The old saying "Money can't buy happiness" proves true for high school senior Indigo Skye after she receives a $2.5 million tip from a handsome stranger at the suburban Seattle restaurant where she is a part-time waitress. Before long, the pressure is on from friends and family to spend (or not spend) her money a certain way. Although the lesson of this rags-to-riches tale is evident from the beginning, Caletti (Honey, Baby, Sweetheart) builds characters with so much depth that readers will be invested in her story. Indigo's ability to recognize and appreciate what makes other people tick makes her an unusually compelling narrator, even when her values get blown off course. The rest of the cast, all of whom harbor conflicts and aspirations of their own, radiate personality, especially the crew of customers who regularly patronize Indigo's restaurant (they include a man accused of murdering his wife, a heavily tattooed factory worker and a Native American poet with a chemical imbalance). Working from a premise that strains credibility, Caletti spins a network of relationships that feels real and enriching. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Fortunes of Indigo Skyeby Deb Caletti
I suddenly see where I'm standing, and that's at the edge of change - really, really big change.
Eighteen-year-old Indigo Skye feels like she has it all - a waitress job she loves, an adorable refrigerator-delivery-guy boyfriend, and a home life that's slightly crazed but rich in love. Until a mysterious man at the restaurant leaves her a 2/b>/big>… See more details below
I suddenly see where I'm standing, and that's at the edge of change - really, really big change.
Eighteen-year-old Indigo Skye feels like she has it all - a waitress job she loves, an adorable refrigerator-delivery-guy boyfriend, and a home life that's slightly crazed but rich in love. Until a mysterious man at the restaurant leaves her a 2.5 million-dollar tip, and her life as she knew it is transformed.
At first its amazing: a hot new car, enormous flat-screen TV, and presents for everyone she cares about. She laughs off the warnings that money changes people, that they come to rely on what they have instead of who they are. Because it won't happen...not to her. Or will it? What do you do when you can buy anything your heart desires -- but what your heart desires can't be bought?
This is the story of a girl who gets rich, gets lost, and ultimately finds her way back - if not to where she started, then to where she can start again.
I’m a great fan of Caletti’s YA novels and this one didn’t disappoint me. You may remember her from Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, which was a National Book Award Finalist, or for The Nature of Jade, Wild Roses, and The Queen of Everything. Indigo Skye is nearly an adult. In her last semester of high school, she is happy with her waitressing job, and willing to keep working at the café until she figures out what she wants to do with her future. Unlike most 18 year olds, she is grounded, confident, and observant. Perhaps these are the qualities that attract the attention of the Vespa guy, a handsome, quiet customer who sits with a cup of coffee, not wanting to talk. A few words are exchanged along the way between the Vespa guy and Indigo, and these words are the catalyst for an incredible gift: the Vespa guy leaves Indigo a check, a tip, of two and a half million dollars. You may think this is ludicrous…well, when we know more about the guy, it makes sense. He is an entrepreneur who has plenty of money and doesn’t know how to live. Indigo’s few words help him to make some basic changes. Now, we all would start wondering how we would spend this bonanza. And it is interesting to see Indigo process the gift. At first, she hastens to return the money, for all the obvious reasons. Then she starts going wild buying all sorts of stuff, not really thinking about what she is doing, and this takes her far away from her center. Eventually, she seriously considers how to use the money wisely, to make her life better, and to give meaningful gifts to her family and to those she loves. Her family is wonderful--not perfect, that’s for sure, but nurturing andinteresting. Unlike in most YA novels, many of the characters are adults, and Caletti spends as much effort making them as real and sympathetic as the teenagers. The Fortunes of Indigo Skye make us all think about fortune and fortunes in our own lives. Reviewer: Claire Rosser
March 2008 (Vol. 42, No.2)
Gr 9 Up- Indigo Skye, an average high school senior, works part-time as a waitress at a small diner, where she gets to know and love a group of quirky "Irregulars" who frequent the place. She leads a happy but ordinary life until the day a customer, in return for a small kindness, leaves her a $2.5 million tip. This story follows Indigo's struggle to remain true to herself and to fight all the negative side effects of instant wealth. Right from the beginning, Caletti is able to distinguish her extensive cast of characters by relating their memorable and endearing eccentricities. Indigo, especially, is a multilayered and complicated protagonist. Although the premise seems a bit far-fetched, the characters' actions and dialogue keep this story real. Humor is sprinkled in with the more serious, philosophical questions and Indigo's emotions are expertly conveyed. While the theme of money as a potential corrupter is effective, it is stated outright too frequently instead of allowing readers to draw their own conclusions. Filled with rich characters and hilarious interactions mixed with Indigo's astute perceptions of conformity and frivolous wealth, this book encourages thought and examination of what is truly important in life.-Jessie Spalding, Queen Creek Branch Library, AZ
- Simon Pulse
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Read an Excerpt
You can tell a lot about people from what they order for breakfast. Take Nick Harrison, for example. People talk about him killing his wife after she fell down a flight of stairs two years ago, but I know it's not true. Someone who killed his wife would order fried eggs, bacon, sausage something strong and meaty. I've never served anyone who's killed his wife for sure, so I don't know this for a fact, but I can tell you they wouldn't order oatmeal with raisins like Nick Harrison does. No way. I once heard someone say you can destroy a man with a suspicious glance, and I'm sure they're right. Nick Harrison was cleared of any charges, and still he's destroyed. Oatmeal with raisins every day means you've lost hope.
And Leroy Richie. Just because he has so many tattoos, you can't think you know everything about him. Up his T-shirt sleeve snakes a dragon tail, and around his neck is a woman with her tongue that reaches out toward one of his ears. But he orders Grape-Nuts and wheat toast. He's not just about tattoos when he cares so much about fiber in his diet.
We've got two regulars at Carrera's who do the full breakfast eggs, side meat, three dollar-size pancakes. That's Joe Awful Coffee and Funny Coyote, and it's just a coincidence that they both have strange names. Joe's name, I guess, was given to him years ago he can't remember why, because he says his coffee was just fine. A big breakfast makes sense for him he was a boxer about a thousand years ago, and he still feeds himself as if he's preparing to get in the ring wearing one of those silky superhero capes (why they make tough guys wear silky Halloween costumes is another question altogether). And Funny Coyote. Can you imagine going through life with a name that sounds like you're being chased by Bugs Bunny? She's American Indian, about twenty-eight, twenty-nine, with short black spiky hair you get the urge to pat, same as a kid with a crew cut or those hedges in the shapes of animals. She eats everything on her plate, sweeps it clean of egg yolk with a swipe of pancake. Then again, she goes a thousand miles an hour when she's manic, so she probably needs the calories. She calls what she has a "chemical imbalance" because it sounds more accidental and scientific than a "mental illness." A "chemical imbalance" is no one's fault. She comes in to write poetry, pages and pages of it, not that it's ever quiet in Carrera's.
Trina, she gets pie and coffee, which fits her, because she's as rich as custard and chocolate cream and warm apples with a scoop of vanilla. She's about Funny's age, but she's all long, blond hair, lace-up boots, fur down to her knees. She leaves lipstick marks on the rim of her cup, the kind of marks that make a life seem full of secrets. She has this white and red classic Thunderbird. Nick Harrison says it's a '55, but she says it's a '53. You don't care what year it is when you see it parked by the curb. Jane, who is my boss and the owner of Carrera's, says it attracts customers, so she likes it when Trina comes in.
I know about breakfast, mostly, because breakfast was always my regular shift. Usually, I worked several mornings before school, and then the early weekend hours, meaning that my own breakfast was reckless anything I happened to grab on the way out. A handful of Cocoa Puffs, a granola bar, my brother's beef jerky. I'd have been at the café all day, but right then, where this story starts (where I'm choosing to start most everything before was nothing in comparison), I was at the end of my senior year. I still had to clock in what was left of my school hours, and Carrera's isn't open for dinner. After I graduated, though, I wanted to work full-time there while I decided "what to do with my life." See, I loved being a waitress more than anything, but apparently, it's okay to work as a waitress but not to be a waitress. To most people, saying you want to be a waitress is like saying your dream is to be a Walgreens clerk, ringing up spearmint gum and Halloween candy and condoms, which just proves that most people miss the point about most things most of the time. Waitressing is a talent it's about giving nourishment, creating relationships, not just about bringing the ketchup.
Anyway, before the Vespa guy, I could tell you very little about who wanted tuna salad and who wanted turkey on white and who wanted minestrone, but I could tell you about what people craved when they first woke up, what they lingered over before they got serious about making the day into something.
So, what did coffee say? Just coffee? Coffee served to you, a bill slipped under your saucer when you were finished? When anyone could whip into any Starbucks on any corner and get coffee in under five minutes, what did it mean when you decided to wait for a waitress to come to your table, to refill your cup, to ask if everything was all right?
That's what I wondered the day I first saw him. Because, here comes this guy, right? He pulls up to the curb one day on his orange Vespa. He's no one we've ever seen before, and not the type we usually get in Carrera's. He's wearing a soft, navy blue jacket, and underneath, a creamy white shirt open easily at the collar, nicely displaying his Adam's apple. And jeans. But not jeans-jeans; these are not wear-around-the-house jeans, or go-to-the-store jeans or even work-at-Microsoft jeans. There's something creative-but-wealthy about them, about him in general with his longish, tousled hair, and dark, soft leather shoes that are too elegantly simple to be inexpensive. All in all, sort of hot for an old guy in his thirties, which sounds freakishly Lolita, but still true. His face is narrow and clean-shaven. He smiles at me, lips closed, and says, "Just coffee." He smells so good showery. A musky cologne, or maybe one of those hunky bars of soap that are supposedly made out of oatmeal but probably aren't made out of oatmeal.
Jane looks at me with raised eyebrows, and I raise one of my own, a trick I can do that neither my twin brother can, nor my little sister, ha. I'm the only one in my family, far as I know. It makes me look slightly evil, which I love. Jane's eyebrows are asking, What's the story? Mine are answering, Hmm, mystery and intrigue. We've never seen this guy before, and just so you know, when you go into a small café that mostly fills with regulars and you're not one, you'll likely get talked about after you leave. It's part of what I really like about my job. Juicy gossip and lurid conjecture. Love it. Joe Awful Coffee raises his old eyebrows too, but Nick's too busy sprinkling sugar onto his oatmeal to even notice the new arrival.
I bring the man his coffee. The glass cup clatters slightly against the saucer. "Thank you," he says. Murmurs it's one of those soft, polite, well-dressed thank-you's that legitimately qualify as a murmur. Who murmurs anymore? And then he just looks out the window. Stirs his coffee with a spoon. Tink, tink, tink against the edge of the cup. Smiles up at me when I pour a refill.
Just coffee. My guess is that he has things to think about. Things that are too deep for a double-tall-foam-no-foam-lite-mocha-hazelnut-vanilla-skinny-tripleshot-decaf-iced-extra-hot-Americano-espresso type place, where every person can demand and immediately get their combination of perfect in a cardboard cup. Where everyone only pretends to think deep thoughts and discuss important subjects but it's all a piece of performance art. Maybe he needs to get past all that distraction of wants and desires and greedy-spoiled-American-hurried-up-insta-gratification and just sip coffee.
I don't know. But he stays for a while. Almost to the end of my shift. I smile, he smiles. My tip is more than the coffee itself.
"Did you see his shoes?" Jane says. "Italian." I'm pretty sure she knows nothing about this. Jane is a regular jeans and friends don't let friends vote republican T-shirt wearer. Running shoes. I know she went to Italy a long time ago, and that's how she got the idea for Carrera's, but I hardly think it qualifies her as an expert on men's shoes.
"Fast track," Nick Harrison says. He'd been paying attention after all. He gets up, wipes his mouth with his napkin. Fast track this is something Nick knows about. He used to be a big shot in some architectural engineering firm before his wife died and he used up all his money on lawyers. Now he works at True Value down the street, mixing paint and helping people pick out linoleum. When he reaches for change in his pants pocket, he always has one of those metal tools they give out free to pry up the paint lids. Now he wears nice-guy plaid. According-to-the-law plaid.
"Fucking beautiful Vespa," Leroy Richie says. He's sitting at a table by the window, the newspaper spread in front of him. He scratches a heart wrapped in vines, which is inked onto the underside of his wrist. "Anyone know what a 'lowboy driver' is?"
"If you don't know what it is, I'm guessing you can't do it," Jane says. She frees a stack of one-dollar bills bound together with a rubber band.
"How about a 'resolute trainer'?"
"Someone serious about training?" I take a guess.
"Hey!" Leroy says. "Pilates instructor! I could do that. I've got balls."
Leroy works for the Darigold plant in town, which is why he's up so early, but he's always looking for a second job to make more money. For retirement, Leroy says, though he's maybe only thirty. People aren't too quick to hire him because of the tattoos. They think tattoos equal drug addict, he says. Like all needles are the same. Like even art has to have its designated places. Darigold hired him years ago, when all he had was a falcon on one shoulder. Now, he told us, the only place he didn't have artwork was on his bald head, which is a picture you didn't especially want to imagine, thank you.
"He's getting on the Vespa," Nick Harrison reports. "Starting it up. There he goes."
I look out the window to watch too. I watch the back of his suit jacket disappear down the street, the flaps whipping softly against his back. It's like we've been touched by something, but I'm not sure what. Maybe it's just the twinge of thrill that comes with a stranger's story, all the possibilities that might be there until you find out he works at a bank and plays golf. Or maybe it's that down deep hope-knowledge that someone or something is bound to arrive to save you from your drab existence, that maybe this is it. We're practically promised that, right? That our lives will at some point go Hollywood? That excitement will one day arrive, just like a package from the UPS driver? I don't know, but I can just feel it this static, popping energy buzz. The kind that comes when there's been an epic shift in the tectonic plates of your personal universe.
After work I go to school (blah, blah, blah, nothing, something, more nothing), and after school, Trevor, my boyfriend, comes to pick me up and take me home, where he'll have dinner with us. Trevor stops me right outside in the school parking lot; he kisses me and our tongues loll around together, like seals playing in water. I'm not into public displays of affection generally, but right then I'm just so happy to see him. My hands are on his shoulders, which I like to feel because, back then, Trevor delivered refrigerators and washing machines. He's got these muscles that won't quit. He's still kissing away when he separates from me suddenly, his brain catching up to the rest of him. "You changed your hair," he says.
He looks at me, and I put my hand up to my head. My hair was still short, but I'd gone from brown with yellow highlights to a rusty orange. My friend Melanie did it for me, and she's good at it too, even though she never messes with her own color. She always says her dad would kill her, but personally, I don't think her dad would even notice.
"It looks gorgeous," Trevor says. You can see why I keep him around. I could turn it blue and he'd say the same thing. I have turned it blue and he's said the same thing. He grabs a hold of the beads of my necklace, pulls me to him. He rubs the beard he's trying to grow against my cheek and we kiss again. No offense to Trevor, but we all know he has reluctant facial hair. He just can't grow a beard. My legs do better. We kiss a little more, which is something he can do, and then we walk over to his car and he starts it up. His car has the low, hungry rumble of a muffler barely hanging in. It's an old Mustang convertible, and it's kind of a piece of shit, but Trevor always says it's a Mustang, which apparently means it can be a piece of shit and still be something great.
Trevor pulls up in front of my mom's house. We walk up the porch steps and past the hanging flower baskets, the flowers already turning crunchy from spring sun. Mom's gardening skills are less skills than good intentions. She'll come home all happy from Johnson's Nursery, carrying those low-sided cardboard boxes full of wet, bright flowers, and a week or so later, the plants will be as thirsty as Trevor after moving refrigerators on a hot August day. I squeak on the garden hose before we go in, tip it up into the baskets. The flowers are so dry, the water basically gushes out the hole in the bottom, but at least I like to think there's maybe a few good karma points for effort here, and I don't know about you, but I need all the good karma points I can get.
Inside, my little sister, Bex, is sitting cross-legged on the floor and watching TV. She had a little crush on Trevor then, and usually she'd have gotten carbonated at the sight of him, jumping up and jabbering away. But right then she's focused on that screen.
"What're you watching?" I ask.
"The news." She plays with the ends of her long braids, crosses them under her chin.
Sure enough, CNN. More images of small huts and tiny villages washed away by flooding waters, concerned-voiced news anchors with the kind of perfect hair that has never actually been close to tragedy. The fourth day of nonstop disaster coverage. "Bex," I say. "Look. It's beautiful out. Go outside and play. Ride your bike, or something."
"I can't," Bex says.
"She's grounded!" Mom shouts from the kitchen.
"Still?" I say.
"Too long, you think?" Mom shouts again. Trevor and I go to the kitchen, where Mom has started dinner. She's wearing jeans and a white T-shirt with hanger bumps on the shoulders. I smell onions, the bitter-sweet tang of them frying in butter. Her long hair is tied back, strands around her face frizzly from steam. "I don't know about grounding. What do I know about grounding? Bomba and Bompa never grounded Mike or me. Hi, Trevor," she says.
"Hey, Missus," he says, which is what he calls her even though she's not married. My Dad was living in Hawaii with Jennifer. Mom called Jennifer her "step wife."
"That's 'cause Uncle Mike was perfect and the only rebellious thing you did was marry Dad," I say.
"Bomba loved your Dad," Mom says. "Loves. So even that wasn't so rebellious." Bomba, my grandmother (who earned her name when I was a baby and couldn't pronounce "Grandma"), lives in Arizona, where she and Bompa moved a while back to make their retirement money "stretch." I like the idea of that, money stretching, the way you take a pinch of gum from your mouth and pull. Bompa died about seven years ago, when my parents were getting divorced. He said he got colon cancer from all the smoke my Dad blew up his ass, but really, he liked the joke so much, he'd use it with various people insurance salesmen, his brother-in-law. I look at the picture of Bomba that's on our fridge, stuck there with a magnet from a pizza delivery place. She's sitting in a blow-up kiddie pool with her sunglasses on, her boobs all water-balloon saggy in her swimsuit, and she's reading a magazine. She taped on one of those cartoon bubbles, and has herself saying, "Bomba, luxuriating in the pool." I miss not seeing her. Without Bomba, we have all cookie and no chocolate chip.
"Why's Bex grounded?" Trevor asks.
"She had to go to the principal's office," I say. "This girl at school "
"Lindsey," Mom interrupts.
"She hates Lindsey," Trevor says. "Suck-up. Teacher's pet." Another reason Trevor is great. He keeps up with all that stuff. He pays attention.
"Yeah, that's the one," I say. "Lindsey told Bex that Bex couldn't karate chop, so Bex proved her wrong. Knocked her on her butt."
"Oh, man," Trevor says.
"Oh, man," Chico, our parrot, says from his cage in the corner. If you have any brains, you stay away from Chico. He'll lure you to him with nice words, like Come here, Sweetie, or Give me a kiss and he'll make smooching sounds. But then when you get close, snap! It gets the vet every time. Trevor snitches a baby carrot from the counter, and Mom gives him a look, shoves the knife over for him to chop some instead.
"She's lucky she didn't get expelled," Mom says.
"Still, she's been grounded for a week," I say.
"I like being grounded!" Bex shouts from the other room. As you can tell, our house was pretty small. Privacy, forget it.
"That's not the idea!" Mom shouts back. "See? What do I know about grounding," she says.
Mom finishes browning beef and adds garlic, and the whole house gets rich with the blissful, hypnotic meld of butter and garlic and onions. She's making a Joe's Special, one of her top-three favorite meals at her favorite restaurant, Thirteen Coins, somewhere we go only for a special treat, since it's pricey. Okay, actually we went there only once that I can remember, back when she and Dad were still married and she didn't have to worry in the grocery store aisle over whether she should buy shower cleaner or not. In the old days, fabric-softener sheets you tossed into the dryer and already-made juice in bottles (versus the frozen kind you mix with three cans of water) were not considered luxury items. We could get the ice cream in a round container and not in a square one.
I hear Severin, my brother, come home. Severin, Indigo, Bex my father had this thing for individuality in names, according to Mom, which basically means, If you don't like it, blame him. Severin says hi to Bex, and then his bedroom door shuts. Mom adds the eggs and spinach, which may sound gross, but it's not. It's amazing. My mother is great in the kitchen, but if you really want to understand Naomi Skye, the person, you need to look at the complicated relationship she had with her old Datsun then. First of all, every smell on the road a street being tarred, a fire, some tanker spilling exhaust would elicit this panicky reaction along the lines of, What's that? Do you smell that? Is that my car? She'd roll down her window, sniff, sniff, sniff, until you said, Mom, relax! See the flames coming out of that building? The fire trucks? The plumes of black smoke over there? And then she'd hold a hand to her chest and breathe a sigh of relief. Thank God, she'd say. I thought I was going to need a new engine or something.
Then, second, there was that pesky little red "engine" light that flickered on the dashboard. This was a sign of certain doom, which she completely ignored. If you pointed it out, she'd say, It's fine. It always does that. It'll go off. And then, finally, there were the windshield wipers. We'd be driving along, and her windshield wipers would be going even though it'd stopped raining twenty minutes ago, or maybe even the day before. Still, they'd be ke-shunk, ke-shunking and she wouldn't notice until you said Mom! Your wipers are on! and she'd give this little surprised Oh, right! and shut them off. See, a triple threat existed in Mom; it's still there, really (and will probably be there always, no matter what), some anxiety-denial-distraction combo that expressed itself most clearly as soon as she was behind the wheel of that old yellow car. That's what happens when you're a single mother and work full-time in a psychiatrist's office and are raising three kids and trying to find the time to get the laundry done, she'd say as she sprayed Febreze on some shirt in lieu of actually using the washing machine. I don't know about that, but I do know that even if she's a bit scattered, she's great with food. She knows how to feed us.
There in the kitchen, Trevor agrees. "Mmm." He groans with smell-pleasure. His own mom runs a day care in their house, so he was lucky if he got hot dogs cut up into little pieces and Cheerios in a baggie.
"Tell your brother and sister that dinner's ready," Mom says.
"Bex! Sever-in!" I shout. "Dinner's ready!"
"Indigo, God." She sighs. "I could have done that." Which is what she always says. "Go and tell them."
"God!" Chico says.
In a few moments, we're all around the table, pouring milk, passing rolls. Mom liked us to sit and have that meal together. We will not be one of those families that eat in the car on the way to somewhere else. Where sports practice and meetings and trips to the mall are more important than being together, she would say. I want us to share our day. Trevor was the one who really got off on this, since his mother didn't hear a word he said unless he was dripping blood and had to go to the emergency room.
"Top of the line built-in model," he says, "and they aren't even gonna use it. It's for the catering kitchen. The place the caterers go to make a mess in so guests don't see." Trevor had delivered a refrigerator earlier that day to some people on Meer Island.
"The Moores have a catering kitchen," Severin says. "And this whole room where Mrs. Moore can practice her tennis swing in virtual reality. I saw it at the Christmas party." Then, Severin worked after school for MuchMoore Industries, which I'm sure you've heard of, but if you haven't, it's this company that sells digital cameras and image transferring. They'll print your name and photo on any object from greeting cards to wallpaper. Severin's my twin, but you'd never know it. I got blessed with the part of Mom that'll reach into her purse for a pen and will pull out a tampon, and I got blessed with the part of Dad that's dissatisfied with social constraints, and that's maybe just a little dissatisfied in general. The way most people feel on Sunday nights is how I think he feels a lot of the time. This led him to get fired from his job at an advertising firm, after he submitted a proposal for a major account, Peugeot, with the slogan, "Got Peu?" After that, Dad left advertising for good, moved to Hawaii, and opened a shop that rents surfboards.
Bomba, who loves me, claims I dance to my own drummer, and I'm sure she's got this wrong, because it makes me sound like I'm flailing around in the focused psycho-ecstasy you see in groupies in the front row of any concert. But Severin, he doesn't dance to his own drummer. He walks in a straight line. He got the parts of our parents that remember to buy stamps and that love books and that plan for the future. Severin's one of those guys who have looks and height and brains and a sense of purpose. He worked for MuchMoore, hung out with the Skyview kids from our school, and he could fake his way through the truth that he didn't fit in with them. The fact that girls like Kristin Densley and Heather Green called our house all the time and that he got good grades didn't piss me off, though, because Severin's this really nice person. He treated Trevor like an equal even if Trevor graduated from the alternative school. Severin, my brother, talked to me at school, even if no one seemed to grasp the idea that we were related. He's the kind of guy that also does nice things for no reason, like once he replaced a broken string on my guitar as a surprise.
"Two kitchens to clean, is all I can think," Mom says.
"They don't clean them," I remind.
"No, they just hire immigrants at less than minimum wage," Mom says. She sounds like Jane, my boss.
Bex takes a swig of milk. "There are people without homes and food now, let alone refrigerators," she says.
"Detention's over, Bex," Mom says.
"No, wait. Seriously," Trevor says. His face does get serious. But serious in a way that makes you want to laugh. "What would you do if you had that kind of money?"
I know that Trevor is someone who asks a question because he's dying to give you his own answer, and I am a good girlfriend, so I say, "What would you do?"
"I know what I'd do," he says.
"Start your business," I say.
"What's that saying? 'Give a man a lemon, he eats lemons for a day; teach him to make lemonade and he'll always have something to drink'? I'd invest in myself," Trevor says. You can see why I might be lacking a little faith in Trevor as a businessman.
"Nunderwear!" Bex shouts, raising a fist to the air. This is Trevor's latest brilliant plan. He'd had other ideas before, but this time he's serious. The last time, he was serious too, but he's forgotten that. Nunderwear is based on those days-of-the-week underwear, only with Nunderwear, they'd all read sunday. Trevor's got this whole product line of gag gifts he wants to sell under the business name Lapsed Catholic Enterprises. He's sure other lapsed Catholics would find them just as hilarious as he does, and he doesn't even smoke anything (anymore). He wants to make those little packets of cheese and crackers using communion wafers, called My Body Snack Pak. Then he has the Pope's Hat Coffee Filters, which he actually sketched out on a piece of notebook paper. Shaped like the pope's hat, they'd come in a pack of fifty and fit any standard electric coffeepot, for using or wearing.
"You guys laugh, but you won't be laughing when I'm rolling in the dough."
"If I had that kind of money?" Bex says. "I'd give it away to the needy. To people whose houses have washed away, just like that." She snaps her fingers.
"CNN isn't good for kids," I say.
"I mean it," she says. Her blue eyes look directly at me. She's eleven years old, so I suspect her submersion into disaster coverage will fade as soon as she's in her sixth-grade class painting papier-mâché tribal masks they've made out of strips of the Seattle Times and Gold Medal flour and water. "I would."
"Severin?" Trevor asks.
"Like you're not going to get scholarships," I say.
"You have no idea. I get Bs! God. I'm up against these kids who've taken every SAT prep class, who've hired college counselors that have been working with them since they were zygotes, searching out scholarships and filling out applications.... It's nuts. And they don't even need the scholarships."
"What's a zygote?" Bex asks.
"I told you, we'll work out something," Mom says. But she doesn't look too sure, honestly. She stares down into her plate when she says it, picks at her salad with her fork as if the solutions are hidden somewhere under the lettuce.
"What's a zygote?" Bex asks again.
"When the egg and the sperm "
"Oh gross, never mind," Bex says.
"Can we ditch the sperm talk at dinner, please?" I say.
"What about you, Missus?" Trevor asks. His mind is still on rich people. "What would you do if you had lots of money? Lots and lots of money."
"College. For Severin and Indigo and Bex."
"I don't want to go to college," I say.
"So you claim," Mom says. It's an ongoing argument between us, and now when the subject comes up, Mom stops it cold with some statement that indicates her irrefutable superior knowledge about my real desires. She doesn't get that I don't know what I want to study, and that it therefore seems a waste of money. I'm not going to be one of those people who spend thousands of dollars getting an art history degree and then end up working in a dentist's office.
"Okay, besides college," Trevor says. "Don't you people dream big? Swimming pools?"
"I'll take a pool," I say.
"Famous people, parties..." He's trying to bait me.
"Hun-ter E-den," Mom sings. Okay, so I had a little crush on Hunter Eden then. Who in their right mind didn't? My friend Melanie actually went to one of his concerts and met him, because her dad's PR firm handled Slow Change. Yeah, I'd have liked to handle Slow Change. I may not have wanted to dance to my own drummer, but I wouldn't have minded dancing to my own guitar player. Not only did I find his playing to be amazing and inspirational, but he was sexy enough to melt ice, like he did on the body of that girl in the video for "Hot."
"Okay, okay. Front row tickets, backstage pass, after-concert party. Then I'd die happy," I say.
"I could sing you 'Hot'," Trevor offers. Everyone laughs. Even Chico does his eh, eh, eh laugh imitation. "It wasn't that funny."
"You still need something for yourself, Mom," I say.
"College is for myself," she says. "You can take care of me in my old age."
"Diamonds!" I joke. Mom is a nonjewelry person. If she ever gets remarried (which was looking unlikely since she didn't even date) she'd probably rather strap a hefty Barnes & Noble gift card to the third finger of her left hand than a ring.
"Dahling," she says. "No, I like the blue ones. What are they? I always think topaz, but that's not right."
"Sapphires," Severin says. "How about a trip somewhere?"
"Zygote City," Bex says.
"A Jenn-Air built-in Euro-style stainless with precision temperature management system," Trevor says.
"No, I know," I say. Bex looks at me and smiles.
"I know too," she says.
"Toilet seat!" we say together.
"Eh, eh, eh," Chico says.
"Come on, guys, it is not that bad," Mom says. She was wrong, though it was. It had a thin, shifty crack in it, and you had to be careful how you sat down, or it'd snip you in the ass. If you stumbled to the bathroom in the middle of the night and didn't stay alert, you'd get a zesty wake-up pinch.
"We've got the only toilet seat in all of Zygote City that bites," Bex says.
"I promise, I'll get it fixed," Mom says. "Add it to the list." Microwave oven: out of commission since Bex put a foil-wrapped Ho Ho in there. Why she wanted to warm it up is still a mystery. Vacuum: worked if you only used the hose attachment and didn't mind spending about twelve hours hunched over the carpet like you'd lost a contact lens. Iron: black on the bottom and leaking water.
"Gold toilet seat," Trevor says, as if it's decided.
"Or one of those padded ones," Severin says, and grins.
"Those give me the creeps," I say.
"Me too, but I don't exactly know why," Mom says.
Freud, our cat, saunters in from the living room, stretches his hind legs behind him. Bex dangles her fingers toward the floor and Freud nudges them with his triangle nose.
"Here, kitty, kitty," Chico says evilly. He makes smooching sounds.
That was what my life was like, before I got rich.
Copyright © 2008 by Deb Caletti
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