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.
Without further ado, I'm thrilled to present...drum roll....
BY JIM DENNEY
Part Three: A Boat That Can Carry Two
I was all by myself, reading Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, and I was right at the embarrassing part near the end, where Margaret and her friend were in the drugstore, buying some . . . well, you know. That's when the door opened and he walked in—long black hair and dark eyes and chocolate skin.
Well, I had already decided what I'd do if I saw him again. I sat up, looked him in the eye, and said, "Hi, my name is Zandria. What's yours?"
He mumbled something and sat down on the couch farthest from mine.
I said, "I'm sorry, I didn't hear that. What was your name again?"
"Salvino. My name is Salvino."
He didn't even look at me when he said it. He just started tapping on the keypad.
I said, "Well, that's just rude."
He looked at me with his mouth open. "Huh?"
So I mocked him. "Huh?"
"Are you mocking me?" he said.
"Are you mocking me?" I said.
"What are you so mad at?"
"What did I do?"
"You were rude."
"I wasn't rude. I told you my name, didn't I?"
"You mumbled and didn't look at me. That's very rude, in case you didn't know."
"I didn't mean to be rude."
"Well you were."
"Well, I didn't mean to be."
"Well, you were anyway."
"Well, I'm sorry."
"Well, okay. Since you're sorry, I guess we can be friends."
I think that surprised him. He blinked a couple of times, then he said, "You want to be friends with me?"
"I do if you do."
He shrugged. "Okay. I guess I do. What did you say your name was?"
Boys are so dumb! I just told him my name. Wasn't he listening?
I said, "Zandria. My name is Zandria."
"That's a weird name."
"It's no weirder than Salvino. I was named after a library."
"There's a library named Zandria?"
"My name is short for Alexandria. A long time ago, there was a famous library in Alexandria, Egypt. It had scrolls of knowledge from all around the world. But the library burned down, and all the knowledge was lost."
"I guess you come to the library because you were named after one."
"No, I come to the library because I like books. You like the library, don't you?"
"How come I hardly ever saw you before?"
He shrugged. "I used to come during period three—that was my first waking period before they changed our schedule."
"Oh, that makes sense," I said. "Period three is our sleep period."
"Now our section sleeps during third period. So I guess I'll see you every day."
"I guess so," I said. "What book are you reading?"
"The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs."
"I've never heard of it. It's about Mars, huh?"
"Not the real Mars. When he wrote it, nobody knew what Mars is really like."
"Read some to me."
He read a chapter to me. It's about an Earthman named John Carter who goes to Mars and rescues a Martian slave-girl named Thuvia. I didn't think I would like it, but I did. It was . . . romantic.
Salvino stopped at the end of the chapter and said, "What are you reading?"
"It's called Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret."
"Read some to me."
I felt my face turn hot. I was at the most embarrassing part of the book! How could I read it out loud? And to a boy? But I couldn't very well say no. So I read him the part where Margaret and her friend are in the drugstore buying . . . well, you know.
I read the whole chapter. Then I held my breath, hoping Salvino wouldn't ask any embarrassing questions. He didn't. He just sat and thought about it.
Then he said, "I like The Gods of Mars better."
"That's because you're a boy."
"I guess so. I'm tired of reading. You want to talk?"
"Where are you from?"
"San Pedro, California. Where are you from?"
"Where is that?"
He shrugged. "It really doesn't matter where Cebu City is. Or San Pedro. Those places are millions of miles away, and we're never going back. From now on, we're going to be Martians. If anyone asks where we're from, we should say, 'We're from Mars.'"
I said, "I never thought of it that way, but it's true. We're going to be Martians."
"We're not going to be Martians. We are Martians. The moment we left Earth, we left the old life behind. We have to think like Martians."
"What do you mean, 'think like Martians'? Are you saying I should stop reading books by Judy Blume and only read books about Mars?"
"No," he said. "We'll need the old Earth books until we start writing new books—Martian books. I'm going to be a writer someday. I'll be the first Martian author."
My Amulet chirped. I looked and read a text from Mom. Time for dinner.
"I've got to go, Salvino," I said. "I'm glad we're friends."
"Yeah. Me, too."
"Meet me here tomorrow?"
So now I have a friend, God. His name is Salvino and he likes books. He even wants to write books. How cool is that?
Was it your idea for Salvino and me to meet? If it was, thanks.
Hello, God. It's me, Zandria—and I'm not so lonely anymore.
Salvino and I spent the whole day in the library. He sat on the reading couch next to mine.
We each read our own books silently for a while. He read The Warlord of Mars and I read Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself. Even when we weren't talking, I liked having a friend to share the quiet with.
It's funny. When Salvino was a stranger, it felt weird and awkward being in the same room with him and not talking. Now that we're friends, we can be together and not say a word and it's really nice.
After a while, Salvino asked if we could read a book together.
I said, "How would we do that?"
"You read a few pages to me, then I read a few pages to you."
I let Salvino pick the book. He wanted to read The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. I didn't think I'd like it, but it's really good. The Mars in that book is a strange world with ghost towns made of crystal and a dying race of Martians who sail ships across the sand. It's beautiful and sad. I wish the Mars we're going to was like that. We read almost half the book together before it was time for dinner.
I haven't told Mom and Dad about Salvino. But Mom is curious. She keeps asking, "Why are you spending so much time at the library?" And, "Who are you talking to on your Amulet all the time?"
It's not that I'm hiding anything. I just don't want Mom to get the wrong idea about Salvino. I don't want her to think he's my--
Oops, sorry, God. Have to go. My Amulet's chirping. It's Salvino.
Hello, God. Yep, me again—Zandria.
In the library today, I asked Salvino about his family. He said, "It's just me and my dad." Then he was quiet.
What do you say to something like that? I wanted to ask, What happened to your mom? Did she run off and leave you? Did she die? But that would be rude. So I just waited and didn't say anything.
After a while, he said, "My mother died."
I said, "Oh."
I felt awkward, like I should have said more.
Finally, I said, "I'm sorry about your mom."
"It hurts a lot, doesn't it?"
I said, "Do you believe in God?"
"Do you ever wonder—" I stopped. Maybe I shouldn't ask.
He said, "Do I ever wonder what?"
"Do you ever wonder why God let your mom die?"
He was quiet for a long time.
"Yeah, I wondered," he said. "But before she died, she told me to always believe in God. She said, 'I'll see you again. A soul that loves God is never lost.' Sometimes I still hear her saying that."
"You hear your mother talking to you in a voice?"
"No. It's more of a feeling." He tapped his chest. "I feel her talking to me in here." His eyes were wet.
I said, "Do you want to read some more?"
He said, "Yeah."
So we read to each other.
I've been thinking about what Salvino's mother told him—"A soul that loves God is never lost."
Is that true, God?
Hello, God. It's me, Zandria—remember me?
I'm sorry it's been such a long time since I talked to you. How long has it been? Weeks, probably. I lose track of time because we don't have days and weeks in space, just waking periods and sleeping periods.
I've been spending a lot of waking periods in the library with Salvino. When he and I aren't in the library, we like to call or text each other on our Amulets.
Don't get the wrong idea, God. It's not that I have a crush on Salvino. I don't. And he doesn't have a crush on me. We're just friends, and we're going to keep it that way. We even talked about it. I told Salvino that I'm not ready to have a crush on a boy.
Besides, when we get to Mars, he'll be living in the Pacifica settlement in Tharsus, and I'll be in the Utopia settlement, half a planet away. Once we leave the Ares, Salvino and I will probably never see each other again. It's sad. I try not to think about it.
We read to each other again today. Then Salvino came over to my couch and sat next to me and taught me a song. It goes like this:
The water is wide, I can't cross over.
And neither have I wings to fly.
Give me a boat that can carry two,
And both shall row, my love and I.
While he sang me that song, I imagined a wide ocean of empty space between the planets. I imagined that the library was our little boat that we were rowing to Mars.
I said, "That's a beautiful song. Where did you learn it?"
He said, "From my mother. She told me it's an old, old song. There are other verses, but I only remember the first verse."
Then he touched my hand.
I moved my hand away and pretended I didn't notice.
He stood up and acted like nothing happened. He said, "Well, I probably ought to be going."
I stood up and said, "Yeah, me too."
He started to walk to the door, but I said his name and he looked at me. And I gave him a hug. He grinned—a big, wide grin that lit up his whole face.
Without thinking, I picked up the Amulet that hung from my neck and pointed it at Salvino and snapped his picture.
I think he was kind of embarrassed. He shook his head and grinned again. Then he walked out.
It's a good picture. In the Amulet's 3-D display, he looks so real, I could reach out and hug him all over again.
I have to admit, God, I felt tingly inside when he touched my hand.
I'm glad I decided not to have a crush on Salvino, or I'd be a real mess right now.
To be concluded on Thursday in "Part Four: Mad, Sad, Mad, Sad"
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 on Thursday for the final installment!
It also bears mentioning that the #JudyBlumeProject has enjoyed fabulous support on Twitter from @TigerEyesMovie, 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.
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