Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #11 – Kristy and the Snobs

Previously On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #10: Logan Likes Mary Anne!

I wasn’t there when my childhood pet died. His name was Sammy, and he was a gorgeous Australian Shepherd. He died while my family and I were abroad, visiting my extended family in the Philippines. My father had to sit my sister and me down and explain that our dog wasn’t going to be there when we got back. I still remember the exact spot in my Grandmother’s house, the exact chair I was sitting in, a long bench next to the dining table, and the exact color of the flip-flops that I stared at as my father told me the bad news (yellow).

In The Baby-Sitters Club #11: Kristy and the Snobs, Kristy at least has the luxury of saying goodbye to her beloved Louie, and I don’t consider that a spoiler – the dog is limping before the end of chapter one. Anyone who has read a book featuring a beloved pet knows that doesn’t bode well for Spot.

The book’s title implies that there’s some kind of Kristy vs. the Snobs war, and there are a few pranks, but the crux of the novel is heartbreak and loss. Ann M. Martin writes about sadness in a stark and plain way. The pain isn’t covered up with flowery language and metaphor; there is no euphemism sufficient enough to describe the death of a beloved pet. It’s a sad book, but it’s a good one.

SPOILERS AFTER THE COVER!!!

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My copy of The Baby-Sitters Club #11: Kristy and the Snobs – “Oh dear! Jeans and a dog that sits! How plebeian. Come smaller clone with white cat – my dog that never sits and I don’t want to catch anything uncouth.”

The book starts with breakfast at the Watson/Thomas compound. They cook their own breakfast, Watson helps with the chores, and they clean their own house. They don’t have a pool, or a tennis court, or a fountain in the entryway. That’s not a compound, you say? Not like their neighbors, who actually have maids, cooks, pools, butlers, and courts tennis? This difference is made apparent by the appearance of Kristy’s neighbors, who attend a private school and are all blonde.

“Are you the one who’s been sending those fliers around? For some baby-sitting club?”

“Yeah,” I said. (Every now and then our club tries to find new people to baby-sit for, so we send around advertisements. We’d put one in every box in my new neighborhood not long ago.)

“What does your little club do?” asked another blonde.

“What do you think?” I replied testily. “We baby-sit.”

“How cute,” said the blonde with the curls.

The others giggled.

“Nice outfit,” called the one non-blonde, putting her hands on her hips.

I blushed. Too bad I’d chosen the jeans with the hole in the knee that day.

But if there’s one thing to be said about me, it’s that I have a big mouth. I always have. I’m better about controlling it then I used to be, but I’m not afraid to use it. So I put my hands on my hips and said, “Your clothes are nice, too. You look like clones. Snob clones.”

Slam, Kristy. You got ‘em. Now they’ll have to respect you. I feel like I’ve said and done this exact thing in my past life as an awkward eleven-year-old.

While this is going on, Louie is limping on page seven. The dog is not long for this world and they take him to a veterinarian named Dr. Smith, who is a woman. I only mention that because when I read the name, I thought it was a male vet. I was surprised at my own internalized misogyny when it’s revealed that Dr. Smith is a woman. Martin is progressive (most of the time, she could do better with Claudia), especially in the eighties. Dr. Smith informs them that Louie is getting older, has arthritis, and his eyesight is getting worse. She prescribes some pain medication and suggests short walks for Louie. Kristy does just that when they get home and meets one of the snobs, the one who lives across the street, and her immaculate dog, accompanied by another blonde child.

“What,” she said, pointing to Louie, “is that?”

That,” I replied, “is a dog.”

The girl made a face at me. “Really? It’s hard to tell. He’s so . . . scruffy.”

“Yeah, he’s icky!” cried the younger one.

“He’s old,” I said defensively. “And he has arthritis.”

The older girl softened just a smidge. “What’s his name?” she asked.

“Louie.”

“Oh. This is Astrid. Astrid of Grenville. A pedigreed Bernese mountain dog.”

“And this is Priscilla. She’s purebred. She cost four hundred dollars,” said the little kid.

First of all, dogs shouldn’t have titles. They’re not in Game of Thrones. They didn’t just stab the Mad King and inherited a title. Astrid of Grenville, Kingslayer, Heir to the Iron Throne, Vanquisher of the Montorian Horde, Defender of the Clahnahvan of the Western Vales, and daughter of Buddy and Miss Honey Toes. That sounds ridiculous. This is Astrid. She’s a dog. She can shake, but only if you give her a treat afterward. She also responds to friendly whistling and “Hey, dog.”

Priscilla is a fine name for a finicky cat, but one of my dogs cost about four hundred dollars, and she still shat and humped everything in sight. That doesn’t mean your animal is better bred or less trouble. However, reminding everyone how much something cost is a thing a spoiled child would do.

The older girl introduces herself as “Shannon Louisa Kilbourne” and her charge is Amanda Delaney. Any good BSC fan will spot the name. I know that at some point, Shannon and Kristy will put aside their differences and Shannon will become an associate member of the BSC. Let’s see how these two work it out, but not before some pranking shenanigans.

While Kristy is babysitting for the Papadakis clan, Shannon calls her and warns her that smoke is coming from the upstairs bedroom. It’s a ruse, of course, but Kristy doesn’t figure that out until she gets the children outside. Kristy retaliates by sending a diaper service to Shannon.

Chapter five is our first handwriting chapter in the book with Mary Anne at the Perkins’s. Mrs. Perkins is preparing for a new baby, and Myriah and Gabbie are excited. But Jamie Newton comes over and complains about his little sister, prompting Gabbie to become upset. Mary Anne and Myriah set up a tea party for the Gabbers and invite some of her favorite stuffed animals. This placates the child and then it’s back to Kristy, but this time, she’s babysitting the four-hundred-dollar cat and its humans – Amanda and Max Delaney.

They are brats. They demand Kristy get them Cokes, then ice, then no ice. She complies with their arbitrary requests – she doesn’t want to piss off new customers. Shannon calls and wants help with Sari Papadakis, but there’s nothing wrong with the kid. She just wanted to waste Kristy’s time, I guess. Not a great prank, but they’re twelve, and I’ll give them a break.

Meanwhile, Dawn is having some problems with Jeff. He’s being moody and while Dawn’s watching over him, he yells that he wants to go back to California with his father. When Dawn tells the BSC during the next meeting, she mentions that her mother called her father and he was reluctant about taking in Jeff. It seems that Jeff doesn’t have a place anywhere.

The Delaneys call again, but Kristy refuses to take the job. Instead, Stacey takes over. When she arrives at the job, Mrs. Delaney asks that they clean up their playroom while she’s away, but Amanda insists that they like their room messy. Stacey concocts has an ingenious plan.

“You know, you’re right. I like a really messy room. In fact, I don’t think this room is messy enough. Look at this. A whole set of Lincoln Logs. They’re not even on the floor.” Stacey poured the Lincoln Logs into the toy soup.

“Hey!” cried Amanda. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Yeah! What are you doing?” added Max.

“You said you like a messy room,” Stacey replied. “Well, I do, too.” She picked up a stack of construction paper and let it start floating to the floor, piece by piece.

“Quit messing up our room!” shouted Amanda. She held her arms stiffly at her sides and stamped her foot.

“Why?” demanded Stacey, pausing long enough to let the remainder of the paper settle into the toy soup. Then she began scattering puzzle pieces.

“Because,” said Max. “That’s why.”

“I thought you liked a good mess,” Stacey went on.

“We do,” Amanda began, then hesitated. “But not . . . not this good a mess. Cut it out!”

“I’m just trying to help you guys out,” Stacey told her.

“No! I mean . . . we want it clean.” Amanda scrambled around, picked up the paper.

The Delaney kids pick up their room – Stacey’s plan worked. She continues like this for the rest of the job. Max demands a drink so Stacey starts pulling out cups, saying she doesn’t know how much drink he wants so she’s just going to start pouring as many cups as she can. He ends up getting his own drink. In the end, Stacey convinces them to play some kind of advanced hopscotch involving a snail. It’s a successful babysitting job.

Kristy employs the same tactics the next time she babysits of the Delaneys, but it’s interrupted by a pizza delivery prank from you-know-who. Kristy sends it to Shannon’s, who comes over with the pizza. The girls commiserate over the round prank and Kristy pays for half the pizza.

Chapter 11 is a handwriting chapter – Claudia at the Pikes. Half of the Pike clan has chicken pox and Claudia has a hard time trying to placate everyone. It ends with two more children joining the pox party. Then it’s back to the main story.

Louie is not doing well. Horrifying dog scene warning.

Louie seemed to have lost complete control of his hind legs. He was pulling himself around the kitchen with his front legs, dragging the back ones as if they were paralyzed. And he was, as you might imagine, in a panic. He crawled into a leg of the kitchen table, and then into the stove.

I knew Louie wasn’t going to make it to the end of the book, but nothing prepared me for that in my innocent BSC book. As I’m writing this, it’s about a month after I’ve actually finished the book, so I’ve forgotten some of the specifics. (Classes have started back up and I was writing a personal narrative for this class I’m taking.) My notes just said, “Oh, Jesus” with a highlighted page number, meaning it’s something I’m thinking of excerpting. When I read this again, I felt that searing pain in the back of my throat. I have an affection for dogs and I wouldn’t be able to handle seeing a dog lose control like Louie. I worried about my pets when they had nightmares – and dreams couldn’t hurt them. Unless, of course, their parents burned a child murderer alive and he came back to exact revenge on his murderers’ children.

The family and Dr. Smith come to the decision that Louie is in immense pain and would be better served if he were to be gently lead across the Rainbow Bridge to the golden dog park in the sky. David Michael asks if his mother will, “hold him while he goes to sleep?” Kristy’s mom carries Louie as they enter the veterinarian’s office, but her arms are empty when she returns.

The Thomas and Watson clan hold a funeral and, to their collective surprise, Shannon, Tiffany, Hannie, Linny, Amanda, Max, and two random friends (previously called “the snobs”) show up to pay their respects.

After a few days, Shannon’s dog, Astrid, gives birth to a litter of puppies and she gives one of them to Kristy and David Michael. They name the dog “Shannon.” Also, Kristy extends Shannon (the human one) an invitation to join the BSC, but Shannon is too busy to attend meetings, so they make her an associate member, like Logan. Ann M. Martin leaves us with this:

I knew David Michael would never forget our Louie. None of us would, because Louie had left a sort of legacy. He’d brought Shannon and me together so we could be friends instead of enemies, and that in turn had brought a new puppy for our family, but especially for David Michael. So, I thought. Endings could sometimes be beginnings. They were sad, but sometimes they brought happiness.

That’s what Louie had shown us, and that’s just one of the things we would remember about him.

It’s important to teach children that not every ending necessarily means a definitive, capital “E” End. This book was devastating, and Martin describes Louie’s pain in detail appropriate, but not euphemistic, detail. She doesn’t patronize her young readers by shying away from the more unpleasant aspects of losing a pet. She could have had him just go to sleep one night and never wake up, but she chooses to force the reader to face the grim reality of a dying pet. This is an integral BSC book that may be harder to read (because of subject matter – the reading level itself is the same as the other books), but it’s one that I think will resonate with most people.

Next Time On Rereading My Childhood – The Baby-Sitters Club #12: Claudia and the New Girl

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Where’s the Beef?: My Eating Habits Through Bourdain, Sedaris, and Berry

If there was a pill that could completely replace a meal, I would take it. I’d still visit my favorite restaurant on the weekends or while on vacation, but workdays would be pure pill. Unfortunately, the only thing close to that pill is McDonald’s. Every day, 68 million people pass through those golden arches and get a quick, filling meal for a dollar without leaving their cars (Badkar). I’m one of those people. I’m not passionate about food like Anthony Bourdain, but I’m not as apathetic as David Sedaris. I’ve been trying to trace my food’s journey from farm to plate as encouraged by Wendell Berry and the film Food Inc, but when I wake up late, I can’t be too picky. My history with food is strange and different from their experiences and I am still learning, but we are all very different and in the cornucopia of culinary experiences, that’s fine if we all strive to make the world better.

Anthony Bourdain, a world-renowned chef, writes about his first experience with oysters in his essay “Food is Good.” He recalls his first experience with the mollusk “like…losing my virginity – and in many ways, more fondly” (67). Eating his first oyster during a family trip to Europe changed his life forever. It was the defining moment that launched his career and love of food. He remembers the “glistening, vaguely sexual-looking object, still dripping and nearly alive (69)” just before he bit down and slurped the rest down his throat. He “survived” an adventure – his parents “hesitated” and his brother “recoiled in horror” (69).

When I was about eight-years-old, I was eating lunch with my father, my sister, my grandmother, and my grandmother’s boyfriend. My grandmother had a knack for finding strange restaurants and this one was no exception. It specialized in seafood, but not just any seafood. It had themed bowls of disparate kinds of fish and undersea creatures. I was going through a phase where I wanted to eschew remnants of my childhood and I refused the child menu. I ordered the best sounding dish from the adult side of the menu. The waiter asked my father if that’s what I really wanted. My father, who wasn’t paying much attention to me, told the waiter that whatever I wanted was what I was going to get.

Then I saw what I ordered – a bowl that would make Davy Jones proud. Chunks of swordfish smothered in red sauce and pieces of chopped up octopus with the suckers still visible. My father, thinking he could teach me a valuable lesson about knowing what I was ordering, insisted I eat it. Reluctantly, I ate the octopus – I liked it! My father made a mistake; he forgot he had a wife who cooked chicken livers and tongue and a daughter who wasn’t afraid to try any food placed in front of her. I ate different kinds of food out of curiosity and convenience more than anything. Unlike Bourdain, I didn’t feel stronger or braver than my friends or family. When I was eleven, I had sushi for the first time because it was at the Asian market my mother dragged me to so she could find something to cook for dinner and I was hungry. I bought Indian food from a street vendor in San Francisco instead of searching for someplace to eat. Yes, I happen to like Indian, sushi, and seafood more than other kinds of food, but eating the foods didn’t change my life in any way. If I wasn’t curious, I wouldn’t venture outside my comfort zone. Also, if I weren’t lazy and looking for the most convenient thing, I wouldn’t have tried all the street food I’ve eaten before. But I’m not ambivalent about food.

David Sedaris, humorist, writer, and frequent contributor to NPR’s This American Life (“Radio Archive by Contributor”) calls himself “a shoveller, a quantity man, and I like to keep going until I feel sick (29).” He didn’t care what he was eating as long as he got enough of it. I would never say I am like that but I’m sure I had more than my fair share of food. I order the meal. The number three – chicken McNuggets, fries, and a drink. Those items are more than enough for most people, but not David Sedaris. He purchased his sister’s chicken leg at dinner (30). My relationship with food is not about quantity like Sedaris, but it’s not about quality, like Bourdain.

I’m too obsessed with convenience. What is the closest thing to food I can find around me? I don’t even stop to think about where it came from, which I know is a problem. Both the documentary Food Inc. and Wendell Berry’s essay “The Pleasures of Eating” encourage the watcher (or reader) to investigate where their food comes from. For the first time in my adult life, I have the financial security to pay more for locally grown foods, or at least skip the trip to McDonald’s.

Food Inc. discusses the “production line” form of food preparation as invented by McDonald’s. One person does the same thing over and over every day, exploiting workers in the name of profit. This is the fast food process I have relied on for convenience and price at the detriment of my health. During Food Inc.’s call to action at the end of the film, they suggest a garden. Same with Berry. Instead of sticking my hands in germ-ridden dirt, I’ve tried to buy local at Farmer’s Markets and ask, “Hey, where’d the beef come from?”

My experiences with food differ from Bourdain, Sedaris, Berry, and Robert Kenner’s film, but I can still learn something from each of them. Maybe a memory with food wasn’t a defining moment of my life, like Bourdain, but I can appreciate his dietary bravery. Sedaris doesn’t worry about the food he eats and eats everything around him – I use him as more of a cautionary. I should appreciate the food I get. And Food Inc. and Berry can teach me to research my food and not just get the most convenient thing. I’ll save the environment in other ways, like meticulous recycling, reduced purchasing, and supporting charities like the Sierra Club and the Union of Concerned Scientists. I won’t start my own garden, but I can always buy my food locally – make others roll around in the dirt for me.

 

Works Cited

Badkar, Mamta and Gus Lubin. “18 Facts About McDonald’s That Will Blow Your Mind.”

Business Insider, Business Insider, 20 Apr. 2012, http://www.businessinsider.com/19-facts-about-mcdonalds-that-will-blow-your-mind-2012-4/. Accessed 15 Sept. 2017

Berry, Wendell. “The Pleasures of Eating.” Food, edited by Brooke Rollins and Lee Bauknight,

Fountainhead Press, 2010, pp. 21-32.

Bourdain, Anthony. “Food is Good.” Food, edited by Brooke Rollins and Lee Bauknight,

Fountainhead Press, 2010, pp. 63-70.

Food Inc. Directed by Robert Kenner, Magnolia Pictures, 2008. Netflix,

https://www.netflix.com/watch/70108783. Accessed 12 Sept. 2017.

“Radio Archive by Contributor.” This American Life, National Public Radio,

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/contributors/david-sedaris. Accessed 15 Sept. 2017.

Sedaris, David. “Tasteless.” Food, edited by Brooke Rollins and Lee Bauknight, Fountainhead

Press, 2010, pp. 29-32.

Four Days

Thick layers of smoke and tobacco cloud my earliest memories. I remember my father’s hand cutting through the wispy trails in a casino restaurant, back in the day when you could smoke in a restaurant. I also remember the week his body was loaded into a hearse – the years of cheap cigarettes and ubiquitous puffs of smoke invading his lungs finally caught up to him.

The day seemed as mundane as any other day. I rolled my eyes when I saw my mother calling. Couldn’t she just text me? I thought.

“Your father is sick,” she said in her accent. “Come to the hospital.”

I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived. Then I saw him. He was pale and gaunt – the color from his face drained, leaving a ghostly visage I barely recognized. The hospital bed engulfed him, a sea of white, sterile sheets made him appear fragile.

“I don’t want any more tests,” my father insisted to my mother. His voice matched his outward appearance.

I sat down by the window.

“I want you to find an article that I saved-” my father said.

“What article?” my mother interrupted.

“-it’s about how doctors die-”

“Doctors? Where? What doctors?”

“-it’s in my files-”

“Files? What files?”

“Just listen!” my father snapped.

I looked out the window. I tried to find my parents house, even though I knew it was impossible. A white bird flew overhead. A car had a dent in the passenger side door. A yellow piece of debris fluttering into the side of the hospital and fell. Two people in scrubs stood outside by a shrub and talked.

“There’s an article from Reader’s Digest in my files,” he instructed, each word said like a task given to Hercules from the king Eurystheus. “It’s about how doctors die. They die in their homes. I want you to look into care outside the hospital. Where Mom was before she died. I don’t want to be here. What’s the place Mom was before she died?”

“Hospice,” I answered, still trying to find something, anything else, to look at.

“Yes, that,” he said.

“Hospice?” my mother asked. “Kido, do you know what that is?”

“Yeah, it’s, um,” I hesitated, trying not to let my voice break. “They, um. They help with, um, sickness, I think. People who are sick.”

Their voices blurred together, but I knew they were talking. I just kept staring out the window. If I turned around, I would see him, and then I would have to admit he was dying. No matter how hard I stared at the cars, I still heard snippets of their conversation.

“I’m tired, Nee. I don’t want anymore tests.”

A doctor entered and spoke with us for fifteen to thirty minutes. It was lung cancer. They had some things they could try, but, at most, he only had two months left. Then she left.

He made the decision to refuse treatment. I wanted to ask him to try, to fight through it. To come out of cancer stronger than before. But I couldn’t. He taught me not to order people around and to respect the decisions that don’t directly affect you. I couldn’t tell him what to do, even if his decision created a knot of sadness, anger, and fear deep in the back of my throat.

Before I left, I said to my father, “I’d prefer it if you lived.”

On Thursday, my mother texted me that my father was moved to a hospice.

On Friday, I cried and prayed to a God that I doubt exists.

On Saturday, Jon and I arrived after the hospice workers moved my father home. He was in the middle of the living room, writhing on a bed. He wore a diaper and a shirt that kept coming up.  His eyes were yellow and glazed, looking at nothing in particular. His distended chest was purple from the injection sites. He was wheezing and kicking at something that wasn’t there. A thin tube of liquid attached him to a machine that compressed and ticked. I smelled something strange and astringent, like rotting eggs, blood, and antiseptic. My mother and my uncle were watching the technician setting up the machine, asking him questions.

“Hey, Mick!” my mother called to my father. “Kido is here! With Jon!”

The technician told us that a night nurse was coming over later and, after he finished with the machine, he left. Then we sat in silence. Jon held my hand and I just watched my father fling his arms at his sides and snore. He was in the home he purchased, hopped up on drugs, struggling to breathe, and wearing a diaper.

I looked around. At my mother’s yard sale nicknacks, at the things that were shoved against the wall to make room for the bed, at the family photos, at my mother’s sewing machine, at my shoes that had goddamn skulls on them.

“The blood is tainted,” my uncle broke the silence. “The liver isn’t cleaning the blood. It’s going to his brain. That’s why his eyes are yellow.”

“I thought it was lung cancer,” I asked.

“It spread to his liver,” my mother said.

We were silent again. I looked at a hospital bill. The single visit from the doctor was five hundred dollars. The hospital room was a thousand. That’s what my mom owed immediately. That was the first of many bills.

However, the hospice care was covered by Medicare. A small relief.

After a few hours of sparse moments of talking, Jon and I contemplated leaving, but the hospice van stopped in front of the house. Carol was a rotund woman with a big smile and curly red hair to match. When she took his diagnostics, she moved with him, instead of trying to get him to move the way she wanted. She smiled the whole time and told us everything she was doing, and I nodded along, even though I had no idea what she was saying.

“It’s wonderful that he has a family,” she said.

“There’s another one coming,” my mother said to her. “She lives in Washington, D.C. We’re a small family, but we’re close. There’s more, but they’re in the Philippines.”

Carol’s eyes lit up, “My daughter’s husband’s family is Filipino!”

“The Little One has been there. This one,” she pointed at me, “not yet.”

“We’ll go, someday,” I insisted. “Alyssa is just Alyssa. I motioned between Jon and me, “We are double the people and double the money. We’d like to go. Jon needs to leave the country at least once.”

“I’ve been outside the country,” he insisted.

“An American resort in Mexico doesn’t count,” I retorted.

“I learned ‘un cerveza, por favor,’” he said devoid of any Spanish accent and with a big smile on his face.

My mother pointed at my father. “He’s been quiet.”

The moment of levity made me brave. I picked up his wrist between my thumb and my index and middle fingers. “I feel a pulse, but something’s weird.” I looked at Carol and she opened her satchel of medical supplies.

I dropped his wrist. His eyes were wide open. Yellow and black pointed toward the ceiling. His body was stiff, his extremities were pointed out, and his skinny limbs looked alien. Dread punched me in the gut and I stumbled backwards. I realized what I had done. It wasn’t his pulse I felt – it was my thumb’s pulse through his wrist.

She didn’t have to say anything – I knew. Tears inundated my eyes. I stormed out of the house and sat on the tailgate of my mother’s pick-up truck. Jon followed me and squeezed my shoulders. I refused to go back into the house, so Jon went back in to get my phone. I called my sister. We cried together on the phone and she moved her flight for a later date. The hearse arrived after I hung up. My eyes hurt so much I couldn’t see the men who said, “I’m sorry,” and pushed the gurney. But my eyes focused on the white sheet – the only way I could look at him was as a body shaped space under a sheet on the way to an autopsy.

I haven’t smoked in years.

Rereading My Childhood – Goosebumps: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb

Previously On Rereading My Childhood – Goosebumps: Monster Blood

When I was eight, during the summer between third and fourth grade, my parents took my sister and me halfway around the world to the Philippines. The trip was my first venture outside the United States, my first plane ride, and my first time in a country that spoke a completely different language. It wasn’t a random trip to a random country – my mother is Filipina, and we had (and still have) extensive family out there. I spent most of my time running around, exploring the countryside where my family lived on the slope of the Mayon Volcano. My favorite haunt was a dilapidated church and the adjacent graveyard. I was obsessed with the cracked gravestones and the icon of Mary with the faded paint and a chipped hand. Unlike Gabe in Goosebumps: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, I never came face to face with a supernatural creature, but I like to think I had an adventure, albeit a safe one.

R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb was an absolute delight to read. This is what I came to Goosebumps for: kids my age (or slightly older) overcoming scary situations with a little dash of humor. While on a trip to his ancestral home of Egypt, our protagonist, Gabe, explores the Great Pyramid of Giza. Gabe a sweet kid and his uncle, scientist Ben Hassan, is a likable adult who helps his nephew. Gabe adversary is his cousin, and Ben’s daughter, Sari, who is charming in her own way. I’m looking forward to exploring this book – this reminder of why I loved these books so much as a kid.

SPOILERS AFTER THE COVER!!!

GBTheCurseoftheMummysTomb
My copy of Goosebumps: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb – What will wake the dead? Anything! I have that mummy wrapped around my little finger! I’ll let myself out.

The book starts at the Great Pyramid and a thirsty child. Gabe asks his parents for water.

“We can’t you a drink now,” she answered, staring at the pyramid. “Stop acting like you’re four. You’re twelve, remember?”

“Twelve-year-olds get thirsty, too,” I muttered. “All this sand in the air, it’s making me gag.”

“Look at the pyramid,” she said, sounding a little irritated. “That’s why we came here. We didn’t come here to get a drink.”

Hey, Mom, you can drink and look at pyramids at the same time. The end of the first chapter surprised me. Instead of a danger that is revealed to not be a danger at all, we have an ominous passage:

“I’m afraid you’ll just have to appreciate the pyramid from the outside,” Dad said, peering over the yellow sand, trying to focus the binoculars.

“I’ve already appreciated it,” I told him glumly. “Can we get a drink now?”

Little did I know that in a few days, Mom and Dad would be gone, and I would be deep inside the pyramid we were staring at. Not just inside it, but trapped inside it, sealed inside it – probably forever.

I’m in. I’m interested. I want to know where the story is going, and I’m happy the first chapter’s cliffhanger wasn’t some fake out.

Gabe’s dismissive parents are quickly ushered away from the book and our protagonist is left with his Uncle Ben Hassan, an Egyptologist with a daughter, Sari. Gabe has an adversarial relationship with Sari. She treats him like a child despite their identical ages. She has a strained relationship with her cousin, but she has a great relationship with her father – one that sometimes forces Gabe to look at them through an invisible barrier. The father and daughter have inside jokes and play pranks on Gabe. He gets frustrated with them, but, as a reader, I never felt the jokes were too malicious, and I have the notion that Uncle Ben has played these pranks on his daughter and that the source of their inside jokes. He’s trying to pull his nephew into a relationship the only way he knows how – jokes.

Uncle Ben has discovered a new burial chamber in the Great Pyramid and he invites his nephew on a tour. This is where we have our classic horror warning.

Uncle Ben handed us both flashlights. “Clip them into your jeans as we go in,” he instructed. He gazed at me. “You don’t believe in curses, do you? You know – the ancient Egyptian kind.”

I didn’t know how to reply, so I shook my head.

“Good,” Uncle Ben replied, grinning. “Because one of my workers claims we’ve violated an ancient decree by entering this new tunnel, and that we’ve activated some curse.”

This is classic horror. The characters were warned. The strange old man told the teenager to avoid Camp Blood. The fortune teller told the young jock not to enter the abandoned funhouse. The cheerleader read the stories about the escaped convict who targets babysitters. They were warned, but they continued deeper into the pyramid.

Uncle Ben goes down a rope ladder first, followed by Gabe, who falls off. Sari catches him. She teases Gabe, but she would never let him get hurt.

They reach the bottom of the pyramid and Uncle Ben introduces us to his excavation team – Ahmed, a taciturn man who is obsessed with the curse, Quasimodo, which is a nickname, and Christy. It’s nice to see a woman among the archaeologists. Thank you for the representation, Stine.

Uncle Ben forbids the children from exploring on their own, but the kids do it anyway in typical kid fashion. Sari gets ahead of Gabe and he gets lost trying to find her. He stumbles on a “mummy case.”

Uttering another low cry, I took a step back.

The lid raised up another inch.

I took another step back.

And dropped the flashlight.

I picked it up with a trembling hand and shined it back into the mummy case.

The lid was now open nearly a foot.

I sucked in a deep breath of air and held it.

I wanted to run, but my fear was freezing me in place.

The lid creaked and opened another inch.

Another inch.

I lowered the flashlight to the opening, the light quivering with my hand.

From the dark depths of the ancient coffin, I saw two eyes staring out at me.

This is a fun, scary passage, even though the single sentence paragraphs make the passage look like a poem. The mummy is just Sari, but I wasn’t mad. I just thought, “Oh, that Sari, always with the pranks.”

Uncle Ben finds the children and admonishes them for running off. The next morning, Uncle Ben leaves the children behind at the hotel after two workers come down with a “mysterious illness.” Sari and Gabe get bored and decide to go to the museum. Gabe goes over the mummification process, complete with brain pulling and intestine yanking, much to Sari’s chagrin. We see that Sari is not impervious to everything around her. Her father is an Egyptologist and she has no problems spelunking in a stuffy pyramid, but she cannot listen to her cousin say things like, “The brain had to come out first. They had this special tool. It was like a long, skinny hook. They’d push it up the corpse’s nose until it reached the brain and then wiggled it back and forth, back and forth, until the brain became mush.” Sari is complicated. Just don’t talk about guts and she’s fine.

They see Ahmed in the museum and after a brief chase scene, Ahmed tells them that Uncle Ben sent him to get the children, so the children get into his car with him. They realize they aren’t heading back to the hotel – they’re being kidnapped! That’s terrifying! Fun fact! When I was a kid, someone tried to kidnap my sister and me, but that’s a story for another review.

The kids jump out of the car and run back to the hotel. Uncle Ben returns and they tell him about their experience with Ahmed. Uncle Ben believes them. He doesn’t imply that they didn’t understand what was happening, he doesn’t dismiss the children. He actually listens to them. Thank you, Stine, for having at least one adult actually listen to a child for once.

Uncle Ben wants to leave the children in the hotel, but Sari and Gabe convince him to take them with as he returns to the pyramid. He gives them beepers in case they get separated, and, of course, they get separated. If they didn’t get separated it would be the end of the story. The floor gives out from beneath Gabe and he falls on his beeper, breaking it, but he’s in an undiscovered section of the pyramid.

There were mummies leaning against the wall. Mummies lying on stone slabs, arms crossed over their chests. Mummies leaning at odd angles, crouched low or standing tall, their arms straight out in front of them like Frankenstein monsters.

I realized that I had made an incredible discovery here. By falling through the floor, I had found a hidden chamber, a chamber where mummies had been made. I had found all of the tools and all of the materials used to make mummies four thousand years ago.

That’s creepy – a room full of dead bodies. Sari catches up with Gabe, but Ahmed is close behind. He reveals that the chamber is the “sacred Preparation Chamber of the Priestess Khala” and Ahmed as trying to prevent anyone from trespassing on it. Then he the true identities of the surrounding mummies.

“They were all violators of the Priestess’s chamber,” Ahmed revealed. The thin smile that formed on his face could only be described as a proud smile.

“You mean – they’re not from ancient Egypt?” Sari cried, raising her hands in horror to her face.

“A few of them,” Ahmed replied, still smiling that frightening, cold smile. “A few of them were ancient intruders. Some are quite recent. But they all have one thing in common. They all became victims of the curse. And they all were mummified alive!”

Then he points out the one he did himself! This dude is insane and scary as shit. Uncle Ben finds them and tries to reason with him “scientist to scientist.” Ben, boobala, the man threatened your assistants by showing them what it would be like to be boiled alive. He’s not a scientist. He’s a crazy man with a knife who is threatening your daughter.

Ahmed knocks Uncle Ben out and forces the scientist into a coffin with the children. There’s a little crying and suspense before Uncle Ben wakes up and reveals that every coffin has a trap lever. That’s a little deus ex machina – I wanted the children to figure out a way out for themselves and save their Uncle, or maybe the kids could have observed the trap lever during their trip to the museum. I guess the book can’t be perfect.

The kids and Uncle Ben escape and are forced into a final confrontation with Ahmed. Gabe pulls out a mummy hand that he keeps with him. (This isn’t a deus ex machina – it’s been mentioned.)

Maybe I thought the mummy hand would distract Ahmed.

Or interest him.

Or confuse him.

Or frighten him.

Maybe I was just stalling for time.

Or maybe I was unconsciously remembering the legend behind the hand that the kid at the garage sale had told me.

The legend of why it was called The Summoner.

How it was used to call up ancient souls and spirits.

Or maybe I wasn’t thinking anything at all.

But I spun around and, gripping it by its slender wrist, held the mummy hand up high.

And waited.

Ahmed stared at it.

But nothing happened.

I waited, standing there like the Statue of Liberty with the little hand raised high above my head.

It seemed as if I were standing like that for hours.

The thought of this kid holding up a mummy hand while everyone around him is just staring at him and shrugging is a hilarious. I laughed out loud. If there’s an episode of the television show based on this book, I hope that’s played with a comedic beat. (I just checked – there is no television adaptation of this book.)

But the mummy hand does something eventually – the mummies come to life and chase Ahmed out of the pyramid, allowing Uncle Ben, Sari, and Gabe to escape. Ahmed should have been run into the tar pit, but that might be too gruesome for a kid’s book, even if the book is a horror book.

It ends with the three of them sharing a moment, including a silly pun that will probably be an inside joke between them.

“We’re okay,” Uncle Ben said gratefully, throwing his arms around Sari and me. “We’re okay. We’re okay.”

“We can go now!” Sari cried happily, hugging her dad. Then she turned to me. “You saved our lives,” she said. She had to choke out the words. But she said them.

Then Uncle Ben turned his gaze on me and the object I still gripped tightly in front of me. “Thanks for the helping hand,” Uncle Ben said.

I see what you did there.

Goosebumps: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb was a delight. It was scary, funny, and I loved the dynamic between Gabe, his cousin, and his uncle. This is what Goosebumps is all about: a kid overcoming a scary situation with gumption and humor. I had an adventure to an ancestral homeland when I was a kid and, while it didn’t involve any mummies, I keep those treasured memories in a special part of my brain. Gabe’s experience was scary, but he became closer to his uncle and cousin, and now he has a great story to tell. And I enjoyed reading it.

Next time: The Baby-Sitters Club #11: Kristy and the Snobs

Next Time On Rereading My Childhood – Goosebumps: Stay Out of the Basement! 

Be Fruitful and Let’s Not Multiply So Much: An Argument for Birth Control to Combat Our Food Problem

Unless there’s an amazing undiscovered human who is half plant and gets energy from the sun, every human being needs food for energy. The United Nations estimates that the world population in 2050 will increase to 9.3 billion, up from a 1999 estimation of 8.9 billion (Kristof). In order to maintain that population, we are all going to need food. According to National Geographic’s Jonathan Foley, we need to double the number of crops we currently grow to feed a population of that size. We can drastically change people’s diets while increasing agricultural output, but there is something else we could do – we could control the population. Should the United Nations institute a One Child Policy? No. The answer is simple – free and easy access to birth control. Not only could we control the population from growing exponentially, we can reduce abortions (Williams), help families save and have more control over their economic futures (Fox), and mitigate climate change (Somerville).

Modern agricultural farmhouses are not the quaint farms of yesteryear, where farmers live in tune with nature and respect the animal. Corporate farming is mired in senseless animal cruelty and poor working conditions (Scully). As our need for food grows with our population, these large corporations will have to increase food production. Their business practices are not in our best interest (Fed Up) and they won’t suddenly become enlightened to sustainable food. While we help fix the food industry, we can also provide contraceptives to women, allowing them to choose when to have children.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that if women who were without access to birth control were provided with contraceptives, we could decrease greenhouse gas emission by at least thirty percent (Heikkinen). And it’s not just developing nations that could benefit. Women in the United States saved $1.4 billion when Obamacare expanded to cover contraceptives (Lachman). That money can be diverted toward buying organic food and green products, both of which have a perceived higher initial cost. And if women can choose when to have children, they can take more risks like following their ambitions and starting a business. According to Madeleine Somerville of The Guardian, female-run businesses “are more likely to make environmentally friendly decisions.” Just think about a new economy run by women making decisions that benefit the environment instead of harming it. Maybe the next innovation in green food technologies will be from a woman who was able to work before she had children.

But what about women who can’t control their birth control now? Condoms break. Pills are forgotten. There are more forms of contraceptives than condoms and the pill (Cooper). Condoms are the most practical and cheapest form of birth control and have an 85% effectiveness rate, even with humans biting the condom wrapper or the condom slipping off (“All About Birth Control Methods”). Birth control pills provide other benefits besides birth control, including Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) management, reducing acne, and preventing endometrial and ovarian cancers. Of course, women might forget to take the pill or the condom breaks. The most effective form of birth control is an Intrauterine Device or IUD. This is just a small device that sits in the uterus and prevents pregnancy either through spermicide or hormone control. The device lasts for years (depending on the specific type) and requires no maintenance. It has a 99% success rate, even accounting for human error. And that’s just the tip of the birth control iceberg. There is a birth control for every woman’s lifestyle, but some women don’t have access to the variety of birth control or the resources for some of the more expensive ones (Heikkinen).

If women choose when to have children, we might have a population decline, like Japan (Richey). Don’t we need an increasing population to sustain a growing economy? Companies incentivizing people to procreate can potentially lead to companies or even governments providing adequate day care, tax credits, encouragement for women to stay in the workforce, and investments in education (Richey). That sounds like a good problem to have. And what about the idea that an economy has to have an increasing population to grow? That’s not necessarily true claims Sean Fox and Tim Dyson of The International Growth Centre of the University of Oxford. A growing economy is a complicated idea, but the most basic definition according to the Investopedia is a country’s productivity per person. There are two ways to increase productivity: increase the population to increase productivity, or increase productivity per person. We can increase productivity per person with technology and innovation. And if women were able to add their full potential to the marketplace, instead of taking care of unwanted children, what kind of innovation could they manifest? Sean Fox and Tim Dyson add that when fertility rates decline over a sustained period, “the change in age composition creates a window of opportunity during which a country can potentially raise its level of saving and investment.” A stable population won’t stagnate our economy, but it will improve family savings and invest potential.

Also, why do we need a constantly growing economy in the first place? Why can’t we be happy with a stable economy? And what’s the point of arguing about economic growth if it will lead to entire business centers underwater due to rising water levels and corporations shoveling unhealthy food down our throats?

Making the world more amenable to birth control and providing it for women around the world will not only help stabilize the world’s population to a sustainable amount, but it will help other areas. Socially, women could choose when to have children, leading to less accidental pregnancy and less abortion. Politically, women could help affect change regarding environmental issues, as women are more likely to believe scientists (Somerville). Agriculturally, we could have a stable population so farms aren’t forced to produce beyond their means. Economically, women could contribute more by fully investing in their jobs, putting off children until they’re ready, and even take more risks, like starting businesses. And all these factors are good for the environment. Any problems that arise from a declining population, or a stagnant economy, or demographic changes can be solved. What’s more important is that we make sure we’re all alive, healthy, and above water so we can argue about these things.

 

Works Cited

“All About Birth Control Methods” Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood,

http://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control. Accessed 11 Oct. 2017.

Aubrey, Allison. “The Average American Ate (Literally) A Ton This Year.” NPR, 31 Dec. 2011,

http://www.npr.org/sections/health/thesalt/2011/12/31/144478009/the-average-american-ate-litera

lly-a-ton-this-year. Accessed 4 Oct. 2017.

Developed by Phyllis G. Cooper, RN, MN, and RelayHealth. “Birth Control Methods.” CRS –

Adult Health Advisor, Jan. 2013, p. 1. EBSCOhost,

ezproxy.tmcc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hxh&AN=36256641&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

“Economic Growth.” Investopedia, IAC Publishing,

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/economicgrowth.asp. Accessed 11 Oct. 2017.

Fed Up. Directed by Stephanie Soechtig, Atlas Films, 19 Jan. 2014. Netflix,

https://www.netflix.com/watch/70299287. Accessed 10 Oct. 2017.

Foley, Jonathan. “A Five Step Plan to Feed the World.” National Geographic,

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/feeding-9-billion/. Accessed 6 Oct. 2017.

Fox, Sean and Tim Dyson. “Is population growth good or bad for economic development?”

The International Growth Centre, University of Oxford, 3 Dec. 2015, http://www.theigc.org/blog/is-population-growth-good-or-bad-for-economic-development/. Accessed 6 Oct. 2017.

Heikkinen, Niina. “Birth Control Could Help the Environment, but Not Quickly.” Scientific

American, 30 Oct. 2014,

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/birth-control-could-help-the-enviornment-but-not-quic

kly/. Accessed 4 Oct. 2017.

Kristof, Nicholas. “The Birth Control Solution.” The New York Times, 2 Nov. 2011,

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/03/opinion/kristof-the-birth-control-solution.html. Accessed 4 Oct. 2017.

Lachman, Samantha. “Women are Spending $1.4 Billion Less on Birth Control Due to

Obamacare: Report.” The Huffington Post, 7 July 2015,www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/07/obamacare-birth-control-_n_7747332.html. Accessed 11 Oct. 2017.

Richey, Michael. “Why Japan’s Population Will Lose 20 Million People By 2050.” Tofugu,

Tofugu, 7 Feb. 2017, http://www.tofugu.com/japan/population-decline/. Accessed 11 Oct. 2017.

Scully, Matthew. “Fear Factories.” Food, edited by Brooke Rollins and Lee Bauknight,

Fountainhead Press, 2010, pp. 151-167.

Somerville, Madeleine. “Want to help fight climate change? Start with reproductive rights.” The

Guardian, 31 May 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/may/31/climate-change-women-reproductive-rights-birth-control. Accessed 4 Oct. 2017.

Williams, Diane Duke. “Access to free birth control reduces abortion rates.” Washington University

School of Medicine, 12 Oct. 2012, medicine.wustl.edu/news/access-to-free-birth-control-reduces-abortion-rates/. Accessed 10 Oct. 2017.

Rereading My Childhood – Fear Street: Bad Dreams

I was apprehensive about doing Fear Street. I have fond memories of the series, and it was included in my attempt to buy back my childhood – scouring thrift stores for books. Long before I decided to write this essay series (“Rereading My Childhood” – in case you forgot), I read Fear Street: The Stepsister. I hated that book. When I say “hate,” I mean I wanted to throw that book into a fire. I loathed every character – the sister main character who is entirely too paranoid, the inconsiderate stepsister, the fake actual sister, the dismissive mother, and the worst character in teen genre fiction history – the misogynistic father who serves no purpose other than to say creepy comments to his step-daughter and harass the mother. He should have been the killer. He should have died. However, he was not. In fact, the “twist” wasn’t really a “twist” but something so obvious I called it on the third page, making it pointless and frustrating. After reading that book (and I won’t do a Rereading of it – the thought of spending my time writing about it makes me want to destroy my computer so I have an excuse not to do it), I wasn’t sure if I could read the rest of the Fear Street series. Are they unreadable to anyone over the age of thirteen?

I still read Bad Dreams and guess what?

I liked it! Like The Stepsister, this one also features a pair of sisters who don’t get along. Unlike The Stepsister, it doesn’t feature a gross stepfather and a dismissive mother. The mother in this book is a good character, and neither sister is outwardly evil. We see our protagonist’s flaws while speaking to her sister, and her sister exhibits some petty behavior. This one also has several twists, some better than others, but the biggest one is so insane I never saw it coming. It’s not a “deus ex machina,” so I wasn’t angry. Overall, this is a solid Fear Street book that centers on some great and flawed female characters.

SPOILERS AFTER THE COVER!!!

FSBadDreams
My Copy of Fear Street: Bad Dreams by R. L. Stine – First of all, one of these sisters is supposed to be homely, but I see two pretty girls. Secondly, what pair of teenage girls who hate each other have matching sleeping gowns? And lastly, what is up with their hands?

Fear Street: Bad Dreams starts with a prologue in which a nameless character is murdered by her sister in her gorgeous canopy bed. It’s a creepy scene. There’s something in the shadows of the room. It’s her sister! Her sister with a knife! Her sister kills her – like straight-up knifes her. R. L. Stine is not fucking around. At least, not at the beginning.

Now we’re in the first chapter. The chapters are similar to the ones in Goosebumps – short. It seems Stine’s affinity for short chapters didn’t end with Goosebumps. The short chapters are back and shorter than ever!

We meet the Travers sisters – Maggie and Andrea and they do not get along. Maggie believes that their mother holds Andrea to a lower standard than Maggie, despite their close ages, and Andrea is jealous of Maggie’s inherent advantages in the looks department. Maggie is described as an effervescent, red-haired gorgeous teen, while Andrea is listless and dull. However, Andrea is a snob and resents moving to a poorer neighborhood after their father died and their mother was unable to maintain their lifestyle.

They reach their new house on Fear Street and Maggie’s dog, Gus, runs out into traffic, and we have our first cliffhanger. The dog is fine, of course. Stine knows better than to kill off a dog at the beginning of the novel.

The family enters their new house, and in one of the rooms, the one designated to Maggie, is a gorgeous canopy bed.

“Say, Mags,” Andrea began. “Mags, you know how I’ve always wanted an old-fashioned bed like this one, right?” Andrea bit her lip.

Here came the question Maggie had silently predicted.

Sure enough, Andrea demanded, “Can I have it?”

Can I have it? – Andrea’s four favorite words.

Andrea stared at Maggie, pleading with her eyes. Maggie lowers hers to the bed.

What should I tell her? Maggie asked herself. What should I do?

Should I avoid a fight and give it to her?

What should I say?

If Maggie had known the horrors that awaited her in the old canopy bed, her answer might have been different.

But she had no way of knowing why the bed had been left behind.

Ooh, ominous, and a proper cliffhanger ending to a chapter. Mrs. Travers decides that since it came in Maggie’s room, and since Andrea choose the larger room, that Maggie should keep the bed. To which Andrea wails, “But that’s soooo unfair!” Mrs. Travers is completely fair, but I can imagine a girl who has been coddled her entire life thinking that she should get the canopy bed and the bigger room.

Maggie complains to her inconsequential boyfriend Justin about the house, saying it looks like The Addams Family house. (Don’t drag that house – it’s a museum. It says so in the theme song, and I would love to live in a museum.) I say “inconsequential” because he doesn’t do anything. He could be cut from the book and it would have no effect on the plot, and he’s the only dude. I wish Stine cut that sausage out so the book is a pure clambake, but we live in a world in which every story has to have at least one dude. At least he’s relegated to the “girlfriend” character like women in, oh, just about every movie ever. #progress #feminism

That night, Maggie has her first nightmare involving a blonde girl, and she wakes up screaming after a chapter break. Her mother suggests that she is overcome with stress, which is a reasonable reaction, no sarcasm at all. Stress does some crazy things to people, and nightmares are a common symptom.

The next morning, Justin comes over with sponges. How romantic. They make out, and we get a daytime scare.

When the kiss ended, they were both breathless.

Maggie’s heart was thudding in her chest. She gave Justin several quick kisses on the cheek.

Then she glanced past him to the bedroom doorway.

And she saw that they were not alone.

Someone stood in the shadows, staring at them.

The girl from the dream!

No, it’s just Andrea asking for a camera. Whomp-whomp trumpet noise. This makes Andrea seem like a voyeur, like she was going to say, “Don’t let me interrupt you – I like to watch.” That would be creepier than anything in this book.

Just two pages later, Justin can’t breathe! He’s in peril!

Oh, no. He’s just having a little goof at Maggie’s expense. End of Justin’s contribution to the book. Good riddance. Begone! Go back whence you came! A football or something.

Maggie and Andrea are on the swim team and are competing with two other girls, Dawn and Tiffany, for one of two spots on the 200IM. That’s a thing, right, Stine?

Maggie was breathing hard now, and every muscle ached.

But the thought of losing hurt a lot more.

She silently commanded herself: Faster! Faster!

She pushed harder, harder – as she came to the end of the breaststroke. But then she made a poor turn at the wall.

I’ve blown it! She thought.

She had never lost a really big race before.

Could she still win? It was now or never.

Freestyle was her strongest stroke. But she had only two laps to catch up.

She felt as if she was skimming over the water. The shrill cheers and screams in the gym reached an ever higher pitch. Nearing the far wall, Maggie passed Andrea – then Tiffany.

The passage wrapped me up in the excitement. This was actual suspense – not that boring white boy feigning peril. More like this, please.

Maggie comes in first, followed by Dawn and then Tiffany with Andrea bringing up the rear. After the race, Maggie sees Dawn floating facedown in the pool. Danger? No, of course not. She’s just practicing breathing control. Then the girls laugh until the end of the chapter, where Maggie has another nightmare.

Andrea wakes her up and Maggie blames the bed for her nightmares.

Andrea stood up. She ran her finger down one of the bedposts. “See? I told you-you should’ve let me have this bed. It’s bad luck. And it’s giving you nightmares.”

Maggie stared at her as if she hadn’t heard. “The bed . . .” she said. That was it! She reached out and grabbed her sister’s hand. “Andrea, you’re right! The girl in the dream, the girl in trouble? She was sleeping in this bed!”

“That’s spooky,” Andrea admitted. “And she got . . .”

She let the question trail off. Maggie finished it for her. “Stabbed,” she murmured softly. “With a knife. Over and over. Don’t you see? I knew it was too good to be true,” Maggie moaned unhappily.

“What was?”

“The owners just leaving this beautiful bed behind. There had to be something wrong with it.”

Andrea insists the stress is getting to Maggie. Hey, Maggie? There’s a simple way to prove the bed is causing nightmares: give the bed to Andrea and see if she gets the same dreams. This isn’t complicated. Yeah, maybe your sister gets a neat canopy bed, but she might also get nightmares where nothing happens. You pass on the nightmares or you realize it’s stress and can deal with it – either way no more nightmares.

Maggie doesn’t do that. Instead, she implies that Andrea wants Maggie to be less stressed so Andrea can swim in the 200IM. They fight after Maggie’s shitty inference. Up until this exchange, Maggie has been tolerant of Andrea’s pettiness, but in this chapter, we get to see that Maggie isn’t completely innocent. Andrea was showing genuine interest in Maggie’s well-being, but Maggie had to throw in some backhanded comment. Andrea can act immature, but Maggie doesn’t act like an adult either.

The next day, Dawn falls down some stairs and breaks her arm. She thinks Maggie pushed her like Nomi in Showgirls. Maggie goes home and falls asleep on the couch. Then she goes outside and falls asleep there. She wakes up and some weird old man is staring at her.

His name is Milton Avery, and in true deus ex machina form, he and his wife tell them about the murder that happened in the house.

Mr. Avery continued. “There was a girl about your age – named Miranda. Pretty girl with blond hair.”

Miranda!

Maggie knew instantly that Miranda had to be the blond girl in her dream!

“Did Miranda live in my house?” Maggie asked eagerly.

“She and her family lived in your house, yes,” answered Mr. Avery.

“Milton, that’s enough,” Mrs. Avery spoke up.

“No, please tell me,” Maggie pleaded.

“She was killed,” the old woman blurted out. “Murdered.”

“She was stabbed,” Mr. Avery said in a hushed whisper. “Stabbed right in her own bed.”

Yeah, that was pretty obvious from the prologue, but thanks, Old Man Avery, for peeping at seventeen-year-olds, I guess. He’s probably banned from the local mall.

Maggie dreams more and mistakes common household items (a curling iron) for various murdering paraphernalia (a knife). Her mother sends her to a therapist after Maggie yells, “I’ll never calm down!” That’s a totally normal thing to say there, Mags. That’ll work.

During swim practice, Tiffany wins the 200IM. Coach pulls Maggie aside and encourages her to work things out internally, within herself, and externally, with her sister. Maggie leaves Coach’s office and finds Tiffany covered in blood. Tiffany was stabbed! But she doesn’t die so that makes the current death count for this book just one unfortunate sister during the prologue. I understand not killing off Dawn – it’s an early incident in the book and Dawn is Maggie’s best friend. Tiffany, however, is a completely expendable character who we never see again.

The novel culminates in an attic showdown, but it starts during a barbeque with the teen peepers.

I’m tired enough to go to sleep right now, Maggie decided.

I have to get to the end of the dream. I have to put this nightmare behind me.

“I’m going to get some more soda,” she lied, getting up from the table.

Everyone was staring at her. Her mom started to her feet with a worried look.

“I’m just going to the refrigerator, Mom,” Maggie said. “Chill out.”

She smiled at everyone, but she smiled too hard – which only made her feel like a lunatic.

I can imagine this unhinged, wide smiling. It’s unnerving. Maggie goes upstairs to sleep (how she planned to deal with her mother when she didn’t come back after getting a soda, I have no idea), but the canopy bed is, just like, gone. That night, Maggie finds the bed in the attic with a person asleep in the bed.

“But who are you?” Maggie demanded.

“Gena,” the girl replied. “Wasn’t I in the dream?”

“I-I don’t know,” Maggie told her. She edged toward the attic stairs.

“I’m Miranda’s sister,” the girl said angrily. “Why wasn’t I in the dream?”

After Gena murdered her sister Miranda, she lived in the attic! This bitch lived in the attic Hugo from The Simpsons style, listening to everything happening in the house. She was appearing in corners. She was stealing knives. She pushed Dawn down the stairs. She stabbed Tiffany. Why?

“But I’m going it for you, Andrea,” Gena replied, sounding hurt. “She’s mean to you. She’s mean – like Miranda.”

“For me?” Andrea cried. “What did you do for me?”

“I did everything for you,” Gena replied softly.

“I did everything for you, Andrea,” Gena continued, ignoring Maggie’s terrified cries. “I hurt those two girls for you. So you could be on the swim team.”

“You what?” Andrea shrieked.

‘Oh, no,” Maggie gasped. “She’s the one who hurt Dawn and Tiffany. I don’t believe it.”

“And I pushed the knife into your sister’s pillow, Andrea,” Gena confessed proudly. “You know. To give her a little scare. To get her ready for tonight.”

“But I don’t want you to kill her!” Andrea wailed. “Who are you? What is going on? How did you get into our house?”

“Shut up, Andrea,” Gena said softly.

She lowered her gaze to Maggie. “It’s time for mean sisters to die.”

Andrea is forced to save her sister and together they defeat Gena, tying her up and, I’m assuming, handing her over to the local law enforcement. (Does Shadybrook have a police force? They must be busy with all the disproportionate murdering and attempted murdering.) Miranda and Gena are a reflection of Andrea and Maggie. By actually confronting what their relationship could be, they are able to overcome their issues and become better sisters.

Admittedly, the twist came out of nowhere. I conjecture that the prologue was added later, but the addition rendered the teen-peepers-exposition-Averys useless.

The Averys could be cut. The boyfriend is extraneous. Tiffany should have been killed to show how close the danger is to Maggie. Despite this, I still had a great time reading it. I think my opinion is a bit skewed. The last Fear Street I read (The Stepsister) made me livid. Frankly, I was happy with the flawed female characters, and I was even happier there wasn’t a terrible, misogynistic, creepy male character. I was happy with the twist that came out of nowhere, but at least I didn’t predict it on page three. If the rest of the Fear Street books are at least as good as Bad Dreams, we’re in for a glowing series of reviews. I don’t think that will happen, but at least I’m committed, and if I hate the book, you’ll read all about it.

We’re going back to Stoneybrook next week, but the next book in the series isn’t a normal one. I’m reading The Baby-Sitters Club Notebook next time, and that should be a quick one!

Next Time On Rereading My Childhood – Fear Street: Who Killed the Homecoming Queen?

A Nightmare on Earth: Climate Change and Freddy Krueger

Note: This is something I wrote for a class and I decided to leave in the “Works Cited” page at the end. It’s not perfect, but it’s something. Also, I added in a sentence for clarity.

Wes Craven’s 1984 film A Nightmare on Elm Street begins with Amanda Wyss’s character, Tina Gray, running to escape an unseen force. She is wearing a white nightgown that is a stark contrast to the dark, steaming pipes dripping on her feet. A shadow of a man (played by Robert Englund) appears and slashes at her midsection. As his claws strike her, she jolts awake. It was a dream. Tina’s mother invades her daughter’s bedroom. Tina insists it was just a dream. A portly man steps behind Tina’s mother and beckons her back to bed. She sees four distinct cuts on her daughter’s nightgown and orders her daughter to cut her fingernails. Something is killing the kids on Elm Street and it’s the parents’ fault. Instead of listening to their children and fixing the problem, they dismiss their children’s concerns. They blame a Rod Lane, a poor kid with no parents, drug addiction, and delusion. The parents didn’t listen to their children, those adults will lose everything. This is climate change. The unnamed menace is climate change, the parents are politicians, and the children of Elm Street are the future generations who will suffer. Politicians are destroying the planet and the ones who are going to pay are our children and future generations. We need to revert back to Obama’s regulations or there won’t be a world to argue over.

Climate change is a process involving Carbon Dioxide, or CO₂, and how it interacts with the earth’s atmosphere. CO₂ is a chemical compound found in every living thing. When we exhale, we release CO₂. Plants take in CO₂ and convert it into breathable oxygen during photosynthesis. CO₂ also absorbs heat from the sun. If there is too much CO₂ in the air, it covers the earth like a blanket, trapping the heat on the earth’s surface. This raises temperatures, which affects crops, melts the polar ice caps, raising the sea level, and causing aberrant weather patterns (Zuckerman). The pattern of rising CO₂ is the catalyst for climate change and Tina’s death in A Nightmare on Elm Street is the catalyst for Freddy Krueger.

Tina has a sleepover with her boyfriend, Rod Lane (Jsu Garcia as Nick Corri), Tina’s best friend and protagonist of the movie, Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp), and Nancy’s boyfriend, Glen Lantz (a very young Johnny Depp). The teenagers confess to seeing the same burned man in their nightmares. The dreams are so powerful that Tina is afraid to fall asleep by herself, prompting the sleepover. Tina is killed that night and Nancy tells her father/police officer, Lt. Thompson (John Saxon) that there was another person in that room beside Tina and Rod. The police dismiss her claims as delusion and that the real culprit was Tina’s boyfriend. The police arrest Rod and close the case without due process. Just like the police on Elm Street, politicians dismissed scientists’ warnings about climate change and then they blamed the rise in CO₂ on something else. Something more mundane.

These non-scientists think this fluctuation in temperature is alarmist and that the earth’s temperature naturally changes. There is also the perception that CO₂ is always in the air so it can’t be coal or human error. While it is true that the earth’s temperature fluctuates over time, on average it’s relatively stable. And while CO₂ is natural and humans exhale CO₂ for plants to convert into breathable oxygen, the type of CO₂ rising in the air isn’t from humans exhaling too much (Zuckerman).

There are two types of carbon (the C in CO₂) – radioactive and nonradioactive. Every living thing has both kinds of carbon in their bodies. When something dies, the radioactive carbon decays over time – this is how Radiocarbon Dating works to determine the age of a fossil. Fossil fuels, such as coal, are basically the remains of the dead that lost their radioactive carbon. The nonradioactive carbon gets released when used for fuel. Finding radioactive carbon in the atmosphere is natural. However, finding nonradioactive carbon is not natural. That’s how scientists know that the rise in CO₂ emissions is man-made – not some natural cycle that Earth goes through once every few millennia (Zuckerman). Climate change cannot be dismissed as natural. So, politicians need a new scapegoat instead of dealing with the actual problem.

In March, Donald Trump signed an executive order to roll back the Obama environmental regulations in an attempt to save coal jobs (Worland). This course of action is predictable. Trump famously tweeted in 2012 that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive” (Gross). Ted Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas told the Texas Tribune in March 2015, “The satellite data demonstrates that there has been no significant warming whatsoever for 17 years” (qtd. in “Climate Change: Should the U.S. government take aggressive steps to address climate change?”). I don’t know what satellite data Cruz is referring to and he certainly doesn’t cite any specific data. However, people who actually study climate change and understand how the Scientific Method works (known colloquially as “scientists”), universally agree that the earth is getting warmer and it’s humans are to blame (Zuckerman). This all started when a scientist from the Scripps Institute, a nonprofit research facility based in San Diego, California, named David Keeling invented a machine to measure the air and atmosphere down to parts per million. He conducted the first test in 1958. By 1969, the machine was everywhere and Keeling noticed an “unmistakable” rise in CO₂. By the 1970’s, the average global surface temperature was rising as well – the earth was ½ degrees Celsius warmer than 100 years before – and it was rising exponentially (Zuckerman).

When Rod is incarcerated, the parents create a new scapegoat, just like politicians. Nancy develops insomnia after a near-death encounter with the burned man during an accidental bath nap. Her mother, Marge Thompson (Ronee Blakley), takes her to a sleep doctor in a futile attempt to learn why Nancy can’t sleep. Nancy flails violently until the doctors are able to pull her out of sleep. She finds a dirty hat in her bed. She had pulled the hat off the burned man’s head and brought it out of her dream and into reality. His name is stitched into the hat – Fred Krueger (he was called “Freddy” in the sequels). Her mother reveals that Krueger was a child murderer that the neighborhood parents killed after “someone forgot to sign the search warrant in the right place and Krueger was free just like that.” She assures Nancy that Krueger is dead and she shouldn’t worry about him anymore. Nancy pleads with her mother to help her, but Marge won’t hear it. She insists that Nancy is being paranoid and that Fred Krueger isn’t killing kids in their dreams. At the same time, Nancy’s boyfriend, Glen, has his own problems with his parents. They blame his relationship with Nancy on his sleep issues (A Nightmare on Elm Street).

Marge and the other adults blame something else, paranoia, Rod, drugs, too much time with a girlfriend, anything except themselves and what they did. And to divert their children’s attention on the real problem, they either leave the phone off the hook when their child’s girlfriend tries to call, or they put bars on the windows, trying to protect their children from a problem that doesn’t exist (A Nightmare on Elm Street). The same goes for the declining coal industry and the policies of the Republican party. They aren’t listening to scientists – they are attempting to divert our attention to another problem or they claim that getting rid of coal would destroy the economy (“Climate Change: Should the U.S. government take aggressive steps to address climate change?”). But the coal industry is dying for more reasons than overzealous environmentalists.

Trump proclaimed himself the “last shot for the miners” saying he would revive the coal industry (Worland). His executive order was meant to end the so-called “war on coal” and “allow our companies and our workers to thrive and compete on a level playing field” (Worland). Cutting funding to the Environmental Protection Agency and gutting Obama’s Clean Power Plan won’t bring coal jobs back and it won’t help the economy.

The coal industry has been in decline since the 1950’s. Is the EPA exerting its mighty power from a dark palace on the top of a steep hill and forcing innocent coal workers to conform to draconian laws? No. One of the biggest contributors to the coal industry’s decline is the thing that will put us all out of jobs eventually – automation. The New York Times reports that “In 1980, the industry employed about 242,000 people. By 2015, that figure had plunged 60 percent, to fewer than 100,000, even as coal production edged up 8 percent” (Tabuchi). But automation isn’t the only obstacle the coal industry has to compete with.

Coal’s biggest problem is the rise of natural gas production – commonly known as “fracking.” In the 1990’s, production surged. In 2003, coal accounted for half of all the United States’s power generation. In 2015, coal was only a third. Natural gas, as well as wind and solar, took coal’s share (Casselman).

And that brings us to wind and solar, both of which have become more efficient in recent years, especially with Obama’s Clean Power Plan (Casselman). According to the Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Corps, there are more than four and a half million clean energy or “green” jobs in the U.S., an increase from three million in 2011. Green jobs are growing at rates twelve times faster than the rest of the economy (Samuelson). If politicians really wanted to be “job creators,” then they should continue to invest in green collar jobs instead of trying to revitalize a dying industry.

What can happen if we don’t do anything? Our children will pay. According to the podcast SCIENCE VS, it’s host, Wendy Zuckerman, says, “If we keep living the way we are now, temperatures will rise by three to five degrees Celsius by the end of the century” (Zuckerman). What does this mean? In five hundred years, the sea levels will raise fifteen meters, or fifty feet (Zuckerman). The National Ocean Service says that 123.3 million people in the United States live on the coast, and that number is expected to rise eight percent by 2020 (“What percentage of the American population lives near the coast?”). That’s a lot of people who will be displaced. Also, important economic centers like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City will be underwater.

We can see the effects of climate change before our eyes. The last three decades have been the hottest on record. The polar ice caps are melting and the oceans are rising. Wildfires are burning the west. Extreme weather events are common, and droughts and rainfall are more severe. Insect outbreaks. Reduced crop yield. Heat-related health concerns. Abnormal erosion. And that’s just the stuff we can see right now (“The consequences of climate change”).

So what can we do? There is a real possibility that we can help undo the damage we have done to the environment. The government should keep Obama’s Clean Power Plan by challenging Trump’s executive order in court, like Trump’s travel ban (Drange). Also, a process called Carbon Capture and Storage (CSS) is a recent technology that can remove CO₂ from the atmosphere. This process needs thousands of facilities in order to limit global warming to less than two degrees and it’s been proven to work. World governments should invest in CSS as well as clean energy if they want the humans to be around for longer than a few more decades (Canadell).

At the end of the movie, Nancy turns and faces Fred Krueger. He killed her friends and murdered her mother. She tells him that she doesn’t believe in him. He has no power over her and she takes back any power she gave him. She wants her mother back. She wants her friends back. She has joined with the adults, who were insisting he was a delusion. She has given up and accepted the previous generation’s way of thinking – there’s nothing to do but admit that Fred Krueger is dead and hasn’t been killing her friends. She wakes up. Her mother is alive and it’s bright outside. Her friends drive up, ready to pick her up for school. It seems like insisting there is no problem has worked. But the car traps Nancy and her friends in a kind of Freddy-mobile, ready to eat them. A gloved hand with knives pulls Nancy’s mother through the window. Just saying the problem isn’t there doesn’t make it go away and Nancy’s submission to her parents’ thinking has permanently doomed her and her friends (A Nightmare on Elm Street). Luckily, we have a real opportunity to learn from Nancy’s mistake.

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that mankind is the cause of global warming, also known as climate change. The atmosphere is filling with the wrong kind of CO₂, and we are seeing the effects right before our eyes. The coal industry is dying and should die to make way for more climate-friendly energy sources. Climate change can be mitigated if governments, businesses, and people put aside their politics, profits, and pettiness for the continued existence of human beings on planet earth. Instead of joining with the adults and pretending the problem isn’t there, like in the movie A Nightmare on Elm Street, we should turn around and own up to our mistakes. We should work together to fix the damage we have done to our planet. If we don’t, climate change, or Freddy Krueger, won’t go away and it will consume our future.

 

Works Cited

A Nightmare on Elm Street. Dir. Wes Craven. Perf. Heather Langenkamp. Robert Englund. John

Saxon. New Line Cinema, 1984. Netflix. Web. 3 Apr. 2017.

Canadell, Pep. “Global Warming and Climate Change Can Be Stopped If People Try Harder.”

Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Gale, 2017. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.

Casselman, Ben. “Trump’s Plan Won’t Reverse Coal’s Decline.” FiveThirtyEight. FiveThirtyEight, 28

Mar. 2017. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.

“Climate Change: Should the U.S. government take aggressive steps to address climate change?” Issues

& Controversies. Infobase Learning, 18 Mar. 2016. Web. 8 Apr. 2017.

“Donald Trump Says He’ll Bring Back Coal. Here’s Why He Can’t.” Editorial. TIME. Time Inc., 14

Nov. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

Drange, Matt. “Donald Trump’s New Travel Ban Faces Fresh Legal Challenges.” Forbes. Forbes, 6

Mar. 2017. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.

Gross, Terry. “The Trump Presidency’s Potential Impact On Climate Change.” Host Terry Gross. Fresh

Air. National Public Radio, 15 Feb. 2017. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

Samuelson, Kate. “Renewable Energy Is Creating Jobs 12 Times Faster Than the Rest of the

Economy.” Fortune. Time Inc., 27 Jan. 2017. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

Tabuchi, Hiroko. “Coal Mining Jobs Trump Would Bring Back No Longer Exist.” The New York

Times. The New York Times Company, 29 Mar. 2017. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.

“The consequences of climate change.” Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. Ed. Holly

Shaftel. NASA, 24 Apr. 2017. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.

“What percentage of the American population lives near the coast?” Ocean Facts. National Ocean

Service, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.

Worland, Justin. “President Trump Signs Executive Order Rolling Back Obama-Era Environmental

Regulations.” TIME. Time Inc., 28 Mar. 2017. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

Zuckerman, Wendy. “Climate Change…the Apocalypse?” Host Wendy Zuckerman. Science VS. Gimlet

Media, 16 Mar. 2017. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.