Famous in a Small Town(7)

Mrs. Benson nodded. “Keep your fingers crossed. I’d hate for them to have to pull out. It’s happened before apparently, with other schools, but … I know Sam, at least, is so, so excited to go. I’m sure Becca is too.”

“Oh yeah.”

“Well, keep it between us, and I’ll keep you posted.”

“Sounds good. Night, Jen.”


I slotted the cart into the one in front of it and headed inside.

* * *

I volunteered at the library on Saturday mornings.

It wasn’t a huge place—just one room, with the checkout desk in the middle. The general-fiction shelves sat to the right in tall rows, with the nonfiction shelves lining the room. The kids and teen books were tucked on the other side, in each of the corners.

The head librarian was named Mel. She was probably midfifties, and humorless, but she knew everything there was to know about books. I’d swear there wasn’t a book in there she hadn’t read.

She knows everything, Flora said. She’s like the internet.

She was possibly better than the internet sometimes. I’d volunteered there since freshman year, and Mel had never once redirected to an ad for male enhancement.

When I got to work this morning, I took a seat in the Kids Korner.

Why do we have to spell it like that? Why can’t we just spell “corner” the normal way? I had asked, when Mel first announced her plan to redesign the children’s area.

It’s for kids, Mel had answered simply.

Yeah, even more reason we should spell it right, don’t you think?

She looked at me, deadpan: It’s cute.

So every few months I hand-lettered a new seasonal banner with KIDS KORNER outlined on it in sparkle paint, and it was cute, I guess—if an inconsistent foundation in spelling could be considered cute.

The Kids Korner faced the teen area in the opposite corner, which had its own banner, although it didn’t change to match the seasons. It was a permanent fixture, a large purple sign with cutout bubble letters attached to it spelling out the words TEEN ZONE.

The Teen Zone sign had appeared after I started volunteering there. Mel never discussed it, but it was a source of great delight among my friends—so much so that we christened the Cunninghams’ pole shed, where we did the majority of our hanging out, Teen Zone 2.

After all, it’s where the teens are at, Brit had said. It’s the zone for teens. We almost can’t exist in any other kind of zone. Child Zone? Forget it. Adult Zone? Fuck that noise. I am for the Teen Zone only.

She also often used it as a euphemism: I want to put my Teen Zone on his Teen Zone. I want her all up in my Teen Zone.

Today I sat across from the non-euphemistic, original Teen Zone with my copy of The College Collective. The library was pretty empty for a Saturday morning—a couple of people wandering the fiction shelves, one tween girl thumbing through a stack of novels in the Teen Zone. But there were no kids to populate Kids Korner, so I flipped open my book.

The College Collective was a website whose college application timeline I had adopted. Unlike some of the other sites that guided more broadly, they broke it down month by month for your last two years of high school. Things to consider, action steps you should take, tips and helpful suggestions. I sent away for their hard copy handbook at the beginning of sophomore year and received a thick spiral-bound book with a multicultural band of smiling kids on the front, arms slung around one another. It was well-worn now, I had thumbed through it so often.

I had been one full year under the College Collective’s guidance (it started with SOPHOMORE YEAR, JUNE), and, accordingly, I felt like I was in good shape. I had taken the SAT and ACT early, with plenty of time to retake (I knew I could do better on math). I had created my general list of schools, and I was prepared to narrow them down this summer to a finalized list that I would begin targeting closely. I had focused on my grades this past year (junior year transcript is essential), and my extracurriculars (homecoming committee, band). I volunteered (the library), and I had a leadership position (MPASFC), and work experience (the grocery store).

Today I was staring at the chapter labeled JUNIOR YEAR, JUNE–AUGUST: THE EVE OF SENIOR YEAR, but my mind kept wandering. I couldn’t help but glance toward the bulletin board tacked up between a set of shelves in the Teen Zone. Right in the center was a clipping from the front page of the Acadia News, an old edition that had been pinned up for some time. MARCHING PRIDE OF ACADIA SELECTED FOR TOURNAMENT OF ROSES PARADE.

No part of the College Collective handbook covered how to raise the money for something like that. It had tips for financial aid and scholarship opportunities, and although I definitely needed both of those things for college to be a remote possibility, the money I needed right now was for a different purpose.

It was a huge honor—bigger even than marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which Acadia did in 2007. We were a small high school, but it’s not like there was much else to do but sports or marching anyway, and everyone pretty much participated in one or the other or both. Sure, there was other stuff—Flora did art club, Terrance was in the school play last year—but the band and the football team ranked first and second in order of importance. (Although the football team probably saw it as the other way around.)

I thought about what I overheard Mrs. Benson saying in the parking lot the other day. These kids would have to sell candy bars to the moon and back.

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