The view is fine up here. I can look out across the world and see everything.
For instance, I can see a fifteen-year-old boy and his brother.
David Cases baby brother had recently learned to walk but he wasnt what youd
call an expert. He toddled past his brother to the large open window of the
older boys room. There, with a great deal of effort, he pulled himself onto the
windowsill, scrunched up like a caterpillar, pushed into a crouch, and stood,
teetering precariously, his gaze fixed solemnly on the church tower a quarter
He tipped forward slightly towards the void just as a large black bird swooped past. It paused and turned an intelligent red eye to meet the childs.
Why not fly? suggested the bird, and the boys eyes widened in delight.
Below them on the street, a greyhound stood motionless, his elegant pale head turned in the direction of the incipient catastrophe. Calmly the dog shifted the angle of his muzzle, creating an invisible guyline that eased the child back an inch or two towards equilibrium. Safer now, but seduced by the fact that a bird had spoken to him, the boy threw out his arms and thought, Yes! Fly!
David did not hear his brother think fly.
Something else made him look up. A voice. A finger on his shoulder. The brush of lips against his ear.
So thats where we start: One boy on the verge of death. Another on the verge of something rather more complicated.
In the instant of looking up, David took the measure of the situation, shouted Charlie! and lunged across the room. He grabbed the child by the cape of his Batman pajamas, wrapped his arms around him with enough force to flatten his ribs, and sank to the floor, squashing the boys face into the safe hollow beneath his chin.
Charlie squeaked with outrage but David barely heard. Panting, he unpinned him, gripping the child at arms length.
What were you doing? He was shouting. What on earth did you think you were doing?
Well, said Charlie, I was bored just playing with my toys and you werent paying attention to me so I thought I would get a better look at the world. I climbed up on the window which wasnt easy and once I managed to do that I felt strange and happy with nothing but sky all around me and all of a sudden a bird flew past and looked at me and said I could fly and a bird hasnt ever talked to me before and I figured a bird would know what he was talking about when it came to flying so I thought he must be right. Oh and there was also a pretty gray dog on the pavement who looked up and pointed at me with his nose so I didnt fall and just when I was about to leap out and soar through the air you grabbed me and hurt me a lot which made me very cross and I didnt get a chance to fly even though Im sure I could have.
The little boy explained all this slowly and carefully, so as not to be misunderstood.
Burr-dee fly were the words that came out of his mouth.
David turned away, heart pounding. It was useless trying to communicate with a one-year-old. Even if his brother had possessed the vocabulary, he couldnt have answered Davids question. Charlie did what he did because he was a dumb kid, too dumb to realize that birds dont talk and kids cant fly.
My god, David thought. If Id been two seconds slower hed be dead. My brother would be dead but Id be the one shattered, crushed, destroyed by guilt and blame and everyone everywhere for the rest of my life whispering Hes that kid who killed his brother.
Two seconds. Just two seconds were all that stood between normal everyday life and utter, total catastrophe.
Excerpted from Just In Case by Meg Rosoff Copyright © 2006 by Meg Rosoff. Excerpted by permission of Wendy Lamb Books, 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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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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