So let’s roll…
With graduation a month away, I’m hitting the road with my best friends Beau, Leonie, and Leonie’s awesome rescue dog, The Bomb. We’ve all got something on our minds. Beau is schooling our school for ignoring brutal bullying. Beautiful, crazy Leonie is striving to become a model. And I’m drilling to join a local roller derby team—The Rat City Roller Girls—where my bulk is actually a benefit! But first, somewhere between finals and graduation, I need some answers. I need to see my dad. Face to face.
Unless he’s moved without telling me, my dad is out in the wilds of Alaska—somewhere remote, beautiful, and amazing, where there will be wild animals, and hot guys, and adventures and lies and heartbreaks. It’s further from home than any of us have ever been. Sometimes that’s how far you need to go to figure out exactly where you want to be…
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By Mary McKinley
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Mary McKinley
All rights reserved.
Did I mention that my dad's an idiot?
Apparently the poor man cannot:
1) Walk to the mailbox.
2) Open a letter.
I am forced to deduce this because I've sent him two letters recently, one of which was my senior picture (yes—it IS big news!). Graduation is now about a month away.
No response at all ... so what's the deal?
This is what I'm thinking when I should be having my head in the game, or at least the practice. I'm wondering about my dad when I hear the whistle and start my drill, which is how I make like the dumbest mistake you can make in Roller Derby; I see a girl go down in front of me—hesitate—and then react—a split-second too late.
So down I go, barely into the drill, sprawled and whirling in a huge flailing circle. Which freaking hurts!
So embarrassing! I'm a good skater but not great—yet.
I take a second to clear my head. I pick myself up and tell everyone I'm fine, till I see I have pretty much skinned my entire shin, where there is no pad. I shake my head in disgust. It's bad form to get blood on the track. I limp over to the benches to deal with the blood that is now trailing down my calf. This is what comes of not playing on-point, a major rule of which is "Pay attention!"
But no—apparently, I was off somewhere in the wilds of Alaska.
I wince as I begin to clean off my leg with brown paper towels and start thinking about my dad again ... or the lack of dad, anyway. I'm not even sure what to think.
It's been a long while since the divorce and all, but I am beginning to wonder if he's pissed off at me or something. Or if he walked out into the wilderness and did an Into the Wild deal and now he's all mummified in an abandoned bus somewhere.
I'm pretty sure that's not the case but still—RSVP much, Dad??!!
While I mop the blood, let me catch you up.
At the moment, I'm drilling to join the Rat City Roller Girls, or RCRG. I'm not on a team yet but I plan to be. It's been slow going. I want to be a Throttle Rocket.
More on all that later. First let me tell you about the gang. A lot of things have changed.
Remember our brave Leonie and our beautiful Beau? Well, they're good! They're excellent.
We have all changed....
After our trip to San Francisco, when we met our awesome adoptive gay uncles, Frank and Oscar, we came back to Seattle and Beau sued the school. He had a score to settle—for himself and future kids, both gay and straight. The officials hadn't done their job, which before anything should be to keep their students safe, especially from bullying. Since Beau got his lights punched out last year it's pretty obvious they failed, big time. Beau and his mom and stepdad, Gina and Matt, were interviewed after the suit was filed, and they were all on the news, and it was awesome!
It's all still in progress and Beau has gotten pretty good at giving interviews. You'd think it would be weirder, the fact that he is suing the school that he still attends, and it was at first, but it's been going on so long that it just seems normal. I'm not sure if some of the teachers even remember.
He recorded something funny and sad and amazingly honest for the It Gets Better Project website. I get a little verklempt whenever I watch it. Our boy's electrifying!!!
But the best part is that our inept principal, Ms. Blip, is also giving interviews and she always ends up sounding like a mental patient. She doesn't do her cause any good trying to explain how she won't be responsible for "special interests" (like safety for her students on school grounds!) and has made such a tool out of herself recently that even people who weren't interested have gotten involved. It's so great! Everything she says makes it worse for her. I routinely expect her to actually choke on the foot she consistently puts in her mouth ... preferably on the steps of the school.
So: Beau is good. He has decided he wants to be a nurse. He's applied to Seattle U next year.
Of course my mom, the RN, thinks that's just wonderful.
And my mom ...
She's cool, even if we will never see eye to eye. She loves Beau and Leonie. She says she doesn't worry about whether or not Beau is gay, it's not her business to judge what he or anyone else (except me) does; that's between him and God and she thinks he will be a very good nurse.
That's good old Teresa, the other Saint Teresa, my mom. Loving, living saint.
Leonie lives with her now. My mom wouldn't let her say no. And they get along perfectly! Leonie adores my mom and it's mutual, and of course The Bomb, our sweet lil' husky dog, is doted on (and sleeps on the furniture) because my mom, Saint Teresa, is so into her.
I went over the other day to see them and Leonie was sitting on the stoop in the sun with my mom and The Bomb, and she had already painted her own toenails (and my mom's!) and was now painting Bommy's. The Bomb was watching her own toenails being painted with great interest. Glitter pink. It was freaking adorable.
Mom immediately had The Bomb spayed after we got home last year. That is something she is passionate about: No more puppies into this overpopulated world, already full of unwanted pets!
I'm glad. Bommy's had enough separation and sadness. Now it's her turn to have some fun.
Well ... almost time, anyway. I'm not sure how much fun Leo is actually having just yet.
Our lovely Leonie is a model! That is, as she always corrects me, she's starting to model.
Actually, that is only one of a ton of things she's starting to accomplish.
First off, after our road trip she came back and ratted out our horrible pedophile teacher, Ratskin.
Imagine! We were so stoked! Revolution in the air! A mob like in Frankenstein!
We waited with baited breath. We figured he was gonna be in big trouble.
But ... no. Sadly, no one in the school district was even that surprised. He was removed, but there was a definite mood of "oh, no, not again." This is not the first such accusation of abuse (or the third or the tenth) that has been revealed in our crappy-ass school system.
Some great teachers abide, but bad teachers abound.
So, anyway, before I go off ranting, lemme finish bandaging my leg and give you the rest of the 411 on the gang....
Leo is undaunted.
Well, she is daunted, but she forges ahead anyway, even though we are pretty pissed and disappointed that there wasn't more public outrage.
Because she was underage when she reported our teacher, Mr. Adkins, aka Ratskin, the Vile Pedophile, they videotaped her statement so she wouldn't have to testify in court. It was very hard for her, anyway ... she cried so much her face was wet, but her voice never faltered.
And justice, albeit past due and underwhelming, has been done.
Ratskin is no longer with us.
I heard he is locked up somewhere, or maybe has an ankle bracelet. If he tries anything, hopefully it will electrocute him like a bug-zapper and he'll shoot up in a shower of sparks, in joyous commemoration of the ultimate downfall of douche bags.
Ha! Suffer like you made others!!
Um ... I suppose you can tell some things haven't changed....
I reluctantly had to have one final conversation with Ratskin after we got back from our trip, when I went to get my term paper at the end of the semester.
And finally, finally, he had a haunted, hunted look about him, all jumpy and dark circles. He knew his end-time of evildoing was drawing nigh. I found out later he'd been contacted by the police earlier that day.
Yet, when I paused at the threshold of his classroom that last time, he still tried to be all affable, like in the olden days ... before his actions with Leonie annihilated my innocence, as well.
"Rusty!" Grinning from ear to ear he is! Like we're buddies!
I just stand there at the doorway. I keep my game face on. We are so not friends.
He goes on.
"So, I have your paper here. It's great! I think you have a lot of talent and I hope you use it."
Big toothy shark smirk! The better to eat you with, my dear!
I taste rage on my tongue. I consider it. The taste is metallic. And salty ... bloody, even.
I enter the room and take the paper in silence: an A plus. Right. I snort under my breath.
I bet he didn't even read it.
Then I just eyeball him, to try to see what it is that they see ... these fragile girls that he targets.
I still don't get it. He's just a guy. A no-big-deal average-looking guy.
He's pretty old, like forty, and though he's getting frown lines, he still has kind of bad skin. He's not unattractive; he's tall and thin, but the thing that immediately gives you the idea he's probably an idiot is his hair. His hairline is receding, which is not the problem, it's that he combs and mousses his hair up and back from his forehead so it's all poofy and high and he has this pointy little Renaissance beard. Only the beard is a little too long, like his hair, so it looks like he thinks he really is Shakespeare and it's just one more pathetic poser loser thing about him.
While I'm looking down on him, he stares at the papers on the desk in front of him and then back up at me. I don't blink. I don't sit down. He dares to look me in the eye. All innocence. He bats his eyes sorrowfully and looks at me wistfully.
"Wow ... Rust ... I don't know what happened to us...."
This is the smack he has the nerve to start with.
I just stare at his forked beard for a sec while feeling my entire head grow molten. He makes my blood boil. I try for a deep breath.
"What?" I manage. I think I sound a little wheezy. He makes it hard for me to breathe, what with the white-hot anger and all.
So then he ups the drama.
"Rusty, stop! I know I was your favorite teacher before ... I just don't know why you've turned on me like this!" His blinky eyes are all wrinkled, pleading, with pointy eyebrows of pain.
Bravo, sirrah, bravo! Acting!
"Oh, I bet you do. Think real hard, Mr. Adkins." I'm actually sneering.
He looks at me, fake stricken, still won't cop to it. He starts over.
"Rylee, you know; there are a lot of things you can't understand just yet, but as you grow older you—"
I'm so insulted I start to laugh. Wheeze-laugh. My voice starts to vibrate viciously.
"Are you even serious? Because it sounds like you are about to say 'there are things I just can't understand now, but someday when I'm a big girl I'll know things grown-ups know!' And then, I'll think it was okay! It sounded exactly like that was what was about to come excreting out of your face, Mr. Adkins. Something like that? Because you're wrong! It will never happen; I will NEVER forgive you!"
I pause for breath—and suddenly start crying. "Why, dude? Why did you do it? You were like my hero. You fail! What you did will never be okay, you selfish failure! Do you hear me? You suck!"
He flops like I verbally tasered him. Then he sighs theatrically and shakes his head. Face-palms himself and poses very poser-ly.
Super tragic! I hear him trying to make himself cry. Which makes me stop.
Marveling, I roll my eyes. Whatever. Dude, try pulling your nose hair; I hear that's how they do it in the movies.
I think this feeling is revulsion.
Yeah. Upon review, pretty sure it is.
That was the last time we spoke. It did not help his cause.
Yeah, nope, sorry, Ratskin. Seriously nice try, though.
Farewell (not). And again, old rat: Bravo!
Anyway, around that time Leonie started classes at community college to get her GED. She just couldn't deal with the mouth-breathers' crap anymore and they were not about to leave her alone.
She is taking these equivalency tests and my mom helps her study. They were taking a study break on the porch when I came over on the toenail painting day. My mom has also helped Leonie catch up on things she never got to have, like her driver's license (though we might all remember Leo having no problem driving without one, when she rescued The Bomb).
Bam—she passed her driving test way faster than she does the equivalency tests.
I'd mentioned to Leo if she's planning to be a model she should probably get an enhanced license, in case she wants to go over the border to work in Vancouver, model capital of the world. When I showed her an article that claimed, "Vancouver is where models are made," she was thrilled. Besides, I'd gotten an enhanced license too. I might want to visit Victoria Gardens someday.
Leo's agency thinks her face and hair are beautiful, but they told her to lose weight ... twenty pounds!!! (I know, right?!)
I look at her perfect figure and breathtaking face and I wonder what blind, tormented planet I come from, that would want to make her look any different.
So far she has lost seven pounds. Seven agonizing pounds.
Being hungry does not improve her mood. I don't know how she expects to lose thirteen more pounds, because she is starting to look kind of scrawny.
I, on the other hand, probably have lost about twenty pounds from skating.
I'm not sure how much exactly; I decided to never weigh myself anymore, because it only makes me feel bad and otherwise I'm not that worried about it. I'm stronger and more active than ever.
And I gotta say, I love skating! I love the speed, and the fans, and the team spirit! (Omg, I'm such a team player! Who'd a thunk, right?) I've met a bunch of rawk-chicks and glamazons, and I like 'em a lot! They are funny and badass and they all have my back.
The Rat Lab is hard work, and hilarious. That's where the wannabe Rat City Roller Girls train and are chosen: The Rat Lab.
I want to be a Throttle Rocket when I get out of the Rat Lab. They are one of the four Derby teams of the RCRGs. There are other team tryouts soon, but I've set my heart on the Throttle Rockets. The coach is a babe, a dark-haired hottie! I'm too shy to tell him I think so. Instead, I vow to wow him—by kicking ass and taking names.
So there's that. My beloved Rat Lab, training ground for creative destruction.
But probably my biggest change came when I moved out of my house with Mom and Paul and rented one with Beau.
We rented an admittedly crappy house in the CD (Central District) of Seattle, which freaks out both our mothers, because it is definitely high crime (and loud!), but it's cheap and not too far from our school, which is convenient for us, since Beau and I still attend, though we already have enough credits to graduate. We're staying at Baboon High till graduation—to look out for the ones who come after us.
I moved out from my mom's because I had to—I was going too crazy about the whole "go to Mass" thing with my mom. We started to disagree without agreeing to disagree, beforehand.
It got pretty bad.
I'm finally a legal adult and I had told Mom that I wouldn't go to church anymore after I was eighteen.
Seriously, I gave her fair notice. I tried to explain my feelings gently.
It was the first time I stood up to my mom. And I didn't back down. Which went over about as well as you might imagine. Like when she started to cry. Jeez ... massive raging and wailing. So painful for both of us, as I never meant to hurt her. But I broke a little piece of her heart when I made a stand.
Religion is certainly divisive, isn't it? Even remembering all this gets me exhausted.
To her, she was fighting for my immortal soul. Fighting hard. And she was bringing out all her big guns. It didn't help when I explained I didn't feel damned. Quite the opposite—I finally feel free!
No more Original Sin or any of the rest of it. No more nutty notions of sinful babies or weak-ass women. I'm DONE!
I feel good!
I feel like we're good, God and me; God, or Nature, or Grace, or Nothing, whatever you want to call it—I mean, I ain't mad!
I love this crazy world!
Yes, in many ways it's seriously hosed, but I'm so glad I didn't do anything to hurt myself in the drear old dark days. It's beautiful here! It's so beautiful, guys. Of course I'm sticking around.
I had no idea how much better it was going to get. Or how soon!
Naturally, my mom is not nearly as elated by my religious opinions as I am.
Excerpted from Rusty Summer by Mary McKinley. Copyright © 2015 Mary McKinley. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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