Table of Contents
Are you a scaredy cat? I sure am. Whenever I have to face something challenging, my first thought is to run away as fast as I can.
But that never works, does it?
Horses are one of the many things that make me nervous. Why? They're so ... big. And they have huge teeth. And sharp hooves. And when I sit on a horse, the ground looks very, very far away.
But horses are also gentle and beautiful and fast. The truth is that I really (down deep in my heart) want to learn how to ride, even though it scares me.
A wise person once said that courage is not the absence of fear; courage is managing your fear. That's what David needs to learn. The only way he can overcome his fears is to grab them by the reins and take control.
It's something that I'm working on, too!
Laurie Halse Anderson
THE VET VOLUNTEER BOOKS
Fight for Life
Fear of Falling
Time to Fly
Special thanks to Cathy East Dubowski; thanks also to Kimberly
Michels, D.V.M.; Kiddy McCarthy; Susan Dickert and Barzalt; Madison
Equine Clinic; and Dan and Judy Lynch.
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Young Readers Group, 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
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Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in the United States of America by Pleasant Company Publications, 2001
Published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2009
Copyright Â© Laurie Halse Anderson 2001, 2009
All rights reserved
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Anderson, Laurie Halse.
Fear of falling / Laurie Halse Anderson.
Summary: Twelve-year-old David has conflicting feelings when his father,
who taught him to ride the horses he loves so much, returns to spend
Thanksgiving Day with the family after being gone for a year.
eISBN : 978-1-101-13549-5
[1. Family problemsâFiction. 2. Fathers and sonsâFiction. 3. HorsemanshipâFiction.
4. Horses--Fiction. 5. Thanksgiving DayâFiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.A54385Fd 2009 [Fic]--dc22
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any
responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
To Dr. Mac's Place fans, who love reading almost
as much as they love animals.
t's happening again.
I'm riding a horse, a big one. He's fast, powerful, and a little headstrong. A horse that's easy to admire but hard to ride.
I check my seat, make sure I'm balanced. People are calling my name, but I can't understand what they're trying to tell me.
The horse and I head straight for the first jump. Come on, come on, come on. I lean forward, and we're up, we're flyingâ¦
Then that jolt of connecting with the ground again. We made itâbut my heart is pounding faster than the horse's hooves.
The second jump is higher.
Maybe we ought to skip it.
But the horse picks up speed and heads straight for the jump. He's already decided we're taking it.
â¦I'm amazed when we actually clear it.
My horse canters steadily. I start to relax. Then I see what's nextâand get chills from head to toe. This third jump is impossibly high. No horse could ever clear a jump like that. Desperately I pull back on the reins.
The horse won't listen to me. I can feel his excitement, the tension in his muscles that tells me he's going for it.
What, are you crazy?
I pull with all my weight on one rein to turn him away from the jump, but the horse totally ignores me. Instead, he takes off at full gallop, and I panic. If I jump off now, I'll break my neck for sure. But if he tries that jump, we're both goners.
And then it's too late to do anything but hang on as his front feet leave the ground. We're defying gravity, we're
flying, and for a moment I believe that this incredible horse and I are going to make it. His forelegs clear the jumpâ
Suddenly I hear a loud
as his back hooves hit the crossbar, and there's a sickening lurch. I close my eyes tight. Then we're falling, falling â¦
Someone screams my name:
It's going to hurt so bad when I hit the groundâ
The next thing I know, I'm lying flat on my back at a twisted angle. But the ground doesn't feel hard. Maybe I'm so badly injured I can't feel anything.
“Earth to David!”
I fight to open my eyes.
“David, you idiot, wake
!” My big brother, Brian, shoves me so hard he nearly knocks me out of bed.
I sit up, panting, coated in a cold sweat.
“Mom says you've got two minutes before you have to leave for the stables,” Brian says.
Leave for the stablesâ¦But the horse
â¦For a minute I'm swimming between two worlds.
Brian shoves his face in front of mine. “The parade's today, dork. Get up, will ya? Mom says I can't leave till I get you out of bed!”
I collapse back on the scrunched-up covers. OK, it was just a dreamâbut not just any dream. It's a dream I've had before. A dream I hate.
So why do I keep having it?
Suddenly Brian's words sink in, and I bolt up again. “The parade!”
My brother stands in the doorway and looks at me like I'm a lost cause. “OK, you're up now. I'm outta here.”
I fling off my covers. It's Saturdayâthe Thanksgiving parade through Ambler is today! I'm riding in it for the first time, with Mr. Quinn, Zoe Hopkins, and some of the other kids from Quinn Stables. I've been waiting for this day for weeks, and now it's finally here.
I can get ready fast when I need to. I jump out of bed, throw on the clothes I laid out last night (Mr. Quinn wants us to look sharp), chew on my toothbrush for about three seconds, then comb both hands through my hair as I pound down the stairs.
When I hit the floor, I glance out the window by the front door. Did they leave yet? Nope, Dr. Mac's van is still parked in the driveway at Dr. Mac's Place, the animal clinic across the street from my house. I volunteer at the clinic with some other kids when I have free time. Dr. Macâher real name is Dr. J.J. MacKenzieâis the veterinarian who runs the clinic.
I yank open the door and peer out. Nobody's in the van yet. Good, I have time to grab a bite.
Heading into the kitchen, I hear Mom and my kid sister, Ashley, arguing again. What is it this timeâclothes? Mutilated Barbie hair? Whether she's allowed to go out in public wearing those fake tattoos all her friends are wearing?
At the table, Mom has set out vitamins, orange juice, skim milk, and some kind of nutritional fiber cereal. I sigh. We never have anything fun for breakfast, like Pop-Tarts. Sometimes I think it's Mom's way of trying to make us safe before she sends us off into the scary world. As if Flintstones vitamins will protect us from the Big Bad Wolf.
But I shouldn't be too hard on her. I think she's still getting used to being a single mom and feels bad about leaving us to go off to work each day.
I pour myself a bowl of little brown buds that look an awful lot like mouse droppings. I'm supposed to eat these? I give Mom a suffering look.
That's when I notice Ashley is wearing her favorite purple sundress.
Mom's holding a pair of jeans, a turtleneck, and a thick sweater. “Ashley, be reasonable,” she says. “It's the end of November and you live in Pennsylvania, not Florida.”
Ashley stubbornly shakes her head. “I have to wear my dress.”
“You'll freeze!” Mom says.
“No, I won't. I like cold.”
Mom shakes her head, but I can tell she's trying not to laugh. “I doubt that, young lady. Now, come on. People will think I'm a bad mother.”
Ashley shrugs. She's only five. She doesn't care what other grown-ups think about her mother.
While they go round and round, I bolt down my cereal and button my shirt. Brian's totally oblivious, standing up at the counter guzzling milk straight out of the carton.
“Brian!” Mom exclaims. “How many times have I asked you to use a glass for your milk?”
“Sorry, Mom.” Brian takes a final swig, then wipes his mouth on his sleeve and puts the carton back in the fridge.
I glance at Mom. I can't believe she lets him get away with stuff like that. She's not that easy on me. Maybe she's given up on him, since he's sixteen and is gone half the time anyway.
Besides, she's got her hands full this morning with Ashley and her sundress. Ashley loves that dress more than anything. Dad sent it to her for her birthday.
“Ashley, I'm going to count to fiveâ”
“But Mom,” Ashley says, looking up at our mother with those big blue eyes that are so much like Dad's. “I have to keep it on all the time. For when Daddy comes.”
“Daddy who?” Brian cracks.
Ashley folds her arms and frowns at Brian as if he's the little kid and she's the one who's six feet tall. “You know Daddy who!
Daddy. Daddy Charlie Hutchinson!”
Brian just rolls his eyes and shrugs into his jacket.
Mom's face closes up like a shade pulled down. I know she's thinking what I'm thinking. Dad called last week out of the blue and said he was coming for Thanksgiving, and now Ashley's so excited. Because she still believes in things. Things like the Easter bunny and the tooth fairyâand Dad's promises.
But I've heard his promises before. Ever since Dad took the transfer to Texas last year, we haven't seen him at all. Not once. At first I believed Dad when he said we were only going to be apart for a little while, till he got settled in the job. Then we'd figure things out, he said.
I never really understood what we had to figure out, exactly. It seemed simpleâeither come back home or take us out to Texas with him. Yet somehow neither of those things happened.