"Well, he was drunk."
"Then again, you never really knew, with Old Man. Chances are, he would have beaten me anyway."
"What do you think will happen to those boys Billy Wall messed with? I've heard kids don't recover from something like that, ever. Do you think that's possible, that those poor kids have been ruined?"
Petie shrugged. "I don't know. They'll grow up. They'll date, they'll make stupid choices. At some point they'll realize their lives aren't nearly as good as the ones they expected. Same old same old. Everyone's ruined somewhere along the line."
Rose started to laugh. "Oh, Petie."
"Really. Sooner or later something terrible's always going to come along. It's really just a question of timing."
Rose took the carrot peeler and started scraping potatoes, a small mountain of them, into the sink. "Something terrible like what happened to those boys is not going to happen to everyone, Petie. My God."
"Of course not. It could even be something that seems like not much--moving to another town, say, or having bad acne or liking beer too much. Or it could be something quiet like hopelessness or boredom. No one ever said that ruin always comes in a big loud package."
Rose watched Petie tear apart some sprigs of parsley and toss them into one of the pots. "Well, I'm thinking I might start driving Carissa to school."
"Does she worry about the trip?" Petie stirred some heavy cream into one of the pots.
"Does she complain about having to wait after school?"
"So she's a smart kid. She can take care of herself. Stir." Petie put her spoon in Rose's hand.
"You worry about the boys," Rose pointed out, stirring.
"I worry about Ryan. I fear for Loose. There's a difference."
Five-year-old Loose Coolbaugh (short for Lucifer, although even that wasn't his real name) was a fearless, physical kid: he would hit before he'd concede he was wrong. His playground daredeviltry had already made him, in less than a month, an object of admiration in his first grade class. He'd been to the emergency room over in Sawyer twice in just that time period: once for a minor concussion when he swung into thin air off the monkey bars, once for stitches in his hand from an old can he'd systematically broken apart with a rock.
Ryan, on the other hand, was frail and suffered for it. At eight years old, he still had frequent asthma attacks, night fears and daytime dreads: large dogs, sneaker waves, public toilets, physical contests. He was also bookish, which no one in the family could fathom. Loose needled him mercilessly, and often got the upper hand. Eddie Coolbaugh used to push him to try harder, be bolder, cry less often, but since Loose had come along Eddie had lost interest. Petie and Rose often took turns bringing Ryan along on after-school errands, just to give him a break from the household. Petie protected him when she could, but she admitted to Rose more than once that she didn't exactly get the point of him, either.
"I think this is ready," Rose said. "It's getting late. We better go." Petie was cutting Rose's scraped potatoes and stowing them in a Tupperware container filled with water, for the morning. The finished corn chowder on the stove was one of their favorites. The other vat was lentil, a recipe of Rose's that wasn't even on the Souperior's list. The soup was supposed to have been vegetable barley, but Petie refused to fix anything submitted by Jeannie Fontineau. Jeannie Fontineau was nothing but a sad-eyed fat woman now, but she had fooled around with Eddie Coolbaugh a little bit years ago, before she got so fat but after he and Petie were married. Jeannie Fontineau wasn't the only one Eddie had ever fooled around with, but she was the first, and that made her stand out. Nadine would be mad about the soup substitution, but they'd just tell her something.
Excerpted from Going to Bend by Diane Hammond Copyright© 2004 by Diane Hammond. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, 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.
Blood at the Root
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