Saturday, June 22, 2013



Liz’s brother Matt was racing up the mountainside like a goat.   Rolling her eyes, Liz waited a moment before mumbling a frustrated “I swear,” and climbing up after him.
Ten minutes ago, just ten little minutes, Liz, her father, and Matt had headed up the side of the mountain to gather firewood.   And now, Matt was running away -- again.   Not that he was the victim of some great parental injustice or anything like that.  From what Liz could gather, he’d had a fight with their father, big whoop.  She didn’t know what the fight was about, but her brother always did annoying things like making farting noises for no reason, and then not stopping until you wanted to throw him off a mountain, so it was probably something stupid like that.  
            Here’s what she did know: 
First, her father had half-stomped, half-slid back down the mountain towards the campsite, muttering under his breath as he passed by. 
Second, it was already drizzling and the sun had vanished behind forbidding clouds, which meant dark was coming sooner than expected, and Matt was afraid of the dark. 
Third, Liz was already cold in her cut-off denim shorts, even though she was wearing a windbreaker, and she did not want to have to chase Matt down right now.  Heck, she never wanted to do that. 
Fourth, she had to go after her brother no matter how cold she was or what she wanted to do, because no one else would—
--and fifth, she was really, really mad about that, but she was not going to cry. 

“I.  Swear!” she yelled in frustration at the whole situation.
Oh yeah, did she forget to mention that she hated camping?  And camping in the rain was even worse than camping in the sunshine.  And camping with your family – in the rain -- when you were ten going on eleven was the worst of all.  The worst!
This was turning out to be a great summer.  Just great.

            Although she and Matt had faithfully dug a trench around their pup tent when they arrived at the campsite yesterday, if it poured rain tonight, they would get soaked.  First, the rain would bead up on the sides of the tent, and they’d have to move their sleeping bags away from the edges.  It was bad enough, sharing a tiny tent, but completely awful when they had to huddle together in the center of the tent. 
            She would try to read, but Matt would kick and squirm and maybe even reach over and pinch her if she didn’t pay him enough attention. 
            He would say, “I love cats,” at least fifty times.
            She would say, “No repeating, that’s the rule.”
            The third or fourth time she said it, she’d use “the tone”, and her parents would yell at her from their tent, “Lizzy!  Enough!”
            She would say, “But he—“
            And her mom would say, “I don’t care,” and her dad would say, “Just stop.  You can’t use that tone with your brother,” and her mother would say, “You’re hurting his feelings,” and Liz would try to dive deep into her sleeping bag to get away from them all, but because of the rain, it would be soggy and wet and cold and horrible.

            “I swear,” she said, digging her toe into a foothold in the side of the mountain, still scrambling after her brother despite his extreme annoying-ness.
            He couldn’t control his temper, everyone said, so he was running away, as usual, and it was going to rain, and Liz had left her book, A Wrinkle in Time out on the stupid picnic table back at their stupid campsite, and now her book, her only solace, was going to get ruined by the rain… and no one was going to go after Matthew but her, because they would want to call in the rangers or the professionals of some sort or anotherbut Liz knew it was her responsibility to keep her little brother safe, and that’s why she was climbing as fast as she could up the side of the mountain that tilted steeply upward from their campsite.
Sometimes she felt like she was the only one who really cared.  Sometimes she felt like she was the only one who didn’t.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Okay, I broke my ankle in January, and I haven't posted since... here's a new one though... a nice long one, excerpt from a novel I've just started.  -- Shelley

Izzy:  “Let me see!” said Izzy.
It was one of the first days of summer vacation, a Sunday, and Izzy was still in her church clothes.  But Seven wasn’t making fun of her fancy outfit.  As soon as she came out this afternoon, he dragged her around the block and into an alley, behind some guy’s house.  Izzy’s white mary jane’s were getting scuffed and dirty, and her mother was going to have a fit.
“Let me see!”
            Seven pushed her away.  “I’m still looking!  Wait your turn!”
            “Seven!  That’s not fair, it is my turn.  You’ve been looking for an hour.”
            “It’s been a minute, and don’t call me Seven, my name is Steven.”
            With that, Seven pushed Izzy so hard she fell over backwards and landed on her butt. 
That made her mad, and she wanted to continue taunting Seven – whose name was supposed to be Steven, but his father wasn’t paying attention when he filled out the birth certificate, and he left out the “t”, so the boy’s name really was “Seven,” and even Izzy knew that, because Seven’s sister Allie told her. 
            So, his name was Seven, not Steven, and he was being a jerk, and Izzy so wanted to push herself up, launch herself into the skinny little brat, knock him down, make up some rhyme about his name, something like, “Seven Seven went to Heaven,” but that wasn’t even funny and anyway—
            Sighing, Izzy got up and brushed herself off, didn’t say anything, and waited for her turn to see through the fence. 
Seven was her best friend, for one thing.  You don’t make fun of your best friend’s name after he asks you to stop.  Another thing was, Seven was a year older than Izzy and everyone knew the rule was, if you were older, you got the last word.
Plus, Seven was something of a ten-year old homicidal maniac.  Seriously, if they weren’t best friends, Izzy would’ve gotten a lot worse than pushed down.  Seven might have picked up a stick and hit her so hard across the mouth he would’ve knocked out a tooth, the way he did to Michael Kaplan when Michael tried to tell everyone in the fifth grade that he saw Izzy’s underwear and that they looked like granny panties. 
Michael’d just started singing, “Granny Panties, Granny Panties, Izzy wears Granny—“
--When Seven hit him across the mouth with the stick, which shut him up good.  Not that Izzy condoned violence or anything, but she was sure glad Michael shut up, even if he did have to go to the emergency room.  And Seven didn’t say a word to the principal or anyone about why he hit Michael, even though Seven got suspended for that.  So the “Granny Panties” song died before it even hit the playground airwaves at West Shore middle school.
“Go ahead, you can look,” Seven said, moving aside.
Izzy put her eye up to the hole in the fence.  It was one of those metal, chain link fences with the green plastic woven through the links to keep people from seeing in, but Seven had made a hole with his Swiss Army knife, which made Izzy think how lucky Michael Kaplan was that he only got hit with a stick, and not stabbed in the gut.
On the other side of the fence was a dirt yard.  A man was fastening a small, skinny, brown dog to a cinderblock by tying a rope around the pup’s neck.  The rope had the kind of knot that tightened if the dog moved too far away from where it was tethered.  Izzy’s heart tightened in her chest when the dog tried to move, the rope tightened, and the dog let out a whelp of pain.  When the man laughed, Izzy wanted to throw up.  When he kicked the dog, Izzy jumped back.  She couldn’t watch anymore.
“See?” said Seven.  “I told you.”
“That poor dog!  It didn’t do anything, and that man kicked it!”
“He does that all the time, I’ve seen it,” said Seven.  “That’s why we have to rescue Bone.”
“That’s the dog’s name.  I’ve heard the man call it Bonehead, but I just call it Bone, for short, and because it’s skinny as a bone.”
“But what are we supposed to do?”
“Okay, so here’s the plan.  I’ve been watching.  The man leaves for work at like seven-thirty Monday to Friday.  So tomorrow morning, we’ll meet here, and I’ll hoist you over the fence.  You go untie Bone, and then open up the gate for me, and we’ll take Bone away from there.”
“Take Bone where, exactly?”
“To your house.  Your mother likes animals.”
“Which is why Bone can’t go to my house.  Whenever I say I want another pet, my mother says we have too many animals already and I can get another pet when I get a job and pay for it.”
Seven rolled his eyes.
“Like it’d be a big deal to put out another dish of food.”
Shrugging, Izzy said, “I don’t know, that’s just what she always says.  She says there are vet bills and stuff, too.”
“Fine.  Whatever.  We’ll take Bone to my house.”
“Your mother won’t let you keep it.”
“We’ll hide it, I don’t know!  Are you in, or what?”
“And why do I have to go over the fence?” Izzy said, hands on her hips.
Rolling his eyes again, Seven said, “What, you think you could hoist me over a fence that tall?  Come on, Izzy, it just makes sense.”
“What if the dog bites?”
“Bone doesn’t bite.”
“How do you know?”
“Bone doesn’t bite, okay?  I just know.  Bone’s a good dog, it’s just been beaten down by that man, so if Bone did bite, it would be perfectly understandable, because of how scared it is, and the life it’s had.”
“Understandable?  To you maybe, but you wouldn’t be the one with a dog bite.”
“Listen, are you in or not?”
Izzy rubbed her toe in the dirt and thought about it. 
“I’m in.”