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Authors: Iain Lawrence

Gemini Summer

BOOK: Gemini Summer
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contents

title page

dedication

for more than forty years, Yearling has been the leading…

chapter one

chapter two

chapter three

chapter four

chapter five

chapter six

chapter seven

chapter eight

chapter nine

chapter ten

chapter eleven

chapter twelve

chapter thirteen

chapter fourteen

chapter fifteen

chapter sixteen

chapter seventeen

chapter eighteen

chapter nineteen

chapter twenty

chapter twenty-one

chapter twenty-two

chapter twenty-three

chapter twenty-four

chapter twenty-five

chapter twenty-six

chapter twenty-seven

chapter twenty-eight

chapter twenty-nine

chapter thirty

chapter thirty-one

chapter thirty-two

chapter thirty-three

chapter thirty-four

chapter thirty-five

chapter thirty-six

chapter thirty-seven

chapter thirty-eight

chapter thirty-nine

chapter forty

chapter forty-one

chapter forty-two

chapter forty-three

chapter forty-four

chapter forty-five

chapter forty-six

chapter forty-seven

chapter forty-eight

chapter forty-nine

chapter fifty

chapter fifty-one

chapter fifty-two

chapter fifty-three

chapter fifty-four

chapter fifty-five

chapter fifty-six

acknowledgments

also by iain lawrence

copyright

For Skipper

For more than forty years, Yearling has been the leading name in classic and award-winning literature for young readers.

         

Yearling books feature children’s favorite authors and characters, providing dynamic stories of adventure, humor, history, mystery, and fantasy.

         

Trust Yearling paperbacks to entertain, inspire, and promote the love of reading in all children.

one

The sheriff leaned back with his feet on the desk, watching the blond-haired boy. He was a little man with a sunburned face, with white eyebrows that looked strange on all the redness of his forehead. His cowboy boots had shiny snakeskin tops, and he sat tapping the toes together. There was a blob of blue bubble gum squashed onto one of the soles.

He watched the boy for a long time before he said, quite suddenly, “You ever heard of fingerprints, kid?”

The boy looked up.

“I could take you into the back there and print you,” said the sheriff, “and I’d get what I want like
that
.” He snapped his fingers. “I’d know your whole name and your address and everything.”

The blond-haired boy had a dog beside him. He was petting the dog as he sat in front of the sheriff’s desk, in a wooden chair with arms. The ceiling fan that turned slowly above him trailed shreds of cobwebs round and round.

“Now, is that the route you want to take?” said the sheriff.

“How could you know my name and address from fingerprints?” asked the boy. He looked at his fingers. “I don’t think you can do that.”

“Oh, you don’t think I can do that,” said the sheriff. “A real little Perry Mason, aren’t you?”

The boy said nothing. He had said hardly a word in an hour and twenty minutes.

The sheriff sighed. He tapped the toes of his boots together. “Say, that’s a nice dog you got,” he said. “What do you call him, sonny?”

The blond-haired boy didn’t answer.

“Aw, come on!” The sheriff swung his feet to the floor and slammed a hand on the desk. “Holy moley, what’s the harm in telling me the name of your
dog
?”

The boy shrugged. “Maybe you should fingerprint him.”

“Oh, that’s funny. Yeah, that’s just hysterical.” The sheriff opened a drawer in his desk and took out a key. “You want to sit in the cage and tell jokes to yourself? Is that what you want?”

“I don’t care,” said the boy.

“Then that’s what you’ll do.”

When the sheriff stood up the boy stood up, and the dog stood up beside him. They walked in a line through the office, past the table where the lady had sat typing till dinnertime. There was a police radio there, and a teletype machine, and a shiny kettle that reflected the whole room and the turning fan.

The dog’s claws ticked on the floor. The boy wished the lady would come back, because the lady had seemed nice. She had smiled at him all the time—just smiled and typed and talked on the radio.

“You had your chance, sonny,” said the sheriff. He took the boy and the dog down a flight of concrete steps, down to a corridor with a jail cell on each side. He put his key in a lock and opened a cell, sliding the bars across with a rattle of metal. There was a bed in there, and a toilet, and that was all.

“Empty out your pockets,” said the sheriff.

The boy did as he was told, embarrassed by the things that came out. There was a rubber band and a bit of string, a bottle cap, an old penny, a plastic man without a head. The sheriff took it all in one hand. “In you go,” he said.

The boy went into the cell. The dog followed behind him.

The sheriff drew the bars into place, then turned his key and pulled it out. “When you’re ready to tell me where your home is, just holler,” he said. He went up the stairs in his snakeskin boots.

The boy stretched out on the bed. His dog climbed up beside him, settling down with its head on his chest.

“Don’t worry,” said the boy. His hand touched the dog’s neck, and his fingers buried themselves in the black fur. “We’ll get to the Cape, and it’ll be okay. It’ll all work out when we get to the Cape.”

The dog fell asleep. But the blond-haired boy lay awake, staring at the bars and the bricks. “We gotta keep going,” he told the sleeping dog. “’Cause we can’t go back. That’s the thing—we can’t ever go home again.”

He looked at the lightbulb on the ceiling. Then he squinted and tried to imagine that it was the sun, and that he was lying outside on the grass with his dog. He thought about his home.

two

The Rivers lived in an old gray house in a valley named Hog’s Hollow. All around, in every direction, the city stretched for miles and miles. To the west was an airport, to the north an industrial park. To the south were glass towers and skyscrapers and freeways choked with cars. But down in the Hollow, it was quiet and calm.

There was a single street laid out like a worm on the valley floor, and only nine houses, all sturdy and aged like the great nests of American eagles. There were seventeen people, but only three children. There were six cats and one dog.

A narrow stream called Highland Creek flowed southward through the Hollow, creeping past the cottonwoods. Danny River liked to play there, building dams of sticks and mud. Beau, his brother, sometimes helped him smash them.

Their father’s name was Charlie. But the boys and their friends talked of him as Old Man River. They imagined that he never knew, though Charlie had used the same name for his own father when he was the age of his sons.

For a living, Old Man River pumped out septic tanks. He owned a black truck with a huge tank on its back and a little cab at the front, and he wore green clothes and brown boots, and carried his keys on a jangling hoop at his waist. He could peer into a septic tank, like a wizard into a crystal ball, and see the lives of people. He could divine, in a glimpse, what they ate, and what they tried to flush away, and what colors they were painting their walls. “There are no secrets from the septic man,” he’d say.

Then there was
Mrs
. River. It was as though she had slept through the early sixties. While other ladies were trying to dress like Jackie Kennedy, she looked like Eleanor Roosevelt. Florence was her name, but Flo she was called. Little Flo River, barely five feet high, talking sometimes like Scarlett O’Hara.

Altogether, the Rivers seemed a bit odd to the people of the Hollow, who saw that big truck parked in the yard, and the Old Man always tugging at his filthy cap, and Flo in her cotton dresses, and Danny wading barefoot through the creek. “The hillbillies of Hog’s Hollow” that’s what the Rivers were called.

In the whole family, it was said, Beau was the only normal one. He did well at school, and he read books and he wondered about things like pollution and the Cold War. Only Beau, it was whispered, would ever amount to anything. “But that Danny,” women would add, “oh, that Danny—isn’t he a sweetheart?”

three

Each of the Rivers had a dream.

For Danny it was to have a dog of his own. He’d wanted one since he was four years old, but his mother had always said no. “A city’s not the place for a dog,” she’d told him a thousand times. “Dogs come to grief in the city.” But Danny kept hoping. He loved dogs so much that it was said in the Hollow that he was half dog himself.

For Beau, his dream was to be an astronaut. He knew the weight of a Titan within ounces and the distance to the moon within a hundred miles. He even planned his illnesses around the rocket launches at Cape Canaveral. After Gordon Cooper splashed down in
Faith 7
in May 1963, Beau went to school with a note from his mother:
Please excuse Beau’s absence. He had a touch of space fever.

Mrs. River displayed
her
dream in the kitchen window, on the shelves above the sink. The upper shelf was the Old Man’s, a place to show off the interesting things that he’d pulled from people’s septic tanks. But on the lower shelf, Mrs. River kept her dolls. She had Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, all the figures from
Gone with the Wind
. How she loved that old movie! After all, it had changed her life. She wouldn’t even
be
Mrs. River now if Charlie hadn’t looked so much like Rhett Butler. No one else in the world knew this, but in a room in the basement, down by the washing machine, Flo River was writing a novel about the South. It didn’t mention the race riots or murders or lynchings. “That’s not
my
South,” she’d say of things like that.
Her
South, like her novel, was full of ladies in wide dresses who sat fanning themselves in the shade of big porches, in the shadows of peach trees. Her dream was to finish the book and make oodles of money. She would move the whole family out of the Hollow and buy an old plantation in Georgia. “Down
home
,” she’d say—though she’d never been south of Virginia.

And Old Man River? Well, he didn’t have a dream until 1964. And if it hadn’t come to him then, all the terrible events that followed might never have happened. It was the Old Man’s obsession that started it all.

BOOK: Gemini Summer
2.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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