Miracle on 49th Street
ISBN 9781101200568 | 256 pages | 04 Oct 2007 | Puffin | 10 - AND UP years
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Josh Cameron is MVP of the championship Boston Celtics and a media darling with a spotless reputation. He has it all . . . including a daughter he never knew. When twelve-year-old Molly Parker arrives in his life, claiming to be his daughter, she catches him off guard. Molly says her mom, Jen, revealed his identity before losing her battle with cancer. Josh isn’t so sure about this girl—she must be trying to scam him for his money. Still, there’s something about Molly that reminds him so much of Jen. But as Molly gets to know the real Josh, the one the camera never sees, she starts to understand why her mother never wanted her to know her dad. Josh has room in his heart for only two things: basketball and himself. Does Molly really want this man for a father? Together, these two strangers learn that sometimes, for things to end up the way you want them to, you have to fire up a prayer at the buzzer and hope it goes in.
Molly Parker wasn’t here for some stupid autograph. She wasn’t even here for the open practice the Celtics had run today, their last practice before they would begin the regular season tomorrow night against the 76ers.Though she had to admit that it was pretty cool to sit with the other kids and their parents inside the Celtics’ practice gym at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint, which didn’t so much sound like the name of a basketball court but the answer to some kind of essay question.
The Celtics had scheduled their annual Kids Day practice at four o’clock so that the parents—moms mostly, Molly noticed that right off—could pick up their kids at school or at the bus and get them here on time. Molly, who’d gotten out here to Waltham early, had watched a lot of them pull up to the entrance to the big public parking lot on the side, feeling as if she were watching some kind of parade for SUVs.
Yuppie limos, her mom liked to call them.
Of course, then her mom would wonder if anybody in America even used the word yuppie anymore, or if there was some kind of new description for all the moms driving Suburbans and Land Cruisers and Explorers.
“Pretty soon there’ll be double-decker versions of these monsters,” Jennifer Parker would say to Molly. “Like our red London buses.”
When they had finally come back for good from London, the only place Molly had ever thought of as home, her mom had acted as if everything was new to her, as if the country she’d grown up in had now become foreign, just because she’d been away for over twelve years.
One day when they were driving on the Mass Pike, Jennifer Parker—Jen to her friends—had found herself in the middle lane, with big SUVs on both sides of their rented Taurus.
“Okay,” her mom said, “that’s it. I know we’ve only been back a few weeks, but they’re going to need to build a bigger country.”
“Mom,” Molly said that day, “you’re going to have to let go on the whole car thing.”
Her mom grinned then, because she was the coolest and always got the joke.
“Did I ever by any chance mention the Volkswagen bug I used to drive around in college?”
And Molly had said, “Oh, no, Mom. Never. Not one single time. No kidding—you used to have a Volkswagen bug in college? It wasn’t fire-engine red by any chance, was it?”
Then they’d both laughed. Because they both always got the joke, even if it was one as old as the one about her old college car.
In the players’ parking lot now, behind the Sports Authority building, leaning against the wheel of his SUV, Molly closed her eyes, picturing her and her mother in the front seat of the rented car that day, waiting to see how that particular snapshot, from the album she carried around her head, was going to affect her.
Progress, Molly thought.
Or maybe progress had not one stinking thing to do with it, maybe she was just too wired—a Mom word—to focus on anything except what was going to happen next.
Practice had been over for twenty minutes or so. The players had scattered to different points on the court to sign autographs. All the players except the one the kids in the house really wanted: Josh Cameron.
Not just the biggest star on the Celtics, but the biggest star in the NBA, and maybe any sport right now.
One of the young guys who worked for the Celtics had gotten on the microphone and said that because they knew it would be a mob scene if Josh tried to sign something for every boy and girl in the gym, he—Josh—had a surprise for them all. In the lobby waiting for them on the way out, the guy from the Celtics said, everyone in attendance today would be handed a special Josh Cameron goody bag. Inside was an autographed youth basketball, Celtics cap, and a T-shirt from Josh’s summer basketball camp in Maine.
Then Josh Cameron himself, looking a little bigger to Molly than he did on television, maybe because he wasn’t standing next to some seven-foot monster type, took the microphone and personally thanked everybody for coming, said he hoped they’d had a great time, and promised them a great Celtics season.
“Always remember,” he said, “we can’t do it without your support. And I mean you guys.”
“You’re my hero, Josh!” a girl yelled from somewhere in the stands.
He smiled and wagged a finger in her direction, like she’d somehow shouted out the wrong answer.
“No,” he said. “You guys are my heroes.”
He told them to enjoy their goody bags, told them to study real hard when they weren’t rooting their hardest for the Celtics, then left the practice gym.
That was Molly’s cue to beat it out of there, sneaking through a side door she’d scoped out as the other kids were making their way down to the court. She didn’t even bother to go to the lobby and pick up the bag with all the cute stuff inside.
Instead she went straight for where she’d seen Josh Cameron’s black Lincoln Navigator parked. Molly didn’t know anything about cars, not really. But she knew what Josh was driving because he’d won it for being MVP of the NBA Finals five months ago.
Molly knew about the black Lincoln Navigator the way she knew everything there was to know about him by now. Sometimes her buddy Sam would quiz her, out of the blue, no matter what they were doing.
“What kind of watch does he wear?”
“Too easy,” she’d say. “Omega. They use him now instead of the guy who used to play James Bond.”
“Red Zone from Old Spice. C’mon, these aren’t even challenging.”
“Okay, how about this? What’s the name of his new Labrador puppy, the one he just got last week?”
“He got a new puppy last week?”
Sam made a sound like a buzzer going off on one of the game shows he made Molly watch sometimes on the Game Show Network.
“Nah,” Sam said. “I made it up. But I had you going for a minute. You thought I knew something about him that you didn’t.”
“But you didn’t. Know something I didn’t, I mean.”
“But I did. Have you going. Which is enough to make my day, frankly.”
“You’re crazy,” Molly said.
“What does that say about you?” Sam said. “You could have picked anybody to be your friend and picked me.”
“Good point,” she said.
If Molly didn’t know everything important there was to know about Josh Cameron, she was sure she knew more than anybody else. Her mom had called it the joy of Google.
“I’m not big on technology,” her mom would say, and then Molly would slap her forehead and say, “You have got to be kidding, Mom! I never heard that one before, either.”
“But,” her mom would say, ignoring her, “I do feel that life got a lot better when Google became a verb.”
By now Molly Parker had Googled Josh Cameron so many times that she knew his first two Google pages, starting with his own Web site, by heart.
Basically, he was the most famous and best Boston Celtics basketball player since Larry Bird. And the best and flashiest point guard they’d had since Bob Cousy. But most people, Molly had found out in her research, seemed to think Josh Cameron was the basketball equivalent of Tom Brady, the Patriots quarterback who won all the Super Bowls and looked like he should be playing Hilary Duff’s boyfriend in the movies, even if he was waaaaay too old for her.
Basically, Josh Cameron, six feet two, out of the University of Connecticut, winner of four NBA titles in his first nine years in the league, was the biggest and most popular star in sports right now. American sports, anyway. Molly didn’t even try to explain to Sam or any of the other kids she went to school with about the whole David Beckham thing.
He was thirty-one now, about the same age as her mom. It wasn’t Cryptkeeper old, but he was getting up there, even if you couldn’t tell it by the way he was playing. The Celtics had just won again, and he had won another MVP award.
“He’s one of those guys,” Jen Parker told her daughter. “He’ll get old about the same time Peter Pan does.”
Now, after the T rides she had taken to get to the buses and then the walk from the last bus station, which seemed like a lot more than the mile the bus driver had said, she was finally going to meet him.
She had decided it was time.
Lupica delivers a winning novel, creating a realistic character in Molly by authentically capturing both her fragility and pluck. (Booklist)
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