Dash & lilys book of dar.., p.1
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares,
THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2010 by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Grateful acknowledgment is made to Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., for permission to reprint excerpts from “The Story of Our Lives” and “Keeping Things Whole,” from Selected Poems by Mark Strand, copyright © 1979, 1980 by Mark Strand.
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Dash & Lily’s book of dares / by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. — 1st ed.
Summary: Told in the alternating voices of Dash and Lily, two sixteen-year-olds carry on a wintry scavenger hunt at Christmastime in New York, neither knowing quite what—or who—they will find.
[1. Treasure hunt (Game)—Fiction. 2. Identity—Fiction. 3. New York (N.Y.)—Fiction.] I. Levithan, David. II. Title. III. Dash and Lily’s book of dares.
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.
Special thanks to the Usual Suspects
To Real Dash’s Mum
Chapter One: –Dash– December 21st
Chapter Two: (Lily) December 21st
Chapter Three: –Dash– December 22nd
Chapter Four: (Lily) December 23rd
Chapter Five: –Dash– December 23rd
Chapter Six: (Lily) December 24th
Chapter Seven: –Dash– December 24th/December 25th
Chapter Eight: (Lily) December 25th
Chapter Nine: –Dash– December 26th
Chapter Ten: (Lily) December 26th
Chapter Eleven: –Dash– December 27th
Chapter Twelve: (Lily) December 26th
Chapter Thirteen: –Dash– December 27th
Chapter Fourteen: (Lily) December 28th
Chapter Fifteen: –Dash– December 28th
Chapter Sixteen: (Lily) December 29th
Chapter Seventeen: –Dash– December 29th
Chapter Eighteen: (Lily) December 30th
Chapter Nineteen: –Dash– December 30th
Chapter Twenty: (Lily) December 31st
About the Authors
You’re in your favorite bookstore, scanning the shelves. You get to the section where a favorite author’s books reside, and there, nestled in comfortably between the incredibly familiar spines, sits a red notebook.
What do you do?
The choice, I think, is obvious:
You take down the red notebook and open it.
And then you do whatever it tells you to do.
It was Christmastime in New York City, the most detestable time of the year. The moo-like crowds, the endless visits from hapless relatives, the ersatz cheer, the joyless attempts at joyfulness—my natural aversion to human contact could only intensify in this context. Wherever I went, I was on the wrong end of the stampede. I was not willing to grant “salvation” through any “army.” I would never care about the whiteness of Christmas. I was a Decemberist, a Bolshevik, a career criminal, a philatelist trapped by unknowable anguish—whatever everyone else was not, I was willing to be. I walked as invisibly as I could through the Pavlovian spend-drunk hordes, the broken winter breakers, the foreigners who had flown halfway across the world to see the lighting of a tree without realizing how completely pagan such a ritual was.
The only bright side of this dim season was that school was shuttered (presumably so everyone could shop ad nauseam and discover that family, like arsenic, works best in small doses … unless you prefer to die). This year I had managed to become a voluntary orphan for Christmas, telling my mother that I was spending it with my father, and my father that I was spending it with my mother, so that each of them booked nonrefundable vacations with their post-divorce paramours. My parents hadn’t spoken to each other in eight years, which gave me a lot of leeway in the determination of factual accuracy, and therefore a lot of time to myself.
I was popping back and forth between their apartments while they were away—but mostly I was spending time in the Strand, that bastion of titillating erudition, not so much a bookstore as the collision of a hundred different bookstores, with literary wreckage strewn over eighteen miles of shelves. All the clerks there saunter-slouch around distractedly in their skinny jeans and their thrift-store button-downs, like older siblings who will never, ever be bothered to talk to you or care about you or even acknowledge your existence if their friends are around … which they always are. Some bookstores want you to believe they’re a community center, like they need to host a cookie-making class in order to sell you some Proust. But the Strand leaves you completely on your own, caught between the warring forces of organization and idiosyncrasy, with idiosyncrasy winning every time. In other words, it was my kind of graveyard.
I was usually in the mood to look for nothing in particular when I went to the Strand. Some days, I would decide that the afternoon was sponsored by a particular letter, and would visit each and every section to check out the authors whose last names began with that letter. Other days, I would decide to tackle a single section, or would investigate the recently unloaded tomes, thrown in bins that never really conformed to alphabetization. Or maybe I’d only look at books with green covers, because it had been too long since I’d read a book with a green cover.
I could have been hanging out with my friends, but most of them were hanging out with their families or their Wiis. (Wiis? Wiii? What is the plural?) I preferred to hang out with the dead, dying, or desperate books—used we call them, in a way that we’d never call a person, unless we meant it cruelly. (“Look at Clarissa … she’s such a used girl.”)
I was horribly bookish, to the point of coming right out and saying it, which I knew was not socially acceptable. I particularly loved the adjective bookish, which I found other people used about as often as ramrod or chum or teetotaler.
On this particular day, I decided to check out a few of my favorite authors to see if any irregular editions had emerged from a newly deceased person’s library sale. I was perusing a particular favorite (he shall remain nameless, because I might turn against him someday) when I saw a peek of red. It was a red Moleskine—made of neither mole nor skin, but nonetheless the preferred journal of my associates who felt the need to journal in non-electronic form. You can tell a lot about a person from the pages he or she chooses to journal on—I was strictly a college-ruled man myself, having no talent for illustration and a microscopic scrawl that made wide-ruled seem roomy. The blank pages were usually the most popular—I only had one friend, Thibaud, who went for the grid. Or at least he did until the guidance counselors confiscated his journals to prove
There wasn’t any writing on the spine of this particular journal—I had to take it off the shelf to see the front, where there was a piece of masking tape with the words DO YOU DARE? written in black Sharpie. When I opened the cover, I found a note on the first page.
I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.
The handwriting was a girl’s. I mean, you can tell. That enchanted cursive.
Either way, I would’ve endeavored to turn the page.
So here we are.
1. Let’s start with French Pianism.
I don’t really know what it is,
but I’m guessing
nobody’s going to take it off the shelf.
Charles Timbrell’s your man.
Do not turn the page
until you fill in the blanks
(just don’t write in the notebook, please).
I can’t say I’d ever heard of French pianism, although if a man on the street (wearing a bowler, no doubt) had asked me if I believed the French were a pianistic sort, I would have easily given an affirmative reply.
Because the bookstore byways of the Strand were more familiar to me than my own family home(s), I knew exactly where to start—the music section. It even seemed a cheat that she had given me the name of the author. Did she think me a simpleton, a slacker, a numbskull? I wanted a little credit, even before I’d earned it.
The book was found easily enough—easily enough, that is, for someone who had fourteen minutes to spare—and was exactly as I pictured it would be, the kind of book that can sit on the shelves for years. The publisher hadn’t even bothered to put an illustration on the cover. Just the words French Pianism: An Historical Perspective, Charles Timbrell, then (new line) Foreword by Gaby Casadesus.
I figured the numbers in the Moleskine were dates—1988 must have been a quicksilver year for French pianism—but I couldn’t find any references to 1988 … or 1888 … or 1788 … or any other ’88, for that matter. I was stymied … until I realized that my clue giver had resorted to the age-old bookish mantra—page/line/word. I went to page 88 and checked out line 7, word 2, then line 4, word 8.
Was I what? I had to find out. I filled in the blanks (mentally, respecting the virgin spaces as she’d asked) and turned the page of the journal.
Okay. No cheating.
What bugged you about the cover of this book
(besides the lack of art)?
Think about it, then turn the page.
Well, that was easy. I hated that they’d used the construction An Historical, when it clearly should have been A Historical, since the H in Historical is a hard H.
I turned the page.
If you said it was the misbegotten phrase
If not, please put this journal
back on its shelf.
Once more, I turned.
2. Fat Hoochie Prom Queen
No author this time. Not helpful.
I took French Pianism with me (we’d grown close; I couldn’t leave her) and went to the information desk, where the guy sitting there looked like someone had slipped a few lithium into his Coke Zero.
“I’m looking for Fat Hoochie Prom Queen,” I declared.
He did not respond.
“It’s a book,” I said. “Not a person.”
“At the very least, can you tell me the author?”
He looked at his computer, as if it had some way to speak to me without any typing on his part.
“Are you wearing headphones that I can’t see?” I asked.
He scratched at the inside of his elbow.
“Do you know me?” I persisted. “Did I grind you to a pulp in kindergarten, and are you now getting sadistic pleasure from this petty revenge? Stephen Little, is that you? Is it? I was much younger then, and foolish to have nearly drowned you in that water fountain. In my defense, your prior destruction of my book report was a completely unwarranted act of aggression.”
Finally, a response. The information desk clerk shook his shaggy head.
“No?” I said.
“I am not allowed to disclose the location of Fat Hoochie Prom Queen,” he explained. “Not to you. Not to anyone. And while I am not Stephen Little, you should be ashamed of what you did to him. Ashamed.”
Okay, this was going to be harder than I’d thought. I tried to load Amazon onto my phone for a quick check—but there was no service anywhere in the store. I figured Fat Hoochie Prom Queen was unlikely to be nonfiction (would that it were!), so I went to the literature section and began to scan the shelves. This proving fruitless, I remembered the teen literature section upstairs and went there straightaway. I skipped over any spine that didn’t possess an inkling of pink. All my instincts told me Fat Hoochie Prom Queen would at the very least be dappled by pink. And lo and behold—I got to the M section, and there it was.
I turned to pages 64 and 119 and found:
I turned the page of the Moleskine.
Now that you’ve found this in the teen section,
I must ask you:
Are you a teenage boy?
If yes, please turn the page.
If no, please return this to where you found it.
I was sixteen and equipped with the appropriate genitalia, so I cleared that hurdle nicely.
3. The Joy of Gay Sex
Well, there wasn’t any doubt which section that would be in. So it was down to the Sex & Sexuality shelves, where the glances were alternately furtive and defiant. Personally, the notion of buying a used sex manual (of any sexuality) was a bit sketchy to me. Perhaps that was why there were four copies of The Joy of Gay Sex on the shelves. I turned to page 66, scanned down to line 12, word 5, and found:
I recounted. Rechecked.
Are you going to cock?
Perhaps, I thought, cock was being used as a verb (e.g., Please cock that pistol for me before you leave the vestibule).
I moved to page 181, not without some trepidation.
Making love without noise is like playing a muted piano—fine for practice, but you cheat yourself out of hearing the glorious results.
I’d never thought a single sentence could turn me off so decisively from both making love and playing the piano, but there it was.
No illustration accompanied the text, mercifully. And I had my seventh word:
Which left me with:
Are you going to cock playing
That didn’t seem right. Fundamentally, as a matter of grammar, it didn’t seem right.
I looked back at the page in the journal and resisted the urge to turn forward. Scrutinizing the girlish scrawl, I realized I had mistaken a 5 for a 6. It was page 65 (not the junior version of the devil’s number) that I was after.
Much more sensical.
Are you going to be playing—
I turned to find Priya, this girl from my school, somewhere between a friend and acquaintance—a frequaintance, as it were. She had been friends with my ex-girlfriend, Sofia, who was now in Spain. (Not because of me.) Priya had no personality traits that I could discern, although in all fairness, I had never looked very hard.
“Hi, Priya,” I said.
She looked at the books I was holding—a red Moleskine, French Pianism, Fat Hoochie Prom Queen, and, open to a rather graphic drawing of two men doing something I had heretofore not known to be possible, The Joy of Gay Sex (third edition).<
Apprising the situation, I figured some explanation was in order.
“It’s for a paper I’m doing,” I said, my voice rife with fake intellectual assurance. “On French pianism and its effects. You’d be amazed at how far-reaching French pianism is.”
Priya, bless her, looked like she regretted ever saying my name.
“Are you around for break?” she asked.
If I’d admitted I was, she might have been forthcoming with an invitation to an eggnog party or a group excursion to the holiday film Gramma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, featuring a black comedian playing all of the roles, except for that of a female Rudolph, who was, one assumed, the love interest. Because I withered under the glare of an actual invitation, I was a firm believer in preventative prevarication—in other words, lying early in order to free myself later on.
“I leave tomorrow for Sweden,” I replied.
I did not (and do not) look in any way Swedish, so a family holiday was out of the question. By way of explanation, I simply said, “I love Sweden in December. The days are short … the nights are long … and the design completely lacks ornament.”
Priya nodded. “Sounds fun.”
We stood there. I knew that according to the rules of conversation, it was now my turn. But I also knew that refusal to conform to these rules might result in Priya’s departure, which I very much wanted.
After thirty seconds, she could stand it no longer.
“Well, I gotta go,” she said.
“Happy Hanukkah,” I said. Because I always liked to say the wrong holiday, just to see how the other person would react.
Priya took it in stride. “Have fun in Sweden,” she said. And was gone.
I rearranged my books so the red journal was on top again. I turned to the next page.
The fact that you are willing to stand there