I am thrilled to present this amazing guest post in four parts by author, Jim Denney, of the Timebenders series. I became friends with Jim on Twitter, my son has read (LOVED!) the first book in his series, Battle Before Time, and Jim thinks the world of Judy Blume, and our little #JudyBlumeProject (GAH!). As a MG author himself, he thinks so much of Judy Blume, that among his many projects, he took time out to write and share this riveting story, Martian Girl, with US! GRATEFUL!
I'm certain you'll enjoy this ode to seemingly everyone's favorite, Judy's Margaret. Check out our Facebook page, we now have a PROJECT PAGE, and you'll see that nearly every post to date includes AYTGIMM among the most meaningful and life-affirming of Judy Blume's prolific works for generations of tween girls during the angst-ridden onset of puberty. And rightly so. I hope this shows that any manner of respect you'd like to pay to Judy will be considered, and I hope this will inspire more men (young or young at heart) to contribute their thoughts and memories to our wonderful little project that one day hopes to be published as an anthology to honor our Judy.
(Love ya, Dana! Hope this brightens your back-to-school! Read this to the Minxes--maybe it'll make them think twice about peeving off my momma-friend! "Straight to Mars, I tell ya!") JK, kinda.
Without further ado, I'm thrilled to present...drum roll....
BY JIM DENNEY
Part One: My Last Day On Earth
Tomorrow's my last day on Earth.
My dad says, "Zandria, you always over-dramatize things." But I'm not over-dramatizing this. I'm leaving Earth tomorrow.
So God, if you're out there somewhere, please do something. I don't want to go to Mars!
I'm talking to you on my Amulet, God, because Mom told me I should pray every day and I should keep a diary. She said, "You always have your Amulet on a chain around your neck—you should use it to record your thoughts and feelings."
But I have to be honest with you, God—I'm really not sure I believe in you. Mom wants me to talk to you every day, but Dad says you don't exist. So when I'm around Mom, I'm religious. When I'm around Dad, I don't mention your name. And when I'm by myself, I'm confused.
I have to be careful that no one else is listening when I talk to you. So let's just keep this between you and me. I mean, if you're there.
I'm really sad we're leaving San Pedro. I like it here. I like going to the beach. I like my friends. San Pedro may be old and dirty, but it's my home. I'm thirteen years old, and I've never been farther away from home than the Santa Monica Pier.
Dad always promised that someday, when he had enough money saved up, we'd go to Disneyland. But he never saved up the money, and now I'll never get to go. And I'll never get to see Yosemite or the Grand Canyon or New York either.
Why do we have to move to Mars? Horrible, cold, dreary Mars! I have to stop thinking about it or I'll cry.
They won't let us take many of our belongings, so we held a big yard sale and sold almost everything we own. I had to sell all my dresses. Mom said they don't wear dresses on Mars. Everybody wears baggy white jumpsuits. Yuck.
The few things we still own are loaded on the rented van in our driveway. We have to sleep on the bare floors of our poor little empty house tonight. It's so sad!
Early tomorrow morning, we'll drive to the Spaceport and take off for Mars. Even though I hate leaving San Pedro, I don't blame Dad. It's not his fault he lost his job at the factory.
Stupid bad economy! Dad says there are too many people, not enough jobs, and not enough money to go around. I don't know why the government doesn't just print more money and give it to us. I mean, doesn't that make sense, God? But no! The government can't help my dad have a job here on Earth, but it can pay us to move to Mars!
I think the government is stupid.
I don't know very much about Mars, God, but it must be a really awful place if the government has to pay people to move there. Dad says it won't be so bad. I asked him if I'll get to ride a bicycle or take walks on Mars. He said no, it's too cold outside and there's no air pressure, and my blood would boil, then turn to ice. I'll have to live in a tunnel under the ground for the rest of my life!
See? It's going to be just awful.
Mom cries all the time over nothing at all. Today I tried to help her feel better about moving away. I said, "Well, at least I won't miss the hole in my bedroom wall where the rain water drips in."
Mom burst out crying and said, "Oh, we never fixed that leak! Our poor little house! We'll never see it again."
Really, who cries about a stupid little leak in the wall?
But it makes me sad to leave our house. It's tiny and kind of run-down, but it's the only house I've ever lived in. It sits on top of the hill, and I can see the ocean from my bedroom window.
When I was packing my things this morning, I heard Mom and Dad talking real quiet in the next room. I know it's wrong to eavesdrop, but I stopped packing and I went to the door and listened.
Mom said, "Jasen, I'm so scared. I can't help it. I keep picturing our transport blowing up in mid-air. We'll all die—just like those two hundred people on the Aurora."
Dad said, "Hannah, the Aurora was an old ship—one of those rusty converted freighters. I booked us on a brand-new passenger ship, the Nebula—safest ship in the fleet. Nothing's going to happen to us."
"I know it's silly to worry, but I can't help—wait! Listen!"
"Listen to what? I don't hear anything?"
"I know. It's too quiet. You don't think Zandria overheard—"
"How could she hear us whispering from the next room?"
Well, whispers really do echo in an empty house. I heard every word they said. But I didn't want Mom and Dad to catch me listening, so I crept away from the doorway and pretended I'd been working the whole time.
Dad poked his head through the doorway and said, "How's it coming, Zan?"
I said, "Fine," and kept packing.
Do you think the transport might blow up, God? I don't think so. I think Mom worries too much. But that's what moms do. Dad says the Nebula is a safe ship, so I'm not worried. I just wish we didn't have to go to Mars.
So, God, if you're out there, if there's anything you can do, could you fix it so we don't have to go? I guess I'm asking for a miracle. Do you still do miracles?
I don't want to tell you how to do your job, but here's an idea: Maybe the factory where Dad worked could call him and offer to give him his job back. Then we wouldn't have to go.
If you have a better idea, God, that's fine with me. But you'd better hurry up because there isn't much time. We're leaving tomorrow morning.
Hello, God. It's me, Zandria, again.
I guess you couldn't make a miracle happen, because here we are at the Spaceport, getting ready to go to Mars.
It was awful leaving our little house for the last time. Mom cried, I cried, and Dad kept muttering and swearing. Mom bawled all the way to the Spaceport. After about half an hour, Dad yelled at her, "Hannah, just stop this! There's no sense crying. We have to go to Mars and that's all there is to it."
Mom stopped crying, and she looked at Dad—and then she said the worst word I've ever heard my mother say. I didn't even know she knew that word. She hardly ever says anything bad—but oh, what she said! Then she put her hand over her mouth—and started bawling all over again.
When we arrived at the Spaceport, we saw two transport ships on the launch ramps. One was the shiny new Nebula, the transport we have tickets for. The other is an ugly old ship with black re-entry burns all over the hull. It was so scorched and grimy, I could hardly make out the name of the ship: Titan.
"I'm sure glad we're booked on the Nebula," Dad said. "I pity the people who have to fly in that other hunk of junk."
So we went into the Spaceport and that's where we are right now. It's super crowded and super noisy. There are zillions of people all around, and they're all going to Mars with us. I can look out through the big windows and see the Spaceport crews unloading the crates from our van and putting them into the belly of the transport. Problem is, they're loading our stuff into the wrong transport. They're loading it aboard the Titan.
For ten minutes, Dad's been at the Mars-Line Company desk, yelling and pounding his fist. The Mars-Line people keep telling him to calm down or they'll call Security. But they don't know my dad!
He waved our tickets around and said, "These tickets say we have a reserved cabin aboard the Transport Nebula!"
The man at the desk just smiled and said, "I'm sorry sir, but we had to switch you and your family to the Titan." He pointed to the burned-out old freight-hauler on the launch ramp.
"The Titan?" Dad shouted. "You ought to call that thing the Titanic! It's a disaster waiting to happen! We're not getting aboard that death-trap. It's even older and more broken-down than that transport that exploded last week—the Aurora."
The man stopped smiling when Dad mentioned the Aurora. "Please lower your voice, sir," he said—and he didn't sound polite anymore. "If you'll look closely at your ticket, you'll see that the company reserves the right to substitute a different transport. I assure you, sir, that the Titan is every bit as safe and spaceworthy as the Nebula."
Well, the man was obviously lying. The Nebula was shiny and new. The Titan was burned up, patched up, and ready to fall apart if anyone sneezed at it. And when I heard Dad call it a "death-trap," I got scared.
Mom's sitting next to me, crying and moaning, "I knew it. We're going to blow up in a big fireball, just like the Aurora." Is she right, God? What if that old transport really does blow up—with us on it?
Dad's still arguing with the man at the desk. He just said, "I demand you put my family on the Nebula, just like the ticket says. If you don't, I'll sue this company for fraud!"
"Sir," the man said, "please read the fine print on the back of your ticket. The Company reserves the right to make substitutions."
They're arguing and Dad is swearing--
Uh-oh. Here come the Security officers. They're talking to Dad and making him sit down and be quiet.
It looks like we'll be leaving on the Titan. Or the Titanic, as Dad calls it. So we're going to Mars—if we don't blow up first.
I was really counting on you for a miracle, God. I was hoping you'd think of something. But we're going to Mars on the Titanic. I hope you won't get mad at me for saying this, God, but I'm kind of disappointed in you.
Well, God, this is just about the worst day of my life.
They put us on a tram and took us out to the Titan. The closer we got, the more we could see all the dents and pits and patches in the hull.
The tram pulled up at the boarding ramp, and we got off. Dad looked the Transport Titan up and down and said, "They should have junked this relic years ago."
That set Mom off again. "We're going to die," she said. "I just know it."
A man in uniform by the boarding ramp said, "Have a pleasant voyage."
Dad called him a nasty name.
We went up the boarding ramp and found our section.
The inside of the ship is even more run-down than the outside. The seats are patched and stained. The floors are sticky. There's a funny smell.
Dad said, "This ship is a garbage scow!"
Mom turned around and tried to get off, but the flight attendants made us all sit down. Then they strapped us into our acceleration couches. One of the flight attendants stuck a patch on Mom's arm when she wasn't looking. In two seconds, Mom went to sleep with a smile on her face.
Now we're getting ready for launch. I can talk to you on my Amulet because Mom's asleep and Dad's on the other side of Mom—he can't hear what I'm saying.
They're counting down for the launch right now. Thirty seconds to go.
Please, God, don't let us blow up like the Aurora.
I wish they'd put one of those patches on my arm. If we're going to blow up, I'd rather be sleeping like Mom when it happens.
Dad just leaned forward and gave me a wink, as if to say, Everything's going to be okay. I hope he's right. God, please let him be right.
Oh! It's happening. The engine noise is so loud! It's like an explosion that goes on and on. Everything's shaking. My teeth are rattling.
We're moving. The ship is climbing the ramp. I wish there were windows so I could see the world going by.
I think we just shot off the end of the launch ramp. It feels like we're shooting up into the sky.
Why is the transport shaking so much? Is that normal?
Oh! Did you hear that loud bang, God? Something must be wrong.
The whole ship is making horrible groaning noises. Is it coming apart? People are screaming all around me.
Oh! There it goes again—a horrible bang! What was that noise? Did something break off the ship?
What are those popping sounds?
There's another bang! Oh, God, please hold our ship together. Don't let it blow up or fall apart.
Look at Mom, will you? Still asleep!
Oh, my stomach! The whole ship lurched.
All around me, people are crying.
I looked at Dad to see if he's scared, but he won't look back. He's staring straight ahead and his hands are gripping the armrests so hard his knuckles are white.
God, when will it end? I'm so scared. When will it--
To be continued on Thursday in "Part Two: A Terrible Distraction"
Jim Denney is the author of Writing in Overdrive: Write Faster, Write Freely, Write Brilliantly. He has written more than 100 books, including the Timebenders science fantasy adventure series for young readers--Battle Before Time, Doorway to Doom, Invasion of the Time Troopers, and Lost in Cydonia. He is also the co-writer with Pat Williams (co-founder of the Orlando Magic) of Leadership Excellence and The Difference You Make. Jim is a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Follow Jim on Twitter at @WriterJimDenney.
Thanks again to author, Jim Denney, for his generous and entertaining contribution to the #JudyBlumeProject. I think it's wonderful that he's delivered this story from the female perspective for our project. Timebenders #1 was an excellent choice for my reluctant 4th grade reader (his first on a tablet, which he was also reluctant about).
Check back Thursday for more!
It also bears mentioning that the #JudyBlumeProject has enjoyed fabulous support from @TigerEyesMovie on Twitter, Judy's and son, Lawrence Blume's first ever MOVIE(!) based on the Judy Blume novel, Tiger Eyes. We are so grateful for their shares, retweets, and the heads up they've given us on some wonderful posts we hope to include in the #JudyBlumeProject. SEE THE MOVIE-->, give them a follow and please help spread the word.