Sidra Holiday wants to kill me.
She doesn’t use those words, or any words really, but the look in those light brown eyes delivers the message loud and clear. Basically, it’s I so want to kill you right now.
I was trying to help her out, and not just because she’s hotter than Phoenix in July, even though that’s part of it. Okay, a lot of it. But I thought she was stuck. How was I supposed to know she’d end up losing her phone?
Patrick, sitting next to me, can only shake his head. He’s one of the few friends I have here, although I haven’t seen him in almost two years. He hasn’t changed much since then, which is good and bad.
We just started a World War II unit, and Mrs. Garber was in the middle of a lecture about Hitler, but I was busy looking at Sidra, three rows over. She has this wavy, honey-colored hair, skin like cinnamon, and a great smile, when she uses it. She’s got high cheekbones, and back when she was still around, Mom said that’s the mark of a great smile. Ever since the first of the year, Sidra’s been pretty mopey during class, but sometimes she sneaks a look at her phone like she did a minute ago, and gets a happy look.
It must have been something really good, because she didn’t even see Mrs. Garber strolling down one row of seats and up another, talking all nice and friendly about the Third Reich, until she was just a couple seats behind Sidra.
Man, Sidra jumped like she’d just sat on a pushpin. A bunch of people snickered as Mrs. Garber went for the kill. She leaned over Sidra, a serious violation of personal space if you ask me. “Germany’s neighbor to the east invaded by Hitler in 1939?”
Come on, that’s a total softball, right? I remembered that one from Brainstorm!, the game show Patrick and I were on in sixth grade. It was only a Level 2 question, but Sidra was frozen and the headlights were bearing down.
Maybe I had a flashback, and just for a second I was back on the show, with Gran cheering for me from the audience, and I wanted to answer the question. Maybe it was the helpless look in Sidra’s great big Bambi eyes. Or maybe I was just showing off. Whatever it was, the next thing I knew, I blurted out, “Poland.”
Every head in class swiveled my way, like they were following a tennis match. Mrs. Garber folded her arms over her chest as she stared me down. “I didn’t realize we had two Ms. Holidays in this class.” Another round of giggles erupted. My face burned.
“Yes, Poland.” Mrs. Garber turned back to Sidra and held out her hand. Sidra glumly gave her the phone. I thought Mrs. Garber was going to read her message out loud. That’s what teachers did at my old school if they caught us texting during class. Instead, all Mrs. Garber said was, “See me after class,” as she put the phone on her desk. “Without your boyfriend’s assistance this time.”
She would have to throw that in. The whole class is laughing now. At me, at Sidra. No wonder she’s glaring at me. She could at least appreciate me for having her back, but instead she looks like she wants to tie me to a fire ant mound and pour syrup over me.
“Mr. Styles?” Mrs. Garber calls out.
She pauses to look down at some notes on her desk before finding me again. “Perhaps you can tell us how President Roosevelt said the invasion of Pearl Harbor would be remembered.”
Duh. I breathe again. Breathing is a good thing. “As a day of infamy.”
Mrs. Garber breaks out into a smile. I’d rather have Sidra smiling at me, but at least now Mrs. Garber isn’t acting like she wants to smack me with one of her smart board markers. “Well class, it looks like we have a World War II expert in our midst.”
Not so much. I mean, school’s not hard for me, but her question is straight from last night’s World War II miniseries on PBS, the one she told us to watch. But, if she wants to believe I’m some kind of expert, that’s cool too.
The rest of the period is incident-free and as soon as the bell rings, I hustle out the door without pausing to check out Sidra, the way I normally do.
Patrick, right behind me, claps a hand on my shoulder.
“Day of infamy. Nice pull, Logan.”
I hit the brakes and he steps on my heel. No one has said that to me in almost two years. “Nice pull” is what the contestants said to each other on Brainstorm! when one of us came up with the answer to a question out of nowhere, like you pulled it from your you-know-what. Only that wasn’t a pull in Garber’s class, it was on the show last night, which is what I tell Patrick. He frowns, lines creasing the narrow space between his dark eyebrows. He’s a unibrow waiting to happen.
“Yeah, at the end.”
“Huh. I must’ve changed the channel or something,” he says.
I shrug and turn for my locker.
“Hey, was it painful hanging out with the old folks last night?”
Yesterday was Gran’s birthday, and some of her friends threw her a party at her favorite restaurant. I invited my cousin Traci so there’d be someone close to my age there, but she just landed a part in this commercial and said she had to be up early this morning for the shoot, so she couldn’t make the drive out to Thousand Oaks.
I make a so-so gesture. “The party was just okay, but at least I got a present out of it.”
“My dad sent Gran this new DVR for the TV, but she didn’t want it. She said she can barely work the one from the cable company, so she gave it to me for the TV in my room.”
Back down the hall, Sidra exits Mrs. Garber’s room, tucking away her phone in her purse. I’m happily watching her pass by when Patrick punches me in the shoulder and shakes his head. “You and her? Not gonna happen.”
I think the words you’re looking for are ‘thank’ and ‘you.’
That’s what I should’ve told Sidra while she was giving me the stink eye in Garber’s class today. Too bad I didn’t think of it until now, as I’m clearing the dinner dishes off the table. Gran and I have a deal: She cooks, I clean. It usually doesn’t take long though since it’s just the two of us. Nothing against Gran, she’s mostly cool, but I hate living here. I’d give anything to go back to my old school.
As soon as I’m done, I change the channel on the TV in the living room to PBS for the second part of the miniseries. “It’s for History class,” I say, before Gran can ask me if I’ve got any homework. She takes a seat on the couch to watch with me. That, or she’s checking up on me, but if I was going to lie just so I could watch television, it wouldn’t be for a show in black and white.
The beginning of the show looks familiar – German tanks rolling through city streets, planes dropping bombs. This must be how every episode opens. Then the words A Day of Infamy take over the screen. When the announcer starts talking about how Jews weren’t allowed to be outside after 8 o’clock, I sit up.
“Gran, this is a rerun. They showed the same episode last night.”
She looks at me like I’m nuts, so I explain I tested out the new recorder last night while we were at her party and watched the show when we got home. She still thinks I’m clowning, so I tell her they’re about to show the Germans building the first concentration camp. There it is, a minute later.
“Okay, and here comes the part where they won’t let the Jewish people have radios.”
No sooner are the words out of my mouth, they showed a newspaper article telling all Jewish people to hand over their radios to the police.
Gran shakes her head. “I remember hearing all those stories from my daddy. Terrible what they did to those people.”
“Yeah, I guess Hitler didn’t like Jews very much.”
She gets a chuckle out of that. “He didn’t care none for us darker folks, either.”
The last thing I want to do is sit through this again, so I get up to head for my room.
“Don’t forget about your father’s show.”
Earlier, she told me Dad is nervous because this is his first chance to direct a real show in a long time. After his old show, Undercover Blue, went off the air, he mostly worked on commercials and some music videos, but this is a network show, and Gran said those chances don’t come around very often. The problem is, his new show shoots on location in New York instead of L.A. Dad said he didn’t want to move me across the country until he knows if the show is going to be a success. Plus, he’ll be working a lot of nights, and didn’t want me spending that much time on my own. Even though I’m mad about being left behind, Gran wants me to show Dad some support, as if me watching the show is going to make the difference between it getting cancelled or not.
I’ll record it and watch it later, but first, I’m going to watch Battle Royal, this other show I recorded. It’s a competition to find the next mixed martial arts champion. Gran hates it, so I recorded it on my TV. This week Mad Dog Mathis and Rage Carter are finally going to fight. They’ve been talking trash about each other for weeks. On the last show, Mad Dog even said his kids were going to beat up Rage’s kids.
I flop onto my bed and start the show. After the opening credits, the screen fades to black, and then there’s a shot of Rage, arms in the air as he stares down at a crumpled Mad Dog. Then it’s chaos in the ring, as people from both sides spill into the ring. One guy hands Rage the championship belt and he hoists it overhead, while other people are patting him on the back and cheering for him. Another guy, a doctor maybe, goes to check on Mad Dog, who looks like he just got hit by a bus.
I’m glad Rage won – Mad Dog’s a jerk – but what happened to the fight? I remember on last week’s show, the announcer specifically said tonight’s show would feature “the battle that’s been brewing all season long.”
I speed-search through the show, hoping that maybe the fight comes later. There are interviews, replays of the knockout – that looked like it really hurt – Rage posing for pictures with fans, but no fight. What’s up with that?
On my desk, my phone chirps, letting me know I have a new text. I pick it up and check the display: Patrick. He’s dying to know how I did that. I text him back, asking him what he’s talking about.
how’d u know about the WW II show…Day of Infamy…etc.???
told u, saw it last nite
last nite’s episode was totally different
Now how could we have seen two different shows? It’s not like we’re on different cable systems; he doesn’t even live a mile away.
I flip through channels, not sure what I’m even looking for, but, between the PBS show and now Battle Royal, something isn’t right.
Sitcoms, talk shows, ball games, cartoons, home shopping, news. I don’t get it. Everything’s normal, just like it should be. Then how come when I record…
I jab the red button in the middle of the remote, recording a story on the news about the Supreme Court. After a minute or so, I play back what I just recorded, Action Five News at Nine.
The same news anchors are onscreen but…something’s different…it’s their clothes…they’re wearing different clothes. The man is still wearing a dark suit and a white shirt, but his tie has polka dots, not those little paramecium-looking things. The woman’s jacket is red, not yellow like it was before. And the story is about a freak rainstorm, not the Supreme Court. I stop the recording and go back to live TV, and they’re back in the other clothes.
It’s the recorder. It’s…broken? But it’s brand new! I hit the ‘record’ button again and watch until the news is over, and then play back the recording. The weather guy comes on, and he’s talking about the rainstorm, too. “Parts of the Conejo Valley received up to three inches this afternoon,” he says.
The Conejo Valley. That’s where Thousand Oaks is, but there hasn’t been a drop of rain since I got here.
A map of the valley comes up, showing rainfall amounts across the valley – an inch and a half in Newberry Park, an inch in Westlake Village, two inches in Thousand Oaks – and at the top of the map it says “Wet Wednesday.”
Somebody at that station is so getting fired. It’s all I can do not to scream at the weather guy There was no rain! And this is Tuesday, not –
My jaw goes slack, and I feel like I’m glued to the bed. My hand is empty. I glance down at the remote on the floor. That must have been the thump I heard a second ago.
This isn’t tonight’s news. It’s tomorrow’s.
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