A COMPLETE AND OTTER STRANGER
Dear Complete and Utter Stranger,
The first thing that I have to say is that I hate oatmeal. I really hate it. And you know what? If you like oatmeal at all? I mean even the tiniest bit? I mean, say you were lost in the Himalayas, right, and you hadn't eaten anything except a Mars Bar for about seven years, right, and you're really cold and your fingers are all dropping off, right, and you look behind this rock, and there's this bowl of oatmeal?
Say you would even think about eating the oatmeal?
Well, JUST DON'T BOTHER WRITING TO ME, OKAY?
I don't want to hurt your feelings or anything, but I don't think I want to have anything to do with you.
The second thing that I have to say is that it's okay if you don't want to read this. If you want to just tear it into tiny little pieces and throw it away? Or you want to tip sulphuric acid all over it, or whatever?
I'm only writing it because of Mr. Botherit. He's our new English teacher and he seems really upset that the Art of Letter Writing is lost to the Internet generation, so he's going to rekindle the joy of the ENVELOPE. Next he's going to bring in a club and a saber-toothed tiger and rekindle the joy of the STONE AGE.
Anyway, but Mr. Botherit also organized the letter exchange because he's upset that our school has nothing to do with your school. He said that if two schools are exactly three blocks away from each other they should forge ties. I don't want to hurt your feelings or anything, but I think we've been okay so far without any tie forging. I think you've been okay without us too.
The good thing about this is that Mr. Botherit doesn't seem to know that Mrs. Cheerson, our old teacher? She gave us an essay to write over the holiday It was on To Kill a Mockingbird, which I read and it was good, and I think it's stupid to spoil a good book by writing an essay on it. So I didn't do it.
Mr. Botherit wrote these things on the board and he says we should put them in here. So I have to say them to you and I'm very sorry.
1. My name: just look at the bottom of the letter, and it says it there.
2. My interests: long-distance running, volleyball, making macrame plant holders (not really) (but really about the running and volleyball).
3. My friends: my best friend is Celia Buckley (But she's not at school today--she didn't get on the bus this morning. You might not think that's very important but that's because you don't know Celia Buckley.) My other best friend is my dog, Lochie.
4. My holiday: I went skiing with my dad to Thredbo.
There are about twenty-five million other things on the list but this is boring and stupid. You don't care. You have probably put the sulphuric acid on this by now anyway and all my words are being wasted.
Dear Ms. Clarry,
I know what you're planning to do right now. You're planning to take the bus straight to Celia's place. Aren't you?
You're going to check that she's okay, right? And if she's had a relapse of typhoid fever you're going to mop her brow and bring her cans of Diet Coke, right? And if she's run away to make a living playing her recorder on street corners then you're going to buy her a tie-dyed rug to stand on, right?
I know just what you're going to do this afternoon. You're going to do a 10k run, aren't you?
The Trail Run is just eight weeks away now. You want to finish first, don't you? Or finish in the top ten? Or finish?
The Society of High School Runners Who Aren't Very Good at
Long-Distance Running but Would Be if They Just Trained
!!!! OVER HERE !!!! ELIZABETH !!! ON THE TABLE HERE !!! A NOTE FOR YOU !!!
THANK YOU FOR YOUR NOTE THIS MORNING. I WOULD JUST LIKE TO SAY THAT IF YOUR LEGS GET FROSTBITTEN AND PURPLE FROM NOT WEARING STOCKINGS. AND YOUR FACE PEELS AWAY LEAVING YOU WITH NOTHING BUT BRAINS AND BLOOD AND EYEBALLS FROM NOT POTTING ALOE ON TI'. THEN DON'T COME CRYING TO ME.
I HOPE YOUR FIRST DAY BACK AT SCHOOL WAS GOOD.
I'M AT THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE CLASS LEARNING HOW TO MAKE MY NECK STOP MAKING THAT CRUNCHING SOUND WHEN I TORN AROUND.
IF YOU'RE BORED TONIGHT WHY DON'T YOU WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING THAT COMES INTO YOUR MIND WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD TOOTHPASTE?
I'm going to bed now. I hope your neck has stopped crunching.
My first day back was okay. But Celia wasn't there.
I went for a run over to her place and Mrs. Buckley says she climbed out of her bedroom window last night and disappeared again. Mrs. Buckley said she heard her climbing out the window because she fell on top of Benjamin's drum kit which he has in the garden so that he can practice by moonlight. But Mrs. Buckley just pretended not to hear. She says we should all just breathe in and out and stop stressing, and leave Celia to figure out Celia's own thing.
Thank you for your exciting suggestion about how to spend my night tonight.
Here is what comes into my mind when I hear the word TOOTHPASTE:
A LETTER FROM A COMPLETE AND UTTER STRANGER
Dear Elizabeth Clarry,
Actually I think oatmeal is cool. You probably just haven't had good oatmeal. It has to be steaming like a shower so it burns the tastebuds off of your tongue, and you have to tip a packet of brown sugar on top of it.
I wrote an essay on To Kill a Mockingbird last term. If you need it, I'll send it to you. I think the best way to forge ties between our schools is for us to swap homework. Have you ever done an assignment on the human immune system?
1. My name: It's down the bottom. You can call me Chris if you want to but you can NEVER CALL ME TINA. If you do, I'll break your face.
2. My interests: my butterfly collection (HA HA).
3. My friends: My best friend is my cousin, Maddie. She lives in Double Bay and goes to Trinity Ladies College, so I've talked to people from nice private schools like yours before, so I'm used to you. A lot of people in my class aren't used to you so they were pissed off when Radison said we had to write letters, and some wouldn't even take one of your letters out of the box. Tony Mason did take a letter but then he gave it straight back to Radison and said he could shove it up his ass. I don't know if he shoved it up his ass or not.
4. My holiday: I stayed with my cousin Maddie in Double Bay and we watched videos and ate mango ripple ice cream. She has an ace stereo tv. You probably have one too, cos you're a nice private school girl.
5. My boyfriend: You never said if you had a boyfriend or not. Do you? My boyfriend is called Derek. His main talent is whistling. He can whistle in perfect tune. His other main talent is his biceps. But he only flexes his muscles if he's completely hammered, like off his brain, cos he thinks he looks like a total nerd when he does.
Also, I've got two brothers and two sisters and they're all younger than me. So I'm the oldest.
What's the deal with "long-distance running"? How long is a long distance anyway? And how come you like that?
Write back again cos I forgive you for being a nice private school girl.
P.S. How come it's important that your friend Celia didn't get on the bus this morning? Is she like in a wheelchair or something?
A LETTER TO SOMEONE WHO IS PRACTICALLY A STRANGER
Dear Christina Kratovac,
I don't know what to do about the oatmeal.
Maybe we just shouldn't talk about it?
Thanks for writing back to me. I'm glad you got my letter and not that guy who told the teacher to shove it up his ass.
Long-distance running is like cross-country or marathon running, and long distances are different lengths--like the City to Surf is 14k, and a marathon is around 42.2k, and an ultramarathon is to the North Pole and back. People always tell me I shouldn't run so far because I'm too young and my bones will fall to pieces. But I do it anyway--mainly because I love the bit when you finish and get to stop running. For example: The next race I'm going in is the Belongil Trail Run, which is 15k. Imagine stopping after 15k. It'll be fantastic.
A VERY IMPORTANT THING for you to know is that I'm NOT a nice private school girl. And I know I'm not, cause most of the other girls here are like that. They take clarinet lessons and go to pony club. And they do this thing whenever I'm talking to them where they blink their mascara'd lashes very quickly as if they need to take lots of little breaks from looking at me.
I'm writing this in science and Mr. Hoogenboom is going blah blah blah about the human skeleton. At the start of the lesson, before Mr. Hoogenboom came in, this guy Martin Wilson turned around from the bench in front of mine and said, "Elizabeth! You look radiant!"
So at first I think, "Oh fantastic, Martin Wilson's got a crush on me--now what?" (Martin Wilson's got orange hair which is crinkley like potato chips, and a chin like a cauliflower.)
But then David Corruthers looks around too and says, "Man, is that red or what?"
So then I remember that my face is so red that my own dog doesn't recognize me anymore. It's because I went skiing with my dad on the holidays and got sunburnt.
I can tell you right now that if I was a nice private school girl, I wouldn't've got a bright red face from going skiing. I'd've got a perfect golden tan like I'd dipped my head in a jar of honey.
Anyway, so Martin and David are staring at me like Mulder and Scully staring at the family of aliens they just discovered in the kitchen sink, when Mr. Hoogenboom walks in.
And Martin calls out, "Sir, look at Elizabeth's face! She's gonna get skin cancer, right? Maybe we should do a topic on diseases and use Elizabeth as our experiment?"
Mr. Hoogenboom looks straight at my face. So does the entire class. Then everyone's calling out stuff like:
"How can you get sunburnt like that and still be alive?"
"Is she clinically dead, sir?"
Then Mr. Hoogenboom clears his throat and Martin Wilson says, "Do you have throat cancer, sir? Would you like to be one of the experiments too?"
The guys here are almost as bad as the girls, except stupider.
So anyway I really only have one friend here, that's Celia, and I promise you she is most DEFINITELY not a nice private school girl. She's kind of weird actually. She's always getting into trouble because she gets bored really really easily So she always wants to try something new, like shaving her head or chopping down a tree or taking apart the kitchen so she can put it back together (she did that to my kitchen actually, and it took us six months to reconnect the dishwasher).
My mum says it's because Celia has an attention span the size of a sesame seed.
Celia's mum says it's because Celia's identity is unfurling itself slowly, like a tulip bud, and it's a breathtakingly beautiful thing to see.
Anyway, I'm kind of depressed today because Celia's run away again. She does that a lot but she usually at least calls me to say where she is. And she hasn't called yet. I'm scared that something bad will happen to her. My mum called Celia's mum and said, "Why don't you tell the police?" but Celia's mum just said, "Remember the tulip bud?" and told my mum to breathe in and out.
Sorry for making this letter so long. I hope you're not bored. I hope you write back. Tell me your brothers' and sisters' names if you want. I never met anyone with two brothers and two sisters.
!! ELIZABETH !!
THERE IS OATMEAL ON THE STOVE FOR YOU.
YOUR BLAZER IS IN A HEAP ON THE LIVING ROOM FLOOR WHERE YOU LEFT IT LAST NIGHT.
I'LL TRY CALLING CELIA'S MOM AGAIN TODAY, CALL ME AT WORK IF SHE SHOWS UP AT SCHOOL.
CAN YOU PEEL FOUR POTATOES WHEN YOU GET HOME FROM SCHOOL?
IF YOU ARE BORED WHILE PEELING THE POTATOES YOU CAN SPEND THE TIME THINKING ABOUT THE COLOR WHITE. WHAT ARE SOME REALLY WHITE THINGS?
P.S. YOUR FATHER CALLED YOU. (I THOUGHT YOU SAID HE WAS FLYING BACK TO CANADA A WEEK AGO? HE'S GOING TO TRY AND CALL AGAIN LATER TONIGHT.)
Celia didn't show up at school. I don't know how come Dad's still here.
I'm taking Lochie for a run and I'll be back in an hour for dinner.
Here are the potatoes.
I thought of something white: potatoes.
A couple of weeks ago, Celia phoned in the middle of the night to suggest you meet in the park for a midnight feast. A week ago, Celia talked you into skipping science, to go tour a chocolate factory instead. And a few days ago, Celia got you to help her plant an avocado tree in her backyard, as the first step in creating her own, personal ecosystem.
Just a few seconds ago, what did you do? You peeled some potatoes.
Gee, Elizabeth, things are really looking up for you now that your best friend's not around, aren't they?
Excerpted from Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty Copyright © 2002 by Jaclyn Moriarty. Excerpted by permission.
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