Paging Miss Cleo (#38 – Talking Back)

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Analyzing the cover: I love Sean’s look of complete amusement as Tara and her french braid look so serious. 

Ugh, we’re still not rid of David Douglas Duffy, for some reason. Apparently Olivia still considers Duffy her “special friend,” whatever that means. I thought she’d dumped him for good last book. If only we could be so lucky. He tells the squad about how he has to write a feature story on Madame Magda, a local psychic who helped police locate an abducted child. She apparently predicted he would be found in a hunter’s cabin. David thinks she was just guessing and doesn’t believe anyone will actually be interested in his story. Everyone laughs off the idea that a psychic could be real, except Tara, who gives it more credit.

Speaking of Tara, she is jealous that Patrick and Jessica are getting along so well. They keep talking about “old times” that weren’t all that long ago and reminiscing about things that happened during their own relationship.

Olivia is taking aerobics classes with Melissa and feeling insecure about her looks. Melissa reminds her that she’s got two guys crazy about her – Duffy and Walt. “Logic told Olivia she should avoid getting involved with either boy. But why shouldn’t she date both of them?” Inspired by her newfound girl power, Olivia tweezes her eyebrows for the first time, puts on makeup, and buys a miniskirt.

Tara goes to see Madame Magda, who says she senses romance trouble in Tara’s aura and sees her man with someone else, someone wearing a red and white uniform. Tara is angry. “My boyfriend is two-timing me and I’m not going to let him get away with it!”

Tara spots Patrick’s moving van at the Pancake House, but doesn’t see him in the restaurant. She interrogates Nancy, who’s visiting from Brown, and Nick Stewart, who are eating together. They insist Patrick wasn’t with Jessica and that he just went across the street to the newsstand. Tara says she knows he was with Jessica because a psychic told her. Nick jokes that maybe Jessica was just invisible then, and starts to order Invisible Jessica some food. Tara doesn’t know what to think. Then she notices that Nancy has her old cheerleading uniform in a plastic bag. She explains that she got it dry-cleaned and is going to wear it to a costume party back at school. Tara thinks that what Madame Magda saw was Tara’s former paramour, Nick, with Nancy, who had the red and white cheerleading uniform.

When Patrick comes back, Tara showers him with kisses. He’s confused but just accepts it. “Tara was one great-looking girl, and she was always so warm and full of enthusiasm. So what if she was a little flakey at times?”

When Sean sees Olivia in her new look, he asks her if she’s observing National Eyeshadow Week. Olivia says that’s better than honoring National Stupidity Week. Boom. Hurt by his comment, Olivia slips in the bathroom where she sees evil Diana Tucker and the captain of the pompon squad, Holly. Diana leaves without remark, but Holly compliments Olivia and asks if she did something different with her hair. Apparently no one wears more makeup than Holly – Olivia thinks she looks like a raccoon with earrings. The rest of the squad is divided on if they think Olivia looks better now or before.

Tara brings Olivia to Madame Magda to get advice about Duffy and Walt, but Madame Magda has nothing to say. She just tells Olivia she sees her with a flower behind her ear, feeling happy. She will know who to choose when the time comes. Then the psychic tells Tara she sees her having a journey where boys with numbers on their backs are running back and forth – the basketball game. She sees a devil, something slick, and a crash. Tara asks what it means, but Magda says sometimes her visions mean nothing. Olivia thinks Madame Magda was putting on a show, but Tara believes it was sincere.

Tara thinks they shouldn’t even go to the next game because of Madame Magda’s vision. Clearly they’re in danger. Coach Engborg says if Tara is so sure, she can stay home and Melissa will cheer in her place: “I won’t have you scaring the rest of the squad with these foolish superstitions.” Tara leaves the practice upset, but then decides she just has to find a way to keep the squad from going to the game.

Olivia and Sean go to the mall, and he asks what’s up with her and Walt. She says Walt is mad that she continues to hang out with Duffy and wants her 100% to himself. But she isn’t ready to fully commit to him after the way he dumped her last summer. She visits Walt at work and asks him to hang out with her, and he presses her again about being exclusive with him. She explains again why she’s not ready, and Walt seems to relent. Then she asks for help with a cheerleading routine and he accuses of her of only wanting his advice, not him.

Tough Tony Pell drops by and tells Olivia she looks great with her new look: “That’s a really bad image. Bad in the sense of good, I mean.” Olivia glows with happiness that a guy finally complimented her – Walt had only said she looked “different.” Then Tony picks out a pink rose from a plant and puts it behind her ear. At that moment, Olivia remembers Madame Magda’s prediction and shivers.

Jessica goes running and crosses paths with Peter. They end up jogging together for a long time, and when they stop to take a break, Jessica thinks about how attractive Peter is. Tara drives by and calls out to them about how it’s such a beautiful day. For some unknown reason, she has Diana Tucker in her car, and they are headed to play tennis. Jessica wonders if Peter is still hung up on Diana, who made a play for him when she first moved to town. Diana teases them about being together.

Tara apparently invited Diana to play tennis so that she could tell the whole psychic story to someone else. Diana says she totally believes in all that stuff: “I went to see [a psychic] once, and he told me in a former life I was burned at the stake as a witch.” Tara is so glad someone doesn’t think she’s crazy, she forgets Diana is a nutjob and tells her all about the premonition involving an accident and the basketball game.

Diana suggests they kidnap the basketball team – not sure if serious. Tara laughs and asks how they would restrain all of them, and Diana says she could get sleeping pills from her mom. “Tara was still laughing, but she was starting to feel a little nervous, too. It was hard to tell when Diana was kidding.” Diana then says they could hide the cheerleaders’ uniforms, because Coach would never let them go to the game in their street clothes. Tara doesn’t want to sabotage the squad. “What if you don’t do it, and the squad gets in a terrible accident?” Diana asks. Tara says they need to do something, but not hiding uniforms. Diana suggests something that will scare the squad into staying home.

Sean and Kate are at the mall shopping for a birthday present for her dad when they spot Sean’s father examining refrigerators with Marge, his secretary and on-off girlfriend. Sean hides and wonders if this means they’re getting married. He’s upset that his dad would keep that a secret from him. Jessica comes upon them and tells them about how Tara is causing all these problems with the psychic stuff and now hanging out with Diana. Madame Magda is holding a demonstration in the mall that afternoon, so Sean says they should go confront her and tell her to leave Tara alone.

Jessica, Sean, and Kate attend the demonstration, where Madame Magda asks the audience to send up small items for her to “read.” Sean sends a pocketknife and Jessica sends up a compact. Madame Magda looks at the pocketknife and says it belongs to a young man worrying about the future of a relationship – Sean thinks of his father and Marge. Then she looks at Jessica’s compact and says it’s a young woman who is attracted to someone with  P name – Peter. Jessica turns bright red and Sean looks at her: “Are you nursing a secret passion for Peter?” Madame Magda asks Jessica if she’s right, and Jessica tries to insist that she’s not. After the presentation, Sean says he was actually impressed and that he learned something new about Jessica. She threatens to never speak to him again if he says anything about it to anyone. “There’s nothing wrong with a little crush, I’m sure Peter won’t mind,” Sean teases. Kate still doesn’t believe in it and says maybe someone working with Madame Magda had overheard them talking about their friends and Sean’s dad, and passed along the information or something.

Olivia brings her and Melissa’s aerobics instructor to cheerleading practice to teach them stuff for a new routine before their game against Danville. They learn how to do the jitterbug from the teacher, who said she used to give lessons back in the 1940s. Someone mentions that Danville’s mascot is the Red Devil, and Sean points out that Tara’s psychic prediction included mention of a devil.

The group – sans Tara – is at Benny’s along with the most annoying person in the world, David Duffy. Olivia is fidgeting because Walt is supposed to meet her any minute and will not be happy seeing her sitting by Duffy. She tries to get up so she can just meet Walt outside, but Duffy stops her with 100 questions about why Walt can’t just come in and sit with them. Walt arrives and sees Duffy, then leaves and tells Olivia that maybe he just doesn’t fit in her life like Duffy does. Olivia tells Duffy she needs space, but he doesn’t seem interested in giving her any.

Jessica is home alone when she starts hearing noises outside. She goes down to look out the window. “Then she saw it – a face with huge, pointy teeth and a grinning mouth.” The face disappears. Jessica runs to make sure all her doors are locked. She’s not sure if it was a big dog or a person wearing a mask, which is a scarier prospect. She calls the police and is told that a patrol car will be sent over. Then she calls Peter, who rides his bike over and insists on staying with her until her parents get home. They start to get close, but then for some reason Peter declares that after getting hurt by Hope he has no intention to really care about another girl any time soon. That shakes Jessica. They get close again, about to kiss. “Her body was saying yes.” But the thought that she could get involved with him and have him not care about her keeps her from going through with it. She shifts away from him, and the mood passes.

The group runs into Tara, who hasn’t been around at practice and is fighting with Patrick. Jessica tells her about the “prowler,” and Tara gets defensive about how she had nothing to do with it. Surrrre. She says she can’t force them to listen to her about Madame Magda, but tonight they’ll find out if the prediction is true.

Hope tries to get Tara alone to talk about this nonsense and ask if she had some prior knowledge of the prowler at Jessica’s house, but Diana won’t leave Tara’s side. Patrick agrees to help Hope get some answers: “This psychic powers stuff is ruining my love life. How can I kiss a girl when she’s worried about getting her aura wrinkled?” Patrick picks Hope up from school to go confront Madame Magda, and word gets back to Tara from people who saw them together.

When they get to Madame Magda’s, they run into pompon squad captain Holly Hudson, who says she’s been coming to get readings as well, usually trying to get scores of basketball games. Hope thinks that’s part of how Madame Magda knows so much about them – Holly has been blabbing about her whole life and the lives of people at school. Hope and Patrick decide to leave without talking to Madame Magda, and go tell the squad there’s really nothing to worry about.

Tara didn’t have any part in planning to scare Jessica but knows immediately that Diana was behind it. “It was true that she and Diana had planned to use the old wolf suit to scare the cheerleaders into skipping the Danville game,” but Tara had no idea it would involve going to someone’s house. Diana says that was just a dress rehearsal, and Tara is going to help her with the next phase, or Diana will tell Coach Engborg that it was all Tara’s idea. Hope and Patrick try to go talk to Tara after they get back from Madame Magda’s, but she brushes them off.

Tara shows up at school as the squad is getting ready to leave for the game. Coach says if she comes to her office on Monday, they can talk about reinstating her to the squad.  Meanwhile Hope has had trouble convincing the rest of the squad that they don’t need to worry. Jessica is still shaken up over what happened at her house. Hope goes into the school to get something and sees something with fangs in the darkness. She turns to sprint away and tells everyone outside that she saw the hairy creature Jessica had seen. Coach Engborg says she’s just giving in to hysteria, and they all get on the minibus to go to the game. ???? So what exactly was this wolf costume supposed to accomplish??

After the squad leaves, Tara gets Duffy, who has a camera for the newspaper, to take a picture of Diana as she comes out with the wolf mask in her hand. Diana says if that picture gets out, she’ll tattle on Tara for working with her. Tara admits to Duffy that it’s true she tried to keep the squad from going to the game, because she worried they were in danger, but it didn’t work – they left anyway. Diana says that they might go to Danville but they won’t be cheering, because she swiped their uniforms out of the storage compartment in the minibus: “I bet you anything Coach Engborg will think Olivia and Melissa forgot them.” Tara says if she and Duffy hurry, they can get the uniforms to the game in time.

They make it to the game location, and so does the squad. While Duffy distracts the squad by taking a team photo of them, Tara hurries to put the uniforms back in the bus so Coach will never know they were missing. Lastly, Tara is trying to transfer the wolf mascot costume to the bus so that the evidence can be out of her car, but Coach Engborg sees her with it and assumes she brought it so she can dress up like the mascot for the game. Jessica and Hope immediately recognize the mask. They try to interrogate Tara, but she puts them off.

While cheering at the game, Olivia spots Duffy and Walt sitting together in the bleachers. She feels panicky thinking that she might be forced to choose between them. I fully support her pulling a Kelly Taylor and choosing herself. Ultimately Walt and Duffy have made amends, and Olivia tries to make them see that she can’t be pressured to make a choice.

Tara comes out in the mascot uniform and looks ridiculous. She is dying of embarrassment when she hears Danville’s cheerleaders cheering for someone named Slick. Was that what Madame Magda saw when she said there would be something “slick”? She can barely see out of the mask and ends up crashing into someone and falling on the court. Was that the accident Madame Magda referred to? After the game, she explains everything about Diana to Jessica and Hope.

The “big” finale – Duffy interviews Madame Magda on his radio show where he presents her with accusations that she was seen eavesdropping on Sean, Kate, and Jessica at the mall before she gave accurate readings about them at her demonstration. Then Duffy tries to bring up her prediction about the basketball game, but Madame Magda gets all defensive and says she’s leaving. “I’ve had it with you and all you impertinent Tarenton High kids! I’m going somewhere I’ll be appreciated!”

That’s the big reveal? This is how they prove she’s fake – because she was eavesdropping on three kids she had no way of knowing would come to her demonstration later that day? Really?? I thought it would turn out to be something like Diana paying her to try and cause trouble for the cheerleaders and keep them from going to a game. But no, she was wearing a hat and sitting close enough to teenagers to hear them without them noticing? So lame!!!

Everyone is happy that’s over with, but Tara considers the fact that MM knew about the flower behind Olivia’s ear and the semi-accident she had as mascot at the game. Maybe it wasn’t all fake.

Other notes and quotes

  • Olivia makes her own “prediction” – “You guys are the best bunch of friends I’ll ever have!” Gag me. But what about Nancy and Angie? What about Mary Ellennnnn??
  • Everyone starts dancing to music in the living room for some reason after Duffy exposes Madame Magda, and Jessica asks Peter to dance. Will this lead anywhere? Who knows.
  • The squad practices a cheer that requires Peter and Sean to sing, but Sean’s singing is terrible. “Stop, I’m begging you,” Jessica says.


Sign of the Times

  1. Tara – “Maybe her romance with Patrick would turn out like that season of Dallas where a whole year’s worth of episodes turned out to be a dream.”
  2. Walt asks Olivia to come over to his house and watch tapes on the VCR

Book Deets
Author: Lisa Norby
Year: 1988
Pages: 156

Grade: D

Next time on Cheerleaders… Alternate cheerleader Melissa falls in love for the first time with a smooth new senior – only to discover that he’s interested in Jessica, too! Read Cheerleaders #39, ALL OR NOTHING.


One thought on “Paging Miss Cleo (#38 – Talking Back)

  1. Pingback: Duel of the Dorks (#37 -Acting Up) – We've Got Spirit

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