The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen

BOOK: The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
3.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Copyright © 2012 by Swsin Nielsen

Published in Canada by Tundra Books, a Division of Random House of Canada Limited, One Toronto Street, Suite 300, Toronto, Ontario M5C 2V6

Published in the United States by Tundra Books of Northern New York,
P.O. Box 1030, Plattsburgh, New York 12901

Library of Congress Control Number: 2011938782

All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the publisher – or, in case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency – is an infringement of the copyright law.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Nielsen, Susin, 1964-
The reluctant journal of Henry K. Larsen / by Susin Nielsen.

For ages 11-14.
eISBN: 978-1-77049-373-5

I. Title.

PS8577.I37R45 2012    JC813′.54     C2011-906551-7

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and that of the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Media Development Corporation’s Ontario Book Initiative. We further acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for our publishing program.

Design: Jennifer Lum


For Göran: Oändligt är vårt äventyr.


I’ve never met author Wally Lamb, but it was a line in his book
I Know This Much Is True
that inspired me to write this story. I thank him from afar. I also read and enjoyed Bret Hart’s book
, which gave me good insight into the world of professional wrestling.

For their expertise and time, I must thank Chris Matisz, the Reach For The Top coach at Kitsilano Secondary School; Catherine MacMillan, counselor extraordinaire at Kitsilano Secondary School; Constable Lindsey Houghton, media relations officer with the Vancouver Police Department; Gordon Kopelow for his expert advice on all things legal; and Laurie Hollingdrake, a gifted therapist. Thanks also to Ian Weir for a good wrestling joke.

I also want to thank my early readers for their extremely helpful feedback: Göran and Oskar Fernlund, Robin Fowler, Sam Woodbridge, Susan Juby, and all of the bibliophiles from Christianne Hayward’s Lyceum.

Then there are the usual suspects: my wonderful agent, Hilary McMahon, and the entire team at Tundra, with special thanks going to Kathryn Cole, who, along with Sue Tate, championed my manuscript; my fantastic editor, Sue Tate; Tara Walker, for her valuable suggestions; Kelly Hill, for another wonderful cover; Pamela Osti, my terrific publicist; and Kathy Lowinger, without whom I would not have found such a happy home at Tundra.

And last but far from least: a very special thank-you to Seve Williams. Seve will probably one day rule the world, but in the meantime, he generously let me use his recycling for profit/fruit fly story, and for that I am eternally grateful.

, J

The word “psychology” comes from the Greek word “psyche.” It means
the study of the mind

I don’t want anyone to study my mind. That’s just creepy. But Dad says I no longer have a choice.

Cecil doesn’t look like a psychologist. For one thing, his name is
. On his door at the Coastal Health Center, a plastic plaque says
, but when I called him that at our first session, he said, “Please, call me Cecil.” When I got home, I looked up his name, and do you know what it means?
Dim-sighted or blind

a good sign.

Cecil has long stringy gray hair, and he uses a scrunchy to pull it back. A scrunchy! Today, at our third session, he was wearing yet another tie-dyed shirt, purple this time.
Hey Cecil
, I wanted to say,
the ’60s called. They want their look back!

He says, “How does that make you feel?” a lot, like we’re on a TV show and not real life. He also says, “Holy Moly” a lot, as in “Holy Moly, you’re fifteen minutes late, two weeks in a row!”

I suspect Cecil is not the crème de la crème of psychologists. For one thing, he is free. Dad says the Province of British Columbia pays him, but I don’t think they pay him very much. His office is tiny and cramped, and the furniture
is cheap, chipped, and stained. Also, it looks like he hasn’t been able to afford new clothes since 1969.

We haven’t talked about IT yet. He tries to steer me there. He asks leading questions. But when he does, I just respond in Robot-Voice: “I. Do Not Know. What You Mean. Humanoid.” And he backs right off.

Robot-Voice is what landed me here in the first place. After the whole thing with Mom at Christmas, my furies came back, and I started speaking in Robot 24/7. Right through the move to Vancouver, even. The thing about speaking Robot is, it strips emotion out of everything. “It. Is All. In Monotone.” It helps me. But by the eighth day of Robot-Henry, it was freaking everyone else out, so Dad made my first appointment. And he made me keep it, even after I’d gone back to being plain old Henry.

Cecil tries everything in his limited tool kit to get me to talk about IT. For example, last week I mentioned in passing that I like to write, so today he gave me this notebook. “I thought you might like a private place to record your thoughts and feelings. Journaling can be quite therapeutic.”

I told him I didn’t think “journaling” was a word. When I got home, I threw the notebook in the garbage.

Then I got it out later, but only because I was bored.

The thing is, Cecil
all about IT. He had a long
talk with my dad before my first session, and I’d bet my Great Dane poster that he Googled the whole thing afterward, too. And once he was done reading everything he could find, I bet he wondered why my parents didn’t get me into therapy right after IT happened, seven and a half months ago.

Holy Moly!
I can imagine him thinking.
What took them so long?

, J

Pizza for dinner again tonight. That’s three nights in a row. I guess you could say it’s one of the perks of bachelor life.

We watched “Saturday Night Smash-Up” while we ate. Dad had two slices. I ate the rest. Halfway through dinner, I had to change out of my pants and into my pajama bottoms so my wobblies could have a little more room to breathe.

When “Saturday Night Smash-Up” was over, I asked Dad to measure me. Still five foot three.

Thirteen years old, and I’m still a pygmy.


My bedroom smells like curry, thanks to what’s-his-head next door.

2:00 a.m.

I can hear Dad snoring.

2:30 a.m.

This journal is stupid.

, J

Killer whales travel around in pods. Each pod has a distinct set of clicking sounds, whistles, and cries. It helps them stick together.

It works the same in the first year of high school. A bunch of scared kids from a bunch of different elementary schools show up in September, and, within weeks, they form their pods. The jocks join teams; the nerds join clubs, like “chess” or “computer”; the stoners find a spot behind some bushes, just off school property.

So when a new kid shows up in January, nobody really notices. They already have their pods. And that suits me just fine. I’m happy to be like Luna, the killer whale that strayed from his pod and swam around by himself for a couple of years, off the coast of Vancouver Island. After all, he seemed pretty content. He had a perfectly good life.

Well. Until he was accidentally chopped to bits by a boat’s propeller.

But here’s the problem. There’s always at least one other kid who is also swimming solo, because none of the pods will let him in.

At Port Salish Secondary, that kid was my brother, Jesse.

At Trafalgar Secondary, that kid is Farley Wong.

I’m pretty sure he picked up my scent the day I started here, two weeks ago. But today he went in for the kill.

“Greetings and welcome to our planet, Earthling,” he said to me this morning, with a thick Chinese accent. I was putting my math book in my locker, which, as luck would have it, is only one door down from his. “Farley Wong.” He held out his hand.

“Henry,” I replied, skipping my last name. He tried to do an elaborate handshake, but I lost him after the first couple of moves.

“Where did you transfer from?”

“Vancouver Island,” I replied. Best to keep it vague.

“We have three classes together,” he said, counting them on his fingers. “Enriched Math, Phys Ed, and Enriched English.”

I knew this already, only because he’s pretty hard to miss. He’s the nerdiest-looking kid I have ever seen.

I know, I know. I’m one to talk. Pop-Pop likes to joke that I have so many freckles, it looks like I got a tan through a screen door. And yes, my hair is red and curly. And yes, I am short. And yes, I have to buy my clothes in “husky” size, which is a nice word for “fat.”

But I don’t
my nerdiness. Farley looks like the model for that nerd action figure you can buy in novelty stores. He has thick Coke-bottle glasses. He wears short-sleeved button-up shirts and lines the pockets with
plastic protectors
, so the pens he keeps clipped to them won’t leak on his clothes. His pants are always ironed, with a neat crease down the middle. He belts them up high, so the waist stops just under his nipples.

And he carries a briefcase!

“You want to walk to English together?” he said. “I know a shortcut.” He gazed at me, his magnified eyes full of hope.

I’m not dumb. I knew that being seen with Farley could be like committing social hari-kari. In high school, it’s all about first impressions. Just look at what happened to Jesse.

But, on the other hand …

Farley is the first kid in seven months to talk to me like I’m a regular human being. So I heard myself say, “Sure.”

Farley talked the whole way to class about a show called “Battlestar Galactica.”

“I have the entire series on DVD. It’s frakking brilliant.” The more he talked, the more bits of spittle formed at the sides of his mouth.

We rounded a corner, and a big guy in jeans that hung well below his bum bumped into Farley, accidentally-on-purpose. I recognized him; his locker is across the hall from mine.

“Nice slacks, Fartley,” he said. Then he kicked me. Not too hard, but still. “Sorry,” he said. “I thought it was Kick a Ginger Day.”

“I’ve seen that episode of ‘South Park,’ too,” I retorted. “Years ago. Pretty stale joke, don’t you think?”

BOOK: The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen
3.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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