Saving Montgomery Sole, Page 2Mariko Tamaki
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When was the last time anyone you knew wielded anything?
I thought, Maybe it’s just a piece of rock from some guy’s backyard. Possibly in Manchester.
“‘A portal to vision untold,’” I said to no one but the possibly unseen paranormal presences in my room.
What if it was … a portal?
Plus it was only $5.99. That’s, like, a cup of coffee and a doughnut, I thought.
Looking at the site, I paused to suck out the last dregs of my root beer.
Couldn’t be any worse than trying to see inside a box.
Why not? I thought.
Fortunately, I have a credit card for just such occasions. Which I must, with no exception, pay off every month with my meager allowance or it gets taken away, because my moms are afraid kids today don’t have the same appreciation for money that they did “back in the old days.” Not that I do that much shopping.
After my purchase, I went downstairs for a snack. My moms and Tesla, my younger sister, were sitting in the living room, watching TV. I say “my moms” a lot because I think of them as one being from time to time … They are two separate people. Momma Jo is tall; Mama Kate is short. Momma Jo is loud; Mama Kate is not.
Momma Jo says stuff like, “You look too un-busy for someone your age. Did you do your homework?”
Mama Kate says stuff like, “Did you want to talk about something?”
I’m told there was a time when I called Momma Jo “Bobo” and Mama Kate “Mama.” A little insulting, I’m sure, since Bobo was also the name of my favorite stuffed elephant, a present from Momma Jo for my second birthday.
“Fortunately,” Momma Jo often notes, “you grew out of that.”
As I slipped past the living room, the moms were getting ready to watch some show about a woman who is happy with her job but sad about her love life.
Tesla was on the carpet, still in her special workout gear, because even though Tesla is only eleven, she does yoga every day. To keep her core lean. Apparently this requires special clothes. “Breathing clothes,” Tesla calls them.
I can’t watch TV with my moms anymore, because they won’t stop asking me stuff.
Every time we sit down to watch TV, they immediately dive into this weirdly pointless Q and A.
“Did you know about this Facebook bullying thing, Montgomery?”
“Oh look, Monty! Is that a Goth?”
“Gluten-free. Montgomery, isn’t that like wheat-free?”
“Hey, Montgomery, is that the same actor as the one in the movie that you like?”
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, moms, because you haven’t included any actual names in that sentence. So let’s say no.”
They’d probably just zoom onto the next question. “What was the name of that play you did last year? Was it Hamlet, Montgomery?”
No, in fact, it was called I’m trying to watch TV.
It’s easier if I just watch stuff by myself, upstairs in my room, on my parental guardian–monitored Netflix account.
As I padded through the hallway, passing the living room on my way to the kitchen, Momma Jo turned and popped her head up over the couch. “Hey! Monty!” she shouted, pointing at the screen. “Didn’t we watch something like this before? About this woman but in the other show she was a doctor? Is that possible? Monty! Montgomery! Hello? What are you doing?”
“Nothing,” I said, slip-skating across the floor. I was weirdly kind of happy. Like, not laughing-for-no-reason happy, but at least a little happy. Like a kid who’s just discovered that socks on hardwood floors is like skates on ice. I twirled a perfect 360 and skidded into the kitchen.
The Eye of Know, I thought as I perused the cupboards for the perfect snack. The words felt good swishing around in my brain. Eye. Know. All. Possibly my greatest discovery?
“What’s up with you?” Mama Kate chirped, stepping into the kitchen, the popcorn bowl dangling empty by her side. “Are you going to watch TV with us?”
“Nothing,” I said. “And, uh, I’m doing work upstairs, so not tonight.”
“Your clothes are so big and old. You look weird,” Tesla huffed as she wandered in behind Mama Kate. “Where’s the popcorn?”
“They’re supporting my core,” I retorted.
“Do you want new clothes?” Mama Kate asked, raising an eyebrow. “I feel like we’re overdue for a shop.”
“Nah. I’m good.”
I’d been doing just fine on Goodwill finds and mom hand-me-downs. Momma Jo didn’t mind my duds.
Many of them were her castoffs.
Flinging the freezer door open, I grabbed one of the cartons of fancy blueberry gelato and beat it back up to my room.
Then I texted Thomas.
Me: Date done? Call me.
I guess you could say that Thomas is kind of like my big-brother-slash-best-friend because he’s supermature, and I say this not just because he’s a year older than I am (and a grade ahead).
I have often told him that, technically, that should make us even, since boys are so much less mature than girls.
Scientifically proven, by the way.
Thomas says gay boys mature faster than straight boys because they pay more attention to the world around them.
That night Thomas came on the phone humming the theme from some cartoon series he’s obsessed with.
I said, “Does shopping online ever make you inexplicably happy?”
Thomas considered. “Um, sometimes. What did you buy?”
“A crystal from a really ugly website.”
Thomas snorted. “You and Naoki and your crystals and your dreams.”
“How was your date?” I said.
“My date with The Butcher?” I could tell he was painting his nails because I was clearly on speakerphone and he was taking little pauses of concentration. “He’s an urban poet. An urban poet and … a butcher.”
Thomas says his dating life doesn’t define him. It’s all just fodder for his creative sensibility, he says. Sometimes it feels like his dates are characters from a movie.
“What happened to the Yoga Master?” I asked.
“Not so masterful.”
“Butchers are probably cooler,” I added.
“Oh, let me tell you,” Thomas cackled, bumping the phone, “the kids in Aunty are all over the butchers. And the butches! These girls think it’s quite the thing.”
I flipped over on the bed so I could put my face on the pillow, mashing the phone against my ear. I released my ponytail and was blanketed in hair.
“Did you really think the remote viewing was 3.5?” I asked.
“Is 3.5 bad? Maybe on a game show,” Thomas said. “I would say I’m not clear on why you would need to remote view anything now that we have smart phones.”
“Well,” I said, “it would be cool, though. To have that kind of skill in your back pocket. Just in case.”
Thomas paused. “Just in case what?”
“I don’t know.” I rolled onto my back and stared at the chalk spirals Momma Jo had helped Naoki and me draw on my ceiling a few months ago.
“In case we need to start a psychedelic war?” Thomas asked. “Is that what we’re doing next week?”
“I’m not planning anything. I’m just saying. It would be cool. To be able to see.”
To actually see, I thought, and to know. Just because remote viewing was a 3.5 didn’t mean a 5.0 wasn’t out there, somewhere.
I sat up. “I should go,” I said. “I haven’t
even done my English homework yet.”
“Good night, Montgomery Sole.”
“Good night, Thomas.”
I turned on some Echo & the Bunnymen because the guy has this great voice and they have this song “The Killing Moon” that I really like. I grabbed my school copy of The Outsiders and flopped back onto my bed.
That night, somewhere, someone, hypothetically, in Manchester, or Pocatello, or even next door, was boxing up my Eye of Know, sealing it in brown paper and tape.
Right before I fell asleep, I pulled out my phone and opened my app.
The Eye of Know
“Montgomery and Tesla Sole! If you are not in the car in six minutes, you are on foot!”
Ah, the dulcet tones of the Sole household in the morning, the gentle song of the morning Momma Jo.
It was 8:34 a.m., and my house—as it is at 8:34 every day—was late for school, and my moms were freaking out. As I pulled myself into my overalls and grabbed a T-shirt from the floor, I could hear my moms running after Tesla, who can never find her socks—ever—or her books, or anything, really.
“There’s just a green one here!” Tesla screamed, running down the stairs.
“Then put on a green one and another one!” Momma Jo yelled.
What happens to us between breakfast and 8:34 a.m.? A mystery for the ages.
Honestly, for someone who can never find them, my sister cares a lot about socks. I can’t imagine caring that much about something as ridiculous as clothes. Not even clothes—socks. Why would anyone care about a piece of clothing that’s designed to be on the stinkiest part of your body?
I peered out my bedroom door to see if it was safe to make a break for the stairs.
“Tesla, I found a green one. Come here,” Mama Kate called, rushing upstairs, dangling a kneesock like a garter snake from her fingers.
“I don’t want green socks! I need my pink soccer socks!”
“Montgomery and Tesla Sole,” Momma Jo hollered as she stomped out of the kitchen and toward the front door. “Two minutes!”
Every once in a while, driving to school—or being driven to school, until I am seventeen—I look at the vast blue sky and the rolling green hills, and I think that there must be some kid living in some industrial town like Detroit or Pittsburgh or something, some town with, like, gray skies and coal for air, who dreams of living in a place like Aunty. I bet you this kid wakes up every morning and listens to Vampire Weekend or some other Cali-pop tune and thinks, Gee, if only I could live somewhere where the sun is always shining, where the sparkling blue oceans caresses the coast …
And so on.
To this kid, I would say, “It’s not as great as it sounds.”
I mean, first of all, not every town in California is San Francisco or LA.
When I first heard “California,” I thought we were moving to Hollywood. Granted, I was nine.
And, honestly, the fact that the sun is always shining here is pretty much an indication that we’re all about to die of global warming. I don’t think it’s anything to get all tra-la-la about, unless your only goal in life is to get an amazing tan and learn how to skateboard.
The only reason to love the sun here is the resulting plentitude of avocado, which is basically my favorite thing in the world to eat. Especially on rye toast. With just a little bit of salt and pepper. And a drop or two of really good olive oil.
According to Momma Jo, who is from Blenheim, Ontario, which is in Canada, which is very cold, there are many places in the world where it is not possible to pick an avocado from your avocado tree in the backyard for breakfast.
That said, I wonder if students in Blenheim, Ontario, have to suffer through a school pep rally every month.
A rally that, by time I got to school, was in full craziness.
I crawled up into the nosebleed section to join Thomas, a book hidden in my Jefferson High WE’RE #1 foam finger for later.
Sipping from a box of the latest health elixir, Thomas gave me a tiny wave. “Good morning, Montgomery. I hope you are prepared to cheer for the home team.”
I stabbed my finger clumsily into the air, almost dropping my book.
The crowd roared.
Thomas yawned and popped an earbud into his left ear.
“Can you imagine the whole school gathering every month to cheer on the Mystery Club?” I asked. “Or anything like it? Like, even the Dramedy Club?”
“Is this the start of a joke?” Thomas asked, slipping his shuffle into his pocket and adjusting his velvet blazer (lined with school colors, or at least Thomas’s version of Jefferson High green).
It’s a pretty tragic name. Dramedy. I don’t think there’s really any reason to rally around a name like that.
Every time I hear the name, I can picture some teacher desperate for student participation trumpeting, “Hey, you guys, wanna come have fun with theater?”
Thomas is actually a longtime, upstanding member of the Dramedy Club, in part because he wants to be a director someday. When school is making him crazy, he imagines he’s making a movie about a wayward high school population.
Sometimes as he’s walking to class, he puts his fingers up in a frame and pans across his shots.
Also, he has a tendency, when we’re walking down the hall, to lean into me and whisper, “Action!”
Naoki is also originally from Canada, from Vancouver, where there are no pep rallies to be had. I remember the first rally she went to, the year before. She was like a kid going to Disneyland.
“A pep rally? And everyone goes,” she’d marveled, “to raise spirit for the school? Wow. Do they sing?”
“They shout,” Thomas had said.
“It’s more of a scream,” I’d added, jumping and swinging my arms. “It’s like this: ‘Ahhhhhhhhh, Jefferson High, aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!’”
“Wouldn’t it be great if we sang?” Naoki had said. “That would be so amazing!”
That day, as Thomas and I sat and chatted, and Thomas half listened to dance music, Naoki swayed and twirled around the top row with two foam fingers (one was Thomas’s) pointed at the ceiling. She looked like a cloud with a foam finger wedged on either side.
Probably the first thing I noticed about Naoki was that she always wears white. Not like tennis white, or yuppie white, but what Thomas calls hippie white—long, flowing skirts and shawls. White like lilies and like smoke. She paints her nails white and sometimes she paints white spirals on her cheeks. And even though it’s not weather appropriate, sometimes she wears a baby-blue knitted scarf because she says her neck misses scarves.
It seems a little underplayed to say that something about Naoki is weirdly, like, magical.
I’m pretty sure she basically just is magic.
Most of the people at this school think that Naoki’s a space cadet. Partly because she has this way of answering questions that’s kind of long and meandering, and people are always cutting her off and rolling their eyes. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t care, though, or at least I’ve never seen her get mad.
I long ago added the pep rallies to my list of things I do not care to understand:
Stupid pep rallies—which everyone else seems to love for no reason
Why the lyrics to our cheer are called lyrics even though it’s just Jefferson High!
Although I do think it would be cool to study something that actually raises spirits.
* * *
After the rally, I had math, which is never fun. Mr. Deever is the sweatiest person on the planet. One day he’s just going to melt into a puddle in front of us like that guy in X-Men.
Second period. English.
As soon as I sat down, Mrs. Farley announced we were doing group work, which meant I had to spend the whole period with Madison Marlow and the Parte twins, Cat and Miffy. Who immediately, upon hearing my name lumped with theirs, rolled their eyes and shook their platinum
-blond ponytails in unison. I combed my hair over my face.
“Oh my God,” I heard Madison whisper. “Is she wearing farmer pants?”
I looked down. My overalls were looking a little worn-more-than-once. Not that that was any of Madison’s business.
“They go with her Def Leppard T-shirt,” Cat snickered.
Def Leppard? I looked down.
It’s Death Cab for Cutie, idiots, I wanted to scream. Not exactly the same thing. Of course, it’s hard to scream something at someone when you’re in the process of scooting your desk over to join her group.
Since fourth grade, Madison Marlow and the Parte twins have basically been the heads of the Aunty blond mafia. Madison’s mom runs just about every group (gardening, bridge, ladies’ softball, scrapbooking, felting, knitting, ladies’ chess, and Pilates) in Aunty. So Madison had no choice, clearly, but to be the same way and run everything at Jefferson, a dictator in short shorts and too much mascara.
It tells you something about the student population, I think, that they’ve surrendered power to someone who once said, out loud, that girls who don’t wear bras are prone to depression.
Mrs. Farley asked us to look up examples of irony and foreshadowing in The Outsiders.
We didn’t even get to irony.
Four minutes in, Madison took charge.
“We have to look for dark things,” she said, flipping through her book, using her ridiculous fake nails like tiny spatulas.
Dig. Flip. Dig. Flip.
“Right! It’s totally night at the beginning of the book, I think,” Miffy offered.
“Wait,” I cut in, turning to Miffy. “What’s that got to do with foreshadowing?”
My assigned group threw ice-cold girl glares.
“Foreshadowing has nothing to do with night,” I explained—I thought, hopefully.
“It doesn’t,” I said.
“Um, I didn’t say it did,” Madison hissed, waving her nails so close to my face I could smell the epoxy. “We’re looking at, like, dark things that show that things are going to get … bad. And, um, guess what. As Miffy knows, night is dark.”
“God, Montgomery,” Miffy huffed, rocking back in her seat and flicking her ponytail over her shoulder like a weapon.