Oh Jane. It’s so hard to be rich.
The rest of us might celebrate our sixteenth birthdays with a pizza party in our basement rec room or maybe dinner at our local Cool Restaurant, but when you’re a Boston Barrett, it’s just not that simple, my friends. Our opening scene makes that crystal-clear. It is now September of the girls’ junior year, and they have all apparently made it safely back from their Texas adventure. Jane is awoken by a phone call from her mother suggesting plans for her upcoming Sweet Sixteen. Mrs. Barrett invites Jane to bring her friends to Boston for a party at their family’s country club. Jane (quite ungratefully, I might add) thinks that sounds way too stuffy for Cary, Mr. Fight-the-Establishment. Since such an event would bore her boyfriend, she tells her mother that she’d rather stay at Canby Hall and celebrate with her friends there. Despite being understandably disappointed, her mother very graciously tells her she’ll send $300 to cover whatever kind of party they want to throw, as well as a very special gift.
Jane and her roommates start brainstorming party possibilities now that they’re soon to be flush with cash. They reminisce about how last year this time they were barely speaking, and that Andy thought Jane was “Ms. Boston Cream Pie — rich and messy.” Always a one-track mind, Andy suggests going to the ballet. Again, Jane says Cary would find that boring. Jane wants to go to a nice restaurant. Andy says that’s no fun for her since she grew up working in one. (Really???) Jane pitches the idea of New York City. Thus focused, Andy suggests a baseball game and Coney Island. Toby suggests the Bronx Zoo. Jane shudders at the thought of either place. She wants to go to the opera and museums, which if you ask me is reasonable given that it’s her birthday, and again it’s pointed out that Cary would never tolerate such a culture marathon. Why are you dating such a doofus if he won’t share a few of your interests once a year?
They head to the Greaf for sustenance, and also to ask the opinion of the Man himself, since what Cary likes is apparently the only thing that matters here. Once there, Andy asks him for his thoughts, and he says they happen to be on sale. She asks for them well-done, but alas, he says, “Only my burgers are well-done. My thoughts are rare.” Nuff said! Cary is in a great mood because his band Ambulance has been booked to play the Hillsboro Homecoming. (His band got the gig because the original band, The Print Outs, had to cancel. Let’s hear it for anachronistic ’80s names!) It is never made clear whether Hillsboro is a high school or a college, but it is very clear that Cary believes this will be their big break. If so, why aren’t the bands that played my high school prom all over Spotify? Inquiring minds want to know.
In any case, the girls ask what he thinks they should do for Jane’s birthday. He says the Space Cadets are playing at Musicland, and that although their music is “pretty far out,” that should take care of Jane’s birthday plans. Jane hesitantly starts to say that although she loves rock concerts, that wasn’t exactly what she had in mind for her Sweet Sixteen, and Cary goes off sulking. What a gem! Forget what I said in my last post about Jane being a tool for cheating on him. These two deserve each other! (After all the angst of the last book, by the way, there is not one mention of Beau Stockton in this one. How soon we forget!) Anyway, Andy’s boyfriend Matt then shows up and tosses in his suggestion, which is sailing. Jane again brings up a fancy restaurant. The others all throw cold water on the idea. Jane finally says what I’ve been thinking, which is that it’s her birthday (and her parents’ money, I might add.) Their responses tell her that if she insists on having her way, they’ll all put on happy faces and pretend to be having a good time, which she doesn’t want. So she opts for a secret ballot. Cary surreptitiously votes for a French restaurant. Jane, in a similar vein, votes for a rock concert. Andy votes for a ballet but thinks better of it and votes for a baseball game. Toby votes for a barbecue and the zoo. Toby also fills out a ballot for Neal that votes for a baseball game. The ballot that wins is Matt’s, marked “Sailing.”
The afternoon before the party, the girls are finalizing plans. Neal’s friend Roger has a boat they can rent for the day, and Neal, a sailing expert, will captain it. Toby has checked out a book on sailing and is spouting incomprehensible (to me, at least) terms every which way. She is becoming somewhat nervous about how little they actually know about navigating the waters, and what a big responsibility it’s going to be for Neal to be the only knowledgeable sailor. To illustrate their ignorance, she tells her roommates about the different types of decks on board — fore, main, aft, and poop — and Jane is incredulous that there is actually a deck named poop. Weren’t Jane, Cary and Neal all brought up in Boston’s upper class? Wouldn’t they all have taken the requisite sailing lessons?
In any case, Neal is coming up to Greenleaf that evening with his car, which will be helpful for the massive grocery shopping trip they have planned. Each of them will buy their favourite foods using Jane’s birthday money. Jane wants croissants, brie and pate, which Andy translates for Toby as “smelly cheese and liverwurst on a squishy roll.” (Who says Americans are uncultured?) While they’re waiting for Neal, they get a call from housemother Meredith that Jane’s gift from her parents has arrived. Jane tells her roommates that the gift is something very special, and that her mother sounded a little worried about it on the phone. Andy reassures her that Mrs. Barrett was probably just concerned that Jane wouldn’t like the colour or something. “Mothers are like that,” Toby chimes in, then feels embarrassed when the other girls look her way, thinking to herself, “It had been so long since she’d had a mother, how would she even know?” Poor Toby. That breaks my heart for her.
The gift turns out to be Jane’s great-grandmother’s pearl necklace, a much-valued Barrett family heirloom. (Why would this not have been given to Charlotte, her older sister?) Jane is thrilled.
Neal arrives and it’s Toby’s turn to be thrilled, since I guess he’s officially her boyfriend. They head into town, where Jane uses a “plastic card” to withdraw money from the “automatic teller.” Toby is impressed, feeling that that is a much more grown-up way to handle cash than the postal money orders that she uses. Oh my goodness, does anyone use money orders anymore? I don’t even remember how they work. The girls realize they’ve forgotten to order a birthday cake from the bakery, but Andy says she has a super-special recipe she can whip up.
Soon enough, the crew has three shopping carts filled to the brim. Each of them turns around while the cashier is checking them out so they won’t see what the others have picked. It is noted that the cashier has to stop several times to “give her fingers a rest”; I guess scanners weren’t commonplace yet in Massachusetts in 1988? She cheerfully announces that the total is $124.13, and the teens are blown away that they spent so much. I am kind of horrified rereading this book in the year 2018, given that, where I live, one cart of groceries can easily cost that today. By the time my kids are grown, will a cart of groceries cost $300? Hold me.
They get back to the dorm and stash all the food in the dining hall fridge. Then Jane gets a call from her mother, who entreats her to lock the pearls in Meredith’s safe and wear them only on special occasions. Jane promises to do so, but decides on her own that her sixteenth birthday is one such special occasion — so the pearls remain unlocked.
The following day is Jane’s big 16. The girls wait with all their gear and all the food on the Baker House front lawn for the boys to arrive. “I wish they’d hurry,” Jane says, and magically Cary, Matt and Neal appear. (Where was Neal staying the night before? With Cary, his former competition for Jane?) They manage to get everything and themselves into Neal’s mom’s car (with Toby looking forward to being next to “his muscled shoulder” – he’s a 16-year-old kid, how muscled could it be?) and start the 3-hour drive to the ocean, listening to three rock, one classical, and one country tape along the way. Somehow I really doubt that a group of six teenagers would listen to classical music on a birthday road trip, no matter how stuffy their upbringings were.
In any case, they reach the dock and board the Annabel Lee, marveling at how beautiful the boat is and exploring all its amenities. They load all the food and gear on board, then decide to make lunch in order to use up some of the food, since the tiny galley kitchen won’t hold it all. After eating, they cast off.
Sailing is lovely at first. Neal, a sailing pro, has things under control. Toby is dying to have a turn and Neal gives her the tiller, which she loves. Andy goes below deck to start baking the birthday cake. Jane soon decides to follow in order to get out of the sun, ruining the surprise. So she proceeds to stretch out on a bunk and watch Andy work in the rocking boat kitchen. It turns out Andy is wrapping little fortunes in foil and dropping them into the batter. The person that gets the piece with the dime will be rich, the one that gets the key will be famous, and the one that gets the toy ring will be the first to be engaged. I totally love this idea and am just realizing that I’ve still never done it. Mental note made. Anyway, Andy gets called upstairs to help with some complicated sailing maneuver, and she entrusts the cake to Jane. (Which is pretty stupid if you remember the Texas bread debacle.) Jane nearly blows herself up lighting the oven with a match (thank the dear heavens above that we no longer need to do that) and then fishes around in the batter for the ring, pushing it toward the centre of the cake so she can arrange to give that piece to Cary and see if he’ll give the ring to her. Very mature! Just then she hears Toby call “Ready about hard alee,” the boat gives a wild lurch, and violent splashing is heard. Turns out Cary’s gone overboard. The boat lurches again and Jane finds her face in the cake batter. For reasons that are unclear to me, she’s really embarrassed by this, so, wishing aloud that she wasn’t such a klutz, she rushes to clean herself off and change into her swimsuit so she can scrub her T-shirt in the sink. Then she goes upstairs and claims that she saw Cary swimming and thought she’d put on her suit and join him. Neal tells her that Cary wasn’t swimming, he was actually knocked overboard by the mizzen boom. Jane sees that Toby looks downcast.
Our Texas friend is beating herself up for getting too confident her first time sailing. Thanks to her mistake, Cary could have drowned. Neal gently talks her through, telling her that “ready about hard alee” is the opposite of a “jibe,” which is the maneuver she actually did, but that she has the makings of a very good sailor. Toby berates herself for spouting all these fancy terms she doesn’t really know, and I note that this ghostwriter, Elizabeth Spurr, clearly does know a lot about sailing. Or at least enough to fool me. (Which ain’t so hard.) Of note, Jane’s camera is missing, and Toby assumes it slid into the sea during the commotion.
They finally dock at a picturesque beach. An elderly fisherman tells them they can’t park their boat at the dock. After unloading all their goods, Neal anchors the boat on the other side of the river and they all swim back across, Neal doing a one-armed stroke while holding the birthday cake above the water with his other hand. This guy really gets the short end of the stick whenever he hangs out with these people.
They gorge themselves silly on their birthday feast, inviting the fisherman, Henry, to join them. They sear his catch of catfish on the grill and serve it with almond butter (I’m thinking they meant almonds and butter?) They barbecue steaks, mushrooms, baked potatoes, and corn on the cob. They have fruit salad and lettuce salad with three kinds of dressing. Andy spreads ready-made frosting on the birthday cake and covers it with sprinkles. (That’s her super-special cake recipe?) They have pasta salad, antipasto salad, frozen pizzas, brie and pate, smoked oysters and English crackers, cheese puffs, popcorn, celery and peanut butter, three loaves of French bread, persimmon chutney, watermelons, and s’mores. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this was one of my favourite books in the series because of all the good eating, but this menu really could have been planned better. Who needs fish, steak, AND pizzas? Also, couldn’t someone have invited me?
Soon it’s gift time. Cary gives Jane a tape of his original song, “Hey Jane,” with which he serenaded her on the front lawn of Baker House back when he was first trying to get her to go out with him. Neal gives her a picture frame. Of note, Jane’s camera has mysteriously been found in a grocery bag underneath a bunch of Oreos. (Oh yeah, add Oreos to that list of foods above.) Toby gives her a cactus, and Andy and Matt give her a journal so she can be “the official scribe of 407.” Then it’s time for dessert, which is birthday cake, chocolate chip ice cream, peppermint stick ice cream, macadamia nut toffee ice cream (which I guess is supposed to be bougie since it was Jane’s pick), strawberry topping, pineapple topping, nuts, and whipped cream. Henry has by now fallen asleep and everyone else is too stuffed to manage more than a sliver. Jane no longer cares about trying to find the foil-wrapped ring. They all decide to take a nap around the campfire.
When they wake up, the sun is setting and Henry has left. They hurry to pack up, as Neal says they need to get going before the wind dies down at sunset. Once back on board, Jane thanks everyone for a wonderful birthday. And suddenly realizes her neck is bare.
We cut to Jane lying on a bunk on the boat, sobbing. The gang has searched the campground and the entire boat for the pearls, with no luck. Jane quickly becomes convinced that Henry must have stolen them. “I wish that awful man would grow a giant wart on his nose,” she says to herself, very reasonably. Andy notes that, purely by chance, she snapped a picture of their suspect sleeping.
Meanwhile, though, these kids have got bigger fish to fry, if you will. The wind is gone and now the battery is dead, so they can’t use the engine. They have to drift. Neal hopes they can drift towards land so they can call the Coast Guard. (Pre-cell phone problems, people.) They decide to try to enjoy themselves while they wait, so Andy turns up the stereo, which happens to be playing Haydn’s water music, which again with six teenagers on board I just DO NOT BUY, but nonetheless. Andy realizes that Jane had wished earlier to stay for days and days, and her wish was granted. Toby muses that perhaps it’s magic — that for a sixteenth birthday on the sixteenth of September, maybe everything Jane wishes for will come true. Jane panics and frantically tries to remember everything she’s wished for that day. First, that the boys would hurry up and arrive at Baker House. Then, that she wasn’t such a klutz. Then, that all her birthdays would be spent with such good friends. No problems there. But the next one had been that Henry would grow a huge wart on his nose. She mutters to herself that she’ll take that one back. Because that’s how this works.
The gang plays Scrabble to pass the time and take their minds off the fact that they’re stranded at sea with no power and getting dangerously close to curfew. If they get grounded, Andy will miss tryouts for the Nutcracker ballet (how many ballets does this dang school put on?) and Cary will miss the infamous Hillsboro Homecoming. Jane is freaking out about the fancy birthday dinner her parents are supposed to be taking her to the following evening. Does she have any turtlenecked dresses that will hide the conspicuously absent pearls? Finally she can’t take it anymore, exploding, “I wish, I wish, something would happen!” And at that moment a voice shouts, “Coast Guard here!”
“Wish granted, my friend,” Andy says.
Before anyone can blink, our intrepid travelers are back at Canby Hall, accepting hot chocolate from their housemother. It turns out that Meredith is the one who called the Coast Guard when the girls didn’t call to explain why they were late. All three 407 girls have forgotten that they had promised to throw Baker House a party using all the leftovers from the birthday trip. While they were floating helplessly at sea, their dormmates were standing dejected in a pile of limp streamers and rapidly deflating balloons. The girls decide to make it up to the dorm tomorrow. Toby and Andy then go blissfully to sleep, but Jane is too worried about the pearls and her parents’ reaction to their loss to do the same. She wishes she weren’t such a chicken, but it’s way past midnight and therefore no longer her birthday, so she knows it won’t come true. Again, because that’s how that works.
The next morning, Andy and Toby are horrified, just horrified, I tell you, to learn that Jane is not planning on telling her parents about the missing pearls. Do they not know this person at ALL? Jane counters that it’s not like she’s not going to tell them ever, just that she’s not going to tell them right now. ‘Cuz you know, like in the year 2075, that’ll probably be just about the right time. Just then, Jane’s mother calls and says they’re surprising her by arriving in Greenleaf for lunch as well as dinner. Dismayed, Jane says this will be fine. Her mother, concerned, accurately notes that Jane always uses the word “fine” when something’s wrong. She also suggests that Cary join them, and Jane notes with “relief” that Cary is busy working at the Greaf Diner that day. She’s relieved because she knows Cary “would not be terribly excited about having lunch or dinner with the Barretts, who were part of the Boston society of his parents.” What is wrong with this guy? He has the manners and geniality of a caveman. Why does Jane want to go out with a guy who can’t be bothered to spend time with her family? Man, the dumbest thing Jane ever did was dump Neal for this Tommy Lee-wannabe. Anyway, despite his attitude, Jane and her parents make plans to have lunch at the Greaf so they can say hello to Cary. I’m telling you, Barretts, you deserve better.
Jane calls to “warn” Cary and to synchronize their stories on the missing pearls. Cary joins her roommates in telling her that she needs to come clean to her parents, but Jane tells him there’s no need, because “The pearls are safe someplace. I just don’t at this moment know where.” Safe in the hands of a black-market auction house, maybe! Cary tells her she’s being dishonest and not owning up to her responsibilities, and tells her he hopes she’ll never lie to keep him from worrying. Too late, big guy!
Then we’re back to more bickering about the flipping pearls in Room 407. Jane says she’s not telling her parents in order to spare their feelings. Andy suggests that Jane’s own feelings are what she’s most worried about. Jane says she’s positive the pearls will turn up because she wished very hard for it on her birthday, and birthday wishes all come true! (Was it her 16th birthday or her 6th? I forget.) She then gets upset when both her roommates beg off from joining her and her parents for lunch, because don’t they know she needs some moral support? Andy says her stomach isn’t up to sitting around waiting for the missing-pearls bomb to drop. Jane notes that hers isn’t exactly up to it either. Andy points out that Jane could easily defuse said bomb by simply owning up to her mother. Jane claims that her family just isn’t as understanding as Andy’s. Andy gets the final word by saying that even her family wouldn’t understand why anyone would lie to the people they love. After she leaves the room, Dee pops in with a bunch of deflated balloons from the birthday-party-that-wasn’t the night before. In tears, Jane shares her troubles. Dee and Maggie loan her a strand of fake pearls to wear to lunch.
Later that afternoon, the 407 girls are back in their room. Jane tells her roomies that lunch went well, that Cary served the diner burgers open-faced with radish roses, and that he played classical music in the background. I suppose it doesn’t matter how the other patrons’ experience was at the Greaf that day, as long as the Barretts were made to feel suitably at home. Jane shows Toby the fake pearls, and Toby’s response is “You found them; oh Jane, that’s the best news since Texas got statehood.” I’m not sure the statehood of gun-totin’, Ted Cruz-producin’ Texas is such good news to the rest of the country, but I digress. Jane says her plan at dinner is to say that she locked the pearls in Meredith’s safe and couldn’t get them before leaving, which will leave her plenty of time to find said pearls after her parents go home. Andy quite reasonably asks what the plan is if she doesn’t. Jane says she’s sure she will, because after all she made a birthday wish about it, and EVERYONE knows those things are legally binding. Andy and Toby are again skeptical, being sentient human beings and all, and Jane tearfully accuses them of trying to destroy all hope of her getting the pearls back. They note that no, actually, they just think she should be honest, which leads Andy to muse that, in her opinion, Jane can’t be honest with her parents because she’s not being honest with herself. After all, she still can’t admit that the pearls are lost.
“They’re not lost!” Jane pounds her fists on the bed. “I just can’t find them!”
“See what I mean?” Andy says to no one in particular. Hee hee!
Just then, Jane gets a call. Her mom is in the lobby of Baker House and is heading up to 407. Why is she there? Jane panics. Andy and Toby make like bananas and get ready to split. Jane hisses that they better not leave her.
Minutes later, Mrs. Barrett walks in. She gets right to the point. “Where are the pearls?”
Jane stammers that they’re in Meredith’s safe and that Meredith’s gone for the afternoon. Mrs. Barrett responds, “I suppose she wasn’t home this morning, either. Otherwise you would have worn the pearls to lunch.”
“But I did …” Jane begins, before realizing she’s trapped. Andy and Toby, having completely forgotten their moral high ground from just seconds ago, begin babbling lies. Andy says Meredith’s been gone all day. Mrs. Barrett counters that she just saw Merry downstairs setting up for Take Two of the dorm birthday party. Toby says the pearls are out being cleaned. Andy blurts that they’re being restrung because the thread broke. Mrs. Barrett then informs them that … dunh dunh dunh! … Great-Grandmother’s pearls were strung on a gold chain. Checkmate, fools! I mean, come on. Did you really think the Barretts of Boston wore their gems on common string like PLEBIANS?
We cut to a touching mother-daughter walk around the Canby Hall campus. Mrs. Barrett says sadly that she can’t believe Jane would lie to her. Then she tells Jane a story from her childhood that I suppose is meant to be instructive, but really just serves to show me how the other half lives. Apparently, when she was 15, her parents gave her a gold watch trimmed with diamonds and “tiny rubies instead of numerals.” She was supposed to keep it in its satin box and only wear it on Sundays. But she loved it so much that she took it to bed with her every night, and one morning she awoke to find that her cat had knocked it to the floor and destroyed it. Afraid of her parents’ reaction, she buried it under a tree. After months of guilt and worry, her parents eventually discovered the loss, and they dug it back up the following spring. Jane’s mother wrapped up the rusty mess and kept it on her bedside table to remind her never to lie again. She and Jane share more thoughts on the importance of honesty and how much parents actually do understand their children, but I’m still stuck on the fact that someone gave their 15-year-old a Rolex. Anyway, all is well in Barrett-land, Jane comes clean to her dad as well, and the three of them enjoy a lovely dinner free of pearls, fake or otherwise.
Afterwards, Jane is feeling very relieved and very wise. She returns to 407 and tunes her radio to the public radio station. After all, “now that she was an adult, she would have to turn her mind to adult issues — things like apartheid and world hunger.” Ha! I give that mindset about five minutes. Then she sees a note from Merry on her desk asking her to check in as soon as she gets back. Jane heads up to Merry’s apartment, where she is greeted by a surprise party attended by the entire dorm. It really is a surprise, since, even though it was planned, Jane completely forgot about it. (Does anyone else in this dorm get two parties plus a re-do? Oh, just 407 girls? Got it.)
All the leftover food and decorations have been set out and put up, and Cary’s “Hey Jane” is playing. Andy brings out the barely-touched birthday cake from the day before and lights fresh candles. Merry had the girls each write a verse about the guest of honour, so we listen to some bad rhymes about how awesome Jane is. After polishing off the leftover dip, veggies, melon, candied popcorn, marshmallows, cold cuts, cheese, peanut butter, raisins, brie, pate and oysters, the girls dig in to the cake, and Dee gets the hidden wedding ring. Toby gets the key and gives it to Andy, since she has no desire for success and fame. Jane gets the dime and quietly puts it down, not wanting to call attention to the fact that she’s already wealthy. When Andy asks who got the dime and Jane finally has to admit that she did, Andy laughs, “See, these fortunes really do work!” Then Maggie asks, “And what is this? Pearls of wisdom?” She’s holding up a chocolate-covered string of beads. Andy is confused. Jane lunges for them, runs to wash them in Merry’s sink, and bursts into tears. Ladies and gentlemen, the pearls are found.
Of course, they fell in the pan back when the boat lurched and Jane’s face went into the cake batter. She deliriously calls her parents at their inn to shout the good news. Then she calls Cary, who’s more subdued. Turns out things aren’t going so great for him. He and Matt are grounded the following weekend because they missed curfew the night before. Jane, understandably, thinks that’s ridiculous, given that they were, you know, STRANDED AT SEA, and tells him to have his dorm counselor call the Coast Guard to confirm the story. But Cary’s dorm counselor is out taking the LSAT (is a dorm counselor like an RA? Or like a housemother? Are they college students? Do they have time to live full-time in a high school dorm?) and the substitute is basically a fascist who won’t listen to their explanations. So the vaunted Hillsboro Homecoming gig is no more. Cary is even more depressed because Ambulance was going to get paid $200, which was going to go into their recording fund for them to cut their first single. (Again, I forget how much $200 was just thirty years ago. Ack.) Now, they’ll have no single, no one will hire them after they bailed on Hillsboro, and the rest of the band is being punished because of him. Jane feels terrible, because Cary’s being punished because of her.
The next day, Toby gets a letter from Neal (on “creme-coloured stationery embossed with Cornelius Worthington III” … you know, standard-issue for all teenage boys) in which he says that his friend Roger feels so bad about the boat battery dying that he’s refunding Jane their $150 rental fee. While Toby moons over the lovey-dovey note, the wheels in Jane’s head start turning.
The next day, Jane cajoles her roommates into going into town with her. She goes to the bank and withdraws $175 in one-dollar bills. Then she mysteriously drags them to the Greenleaf Nursery. Meanwhile, Cary is moping in his dorm room. He wishes he could talk to Jane, but since he’s grounded he can’t accept calls. He is allowed to place them, which makes little sense to me, but she wasn’t in her room when he called her. Suddenly he hears voices singing “Hey Jane.” He throws open his window and finds the 407 girls on the lawn serenading him with, “Hey Slade, Slade, Slade.” Given that he’s grounded, verbal communication is also not allowed (man, compared to, say, St. Paul’s, Oakley Prep is practically Guantanamo) so he expresses his pleasure by “gesturing wildly” and “dancing insanely.” Um, OK.
Just then, Matt comes into his room carrying a potted evergreen tree whose branches are covered with one-dollar bills. A note from Jane is attached that reads, “Don’t get the idea that money grows on trees. Only once in awhile.” Cary gets choked up. Matt engages in some expository speech that thoroughly recaps what happened with the boat Saturday night, which works out great because the substitute counselor, Picky Bill, happens to be right behind him and hears the whole thing. Turns out Picky Bill has a heart, and, being a self-proclaimed “reasonable guy,” orders Cary to round up his band and head over to Hillsboro.
The next morning, Jane is awoken by a call from Cary. He’s beyond grateful for the gift, which is the sum of the refunded rental fee and the money left over from birthday grocery shopping. Jane relays Andy’s quip that “The ambulance always comes to the rescue, but how often do you get to rescue the Ambulance?” Hee hee! They all agree to meet for breakfast. At the Greaf, Cary tells them that by the time he and the guys got to Hillsboro the night before, the area’s worst band, the Greeks, (colloquially known as the “Geeks”) had all but destroyed the party. “It needed more than Ambulance. It needed paramedics!”
“Full-on resuscitation?” asks Andy, who we are helpfully told “had taken a first-aid course in Chicago.” Is a first-aid course needed in order to understand the word resuscitation?
Anyway, Cary told the organizer that, since his band had let them down, they’d play the intermission for free. (Uh, after backing out, I think you’d need to play the whole thing for free, no matter what your excuse, big guy.) Anyway, the Geeks hung around for one more set and then bailed, embarrassed by how quickly their synthesizer could clear the dance floor. Ambulance played a great set and the audience was super-enthusiastic; one girl from a fancy private school even asked for Cary’s card. And Hillsboro booked Ambulance for their Winter Wonderland. Friends, the next Springsteen is on his way.
The book ends with our girls getting ready for bed back in their room, musing about how well things worked out. Just then, Jane gets an urgent call from Merry. It seems Merry has a small problem and needs Jane’s help. Andy and Toby leap up and declare that they face problems together. Jane insists she can handle this one herself, but the others will have none of it. Finally Jane divulges that Merry’s fridge has gone on the fritz and two quarts of ice cream need to be finished off immediately. All three of them unselfishly go forward into the night to meet this latest challenge.
And there we have it, my friends. When I was eight, finding the missing pearls in the cake seemed to me the height of sophisticated mystery solutions. And didn’t I tell the truth about there being a lot of good eating? After we all finish digesting, gird your loins and join me for the girls’ next adventure. I don’t mean to alarm you, but one of the Old 407 Girls is back. Like cockroaches, we just can’t seem to get rid of them. See you then!