Tag Archives: children

saturdays at 11:30 AM

I drive to a library on a rough block of my city

where I sit in a large, well-lit room with long, rectangular tables

and wait.

there are Saturdays where no one shows up

and I read or play with my phone or talk to my partner

if he’s around

most of the time we get a few kids who walk in with their mothers

requesting help with homework

which I am glad to oblige

since this is Homework Club, afterall

some of these kids are skinny, some are talkative, some want to be there, some don’t, some are quiet, some are overweight, some are serious, some are funny

some of their mothers drop them off and return later

some sit around and wait

some mothers talk to me

some bring me small gifts once in a while

One mom tells me she dropped out after eight grade

so she can’t help her son with his fifth grade math.

her son who is sitting across from us quietly reading an article about matter and its three states

another tells me she has been in America for a decade

and is embarrassed she hasn’t learned more English.

 

Only once I had a father drop off his two girls.

total jokesters who asked me a million questions every chance they could

in order to get out of doing their homework

one of the girls was named after a pop star.

Two hours later their Dad returned

while he waited for his daughters to pack away their notebooks and pencils

i studied him like he was one of the word problems his daughter just struggled with ten minutes prior

he was about my size

brown hair that roller coastered atop his head

in an endless succession of loops

yellow and black t-shirt

blue jeans

green eyes and thick tufts of hair

above his knuckles

just below where his fingers bent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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struck

When you go to strike me

with your nine-year-old hand

after I tell you to take a break on the bench

because you’re not playing appropriately with another, younger autistic boy

I always expect to feel anger

But I don’t

and I wonder how you did that

to/for me

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The boy and the dead bird

In the den of his small, light-blue clapboard house at the end of a lane, a small boy observed a cat pin a bird to the lush green grass in his backyard.

After a few minutes, he turned his attention back to problem number 8 on his math worksheet.

“Jed had a sack of 10 apples, which broke, leaving 4 still inside. How many apples fell out?”

“Cesar,” he called to his babysitter, a college student at the local university.

“Yeah, Will?”

“There’s a a cat doing something to a bird outside. I think he’s killing it.”

“Really!” said the boy, hopping up from where he sat in front of the TV, playing a video game.

“Awesome,” the man said, peering out the window.

“Should we help the bird?”

“I think he’s dead, dude.”

“Oh.”

“It’s cool, it’s the circle you know?”

“Huh? What circle?”

“The circle of life.”

The boy didn’t know what the man meant, but he nodded anyway.

“Can I go outside to shoot hoops?” Will asked Cesar a few moments later.

“Sure. Are you done with your homework, though?”

“Yes, well almost.”

“Okay finish up, then we’ll go outside.”

 

The basketball hoop was in the front, on the driveway. Cesar carried the basketball out and immediately began doing tricks with it. While Cesar had his fun, Will announced that he needed to get something from the backyard, a ball of some sort.

When he arrived at the spot where he had seen the cat over its prey, he saw the bird, or what was left of it. It was nothing more than a pile of feathers.

He couldn’t remember if he’d ever seen anything dead before.
Or at least so recently dead.

He suddenly remembered that in the movies when someone or something died, it’s soul sometimes appeared and floated upwards. To heaven, he guessed.

He didn’t expect that to happen, but if it did, he certainly didn’t want to miss it.

“Myeh, myeh.”

It was the cat he had seen earlier. It was in the bushes a few yards to his right.

The cat, all black and fairly skinny, walked up to him.

It rubbed its butt and back on his gray pant leg.

He pet it for a few moments.

It floored him how something could be so brutal in one moment and so gentle a few moments later.

The cat purred at the boy’s touch.

The boy looked back over to the bird’s remains.

He waited ten more minutes in the very unlikely case the bird’s soul sailed off.

The cat curled up next to the boy and continued to purr.

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The Way Things Worked Back Then

I wrote this heavy tale about 4 months ago. Sent it around to some lit maggy-type places. It got a lot of rejections. I think there are some patches of good writing in there, though 🙂

Between 2003 and 2007, my grandfather — that is, my mother’s father – appeared in about a dozen family photographs. Most of these were extended family group pictures, and more often than not he was on one side or the other, his arm disappearing behind someone’s shoulder. He looked gaunt (a result of the battle he was waging with Parkinson’s), but also genuinely thrilled to be present for each of them (a result of, as my mother liked to say, a heart so big it should have had its own zip code).

If you inspected these images for more than a quick glance, you might notice something else. The light did not catch him the way that it did the rest of the family. It was a little like someone dropped him into these shots from some other neck of the universe.

And that was kind of what was going on. Grandpa checked out in March of 2003 when his three-day-a-week nurse discovered his feeble body in his favorite sofa chair in his apartment a few towns over from our house on the North Shore of Long Island. By the time he began showing up in the photos, he had already exited this world — at least in the physical sense.

At 9, I was not yet schooled in the soul-crushing rigidity of the adult world. At the time, my young life was teeming with fiction and fantasy — Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy. So it wasn’t an extraordinary stretch when my dead grandpa started showing up in photos. That was just the way things worked back then.

———-

My aunt delivered the news over the telephone. I was at the kitchen table watching a Saved by the Bell rerun, and observing the exquisite beauty of Kelly Kapowsky, one of the characters. My mother, in the midst of preparing my school lunch for the day, began speaking extremely quietly and quickly into the receiver, so that it seemed like she was conversing in a different language altogether. After a minute or so, she took the phone into her bedroom and never returned.

My dad, who had been 10 minutes into his commute to Manhattan, returned and drove me to school.

While we waited at a notoriously long red light, he told me what was going on.

“Shane, you already know Grandpa Mel was sick. Well he passed this morning. He…”

He was going to say something more, but he started getting choked up.

“He’s dead?”

“Yes.”

It was difficult to imagine my grandfather not being of this world anymore. Grandpa was sick for so much of my young life that the word itself — “sick,” that is — stopped meaning anything to me.

In my mind, he was just this goofy guy who didn’t make a lot of sense when he spoke, smiled every chance he got, and got down on all fours to play Legos with me. It didn’t even occur to me that he was going to die one day from his disease.

The light went green, and we sat in silence for a few moments as Dad drove.

At the next red, he wanted to know if I had anything to ask him.

“Are you driving me to school because Mom is sad about Grandpa?”

“Grandpa is Mom’s dad, you have to remember. Like I am your dad. She’s going to be sad for a while.”

“How long?”

“I’m not sure. We just need to be patient. She’s going to be doing some soul-searching the next few months, and maybe longer.”

“Okay,” I said, half understanding what he meant.

———-

Later that same day, Dad drove me home from school. When we got in, Mom was at the kitchen table, observing a Bluebird that was perched on a limb dangling from an oak tree in front of our picture window.

“Hi Shaney Shane,” she said, turning her attention to us.

“Hi Mom, guess what? My teacher told me at school today that humans are actually animals — just like bears and whales.”

“That’s cool honey! And true too!”

“Are you sad about Grandpa?”

“Yeah, Shane, I am. He was a good, good man. You know what I always say about his big ol’ heart, don’t you? It ought to have its own zip code.”

I nodded, but I didn’t know what else to say, so I just asked Dad if I could go watch TV in the den.

“Sure, for a half hour, and then we can go over your times tables. I’m gonna talk to Mom for a while.”

———

Mom began driving us to school again a few day later and things mostly returned to normal. The one exception was that she spent much more time at her computer in the bedroom than she ever did before. From time to time, she would set me up in front of the TV, or with a crafts project, and disappear without explanation.

One time, Dad came home from work and finished an art project with me. We made puppets out of brown paper bags. Dad made a robber, and I made a cop.

As I was arresting Dad’s puppet for littering, we heard a loud “ping” sound from upstairs. It sounded like someone had slapped the computer screen or tossed something at it. Dad went to check on Mom, and I heard them talking quietly, then Mom crying softly, and finally silence.

Mom came out ten minutes later and said: “are you ready for dinner? We are getting pizza!”

——–

In February of 2006, Grandpa made a photographic appearance at my Bar Mitzvah. It happened during my candle lighting ceremony, a time during the reception when the Bar Mitzvah boy honors family members and special friends by inviting each one up to help him light a candle. Our family friends, the Sorens, came up to light one, as did my pregnant Aunt Sheila and her then-boyfriend, Hal, and a number of others. In the midst of these photos, my mom suddenly approached me and whispered into my ear.

“I’d like you to take a photo by yourself, just you lighting this next one.”

I did as I was told, not thinking about what I was doing or why. Probably because my first crush was watching me with Bambi eyes fifteen feet away at the table where I had placed her — mine, of course.

In the photo album my parents later paid to have prepared, my grandfather found his way into that photo op. In our living room as she showed off the contents to my aunt and Dad, Mom explained that she wanted so badly for Grandpa to be a part of my special day. Her eyes found Dad’s as she said this. We all waited for her to say something more.

——–

A few months after my Bar Mitzvah, Mom got another phone call from Aunt Sheila that turned her to frantically whispering like she had when she got the news about Grandpa. This time, though, she didn’t leave the room, and after some time, I could see a look of disgust form on her lips. Her volume began to pick up too, so that I could hear everything shooting out of her mouth.

“He can’t do this to you.”

“That’s not an excuse, Sheila.”

“He’s the goddamn father. Or has he forgotten that?”

———

A day after Aunt Sheila gave birth, we were seated around the dinner table chowing down on my mom’s Swedish meatballs, the rare dish she made that we all, my mother included, genuinely loved.

“I want to help with Marc,” she suddenly announced.

“I’m worried about her, being alone with her first. I’m gonna see if she wants me to stay with her for a week or two.”

“I think that’s a good idea,” responded Dad, and he turned toward me.

“We’ll be okay here, right Shane?”

“Sure, I’ll take good care of Dad. I’ll make sure he doesn’t go to sleep past his bedtime. Don’t worry, Mom.”

We all laughed.

———-

Grandpa began appearing in fewer and fewer photos during this time. However, he popped up here and there just when you thought he was gone forever.

There was the time Dad and I decided to surprise Mom at Aunt Sheila’s place, where she was helping to care for my baby cousin.

It was a Saturday in December in the early afternoon. There was a strong wind that day, and the sun was nowhere to be seen. I sprinted from our parked car and rang the bell. Dad was still getting something out of the trunk. A few moments later, Aunt Sheila opened the door with my cousin Marc in a pouch across her chest.

“Shane, you’re here! Mom’s in the next room. Go see her! She’ll be psyched.”

I pushed open the slightly ajar French doors just wide enough to enter the den, where my mom was staying. Mom was seated with her back to me in front of the desktop computer, unaware of my presence. I somehow knew immediately what she was doing. A few months before my Bar Mitzvah, I had figured it out.

On the screen was a picture opened in Photoshop of a barbeque in our backyard a few months before in the fall. The image, snapped by my dad, showed Mom and my aunt as they reclined in patio chairs and drank pina coladas. Standing to the right of Aunt Sheila and set back a ways was my grandfather, his hand on his hip and an almost invisible series of dashes going all the way around him. As he peered toward the fence that separated our backyard from the house just behind us, he wore a serene expression, as if looking out on a pristine alpine lake that only he was able to see.

 

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When his father died, Kyle discovered a dark brown locked box tucked away on an eye-level shelf in the garage. A post-it note with his own name written on it clung to it. It wasn’t until he had tried five different four-letter combinations that he finally realized that the paper with his name was both a note as well as a combination.

He was mystified, but not surprised. The boy was always aware that his father had secrets. For as long as he could remember, the man had been escaping to the garage for about an hour a day. No one knew what he did in there, or more accurately no one cared. As long as he emerged eventually to eat dinner with his family, Kyle’s mother never made a fuss. She assumed the man was working on the car, or tinkering with a gadget.

Upon opening the box, Kyle saw an object the size of a bouncy ball. Sketched onto the ball was a map of some sort of world. There were two distinct yellow swaths of land separated by what he imagined was a great pink ocean. At a loss for what this object could be, he simply put it away in his pocket to be discovered anew.

From there, the object bounced around between different locales, eventually ending up, more or less, where Kyle had originally found it: in the garage, atop a table where he now kept his lego creations.

Over time, Kyle began noticing that the contours of the continents were changing ever so slightly. One stretch of coastline was now jagged where it used to be smooth. Another was smooth where it used to be jagged. And so on.

The boy thought it could be his eyes deceiving him. He also could swear he detected the most subtle of movement as he stared at the object for long periods of time.

He couldn’t fully explain why he did what he did next. Placing a stool on the floor, Kyle reached up to the highest shelf to get the microscope his father had purchased him for his eight birthday. The next thing he did was to put the ball under the scope, and that’s when he saw them.

They looked very much like dots. There were two kinds of them. Red and blue. The red dots occupied one continent, and the blue ones the other. In between them, of course, was the pink ocean, which was both very large and very small depending on who was looking. There were a small amount of red dots on the continent where all of the blues resided, but on the red’s continent there were no blue dots.

Every day the boy came home and watched through the microscope. And every day there were a few more red dots scattered along the coast of the blue’s continent.

Just as his father had done, the boy told no one about this tiny world, not even his mother.

He began thinking long and hard about why his father had gifted this object to him.

Perhaps the man had not known about the dots. Perhaps, a secret such as this one was one that should be guarded by a single being.

Kyle began thinking about his own world. Did his own universe have a guardian to make sure they never fell into the wrong hands?

A few weeks later, Kyle noticed one blue dot on the red continent. He looked hard at this dot. He wanted to know more. He thought if he stared hard enough he might make out some movement. But the truth was he never could.

After many months of looking, there still remained only one red dot on the blue continent. It made the boy sad.

Weeks later, he observed a new development. The number of red dots on the blue continent had diminished. The boy had been keeping track of the two populations ever since he registered the changes months before.

Now, there were 6 less, the boy saw. The population of reds on the blue continent went from 55 to 49. Thinking these reds went back to the red continent, he counted to see if they had gained two more red dots. They had not.

Four weeks later, 5 more vanished. And then 2 more after that. And then the boy cried when he found that the single blue dot on the red continent had vanished as well.

All of this made the boy think of the Revolutionary War his teacher was currently discussing in school. Sometimes, he imagined the blues and reds were the Americans and the British, respectively. In his head, these dots were two populations that were in the midst of some kind of conflict. And for all he knew perhaps they were. Perhaps, they were beings occupying this tiny world.

The next time the boy looked through the microscope he could see 65 reds on the pink ocean, heading for the blue continent.

After seeing this development, the boy began a nasty habit of pulling out hairs from the top of his head.

One month after, the blue population diminished to 248 from 311, while the 65 reds were now 40. Noting this, the boy instinctively moved his hand to the top of his head, where he had made a small, but noticeable bald spot.

The Boy who Guarded a World

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Lunar Eclipse of the Heart

Alone in the backyard

I watch

the moon

copper red

and ancient

remembering a night similar when

17 years before

only one year married

the moon was a similar shade and we

were up on the roof

for an hour and a half

telling each other knock knock jokes.

and playing thumb wars

 

emerging from the house’s sliding back door

our son

retainer in his mouth

wants to know if I can read him The Hungry Caterpillar

 

“Daddy when’s it gonna be over?”

“Daddy when’s it gonna be over” I repeat back cruelly

 

I finish off the last few drops of sauvignon blanc

 

“Daddy?”

 

I hold my gaze on the moon

wishing he would go back in the house

 

“Daddy, why’s the moon red tonight?”

“Because it got bashed, and now its bleeding.”

“Is it gonna be alright?”

“It’s not looking good, boy.”

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Aisle 7

In aisle 7 of the pet store, Annabelle’s dog, Roger, a golden retriever, began to bark at a bullmastiff sniffing the cheapest brands of dog food on the opposite end of the aisle.

“Quiet,” she told the dog. “No.”

Roger normally lived with her ex, Alan – Annabelle had given him their dog as a kind of consolation prize after they split up for good, and they had both agreed that Thea should live during the week with Annabelle, and on weekends with Alan.

Alan had had to take an emergency business trip, and he said Annabelle was his only option on such short notice. “I can’t stand to board him,” he’d told her over the phone.

Roger stopped barking.

“Good dog,” offered Thea, in a light blue dress, her blonde hair tied in a ponytail. She scratched his neck, and put her head close to his face. She squealed when Roger gave her a sloppy kiss. The mastiff barked at them, and Roger growled back.

“Ranger, no more, you hear me?” the mastiff’s owner ordered, yanking at the leash and causing it to rattle.

“You too,” said Annabelle, locating the enormous Iams bag and grabbing a fistful of it with one hand. As she did so, she felt the leash move through her other hand as Roger lunged in the direction of the bullmastiff, and then stopped for a moment, as if, surprised at his new freedom. The mastiff’s owner didn’t even see Roger coming, and before anyone could react, the two dogs were tearing off bits of flesh and fur in the dog food section.

In the scuffle, the mastiff tore the ear off of Roger. At the sight of this, Annabelle, grayish blonde hair, sunglasses on her forehead, began to shake and she didn’t stop. Thea was bawling now, with her hands interlaced around Annabelle’s left leg. Annabelle stood like that — Thea hanging off her, the bag of food against her chest  — until a squat, gray-haired woman in a dark blue sweatshirt grabbed up the little girl, darting out of the aisle, and out of view.

With a weary eye on both dogs, the owner of the mastiff grabbed up his dog’s leash again, and pulled him out of the aisle — effectively putting an end to the carnage. Roger was left to collapse onto the floor, finally registering the pain.

A curly-haired man in a store-issued blue apron scampered into the aisle and when he saw Annabelle’s state, he took the Iams from her. Annabelle began to sink down as soon as he did, as if she had suddenly lost her life preserver in the ocean. The man put his arms around her to prop her up, and for a moment she thought she was in Alan’s arms moments after he had told her that he thought they should stop living in the same house. Then her eyes shut and her brain switched off.

When she came to, Annabelle was lying on a dark brown dog bed. Her feet hung off, and her pocket book was beside her. Almost immediately, her thoughts returned to her daughter. Sitting up now, she noted a pot-bellied man in a Nets hat applying a cloth bandage to her deformed dog, but she did not see Thea anywhere.

“She’s right outside,” said the man caring for her dog.

Annabelle pushed herself up by her palms, and tore out of the aisle. When she got to the registers, she slid a few feet on the tiled floor. Stopping to regain her footing, she now could see immediately outside of the entryway of the store her daughter in the arms of a woman she had never seen before — the automatic doors opening and closing before them.

She jogged toward them, and the woman handed over Thea. Annabelle did not feel the frigid January air on her cheeks.

“Thank you. Thank you,” she cried, placing her hand inside the lady’s hand while clutching a little too tightly to her daughter.

“Mommy, is Roger okay? Is he dead?” asked Thea.

Annabelle kissed Thea forcefully on her ear, making a squeaking sound.

“Are you okay, honey?”

“I’m fine. Roger is hurt, though.”

“I know, honey. I know.”

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Recess Time!

the boy left the school office like a horse in the Derby

gliding on the narrow path that connected that building to the recess yard

with the sort of dispatch that can only be achieved when moving toward something desired

not wanting to squander even a minute of play,

he certainly paid no attention to the teacher (who opted not to scold him)

me

On the bench with a book

seeing this and

trying to remember the last time

he sprinted

anywhere for any reason

aside from his running late to some dumb appointment.

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Rainy Days of California

Yesterday waiting in the rain to be let in to a locked resource room for “small group reading”

my 2nd grade students and I began to drink from the sky to pass the time

it might have been an autistic boy named Lionel’s first time doing that

I think about this and I think about a few weeks ago

on the day of the first rain after so many days of drought here in California –

every body in the shopping center where I occasionally eat my lunch

scurrying around

trying to stay dry

when they really should have rejoiced

as had Lionel

mouth open and

head craned skyward.

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First Crush (flash fiction)

From his folding chair in the apartment complex’s swimming pool area, Amir noticed the girl with blonde hair that was nearly white. It reminded him of the snow he played in every December at Lake Tahoe. He didn’t know a girl’s hair could be that white.

It was the beginning of April, and the temperature had climbed to 85 degrees. Amir’s apartment community had a few young families, but mostly college students lived there, and many only used the pool area to tan. So it was always exciting for Amir to come across another boy or girl his age.

Amir watched the girl as she pulled her little sister’s float around the shallow end of the pool. When she emerged from the water to towel off, he studied the rest of her, making silent note of her pale skin, and the blonde hairs on her arms that stood on end. His parents smiled to each other when they saw him looking.

“What are you looking at Amir?” his mother, with a half-grin on her face, asked him.

“Nothing,” he said back.

Later, his eyes followed the girl as she and her little sister walked behind a burly, red-haired man out of the swimming pool gate, and into a weathered, maroon volvo in the parking lot.

For 6 weeks afterwards, Amir thought about the girl with almost-white hair.

Before he went to sleep, he fantasized about ways he could impress her. In one scenario, Amir sang love songs to her from a stadium stage. In another, he imagined himself a movie star visiting the school she attended, ultimately conjuring a meet-cute scenario for the two of them.

Every few days he asked his parents when they were going back to the pool. Unfortunately, the Sacramento area had been experiencing an unusually chilly spring.

When June arrived, the temperatures began to climb into the upper seventies, and Amir’s mother finally agreed to take him for a swim after school. Upon arriving, there were two black boys splashing each other, and a pair of young blonde women lying on their stomachs at the opposite end of the pool.

Amir’s mother told him to apply sunblock. He did as he was told, put on his headphones, and then collapsed into a folding chair, next to his mother. He planned on warming up before jumping in the water. A few minutes later, he heard a man’s voice rise above his music.

“Sasha! Wait for us! Slow down, girl!”

The next thing he heard was a jingle of keys, and then the swimming pool gate whine open. The boy removed his sunglasses and lifted his head to see the girl holding a purple noodle with one hand and the door with the other for her younger sister and father, both of whom were about 20 yards away at the edge of the parking lot. Right away, he noticed the girl’s skin had taken on a darker shade since the last time he had seen her.

“Hi there, are you folks new to the complex?” Amir’s mother, rising from her chair, said to the man as he was setting down a bag about six chairs over from them.

“Yes, we’ve only been here a few months now,” responded the girl’s dad, wearing a red SF 49ers t-shirt. Like Amir’s mother, the man had an accent.

“Oh, how wonderful!” announced Amir’s mother, walking over to the man.

“I’m Neha.”

“Hello, I’m Mikael, and this is Elena.” The man put his hand on the young girl’s head.

“Daddy, can I have an ice cream from the machine?” asked the young girl.

“Ah, well I see you have two lovely daughters,” Neha continued.

The father sighed.

“Much of the time, yes,” the man said, turning to his older daughter.

“Daddy, can I have an ice cream, please?”

“My oldest is in 5th grade. You look about Amir’s age, honey,” said Amir’s mother, turning to the older girl now. “What’s your name? Amir, come over here.”

“Sasha,” the girl answered, standing alongside her father.

Amir said nothing as he slid into place next to his mother, looking past Sasha and into the parking lot.

“Sasha, I’m Neha, and this is Amir. He goes to school at Emerson, down the street. How about you, Sasha? Where do you go?”

“I go to school in Sacramento, at a Catholic school.”

“Oh, how nice. Do you like your teacher?”

“She’s strict.”

The mother looked at her boy who continued to say nothing.

“Well, it was nice to meet you all. Amir, I’ll be right over there. Maybe you and Sasha can get better acquainted.”

“Yes, likewise,” said the girl’s father.

“Sasha, have a good time. I’m going to get your sister an ice cream.”

Mikael pointed to the vending machine on the other end of the pool.

Once the adults left, Sasha folded her arms. Amir stared.

“Do you talk?” she asked the boy.

He didn’t answer.

“What are you looking at?”

“Why do you look different,” he said, finally.

“What do you mean?”

“Last time I saw you, you looked different.”

“Oh, I don’t know. Did I get browner?”

He nodded.

She examined her arms.

“Yours are darker,” she announced.

“I’m Indian, mine are always dark.”

“Oh.”

She continued. “I actually have an Indian kid in my class. People make fun of his accent, but I don’t. You don’t have an accent though.”

“I was born here.”

“I think I read somewhere that India is really poor. Is that true?”

“I don’t know,” he said, somewhat annoyed by this remark.

Amir hadn’t been to India since he was a baby, yet his classmates considered him an authority on the country. Indeed, whenever the country came up in class, nearly every head craned in his direction. Once, he even caught a teacher’s aide doing it.

“I was born in Moscow, Russia. We moved here to the US before my sister was born.”

The boy knew very little about Russia, but he did recall that most of the country was in Asia, just like India.

“We lived with my aunt and uncle in Reno, and then we moved into our own apartment closer to here after Elena was born.”

“Oh. Cool. Do you like it in Davis?”

“I like it. My mother thinks it’s too hot all the time, though.”

“Is it very cold in Russia? There must be so much snow, so different from here,” he asked the girl. He also silently wondered if Russia and India shared a border (he hoped it did).

“It’s much colder than here. And it snows all the time. It’s actually annoying. Well, I guess it’s fun for a while.”

Amir found it hard to imagine snow becoming annoying.

“Okay well I’m gonna go swim,” Sasha said.

“Me too.”

“I bet I can beat you in a race from one end to the other,” Sasha said, her blue eyes wide as she darted toward the pool’s edge, and cannonballed in.

“We’ll see,” the boy called out, before following the girl into the water.

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