"See, he agrees with me," cried María through her tears.
"This is getting weirder by the minute," said Steven. "I knew we shouldn't have brought the eejit."
"I thought the boy would talk to a kid his own size," Emilia said. "Come on, María. We have to get back before dark."
"I'm not walking anywhere!" The little girl flopped down on the ground.
"Well, I won't carry you, fatso."
"Just leave her," said Steven. He started walking off, and after a moment Emilia followed him.
Matt was appalled. If the big kids went away, María would be all alone. It was going to be dark soon, and Celia wouldn't return for hours. María would be alone with nothing but the empty poppy fields and the...
The chupacabras, who came out after dark and sucked your juices and left you to dry like an old cantaloupe skin!
Suddenly Matt knew what he had to do. María had walked a few steps away from the window before sitting down again. She was shouting insults at the vanished Steven and Emilia. Matt grabbed the big iron cooking pot Celia used to make menudo and swung it before he could worry much about her reaction. She would be furious! But he was saving María's life. He smashed out the glass in the window. It fell in a tinkling, jangling mass to the ground. María jumped to her feet. Steven and Emilia rose up instantly from the poppy field, where they'd been hiding.
"Holy frijoles!" said Steven. All three stood openmouthed, staring at the empty hole where the window had been.
"My name is Matt. I live here. Do you want to play?" said Matt because he couldn't think of another thing to say.
"He can talk," said Emilia after the first shock had died away.
"Is that how you usually open a window, kid?" Steven said. "Stay back, María. There's glass all over." He stepped carefully to the opening and knocked out the remaining shards with a stick. Then he leaned inside to look around. Matt had to hold on to himself to keep from bolting to the other room. "This is creepy! The window's nailed shut. What are you, some kind of prisoner?"
"I live here," Matt said.
"You told us that already."
"Do you want to play?"
"Maybe he's like a parrot and only knows a few words," suggested Emilia.
"I want to play," said María. Matt looked at her with approval. The girl was struggling in Emilia's arms, obviously trying to get to him. Steven shook his head and moved away. He looked like he was really going to leave this time.
Matt came to a decision. It was frightening, but he'd never had an opportunity like this before and he might never have it again. He shoved a chair to the opening, scrambled up, and jumped.
"No!" shouted Steven, running forward to catch him. He was too late.
A terrible pain lanced through Matt's feet. He fell forward, and his hands and knees landed on the shards of glass.
"He wasn't wearing shoes! Oh, man! Oh, man! What're we going to do!" Steven pulled Matt up and swung him onto a clear patch of ground.
Matt stared with amazement at the blood dripping from his feet and hands. His knees sprouted rivulets of red.
"Pull out the glass!" cried Emilia in a high, scared voice. "María, stay away!"
"I want to see!" yelled the little girl. Matt heard a slap and María's shriek of outrage. His head was swimming. He wanted to throw up, but before he could, everything went black.
He woke to the sensation of being carried. He was sick to his stomach, but worse than that his body was trembling in a frightening way. He screamed as loud as he could.
"Great!" panted Steven, who supported Matt's shoulders. Emilia had his legs. Her shirt and pants were soaked with blood, his blood. Matt screamed again.
Copyright © 2002 by Nancy Farmer
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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