The Center of Everything

BOOK: The Center of Everything
9.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Table of Contents

Title Page

Table of Contents




The Beginning

The Center of Everything


The Parade Begins


A Long Line of Cars

Wheels and Spokes

The Statue

Good Days and Bad

Serious Wishes


Ruby Will Be Fine

How Ruby Knew

Ruby's Dream

Wishes and Work

Inner Gretel

What You Need to Understand

The Order of Things

Asking the Right Questions

What Matthew Bennet Wishes

Another Rehearsal

The Karate Kid

To Tell or Not to Tell

Wanting a Circle

The Hole That Turns Things Inside Out

One More Time

Mr. Victor Gomez

Captain Bunning Said Yes

The Schoolhouse Approaches

What Did You Think Would Happen?

What Ruby Does

The End

What Makes You Safe

Getting There

The Hole Shebang


A Note from the Author

Sample Chapter from HOUND DOG TRUE

Buy the Book

Read More from Linda Urban

About the Author

Copyright © 2013 by Linda Urban


All rights reserved. For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.


Harcourt Children's Books is an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available. LCCN: 2012954515


ISBN 978-0-547-76348-4


eISBN 978-0-547-76383-5




For my mom, Joanne Urban,
who held the stars in place



The connections we make
in the course of a life—
maybe that's what heaven is

—Fred Rogers

The Beginning

In the beginning, there was the donut.

At first, the donut was without form—a shapeless blob of dough, fried in fat of one sort or another. The Ancient Greeks ate them. The Mayans. Even the Vikings enjoyed a platter of puffy dough blobs between pillages.

Miss Leticia Chestnut was not a Viking, but hers was an old recipe, and it became legend in southern New Hampshire for both its extraordinary flavor and its tidy, saucerlike shape. A passing sea captain, Cornelius Bunning, heard tell of her wares and upon tasting them offered Miss Chestnut various riches in exchange for the recipe. When she refused to part with it, he married her, keeping his riches and taking her on as cook aboard his ship,
, where she made her famous donuts every morning.

This included the morning of June 28, 1847, the day that Captain Bunning turned
south into a small headwind, which itself turned into a terrifying gale. He had just been handed his plate of morning donuts when the wind turned treacherous. Thinking quickly, the captain grabbed his donuts one by one and rammed them down onto the spokes of the ship's wheel, thereby preventing them from plummeting to the deck and rolling away.

The storm raged for hours, and Captain Bunning battled it, wind howling, rain lashing. He never lost faith, nor stamina, for Mrs. Bunning's donuts kept him strong.

Upon returning to port, Captain Bunning was met by gazetteers eager to print up his story of bravery in the face of the storm, and Bunning, who enjoyed being the center of all this attention, told the tale in vivid detail—right down to the spokes through his donuts.

The donut may be timeless, but on June 28, 1847, Captain Cornelius Bunning had invented the hole.


Ruby Pepperdine has heard this story at least five hundred times. This is not an exaggeration.

She has heard it twice on the radio just this morning. Of course, it is Bunning Day, and Ruby has been up for hours, folding tissue-paper flowers like Gigi taught her. She has been listening to WNHB as her parents make their phone calls, just as they do every year, to remind her uncles and aunts and driving-aged cousins that they need to be at Pepperdine Motors by noon in order to make it to the parade in time for check-in.

This year, for the first time, Ruby has a place to be too, though she does not need to be in it until one thirty.

It won't be hard to find. A two-foot square has been taped to the sidewalk of Cornelius Circle near the intersection of Main Street. Earlier this morning, Patsy Whelk, assistant Bunning Day Parade coordinator, had stared uncomfortably at the straight lines of the tape and then squatted to draw a chalk circle inside the square, which seemed to her to be more in keeping with the day.

The circle will already be smudged by the time Ruby arrives with Aunt Rachel and Ruby's cousins, Willow (six) and Carter-Ann (three and a half) and Baby Amelia (seven months), but the words inside the circle will be easy enough to make out:

That's Ruby. This year's Bunning Day Essay Girl.

She has made her wish.

Her time is coming around.

She will stand in her circle—her hole in the center of the taped square—and wait for it.

The Center of Everything

If you were from someplace other than this particular part of New Hampshire and were driving through Bunning on your way to Canada or to Santa's Village in Jefferson or simply to take in the autumn foliage, you might not even notice Pepperdine Motors. Actually, unless you were in the market for a great deal on a new or used vehicle, Pepperdine Motors probably would not be of much interest to you.

It was of great interest to Ruby Pepperdine, however. Not for the low, low prices, or for the box of Delish donuts in the waiting room, or for the twice-yearly Moonlight Madness Sale. Pepperdine Motors was of great interest to Ruby Pepperdine because the roof was flat. And on Sunday nights, after Gigi closed the repair shop and Dad closed the show room and Aunt Lois closed the office, Gigi would turn off the big fluorescent lights that flooded the car lot and she and Ruby would climb the staircase to the roof and they would look at the stars.

“That's Orion,” Gigi said one wintry night. “Three stars in a line, that's his belt. See him, Ruby?”

Ruby was little back then, and the sky had looked like one big sheet of stars to her. It wasn't until her grandma Gigi wrapped an arm around her and pointed and Ruby's eyes followed the line of that arm to Gigi's mittened fingertip and out beyond that Ruby found those particular stars in the sky and drew the invisible connections between them.

The next week Gigi's arm pointed out the same constellation, the tip of her mitten one small degree west of where it had been the last time. The next week it was a little farther west and then a little farther, until Orion and his belt and all the neighboring constellations had made their slow march across the sky and out of sight, and others had come to take their place.

If you were Ruby Pepperdine, you might have wondered why that was. Why the sky moved the way it did. And because you were with Gigi, you would ask.

And Gigi would fold both arms around you and explain about orbits and rotations and black holes and the cosmos. She would tell you about big things, bigger than anything you could really understand well enough to explain to your best friend, Lucy, the next day—but while she was telling you, you would have understood it. And while she was saying that the earth moved around the sun, which was itself a star moving around in a dizzying, centerless space, you would have been able to believe it.

And to believe the opposite.

That the center of everything was right here in Bunning, on top of Pepperdine Motors, safe in the circle of Gigi's hug.


“Your grandma would have been so proud of you,” Aunt Rachel says. She is brushing powdered sugar out of Carter-Ann's hair, but she is talking to Ruby. “Like George Washington's wig.” That she says to Carter-Ann. Some people get confused by the way Aunt Rachel slides in and out of talking to her kids and talking to the people in front of her. Grocery clerks, especially. But Ruby is always able to figure it out.

“Thanks.” Ruby grins at her aunt. Normally, Ruby would help Aunt Rachel with Carter-Ann, but to do so now would mean stepping out of the chalk circle. Staying in the circle seems like part of the magic. Like this is where fate or the Universe or Captain Bunning will find her. Like this is the spot she's supposed to be in for her wish to come true.

All around her, people are claiming their own spots along Cornelius Circle, clanking open folding chairs and setting down coolers. Some moms fold blankets over the edge of the curb, where they hope their kids will sit for the duration of the parade, even though year after year those same kids can't help but leap to their feet the moment they hear the far-off
of Officer Imus's patrol car. Often people toss candy from the floats, and the kids want to be ready. Ruby gets that. She wants to be ready too.

“Willow, use your napkin. Don't give the baby any more donut, Carter-Ann.” Aunt Rachel has switched to dusting sugar off the head of Baby Amelia. “You know how Gigi loved this parade.”

“I remember,” Ruby says. Gigi was the only grown-up Pepperdine who didn't drive a Pepperdine Motors convertible in the parade. She had too many other places she belonged. Some years she sang with the Sweet Adelines, and others she joined the Planetary Society's Night Owls, all wearing their enormous star costumes, forming constellations as they walked the route. When Gigi was on the city council, she'd had the chance to ride in the back of a Pepperdine Motors convertible, but she marched with Grannies for Groceries instead, handing out flyers about the charity food pantry. Ruby had always loved waving to Gigi as she passed, and having Gigi and all the Night Owls or Grannies or Adelines wave back. It made her feel like she was part of the parade, even if she was only standing to the side of things.

At the funeral home, people had said they could not imagine the Bunning Day Parade without Gigi in it. But here it is. Or here it is about to be.

Across the street from where Ruby is standing, someone has set up a row of milk crates with little pillows on them. That's one of the nice things about Bunning. You can set up your seats for a parade and go off to get a balloon or a bag of donuts, and nobody will mess with them.

Beyond the crates Ruby can see Memorial Park, which is filled with tall white tents. Many are artists' booths or have kiddie games like Ring Toss and Fish-a-Prize. Some house food vendors: chowder and falafels and hot dogs. The busiest tent is the one Mr. DeNiro sets up for Delish, the local donut shop. When they'd first arrived, Aunt Rachel had left Ruby in the circle in the square while she went there to buy powdered sugar Snow Wonders and chocolate éclairs for the girls.

The real Delish, the store, is on the opposite side of the park. On regular days business is pretty brisk there, but on Bunning Day it is the Delish tent that is really busy—so busy that all the DeNiro kids have to work in it. Derek comes down from Dartmouth to help, and Delilah, who runs track at the high school, works the register, as does her sister, Danielle. Even the youngest DeNiro, who is Ruby's age, has to work. His name is Nero.

“What if the parade doesn't come?” Willow asks.

“It will come, silly pie!” Ruby tells her. “It always comes.” She boops Willow's nose with her index cards. Her essay is written on those cards. Ms. Kemp-Davie, the school librarian, had suggested that Ruby use very large printing, and so even though it takes only a minute to read her essay aloud, she has fifteen cards in her hand.

“That says ‘tiny.'” Willow's finger, which moments ago had popped the last bit of éclair into her mouth, taps a chocolate swirl onto the top card on Ruby's stack. “Something ‘tiny.'”

“Close,” says Ruby. She squats down so Willow can see the card better. “It says ‘destiny.'”

“What's that?”

“Destiny? It's like fate. Like how things are supposed to happen.”

“Let me see!” Willow tugs at the destiny card, and the entire stack flies out of Ruby's hand.

For a moment the world slows down. The cards hang in midair as Ruby reaches for them. It is almost as if she can read the words—


holes made him famous

tired of drifting around

BOOK: The Center of Everything
9.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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