If you love horse stories, then author Patricia Gilkerson has what you need. She writes a series of them. For the “Back to School” theme this month, she treats us to a school scene from her newest addition to the series, Turn on a Dime. You can get these stories separately or as a collection. Links are below.
Piper and Addie are going to start their sophomore year in senior high school, when their friend, Miss Julie, rents rooms to Cassie and her stepson, Jeff. Cassie’s mare is going to foal soon and Piper has the responsibility of checking on her daily. Piper and Addie disagree about boys, a situation which worsens because of Piper’s initial dislike of Jeff. As she gets to know and accept Jeff, Piper and her best friend defend him to all adults when he is accused of theft. What will happen when Cassie steals, then leaves the country, as her mare goes into labor with no one but the girls and Jeff to help?
When I walked in the door of Serendipity Springs Senior High School, I was ready for my life to change, to turn on a dime, as Miss Julie had put it. But when I walked out that afternoon, I was absolutely sure I could never go back. I would have to transfer to some other school. Here’s what happened: I had taken more time than usual getting ready that morning. It was a big day, even if I downplayed it to my folks. Showered, fresh, and dressed in my new fringed top, I walked up to the plate glass doors at the front of the building and went inside. Kids milled around in the big, open lobby with their eyes on pieces of paper that told them where to go and when. A huge hand-lettered sign greeted me: GO SALAMANDERS! Green salamanders crawled all over it. The Pep Club had been busy already. Besides the big sign were several smaller signs announcing the Homecoming Dance in a month, showing dancing salamanders. Somebody in the Pep Club had a weird sense of humor.
After entering the school, I realized that I couldn’t find my enrollment slip, which every student had to have to get their schedules. I frantically searched my backpack and found nothing, so I turned around to retrace my steps…and was too close to the plate glass. I smashed myself into that door like a bug on a windshield. After I crashed to the floor, my backpack spilled notebooks and pens all over. I was so totally embarrassed I didn’t even look around to see who was there. By all the snickers, there must have been lots of people watching. Thank goodness I didn’t have any personal girl things in there.
“Who WAS that?” asked someone.
“Some new kid, duh!” said someone else.
I collected my notebooks and pens, still not looking up, and found that my wayward enrollment slip had magically appeared in a folder labeled IMPORTANT STUFF. When I finally had everything collected and stood up, I saw Jeff Johnson walking away. Had he seen my display of klutziness?
That was bad enough, but then I went to the tables where they had our schedules laid out. By this time the crowds had disappeared and I was the only one who wasn’t in class. I showed the parent helper my enrollment slip and got my schedule. Realizing my first class had already started, I scurried down the hall and found the room for Spanish 1. I snuck in the door and found a spot in the back of the room. As I eased myself into a desk, I tried to be quiet and subtle. I was congratulating myself on not disrupting class, when the leg of the desk gave way and the whole thing tipped sideways, throwing me and all my stuff on the floor. Snickers again from the surrounding kids. Hopefully, no one knew who I was.
“Are you all right?” asked a deep male voice. I looked up to see possibly the handsomest man I had ever seen in my life. He was tall, with a deep tan, graying hair and a killer grin to go with his twinkling eyes.
“Um, yeah, I’m okay,” I said, collecting all my things for the second time in a half-hour.
“And your name is…?”
“Piper Jones,” I said, so now everyone knew who I was.
“Bueno, Senorita Jones. I am Senor Gonzales, your teacher. Why don’t you sit in this other desk and we will resume our lesson?”
“Okay,” I said, and after I settled myself in the new desk, I didn’t move the rest of class, or even look around. I was afraid to see anyone smirking.
Addie and I texted each other at lunch, quickly, because our lunchtimes were different. We found out we only had one class together-- last period biology. The rest of the day, I only saw her in the hall now and then, so we agreed to meet and compare notes in biology class. Serendipity Springs was a small town, and ours was not that big a high school. But somehow the kids all had to bunch up between classes, and shuffle along like a herd of cows to get anywhere. Especially for lunch. Don’t get me started on the lunchroom.
I wish I could say that nothing else bad happened, but there was also the broken mug incident in math class, and the torn poster incident in English. I told Addie about these disasters when I saw her in biology class and said I was pretty much done with senior high forever. We decided to walk home together and get a Slushy Slosh at the Dairy Dog Drive-In (raspberry for me, cherry for Addie) so that I could recover.
Addie wanted to talk about the Homecoming Dance in a month, but I couldn’t think that far ahead. I was too focused on the way I had screwed up my entire sophomore year in one day.
“I mean it, Adds, I don’t see how I can face any of those people again,” I said.
“And I thought I was the klutzy one,” she said.
“I’m thinking of going somewhere far, far away and trying again.”
When I got home that afternoon, Mom asked me how it went.
“Mom, I have humiliated the whole family for generations to come,” I said, and explained what had happened.
“Oh, honey, have some of the leftover cherry pie from the picnic,” she said. We would be eating picnic leftovers for weeks to come.
Later, Dad called to see how school went and I told him the sad, tragic tale. After he stopped laughing, he said, “Piper, no one will remember any of that after one day. Other stuff will happen.”
“Really?” I said, hoping. “One day?”
“Well, maybe two or three days.”
Where can you get a copy of Turn on a Dime?
Fire and Ice YA Books (publisher)
The Horse Rescuers includes all the stories and is in print and ebook (and is a better deal than getting them separately)
Barnes and Noble
Patricia Gilkerson spent a horse-loving childhood growing up in Kentucky, and finally got her first horse as an adult. She began writing books for children at night after teaching all day. Today Patricia lives on a hobby farm in Minnesota with her husband Jim, and the current count of three horses. Her two children are grown with children and pets of their own, so there are frequently grandchildren and granddogs running around her house. Her hobbies include travel, Irish/Celtic music, scuba diving and reading. Her favorite thing to do is to hang out with family and friends. Learn more at www.patriciagilkerson.com
D. G. Driver
Author of Young Adult books Cry of the Sea and Passing Notes.