Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Anastasia at This Address, Page 1

Lois Lowry

  Anastasia at this Address

  Lois Lowry

  * * *

  Houghton Mifflin Company


  * * *

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Lowry, Lois.

  Anastasia at this address / by Lois Lowry.

  p. cm.

  Summary: Ready for romance, thirteen-year-old Anastasia answers an

  ad in the personals with an exaggerated description of herself but

  soon runs into trouble when the unknown man turns up at a friend's


  ISBN 0-395-56263-5

  [1. Letter writing—Fiction. 2. Humorous stories.] I. Title.

  PZ7.L9673Amcm 1991 90-48308

  [Fic]—dc20 CIP


  Copyright © 1991 by Lois Lowry

  All rights reserved. For information about permission

  to reproduce selections from this book, write to

  Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue

  South, New York, New York 10003.

  Printed in the United States of America

  QUM 10

  * * *

  Books by Lois Lowry

  Anastasia Krupnik

  Anastasia Again!

  Anastasia at Your Service

  Anastasia, Ask Your Analyst

  Anastasia on Her Own

  Anastasia Has the Answers

  Anastasia's Chosen Career

  All About Sam

  Anastasia at This Address

  The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline


  Your Move, J.P.!

  A Summer to Die

  Find a Stranger, Say Goodbye

  Autumn Street

  Taking Care of Terrific

  Us and Uncle Fraud

  Rabble Starkey

  Number the Stars


  "Mom, I need you to tell me what a word means." Anastasia peered through the doorway into the studio, where her mother was working on some book illustrations.

  Mrs. Krupnik looked up from the table where she'd been leaning over a large sheet of paper covered with an intricate pen-and-ink drawing. "What word?" she asked.

  "Gwem," Anastasia said.

  "Gwem?" Katherine Krupnik put her pen down and stared at Anastasia. "Never heard of it. Is it English?"

  Anastasia nodded. "Yeah," she said. "But maybe the vowel is wrong. It could be gwim. Or gwam."

  "Guam is an island in the Pacific. Are you doing Geography homework?"

  Anastasia made a face. "No. Not Guam. I should have spelled it for you. It's with a W. G-w-a-m. Or gwem, or gwim."

  Her mother shook her head. "Did you look in the dictionary?"

  "It's not there. But I know it's a word because I read it in a magazine."

  "Well," said Mrs. Krupnik, "they made a mistake. Or maybe it's a misprint. There's no such word as gwem. Or gwam. Or gwim."

  Anastasia frowned. "How about gwum? It could be gwum."

  Mrs. Krupnik grinned. "Aha!" she said. "Gwum. That one I know."

  "What does it mean?"

  "Well, a person with a slight speech impediment? If that person is sad or depressed? He's gwum. A wittle bit gwum and gwoomy."

  "Ha-ha," Anastasia said sarcastically. "You're no help."

  "Sorry," her mother said. "Take a look at this, as long as you're here, would you?" She turned the paper in front of her so that Anastasia could see it. "Do the proportions look right to you? It seems to me that the guy's arms are a little too long."

  Anastasia walked over to the drawing table and peered at the sketch, a complicated one that showed a pudgy farmer leading a long line of cows through a meadow.

  "No, " she said, after a moment. "His arms look just fine to me. I don't know how you do it, Mom. I can't draw anything, but you just whip off these fabulous pictures with no trouble at all."

  "What do you mean, 'whip off ? I went to art school for four long years, Anastasia, learning how to do this. My parents spent thousands of dollars of tuition so that I could draw cows with silly grins. Look at this one, with the daffodil hanging out of her mouth—isn't she cute?"

  Her mother pointed to the cow, and Anastasia nodded.

  "But I always have trouble drawing people," her mother said with a sigh. "Darn it. All those years of Life class—"

  "I gotta go, Mom," Anastasia said quickly. "I'm sorry I interrupted you. His arms are just fine, really."

  She fled, closing the door to the studio behind her.

  Anastasia hated it when her mother mentioned Life class. Life class was a terrible thing they did in art schools. It was a fake name: "Life." It made you think they would teach you something profound, something about the meaning of life. But they didn't at all. It was really a class that taught you to draw people. Nude people. And let's face it, Anastasia thought, nude was just another word for, ugh, naked.

  What if nuns decided to go to art school, to learn to make nice religious drawings, of saints and stuff? And the nuns would go off happily to Life class, for Pete's sake, thinking they would learn about the meaning of life—a thing that nuns were certainly interested in—and they would go into that room very innocent and nunlike, and—whammo. Naked people standing around. Anastasia shuddered, just thinking of it. Probably art schools all over the country were filled with unconscious nuns being carted away on stretchers, their faces pale with shock.

  "Gross," Anastasia muttered, feeling sorry for nuns. She wandered back into her dad's study and picked up the New York Review of Books.

  It was a truly boring magazine, Anastasia thought, but it had a couple of interesting pages at the end of each issue. She turned to the page she'd been reading and looked at the word again. Gwem. Or gwam. Or gwim. She wondered why they hadn't put in the vowel. It was very frustrating, not knowing what the word meant.

  "Hi, sport. Are you turning literary all of a sudden? There's a great article in there on the politics of Elizabethan poetry." Anastasia's father came into the study, set his briefcase on the couch, and reached for one of his pipes from the assortment that stood in a rack on his desk.

  "Hi, Dad. Look at this, would you? Do you know what this word means?" Anastasia pointed to it. She read aloud: "'Gwem, slender, thirty-five, loves sunsets, Schubert, Springsteen, and spaghetti.'"

  "Gwem?" Her father peered over her shoulder with a puzzled look. "Oh. That's not gwem, Dumbo. It's an abbreviation, GWM. It means Gay White Male."

  "But what about this one, farther down?" Anastasia read some more: " Dijof, petite and pretty, forty-two, seeks soulmate who appreciates Woody Allen, wood-stoves, and Wordsworth.'"

  "Easy," her father said, lighting his pipe. "DJF. Divorced Jewish Female."

  "Oh! Then—let's see—SBM wouldn't be sabim! Stupid me, I thought it was sabim! It would be—"

  "Single Black Male."

  "Oh, neat! It's like a puzzle! Here's a Divorced White Female—DWF—who's looking for a dentist with a sense of humor—"

  "Lotsa luck," her father, who had recently had gum surgery, muttered.

  "And here's—hey, listen, Dad, this one sounds like you! MWM. That would be Married White Male, right? Just like you?"

  "Right. What else does it say?"

  "'Married White Male, forty-eight'—that's just your age, Dad—'Ivy League background, needs companion occasional New York weekends,'" Anastasia read, "'theater, long walks, snuggling.'" She looked up. "Snuggling? A married guy, snuggling?"

  Her father shrugged and rolled his eyes.

  Anastasia glared at him. "That's not you, is it?" she asked suspiciously. "You're not planning New York weekends, are you?"

  Her father groaned. "You know I hate New York," he s
aid. "And I hate long walks. And my weekends are taken. I snuggle with your mother, every weekend. Where is she, speaking of your mother? And where's your brother?"

  Anastasia closed the New York Review of Books. "She's working, in the studio. And Sam's playing at his friend Adam's. They'll be bringing him home soon. Can I keep this?"

  "May," her father said. He was looking through the stack of mail on his desk.

  "It's not May, it's March," Anastasia pointed out.

  "I was correcting your grammar. May I keep this. Yes, you may. It's last week's; I'm through with it. Read the article about the politics of Elizabethan poetry. Impress the heck out of your seventh-grade English teacher."

  Anastasia scowled. There were enormous disadvantages to having a father who was an English professor, even if he was an MWM, 48, Ivy League background.

  She tucked the magazine under her arm and headed upstairs to her bedroom, on the third floor. To her bedroom, where her desk was. To her desk, where her best fineline Rollerball pen was. She planned to write a letter.

  Anastasia was going to write to SWM, 28, boyish charm, inherited wealth, looking for tall young woman, nonsmoker, to share Caribbean vacations, reruns of Casablanca, and romance.

  Anastasia was only thirteen. But fifteen years didn't seem too much of an age difference. Anastasia's father was ten years older than her mother, for Pete's sake. The important thing was being on the same wavelength. Her parents were definitely on the same wavelength.

  And Anastasia was quite certain that she was on the same wavelength as SWM. She was 5'7", which was tall. She was young. She hated smoking. She had watched the old movie Casablanca so many times that she could recite some of the dialogue by heart. She thought she would like Caribbean vacations, though she had never experienced one.

  And she was definitely ready for romance.

  Dear SWM,

  I apologize for not using the proper heading on this letter. I am a well-educated SWF and my education just last year included the writing of a Friendly Letter, and I know I should put the date and my address and all of that. And my name, at the end, after "Yours truly."

  And this is a Friendly Letter. But it seems like an unusual situation. Rick in Casablanca would understand that, and I'm quite sure he wouldn't put the proper heading on a Friendly Letter. He would use a code name, too, the way you have. And I will, too.

  You should use my code name on the envelope when you reply, because—as Rick knew, in Casablanca—there are spies everywhere.

  I am a tall young woman who has never smoked, not once, even when I have been with friends who tried to tempt me into tiying it.

  I don't spend all my time watching Casablanca. Sometimes, when I am not watching Casablanca, I am reading the New York Review of Books, especially parts like "The Politics of Elizabethan Poetry." I always find it amazing that there are so many poets named Elizabeth, don't you?

  Unfortunately I have not inherited wealth, as you have. But I have inherited my grandmother's wedding ring, which I keep in my little carved wooden box that also holds other treasures. When you reply to this letter I will put your reply in my carved wooden box.

  Do you have any hobbies besides watching Casablanca?

  Yours truly,


  (Single White Intelligent Female: Tall Young)


  "I've decided to give up men," Anastasia's friend Sonya Isaacson announced suddenly.

  It was a startling statement. But Anastasia barely heard it, and she paid no attention. She was walking home from school with her three best friends, and she was thinking about SWM. She was wondering if his letter might be there today, on the hall table, when she got home. A week had passed since Anastasia had carefully stamped the envelope she had addressed to the New York box number and, after holding her breath to the count of ten, for good luck, slipped the letter into the mailbox on the corner near her house.

  She had already thought through the obvious pitfalls connected to his response. What if SWM knew someone who lived in her town? What if he inquired casually of the friend, "Do you know someone named Anastasia Krupnik?" And what if the friend did?

  And what if the friend laughed and said, "That skinny seventh-grader? The one with the big glasses?"

  Well, that could doom a potentially fulfilling relationship.

  But she had cleverly prevented that possibility by using the code name.

  And she had foreseen, also, the problem of her parents. She had visualized her mother, who usually picked up the day's mail from the hall floor after the mailman pushed it through the slot, puzzling over the frequent letters from New York. Her mother—who was much too inquisitive, no question—would surely say, "Anastasia, who is this person writing to you from New York every other day? Why does this person call you 'Swifty'? And what is this'S.W.A.K. this person puts on the back of the envelopes?" (Anastasia was quite certain that it wouldn't be very long before the correspondence reached the every-other-day, S.W.A.K. stage.)

  So she had slyly prepared her parents.

  "Funniest thing," she said casually at dinner one evening. "I have a nickname, at school. Everyone calls me by my nickname."

  "Oh?" her mother replied. "What is it?"

  "Ah, Swifty," Anastasia said. "Cute, huh?"

  "Swifty?" her parents said in unison.

  "Yeah. Swifty. I guess because I'm so swift at stuff. I'm very swift at, ah, diagramming sentences in English. Everybody notices how swift I am. And now they've just started calling me Swifty. May I have some more salad, please?"

  Deftly she changed the subject. But she had planted the beginning of the necessary information.

  The next night, she planted the rest.

  "Did you guys ever have pen pals when you were kids?" she asked.

  "Nope," her father said. "I hated writing letters when I was a kid. I still do."

  "I had a pen pal," Mrs. Krupnik said. "Someone who lived in France. Her name was Yvonne. We wrote to each other for about a year, when I was in ninth grade. I wonder what ever happened to her."

  "Can I have a pen pal?" Sam asked.

  "Sure. When you're older," his mother replied.

  "Why not now?" asked Sam, pouting.

  "Because I can't trust you with a pen," Mrs. Krupnik said. "You write on things you're not supposed to."

  Sam nodded. "Like your bedspread," he muttered.

  "Right. Like my bedspread," Mrs. Krupnik said angrily.

  They had almost veered away from the topic, but Anastasia interrupted.

  "You might notice that I'll be getting letters soon," she said.

  "Oh? From a pen pal?" her mother asked.

  "Yes," Anastasia said. "May I have some more salad, please?"

  "Sure. Pass your plate. You're becoming a real salad-lover, Anastasia."

  "You may call me by my nickname if you like," Anastasia said. "You do remember my nickname, don't you?"

  Her mother nodded and handed the plate back. "I think I'll stick with your given name, if you don't mind," she said. "I'm not real crazy about Swifty."

  "Well," said Anastasia, poking the lettuce on her plate with her fork, "I only mentioned it because you might notice that my pen pal calls me that."

  "I'm going to have a nickname, too," Sam announced. "Macho-man. That's my nickname."

  Anastasia smiled slightly. She had done it. She had implanted all the necessary information without creating a big deal.

  Maybe, in her future life, she could be a successful spy.


  "I'm giving men up completely. Cold turkey," Sonya went on.

  Anastasia blinked. She hadn't been paying any attention. But Daphne and Meredith had both stopped walking and turned to stare at Sonya, who had a determined look on her chubby freckled face. Anastasia stared at her, too.

  "Sonya," she pointed out, "that's like giving up smoking when you've never even smoked. It doesn't mean anything."

  "Right," Daphne Bellingham agreed, nodding her blond head in its bright
blue knitted hat. "How can you give up men when you were never involved with them to begin with?"

  Sonya frowned. "Well," she said, "I phrased it wrong. I meant that I've decided to give up the pursuit of men."

  All four girls shifted their schoolbooks in their arms and began walking again.

  "Why?" Anastasia asked after a moment. Secretly, she was remembering the letter she had mailed last week. She felt as if she had just begun a pursuit. And now one of her best friends was renouncing the same pursuit.

  "It takes up too much time," Sonya explained. "I seem to spend all my time trying to figure out ways—schemes, actually—to get Norman Berkowitz to like me. I could be spending that time doing worthwhile things."

  "Like what?" Meredith Halberg asked. "What could be more worthwhile than chasing boys?"

  Sonya shrugged. "I could be working on a cure for cancer. Or knitting mittens for homeless people. Or—I don't know. Anything. Just about anything would be more worthwhile than chasing Norman Berkowitz all the time."

  "Are you really truly going to give it up?" Anastasia asked. She was impressed. Sonya had been pursuing Norman Berkowitz for months now, throughout their seventh-grade year. It was a part of her life, the way pursuing Eddie Cox was part of Daphne's and pursuing Kirby McEvedy was part of Meredith's and—well, yes, she'd admit it—pursuing Steve Harvey had been part of Anastasia's life until she'd discovered this new man whose interests seemed to be more like her own.

  She hadn't told her friends about the new man in her life.

  "I don't know what I'd do with myself if I gave up the pursuit of Kirby McEvedy," Meredith said, wrinkling her forehead. "It's what I think about, starting when I get up every morning. My mom accuses me of thinking about nothing but clothes, but she doesn't realize it's really Kirby McEvedy."

  "I have all these lists in my room," Daphne said, "of every place I've ever seen Eddie Cox, and when. McDonald's on Thursday afternoon, for example. The public library once, on a Saturday. Waiting for a bus on the corner of Central Street—that was also a Saturday, at 10:17 A.M."

  "Do you follow him around?" Anastasia asked in amazement.

  "Sort of. Just to keep track of where he goes and what he does so that I can start appearing at the same places as if by accident," Daphne admitted.