Excerpt of Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
(Page 3 of 8)
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“It’s Mom’s,” I say. “Just leave it.” I don’t want her coming home
from rehab and feeling like we went through the house, erasing
her. “Can we stop at the hardware store when we go out?” I ask. “I
want to get some stuff for the yard.”
“Maybe I can find the part for your ceiling fan and get that working.”
He stares at me in that meaningful, fatherly way I can’t bear
anymore so I have no choice but to turn away and pretend to look
in the fridge. “What else do you have going on today?” he asks.
“Nothing.” I move an almost-empty carton of milk two inches to
the right and close the door. “Unless you want to start our driv ing
He shakes his head. “I can’t today. I think you should make a
plan. I think you should call Vanessa, or Daniel. Get out of the house.
Go see a movie in an air-conditioned theater.”
“Sammy, it’s not a suggestion. Okay?”
I nod. We’ve discussed this. Me being home alone too much, a
habit I developed when I started to get afraid to leave Mom by
herself. But she’s not here now, so.
“I’m going to hop in the shower,” he says.
I nod again, and watch him walk away, through the airless living
room and down the hall.
Main Street in Pineview has exactly six not-so-creatively-named
Petey’s Ice Cream
The Casa Nova Mexican Diner (only open three days a week)
Main Street Coffee
Main Street Gas & Garage
Main Street Bar & Grill (the “grill” part closed down years ago)
Main Street Hardware
We’re two hours south of Medford, six hours north of Sacramento,
and a day west of Denver, which puts us exactly . . . nowhere.
We have parades on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and
Christmas. The Ten Commandments are still inscribed on a monument
outside City Hall even after three lawsuits. Once a year
people from all over the West come here for the Migratory Bird
Festival. There’s one public school for all grades, one private school
(where I go, or went, I guess), one post office that’s really a trailer
off the pass, one library, and one grocery store where the whole
town shops except for those who drive thirty-eight miles to the
new Dillon’s Bluff Wal-Mart. And seven churches, including Pineview
Community, where my dad is the pastor.
Everyone knows him. Everyone thinks they know us, me. Everyone
Even as we drive through town now, people in other cars and
kids playing near the road recognize us and wave. Probably a third
of the town’s population helps pay the lease on our Taurus and the
mortgage on our house, which gives them the right to say things
to my dad like, “I see you got new tires there, Charlie. Are you
sure the steel-belted are really worth it? They can’t be cheap . . .” or
“The front lawn at the house is looking a little ragged — do you
need to borrow a mower?” Whenever I get new clothes I can almost
see some of the women at church calculating how much
Everyone knows exactly how much my dad makes, and they
think it’s enough. Some think it’s too much.
One time I was out with Mom when we ran into a congregant
who owns his own tech company and gives a lot of money to
the church. Mom was holding on to her cell phone, which she’d
just upgraded to one of those that does every thing so that I could
have her old one, and this guy, this congregant, made a comment
about it. “I guess you can keep your grocery list on that thing, if
nothing else,” he said. His big, jokey smile didn’t hide what he was
really saying: Why does a housewife need a fancy phone, especially
when the church basically pays the cell bill, and shouldn’t
we use that money for new pew Bibles or an ad in the county yellow
Excerpted from Once Was Lost
by Sara Zarr. Copyright © 2009 by Sara Zarr.
Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.