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By Kim Vogel Sawyer
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2010 Kim Vogel Sawyer
All rights reserved.
Katy Lambright scribbled frantically on the long, lined flow sheet. A ribbon from her mesh headcovering tickled her cheek, and she impatiently tossed it over her shoulder. At the front of the English classroom, Bryce Porter, one of Katy's friends from the Bible study group at school, cross-examined a boy named Paul.
Cross-examined. In the past two weeks, Katy had learned several terms related to debating. The words rolled through her head—resolution, topicality, solvency, inherency, fiat ... She liked the meaning of cross-examining the best: Clarifying facts in a persistent, sometimes aggressive manner. With only two minutes allotted, the rapid-fire ask-and-respond of the cross-examination period always got Katy's pulse pounding. Or maybe it was the fact that Bryce stood right in her line of vision that made her pulse speed up ...
No distractions. She couldn't miss one second of the cross-examination. If only she'd signed up for debate at the beginning of the year! Because she'd joined the debate team mid-season, she hadn't yet been allowed to participate in any meets. She itched for the opportunity to stand at the podium with the other first-year debaters and argue her case, just like a lawyer in a courtroom. I could do it.
The debate coach, Mr. Gorsky, kept time by flashing a set of white numbered cards. Katy knew timekeeping well. Mr. Gorsky had put her to work keeping time for practice debates until she became familiar with the structure. Now she was learning to keep a detailed flow sheet. Today that meant recording the plan of action given by the affirmative team for lowering the return rate of juvenile offenders to the prison system and the status quo team's reasons to reject the plan.
A petite blonde-haired girl named Vicki stepped behind the podium and spread several books across the wooden top. As the defender of the status quo—the present system—Vicki began to point out all of the flaws in the affirmative team's plan. From the determined look on the girl's face, Katy knew Vicki took her position seriously. Bryce and Vicki, the status quo team, sat on the left side of the aisle, and Paul and Marlys, the affirmative team, sat on the right. Even though Paul, Bryce, Vicki, and Marlys were novice debaters, they were already strong presenters.
Katy snatched up her blue pencil to record Vicki's responses to Paul's plan. Mr. Gorsky had taught her to use different colored pencils to keep track of the various issues and reactions. As the debate continued, her fingers flew. The flow sheet became cluttered with comments and circles and arrows. She abandoned her usually precise handwriting in order to capture the important facts.
The debate ended with Paul's impassioned plea for the judge—in this case, Katy—to side with the affirmative team and adopt their policy to ensure fewer juvenile lawbreakers would repeat their crimes and return to a detention facility. Then the two teams met in the middle of the classroom and shook hands, formally nodding their heads at each other before dissolving into laughter. Katy dropped her pencil and clapped.
Mr. Gorsky tamped the time cards together and waved his hand. "All right, gang, come on over here. Sit down, and let's talk." The coach always critiqued the debaters as soon as they finished a practice round. Listening to his evaluation of the teams' performances had increased Katy's confidence that she could be a worthy debater if only she were given the chance. But she'd probably have to wait until next year, if Dad let her continue in high school. Only three weeks remained until Christmas break, then forensics would replace debate after school second semester.
Katy flashed a smile and a thumbs-up sign at Bryce before turning her attention to Mr. Gorsky. To her surprise, the teacher was looking at her.
"All right, Kathleen. Let's hear it—who won today's round?"
Katy blinked twice and pointed to her chest. "Me?"
Her teacher smiled, his mustache twitching. "Yes, you. You're the judge today. I'm only the timekeeper. Who won and why?"
Katy smoothed her skirt over her knees as she gathered her thoughts. Seconds ticked by. Paul propped his chin in his hand, his expression smug. Marlys examined her nail polish, and Vicki glanced at the clock on the wall. Katy's gaze flicked to Bryce. He offered an encouraging smile, and she felt her ears grow hot. Bryce's nose and cheeks wore a dusting of freckles, just like Caleb Penner from her Mennonite community of Schellberg. But Bryce didn't irritate her the way Caleb did.
She shuffled the pages of her flow chart and swallowed. "I give the round to the status quo."
Paul groaned and slapped his forehead. "What? You're kidding, right?"
Marlys sent a knowing look to Bryce, then to Katy. A smirk climbed her cheek, and she sat back and folded her arms over her chest. "Oh, she's not kidding ..."
Paul leaned forward and propped his elbows on his knees. "C'mon, Kathleen, you know that Marlys and I presented the perfect plan. How could you give the round to Bryce and Vicki?"
"Because she has a thing for—" Marlys started.
Mr. Gorsky cut in. "Go ahead, Kathleen. Tell Paul why his team lost."
Katy couldn't quite determine from her teacher's tone whether he agreed with her assessment, but she was ready to defend it. She held up her flow sheets. "See how many red circles I have on here? Those are unanswered questions about how your plan would decrease the current percentage of recidivism." She liked the fancy word that referred to people going back to old behaviors. She had no idea where she would use it outside of debate, but she still liked it. "The arrows are for the questions that were answered."
Tapping the pages with her finger, she continued. "Six different issues were raised about the current programs and their success rates, and these arrows mean they weren't countered by the affirmative team." She dropped the sheets and raised one shoulder in a shrug. "You failed to prove that your plan would result in fewer repeat offenders. So I had to go with the status quo."
Paul glared at Marlys, who shrugged and made a so sorry face. He shook his head at the ceiling and threw his arms wide. "Great. So what about speaker rank? Did I at least get top speaker rank?"
Katy hid a smile. The four speakers were ranked one through four, with one being the best position. A team could not win unless their speaker points, which were based on their ranks, were less than or equal to the points earned by the opposing team. She knew Paul hoped the ranks had been split down the middle. Even in the short amount of time since she'd joined the team, Katy had figured out that Paul was extremely competitive and coveted the top speaker position in every round.
"I ranked you one."
"Yes!" Paul grabbed a handful of air and pumped his arm. Then he leaned back in his chair with a satisfied grin.
Katy continued, "Then I ranked Vicki two, Bryce three"—she shot Bryce an apologetic look—"and—"
Marlys made a sour face. "I already know. I got the four."
The heat increased in Katy's ears. Marlys didn't like Katy—Marlys had made that clear by keeping her distance and using a snide tone whenever she talked to Katy. Ranking Marlys in fourth position wouldn't win her as a friend, but Katy had to be honest. Mr. Gorsky expected it.
She explained in a quiet voice, "Somebody had to get the four. And you dropped your notes. You quit talking while you gathered them up again and lost several seconds of presentation time. That's why I gave you the four."
Marlys swung her long, straight-as-a-board dark brown hair over her shoulder with a flip of her chin. "No biggie. It's just practice."
Mr. Gorsky cleared his throat. "But practice should be treated like a judged round. That's why we practice—to make sure we're prepared. If you drop your notes, Marlys, you need to be familiar enough with your material to continue."
Marlys scowled at her bright blue painted fingernails and didn't answer.
Mr. Gorsky clapped his hands together. "All right, then. Good practice today, gang. And good assessment, Kathleen. You've picked up on the fine points of debate quickly."
Katy ducked her head, pleased yet embarrassed by her teacher's praise. The ribbons from her headcovering tickled her cheeks, and she twirled one around her finger. "Thank you."
Opening a folder, Mr. Gorsky distributed printed sheets of paper to the four debaters. "Remember we'll be going to the Southwest Kansas Novice Tournament in Dodge City this coming weekend. Both teams need to have their affirmative plans ready to go since you'll be switching back and forth between affirmative and status quo positions. Bring your travel gear to school Friday for the overnight stay. We'll leave here at eleven o'clock. The school will pick up the tab for the meals while we're on the road, but if you want snacks in the hotel, you'll need extra spending money for that. And, Paul, remember your tie this time."
Paul grinned. "I got a good one, Mr. G."
Mr. Gorsky raised one eyebrow. "Does it have Daffy Duck on it?"
Paul burst out laughing. "No. But it does have the Tasmanian Devil."
Katy wrinkled her forehead. "What's that?"
Bryce explained, "It's a cartoon character—from Looney Tunes."
Katy shook her head, confused.
Marlys rolled her eyes. "She doesn't do cartoons, Bryce. She has no idea what you're talking about."
In that moment, Katy would have given anything to have seen the Looney Tunes cartoon so she wouldn't feel so foolish in front of Bryce.
Mr. Gorsky said firmly, "No Looney Tunes, Paul. Stripes, plaid, even polka dots, but no Looney Tunes. You need to look professional, all right?"
Paul laughed again, but he nodded.
Vicki held up the paper. "Mr. G? I can't go to this one."
Mr. Gorsky frowned. "This has been on the calendar, Vicki."
She grimaced. "I know, but I just realized it's a two-day meet instead of a Saturday-only one. I have an art show Friday night, and I have to be there to show my sculpture. It's part of my grade."
Mr. Gorsky stood in silence for a moment, his forehead furrowed. "Well, we'll have to find a substitute for you then. Let me check the novice list." He strode to his desk, pulled a notebook from the top drawer, and flipped it open. Running his finger down the page, he began calling out names.
Vicki sighed. "She'll be out of town, remember? Something to do with her grandparents' anniversary ..."
"Had her wisdom teeth removed this morning," Paul said.
Paul snorted. "No way. He's on academic probation—flunking biology. So no activities 'til he gets his grade up to a C."
Mr. Gorsky pursed his lips for a moment then said, "Teresa Price?"
"She's in the art show too," Vicki said. She began to chew her lower lip.
Mr. Gorsky shook his head. "Well, then, that's everybody."
Bryce said, "Except ..." Everyone looked at him. "What about Katy?"
Excitement fluttered through Katy's stomach. "But I haven't even done a practice round yet."
Mr. Gorsky slapped the book closed and sat on the edge of his desk. He smoothed his mustache with his thumb and forefinger. "No, but you've caught on to things quickly. What do you think? Could you fill in for Vicki this weekend?"
Katy's heart thumped beneath the modest, caped bodice of her pink flowered dress. I want to do it! I want to prove I can debate as well as the other first-time debaters! She swallowed and tried to speak calmly. "I'd want to practice before I tried competing ..."
"Of course," Mr. Gorsky said. "This is only Tuesday. We will have time for at least two more practice rounds before we leave Friday. But you'll need a permission form filled out by your folks."
Your folks ... Mr. Gorsky's innocent comment stabbed Katy's heart. She didn't have folks. She had Dad.
Her teacher pulled a sheet from a stack of trays on the corner of his desk and held it out to Katy. She scurried forward and took it. Her hands trembled slightly as she pressed it to her dress. "I'll give this to my dad right after school."
"Good." Mr. Gorsky pushed off from the desk. "You'll be Bryce's partner."
Katy glanced at Bryce. He gave her his familiar lopsided grin. She jerked her gaze to the permission slip.
Mr. Gorsky said, "Be sure to let me know tomorrow if it won't work. We might need to pull out of the meet if we don't have enough debaters." He frowned. "This is the last novice-only tournament of the year—I'd hate to cancel."
"I'm sure Dad will let me go. I'll let you know for sure in class tomorrow."
Her teacher smiled. "Good. Now you kids better scoot out of here." Mr. Gorsky escorted the debaters to the classroom door. "Especially you, Kathleen. The bus won't wait around if you're late."
Katy trailed the others down the hallway toward the lockers. They walked in a group, talking and laughing together, but she didn't join them. Her thoughts raced ahead to the weekend. She'd only been to Saturday events, and only as an observer. But now she'd get to compete—and on an overnight trip! She nearly giggled in anticipation as she slipped her wool coat over her dress and pulled her backpack from her locker.
Marlys's shrill laugh rang in response to Paul's teasing, and suddenly Katy's enthusiasm wavered. Would she have to share a room with Marlys? Her feet seemed to drag as she followed the others down the hallway. She wished Shelby or Cora or one of her other friends were on the debate team. But they all said speaking in front of people made them too nervous. Speaking in front of people didn't bother Katy. The teacher she'd had in Schellberg made students recite in front of the class all the time, so she was used to it. But the thought of being stuck in a hotel room alone with Marlys made her stomach churn.
When they reached the front doors of the school, Bryce sent a smile over his shoulder. "'Bye, Katy. See you tomorrow morning at Bible study, right?"
Katy nodded. She enjoyed meeting with the Christian students at Salina High North for a time of Bible study and fellowship before school on Wednesdays.
Bryce's grin grew. "And be ready to stomp Paul and Marlys in that practice debate after school."
"Yeah, right!" Paul punched Bryce's shoulder and Marlys snickered, giving Katy a head-to-toes-and-up-again look that stirred Katy's irritation.
"I'll be ready," Katy vowed. Vengeful thoughts weren't encouraged by her Mennonite fellowship, but she couldn't deny hoping she and Bryce would beat Marlys and Paul.
Cold air smacked her bare legs as she headed toward the bus, which waited at the curb to transport students who stayed late for various activities. The temperature had dropped twenty degrees since Thanksgiving a week earlier, but so far no sign of snow. She shivered, envious of Marlys's and Vicki's warm denim jeans. Maybe she'd start wearing tights instead of her anklets even though the tights made her look like an old woman.
A car horn blared, and she spun toward the sound. Dad's pickup sat in the parking lot. She pulled her coat snug across her chest and dashed to the pickup. The warm air from the heater engulfed her as she climbed into the cab, and she let out a contented sigh. "Oooh, that feels good ..." She shot Dad a smile. "How come you're in town?"
Dad seldom picked her up from school. Their dairy farm outside of the little town of Schellberg was twelve miles from Salina. Dad didn't have time to take her back and forth to school. He had told her when she was given approval by the elders to attend public high school—the only student from her town ever to continue past ninth grade—that she'd have to ride the bus. She enjoyed those rare occasions when Dad drove her home instead of having to bounce down the highway in the noisy, crowded school bus.
Dad aimed the truck toward the street. "I needed to go to Wal-Mart for oil and a filter for the truck. I thought you might need some things too."
Katy couldn't think of anything she needed, except maybe a book on Looney Tunes characters. She wanted to look up the Tasmanian Devil. But she wouldn't tell Dad that.
"All I need is your signature," she said. She explained the upcoming debate trip and her chance to substitute for Vicki.
Dad listened attentively. When she finished sharing the details, he nodded. "That will be fine, Katy-girl. I'll sign it when we get home."
Katy grinned. "Thanks, Dad!" Dad circled the large WalMart parking lot, seeking a spot close to the door. She gave him a hopeful look. "Can I pick up one of those cook-it-at-home pizzas from the deli? It'll be suppertime already when we get home."
Dad pulled his lips to the side, his expression dubious.
"They're not as good as Aunt Rebecca's homemade pizzas, but they're not bad. I've had them at Shelby's house before. And it'll be a really quick thing to fix so you can get to milking the cows." Katy knew the cows would grow uncomfortable if the milking was delayed. Dad took good care of his dairy herd—he wouldn't want to leave them waiting for long.
Excerpted from Katy's Debate by Kim Vogel Sawyer. Copyright © 2010 Kim Vogel Sawyer. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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