“What?” she says.

“Amber Appleton,” Prince Tony says from his office doorway. “How the heck are you?”


“Cool,” I say, “but I need to book the auditorium for a variety show. It’s got to be a Friday night, because that’s when the most people will come out. I need to raise money to pay for my dog’s operation.”

“What are you talking about, Amber?”

“Can I talk to you in your office?” Franks says.

“I’m not sure I—” Prince Tony says, but Franks forces him into the office and then closes the door before I can sneak in.

I’m sorta mad at Franks for excluding me while making the Prince Tony pitch, so I decide to make my own announcement before homeroom even starts.

I walk over to the microphone Franks uses to make the morning announcements and ask Mrs. Baxter how to make myself heard all over the school.

“You just push the red button, but I don’t think you should be—”

I push the red button and say, “Attention fellow Childress High School classmates. This is Amber Appleton. The girl whose mother was murdered. I don’t want to talk to you about that, so please do not bring it up, okay? I would like to invite you to participate in The Save Bobby Big Boy Variety Show, which will raise money for my dog’s operation, which he had last night. He might have cancer. I have to pay two or three grand for that, and I’m broke. So please help me do this by signing up to be in the variety show, or by buying a ticket—those will go on sale soon after I iron the details out with Prince Tony. Cool? Thanks. Peace out. Amber Appleton.”

When I finish my announcement, Prince Tony and Franks are smiling at me from Prince Tony’s office.

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“Are you cool with my making an announcement?” I ask.

“I think this variety show is a great idea. I’m one hundred percent behind it,” PT says, and then takes me into his office so we can discuss dates, while Franks does the morning announcements. PT shows me all of the available dates for the auditorium, I pick a Friday night three and a half weeks from today, and he tells me that Mrs. Baxter will handle all ticket sales, but that we should feel free to collect donations and sell program advertisements around town; PT says that all of the advertisement checks should be made out to the high school. “You can get Mr. Valerie to do the programs. He does all of the theater programs. I’ll talk to him about it today. It’s good to have you back in the building, Amber. It’s so good to see you.”

“Cool to all of that,” I say, and then go to my first period class.

No one—not even teachers—asks me about my mom all day, but craploads of people—many of whom I’ve never even met—want to be in BBB’s variety show. At first I write down the names and ideas in a notebook, but after I fill seven pages, I realize that we will need to have an elimination audition, or something, and I’m sorta amazed at how well my plan is working.

During lunch Ricky and I blow off socialization time in the lunchroom and go to The Franks Lair, where kids aren’t playing video games but are actually brainstorming marketing techniques for The Save Bobby Big Boy Variety Show.

When Franks sees me, he says, “Amber, will you take a walk with me?”

“Sure. Why?” I ask.

The Five are looking at me really funny.

“Come on,” Franks says, and then leads me outside of the building, where it is pretty springlike and sunny.

“The guys want to surprise you with the acts,” Franks says. “They want to put together the variety show for you, and then let you emcee the event.”

“What? Why?” I ask.

“They think it would be fun.”

“So they don’t want me to be involved at all?”

“We want you to drum up support and enthusiasm. We want you to emcee and to be the star, but we want the acts to be a surprise.”

“I don’t understand why they would want that,” I say.

“Because they want you to be surprised.”

“How will I emcee if I don’t know what acts are involved?”

“We’ll make you note cards.”

“So I have to trust you?” I ask.

“Yeah,” Franks says. “Trust your friends too.”

“Do you think we can raise enough money to pay for BBB’s operation?”

“I do,” he says, and then smiles confidently. “We will. I promise.”

Franks is a man of his word, so I start to feel better—relieved, excited. “Okay,” I say. “Just leave one slot open, because I got an act lined up already. As soon as I confirm the act, I’ll put you in contact with the right people.”

“Cool,” Franks says.

I go back into the lunchroom and buy some food with Donna’s twenty.

A billion people ask me to sit with them, which is weird, so I go outside, eat alone, and start to worry about how BBB is doing.

After I finish my turkey hoagie, I go to the pay phone by the gym, drop in some change, and dial Weissmuller Pets of Childress.

“Hello, Weissmuller Pets. How may I help you?”

“May I speak with Dr. Weissmuller please?” I ask.

“He’s with a patient, can I take a message?”

“It’s Amber Appleton, I just want to—”

“Hold on, Amber, I’ll put him on the line. Just hold for a second, okay?”


I hear easy listening music for a few long moments—before Dr. Weissmuller says, “Hello?”

“This is Amber Appelton. Bobby Big Boy. My dog. Is he okay?”

“The surgery went well. Your dog’s tumor was sent out for a biopsy. BBB is recovering, but he is fine.”

“Thank you so much, Dr. Weissmuller. I’ll be in later today.”

“Bobby Big Boy should be ready to go home by seven tonight.”

“Thank you,” I say, and hang up, trying hard not to cry like a chick, but of course, I do leak a few tears.

I say a little thank-you prayer to JC, and then I finish my school day—working on my prom dress a little in Life Skills and daydreaming through my real classes.

By the end of the day there are posters and signs hung up all over the hallways.

The Save Bobby Big Boy Variety Show

Presented by Amber Appleton

April 24—Friday Night

Save the Date

Some have pictures of Bobby Big Boy on them and I wonder how that came to be.


Bearded Ty drives Ricky and me home in his Volvo station wagon, and as we drive, I ask him why The Five want to keep the acts a surprise.

“Don’t you like surprises?” he asks me.

“Sure,” I say.


“Ricky Roberts is going to do Stump the Mathematician.”

“Well, I know one act, eh?” I say.

Ty looks at me in the rearview and smiles through his beard.


After I get Ricky doing math problems at the kitchen table, I ride Donna’s bike through the ghetto to the Korean Catholic Church for the first time without BBB, doing the “I hope you are having a great day!” trick the whole way there, which always makes me feel good, because I dig lighting up people’s faces.

When I get there, Father Chee is not out front because he is not expecting me. I haven’t talked to him since I told him I couldn’t be what he needed me to be anymore.

The church door is locked, so I knock, and after a few minutes, Father Chee appears.

I ride my bike inside, and Father Chee locks the door behind me.

“You left your room,” FC says to me.

“I’m out,” I say as I hop off Donna’s bike. “And I’m sorry.”

“For what?” FC says with a smile.

I give him a big old hug.

“Welcome back,” FC says as he pats my back all fatherly.

When we let go, FC asks, “Where is BBB?”

So I tell him all about B Thrice’s tumor, The Save Bobby Big Boy Variety Show, and also about how we will know whether BBB is going to live within a week.

“I will pray for BBB,” Father Chee says. “The KDFCs have missed you. Want to say hello?”

“Hell yeah,” I say, and then we walk into the sanctuary.

The KDFCs are sitting around with English-Korean dictionaries. They are all writing Korean into what looks like new songbooks.

“Jesus sent us Aretha Franklin’s Greatest Hits,” Father Chee explains, and then yells something in Korean.

The Korean Divas for Christ look up and then attack me, giving me so many long drawn-out hugs that I think I might pop!

In English, they all tell me that they are sorry about my mom, and then they say a lot of things to me in Korean, which Father Chee translates into English.

These things they say in their native language are so heartfelt, so beautiful, The KDFCs make me cry, which makes them cry and hug me even more.

Finally, I tell them about Bobby Big Boy’s tumor, and The KDFCs start hugging me again and shaking their heads and talking very quickly in Korean.

So I tell them about The Bobby Big Boy Variety Show and ask them if they will perform—if they will do a few Supremes songs to help me raise money to pay for BBB’s operations.

The KDFCs look down at their feet.

“What?” I say.

Father Chee says something in Korean.

Yung Mi says something back.

Sun says something to Yung Mi.

Na Yung shakes her head, and offers her opinion.

Hye Min yells at Na Yung.

And then all of The KDFCs are bickering in Korean.

Father Chee tells me, “Some of the women want to perform, but others think that their English is not good enough yet, and that they will embarrass you and themselves.”

“Are you kidding me?” I ask them very loudly. “You guys are frickin’ pros.”

“We good backup singers,” Sun says, “but we need good English-speaking front woman. True diva.”

“Amber is the true diva,” Na Yung says.

“No, no. I’m emceeing,” I tell them.

“Why not sing with them?” Father Chee says.

But I don’t want to sing with them. I know I should sing because I am one of The Korean Divas for Christ—even if I am not actually Korean by birth, only by association—and also I shouldn’t ask people to do something that I am not willing to do, which I fully realize, but the truth is I’m not really feeling up to the task of rock-starring in front of all my classmates, especially after my mother’s death, and so the bickering continues amongst The Korean Divas for Christ, until I change the subject and simply help them translate “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”

While Father Chee jogs me home, he says, “You have to realize that you are the only white person many of our church members have had any meaningful contact with. Walking into an English-speaking high school like yours terrifies them.”

“I can understand that,” I say. “Believe me.”

“But if you would sing with them—behind you, a true diva—I think they would sing at the variety show.”

“I’m not a true diva,” I tell him. “I’m just a crappy English teacher who uses R & B as a teaching tool.”

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