Young Adult Novella
Fifteen-year-old Sam Coolidge–labeled learning disabled–must navigate her problems with school, her single mother, and boys.
I found Ma in bed. I sat down on her quilt and took her hands in mine. She turned her face to the wall. I cupped my hands around her face and turned it back towards me. Her skin was porcelain; her closed eyes–two black plums.
“Ma,” I sang softly in her ear, “I’m home.” Then, in earnest, “Are you having another bad spell?”
The plums opened, revealing glass jellyfish.
“Oh, Ma,” I said. “I thought you were getting better. I thought you were going to stay up, even if you felt bad!”
Ma’s jellyfish eyes merely shook. I bit my lip. This was too much: first school, and now Ma!
So I didn’t ask her. I pushed my “sorry for . . . ” feelings down and told her.
“I am going to work in Mr. Zimmerman’s antique shop on Saturdays. I will earn forty dollars clear. I need the money. I want to work. Ma, if you’re sick, like now, I’ll make your stuff ahead.”
She didn’t answer, but turned her face back to the wall.
I got up, patted her, and tiptoed out of the room. I went straight for the phone and called Billy…
We drove to the Applejack–a place I’d heard a lot about. As I jumped down from Billy’s wagon, a brisk wind hit my face. Walking down the steps, Billy yanked open the rough wooden door. We entered a cavern: warm, dark, musty, smelling of sweating bodies. It took a few minutes for my eyes to adjust to the strange, smoky atmosphere. What lights there were shone red. Tall, thick candles glowed on every table. There was a large circular bar in the center; tables hugged the walls all around the room. A DJ with a cowboy hat and a mustache was sitting on a stool over in a corner with a cigarette hanging off his lips, smiling at nothing in particular. The place was packed, mostly with young kids. The tables were full, the bar loaded. The floor moved like a million corks floating on top of the ocean. Up down, up down, up down.
I had the desire to run right out of there. But my feet were anchored to the ground.