Sure, sure, sure, my dad says. Right this way. We all follow him into the restaurant, which is half empty. Right away I can tell my dad has planted customers our regular employees and their kids or little sisters and brothers. They all say hi to my dad like hes a local hero, though I notice none of them call him by his real name.
My dad never corrects people when they call him Harry. He says its good for business because people like to think theyre talking to the guy the restaurant is named after (who was actually my grandfather). Im pretty sure this drives my mom a little nuts, but she doesnt say anything. My mom almost never yells or gets upset. Whenever she looks like she might start to lose it, she heads up to my dads stuffy office and shuts the door so she can meditate. Theres a sign on the door that she flips around before she closes and locks it. On one side, it says, Please knock. On the other, it says, Mom is finding her inner peace. Come back later. Im not really sure what would happen if we interrupted her during meditation, and I dont really want to find out.
Charlie follows Eric around for the next hour while he films people eating burgers and licking ice- cream cones. Sara, Holden, and I sit at one of the booths. I cant believe this, Sara says for like the hundredth time as we watch the film crew. Thank God Im out of high school. I would never live this one down.
Oh, thanks a lot, Holden says. Im just starting!
I have enough stacked against me already. Now this? What do you mean? I ask.
Just forget it.
But I think I know.
I lean back in the booth and sigh. Were doomed, I say.
Sara shakes her head. She doesnt even bother to try to cheer us up because she knows were right.
The bell on the front door tinkles, and Random Smith walks in. Hes wearing a T- shirt that says glow on it, and I wonder what its supposed to mean. Ran is always wearing T- shirts with sayings on them that dont quite make sense to me. Last year, he gave me one for my birthday that said real. I think he was upset that I never wore it. I smile at him as he comes up to the table and waves the way he always does elbow at his waist, hand swishing back and forth like a windshield wiper. Like a robot.
Hey, Fern, he says.
Hey, Ran. When I slide over, the back of my thighs stick to the red vinyl seat and make a disgusting sound. Honestly, could my life get any more embarrassing?
A few things about Ran have changed since our days of swapping germs:
1. His mom, who was really sick from cancer back then, won her battle, and she and Rans dad started an online T- shirt company that makes a ton of money.
2. Ran shaved his head when his mom lost all her hair from chemotherapy, and he just decided he liked being bald. So now his head is shaved really close. I dont think most people could pull this off, but Ran is a very no- nonsense kind of person, and he doesnt really care what other people think. Also, it actually looks pretty good.
3. Despite his weirdness, Ran became my best friend. With his mom all better, he also stopped being so messy and sick all the time, which is a good thing, because being his best friend meant I was sick almost just as much.
Sara winks at me and I blush.
Whats going on? Ran asks, taking in the scene. My dad is ending our lives as we know it, I say. TV commercial, Holden explains.
Ran cringes just as Charlie comes racing across the room and hugs him.
Excerpted from See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles. Copyright © 2012 by Jo Knowles. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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