34

“Thank you mom,” Madison said. “I know you had to use a sick day for this.”

“Don’t give it another thought,” Jenny said. “I love that you came to me for help. And with you going off to college next year, who knows how many more days like this we’ll get.”

Madison smiled and looked around the food court. She had taken a mental health day, as suggested by the school nurse, and she and Jenny had decided to use the day to visit the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum, a place Madison hadn’t been since a second-grade field trip.

“This place grounds me,” Jenny observed. “Seeing how he grew up, how hard things were for him and his family, and what he was able to accomplish. It gives you perspective, you know?”

“Listen to this, mom,” Jenny read from a pamphlet she had picked up on the tour. “In 1833, a young Lincoln was roused from bed by a mob on the street that was convinced the world was coming to an end. The heavens were alight with the Leonid meteor showers. At first he was afraid, too, but then Lincoln said, ‘But looking back of them in the heavens, I saw all the grand old constellations with which I was so well acquainted, fixed and immoveable and true in their places.’ So he knew everything would be okay.”

“What do you take from that story?” Jenny asked.

“People panic when they are faced with the unknown. But if you focus on the stuff you know, the steady, immovable stuff, you can retain perspective,” she said.

“I like that,” Jenny said. “I know the thing with your principal feels huge to you right now. But with some time and perspective, it’s not going to seem like such a big deal. It’ll be just one of many things that happened during high school. A story to tell.”

“I guess so. Honestly, that was only part of why I freaked out, though, I think,” Madison confessed. “The other story has me really scared.”

“Why, honey? Did something happen?”

Madison considered telling her mother about the run-in with Judy but thought better of it. “No, nothing new. I’ve just been thinking about the parts I already know. About the scale of the operation. About how they talked about having friends in the DEA and CBP.”

“CBP?” Jenny asked.

“Customs and Border Protection,” Madison explained. “They’re smuggling stuff into the country and they have help from the same people who are supposed to keep us safe.”

“Well that’s not good,” Jenny said. “Should you tell someone? Like the FBI or something?”

Madison shrugged. “Why would they believe me? I think I’ll just keep poking around. Keep my head down. Do more web searches. I’m convinced the truth is out on the web someplace. I just need to find it. Connect a few more dots.”

Jenny pursed her lips. “It seems like a lot for a seventeen-year-old girl to be taking on.”

Madison smiled. “You think of me like an old kid, mom. But I see myself as a young adult. I’m sure most people my age haven’t figured out who they are and what they want to do. But I have. I’m a reporter. I investigate and I find the truth. And then I put that truth out there to give the people what they need to effect change.”

Jenny smiled but said nothing.

“When I was talking to that guy from the Parks Service about my story earlier this year, he said some stuff that really resonated with me. He was talking about what people can do to help the environment, and how it was ultimately going to require a movement. People need to vote for a government that will do something about it. And he told me that reporting the facts—giving voters the information they need to make good choices—was a very important part of that. That’s what I want to do.”

“What do the old people have to do with the environment?” Jenny asked.

“Oh, nothing I guess,” Madison said. “But I’m taking his guidance in a more general way. My story about Anderson’s bogus recycling program, if it hadn’t gotten killed, would have had a big impact. That’s why it scared him so much. And this other story could be the same way. If those people are doing something bad, it’s my moral obligation to find out and tell the world.”

“You impress me,” Jenny said. “You scare the living hell out of me. But you impress me.”

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