Authors: Barbara Park
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ON MY HONOR,
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HERE’S TO YOU, RACHEL ROBINSON,
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UP ON CLOUD NINE,
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IF I FORGET, YOU REMEMBER,
Carol Lynch Williams
A PIECE OF HEAVEN,
Sharon Dennis Wyeth
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Text copyright © 1995 by Barbara Park
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This is dedicated to all of those who are happily
tap dancing on God’s piano
A special thanks to my friend and editor, Anne Schwartz
for her thoughtful insights and suggestions
UST LET ME SAY
right off the bat, it was a bike accident.
It was about as “accidental” as you can get, too.
Like Mick wasn’t riding crazy. Or dodging in and out of traffic. And both of his hands were on the handlebars and all like that.
His tire just hit a rock. And he skidded into the back of a passing truck. And that was that. There wasn’t a scratch on him. It was a head injury. Period.
So this isn’t the kind of book where you meet the main character and you get to like him real
well and then he dies at the end. I hate those kind of books. And besides, I can’t think of anything worse than using my brother’s accident as the tear-jerking climax to some tragic story.
I don’t want to make you cry.
I just want to tell you about Mick.
But I thought you should know right up front that he’s not here anymore.
I just thought that would be fair.
ten months older than he was.
I was “planned.”
Mick was a surprise.
He loved it, too. Being a surprise, I mean. He was always teasing my parents about it. Telling them that even before he
, he could outsmart two chemistry majors with birth control pills.
“Just imagine the amazing stunts I’ll pull when I’m a sneaky, rebellious
he’d say. Then he’d rub his hands together and throw his head way back and do that kind of creepy laugh that mad scientists do in the movies. You know, like “Muuwhaaaahahahahaha …” and he’d hunch over and limp out of the room like Igor or somebody.
Mick was excellent at imitating voices, by the way. We have a tape of him yelling “I’m melting! I’m melting!” that sounds just like the Wicked
Witch of the West in
The Wizard of Oz. Exactly
, I mean.
But even without playing the tape, I can still remember how he sounded. I’ve heard that sometimes when people you love die, you forget their voices. But I haven’t forgotten Mick’s. Not yet, anyway.
I have a weird kind of memory, I think. Like I’ve never once been able to remember my parents’ anniversary in time to buy them a card. But I can still remember the exact conversation I had with Santa Claus when I was in kindergarten.
He said, “Ho ho ho.”
I said, “Your breath smells.”
And he said, “Get down.”
It wasn’t much of a chat, but the point is, it happened eight years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday. That’s why it doesn’t surprise me that I can remember everything about the fight Mick and I had four weeks ago. On the morning of the accident.
It started out like most any other school day at our house. My father was running around wearing his usual morning outfit—a shirt and tie, boxer shorts, and black socks. It’s pretty humiliating being related to a man in a get-up like that. But Pop never puts on his pants till right before he
leaves for the office. He doesn’t like to “ruin the crease” before he has to, he says. I’m serious.
My mother had already left for work, wearing her usual pair of jeans. But don’t think the jeans mean she’s more laid back than Pop. All they mean is that she works at a research lab doing experiments with viruses, and she doesn’t like to spill germs on her good clothes.
Both of my parents are totally different from Mick and me. They’re real methodical and organized, and everything they do is always technically planned out. Like my mom never makes hamburgers for dinner without weighing out precise quarter-pound servings on her kitchen scale. And Pop’s idea of a daring adventure is to wash his socks without pinning them to their mates.
Also, I’ve got name tags sewn into my underwear and I’ve never been to camp—which is downright disturbing, when you think about it.
On top of all that, my parents hate family conflict worse than any parents I’ve ever seen. Like my brother and I could hardly even raise our voices at each other before we’d be hustled off to our rooms to think about how we could “resolve our differences in a more civilized and resourceful manner.”
Last year, my mother even made a schedule for
me and Mick to follow on school mornings so we could all start the day without “confrontation.” It was pretty simple, actually. Mick got the bathroom for twenty minutes while I ate breakfast. Then a timer would go off and we’d switch rooms.
At least we were
to switch rooms. But every so often, one of us would run late and we’d find ourselves in the same room at the same time. When that happened, we almost always ended up fighting. ’Cause I mean my parents did sort of expect it of us and all. And we really hated to disappoint them.
That’s why—when Mick walked into the kitchen that morning and saw me digging around in the cereal box—he couldn’t wait to get something started.
The first thing he did was try to grab the box away from me. “What’s in there? What’re you looking for? Lemme see,” he said.
I held on as tight as I could and turned my back to him. “No! Get away! Get outta here!” I yelled.
I couldn’t see what he was doing behind me, Couldn’t hear him, either. Which worried me a lot. Because Mick was always at his most dangerous when he was quiet.
Then suddenly, out of nowhere, he came
bounding off a kitchen chair and snatched the box right out of my hands.
“Hey! Give that back! I mean it, Mick! That tattoo is mine!”
As soon as I said the word “tattoo,” his eyes opened real wide and he grinned this stupid grin of his. Then he reached right in and pulled it out. No trouble at all.
He dangled it in front of my face. It was one of those ugly skull-and-crossbones pirate tattoos.
I should probably mention that I didn’t really
the tattoo. But that wasn’t the point. The point was, I didn’t want
to have it. Which I happen to think is a perfectly legitimate reason for fighting.
It just wasn’t fair, that’s all. Mick almost always got to the cereal toys before me. Then he’d hide them in his room and pretend he didn’t know a thing about them. But I know for a fact he had at least five Super Balls and two pairs of 3-D glasses hidden in there somewhere.