Table of Contents
“My daddy died today,” Margaret whispered. She opened her mouth and closed it, then turned to Maizon and tried to speak again. “Died,” she said, and in the crazy night air of the rainstorm, the word had a strange echo to it. She stared into Li'l Jay's crib. His thumb crept slowly to his mouth and soft sucking sounds mingled with storm.
She pressed her face against his crib. “Daddy died today,” she said again. “He's not coming home.”
Margaret knew she was trying to make sense of the words, rolling them around on her tongue until they found a place to settle in her brain; a place where they'd become real.
“Margaret,” Maizon whispered, “my grandmother said when people go to heaven, there's a rainbow when they smile.”
“The best-friendship of two young black girls in Brooklyn is honestly portrayed, including the little swipes of meanness that jostle with the shared care and loyalty to make a bond....”
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
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Published by the Penguin Group
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Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
First published in the United States of America by Delacorte Press, 1991
Published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of
Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2002
Published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2002
Copyright Â© Jacqueline Woodson, 1991
eISBN : 978-1-101-12813-8
All rights reserved
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS EDITION AS FOLLOWS:
Last summer with Maizon / Jacqueline Woodson.â1st G. P. Putnam's Sons ed.
Sequel: Maizon at Blue Hill.
Summary: Eleven-year-old Margaret tries to accept the inevitable changes
that come one summer when her father dies and her best friend Maizon
goes away to a private boarding school.
[1. FriendshipâFiction. 2. DeathâFiction.
3. Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)âFiction. 4. African AmericansâFiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.W868 Las 2002 [Fic]-dc21 2001041742
For Linda, Teresa, and Michelle
argaret dangled her legs over the edge of the fire escape and flipped to a clean page in her diary.
“I haven't written in a long time,” she began, “but now with this Blue Hill thing and all, I feel like I should. Maizon took a test in April. If she passes, she's going to go to this big private school in Connecticut.
“Every night I pray she doesn't get accepted.”
She heard a rumble and looked out toward the bridge. The train was a long shadow in the twilight, creeping slowly across water she couldn't see. She watched it for a moment, then stood up and searched the block for Maizon. Lights flickered on and off in the brownstones across from her. A hot summer breeze blew out of the darkness.
Margaret sat down again and continued writing.
“I don't know why Maizon has to go to some dumb boarding school anyway. The schools in Brooklyn are fine. And when I say Blue Hill out loud, it makes me think of someplace sad and cold all the time. Maizon said it probably isn't so cold in Connecticut. She doesn't know about the sad part though. She said without a best friend, it'll probably get a little lonely. Ms. Dell said we shouldn't go counting our chickens because we're not even sure if Maizon's going to get accepted or not. Every day, we wait for a letter. I feel like I'm on one of those balance beams we have in gym class-balancing between today and tomorrow.”
Margaret closed the book and climbed back inside just as her father came into the living room. She looked at the small blue suitcase he was carrying and frowned.
“Just some tests,” he said softly, sitting down beside her on the window ledge. Another train rumbled and somewhere in the distance a baby was crying.
“How long will the hospital keep you this time?” Margaret asked. She remembered her last visit and started to tremble.
Her father rested his chin on the top of her head. “Until they find out what's making this old ticker act the way it's acting. Could be a week. Could be a day.” His voice trailed off. Margaret put her arms around him.
“Don't let them take the life out of you, Daddy,” she whispered. She remembered her father's dark, handsome face looking shriveled and old beneath the hospital covers.
“What makes you think your daddy's gonna let something like that happen?” He sat up straight and Margaret felt a cold spot where his chin had been.
“Listen here, Margaret ...” he began, taking her chin in his hands and gently pulling her face toward him.
Behind the slow smile he gave her he looked tired and worried. The wrinkles between his thick eyebrows cut deeply into his forehead.
“You gonna have to hold this family together while I'm gone, take care of your mama and Li'l Jay.”
A shadow crossed her father's face. “It might take a little while for me to get back on my feet after all these silly tests they gonna run. But don't worry your pretty little head about that. It would take a lot for one of them skinny plastic tubes to bring this six-footer down.”
Her father brushed a stray hair out of her eyes. “Why does your mama think she needs to hide all of this pretty hair?”
Margaret smiled and shrugged, then turned a little so her father could undo her braid. His hands felt strong and sure.
“There now. Pretty head of hair like that needs to hang free.” He kissed her on the forehead.
Margaret ran her fingers through her hair. It hung to her shoulders in thick waves.
“Where's that crazy Maizon?” he asked, leaning back out of the window and taking a quick look down the block.
“Maybe she'll even get here before tomorrow.” Her father laughed.
Her mother came out of the bedroom, with Li'l Jay following behind her. At fourteen months, walking was still new to him and he was constantly following whoever let him.
“Margaret, what'd I tell you about messing with your hair?”
Margaret started to speak but her father caught her eye and winked.
“I was just telling her to look after you two while I'm gone,” he said.
“And who's going to look after Margaret?” her mother teased.
“Jay!” Li'l Jay shouted, throwing his bottle across the floor.
“Daddy, will you be home for the block party?”
Her father scooped her up the way he had done when she was young and swung her toward the ceiling.
Margaret laughed and punched his shoulders.
“Block party! Hah!” He sat her down gently and hugged her. “We're going to have a Tory family reunion!”
“Yay!” Li'l Jay said, spinning in a circle and hurling himself onto the floor. He giggled and sat up.
She watched from the window as her mother helped her father into a cab, then climbed in beside him. The car crawled slowly down the empty street, signaled once, then turned the corner.
“Daddy ...” she said, realizing he hadn't answered her question. “Good-bye, Daddy.” Margaret hated the way the words sounded in the now quiet apartment.
“Li'l Jay!” she yelled.
“Jay,” he repeated, toddling into the living room with a pan in his hand. The feet of his baggy pajamas dragged behind him.
“When Maizon gets here, you're going to bed,” Margaret warned. “No crying, either.”
“Maizon!” Jay repeated, banging the pot against the hardwood floor.
“Bed,” Margaret said, turning back to the window and pressing her hands to her ears. A hot breeze blew in over his noise.
“Man, it's hot tonight!” She pulled her shirt away from her chest and blew down onto her skin. Where was Maizon, anyway? “Li'l Jay, stop that noise!”
The room fell silent. Margaret turned to Li'l Jay. His bottom lip quivered.
“Oh, Jay,” she said, lifting him into her arms. “I'm sorry.” She carried him over to the window. The pot clattered to the floor.
They sat on the radiator and stared out past the brownstones at the bridge. Past the lights, Manhattan loomed up dark and shadowy in the distance. The train rumbled by slowly and Li'l Jay began to whine.
“Sounds like it's in pain, doesn't it?” Margaret whispered. Li'l Jay pressed his head against her shoulder. “Probably creeping across that bridge for the millionth time.”
“Twain,” Li'l Jay said, drifting off to sleep.