The Night Tourist
I The Accident
It was just after dusk when the accident happened. As
usual, Jack Perdu was walking through theYale University
campus with his nose buried in Ovids Metamorphoses.
Although he was only in the ninth grade, he had an afterschool
job helping the head of the universitys Classics
department on her new English translation. It was the day
after Christmas so there were no professors around, which
meant that there was no reason for Jack to look up out of
his book. But suddenly he heard a shout.
Jack stopped walking and looked up. A girl in a puffy blue parka was running toward him across the brick walkway between the Yale library and Elm Street. Her hair was in braids, and she was frantically waving at him.
Its Tanya, she panted when she reached him.Im in your English class.
Oh, said Jack. He knew who she was, but, like most of the kids at Hyde Leadership High School, shed never spoken to him before.
I was just going to the store to return this pair of pants my mother got me for Christmas, she explained, pulling a pair of brown corduroys out of a plastic bag. Theyre pretty awful, arent they?
Jack, who was wearing a pair of pants very much like them, didnt say anything. Tanya didnt seem to notice. Anyway, I cant remember what book were supposed to read over break.When I saw you, I knew youd know. Of Mice and Men, said Jack.
Tanya grinned. I bet youve read it already. Jack gave a noncommittal shrug. Hed actually read it a few years earlier.
You live here, right? Tanya pointed vaguely at the stone residential colleges, which surrounded the walkway on either side.
And let me guess, your dads a professor?
Hes the chair of the Archeology department.
Tanya smiled. Thats why youre so smart.You know every poem in class before we even read it.
Not really, he murmured, though he usually did. Is your mom a professor too?
Jack shivered and pulled his cap tighter over his unruly thatch of hair.No, he said.Shes dead.
Oh my God, Im so sorry! said Tanya.
Its okay. It happened a long time ago. I was six. Tanyas eyes widened.What happened?
Jack looked around her for an escape route.A scaffold fell on her in New York City, he murmured. It was a windy day.
It happened a long time ago, he repeated. Eight years ago this month, he thought, but didnt say it. He looked down at the book in his hands.
What are you reading? It doesnt look like the Mice and Men book.
Jack held up the book so she could see the spine. Metamorphoses. Tanya wrinkled her nose. Is that a book about insects or something?
Its a book of Greek myths.
Tanya shook her head.Youre too smart to be in high school, Jack. You should be a professor or something yourself.
Ive got to go, he said. And before she had a chance to say anything else, he flipped open the Metamorphoses and started walking toward Elm Street. Hed heard it all before.
As he hurried away, Jack focused on how to properly translate the Latin word occidit. He had just started Book Ten of the Metamorphoses, which contained his favorite myth, the story of the musician Orpheus. After a snakebite kills his bride, Eurydice, Orpheus descends into the underworld to bring her back. Jack had gotten as far as the snake attack, after which Eurydice occidit. Occidit could mean that the snake killed her or cut her down, but it could also mean that she perished. Some people might not think theres much of a difference between these possibilities, but Jack did. You could perish in an accident and no one is to blame. But when youre killed, a killer in Eurydices case, the snakeis at fault.
Copyright © 2007 by Katherine Marsh. All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion Books for Children, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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