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Authors: Betsy Byars

The TV Kid

BOOK: The TV Kid
10.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Table of Contents
Television wonderland.
Lennie sat with his eyes closed, speeding up his dream.
“And now, Lennie, we have a car waiting to bring you back to our studio to collect over three thousand dollars in cash and merchandise. How does that sound to you?”
“Read good, sir.”
“And, more important, you get another spin of the Vacation Wheel. ”
“Oh, well, never mind about that, sir. I’ll just take my cash and—”
“We’ll leave it up to the audience. How many want to see him spin the Vacation Wheel?”
Wild applause.
“Come on in, Lennie, and give it a spin!”
After the Goat Man
An ALA Notable Book
Bingo Brown and the Language of Love
Bingo Brown, Gypsy Lover
Bingo Brown’s Guide to Romance
The Burning Questions of Bingo Brown
An ALA Notable Book
The Cartoonist
The Computer Nut
Cracker Jackson
An ALA Notable Book
The Cybil War
An ALA Notable Book
The Dark Stairs
(A Herculeah Jones Mystery)
Dead Letter
(A Herculeah Jones Mystery)
Death’s Door
(A Herculeah Jones Mystery)
The 18th Emergency
The Glory Girl
The House of Wings
An ALA Notable Book
The Midnight Fox
The Summer of the Swans
Winner of the Newbery Medal
Tarot Says Beware
(A Herculeah Jones Mystery)
Trouble River
An ALA Notable Book
The TV Kid
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.SA
Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ, England
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia
Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England
First published in the United States of America by The Viking Press, 1976
Published in Puffin Books, 1987
Reissued without illustrations 1998
Copyright © Betsy Byars, 1976
All rights reserved
The following material is copyrighted and has been used by permission:
Page 3, Dr. Pepper Company. Page 64,
Burger King Corporation, 1974;
The Greyhound Corporation (Armour hotdogs). Page 70, The Coca-Cola Corporation and Coca-Cola Ltd. Page 71, General Foods Corporation: Log Cabin is a trademark of General Foods Corporation; Quaker State Oil Refining Corporation; and Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, Copyright
1959 Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company.
CIP data is available
eISBN : 978-1-101-14252-3

Chapter One
ennie was in front of the motel washing off the walk with a hose. He directed the spray on a chewing-gum paper and some grass and twigs. He watched as the trash went down the drain.
A truck passed on the highway, building up speed for the hill ahead. Lennie glanced up. He watched until the truck was out of sight.
“Aren’t you through yet?” Lennie’s mother called. “You’ve got to do your homework, remember?”
He turned off the hose. “I’m through.”
He started toward the office. At that moment his mom turned on the neon sign, and it flashed red above his head. THE FAIRY LAND MOTEL—VACANCY.
Lennie paused at the concrete wishing well. There was a concrete elf on one side and, facing him, Humpty Dumpty. With one hand on Humpty Dumpty’s head, Lennie leaned forward and looked down into the wishing well. On the blue painted bottom lay seven pennies, one nickel, and a crumpled Mounds wrapper.
Lennie walked on to the office. As he went inside, he paused in front of the TV.
A game show was on, and there were five new cars lined up on a revolving stage. The winning contestant got to pick one of the cars, and if it started, he got to keep it. Only one of the cars was wired to start.
“It’s the Grand Am,” Lennie said instantly. He felt he had a special instinct for picking the right box or door or car on shows like this. “I
it’s the Grand Am.”
“Lennie, are you watching television?” his mother called from the utility room.
“I’m looking for a pencil,” he called back.
“Well, there are plenty of pencils on the desk.”
“Where? Oh, yeah, I see one now.”
Lennie was hoping to stall until he could see if it really was the Grand Am as he suspected.
The contestant said he wanted to try for the Catalina. “No, the Grand Am, the Grand Am!” Lennie murmured beneath his breath. He found the stub of a pencil on the desk and held it against his chest like a charm.
“Lennie, I meant what I said about no television,” his mom called.
“I know you did.”
“No television at all until those grades pick up.”
“I know.”
A commercial came on. “Doc-tor Pep-per, so mis-un-der-stoooooood.”
“Me and Doctor Pepper,” Lennie mumbled. He knew he had sixty more seconds to stall now. “Where did you say those pencils were?” he called.
“On the desk.”
The commercial ended, and the contestant was walking across the stage to the Catalina. He was getting into the car, fastening his seat belt. At the crucial moment Lennie’s mother appeared in the doorway.
“The pencils are—” She broke off as she saw him. She said sternly, “Lennie, go in my room right now and start studying.”
“I will, just let me find out if it’s the—”
In one incredibly swift move—it was like something out of an old-time movie—Lennie’s mother stepped in front of him. She turned off the television. As the picture faded to one small dot, she and Lennie looked at each other.
“You didn’t have to do that,” Lennie said. He was hurt. He felt as if his mother had slapped him. “Now I’ll never know if it was the Grand Am.”
“You’ve got to do your homework.”
“Well, will you watch for me?”
“If you go right now.”
“I’m going. I’m going.” He started from the office. “Only turn the set back on or it won’t warm up in time. You’ll miss it.”
Once outside the room Lennie stood in the hall and waited. “I wish I was on TV,” he said to himself. “I wish I was getting in the Grand Am.”
His mother came through the doorway. She took his shoulder and started him into her room. “It was the Firebird,” she said.
“Oh.” He was strangely disheartened. “Then I wish I was getting in the Firebird.”
“Well, you won’t be getting in anything till those grades pick up,” his mom said.
“If you’re thinking I’m too dumb to be on TV—well, half the people you see on those shows are dropouts. Most of the contestants are out of work.”
“Len, will you please go in my room and start studying,” his mom said tiredly. “I simply cannot argue with you this way every night.”
“I’m going.”
As he went, he thought of himself getting in the Firebird, fastening the seat belt, turning the key. He thought of his face lighting up as the engine started.
However, he thought, walking slower, if he could go on just one game show, it had better be something like
Let’s Make a Deal,
where knowledge didn’t count. He would dress up like a pizza, and if he got in the Big Deal of the Day, he would go for Curtain Number 2.
“Don’t stall, Lennie.”
“I’m not stalling.” He walked into his mother’s room. His mom had set up a card table in the corner, and Lennie had to study there these days. It was the only place in the motel where there was nothing to do and nothing to look at. He couldn’t even see out the window without getting up and walking around the bed.
His mother was still standing in the doorway. Lennie glanced at her. He said, “If you’re thinking that I’m too ugly to be on television—well, you don’t have to worry about that either. The uglier you are these days, the better. Ugliness is in.”
“Start with Science.”
“Mom, have you ever had a look at that kid on all those meat-spread commercials? I know I look as good as him, and they say he makes thousands of dollars.”
“He gets three hundred and twenty dollars for every one of those commercials. Think of it. The kid is sitting at home, probably watching himself on TV, and he’s making three hundred and twenty dollars.”
“And if you get on a soap opera, Mom, if you just walk in front of the camera, which anybody could do, for that you get fifty-one dollars. If you have five lines, you get ninety.”
“Lennie, stop this and get to your work.”
“’Course, five dollars goes to your agent and twenty goes into a trust fund for when you get too old to perform. I read that in
TV Guide.”

They stared at each other for a moment. Then with a sigh Lennie flipped open his Science book. He turned to the chapter on plants. There was a pencil hole in the page where in anger he had stabbed the book.
With his mother watching, he stared down at the cross section of a plant. To give the illusion that he was serious about studying, he put his finger on the first part of the leaf. Slowly he moved his finger down the page, around the pencil hole.
His mom watched a moment more, and then she turned and went back into the office.
Lennie kept his eyes on the page. As he got to the picture of the stem, his eyes began to close. His mind drifted to more pleasant things. He saw his own face on TV, a close-up.
He would make the perfect contestant, he thought. In the first place, he was eager and enthusiastic. In the second place, he was a little dumb, so the audience would be glad when he won. And third, he was such a good sport he would go along with anything.
As the parts of the plant grew dimmer in his mind, his own face on TV grew sharper and clearer. The announcer’s voice, hushed with urgency, replaced the sound of the trucks on the highway.
He dreamed.
Chapter Two
nd now, Lennie, you have won over three thousand dollars in cash and merchandise, and, more important, you have won the chance to spin our Vacation Wheel. How do you feel about that, Lennie?”
BOOK: The TV Kid
10.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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