Excerpt from The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Dive From Clausen's Pier

by Ann Packer

The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer X
The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer
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    Apr 2002, 384 pages

    Apr 2003, 384 pages


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Rooster folded up the piece of paper and put it back in his pocket. "You never know," he said with a shrug.

I took a few steps closer. With Rooster out of my vision, it was possible to imagine Mike and I were alone. I didn't want to speak out loud, but that didn't mean I couldn't talk to him. I looked at his face, at the shallow cleft of his chin and at his thin, pale lips. I covered his hand with mine and told him not to worry. I'm here, I told him. I'm here, I'm here.

At the elevators we ran into Mike's family, making their nightly trip back in to tell him goodnight. Mrs. Mayer was plainly relieved to see me, and even Mr. Mayer looked at me for an extra moment and nodded, as if tucking away for future analysis the knowledge that I was here now but hadn't been last night.

Rooster said he had to go, but I felt I should stay. I headed back to the lounge with them and waited while two by two they visited Mike's room. Then the five of us were all in the lounge together, and although there was no reason to stay, none of us made a move to leave. It was nearly eight, the end of a long day, and the smell of burned coffee drifted from the back corner of the room. I knew just what I'd see if I went over there: dirty coffeemaker surrounded by spilled grounds, empty blue and pink sweetener envelopes lying everywhere, carton of milk souring nearby.

"Have you seen the doctors today?"

I looked up and found Julie watching me. She was nineteen and just home from her first year of college; she wore a long print skirt and dangling silver earrings, and she smelled faintly of patchouli. I shook my head.

"I mean it, Mom," she said. "We can't just sit around on our asses and expect them to keep us completely up-to-date. We have to be active participants."

Mrs. Mayer cast me a sad smile.

"Jesus," Julie cried, and she got up and ran from the lounge.

"Oh, dear," Mrs. Mayer said.

"I'll go," Mr. Mayer said, but he didn't move.

I glanced at John Junior. He was sixteen and heartbreaking, with wavy brown hair and gray eyes--Mike's hair and eyes--and the exact body Mike had had six years earlier, muscular but still narrow-waisted. I saw John and his friends at the Union sometimes, asking people with IDs to buy them beer at the Rat.

"How are you, John?" I said now.

"Fine." His voice was husky--I thought he was trying not to cry.

"How's the job?"

"OK. Stop by sometime, I'll scoop you a free one."

"Maybe I will."

The weekend before the accident he'd been hired at an ice cream parlor on State Street. I was at the Mayers' when he came in with the news, and quick as anything Mike said, "Perfect, bring me home a pint of butter pecan every night or I'll have your ass." Without missing a beat John said, "If you eat a pint of butter pecan every night no one'll have your ass," and Mike loved that--he told everyone about it for days afterward.

I looked at Mr. Mayer: at his tanned, balding head, at his hazel eyes filmy behind thick glasses. He'd left his coat and tie at home, but he still wore his pressed white shirt, his navy trousers, and his shiny black lace-ups. The orange couch he sat on was too low for him, and as he shifted, swinging his knees from left to right and bringing his arms closer to his body, I was suddenly certain he was about to make a pronouncement.

I stood up. He'd become ministerial in his speech since the accident, one day delivering sermons about hope and patience and the next lecturing us on the spinal cord and its function. I liked him, but I couldn't listen--it made me too jittery.

"I guess I better go," I said.

The three of them said goodbye, and I felt them watch me as I left the lounge. I wondered how long they'd sit there before they went home.

Excerpted from The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer Copyright 2002 by Ann Packer. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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