Maybe this is just part of the whole "getting older" thing, but I haven't been thinking much about Easter recently. Or maybe it's because my mom's birthday is--oh, today, actually. Happy birthday, Mom! We're celebrating tomorrow at dinner, so I still have about 33 hours to wrap her present. And get her a card. I don't have a card yet.
On top of the birthday celebrations, my parents are celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary and are going to Hawaii to celebrate. They've been packing and scheduling excursions and all that, and I've been trying to figure out how well I'll survive two weeks with my grandparents. Oh, and on top of all that, I'm playing piano on Easter Sunday and have to practice the set list. And I'm getting my hair cut tomorrow. Nice relaxing week we've been having.
I was reminded of Easter recently when I went out to lunch with my Catholic cousin, who ordered fish because it was a Friday during Lent. She said that fish wasn't considered meat because, back in the day, it was a widely-available poor man's food as opposed to chicken, beef, and other meats. That still doesn't explain why some of my vegetarian friends eat fish, but that's a question for another day.
When I was younger, we had something called Resurrection Eggs. Over the course of twelve days, we would open a plastic egg and find something about Jesus' crucifixion. The first day was a little plastic donkey to remind us of the Triumphal Entry. There was a die (which is the singular form of "dice," even though I personally think it should be "douse") to remind us that the soldiers gambled for Jesus' clothes. There was a crown of thorns, a little wood cross, and a spear.
To go along with all these objects (which we continually lost over the years), there was a short devotional. We would take turns reading it; my mom would read one paragraph, my dad the next, myself a third. I don't know if my sister ever read anything, or if we stopped doing the Resurrection Eggs before she was old enough to read fluently.
But this year? The only thought I give to Easter, besides at church where people actually talk about it, is when I practice the songs for the Easter Sunday set. And, of course, all the advertisements for candy and baskets and that stupid plastic grass that gets absolutely everywhere and hides from the vacuum for a week and a half doesn't help anything, either.
I feel like America is undergoing a religious holiday detox. Anything to do with God gets pushed aside to make room for marketing. We're trading the Almighty God for the almighty dollar, and this might be the worst trade deal in the history of trade deals, maybe ever. But I'm not here to give you a soap box sermon. I haven't eaten breakfast yet this morning. And I haven't done anything school related, either. (The website is down after a bad storm last night, so I at least have some excuse.)
What are your plans for Easter? Do you have any traditions you're following this year? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear reader, and don't forget to check us out on Amazon!
The hospital isn't too bad. They let me sleep in Brook's room, which is nice because it's air-conditioned--and I get to use her bathroom. It's been forever since I've had an actual shower, and I love it. I think Nurse Debra had to pull a few strings. She also told me that she'll be in contact with my aunt and uncle over in Huntington Woods. I didn't even know I had an aunt and uncle. I'm excited and nervous all at once.
The second day of Brook's hospital stay, when she's still high on painkillers, Landon comes to visit us. He brings flowers--I think he picked them on the way here--but they're a nice addition to the room. Landon's nice in general. Brook, or at least her medications, think he's cute.
"What are the doctors saying?" Landon asks.
Brook shrugs. "They say different things. It depends on if it gets infected, it depends on this, depends on that. The metal that's in my leg right now is just temporary. They've got to put plates and stuff in sometime later this week. I don't know what I'm gonna do when I leave this place, though. Yank's been sharing her dumpster with me, but if I end up in a wheelchair for a few weeks, that'll suck."
Landon gives her an unreasonably cute smile. "I live in a third-story walkup, but I've got a storage unit that's big enough for a couch. It'll at least give you a place to sleep."
"You're the best. Like, I literally think you're the best person I've ever met. And you're cute."
I roll my eyes. Stupid morphine.
Out of the corner of my eye, I catch motion--probably another nurse or doctor. But it's not. It's a man in a gray suit, barely standing in the doorway, staring at Brook. All of a sudden, he turns and leaves, and I follow him. I find him sitting in a chair in the waiting room, shaking.
His face is buried in his hands; he probably can't hear me. I take another step closer. "Sir, is there something wrong?" I ask again.
"That's Brook?" he asks, his voice trembling. "With all the tubes and wires--oh, God--"
"Yeah, that's her. Why?"
The man looks up at me with eyes that are a familiar blue. His hair is dark but graying, and his breast pocket holds a pair of reading glasses, two pens, and a peppermint. "If that's the Brook I think it is," he says, "then she's my daughter."
I blink. I've spent enough time in hospitals, back when my own dad worked here, to know that it's hard for people to see loved ones in a sorry state like that. I'm pretty sure that Brook has wires going literally through her leg at the moment. And the morphine high isn't going to help anything, either.
"I'm sorry you had to find her like this,' I tell him. "She might be banged up, but she's alive, she's stable, she's not dying anytime soon. And I know she'll love to see you."
The man hides his face again, takes a few more breaths to steady himself, then stands and heads back for Brook's room. I follow.
Again, he stands in the doorway, wiping his hands on his dress pants, trying not to panic.
He takes a hesitant step inside, then another, finally arriving at the foot of Brook's bed. He tries to look at her face instead of all the wires going in and out of her leg, and he makes himself smile. Brook stares at him.
"Okay, Landon," she says, "I've been seeing things all day, can you please tell me that there's a guy in here?"
"A guy in a suit?'
She sits up, eyes wide, and her heart rate monitor starts beeping faster. "Daddy?"
Blinking back tears, he takes her into his arms and holds her tight. "I missed you, baby girl."
"How did you know I was here?"
"The Amber Alert finally paid off."
"You...you issued an Amber Alert...Yank, hand me my backpack." I hand her the backpack I retrieved yesterday evening, and she grabs the note in the Ziplock bag. "I thought you got rid of me."
The man takes his reading glasses out of his pocket and examines the note. He reads it once, then twice, then stops trying to hide his tears and lets them fall.
"Brook, that's not your mother's handwriting. She's on her way now, she's so excited to see you. I'm so sorry you believed this."
Brook's eyes grow wide, and she starts to cry. "I'm such an idiot--"
"No, you're not."
"I'm sorry, Dad--"
The man takes her into his arms again, and they cry together. I step into the hallway to give them privacy, and there I see a five-year-old boy with black hair and a crayon drawing in his hand.
"Are you Keiko?" he asks.
I kneel down to his level and look into his eyes. I remember them, and I start to cry when I see them.
It's Isao, my little brother.
Like most people my age, I watch too much YouTube. I'll admit that. I'll even watch the weird things that pop up on my "suggested videos" feed for no reason, like that one song about an axolotl that turned into a salamander by drinking something. While axolotls actually do turn into salamanders if they consume a large enough quantity of iodine, why someone felt the need to make a song about it is beyond me.
I prefer to stick to videos that are a bit more sophisticated. Like movie theories.
One of my favorite channels at this point is The Theorizer. He does theories on everything from Disney and Pixar movies to live-action movies. He analyzes physics, genetics, and nearly impossible-to-see details in a way that's compelling and convincing, not to mention extremely interesting. (Except for when he gets into science stuff--go ahead and point out the attached earlobes, Mr. Theorizer, but don't spend half the video on them.)
One thing people don't really talk about, though, are book theories.
Of course, the great sagas like Harry Potter get some noteworthy mentions on the internet. Stuff like "What went on in the Hogwarts dormitories that no one mentions in the books?" But your average book, or one that hasn't hit its moment of greatness quite yet, gets rather little attention from theorists. That's why I'm making things a bit easier for you.
This will do at least for a mental exercise. For those of you who have read Where the Clouds Catch Fire (which is available in softcover and on Kindle by clicking the "purchase" tab above), you may recall this line from Alynn's father, Rowan McNeil:
"Last night, I told everyone good-bye. My parents, Libby, Louisa and Britta--everyone else I've seen buried here. It--it really makes you think, how blessed you are to have what you still do."
Quite obviously, everyone mentioned in that quote is dead. Louisa and Britta are later mentioned as Alynn's sisters--Rowan's daughters--who died in infancy. Rowan's reference to his parents is self-explanatory, but who is this Libby?
When asked about her family, Alynn never mentions her. It could be that Libby died before Alynn was born, or before she was old enough to really know her. Alynn does mention her mother, but not by name. Could it be that Libby was the name of Alynn's mother? You'll figure out the answer to that once you get to chapter five, so while we're here, let's bounce around a few more ideas.
The strange thing about Rowan is that we don't know much about him at all. Alynn's mother came from a large family that had lived in Limerick for many generations. Rowan was just a drifter who ended up there. We don't know where he came from, or what family he had. It might be that Libby was a sister, a cousin, a niece, or a young aunt--large Irish Catholic families tend to be a bit confusing. But why mention only her? Surely he had more than one sibling or cousin.
Perhaps Libby wasn't related to the family at all, but more of a friend. Perhaps Rowan had loved someone before he had met Alynn's mother, but she had died before or shortly after their wedding. It would explain why Rowan took the loss of Alynn's mother as hard as he did. To lose one bride is devastating enough, but to lose two? Ouch.
I know who Libby is, of course. Perhaps I'll give you some new clues in my next book.
Who do you think Libby is? What's your favorite theory about a book or movie? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
I haven't been in Northwest Hospital in two years, since my dad died, and I don't want to spend much time here. The stench of Latex and rubbing alcohol. The coughing and complaining and groaning and occasional retching of people here in the Emergency Room. I hate it.
A blonde guy comes in, covered in blood like I am, and stares at me. "They took her back?" he asks.
I nod. I recognize him as our friendly pickup driver. "Thanks for helping her."
"No problem. You're friends with her?"
"You could say that."
He sticks out his hand, and I shake it. "I'm Landon."
He eyes me suspiciously. "You're a little young to be in a gang, aren't you?"
"No gang. Just my street name." I motion to my New York Yankees cap. "My dad loved them."
"He switched to the Tigers, didn't he?"
That usually shuts people up. Landon mumbles an apology, stares blankly into the waiting room, then takes out his phone. He calls in sick to work. "Surgeries like this take hours," I tell him. "Go to work. Just give me your number and a quarter for a pay phone. I'll call you when she's out."
"Just change clothes first. You look like you murdered someone."
Smiling, Landon scribbles his number on a hospital brochure. "You're a neat kid, Yank. I'll see you this afternoon."
The sliding doors let him out, and I find a clock. Eight or nine past seven--I suck at reading analog--if she's lucky, Brook will be out of surgery by lunch. Until then, I'll lay my fears aside and scavenge for breakfast. Hospitals are usually rife with food.
I have no problem stealing breakfast and lunch, and at two that afternoon, I'm finally able to find Brook again. She's lying white and motionless, her leg a mass of bandages and splints. She's sleeping off the anesthesia.
A nurse comes in a few minutes later and stares at me. "I'm the one who brought her in," I say. "Is she okay?"
"Recovery time is six to eight months, and that's the best case scenario." The nurse pulls up another chair and sits across from me, then pulls up a page on her smartphone and shows it to me. Amber Alert: Brook Charlotte Fernsby, female, age 6. Brown hair, blue eyes. Last seen on Ambassador Bridge on August 16.
The article is dated twelve years ago. I take it and read through it. There's a phone number; I copy it down on the brochure Landon gave me. "Do you think it might be her?" the nurse asks.
Before the nurse can say anything else, her pager goes off and she leaves. I settle back in my chair and stare at Brook until she wakes up.
She smiles at me. "There's a sticker on your face," she says as she swipes drunkenly at my nose.
"They gave you morphine, didn't they?"
"I don't know what they gave me, but nothing hurts anymore. Wow...it looks like a five-year-old came in here and put Dora stickers on everything...there's one on my arm." She picks at her IV line.
"Don't do that, Brook."
She stops, leans back in bed, and looks at me. "I think I went swimming and got water in my nose."
"Is your throat dry?"
"That's your oxygen. I'll see if the nurses won't get you something to drink, okay? You just stay calm and don't pull on any stickers, okay?"
"Aye-aye, captain!" Brook giggles, and I smile awkwardly and leave for the nurse's station.
I can't believe Nurse Debra still works here. She's older and a bit rounder than I remember--her roots are a lot lighter than the rest of her dark auburn hair--and she sees me before I can do anything about it.
"What can I do for you, sweetie?" she asks.
"Room 520...Brook wants some water, can she have any?"
"Room five...twenty...." She taps into her computer. "Not yet. We have some mouth-moistening spray she can use." She looks at me strangely, and I pale. "You know what, there was a doctor who worked here who had a daughter who looked just like you...."
No. Please, no. Don't call CPS on me. Don't call Mom.
"It's sad, though. She ran away rather than be put in the foster care system...."
Please, don't recognize me, please, Nurse Debra.
"Her brother missed her a lot. He lives with his aunt and uncle now...."
Don't you dare bring Isao into this! Wait--aunt? Uncle? On which side of the family?
Nurse Debra wraps me in a big bear hug and whispers, "I'm glad you're alright, Keiko."
Sorry for the late post, guys. There was a technical issue with some school stuff that kept me busy all yesterday, and this morning we went to go see my three-month-old cousin. He's adorable! But my goodness the restaurant we met at...creaky wood floors, water in fancy corked bottles, good-looking waiters with black button-up shirts...we don't eat at fancy restaurants very often, but that pimento cheese dip was good.
I have no idea where Brook is. I just know that she's hurt. Probably. Either that or our husky friend Checkers just killed a squirrel and wanted me to be the first to know.
"Where is she, boy?" I ask the dog. Idiot. It's not like he's going to answer back. "Where's Brook?"
Checkers barks at me and wags his tail. He wants to play.
"Go home, boy."
He barks again. I sigh, and my voice grows stern. "Checkers. Home."
The dog turns around and trots through the woods, and I take off after him. He's fast.
He darts through traffic unafraid. People honk. Someone almost clips him. It gives me a chance to catch up. My mouth is dry. I'm sweating, cramping, but I make myself keep running after this dog. If this is some sort of prank, I'm killing Brook myself.
Finally, I hear her voice. Screaming.
"Brook, I'm coming!"
She's lying on the side of the road, white as flour, blood puddled around her. She's trying to use Checker's leash as a tourniquet around her leg, but her hands are too weak to keep pulling it tight. "Thank God, you made it," she breathes as I'm close enough. "Hit-and-run. It was a gold car, I think--I couldn't tell--I'm going to throw up--"
I take the tourniquet from her and pull it tighter around her leg. I glance at her injury, but only briefly, before I get nauseous, too. I'm normally fine with blood. This isn't blood. This is carnage. "I think you've got a compound fracture," I say, reluctantly. "Northwest Hospital is three minutes from here by car. Two if you're speeding, five if there's traffic, we need to get you there now."
I wish Brook had gotten that phone so I could call an ambulance.
A pickup rounds the corner, and I jump up. The blood on my hands and arms must convince the driver to pull over. I open the passenger door. "My friend's hurt real bad, can you take her to the hospital?" I ask.
"Open the tailgate," the man orders. I do as he says, and soon we're off. Brook's eyes are starry, but she's still awake. She winces as the truck goes over some bumps.
"There's blood on my shirt," she mumbles.
"That's the least of our worries, Brook. Hang in there."
"It won't come out."
"We'll get you a new shirt. Don't worry about it." I pull the tourniquet tighter and glance at the wound again. I'm surprised her foot is still attached to the rest of her body. There's a bone sticking out of her. I know enough about first aid to not apply direct pressure to the wound. I'm surprised Brook knew as much.
"I'm tired, Yank."
"Stay with me. Stay with me. You stay awake, you keep fighting, you hear me?"
We get to Northwest Hospital. I leap out of the pickup and fly through the emergency room doors. "Trauma patient, we need a gurney!"
The nurses look at me. The people in the waiting room look at me. The fact that I am now covered in blood must make an impression on some of them. I'm swarmed by ladies in blue scrubs.
"You just lie down, sweetie--we'll get you taken care of--what hurts?"
They try to put me on a gurney. I swear at them.
"It's not my blood! We've got an eighteen-year-old female outside, hit-and-run victim, compound fracture to her right tibia and/or fibula. Major blood loss. Get a freaking gurney out there, she's my best friend. Please."
A covey of nurses run outside. Someone calls for the orthopedic surgeon, someone calls for the trauma surgeon, someone sponges some blood out of my shirt so they can figure out Brook's blood type. "We'll get her taken care of," someone else promises, and soon Brook's wheeled inside on a gurney, her face ashen, her eyes closed.
She looks like a corpse. Just like my dad, when he was hit by a drunk driver.
"I know I don't pray much, God," I breathe, "but You know I watched Dad flatline in this hospital. Please, please, don't make me watch Brook die."
Apparently our town has a large proportion of individuals with Scottish and Irish origin. Why else would we have our very own Celtic Festival every March?
I guess it helps that we apparently have a fairly large proportion of nerds. Driving up from Dallas is the Black Wolf Society, a group of Viking reenactors who stage battles, make crafts, and answer pretty much any questions you have for them. Another group was there representing Iron Age Ireland. Apparently the Choctaw Nation sent financial aid to the Irish during the Potato Famine, so a bunch of Native Americans were there. There's even a vendor with a white beard who makes his own penannular cloakpins, drinking horns, cast-iron spoons, and even hnefatafl boards. Well, they weren't boards. They were just squares of fabric with glass pieces that he wanted $30 for.
"Hnefatafl was the most common Viking board game until chess came around," I explained to my friend who had come with. "That's the king in the center of the board. He wins by getting to one of the corner spaces. The offense--that's the pieces here along the sides--they win by capturing the king. But since defense usually wins, people played two rounds. Whoever got the king to the corner in the least number of moves wins." I turned to the vendor's assistant. "Can I get a discount for my knowledge?"
Ten percent of thirty is three, subtract...I'm not spending twenty-seven dollars on a fancy handkerchief and some pretty pebbles. "Thanks, but I'll probably make my own." I want a solid version anyway. I can probably repurpose a checkerboard.
This was my city's third Celtic festival, but my second. So I knew what to expect. I also had plenty of time to prepare a costume--two of them, actually.
I made this costume after the first Celtic Festival. The head-scarf is just a fabric remnant from JoAnn's. The green frock is also, actually, a fabric remnant--I was lucky to find one that was twice as wide as most fabric. I also made the belt through a process called tablet weaving, which was a fun experience but probably not something I'll end up doing regularly.
At any rate, it ended up too hot to wear the brown dress--the only part of my costume I purchased ready-made besides the socks and shoes--to the festival. I picked a short-sleeved shirt instead. Viking outfits are well-suited for the Nordic regions, but not for Texas.
My goal was to be mistaken for one of the Viking reenactors. I think it worked!
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to sell any books at the festival. The group of local authors I belong to wasn't able to secure a vendor's booth, and I lack the funds to set up an independent booth. But maybe next year will be different. And maybe I'll have actual brooches, so I won't have to wear the ends to a can of cinnamon rolls (which I added to the straps of the dress after the above picture was taken).
Have you ever been to a Celtic Festival or another kind of cultural celebration? What was your favorite part? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to purchace Where the Clouds Catch Fire on Kindle!
Most of Brook's earnings go towards food. I can't blame her. Her client's spread the word, so now she has three or four dogs at the assisted living place that she walks. Sometimes she gives me cash, sometimes food, and she helps me wash cars whenever she has a spare moment.
Usually, she keeps her backpack with her. She keeps that note in the Ziploc bag in her backpack at all times and never lets me see it. I try to respect that. If I had something from my dad, I'd keep it safe, too. But I'm curious. When I find Brook's backpack in the dumpster when I come home for my ten-in-the-morning nap, I give in and rummage through it.
She doesn't have much in there. Some clothes, some toiletries, a tiny New Testament. Finally, under a tank top, I find the Ziplock bag. Opening it, I pull out a note. A note that looks even more torn and stained up close. It's been ripped and taped together quite a few times, so much that it's halfway laminated.
Dear Brook, it reads, I hope you weren't too frightened by everything that happened. I didn't mean for those men to frighten you. I did, though, ask them to take you away from me. I'm tired of being with you. The grape juice was the last straw for me. You have a new mama now who loves you more than I ever did. Obey her better than you obeyed me. Don't ask if you can come back, because you can't. You have a new home, and you will be well taken care of. Love, Vivan.
I read it again, just to make sure I got it right. What kind of sicko--
Quickly, I refold the note and return it to Brook's backpack. Why does she keep this? I'd burn it the first chance I got. I thought my mom was bad--turning to drugs after my dad was killed, bringing my little brother and me with her to meet dealers in parking lots, passing out and leaving me to take care of things--I guess that was pretty terrible. But this? Throwing your kid away for no good reason? Dang. I guess I'm not the only one out here with a crappy life.
I leave the dumpster and walk around a bit. The trees block the sunlight; a pair of birds fight over something stupid in the bushes. Normally, I like living in the woods. Some days, they're warm and welcoming, smiling and sending sunbeams to greet you. Then there's days like today, where they don't really care who you are or what you do or how long you've lived there. You need sunlight? Sorry kid, so sunshine for you. Or anyone who comes into these woods. We don't discriminate.
The birds fly off, and I glance through the woods to see a wolf coming towards me. I jump before I remember that wolves aren't typically found in Detroit. No, this is a husky.
Doesn't Brook walk a husky?
This husky has a collar on. There's a leash attached to it. The rabies tag says that his name is Checkers.
And there's blood on his nose.
I grab his leash and run.
As I struggled to find out which door was unlocked, I went through a list of excuses I could make to being late. My dog got loose right before I had to leave. I was going to let my parents find her, but she found me on my way out of the intersection and I had to bring her back home. I'd never driven to Durant by myself before. It was a forty-five minute trip, most of it barreling down the highway at seventy-five miles an hour. I'd only been eighteen for a month. I was still getting used to this whole "adult" and "having-my-own-social-life" thing.
Instead, I just said, "Sorry I'm late."
"That's okay," a brown-haired lady told me as she handed me a green folder. "We're just introducing ourselves to one another. You missed these first two people, but hop right in. Here's an empty seat."
I looked around at the group of people. There were twenty people; I'd only seen two of them before, and that was just in passing at church. Everyone else was either from another campus or Charis Bible College. I pulled my crochet out of my purse and listened as everyone introduced themselves. The introductions took up most of the meeting. It makes sense--I wouldn't want to go to on a missions trip to the Oklahoma City Dream Center with a bunch of strangers.
Out of the twenty people going, six of them were ten or under, and two others were teenagers. Due to the abundance of children, we wouldn't be doing much actual ministry. Instead, we'd just be serving people. I was hoping that, after a whirlwind couple of months filled with college, church, and my first two jobs, I could re-learn how to serve people. I'd gotten out of the habit. And that's pretty much what happened.
The drive up to Oklahoma City wasn't bad--but neither was it necessarily good. Oklahoma drivers are apparently worse than Texas drivers when it comes to speed. I had to come home early for school, so I took my own car--a red Corolla that I call The Charlotte--and caravanned with the church busses. The speed limit was 70. My mom reads my blog, so I won't say exactly how fast we were going, but suffice to say, it was a bit faster than 70.
I expected to be nervous, but everyone at the Dream Center made us feel right at home. We girls set up our air mattresses in the children's church room and settled in, while the boys had a computer lab, complete with Legos, to call home. Good for them.
And then we served.
We went to a nursing home, two churches, and a spring break camp to help out. It was great being able to step out of my comfort zone, even just a little bit, to interact with people I normally wouldn't and do things I'd normally never think of. Like handing out clothes to homeless people at the Church Under the Bridge. That was my favorite part of the trip.
Will I go on more missions trips? Hopefully. But you don't even have to leave your house to serve. Do the dishes for your mom. Clean the bathroom without being asked. Help with dinner or laundry, or fix that faucet that's been leaking for a week.
Have you ever been on a missions trip? Where did you go, and what was your favorite part? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
"Alright," I tell Brook after her first couple of days with me, "it's time you stopped leeching off me."
She looks up from the crumpled piece of paper she's been reading. It looks like it's been stained, cried on, ripped, and taped back together. Her eyes are distant. "Hmm?"
"You need a job. Remember, I mentioned dog walking?"
"Oh. Yeah." She folds the piece of paper, puts it in a Ziploc bag, and shoves it back in her backpack. "I was just thinking that I need fliers or something. And a phone number."
"If I'm going to look like a reputable person, I'll need a phone number."
Sighing, I stand up and motion around us. "If you haven't noticed, kid, we live in a dumpster. We eat out of trash cans, we drink out of public water fountains. How the heck do you think we'll be able to afford a phone?"
Brook groans. "I need a job. It's a catch-22."
I flop out on the grass and think. "How much are you going to charge?" I ask.
"The going rate for a commercial dog walker is ten dollars for a half-mile walk. I figured I could charge seven, then two dollars more for each additional dog."
"You did some research?"
"I went to the hospital. They have computers you can use there."
I shiver. I used to love hospitals. After I watched my dad die in one, I hate them. "Go to the library next time, kid."
"I know, but there you need a library card, and they ask for your contact information--address, phone number, stuff like that."
"Make something up," I tell her, picking a blade of grass and splitting it in half lengthwise. "You know they'll never actually use it."
"Do you have a card I can borrow?"
I roll my eyes. This kid can't do anything by herself, can she? "You have to be eighteen. Don't you know anything?"
"Thanks for your help, Yank," Brook says. I can't tell if she's being sarcastic or not. What do I care? She'll get a job, she'll find a nice place to stay, then she'll forget all about me. I'll keep washing cars and eating out of dumpsters until I die. It's how the world works.
I look up to scold her about it, but she's already gone.
I've gotten used to washing cars with Brook by my side. Now that she's gone, everything's lonely. It's a good day--I make fifteen dollars, and I only get stiffed once--but I enjoyed having her help. She'd do the parts of the windshield that I can't reach. Now, there's always that stubborn streak up the middle that my arms refuse to reach.
Between car washing and dumpster diving, I don't see Brook again until past midnight. And when I do, she's smiling through her exhaustion. "I got a job," she said.
"I went to the assisted living place, and there's this sweet older lady, Melva, that can't get around like she used to. And she's got this huge husky, beautiful dog named Checkers. I walk him Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays--that's twenty-one dollars a week!"
I'm too tired to hear most of what she says. "That's great, kid," I tell her, crawling into the dumpster and burrowing into my blankets.
"Oh, never mind. I'll tell you in the morning."
We go our separate ways, Brook walking dogs for old people, me washing cars and getting flipped off and cussed out half the time. I seriously think of changing careers when Brook comes home on Friday night with fifteen dollars and two combo meals from Wendy's.
"Melva told all her friends about me," she said happily. "I've got three clients now. I figured we could celebrate."
I dig into my hamburger. It's still warm; I can't remember the last time I ate something warm. I eat slowly, relishing every bite, and it fills me up so much I save my fries for breakfast.
"Thanks, Brook," I tell her.
She smiles. "Don't mention it."
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.