Authors: Steve Kluger
THE FIRST MOVE
Even though I should have listened to Augie when he told me that Alejandra needed special handling, I didn’t. Instead, on the first day of school I stuck a note into her social studies book. This wasn’t a kissing kind of strategy to show her how cute I am, it was because my voice is changing so fast I couldn’t count on it not to crack when I told her I loved her. And who wants a boyfriend who sounds like he needs a tune-up?
DEAR ALLIE: I’M CONSIDERING A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU. AND BY THE WAY, FORGET THAT MRS. FITZPATRICK CALLS ME ANTHONY. YOU CAN CALL ME T.C.
After phys ed there was a vanilla envelope on my desk with purple writing on it that looked like it came from the principal’s office—and I don’t usually get called in
until at least November.
I appreciate your recent interest, but I’m not accepting applications at this time. Your letter will be kept in our files and someone will get back to you if there is an opening.
Thank you for thinking of me.
P.S. It’s not “Allie.” It’s “Alé.”
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Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in the United States of America by Dial Books,
a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2009
Copyright © Steve Kluger, 2008
All rights reserved
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE DIAL BOOKS EDITION AS FOLLOWS:
My most excellent year: a novel of love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park / by Steve Kluger.
Summary: Three teenagers in Boston narrate their experiences of a year of new friendships, first loves, and coming into their own.
[1. Interpersonal relations—Fiction. 2. Friendship—Fiction. 3. Homosexuality—Fiction. 4. Boston (Ma.)—Fiction. 5. Humorous stories.] I. Title.
Speak ISBN: 978-1-101-66479-7
Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
or my nephews and nieces, Bridgette, Emily, Audrey, Elisa, Noah, Paloma, Logan, Evan, and Robbie—the nine kids who own my heart
—and for Julie Andrews, who gave them all the sound of music
T.C. Keller, 11
Ms. LaFontaine’s Class
MY MOST EXCELLENT YEAR
Part 1: My Family
[Note to Ms. LaFontaine: I didn’t mean to give you a hard time about the title of this assignment, but “My Totally Excellent Year” would have been like so 1995, we’d have been laughed out of Brookline if anybody found out. Especially if these things are going to be attached to our college apps. So in the future, you might want to check with me ahead of time about this kind of stuff. —T.C.]
Since you’d never guess it from looking at me, nobody can tell that words like
come out sounding like
“becazz,” “faht,” “they-a,” and “bananer” when I say them out loud. I got this from Pop, who’s even worse than I am. One time we took the train down to New York so he could show me where Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds used to be, and while we were ordering pizza in Brooklyn and back-and-forthing about who you’d rather have batting cleanup behind you—Pistol Pete Reiser or Charlie Banks—the waitress asked us what country we were from. (Like they’ve got room to talk in Brooklyn.)
A lot of the snoots on Beacon Hill like to tell you that their ancestors came over with the Pilgrims, but this didn’t happen to us Kellers. We came over with the Red Sox. My grandpa’s name was Tris Speaker Keller (after the 1907 outfielder they called “The Grey Eagle”), my dad’s name is Theodore Williams Keller (world-famous slugger with ’tude in 1940-something), and I even have an Aunt Babe and an Aunt Ruth. (This was a lucky coincidence. They met thirty-eight years ago at a Bobby Kennedy rally in Rockport and they’ve been together ever since. Aunt Babe swears they would have fallen in love even if Aunt Ruth’s name had been Sheba, but I’m not so sure.) Pop couldn’t decide whether to call me Rico Petrocelli or Freddy Lynn, but Uncle Yaz had twins that year and beat him to it. That’s how I wound up Anthony Conigliaro Keller (another snarly batting champ who got zapped in the face with a fastball in 1967, which somehow turned him into a hero). And the only one who’s allowed to call me Tony C is my dad, because I’m the only one who gets to call him Teddy Ballgame. To everybody else I’m just T.C. Except to my brother Augie, who calls me Tick.
I should probably explain the brother thing, except I don’t really remember how it happened. We were in first grade, the Red Sox
were in fourth place, and I had a brand-new hole in my heart from losing my mother. But even though Augie and I had never talked to each other before, he was the only one who knew what to say and how to say it. (Everybody else thought they could get away with blowing smoke up my ass about Guardian Angels and Eternal Paradise, like my mother had gone on a Princess Cruise.) Pretty soon we were taking make-believe trips to the planet Twylo and losing our thumbs to alien walnuts, and that’s when I knew for sure that I wouldn’t be sad forever. Well, anybody who can pull off something like that for you isn’t just a best friend—that’s brother territory. So Augie told his mom and dad that they had a new son, and I told Pop the same thing. Screw biology.
Mama died when I was six. She was the one who taught me to believe in magic, but not by reading me books like
The Silver Sorceress of Oz
or Brothers Grimm—she proved it instead. Right after my third birthday, we went to Derry, New Hampshire, for her cousin’s wedding, and before we left they gave me a purple balloon that said “Congratulations Bobby and Penny” on it. (Mama’s half of the family all has normal names.) Well, when you’re three, you just know that a purple balloon is pretty much the biggest thing that’s ever going to happen to you—especially when you let go of it on the way back to Brookline and it flies out the window of your Subaru. My mother finally got me to stop crying by promising that my purple balloon was flying all over Boston looking for me, and that if I watched the sky long enough, it’d see me and come home. So Pop and I stood in the backyard looking straight up for two hours, waiting for it to zero in for a landing. But no snap. Then all of a sudden from inside the house I heard Mama calling out, “T.C.!
Come quick! Look who’s here!” And damn if my purple balloon wasn’t bobbing up and down against the ceiling of our front porch. (I was ten before I figured out that she drove all the way back to Derry, New Hampshire, just to get me another one.)