[EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to the success of Judy Blume’s revised edition of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, in which all references to Margaret’s pink sanitary belt have been eliminated, Beverly Cleary has also stepped into the revision game. Responding to recent concerns that “Pest” was too antiquated a term for the 21st century, Cleary’s classic novel Ramona the Pest has been rewritten and updated for the present day. The title of the book has been changed to Ramona the Alternative. Return of the Reluctant has obtained the first chapter of Cleary’s “special edition” and it follows below.]
“I am not a Goth chick,” Ramona Quimby told her big sister Beezus.
“Then stop acting alternative,” said Beezus, whose real name was Beatrice. She was standing by the front window waiting for her friend Mary Jane to score some dime bags to enjoy just before school.
“I’m not acting alternative. Yes, I dyed my hair jet black and I rarely see the sun these days. But I’m singing and skipping to Peter Murphy,” said Ramona, who had only recently learned to skip to Bauhaus. Ramona did not think she was alternative. No matter what others said, she never thought she was alternative. The people who called her alternative were always hipper and often read Spin Magazine and laughed at her because she didn’t own a turntable.
Ramona went on with her singing and skipping. She began to feel considerable angst and contemplated setting fire to something. Perhaps she might skip to the 7-11 and spend most of the day hanging out in front looking gloomy. “I hate my life,” said Ramona. “I want to kill myself and I’m only eight years old.” Murphy’s gloom was starting to weigh on her. Perhaps she should cement this with a good solid blast of melancholy from Robert Smith. No longer could she care much about Beezus, who had one of the stupidest names she had ever heard. The name “Beezus” was more Goth than Ramona. It was more alternative in a radcliffy kind of way.
“Come on, Mama!” urged Ramona, pausing in her singing and skipping. “I’m too depressed to live. Can’t I stay home and be miserable?”
“Enough of that music, Ramona,” said Mrs. Quimby. “Why don’t you listen to something sensible like the Beatles or something?”
“The Beatles are so mainstream,” protested Ramona, who contemplated bringing up Lennon’s pugnacious solo album, Plastic Ono Band, but soon realized that she was talking with her mother, who would likely never understand what she was going through, much less have any musical sense whatsoever. She was a girl who had been denied an iPod. Life was so boring that she had to fall asleep in class.
Then Mary Jane arrived. “Don’t worry, Mrs. Quimby. I think Beezus and I can take care of Ramona today.” Mary Jane winked at Ramona. And Beezus and Mary Jane began to titter.
“Don’t forget your lunch, Ramona!” cried Mrs. Quimby.
“Oh, don’t worry, Mrs. Quimby,” said Mary Jane. “I’ve got something in a plastic bag that will probably get Ramona through lunch hour. And Beezus too!”