Lost and Found: Award-Winning Authors Share Real-Life Experiences

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9780812568660: Lost and Found: Award-Winning Authors Share Real-Life Experiences

From the editors of From One Experience to Another comes a new collection featuring celebrated writers for young adults. Contributors include Newbery Medal winners Jerry Spinelli and Betsty Byars, Paul Zindel, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and Jon Scieszka, author of The Stinky Cheese Man & Other Fairly Stupid Tales, a New York Times "Notable Book of the Year." Other authors include T.A. Barron, Tamora Pearce, Mary Ann McGuigan, Lois Metzger, Mel Glenn, Joyce Hansen, Rich Wallace, Joan Abelove and Eleanora E. Tate.

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Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

LOST AND FOUND
Duel identitiesDavid LubarMy files are filled with short stories inspired by small experiences and observations. The slightest oddness can strike a spark that sends me rushing to the word processor (unless there's something good on TV at the time). Usually, I take that oddness and create a fantasy or horror tale. But when I sat down to write a story for this collection, something interesting happened. I intended to play by the rules and start with one small experience. But as I dug into the murky depths of my high school memories, lifting chunks of experience the way the police raise abandoned cars from a river, two long-lost incidents broke the surface. Between them lay a season of other memories.So, excuse me for going overboard, but this story contains more personal experiences than anything I've ever written. Sadly, the opening incident is true. Amazingly, so is the final incident. At least, most of it. As for the portion in the middle, much of it is based on experience. But I didn't hesitate to change the things that needed to be changed. Fiction isn't about telling what happened. It's about telling what is true. Enjoy.I committed my first act of self-destruction less than five minutes into third period. We were sitting in the bleachers while Mr. Cadutto spelled out the basic facts of gym class to us brand spanking new freshmen. After explaining how many points we got for taking a shower and how many points we lost for forgetting our gym clothes, Mr. Cadutto said, "Okay. We're gonna pick fourteam leaders. You'll help set things up, so you won't get to do no calisthenics."Whoa. That caught my attention. Miss calisthenics. My heart leaped at the opportunity to avoid having my heart leap. I joined the hand wavers, though I noticed that none of my fellow overachievers from first period honors English had entered this particular lottery. I'd already figured out that honor was an odd word around here. From the varsity jackets of the crowds in the hallway to the huge trophy case that faced the main entrance, it was obvious that honor was paid more to the body than the mind at Kennedy High.Mr. Cadutto scanned us like a rancher at a beef auction. "You can't be no leader unless you go out for at least two sports."Half the hands dropped. Mine remained airborne. Despite an inherited lack of bulk or speed or power, I did have two sports in my extracurricular plans. One just for the heck of it, but the other because it had entered my dreams in the hazy days of childhood, and remained there ever since.Mr. Cadutto pointed to Bruno Haskins, up at the top of the bleachers, "Football and wrestling, right, Haskins?" he growled."Right, Coach."Mr. Cadutto waved Bruno down. I sensed a rigged election. The gym teacher obviously already knew the star athletes in our class.Bruno jogged to the bottom of the bleachers, making each row bounce under his weight. Mr. Cadutto selected Kyle Barrister next, and then Mookie Lahasca, two other champion jocks. Three down, one to go. He scanned us again, then frowned. I guess the jock gene pool had dried up too fast. He stared right at me. His brow creased with a puzzled expression."You," he barked, pointing one large sausage of a finger in my direction. He ran his eyes over my imposing seventy-eight-pound frame. "Wrestling?"No way. There was zero appeal in the thought of having my body tied in knots like a rawhide dog chew. I shook my head."Track?" he asked, with a touch of disdain.Another shake."Swimming?"Nope."So what's your two sports?"I uttered three innocent words. "Fencing and tennis."There was dead silence for about nine-millionths of a second. Then the dam burst. Laughter splashed over me like acid rain, spewing from the mouth of every classmate, followed by waves of comments."Wow, tough guy!""Freakin' retard ...""You forgot ballet.""Jerk ..."Bruno cackled so hard he started choking. "Fencing," he sputtered between coughs."Coach said sports," Mookie shouted up at me, "not farts."I knew exactly how the Wicked Witch of the West felt as she melted into a puddle of green ooze.Mr. Cadutto, who should have been the adult in all of this, snorted like an ox that had just heard a really great joke. After he'd had a good chuckle, I guess he realized he should respond to my request. He regarded me with the sort of combined pity and loathing generally reserved for humans who've somehow managed to cover themselves with their own dung. He opened his mouth. Then he closed it. Then he opened it again. Finally, he shook his head and scanned the bleachers for other options.My classmates continued to share their thoughts with me."Cool sports, Tarbell.""Hey, if you add hopscotch, you can be a three-letter man.""You scared to play a real sport?""Maybe he's afraid he'll break a nail.""What a dork."Apparently, there's a hierarchy of respect among sports. I should have known. I should have kept my mouth shut. I'm such an idiot.After the fourth leader was selected, our new captains chose teams for volleyball. I was picked dead last. That had never happened in junior high. Even Hippo Schwartz got called before me. So did Billy Esterbridge, who by my estimate had failed in eight thousand consecutive attempts to serve the ball over the net. At least my humiliation had allowed others to climb briefly out of the muck engulfing the lowest of the low.As the game started, I realized the full extent of my mistake."Fencing sucks," one of my teammates said as I walked past him."En garde," another said, jabbing me in the back with a finger.Everyone who got within range took a poke. By the end of the period, I felt like an acupuncture practice dummy."Well, you're screwed," Danny Horvath said to me as we trudged into the locker room.I could always count on Danny for moral support. That's what best friends are for. But he was right. For the next four years, or the rest of my life--whichever came first--I'd be known as the fencing dork. After a quick shower--far be it from me to miss a chance to improve my grade--I got dressed and slunk off through the locker room door."Fencing?" The mocking squawk echoed in the corridor.Oh, no. I knew that voice. I kept walking."Fencing?" Louder this time."Ouch!" I spun around as I felt a sharp poke in the back. Trent Muldoon--he of the single eyebrow and single-celled brain--sneered at me."Yeah, fencing," I said. "It's a sport.""For girls." Trent knocked my books from my hand, then sprinted down the hallway.I thought about racing after him, leaping on his back, dragging him to the ground, and pounding him into a mass of quivering jelly. It might, just barely, have been possible. We were close to the same height. On the other hand, he was a wrestler--which meant he knew a lot more about fighting than I did.Freshman survival rule #1: Never take someone on at his own game. But adrenaline can do wonders. Mothers have lifted cars off of trapped infants. Men have chewed their way out of steel cages. Teenage boys have eaten liver and onions. Well, maybe nothing that extreme. Still, with enough adrenaline behind my attack, I figured I could get in a punch or two. After which, he'd probably toss me on the ground and wrap me up in a wrestling hold so tight it would give me a firsthand chance to view my lower intestines from the inside. Besides, Trent had a lot of buddies. Large, stupid, mean buddies. I'd save revenge for another day.I gathered my books."Scott, you sure about this fencing thing?" Danny asked as he came out of the locker room.I'd thought I was--before learning the results of the fencing popularity poll. Now, I wasn't so sure. But the damage had already been done. If I didn't go out, I'd be more than just a wimpy dork. I'd be a wimpy dork quitter. "Yeah," I told Danny. "I'm gonna fence.""The only ones who go out for fencing are kids who want a varsity letter and can't make any other team. Too weak to wrestle, too short for basketball, too dense for swimming ...""I don't care," I told him. Scenes flashed through my head; musketeers with flashing rapiers, Jedi Knights with light sabers, Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, John Steed and Emma Peel--thank goodness for Avengers videos--Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Despitethe opinion of the general population, fencing was way beyond cool. I just wished I wasn't the only one on the planet who felt that way."And it's a lot more than a sport," I added. "There's centuries of tradition. There's honor. There's spirit."Danny yawned. "Yeah, sure. Whatever. Fencing is wonderful. Whoopee. I'm happy for you. Come on. Let's get out of here."I followed him down the hall.Life dragged on. Football season came and went. Finally, it was time for winter sports. After school, on the first day of sign-ups, I rushed to the gym.I pushed my way through a thick, noisy mob clustered around Mr. Cadutto at the wrestling table. Other crowds buzzed around basketball and swimming sign-ups.Across the gym, I spotted the fencing table. It was as uncrowded as a hot dog stand at a vegetarian convention. I walked over."Mr. Sinclair?" I asked, recognizing the physics teacher.He nodded and smiled. "Yes. I'm the new fencing coach.""What happened to Mr. Billings?" From what I'd heard, he'd always been the coach."He got married during the summer. His wife wants him to spend more time at home. So, like that, no fencing coach." Mr. Sinclair shrugged.I realized a new coach wouldn't be bad, since he wouldn't have any favorites from last season. I picked up a pen and started filling out the sign-up form.An older kid, a senior, I think, walked up. "Hey, Mr. Sinclair. I heard you were coaching us this year. Have you fenced much?""To tell the truth, I've never fenced," he said.My hand stopped halfway through writing my last name."However, if I may boast, I'm quite a competent chess player." Mr. Sinclair grinned modestly. "If you can playchess, you can play any sport. Besides, nobody else wanted to coach. They were going to cancel the team. So I volunteered."Oh, boy.A couple more kids joined us at the table, including Billy Esterbridge from my gym class. I glanced over at the wrestlers. They looked like a magazine ad for a health club. So did the swimmers. Not the fencers. We looked like a poster for some unpleasant childhood disease that caused the body to either shrivel or bloat.Much to my surprise, I saw Danny weaving his way through the crowd."Aren't you afraid of being seen with us dorks?" I asked.Danny shrugged and picked up a pen. "Hey, you made it sound like too much fun to miss.""Yeah. It'll do wonders for your status," I told him. "I've heard the junior and senior girls love fencers almost as much as they love the AV geeks.""Hey," Billy said. "Cut it out. I like the audio-visual club. Without us, there'd be no intraschool dissemination of information.""Relax," Danny said. "Scott was just kidding.""Yeah, I was kidding." I actually admired Billy's ability to hook things up. I just didn't share his enthusiasm for the activity. I turned back to Mr. Sinclair. "When does practice start?""Next Monday."Well, whether or not he had any experience as a coach, at least we'd have a team. And I'd get my chance to fence.The rest of the week and through the weekend, I did all I could to help speed the passage of time toward Monday afternoon. Finally, on Monday, as the school day ended, I hurried to the locker room."Holy crap!" I stepped into my worst nightmare--times ten. Every wrestler and basketball player in the school was there, shouting, laughing, snapping towels,torturing small animals. Okay, maybe they weren't all bad guys. There were some casual friends and nodding acquaintances scattered through the mob. But there were also some of the nastiest creatures this side of a Wes Craven film.I slipped along the side wall and snuck over to my locker, hoping to avoid setting off the victim detectors. If I was quiet enough, the wrestlers would leave me alone."Time to fence!"Billy, grinning like a game-show contestant who'd just won a lifetime supply of matching luggage, rushed over and waved something white up and down in one hand."Look, Scott, I got fencing pants. Cool, huh? My mom bought them for me. She's real happy. I'm the first one in our family to go out for a sport." He flapped the white pants in my face like a matador trying to goad a bull."Ssshhhh ..." I said. "This isn't the best time for show-and-tell."Too late. A passing hand shot between us and snatched Billy's fencing pants. "Check this out," Trent said. "A fag costume."Billy reached for the pants.Trent danced backwards. "You know what? You don't need to wear these. You already look like a fag." He glanced around the locker room. I could see his weaselly little brain working out the best way to humiliate Billy. He settled for tossing the pants into the shower where they landed in the middle of the wet, soapy floor.Billy ran off to retrieve his pants. By the time he returned, Danny had shown up, carrying a pair of sneakers and a sweatsuit. "I don't know about this," he said."I don't either." I sighed and tried to hold on to the image I'd started with--me as a cool guy with mask and sword, fencing away while the clash of steel against steel rang through the air. It wasn't easy.We left the locker room and headed for the girl's gym. Yup--one more indignity. The basketball players got theboy's gym, the swimmers got the pool at the YMCA, the wrestlers got the exercise room, and we got stuck sharing the floor with the clog dancing club."Okay, team, line up," Mr. Sinclair called."Where are the swords?" Danny whispered as he took a spot to my left."Beats me." I looked around for equipment. Not a sword or mask in sight. If the Huns attacked right now, we'd be doomed."Hey, Mr. Sinclair! Mr. Sinclair!" Billy shouted, waving his hand."Yes?" Mr. Sinclair asked."What about our swords? When do we get our swords? Can we get them now? They're the electronic ones, right? When do we get them?""After we get in shape," he said. "First, we exercise the body. All together, now. Let's start with jumping jacks." He leaped and clapped. "One, two ..."" ... ninety-nine, one hundred."Oh, man. For the next hour, we exercised. Push-ups. Sit-ups. Throw-ups. Okay, just one of those. But at least it wasn't me rushing off to do a shallow dive into the garbage can."Great sport," Danny said as we collapsed on the floor after practice. "I feel so dashing. So honorable. Just kill me now, all right? I don't want to live to see how much my muscles are going to hurt tomorrow.""I'd kill you if I could lift my hand," I told him. "Maybe next week." I was wiped out. Around me, a quivering assortment of fencers lay in various degrees of trauma.Through lenses of sweat drops, I watched Mr. Sinclair leave the gym. A moment later, he ...

Review:

"Fiction isn't about telling what happened. It's about telling what is true." from "Duel Identities" by David Lubar

"A solid collection. Aspiring writers will especially delight in the introductory essays and what they tell about incorporating everyday experiences into fiction."--School Library Journal

"Eclectic, engaging, and occasionally surprising, this collection will stimulate aspiring writers."--Booklist

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