She didn't know why she'd done it. She woke up early and knew today was the day (or rather, yesterday was the day; she'd been on this bus for something like twenty hours now), and when you knew something, there was no point in not-knowing it, just like there was no point in waiting. What day was it, the eighteenth? She uncapped her pen and wrote August 18, 1993 on the top edge of the postcard, where the stamp would go. Her stomach and her knees and her butt hurt, and she was grateful to be in the window seat, even though it was dark and there wasn't much to see. She pressed her forehead against the cool glass.
She thought she was in Indiana, or Kansas maybe, by now. Hollywood was closer than ever. Her future was closer. The world flickered by, unspooling like a reel of undeveloped film.
The darkness of the bus, close and warm, reminded her of sitting in the dark of a movie theater on the boardwalk with her father, a million years ago, it seemed: the summer before he died, when she was four and he took her to see The Clash of the Titans on a rainy day when it was too cold to go to the beach. "This is Ray Harryhausen's masterpiece," he whispered to her. "You think those skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts are cool, wait till you see Pegasus. Wait till you see Medusa. Wait till you see the Kraken." She remembered sucking the chocolate coating off each Junior Mint and thinking it was funny that there was sand on the floor, like the beach just couldn't stay away, and then the lights came down and she forgot about the mints and the sand. She left the earth completely. She traveled to Olympus. She rode the back of a white winged horse. She shrank from the red death rattle of Medusa and goggled at the great titan of the sea, the Kraken, as it rose screaming from the depths to claim the sacrificial Andromeda.
And heRay Harryhausenhad created them! Had built them, improbably, from wire and clay and plastic and feathers; built them and given them movement, and desire, and souls. Harryhausen, come to think of it, was the only god she had ever learned to worship; he created a world in his movies that captured her, that thrilled her, that felt like home. It was a world she'd spent her entire life trying to find.
And now she could see the doorway, just a little down the road, waiting for her to walk through. She sat up and grabbed her pen. Anyway, I left you the best parts of myself, she wrote. You know where to look. There was nothing more to say.
1 - The Runaway
Arthur Rook didn't know. He woke up on Friday morning when Amy rolled out of bed, but the running of the shower sang him back to sleep. When his alarm buzzed at seven he woke again, shaved and dressed and fed himself and Ray Harryhausen, the cat, and stood on the curb in front of his apartment complex in Toluca Lake, just north of Hollywood, waiting for a ride to work. Like every morning in Los Angeles, it was colder than Arthur, who grew up in Boston, thought LA was supposed to be. He squinted at the sun, hugging himself. He saw his breath on the air. He wished Max Morris would show up already, hopefully with coffee, or maybe those little homemade donuts Max's boyfriend Manny made, that Max didn't like and didn't have the heart to admit. Manny put little notes in with the donuts always a pun (You're my favorite in the hole world! or Donut what I'd do without you!) and Arthur felt a little guilty devouring sweets specially packed for another person. When Arthur asked Max why he let Manny go on thinking he liked the donutswasn't he worried some day Manny would discover the truth and be hurt?Max shrugged and said sometimes you let the people you love believe what they want to believe.
Why? Arthur had asked.
Because you love 'em, Max had said.
There. Right then.
That was the moment it happened, they would tell him: at 7:48, while Arthur was waiting for Max to show up in his stuttering silver Geo, thinking about Manny's donuts.
Excerpted from This Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia. Copyright © 2010 by Kate Racculia. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and 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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