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Authors: Chris McMahen

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Tabloidology

TABLOIDOLOGY
Chris McMahen

Text copyright ©
2009
Chris McMahen

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

McMahen, Chris

Tabloidology / written by Chris McMahen.

Electronic Monograph
Issued also in print format.
ISBN
9781554690107
(pdf)
--
ISBN
9781554695454
(epub)

I. Title.

PS8575.M24T32 2009         jC813'.54          C2008-907662-1

First published in the United States,
2009
Library of Congress Control Number
:
2008942004

Summary
: Bizarre things happen when a wild girl and a serious boy are forced to work on their school's newspaper together.

Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.

Design by Teresa Bubela
Cover artwork by Monika Melnychuk
Author photo by Ben McMahen

In Canada:
Orca Book Publishers
PO Box 5626, Station B
Victoria, BC Canada
V8R 6S4

In the United States:
Orca Book Publishers
PO Box 468
Custer, WA USA
98240-0468

www.orcabook.com
12  11  10  09   •   4  3  2  1

For Heather

Contents

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

FIFTEEN

SIXTEEN

SEVENTEEN

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ONE

O
n Wednesday night at 8:58 pm, Martin Wettmore rubbed his eyes. He'd been staring at his computer screen for the past five and a half hours. Beside Martin's keyboard was a stack of thirty pages, each covered in his neat, precise handwriting. On a bulletin board above his desk were fifteen photographs lined up in three rows of five.

The door to his room flew open. Martin's older brother Razor barged in, lugging his electric guitar and amp.

“You're not practicing now, I hope,” Martin said. “I have work to do.”

Razor plugged in his guitar and amp, turned a few dials and smacked the guitar strings with his thumb. A puff of smoke rose from the amp as the windows rattled and the floor vibrated.

“YEAH! SWEET!” Razor shouted, thrashing at his guitar, twisting and bending with each whack of the strings.

Martin tore off two pieces of paper from his notepad, scrunched them into tiny balls and stuffed them in his ears. He rubbed his eyes once more and then looked down at the sheets of paper on his desk.

Even through his makeshift earplugs, Martin could hear his mother open the door and scream, “TURN THAT RACKET OFF! YOU KNOW YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO PLAY THAT THING AFTER EIGHT O'CLOCK!” Martin looked up to see his mother, in housecoat and slippers, yank the plug from the wall.

“Hey!” Razor said. “I'm working on a new tune for our album!”

“I don't care. It's too loud!” Martin's mother said.

“When our band gets our big record deal, you won't be pulling the plug,” Razor said.

“Well, I don't want your racket ruining my batch of pickles!” his mother said. “I've told you how sensitive my pickles are. A loud noise might ruin the whole batch.”

“What's the big deal?” Razor said.

“I'll tell you what the big deal is. The North Valley Agricultural Exhibition Pickle Competition, that's what! I've got first place in the bag as long as that racket from your guitar doesn't ruin everything.”

Martin could still hear way too much. He jammed the balls of paper further into his ears.

His mother slammed the door and thumped down the stairs. But just as Martin hunkered down in front of his computer again, he heard his sister Sissy shouting from the bottom of the stairs. “Martin! One of the dogs just pooped in the hall. It's your turn to clean it up!”

“If your dog pooped in the hall, shouldn't you clean it up?” Martin yelled back.

“Don't argue with me, Martin. I don't have time. I'm right in the middle of whitening Teacup's teeth,” Sissy said.

“But I'm right in the middle of working on my—”

“Do what your sister says, Martin!” his mother yelled. “No dillydallying around. Clean it up now!”

Martin wrote on his pad of sticky notes
Buy proper earplugs
. Then he grabbed a couple of crumpled pieces of paper from his garbage can, trudged into the hall and scooped the poop. He went to the bathroom, flushed everything down and turned on the taps in the sink to wash his hands. The pipes made a hollow sucking sound. No water came out of the faucet. “Not again,” he said. It was the twenty-seventh time the water had cut out since they'd moved into the house last year. Martin washed his hands with a damp sani-towel from a box his mother kept in the medicine cabinet for times like this.

At 9:07 pm, Martin got back to his desk. Razor was talking on his cell phone to his latest girlfriend. He called her Blade. Martin tried to stuff the paper balls even deeper into his ears and hunched over a sheet of paper. He ran his fingers slowly over each sentence, mouthing the words as he read. Every so often, he'd stop and hiss through his teeth, “No! No! No! That's not good enough!” He grabbed a red pen from the pottery pencil-holder he'd made in grade two, and scribbled, crossed out, corrected and then scribbled, crossed out and corrected some more. Turning the paper over, he began to work on the next page when a large drop of water landed
splat
in the middle of the paper. It was soon followed by another and another.

Martin looked up and saw a huge stain in the ceiling above his desk. The last time it rained, the water had dripped on his bed. Razor and his friends must have made a hole in the roof when they were teeing golf balls off the roof last week. Martin grabbed the end of his desk and shoved it out of the drip's way.

“Terrence, are you moving the furniture around again?” Martin's mother said from out in the hall. Terrence was Razor's real name. His mother was the only person who called him Terrence.

Martin opened the bedroom door and said, “There's another leak in the roof, Mom. I had to move my desk.”

“Another leak?” his mother said. “What are you boys doing in that room? Firing your pellet guns through the ceiling or something?”

At 9:13 pm, Martin returned to his computer and began to type rapidly using his thumbs and index fingers. He stopped and looked back over the red-splotched paper. “NO! That's not good enough! Not good enough!” With both hands, he grabbed the paper, tore it four times, crumpled the scraps into a ball and threw it against the wall.

“Come on, Martin. You can do better than this.” As he banged his forehead with his fists, his desk began to vibrate. Everything in the room began to shake. The dirty cups and glasses on the dresser rattled, Razor's belt buckles on the floor of the closet chittered and chattered. Martin's computer mouse skittered toward the edge of the mouse pad. With one hand, he grabbed his keyboard and with the other he steadied his monitor. It was the 9:18 express train, rumbling past on the tracks behind the house.

At 9:27 pm, Martin leaned on his elbows, his nose almost touching the computer screen. He read, re-read and re-reread what he'd typed until he sniffed burning plastic. His old monitor was overheating again. He switched it off, fanned the back with a piece of cardboard, waited ten minutes and turned it back on.

At 9:44 pm, Martin's eyes were back on the computer screen, and he was gritting his teeth until his jaw hurt. “That's just not right. It's got to be better!” he said, bumping his forehead against the screen three times.

At 9:45 pm, Sissy's five dogs started to bark. Every night at this time, they barked for about fifteen minutes and then suddenly stopped. No one knew why.

Martin took another look at the words he'd typed and slammed his fist on the desk. He leaped up, kicked back his chair and began pacing back and forth across the tiny room, clutching the sides of his head. “Think. Think. Think, Martin! You've got to get it right. It's got to be perfect!”

On Wednesday night at 8:58 pm, Trixi Wilder was sprawled across the plush pink carpet next to her pink canopy bed. The TV in the corner cabinet was off. Her cell phone was turned off and so were her satellite radio, cd, dvd and Mp3 players. Trixi wanted no distractions, for she was creating the best poem of her life.

“It's perfect!” she whispered as she jumped up and ran across the house to her father's home office. The door was locked. She could hear him talking on the phone, so she skipped down to her mother's office.

Trixi bounced in through the open door. “Hey, Mom! Can you help me finish my poetry assignment? My teacher said I could read my poem into a tape recorder instead of writing it out.”

Trixi's mother was hunched over her computer, her eyes fixed to the screen. “Don't you think you should write it out like all the other children, Trixi? I don't like the way you avoid writing. You'll never improve at this rate.”

“But I've made up this amazing poem, and I thought it would be so great if you read it into the tape. Sort of like a guest reader. You'd be perfect!”

The phone rang. Mrs. Wilder snapped her fingers and waved Trixi out of the room as she picked up the phone. Trixi waited outside the office door until her mother finished her call.

“I've got that old cassette recorder from the basement, so all you have to do is read my poem into the microphone,” Trixi said. “It'll only take a minute.”

“Not now, Trixi. I'm getting things in order for our trip to New York. Your father and I are leaving next week,” her mother said. “Why don't you get Mrs. Primrose to do it?”

“You're going to New York next week?”

“Yes, I'm sure we mentioned it.”

“Can I come this time?”

“That's out of the question. It's a business trip. Go and find Mrs. Primrose. I'm sure she'd be thrilled to read your story.”

“It's a poem. And she went off duty half an hour ago. Anyway, you'd read it way better than she ever could.”

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