I’ve been talking around the edges of my book, The Flying Burgowski, for long enough…it’s time to share a little. How about Chapter One? Does that sound about right? After you’ve read it, write in and tell me…Do you agree with Jocelyn’s attitude that people who only see the movies of Harry Potter are idiots? Why/why not?
If you saw a “ghost” video like this on the internet, would you think it was real or fake? Why?
Does Jocelyn’s relationship with her brother Michael remind you of any brother-sister relationships you know of? Wanna share?
Chapter One: Pretty Basic Ghost
If you think Harry Potter’s stupid, you might want to stop reading right now.
I know. But some people think that. When this kid in my Language Arts told Mrs. Mac, “Harry Potter’s stupid, I just watch the movies,” I couldn’t believe it. “You’re stupid,” I told the kid—it was Tyler Howe, he’s a jerk. Mrs. Mac told me not to be rude, but she was smiling so I know she agreed with me.
But my point is, some people can’t handle that kind of wildness in a story. And if you’re one of them, you won’t like mine.
You have been warned.
My name is Jocelyn Olivia Burgowski. It spells JOB and I used to sign my name that way, but I have a better signature now, way better: The Flying Burgowski. Too bad I don’t get to use it.
That’s why I’m writing this. Some things you just have to tell; some secrets eat away at you like rust until you get all weak and crumbly. I was starting to feel that way until I decided to write my story down. I can tell that’s a good idea because I already feel kind of fortified, like someone just gave me a thick new coat of paint. When you’re a Flyer you have to find a way to deal with the biggest secret ever. Because I’m the only one. I know I am. That stupid video’s just a hoax.
Harry Potter didn’t have to worry about keeping his magic secret; everybody around him was magic too. I’m really more like Spiderman, but without the tights and the mask and stuff. That would be stupid. And I don’t need to grab on to buildings. But I’ll share some inside info, so you know I’m not making this up. #1, When you’re flying, the sky smells like lilies. No kidding. And #2: Flying doesn’t come with instructions, like a new video game. So if it cuts out on you, sorry—no customer support. You’re on your own.
My story started with flying dreams, way last spring. Aren’t those awesome? I usually had one after falling asleep re-reading Harry. Next day I’d tell my best friend Savannah about zooming over the clouds or whatever, and she’d go, “Whoa, that sounds like the one I had where…” I mean, she could relate. But then the dreams changed and I quit telling about them.
On the last Saturday before the end of school, I woke up grabbing my bed frame for dear life. Whoa. Flying in spirals! Never knew a dream could make you dizzy. Good ol’ Saturday Pancakes is what I needed, and I shuffled into the kitchen. But instead of Dad flipping them on the stove, there they were, already cooled on a big plate. And a note: “M & J, theres s-berries & w.creme in the frig. Do yr. chores. J check vac bag. Back @ 9:30 w/ special present.” Dad’s not the best speller, but strawberries and whipped cream! Major treat. And “special present”? It sounded like Dad was doing his part to polish up my shiny pre-birthday excitement.
My birthday’s on Summer Solstice, June 21st, and this year I was becoming a Teen, the first age with its own name. When Michael joined me in the kitchen I started planning out loud.
“Hey, maybe I’ll have an Unlucky Party. You know, invite thirteen people? And everyone gets unlucky favors, like…toy black cats. Or ladders.” I took my pancakes out of the microwave. “What else is unlucky?”
My brother took a giant bite and glommed it around in his mouth without saying anything. I hate when people don’t answer you, and Michael knows that so he does it on purpose just to make me mad.
“Oh, and I can have, like, black frosting on the cake. Or maybe that’s too Halloweeny. Oh, maybe orange, like a caution sign!”
He swallowed, took another half-pancake bite.
“’Cause thirteen’s unlucky, get it?”
Michael put his fork down, opened the milk carton, and sniffed. “This better be better than yesterday’s. It was stamped the 14th and it was already off.” Dad brings us the milk that’s too near its expiration date to sell at our store, so we have to be careful. But right then I hoped Michael would get a whole snootful of sour milk for being such a jerk.
“Whaddya think?” I asked him right out.
“’Bout what,” my brother grumbled.
That did it. “You know, you sound just like Mom when you do that.” He does, but that’s not why I said it. I said it ‘cause it gets his attention.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Finally I saw his eyes as he swept the hair away.
“At least she’s got an excuse for not listening. At least when you’re taking a bunch of pills or something it’s not really your fault if your brain’s out taking a walk or…or riding a trapeze, or…”
“Shut up, Joss.”
“No, you shut up! You’re the one who doesn’t want to say anything! Fine. I can plan my party without you or Mom, or anybody!”
“Hah!” Michael sat up straight. “You think Mom wants to have anything to do with your party? You must be delusional. Remember last year? Your ultra-original Harry Potter theme and you tried to get her to dress up like a witch? Oh, that worked out great, huh?”
“That wasn’t my fault!” My throat tightened and refused the last bite of pancake. “She was all into the idea, I thought she’d love it…”
I’d thought she would. A month before my party last year she’d sounded enthusiastic. “Harry Potter, huh? You know I haven’t read ‘em, but I think I’m the only person on earth who hasn’t. So go for it, babe. Sounds cool.”
“Can you dress up too, Mom?” I’d asked on the phone. “All the guys are wizards and all the girls are witches, so you’re a witch.”
She had laughed her funny, scratchy laugh. “Always wondered when my daughter would start calling me that. Sure, babe, I’ll be a witch. What time does your thing start?”
She had even been on time, at least for her. Dressed as a witch. Long, fake nose and warts and scraggly wig. Too bad I hadn’t told her the Harry Potter witches don’t look like that. How was she supposed to know? So the third girl who pointed this out to her, Molly, got an earful.
“Well, you’re thoroughly into character,” Mom snapped at Molly, and her warty nose and the wig went sailing across the living room. “What do these Harry Potter witches do, then? Fly on broomsticks?”
“Oh, yes!” Poor old Molly thought Mom had finally figured it out. “Here, you can use mine if you want.”
I absolutely hate it when people bring up bad memories. Like you really need help with that.
“Oh, loved it, she did,” Michael said in his snottiest Yoda voice. “Threw the broomstick right through the window, she did. Good one, Joss. Way to make your loving mom look like a psycho in front of all your friends.”
“Dad said it wasn’t my fault,” I insisted. “He said it was a tough time for her. So that’s how I know he still loves her.”
All our fights ended up here sooner or later.
“Oh, grow up, Joss,” my brother snorted. “You said it yourself—you think Mom’s a mess, and so does Dad. Why would Mr. Perfect want to re-hitch himself to a druggie alky?”
“She’s not a druggie, she just has issues with self-control sometimes, Dad knows that…”
“Yeah he does. Which is how come he likes Lorraine now. That lady’s never had an ‘issue’ in her life.”
“They’re just friends! Dad said so.”
“Keep dreaming, babycakes,” Michael smirked. “You saw how he touched her shoulder last week when she came in for flour. Mr. and Mrs. Perfect, that’s what they’d be, and Mom—”
“Nuh-uh! You didn’t hear him on the phone with Mom yesterday. He sounded…” I looked for the right word. “…tender. He asked if she was coming for my birthday, said he’d pick her up from the ferry. Why’d he say that if he was interested in Lorraine?”
“So is she?” Michael asked nastily. “Coming for your birthday?”
“She—she said she’d try,” I said, “but Dad said she really meant it ‘cause—” Michael cut me off. “Whatever, babycakes. Enjoy your happy-rainbow life. I
gotta go clean out the shed or Mr. Perfect will go ballistic on me. And you better vacuum.” He slammed out.
“Dad!” I don’t usually tattle, but Michael was asking for it. I crossed the kitchen to pull back the quilted curtain that separates us from the back of the store. Dad calls it our front door since so many people come in that way, sticking their heads in to say hi while they stop off for milk or fishing lures.
There sat the empty cash register stool guarding the darkened aisles.
Shoot. The note. The cold pancakes. I had forgotten.
Well, I wasn’t about to vacuum just ‘cause Michael told me to. I stomped back into the kitchen to call my best friend. Savannah wasn’t home, and her cell phone wouldn’t go through. We get a crappy signal out here on Dalby Island.
“Great,” I said aloud. “Fine. I’ll just bike over to Louis’s.” Louis doesn’t have a phone, but what he does have is a built-in easygoing streak. Just the distraction I needed.
It was hot in the shed where Michael was lugging out piles of old fishing net. He was already sweaty and dusty. Hah.
“Where’d you put the bikes?” I asked him. He pointed with his chin, not bothering to answer.
Sure enough, my bike was around the back of the shed. With two flat tires.
“Whyn’t you tell me?” I yelled at my brother, spoiling for another fight. But Michael wasn’t playing. He shrugged, dumped his load, and went back in for another. I stood there in the sunny yard feeling as flat as my tires. Fine, I’ll vacuum. Maybe that’ll help.
I used to pretend the vacuum was a rampaging hungry alligator , but that’s stupid—I’m almost thirteen. Shoving the machine around in pointless jabs, I thought,
What’s the matter with me? Half the kids in my class have stepparents or boyfriends or girlfriends. Louis’s mom seemed like she lived with a new boyfriend every time I went over there. Why shouldn’t my dad like Lorraine if he wanted to?
Because she’s the librarian, my brain tried. She thinks she’s the smartest person
on the island. She just wants Dad because he’s all buff and manly and she’s tired of people making librarian jokes.
Even I knew that was stupid.
If Michael’s right, Dad’s not going to try to get back together with Mom.
Ouch. Yeah. But Michael was just being snarky. Even he doesn’t believe ex-
fisherman Ron Burgowski could trade someone as wild and fun as Mom for a whispery mouse like Lorraine.
All of a sudden the vacuum wouldn’t suck up anything, not even a stupid dust bunny, and I realized I’d forgotten to check the bag even after Dad’s note, so now it was all stuck with gunk and fuzz, and I was going to have to unplug it and poke all the crud out with a chopstick, and I got so frustrated I gave a huge stomp and shouted, “Damn it!” which I never do. I yanked the top of the vacuum open and the bag detached and all this dust and stuff I’d fed to the alligator last week got regurgitated all over the living room rug.
“Forget you,” I muttered fiercely. “Forget all of you.” I left the vacuum sitting in its own mess and slammed into my room to re-read Harry Potter Book III. Once a day decides it’s going to be horrible, you might as well turn into a lump and wait for it to pass by. Reading helps.
I dived back into Book III—my favorite, ‘cause it’s the last one with a really happy ending. It kills me that Book VII is a whole year away. It better end happy too…
“Whoa, check out this video!” Michael was calling from the living room. I hadn’t heard him come in—Harry was meeting the hypogriffs. Part of me wanted to remind Michael that he’s been banned from web-surfing for, like, ever. But a new video…? I joined him.
“Says it was filmed here!” Michael’s hair was so sweaty it stuck where he’d pushed it back. He hit the “play” arrow and a pale, fuzzy image started moving while a voice whispered something too low to hear. Then: “There she goes!” the voice said distinctly, and the image seemed to leap and disappear. The rest of the video was plain darkness, with the voice repeating, “Did you see that? Did you see that?”
“Did you see that?” Michael echoed.
“What is it? One of those ghost videos? We watched a ton of them at Savannah’s birthday party.”
“No, dude, she flies. I mean she takes off. One second she’s walking and the next, vroom. Ghosts don’t take off.”
“Show me again.” We watched it about five more times. It was pretty lame, just this slightly-lighter shape moving sort of upwards, and then: step, step, boom. Gone. “The guy just moved the camera,” I said. “Anybody could do that.” But there was something about that last move…step, step, boom. “One more time,” I demanded.
“Yeah, I know, pretty faky,” Michael admitted. “But dude, it’s Dalby.” He pointed to the video title: Dalby Island Ghost? “Wonder who made this?”
“Zoom in,” I demanded. “I wanna see her feet.”
“Can’t zoom a video,” Michael grunted. “But it’s her face I want to see. Don’t you think she looks kinda like…”
“Mom, yeah. The way she, like, bounces when she steps…Show it again.”
“Ha, Mom in a nightgown! Let’s send it to her.”
We looked at each other. I know, it was the dumbest thing ever. What would Mom want with a grainy fake-ghost video? But I could tell we were thinking the same thing, like back when we used to stick together.
“Yeah, okay,” I said, and watched Michael hit “forward” and type in Mom’s email address. “But then you better go finish the shed. Dad’s gonna kill you if he sees you online.”
“Not if nobody tells him.” Michael gave me his dangerous look. I’m not scared of him, but it was pretty nice of him to show me the video, so I nodded. “Nothin’ wrong with a little surfing,” he added.
“Is that how you found the thing? I wonder why we didn’t find it at Savannah’s when we were looking for stuff like that.”
“Duh, Joss. Someone must’ve just posted it.” He got up, stretched, and slouched himself back outside.
I hate when people say “duh” to me, but I was too distracted to snap back at him. What was it about that last second of the video, the step, step…? I plopped myself into the chair, went to “History” and found it again. Even with the volume turned way up, you still couldn’t hear anything the filmer said until “There she goes!” How does he know it’s a she? I wondered. Looks like a pretty basic ghost to me. Really, nothing like Mom except for that bouncy step-step. That seemed so…familiar, somehow. I couldn’t place it in my brain, but my stomach seemed to recognize it, a kind of lurch…
Whatever! I switched over to my favorite Harry Potter fan site to read about the delays in the latest movie. It might be a crappy day, but I, at least, was not banned from the internet. And Harry made me forget about vacuums and parents and girlfriends for a whole hour. Till Dad came home with my special present.