Authors: Marcia Strykowski
Published by Luminis Books
1950 East Greyhound Pass, #18, PMB 280,
Carmel, Indiana, 46033, U.S.A.
Copyright Â© Marcia Strykowski, 2013
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover Photo & Author Photo by Thompson Photography & Graphic Design. Cover design by Joanne Riske.
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-935462-76-7
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-935462-75-0
Printed in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
For my parents,
Raymond and Margaret Sorensen,
with love and gratitude.
Early praise for
Call Me Amy:
“A wounded seal pup propels 13-year-old Amy Henderson into an unlikely alliance with an unusual older woman and a mysterious boy in a small Maine fishing village. Readers will cheer for Amy as she protects Pup, gains confidence, faces challenges, and comes up with an idea that could change not only the future of her village, but also her own life. With a skillful hand, Strykowski introduces us to a small town with memorable characters and the girl who could bring them all together.”
âAnne Broyles, award-winning author of
Priscilla and the Hollyhocks
“In a small town in Maine in the 1970's, Amy is standing on the brink of becoming a young adult. The events that will force her to discover who she is, what she is made of and how she wants others to perceive her are sweetly told through awkward teenage moments, the triumphs and sadnesses of that age and, ultimately, Amy's discovery of her own beliefs, strength and courage.”
âKathleen Benner Duble, acclaimed author of
“Well-drawn, sympathetic characters and the developing spark between Amy and Craig combine to create a pleasant, satisfying read.”
“Strykowski ably depicts Amy's insecurity and self-doubt, Craig's bravura and pain, and Miss Cogshell's wisdom with a deft, convincing touch. In essence, Amy comes of age as she fights to find her voice in the outside world and shed some of her debilitating insecurity. Readers will cheer her on, and her splendid team too.”
Along with Mom and Dad, thank you to Bette, Bob, Derek, and Marla for your ongoing love and support. And special thanks to all the writers and readers who read
Call Me Amy
in its various stages. Also, thank you to Tracy Richardson and Chris Katsaropoulos of Luminis Books.
CALL ME AMY
HARP OCEAN AIR
raced around my bedroom before I slammed the windows shut and headed downstairs.
My big sister Nancy called out to me. “Are you going for a walk by yourself again?” She swung her dark, glossy ponytail over one straight shoulder.
I nodded as I stooped to pull on my boots.
Nancy, as different from me as perfume is to tiddlywinks, was sprawled across the kitchen linoleum.
magazine lay open while Carly Simon's hit song “You're So Vain” blared from her transistor radio. Nancy had little wads of cotton stuffed between her toes, so her shiny, pink toenails wouldn't smudge. I blocked my nose, hoping to get out of there fast before the smell of nail polish made me puke.
“You know, Amy, you really should try to make some friendsâso you don't have to mope around by yourself every Saturday. There must be
else your age in this boring port.”
Duh. What was I supposed to say to that?
“I'm telling you,” continued Nancy, raising her voice over the music as she examined her toes, “just two more years and I'll kiss this hole-in-the-wall town goodbye.”
I slipped into my yellow parka and pushed open the door, ignoring her. The breeze swept in to flip the pages of Nancy's magazine.
“Check the post office for me!” Nancy's shout came faint against the wind just before the door blew shut.
I was already halfway down the hill, and most likely I would end up at the post office. Where else would I go? In Port Wells there were only so many places to visit, so the pier, Al's General Store, and the post office were at the top of the list. For the religious sort, there was a Baptist church across from the post office. Its steeple was the first thing you'd spot when coming around the corner off the main road.
Oh, and how could I forgetâfor those who liked smelly little bait shops, there was one of those, sticking off the back of the general store. A simple thing like wanting to buy a pair of bellbottoms or borrow a library book meant going into Thomastonâthirty miles away. The sparkle of the salt air and surf made living on the coast all worth it, though.
I slowed my pace and took tiny steps down the hill through the pine trees, my boots flattening the last of the snow. As much as I hated to admit it, I knew Nancy was right. So far, 1973 had been a lonely year.
My best, or I guess you could say only friend moved away last spring and had turned out to be a lousy letter writer. Like, none at all. I had spent half the summer hanging around the post office waiting for a letter, postcard,
, until I finally gave up sending my own weekly letters.
Now, after being stuck inside most of the winter, people were poking their heads out. Port Wells was slowly coming alive again. A couple of townies were home safe from Vietnam and folks seemed more relaxed. There was a hint of spring in the air. Just a hintâfor in Maine, spring was sluggish. Colors were as vivid as a new tin of watercolor paints: viridian green trees against cobalt blue with zinc white clouds. I could hear the Percy boys shrieking out baseball calls from the village field.
I looked back up the hill, through the pines, at our Victorian-style house and inhaled the damp, salt air. Years ago my great-grandparents had come to Port Wells to build up their health. They used to say if they could only bottle this fresh atmosphere and sell it as medicine, then they'd be millionaires. They swore by it, and us Hendersons had been here ever since.
Down at the base of our hill I found an open area that was almost green and bare of snow. I flipped a cartwheel. The coarse ground left tiny pebble dents in my palms. I rubbed them together and flipped again, the rush of freedom outweighing any pain.
Then I heard a few dull claps. I spun around, peeked through my tangled hair, and found Craig Miller sitting halfway up a tree applauding me. Great. I couldn't see all of him, mostly just his old army jacket. He wore it every single day.
“Encore, Shrimp, encore.” Ugh, I hated that nick-name. Craig scrunched down to peer through the branches at me. My face felt hot. I glanced at an imaginary watch on my wrist, as though late for some important event. The last thing I wanted to see was his foolish grin.
Craig was one of those tough kids whom all the boy-crazy girls giggled about, although he never seemed to notice. Too cool, I guess. He'd been in my class since first grade and even though we were in eighth grade now, I still didn't feel comfortable with him. I usually ended up in the desk beside him because teachers thought it clever to put a silent student, like me, next to a big mouth like him. It's not like I chose to be silent; I just never had anything to say that someone wasn't already saying.
Craig had no problem spitting out whatever came into his head and it was sometimes hard to tell if he was joking or not. He was only one of the kids who called me Shrimp on a regular basis. I'm not sure when or why it started. I mean, I knew I was small for my age, but did that give everybody the right to compare me to a slimy piece of seafood?
I heard a low chuckle from the tree and took off, glancing over one shoulder to make sure I wasn't being followedâfat chanceâas I raced across the field between baseball innings. The players, all three of them, were taking a break. When I reached the pier I slowed down to catch my breath.
I could make out WÃ wÃ ckÃ¨chi Island sharp in the distance, and could almost see the lighthouse, a vague shape jutting upwards. Most mornings the fog came in so thick, you wouldn't even know an island was out there. There was never a time I could pass by the ocean without stopping to stare, and, for all its blemishes, I truly believed Port Wells to be the most beautiful place on earth.
Today the water was calm with a few dinghies drifting on the horizon. The mail boat, surrounded by chunks of ice, waited by the pier. Soon it would make its daily trip out to WÃ wÃ ckÃ¨chi. On the other side of the wharf, an old fisherman in slippery yellow coveralls was squatting down by a bucket of red paint that would bring stripes to a long row of lobster buoys. I watched a minute, and then moved on.
Even Old Coot's house didn't look quite so drab on a day like this. But I still stayed way over on the opposite side of the laneâjust in case.
Before I got to the post office, I stopped to watch three girls a little bit younger than me who were hanging around the gas pump outside Al's General Store.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see them gesturing and pulling at each other, talking and laughing like there was no tomorrow. I wondered what in the world they could be talking about. What did anyone talk about besides homework assignments or the weather? They were probably too young to be discussing Nixon's Watergate problems. Would these girls clam up like I did, around the time they got their first zit? Probably not. Might as well face it, I was doomed to be an outcast forever. I found a smooth white pebble and kicked it along until it bounced off the wooden steps of the post office.
As I pushed open the post office door, smells of musty paper lunged from the darkened corners. Sally Johnson, the most chipper postmistress in the world, greeted me.
“Well, hello there, Miss Nancy. How is everything up on your hill?”
“Amy,” I whispered. Since I'd been going to school with her snotty daughter, Pamela, for all of my life, you'd think she'd at least know my name by now. I shifted my weight and fiddled with my parka's zipper pull.
“Well, yes, let's see. I think we have some mail here for your family.” She paused, stuck one finger in her ear, and glanced around at the small stacks of mail.
“Ah, here it is,” she announced as she examined her finger for wax. I looked away disgusted, and wondered why there couldn't be a more pleasant place to visit. Everyone knew that Sally listened in on telephone party lines and for all we knew she probably read the mail too, sealing it up again with her earwax. Yuck. I shivered, then realized she was talking to me.
“ . . . hasn't picked up her mail lately and it's piling up. You'll be going right by Miss Cogshell's place.” Sally peered at the envelopes as if deciding whether she approved of their contents. “I'll put all this in a rubber band and you can bring it over there.”
My mouth fell open. Miss Cogshell was Old Coot! The most terrifying person in Port Wells and I was supposed to casually drop in on her? “But . . . ”
Sally had already turned her back and didn't hear my timid protest. With clammy hands I took the extra bundle and headed out the door.
Coot's house had even less appeal than painting my toenails. I could recall bits and pieces of gossip about the old lady who lived at the end of the road. She was the largest, scariest, most ugly woman we kids had ever seen. From the safety of the school bus windows, the kids all said she was a witch and called her Old Coot. I never called her anything, out loud. I always sat at the front of the bus, second seat on the right, staring straight ahead for the whole long rideâhalfway to Thomaston. Old Coot didn't venture out much, except for short walks back and forth to the general store. She used an odd-looking cane on those excursions.