What's been said about THE MYTHFITS:

With witty wordplay for kids and engaging characters, Mythfits is sure to become a must-read for kids everywhere. Jennifer Anna, author of Yen Shei and the American Bonsai

This Myth is a Hit! I recently brought Gary Goldstein's The Mythfits along on a New York to LA plane ride. I had not flown in some time and never enjoyed it, but this book made the time fly. Literally, which is obviously the best way for a book to accomplish that. I absolutely loved the story and fell in love with the characters. The Mythfits is truly a delight from beginning to end. My thanks to the author for his imagination, wit, insights into human nature -- and for taking the fear out of flying. I am looking forward to meeting the Mythfits again in Mr. Goldstein's next book. I'll be watching for it -- and so will my grandchildren! Harriet Lesser

Goldstein speaks to the reader in such a hip voice that he bridges the distance between the old world and the new as well as the real world and his (world). Elaine Konigsburg

With imagination and style Gary Goldstein's "Mythfits" explores the difficulties of growing up, acceptance, and love. Themes of tolerance and kindness in the face of an often threatening world undergird this imaginative story of courage and community. Set in a small California town, inhabited by a most interesting array of characters, this book is great to read aloud as well as silently. Marie Ellen Smith


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(Nook and Kindle editions are available)



The Mythfits

By Gary Goldstein

This is a work of fiction. The events and characters described herein are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places or living persons. The opinions expressed in this manuscript are solely the opinions of the author. The author has represented and warranted full ownership and/or legal right to publish all the materials in this book. The Mythfits All Rights Reserved. Copyright © 2010 Gary Goldstein This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means, including graphic, electronic, or mechanical without the express written consent of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

ISBN: 978-0-615-35836-9

Chapter 1

"Daddy, you're disgusting!"

Norma Leiber was angry with her father. He had called her "anal-retentive" curling his fingers in the air, as if putting it in air-quotes would lessen the nastiness.

It didn't.

After days of roughing it in their new home, sleeping on the floor and rinsing underwear in the sink, it was natural that she'd be excited when the moving van pulled up in front of the house. It was understandable that she'd done a little dance of joy.

Sure, she had unpacked her boxes and put everything in its place within hours, but who wanted to live out of boxes? Norma wanted some sense of order to her life. How RUDE. How DARE he use such a term to describe her?

"Norma, sweetheart, why don't you come into the kitchen?" interrupted Mrs. Leiber. "I could really use your help on the cupboards." As Norma slunk off, Mrs. Leiber turned to her husband with a scowl of disapproval. "Really, Philip, you need to be more understanding. We've uprooted her from her friends, her school..."

"Maddie, please spare me the lecture. We've been all through this before. 'She's only eleven years old; a sensitive girl,'" he rattled off. "'She loved our house in Los Angeles. She left a lot of friends back there.' Etcetera, etcetera, ya da, ya da, ya da..." Mr. Leiber paused, "I'm sorry the movers got delayed, but it's not like it hasn't been hard on all of us." He saw his wife's unhappy expression and buried his head in his hands, realizing he was being bad-tempered. The stress had gotten to him again. "I'm sorry," he said looking up after a moment. "I'll go make it up to her."

Mrs. Leiber put her arms around his neck and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

When her father entered the kitchen, Norma was standing on the step stool stacking the dinner plates on the bottom shelf of the cupboard. Though she chose to ignore him, her eyes were beginning to tear up and her lower lip trembled. Mr. Leiber reached into the open box and unwrapped the dessert dishes, handing them one by one to his daughter, who accepted them in silence, placing the dishes carefully atop one another.

"Sweetheart," he began softly, "I'm really sorry..." Norma burst into tears and jumped off the stool into her father's comforting embrace.

"I'm scared, daddy. School is starting and I won't know any of the kids."

"It'll be okay, kiddo. I'm frightened, too. Any new situation is a little intimidating. I-I-I just couldn't make it in Los Angeles. When Great Aunt Blanche left us this place, I thought it would be a great opportunity to reinvent ourselves."

Norma didn't tell her dad, but she hadn't felt that need. She knew her father had been having a tough time. He'd told her months ago, when their old house went up for sale, that his career in advertising had been going nowhere fast. While he was steadfast and dependable, Philip Leiber was no creative superstar. Younger, more eccentric talents were leaving him behind. Aunt Blanche's house offered an escape; a refuge where he could try to remember how much he loved to write and draw. Norma closed her eyes and hugged her father tighter. She hoped things would work out for him... for them all. Poor Daddy.

Mrs. Leiber, came into the kitchen, sealing the moment with what the Leibers liked to call "a family sandwich." She clasped her husband, with Norma dangling between them, and squeezed firmly.

Norma decided to explore the neighborhood while her father continued setting up his studio and her mom hooked up their computers. "Better take a sweater with you," Madeline Leiber advised her daughter.

Norma wanted to say, "Aw, c'mon, it's warm outside!" but didn't. Sometimes, just sometimes, Norma understood when it was best not to challenge parental authority and keep the peace. She grabbed her sweater from the hall closet by the front door and tied it around her waist. As she left the house she heard a familiar voice call out, "Norm!"

Norma hated that nickname. Maybe once she knew her greeter a little better she'd tell him to lay off. "Hi, Timothy," she called back.

"Tim, call me Tim," he responded sharply. "No 'Timothy' or 'Timmy.' They sound like baby names."

"Oh, sorry," said Norma, understanding the short boy's sensitivity. Grabbing the opportunity, she added, "By the way, I don't like 'Norm!' That's a guy's name."

Tim looked at her blankly then broke into a smile. "Oh, yeah, that's cool. I understand. So, whatcha' up to?"

Norma returned his smile. She liked Timothy...Tim Ryan. He seemed like a really nice person. Though a few months older than Norma, Tim was considerably shorter, the top of his head barely coming up to her shoulder. Freckles splattered a face framed by long, unkempt black hair.

Norma had met Tim just a few days ago as the Leibers' car pulled up in front of their new home. She had no sooner she opened the car door when she heard, "Hello, hello..." Tim came running up and introduced himself, then helped Norma carry boxes to her room. Norma felt pretty sure that Tim was scoping her out to see if they had any common interests. And he seemed a little lonely too. He said he really liked her collection of fairy figurines (keepsakes too precious to entrust to heavy-handed movers), but Norma wasn't sure if he was being honest. It was always so hard to tell with boys.

Some time later, Tim's mother, Dorothy Ryan, came over with a housewarming gift of homemade banana bread. She was a chubby woman with dark black hair pulled back in a ponytail and large brown eyes that bespoke an irresistible friendliness. The Ryans' house was rather run-down, a fact that led Mrs. Ryan to apologize at least three times in the first five minutes of her visit. "I work a rather irregular shift at Smith's Market," she said. "And Jerry's usually at the gas station until real late. We just never seem to have the time to give the old house the attention it needs."

"It's hard to work and maintain a household," said Mrs. Leiber sympathetically.

"I wish I had the time to garden or paint the place, but you know how it is..."

"I sure do! I work at home and sometimes it takes all my willpower not to dust and vacuum and do laundry when I should be at my desk writing." Mrs. Leiber laughed to herself, realizing that her husband wouldn't experience such a conflict. He hated housework.

"Mom writes all the time!" blurted Norma without looking up from the chessboard. She had just captured Tim's knight and was already planning several moves ahead.

A smile spread across Maddie Leiber's face at her daughter's prideful outburst.

"You're a writer?" asked Mrs. Ryan, her big eyes getting bigger. "Might I have read anything you've written?"

"No, I haven't written the Great American Novel yet. I write technical books and some advertising copy."

"Still, I'm very impressed! A writer in our neighborhood! Jerry and I are just average work-a-day folks," Mrs. Ryan said modestly.

Mrs. Leiber was somewhat embarrassed by this undeserved celebrity.

"At least you're around for your daughter," Mrs. Ryan continued. "I try to be home when Timothy gets out of school, but I can't always manage it. In the summer, he's pretty much on his own."

Norma heard a subtle plea for the Leibers to keep an eye on Tim.

"I'm going to explore the town a little more. Want to show me around?" asked Norma.

"I can walk with you as far as the gas station. My dad wants me to help him clean up." Tim hesitated shyly. "Do you like The Supers?" he asked.

"The what?"

"It's this really rad video game I just got. Maybe you could come over after dinner and play?"

"That would be great. How about around seven?"


Tim was definitely cute. Although, because of his height, he seemed more like a younger brother than a 'boyfriend.' Not that she was looking for a boyfriend. Norma just liked the idea of having boys who were friends. Some girls back in Los Angeles were already dating! Norma was not about to complicate her life that way! Besides, her parents wouldn't let her. As they walked, Norma asked Tim if he had known her great aunt.

"She was a nice lady," he answered. "Used to baby-sit for me when I was little, uh, littler. She made the best brownies in the universe! Just before she got sick she loaned me all sorts of great books and a couple of computer games. I still have them. I couldn't play the games though... wrong platform. Your aunt was Mac and I'm Windows. But the books are terrific; Sinbad, The Hobbit, Half Magic..." He could have continued rattling off titles, but cut himself off, "I guess they belong to you now," he said, hoping that Norma would say he could keep them. She didn't. "I'll get them back to you," Tim promised. "All last year, when she was sick, I hardly saw her at all. She'd wave at me from the window sometimes. Ms. Link took good care of her, I guess, but said she was too ill for visitors. Didn't you know your aunt at all?"

"Well, once in a while my dad would talk about his eccentric aunt in Northern California. He didn't say it as a put down, but I guess I'd always imagined her as some crazy lady. I never got to meet her. In a strange sort of way, it's like she died to help my dad. I think moving to Hamilton has made him happier. He had what they call 'depression.' I don't quite understand it. I get sad sometimes, too, but dad was sad a lot." Norma had told Tim more than she had intended and she felt kind of embarrassed.

"I think my dad's had that problem too!" Tim said softly. "He takes medicine to keep it under control." Maybe Tim was making this up to help Norma feel better. It didn't matter. She appreciated the effort. They fell silent as they approached Main Street.

Hamilton was a small town. Once the lumber mill had been the mainstay of the community, but now the town catered to the tourist crowd passing through on its way to Oregon. On Main Street there were only ten buildings; renovated relics of past, more prosperous times. On one side of the street stood Verdeman's Hardware and Nursery, Lung's Asian Cuisine and a small movie theater (only open from Friday night through Sunday afternoon) that showed second-run features. The supermarket, coffee house, burger joint and a few small boutique-type shops filled the other side of the block leading to Jerry Ryan's gas station located just before the freeway on-ramp. As they went by Smith's Market, Tim and Norma waved at Mrs. Ryan who stood at the cashier's counter and continued on their way past Caffiend's Coffee House and the gift shops. The enticing smell of French fries drifted from Ben's Burgers and made their stomachs growl.

Jerry's Gas and Service was a crazy quilt sort of place. The station had been there for many, many years, though it was clear that 'Jerry's' had been painted over some previous owner's name. The building, with its two-port garage, was a wreck of a wood frame and stucco structure held together by the layer of grime that covered everything. Tim's father had been reluctant to modernize, but brand new self-service pumps gave a lot more time to work on repairs. Towering above the structure was a water tower, yet another relic of the past. Next to the garage, a maze of discarded automotive junk lay waiting to be used. Jerry Ryan often walked with his son through this yard, imagining great things arising from the automotive remains. Tim said that his dad's judgment on this might be a little flawed, because there were some really useless pieces in that lot. Tim's voice took on a special tone as he spoke about his dad.

When Tim introduced Norma to his father, she couldn't help but think that the man resembled his establishment. Jerry Ryan was a short, solidly built man covered in grease and oil.

"Hello, Mr. Ryan..." Norma gave a little half-hearted wave, not really wanting to shake hands. Jerry Ryan was amused by Norma's prissy sense of cleanliness.

"I'm pleased to meet you," he said with a smile that gleamed brightly from his grimy face. "My boy here," he grabbed Tim and hugged him tightly around the shoulders, smearing him with grease, "has told me a lot about you. I'm sorry I haven't met your folks yet," he continued wiping as much gunk as possible all over his son, "but I work late hours most nights." Norma stood with her mouth agape as Tim struggled in his father's grip.

"Aww, dad!" Tim whined, barely able to contain his snickering, "Mom's gonna have a fit about these clothes."

"I'll deal with your mother," said Mr. Ryan, tousling his boy's hair, slicking it down with oil. For a moment, Tim looked very alien.

"Well," said Norma, smile frozen upon her face, "I gotta go. See you later, Tim. Nice meeting you Mr. Ryan!" As she ran out of the garage, she heard Tim and his father burst out in wild laughter. She started to laugh too.

Norma turned off Main Street and made her way back into the residential area where most of the homes were old wood shingled houses, quaint and well kept. Some doubled as offices. Norma saw signs for Doctor Henderson Huxley, Roger Wilde D.D.S., and Ms. Scorpio, seamstress. She smiled pleasantly at any grownups she passed and warily exchanged glances with the children. Future classmates? Future friends? Norma found herself strolling in the direction of Bullfinch School. She and her mother had registered for school there just days before. Her mom had wanted to make sure that all the transcripts from Los Angeles had arrived and Norma would be able to start classes after Labor Day. Bullfinch School was a bland group of brown bungalow buildings with a blacktop playground. Ms. Mason, the school secretary, assured Norma's mother that all the paperwork was in order. Classes, it turned out, would not be assigned until the first day of the school year. Norma's parents knew their daughter would get a solid education, but there was no 'gifted' program. Norma didn't mind that so much, as she never thought of herself particularly gifted. What she was upset about was missing out on the middle school experience with her friends back in Los Angeles. Bullfinch School went from kindergarten through eighth grade. Crap, she thought, I'm almost a teenager, not some runny-nosed elementary school brat!

Now as Norma saw the drab buildings of Bullfinch a couple blocks down the street, her eyes teared up in frustration... and her nose began to run. So did she.