The Seventh Grade
I remember clearly the day John arrived．
I was sitting in our drab1) living room，bored．The whole house，in fact，seemed to me very lifeless．My mother had furnished it with plain furniture．The walls were each assigned a dull art piece，just to be proper．All the rooms were colorless and plain，except one．It was the room in the attic2)．That room was never boring．Ever since I could remember it had always been full of the belongings
of a boarder
3)．Sometimes it was a relative or a friend，but most of the time it was just a stranger．Someone like John．
John arrived one Saturday afternoon in September．Our last boarder
had gone off and gotten
married or something so the attic room was free．I'd anticipated his arrival longingly．The boarder
s were the only break from the dullness of my life．When the doorbell rang，I wanted to jump up and answer it．I cont rolled myself，however．"Mother"always answered the door．"What if it is someone important？"she would say．"What would they think，a child answering the door？"I used to wonder how long she was going to call me a child．
out4) of the spotless kitchen，the creases in her grey flannel
5) pants swaying slightly．As she reached the door she typically placed her hand on the fierce knot of mouse－brown hair at the nape of her neck．
"Yes，it's still there，"I mused silently．
When she was satisfied that everything was in order，she unlatched the door and swung it open．There stood John．
He was slightly taller than Mother（still not very tall）．He had longish blond hair that sort of hung in his eyes．He was wearing a faded denim jacket，red jeans and a black and yellow striped
teeshirt．On his feet were yellow sneakers－without laces6)．One look at him and I knew I would like him．One look at Mother's face and I knew she wasn't thinking the same thing．She didn't voice her disdain
7)，however．She stepped politely
aside and said，"Come in．My name is Mrs．Dawson．"
"Hello，"John said，barely audibly8)，"I'm John Steele．"I jumped up and greeted him warmly．"Hi．I'm Kate．"I said．
"Katherine，you needn't be so loud，"My mother criticized．I pretended not to notice John cocking his eyebrow．
Though Mother may have had doubts，John turned out to be the perfect boarder
．He had all his stuff brought in the next day while we were out at church．He was neat，quiet and polite．He almost never ate with us．That was lucky for him because Mother was a horrible cook．She wouldn't let me cook either．"Not until you've learned
how at school，"she would say．I often wondered where she had learned
Anyway，all went well for about a month until one day I bought a new Beatles record and had it playing very loud when Mother came home from work．John was in the living room with me and he did something I hadn't expected．As Mother walked into the front hall and shouted"Kath－er－ine，"pronouncing each syllable
harshly，John jumped up and put his hands on the dials of the stereo．Mother appeared in the doorway and stood silently while John removed the record．He turned around to look at her．
"We do not play our music that loud in this household，John，"she said severely．John looked down at his yellow sneakers now with laces courteously
9) provided by the woman who was glaring at him．"Is that understood？"Mother asked．
"Yes ma'am，"John answered．Then，as Mother stride
off to her room，John looked up and flashed me a big smile．I was too shocked to smile back．John was the first boarder
we had ever had who seemed to care about me．
I liked him a lot，but I didn't really understand him．He was so quiet，yet he seemed so care free．He didn't seem to care that he had no money，or that he was living in a dingy10) town with nothing going for it．I wished I could be more like him，but there was always Mother telling me I was too young to do this or too old to do that．John seemed so free．Freedom was some thing Mother did not condone．She was really beginning to bother me at this point．Being in grade seven，I really was too young for some things and too old for the rest．Mother just made the feeling of"stuck－in－the－middleness"worse by always reminding me．
One night she was yelling at me for wan ting to stay out later than ten on weekends．I just sat and listened to her rave about being worried and trying
to maintain discipline in a fatherless home etc．As she was telling me about children needing lots of rest，John appeared in the doorway behind her．His expression was one of dismay，like he didn't understand why she was yelling at me．He didn't look at me though．His eyes seemed to be fixed on the knot of hair at Mother's neck．That knot，the perfect symbol
of strictness，properness and boredom．
I knew John wanted to butt in，but he knew it was none of his business．Or perhaps he wanted me to deal with Mother．He looked down and walked away．His appearance，however，gave me inspiration．I stood up and yelled（a little louder than I should have）"Mother，you're being so conservative．"
"Young lady，you will not raise your voice to me，"Mother said，eyes blazing．"Oh，for Christ's sake，"I muttered．Another mistake．
"You can go to your room without dinner，Katherine．We do not take the Lord's name in vain．"
Knowing that more arguing would do no good，I heaved an exaggerated sigh and trudged off up to my room．As I stomped up the stairs，I heard John say he was going out for a while and the door slam shut．
About an hour later there was a knock at my bedroom door．I opened it．John was standing there with a bag of chocolate caramel11) chews and at all glass of milk．He smiled．
"I thought you might like a snack，"he said．
"Thanks，"I said，a bit surprised．John started to leave；then he stopped and turned around．
"You know，you shouldn't talk back to your mother，"he said speaking
slowly and carefully．"It does no good at your age．Mothers are confuse d between being a mother and a friend．They soon get over it．Just wait．"He smiled and left，closing the door behind him．
Later that night，after I had gone to bed，I heard noises from John's room．Since I was wide awake I decided
to investigate．I tiptoed up the attic stairs，careful to skip the seventh step because it squeaked atrociously．John's door was open and he was sitting on his bed，fully dressed，softly playing the guitar
．He looked up and saw me．
"Hello，"he said．"What are you doing up？"
"I heard you．What are you doing？"I asked．
"I'm．．．"he paused，"writing a song，"he finished．
"Really？"I asked．"That's neat．"
"Yeah，"John said smiling．"Did you enjoy the cookies？"
"Oh，yeah．There are some left－－here．"I passed him the half full bag．He took one out and bit into it pensively．
"Do you write a lot of songs？"I asked，not knowing what else to say．
"Tons，"he answered．"In fact，that's all I do．Well，I sing them too．"
"You're a musician．I didn't know that．"
"Yep，I am．Someday I'll have a best－selling album and be rich and famous．"
I laughed at his optimism．
"I will，you know，"he insisted．"Why not？Other people have done it．"
"I guess so，"I said．"I never thought of it that way．"
"I suggest you start thinking'that way．'It would make it easier to get through this time．"
"What time？"I asked．
John bit his lip，searching for the right expression．
"The in－between time，"he finally said．"Too young but too old．You know －－seventh grade．"He stopped and licked the chocolate from his fingers，then he went on．"You go through lots of in－betweens in your life．You just got to stick it out．I figure you can't go backwards
and you can' t stay in the middle so you have to get to the other side somehow．"
"I'm in an in－between time now－－between being nothing and something，but I don't let it get me down．I live happy in the present，but I don't forget the future because right now，it's all I have．"
He looked up，straight at me．The help lessness in his eyes shocked me and his silent gaze pierced my heart like a dagger．Then it was gone and his cheerfulness
"I may not have much now，but it'll get better．I'm gonna make it．"He tapped his guitar
with his fingers．
"I wish I could feel that way，"I said softly．
"You can．"he insisted．"Don't you have dreams？"
"Well，keep dreaming them．They'll get you through．It's alright to have dreams；it's just a bad word for ambition anyway．"
"Yeah，you're right．"I perked up a bit．
"Of course I'm right．I'm always right．Come here．"
I leaned forward and he kissed me on the forehead saying，"As Mick Jones says，'Go easy，step lightly，stay free．'"
"Free．What about Mother？"I asked，blushing．
"Oh，mother．Let me take care of mother．"
"What are you going to do？"
"Oh，I don't know，"his lips formed an evil smile．"Maybe I'll kill her．"
I laughed loudly．John winced at the noise and mouthed the words"go to bed．"I got up and crept back to my room（skipping the seventh stair）．I slept peacefully
I don't know what John said to Mother，but the next day she asked him to move out．His things were assembled by that evening．He never said a word to me but as he walked out to his friend's truck，he turned back to me and held up seven fingers for good luck and then two for peace．I did the same with tears in my eyes．
I cried myself to sleep that night and wouldn't eat the next day，but strangely enough，Mother didn't say anything．In fact she left me pretty much alone for a long，long time after that．
Well，I'm in grade ten now，and I'm supposed to be an adult．I'm supposed to solve my own problems and deal with my own emotions．Mother's still－－well－－a mother，and life's still dull，but there are little things that give hope．Like last week，I was in Sound City，and there was John's face on the cover of the number one selling album．You know what he called it？The Seventh Grade．
by Gabrielle Prendergast
1. drab adj. 灰暗的，单调的
2. attic n. 阁楼, 顶楼
n. 寄膳者, 寄膳宿者, 寄宿生
6. lace n. 鞋带
n. 轻蔑, 蔑视
8. audibly adv. 可听见地
10. dingy adj. 暗黑的, 邋遢的
11. caramel  n. 奶糖, 饴糖