My father frowns and lowers his voice as if hes letting Trixle in on a secret. Nothing to worry about here, Darby.
Darby makes a juicy noise with his spit. Anything out of the ordinary, I got to report.
My mom picks up Nats suitcase, hoping to distract her and get her away from Darby. Lets go, Nat, she says.
But what about Jimmy and Theresa? I ask. They wanted to say goodbye. Couldnt you wait? I can run get them. It will only take a minute. Theresa is Jimmys little sister and shes really good with Natalie.
My mom shakes her head. Nats shrieking has subsided. Now its more like the hum of a radio gone haywire. But my mom clearly wants to get her out of here.
I dont think Nat will go, but she does. Shes still humming, still holding her head, but shes walking along behind my mother, yes she is.
Bye, Nat. I wave stiffly.
Moose bye. Moose bye, she says as she toe-walks across the gangplank.
I take a step forward. I know better than to try to hug her. Nat hates to be touched, but I want to go get the Mattamans at least. I promised Id let them know when she was leaving.
My father puts his hand on my arm. She cant take much more hullabaloo, he murmurs, his eyes on Darby Trixle, who is deep in conversation with the buck sergeant.
My mom waves to us from the starboard side, scooting Nats suitcase under the seat. Nat sits down, her eyes trained on her lap. The motor roars to a start and the Frank M. Coxe pulls out fast, carving a white wake in the stirred-up brown water.
We watch until the boat is so small it could fit in the finger of my baseball glove. And then its gone.
2. THE SECRET PASSAGEWAY
Same dayMonday, August 5, 1935
Theres nothing like baseball to get your mind off of things youd rather not think about. The smell of the glove, the feel of the ball, that thwack the bat makes when you crush the ball... Its enough to cure anything bad that could ever happen. And today is a baseball day, because my friend Scout from school is coming to Alcatraz this afternoon. Scout is Mr. Baseball. He has his own team and he can really play.
I tell Jimmy all about this inside the crawlspace under 64 building that runs beneath apartment 1D, a vacant apartment, to 1E, Mrs. Caconis place. The crawlspace is in what we like to call Chinatown because it looks like the alleyways in Chinatown in San Francisco. Normally, the crawlspace is locked, but last week Jimmy saw the screws in the door hinge were loose, so he took off the hinge and we opened the door. When we leave, we put the hinges back and the door seals up tight like no one has ever been inside.
The only problem is its dark in hereeverything is coated with an inch of dust and you have to crawl on your hands and knees, avoid the ant holes, and watch the beams so you wont clonk your head. The cobwebs alone could kill you the way they descend like gauze over your mouth and you breathe em in and hope you havent sucked a spider down your throat. Still, its a good place to talk things over. In our secret passageway, we say things we wouldnt say anywhere else. I like that no one knows about this place except Jimmy and me.
I cant imagine a better spot than underneath Mrs. Caconis apartment either. The moms on the island spend a lot of time at Mrs. Caconis the way the kids gravitate toward the parade grounds. I think its because Mrs. Caconi doesnt have kids, so they get a break from us at her placekind of like the teachers lounge at school.
Excerpted from Al Capone Shines my Shoes © Copyright 2009 by Gennifer Choldenko. Reprinted with permission by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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