My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters

My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters
Sydney Salter

GRAPHIA
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Boston New York 2009

Copyright © 2009 by Sydney Salter

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Graphia,
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Salter, Sydney.
My big nose and other natural disasters / by Sydney Salter.
p. cm.
Summary: In Reno, Nevada, seventeen-year-old Jory Michaels is self-conscious
because she does not fit in with her "beautiful" family, so while her two best
friends plan on a summer spent discovering their passions before their senior
year of high school, she gets a job and saves money for plastic surgery.

ISBN 978-0-15-206643-7 (pbk.)

[1. Self-esteem—Fiction. 2. Self-acceptance—Fiction. 3. Individuality—
Fiction. 4. Beauty, Personal—Fiction. 5. Friendship—Fiction. 6. Dating
(Social customs)—Fiction. 7. Mothers and daughters—Fiction. 8. Reno
(Nev.)—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.S15515My 2009
[Fic]—dc22
2008048427

Manufactured in the United States of America
QUM 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To the amazing women with whom I created so many Reno High memories. When's our next girls' weekend?

Chapter One
JUNE: SUMMER OF PASSION?

It all comes down to my nose.

Good old Great-Grandpa Lessinger's famous nose. The one they used to joke about until it turned out that I didn't "grow into my nose" like they'd all hoped, and probably prayed, even though we're not exactly a churchgoing family. My parents worship at the Caughlin Club—you know, the gods and goddesses of good golf swings, cute tennis skirts, prestigious addresses, and beautiful, gifted progeny.

I don't fit in.

My eyes are muddy brown while everyone else in the family has eyes that rival the color of Lake Tahoe. Sure, I've got the blond hair, but mine is curly and more brown than blond (though Mom insists I'm blond like the rest of them). Mom's is more a Platinum #305, but she'll never admit to it. "It's just a conditioning rinse," she always says. Right.

And it's just a nose.

If only I were some brilliant scholar who'd written six novels, created my own Web-based business, and spoke fluent Chinese. But no. I didn't even take any AP classes junior year, and I still have a B average.

I'm ordinary.

Evidence: last night's annual Reno High Awards for Students Who Are Actually Doing Impressive Things. I'd sat with my parents, craning my neck so I could see Tyler Briggs—who received an award for his charity work—sitting three rows behind me. My younger brother, Finn, popped up for his seven hundredth award of the night, Most Excellent French Student. He'd already won Most Soccer Goals Scored by a Freshman, Best Freshman GPA, and the Freshman Citizenship Plaque. Swoons, sighs, and giggles echoed all over the auditorium; the girls sitting next to me decided Finn should get awards for Best Legs, Best Smile, and "like Biggest Studliest Cutie ever." Like
that
makes any sense! Then Buddy Dickenson, Dad's Mr. Country Club golfing partner, leaned forward and said, "Are you sure Jory isn't adopted? She hasn't been up there once." He broke into his ex-smoker guffaws. My dad laughed, but my mom pursed her lips and glanced at me real quick. I buried my nose—my long, lumpy nose—in the program. Mr. Dickenson and his stupid booming voice. Had Tyler heard him?

I looked up only when Tyler received some ski team honor.

Afterward, I stood in the auditorium with my friends, nibbling a stale sugar cookie and sipping too-sweet punch, while my parents lingered near the stage accepting congratulations for having birthed the truly amazing Finn Michaels.

"It's going to be the best summer ever." Hannah's short blond pigtails bounced like an anime character's. "We have no worries." She fanned herself with her certificates for Outstanding Community Service, Super School Spirit, and Best Poetry. "We can relax and really discover our passions."

"Like getting into college? Getting real work experience?" Megan had already taken her SATs, twice, and talked nonstop about early-admissions this and AP-credits that. Plus, she'd lined up an internship with the U.S. Attorneys' Office. Tonight she'd dressed like a TV lawyer—silky blouse tucked into a short skirt, long dark hair pulled into a messy bun.

"No, silly." Hannah flapped her certificates at Megan. "Fun stuff!"

Both of us were a little sick of Megan's I'm-so-done-with-high-school attitude, especially when we still had a whole year left. Megan had changed a lot since the three of us had bonded on the first day of freshman year, sitting on the cement steps, eating homemade sandwiches, watching the kids who knew better head off campus for lunch. Yup, we were quite the trio: Megan with purple orthodontia, zero boobs, and acne; Hannah with a back brace for her scoliosis; and me with the Nose. We spent hours dreaming up popularity ploys—the worst resulting in disastrous sophomore-year cheerleading tryouts (Megan got stuck halfway into her splits; Hannah couldn't stop giggling; I fell during a lift and had to wear a Band-Aid on my nose for an entire week).

"Well," I said, "I know my passion. His name is Tyler Briggs." I looked around real quick to make sure he hadn't heard me. Oblivious, as usual. Despite the ninety-degree heat, Tyler wore a starched buttoned-up shirt, an art deco tie, and the butt-hugging khaki pants that had once distracted me so much I'd slammed my forehead on Hannah's open locker. I watched his mother rake her long red nails though his wavy blond hair in a way that I'd only fantasized about. A giggling group of sophomores—the ones who frequently fawned over Finn—hovered nearby.

"I mean passion in the
creative
sense of the word." Hannah shook her head at me. "Meg's right. You do have boy issues."

"Duh." Megan cut her eyes at me, then Tyler.

"You have to love yourself first, you know." Hannah put her hand over her heart as if pledging allegiance to herself—some-thing she actually
does.
I tried it once, but Finn and his friends saw me; I endured
weeks
of Pledge Allegiance to Jory jokes.

"No need to go all peace, love, and yoga on me." I glanced over at Tyler, who smiled all sweet, shy, and adorable as his dad clapped him on the back. "I totally have a plan."

Megan gave me the Look that my mother must have taught her. Too bad they didn't give out certificates for that kind of thing; instead, Megan had gotten a stack of academic awards. I was surprised they hadn't given her a certificate for tutoring me in Algebra II.

"I have an
amazing
plan."

I sort of had a plan: to catch up on my beauty sleep. God knows I needed some. Beauty, that is. Although I had to admit that eight hours of sleep a night for a year had done
nothing
for my beauty—if anything, it had made my brain simply more alert and aware that I lacked beauty or any other distinguishing features, skills, or appealing qualities.

And so there I was on the first day of summer vacation. Awake. With a big nose, no passion in my life—in the creative sense of the word—and all signs still pointing to me dying a virgin.
Guinness World Records'
entry: Jory Michaels, World's Oldest Virgin. Or maybe it would be for World's Most Unlovable Human. Or both.

In the kitchen, my parents argued at a few decibels above any possibility of ignoring them, and the smell of roast chicken with wild rice and broccoli wafted into my room. Ah, yes. Day 6 of Mom's Dinner For Breakfast diet. You see, you can eat anything you want, only in reverse. In reality, you eat almost nothing except a big bowl of cereal at night because roast meat just about makes you want to hurl at seven o'clock in the morning. I groaned and pulled my pillow over my head, but I could still hear them arguing. So much for sleeping in. I kicked my comforter off, rolled out of bed using Hannah's yoga-inspired healthy-back method, and stretched. Like
that
would make me feel any better.

"Great start to summer vacation." I pulled my pajama bottoms out of my butt and padded down the hallway, past framed photos of Finn posing with a soccer ball, Finn sitting on a boulder at Lake Tahoe, Mom holding baby Finn, Mom and Dad's wedding, Mom and Dad grinning on a cruise ship, and one little five-by-seven photo of me in first grade. I don't do anything worthy of the family hall of fame. Or maybe it's just that I'm not photogenic enough. Or it might be because I've destroyed most of my school pictures since George Grobin called me "elephant nose" in the second grade.

I plopped myself down on a kitchen stool. "Oh, Mom. But I wanted lasagna for breakfast."

"Don't you even start with me." Mom opened the oven and grimaced as she read the meat thermometer. "I might be late for my first client because I've been up since five
A.M.
preparing you a delicious din—" She stopped.

"Ha! Caught you! You were going to say
dinner.
" I flipped my hair back and forth. "You said
dinner.
You said
dinner.
"

Mom shot me the Look while Dad gathered his briefcase, keys, pager, planner, and cell phone. "I'll grab something at work," he said, smiling at me. "Great reason to get a summer job, Jory: office doughnuts."

"Evan, you can't eat doughnuts! You said you'd support my new family-eating plan." Mom shook her wooden spoon before wiping her sweaty forehead with the back of her oven mitt. "Oh, fine. I'll save the chicken for dinner. Just this once."

Dad squeezed my shoulder and whispered, "We
will
triumph over this one, honey. She's breaking. Won't be long." He kissed my forehead, then blew a kiss to Mom.

After the door to the garage slammed shut with an echoing thud, I jumped up to grab a box of cereal.

"No, you don't. We can have the leftover pizza Finn and his friends ordered."

I spread the Living section of the paper out in front of me and glanced over the comics. "Mom. Pizza is not a diet food."

"It's not a
diet.
It's a family-eating plan." Mom slumped down on a stool and put her head on her arms. "Oh, God, I'm exhausted. Whoever invented this die—I mean, eating plan—was a damn insomniac."

I shoveled a spoonful of crunchy delicious-for-breakfast cereal into my mouth while watching Mom wrinkle her perfect little nose. "You look good, Mom. You look like a mom."

She pouted. "I don't want to look like a mom. Oh, never mind. I'll have grapefruit for breakfast."

"Ahh, yes. Sweet, or should I say, sour, memories of wacky diet number forty-seven." I scooped up another bite but slopped milk down my chin onto the newspaper. Mom dieted like Greg LeMond had trained for the Tour de France.

"Jory, you have no idea what it feels like to—" Mom looked away. She must've remembered the Nose. "I'm just tired." She rummaged for a grapefruit in our overstuffed fruit-and-veggie bin. "Your dad's right, you know. You should get a job this summer."

"Finn doesn't have to get a job."

"Finn keeps busy with soccer. Besides, his coach is already talking about his scholarship potential. And after last night—"

I get it. Super Schnozz has to work harder than the Nice Noses. A cartoon popped into my head, captioned: "Super Schnozz. Unable to awe people with her beauty. Unable to wow them with her intelligence. But if you need to identify an unusual odor, it's Super Schnozz to the rescue." Ah, that could be my passion. I could become a clever comics mogul. Hero to the proboscisly overendowed everywhere. Except I can't draw.

"Jory? Are you listening?" Mom whapped the classifieds on the counter. "You might find a summer job quite rewarding." As if she didn't constantly complain about her "rewarding" work as a mortgage specialist!

"I don't know where to start." I glanced down at all the itty-bitty squares of print. "Aren't these all for old people?"

Mom grabbed a handful of cereal out of the box and munched it noisily as she poured a cup of coffee. "Start with things you like to do."

I flipped to the
T
s for "Television Critic" but there were only ads for telemarketers. While fifteen dollars an hour sounded pretty good, having people call me nasty names and hang up on me all day would do nothing for my self-esteem. Although, maybe some cute guy would like the sound of my voice and fall deeply in love with me over the phone...

"What about baby-sitting?" Mom stirred a spoonful of sugar into her coffee, a sure sign that any dieting attempt was over for at least three days.

"Uh, no. I'm not spending my summer washing sticky hands and watching kiddie TV without even the possibility of seeing a cute guy." Unless the guy they paid to cut the lawn was totally hot and he saw me and, you know,
had
to have me. Can the desire to lose your virginity be a passion, in the creative sense of the word? I could totally see not-until-I'm-married Hannah taking a deep cleansing breath and closing her eyes if I even asked.

"I could work at the mall. Except not at the food court. Yuck. Maybe I could sell shoes? I love shoes. I'm always noticing people's shoes. And then I'd get a discount. How great would that be?" I looked through the "Retail" section of the classifieds, but everything said "experience required."

"This is so stupid. How hard could it be to grab a size seven and tell someone they look fabulous?" Hard enough for me, I guess. I try really hard not to lie. Ever (if possible). It's the Pinocchio thing. I can't take any chances.

"Well, what else do you like to do? Work with me, Jory. Please."

"Sleep. Maybe there's some sleep study up at UNR that I could enroll in?"

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