Things Not Seen, by Andrew Clements. About the Book Bobby Phillips wakes up one morning to discover he's a missing person. Not that he's been kidnapped . Editorial Reviews. homeranking.info Review. Teens, especially those not in the über- popular set, know all about feeling invisible. But what would happen if you. Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements. Author. # of pages. Main Characters. Setting. Introduction - How does the book begin? Point-of-View -What are the pros.
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Clements, Andrew, – Things not seen / Andrew Clements. p. cm. Summary: When fifteen-year-old Bobby wakes up and finds himself invisible, he and his. Dear Reader,A lot of people know that Frindle was my first novel forchildren, but almost no one knows that Things Not Seenwas my second. Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements; 5 editions; First published in ; Subjects: Blind, In library, Juvenile fiction, Fiction, OverDrive.
I hurry to the study, flipping on other lights as I go. Because I feel the way I am—which is totally naked. That was astrange one. Or like get-ting to the bathroom in the middle of the night withoutturning on a light and without running into your desk. It was reviewed well, it sold well, and among all my other books, it is the novel that has drawn some of the most ardent letters from kids and teachers and parents. Because of the fear.
On the TV. So does the phone. I choose the door. I drop the fleece blanket in the living room. Up close to the front door I can see through the edges around the frosted glass design. About the accident. About Mom and Dad. The woman officer leans over and pushes the doorbell button again. I stand still. They wait, rocking on their heels the way cops do. Trent from next door stops them on the sidewalk by their squad car.
She always has to know everything that happens in the neighborhood. My chest feels like someone is squeezing the air out of me. On the way back to the TV room, I pick up the blanket. I sit down at one end of the couch. The phone. I lean over and grab it on the fourth ring, then wait for the answering machine to stop. I take too long to answer. Are you Bobby Phillips?
Is this about the accident? This is Dr. Nothing to be afraid of. The lady keeps talking. Your dad is already in the operating room because his left arm and his right wrist were hurt. My guess is that both your parents will be here for at least three days—probably longer for your dad. Bobby, your mother told me that you are fifteen, is that right? The lady is patient. Or some adult could come and stay with you there.
Are there any relatives or friends I should call for you? Or would you like to call someone and then get back to me here so I can have your mother approve the arrangements?
And now I have to think. Think and plan. But Mom knows that—or at least she did before that big red Jeep beat her up. We need to get her comfortable. Your mother suggested that you might call your aunt Ethel. Does that sound right to you? I guess I should make a couple of calls, and then call you back, okay? Both your parents are very for- 39 tunate to be alive. Both your parents are here at Presbyterian St. I pace up and down in front of the couch a few times.
Then I make myself sit down again. To think. Aunt Ethel. I have to hand it to Mom. Even in an emergency room she knows how to put a good story together. It must be from reading all those novels. Aunt Ethel is real, but having her be my baby-sitter? Aunt Ethel lives in Miami. And then I remember school, my school. Mom called them this morning and said I was home sick. That was the first lie.
And what happens if the people at school hear about the accident? And will the cops keep coming back? The winter sun is setting and the house is almost dark. Or bedtime. Or breakfast. On the silent TV a beautiful happy family is sitting around the kitchen table. I make my first decision: You go and see them. It was probably the sunglasses that scared him, sunglasses after dark. I had to hold up the twentydollar bill so he could see it before he unlocked the doors. Turns out I should have been scared of him.
I get out at the visitors entrance, glad to be alive. At hospitals, people really look at you. And after dark in Chicago, the place is loaded with cops. And cops look at you extra hard. My dark glasses bother her too. She got here this afternoon. Five to eight-thirty P. Fleming before you can see her. And sunglasses. Too strange. Part of me wants to give it up, go home. When that doctor called, she said they were fine.
But doctors always say that. Then, standing there outside the visitors entrance, I see the sign pointing to the emergency room. And it hits me: Because the ER must keep admittance records, right? I just need information. The emergency room is at the far end of the building. Two fire department ambulances have their lights flashing, and two teams of nurses and doctors are scrambling to get some rolling stretchers through the big center doors. When I walk in through a side entrance, no one even glances at me.
The smell, that hospital smell. It makes me 43 want to turn around and get back in a cab. So I head down the hall and around a corner. The rooms on either side of the hall have two beds each. White curtains hang from ceiling tracks.
Some patients have them open, others have the curtains pulled around their beds. No one sees me duck inside and close the door to room I pull the curtains around both beds. For the second time today I take off all my clothes and wrap them in my coat. Out in the room, I pull back the curtain on the bed farthest from the door.
I use my clothes to make a shape that looks like a person lying under the thin blanket. He smokes, and a week or two here would probably be good for him. I stop and look around. I want to be sure I can find my way back to room The hospital is warmer than the library was, but the 44 tile floor feels cold anyway. A noisy drunk weaving around with an ice pack over one eye, an orderly pushing a very pregnant lady in a wheelchair, a trotting nurse with a bag of blood in each hand—three close calls in the first twenty seconds.
All I need is two room numbers, then I can get out of here. The one wearing green is using a computer, and the one in blue is talking on the phone. Time, patient name, insurer, admitting doctor, room number. I have to read upside down because clipboards are not supposed to twirl by themselves. The handwriting is rotten, but I see what I need.
Emily Phillips Blue Cross Dr. Fleming Room Five oh six seven, five oh six seven. Fifth floor. I wait inside the fifthfloor door until my breathing is back under control. The only good thing about hospitals is there are signs all over. Her curtain is half drawn, just enough to be a barrier between the beds. Nothing scary about that. Up close, Mom looks bad. There are dark bruises under both eyes, real shiners.
An X made from two strips of clear tape is holding a white pad and some kind of brace on the bridge of her nose. I look at her hair on the paper pillowcase, and among the brown I see some gray ones. I never noticed that before. Her hands lie open on the pale blue blanket, palms up, fingers slightly curled. She has bruises on both arms. Her hands clench and her eyes jerk open, terrified. I pat her shoulder. I came to see you.
Her head turns toward me, and I can see her eyes now. The pupils are wide and dark, scanning. I reach for a plastic cup on the bedstand beside her purse.
I hear voices in the hall, but they pass the door and fade away. Have they told you about your dad? And I just bundled up and took a cab. I drop to my knees and scoot under the high bed. The lady doctor has a kind voice. Phillips, so I had one of my interns call downstairs and check. It would be so easy to tie those laces together. He shifts his weight and clears his throat. Fleming cuts him off. I think you can rest now, Mrs. If 48 your head starts hurting again, ring the nurse and someone will come right away.
Is there anything else we can get for you? Fleming is annoyed. Who brought you the message? He called me himself—my cell phone is there in my purse. Your son was a little shook up when I called with the news, but he snapped right out of it.
Sounded like a great kid. And thank you for calling him. Now, you get a good rest, Mrs. About Aunt Ethel. I hate not seeing your face. She loves music. We both do. Dad listens and enjoys the sound waves, but Mom really hears the music. She waves her hand around, a motion that includes the room, the hospital, the whole day.
Do you know where Dad is? I should go see him too. She finds three twenty-dollar bills and holds them up for me. Three days ago. A million years ago. Choose the nicest taxi, Bobby, one of those big ones. I close my hand around the cash, and it disappears, ready to be carried away.
I open my fingers, and the money roll reappears. I know we can figure it out. And then I let go of her hand. The old woman in the other bed is wide awake. Mom is looking at the door too, leaning forward as I start to leave.
Except my toe starts throbbing again. Coming home to an empty house. Dad has some timers rigged up, so a few lights are on.
Still, the place looks like a big old funeral home. This kid at school named Russell, his dad runs a funeral home on Kenwood. His family lives on the second and third floor of the place.
He says sometimes they have three or four corpses in the cooler at the same time. Stuff like that creeps me out. Trent would see me.
She lives next door, and she sits in her big bay window all day and most of the night. She would see me, and then she would probably waddle over to tell me that the police were here earlier. I let myself in at the driveway door on the east side of the house, the side away from Mrs. This side faces a big duplex apartment house.
I wish I was going there for the night. First, before I set the alarm system by the back door, before I turn on any other lights, before I even take off my coat and scarf, I go around and shut all the shades and curtains. If Mrs. Then this thought: Unless things change, my fast-food days are over. Unless someone else does the buying. One ring, two rings, three rings. Or in the bathroom. Four rings. Five rings.
Six rings. Bad word.
I mean the battery in her phone—dead battery. Then it goes to voice mail. I try not to sound worried about her, but I am. Or you can call me. Tons of times. But not like this. Never with both my folks away all night.
And no one else coming. Which is not a bad way to be in this part of Chicago. The streetlights are on, but there are shadows. Lots of shadows. So I turn on more lights. In the TV room I set up a tray table. Then I get some milk and my sandwich. I should know better than to just turn on the tube. I punch the changer, and it flips to Cinemax.
Some teenage vampires are having a meal. I turn off the set, but then the house feels too quiet, and bad pictures are bouncing around in my head. All three lamps are on, but it still feels dark. So I grab the other remote and turn on the FM. The room fills up with jazz.
And then I remember my sandwich. And the milk tastes strange. Nothing feels right. Because when fear begins to crawl, it just keeps coming. Light is good, light is very good. The alarm system is blinking. The alarm system has eyes and fingers all over the house. It senses things. The system will shriek when something outside starts to come through a door or a window. It works from the inside. I hurry to the study, flipping on other lights as I go. I swivel the big computer monitor around so I can sit and 56 not have my back toward the doorway or the big curtained window.
I can talk to Kenny online, just talk a little. Like about jazz band. Because jazz band practiced today after school. Without me. No response. I key his name again. I try a few other names, kids I ask about homework sometimes. Like Jeff. I can ask Jeff what I missed in biology today.
Or maybe Ellen Beck. She lives over on Blackstone—practically a neighbor. And I can ask her about English too. Then I remember. Midterms are coming. A digit changes on the clock at the upper corner of the computer screen.
I shut the box down. Eight, maybe nine more hours before dawn. The lights are burning here, but darkness is all around me—in the alley, in the attic, in the basement, in every closet. The night is everywhere. Hours and hours and hours of night. Would they look uneasy? More than that. Maybe haunted? Would my eyes look haunted? What did her eyes look like? Because of the fear. Bubbling up through the heater grates.
I can feel it rising. Like water. Like black blood. Like the fluids. I have to yawn. About fear. And the thought is simple. From a history class. Just words. Until now. There is no danger. And I can see that the fear is the thing. Another memory, another thought.
It keeps feeding itself. And then it gets you to feed it. And you just have to stop it. I have to stop it. I stand up and toss my pillow back onto the bed. I take deep breaths. I go over to my dresser and look in the mirror. I wonder what my hair looks like. So I grab a comb and pull it across my head, patting my hair with the other hand. Feels right. What a clear complexion he has. Then I walk over and unlock my bedroom door, and I go downstairs. I shut off the radio, and I take my dishes from the TV room back to the kitchen, and I scoop myself a bowl of chocolate chip ice cream.
I go back to the couch, and I pull the blue fleece blanket around me, and I turn on Nick at Nite. I start laughing, and I am eating ice cream, and I am not afraid.
Still, when I finally go upstairs, I lock my bedroom door again. I mean, I know I can get past the fear. I just did it. Not tonight. Talk to Mom. Watch TV. Listen to jazz. Talk to Dad. Go online. Practice my trumpet. It makes it so easy to think. Too easy. Until Mom calls again. And again. Starting with the cab ride home from the hospital last night. And she hopes that I remembered to turn on the alarm system. And have I remembered to water the plants?
Because the ivy in the front hall needs a half cup of water every other day or it droops. And did I do my homework? So if no one is online, then you just call them on the telephone. Have kids today forgotten how to use the telephone? Am I feeling all right? Am I eating nutritious foods?
Dad sounds all right when he calls me about noon. I mean, like, what if the accident had messed up his head? But that clearly has not happened. Maybe put a sliver of your fingernail under the electron microscope, maybe try to get a reading from a spectrometer, things like that. Sound good? Because it could have been anything that caused this, right? Like maybe I ate a chunk of irradiated beef at the school cafeteria. Or maybe we lived too close to some big power lines down in Texas.
With Dad, it all gets back to theory. He theorizes. Has he ever actually even seen one of these atoms he studies year after year? He looks at made-up pictures of things that are invisible and comes up with theories.
I need some action. You could go to the website of the journal Science and do some poking around, search their database for articles on light, do some reading— okay? My big event for Wednesday is when Mrs. The doorbell rings, and I trot to the front hall. She makes a very wide shadow on the frosted glass.
I heard about your parents. You poor dear, are you all alone in that big old place? She really does bake amazing cookies. With Mrs. And once Mrs. Trent gets into the front hall, it takes at least twenty minutes to get her out again. She came late last night. Trent too. Now, you run along and get back into bed. Thanks a lot, Mrs. I peek through the glass, and I can see that she put the cookies down about five feet from the door.
Trent is smarter than she looks, plus she has a big nose. With the cookies that far out on the porch, Mrs. Trent can sit in her front window and get a sideways look at whoever comes out to retrieve them. She wants to have a gander at Aunt Ethel.
About ten minutes later Mrs. Trent sees the storm door swing open on our front porch. Then this short plump person with stooped shoulders wearing a long pink terry cloth robe and fuzzy blue slippers shuffles out to the cookies, bends down slowly, picks up the plate, turns around, and shuffles back to the door. But apart from my big performance on the front porch, Wednesday is mostly boring. Wake up. I even worry during my nap. So Thursday is pretty much like Wednesday, only worse.
But a day like this actually makes you want to go outside and throw a Frisbee or something. And I can just hear some guys at my school talking about this. Go with the flow, dude.
Check out the jewelry store. Go to the bank and learn some codes, man. This is my life. What if I never change back to the way I was? What then? Do I have to keep it a secret forever, like a spy who can never tell his wife and kids who he really is?
What wife and kids? Never buy a car or get a job or have my own apartment. And how would I live? Am I going to have to stay in this house with my parents? Trent to bake more cookies and the school to call and the sun to go down and the sun to come up again tomorrow. So I go down the steps from the kitchen and out the side door. I turn off the alarm. I peel off my clothes, all of them.
I take the key out of my jeans pocket, and I go outside and tuck it inside the drainpipe beside the steps. And I go around the front corner of the house and walk west, right past Mrs. The weatherman said it was going to be unseasonably warm, and for once it was the truth.
Right now. In the sunshine. Because I can. Because I want to. Fighting with swords and shields and spears. And how they used to hold their athletic contests naked. Running and wrestling and throwing the discus.
Tough guys. Tougher than I am. Walking west toward the university, I miss my clothes. I miss the feeling of protection. But I think that maybe I get what the Greeks were up to.
No way. And if I have to run a marathon or jump onto a brick wall to get out of the way of some girl in spandex on a mountain bike, why should I carry a single ounce of extra weight? Want your war- 69 riors and runners to be fast?
All you have to do is take away their clothes. In real life, no one looks at anyone else very long. I can always tell if someone is looking at me. Most people can, I think. Because when someone does look at you, and you notice it, you look back at them, and they look away, right?
Especially strangers. I could never be on one of those reality TV shows where a camera keeps staring and staring, watching everything I do. But today I can stare at people as long as I want to. Bobby, the Human Hidden Camera. Up close and personal. When some other kids come toward us, he gets this look on his face, very cool, very into his own head. He swings his shoulders, and he bobs his chin up and down.
When the kids are past us, the dudewalk stops, switched off. Then the kid scratches his head, picks his nose, wipes the booger onto his jeans, and takes a kick at a pigeon on the sidewalk. Because no one is looking. Except a lone Greek warrior. Four doors are draining straight at me with about three hundred kids streaming down the steps and across the lawns, headed for the cars and buses and sidewalks that take them home.
Three days ago I was right in the middle of the herd. I lean backward, but only for a second. The metal bars feel like icicles against the backs of my thighs. The best part is that the book comes with a full set of maps. A gang of sophomore girls, the popular ones. Because what would be the 71 point of that? I know Jessica from my honors biology class. The girls glide down the front steps like a unit, like airplanes in formation.
The others take their cues from her. And they know it. But I turn away. Because I am a Greek warrior, and they are beneath my notice. My eyes are pulled back to the steps. Right behind the girls come the soccer gods. In Texas it was the football. That lasts all year. I could easily step out and trip Josh Ackerly, see him stumble and sprawl down the steps.
But why should a great warrior stoop to even notice such a pathetic creature? Besides, watching Josh fall might make me laugh out loud, and I have taken a vow of silence. The traffic thins, and a few teachers mill around the doors. And then the buses pull away, and the flow trickles down to a few stragglers. Now the warrior is cold. Still, it would be 72 fun to find Mr. Stojis, maybe do a little floating trumpet act for him down in the band room, see if he wants to work it into the program for the spring jazz concert.
But Mr. Stojis will have to wait. I have other things to do. Like keep my feet from freezing out here on the battlefield. So I double-time it toward the big university library.
I need to walk on warm carpet for a while. I march past his guard post, hidden behind my shield. Heat is a good thing.
Cold makes it impossible to relax. Cold plus naked is even worse. But this, this is nice. Cozy and bright. And clean, soft carpets. No broken glass to step around, no dog poop, no halfmelted slush. To the third floor. I should be able to smuggle a good CD into one of those rooms somehow.
How tough could it be? Then I can block the door and settle into a big soft chair and listen to Miles Davis while my feet thaw out. There are four rooms. All I need is one. In the second room a guy holding an orchestra baton is facing the wall opposite the door. Two people are pacing around in the third room, a man and a woman practicing a theater scene. Very dramatic. The last room is being used too.
You can tap on that thing anywhere, so beat it! And I pause, and I gulp, and I tap on the door softly and then step inside the room quickly and shut the door behind me. Brave enough to break my vow of silence.
At length, she succeeded. My hand is still on the doorknob. I could still back out. And Mrs. Trent and Dr. And a couple of cabdrivers. I remember your voice. You made a strong first impression. A sense of humor.
It was a nice change. The tape recorder is still talking, like a third person trying to keep the conversation alive. I notice her hands, long fingers, sensitive, never completely still. We read that first semester. How do you like it? I like books with more action.
I live pretty close. A couple hours here is better than being stranded at home all the time. I take correspondence courses. Independent study. So you can use the library and stuff?
I take courses from a special school up on the North Shore. So does my mom. Lame, but safe. So I try to back off. Not angry exactly. An accident, you mean, like as opposed to maybe I made myself blind on purpose, maybe by poking myself with a sharp pencil? Or, like a pot of acid blew up in science class—that kind of accident?
Is that what you mean? Because who needs this? I shut the door and take a look at our audience of students. They go back to work. I solve the problem by pulling out a chair, folding my right leg onto it, and then sitting on my leg. So when I thought that question, I just kind of said it right out loud. This one she smiles at me is a new one. Like sadness. And loneliness. A lot of loneliness, I think.
She knows I exist. Her eyebrows come together. Your parents said that was okay? Sounds pretty nice, I mean, not going to school and all. Most people just try to avoid me, especially other kids. So when you asked that, it was a surprise. And then I get mad. And sarcastic.
He lives in my computer. She puts on her coat and backpack and picks up her long white cane. We get on at the third floor of the library with two other people, and then four more students with enormous backpacks pile in at the second floor.
It could get very bad—people crushing my feet, shoving me into the walls, discovering the alien in their midst, screaming, freaking out. But none of that happens. Everyone jams onto the far side of the elevator, and no one says a word. No one wants to bump into the blind girl. So her cane is why I pass the elevator test so easily. See you tomorrow. And now I know her name. I feel awkward. She holds her cane out ahead of her, sweeping it back and forth like radar.
When it touches the door, she stops. I know she must have traveled this route a lot of times, but the way she steps ahead is still pretty amazing.
More sarcasm. She stops and brings the cane straight up in front of her. And socks, because I re-member how cold the floor was at breakfast. I go down the back stairs to the kitchen. Then I see the note on the kitchen counter. Adler Hall from 3: I called the office at school and said you had the flu, and Mrs. Savin will hold your home- work for me at the office. Dad will be home early, a little before 4, right after a meeting with his team. Just watch TV or some- thing.
Love, Mom And then a second note scribbled below that. Bobby—Please be careful. Dad My folks. They never lose sight of the importantthings. Like keeping up with homework. And poetryseminars. So let me get this straight, Mom: So I say to myself, Fine. The stocking cap, the turtle-neck, the scarf around my face, the gloves, it all looksnatural.
Theymake me look like Elwood from The Blues Brothers. Bouncing along, myheart is pounding so hard, I can hear it crinkling myeardrums. But I have to. I have to. It would be likenothing happened, same old same old.
To be like this. Atthe library. As long as I get home before Dad does, noproblem. You have to show an ID at the en-trance. If the person on duty wants to check my faceagainst the picture on my lab school ID, things could getmessy. You out of school early today? The elevator takesme to the top floor. It is. I shut myself into the stallagainst the wall and take off my clothes.
I wrap every-thing in my coat. I look around and realize my little planhas a flaw: A public washroom does not offer a lot ofplaces to hide a bundle of clothes. And they have to stillbe here when I get back. Then I look up. Then I pull the tile back inplace.
Before I leave the washroom, I look into the mirrorabove the sinks. Because I feel the way I am—which is totally naked. And I hope that at least for the next little while, I reallydo stay invisible. Leaving my house, riding the bus, walking throughthe library—when I did all that I was wearing a full setof clothes. And my eyes told my brain that everythingwas normal. And I had no trouble walking or seeing myhand put quarters into the slot on the bus.
I take it slow, feeling all dizzy and disoriented. I makemyself walk back and forth through one of the periodi-cals sections, stepping carefully around chairs and ta-bles.
My shadow is barely there, more like a ripple, sortof like the way light bends above a hot radiator. I try toreach out and touch the corner of an Arabian news-magazine. I miss it by about three inches on the firsttry. Or like get-ting to the bathroom in the middle of the night withoutturning on a light and without running into your desk. It takes practice. So I take a walk around the rest of thefifth floor. Everything isdifferent.
I end up back by the elevators. So I walk down the stairsto the fourth floor—slowly, hanging on to the handrail. On four, students are all over the place. And I knowwhy. Same thing at the lab school library, Ibet. I just get to stroll throughthe beehive and watch the drones buzz from book tobook, filling up their heads so they can dump them outinto test booklets a week from now.
She looksyoung, maybe a freshman. She taps on the keys, looks atthe screen, frowns, shakes her head, and then taps somemore. Bending over the keyboard, a long strand of brownhair keeps falling down into her eyes, and she keeps try-ing to hook it behind her left ear. I walk up right behind her and look over her shoulderat the screen. Iknow what to do. All she has to do is press F7. But shekeeps hitting the escape key, and it takes her backward.
I step closer, and I wait until she has the title high-lighted again. Then I leanforward, reach past her, take careful aim, and gentlypush the F7 key.
The screen jumps ahead. The girl does a double take. Then she gives a littleshrug and pushes the print key. And she does. The girl pushes her chair back, and one of the blackplastic wheels rides right onto the big toe on my leftfoot.
The girl gives a sharp squeal and scoots her chairbackward again, harder. But when she comes back, she picks up herstuff in a hurry and moves to a different workstationover by the windows. I feel my hands shaking, and my breathing is ragged.
What if I had a real injury instead of a stubbed toe? Something serious? In a few minutes the pain in my toe dies down a lit-tle, so I head for the third floor, slowly and limping a lit-tle. I know the third floor best. I did a term paper on the historyof jazz in Chicago when I was in eighth grade. I had spe-cial permission to use the records, and the listeningrooms too. Ieven played my trumpet along with some of the recordsand no one came to tell me to shut up.
The third floor is even busier than the fourth. I movecarefully, taking my time now. I glide by on my barefeet. I look, I listen. And me? Fly around onmy own, and no one notices me, no one could care less.
Thatcan be dangerous. My feet know wherethey are now. At the washroom door I stop and listen. All clear. Then—voices, deep voices. The wash-room door hisses open. The door shuts,and their voices get louder because once inside, theystop thinking about being in the library.
They finish, wash their hands, turn on bothelectric dryers, and then leave. They never stop talking. Less than two minutes later I am fully wrapped andcoming out of the stairwell door on the ground floor. Can I catch a bus, or do I have to run the half mile witha bad toe to get home in time to keep my dad fromthrowing a fit?
Are you okay? Here you go. But the girl is. But the girl keeps smiling as she reaches out for thestrap of her book bag. I put my scarf back on. Then I pick up the thing shedropped and hand it to her. Because what I hand her is a long, thin white cane. You know how Hemingway writes? This face needs someone like Dickens, or maybeTolstoy. She shakes her head. I just come here to studysometimes.
At the lab school. Not me, not anybody. But so what? See you later. The bus goes past my house and starts to slowdown for the stop at the corner. Our car. My mouth tastes like copper, and my heart startsdrumming, and when I get off the bus and start running, 30 New rules.
There are new rules. So I just walk up the front steps, stomp across theporch, and use my key to open the door. He looks bad. He still has hiscoat and gloves on. His face is the color of Wonder Bread,the skin stretched tight over his cheekbones. Thank God! Scared the hellout of me!
Gloves, scarf,sunglasses, hat, coat. I read his face as he talks. His eyes drinking in thephenomenon again. His eyes narrowing, his foreheadwrinkling as he tries to see and comprehend. His mouthtalks, but his eyes never stop hunting, looking for some 31 And I see the struggle in his face. This is so completely irresponsible! I thought Imade it very, very clear this morning that this has to bekept a complete secret.
How can you not understand that? His face is getting niceand red. What is the idea of running off like that? Like what? What did Mom sayto you before you both left? Probably not fatal. So then whatdo my responsible parents do? Because so many other things arereally important.
I watch my words as theyhit, piercing his eyes and ears and cheeks like porcupinequills. Dad knows that my teeth must be show-ing, that I am as fierce as anything in any cage at theBrookfield Zoo. And that I am not in a cage, not now. Iam out of the cage, and I am up close, and I am snarling. I step around him.
I trot up thefront stairs and down the hall to my room, and I slammy door. And lock it. And then I congratulate myself on the performance. Ijust want him to mind his own business. After a big blowup, I usually read in my room for atleast an hour. I start to open my door, but then I stop. I pull off myclothes. I walk down the back stairs slowly.
Some of the stepsalways squeak, and I avoid them. Alone in the kitchen,I pull out the mayo and some sliced turkey and Swisscheese. I put everything on the counter without makinga sound. When I ease open a drawer and pick up a knife, the han- 33 The floating blade moveswhere I tell it to.
The sandwich tastes fantastic, and the milk after it iseven better. Dad hashis back to me, still wearing his overcoat.
Yes, very upset. No, not a clue,really. All we can do is be here and do whatever we can.. I know, but he really does need us, both of us.
We can pick up something special on the wayback, maybe some steaks. The north door, right? See you soon. I hurry out, go the otherway, through the kitchen and up the back stairs. Back down in the kitchen I finish pouring my glass ofmilk, grab the Oreos from the pantry, and walk to theTV room. The couch is cold brown leather, so I wrapmyself up in a fleece blanket before I sit down andpunch the remote. The Professor is being smart, and Gilligan is being stu-pid.
The cookies and milk have filledme up, and the fleece blanket is warm, and the couch iscomfy. The reporter is wearing a yellow parka with thehood down. Her breath is a white cloud in the cold air. The driver of this Jeep Cherokee apparently did not see the red light at this busy intersection near the University of Chicago. He is in police custody, although he has not been charged at this time.
This Ford Taurus was struck by the Jeep and then apparently spun 35 As you can see, the Taurus has been pushed up onto the sidewalk by the force of the multiple impacts. Ten seconds. Ten seconds ago I was asleep, arguingwith the Skipper and Mary Ann about what to have fordinner.
At the TV. The reporter keepstalking.
The driver of the third car was not hurt, but both the driver and the passenger in the Taurus had to be removed by ambulance. At this hour they are reported in serious condition at Presbyterian St. The Ford Taurus. On the TV. So does the phone. I choose the door. I drop the fleece blanket in the living room. Up close to the front door I can see through the edgesaround the frosted glass design. About the accident. About Momand Dad. The woman officer leans over and pushes the doorbellbutton again.
I stand still. They wait, rocking on their heels the waycops do. Trent from next door stops them on the side-walk by their squad car. She always has to know everything that happens inthe neighborhood. My chest feels like someone is squeezing the air outof me.
On the way back to the TV room, I pick up theblanket. I sit down at one end of the couch. The phone. I lean over and grab it on the fourth ring, then wait forthe answering machine to stop.
I take too long to answer. Are you Bobby Phillips? Is this about the accident? This is Dr. Nothing to be afraid of. The lady keeps talking. Your dad is already in the operating room be-cause his left arm and his right wrist were hurt. Myguess is that both your parents will be here for at leastthree days—probably longer for your dad.
Bobby, yourmother told me that you are fifteen, is that right? The lady is patient. Or some adult could comeand stay with you there. Are there any relatives orfriends I should call for you? Or would you like to callsomeone and then get back to me here so I can haveyour mother approve the arrangements?
Andnow I have to think. Think and plan. But Mom knows that—or at least she did before that bigred Jeep beat her up. Weneed to get her comfortable. Your mother suggested that you might call your auntEthel. Does that sound right to you? I guess Ishould make a couple of calls, and then call you back,okay? Both your parents are very for- 39 Both your parents are here atPresbyterian St. I pace up and down in frontof the couch a few times.
Then I make myself sit downagain. To think. Aunt Ethel. I have to hand it to Mom. Even in anemergency room she knows how to put a good story to-gether. It must be from reading all those novels. AuntEthel is real, but having her be my baby-sitter? Aunt Ethel lives in Miami. And then I remember school, my school. Mom calledthem this morning and said I was home sick. That wasthe first lie. And what happens if the people at school hear aboutthe accident?
And will the cops keep coming back? The winter sun is setting and the house is almostdark. Or bedtime. Or breakfast. On the silent TV a beautiful happy family is sittingaround the kitchen table. I make my first decision: You go and see them.
It was probably the sunglasses that scaredhim, sunglasses after dark. I had to hold up the twenty-dollar bill so he could see it before he unlocked thedoors. Turns out I should have been scared of him. I get out at the visitors entrance, glad to be alive. At hospitals, people really look at you. And afterdark in Chicago, the place is loaded with cops. And copslook at you extra hard. My dark glasses bother her too. She got here thisafternoon. Five to eight-thirty P.
Fleming before you can see her. And sunglasses. Part of me wants to give it up, go home. When thatdoctor called, she said they were fine. But doctors al-ways say that. Then, standing there outside the visitors entrance, Isee the sign pointing to the emergency room. And it hitsme: Because the ER must keep admittancerecords, right?
I just need information. The emergency room is at the far end of the building. Two fire department ambulances have their lights flash-ing, and two teams of nurses and doctors are scramblingto get some rolling stretchers through the big centerdoors.
When I walk in through a side entrance, no oneeven glances at me. The smell, that hospital smell. It makes me 43 So I head down the hall and around a corner. The rooms on either side of the hall havetwo beds each. White curtains hang from ceiling tracks. Some patients have them open, others have the curtainspulled around their beds.
Noone sees me duck inside and close the door to room I pull the curtains around both beds. For the second time today I take off all my clothesand wrap them in my coat. Out in the room, I pull backthe curtain on the bed farthest from the door. I use myclothes to make a shape that looks like a person lyingunder the thin blanket. He smokes, and a week ortwo here would probably be good for him.
I stop and lookaround. I want to be sure I can find my way back toroom The hospital is warmer than the library was, but the 44 A noisy drunkweaving around with an ice pack over one eye, an or-derly pushing a very pregnant lady in a wheelchair, atrotting nurse with a bag of blood in each hand—threeclose calls in the first twenty seconds.
All I need is tworoom numbers, then I can get out of here. The one wearing greenis using a computer, and the one in blue is talking on thephone. Time, patient name, insurer, admitting doc-tor, room number. I have to read upside down becauseclipboards are not supposed to twirl by themselves. Thehandwriting is rotten, but I see what I need. Emily Phillips Blue Cross Dr. Fleming Room Five oh six seven, five oh six seven. Fifth floor. I wait inside the fifth-floor door until my breathing is back under control.
Naked invisible boys are not allowed to gasp andwheeze. The only good thing about hospitals is there are signsall over. Her curtain is half drawn, justenough to be a barrier between the beds. Nothing scary aboutthat. Up close, Mom looks bad.
There are dark bruisesunder both eyes, real shiners. An X made from twostrips of clear tape is holding a white pad and some kindof brace on the bridge of her nose. I look at her hair on thepaper pillowcase, and among the brown I see some grayones. I never noticed that before. Her hands lie open onthe pale blue blanket, palms up, fingers slightly curled. She has bruises on both arms.
I put my hand lightly on her shoulder. Her handsclench and her eyes jerk open, terrified. I pat her shoulder.
I came to see you. Her head turns toward me, and I can see her eyesnow. The pupils are wide and dark, scanning. I reach for a plastic cup on the bedstand beside herpurse. I hear voices in thehall, but they pass the door and fade away.
Have they told you about yourdad? And I just bundled upand took a cab. Her eyes keep trying to see me. I drop to my knees and scoot under the high bed. The lady doctor has a kind voice. Phillips, so I had one of my internscall downstairs and check.
It would be so easy to tie thoselaces together. He shifts his weight and clears his throat. Fleming cuts himoff. I think you can rest now, Mrs. If 48 Is there anything else wecan get for you? Fleming is annoyed. Whobrought you the message? He called mehimself—my cell phone is there in my purse. Your son was a lit-tle shook up when I called with the news, but hesnapped right out of it.
Sounded like a great kid. And thank you for callinghim. Now, you get agood rest, Mrs. About Aunt Ethel. Mom grins, and then grimaces from the pain. I hate notseeing your face. She loves music. We both do. Dad listens and enjoys thesound waves, but Mom really hears the music. She waves her hand around, a motion that includesthe room, the hospital, the whole day.
Do you know where Dad is? I shouldgo see him too. She finds threetwenty-dollar bills and holds them up for me. Three days ago. A million years ago. Choose the nicest taxi, Bobby, one ofthose big ones. I close my hand aroundthe cash, and it disappears, ready to be carried away. Iopen my fingers, and the money roll reappears.
I know we can figure itout. And then I let go of her hand. The old woman in theother bed is wide awake. Her tubes flop around as she 51 Mom is looking at the door too, leaning forward as Istart to leave. Except my toestarts throbbing again.
Coming home to an empty house. Dad has some timers rigged up, so a few lights are on. Still, the place looks like a big old funeral home. This kid at school named Russell, his dad runs a fu-neral home on Kenwood. His family lives on the secondand third floor of the place. Hesays sometimes they have three or four corpses in thecooler at the same time.
Stuff like that creeps me out. Trent would see me. She lives next door, and shesits in her big bay window all day and most of the night.
She would see me, and then she would probably waddleover to tell me that the police were here earlier. I let myself in at the driveway door on the east side ofthe house, the side away from Mrs. This sidefaces a big duplex apartment house. I wish I was going there for thenight. First, before I set the alarm system by the back door,before I turn on any other lights, before I even take offmy coat and scarf, I go around and shut all the shadesand curtains.
If Mrs. Then this thought: Unless things change, my fast-food days are over. Unlesssomeone else does the buying. I grab the kitchen phone, and then I grab a paper towelto wipe the strawberry jelly off it. One ring, two rings, three rings. Or in the bathroom. Four rings.