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Mom got the postcard a few days ago. It says Congratulations in big curly letters, and at the very top is the address of Studio TV-15 on West 58th Street. After three years of trying, she has actually made it. She’s going to be a contestant on The $20,000 Pyramid, which is hosted by Dick Clark. At the bottom of the card there’s the date she’s supposed to show up, April 27.
On the postcard there’s also a list of things to bring. She needs some extra clothes in case she wins and makes it to another show. I think she should definitely take some hats with her. Unlike me, Mom has glossy red hair which might distract viewers. She could also visit her hairdresser to have her hair dyed, but if I tell her so, she won’t listen.
Yesterday Mom brought a big paper calendar from work and hung it on the kitchen wall. She drew a pyramid on April 27 and put dollar signs and exclamation marks all around it. Then, she went out and bought a fancy egg timer that can accurately measure half a minute, which is the time she gets to answer in the show.
April twenty-seventh is also Richard’s birthday. Richard is Mom’s boyfriend who works in a bank. He studied languages, so he and I are going to help Mom practise every single night. That’s why I sit at my desk every afternoon and write down questions for her. Instead, I should be watching after-school TV, which is the right of every latchkey child. ‘Latchkey child’ is a name for a kid with keys who stays alone at home after school until a grown-up gets back from work to make dinner. Mom hates that expression. ‘I’m sure someone rich, strict and awful invented it. Probably German,’ she says, looking at Richard, who is German but not at all rich, strict or awful.
Richard looks the way I imagine guys on sailboats do – tall, blond, and suntanned. Or maybe I imagine guys on sailboats that way because Richard loves to sail. He looks especially big next to Mom, who’s short and so tiny she has to buy some of her clothes in the kids’ department.
We have exactly twenty-one days to get Mom ready for the game show. So just like every afternoon, I’m copying words for her practice session tonight when I hear Mom’s key in the door.
‘Miranda? I’m back!’ she calls down the hall and a moment later sticks her head in my room. ‘Are you hungry? I thought we could wait with dinner for Richard.’
‘I can wait.’ The truth is I’ve just eaten an entire bag of crisps. After-school junk food is another fundamental right of the latchkey child.
‘Are you sure? Want me to cut up an apple for you?’
‘What’s a kind of German junk food?’ I ask her. ‘Wiener crispies?’
She stares at me. ‘I have no idea. Do you want the apple or not?’
‘No, and get out of here. I’m doing the words for later.’
‘Great.’ She smiles and goes back to the kitchen. I get back to my word piles. I really hope Mom wins the money!
adapted from www.bookbrowse.com/excerpts/index.cfm/When-You-Reach-Me