Read Keep It Real (From the Files of Madison Finn, 19) Online
Authors: Laura Dower
To Rich, Myles, and Olivia
for keeping me real all the time
For once, homework isn’t going to be a piece of cake—it’s going to be the WHOLE cake.
Just when I think I’m getting behind in my school work, I get a killer assignment that just about GUARANTEES me an A (or maybe an A+, fingers
crossed) in Mr. Gibbons’s English class. It’s like someone just handed me the golden ticket in Willy Wonka.
We started “journaling,” which is basically keeping track of feelings and observations and all that…which is what I do every day on this computer anyway! I think it’s great that everyone else in school is going to discover just how great it can be to keep files like I do. In journaling we have to write in a composition notebook. That’s the only difference.
Apparently, we have some assessment tests coming up later this year, so Mr. Gibbons says we all need to get more comfortable—and more skilled—with our writing. All the English sections in the seventh grade are doing this, so Fiona, Aimee, Lindsay, and I are already planning times when we can write together, like afternoons at Aimee’s dad’s Cyber Cafe. Mom says it sounds like we want to do what people did a long time ago in sewing circles. Talk about a time warp. Imagine us a hundred or two hundred years ago sitting around making a quilt?
Madison fingered the pages of the brand-new black-and-white composition notebook sitting on top of the desk in her room. She and Mom had picked it up at the stationery store after school that day. She eyed a pink sheet of paper tacked up on her bulletin board. The first journaling assignment was due in the morning, and she hardly knew where to begin. She read over the handout Mr. Gibbons had given the class.
Planning: Make a list of events you plan to use in your story. Events are usually told in chronological order.
Focus: Start a story with a quote or action. Get the reader’s attention right away.
Topic: Write a story about yourself that details a moment at school. It can be a moment of success or an embarrassing moment.
Madison gnawed on the end of her fat purple pencil and leaned over her favorite doodle pad (the one with the picture of a pug just like her dog, Phin). Naturally, she wanted to write a story about success. Who would ever choose to write about an embarrassing moment?
Madison scoured her memory bank. In third grade, she had been elected president of her class in a landslide vote. Did that moment of success count? It seemed like such a long time ago—long before she had had a falling out with her classmate (and now mortal enemy) Ivy Daly, otherwise known as “Poison Ivy”; before Hart Jones (her übercrush) had left school for the first time; and before her newest BFF, Fiona Waters, had moved to Far Hills from California.
Should she write the story of winning the election? Or should she write about helping Mrs. Wing design the school webpage? Or participating in a sold-out fifth-grade concert as the principal flute player? Which one sounded the best? Madison wanted to pick something that seemed impressive. After all, while no one read her files, someone else
Phin arched his back and let out a little squeal, the noise he always made whenever he stretched and yawned at the same time. Madison turned away from her desk to pick him up. He needed a bath, Madison thought as she nuzzled his ears. He also needed her to clean out his little pug nose with Q-tips and baby oil. Lately Mom had been on Madison’s case about pitching in more around the house, especially when it came to taking care of the dog.
The two went into the bathroom. Madison opened the medicine chest and grabbed the necessary supplies. Then she carried Phin downstairs to clean him up and take him for a walk.
When she got to the foot of the stairs, however, the doorbell rang. Phin let out a howl, jumped out of her arms, and raced to the door, ready to see who was waiting on the porch. Madison followed behind him. Through the peephole Madison spied Fiona, wearing a wide grin. She opened the door with a loud “Ta-da!”
But Fiona wasn’t alone.
Although Madison didn’t see them standing there at first, Fiona’s twin brother, Chet; her sort-of boyfriend (who was also Madison’s best guy friend), Walter “Egg” Diaz; Drew Maxwell; and Hart were also standing there. Everyone rubbed their hands together to beat away the outdoor chill.
Phin jumped up and down frantically when he saw the crowd of kids. Then he made a beeline for Chet’s leg.
“Incoming!” Egg teased.
Drew snorted with laughter.
Chet backed up and nearly tumbled off the top porch step.
Phin barked again and the boys started to play with him, pretending to grab his tail and tossing him a chewed-up rubber ball that had been sitting on the porch.
doing here?” Madison asked.
“Egg wants to download Disaster Zone, some stupid game,” Fiona declared. “He said you wouldn’t mind if we came over to play it here since my Dad’s computer is busted.”
“It’s been broken for two weeks,” Chet growled.
“So everyone was over at your place just now…and you all migrated over here?” Madison asked.
“Ha! Migrated, like geese! Yeah,” Fiona nodded. “All the guys were at our place after school. And I was trying to work on my journal project, but I can’t get anything done with them around.”
“I was just working on my journal, too,” Madison said.
“Have you talked to Aim?” Fiona asked. She was referring to Aimee Gillespie, their other best friend.
“Aimee’s at ballet class,” Madison said. “Or maybe she’s at her dad’s store. I can’t remember. I only know she left school right at the bell.”
“Maddie, can we come inside, or what?” Egg asked as he scooped Phin into his arms. “Is your mom home? Can we use the computer in her office, or should we use your laptop instead?”
“Seriously? Make yourself at home, dude.” Madison shrugged and laughed. Sometimes, when he needed something, Egg acted as though he lived at her house. But Madison and Egg had been friends for forever, so she didn’t mind. Neither did Mom.
“Well, well,” Mom said, emerging from the kitchen with a look of surprise on her face when she saw everyone. “So the troops have arrived. What is it this time, boys?”
Hart and Drew, who hadn’t said much up until that point, sheepishly said their polite hellos to Madison’s mom. Everyone piled into the living room and took seats on every available couch and chair. Phin loved all the attention, especially when the kids played with the back of his neck, his favorite place to be scratched.
“Mrs. Finn, how was your day?” Fiona chirped, flipping her braids.
“It was good until now,” Mom replied, grinning. “Now it’s
! Hello Fiona, Chet, Drew, Hart, Egg…” Mom went on. Even though Egg’s name was Walter, Mom used his nickname. Fiona and Egg’s parents were the only people who used his proper name.
Madison didn’t know what to say now. This was painfully awkward, wasn’t it? She clung to the corner of the couch, the only remaining seat. Hart was on her left.
“I’ve never been in your house before,” Hart mumbled.
“Yeah, you have,” Drew corrected his cousin. “Haven’t you?”
Fiona raised her eyebrows and smiled at Madison with an all-knowing BFF look that said,
You WISH Hart had been in your house before…
Madison lifted one hand up to test the temperature of her cheek. Was she blushing? Any mention of her and Hart usually gave her a momentary fever.
“I don’t think Hart’s ever been here before,” Madison said. “Except maybe on the front porch. I mean, we usually hang out at Aimee’s or Fiona’s or Drew’s or somewhere else. Don’t we?”
“Well, you have a nice house,” Hart said, loud enough that Madison’s mom could hear.
Mom smiled and bowed her head. “Thank you, Hart.” She straightened a pile of magazines on the coffee table and picked up a few bags of DVDs packed in large yellow envelopes that were leaning up against one wall. She was in the middle of a publicity mailing for Budge Films. Her offices were too busy to handle it that week, she explained, so she had decided to send out copies of her latest documentary to friends and partners in the business by herself. Madison had helped her seal envelopes and apply the labels earlier that weekend.
Egg picked up a small glass penguin from a side table. Madison leaped out of her seat to grab it from him.
“Careful! My mom got that in the Antarctic,” Madison said.
Mom looked out from behind an armful of stuffed envelopes and laughed. “Maddie, honey bear, I got that in Iceland. And that’s a long way off from the South Pole…”
Everyone laughed—even Madison.
“Whoopsie,” she said, giggling. “Guess I’m about ready to flunk my next geography test, right?”
“You and me both,” Hart said, smiling.
Madison smiled right back, and from across the room Fiona raised her eyebrows again.
Mom got a bowl of pita chips from the kitchen and passed out cans of root beer to everyone in the room except Chet, who said root beer made him sick to his stomach. As everyone dug into the snack, Egg, with a flourish, produced a Disaster Zone Game Guide.
“This was the
copy at the store in the mall,” Egg announced. “
got it for me. She rocks.”
Egg’s mother, Señora Diaz, was always up on the latest trends and games. She also happened to be a Spanish teacher at Far Hills Junior High.
“This guide has all the cheats and the tricks. Let’s go into your mom’s office and I’ll show you,” Egg said.
“Actually, I think my mom’s working,” Madison said softly. “But we can go up to my room and play the game there on my laptop.”
“Why don’t you bring the chips and drinks upstairs, too?” Mom said, poking her head out of the office. “But be careful. I just cleaned up there.”
With Phin following behind, the group headed upstairs to Madison’s room to play Disaster Zone. Upon opening her pink door, with the very large
DO NOT DISTURB ME
sign on it, Madison was relieved to see that she had, in fact, made her bed that morning. And fortunately there were no bras hanging on doorknobs or random articles of clothing lying on the windowsill.
would have been a real-life disaster zone, for sure.
Fiona, who had been in Madison’s room dozens of times before, threw herself across Madison’s bed without a second thought. The guys were a little awkward, especially Hart. He didn’t seem to know where to sit or stand, so he just stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked around.