Taco's mom always said, "Today is the best day of your life, and tomorrow will be even better." That was hard to believe the day she died of cancer and when Taco's dad had to move up north for work, but he sure did believe it when Maggie Corrigan agreed to go with him to junior prom. Taco loves Maggie-even more than the tacos that earned him his nickname. And she loves him right back.
Except, all that love? It gets Maggie pregnant. Everyone else may be freaking out, but Taco can't wait to have a real family again. He just has to figure out what it means to be dad and how to pass calculus. And then there's getting Maggie's parents to like him. Because it's would be so much easier for them to be together if he didn't have to climb the side of the Corrigan's house to see her...
About the Author
Wee Wisconsin boy, Geoff Herbach wanted to play for the Green Bay Packers or join The Three Stooges. His tight hamstrings left him only writing. Now he writes YA novels, including the award-winning Stupid Fast series, and teaches at Minnesota State, Mankato where he blows his students' minds with tales of football and comedy glory, none of which are true. Visit www.geoffherbach.com for more information about the author, his books, and much more.
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Anything You Want
By Geoff Herbach
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Geoff Herbach
All rights reserved.
When did this start? Duh, dingus. Last spring.
Last spring I decided I was completely emotionally ready for her, so I asked Maggie Corrigan to prom, and she said, "Boom," and poked her finger into the middle of my chest.
I said, "Boom? That's good, right? That's a yes?" Maggie Corrigan is intense. She's wild and crazy and intense, and I had to be prepared for all that she can be.
We stood in the hall at school, leaned up against her locker as a bunch of freshmen, a total wad of screaming monkeys, ran by on their way to gym.
Maggie shouted, "Yeah, for sure, Taco! Boom!" She poked me again.
"What?" I shouted back because I couldn't hear over the freshmen.
"I totally want to go to prom with you!"
"Really?" I shouted back.
Then she grabbed my face and pulled my ears so my head came down to her face, and she French-kissed me right there in front of all those freshmen. She, like, kissed my ass off. My pants almost exploded from my body because she kissed me so hard.
She's spontaneous like that. I knew that then, but not like I know now. And you know what? It doesn't matter because I love her. I think I've loved Maggie Corrigan since before time. In a past life, I was probably the court clown, and she was probably the Crazy Queen of Holland. And I'm pretty sure we were doing it behind the king's back. If we weren't doing it, we were probably going on long naked walks in the forest, where we stroked unicorns and lay on the dewy moss to gaze upon the sky.
All the freshmen monkeys in the hall shouted stuff like, "Get a room," and, "More tongue." Freshmen are pretty funny. I've always liked them.
That day will go down in history for sure. I really needed Maggie Corrigan's energy and love right about then.
The year before Maggie kissed my ass off, Mom died. Six months after Mom died, Dad took a job driving trucks at a mine up north because we needed more money to float the boat. Two months after Dad left for the mine, Darius, my older brother, got a drunk-driving ticket, which he said he didn't deserve because he only had like two beers after work. It's just that his blood doesn't register alcohol like normal people's blood because it's a mix of O+ and A-, which is rare, so the cops didn't know what they were doing when they gave him the Breathalyzer. Okay, that didn't exactly make sense to me, but that's good old Darius! Anyway, he lost his Pepsi product delivery route and went to work at Captain Stabby's, this fish sandwich place, for about half the money. Dude smelled like fish twenty-four seven.
So things were crap, and I began to lose the pep in my cucumber. I was seriously beginning to think my mom was wrong about everything and maybe life really is terrible like Darius always says. But then I spent a few weeks following Maggie Corrigan around school and saw how she laughed until she fell on the floor, screamed when she got mad at her friends, cried when she was sad about the basketball team losing, and smiled so hard it looked like her face might break when I told her I liked her handwriting. After that I thought, That's what Mom was talking about! Life is beautiful! And so I summoned my good feelings and my optimism, and I asked Maggie to prom. A week later we were boyfriend and girlfriend and going at it in the hall between every class period.
Literally. Going at it!
Dr. Evans, our principal, had to bring us into the office to ask us to stop all the public displays of affection. (She called them PDAs.) Turned out our exhibits of love made some people uncomfortable — like those going through hard breakups or maybe the divorce of their parents.
Maggie and I tried, but we couldn't stop going at it. Sometimes to hide from people who might feel sad, we climbed into the costume loft behind the auditorium. Sometimes we took our clothes off, mostly so we could try on costumes but also because it was pretty great to get naked. Maggie would hang out up there in her underwear, pretending she had to find the perfect costume on the rack, but really, she just liked being naked with me.
Right on. I liked it too. See why I love Maggie?
At prom, we went nuts. I'm a good dancer, one of the best in my grade, and Maggie can slice the boards with the thoroughbreds due to her training as a cheerleader. At one point we were throwing each other in the air and ripping down streamers. At another point we did the double worm — Maggie on my back, holding on for her life, me on the floor, kicking and tucking like a tsunami wave. Nobody could believe we could dance like that. The only negative moment was when I ripped my pants jumping off the DJ's table to land a split. Everybody cheered and high-fived me, but I lost the deposit on my tux, which made Darius mad because we couldn't afford any more disasters.
Still, prom was amazing. After the dance, Maggie and I climbed a firefighter tower out by Belmont. We totally got naked up there too.
I was on the hottest of all hot streaks possible. In track I ran faster than I ever had before and earned the second alternate spot on the four-by-four hundred relay team, which meant I got to go to La Crosse for the state track meet just in case those two guys got injured. We stayed in a hotel. I had to share a bed with Brad Schwartz, but it was a king-size (which was huge), so we didn't accidentally wake up spooning with our hands in our muffins. And I had the greatest breakfast of all time. Have you ever had a continental breakfast? They had one at the hotel. I ate six little boxes of Froot Loops, fourteen pieces of bacon, three cinnamon buns, and eight cups of coffee with these little blue vanilla creamers that tasted like milk mixed with frosting. What a cornucopia!
Last spring will likely go down as the greatest of my life.
And that led to summer, which was even better because Brad Schwartz's dad manages — wait for it — the swimming pool! And he hired me to be the towel boy and the janitor. During the day, I emptied the baskets of used towels and restocked the shelves with fresh ones in the men's locker room. Working inside was good because I would get pretty hot in the sun. Then when I worked at night, I got to be in the cool air while I cleaned up candy wrappers and lost socks from around the kiddie pool. One time I found a Barbie watch, and nobody claimed it, so Mr. Schwartz said I could keep it. I tried to give it to Maggie, but she said, "I'm not an eight-year-old!" so I wore it around instead. I don't know why she didn't like it. You can get it wet and it still tells time.
Speaking of Maggie, she would come to the pool at night to see me, and she'd wear a bikini, which showed off all her extreme and natural beauty. And she'd do flips off the diving boards, even the high one.
Then when my shift was done, we'd go streaking in Smith Park. I felt like a baby deer jumping over the ditches and fallen trees. Maggie's quite a bit faster than me. The girl can fly! She should have gone out for track, except her cheerleading duties would've gotten in the way.
Oh, cheerleading. Maggie was very serious about cheerleading. So it seemed to make sense when in August, after our summer of love, she started to run out of time to hang with me. Between her work at Dairy Queen and the start of fall practice, Maggie was so spent. That's what she told me. "I wish I could see you tonight, Taco, but I'm so spent."
I believed her, but I still wanted to see her. I figured it was up to me to make that happen, so I ran across Bluffton at midnight, hiding in the shadows and dodging night squirrels. When I got to her old Victorian house near the college, I'd climb the trellis on its side and slide in through her bedroom window.
Maggie was psyched to see me. But two of her sisters, younger Missy and older Mary, also shared her room, so I couldn't stay very long. They didn't like me sliding in. In fact, they'd get seriously pissed when I'd wake them up by falling on the floor or stepping on their beds. It was so dark, I couldn't see where I was going. Sometimes Maggie and Missy and Mary would get in fights because those sisters got so mad about me being in the house, sitting on their pillows or whatnot.
Maggie's parents didn't like me either, which is too bad because I totally liked them. Maggie's mom would scream at me when she caught me in her house in the middle of the night. I could totally see where Maggie got her intensity! Her mom would sort of go crazy.
In fact, it got so bad over there that Mr. Corrigan chased me down in the Piggly Wiggly (that's a grocery store) and grabbed me by my jean jacket collar and nearly threw me into a bunch of mayonnaise jars because he was so mad.
"Taco! Not again! We've been as patient as we can be, young man. We've warned you again and again. If you scale our home one more time, you'll find yourself behind bars!" he shouted.
Everybody in the store looked on like they were watching TV. Except instead of watching Cops or some show about bounty hunters, they were watching me and Mr. Corrigan.
That was tough. I love Mr. Corrigan! He has a beard, and all his jackets have leather patches on their elbows. Man, I love his jackets. He's an English professor. When I picked up Maggie for prom back in the spring, Maggie's mom was going through a list of rules for us while we were at the dance, but Mr. Corrigan told her not to worry so much. He said, "Read your Shakespeare. Sometimes the fool's the smartest man in the kingdom." He really is a fantastic guy.
But he wasn't happy that night at the Piggly Wiggly. Not at all. I didn't want him to be so upset, so I agreed I wouldn't scale their home ever again. I crossed my fingers behind my back so God wouldn't get mad at me for lying. Because you see, I absolutely had to tell Maggie that I couldn't sneak over anymore and that we'd have to find a different way to see each other. She absolutely had to hear the news from me before she heard it from someone else, so I snuck back later that same night.
This time the Corrigans were ready for me though. I got about halfway up the trellis when a big floodlight turned on and an alarm started blaring. If Mr. Corrigan had told me there was an alarm, I wouldn't have climbed the side of the house. I might have dug a tunnel into the basement or parachuted onto the roof, but I wouldn't have lost my grip and fallen into Mrs. Corrigan's raised-bed tomato garden. I had the wind knocked out of me so hard, I thought I was a dead boy.
Five minutes later all those Corrigan girls — Missy, Mary, Misha, Molly, and Maggie — were outside in their white nightgowns. They were crying, and Mr. Corrigan was on his horn, calling for an ambulance because a perpetrator (me) was lying on their lawn. Surprisingly (especially given how strict she can be), Mrs. Corrigan was nice.
"Don't you move an inch," she said.
I wanted to get up because it was uncomfortable having those tomatoes under my back, but she said, "If you move your head, you might permanently injure your spinal cord, and I don't want your father to sue us for this idiocy."
The ambulance came, and a bunch of neighbors showed up to see what was happening. After the medics immobilized my neck, I waved at the people I knew and threw Maggie a few kisses too. Maggie wanted to ride in the ambulance, but her parents wouldn't let her. Mrs. Corrigan rode in the back with me. I couldn't see her very well because of the neck brace, but it looked like she held her head in her hands the whole ride. Mr. Corrigan drove Mary and Maggie in his car. Missy had to stay home to watch Misha and Molly because those girls were pretty young and could get injured or kidnapped if left unattended.
I was really pleased to find Dr. Steidinger in the emergency room. He's my doc! He's almost ninety-seven years old, so he's quite wise. He brought me into this world, so I trust him with my life.
"Where does it hurt, Taco?" he asked.
"I popped both my lungs," I said.
He put his cold stethoscope on my chest and listened to me breathe.
"Your lungs aren't popped. They're pumping quite nicely. Any other pain?"
"My head. I might be hemorrhaging upstairs."
He shined a little flashlight into my eyeballs.
"No sign of asymmetric dilation. Why don't you sit up?"
This is when the full extent of my injuries became known. When I sat up, my butt fired pain all through my nether world and out my toes.
"Roll over," Dr. Steidinger said.
I turned and the pain got even worse.
"Lie flat on your belly. I'm going to pull down your trousers now."
"Careful! Careful!" I shouted.
"Hm. We'd better get X-rays."
"What?" I cried. "What?"
Here's the what-what. I broke my coccyx by falling off the Corrigans' house! The coccyx is the tailbone, but I was worried people wouldn't understand my truth if I told them about my tail, so I asked Dr. Steidinger if we could agree to call my injury a broken butt. We agreed to disagree on the matter, which I understood because Dr. Steidinger has a reputation to protect. I do too.
So there I was at the dawn of the new school year, which was to be my junior year at Bluffton High School, and I had a broken butt. What of football? I was slated to be the fourth-string running back! What of gym class and all the badminton birdies I might whack? What of sitting in biology or English or social studies or, most importantly, calc — the hardest class in the whole school? Unfortunately for yours truly, my butt was crushed and unable to function the way a junior's butt should.
In fact, I had to miss the first two weeks of school because it hurt so much to move. And then I had to sit on an inflatable doughnut to keep my coccyx from contact with hard surfaces. No football. No gym. Inflatable doughnut.
You might think my hot streak had ended, right? No way. If anything, life got even better. Well, maybe not in hindsight, which is twenty-twenty.
No, really, actually, I wouldn't change anything.CHAPTER 2
When Mom was a nurse and Dad drove trucks for Fendall, we were pretty much the richest people in town — or at least we were close to the richest. We had this kick-ass split-level over by Westview Elementary. I always thought of that house as a super fly mullet. You enter the front door and there're stairs that go up and stairs that go down. You go up for the business. You go down for the party. Darius and I had our bedrooms on the lower level. We also had a pool table that you could make into a Ping-Pong table and an Xbox that Darius played until his eyeballs turned into bloody discs of doom. Darius always had buddies over, and I would fire Ping-Pong balls out of my mouth at their heads until they chased me and wrestled me to the ground or whatever.
Take away Mom (because she died) and her nursing job, take away Dad's job at Fendall and send him up to drive a dump truck, like, ten thousand miles away from Bluffton, and you get a different, cheaper house — a rental on the east side of town right by the high school.
It was a prefab. That means the house was actually built in some factory and then stuck on a truck and delivered to our yard in one piece! Crazy!
In order to fit on the truck, the house was a lot smaller than the mullet house, but pretty much Darius and I were the only ones living there, so downsizing didn't mean downspacing. In fact, my bedroom was huge. It was the master suite! It had its own toilet.
I'm not sure why I got the big bedroom and Darius took the basement, except he's always liked basements. Really, Darius should've slept wherever he wanted because of all he did for me. He dropped out of tech school to work so I could keep being a normal kid. That's what he promised Mom he'd do as she pulled her last breaths. Take care of me. Stop me from becoming an adult too soon. When I got the job at the pool, he called up Mr. Schwartz to make sure the job ended before school started because he didn't want me working during the school year. He also put all my money away for college instead of letting me spend it. Darius really took his Taco caretaking seriously. He really tried at times, even though he's messed up.
The first two weeks of September were amazing. Because of my broken butt, I couldn't really walk, so I had to stay home from school.
Excerpted from Anything You Want by Geoff Herbach. Copyright © 2016 Geoff Herbach. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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