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The Melting Season
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The Melting Season

Written by Celeste ConwayAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Celeste Conway


· Delacorte Books for Young Readers
· eBook · April 22, 2009 · $5.99 · 978-0-307-48812-1 (0-307-48812-8)


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I met Will Brooks in early Spring on what happened to be Medieval Day. That’s a big event at the flaky school I go to–The Dante School for “artistically gifted youth.” We are so artistic it strains the mind. And the Medieval Pageant is one of the most artistic, or as our headmaster, Chaz, would say, “intra-artistic” events of the year. We really knock ourselves out with breathtaking displays of talented giftedness.
This year’s theme was “Life in a Time of Death.” Which, in a way, seemed the theme of my actual life. Of course, in the case of Medieval Day, “Death” meant the Black Death; i.e., the bubonic plague (bacillus pasteurella) which, as you probably know, wiped out between one-third and two-fifths of the European population back in the fourteenth century. In keeping with the theme, all the various departments had to make some kind of artistic contribution having to do with how the people of The Dark Ages managed to amuse themselves and carry on while everyone was keeling over all around them. For example, the music classes performed a bunch of songs about the plague, including “Ring Around the Rosy,” which I found out was a reference to the rosy 1 pustules (buboes) that appeared on the skin of the unfortunate victims. The part about “all fall down” really meant die.
The art classes made a lot of gory-looking banners with pictures of dead animals on them, and the Creative Literature people delivered an original epic poem about a lark that flitted around the countryside eating berries and singing “tu-whit,” oblivious to all the dead mammals along the road.
As for my department, we did some court-type dancing which was actually Elizabethan and not Medieval at all. (I know that from reading A Dance through Time, one of the books my father wrote.) Believe me, he’d have yanked me out of this school even faster than he yanked me out of nursery school. Luckily, it’s not him but Blitz who pays my tuition, which is outrageous and obscene. Blitz is my mother’s boyfriend–a subject I’d rather skip right now.

“Methinks t’was the comeliest of festivals in selden a yere,” said Magda, who is my best friend, as we dragged into the Michelangelo Buonarroti Parlor where we had left our 20th century clothes and stuff. She had even liked Lunch, the big contribution of the theatre department–bread, bread pudding and lamb shank–which you ate, of course, without silverware.
“Methinks it was the goofiest,” I said, yanking off my ancient Greek tunic and looking at her in the Michelangelo Buonarroti Mirror.
“Yet ye must ownest that ye verily liked the torches.”
“The torches were great,” I told her. I verily wished she would start talking normal again, but after an “event” it always takes a while for Magda to break character and get back to being her regular self. And it was true; the torches she designed were great. With fans and flashlights and scraps of cloth, she’d made the illusion of actual flame. She wired it all into little cages made out of twigs that she’d woven with her own two hands. Magda wants to be a lighting designer, which I’m sure she will if, in the meantime, she doesn’t electrocute herself.
“Do you think Dark liked them?” she asked me next. Dark is short for Darkan, a guy in our school, an immigrant from some newly formed nation, and a cellist–one of the few music majors who can actually play his instrument. I met Will Brooks in early Spring on what happened to be Medieval Day. That’s a big event at the flaky school I go to–The Dante School for “artistically gifted youth.” We are so artistic it strains the mind. And the Medieval Pageant is one of the most artistic, or as our headmaster, Chaz, would say, “intra-artistic” events of the year. We really knock ourselves out with breathtaking displays of talented giftedness.
This year’s theme was “Life in a Time of Death.” Which, in a way, seemed the theme of my actual life. Of course, in the case of Medieval Day, “Death” meant the Black Death; i.e., the bubonic plague (bacillus pasteurella) which, as you probably know, wiped out between one-third and two-fifths of the European population back in the fourteenth century. In keeping with the theme, all the various departments had to make some kind of artistic contribution having to do with how the people of The Dark Ages managed to amuse themselves and carry on while everyone was keeling over all around them. For example, the music classes performed a bunch of songs about the plague, including “Ring Around the Rosy,” which I found out was a reference to the rosy 1 pustules (buboes) that appeared on the skin of the unfortunate victims. The part about “all fall down” really meant die.
The art classes made a lot of gory-looking banners with pictures of dead animals on them, and the Creative Literature people delivered an original epic poem about a lark that flitted around the countryside eating berries and singing “tu-whit,” oblivious to all the dead mammals along the road.
As for my department, we did some court-type dancing which was actually Elizabethan and not Medieval at all. (I know that from reading A Dance through Time, one of the books my father wrote.) Believe me, he’d have yanked me out of this school even faster than he yanked me out of nursery school. Luckily, it’s not him but Blitz who pays my tuition, which is outrageous and obscene. Blitz is my mother’s boyfriend–a subject I’d rather skip right now.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpted from The Melting Season by Celeste Conway Copyright © 2006 by Celeste Conway. 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.