A Siren’s Guide to Puberty by Cody Wagner

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My humongous boobs appeared from out of nowhere the morning of December 1st.  Sure, Mom had been saying, “My little Coriander is becoming a woman,” for months. But I didn’t think it would happen so fast. The night before, I had mosquito bites where my chest should have been. Suddenly, and from out of nowhere, I sprouted giant handfuls of breasts.

 

I also woke with a funny warmth in my throat. It didn’t hurt, but my voice definitely didn’t feel “normal”. It’s like someone had wrapped a heating pad around my tonsils. I didn’t think much about it, though, at least not yet. A minor tingling in my larynx took a definite backseat to the emergence of chesticles.

 

OK enough about my boobs. That has nothing to do with what happened. But puberty did, so it’s all connected.

 

I walked to class at Sam Houston Middle School that morning, a little disappointed no one was staring at my chest. It shouldn’t have been a surprise; I was the resident nobody. I’d have given weeks of lunch money for a bully to knock me around. Invisibility was my superpower.

 

I doodled my morning classes away, oblivious to the tingling in my throat. The vertical symmetry of hearts coupled with their horizontal asymmetry intrigued me, so they littered my notebook. It had nothing to do with love, trust me. The boys in my grade were nasty. Besides, they didn’t even know I existed. I didn’t care. Art was more important. And choir.

 

Believe it or not, singing ruled my life more than hearts. I wouldn’t listen to music I couldn’t mimic. No rap or guy singers or sopranos. Only deeper rich altos. I belted Etta James for hours. Maybe some gene lying dormant in my cells and knowing what I would become spawned this love of music. Or maybe I was a bona fide choir nerd of my own choosing.

 

Either way, I sprinted into the choir room right after lunch. Pretending I hadn’t run myself out of breath to be the first one in, I made my way to the boxes.

 

Each of us had a neatly labeled wooden box containing our music. December had arrived and it was Christmastime. Panting, I reached inside to see what we’d be learning for the holidays.

 

The box held two pieces: Everyone Bow Down and Silent Night. Everyone knew Silent Night, so I shoved it back in and walked to the risers holding the other piece. Mrs. Addison, our music teacher, played something on a grand piano and didn’t acknowledge me. I flopped down and pored over the music.

 

By the time everyone had arrived, I knew most of the song. My jaw clenched with determination. I would be the most prepared singer. I would stand out.

 

“Let’s warmup.” Mrs. Addison stretched her abnormally long fingers and played various scales. I used my diaphragm support and tried putting vibrato into my voice, just like I’d been practicing for weeks.

 

We finished without incident (meaning no one commented on my mature sound) and Mrs. Addison said, “Did everyone get the new songs?” When we nodded, she continued, “Good. Let’s open Everyone Bow Down.”

 

I shot to my feet. Oblivious to my enthusiasm, she said, “Let’s practice just the first page.”

 

At that, she stood, lifted a thin baton, and conducted as we sang:

 

The King, The King is Coming,
To Bring Peace, To Bring Peace,
Everyone Bow Down.

 

Suddenly, all the guys except for two fell to their knees and reverently placed their heads on their thighs. The two boys left standing – both unpopular and nerdy – stared awkwardly around the room. I’m sure they felt utterly singled out again, as if everyone deemed “cool enough” was let in on surprise choreography.

 

A few of the cool girls giggled.

 

I rolled my eyes and thought, Very mature. How was I going to get noticed with the guys being stupid? However, I didn’t focus on that for long because the warmth in my throat erupted. I gripped my neck. The sensation didn’t hurt, but it was intense and foreign. Stiffening my legs, I mentally shook the feeling away; I needed to wow everyone, not obsess over warm tonsils.

 

Mrs. Addison smiled. “It’s great to see how much you love Jesus, but I want to make it through the song before my eighty cats starve to death.” OK that’s not what she said. But if Mrs. Addison could always ignore me, I could call her out on being the school’s cat lady.

 

The kneeling guys jerked up and began to look around, confused. One rubbed his head and said, “What happened?”

 

Mrs. Addison shook her head. “Very funny. Let’s sing.”

 

They glanced at each other and a few shrugged. I didn’t buy their little amnesia routine and ignored them until they grabbed their music and we all sang again:

 

The King, The King is Coming,
To Bring Peace, To Bring Peace,
Everyone Bow Down.

 

The same guys shot to their knees again. This time, the other girls about fell over laughing. I grabbed my throat. The warmth was more intense. The two boys still standing peeked at each other. I’m sure they were wondering if they should pretend to kneel. Anything to fit in with the stupid jocks.

 

 

Mrs. Addison clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention. “Enough. That’s the last time, OK?”

 

Only it wasn’t the last time.

 

We tried singing the song five more times. Five! Each time, the same guys fell to their knees. And each time, they acted all groggy after.

 

Mrs. Addison’s hands shook with rage. It was obvious the boys were showing off for the girls, but even Miss Popular Lindsay Thomas (or “MPLT” as I called her) threw her music and screamed, “Come on!”

 

Mrs. Addison slammed a hand on the piano and everyone jumped.

 

“That is IT.” She snapped her baton in half and pointed both pieces at us. “We’re singing solos until this stops.”

 

The class froze. Girls’ voices were young and wispy. Guys’ notes cracked all over the place. Being self-conscious tweens, everyone hated singing alone.

 

Except me. I sat up, excited. Finally. My chance to show how hard I’d worked.
“Lindsay, you go first.”

 

I guess it made sense for MPLT to start. If the boys were acting up for anyone, it was her. Still, I exhaled loudly, letting everyone know I wanted to go.

 

Lindsay stood up, trying to look cool. But her paper shook, betraying her nerves. Mrs. Addison raised a hand and Lindsay began to sing. When she made it to Everyone Bow Down, everyone froze and turned to the guys. Nothing happened.

 

“Finally,” Mrs. Addison said.

 

I stuck my tongue out at no one and pouted, figuring we were done with the solos.

 

But Mrs. Addison was still so pissed, she made the next girl stand up and sing. Again, the boys behaved. I didn’t care about that. I just wanted the chance to wow everyone. I imagined finishing my solo and everyone staring, mouth open. Mrs. Addison would clap and everyone would raise me up on their arms.

 

I shook away the fantasy and watched the procession of singers. As each girl stood, terrified, I drew a tiny heart with my finger, counting the people until it was my turn.

 

Finally, after six girls, Mrs. Addison said, “OK Coriander, your turn.”

 

I smiled and said, “I’m ready.” Then I held out my paper, on purpose, to show everyone my hands weren’t shaking.

 

She nodded at me. I felt the heat build, embraced it, and began singing in my smooth alto.

 

The King, The King is Coming,
To Bring Peace, To Bring Peace,
Everyone Bow Down.

 

The guys flew to their knees. This time, they moved so fast, I heard banging as their legs hit the risers.

 

A few girls covered their mouths. I jerked in surprise and, oblivious to the heat in my throat, started to seethe. Every single stupid shot I had to stand out was somehow ruined. I glared at the guys then turned to Mrs. Addison for help.

 

She looked at me, pure confusion on her face. Apparently, I was such a nobody, she didn’t think the guys would do this for me. After staring a few seconds, she composed herself and said, “It seems as if our boys aren’t mature enough to respect people.” She folded her hands. “Coriander, please go again.”
My heart bounced; I was getting another chance. And this time would be my best. I glared at the stupid boys, took my deepest breath ever, and began to sing.

 

The King, The King is Coming,
To Bring Peace, To Bring Peace,
Everyone Bow Down.

 

Knees hit risers again. Mrs. Addison growled in frustration.

 

Furious, I threw down my music and sang, “Leave me alone!”

 

That’s when my world blew up.

 

Every guy – except the same two nerds who hadn’t kneeled – took off. Most of them went for the door, crashing into each other in desperation to leave. Four eighth-graders raced to the windows. A heard creaks as the windowpane flew open. One-by-one they jumped.

 

A couple girls screamed. It was stupid because we were on the first floor and the windows were like five feet off the ground. Still, I admit my hands trembled. I had no idea what was going on but finally realized it had something to do with me.

 

Sweat running down my back, I put a hand over my vocal cords and turned to the front.
Mrs. Addison stood there, glaring at me. “Office. Now. And you better hope the boys return.”

 

The rest of the class stood paralyzed.

 

My brain was in another world and I didn’t even argue with her. Nodding absently, I shuffled out the door.

 

Tears should have flowed as I trundled to the office. Every scenario I’d ever imagined about being sent to the principal included mountains of tears. But I was so confused, I couldn’t cry. My subconscious knew singing the words, “Leave me alone!” would work. I don’t know how it knew, but it did. And the idea terrified me. I admit it excited me, too. I had done something straight out of X-Men comics. Talk about insane.

 

Stopping, I put a hand on my heart. The feeling in my throat seemed to reach out and grab my chest. I didn’t know what had caused all this, but I involuntarily looked down at my boobs. In that moment, I knew my invisibility cloak was gone forever.

 

About the Author

Cody Wagner loves to sing, mime (not really), and create. He writes about topics ranging from superpowers to literate trees (really). His debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, “came out” on October 27th. See what he did there? Cody dealt with bullying as a teen and wanted to provide a fun escape for all the underdogs out there. He’s also handing out cookie dough to everyone who grabs a copy. Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or find him on Twitter @cfjwagner, Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/wagner_writer, and Amazon at www.amazon.com/Cody-Wagner/e/B016NYGV40.
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6 thoughts on “A Siren’s Guide to Puberty by Cody Wagner

  1. Kenneth Weene

    I love the play on Greek mythology. The stormy seas sailed by Ulysses versus the storms of adolescence and the Sirens as the voice of the uncontrollable urges. Having read Cody’s book I particularly can appreciate that it is the very “normality” of the Sirens’ call that makes it so dangerous. Glad Mr. Wagner is sharing his Odyssey with us.

    Reply
    1. Cody

      Thanks so much! I was a tenor in middle school (before the big voice change) and pretty much lifted the choir room directly from memory 🙂

      Reply
  2. Delinda Lois Mccann

    Loved it. Ah the trials of adolescence and choir class. Loved the combination of the classics with the hint of our current fascination with superpowers.

    Reply

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