An excerpt from the novel You Don’t Think She Is by Max Harrick Shenk
Summer 1972: Quaker Valley, Pennsylvania. 12-year-old Brian Pressley and his best friend Margo LeDoux have been doing what you’re supposed to do on a hot July afternoon: playing outside. And then, just when they least suspected it…
…somehow even the thought of the pending school year has the power to ruin an otherwise perfect summer day. That was what happened later that afternoon, when we rode back to Margo’s house and tramped into her kitchen for a glass of lemonade. School was waiting for us on her kitchen table, and Mrs. LeDoux pointed to it, just in case we missed it.
“Your schedule came, Marguerite,” she said.
“Of da classes,” Mrs. LeDoux said. “For sevent grade.”
There was an official-looking, business-sized envelope at Margo’s place, the flap ragged from being torn open sans letter opener. Quaker Valley School District, the return address read, with PARENTS OF MARGUERITE LE DOUX 305 CHAMBERLAIN DRIVE QUAKER VALLEY PA 17399 written in blue ink on the front.
Margo picked it up warily, and before she even opened it, she looked over at me. “You think you got yours too?”
I rode my bike home through the yard to check ‑‑there it was, on our kitchen table‑‑ and ran back to meet Margo on her patio so we could compare classes. When I got back, I barely noticed the two glasses of lemonade on the picnic table (hers already down to just ice, and mine with the first big sip missing). What I noticed was Margo sniffling, and her Dad standing behind her, petting her hair, the schedule in front of them.
“It’s not six school days a week, honey…”
“Well, what is it then?”
Mr. LeDoux sighed and brushed back his Beatle Bangs. “It works like this, sweetie. Say Monday is day one, right? So then Tuesday is day two, Wednesday is day three and so on, up to Friday, which is day five… then Saturday and Sunday off…” He seemed to be placing unusually strong emphasis on those two words. “…which would make Monday…?”
He waited for her answer, but Margo was just staring, hypnotized by her schedule.
Meanwhile, I’d opened mine, and as soon as I looked at the letter, three phrases leapt off the page like they’d been marked with a fluorescent highlighter: Dick Smiley, Earlier start time and The six day cycle.
I flipped to the second page: a grid, with numbers lined up on the left hand side ‑‑PERIOD 1-9 ‑‑ and then, along the top:
DAY: ONE TWO THREE FOUR FIVE SIX
Well, now, in addition to getting a letter from the school in mid-July, I was also gonna get sick.
Margo, too: Mr. LeDoux was still waiting for the answer to Monday is…
Margo sniffled. “Day one?”
Mr. LeDoux shook his head, his voice calm. “No, no, sweetie… day six. Then Tuesday is day one. It starts all over again.”
Now Margo was shaking her head. “That’s stupid… six days…”
“You’ll get the hang of it,” Mr. LeDoux said, and he kissed the top of her head and then looked at me, like he knew exactly what I thinking. “But the answer is, no, you don’t have to go to school on the weekends,” he said as our eyes met, and he stepped up onto the stoop and pulled open the screendoor.
Tsk! “Stupid,” Margo muttered as the door fell shut behind her Dad, and as I said “So we don’t have to go to school on Saturdays?” we could hear Mr. LeDoux in the kitchen, talking to his wife. “Stupid, Fran… this six-day schedule crap. Why make them deal with that? As if seventh grade isn’t a shock enough…”
You Don’t Think She Is by Max Harrick Shenk…
“…You Don’t Think She Is by Max Harrick Shenk reveals a brilliantly composed coming of age novel… The short chapters speak volumes about the notion of first love, the workings of puberty, and the understanding of a blossoming sexuality …(and) give the reader a keen insight into each of the character’s youthful thoughts and ideas… Shenk’s book will take any reader back in time to their emotions and explorations during middle school. It is reminder of the innocence of youth and the burgeoning feelings of desire. –Kathy Buckert, author and English instructor
Available in print and Kindle editions. Click here to order.