Crunch Time

crunch time
head games
true meaning of cleavage
in the cards
the smart girls guide to tarot
fatal distraction


(Pick up your number 2 pencil. Begin.)


In New York, everybody knows everybody else. Well, there are all these people you totally don't know - like cab drivers and the freaks in the park - but they don't count. The people who count, the kids who go to your school or schools like your school - we all know each other. It's like a club. "Dalton, check. Prada, check, summers in Europe or the Hamptons, check." We all want the same things and we all do the same stuff to get them.

Like college. You can pretend you don't want to go to Yale or Harvard or Brown - but you do. Unless you're a nose picker. In life, there are those who count and there are nose pickers. Very few people actually count for anything - even though everybody likes to think they do.

Anyway, I'm not surprised when I walk into the SAT prep class in the last week of summer vacation, and there's at least three other kids from Dewey.

Without even thinking, I size them up.

Daisy Stubbs. Plays b-ball, dates b-ball. Heavily into saving things, from the planet to the guy at the party who thinks it's a cool idea to mix tequila and schnapps. I've been to a lot of parties where Daisy's holding somebody's head while they puke. She's a lot of guys' dream, but I never saw the big deal.

Strictly state school. No threat.

Of course, next to Daisy is her best bud, Max. Max is a little guy. Those who can't play write for the school paper. He'd probably tell you it's all about the game, but it's like, Dude, girls in shorts? Who are you kidding?

Max is smart. He could be thinking Ivies. Maybe Columbia.

Then there's Jane Cotterell. When she came to our school last year, we were like, Psych, Julia Cotterell's daughter and she passes for a babe. But Jane speaks to no one. Shy or stuck up? Can't tell. Guess when your mom's a movie star, you don't mix with the little people.

Possible threat. But only because of Mom.

I take a seat, look around. No sign of the teacher, and it's almost time to start. While we wait, I open my notebook and start a list of 5 People I Don't Know Who Count.

1. Bill Gates

2. Quentin Tarantino (Or Steven Soderbergh).

3. Bono

And maybe, just maybe, Jane Cotterell.


I really, really hope they don't make us go around and say our names. I hate that. Somebody always asks, "Hey, is your mom Julia Cotterell?"

I have two standard answers. "Um, yeah." Or "No, but I get that all the time."

I hardly ever do "Um, yeah" because then you get "Oh, I loved her in Persuasion," or "She totally deserved the Oscar that year." And then what do you say? Thanks?

My mom would be so on me right now. There are three kids from Dewey here, and she'd be like, Why don't you say hi? Why don't you talk to them? They don't have fangs, for God's sake.

Mom, believe me, Daisy and Max would find me utterly boring and Leo Thayer is a BP who only talks to other BPs.

Where is the SAT guy, anyway?


Just when I'm thinking, Is this class ever going to start? this bald guy sticks his head in the door and gasps, "Can't find the booklets. Stay put, I'll be right back - "

I feel Daisy's notebook nudge my hand. I look at what she's written.

It's a sign. Let's split.

I write, Can't. Must learn secrets of a, b, c, d, or e.

Daisy scribbles some more.

A. This is lame.

B. This is boring.

C. This sucks.

D. All of the above.


Last year, Daisy and I both said prep was elitist and sick, and we swore we wouldn't do it. Then we got our PSAT scores and, well, I guess things change.

I tell myself everyone does prep. Even Tory McEwan, who got the one perfect score in the school last year, did prep. There's no shame in it.

I just feel - disgusting, that's all.

The SAT guy is back. He pants, "Just a few more minutes, I'm arranging for backup."

Then he disappears. Leo Thayer makes a big show of looking at his watch. "That's ten minutes gone. This one class costs a hundred dollars, this guy owes us each ten bucks."

A girl with pink fingernails who obviously thinks Leo is hot, says, "Totally."

I tell myself I don't hate Leo Thayer because he's one of the Beautiful People and so many women think he's hot. I tell myself I hate Leo Thayer because he's an egotistical schmuck.

And I almost believe myself.

Then Daisy says loudly, "Screw the ten bucks. Let's just walk out."


Well, someone had to say something.

I mean, God, we were all just sitting there like, "Oh, please, Mr. Brilliant SAT Man, share your wisdom with us. We have paid you hundreds of dollars for the wonderful privilege."

And those who don't have hundreds of dollars, well, screw them.

And those who don't go to private school, screw them too.

I said to my parents, "Doesn't it bother you, just a little, how unfair this is? How the whole system is completely and disgustingly rigged?"

And they were like, Yeah, but you're going anyway.

Yay, principles.

Last year, coach said she would bench me if I didn't quit arguing with the refs all the time. So I've been trying not to lose it so much. But this whole scene is just too obnoxious. I say it again: "Let's walk out."

If this were a movie, this would be the part where the crowd rises up with a huge roar and burns something down.

But all that happens is Leo Thayer rolls his eyes and says -


"What, because the guy didn't show?"

Because yeah, I'm annoyed the guy is late, but that doesn't mean Daisy gets to piss on the whole thing. I know exactly what she's thinking. And I'm sorry, I know some kids go to lousy schools and never learn to read - but how is me screwing up my SATs going to help?

I tell her, "You think there shouldn't be any test at all. Colleges should just take us because we're nice and kind to animals. Not 'cause we're - smart or anything."

Daisy cocks her head like she's thinking about it. "Well, if we're so smart, how come we have to pay some jerk to teach us how to take a freaking test?"

She looks me right in the eye, and I have a weird flash. Some party where this girl was following me around, all boo hoo because - I don't know, she had ideas. She got herself totally trashed and Daisy took her home. When they were leaving, Daisy looked back at me, and I was like, Not my problem. Daisy gave me this look: whose problem is it?

I said then and I say now: Not mine.

Although, it's seriously pissing me off that this guy is so late -


Probably most of the kids here think Daisy's kidding. Yeah, she says, "Let's walk out - " but she doesn't really mean it.

Except she does. She totally means it.

I look around the classroom. Here's what I see: a bunch of kids who know the whole college game is stacked against kids without money and connections.

And - a bunch of kids with money and connections.

All of a sudden, Daisy gets up, goes to the front of the class and says, "Everyone who thinks the SATs are bogus, the time for pizza is now."

Okay, Max. Here's where you stand up -

I think of my dad. "Hey, how was SAT prep?" "Uh, well - "

Then all of a sudden, I hear this little, tiny voice: "I'll come." I look toward the voice, see - Jane? Jane Cotterell?

Daisy sees her too, smiles at me, like, Insanity time -

And that's that. If Jane Cotterell's walking out, I certainly have to. I stand, say, "I'm up for pizza."

The rest of the kids stare down at their notebooks. I go stand with Daisy and Jane at the door. Daisy looks back at the class. "Last chance."

Then Leo says, "Screw it" and gets up.

And before anyone has a chance to do anything, Daisy yells, Sayonara, and we run out the door.


This is wild.

I've never done anything like this. Just leave and slam the door, "GOOD-BYE!"

I've seen people do it. My mom used to do it all the time when she was fighting with my dad. I wanted to tell her, Hi, Mom, this is not a movie, we're not your audience -

Except this time, we're the ones everyone's looking at. I guess they think we're crazy. I should feel embarrassed, but I don't. It's like, You're the fools.

When we get out to the hallway, and we see the SAT guy - still looking for his stupid books - and Daisy says, "Run for it," we get nuts running down the hall, charging down the stairs, and someone, I think Max, starts laughing because it's so nuts, and then we're all cracking up, even me and I'm worried because I'm running so fast I'm going to fall down and break my neck, and we jump down the last few stairs, and Leo shoves open the door and waves us all through, and suddenly we're out on the street and we're free and -

And I think, Maybe we are crazy. But crazy's really good.

Then Leo says, "Okay, now what?"

Max and Daisy look at each other. If no one says anything, we'll all just walk away -

I say, "You could come to my house."

Smart Girls Guide to Tarot

Head Games

The True Meaning of Cleavage

copyright 1996 - 2011 Mariah Fredericks site by: