All day, students smile at me dramatically and say, “See you tonight, Amber,” way too much.

I mean, I’m all about a good variety show, but it seems like people are really going nuts for The Save Bobby Big Boy Variety Show.


Too nuts.

I skip lunch, and go right to The Franks Lair.

When I enter, thirty students stop speaking and turn to face me.

Total frickin’ silence.

“What’s going on?” I say.

“We’re finalizing tonight’s plan,” Franks says.

“Cool,” I say.

From Das Boot, Chad says, “If you come in right now, it’s going to ruin the surprises.”

“Surprises—plural?” I ask.

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“Come on, Amber,” Jared says. “Just trust us.”

“Am I still emceeing?” I ask.

“All’s you have to do is show up at the auditorium at six forty-five,” Ty says.

“What time does the show start?”

“Eight,” Franks says. “See you then.”

“Okay,” I say, feeling quite weird and a little embarrassed by how little I have had to do with the preparation.

I chill outside for a bit, and then finish up my school day.

Ty drives Ricky and me to Donna’s, and after I take BBB out—I actually take a nap. I’m always tired lately. Naps are becoming my favorite. Word.

I wake up to Donna yelling, “We have to get you to the auditorium in less than an hour!”

So I get up and shower.

Makeup is applied.

Hair is blown dry.

Silver prom dress is put on my pre-woman body.

Red pumps are put on my nasty feet.

Prayer is said to JC—with much conviction and hope. “Please help everyone to be who they need to be tonight! Amen!”

Ricky is wearing a tuxedo.

“You look dapper, Ricky!”

“Amber Appleton is wearing a silver dress!”

“Are you ready for this?” Donna asks, and I nod once.

Amber Appleton, Bobby Big Boy, and Ricky Roberts are driven to the CPHS auditorium in Donna’s Mercedes with the heated seats on.

When we arrive, there is this huge line to get into the auditorium. There are no seat numbers, so if you want a good seat, you have to line up early.

We have to walk past this line to get to the stage.

When the crowd sees me, they actually start cheering—as if I were a rock star.

No bull.

There are hundreds of people lined up—all looking at me with these really sympathetic eyes.

We pass a section of Korean people—maybe forty of them.

We pass a group of women who look a lot like Door Woman Lucy.

And we pass a lot of Childress citizens.

Halfway up the line, some reject starts chanting, “Amber! Amber! Amber!”

All of the morons in line start doing the chant, and I start to blush.

When I notice that Donna is also chanting, I elbow her and say, “Stop.”

She laughs at me and keeps on chanting—like a complete dork.

When we get to the front of the line, Ricky heads into the auditorium, and I start to cry.

The first person in line is Private Jackson.

He’s in a yellow button-down shirt, like always.

He has his ticket in his hand—as if he’s some excited kid waiting to get into a ball game.

He’s smiling at me all proud of himself.

I know this is the first time he’s been out in public—besides walking Ms. Jenny and getting groceries—probably since he came home from ’Nam.

“What are you doing here?” I ask.

BBB licks PJ’s hand.

PJ pets BBB’s head, and says, “I wanted a front row seat, so I came early.”

“How did you even know about this?” I ask, because I never told him about The Save Bobby Big Boy Variety Show.

“A boy with a beard, he came to my house and told me that you would appreciate it if I came tonight. So I came. Why didn’t you tell me about this?”

Ty. I could kiss him.

“Must have been enjoying the tea-drinking moments too much,” I say, and then I get PJ through door security, which is pretty much the bearded history teacher who asked if Ricky was okay when I was tickling him in the hallway three months back and a gym teacher I don’t know who lifts a lot of weights.

Inside the auditorium, Donna and Private Jackson take center front row seats—the best seats in the house. And I can tell Donna thinks Private Jackson is handsome, because she sits sideways in her chair and leans forward a little toward him, so that PJ will get a good view of her boob crack.

I smile, and then carry BBB backstage.

There are a crapload of people backstage:

Chad in Das Boot, Jared, Ricky, and Franks are in tuxedos.

Lex Pinkston and the entire football team have greased their hair and half are wearing leather jackets and jeans and white T-shirts—so that they look like they have just stepped out of the ’50s—and the other half are wearing black pants, purple button-down shirts, and pointy dress shoes.

The KDFCs are all wearing identical beautiful gold dresses.

Father Chee is in his penguin suit.

Door Woman Lucy is in a tight red dress and killer heels—she is also wearing hair extensions and much glitzy makeup, all of which makes her look like Queen Latifah, who is entirely awesome and another woman I admire.

The black men with instruments—whom I assume are The Hard-Working Brothers, since they are the only brothers backstage besides Ty—those guys are dressed in black suits and wearing white shirts, black skinny ties, and old-school sunglasses with green lenses. Whenever I look at one of The Hard-Working Brothers, they all nod at me as if they are a unit—connected or something.

Ty is at a table just offstage, punching away at a laptop that controls the mics and lights and curtain and sound system. He’s dressed like every other day in jeans and a red hoodie sweatshirt. I smile at him because he got Private Jackson out tonight, but Ty’s too busy with the laptop and doesn’t notice me.

There are cheerleaders dressed in their uniforms.

Two hippie-looking kids with acoustic guitars.

A pimply kid in a medieval jester costume with a hat that looks like a red and yellow palm tree.

And then I see two old men in red sports jackets standing off to the side all alone, one with an oxygen bottle, so I run up to Old Man Linder and Thompson and say, “You guys are singing tonight?”

“We’re opening up the show!” Old Man Thompson says.

“You know it,” Old Man Linder says, and then pinches my cheek.

“I thought no one wanted to hear old men sing?”

“You said that?” Old Man Thompson says.

“That bearded classmate of yours over there convinced me otherwise,” Old Man Linder says, and when I look back at Ty, I smile. He looks so serious at his laptop—so loyal, so dedicated, so like a good friend should.

“You have to make power circle!” Sueng Hee of The KDFCs says to me, and then pulls me and BBB toward the middle of everyone.

“You got something to say before we take the stage?” Door Woman Lucy says.

I look around at all of the faces, some of which I love, some of which I do not even know—all of which I can plainly see need me to say something hopeful so that they will be able to rock Childress High School.

“I want to thank everyone for coming out tonight,” I say. “It means a lot to me and Bobby Big Boy, who is cancer free, thank God.”

I pause, because I know that the night requires more of me.

I have to be more than a teenage girl.

I have to move people—get them pumped up.

I have to be a rock star.

So I say, “Everyone form a big old circle. Arms around your neighbors’ shoulders. Feel the love, people! Feel the love! Ty, you too. Get your butt over here!”

Ty looks up from the computer and then takes his place in the power circle.

Maybe more than fifty people are surrounding BBB and me—all with arms around each other, all watching me.

“Bow those heads,” I say. “If you don’t believe in JC, well then feel free to sub in whatever deity you dig! If you are an atheist like Ricky, then just humor me, okay?”

Everybody except Ricky bows his or her head.

I close my eyes and say, “JC, you got some good people gathered together down here for a good cause. Please be with all of these good people tonight. Help them be whoever they need to be. Please let us rock. Please let us move some people—so they don’t ask for their money back. Be with us tonight, JC. Amen.”

“Amen!” most of my people say, and then start to unlink their arms from their neighbors’ shoulders.

“Get those arms back around those shoulders!” I yell.

Everyone does what I say.

I start stomping my left foot.

Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!

Everyone catches on.

Fifty-some feet are stomping now.

The floor below us seems to be moving.

“If the people in the house are feeling all right tonight, say ‘Yeah!’ ”


“If the people in the house are feeling all right tonight, say ‘Hell yeah!’ ”

“Hell yeah!”

“I can’t hear you!”


Stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp!

“If you’re ready to rock Childress Public High School tonight say, ‘Woo! Woo!’”

“Woo! Woo!”

Stomp, stomp, stomp.

I can’t think of any other cool empowering jazz to say, so I end with, “Bring it in for some love! Everyone put a hand in the middle of the circle.”

I quickly see that Das Boot is going to mess up the unity, so I say, “Scratch that. Everyone put a hand on Chad’s head!”

We all circle Das Boot.

We all put a hand on Chad’s head—well, most of us do, and the rest put hands on the shoulders of people who have their hands on Chad’s head.

“Watch the hair, people,” Chad says.

“Thank you for helping me pay my vet bill,” I say. “I love you people. All of you. On three, we say, ‘Go time.’ One, two, three!”

“Go time!” everyone yells.

And when they back away from Das Boot, they look pretty pumped up.

Suddenly, on the other side of the front curtain, the crowd is chanting, “Amber! Amber! Amber!”

And I think, Damn, I really am a rock star.

“You look good in that dress,” Ty says.

“Thanks, I made it myself,” I say, and then he returns to his laptop.

“How was the prayer?” I ask Father Chee.

“God was very pleased,” FC says.

“How do you know?” I ask.

“He told me!” FC says.

“Did He tell you if tonight was going to work out?”

“Yes, He told me that too.”

“What did He say?” I ask.

“He says it’s time for you to take the stage,” FC says, and then points to Franks, who is standing by the edge of the curtain waving me over. “Better hurry.”

I carry BBB over to Franks, who says, “Okay, Amber. Before each act, I give you a note card. You read the info on the card, and then you announce the act any way you see fit. Cool?”

“Cool,” I say.

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