By Lynn Levin
The battle of the junior-class science trip to Puerto Rico began at home. Self-conscious about her weight, certain that she’d be snubbed by the glamour girls on the trip roster, sad that none of her friends could afford the pricey journey, Chessie Partrell refused to go.
“Science and Spanish are your favorite subjects,” said her father. “You’ll be the star.”
“Maybe during activities, Dad, but what about all the other hours of the day?”
“Act friendly to others, and they’ll act friendly to you,” encouraged her mother. Then sensing her daughter’s still-sunken spirits, she ventured, “If it’s about the weight issue, go on a diet.”
Like Chessie could melt off forty pounds in six weeks.
“Or take up swimming again,” her mom added. “You looked great when you used to swim.”
Not exactly a quick fix, thought Chessie.
Still, what her mother said about swimming reminded Chessie of how at ease she used to feel in the water, light and free as a mermaid.
“Chessie,” leveled her father, “You have to go. Mom and I booked a getaway for those days to Montreal. Pity us freezing up north while you’re soaking up the Caribbean sun.” Caught in their net, Chessie gave her parents the fish eye.
The next day Chessie’s mother took her to the mall where they managed to find a black swimsuit with a loose-fitting top and matching cover shorts. Following their shopping success, they ate diet vanilla frozen yogurt and lingered before a pet store aquarium where neon tetras flickered, weightless and carefree. A little mechanical mermaid sat in the tank and waved at them.
As soon as the students and their teacher chaperones landed in San Juan, the glamour girls split into two tribes, one led by Jaina Bricker, the other by Samantha LeMieux. They looked like rainbow ice pops in their tight tank tops. They wore blue jeans cropped to the crotch and spent most of their time giggling, texting, and sometimes disappearing with the boys on the trip. They acted like Chessie was a potted plant.
Aching for someone to talk to, Chessie tried to make herself useful to the girls by offering to translate for them at a tourist shop. “Everyone’s bilingual here,” groaned Jaina, looking up from a display of painted seashells. “Listen, I’m really kind of busy. Okay?” she said dismissing Chessie, who blushed in embarrassment. When Sherry Maas flashed Chessie a big smile and asked to borrow a Kleenex, Chessie cheerfully offered her several thinking she’d made a possible pal. But it turned out that Sherry’s friendliness lasted only as long as she needed a Kleenex.
The Puerto Ricans turned out to be way nicer than the kids from school. The housekeeping ladies at the hotel always had a cheerful ¿cómo estás? for her. And island food was good, especially the tostones and the fruit juice drinks. But most of the time it seemed that only the little frogs, the coquís, spoke to her, incessantly repeating their name.
Resigned to the fact that she was either going to be ignored or insulted, Chessie decided that she would lose herself in nature studies. During the class hike through El Yunque rainforest, she sampled the intoxicating aroma of the ylang-ylang perfume flowers and found herself hypnotized by the waterfalls, each one prettier than the next. At the Arecibo Observatory, she took careful notes during the astronomy lecture and was amazed by the giant radio telescope that hung over the land like a humongous white spider. Days were filled with field trips followed by free time at the hotel pool. In a lounge chair, all covered up in loose white trousers and a big pink tee shirt, Chessie perspired and tried to read the newspaper El Nuevo Día as the other girls in their bikinis cooled off in the beautiful blue-green pool, shrieking with laughter and, she assumed from the sometimes conspiratorial tone of their voices, dishing about classmates. Every so often, boys gave some of the girls rides on their shoulders or pushed them into the pool.
At night, the teachers, Mr. Heyde and Ms. Chen, vanished, and the ice-pop girls roamed Old San Juan with the boys. For the first two nights, Chessie stayed in her hotel room looking at American and Puerto Rican TV with her roommate, Drucie Matthews, the other misfit, a weird girl who was always twisting her finger in her ear. Chessie went on Facebook and posted about the trip, but she could only do so much of that, and anyhow, Puerto Rico was out there. No sense in being cooped up in the hotel room. On the third night Chessie asked the people at the front desk about evening activities.
“¿Solita?” the man at the desk asked a little concerned.
“I might go with my roommate,” Chessie said with a shrug. The man told her how to take a taxi to the Fine Arts Cinema. Very safe for young women, he said. Drucie, no surprise, was too chicken to go, even in a cab. So Chessie took a shower, washed her long mocha mane, applied the new coconut-scented conditioner she had bought at a farmacía, dressed in a pair of flowered trousers, a big top, and went off to the movies. Solita. No problema. She chose a Spanish-language comedy that, thankfully, had plenty of sight gags, and she even picked up a few new trendy phrases from the dialogue.
Chessie returned to the hotel just as a group of tipsy classmates stumbled into the lobby.
“Where were you?” asked Samantha, apparently dumbfounded to see Chessie out and about.
“At the movies,” replied Chessie.
“Who’d you go with?” demanded Samantha, her face scrunched into an incredulous sneer.
Chessie chose not to dignify that with an answer and, instead, marched into the elevator. She felt so empowered by her solo adventure that she momentarily forgot that the next day was the excursion to Monkey Island, the dreaded bathing-suit day.
When the time came to report to the tour bus, Chessie left her hotel room wearing her new plus-size black suit with the loose blousy top, the black cover shorts, and her oversized black tee. She packed her sun block and towel and tucked two energy bars in her waterproof belt bag just in case they got stranded. As usual, everyone was saving a place on the tour bus for someone else, even that loser Drucie waved her off. The good feelings from last night’s adventure drained away like sand down an hourglass. Chessie finally plopped down next to Jason Otis, the class clown, who poked her gut and called her the Michelin tire woman, then Miche for short. The name stuck on her like tar and soon everyone was calling her Miche: Hi, Miche. How’s it going, Miche?
“Oh, come on, Miche, lighten up,” cajoled Jason when he saw her looking glum. Then he started humming the Raffi song, “Baby Beluga in the Deep Blue Sea.” Chessie looked out the bus window and tried to ignore him. Tears stung her eyes, but she would not let herself cry. She had to suffer through this day, then one more, and the trip would be over.
Jason never managed to date the hot girls, but he always tried to flirt with them. On the bus, he waved around a brochure for a parasailing company called the Frayed Knot and poked Jaina Bricker on the arm. “Hey, Jaina, these people asked me if I wanted to go parasailing, but you know what I said?”
“Ask me if I care,” said Jaina.
“I said ‘fraid not. ‘Fraid not!”
“You are so immature,” said Jaina. She slicked her lips with some paint-on gloss then drew her hand through her highlighted hair so that people could see the two purple hickeys that tattooed her neck.
On the excursion boat, named La Ninfa Marina, the ice-pop girls peeled down to their teeny bikinis. Chessie stayed in her black cover shorts and black oversize tee. She knew she looked like a manatee in a lineup of Miss Americas. Everybody waxed, everybody slim. Not a spare tire or a rumple of cellulite among them, not even on Drucie, in her blue, polka-dotted, boyleg one-piecer. All the boys ogled all the girls. Chessie tried to tent her giant tee over her knees. Then, thankfully, the captain made everyone don puffy life vests.
As usual, Mr. Heyde and Ms. Chen were spending a lot of time with their heads together and not doing a very good job of supervising. A couple of kids were hooking up in a corner of the boat, and some of the guys boasted loudly about how many piña coladas and cervezas they had ordered with their borrowed IDs. Captain Sánchez, the skipper, finally blew a conch shell to get everyone’s attention. Chessie imagined the ancient Taino people calling to each other, but most of the kids just snickered.
The captain announced that the trip to Monkey Island and the snorkel stop at the shipwreck would take three hours. Jason burst into the Gilligan’s Island theme song about a three-hour tour, and all the kids, even Chessie, joined in looking pointedly at the teachers when the “professor and Mary Ann” part came up.
Ms. Chen turned toward them, red in the face. “Okay, people, you are officially in school right now,” she said. “I can and will be taking names of students who fail to pay attention or who show a lack of respect.”
Mr. Heyde nodded in approval.
The captain, a spry old guy who kept bragging that he was seventy-three years young, explained that Monkey Island was a breeding colony for rhesus monkeys. Only scientists were allowed to set foot on the island, but tourists could view the monkeys from a distance. That was strictly for the monkeys’ safety, said Sánchez, but when they approached the island, lush with foliage and shaggy palms, everyone saw a sign posted in a clump of trees:
These monkeys attack. Estos monos atacan.
“Don’t get too close or they’ll rip you to rhesus pieces! Rhesus pieces!” guffawed Jason as he made monkey sounds and a bite face. Everyone laughed. Even the teachers. Even Chessie. She liked seeing Jason make himself look silly.
“No, they are not aggressive at all,” said the captain. “Do you know what the most aggressive animal is?” One kid suggested tigers. Another sharks. Killer bees, offered Mr. Heyde. “No, it’s man,” said Sánchez with a solemn note in his voice.
Chessie cast a barbed glance at Jason and the ice-pop girls.
Captain Sánchez was a regular PR guy for the monkeys. He explained that the scientists mostly kept the rhesus monkeys here to observe their social behavior. “They are closest in behavior to humans. They divide themselves into two tribes. Just like the Democrats and the Republicans. The rulers are females, and the females remain in their tribes, but sometimes the males travel across borders to mate. And then they come back to their tribes.”
Mr. Heyde lifted his eyebrows. Ms. Chen focused on a distant seagull.
As they boated around the island, the girls smoothed sun block on each other, and everyone snapped pictures with their cell phones.
Chessie trained her sights on the island and was the first to spy a monkey in the trees. Then more and more appeared. Some ran along the beach. They were much bigger than she expected and looked like cougars, tawny and amazingly fast. They shimmied effortlessly up the palm trees. Captain Sánchez said they could even swim. Chessie saw a troop sprint across a spit of sand that separated one part of the island from another. From time to time, said the captain, researchers would remove a monkey for experiments, but then that monkey would be contaminated, and it was never returned to the island.
Chessie liked watching the monkeys doing their monkey business, but she also felt very sorry for them. In her psych class, she’d read of those terrible experiments in which baby monkeys were put in solitary confinement. She couldn’t forget that photograph of the wizened little baby monkey pathetically clinging to his robot-faced surrogate mom. Of course, the monkeys went mental. Treated like that who wouldn’t? At least here the monkeys had the run of the island with their monkey families and monkey friends.
For snorkeling at the wreck, everyone had to go in pairs. Chessie looked the other way so that Drucie wouldn’t choose her, and soon she was the odd one out. Mr. Heyde announced that Chessie would have to team with Aisha Moore and Samantha LeMieux. Samantha, the worst buddy possible! Hearing the order, Samantha made face like a Greek tragedy mask and drew her hands through her hair in mock woe. As soon as the captain anchored, Aisha and Samantha sprang from the boat into the shallow water, slipped on their flippers, spit into their diving masks, and took off without Chessie.
“Hey, wait up!” cried Chessie. Still wearing her cover shorts and her belt bag, she splashed into the warm Caribbean water and swam after the two girls. They didn’t stop or turn around. She rationalized that as long as she could see them she’d be okay.
Chessie felt light in the ocean, good in her skin. The water befriended her, made her one with its waves. The sea vegetation tickled her ankles. The grasses swayed in the current like meadow grass in a breeze, and, just like birds in the air, a few fish swam over the sea lawn. Chessie found swimming with the flippers nearly effortless. She got used to mouth-breathing through the snorkel tube in no time. She swished through the water with new-found grace and enjoyed an otherworldly peace.
Chessie followed Sam and Aisha to the shipwreck. Her hair floated around her like a dusky cloud. Looking down at the ocean floor on her way to the wreck, she spied a lost anchor stuck in the sand. Fuzzy with brownish algae, it made her think of human remains. She shivered and hastily flippered away from it.
The captain had explained that the ship, which had been carrying sugar, had sunk in the nineteen-forties in a storm, and its remains lay completely submerged in only eight feet of water. No one had died in the wreck, but it was spooky enough. The blackened ribs of the ship looked like a charred human skeleton. But pink and white coral colonies had formed on the rusted metal, and Chessie liked the way life and beauty had resumed in the ruins. Yellow and black striped fish, aquamarine fish with eyespots on their tails, little orange fish, and a host of others threaded in and out of the ship’s black bones. So mesmerized was Chessie that she had to remind herself to look about her in order not to collide with the jutting metal bars of the ship. All was tranquil and blissful. She even found a starfish, picked it up, examined it, and, with much care, returned it to the ocean floor.
Where were Samantha and Aisha? Chessie swirled around, looking in all directions. The girls had vanished. Surfacing and treading water, she could make out La Ninfa Marina maybe a quarter mile away. A hot shock of panic seared her nerves. Frantically she waved her arms and called out, “Over here! Don’t leave me!”
Crowned with palms and cavelike with thickets of lower-growth trees, Monkey Island loomed before her. Chessie was on the oceanside of the island, mainland nowhere in sight. Badly in need of rest, fearful of the monkeys, and furious at Samantha and Aisha—near tears in fact—Chessie swam toward the island, which was no more than twenty yards away. She reached walkable water and waded ashore.
The first thing that greeted her was a hideous iguana. It gave her a stupid dead-eyed look. She pushed her mask with its snorkel tube up over her forehead like a headband, cast off her life vest, removed her flippers and tucked them under her arm. She heard no human sounds, and that was eerie. On the other hand, with no one around, she wasn’t self-conscious about her shape. She felt free.
Also, she was famished. Good thing she had packed those energy bars. Chessie unwrapped a peanut butter, granola, and chocolate treat and took a bite. It was delicious. She finished the bar and, not one to litter, carefully tucked the wrapper back into her belt bag, then gasped when a rhesus monkey emerged from a patch of trees. It moseyed up to her and sat down on its haunches.
He—or was it she?—had a pinkish-red hairless face, light-colored eyes, and appeared to be the size of a fox. The hair on its head made it look like it was wearing a brush cut. A few more monkeys approached, looking at her quizzically. They were all tawny gray with long tails and white hair on their chests. None of the monkeys looked cheerful, but Chessie guessed that was just the way nature tugged down their mouths. At least they weren’t making comments about her weight or giving her the cold shoulder. And what funny little hands they had and long fingerlike toes. One of the monkeys had a ragged ear, and he stayed to the edge of the group. A mother monkey appeared cuddling a baby. The baby had an older-looking face than the mom, and the mom had flat saggy breasts with long red nipples. More and more monkeys gathered around Chessie. Soon, she was the center of attention. She had companionship. Companionship of a sort.
“I’m not a scientist,” she told the group. “So you don’t have to worry. I won’t hurt you. In fact, I think what you’ve gone through for science has been awful.” The primates looked at her intently as if trying to understand. She wondered what they’d evolve into in a couple million years. A few more appeared. They certainly did not seem to be an endangered species. And they didn’t look ferocious. Not aggressive at all. That’s what Captain Sánchez had said.
Watching her remove the other energy bar, a few of them made a low warbling sound. They looked hungry. She broke off a piece of the bar and tossed it to the mom and child couple. The baby monkey was cute. The mother monkey snatched up the treat, gobbled it, and warbled. More monkeys approached. One little fellow tugged at one of Chessie’s flippers and looked up at her with a sad face. She gave it a morsel. Then she doled out bits to several other monkeys until she had no food left. But the monkeys didn’t know that; they gathered closer. She found herself in the company of about two dozen animals.
“So what’s it like having the run of the island?” she asked, growing nervous. She recalled the warning sign in English and Spanish. Should she believe Captain Sánchez or the sign? Instinct told her that greater safety lay in keeping herself away from this crowd. But it was too late for that.
A couple of the animals grunted or purred. She reached out to pet the child monkey with the sad face. The mother monkey shot her arm out like a bolt of hairy lightning and took a swipe at Chessie. Chessie jumped back, screamed, and dropped her flippers. The mother threatened Chessie with a silent open-mouthed stare, ridged teeth and sharp canines in full display. Furious, Chessie glared back at her and, as she would to a dog, shouted, “No! No!” But these were wild animals, and Chessie’s response only incited them. They began to gang up on her. She backed away and snatched her fallen flippers from the rocky beach.
But when she looked up, she saw a big male, maybe an alpha, menacing her with his own open-mouthed stare, his fangs thicker and sharper than the female’s. His eyes, the color of tea, appeared steeped in intelligence. He reached for Chessie’s belt bag. She smacked him with a flipper. He hit her back then pounced and bit her on the arm. Chessie shrieked. Blood oozed from the two punctures left by his teeth. Trembling, she unclipped her belt bag and threw it as far as she could over the gang. They dashed over to it in search of food. One found her hotel key card and held it up like booty.
The alpha gave out a shrill chitter-chatter sound. A few others picked up the chitter-chatter. Then, without warning, a monkey jumped up and bit Chessie’s thigh. It sprang up again and bit her on the cheek. Hard. So close to her eye! Then, like a horde of superballs, other monkeys bounced up, biting her arms, neck, and legs. Blood ran from the puncture points. As if it couldn’t get worse, one nasty monkey pulled her cover shorts down to her ankles. Another climbed her like a palm tree and rummaged through her coconut-scented hair. Chessie violently flung her head to dislodge it. Finally, she grabbed its arm and tore the creature from her hair, smashing it onto the rocks. She hoped she put it out of action. Rhesus pieces. Jason’s joke came back to her. Then she lost her footing and fell. In the seconds she was down, the monkeys swarmed on her, biting, drawing more blood. One animal sank its fangs into her collarbone area and sheared through the shoulder strap of her swim suit. One boob fell out.
She would not die like this. She would not.
Scrambling up Chessie roared, “Raaahh!” She hurled rocks at the monkeys as hard as she could. Enraged, she aimed for their heads. They ducked, but she pegged a few, and when she did she felt deep triumph. Yet as before, her barrage only aggravated the gang. Again, they advanced. Flight. That was the thing. She ran to the shore and jammed on her flippers. Abandoning the mask and snorkel, she plunged clumsily into the surf and fell flat on her face in the shallows before she finally made it into swimmable water.
At first a few of the monkeys swam after her. Run, jump, climb, bite, swim—was there anything they couldn’t do? Miraculously, after a few moments, the monkeys fell back and returned to shore.
Kicking her legs, churning arm over arm through the water, Chessie powered herself out to sea. She felt little pain from the wounds and was grateful for whatever anesthesia the body’s chemicals had granted her. Her heart rate was way over its speed limit. She feared it would pound its way out of her chest. It would not have been far to the mainland, but she was on the oceanside of the island. She noticed thin streams of blood curlicuing in the water from her many wounds, and this made her fearful of sharks. Surely a rescuer would come. Then, with a gulp of air, she realized a rescuer might never come. In that case, would her death be fast or slow? How much would it hurt? Chessie imagined her parents, their faces numb with grief. She tried to see Samantha and Aisha haunted by a lifetime of guilt. That vision, at least, offered her some satisfaction.
In the far distance Chessie could see pleasure craft. A parasailer tethered to a boat soared high in the sky. She cried out, but her tiny human voice meant nothing in the vastness.
Chessie knew that she had to regain her strength in order to swim some more, so she decided to take a break and float for awhile. She realized she’d been swimming with one breast out. She felt okay about that. She felt elemental. About sharks there was nothing she could do, though she did hear of divers punching them in the nose as a last resort. Rest. If nothing else, she could rest. Chessie turned over to a back float and almost dozed off. The sun grew larger and more orange in the west.
The sound of a motorboat, the first human sound she’d heard in hours, buzzed at the edges of her hearing. It was the most beautiful sound, better than the best symphony. She scanned the waters then found the source, a little white open boat with one man in it, a fisherman, hoping for an evening catch. “Help! ¡Auxilio!” she shrieked and waved her arms in the air. Somehow the fisherman saw or heard her. When she saw that he was heading her way, she nearly levitated with joy.
But it was hard to haul her into the boat. Chessie removed her flippers and tossed them aboard, but the little craft nearly capsized as the man, a skinny sinewy guy managed to pull and drag Chessie to a point where, beyond all modesty, she threw one leg over a gunwale and dumped herself safely inside. Her suit was askew and her naked breast stared out. Chessie did her best to cover it with her arms and long hair.
The fisherman threw off his shirt and helped her put it on. Shaking uncontrollably, Chessie clamped her hands from arm to chest to neck to cheek to thigh over her many wounds trying to stanch the oozing blood. And now, given its chance, the pain had started to stab her.
“Díos mio. Díos mio,” he kept saying, plus some other stuff that Chessie couldn’t understand. She sat in the boat looking at the fisherman and at the endless water and sky and began to cry in huge, choking, convulsive sobs. The fisherman put his hand on an unbitten part of her shoulder and called her hija. His kindness made her cry more. She kept thanking the man and felt bad that he had to go home without his fish for dinner.
The fisherman, his name was Jorge, took Chessie back to his little house where his wife, a big woman, washed her wounds with soap and water and made some bandages with towels. She gave Chessie a shift and even some underpants. The towels helped slow the bleeding, but the wounds still throbbed. Chessie asked the woman to please write down their name and address. “Para agradecerles luego,” she said, hoping she got the por and para thing right. They stroked her hair and told her she was a good person who didn’t deserve to suffer. Or at least that’s what she thought they said. Then some police arrived and rushed her to a hospital.
The ER doctor gave her an antibiotic, a tetanus shot, and a painkiller. He cleaned her wounds and bandaged them. Then he told her that she’d need a series of rabies shots and an antiviral for herpes in case the monkeys carried it, which they sometimes did. “Just precautions,” he said as he administered the drugs. Chessie started to cry. Herpes? Rabies? All this because the girls and the teachers had left her behind. “All will be well,” the doctor assured her. “You’ll heal. Señorita, you are one tough gal.”
A flurry of phone calls followed. To her parents, still in Montreal. To the hotel in San Juan. The teachers. The airline.
“Where have you been?” demanded Mr. Heyde with a scold in his voice. Chessie was incensed. How dare he try to flip the blame to her?
“Just get my handbag out of the room safe, pack my bag, and bring them to the hospital,” she ordered, sounding very grown up, very much in charge, and in no mood to account to him. Two hours later, her things arrived, and a cab stood waiting to take her to the aeropuerto.
Standing with her wheelie bag, ready to board the plane, gazing at her many wounds, Chessie could hardly believe that she had been attacked by wild animals, battled them, swum out to sea, been rescued by a fisherman. And yet she had.
A week later, Chessie was back at school sporting tank tops and low-cut sundresses that revealed her combat wounds. To Chessie, the scabs and scars gleamed like garnets surrounded by orchids of bruises. Her first errand was to shop for a suitable replacement shirt for Jorge and a dress for his wife, which she promptly mailed to her saviors in Puerto Rico. At first, when neighbors and store clerks eyed the gruesome array upon her skin and asked what happened, Chessie would recount the whole saga. But she soon found that she loathed repeating the shocking events to every questioner. So she took to simply saying, “The monkeys did it.” Then she would look at her interrogators mildly as her bedizened skin stared back. Sometimes people’s faces froze with sad or startled looks as if she’d been attacked at the zoo or by vicious pets. But others looked at her as if she were a smart-aleck, a lunatic, maybe even a self-cutter.
In the principal’s office for a mediation session, Chessie’s eyes were dry. Her parents had wanted to come along for support, but Chessie said she preferred to go it alone. After all, she’d fought off the monkeys by herself and practically swam her heart out. She could deal with this.
When asked to tell their side of the story, Samantha and Aisha claimed that it was really Chessie’s fault for going off on her own.
Thrusting a monkey-bitten arm at them, Chessie sprang up. “I wasn’t going off by myself. I was looking at the fish in the wreck. You’re the ones who abandoned me.” Her voice was hot and harsh. “What do you think a buddy system means?” Sam and Aisha rolled their painted eyes.
“And as for you,” she glared at Mr. Heyde and Ms. Chen, “some leaders you were.” The bite marks on her neck flared redder. “Didn’t you even think to take a head count on the boat?”
“We figured she was picked up by some of the researchers,” Mr. Heyde said to the principal, his voice thick with self-justification. He avoided eye contact with Chessie.
The next day Mr. Heyde and Ms. Chen were gone, replaced with substitutes. A few of the kids who had been on the trip to Puerto Rico waved to Chessie in the hallways. But it was a big high school, and, for the most part, the students from the trip diffused into the many crowds.
Surprisingly, the kids on the swim team seemed to hold her in high esteem. They said stuff to her like way to go and gave her the thumbs up sign.
For a while, rumors of what happened to Chessie Partrell flowed through the student body. Some kids whispered that researchers had put Chessie in a cage and experimented on her. According to others, she had sex with the monkeys. Theories about her escape involved pirates, a millionaire on a yacht, and a helicopter search operation. But in all versions this image emerged: that of a girl alone in the sea with clouds of long dark hair, a sort of chubby mermaid pulling through the water: Chessie Partrell, monkey fighter.
Lynn Levin lives in Pennsylvania, and, while she did not get stranded on Monkey Island, she did snorkel in the nearby wreck. Lynn’s newest books are Miss Plastique, a collection of poems, and Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets, a creative writing textbook. She has published fiction in Cleaver, The Rag, and Press 1. This is her first work of young adult fiction. She teaches at Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania.