Just shut up. I’d like to tell my brain to just shut up. Have you ever noticed how you can’t make your mind stop thinking even though you try to think about absolutely nothing? You still keep on thinking about how you’re trying to think about nothing because you want to avoid thinking about the thing you don’t want to think about? Oh, shut up.
I appear to be talking to a machine.
I can blank out people. Wipe them right off the board. Paint over them. Close the book on them. Click, erase, gone. It’s me I’m having trouble escaping. A computer is very close to perfection. I love the way you can press cancel or delete and it actually happens. To the printed word, that is.
I’m leaving this place. Mrs. K. and Frank are past tense. It’s not breaking my heart to leave because as a ward of the Children’s Aid I’m used to it. Any idea what that means? Not bloody likely.
Here’s a hint. What do you do with something you don’t want? Throw it out, of course. And what do you call the junk you throw out? You got it.
I’m losing it, obviously. Do I expect this machine to give answers?
My new address will be: Sara Moone, c/o E. Huddleston, RR 3, Ambrose, Ontario. An easy address compared to this one: c/o Mrs. Avartha Koscyzstin, 319 Campagnola Street East, North Malverington, Ontario. And let’s see, what was the one before that? Station Road. No number. That was the Lomers, I think. The only thing I remember about that place was, Arn never laid a hand on us kids. He made us memorize that statement. Sonia, his wife, got slapped around on a regular basis, however.
I have no idea exactly how many foster homes I’ve been in. I was in a group home once and hated it more than anything. Kids kept stealing my stuff. I hide everything now, money especially. Having my own money is very important to me.
A lot of cruelty went on in that place. One of the older kids broke my finger by tricking me. “Put your finger in the crow’s nest,” he said, “the crow’s not at home.” So, like a sucker, I stuck my finger into his big, crunching fist. My finger’s still crooked. I used to get sucked in by Adam and Eve and Pinch-Me, too. Until I found out the right answer.
Don’t plan on digesting my whole life story here, because I’ve forgotten most of it. And what I remember would bore the brains out of a dead cow. I came to stay with Mrs. K. (everybody calls her Mrs. K., including Frank, her elderly husband) when I was about thirteen. I’m fifteen now. That’s the longest I’ve stayed anywhere. I’ll be sixteen at the end of August and then kaboom. I start living. No more social workers. No more foster parents. No more school. I will be me, alone, untouchable.
I’d better start packing. They took Mrs. K. off to the hospital about an hour ago, although she wasn’t supposed to have her operation until next month. “I’m a bit sickly,” she always said to me. Sickly! She’s been at death’s door since day one. There were times when I wouldn’t have minded nudging her right through it. I’ve been playing nursemaid here for the past year and a half, almost. Oh well, so what? It’s February, which means only six months left in limbo. I can hardly wait to start my life.
I’ve got everything packed except this machine. One suitcase and one cardboard box hold the contents of my socalled existence. Another cardboard box contains my books. My other existences. I’ve got my money pinned to my underwear. Frank said he’d carry down my stuff. I said forget it. The stuff weighs more than he does. Especially the books. Frail old Frank, sitting down there by the window in his LaZBoy, waiting for Ruth to pick me up so he can go and sit in a chair at the hospital and listen to Mrs. K. belch and moan about how sickly she is. “I’ll be along later, love,” he said to her. Love! How pathetic!
However, I will say this about old Frank, he’s generous.
“Take the computer with you,” he said.
I said, “You’re kidding!”
“Why would I be kidding?” he said. He’s just retired and the place where he used to work bought all new computers so he got a deal on this old one. “Maybe you’ll relate to it, because, God knows, you don’t relate to people.” Suddenly he’s a psychologist. Frank Freud. I hate that. I hate when people think they have you figured out. Of course I don’t relate to people. Why would I? I’m not related to anybody and nobody’s related to me.
Ruth insists this is not true. ShutupshutupshutUP.
Forget it. That’s what I don’t want to think about. Ruth’s here. I have to unplug this thing and lug it out to her car. She’s my case worker and will be driving me to my new foster home. I’m pressing exit. Yes I’ll save this. Temporarily.
O give me a home where the imbeciles roam – I can’t believe this place. A farm! They’ve placed me at some kind of a farm. Am I being punished? Do they think I have animalistic tendencies? I mean, look! I’ve never done anything wrong in my life. I obey every rule in the book. The way to get along in this world is be invisible. Flatten yourself out and wait. That’s what I thought I was doing. Just hanging around blending in with the wallpaper, waiting until my sixteenth birthday. I thought it was my darkest hour when I ended up with Mrs. K. and Frank exuding compassion for the homeless in their house haunted by every cabbage they’d ever boiled in their lives. They went in for boiled fish, too, and deeply waxed floors and they were death on open windows. But this place!
Actually the house smells okay. It smells like the inside of a bakery, which is not too hard to take. Outside is a different story. They insisted on showing me a bunch of beadyeyed chickens and a barn full of decaying sheep. When I held my nose, they laughed and said I’d get used to it. I said, “Don’t bet on it,” but they didn’t hear me. I have this affliction. When I talk to strangers, I sound as though I’m trying out my voice for the first time.
These people have some kind of a mangy old dog that sidled up to me and put its head under my hand. I mean, what was I supposed to do? I’m no great lover of animals, but it seems a natural reaction to pat a dog’s head if it’s right there under your hand. “Don’t pat the dog!” somebody yelled at me. “Is this a nnnnut house?” I tried to ask them, my other affliction making its presence known.
“Nnno, it’s the loony bbbin!” shrieked this jerkass kid, who ran before I could grab him and tear the living mouth right off his face.
But wait. I’ll go back to this afternoon. Ruth and I clunking along in her car heading out of town. No heater. Weather cold as a witch’s tit. Slithering around icy corners. No treads on the tires. Me, minding my own business, not saying anything, even though Ruth is one of the few people I can talk to without sounding as though cracker crumbs are stuck in my throat, and looking out through a little patch on my window I’d defrosted with my bare fist. I was watching the houses peter out until there was nothing left but field after snowy field of nothingness. Ruth said, “How do you feel about moving to a new place?”
“Okay,” I said. She tried to give me one of those indepth eyecontact looks but gave it up when we started to go into a skid. She was managing to get enough warm air blowing onto the windshield to give her an eggshaped view. She decided to look at the road.
“How do you feel about leaving the Koscyzstin’s?”
“Okay,” I said.
“It’s too bad about Mrs. K. If we could have avoided this move we would have, but the situation looked pretty hopeless. I’m sorry about your friends.”
“You’ll miss your school buddies.”
“Oh. Right.” The best way to handle Ruth is tell her what she wants to hear. She’s spent her entire adult life picking over misery, sorting out disasters, trying to bring a little joy into people’s lives. Why burden her with my lack of friends?
“Are you happy, Sara?”
“Intensely.” She was trying to look at me again, so I gave her my LittleOrphanAnnie look. Like the comic strip character with zeros for eyes?
We drove along, leaving the flat fields behind, and started chugging up and down some serious hills. The road narrowed and became lined with trees. A wall of trees. We were surrounded, boxed in, by some kind of primeval forest. Deep, impenetrable, hostile. Ruth was still going on about my friends and wanting me to talk about myself. I told her I thought I was coming down with laryngitis. What’s there to tell, anyway? She must have a file describing the vital statistics of Sara Moone, height, weight, etcetera. All she has to do is look me up on her computer if she wants to know what I’m like. What she sees is what I am. Tallish. Thinnish. Reddish of hair. Distinguishing features? None. No, maybe they keyed in burn scars, left leg. That sums up Sara Moone.
Ruth didn’t believe I was coming down with laryngitis. “Tell me about your school friends,” she said.
If I’ve learned one thing in my life it’s this: if you don’t want your heart broken, don’t let on you have one. It’s the motto I live by. It allows me to keep my personality flat. No heart, no brains, no guts. At school this girl who sat in front of me in computer class asked me over to her house one day. At first my insides started knotting up, and I thought I’d puke right in front of her until I remembered I had no guts. “C-can’t,” I said and walked away. How could I? What would be the point? The girl would find out that I had about as much substance as a dropped ice cube, that I wasn’t based on anything, and that would be the end of it. I’m disposable. “Can’t make it,” I always say. I don’t make excuses; I never aim for a soft little smile of regret. I am so incredibly cool it’s becoming my trademark. I only have one problem. After I say no, after I turn people down, just seconds later, I sometimes think I have become solidified, fixed. One of my foster things once yelled at me, “Your face is gonna freeze like that!” I think I was trying to look like an attack dog with rabies. Frozen. That’s the way I feel after I say no. I’ve become frozen – in a negative position. Then the feeling goes and I can move.
Ruth was still waiting for me to tell her about my friends. “A fun-loving and loyal group,” I said. She shook her head and frowned into the darkening afternoon. It was starting to snow. Sherwood forest was easing up a bit. The road ran crookedly between pink slabs of rock. It could have been chiseled piece by piece out of the hill by some sculptor obsessed by a single idea: Get to the other side! Find a way through!
“I’m not trying to pry, you know,” Ruth said. “I just want to get to know you a little bit better. What do you do when you’re not in school?”
“Drugs.” I was making another peephole with the palm of my hand, but I sensed by the way we slid into another skid that she was looking at me instead of the road. “Kidding,” I said. I was, too. Only dimwits and emotional screwups do drugs. Fortunately, I am neither.
I could see a few scrubby farms, now, poked into the frosty hills, some with lights on as if they were expecting someone to drop in. Or hoping.
“Seriously,” she said, “do you have any hobbies?”
“A little embroidery now and then. Paint-by-numbers. Candy striping.”
“I said seriously.”
“Teaching Sunday school.”
“Of course I don’t have any hobbies. What do you take me for?”
At the Koscyzstin’s, I used to spend weekend after blank weekend just sitting around listening for Mrs. K.’s next feeble request and waiting for time to pass. I admit I did a lot of reading – everything I could lay my hands on, novels, magazines, newspapers, cereal boxes. I get involved in books to the point where it becomes embarrassing. When I read The Secret Garden, I began to sound quite snotty. When I read The Color Purple, I developed a southern drawl. I’m not safe around books.
Sometimes I spend time studying, not to pull off high marks, which I get whether I study or not, but because I like knowing things. Knowing things will allow me to survive when I start my life. That and money.
Mrs. K. was never what you’d call a robust woman, up and down with one ailment or another over most of those two years. “Do you think you could come straight home after school?” she’d say with her voice one notch away from a whine. “I couldn’t get up the steam to start hoovering the rugs at all yesterday, and they’re just thick.” Or she’d say, “Don’t make any plans for Saturday, I’ve a list for you a mile long. It just gives me the pip thinking about it.” She’d sit there casting her gloomy eye on me, rubbing her belly. And then she’d ease out these long and mournful belches. “Now stay within earshot, Sara,” she used to say. “You never know when I might need something from the drug store.”
But big deal, so what? Being bogged down with household chores didn’t kill me. I got kind of used to running errands and carrying bowls of pale soup and plates of dry toast to her. I’m not complaining. I didn’t exactly feel sorry for the old girl. I felt sort of … responsible. Who else did she have? Frail Frank? Anyway, why would I need friends cluttering up my present life? Reality starts at sixteen.
Picture me as something like a little hyphen on a blank screen. A cursor. Unattached to anything before or after. I move along and down, along and down, until finally I get to page sixteen. That’s when the story starts. Me, alone, in a very sturdy, very compact, glass fortress where I can see out but no one can see beyond the surface. Queen of cool. Of course I’ll need a job because I haven’t been able to save much money, but I’m not fussy. Night watchman at the morgue would suit me fine.
My real dream is this: I’m going up north, as far north as I can go and still get a job, some remote outpost where I’ll have my own space unshared by any other human being. I might have a dog. One of those Huskies, intelligent and loyal. I would like to be a pilot who flies supplies into even more remote places.
“I think you’ll like the Huddlestons’,” Ruth said. “There are other kids there. A ready-made family for you.”
No clutter. No noise. No responsibilities.
“Two boys younger than you.”
“O joy divine.” I took off my glove again and pressed my hand against my side of the windshield to broaden my horizons. Nothing to see except angry snowflakes attacking horizontally and disappearing. The road was becoming narrower and more twisted. We were beyond the boonies. Way beyond. “Turn on your headlights,” I said.
I’ve never driven a car, but I know I could do it. Ruth, on the other hand, seems to have skipped driver’s ...
“If you don’t want your heart broken, don’t let on you have one.”
Sara Moone is an expert on broken hearts. She is a foster child who has been bounced from home to home, but now she is almost sixteen and can not live in the system forever. She vows that she will live in a cold, white place where nobody can hurt her again.
But there is one more placement in store for Sara. She is sent to live with the Huddlestons on their sheep farm. There, despite herself, Sara learns that there is no escape from love. It has a way of catching you off guard, even when you try to turn your back.
When it was published in 1994, Adam and Eve and Pinch-Me won every major children’s book award in Canada. Since then it has appeared in countries around the world. Its story of love and longing strikes a universal chord.
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Description du livre Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1996. Paperback. État : New. book. N° de réf. du libraire 773758399