He didnt mean anything by it, said Jim. Hes just a little, well, insane, is what he is.
Ive got an extra eyeball, Dennis Deane said. Do you want me to show it to you?
Chrissie turned away from Dennis Deane and stared levelly at Jim with what he took to be an expression of slight disappointment. Are you his friend? she asked.
Sort of, I guess, he said. More like his guardian. Something like that.
Jim caught a slight whiff of vanilla and wished she would step even closer. He felt himself beginning to smile and thought, wildly, Were almost close enough to kiss.
Chrissie did not smile back, but she opened her fist. Well. You tell your little friend that I will not stand for anyone talking to me like that. Ever. You tell him that if he talks to me that way again, I will beat him like a borrowed mule.
Hee-haw, Dennis Deane said from behind Jim.
Dennis Deane, Jim warned over his shoulder. Shut up.
I mean it, Jim Glass, Chrissie said.
I know you do, said Jim.
You tell him.
Chrissie nodded once, turned on her heel, and pulled open the door. Then she was gone. Nobody laughed, although Jim wanted to. He felt wonderfully, inexplicably happy.
Dennis Deane stepped out from behind Jim and made a show of adjusting his shirt collar. He blew into his palm, checking his breath.
Well, he said. She loves me. Write it down in the big book, boys. Write it down.
She was going to knock you out, Larry said.
I should have let her hit you, Jim said.
Dont mess around with that girl, said Otis. Im serious. If she doesnt beat your ass, then Bucky will when he gets home on leave.
Bucky Bucklaw, Dennis Deane scoffed. How am I supposed to be afraid of somebody with a name that stupid?
Larry pointed down the hill at the long passenger train drawing a thick silver line through town. Hey, look at that, he said.
The windows of the coaches were open, and men in uniforms, their shirtsleeves rolled up, were hanging out most of them. Soldiers. A whole trainload of them. Jim wondered what they saw when they looked at Aliceville, if anything would make an impression worth remembering; he wondered where they were going.
Troop train, he said.
What? Dennis Deane said. Has the train got soldiers on it?
The bell rang. The boys picked up their books.
Youre blind as a mole, Jim said.
I dont need to see, said Dennis Deane. Ive got an extra eyeball.
Excerpted from The Blue Star by Tony Earley. Copyright © 2008 by Tony Earley. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. 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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