“Dear Diary and All That Junk,” New Era, Feb. 1974, 14
Here I am, the Freckled Wonder, starting another year at Madsen High. I say “another year” to distinguish myself from the younger set, who look incredibly lost and frightened. Was I that bad last year? As usual, anyone new who met me today said, “Hey, I’ll bet everybody calls you Freckles!” If anyone ever says, “Hey, I’ll bet everyone calls you Gorgeous,” I’ll be his slave forever.
The particular anyone I referred to earlier—the one who made the strikingly original remark about the freckles—is Dave Johnson, class president. If he hadn’t made that remark about the freckles, I think I would be interested in him. He’s handsome even with glasses, which he wears part-time. Reminds me of Richard O’Neal, my childhood (last year’s) hero.
Ever hear of Miss Frodjam’s Freckle Ointment, guaranteed to “lighten or totally remove unsightly freckles and facial blemishes forever”? Neither had I, until this afternoon in the library. Shelly handed me a moldy-looking book from a top shelf somewhere—Miss Gordon’s Modern Book of Beauty, Charm, and Etiquette. Needless to say, the book was actually written shortly after the Stone Age. I browsed through it awhile, not really studying anything in great detail, when suddenly, surrounded by recipes for homemade cold cream (where on earth would a person buy rose water?) and hand lotion (worse yet, wool fat?), there was the recipe for Miss Frodjam’s Freckle Ointment.
“What a riot!” Shelly said to me as she wrinkled her smooth, unfreckled nose. “A girl would really have to be desperate to try a weird concoction like that!”
“How would Shelly know?” I thought as I carefully memorized the ingredients and amounts, trying meanwhile to look mildly amused. Shelly would laugh for a week if she knew that I went straight home and mixed one tablespoon of lemon juice, two tablespoons of vinegar, and one-half cup of flour “or enough to make a smooth, moist paste.”
Well, I was just stirring up my smooth, moist paste—and incidentally, the kitchen was beginning to smell like a pickle factory—when I heard voices and realized it was too late to hide. Voice Number One, of course, was Kevin, winner of the year’s Most-Obnoxious-Big-Brother Award.
“Gee,” he said, sniffing the aroma, “I’m glad you fixed me something good to snack on, Keri. I’m just dying (here he rolled his eyes desperately) of hunger.”
Voice Number Two then made his appearance in the kitchen. If I could have died on the spot, I would have.
“Oh, hi Dave,” I croaked feebly.
He grinned his handsome Richard O’Neal grin and asked, “Been taking cooking lessons? Smells like a real treat.”
What could I say? Why on earth did dear old Kevin pick this day, of all days of the year, to suddenly become great friends with Dave Johnson? They don’t have a thing in common other than their student government positions, debate team, and, of course, basketball. Dave is the school’s star center and Kevin is the star benchwarmer. I now noticed a basketball under Dave’s right arm. So that was what brought them together.
“Planning to really knock the team over dead this year, Kevin?” I asked, hoping to change the subject. Kevin blushed slightly and couldn’t think of a good comeback.
“I hate to ask, but what is it?” said Dave, pointing to my dish of smooth, moist paste.
“I have a rare disease and it calls for a special diet.” I was trying to be funny.
Kevin’s next act deserves the award for Putdown of the Year.
“Miss Frodjam’s Freckle Ointment,” he read solemnly and eloquently from the notebook on the counter. I had completely forgotten about that notebook. I wanted to sink into nonexistence. He went on to read the ingredients with great flourish, adding a few choice remarks like, “A touch of bat liver improves the quality of the ointment considerably!” and “Incidentally, if this doesn’t land the man of your dreams, Madame Butterball’s Diet Salve certainly will!”
I probably would have laughed if I hadn’t been so close to crying. I’ll bet Dave thinks I’m really out to lunch. What could I do? I whisked my smooth, moist paste to the opposite end of the kitchen, returned with the cookie jar, and disappeared to my room. It wasn’t too long before they were totally engrossed in devouring Mom’s home-baked chocolate chip cookies. From my room I could hear them chuckling. See if I loyally cheer for good old Kevin when he makes his one basket for the year.
I am not only desperate about those freckles, I’m determined. I have launched forth on Miss Frodjam’s program for freckle removal. I think it may work better than my past attempts with cover cosmetics, sun lamps, and zinc oxide.
Last night, in spite of the extreme humiliation of being discovered, I stubbornly smeared the paste all over my freckled face and then held very still while it dried to a stiff crust. The book said to leave it on four to six hours, so I went to bed looking and feeling like an Egyptian mummy. All night I had awful dreams about being encased in cement from head to toe.
But this morning when I woke up and rushed right in to wash the stuff off, my freckles—believe it or not—actually did look one-tenth of a shade lighter. I think.
I saw Dave Johnson in the hall today, but he didn’t say anything. Well, he said hi or something. But then what could he say after being a participant in the most embarrassing moment of my life? I suppose it is beneath his dignity anyway to speak to the star benchwarmer’s freckle-faced kid sister. I don’t care.
I guess tonight I’ll try Miss Frodjam’s miracle wonder paste again. It’s not that much fun, but if the treatment works, it will be worth it.
One solid week and seven applications of Miss Frodjam’s Freckle Ointment. The results are far from striking, to say the least. I am about ready to give up. People are beginning to sniff and look baffled when I walk by. However, my freckles are now two-tenths of a shade lighter. I think.
But the crowning blow to my ego came tonight. I was in the kitchen mixing up my smooth, moist paste when Kevin and Dave strolled in, complete with Dave’s basketball again. They were grinning I might add. This week Dave has hardly noticed me, although I’ve seen him at least a hundred times at school. This fact made the moment of our meeting especially poignant.
“Here she is—Miss Freckles,” announced Kevin. “Having great success, I suppose, with your bat liver ointment?”
I ignored him—or rather glared at him—and turned to Dave to offer him the cookie jar.
“Hi, Keri.” That was all Dave said. That was it. His entire speech—two words. He could have at least laughed, or made some remark. But he just popped a cookie into his mouth, turned to Kevin, and started talking about basketball.
I feel like a real failure. Miss Frodjam’s Freckle Ointment is not even good for a laugh.
That Dave Johnson. After school I saw him in the hall. He was going one way and I was going the other. I didn’t know whether to speak or not, so I didn’t. I kind of smiled feebly.
“Hi, Keri.” Dave Johnson, winner of the Warmest-Greeting-of-the-Year Award.
“Hi.” I thought that was a safe reply, in keeping with his warmth and enthusiasm. I was about to walk on, but he asked the weirdest question.
“Well, aren’t you going to thank me?”
“I hate to ask, but what for?”
“Last night. I could have given you a bad time, but I didn’t.”
That was a new way of looking at it. “Uh, thanks!” I answered. “Chivalry is not dead.”
“You’d be surprised,” he said. “I have some insight into the problems of being a kid sister.”
“Is that right? How did you come by this marvelous insight?” I asked.
“I’m a kid brother.”
“Which isn’t quite the same thing, you know.”
“I see your point. Which brings me to another subject,” he said, putting on his glasses. After clearing his throat very solemnly and intellectually, he proceeded. “Miss Carter, I am doing a detailed study on a little-known topic—freckles. The thesis of my study is that sunlight, far from fading freckles, actually brings out their color even more brilliantly. Now—would you be willing to be guinea pig in an experiment with direct sunlight at the football game Saturday afternoon?”
“Wait a minute!” I was really riled. “I thought you had marvelous insight?” What does he think I am, the Freckled Wonder of the World? I thought furiously. I was about to come out with a real putdown when I looked up at his face.
He didn’t look sarcastic or even funny. He looked a little awkward.
“Well, I was kidding about the insight. I was kidding about the freckle study, too. But the football game—I was serious about that. Would you like to come with me?”
Well, dear diary, I won’t go on to describe how I suddenly rose about six inches off the floor. I won’t mention what a fool I must have sounded like, trying to stammer out some sort of proper acceptance speech. I will mention that he smiled and looked almost relieved, and I just couldn’t believe that the great Dave Johnson might actually have moments of self-doubt too.
I definitely plan to discontinue use of Miss Frodjam’s Freckle Ointment. It may have worked on Miss Frodjam. And my freckles are two-tenths of a shade lighter. I think. But after all, if I am going to be part of a detailed study on a little-known topic, far be it from me to try to influence the findings of the direct sunlight thesis.