Patricia MacLachlan · 136 pages
Rating: (423 votes)
“Fact and fiction are different truths.”
“Melinda Pratt rides city bus number twelve to her cello lesson, wearing her mother's jean jacket and only one sock. Hallo, world, says Minna. Minna often addresses the world, sometimes silently, sometimes out loud. Bus number twelve is her favorite place for watching, inside and out. The bus passes cars and bicycles and people walking dogs. It passes store windows, and every so often Minna sees her face reflection, two dark eyes in a face as pale as a winter dawn. There are fourteen people on the bus today. Minna stands up to count them. She likes to count people, telephone poles, hats, umbrellas, and, lately, earrings. One girl, sitting directly in front of Minna, has seven earrings, five in one ear. She has wisps of dyed green hair that lie like forsythia buds against her neck.
There are, Minna knows, a king, a past president of the United States, and a beauty queen on the bus. Minna can tell by looking. The king yawns and scratches his ear with his little finger. Scratches, not picks. The beauty queen sleeps, her mouth open, her hair the color of tomatoes not yet ripe. The past preside of the United States reads Teen Love and Body Builder's Annual.
Next to Minna, leaning against the seat, is her cello in its zippered canvas case. Next to her cello is her younger brother, McGrew, who is humming. McGrew always hums. Sometimes he hums sentences, though most often it comes out like singing. McGrew's teachers do not enjoy McGrew answering questions in hums or song. Neither does the school principal, Mr. Ripley. McGrew spends lots of time sitting on the bench outside Mr. Ripley's office, humming.
Today McGrew is humming the newspaper. First the headlines, then the sports section, then the comics. McGrew only laughs at the headlines.
Minna smiles at her brother. He is small and stocky and compact like a suitcase. Minna loves him. McGrew always tells the truth, even when he shouldn't. He is kind. And he lends Minna money from the coffee jar he keeps beneath his mattress.
Minna looks out the bus window and thinks about her life. Her one life. She likes artichokes and blue fingernail polish and Mozart played too fast. She loves baseball, and the month of March because no one else much likes March, and every shade of brown she has ever seen. But this is only one life. Someday, she knows, she will have another life. A better one. McGrew knows this, too. McGrew is ten years old. He knows nearly everything. He knows, for instance, that his older sister, Minna Pratt, age eleven, is sitting patiently next to her cello waiting to be a woman.”
“At last Porch explodes. “I feel like I’m walking four dogs at the same time,” he says loudly. “One short-legged, one long-legged, one old and decrepit, and one just plain foolish!” He points at Orson. “You are not listening. Imelda, you are in love with your vibrato. Minna and Lucas, your minds are elsewhere. Up, up!” Porch waves his arms.”
“It’s WA today, Minna,” called Orson from across the room, Orson’s name for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Orson played second violin with a sloppy serenity, rolling his eyes and sticking out his tongue, his bowing long and sweeping and beautiful even when out of tune. “If you must make a mistake,” he had quoted, “make it a big one.” Was it Heifetz who had said it? Perlman? Zukerman maybe?”
“Tune, tune,” said Porch briskly. He turned to Orson. “And is there a word for today?” Orson was the word person, spilling words out as if they were notes on a staff. “Rebarbative,” said Orson promptly. “Causing annoyance or irritation. Mozart’s rebarbative music causes me to want to throw up.” Porch sighed. Orson preferred Schubert.”
“There isn't any poison oak in the winter. It's hard to convince a girl you're sexy when you can't stop scratching your ass because of the rash. -Jax Cullen”
“Nothing that is mentally our own can ever be lost.”
“I'd be a dumbass if I didn't plan for every contingency.”
“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara.”
“but to live in constant dread is to die over and over again.”
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