Reposted from the YA-5 – – Listen to Yo’ Mama: How Every Sex/Dating Truism My Mom Ever Told Me Ended Up Being Just As True For Writing. (Who’da Thunk It?)

**This post originally appeared at theya5.blogspot.com **

So, I’m just going to come out and say it: My mom’s a friggin’ genius. Now this kinda stands to reason – the woman had five kids and I, as the oldest, am hands down the dolt of the family. And no, I’m not being modest, nor am I trolling for compliments. My younger siblings are walking brains and they kindly tolerate my intellectual sluggishness. It would be impossible for my mother to produce people like my sisters and brother without having a few IQ points to spare.

But that’s only a smidgen of my mom’s genius. I have discovered now at my advanced age of 36 that my mother, with her sagely and pointed advice about boys, the pants of boys, the ill-thought desires of boys, and how to keep myself from getting dragged down into the the gutter by, well, boys – all have proved to be uncannily prescient and timely and inexplicably applicable to my chosen career as writer. Did I think her advice was out of line and idiotic when I was fifteen and hot under the collar? Yup. You betcha. Still, I could have saved myself a lot of grief if I had followed her advice when I was young, and to make up for it, I’ve begun to apply her advice to my work now and the results have been…..promising. Let me show you what I mean.

MAMA REGAN’S USEFUL TIPS FOR DATING, SEX AND CAREER DEVELOPMENT

Rule #1 Don’t date boys until you’re sixteen.

Did I follow it? Unfortunately, yes.

Career Applicability While this rule was grossly unfair (though, truth be told, it’s not like the phone was ringing off the hook anyway. I was a late bloomer. Still, it was the principle of the thing that chafed.) what my mother was actually telling me was this: Settle down; don’t rush; don’t enter the fray until you have the confidence to protect yourself. I wrote before about my many, many mistakes I made in my early career, and how important they were at the beginning. Still, after a bunch of false starts, I stopped submitting for a while. I re-assessed my relationship with writing. I learned to trust myself and honor the work I did, and insist that I find markets that would treat my work with dignity and respect. My mother’s rule was all about giving me a grace period in which I could learn to assess my own worth – as an individual, as a person worthy of love, as well as a sexual creature too. I needed to know my own value before handing my heart to the first schmo that came along. Which brings me to rule number two:

Rule #2 Don’t Go Home With the First One Who Asks You

Did I follow it? Unfortunately, no.

Career Applicability Now, this is just good advice, and is routinely unfollowed by the girls of the world. If you listen carefully, you can hear a girl’s heart breaking somewhere on earth every 0.000001 seconds. I could write volumes on how my Misspent Youth would have been drastically different and likely improved if I had only followed my mother’s advice. However, years later, when I was first sending query letters for my book (which comes out next year! Squee!) I thought long and hard about my mother’s advice. I even wrote those words on a huge sign and hung it over my desk. And you know what? When I got my first offer of representation, I didn’t take it. And I didn’t take the second one either. I wanted, more than anything else, to find an agent who believed in me one hundred percent. I figured, if I have that in my husband, I should have it with everyone I work with. Other writers I knew thought I was nuts. Still, it paid off. I got an offer of representation with an agent who was madly in love with my work. And love, my dears, makes all the difference.

Rule #3 If You Think Your Panties Might Be On Fire, It’s Best To Leave The Room

Did I follow it? What do you think? (sigh)

Career applicability My mom’s a big believer in “yoga breathing” she calls it. Or, in other words, when the excitement rises, the best thing a person can do is to breathe through it, find that one calm spot in the maelstrom, and greet passion with a sigh. This business is not for the faint of heart. There are dizzying highs and crushing lows and people breathing down your neck wanting things yesterday and people who get pissed at you for your inappropriate use of the word “scimitar” or an apparent cruelty to bunnies, or your shoddy dialogue or whatever. Whenever I find myself being pressured into a decision – either by myself or by someone else – I think about my mom’s advice. And, because I didn’t follow it when I was young (with, alas, disastrous consequences) you bet your sweet arse that I follow it now.

Rule #4 Sex is about today. Love is about tomorrow.

Did I follow it? At first, unfortunately, no. And then, yes, yes, and forever yes.

Career applicability After a while, we do almost nothing for immediate gain: We save for our kids’ education; we scrape a downpayment on a house; we slice our budget down to the barest of bones to keep from going into debt. We do this because we believe in the power of tomorrow. We try to make each day good and each day beautiful because we trust that tomorrow will be even better. Love is like that, you see – it’s work. But it’s good work – the kind that you fuss and fashion and sweat over – it’s back breaking, muscle straining, dirt-under-the-fingernails satisfying work. Building a career is like that too. You sacrifice, you plan, you work until all hours of the night, and labor over page after page after blessed page. You do it, because you believe in tomorrow. And you trust yourself to do it right.

So now I have a question for you: what’s your universally applicable advice? And since we’ve established that I really am just flying by the seat of my pants, what advice can you offer me – little messages in a bottle for a girl lost at sea……

Advertisements

These Kids are Frickin’ Awesome

So, as I mentioned before, I’ve had the great privilege of working on the process of fiction and the importance of storytelling with a busload of some wicked fabulous middle school kids from Apple Valley. Now, given the time constraints of the middle-school day and the limited duration of a single week, there’s a limit in the details of what I can actually impart to these children. I can’t really teach story writing in a week. Maybe someone with more skill can, but we all have to be honest with what we can do. Instead, I spend a week encouraging story writing. I’m a fiction cheerleader. I give them things to think about and time in which to process and I turn them loose. But mostly, what I do for an entire week is tell kids again and again that their stories matter.
And they do matter.

I tell them that storytelling is our birthright as human beings, and that a single story can change a life, can change a community and a country and the entire world. Indeed, stories change the world every day. Ask anyone you like.

Now, I’ll be writing about this some more, and going into a little more detail about what I saw and how the kids responded but in the meantime, I’d like to turn your attention to this website – – no, go click on it now, I can wait.

See what I mean?

Scroll down and read . . . . oh, man, there’s a bunch. “The House on Cherrytree Lane” and “The Wonderful Misadventures of Serge Macalister”, and “The Secret Passage,” and many many more than I can think of right now. I’m so proud of these children, I can hardly tell you.

Poking head above the weeds

Teaching again this week. Bone tired. Emotionally drained. But holy, hell, these kids are some damned fine writers. I have a group of sixth graders who can write circles around half of the adults I’ve taught. Their work is lean, vigorous, active and engaging.

More on that soon.

Now, must cook, then clean, then go out and teach again tonight. Kelly=Sleepy.

Raising Boys: Conversations about Farts

So, Leo – five years old and, in general, a holy terror – comes up to me, gives me a hug and asks this:

“Mom, can a person not fart?”

I looked at him for a minute and asked, “You mean, is it possible? Of course it’s possible. I’m not farting right now. Neither are you. That I know of, I mean.”

He shook his head. “No,” he said. “I mean like forever. If a person needed to fart and they never did what would happen? Where would the fart go?”

He stared at me, his eyes wide and intense. I had, I knew – I knew! – several options before me. Certainly, I could explain the reason and purpose of the fart, where they come from, why they happen, why they’re more common in some animals than others. Leo held his breath. He pressed his lips together and clasped his hands in front of his heart. There was, in all truth, only one thing that I could possibly say.

“I’m pretty sure,” I said, “that if the fart never comes out, then the person probably explodes.”

On my son’s face: Total joy; ardent love; a look of benevolence and grace.

From his lips: “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! That was a good one, Mommy! You’re the funniest mommy ever!”

“Thank you, thank you. I’m here all week. Tip your waitress,” I said.

Leo ran to his room, found a quarter and gave it to me.

I will keep that quarter forever.

And this old Earth is new again

There’s something about the rain. Right now, the world is dark, the sky pressing down like a glove. The snow drifts have hardened, blackened and are now decaying, their edges resolving into water.

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and went outside. It’s been raining steadily now for the past two days, and will continue to do so for a few days more, but at 3:00 or so AM, the rains had stopped and the world was quiet. I was barefoot, be-robed and alone. I pulled my robe tightly around my shoulders and breathed. I smelled muck and rot and salt flowing away. I smelled billions upon billions of microbes shaking themselves off and preparing to multiply. I smelled dormant grass and sleeping trees thinking green thoughts and dreaming green dreams.

In the last days of winter, the snow displays the ugly reminders of our impact on the world – salt and exhaust, mined sand, harsh chemicals and dog shit. As the piles age, the story written on their faces grows and grows; it writes over itself again and again until nothing gleams, nothing glitters, nothing remains pure. All that’s left is the dark gray, the shadow of us on the world.

But in the spring, the world washes itself clean. In the spring the world is new again. Each spring is the first Spring, each breath the first Breath. We step into the green.

Awards

Just saw that Mr. Joe Sherry put me down on his Hugo ballot under the category of Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Awwwwwww, Joe. *blushes* Thanks for thinking of me, man. I have no doubt that you’ll be the only one, but still. It’s nice to be thought of.

And can I just say that it took me forever to figure out how to put that link in there? Honestly, is there anyone more Ludditeish than me?

Balancing acts

Well, it’s finally happened. I’ve been juggling projects – like crystal wine glasses in front of a hushed audience –  for the last few months. I work on one, light movements, light hands, before releasing it back into the air and catching the next.  And it’s worked pretty well, I’ve been making progress on the two new novels, re-writing the book for grownups, tearing apart Jack and putting him back together. Each one presents its own challenges, it’s own rewards, so none of them ever knocked into one another.

Until today.

I was a thousand words into my quota when I realized that my main character was having a perfectly fascinating conversation with two characters that have nothing to do with her book whatsoever. My characters are mixing. They are violating the borders of the worlds I have created, and I, for one, won’t have it. Last night, I had a dream that Jack rode a dragon, while chasing a jeweled bird that remained ever out of reach.

Bad form, Jack, said I. There are no dragons in your book. No firebirds either.

I’m bored of my book, Jack said. You didn’t put dragons in it on purpose.

Maybe, I said, but you have to admit, there aren’t many dragons in Iowa. Besides, I’m in charge here. You’ll do as you’re told.

He blew a rasberry at me and kept on going.

Come back here this instant! I called after him. I’ll let the firebird attack you and then you’ll be sorry! I’ll chase you with shape shifting dog-men and send you to another dimension with my reality-bending high school. I’ll send ghosts to haunt your dreams and pester you with really annoying ninth graders. I’ll read your diary and steal your grandmother and chase you down with an assistant principal who wants nothing better than to put you on his list.

But Jack had flown away. Perhaps this is what happens to our characters when the book is done. We birth them, care for them, worry after them and provide for them, and then they fly away. Maybe Jack doesn’t belong to me anymore.

I’m not so sure I’m all right with this arrangement.

Hell Hath No Fury

So. I was out running today, and despite the dreary, drippy weather, I had a perfectly marvelous time. Mostly.

On my way back, I turned onto Minnehaha Parkway and crossed the crosswalk. The guy approaching the intersection (who had, by the way, been slowing down, so I had assumed  – erroneously – that he was intending to obey the law) slammed on his breaks and leaned into the horn.

“Get out of the road, c***!” he yelled.

I froze in my tracks. No, I thought.  I must have imagined it. There’s absolutely no way that anyone uses that word for real.

Then, he said it again. He was red-faced. Apoplectic. He sputtered. All for a crosswalk. At this point I was more amused than pissed (though, let’s be serious. I was pissed.)

Now, here’s the part where I should mention that the park police were stationed all up and down the highway, snagging idiots who decided that the speed limit didn’t apply to them. So, I looked at my new best friend – who was standing outside of his car, pissed beyond all recognition that I still hadn’t moved out of the way, and I said this: “A one-word insult is all you can manage? I can think of a three word insult for you. The first word being ‘miserable’ and the second word being ‘flaccid’. I won’t tell you what the third word is,” then I skipped up the road, and reported him for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, and continued my run with a merry heart and with the internal glow of responsible citizenship.

So that was my day. How was yours?

Amptuated Novel Bits

So, here’s another section of the book that ended  up facing the knife. Removing characters from a narrative is an unbelievably tricky operation, because it alters not only the motivation of the characters that remain, but it also raises the issue of the rate of revelation – if I had planned the order and method by which my main character would encounter the facts on the ground that had the potential to change – or end – his life, and then the mechanism to bring those facts to life simply vanishes, what do I do with the rest of the novel? In my case, it involved a massive amount of rewriting, rethinking and re-imagining, which was a gigantic amount of work. And despite the lost sleep and the tears involved, it was well worth it.

Still, I do love my Ladies of the Knitting League, and fully intend to bring them, in some capacity, into another book. Or maybe I’ll give them their own book – give the Evil Henchwomen their day, as it were. We’ll see. Anyway, here’s their chapter.


From a chapter previously called “The Rock”

“The darkness, of course, is crucial. The hero looks for guidance but will find none – or he finds guides who turn him, subvert him, lure him astray. Only by descending into the darkness, does the hero find the true path. Only by not knowing, does he achieve Knowing.”

-“On Heroes”, by Clive Fitzpatrick

Jack told himself that he was not interested in figuring anything else out about the town. Instead, he decided, he would work on gaining speed and confidence on the board, to feel as though he was flying across the wide, black road bisecting the broad, flat farms. This is what he said. And yet, he still shoved the map into his back pocket (don’t want to get lost, he told himself), he still brought his notebook (in case I feel like drawing, he insisted) and he still slipped Clive’s book into his backpack, (after all, he decided, I promised Wendy that I’d read the bit about her brother. If I didn’t, it wouldn’t be very friendly. And it isn’t every day that a person makes a friend.) With these explanations firmly in his mind, he kicked the board to a smart start and flew down the street.

Though it was hot and the sun beat mercilessly down on the cracked asphalt cris-crossing the town, Jack skated quickly and easily, enjoying the sensation of his own breeze cooling him off. His arms and legs were red and raw from his constant itching and scratching while he was standing still, but in motion, the itching eased and his skin seemed to soothe itself and calm.

Hazelwood’s streets lay in a general grid along one side of the gentle bluff, which made it easier to find his way around. He had decided to follow the roads east and west until they spilled into the far fields or flowed into quiet country roads. Back and forth he moved, practicing he told himself, but he now skated with such confidence, and grace, that the only thing left to learn was speed. By the second street, he could outpace a bicycle. By the fourth, he could outpace a car.

He supposed that he should be surprised by this growing ability – his way of zipping up a hill without even needing to kick anymore – but for some reason he wasn’t. It felt right somehow.

He came to a large, square building at the far end of Main Street, with strange and detailed carvings in its limestone face. Jack stopped, kicked the board up and under his arm and stared. The carvings showed greenery and flowers and farms and abundance. But there was something else – the shape of a person, a woman maybe, that was untouched by any decoration. It was as though a figure from the picture had simply decided to get up and walk away, leaving only the impression of her body behind. It was, he decided, so curious and strange that it only made sense to make a copy of it in his notebook and show it to his uncle Clive. He may know the story behind it, and who knows, it might make an interesting addition to his study on Hazelwood.

But before he even had a chance to open his backpack, the doors flew open, and a small, nervous man hurried down the steps and onto his bicycle.

“Oh god,” the man whimpered to himself. “Oh god oh god oh god.” After a few wincing wobbles, the man pedaled down the street.

It was, Jack realized, the same man he saw in the yard, and the same man that Gog and Magog attacked. Jack looked up at the limestone building. The words, “The Grain Exchange and Trust” stood tall above the main doors, their letters cut mercilessly in stone. Jack shivered. He dropped his board to the ground and sped off after the man on the bicycle.

So accustomed to streaking freely down the street, Jack found it difficult to slow down enough to keep a far pace behind the small man, in case he should need to duck behind a shrub or tree. To make it worse, the man stopped from time to time to blow his nose and wipe his eyes, and in that last block, he pedaled down the street at a crawl.

Finally, he pulled up in front of a large, white house with a wide front porch. Jack hid behind a wickedly prickly raspberry bush and peered through the branches. Three women sat on the porch, knitting. The fabric hanging from their needles caught the slanting light in a sheen that set Jack’s teeth on edge. The sharp points clicked and whirred in their hands, pulling each thread tight as nooses. Jack gulped and had half a mind to cover his ears to block out those horrible clicks, if it weren’t for the fact that he actually wanted to hear what was going on. Next to him, a warm soft weight leaned against him and began to purr.

What are you doing here,” Jack whispered. Two pairs of enormous, yellow cat-eyes stared back, blinking twice before turning back to the scene on the porch. Their tales lashed back and forth and the hair on their shoulders bristled upwards. Jack shook his head. “Crazy cats,” he said.

“Well,” the first knitter said.

“Our dear Reginald,” said the second knitter.

“On time, for once,” said the third.

The small man trembled and squeaked. He mopped his brow. His skin took on a ghastly gray color and his chin seemed to disappear into his neck.

“G-g-g-good afternoon, Ladies,” the man choked.

The three women didn’t look up from their knitting. They pulled shimmering thread from their basket and wound it around their fingers. Even their faces had a shimmer to them, and Jack wondered if it was a trick of the light. How, he thought, can they go from looking young to old to young again? The alterations were subtle, so much so that they didn’t appear to change at all, they simply were old, then they were young. Jack had never seen anything like it.

The man swallowed hard, thrust his hands into his pockets and began again. “Mr. Avery is in agreement. He says that you will meet him this evening at the usual location. He says,” the man stopped, bit his lip and trembled some more. “That is to say,” he whispered, “he requests, that you will do your best to maintain timeliness.”

The needles stopped. Jack stood up to get a better view. The stone in his pocket began to warm and heat, slowly but noticeably.

“He would dare,” the first knitter said.

“To insinuate,” the second said.

“After the blunders and missteps that bungling fool managed,” the third stood, her yarn spilling on the ground. She pointed her needles at the small man who fell to his knees and began to cry.

Sit,” the first knitter said to the third. She turned to the man on the ground. “Stand up Mr. Perkins. We have no intention of removing anyone’s soul this afternoon,” she turned to the third knitter and gave her a hard look. “Not that we could with yours anyway. It’s been claimed.” Mr. Perkins whimpered again, but did as he was told and stood up. “The remaining issue, of course, is the house itself, as its fate must be delicately handled, I understand.”

“Indeed,” Mr. Perkins said. “We have the first set of orders from the governor currently, and have sent – ahem – incentive monies to the permitting agencies. We should have it dismantled within the next few days, while both Lady and Other are sleepy and pliable.”

Jack wanted to hear more, particularly since the phrase Lady and Other sent a strange shiver across his skin – something that felt a little like joy and a little like fear, but the stone in his pocket spiked, sparked and smoked in his pocket, burning his skin. He stood, jumped and screamed.

“Ow! Ow!” he cried. “Get out!” He threw the rock on the ground.

The three knitters stood, dropped their knitting and trod on it as they scurried down the porch steps.

“You!” said the first knitter, pointing a needle at Jack’s heart.

“Eavesdropper!” said the second, pointing a needle at Jack’s head.

“The Portsmouth!” screamed the third, pointing a needle at the rock on the ground.

Jack would have said something in reply, perhaps making an attempt to talk his way out of any trouble he might be in with these three strange women, but three things happened at once:

First, Mr. Perkins screeched, covering his face with his hands. Lancelot, appearing out of nowhere, bore down on the man, knocking his glasses to the pavement, before swooping to the ground, grabbing the rock in its talons and flying out of sight.

Second, Gog and Magog leapt out of the raspberry bush, hurling their weight on the chests of the first two knitters, causing them to stagger backwards, hitting the third.

And thirdly, Jack’s skateboard yanked itself out of Jack’s arms and began rolling away.

“Come back,” Jack shouted. He ran after it, hopped on and sailed out of sight. Somewhere, between the sweat mopped off his brow and the terrified panting, he heard one of the women call to him. Her voice was soft and sweet and sharp.

You won’t know whom you can trust,” she said.

Yup, Jack thought. That’s about the truest thing anyone’s said all week.

Looking for suggestions

My seven year old has decided to memorize and perform a long poem for a poetry exhibition that her school is doing for National Poetry Month. At first, she thought she’d do “Septimus Bean’s Amazing Machine” or “The Pied Piper of Hameline”, but there’s already a couple of kids doing those poems, and my little Cordelia simply cannot be part of a crowd. So what do you people think? Any longish poems that would be fun for a cerebral seven year old to apply to memory?

On Anxiety

I had planned on sending the draft to My Dear Editrix yesterday, I really had. And I probably could have done. The thing has been sliced, diced, ripped, re-arranged, re-woven, stitched, embroidered, embossed, cleaned and polished til it shone. I’ve filled notebooks, worn pencils down to nothing, busted a computer, stayed up late, woke up early, ignored my children, and, upon many more occasions than I’d care to admit, burst into tears.

It’s done. I know it’s done.

And yet, I haven’t sent it. I’ve composed emails, attached the document, and ended up sending it to myself instead. I’ve never pretended to be anything but neurotic and occasionally irrational, but this is getting to be a bit much. And why? Why do I hesitate?

Fear.
Fear of failing.
Fear of disappointing.
Fear of rejection.
Fear of losing.
Fear of vulnerability.
Fear of chaos.
Fear of the abdication of control.
Fear of disappointing the people I care about.
Fear of disappointing the people who have supported me.
Fear of disappointing me.

And so I wait.
The deadline isn’t until tomorrow, I tell myself.
So I wait.
And I fuss.
And I stew.

And I’ve been told that this is just the beginning. Writers, by our very nature, are total and insufferable control freaks. We create worlds, cities, neighborhoods, governments and religions. We birth whole nations in our heads. We bend hearts and break spirits and alter the laws of physics when it pleases us. We bring tyrants to their knees and crown pig-keepers as kings and make errant storytellers the heroes of their time. We labor in secret, we plan in the privacy of our desks and we offer our soul to our pages, demanding a soul in return.

And then we submit the book. And sometimes, someone buys it. And all of our control goes away.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think this is the way to make better books and stronger books and books that will outlive us. This is the goal.

But it hurts, you know? And right now, I’m really struggling with it.

I think I’ll spend today fussing. Then I’ll send it tomorrow. I might barf from nerves, but I’ve accepted that. In any case, I’m pretty sure I deserve cake.

And another cut bit

I’m closing in on the draft, which is actually more stressful than I thought. After all this work, all this thought and preparation, the idea that I’m going to actually send this thing, that I’ll transform it into little digital filaments and hurl it into the electronic ether, where it will spin, reassemble and land upon the waiting lap of my beloved Editrix – well, the thought fills me with so much anxiety and nervous energy I’m pretty sure I might hurl at any second.

Sigh.

Anyway, for those who like such things, here’s another little cut bit.

*****

Mr. Perkins crouched in the tall grasses and stared up at the Fitzpatrick house through a pair of bright green binoculars. He had watched Mr. and Mrs. Fitzpatrick leave two hours earlier without the boy, though followed by their troublingly large cats. For one terrifying moment, the cats turned in unison, their whip-like tails pointed towards the sky. They flexed the muscles in their broad shoulders and prepared themselves to pounce. Mr. Perkins held his breath.
“Gog,” Mr. Fitzpatrick called without looking back. “Magog. Come now. There’s a good kitty.” The cats stared towards the edge of the yard, tilted their ears forward and, with a sniff, turned around in unison and trotted after the Fitzpatricks. Mr. Perkins sighed and allowed his body to crumple to the ground. Once he had recovered himself, he opened his sketch pad.
“Seven thirty,” he wrote. “Professor and wife depart. Boy alone. Below that, he began to sketch the house. At first, he didn’t know he was doing it. He simply looked down and saw the broad eaves and the steep roof beginning to take form. He checked the windows. He saw no one peeking through. In all honesty, he was skeptical that he would recognize the boy even if he saw him. There were no pictures, after all.
“Seven fifty two, boy still not visible,” he wrote at the edge of the page.
“Eight thirty seven. No sign of the boy.” Lazy, he thought, though he didn’t know how the time passed so quickly and he suspected that he may have drifted to sleep.
By nine thirty, the sketch was finished, though, Mr. Perkins noticed, the end product looked nothing like the actual house. The roof in his drawing didn’t lay flat as roofs ought, but rather floated and wisped about like hair. He had tried to imagine a boy looking out the windows, and the shape and heft and coloring of that boy. Instead, he made windows that looked oddly like eyes, and a door that was uncomfortably like a mouth.
The Fizpatricks’ parrot had somehow gotten loose, and flew from window to window, trying to find a way back in. He wondered if the boy had let it out or if the bird had inadvertently escaped. Either way, he pressed his body deeper in the grass. He had met that parrot on four occasions, and none were pleasant. It had an exceptionally sharp beak, and Mr. Perkins had the scars to prove it.
“It’s a nasty thing, that parrot,” a voice said in his ear, “but it means well, and that counts for something.” Mr. Perkins dropped his sketchpad and pencil and scrambled sideways with a scream.
“It’s okay, Mr. Perkins. It’s me. Anders. Remember? Nils and Laura Lindstrom are my parents. You were at my house two weeks ago.” Mr. Perkins tried to slow his breathing and lower the panic out of his voice. He sat up and brushed himself off.
“Of course, of course,” he said, his voice pinched and scratchy. “Anders. Of course. You just startled me, that’s all. I was just…” he ground his teeth trying to think. “Taking some measurements. Official business.” He cleared his throat. “For the Exchange.”
Anders rested his chin on his patched knees and looked distinctly like he was trying not to smile. Mr. Perkins nearly wept in frustration.
“Taking measurements with a notebook instead of a measuring tape? That’ll take a while.”
Mr. Perkins stood, closing his notebook with a snap.
“Last I heard,” he said loftily, “it was considered rude for children to pry into grownup affairs. Now, I’d appreciate it if you’d run along, sonny.” He shoved his right hand decisively into his pocket.
Anders stood as well. He was a tall boy, nearly reaching Mr. Perkins’ eyebrows. Judging by his large hands and feet, he would likely grow to a giant of a man, but Mr. Perkins couldn’t be troubled by that now.
“I’m terribly sorry sir,” Anders said, still smiling. “I didn’t mean to bother you.” He began to walk towards the hazel trees. “But, if I were you, I’d give up trying to get information from a bunch of weeds. You want to know about that kid, you can just ask him.” And with that, Anders ducked under the tree branches and disappeared into the corn.