Chapter 1 Chapter 1
THE ORIGINS OF THE FLOUNDER Bay Upper School H.A.I.R. Club are shrouded in mystery. Or maybe cloaked in mystery. Or at least wearing a heavy cardigan of mystery. As the official club historian, I tried to figure it out, and you can decide whether I was at all successful. I do know one thing, though: None of us would have joined if Glamorous Steve hadn’t gotten there first. And if we hadn’t joined, our lives would have turned out very differently. I’m not just saying this for dramatic effect—it is a fact.
But let’s start at the beginning. A history should go in order, after all.
It was the second week of seventh grade. I was still finding my way around the building, which was way bigger and more crowded than elementary school, and mentally labeling kids I didn’t know (Vegan Lunch, Stork Legs, British Accent, et cetera). When I walked into school that morning, there were folding tables lining both sides of the main hall. The tables had posters hanging in front of them advertising various school clubs. Two or three upbeat kids who looked way too cheerful for that time of day sat behind each table.
All these upbeat kids were trying to get other, lower-beat kids to join their clubs, offering enticements like mini-muffins, and those rubber bracelets that really hurt if you shot them at people, and even tiny Frisbees with FBUS ULTIMATE FRISDEE (oops) printed on them.
It was my intention to walk right by these tables and keep going until I got to my locker. It was not my intention to sign up for a club that morning. I like to take my time making big decisions, and joining a school club was a big decision. Your choice of clubs could determine a whole new set of friends and also what kinds of labels would get slapped on you. It was way too early—in the day and the year—for me to be making a decision with these kinds of life-changing consequences.
But I didn’t make it to my locker. My friend Glamorous Steve was standing at the last table in the row, and he grabbed the strap of my backpack as I was hurrying past, causing me to lurch to a stop.
“Jason,” he said. “Wait up.”
“I’m going to sign up for”—he looked down at the sheet of paper that was the only thing on the table—“H.A.I.R. Club. You should too.”
No one, upbeat or not, was sitting behind the table. There were no posters. There was no swag. There was a sign-up sheet with a coffee ring on it and New This Year! See Ms. Grossman, Faculty Adviser, for Details! scrawled across the bottom in red pen. Ms. Grossman was my US History teacher, and even this early in the year, I was all too familiar with her red scrawls.
“Is this a joke?” I said. I glanced at the sheet with its un-filled-in blanks. There wasn’t even a crummy pencil next to it. “There’s no one signed up at all. And what is Hair Club, anyway?”
“It’s not Hair Club,” said Steve. “It’s H.A.I.R. Club. It’s initials.”
“So what do the initials stand for?”
“No idea. Maybe ‘Hair And Its Relatives’?”
I could see why that might interest Steve. He had perfect hair and he put real effort into its upkeep. It did not, however, interest me and my normal-to-greasy, effort-free hair.
“So it is Hair Club,” I said. “And what’s a hair relative? Fingernails? Sorry. Not interested.”
I had turned to head for my locker when Steve put a hand on my shoulder.
“Here’s the thing,” he said. “Whatever it stands for—and it might have nothing to do with hair—H.A.I.R. Club is brand-new. No one is signed up yet. We’d be the first members.”
I shrugged his hand off my shoulder. But I turned back to face him. “So?”
“So if we join now, as seventh graders, we’ll be club officers by the time we’re in, like, eighth grade.”
Now he had my attention.
“If we’re the first to sign up,” I said, thinking out loud, “wouldn’t we be club officers right away? It’s only fair.”
Steve was nodding at my brilliant logic. Or maybe at my willingness to go along with him. He handed me a pen. “We’d be in charge of a brand-new club. In seventh grade. Think about it,” he said.
I was already signing my name.
A word about Glamorous Steve before we go on. Steve’s family had moved to Flounder Bay the summer before sixth grade. There are three kinds of new kids, as I’m sure you know. There’s the weird new kid, the bland new kid, and the glamorous new kid.
Steve, who was from California and had that perfect hair and a smile that pretty much made a cartoon twinkly ping whenever he flashed it, was as glamorous as it got in Flounder Bay. His glamour was upped by the fact that a hopelessly bland kid also named Steve had moved to town at the same time. So there was Steve and there was Glamorous Steve. And then, for most of us, there was just Glamorous Steve, the other kid having been forgotten. Or maybe he changed his name. Doesn’t matter. He won’t appear in this history again.
Glamorous Steve had a talent for doing even the geekiest things with such infectious enthusiasm that he made them not just acceptable but downright trendy. He was a long-distance runner. Boring, you say? Yes, indeed. Unless Glamorous Steve was moving effortlessly past you, his glorious hair streaming behind him. He collected stamps. Game over, you’re thinking. And ordinarily you’d be right. But he made it work. Somehow, he made it work.
So I knew I was safe signing up for anything Steve was a part of. In fact, even as Steve was writing his name below mine on the H.A.I.R. Club sign-up sheet, his glamour was rippling through the hallway and other kids were falling into line behind him. They didn’t care what he was signing up for—if Glamorous Steve was in, they wanted in too.
I should add that fully half of them balked when they got to the point of actually writing their names. After all, they had no idea what H.A.I.R. stood for. And they could see for themselves the empty table and its pathetic sign-up sheet. Even Steve’s glamour wasn’t enough for them to risk their reputations on what looked like the losingest club ever. I don’t blame them. And I’m glad only ten kids signed up.
Those others will never know what they missed.