If I'd asked Grams if I could go, she would have said, "Over my dead body!" But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had to go. I mean, it's one thing to hurt my feelings, it's another to hurt Grams'. And after Grams came back from visiting Lady Lana—after I'd heard about the things my mother had said and the things she'd done—I knew someone had to do something, and the only someone I could think of was me.
And once I started thinking about going, well, I couldn't stop thinking about it. And then, when Marissa said, "Oh, let me come with you!" there was no turning back.
We were on our way to Hollywood.
I couldn't exactly walk from Santa Martina to Hollywood. Couldn't fly, either—not with the amount of money I had jingling in my jeans, anyway. And since I'm not old enough to drive and didn't want to jump a freight train or hitchhike, there was really only one way out of Santa Martina—the bus.
I'd never been on the bus before. Neither had Marissa. Me, I'd never even been out of Santa Martina. Sure, when Lady Lana was still around, she'd drive me up to Santa Luisa once in a while, but I'm talking out of town. Really out of town. I'd never been.
Marissa McKenze, on the other hand, has been everywhere. From Honolulu to Hoover Dam, she's seen it all. And even though she's been on buses before, they've always been youth-group buses or double-decker tour buses. She'd never actually been on the real bus. That's right, she'd never ridden the Big Dog.
Getting to the Greyhound station wasn't the hard part. Shoot, it's only a few blocks up from the Heavenly Hotel, so it's practically right across the street from Grams'. Well, almost.
The hard part was catching the bus without cutting school. That, and not spilling the beans to Grams. And even though I tried to pack light, my backpack still looked like a laundry duffel, and my lunch sack was so stuffed with peanut butter and jelly, I was afraid it would rip before I made it out the door.
Grams didn't seem to notice, though. She was in the middle of brushing her teeth when I gave her a quick kiss good-bye, so all she could do was say, "Hrmm grumm!" and smile at me through foam.
I hurried to school and found Marissa sneaking into homeroom early with a suitcase.
A pink suitcase.
Now, there are pinks and then there are pinks. Marissa's suitcase was of the flashy flamingo variety. And it wasn't your average snap-close rectangular model, either. It was a big three-foot tube with a handle on top and fat black zippers everywhere. It looked like something out of CeCe's Thrift Store, except that CeCe would never have stocked it. One side was bashed in, and there was a skid mark right across the middle.
Pink or not, zippers or not, this was a problem. "Marissa! You promised me you'd pack light!"
Marissa did a bit of the McKenze dance, squirming from side to side as she whispered, "It wouldn't all fit. What was I supposed to do?"
"But . . . Marissa, it's pink! And what did you do? Run over the thing on the way to school?"
I might as well have caught her in the act. She blushed. "Well, it was hard to balance. I tried holding it with my legs, but then I couldn't pedal. . . ."
"So you balanced it on your handlebars?"
She shrugged and nodded and blushed some more.
I've been on Marissa's handlebars. It is one wobbly ride, let me tell you. And every time I do it, I wind up looking about as tattered as her suitcase and I swear I'll never do it again.
"Besides, we're going to Hollywood." She checks around to make sure nobody's listening, then sings, "Hol-ly-wood!"
I whisper, "Marissa! We're not going there to get discovered! We're going there to shake some bubbles out of the GasAway Lady's head!"
"Who said anything about getting discovered? People down there are just different. You know, fancy. Didn't you say your mom's staying in some ritzy villa? I don't want to get kicked out for looking like a bum, that's all!"
I look from her to the bulging zippers and back again. "Don't tell me you brought a . . . a dress!"
She starts dancing a little faster. "As a matter of fact, I've got two."
"One for me and one for you."
I threw my hands up. "Marissa!"
"Well . . . ! I just thought we should be prepared."
"Whatever. Just don't ask me to carry that thing. It makes you look like you're running away from home."
She stashed the suitcase behind the coat rack and threw some lost-and-found clothes on top of it, and that's where it stayed until everyone had filed out after the end-of-school dismissal bell rang. But when Mrs. Ambler saw her digging it out, she did a double take, then asked, "Going away for your three-day weekend?"
Marissa says, "Um, yeah."
Now, when a teacher says Oh? to you like Mrs. Ambler was saying Oh? to Marissa, you can't just pretend you didn't hear. Or nod and smile and leave it at that. You have to say something. And the longer a teacher stands there with that Oh? lingering in the air, the harder it is to snow her with something less than the truth.
Sure enough, Marissa stammers, "Yeah . . . we're going to Holly—" She glances at me for help, but it's too late to bail us out. So she finishes, "—wood."
Up went an eyebrow and out came another "Oh? " And then, "You're both going?"
It seemed to me that Mrs. Ambler was going from curious to nosy in an awful hurry, so I started nudging Marissa toward the door, saying, "Yeah, and if we don't, get moving, we're going to miss our ride. Have a nice weekend, Mrs. Ambler. See you on Tuesday!"
But she hurried to follow us, locking up the classroom and failing in step beside us. Suddenly she whips around and blocks our path, whispering, "You girls aren't running away, are you?"
I laugh. "Mrs. Ambler! No! We're just going to visit relatives."
She searches my eyes. "Really?"
I say, "Really," and since I'm not lying, there's not much she can do but believe me.
She lets out a big sigh and says, "For a minute there . . ."
I nod. "It's the suitcase."
Mrs. Ambler smiles. "Maybe so." Then she asks, "Where's your suitcase, Samantha?"
I pat my backpack. "Got my toothbrush right here."
She turns up the administration building walkway and says, "Well, you girls be careful . . . and have fun!"
We wave and smile, calling, "We will! Bye!"
The minute she's out of earshot, Marissa whispers, "That was close! Do you think she's going to call home?"
"No." I grab her wrist and check the time. "But if we don't get moving, you're gonna have to lug that thing clear back to your house tonight!"
We unlocked Marissa's bike and wound up wedging the suitcase between the seat and the handlebars. Then, with one of us on each side, we pushed and talked our way toward the bus station. It was actually pretty easy going, and in no time we were jaywalking across Main Street clicking along the back roads to Wesler Street and through the parking lot of the Greyhound bus station.
We locked Marissa's bike to a rusty rack in the corner of the parking lot, then headed for the glass double doors of the station.
There were five people already in the waiting room. One was asleep, sitting on an old army duffel bag on the floor with his head propped against one of the black plastic chairs anchored to the wall. Another man was huddled with a woman by the soda machine. They both had bleached hair, gelled straight up. He was wearing a gas station attendant shirt tucked into gray businessman slacks, which were tucked into SWAT boots. She had more earrings than Heather Acosta, and nothing of hers was tucked in anywhere. Her bra strap was hanging off a shoulder, her T-shirt was ripped off at the stomach, and her belly button stuck out like an extra eye, fleshy and squinted.
Then there was a farmworker by the water fountain, rinsing his bandanna in the water, wiping down his face and neck. A bent old man in big thick glasses and Velcro-strap sneakers was watching him from across the room, and you could just feel him thinking that people shouldn't bathe themselves in public that way.
Marissa came to a halt in the doorway. "Uh . . . are you sure you want to do this?" -
I wasn't, but I didn't want to let Marissa know that. I whispered back, "We're in downtown Santa Martina, Marissa. What were you expecting? Civilization?"
She let the door close behind her, and as she's dragging her suitcase along, everyone in the building stops what they're doing to check us out. And there's absolutely no doubt about what they're thinking.
Then the guy with the Velcro sneakers rasps up a giant wad of phlegm from the bottom of his throat, snorts any snot he can scare up from his fleshy old nose, squishes the whole mess between his teeth, and swallows.
I cringe and shudder, and Marissa says, "Oh, gross!" We scoot her suitcase toward the counter, and Marissa says to the clerk, "We want to catch the three-forty-five to Hollywood."
He pulls out a couple of tickets. "One way?"
Marissa digs her wallet out of her purse, saying, "Round trip. What return times do you have for Monday?"
He hands her a schedule and has Marissa pass him her suitcase under the counter, then prepares the tickets. And just as he's finishing, he says, "It's pullin' up. Have a nice trip," without even looking up.
I head for the pay phone wedged beside a video game and say, "I've got to call."
Marissa watches the others filing outside. "Just use my cell phone from the bus."
"You brought that thing?"
She shrugged. "Seemed like a good idea to me."
"Are you sure it's going to work?"
"Why wouldn't it . . . Oh, no! It's in my suitcase!"
I raced over to the pay phone, popped in the coins, took a deep breath, and dialed. And after about twenty rings I hung up and tried again, thinking that maybe I'd punched the number in wrong. I mean, I was nervous enough about what I was going to say to Grams that dialing the wrong number sure was possible. Again, no answer.
Marissa's starting to dance a little. She whispers, "Sammy, they're getting on.
I let it ring a few more times, then I slam the phone down and go charging outside. The bus driver's got a cigarette in one hand and is about to close the storage compartment with the other. I call, "Wait! Hey, wait a minute!"
He stops and looks our way. The bus motor is still running, growling and letting out puffs of exhaust. He calls over the rumble, "Have a change of heart?"
"No, we . . ." I point to Marissa's suitcase in the compartment and say, "I need to get something out of my luggage." He frowns, so I add, "Please?"
He helps me pull the thing out and then turns away to finish his smoke as Marissa digs up the phone, zips the suitcase closed, and shoves it back inside.
We tell him thanks and give him our tickets, then hurry, up the steps.
And it's funny—being inside the bus wasn't anything like I expected. No people checking each other out like kids do on school buses. No feeling of trench warfare like you get on field trips when the class clowns in back are packing spit-wad straws. Or water balloons. Or stink bombs.
No, the seat backs on this Big Dog were so high that even though I knew they were on board somewhere, the Depot Derelicts seemed to have just disappeared.
It was also the hum. Outside the running engine had sounded like a growl, but inside it was more a hum. A strong, no-nonsense hum. And it drowned out what people were saying to each other, so as we walked down the aisle looking for two empty seats together, it almost felt as though the people on board weren't really there at all. Their very existence seemed erased by the hum.
Marissa let me have the window seat, and I looked down at the station—at cars going along Broadway and a boy cutting through the parking lot on his bicycle. And it felt odd, being up so high, looking out such a large, tinted window, vibrating from the hum. Like I was leaving the planet, not just Santa Martina.
Then the door closed. And as the driver put the bus into gear and eased out of the parking lot, Marissa handed me the phone and said, "Here. You'll feel a lot better once you take care of this."
.She was right. I was feeling queasy. I mean, what was I thinking, going off to Hollywood? I didn't even really know where I was going. Sure I had an address, but the
map I'd pulled off the Internet in the library wasn't exactly razor-sharp. And I hadn't really thought through what I was going to say to my mother. I just knew I had to go.
I punched in Grams' number, and while I'm listening to her phone ring, we turn from Broadway onto Main. And then, like in a dream, who do I see in the intersection, crossing the street from Maynard's Market with a sack of groceries in her arms?
I want to wave. I want to call her name and explain what I'm doing. Why I couldn't tell her about it before. Why I have to go.
But I can't. I can only sit there with her phone ringing in my ear and the hum of the bus purring through me from everywhere else. As we pull away from the intersection and Grams disappears from view, a cry catches in my throat. And even though Marissa's right there beside me, I feel panicky.
Panicky and painfully alone.
Excerpted from SAMMY KEYES AND THE HOLLYWOOD MUMMY © Copyright 2002 by Wendelin Van Draanen. Reprinted with permission by Young Yearling. All rights reserved.
Sammy Keyes and the Hollywood Mummy
- hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
- ISBN-10: 0375802665
- ISBN-13: 9780375802669