The Fan Club
|Rona Maynard. "The Fan Club" by Rona
Maynard. Copyright by Rona Maynard. Reprinted/recorded by permission
of the author.
During Reading Strategy
Use What You Know as You Read
Vocabulary from the Selection
Guided Reading Question 1
Laura thinks this group of students is whispering about and staring at
Guided Reading Question 2
What does Laura think about the group?
was Monday again. It was Monday and the day was damp and cold. Rain splattered
the cover of Algebra I as Laura heaved her books higher on her arm and
sighed. School was such a bore.
School. It loomed before her now, massive and dark against the sky.
In a few minutes, she would have to face them again—Diane Goddard
with her sleek blond hair and Terri Pierce in her candy-pink sweater.
And Carol and Steve and Bill and Nancy… There were so many of
them, so exclusive as they stood in their tight little groups laughing
Why were they so cold and unkind? Was it because her long stringy hair
hung in her eyes instead of dipping in graceful curls? Was it because
she wrote poetry in algebra class and got A’s in Latin without
really trying? Shivering, Laura remembered how they would sit at the
back of English class, passing notes and whispering. She thought of their
identical brown loafers, their plastic purses, their hostile stares as
they passed her in the corridors. She didn’t care. They were clods,
the whole lot of them.
She shoved her way through the door and there they were. They thronged the hall, streamed in and out of doors, clustered under red and yellow
posters advertising the latest dance. Mohair sweaters, madras shirts,
pea-green raincoats. They were all alike, all the same. And in the center
of the group, as usual, Diane Goddard was saying, “It’ll
be a riot! I just can’t wait to see her face when she finds out.”
Laura flushed painfully. Were they talking about her?
“What a scream! Can’t wait to hear what she says!”
Silently she hurried
past and submerged
herself in the stream of students
heading for the lockers. It was then that she saw Rachel Horton—alone
as always, her too-long skirt billowing
over the white,
heavy columns of her legs, her freckled face ringed with shapeless black
curls. She called herself Horton, but everyone knew her father was Jacob
Hortensky, the tailor. He ran that greasy little shop where you could
always smell the cooked cabbage from the back rooms where the family
“Oh, Laura!” Rachel was calling her. Laura turned, startled.
“Laura, did you watch World of Nature
last night? On Channel 11?”
“No—no, I didn’t.” Laura hesitated. “I almost never
watch that kind of program.”
“Well, gee, you missed something—last night, I mean. It was a real
good show. Laura, it showed this fly being born!” Rachel was smiling now;
she waved her hands as she talked.
“First the feelers and then the wings. And they’re sort of wet at
first, the wings are. Gosh, it was a good show.”
“I bet it was.” Laura tried to sound interested. She turned to go,
but Rachel still stood there, her mouth half open, her pale, moon-like face strangely
urgent. It was as if an invisible hand tugged at Laura’s sleeve.
“And Laura,” Rachel continued, “that was an awful good poem
you read yesterday in English.”
Laura remembered how Terri and Diane had laughed and
whispered. “You really think so? Well, thanks, Rachel. I mean,
not too many people care about poetry.”
“Yours was real nice though. I wish I could write like you. I
always like those things you write.”
Laura blushed. “I’m glad you do.”
“Laura, can you come over sometime after school? Tomorrow maybe?
It’s not very far and you can stay for dinner. I told my parents
all about you!”
Laura thought of the narrow, dirty street and the tattered awning in
front of the tailor shop. An awful district, the kids said. But she couldn’t
let that matter. “Okay,” she said. And then, faking enthusiasm, “I’d
be glad to come.”
She turned into the algebra room, sniffing at the smell of chalk and
dusty erasers. In the back row, she saw the “in” group, laughing
and joking and whispering.
“What a panic!”
“Here, you make the first one.”
Diane and Terri had their heads together over a lot of little cards.
You could see they were cooking up something.
Fumbling through the pages of her book, she tried to memorize the theorems1
she hadn’t looked at the night before. The laughter at the back
of the room rang in her ears. Also those smiles—those heartless
smiles. . . .
Guided Reading Question 3
What does Laura say about Rachel’s compliment?
Guided Reading Question 4
How does Laura respond to Rachel’s invitation?
A bell buzzed in
the corridors; students scrambled to their places. “We will now
have the national anthem,” said the voice on the loudspeaker.
Laura shifted her weight from one foot to the other. It was so false,
so pointless. How could they sing of the land of the free, when there
was still discrimination. Smothered laughter behind her. Were they
all looking at her?
And then it was over. Slumping in her seat, she shuffled through last
half-finished homework papers and scribbled flowers in the margins.
“Now this one is just a direct application of the equation.” The
voice was hollow, distant, an echo beyond the sound of rustling papers
and hushed whispers. Laura sketched a guitar on the cover of her notebook.
Someday she would live in the Village2 and there would be no more algebra
classes and people would accept her.
What does Laura think about the national anthem? What does she hear?
She turned towards
the back row. Diane was passing around one of her cards. Terri leaned
over, smiling. “Hey, can I do the next one?”
“. . . by using the distributive law.” Would the class never end?
Math was so dull, so painfully dull. They made you multiply and cancel and factor,
multiply, cancel, and factor. Just like a machine. The steel sound of the bell
shattered the silence. Scraping chairs, cries of “Hey, wait!” The
crowd moved into the hallway now, a thronging, jostling mass.
Alone in the tide of faces, Laura felt someone nudge her. It was Ellen. “Hey,
how’s that for a smart outfit?” She pointed to the other side of
The gaudy flowers of Rachel
Horton’s blouse stood out
among the fluffy sweaters and pleated skirts. What a lumpish, awkward creature
Rachel was. Did she have to dress like that? Her socks had fallen untidily
around her heavy ankles, and her slip showed a raggedy edge of lace. As she
moved into the English room, shoelaces trailing, her books tumbled to the floor.
that something?” Terri
said. Little waves of mocking laughter swept through the crowd.
The bell rang; the laughter died away. As they hurried to their seats,
Diane and Terri exchanged last-minute whispers. “Make one for Steve.
He wants one too!”
How do the other students behave toward Rachel?
Then Miss Merrill
pushed aside the book she was holding, folded her hands, and beamed. “All
right, people, that will be enough. Now, today we have our speeches.
Laura, would you begin please?”
So it was her turn. Her throat tightened as she thought of Diane and
Carol and Steve grinning and waiting for her to stumble. Perhaps if
she was careful they’d never know she hadn’t thought out
everything beforehand. Careful, careful, she thought. Look confident.
“Let’s try to be prompt.” Miss Merrill tapped the cover
of her book with her fountain pen.
Laura pushed her way to the front of the class. Before her, the room
was large and still. Twenty-five round, blurred faces stared blankly.
Was that Diane’s laughter? She folded her hands and looked at the
wall, strangely distant now, its brown paint cracked and peeling. A dusty
portrait of Robert Frost, a card with the seven rules for better paragraphs,
last year’s calendar, and the steady, hollow ticking of the clock.
Laura cleared her
throat. “Well,” she began, “my speech is on civil rights.” A
chorus of snickers rose from the back of the room.
“Most people,” Laura continued, “most people don’t
care enough about others. Here in New England, they think they’re
pretty far removed from discrimination and violence. Lots of people sit
back and fold their hands and wait for somebody else to do the work. But
I think we’re all responsible for people that haven’t had some
of the advantages. . . .”
Diane was giggling and gesturing
at Steve Becker. All she ever thought
about was parties and dates—and such dates! Always the president
of the student council or the captain of the football team.
What does Laura say that people do about discrimination and violence?
“A lot of
people think that race prejudice is limited to the South. But most of
us are prejudiced—whether we know it or not. It’s not just
that we don’t give other people a chance; we don’t give ourselves
a chance either. We form narrow opinions and then we don’t see
the truth. We keep right on believing that we’re open-minded liberals
when all we’re doing is deceiving ourselves.”
How many of them cared about truth? Laura looked past the rows of blank,
empty faces, past the bored stares and cynical
What does Laura think about during her speech?
“But I think
we should try to forget our prejudices. We must realize now that we’ve
done too little for too long. We must accept the fact that one person’s
misfortune is everyone’s responsibility. We must defend the natural
dignity of people—a dignity that thousands are denied.”
None of them knew what it was like to be unwanted, unaccepted. Did Steve
know? Did Diane?
“Most of us are proud to say that we live in a free country. But
is this really true? Can we call the United States a free country when
millions of people face prejudice and discrimination? As long as one person
is forbidden to share the basic rights we take for granted, as long as
we are still the victims of irrational
hatreds, there can be no freedom.
Only when every American learns to respect the dignity of every other American
can we truly call our country free.”
The class was silent. “Very nice, Laura.” Things remained quiet
as other students droned through their speeches. Then Miss Merrill looked
briskly around the room. “Now, Rachel, I believe you’re next.”
What does Laura say about responsibility? about dignity?
What does Laura wonder about the “in“ group?
There was a ripple
of dry, humorless laughter—almost, Laura thought, like the sound
of a rattlesnake. Rachel stood before the class now, her face red,
her heavy arms piled with boxes.
Diane Goddard tossed back her head and winked at Steve.
“Well, well, don’t we have lots of things to show,” said
Miss Merrill. “But aren’t you going to put those boxes down,
Rachel? No, no, not there!”
“Man, that kid’s dumb,” Steve muttered, and his voice
could be clearly heard all through the room.
With a brisk rattle, Miss Merrill’s pen tapped the desk for silence.
Rachel’s slow smile twitched at the corners. She looked frightened.
There was a crash and a clatter as the tower of boxes slid to the floor.
Now everyone was giggling.
“Hurry and pick them up,” said Miss Merrill sharply.
Rachel crouched on her knees and began very clumsily to gather her scattered
treasures. Papers and boxes lay all about, and some of the boxes had broken
open, spilling their contents in wild confusion. No one went to help. At
last she scrambled to her feet and began fumbling with her notes.
“My—my speech is on shells.”
A cold and stony silence had settled upon the room.
“Lots of people collect shells, because they’re kind of pretty—sort
of, and you just find them on the beach.”
“Well, whaddaya know!” It was Steve’s voice, softer
this time, but all mock amazement. Laura jabbed her notebook with her
pencil. Why were they so cruel, so thoughtless? Why did they have to
“This one,” Rachel was saying as she opened one of the boxes, “it’s
one of the best.” Off came the layers of paper and there, at last,
smooth and pearly and shimmering, was the shell. Rachel turned it over
lovingly in her hands. White, fluted sides, like the closecurled petals
of a flower; a scrolled coral back. Laura held her breath. It was beautiful.
At the back of the room snickers had begun again.
“Bet she got it at Woolworth’s,” somebody whispered.
“Or in a trash dump.” That was Diane.
Rachel pretended not to hear, but her face was getting very red and Laura
could see she was flustered.
“Here’s another that’s kind of pretty. I found it last
summer at Ogunquit.”3 In her outstretched hand there was a small,
drab, brownish object. A common snail shell. “It’s called
a . . . It’s called. . . .”
Rachel rustled through her notes. “I—I can’t find it.
But it was here. It was in here somewhere. I know it was.” Her
broad face had turned bright pink again. “Just can’t find
it. . . .” Miss Merrill stood up and strode toward her. “Rachel,” she
said sharply, “we are supposed to be prepared when we make a speech.
Now, I’m sure you remember those rules on page twenty-one. I expect
you to know these things. Next time you must have your material organized.”
The bell sounded, ending the period. Miss Merrill collected her books.
chairs were shoved aside at the back of the room and there was the sound
of many voices whispering. They were standing now, whole rows of them,
their faces grinning with delight. Choked giggles, shuffling feet—and
then applause—wild, sarcastic, malicious
applause. That was when
Laura saw that they were all wearing little white cards with a fat, frizzy-haired
figure drawn on the front. What did it mean? She looked more closely.
FAN CLUB,” said the bright-red letters.
So that was what the whispering had been about all morning. She’d
been wrong. They weren’t out to get her after all. It was only Rachel.
Diane was nudging her and holding out a card. “Hey, Laura, here’s
one for you to wear.”
For a moment Laura stared at the card. She looked from Rachel’s red,
frightened face to Diane’s mocking smile, and she heard the pulsing,
frenzied rhythm of the claps and the stamping, faster and faster. Her hands
trembled as she picked up the card and pinned it to her sweater. And as
she turned, she saw Rachel’s stricken look.
“She’s a creep, isn’t she?” Diane’s voice
was soft and intimate.
And Laura began to clap.
What does Laura realize?