He even wondered if death would be better than the truth. An honorable death. If his father were killed trying to stop a robbery at a gas station ... something like that. A car accident would be okay, too, if it were someone else's fault or caused by a surprise storm.
But the truth was worse. The truth was that two and a half weeks ago, his father hadn't come home from work. He had called that night to say that he was going to live with someone else, a woman from his office.
Mitch hated thinking of that nighthis mother pressing apologies upon him, and then her silence and the way she kept hugging him, her shoulder bending his nose back until he had to squirm away. He'd felt as if he were nobody's child.
The following morning, his father made a couple of phone calls to Mitch that left him more confused than ever, and left him with more questions than answers.
As that day passed, and the next, Mitch's sadness grew; it became a rock inside him, pulling him down. He carried the sadness everywhere, morning, noon, and night. It hurt to breathe. And then, after three days of looking at each other with mutual uncertainty, Mitch and his mother packed up their most necessary possessions and drove to Mitch's grandparents' house on Bird Lake. "I can't live here anymore," Mitch's mother had said as she stuffed clothes into duffle bags. "We don't belong here, now."
She told him they'd come back sometime during the summer to straighten things out and to pick up whatever they might have forgotten. He told her about a new movie he'd heard of, not because he really cared about this, but because it was a way to keep her from saying things that made him more uneasy than he already was. At one point during their conversation, her voice cracked and she had to turn away for a moment before she began talking again. She circled back to the same topic. "We couldn't afford to stay here if we wanted to, anyway," she said. "Not on a teachers' aide's salary."
The foregoing is excerpted from Bird Lake Moon by Kevin Henkes. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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