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Vicki Volester: rhyming with “bolster,”
not “molest her.”  Precariously balanced between the beautiful and grotesque...

From her earliest memories in 1966 to eye-rolling adolescence in 1975, follow Vicki Volester through her first volume of hide-and-seek between nurturing support and interfering bafflement—

—in WISH AGAIN, Book One of

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July 29, 2018



Titles Page

  1  —  Mole in a Hole

Vicki's earliest pinpointable memories (at age not-quite-four) are of alarm as her family contemplates a move to The City; apprehension, when her big sister Tricia tells her a bedtime story about a Mad Man Who Got Away With Murder; and awareness—repeatedly—of Something or Other spying on her from the secret darkness.

     Big girls could tremble.  Big girls could whimper.  Only babies cried.
     And Vicki’s Gardening Angel would too show up in time.  Armed with a hoe and rake and pinking shears made of fire, to scare any old Mad Man right out of his wits.
     Or so she told herself.
     But the Something or Other had a name now, and a furious violent hate-filled face, and a presence (for the next thirty-nine years) in Vicki Volester’s dreams. Which would often consist of her trying to hide, and trying to yell, and endlessly running away...

  2  —  Far Away from Harm

Trying to "be strong to get along," Vicki survives a harrowing trip (by heavily-loaded Corvair) to The City, and the Volesters's new greystone apartment on Walrock Avenue in Pfiester Park.  Tricia declares it will be a wonderful life for them from now on—but Vicki privately makes a wish-and-wish-again she could go back to Michigan.

Scary images kept flashing at her whenever she dared peep over the front seat. They were on a bridge—they were passing slums—they were heading for a canyon whose cliffs were made of buildings, the tallest ones she’d ever seen—a jagged line of them looming up to scrape the horizon, folding in on either side to trap a swarm of cars and trucks and buses that made their own Corvair swerve—jolt—lurch—honk—adding to the accumulated racket that rose and rose till Ozzie and Felicia had to yell to be heard and still not be understood—
     Vicki shrank down as far as the gap would permit, covering her face with King Leonardo as she wondered just how bad it was going to hurt when they crashed and burst into flames...

  3  —  Crown Thy Good

Baby brother Christopher (soon dubbed "Goofus") is born, to Vicki's further dismay.  Whenever possible she escapes with Hayley Tamworth, her new friend-and-neighbor, to play around the Walrock greystone; but Vicki can do nothing at night to keep away from Goofy's siren-like howls.

     “There’s a boy in the family now.  And you just have to look at him to see how impossible he’s going to be to live with, the older he gets.  I wonder how soon we’ll be able to smack him around?”
     The future promptly seemed nearer and cheerier.  “Can we do that?”
     “Hey, we’re his big sisters—it’s our job to do that.  We’ll have to work together: you’re too little to do much yet, and I’ll be too busy to do it all.  Maybe we can get your friend downstairs to help—take blame for things, stuff like that...”

  4  —  Shedding Tears

Tricia begins taking dance lessons from Aunt Fritzi (a former chorine); Vicki vows to learn too, but fears her feet are stumbly and graceless.  She and Hayley are enrolled in nursery school, where they meet some longtime future classmates—including Mean Melissa Chiese and weepy-creepy Wernie Ball.

Vicki, kiddycursing her feet as they tangled with the legs of her chair, found the way blocked by the adult-sized chair and its sniveling occupant.  Who reminded her of Peter Rabbit, caught in the gooseberry net and dunked in the watering can.
     Queasy pity churned Vicki’s stomach.
     “Don’t cry,” she muttered at him while squeezing past.
     He raised his head. Confronting her with startlingly red eyes in a pasty pallid face.
     Vicki hurried after Hayley and the other Happy Marchers.  Acutely aware with every awkward step that Wernie Ball was following her—those creepy-crawly eyes were upon her—their focus poised like a pair of wet crimson needles...

  5  —  The Concrete Garden

Other longtime acquaintances are made when the girls begin kindergarten at Reulbach Elementary School.  Among these are spiteful Stephanie Lipperman and impish Kris Rawberry, the latter becoming Vicki and Hayley's new best friend.  The trio plan their very first slumber party, but it gets disrupted by fallout from the death of "a Doctor-King, Leader of Negroes."

     “Krissy, get your things. I’ve come to take you home and we have to leave now.
     The trio wrang their hands and stamped their feet and wailed about how unjust this was; while frazzled Claire conferred with the Tamworths in agitated undertones, alluding to fires and snipers and curfews and Kate manning the phone and Sam being in the thick of it with his damned camera.
     Gasp went the girls at such a word coming from Mrs. Rawberry’s lips.  “Um,” Kris quavered, “is Daddy okay?”
     Of course he was, sweetheart. The trio needn’t worry their little angel heads, they had done nothing wrong, this wasn’t their fault...

  6  —  Nobody's Watching

The Volesters return to Michigan for a family reunion, coming home just before The City gets rocked by further riots (which "the whole world is watching").  Vicki, looking after two-year-old Goofus, can't prevent him from toddling out of the greystone—nor can she summon assistance to haul him back.

     “HELP!” Vicki yelled as Goofus wrenched loose, a grin of relish spreading over his speckled face and snouty nose and bristly orange crewcut.  Oh good grief, he was a pig!  A yucky runty porker edging his tricky piggy way along a wall under a no trespassing sign—
     —that the whole world took far too seriously: there was not a single person in the alley but Vicki.  And her loathsome little brother.  Who took refuge behind a telephone pole, leering around it with a stuck-out tongue...
     Vicki, in desperation, tried shouting all the profanity she knew.  Expletives that at any other time would’ve brought a mob of angry adults on the run, but today: NOBODY.  Just dead silence, except for Goofus gleefully echoing her no-no’s...

  7  —  Turn Out Your Toes

Harsh nicknames are handed out by a mean-girl clique that emerges in first grade, led by Melissa and Stephanie.  Vicki gets tagged as "Klumsy Klutzer"—but counters this by finally beginning lessons at Aunt Fritzi's dance studio.

In February Vicki had one of those adventures that take permanent residence in your heart and soul.  Aunt Fritzi invited the “Schmelzettes,” Vicki and Tricia and Mom and Gran, to the Civic Opera House for a performance by Ruth Page’s International Ballet...
     Darkness again.  And there was “O Fortuna!” experienced for the first time, crashing like waves on the Lake As Big As An Ocean.  Turning great wheels and vibrating great strings that could vanquish winter under the changeable moon: making us merry, making us joyful, carrying us unchained to be reborn—
     I want to dance. I want to be a dancer.
     Then you must learn how, Miss...

  8  —  Peachblow

Belligerent newcomer Brenda Pomerantz spearheads a second-grade resistance movement by Vicki and her friends (calling themselves "Peaches" after being initially labeled "Pooches") against Melissa Chiese's Blue Meanies.

What a great name!  The freshly-dubbed Peaches went out on the landing to exult in it.  Peach, according to Sarah-Jill, was the complete opposite of blue on the color wheel, and Hayley said that wearing peach clothes would make them look healthy.  Kris came up with the brilliant idea that everyone should bring a peach to school and, at a signal, throw them at the Blue Meanies.
     “Ripe peaches—no, rotten ones!” said Brenda.
     “Oog!” went Vicki.  “’Member, we don’t want to get us in trouble—just Them.  Or at least Her!...”

  9  —  A Star Is Borrowed

In third grade the class stages a Borrowers Ballet for the school variety show, with Vicki cast as Arrietty—and Wernie Ball as the Voice of the Boy, to console him for harassment by bully Dunk Gunderson.

Vicki’s own opinion of “Teeny-Weenie” hadn’t changed a whole lot in the four years since Melissa made him cry by swiping his chair...  Same little cobweb-headed paste-eater.  It was not a fun surprise to discover he’d taken the desk directly behind hers in Miss Steinfeldt’s room.  Nor was it a happy adventure to sense him huddled back there, exhaling whatever ailed him at any moment.
     Wernie-bugs… Wernie-germs… Wernie-cooties…
     The fact that Vicki hadn’t had to stay home sick from school for a single day this year meant nothing...

 10  —  Passing Over

After Aunt Fritzi marries Gross Uncle Doug and leaves The City, Vicki's grandfather announces he's turning over his used car lot to the Volesters and retiring to Florida—despite Vicki's grandmother's refusal to move.

“My femmily said: ‘If you marry this Galitzer, you are dead to us.’  I did not believe it.  He hedd won me, so—!  I did marry him.  Waited awhile, then wrote letters.  All returned unopened, so—!  I wrote no more.  Heard no more.  Did not essk.”
     “Um… what’s a Galitzer, Gran?”
     “Old country foolisssness.  ‘Litvak’ nonsense.  Many things they could hevv said against your grenndfather, but that was what they tzose?  Absurd...”

  11  —  The Less You Spend

Vicki's father lands a Honda franchise, but struggles to sell the new subcompact cars till Tricia debuts in a "Daddy & Princess" TV commercial.  Meanwhile, the Peaches and Blue Meanies vie to win over the most beautiful fourth-grade girl anyone'd ever seen in real life.

Four Peaches and four Blue Meanies watched Nina head their way with a tray of meatloaf, green beans and Jell-O.  All eight saw Jimmy’s elbow jab Billy Goldfarb’s ribs—then Jimmy’s hand slide inside Jimmy’s shirtfront and make it palpitate like a beating heart—then Jimmy stand and bow and say, “We saved ya a stool, Nina!”
     (Snortles from every guy at that table.)
     “’Kay,” said Nina.  Taking the proffered stool without the slightest hesitation, and sending shockwaves across the cafeteria.
     “She’s sitting with them!” Vicki hissed.  “She’s sitting with boys and eating lunch with them!...”

  12  —  Creepy-Crawly

In fifth grade the Blue Meanies abandon childhood and focus on Jonathan Dohr, the dark-brooding-mystic new boy who also sends shivers down Peach spines, and bests Dunk Gunderson at Ultimate Frisbee.  Dunk wreaks havoc at the school Science Fair.

Sarah-Jill proceeded to the group’s own psychic experiments, all of which (colossal surprise) revolved around Jonathan.  Whose reserve turned to stricken foreboding as he suddenly backed away, unnoticed by the Peaches, and “went through himself” (as Jimmy always said when Jon Dohr entered a washroom)...
     “He’s gone to throw up,” said a voice in Vicki’s ear.
     Mental telephathy?  No: Wernie Ball, in a hurried nervous whisper.
     Vicki recoiled from his lips...

  13  —  The Spurning Point

Just before sixth grade starts, Vicki goes through a growth spurt that impacts her aptitude at the Olivia Fischel Ballet Academy.  She sprains an ankle, doesn't fully recuperate, and has to abandon her dreams of becoming a ballerina.

     Run run run leap (thud).
     Run run run leap (thud).
     Run run run leap (THUD).
     “Six relevés in first position; repeat in second position.”
     I am a butterfly: I float, I glide.  I do not wobble.  I don’t, I don’t, I DON’T—
     Ms. Olivia stood silently, a hawk in human form: piercing eyes, aquiline nose, predatory cheekbones.
     You can demote me to Level Four, I won’t mind I’ll be such a good example to littler girls of never giving up no matter how long it takes I’ll do it I will I promise oh please...

  14  —  Not Bad

A Bengali family moves to Pfiester Park, triggering a racial confrontation and Dunk Gunderson's downfall.  Vicki slowly pulls through a deep funk, coming out of it much more attractive ("pain becomes her") and inspired to take up jogging.

     Hup two three four.  Lift those knees, move those arms, steady that breathing.  Watch out for pavement cracks that could cause a klumsy-klutzer stumble.
     Wheet wheet wheet wheet shrilled the cardinal, like an oddly-timed alarm clock—
     —that woke up every muscle in Vicki’s body, all at once.  And made them regain their memory.  Not so much of ballet (my gal is a fancy stepper) as of basic rhythmic forward motion (ginger with salt and pepper) that could make you skim, make you glide, make you soar, make you swoop over the Esplanade...

  15  —  Ritz of Passage

By seventh grade the Peaches have begun drifting apart.  Vicki unexpectedly becomes best friends with Stephanie Lipperman, and ends up mediating between Steph and Brenda Pomerantz's dueling Bat Mitzvahs.

     She dried her tears, rinsed her face, declined Vicki’s offer of mascara, and led the way down to the first floor—where she stupefied Vicki by striding through the east doors.  Out to the parking lot, leaving school before the final bell had rung, heedless of whether any adults might see.
     OhmyGahd she has cracked up!
     Stephanie paused while still visible.  Looked back and jerked her head to the left.  Was Vicki expected to come too?  What would happen if she didn’t?  Might a life be at stake, not to mention traffic if Stephanie threw herself into it?...

  16  —  Smile

Vicki goes on her first sort-of-date, with the fourth guy who expresses interest in sort-of-dating her.  Tricia stars in a high school production of The Sound of Music and is offered a chance to backpack through Europe, but heartbreak intervenes.

     In the end, after sitting beside or behind Vicki these past three alphabetical years, it was Ordinary Mark Welk who came through for her.  “Hey,” he said one day after lunch.  “You going to the dance?”
     “I dunno.  You?”
     “I will if you will.”
     “Okay.  Sure.”
     “Mark Welk, hunh?” was Steph’s reaction.  “Well, he’s… nice.”
     “He’s okay,” Vicki corrected her.  No point acting all head-in-the-clouds about it.
     Unlike Tricia, still very much in a hills-are-alive! mood thanks to her European horizon...

  17  —  Pick Up the Pieces

The Volesters (minus Tricia) find a house in the northern suburb of Vanderlund, and prepare to move away from Pfiester Park after nine years in their apartment on Walrock Avenue.

     Vicki rolled down her window and peered out at the sort of house you’d see inhabited by families in TV sitcoms.  You could almost hear Jan whining Marcia Marcia Marcia inside it.  And the set designers certainly did a good job on the surrounding neighborhood—every yard had a couple of tall trees, all of them in full leaf, arching upward to mingle overhead so the Lane really seemed like a shady Burrow.
     She pictured herself living here.  Riding a bike to and from other suburban places.  Jogging down to Lesser Drive and a run across the park, or over to Panama Boulevard and along the (sweet-scented) canal like a Venetian teen.
     Was Tricia in Venice now?  How would she react to this new house, to barely being able to set foot in 3132 Burrow Lane before college started—
     College!  As in school.
One of the suburban places Vicki would be to-ing and from-ing.  Though she didn’t know how to get there and back, or even what is was called, or anybody who attended it.  Not a single solitary soul in all Vanderlund...

Click here to continue with VICKI IN VANDERLUND,


Characters in Wish Again: Book One of BOLSTER, NOT MOLEST HER

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