Excerpt of Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
(Page 3 of 4)
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Suddenly, I felt strong hands clamp around my arms and
pull me toward the surface. Air. Light still splashed on the
tile walls. And lots of faces stared at me.
Coach pulled me toward the side and some other hands
dragged me out of the water.
"Is he breathing?" Robbie Dean whispered.
I sputtered and coughed, answering his question.
"Move out of the way," Coach barked. "Hey, Baker?
What were you doing? You were under for over a minute
and didn't even touch the brick."
"I .... I ..." Tears were lurking just behind my eyes. "I
feel kinda sick," I muttered.
"Right. You do look a little pale. Hit the locker room,
kid. You'll get it next time."
It had been there, that shiny ring.
I grabbed a towel and stumbled my way to the locker room,
only to hear a group of upperclassmen whooping and snapping
towels at each other. I'm no genius, but even as cloudyheaded
as I felt just then, I knew my skinny white legs
would be all too easy a target in there.
So I opened the first door I came to and followed the
stairs down a flight, to the open doorway of a dimly lit
workroom. My head still spun as I leaned back into the
coolness of the metal door marked Custodian. I closed my
eyes, waiting for the feeling to pass, remembering.
Our Boy Scout survival outing was in the woods of
northeastern Kansas. The scout leader set each of us out on
a course that we'd have to navigate using only landmarks,
the stars, and our wits. We'd been preparing for weeks.
We'd gone over the North Star, the Big Dipper and Little
Dipperall the constellations. I could identify them all.
But that day the sky was overcast. It was only supposed to
be a mile out and a mile back. We'd have to rely on landmarks
unless the clouds cleared. I knew I'd be done before
it got dark and wouldn't need to use the stars anyway.
But as I walked on that humid July evening, each tree
looked like every other. One bush blended in with the
next. Rocky paths meandered this way and that, leaving
me so turned around, I could barely tell which way was up.
It was almost ten o'clock at night before I heard the
scoutmaster and the other scouts calling for me. The whole
way home I had to listen to the boys' teasing how I
couldn't find my way out of a bushel basket and how they
were glad my dad had a better sense of direction than I did,
or his ship would have never found the shores of Normandy
But sitting there on the way home, miserable and stewing
in the back of the jostling pickup truck, I had no idea
how lost I was soon to be. If I had known about my momwhat would happen to herwhat could I have done differently?
I don't know that anything would have changed
Suddenly, I realized the water dripping from my swimsuit
was making a small puddle around me. I opened my eyes
and ventured past the doorway. The room was warm and
hummed with a soft, crackling, airy sound. It seemed like a
typical custodian's room, cluttered with all kinds of tools;
hammers, pliers, wrenches. Anything you would expect to
find in the custodian's quarters, only it was much neater.
My dad would have felt right at home. A place for everything
and everything in its place.
But as I let my eyes roam around, I noticed things
you wouldn't expect. Like a cot, bookshelves, chalkboards
filled with numbers, equations, and drawings. Not just any
drawings, but kind of connect-the-dot pictures. A hunter, a
scorpion, a crab. And a great bear. I recognized them. They
were constellations. The bear was Ursa Major.
There was also a bulletin board with several newspaper
clippings tacked up. The headlines read:
BLACK BEAR STALKS THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL
Excerpted from Navigating Early
by Clare Vanderpool. Copyright © 2013 by Clare Vanderpool.
Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.