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Home is the Sailor, Home from the Sea

October 23, 2011

Okay, I didn’t want to write a thing here until I really was writing again.  Here’s the new opening in YA format:


I wasn’t always a morning person. I don’t think most kids are – they say we need more sleep than adults and I’m sure it’s true. I used to get as much sleep as I wanted, before the Crash. That was before Dad had to get up at 5 am to get to work at his new job by 7, which meant I had to be up then too, so he could drop me off at the McDonald’s by school about a million years before class. Mom couldn’t drive me later because by then we only had one car. Dad had spent his unemployed time pretty constructively, like always, reading Jane Austen and deciding that like her heroines we all had to have “internal resources” to avoid dying of boredom sitting around without any money waiting for something to happen – a husband for them, a job for Dad.

“What am I supposed to do sitting around in McDonald’s waiting for school to open?” I complained.

“You’ve still got a computer. They’ve got wifi. Use your time to learn something, do something, you wouldn’t get to learn in school.”

What I wouldn’t learn in my old school was just about anything. We’d been zoned for a good public school until we lost the house, just before I was going to get to a good high school. Our new home – our new apartment, I still can’t think of it as a “home” – was, well, not in the same zone. Mom tried to get me a variance in her tiger-mom way, but at that time just about everyone was trying to do the same thing.

Now I didn’t have to get up this early any more, but three years of it had changed my sleep cycle, permanently I guess. Harrison Academy’s founders had read all the studies about teenagers and sleep, and school didn’t start till 8:30. But this was my “me” time, pretty much the only time I got anymore. In the old school, all my homework took about a half hour at home, if I hadn’t already finished it on the Munibus. Harrison was a real school, where homework meant a bunch of work. If I wanted to surf Reddit at all, this was the time of day I was going to get to do it. I mean, you could look at funny Imgur pics at school, but you felt stupid doing it. I’d been at Harrison for a month now and I didn’t want anyone to think I was some dumb bunny who didn’t belong there. But I like lolcats, sue me, and even though I wake up early now, my brain still lags a little behind, especially since I can’t have coffee at home. I don’t know why they bother since I just get it across the street from school.

There was one good teacher at my old school, Mrs. James. “Always a pleasure to read your essays!” she used to write next to my A++. It took me a while to figure out that this meant reading everybody else’s was anything but. They hated Mom at school, and she hated them – she had a Masters in Sociology, pretty much the most useless degree you could have these days, and she loved to remind the PTA and the principal and everyone else that “We’re a family of excellers,” which always made me picture us all gathered around a monitor, peering intently at a spreadsheet. She only got along with Mrs. James, who also had a Masters, and who wasn’t just collecting a paycheck. At one of their meetings – “our” meetings but really it was the two of them talking about me and how Standards had Fallen while I used my internal resources to count ceiling tiles – Mrs. James handed Mom a brochure. “I think Caroline would do well here,” she said. “It’s a public school,” which was her nice way of saying we could go because it was free, “but it’s part of the University and very selective.”

She wasn’t kidding. I’d taken EXPLORE in the 9th grade, and the ACT and SAT in the 10th, because Mom wanted all the data in hand she could get “when the day comes” that we’d be restored to our rightful place in the world and I could get in to Eton or Harrow or Hogwarts or something. I blew away the reading and writing, did good in the science and “okay” in the math – that pissed Mom off no end. “Good students are good at everything,” she used to insist.

“If you’re ‘good’ at everything you’re not great at anything!” I used to yell back, locking myself in my room with a book. (Well, “our room” since I had to share with my sister now, but since she was always gone doing her cheerleading or car washes or bake sales or something, it was mostly mine. Yeah, she loved that school.)

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