The world had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted. Trisha McFarland discovered this when she was nine years old. At ten o'clock on a morning in early June she was sitting in the back seat of her mother's Dodge Caravan, wearing her blue Red Sox batting practice jersey (the one with 36 GORDON on the back) and playing with Mona, her doll. At ten thirty she was lost in the woods. By eleven she was trying not to be terrified, trying not to let herself think, This is serious, this is very serious. Trying not to think that sometimes when people got lost in the woods they got seriously hurt. Sometimes they died.
All because I needed to pee, she thought...except she hadn't needed to pee all that badly, and in any case she could have asked Mom and Pete to wait up the trail a minute while she went behind a tree. They were fighting again, gosh what a surprise that was, and that was why she had dropped behind a little bit, and without saying anything. That was why she had stepped off the trail and behind a high stand of bushes. She needed a breather, simple as that. She was tired of listening to them argue, tired of trying to sound bright and cheerful, close to screaming at her mother, Let him go, then! If he wants to go back to Malden and live with Dad so much, why don't you just let him? I'd drive him myself if I had a license, just to get some peace and quiet around here! And what then? What would her mother say then? What kind of look would come over her face? And Pete. He was older, almost fourteen, and not stupid, so why didn't he know better? Why couldn't he just give it a rest? Cut the crap was what she wanted to say to him (to both of them, really), just cut the crap.
The divorce had happened a year ago, and their mother had gotten custody. Pete had protested the move from suburban Boston to southern Maine bitterly and at length. Part of it really was wanting to be with Dad, and that was the lever he always used on Mom (he understood with some unerring instinct that it was the one he could plant the deepest and pull on the hardest), but Trisha knew it wasn't the only reason, or even the biggest one. The real reason Pete wanted out was that he hated Sanford Middle School.
In Malden he'd had it pretty well whipped. He'd run the computer club like it was his own private kingdom; he'd had friends -- nerds, yeah, but they went around in a group and the bad kids didn't pick on them. At Sanford Middle there was no computer club and he'd only made a single friend, Eddie Rayburn. Then in January Eddie moved away, also the victim of a parental breakup. That made Pete a loner, anyone's game. Worse, a lot of kids laughed at him. He had picked up a nickname which he hated: Pete's CompuWorld.
On most of the weekends when she and Pete didn't go down to Malden to be with their father, their mother took them on outings. She was grimly dedicated to these, and although Trisha wished with all her heart that Mom would stop -- it was on the outings that the worst fights happened -- she knew that wasn't going to happen. Quilla Andersen (she had taken back her maiden name and you could bet Pete hated that, too) had the courage of her convictions. Once, while staying at the Malden house with Dad, Trisha had heard their father talking to his own Dad on the phone. "If Quilla had been at Little Big Horn, the Indians would have lost," he said, and although Trisha didn't like it when Dad said stuff like that about Mom -- it seemed babyish as well as disloyal -- she couldn't deny that there was a nugget of truth in that particular observation.
Over the last six months, as things grew steadily worse between Mom and Pete, she had taken them to the auto museum in Wiscasset, to the Shaker Village in Gray, to The New England Plant-A-Torium in North Wyndham, to Six-Gun City in Randolph, New Hampshire, on a canoe trip down the Saco River, and on a skiing trip to Sugarloaf (where Trisha had sprained her ankle, an injury over which her mother and father had later had a screaming fight; what fun divorce was, what really good fun).
Copyright © 1999 by Stephen King. Reproduced by permission of the publisher Simon & Schuster
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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