And So It Happened
Excerpted from Tempo Change by Barbara Hall Copyright © 2010 by Barbara Hall. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 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.
When I got home from school there was a note by the phone.
My mother had written it. It was in her large, loopy handwriting that always seemed like it was shouting. Sometimes she actually drew flowers or smiley faces and they seemed like they were shouting, too. Be happy! Chin up! It's all good! But the contents were usually completely ordinary, like Dinner's in the fridge! or I'll be home around eight!
This time the note was completely different:
Maggie Somebody called from Topspin magazine. Something about writing an article. Here's the number. She wants you to call. XOX
I stared at it for a long time. Finally I picked up the phone and called my mom at work.
"Biscuit," she said in her chirpy tone. That was the name of the clothing store she worked in, not a nickname for me.
"Hi, Mom. What's this note?"
"What's what note?"
"Somebody called from Topspin magazine?"
"Oh, yes. Maggie from that magazine. I know it's a music magazine. Does this have something to do with your father? Or maybe you don't want to tell me?"
"Mom, I really have no clue. You took the call. Topspin is like one of the best indie magazines on the market. What about an article? Maybe it has something to do with Coachella."
"Why don't you just dial the number and see?"
"This could be a big deal," I said.
"Well, just give that Maggie a call. Let me know what she says."
I hung up and stared at the phone for another minute, then dialed the number. Someone said, "Topspin magazine," and I asked for Maggie and then someone said, "You got her."
"This is Blanche Kelly."
I repeated my name. "You called about an article."
"Oh, Blanche Kelly," she said. I could hear the exhale from a cigarette. I pictured her as some hip and tortured type.
"So Blanche," she said, as if she was picking up from some conversation we had had earlier. "I'm really interested in your experience at Coachella."
"You're interested in my band, the Fringers?"
"The Fringers. My band. We played at Coachella. That's why you're calling? Somebody saw us there or something?"
"Everybody knows what happened there. It was history-making."
"And I want you to write about the whole experience."
My heart dropped a little. Deep down I'd known it would be like this. There was no escape.
"You want me to write about my father."
"Yes," she said. "That would make a great piece."
There was a protracted silence.
Then she added, "Oh, money. We pay . . ." Blah blah blah. Some words and terms that didn't mean much to me. I did some math in my head and figured out what they were going to pay me. Not that much. But this wasn't about the money.
"I'm in high school," I said.
"Right," she said.
"I'm not a professional writer."
"We know that. But we want your unique perspective."
"About my father."
"Right," she said. "You're the only daughter, right?"
I was quiet.
"You can write whatever you want. We can fix it up, you know," she added.
What could I say? That this was going to be happening to me for the rest of my life? In one way or another. While I was still quiet she piped up with "Okay, we'll pay three hundred dollars."
I was still thinking, but asked, "When would I have to deliver it?"
"I'll need it by Monday."
I laughed. "That's so soon."
She said, "I know, but that's real-world journalism."
Real world. She didn't sound too much older than me from her voice and she had figured out the real world.
"So will you do it?" she asked. " 'Cause I'll keep an open space."
"I'll think about it."
"I need it on Monday."
"Best I can say is, if you get it on Monday, then I guess you'll have your answer."
I hung up the phone and stood in the living room and thought about what I had to say.
Maggie from Topspin said she wanted to know about my own unique perspective. Because of my father.
As I had recently learned, it's best to be careful what you ask for.
I went into my room and turned on my computer. I stared at its blank but demanding screen. The prompter blinked.
There was so much to say.
Now I had someone to say it to.
So I started to write. I couldn't start with what Maggie called a "history-making" experience. For me it went back before that day. I started where I felt I had to . . . back to when the cracks in the dam first appeared, and then the dam burst.