Preview of THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS
A Piece of Evidence
December 14, 2007
To: Headmaster Richmond and the Board of Directors, Alabaster Preparatory Academy
I, Frankie Landau-Banks, hereby confess that I was the sole mastermind behind the mal-doings of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. I take full responsibility for the disruptions caused by the Order — including the library lady, the doggies in the window, night of a thousand dogs, the canned beet rebellion and the abduction of the guppy.
That is, I wrote the directives telling everyone what to do.
I, and I alone.
No matter what Porter Welsch told you in his statement.
Of course, the dogs of the Order are human beings with free will. They contributed their labor under no explicit compunction. I did not threaten them or coerce them in any way, and if they chose to follow my instructions, it was not because they feared retribution.
You have requested that I provide you with their names. I respectfully decline to do so. It’s not for me to pugn or impugn their characters. I would like to point out that many of the Order’s escapades were intended as social criticism. And that many of the Order’s members were probably diverted from more self-destructive behaviors by the activities prescribed them by me. So maybe my actions contributed to a larger good, despite the inconveniences you no doubt suffered.
I do understand the administration’s disgruntlement over the incidents. I see that my behavior disrupted the smooth running of your patriarchal establishment. And yet I would like to respectfully suggest that you view each of the Loyal Order’s projects with the gruntlement that should attend the creative civil disobedience of students who are politically aware and artistically expressive.
I am not asking that you indulge my behavior; merely that you do not dulge it without considering its context.
Frances Rose Landau-Banks, class of 2010
Though not, in hindsight, so startling as the misdeeds she would perpetrate when she returned to boarding school as a sophomore, what happened to Frankie Landau-Banks the summer after her freshman year was a shock.
Certainly enough to disturb Frankie’s conservative mother, Ruth, and to rile several boys in Frankie’s New Jersey neighborhood to thoughts (and even actions) they’d never before contemplated.
Frankie herself was unsettled as well.
Between May and September, she gained four inches and twenty pounds, all in the right places. Went from being a scrawny, awkward child with hands too big for her arms, a frizz of unruly brown fluff on her head and a jaw so sharp it made Grandma Evelyn cluck about how “when it came to plastic surgery, it never hurt to do these things before college” – to being a curvaceous young woman with an off-beat look that boys found distinctly appealing. She grew into her angular face, filled out her figure, and transformed from a homely child into a loaded potato – all while sitting quietly in a suburban hammock, reading the short stories of Dorothy Parker and drinking lemonade.
The only thing Frankie herself had done to facilitate the change was to invest in some leave-in conditioner to tame the frizz. She wasn’t the kind of girl to attempt a makeover. She had been getting along okay at Alabaster Prep without one, despite the fact that their boarding school was (as her older sister Zada pointed out) an institution where the WASPs outnumbered the other protestants 10 to 1, the Catholics were pretty much in the closet and the members of the tribe had largely changed their names from things like Bernstein to things like Burns.
Frankie got by at Alabaster on the strength of being Zada’s little sister. Zada was a senior when Frankie started, and though she’d never been outlandishly popular, Zada had a solid crew of friends and a reputation for speaking her mind. She let Frankie tag along with her group of juniors and seniors for the first part of the school year, and made it clear to everyone that Frankie was not to be messed with. Zada let her little sister sit with her at lunch on an as-needed basis, and introduced her to people from the crew team, the lacrosse team, student government and the debate team. This last group Frankie joined — and proved to be a surprisingly sharp competitor.
Frankie had held up her part of the bargain freshman year by not embarrassing Zada any more than she could help. She wore the clothes Zada told her to, did fine in her classes, and made friends with a group of mildly geeky fellow freshman who were neither ostentatiously silly nor tragically lame.
By summer’s end, when she saw Zada off to Berkeley, Frankie was curvy, lithe and possessed of enough oomph to stop teenage boys in the street when they passed her. But if we are to accurately chronicle Frankie’s transformation and so-called misbehavior in these pages, it is important to note that her physical maturation was not, at first, accompanied by similar mental developments. Intellectually, Frankie was not at all the near-criminal mastermind who created the Fish Liberation Society and who will, as an adult, probably go on to head the CIA, direct action movies, design rocket ships or possibly (if she goes astray) preside over a unit of organized criminals. At the start of sophomore year, Frankie Landau-Banks was none of these things. She was a girl who liked to read, had only ever had one boyfriend, enjoyed the debate team, and still kept gerbils in a Habitrail. She was highly intelligent, but there was nothing unusually ambitious or odd about her mental functioning.
Her favorite food was guacamole and her favorite color was white.
She had never been in love.