Going Places

Going Places

by Kathryn Berla
Going Places

Going Places

by Kathryn Berla


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Everyone had high expectations for Hudson Wheeler. His fourth grade teacher even wrote to his parents that Hudson was "going places." But everything went downhill after his father died on the battlefield of Iraq one year later. Now facing his senior year of high school without his two best friends by his side and with his teacher's letter still haunting him, Hudson seizes homeschooling as an opportunity to retreat from the world.

What happens during this year will prove to be anything but a retreat, as Hudson experiences love and rejection for the first time; meets the Amazonian-looking girl who shows him by example what it means to be a man; and solves the painful mystery of the “girl in the window”—an apparition seen only by the WWII vet whose poignant plight forces Hudson out of the comfort zone of boyhood.

Going Places is a peek into what male adolescence looks like today for those who don't follow traditional paths as they strive to find themselves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781944995539
Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 03/20/2018
Pages: 275
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Kathryn Berla likes to write in a variety of genres including light fantasy, contemporary literary fiction, and even horror. She is the author of the young adult novels: 12 Hours in ParadiseDream MeThe House at 758, and Going PlacesThe Kitty Committee is her first novel written for adult readers.

Kathryn grew up in India, Syria, Europe, and Africa. Her love for experiencing new cultures runs deep, and she gives into it whenever she can. She has been an avid movie buff since childhood, and often sees the movie in her head before she writes the book.

Kathryn graduated from the University of California in Berkeley with a degree in English. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Read an Excerpt



Did I argue my point effectively? After two weeks of planning was I overthinking the whole thing? It was already the first of August, and sleeping in until noon was almost a thing of the past. The first day of school loomed like the grim reaper. I clicked SEND before time ran out and Mom's lunch break was over. Before time ran out and my summer vacation was over. Then I sat back and held my breath. Not literally, of course, even though it felt like it.

From: BigWheel@home.com

To: MomWheel@home.com

Subject: Proposal

We need to talk. I was going to say something last night but decided it's better to lay it all out for you first. I have a proposal that you probably won't like, but please read this whole email before you answer.

I think I should be homeschooled this year.

These are my reasons:

(1) I only need two classes to graduate, and I've proved I work better on my own.

(2) Senior year of high school is a complete waste of time. Nobody pays attention, and half the kids don't bother showing up for class half the time.

(3) College isn't a requirement for becoming a graphic novelist, and there's no doubt in my mind now that's what I want to do when I graduate.

(4) Quentin Tarantino (famous film director) dropped out of school at the age of 15 and his mother didn't care, and look where he is now.

(5) I've done ALL the research. I downloaded ALL the paperwork. The only thing I need is your signature in a few places. I PROMISE I'll take care of EVERYTHING!!! I'm begging you to say YES!!!!


P.S. I've been thinking about this all summer so don't think it's something I just came up with.

P.P.S. And please don't think this has anything to do with a failure on your part about being a good mother, etc.

It wasn't that I was scared of Mom, who is actually a really nice and understanding person. It's just that I was scared she'd say "no," and over the past few weeks I'd managed to convince myself this was the only possible way of surviving my senior year of high school. I wasn't prepared to deal with a flat-out No. Couldn't even consider that awful possibility. What I was prepared for was a major battle that I planned on winning before the homeschool program registration deadline. So I sat in the kitchen staring at the computer screen, waiting for Mom to return fire. I checked my inbox. One new message. Top Trending Tweets. And then the dinosaur desktop froze. Instead of bolting for the laptop in my bedroom, I forced myself to take a deep breath and calmly reboot. In order to prevail against Mom, it was important to stay focused and maintain my composure. I leaned back in my chair while the computer clucked and the screen changed from white to blue to black to white again.

The kitchen. A huge part of my life had played out there. Mom hated it because she didn't have the money to update it. She claimed it taunted her every day of her life. Puke-yellow Formica counters; the rust countertop footprint of a can of baked beans; the floor that was supposed to look like a tile floor but was really just a sheet of vinyl curling up at the corners; the cabinets that never closed all the way; fluorescent lights that buzzed, flickered, and hummed like crazy; and the refrigerator — it hummed too. And rocked like it was about to fall on top of you whenever you opened it.

Taped to the refrigerator was a note. The one my fifth grade teacher sent to my parents. The one Mom refused to let me take down even after all this time. The one that taunted me every day the same way the kitchen taunted her.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler,

It isn't every day I'm motivated to write a letter like this, so I want the two of you to know just how meaningful this is. Hudson is one of those students who comes along very rarely, so I consider myself blessed to have had him in my class this year. When it comes to good citizenry, he has no peer, always ready to lend a helping hand. Hudson is extremely well-liked by both faculty and the student body. He is motivated, helpful, thinks creatively and unselfishly. You've succeeded admirably in your job of parenting to have produced such a fine young man. It's obvious to me that Hudson is going places!

D. Thompson

I memorized the letter, that's how many times I've read it. Every time I opened the refrigerator in the last eight years looking for something to eat (at least ten times a day), there it was. Technically it should have been addressed to Major and Mrs. Wheeler because that's what Dad was, a Major in the army. But he never saw the letter. A month after Mrs. Thompson mailed it to my house, my dad was killed in Iraq. I was the student body president that year and believed what Mrs. Thompson said. I wasn't sure exactly where I was going, but I knew it would be somewhere big. Somewhere that would make me happy and make my parents proud, and I didn't mean just middle school.

But after Dad died, we went through our sad years where I sometimes had to act more grown-up than I was just to help Mom get through the day. After that, where I was going didn't seem so important anymore. We got through the sadness, of course. But the letter that used to feel like a promise began to feel like a dare. And there I was trying to disappear from school altogether. What would Mrs. Thompson think if she knew what I was doing?

The computer clucked a few more times while it finished updating. Finally, it was ready to go, and I breathed deeply as I signed back into my email account. One new message. Mom. I imagined her tapping out the response in that clumsy one-fingered way she did on the phone. Probably hyperventilating all the while. She'd put herself through nursing school and wouldn't be able to understand why anyone would turn their back on the luxury of being educated without having to work. To her, school wasn't just important, it was everything.

To: BigWheel@home.com

From: MomWheel@home.com

Subject: Homeschool

Is this about Cameron?

To: MomWheel@home.com

From: BigWheel@home.com

Subject: WHAT????

WHAT??? Of course not!!!!!

Okay, it wasn't just about Cameron, it was about Griffin too. My two best friends since grade school until last year when Griffin transferred to the school across town after his family bought a new house. And then to make matters worse, Cameron fell into a ridiculously serious relationship with a girl I didn't even like. When you grow up as a threesome so close you're almost brothers, there's a co-dependency that's hard to see your way out of. I couldn't wish Griffin back into his old house, and wishing for Cameron to break up with his girlfriend only made me feel evil, which I probably was.

But if I admitted all of that to Mom, she'd go on a whole rant about making new friends and joining clubs to meet new people. All the stuff that sounds so great to parents when they're lecturing you. The reality is something else. Something parents just don't get. You can't reinvent yourself when you're a senior in high school. Everyone knows that.

I was so done with school and couldn't see its relevancy to my life anymore. Homeschooling would be cool. I hadn't really thought out what I'd do with all my free time while Mom was at work, but I did have a pile of graphic novels to get through, and I wanted to write and illustrate one of my own. So maybe Mom didn't exactly like the idea of me lying around all day reading my "comic books," as she called them, much to my annoyance.

To: BigWheel@home.com

From: MomWheel@home.com

Subject: Denial

Well I think it is. But in any case, the way I see it is we both have our jobs. Mine is being a nurse. Yours is being a student.

She tried to reason with me, but for every point she made, I already had three counter-points ready to lob back at her. After the first week, she realized I was serious. After the second week, she actually started listening to me. After the third week (just in time, because school was about to start) she finally surrendered. I was nothing if not persuasive when it came to Mom. I sometimes still caught her staring at the letter on the refrigerator that promised I was "going places," and maybe she really believed it. But it wasn't total surrender. She had her conditions, so we drew up a contract which we both signed.

Hudson Wheeler promises to take the following classes at La Costa High during this upcoming school year:

AP Art

Physical Education

He also promises to apply to two (2) colleges for which he has a reasonable chance of being accepted.

From this day forward he will pay rent on the first of the month in the amount of $200.

Signed: Deborah Wheeler, Hudson Wheeler

The art class was required due to the fact that my mother was worried about me having zero social interaction with my peers. Taking a class in something I loved and was good at, she thought would go down easier. She probably also secretly hoped it would help to increase my self-esteem which was something she worried about a lot.

P.E. was required because she didn't want me to turn into a couch potato. Her philosophy was that everyone needed to get out and do something active for at least an hour each day. But since P.E. was an elective for seniors, I had a lot of choices. I chose yoga, the main reason being the favorable female-to-male ratio. This would ensure two things: 1. No competition against guys in a physical way. That never worked out very well for me in the past. 2. I still had a wild hope of doing something (anything) with a girl (any girl) before graduating from high school.

The two college applications and the rent ... that was Mom hoping I'd come to my senses before it was too late.

I wasn't that same kid who inspired Mrs. Thompson to write the refrigerator note all those years ago. Fate had played a couple of dirty tricks on me over the years. But in the beginning of my final year of high school, I had a renewed sense of hopefulness. I felt light. Free. As I roamed the hallways of school on my first day, I felt like an adult in a sea of children. I could leave and go home in just a few hours. And I felt something else I hadn't felt in a long time. Excitement about my future.

The first day of school arrived without the usual pit in my stomach. Only two classes meant I'd be in and out in less than two hours. I could actually wait to eat breakfast until after getting home.

Nothing was going to ruin the high I had walking into yoga class. Except maybe Gus Ligety. There he was, posed on his yoga mat like Buddha, surrounded by girls. Girls. Girls. And more girls. Girls dressed in skintight outfits — some of them really revealing. Sleepy-eyed girls. Sleek-haired girls. An ocean of girls. I tried my best to block out Gus and the two other guys in the room. They weren't exactly chick-magnet types of guys, but then neither was I. The guys those girls really wanted to be with wouldn't be caught dead in a yoga class. Later in the year, those same guys would make a point to stop and stare into our classroom, pointing and laughing at us (me and Gus) until the teacher turned around and shooed them away with a dirty look.

When I arrived (late) to class, everyone was already lotus-style on three neatly spaced rows of yoga mats. I realized two things:

(1) As an unfairly vertically-challenged male, being barefoot in class did nothing to disguise my short stature. Unfairly, I say, because my father was tall. But my mom's short, and at seventeen I was taking after her in that department.

(2) The loose basketball shorts I had on weren't going to cut it in yoga class. Even Gus knew that. He was decked out in what I assumed were men's yoga pants — at least they were long and didn't slide away to reveal everything no guy wants to show at school. I did some fast thinking and made a decision to take my place all the way in the back, hidden behind two rows of girls from the teacher's forward facing view.

"Hud-man!" Gus called out, prompting a harsh look from Ms. Senger, our youngish and semi-hot instructor. "What's up, bro? Come sit over here with me. We dudes have to stick together."

Ms. Senger brought a slender finger up to her pursed lips.

"Mr ...?"

"Wheeler." Why was I stupidly late on my first day? I was breaking my own rule of blending into the background. I'd known since middle school that you don't call attention to yourself by walking into a classroom late.

"Mr. Wheeler, please find a space. There are mats in the back."

I unrolled a mat and inserted myself between two girls who giggled while they moved aside to let me squeeze in.

Once seated, I could check out everyone else from the safe vantage point of the back of the room. It was a beginner's class so I assumed everyone was going to be as lame as me, but I knew the girls had an advantage when it came to flexibility. Gus, I knew, unfortunately since pre-school. He seemed to have a magic mirror that gave him confidence beyond anything he deserved. He was annoying but basically a nice guy in very small doses.

Directly to my left was a girl I knew by the name of Alana Love. She showed up in my Art History class late in our junior year with her messy dirty-blonde hair that looked like it'd never met a brush. Not in a bad way, don't get me wrong. Definitely sexy. She also had big, expressive puppy eyes. Or maybe they were kitten eyes. The rest of her face — some of it worked, and some of it didn't. Her nose was a little wide, her lips were a little thin, and she had a couple of zits on her chin. She also had a tattoo on one side of her neck: a flowering vine of purples and pinks. The first time I saw it I actually thought it was a bruise, like someone had tried to strangle her. Over time, I came to admire it, and my own bare neck seemed naked in comparison. Other kids at school had tattoos but none as out-there as Alana's.

Sitting next to her, I could smell Alana, and she smelled really nice. All in all, she was the kind of girl you could fantasize about, even though for me that was just about any girl with most body parts intact. A girl named Penelope was on my other side. In different circumstances, she might have been the object of my desire, but with Alana Love so close, Penelope didn't stand a chance.

Ms. Senger led us through the Sukhasana, the cat-cow pose, the tree pose, and some others I don't remember. By the time we were through I was really feeling it. And it didn't help that I had to constantly pull my shorts down over my knees. Gus groaned loudly, but I tried to suck it up for the benefit of Alana Love, not wanting her to think I was one of those guys. Inflexible. Looking for an easy A or an easy girl. I wanted her to respect me, so I threw myself into every pose and promised myself the next day would be easier. I'd stretch before class and wear sweat pants instead of shorts. Were our seating assignments permanent? I hoped so.



... between classes if you think about how much stuff happens in the regular passing period which is only five minutes. Entire lives change during passing period. Relationships begin. People get dumped. Weekend parties are planned. With the extra fifteen minutes between zero and first period, I'd already changed out of my yoga clothes and was walking to art class while most of the seniors were still cruising the senior lot looking for a place to park.

"Wait up, Hud-man!" Gus jogged up from behind just as I was closing the gap between myself and Alana, who was about ten paces ahead.

"Do me a favor, Gus," I began. Was I being a jerk because of my empty stomach? Or the fact that Gus just ruined my next move with Alana (which wasn't exactly planned out to be honest)? "Don't call me Hud-man and I won't call you ..."

"Call me what?"


"No problem."

We walked in silence long enough for Gus to notice Alana in front of us. He nudged me in the ribs with his elbow, which succeeded in making me even crankier.

"You going to hit that?" he asked way too loud.

"Hit what?" The hungry pit in my stomach turned to nausea.

"You know." He nudged me again and I pushed his arm away. "That." He motioned with his chin towards Alana who was possibly within hearing distance. At that moment, I was grateful the human ear points forward, not back.

"No, I'm not going to hit that," I whispered hoarsely.

"Mind if I do?"

He didn't wait for my answer. "How'd you like yoga today?" he bellowed at Alana's back. The vine on the side of her neck twisted as she turned to look behind her. "Bet you're feeling pretty sore."

"Oh hey," she said. I desperately wanted to protect her from his lunacy without identifying myself as his friend but saw no way out. "It was fun," she smiled. "Easy. I've been doing yoga since I was ten."


Excerpted from "Going Places"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Kathryn Berla.
Excerpted by permission of Amberjack Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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