In 1988, Josie Tremlett-Kahn (a rebellious teenager living in Montagne Beach, California) befriends two unpopular kids named Moira Downing and Seth Burke. She also meets her cousin Trixie Kalbrunner, who was kept hidden from the Stebbins/Kalbrunner family. The four unlikely friends take on a dangerous school bully with their own brand of cleverness.
Chapter 1: What Happened Here
Long before the banalities of social media, there was a time and a place where no one had heard of a cell phone or alone text messaging. There was no Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter. There was none of this “reality” television everyone was harping about nowadays. Cartoons were only for children; there was none of this “cartoons for adults” crap. It was a while before the PG-13 rating was implemented in movie theaters.
In short, this was the year 1988.
13-year-old Josie Tremlett-Kahn sat at her desk in the back of the art classroom at Montagne Beach Middle School. The moderately sized middle school was located in the city of Montagne Beach. The city was several miles from Cannery Row in Monterey Bay, California. The school had an ultra-modern look. Yet, it was notorious for its bad reputation, as the school took in children the other schools didn't want. The students the school accepted were those who messed up in other schools.
For that reason, many students attending Montage Beach Middle School would quit school before completing the eighth grade. They would rather be uneducated than attend a school with a bad reputation. Most of those who quit school worked at Cannery Row in the shops and restaurants that lined the famous landmark. Cannery Row was one the biggest fisheries in the world until the fishing industry collapsed during the 1950s. The canneries that once lined the street shut down in the 1970s. The famous Californian author John Steinbeck made Cannery Row famous by publishing a novel appropriately titled “Cannery Row” in 1945. The book was made into a movie in 1982.
As for the city of Montagne Beach, the moderately sized town was located close to the Pacific Coast and had a charming atmosphere. It was well known for the nearby military base (Fort Ord), its summer festivals (which celebrated the city’s colorful history), and its diverse population. Also, a strange incident took place during the 1880s that the locals don't want to talk about.
But that’s not this story.
Anyway, Josie (as Josephine preferred to be known) was described as a witty comedian, with fair skin, dark brown hair, and sharp green eyes. She wore an outfit consisting of a housecoat that should have been thrown out. Underneath the housecoat was an orange blouse, a pair of baggy green pants, and a pair of sandals. She smirked as she watched the other students walk past her, wearing a t-shirt and a pair of blue jeans. None of their parents allowed them to wear clothes that came from the thrift stores. In fact, Josie ignored the rude comments about her choice of clothing or called the offending person out on their decision to dress like everyone else. (She never liked to conform to other people’s standards.)
Josie didn’t believe in conformity; she knew conformity caused a person to lose his or her personality. She smirked as she saw her classmates walking around the school wearing t-shirts with pictures of Disney characters or musicians on the front. She wasn’t interested in the pop culture of the day, despite some people who tried (and failed) to get her interested in various movies or musicians. No matter how often her mother tried to get her to “wear something decent instead of those trashy clothes you like so much”, Josie refused to wear clothes that were “conforming”. She liked wearing weird clothes, no matter how tattered and strange they were. The other students were convinced that something was wrong with her and made fun of her. In fact, none of them tried to get to know her. Josie didn’t mind, as she refused to talk to the students unless a teacher prompted her first.
Mrs. Evelyn Bean, who taught the art class, glared at her students, saying, "Get in your seats now!" As the 30 children scurried to find their seats, she said, "I've been looking at your work for a week, and it's pathetic!"
"Why?" said Robert Whitaker.
"None of you put any effort into your work," said Mrs. Bean. "Your work is done carelessly, you're passing notes instead of paying attention to the lessons, and I know some of you would rather draw animated cartoon characters instead of doing the assignment."
At once, the class protested, either by blaming other students or making excuses. Josie rolled her eyes as she watched her classmates being reduced to being whiny preschoolers. She put her head on her desk, then reached into her bookbag and pulled out her new Walkman, intending to drown herself in Prince's "Purple Rain" soundtrack and ignore her less than intelligent classmates who could care less that they were about to fail art class.
As the teacher continued to scold the class over their poor work, Josie covered her ears. She turned up the volume on her Walkman, but she couldn't completely drown her teacher's lecture, especially when the teacher pointed HER out as the leading example for what she expected her students to be. As far as Mrs. Bean knew, Josie always turned in her homework on time, paid attention in class, and never passed a note to anyone. Yet, that didn't mean Josie was proud of doing what she was supposed to do.
Far from it.
Josie sighed as she heard the teacher's praises through her headphones; those flowery words made her sick. She frowned as a boy sitting beside her made rude gestures and mimicked the teacher's voice. Mrs. Bean noticed him and said, "Is there anything you want to add, Mr. Burke?"
The boy said nothing, but he glared at his classmates. Mrs. Bean said, "Seth, I asked you a question. I expect that question to be answered."
"Why should I answer your stupid question?" said the boy. "It's obvious that Miss Goody Two-Shoes here doesn't act her age, let alone function like a normal student. Something is wrong with her if she gets good grades and never passes notes."
"I see," said Mrs. Bean. "For that, you have just earned yourself a ticket to detention this afternoon!"
"You must be kidding," said Mario Cline. "You can't deal with Seth like that! He'll call you a racist because you're White! Come on now!"
"I don't care if he calls me racist," said Mrs. Bean. "He will do as I say, when I say it. Right now, he's getting detention for interrupting class." To Kari Glass and Meagan Strickland, she said, "I saw you two passing that note; hand it over."
She snatched the note and read it, which made the class laugh. The note was about Reginald Ross, who no one liked because he always did his homework and never misbehaved. Everyone glared at Kari and Megan and cursed them out, leaving Josie free to speak to the boy who berated her for being the perfect student.
“Hey you,” said the boy as Josie turned around and glared at him. He had dark brown skin, dark brown hair, and dark brown eyes. He wore a pastel orange suit with light green accents and a pair of sandals. “Aren’t you the weird girl?” he said, hoping to get Josie’s attention. She had sat by this boy for almost a whole year and she hadn’t noticed him, since she didn't know who he was.
Until now, that was.
“Depends on what you’re talking about,” Josie said as she stared at the boy. “Who are you, anyway?” she asked. “I know you sit next to me in this class, but I don’t know who you are. The funny thing is I don’t know half the students who go to this school, and those who I do know aren’t worth knowing. Anyway, who are you and what is your name?”
“My name is Seth Burke,” said Seth as he stared at Josie. Josie frowned as she thought Seth Burke? Now who on earth would give him a weird name like that? Surely his parents should be arrested for giving their son a bad name! No kid on this planet was allowed to have a weird name as Seth Burke. “And what is your name?” Seth said to her.
“Josephine Tremlett-Kahn,” said Josie, “and don’t you dare be forgetting the Josie part. I won’t have anyone calling me Josephine, and that includes you.”
For most of her school life, Josie had fought against teachers and students who didn't call her Josie. Some of the students called her "Joey" or "Jojo", two nicknames she didn't like. Some teachers (particularly those who taught Spanish) called her "Josefina", the Spanish variation of "Josephine". Josie had to remind everyone that she wasn't Hispanic. Her mother was Irish and her father was Iranian, which did NOT translate to her being Hispanic or Latino.
“Figures,” said Seth as he continued to stare at Josie. “And what's up with your outfit?”
“Oh yeah,” Josie said as she fumbled with her housecoat. “I’m into African-Americans. We stole them from Africa and treated them like filth. Shame on the White man, if you should care to ask my opinion on the matter.”
“What are you talking about?” Seth frowned as he stared at her.
“Don’t you know anything?” Josie laughed at him. “What? You live in a closet or something crazy like that?”
“No,” said Seth. “In fact, I don’t even live with my parents.”
“Really?” Josie gasped, wondering how and why Seth wasn’t living with his parents. As far as she knew, her classmates lived with both their mothers and fathers. Many of them had brothers and sisters, as she had. But why Seth wasn’t living with his parents was a huge mystery that no one had been able to solve.
But Josie was going to solve that problem, whether they wanted her to or not.
“Seth?” Josie said. Seth stared at her. “Come to my house, OK? After school?”
Seth frowned, not knowing what to do. As far as he knew, no one invited him over to their house before. Also, no one spoke to him unless it was a teacher; even so, those moments when a teacher (or another adult) spoke to him were rare. Most kids thought Seth wasn’t worth associating with. In fact, they went out of their way to avoid him or prevented other people from speaking to him. All the same, to have Josie talking to him and actually WANTING to get along with him was something he didn’t understand.
At least, until Friday January 8, 1988.
Josie said to Seth, “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go while no one’s looking.” Seth stared at her for a minute; Josie wanted him to ditch class? He had never ditched class before; the thought of him leaving class terrified him more than dealing with people who didn't want him in their class.
But Josie was insisting (she could be persuasive when she needed to get out of a particularly boring class) and she wasn't about to spend another second in the room. Before he knew it, they slipped out the door as the chaos of art class had reached its crescendo.
As they left the classroom, neither Seth nor Josie realized that this was the beginning of a beautiful (but controversial) friendship…
Chapter 2: The Girl in the Blue Scarf
14-year-old Mary Joanne Downing, who preferred to be called Moira, was hiding in the back room of the school library. Once again, she called the class bully, a boy named Michael Robinson, out on his bad behavior in the middle of math class. The boy in question grew angry with Moira and swore to make her pay for her tattling.
Moira hid in the back of the library, hoping no one who worked there would see her. Only a few people were there, which made it easier for her to hide. Even the librarian didn’t see her, for she was busy reorganizing the books on the bookshelves and didn’t have time to apprehend any student who was cutting class by hiding in the library.
Moira sat in her “safety spot”, wondering how she got to this point. Two years earlier, she was a self-respecting girl who always made straight A’s, wore nice clothes, and was respected by her classmates. How on Earth did she become the girl who wore bad clothing, fought against class bullies, and hide in the library while she was supposed to be in class?
Little did she know that the answer to her questions was in front of her.
Josie Tremlett-Kahn and Seth Burke were walking towards the library. Josie was cutting art class again, as she didn’t want to be in a room where the teacher refused to teach and the students were too dumb to learn anything. It was a wonder the class never advanced; especially when Mrs. Bean's other classes were studying portraits, landscapes, and still life.
At any rate, Josie was so done with this particular art class, as it sapped away any enthusiasm she had for art. She had contemplated dropping Spanish in favor of switching to Mrs. Bean's morning class.
Seth said, "You know I was just kidding, right?"
"What are you talking about?" said Josie.
"That teacher was so lying about you," said Seth. Josie glared at him. "You didn't hear how she was talking about you, like you were some sort of goody two-shoes student? God, that was so pathetic!"
"Well, I had my Walkman on, so I didn't hear her," said Josie. "Also, I'm so done with false praises that make me look dumb to the other kids. It's like I'm not even real."
"But you are," said Seth.
"It's like the teachers want us to be a part the system," said Josie. "Like we're too dumb to even think for ourselves."
"No we're not," said Seth. "We're not stupid; we know what's going on in the world. Don't think we don't know about what's happening in the Middle East, because we do. We know about AIDS, drug abuse, and even a school shooting that took place in Dionesville, Illinois not too long ago. You think they care about us?"
"Well, I just happen to be a product of a 60's girl," said Josie, "but we'll leave that for later. Right now, we have to get to the library before they see us."
There were several other people in the hall besides the duo. The janitors were cleaning the halls, not taking any notice of two kids who were cutting classes. So far, they weren't caught.
“I don’t see how ditching class is going to help us with our education,” said Seth as Josie opened the door to the library.
“For your information, would you rather be in a place where you could learn something by yourself or a classroom and not learn anything?” said Josie as they walked into the library. “Either way, no one is going to be taking away my right to an education because they don’t want to learn anything. I’m getting my education whether they want me to get an education or not. There’s nothing else for it.”
“Indeed,” said Seth as they slipped behind the library counter and went towards the back room. Little did they know that someone else had beaten them there. The person standing before them was a 14-year-old girl. She had an olive skin tone, short curly dark blond hair, and brown eyes. She was short, thin, and wore a white polo shirt and a navy skirt, both of which were old and tattered clothing. She also had a tattered blue scarf around her neck.
“What are you doing here?” said Josie to the girl. The girl quivered nervously as she stared at Josie and Seth. She never spoke to anyone unless that person was a teacher or the school librarian; even those moments were rare. For her, talking to the other students in the school wasn't allowed unless it was necessary. So, Josie and Seth were breaking a school taboo when they decided to talk to her.
Seth tried a different tactic. “What is your name?” he asked.
“My name is Mary Joanne Downing, but I would prefer if you would call me Moira,” said Moira. Josie and Seth stared at her. “My friends call me Moira,” she added. “Well, I wish they would if I had any friends. Anyway, who are you and what are you doing here?”
“I’m Josie Tremlett-Kahn and this is Seth Burke,” said Josie. Moira stared at her for a while before saying, “Josie? Isn’t that short for something?”
“No,” said Josie. “I’m just Josie. Which means, you can't call me Joey, Jo, even Josefina. Especially not Josefina, because I'm not Hispanic. Anyway, why are you hiding in the library? Isn’t that where the nerds go?”
“Well, I'm hiding here because no one else is allowed back here,” said Moira. “Even if they wanted to, no bully can sneak back here without the librarian or her assistants knowing. I’m safe here.”
“But you won’t be safe for long,” said Seth as he stared out the window in the back of the library. Moira and Josie followed him to the window; they saw Michael snooping around the library looking for Moira. He had an angry look on his face, as if he wanted to murder someone. Namely, the person who humiliated him during math class by telling him to shut up. That person also said he was acting retarded, which made the other students in the class feel dumber than they already were.
“What did you do to that kid?” Seth said as they continued to stare at Michael as he prowled the area in front of the library, in search of Moira.
“I told him to shut up,” said Moira as they looked away from the window and sat at a nearby table. “Nobody in the school really likes him because he acts like a retard.”
“To imply that the boy in question behaves like a retard is to insult parents of disabled children everywhere,” said Josie cautiously. “With that, I don’t know how or why you people keep getting yourselves into these situations when you should keep your mouth shut and allow the bullies to wallow in their own filth. That isn’t right. I, however, am in a class where no White are people allowed, so I don’t have to deal with situations like yours.”
“It’ll be a problem for you once we make it to high school and people like Michael start coming after us,” said Seth. “I don’t know how we’re going to deal with this.”
"So, what do you do whenever you can't deal with being in the classroom?" said Moira curiously.
“We do what I do whenever I'm sick and tired of school,” said Josie. The others stared at her. “I ditch. Now, let’s sneak out the back door and run behind the school. There’s a few blind spots in the back of the building where no one can see us.”
“Is this a good idea?” said Moira. “Ditching school, that is?”
“Sure it is, as long as no one sees you leaving,” said Josie. “In fact, I know a place where we can hide. It’s called The Purple Peddler Tavern and it’s right across the street from Cannery Row. Now let’s go!”
Moira led the way to the back of the library. Only the librarian used the door, but Moira had already been in and out of the library though that way, so no one bothered to take issue with her or the other two kids who followed her.
The back of the library led to the teachers’ parking lot, where no student was allowed to go. Josie led Moira and Seth through the parking lot with ease until they came to the end of the bus lane that led to the school. After looking around to make sure that no one was following them, Josie led Moira and Seth to the tavern.
The tavern was large, with rooms that were fit for a king (if a king were to stay in the tavern, that was). The drinks were bad, but the food was excellent. The tavern was usually crowded; on some days, the place would be packed. The main attraction was the active dice game, which was played with three 8-sided purple dice. The main drink served was pearl with small pieces of fruit and a shot of another drink mixed in. The drink smelled fruity and tasted like dragon breath. It was served over frozen water.
Josie walked to the counter and requested a round of Eastern Punch. This drink was violet with silver sparkles and served over ice. The drink smelled somewhat like whiskey and tasted like caramel. She also ordered a meal, which consisted of baked buckwheat noodles with lima beans, komatsuna, and beef on a bed of cooked arracacha and elderberries. The meal was served with hard-boiled eggs, durian and ensete soup, brandy, and kola nut pie.
As the trio sat at a table on a corner and enjoyed their meal, Josie said, “You do know that no one is going to like this, right? The three of us aren’t really supposed to be hanging out with each other.”
“Why not?” said Seth. “Why don’t they want us to be friends?"
“Who knows?” said Moira. “Anyway, I’m tired of us feeling suppressed, as if we’re going to start a riot if we banded together. I feel like I’m living in the world before 1954. Come on now.”
“I say that now is the time for us to rebel against the status quo of not only our school, but our society in general,” said Josie. “I've wasted two years of my life under the thumb of Sheila Baines; she needs to be stopped before she ruins another generation of sixth graders. My little sister will be sent to Montagne Beach Middle School in a few years, and I will be dead before I see her being pushed around by Sheila Baines!”
“I can’t believe she won’t let us be friends,” said Moira. “That's so mean. No student has the right to tell us what to do. Let’s break some rules!”
“Indeed,” said Seth as he raised his glass. “To friendship!”
“To friendship!” Josie and Moira cheered as they raised their glasses.
Little did they know that someone was in the tavern, watching the children as they enjoyed their meal. That person nodded, thinking of a way to use the trio to his advantage…
Chapter 3: The Evolution of the Teen Rebels
It was now Monday, January 11, 1988. Josie, Seth, and Moira were hiding in an abandoned room in the back of the library. The room hadn't been used since the 1960s, and no one knew the room existed.
The room had clean white walls and multicolored rugs, but years of neglect made the room almost unusable. Josie discovered that room during another missed art class and swiped enough cleaning materials from the janitor’s closet to make the room into a decent place for her to hide. The furniture consisted of discarded tables and chairs that no one took to the junkyard. Josie made sure that the furniture was presentable before her new-found friends could hide in the room.
Josie, Moira, and Seth were now sitting in that room, attempting to do their homework and ignoring the gossip their fellow students were involved in. Josie hated gossip; she often intimidated any student that engaged in gossip, whether the rumor was true or not. There was not a single student in Montagne Middle School who wasn’t scolded by Josephine Tremlett-Kahn for gossiping; even the teachers weren’t safe from Josie’s ability to detect gossip. She often called out the offending person in the middle of class.
Had she known she was the subject of today’s gossip happening in the library, Josie Tremlett-Kahn could have put an end to the gossip. She probably could have prevented the trouble the rumor might have caused...
* * * *
Sheila Baines was the type of person who you would avoid if it were possible. She was described as a poisonous snake, with a dark complexion, short wavy red hair, and bark brown eyes. She was of average height, quite heavy, and often wore old-fashioned clothing.
Sheila, the oldest person attending Montagne Beach Middle School at age 16, ruled over the entire student body with an iron fist. She did not approve of anyone who dared to be different, nor did she like those who weren’t Black. She made sure no racial group was allowed to mix and kept those whom she deemed “weird” away from the rest of the school using isolation, intimidation, and cruelty. (Due to her cruelty, many kids who attended Montagne Beach Middle School either quit school altogether or convinced their parents to let them switch to another school. Those who stayed, however, did whatever they could to stay out of Sheila's way as much as they could.)
Besides being a nightmare to the student population, Sheila also disrupted classes and angered many teachers with her awful behavior. No one was safe from her cruelty, not even the teachers and school staff. Yet, for all their efforts to get her under control, no teacher could get Sheila reprimanded or even expelled from the school. Sheila’s mother, Wanda, was on the PTA; no one was brave enough to approach her to discuss the problems her daughter was causing for everyone. So, everyone was forced to put up with Sheila’s antics. Josie made sure to stay out of Sheila's way as much as she could.
Anyway, we should continue with the story about Josie, Moira, and Seth, but we must remember that they will eventually deal with Sheila about their strange friendship. However, the way they would deal with Sheila and her cruel ways would have the entire school talking for many years to come.
* * * *
“It’s impossible to think Mrs. Higgs expects us to do three pages worth of math problems in one night,” Shane Giambetti said to Tom Quinn as they sat together at a table in the library trying to complete their math homework. “How am I supposed to do this work when I have to help work in my family’s bakery? That's not fair.”
“Telling her about your family’s problems is out of the question, Shane,” said Tom. “You know how she is; she would say that “Your education is more important than your family.” I’ll be dead before I have to choose between school and family.”
“What does she know about working in the family business?” said Shane. “She’s an American citizen while I’m part of a family that moved here from Italy two years ago. Let’s be realistic here.”
“Indeed,” said Tom, but then the two boys were interrupted from doing their homework when Vanessa Bass and Kelly Adams walked by their table. They were talking about Josie Tremlett-Kahn, Seth Burke, and Moira Downing. In other words, Dinah Munoz claimed to see Josie and the other two walking into the library and told someone. Within 15 minutes, rumors about Josie and her new friends began spreading in the halls of Montagne Beach Middle School. The rumors were bound to reach the ears of Sheila Baines soon.
“I can’t believe that girl,” said Vanessa. "Who does Josie Tremlett-Kahn think she is, anyway?"
“She has no self-respect, wears trashy clothes, and has the personality of a goldfish,” said Kelly. “She needs help.”
“Either that, or a good beating,” said Vanessa. “If my mom ever found me wearing anything remotely trashy, she’d tan my hide.”
“I know,” said Kelly. “And what is up with those two losers that she’s hanging out with?”
“Seth Burke?” said Vanessa. “Now I know that guy is an anarchist who hates the United States, even if he was born and raised as an American citizen. What does he have against this country, anyway?”
“And what about that Moira Downing,” said Kelly. “That girl is such a pathetic loser. She doesn’t like anyone, wears that hideous blue scarf all the time, and insists that we call her Moira even though her name is Mary. Could she be even more messed up?”
Shane and Tom returned to their work, not believing a word that they had just heard. "Josie hanging out with Seth Burke and Moira Downing?" Tom cried out. "You've gotta be kidding me! Josie NEVER hangs out with the weird kids!"
"Not unless you're talking about Lauryn Passano, Cooper Verdansky, Connor Finnegan, Mike Campbell, and Nikolas Huntington," said Shane. "Those are the people she hangs around with."
"Not really," said Tom. "I've seen her with Caleb McGrath and Leyla Littleton on several occasions. They usually hang out on Cannery Row or Dennis the Menace Park in Monterey."
"And let's not forget Jacey Mayford," said Shane. "Those two were buds even before they came here and we all know it. In fact, everyone knows that they were friends since the second grade. There's nothing Josie wouldn't do if Jacey's not around. That's just the way it is."
"But Seth Burke and Moira Downing?" cried Tom. "Blegh! Those two are no good for her. When last I checked, Seth is a fool who hates this country and claims to be from some foreign country, even though we know he comes from this country. Moira is a messed-up girl who isn't worth anyone's time. If you ask me, I say that Josie's making a serious mistake here by befriending those two. I hope she comes to her senses and gets rid of them before something bad happens to her."
As she listened to the gossip that spread around the library, Sheila sat in her seat in the back of the library and frowned as she took in the scene before her: two girls, both disregarding her rules for them and their friendship, were discussing the surprising friendship of Josie Tremlett-Kahn, Seth Burke, and Moira Downing. This rumor made her blood boil to the point where an artery would burst and kill a 50-year-old man. She resolved to teach Josie, Seth, and Moira a harsh lesson about who they should or should not be friends with. Nobody defied her rules and lived!
Chapter 4: Regarding Trixie
Patricia Leigh Kalbrunner was simply a useless toy that was thrown into a toy box and hidden in a dark closet.
Trixie was 15 years old and was diagnosed with a mental disability in childhood, which limited her social ability and thinking. Many people despised her because of her disability. Her mother, Theresa Nichols, abandoned her when she was 7 months old. She stayed in many foster homes. She would have spent the rest of her life in a mental hospital if the social worker hadn't called her father, Rajasthan, and forced him to take her in.
Rajasthan Kalbrunner was the recently widowed husband of Bernadine Danton; they had three children named Alexander, Zackery, & Johnny Diaz Kalbrunner. None of them liked Trixie. Rajasthan tried (and failed) to get rid of Trixie by forcing her into a mental hospital. His father, Ardeth Stebbins, refused to allow his oldest son to put his daughter away. Ardeth also requested that Trixie come live with him, but Rajasthan locked Trixie in an upper room and refused to acknowledge her existence.
In fact, the only people who knew about Trixie (next to Ardeth) were Rajasthan’s brother Skylar, Skylar’s daughter Josie, Rajasthan’s sister Sarana Stebbins Mayhew, and her children Amber and Tommy Mayhew. None of them met Trixie. Rajasthan made sure they didn’t tell the rest of the Salmati family about Trixie Leigh Kalbrunner.
(Of course, someone would reveal the secret about Trixie, as nothing lasts forever. Who it was is up for debate.)
* * * *
It was now Tuesday, January 12, 1988, and Trixie was sitting in her room in the upper part of the Kalbrunner house. This large house had a rustic look to it and in average condition. The interior was done in colors that remind you of the inside of a seashell. The yard was large and neatly trimmed. Also, the house is rumored to be haunted. (But it was only Trixie.)
Trixie’s room was on top of the house; the floor was a set of multicolored rugs, yet the walls were white. There was only one window in her room, one that could never open. The room was filled with worn-out pillows and stuffed animals. Trixie was staring out the window, lost in her own world when she heard a strange sound.
Unknown to her, Josie Tremlett-Kahn, Seth Burke, and Moira Downing had climbed the tree next to her window. There was a tree house built by a family that lived in the house before the Kalbrunner family moved to Monterey during the 1970s. The tree house was huge; it had a roof, two rooms, and filled with carpeted floors, a refrigerator, windows, and some furniture.
Josie said, “We’ve hit the jackpot!”
Seth said, “Won’t anyone notice that we’re not there?”
Moira said, “It’s not like anyone’s going to care we're not in school right now, right?”
Unknown to them, a man was watching the house next door. Officer Dan McCleary was at the house the McMillan family owned. This enormous house had a futuristic look and in good condition. The interior is done in muted colors. The yard is enormous and looks formal. Also, it was the site of an infamous murder; in 1956, Cameron Cymes was murdered by his wife, Lorraine Nolan Cymes. Many people suspected that witchcraft was the motive behind the killing, but nothing could be proved.
McCleary was watching the house; Sara and Dennis McMillan and their three children 7-year-old Eugene, 8-year-old Lena, and 11-year-old Carter disappeared without a trace the week before. Like most families living in Montagne Beach, the McMillan family went to Santa Cruz to celebrate the New Year. When the family failed to return, with phone calls from Montagne Beach Elementary School and Dennis’ job claiming that Eugene, Lena, Carter, and Dennis didn’t show up for school or work, McCleary was notified. He and his partner, Richard Olson, were given the case.
McCleary was 53 years of age. He had dark skin, straight graying dark brown hair, and dark brown eyes. He was short and heavy. Olson, however, was 26 years of age. He had olive skin, wavy dark brown hair, and dark brown eyes. He is short and pudgy.
McCleary sat in the car watching the house for any suspicious activity; no family would disappear on vacation without arousing suspicion. Olson was listening to the radio. The cops had no idea that the Teen Rebels were watching them.
Josie stared out the window at the car below the tree house. She said, “I think Sheila hired the cops to arrest us.”
“How do you know?” said Seth.
“Why else are they here?” said Moira. “I know Sheila’s family probably has the cops on their payroll, so they can harass us and get away with it. I can’t trust the system.”
“Let’s be real quiet and hide inside the house,” said Seth.
“Uh, this is my uncle Rajasthan’s house,” said Josie. “I don’t think he’ll appreciate it if we invade his house. In fact, he never invites me over to his house, but he’s always coming to mine. Now, what’s up with that?”
Seth said, “The cops are watching the house, so we can’t get out of the tree house.”
Josie said, “There’s an open window, let’s go over.” She pointed to an open window next to the east side of the tree house. The kids climbed out the tree house and through the window. The window led to a room rarely used, save for storage of toys and games. Josie led the others to the house, which was covered with some ugly carpet and the hallways were wallpapered to death.
“Geez, looks like someone went extremely overboard with the deco,” said Moira.
“Now we know why you don’t come here,” said Seth. “This place is ugly!”
“I know,” said Josie. “I never liked my aunt’s sense of style and this is proof that she never would have made it as a fashion designer.”
"I can see why," said Seth. "Your aunt was an absolute lunatic."
"That's why I never come here," said Josie.
* * * *
Never let it be said that Trixie’s presence went unnoticed by Josie, Seth, and Moira.
The trio walked down the hallway, not to the stairs or the rooms where Josie’s cousins slept. In fact, they were heading towards a different place.
“What is this bookcase doing in the middle of the hall?” said Moira as she stared at a bookcase that sat in the middle of the hallway.
“Yeah,” said Seth as he too stared at the bookcase. “Why would your aunt have a bookcase in the middle of the hall?”
Josie stared at the bookcase; she saw the books on the bookcase were fake, as were the trinkets on the bookcase. She reached out and touched a fake book titled “The Forgotten Flower”, but the book moved aside to reveal a doorknob. “The bookcase was built INTO the wall!” she cried out. “I’ve seen those when I was on the history of California tour last year! But what is the bookcase hiding?”
“Let’s open the door and find out,” said Moira as she reached for the doorknob. Just then, part of the bookcase swung open to reveal a flight of stairs.
“So, what’s at the top of the stairs?” Seth asked as they stared at a strange door that was on top of the stairs.
“I don’t know, but I guess we’ll have to find out,” said Josie.
The kids climbed the staircase and reached the door. The door swung open and revealed a room that wasn’t like the rooms that Josie saw, and she saw few rooms in her life.
The room was small, with the floor being a set of multicolored rugs, yet the walls were white. There was only one window in the room, one that could never open under any circumstances. The room was filled with worn-out pillows and stuffed animals. There was no furniture or posters of rock singers on the walls.
“Do you see what I see?” said Seth. “This place is a prison. We better get out of here before someone finds us.”
“The only thing we have to worry about is if the cops find us,” said Moira. “When last I checked, Sheila Baines hired cops to arrest any kids who weren’t following her rules. I don’t want to be arrested for anything, if it could be helped.”
“I say we leave now,” said Josie as they turned around and left. Suddenly, Seth’s foot caught itself on a stuffed toy and the kids fell down the stairs, bumping their heads on the wall..
Trixie didn’t ignore the fall; the fall caused her to bump her head on the wall next to the window. She was unconscious for a long time.
* * * *
After a few hours, Josie woke up and found herself back in the same room that she had tried to leave a few hours earlier. A glance at Moira’s watch said the time was now 4:30 PM. She needed to get out the house immediately.
“Josie?” Seth also woke up. “Where are we?”
“I don’t know,” said Josie, “but what I do know is that my uncle is going to be home soon. I don’t think he’ll like it if he catches us here.”
Just then, a strange girl approached them. She had a fair skin tone, curly golden-blond hair in a short ponytail, and hazel eyes. She was of average height, heavy, and was dressed in shorts and a sweatshirt.
Trixie Kalbrunner slowly got up off the ground andstod up. Upon finding three kids lying unconscious at the foot of the stairs, carried them to her room, and shut the door leading to the stairs and her room. She then sat in a corner, waiting for them to recuperate.
“So, who are you and what are you guys doing here?” Trixie said to the three intruders who dared to sneak into her house and her room.
Josie said, “Well, I’m your cousin Josie and this is Seth Burke and Moira Downing. I understand you are known as Patricia Leigh Kalbrunner. Am I right?”
“Well, I wouldn’t know,” said Trixie, who was shocked to know that after all the years she spent in the top room of the Kalbrunner house, she still had a voice.
“Indeed,” said Josie. “Now, how would you like to be free from this place?”
“I was locked up in here?” Trixie cried out in surprise. “I had no idea I was shoved in here. When did this happen?”
“You’re 16 now, or close to it,” said Josie, “and you came to live with your father when you were 9 years old. You were in a bad car accident, you were badly hurt, and your mother died. Your father didn’t want anyone else to know you existed, so he hid you here.”
Trixie gasped in horror, but Josie’s ears turned red. She knew the truth about Trixie and why Rajasthan hid her from her family (and the world), but she couldn’t bear to tell her cousin the truth. It would crush her.
“You must join with us,” said Moira. “Join us and help us crush the evil in our school that is Sheila Baines. You need to be at school, to get an education. We’ll sort out everything about you later.”
“I do hope you know what you’re doing,” said Seth. “Sheila is dangerous, and she owns the school. She won’t take too kindly to newcomers, especially those who show up at the school and are just as old as she is. We’re taking a huge gamble here.”
“I have heard of people like this Sheila Baines that you speak of,” said Trixie. “I see the things she does on TV. She is in dire need of a strong hand to slap her down so low she can never rise again.”
“Now, we must invent a new name for you and make sure that no one knows who you are,” said Josie. “We can’t have everyone around here knowing that you’re Trixie Kalbrunner, or my cousin. That would be a scandal.”
“A scandal indeed,” said Seth. “Maybe you could go by the name June Tempest? That could work.”
“Maybe,” said Moira, who was jealous as she watched Josie and Trixie nod in agreement. “We need to leave quickly. Who knows how long we have until Josie’s uncle returns.”
“And the cops are still watching the house,” said Seth with a quick glance outside the window.
“Yeah, and that too,” said Moira.
“So what now?” said Josie. “It’s not like we couldn’t go out the window…”
As she spoke, her hand touched a button that was next to the window. The window that could never be opened swung open, revealing a door and some secret stairs. The stairs led to another part of the house, which had been forgotten. The secret part of the house had a living room, a kitchen, and a parlor for entertaining guests.
“Is this what I think it is?” said Moira as she looked into what appeared to be a bathroom.
“It is,” said Josie. “I bet this place was built during the late 1800s. Most of these houses have secret chambers built in them; those chambers were used during the 1920s during the Prohibition Era. I bet my uncle’s house was among those houses that hid beer and the people who liked to drink beer.”
“Indeed,” said Seth. “I think we may have found our new hiding spot. The cops will never find us here.”
“They won’t,” Trixie said as she stared out the window. “They’ve already left.”
The other kids rushed to the window and stared out of it; Officer McCleary and Officer Olson had left the area without seeing anything or anyone. Josie said, “So now that we're here, I say we go back to school and break some rules!”
“We should,” said Moira. “I’ve had enough with Sheila Baines and her crap. We have a right to learn and she has no right to try and stop us!”
“With Trixie here, we’ll be unstoppable!” said Seth. “Though parents, other students, and even death will make us fall apart as individuals, no one will tear apart the Teen Rebels!”
The kids cheered, not realizing that their union would change not only their lives, but also the lives of the people in Montagne Beach, California…
Chapter 5: Tonic Trouble
Now that we have the four main members of the group, we want to see them all in action.
Mainly, rebelling against the lifestyle of the American teenager.
For starters, the average teenager enjoys movies, music, and clothes. Most teenagers enjoy watching TV and listening to the radio. Also, many teenagers don’t care about anything that doesn’t have anything to do with entertainment, such as world issues and social problems.
Well, Josephine Tremlett-Kahn was about to put an end to that for good.
On Thursday, January 14, 1988, Josie, Seth, and Moira were hiding in the back room of the library. Trixie was with them, and the others were trying on various disguises for her. So far, Trixie was wearing a brown wig, and a dark brown baggy top, a short dark red skirt, and a pair of dress shoes.
“I think this will work,” said Seth as he eyed his handiwork, “but we don’t need the brown wig. It’s too much like everyone else.”
“Nah,” said Trixie. “I have to learn how to blend in with everyone else. It would be shocking to be me and no one knowing who I am. I can’t run that risk.”
“You’re right,” said Seth. “It's better to blend in with people who have brown hair than to stand out in the crowd with different colored hair.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Moira snapped at him.
Just then, Maisie Chung, Donna McGowan, and Juliet Howell walked by the library, staring at the strange foursome. Moira flashed a look that warned the girls that if they informed Sheila Baines about what they saw, they wouldn’t go on the spring trip to Fort Hunter Liggett, which would happen during the spring break.
Nonetheless, it was lunchtime when the cruel girl in question approached the Teen Rebels. Josie looked up and said, “Sheila’s here, and she knows about us. Act ignorant and pretend that you don’t know what she’s talking about.”
The kids nodded as they saw the girl approaching them. She had a huge snarl on her face. The other students drew back in their seats as Sheila said to them, “So, I see we have some people who don’t care for the rules that I've set up. Do you not know the rules I have in place here? No one who I deem weird is allowed to have any friends and those who appear to be Black are not allowed to associate with people of other races. Yet, you have done what I said you shouldn't do. What do you have to say for yourselves?”
“Well,” said Seth in a manner of speaking, “when I last checked, kids don’t make the rules around here. Only adults make the rules, and no adult in their right mind would dare make up such stupid rules as the rules you have for us.”
“How impressive,” said Sheila, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “I thought I made it clear to you that you weren’t allowed to have any friends. You are a stupid useless bastard who has no respect or regard for the American way of life. I don’t know why the principal even allows you to continue attending this school...”
“There is a law that says I have to be in school,” said Seth in response to Sheila’s cruel insults. “The law doesn’t care about what you think.”
“And as for you, Mary,” Sheila whaled on Moira, “you must be an idiot to think you can tell everyone around here what to call you...”
“My name is Moira,” said Moira (who cared nothing for what Sheila had to say). “And as such, no one is allowed to call me Mary; not even a teacher can call me Mary. If you think you’re going to force me to use that stupid name, you have another thing coming!”
“And you, Josephine,” said Sheila as she faced Josie, “are nothing more than a…”
She stopped and stared at Trixie, who was sitting next to Josie. Everyone else also stared at Trixie; no one had seen her before, nor did they know that Josie had a cousin named Trixie Kalbrunner. (In fact, Josie kept her history with the Kalbrunner family private for several reasons.) No one said anything for a long time. It was as if time itself had stopped and they were puppets on a small wooden stage. They all couldn't help but wonder: who would be the first person to talk to Patricia Leigh Kalbrunner?
Eventually, Sheila said, “Who the heck are you?”
“I don’t know, but I know who you are, Sheila Baines,” said Trixie. Sheila paled as she continued to stare at her, as did the audience. “I know you’ve been giving these students a hard time and that’s got to stop. You think because your mother is the president of the PTA that gives you the right to push these kids around.”
"I have the right to push everyone here around if I want to,” said Sheila. “I own this school! And there's nothing you can do about it."
Trixie glared at Sheila and said, “Why are you even here? Why am I talking to you? How old are you? You should be in high school, not middle school. What did you do? Flunk out of the eighth grade? No wonder why today’s generation is so stupid; they can’t do anything right! I say it’s time for you to go!”
“And I say that your momma is so fat that when she gets into an elevator to go up, it has to go down!” Sheila snapped.
Everyone gasped in horror as Trixie shook her head. “So it’s come to this, right? You insult my mother? You make all sorts of tasteless jokes about her? For shame. Two can play that game!”
“Bring it on!” Sheila snapped.
“Fine,” said Trixie. “You want it? It’s yours, my friend!” She stood up and faced Sheila, with her fists jammed into her hips. “Your momma is so fat, her waist size is the Equator!”
“Oooooohhhh!!!” cried the kids.
“Your momma is so fat, her blood type is Rocky Road!” yelled Sheila.
“Oooooohhhh!!!” cried the kids.
“Your momma is so fat, when she sits around the house, I mean, she SITS AROUND THE HOUSE!” yelled Trixie.
“Your momma’s so fat, she farted and blew up the Death Star!” yelled Sheila.
“Your momma is so fat, I took a picture of her last Christmas and it’s still printing!” yelled Trixie.
“Your momma’s breath smells so bad, when she yawns, her teeth duck out of the way!” yelled Sheila.
“Your momma’s been on welfare so long, her picture is on food stamps!” yelled Trixie.
“Your momma’s so fat, Spock couldn’t find a pressure point to perform the Vulcan Death Grip on her!” yelled Sheila.
“Your momma is so ugly, the government voted to move Halloween to her birthday!” yelled Trixie.
“Your momma is so ugly, when she went to Taco Bell, everyone ran for the border!” yelled Sheila.
“Your momma is so ugly, when she was born, the doctor took one look at her and slapped her parents!” yelled Trixie.
“Your momma is so ugly, when she joined an ugly contest, they said “Sorry, no professionals”,” yelled Sheila.
“Your momma is so old, she knew Burger King back when he was a prince!” yelled Trixie.
“Your momma is so old, she went to high school with Jesus!” yelled Sheila.
“Your momma is so old, she was in kindergarten with Jesus!” yelled Trixie.
“Your momma is so old, she was born at the same hospital as Jesus!” yelled Sheila.
“Your momma is so old, she babysat for Ronald Reagan!” yelled Trixie.
“Your momma is so old, her birth certificate says “expired” on it,” yelled Sheila.
“Your momma is so stupid, it took her two hours to watch “60 Minutes”!” yelled Trixie.
“Your momma is so stupid, she sits on the TV and watches the couch!” yelled Sheila.
“Your momma is so stupid, she took an umbrella to see “Purple Rain”!” yelled Trixie.
“Your momma is so stupid, she thinks Taco Bell is a Mexican phone company!” yelled Sheila.
“Your momma is so fat, she jumped up in the air and got stuck!” yelled Trixie.
“Your momma is so poor, she watches TV on an Etch-A-Sketch!” yelled Sheila.
“Your momma so ugly, even Hello Kitty said goodbye!” yelled Trixie.
“Your momma so fat, she tripped over 4th Avenue and landed on 12th Street!” yelled Sheila.
By that time, the kids were laughing their butts off. Josie, however, wasn't impressed by the jokes. She said, “I’m ending this crap once and for all!”
“And how are you gonna do that?” said Moira.
“Watch,” said Josie as she jumped to her feet.
She jumped into the fray and said, “Well, Sheila, I guess that means you’re an idiot.”
“You've made a serious mistake, Josephine,” Sheila said to Josie, but Trixie chimed in, saying, “Uh, your parents made a serious mistake.”
“And what was that mistake?” Sheila rounded on Trixie.
“You,” said Trixie as everyone laughed. “You’re the biggest mistake since President Ford pardoned Richard Nixon.”
“Yeah,” said Moira. “It’s a pity you will never be popular or have any friends. Maybe you shouldn’t have been such a bully to begin with.”
“You are such a stupid ugly…” Sheila began, but Seth interrupted her by saying, “They'll be writing parables about your cruelty after you die.”
“They'll be telling cautionary tales of your anti-American ways long after you die,” Sheila responded to Seth’s insult, but Trixie said, “You know, nobody likes you; they just do what you say because you intimidate them. But I know all about you, Sheila. You can’t do anything to anyone. Everybody has a horrible time whenever you’re around. You're nothing but a troll, and trolls have no place in this school. So I suggest you take your trollish ways and go someplace else.”
Sheila glared at Trixie for a while. The laughter from the students had stopped long ago, but everyone stared at the two girls as the conflict progressed. Finally, she said, “Well, you are an ugly witch.”
Everyone gasped at the sound of that terrible insult as Trixie said, “Oh dear, I’ve seen that you ran out of jokes, so you resort to tasteless insults and name-calling. You wish to insult me? You want to call me names? Know this, Sheila Baines; I've been from middle school to middle school for the past three years and there’s nothing you can say to me that I haven’t heard before. I’ve had people call me a retard. I’ve had people call me ugly. Heck, I’ve had some people who have said that my mother fornicated with an Orc to have me. But what you have said to me is the dumbest things that I have heard. At no point during that rant did anything you say make any sense. Everyone in this room is now dumber for even hearing it. I hope God has mercy on your soul.”
Sheila gasped as she looked around the cafeteria; all the kids and some of the teachers stared at her. She knew they had heard everything Trixie said and knew the truth about her was exposed. Sheila Baines was a bully determined to cause trouble for the students and teachers at Montagne Beach Middle School and drive them off the deep end. But no more.
Despite everything Trixie said to her (which was the cold harsh truth), that didn’t mean she had to accept it; she had one final, if weak, insult for Trixie. “As God is my witness, one way or another, I’m so taking you down for this. No one insults me and lives! You hear me? NO ONE INSULTS ME AND LIVES!”
Yet, Trixie didn’t flinch at Sheila’s cruel words; she replied in kind, “Oh go ahead and take me down. I dare you. But know this, Sheila Baines, if I go down, I’m taking you with me. And when you die, not even your parents will mourn for you.”
She walked away, leaving a stunned Sheila and a huge group of confused students behind. Josie, Seth, and Moira followed her, with Seth saying, “That was awesome! I never thought I’d see the day that Sheila Baines gets her comeuppance.”
“But I wonder if we’re going to be paying for whatever we did to Sheila,” said Josie. The others stared at her. “Like it or not, she’s still a student here; as such, she's still being treated as a student. Her mother is the president of the school board, so she’s going to find out about this eventually. Everyone’s going to be harping on us once word gets out that we insulted Sheila.”
“But was it insulting, or did we just put her in her place?” said Moira. “I can’t tell the difference.”
“Whatever we did, we must have done a good job because Sheila is now the most hated person at Montagne Beach Middle School, if not the city,” said Seth. “But who knows what she’s going to do to us when her mother finds out about our role in Sheila being exposed as the bully that she is.”
“We can’t let her stop us just because she’s a bully,” said Moira. “We have to fight the system. The system is trying to break us down, make us docile, and destroying us! We can’t trust the system!”
Josie smiled, saying, “Are you mad? You’re suggesting that we should challenge the system? It would never work. How can a bunch of teenagers like us challenge the system?”
“You do it everyday,” said Seth. “You don’t dress like everyone else, you don’t act like everyone else, and you certainly don’t like the same things as everyone else. I say you’re challenging the system right now.”
“You're right, Seth,” said Josie. “I'm already challenging the system as it stands. But there’s one problem that we need to discuss. Right now, it’s just me who’s currently challenging the system. But when we challenge the system, then people want to take notice.”
“But when we all challenge the system, then they're going to question the system,” said Moira.
“Indeed,” said Trixie. “We need to change the system.”
“Well,” said Josie. “Who’s willing to fight the system?”
As the kids cheered, they had no idea that the repercussions of their confrontation with Sheila Baines would not only affect them, but also affect their families, the school, and the city of Montagne Beach, California...
~To be continued...
A few hours passed since her humiliation by Josie Tremlett-Kahn, Trixie Leigh Kalbrunner, Moira Downing, and Seth Burke in the cafeteria.
Sheila Baines found herself in the principal’s office. Apparently, Wendell Meyer had told Mrs. Carker that Sheila was causing a disturbance in the cafeteria during lunchtime and verbally abused several children. Mrs. Carker wasn't happy to hear about Sheila’s behavior; she knew it was time to reel that girl in or something dire would happen to her.
Isadora Carker glared as she stared at Sheila Baines. She had gone through the same routine of having Sheila coming into her office every time she misbehaved or bullied another student. This needed to stop.
She said, “Why is it that every time something happens, it always reverts to you?” When Sheila didn’t answer, Mrs. Carker continued, “I've heard that you've been causing trouble for the other students since you were held back three years ago. Why are you still here? You’re too old to be in the eighth grade and your mother can’t afford to keep you here. When are you going to grow up and leave this school?”
Sheila glared at the woman with hate and venom in her eyes. “You think I am a simpleton? I am NEVER going to leave this place! You think that just because you’re an adult it gives you the right to tell me what to do? Well, you have just earned yourself my wrath!”
With that, Sheila lunged at the woman, but she had made one strategical error. Mrs. Carker had been a running back on the powderpuff football team while she was in college. With that, Mrs. Carker assumed a stance and caught Sheila as the girl pounced on her, tackling her to the ground. Owen McTavish, who was one of the student office aides, burst into the room and snatched Sheila away from the other woman, only to throw her onto the floor and pummel her. He was on the Montagne Beach Middle School wrestling team and one of the biggest kids in the school at 5’7 and 145 pounds. (No one was allowed to think about intimidating him.)
“You’re gonna get in so much trouble when everyone finds out that you tried to jump the principal!” he yelled as he dragged Sheila away from the woman. Sheila glared at him, preparing to insult him, but then she yelled as she was punched across the face. “You will end up in a place where people will beat you up or kill you if you don’t cut that crap out,” Owen said angrily.
Josie, Seth, Trixie, and Moira saw everything as it unfolded; they were watching the confrontation from a window outside the principal’s office. They all shook their heads at Sheila’s antics, saying, “She is so going down.”
Little did they know that they would have the right of it. Or better yet, they would be the ones to bring down Sheila Baines for good.