The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days

BOOK: The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days
10.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Also by Michele Weber Hurwitz


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2014 by Michele Weber Hurwitz
Jacket art copyright © 2014 by Shutterstock

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.

Wendy Lamb Books and the colophon are trademarks of Random House LLC.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hurwitz, Michele Weber.
The summer I saved the world—in 65 days / by Michele Weber Hurwitz. —First edition.
pages cm
Summary: Inspired by her late grandmother, thirteen-year-old Nina spends a summer secretly doing good deeds for her neighbors and enjoying the changes she brings about, even as she is dealing with changing friendships and family issues.
ISBN 978-0-385-37106-3 (trade) — ISBN 978-0-385-37108-7 (ebook) — ISBN 978-0-385-37109-4 (pbk.) [1. Neighbors—Fiction. 2. Conduct of life—Fiction. 3. Helpfulness—Fiction. 4. Friendship—Fiction. 5. Family life—Illinois—Fiction. 6. Illinois—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.H95744Sum 2014

Random House Children's Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.


To good things,
small and remarkable.
They matter


t starts with Mrs. Chung.

And flowers.


My grandmother believed in what she called STs—Simple Truths. This was one of her favorites: Things happen when they're meant to happen, and the sooner people realize that, the more content they'll be. Most people, she said, don't understand, even when those things are right in front of them.

Today, the first day of summer vacation, while I'm on the hammock in my side yard, listening to music
and trying to figure out why my phone is being weird, and tanning, and letting my freshly painted toenails dry, am I meant to see Mrs. Chung hobbling around on her crutches? Is this one of those things that is meant to happen?

Mrs. Chung has lived next door to us for as long as my family has been here—nine years—and way before that. There was a Mr. Chung, and two kids, but he died and the kids grew up and moved away. So Mrs. Chung lives by herself in that big house. With Christmas lights strung across her trees all year round. Never on, not even in December. Kind of sad, the wires just hanging off those trees, like there's no one to light them for anymore.

She's leaning on her crutches, looking at two plastic trays of flowers in her front yard. Her wrinkled face is like a drawing on a paper fan, folded in disappointment. She's mumbling to herself and shaking her head and pointing with one crutch to where she always plants her flowers in the spring, around the neatly trimmed evergreen bushes.

Two things I am not: a genius, and the kind of person who goes out of her way to help people. The first one, I can wish for, but it simply isn't going to happen, and the second one, well, I really admire those types. It's just that I don't usually step up. I think a lot of
people are like that. They let someone else take care of things.

I don't have to be a genius to figure out that Mrs. Chung can't plant the flowers with her leg in a cast. I'm watching her, the hammock rocking slowly in the breeze, when I remember how Mr. Chung used to shovel the sidewalk when we had big snows, and how he went all the way from his driveway to ours, even though we should have shoveled our part. But somehow we never got around to it. Dad was working late, my brother was lazy, and Mom couldn't stand the cold. Me? I guess I kept thinking one of them would do it eventually; plus I had tons of homework. Or another excuse that seemed important at the time.

Mrs. Chung goes into her garage and half pushes, half drags a chair over to the flower trays. She sits, pats her forehead with a tissue, and then leans down and takes out one marigold. She holds it for a few minutes, cradled in her hands. Then she pulls herself up with the crutches, places the flower gently on the chair, and goes inside.

For some reason, I start thinking about what Mr. Pontello told us on our last day of eighth-grade US history, everyone sweaty and hyper and impatient, aching to peel their legs from their seats and leave that classroom forever.

He said, “It is very often the ordinary things that go unnoticed that end up making a difference. As you embark upon your high school careers, be unnoticed, but be remarkable.”

I think I was the only one listening.

The little boy from next door, Thomas, runs out of his open garage and starts hopping. From his grass to mine, and then all the way to Mrs. Chung's driveway.

He turns toward me and shouts, “Nina! I learned how to hop!”


“You have to switch feet,” he says, out of breath but smiling big. “So one foot doesn't get too tired.”

I touch the edge of a toenail to see if it's dry as Thomas hops over to Mrs. Chung's flower trays. He stops, then looks over at me. “Why are the flowers in here?”

I shrug.

He stares at them. “But how will they grow if they're not in the ground?” He hops over to the chair and picks up the wilting marigold. “Poor flower.”

Thomas puts the flower down and hops all the way back to his house. Pretty good for a five-year-old.

Two birds are on the love seat at the edge of my patio. I watch their jerky head movements, like they're talking to each other in their secret bird language.
Go ahead
, I think.
No one else sits on the love seat anymore

All-weather wicker with dark green cushions that Mom ordered from a catalog a few summers ago. She kept saying, “It's all-weather; it won't fade or tear or stain. It will last forever.
.” She copied the layout exactly as it had been on the page in the catalog, right down to the vase of huge droopy white flowers on the all-weather wicker-and-glass table.

The day the furniture was delivered, Mom made a pitcher of lemonade, because that was in the catalog picture too, and we sat on the patio together, Mom and Dad and me and Matt. Mom poured the lemonade into fancy glasses and put strawberries on the rims. Dad made a joking toast to the new furniture. Matt and I clinked our glasses and took big swallows. But the lemonade was so sour that we both started coughing. Matt went inside, got the box of sugar, and started pouring it into the pitcher, mixing it with a long wooden spoon. Dad said, “Take it easy, Matthew” just as the box fell into the pitcher and the whole thing tipped over. Matt and I stared at Mom. What was she going to do? Would she get mad? He'd ruined the catalog picture. But Dad started laughing and said, “Who'd like some sugar-ade?” and Matt drank a whole glass after I dared him.

BOOK: The Summer I Saved the World ... in 65 Days
10.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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