The seventh grade gets stage fever when Far Hills Junior High decides to perform the musical The Wiz. Since Madison doesn’t sing or dance, stage manager seems like the perfect role for her—until she begins to feel left out from all the cast action. Worst of all, her two best friends are partnering up with their nemesis, Ivy, both in and out of rehearsal. The play is bringing out the worst in her enemies and her friends, and Madison isn’t sure where she fits in anymore. How can she be the glue keeping the play together when she herself feels so unglued?
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Play It Again
From the Files of Madison Finn, Book 3
By Laura Dower
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2001 Laura Dower
All rights reserved.
"I want a dance solo," Aimee Gillespie announced at lunch. "What about you, Maddie? What part do you wanna get?"
Madison Finn shrugged and took a sip of her chocolate milk.
The Far Hills Junior High administration had decided to organize a special cabaret in honor of the school's assistant principal, Mrs. B. Goode's, twenty years of distinguished service. They were planning three separate nights of entertainment—one for each class in the school. Everyone in the seventh grade was expected to try out for selected scenes and songs from The Wiz.
But Madison didn't want to. She couldn't.
Madison couldn't get up on stage to sing some lame rendition of "Happy Birthday" in the key of C.
She couldn't face having other classmates with their eyes fixed on her every onstage move.
And she absolutely couldn't dance.
Just the thought of auditioning made Madison woozier than woozy.
Even worse, Madison couldn't tell her friends that she didn't want to audition, especially her best friend, Aimee. Being afraid is one thing, but having to admit that to other people is another thing.
"Maybe I'll just be one of those creepy trees that talks," Madison finally told Aimee, trying to change the subject. "You know, like on the way to Oz."
"Yeah, Maddie, like that's the part you'd get." Aimee made a face.
"I'm serious," Madison said, flicking her straw at Aimee. Chocolate milk splattered across the orange lunch table.
"Don't get—ahh! My new top," Aimee cried. The milk just missed her.
She and Madison burst into a goofy fit of laughter.
"Morons," some kid with a buzz cut at the next table grunted. He looked like a ninth grader.
"Takes one to know one," Aimee muttered bravely under her breath.
Madison covered her face with her hands and turned back to the comfort of her lunch: two slices of bread, peanut butter, and a neatly peeled orange on the side. Orange was Madison's favorite color and her favorite fruit.
"Hello, superstars," Fiona Waters teased, sliding onto the lunch table bench alongside Aimee. Fiona was the new girl in town and at school, and Madison and Aimee were happy to have her as a new part of their group, along with their guy friends Walter "Egg" Diaz and his shadow. Drew Maxwell. Fiona's twin brother, Chet, usually hung out with them, too.
"Did you check out what Ivy's wearing today?" Fiona whispered.
The three girlfriends twisted their heads to catch a glimpse of Ivy Daly's showy blue-flowered dress.
"That's a Boop-Dee-Doop dress," Aimee sneered. "I saw it in a magazine this month. Figures she'd get it."
"She looks good, though, don't you think?" Fiona said.
"Whatever." Aimee's voice bristled.
Once upon a very long time ago, way back in third grade, Madison had been a best friend with Ivy, but things had changed a lot over the years. Now Ivy was known as Poison Ivy, enemy number one at Far Hills.
Aimee glanced over at the enemy again. "She'll probably get the lead in the play, just like always. She always gets what she wants."
"Uh-huh," Madison agreed, chewing an orange section.
Across the cafeteria, Ivy tossed her red curly hair and looked around the room. No matter how poisonous she acted, Madison thought, she always managed to get noticed. That was how she won the election for class president and how she won the attention of most boys in the seventh grade. She didn't have to worry about being liked by the popular crowd because Ivy Daly was the popular crowd.
"Let's talk about something else, please," Aimee pleaded. "Are you trying out for The Wiz, Fiona?"
"Will rehearsals conflict with soccer? I have team practice almost every day after school and—" Fiona paused. "Well, I can't miss soccer. I want to make a good impression with the coach, you know?"
Fiona and Madison had tried out together for the school soccer team, but only Fiona had actually made the team. Fiona had been a soccer star last year when she was living in California, so her making the Far Hills team was no big surprise. And Madison wasn't much of an athlete, so not making the team was no big surprise for her, either. Madison considered it a minor success, actually. She hadn't run away from team tryouts. That was something.
"Do you guys think I can do both at the same time?" Fiona asked.
"Totally," Aimee said. "We're only doing a few scenes, so we won't have rehearsals all the time. Mr. Gibbons schedules them in between normal after-school stuff—I think that's what I heard."
"I want to do both," Fiona said. "I love singing."
"Wait a minute. You play soccer, go to Spanish club, and you sing, too?" Madison said, a little surprised. She kept learning new things about her new friend. It seemed like Fiona was good at everything she tried to do—and she tried to do a lot. "When do you have time to do homework?"
"In between," Fiona said.
Madison stared down at the table, not saying much. She poured a molehill of sugar onto her lunch tray and traced a path with her fork. She didn't want Aimee to ask questions about the audition.
But it was too late. Aimee reached across the table for Madison's wrist.
"You still haven't said what you're gonna sing at auditions, Maddie!" Aimee cooed.
Before Madison could admit to being all nerves, Egg appeared out of nowhere. He stuck his head in between Aimee and Fiona.
"Are you guys talking about the show?" Egg said.
"Who wants to know?" Aimee growled back.
Egg swiped an apple off her tray and took a big bite. "After tomorrow's audition, everyone can call me The Wizard."
He put the apple back onto Aimee's tray.
"Wizard? You wish!" Aimee swatted at him. She glanced down at the bitten apple, dripping with his spit. "Soooo gross."
Drew, who was standing there, too, laughed. He stuck his hand up in the air and waved a silent hello to the rest of the table.
"Drew thinks I have a good shot at the part, so there," Egg said.
Fiona giggled. "You'll probably get the part, Walter," she said softly. "I mean., Egg." She bowed her head, and the beads on her braids clinked. Madison and Aimee both knew that Fiona had a giant, inexplicable crush on him.
Unfortunately Egg ignored her. Chet had walked up by now, and the three boys sat down in a cluster at the other end of the table.
"Whassup?" Chet mumbled.
"We're talking about auditions for The Wiz," Fiona said.
"Yeah," Madison jumped in. "Egg thinks he can be cast as—"
"A Munchkin," Aimee interrupted. "And I think that's a safe bet."
Chet cracked up. "Hey, fool! She got you."
Egg smirked. "And I'll get her back—when she least expects it."
"Well, I don't know what you guys are doing, but we're all trying out for the play tomorrow," Aimee said as she pointed to herself, Fiona, and Madison.
Madison leaned across the table, whispering, "Aimee, I'm not sure that I want to—"
The bell rang for the next period. In an instant the group dumped their trays, grabbed their books, and exited the cafeteria doors.
"Ex-cuse me," Ivy said to Madison as she pushed her way to the door. "Watch it."
Ivy's annoying drones, Rose Thorn and Phony Joanie, followed close behind, pushing past Madison, too. They always traveled in a pack.
A rat pack, Madison thought as they scampered away.
Later that night, Madison asked her mom what she should do about The Wiz. She hoped Mom had the instant cure for all this audition anxiety, the way she poured eucalyptus oil in the bathtub when Madison had a cold.
"Gee, honey bear," Mom said gently, tickling her daughter's back. "No one says you have to audition."
"I have to be a part of the show, Mom." Madison sighed. "I can't just sit back and be scenery. I'm in junior high now."
"It could be a lot of fun"
"What's so fun about standing onstage while everyone and their parents stare at me?"
"William Shakespeare says, 'The play's the thing,'" Mom said. She paused. "You know who William Shakespeare is, right?"
"No duh, Mom. We read Romeo and Juliet, remember?"
"Rowrooooo!" Madison's dog, Phin, agreed.
The pug rushed over toward them, tail wagging in excited circles. His whole butt jerked as he huffed and puffed.
"Good doggy," Madison said as she bent down. Phinnie licked her chin. "What do you think I should do?" she asked him sweetly.
Mom came up with another suggestion. "If you don't want to act or sing, then why not try something else to help the show? You don't want to be a part of the scenery, but you could paint the scenery, right? You could paint a castle or something. Is there a castle in The Wiz?"
"I think." Madison shrugged.
"Well," Mom reached out to hug her daughter. "I know whatever you decide to do, it'll be great."
Before bed that night, Madison and Phin curled up in bed with her laptop computer. She punched in her secret password and opened a brand-new file.
Rude Awakening: The play is definitely not the thing. I don't care what William Shakespeare says.
Or what Mom says.
Tomorrow they're holding auditions and tomorrow I am doomed. And of course Aimee won't understand when I tell her I can't try out. She'll say I'm just being chicken. It's so easy for her. And Fiona too. Who knew that she could play soccer, look great, and sing? Well, she can. No one will understand why I'm so scared to try.
I remember one time when I had to sing Christmas carols onstage at school and I passed out, fell right there on the floor like a lump. Some teacher in a Santa suit had to carry me out of the assembly and everyone was staring.
What if that happens again? What if I faint or worse—throw up in front of the world?
What if Hart Jones sees me do that?
The whole time Hart followed me around in second grade he was SUCH a pest. Now why do I feel like following him? I saw him today in the hall when we left science class. I pray he didn't notice me staring.
If he tries out, I really think I should try out.
Madison decided her online keypal might know what to do. She hit SAVE and logged on to TweenBlurt.com, her favorite Internet site, looking for Bigwheels.
Usually Madison was suspicious of people she met inside the fishbowl since they sometimes made up facts about themselves. The Web site rules said you had to be "100% honest" about your facts, especially age and sex, but some kids weren't so honest. One time there was a boy in a chat room who pretended he was a girl. The moderator kicked him off for using dirty words.
Bigwheels was way different. Madison had met her over the summer in a room called ONLY THE LONELY. They now met back regularly in their own private room, GOFISHY. Bigwheels liked computers just like Madison. She gave great advice, too, which had come in handy since seventh grade started. They were kindred spirits in the virtual world.
Madison could share things with her online friend that she couldn't tell her other friends, not even Aimee or Fiona. Like her files, Madison still kept most things secret from the rest of the world.
Her crush on Hart Jones was one.
Bigwheels was another.
When she didn't find her keypal online, Madison wrote an e-mail to touch base.
Date: Wed 27 Sept 9:46 PM
Thanks for your message from the weekend. I wanted to write back sooner, but I had like three hours of homework. And now there's this school play. Yikes. My friends don't understand, but I don't want to audition. I need your AMAZING advice.
Yours till the curtain calls,
Madison hoped a megadose of "amazing" from Bigwheels would help her to make it through tomorrow's auditions.CHAPTER 2
"Your alarm went off twice," Mom shouted. She tugged Madison's quilted comforter off the bed. "Now, up!"
Madison rolled into a ball. She had hit the snooze button on her combination CD-stereo-clock twice. Mom was right about that.
She would be late.
Madison pushed herself down, down, down into her mattress and pillows, where it was warm and safe from things like tests and teachers ...
Phinnie licked Madison's nose as Mom appeared at the bedroom doorway again. "I am not going to ask you again, honey. I said get—"
"Up, up, I'm up," Madison groaned, finally lifting herself into a sitting position. She pushed Phinnie out of the way and rubbed her eyes.
"Fifteen minutes and I want you ready to go." Mom dragged Phin out by the collar and shut the door behind her. "I'll get your breakfast ready."
"What would Aimee wear to an audition?" Madison asked herself a moment later as she posed in front of her closet. She sighed, pulling sweaters off the top shelf and throwing jeans, then corduroys and a long skirt into a pile on the floor. She finally decided on a pair of capris, a white oxford shirt that she left untucked, and her favorite pair of orange sneakers. MADFINN was doodled in ballpoint pen on the left sole.
Madison stared at her reflection in her dresser mirror. Postcards and photos and ticket stubs wedged under the edge of its frame stared back. There was Aimee in jazz shoes; Phinnie at the beach; a close-up of a Brazilian frog from last summer's trip; Mom's business card for Budge Films; a receipt from Byte City, a nearby computer store; a pink ribbon from Lodge 12 at Camp Chipachu, where she'd won "Most Creative Camper" the summer after fourth grade; other pictures of Dad, Mom, and her newest pal, Fiona ...
"Ten minutes and counting!" Mom screamed again. "I mean it!"
Phinnie was scratch-scratch-scratching at the door.
On her way out, Madison tripped over a pile of files on the floor and then bent down to gather the colorful clippings that had slipped out. She'd been collecting files on all sorts of subjects for the last year: animals (she loved animals more than anything), cool words, clothes she wanted, singers she loved, flowers, and more. Eventually, Madison would upload all the words and images onto her very own Web page, using funkyfotostudio.com to add collage effects, special borders, and even captions.
What a mess, Madison thought. The more she tried to pick up the clippings, the more they went flying.
"Five minutes!" Mom screeched.
It felt like the beginning of the worst possible day.
When it was time for the afternoon seventh-grade auditions for The Wiz, Madison felt even more nervous than ever. In a study period, she went up to the library media center computer to check her e-mail, just in case Bigwheels had sent a message. But her mailbox was empty.
Nothing worse than an empty mailbox, Madison thought.
On top of everything else, she hadn't really seen much of Aimee or Fiona during the day. Everyone was way too busy thinking about The Wiz auditions to talk about other subjects. Tryouts had a wacky way of sucking everyone into the acting twilight zone so that suddenly even the quietest kids in school got stars in their eyes.
At the end of the day, as Madison entered the half darkness of the school auditorium, she felt a bolt of panic surge through her body like electricity. She zapped into a middle row of seats where Egg and Drew were sitting and sank down so no one could see her. It was almost like sinking under the bedroom covers this morning at home. Under those covers had to be the safest place on earth. Why wasn't she back there instead of in here?
"Has everyone filled out one of these?" Mr. Gibbons, Madison's English teacher and the drama advisor, waved a light blue piece of paper in front of the kids. "I want you to indicate what parts you want to play and what songs you'd like to sing. Put down your name and homeroom, too. Okay?"
Fiona came up from the seat behind Madison and whispered, "Did you see Hart Jones, Maddie? He told me he was looking for you. Oh yeah, do you have a pencil I can borrow?"
Madison sunk deeper into her seat. The last person she felt like seeing right now was Hart Jones. She was in the middle of an audition freak-out. What possible reason could he have for wanting to see her now?
Mr. Gibbons dimmed the house lights as kids took the stage. It was hard to see anyone unless they were down in front or right next to you. A few people were even surrounded by a dim, red halo of light from exit signs at either side of the stage. Madison's eyes scanned the room.
Where were Ivy and her drones—Phony Joanie and Rose Thorn? Down in front, right side of the room, talking to Mrs. Montefiore, the musical director.
Excerpted from Play It Again by Laura Dower. Copyright © 2001 Laura Dower. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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