"You missed, loser," Drew said. "If Sunapee closes, Killington's still good. They have snow until, like, August." His spitball landed in the boy's hair.
Derek. The kid's name was Derek.
Matt glanced at Josie's French fries. "You're not going to eat those, are you?"
He pinched the side of her waist, a caliper and a criticism all at once. Josie looked down at the fries. Ten seconds ago, they'd looked golden brown and smelled like heaven; now all she could see was the grease that stained the paper plate.
Matt took a handful and passed the rest to Drew, who threw a spitball that landed in the sleeping boy's mouth. With a choke and a sputter, Derek startled awake.
"Sweet!" Drew high-fived John.
Derek spat into a napkin and rubbed his mouth hard. He glanced around to see who else had been watching. Josie suddenly remembered a sign from her ASL elective, almost all of which she'd forgotten the moment she'd taken the final. A closed fist moved in a circle over the heart meant I'm sorry.
Matt leaned over and kissed her neck. "Let's get out of here." He drew Josie to her feet and then turned to his friends. "Later," he said.
The gymnasium at Sterling High School was on the second floor, above what would have been a swimming pool if the bond issue had passed when the school was in its planning stages, and what instead became three classrooms that continually resounded with the pounding of sneakered feet and bouncing basketballs. Michael Beach and his best friend, Justin Friedman, two freshmen, sat on the sidelines of the basketball court while their Phys Ed teacher went over the mechanics of dribbling for the hundredth time. It was a wasted exercise -- kids in this class were either like Noah James, already an expert, or like Michael and Justin, who were fluent in Elvish but defined home run as what you did after school in order to avoid getting hung up on coat hooks by your underwear. They sat cross-legged and knob-kneed, listening to the rodent's squeak of Coach Spears's white sneakers as he hustled from one end of the court to the other.
"Ten bucks says I get picked last for a team," Justin murmured.
"I wish we could get out of class," Michael commiserated. "Maybe there'll be a fire drill."
Justin grinned. "An earthquake."
"A terrorist attack!"
Two sneakers stopped in front of them. Coach Spears glared down, his arms folded. "You two want to tell me what's so funny about basketball?"
Michael glanced at Justin, then up at the coach. "Absolutely nothing,"
After showering, Lacy Houghton made herself a mug of green tea and wandered peacefully through her house. When the kids had been tiny and she'd been overwhelmed by work and life, Lewis would ask her what he could do to make things better. It had been a great irony for her, given Lewis's job. A professor at Sterling College, his specialty was the economics of happiness. Yes, it was a real field of study, and yes, he was an expert. He'd taught seminars and written articles and had been interviewed on CNN about measuring the effects of pleasure and good fortune on a monetary scale -- and yet he'd been at a loss when it came to figuring out what Lacy would enjoy. Did she want to go out to a nice dinner? Get a pedicure? Take a nap? When she told him what she craved, though, he could not comprehend. She'd wanted to be in her own house, with nobody else in it, and nothing pressing to do.
She opened the door to Peter's room and set her mug on the dresser so that she could make his bed. What's the point, Peter would say when she dogged him to do it himself. I just have to mess it up again in a few hours.
Copyright © Jodi Picoult, 2007. Reproduced with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
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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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