(on being 13 and other important facts)
November 23, Saturday
I turned thirteen today. Finally! I'd been dreading my birthday for weeks, because of the current situation with the Parents, but it turned out all right. We went to Grandma Cope's house and celebrated the way we have every year of my life.
Mom and Dad let me take Jillian along. I think they wanted another body there to keep things normal. But that's okay. Even though she has gotten on my last nerve since seventh grade began, I love Jillian to death. We've been friends since our diaper days at the Rainbow of Peace Preschool.
Anyway, we were all at Grandma Cope's acting like everything was normal, which was hard. Nothing has been normal for a while now. It was time to open presents (the best part!), and I opened a bag from Grandma Cope and found this gorgeous journal that I'm writing in right now.
The outside is a light brown leather and has colored beads sewn on it in a design that looks like a river flowing through a forest, with a guy riding a horse beside the river. In the sky is a shooting star, I think, but Grandma might have sewn too many layers of beads on one side. It looks kind of lopsided. But I'd never say anything. "This is so cool, Grandma!" I said, and meant it.
"What kind of design is that?" Jillian asked.
"I combined beadwork patterns from the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes." Grandma Cope laughed her rusty-sounding laugh. "Something I learned from my grandmothers."
I fingered the beads. "You love rivers, don't you?"
"Yes." Grandma looked at me. "Rivers are the lifeblood of the land. Rivers take us away, and rivers bring us home."
Sometimes Grandma Cope says deep stuff I don't understand.
"Grandma Cope lived near the Mississippi when she was a little girl," Mom said for Jillian's benefit.
"Yes, in Chickasaw Country." Grandma always calls West Tennessee Chickasaw Country even though it hasn't been called that for almost two hundred years.
"Who's the man on the horse?" I asked her.
"That's a Chickasaw chief." Grandma's eyes twinkled. "And that's a mule."
Jillian and I took one look at each other and burst into laughter. "Mule Day!" we both shouted. In sixth grade, our social studies teacher, Ms. Simpson, took us to Columbia, Tennessee, Mule Capitol of the World, for Mule Day. Who'd ever think of celebrating a mule?
"Why would an Indian chief be riding a mule?" I asked Grandma Cope. "Wouldn't he be on a fast stallion?"
"A stallion is fast. A mule is strong. For a long journey, a chief might decide a mule served him better." Grandma smiled.
All the talk of mules and journeys began to bore me. "How about some cake?" I said to Grandma Cope.
She gave me one of those piercing looks of hers. I guess I never realized that mules are one of her favorite things.
"Yes, let's have cake," Mom said. "I've got to head over to Mrs. Brady's house soon. Her baby might come today."
"Oh, great," I mumbled. Mom must have heard me, because she shot me one of her looks. But I didn't care! This was my birthday. I didn't like the thought of sharing it with some squalling newborn.
Dad patted my arm, but I could tell by how he was biting his lip that he was mad, too. Mom and Dad separated after Mom quit her nursing job to be a midwife. During one of their last arguments before Dad moved out, I overheard Dad tell Mom that he resented her throwing away her career to birth babies. Mom hollered that she was pursuing her calling. Dad hollered back that he guessed he would never pursue his calling. I didn't even know he had a calling. I thought he liked being an accountant.
Mom bustled into the kitchen and reappeared with my cake. The candles were burning. Everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to me.
"Time to make a wish!" Jillian said.
I closed my eyes and wished that Dad would move back home. I blew out all the candles with one big puff, but I didn't have much hope that my wish would come true. I'm thirteen now, and it's time to get over birthday wishes, shooting stars, and junk like that.
But I love my new journal. Grandma Cope always seems to know just what I need.
November 25, Monday
Today in social studies we talked about the geography of Tennessee--so boring. I do not care how many rivers run through Tennessee, or that we live in one of the top states in the country for camping and fishing. Rivers mean nothing to me. I hate camping and I detest fishing. Camping is just a weird way to be separated from indoor plumbing.
And fishing is just as bad. My counselor tried to teach me how to fish at Girl Scout camp one year and I hated it. It's smelly and disgusting. I'd rather sit around listening to Grandma Cope's olden-days stories all summer than go camping or fishing!
But I digress.
Social studies is still my favorite class of the day, though, because I do like history, and Ms. Drummond talks more about history than she does about social studies, whatever that is. Robbie Jamison and Quentin Williams are in my class, and so is Mike MacPherson. Mike's not as cute as Robbie, but he's smart, and he knows some weird stuff. I remember weird stuff, too, but I try not to advertise it.
"We're going on a two-day field trip next month," Ms. Drummond said at the end of class as we were all trying to stuff our junk into our backpacks without her seeing us. She hates it when we don't wait for the bell to ring to pack up. "We'll travel to West Tennessee to see Reelfoot Lake in Obion County, a lake formed during the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811 and 1812."
"Yeah, but what'll we do that's fun?" Quentin asked. Everyone laughed.
"I'm glad you asked. We'll take a steamboat ride on the Mississippi. The first steamboat that traveled down the Mississippi was the New Orleans. Nicholas Roosevelt and his wife were on the river when the earthquakes struck the area. Roosevelt built boats and was the grand-uncle of future president Teddy Roosevelt."
The bell rang and we started rushing toward the door.
"Hang on! The cost of the trip is one hundred dollars, and we need some parent chaperones," Ms. Drummond shouted. "Take these permission slips home."
"I bet Mom'll be glad to get me out of her hair for a few days," I said to Jillian as we headed to lunch. "She says I've been 'sullen and uncommunicative' lately. What does she expect?"
"I'm sure she'll want you to have fun," Jillian said.
"I guess so," I said, "and Reelfoot Lake is better than nothing."From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from The Legend of Zoey by Candie Moonshower. Copyright © 2006 by Candie Moonshower. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.