Wednesday, May 13, 2009

BSC Mystery #1: Stacey and the Missing Ring

Oh, youth. I had great memories of this book as a child, mainly because it came in a four pack with three other mysteries (Beware Dawn, Mallory and the Ghost Cat and Kristy and the Missing Child). It wasn't very good, but this was the first one, and I had a soft spot for it. Note the key word in that sentence--had a soft spot for it. This book starts off with Stacey deciding that she wants a diamond ring because her birthstone is a diamond. Her mother doesn't ream her ass out for asking (damnit, Maureen, THIS is why she's a spoiled bitch) but tells Stacey she won't buy her the ring. Fast forward a few pages and Stacey ends up with a sitting job for this new family, the Gardellas. They have a seven month old baby, Tara, a dog (Bird) and a cat (Mouse). The G's are rich--Mrs. Gardella sports a buttload of diamonds before she leaves the house. Stacey sits for the baby and animals, and it's uneventful.

So the next day, Mrs. Gardella calls Stacey. Last night before Stacey came over, Mrs. G put her diamond ring on the dresser because she meant to wear it with her outfit, but forgot. This morning, the ring is gone, and they think Stacey took it. The Gardellas don't want to hire any of the BSC to sit and are planning on telling the rest of the neighborhood about the incident. Everyone's totally upset because god forbid they not babysit. No one's calling the BSC and the gang is desperate to clear their good name.

Finally, Stacey decides she'll babysit for the Gardellas until the ring is paid off (so, pretty much until she's thirty, right?). Mrs. G is okay with that as long as another sitter comes along to supervise the first time, so Kristy comes with Stacey. Turns out the cat, Mouse, has a habit of hiding assorted objects in odd places, and he took it and hid it under a rug. Mrs. G. apologizes and then it turns out she didn't tell anyone else about the incident because she didn't have time (she told the Prezziosos but that's it). And business was slow because people just didn't need babysitting services for mundane reasons (family trips, etc.). Some parents like spending time with their kids. Deal with it, bitches.
  • In the first chapter, Stacey and her mom clean while sweating to the oldies. Stacey says she loves old music like "Shake It Up Baby" and "Pretty Woman." Nice, except I think you mean "Twist and Shout" and "Oh, Pretty Woman." Well, can't be too hard on Ann M.--I think "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore" and "Kumbaiyah" were more her speed. Then Mrs. McGill starts reminiscing and digs out her old photo album to show off her Sweet Sixteen pictures. Stacey giggles over her mother's beehive hairdo. Oh, Stacey, we're trying to butter your mom up so she'll buy you that rock! Second, not everyone looks hideous in a beehive:
  • Anyway, Stacey drops the diamond bomb, saying, "'I love my birthday, too...since my birthday has always had such a special meaning for me, I was wondering if you might like to help me buy this ring I saw at Stoneybrook Jeweler's.'" Wait, your birthday has a special meaning for you? Do you mark the occasion with friends and cake? That's unusual in American culture. Most people don't even know when they were born. Also, is it just me, or does Stacey sound like some Internet scam artist? "Hello, I'm from Nigeria, and I was wondering if you'd like to help me with a special, limited, once in a lifetime offer!"
  • Her mother's response is that her birthday is months away. Stacey replies, "'I know. And I didn't mean that the ring would be a birthday present. See, it's a birthstone ring...and it would be so - so meaningful for me.'" Wait, what? You want your single mother to shell out for a diamond ring and then also shower you with gifts several months later on your birthday?
  • When her mom refuses to buy her the ring, Stacey's response is, "'Dad would buy it for me.'" Good God. Were I Mrs. McGill, my response would be, "That's it. We're mailing you to Abu Dhabi--er, West Africa. You want diamonds so much, you can mine for them yourself in Liberia." But Mrs. McGill just gets sad and says that Stacey's probably right about Mr. McGill.
  • So, after her mom tells her no, no, no, no no no no no (see? I can sweat to the oldies, too, damnit), Stacey gets pissed off and decides to go hang out with her friends. Stacey, withholding affection when someone won't buy you something only works when that person's shagging you. At the mall, she complains to her friends about how cruel her mother is. The other girls tactfully point out that by asking for a diamond ring, Stacey's well on her way to earning her chutzpah badge. My reimagining of how that scene SHOULD have gone:
Stacey: "My mom won't buy me the ring! Don't you guys think I have the worst parents ever?"

Kristy: "I haven't seen my biological dad since I was seven."

Mary Anne: "My mom died when I was a baby and till I was twelve, my dad dressed me in styles that made Laura Ingalls look like a hobag."

Claudia: "My mom found a Milky Way under my mattress and used Chinese Water Torture on me for five hours last night."

Mallory: "I sleep in a drawer!"

Stacey: "But my mom won't buy me a ring! And when I was seven, my parents only bought me the small Malibu Barbie Dream House!"
  • Mallory says that she'd never even think of asking her parents for a diamond ring. Oh, but asking for a nose job isn't presumptuous at all? No, wait, that was harsh. Poor Mallory needs all the help she can get in that department.
  • Next. Stacey meets Mrs. Gardella, a client who apparently never met a diamond she didn't like. She's wearing a velvet dress and velvet shoes (this woman would be a perfect match for George "I would drape myself in velvet if it were socially acceptable" Costanza) diamond necklace, diamond earrings and diamond hair clip. (Hair clip, really?) Stacey gushes over Mrs. G who smiles and says she was thinking of wearing her diamond toe ring, her diamond studded belt, her diamond nose ring, and her diamond tiara, but that would be a bit much, wouldn't it? Aww, Stacey's found a role model. In the meanwhile, I wonder how many of Dr. Joan Bushwell's chimps had to die harvesting diamonds in the mines for Mrs. Gardella to get all her jewels.
  • Stacey thinks to herself that Mrs. Gardella seems nice and even though she's rich, she's just like anyone else. While Stacey starts humming If I Were a Rich Man (since, you know, every Stoneybrookite is required to have the soundtrack to Fiddler on the Roof memorized), I feel the urge to point out that a girl who used to attend a Manhattan private school, whose father lives in an upper east side apartment in walking distance of Bloomingdale's, and who regularly dines out and attends Broadway shows is most definitely not one of the simple folk.
  • The Gardellas are super obsessive about their animals. Bird eats hamburger with rice and Mouse gets chicken livers. Bird eats off a dish on a little Oriental rug and Mouse eats ON the table along with the family. Eating at the same table as an animal whose paws are regularly in contact with kitty litter. Now that's what I call hygienic. Mrs. Gardella, ever heard of toxoplasmosis? It's a little parasite found in cat excrement that can go to your brain and make you go batshit insane. Oh, wait. Never mind.
  • This animal stuff would be cute except the "About the Author" section in EVERY BSC book has a detail about Ann M. Martin having a cat named Mouse and no children. You guys know that this is the ghostwriter paying homage to Ann M. Martin bathing her infant surrogate, dressing it in baby outfits, making it wear a bib when it eats, and then burping it, right? (Okay, I know I'm not allowed to make fun. I do the same thing except the animals in my situation are plush.)
  • Stacey's depressed one evening so her mom tries to cheer her up by suggesting they both watch a movie together. Mother McGill proposes It's a Wonderful Life which Stacey vetoes, saying, "'I can't say I agree with that these days.'" Your life sucks because some loon accused you of having sticky fingers, you're spending less time changing diapers, and your parents won't buy you a diamond ring? Yeah, you're really out on the ledge with George Bailey. Please, can I spray paint "I SUPPORT BLOOD DIAMONDS :) :) :)" on her back and send her through an ultra liberal campus?
  • At one point, Claudia goes over to Stacey's house to hang out and starts rifling through her things, looking for (you guessed it) the diamond ring. Way to be subtle--I see those Nancy Drew books have really helped. You don't go through her room when she's right there, moron. Put a diet label on one of her Cokes, wait for her blood sugar level to spike and when she's half conscious, THEN ransack the place for stolen goods.
  • So, Stacey has offered to babysit for free. She and Kristy go to the Gardellas. The Gardellas say they hope that this works out and that maybe after this little business of Stacey paying off the ring is over, she can sit for them again. (You mean when she's in college?) Mrs. G heads out, presumably to go rehearse Diamonds are a Cat Lover's Best Friend for the Stoneybrook All Singing All Dancing Revue. Kristy wants to give baby Tara her bottle because, "'[she hasn't] taken care of a baby in awhile, and [she misses] it.'" Those are words that should be spoken by a first time grandmother who hasn't held a baby in years, not a thirteen year old girl who was probably thrown out of a hospital maternity ward for smelling the babies' hair this morning. (Also, your sister Emily Michelle is only two, Kristy. Two. What, did she stop being cute? They go stale after twenty four months, like Twinkies? That's not what you said in Kristy and the Baby Parade!)
  • One detail I found particularly grating was at the end. Mary Anne goes through the record book and sees a note saying that the Barretts were out of town on vacation and that's why they haven't called. (Ha! MA made a mistake. Sort of.) But mostly it just pisses me off that they keep tabs on their clients.
  • At the end, Claudia makes Stacey a present to make up for suspecting her (it's an earcuff). Then Stacey tells the gang that she might get the ring after all because her parents talked about going in for it together for her birthday or Christmas. Goddamnit, Mr. and Mrs. MGill! Rules, boundaries and limitations! One, call in Cesar Milan. Two, think twice before you sing your child, "Mama's gonna buy you a diamond ring." Three, she's thirteen and it's the early 90s. This is more her speed:

In conclusion, diamonds will make everything all right! Diamonds! Diamonds!