Main > Series > Chapters > Fame Book 1 > Chapter 24
There was a mist out over the Hudson River, even though the day was
bright and some of the tall blocks in the city behind them were flaring
with the late afternoon sun. Liberty was just a vague pastel smear in the
distance as they came out of Battery Park and onto the promanade by the
old red-and-white firehouse. Doris had been once to the statue, close to
her ninth birthday when some cousins had come over to visit from Illinois;
The wide concrete way was almost deserted; of the few people around,
most seemed to be killing time until the next ferry to Staten Island. A
couple of gulls sat on the rail, staring eagerly at the bag of potato chips
that Bruno had almost finished. Doris was trying not to do the same.
'Either you're in charge of your body,' he explained as they walked,
'or your body's in charge of you.'
'Tell that to the Elephant Man,' Doris said gloomily.
'You've got to realign your priorities. You've got to redefine Doris
'Bruno, I will never be a skinny nun; I have appetites, okay?'
'You're not trying to deal with it. You're just feeling sorry for yourself.'
'Oh, yeah? You'll notice I haven't asked for any potato chips.'
'Good for you.'
'But would you mind if I licked the inside of the bag when you're done?'
she said, and then added quickly, 'Joke.'
Bruno dumped the bag in the nearest trashcan. He turned to Doris with
his full attention. The truth was that he was rather enjoying himself;
it was flattering to be cast as confessor and unpaid analyst.
'Look,' he said. 'You know what imagining is?'
Doris nodded. 'The Pia Zadora School of Drama.'
Bruno waved the joke aside with a shred of impatience. 'You imagine
your appetite as a terrible monster. And you imagine your willpower as
a battalion of knights on white chargers.'
'Imagine my what?'
'I've heard of the concept, that's about all.'
'You're not helping,' Bruno warned.
Doris squared herself up to make a serious effort. 'Okay. My appetite's
a monster, and my willpower is a battalion of white knights.'
They began to follow the curve of the path around the Castle Clinton
monument, heading back into the Castle Clinton monument, heading back into
the park and towards the city. Bruno said, 'What you do is, try to imagine
that battalion of knights attacking that monster. Over and over again.
It's a terrible battle, but they're winning. They're driving the monster
away. Are you imagining that?'
'I'm trying. It's not easy.' 'You're not trying hard enough.'
'It's always skinny people who pig out on potato chips who say things
like that. I'm telling you, this is not easy. My battalion of knights is
dodging the draft.'
Doris did her best to make the effort, but it was doomed before she
started. As they turned a corner, they almost walked into a hot pretzel
cart. Before Doris could leap out of range, Bruno took her elbow and steered
her onto the grass and away from temptation.
'Keep thinking,' he said. 'They're attacking the monster. They're winning.
The monster is faltering. The monster is retreating.'
'The monster isn't retreating,' Doris said plaintively, 'the monster
is going out to dinner.'
'Look back, and you'll turn into a pillar of salt.'
'As long as I've got the salt, I might as well get some fries to go
Bruno sighed. Leading Doris out of the Valley of the Calories was going
to be more of a trek than he'd imagined.
Coco's after-school session with Dave Reardon was, fortunately for her,
going rather better.
'Applause, applause,' Reardon said from the back of the classroom as
Coco reached the end of Angela's big solo speech from Cakewalk. 'It was
good. I liked it.'
'Really?' Coco said, lowering the playbook as Reardon switched on the
rest of the room lights.
'Yeah, really. You rushed some of the moments at the top, but I put
that down to nerves more than anything else.'
'Yeah,' Coco admitted, 'that makes sense.'
Reardon stuck his hands deep in his pockets, and looked at her in a
way that was more than a little searching. 'If this is just some kind of
class exercise,' he said, 'frankly I don't see what the nerves are all
'I'm not that nervous.'
'Coco,' Reardon said, and his tone said don't try to treat me like an
'Well,' Coco said, casting around in her mind for something that would
suit the occasion without giving her big secret away, 'maybe I'm a little
nervous because . . . Leroy and me are kind of on the outs, too.'
'Well, I was supposed to help him with a project he's been working on,
and I've sort of been concentrating on this.' She shook her head. 'I just
think he's maybe like . . . envious, you know?'
Reardon was doubtful. 'Of a classroom exercise?'
'Well,' Coco said lamely, 'sometimes it doesn't take much to get Leroy
Reardon looked at her thoughtfully for a moment, and then he went around
to his desk to collect his jacket and the evening's paperwork.
'And sometimes,' he said, 'being the new guy around here, I have to
tread a little carefully. Like I know how the school feels about you kids
going out for professional auditions.' he glanced at her. Coco knew what
he was talking about; professional auditions were out. She'd always known
it - but next to what she was hoping to achieve, a petty house rule didn't
seem to count for much.
Reardon added, 'Teachers read casting call notices, too.'
He was inviting her to open up. But Coco simply said, 'I really want
to thank you for your help, Mister Reardon. I truly appreciate it.'
She grabbed her things and was out of the door before he could say anything
Reardon looked after her, ill at ease with the exchange and her evasion.
It was hard to know what to do - coming down hard on the side of the rules
might mean a crushing of her hopes that would undo all of the work that
they'd so far done together, whereas a blind eye meant that to some extent
he'd be betraying the school.
Perhaps it would be best to let things run their course. One way or
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