Excerpt from Only Child by Rhiannon Navin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Only Child

by Rhiannon Navin

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin X
Only Child by Rhiannon Navin
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2018, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 5, 2019, 304 pages

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1
The Day the Gunman Came

The thing I later remembered the most about the day the gunman came was my teacher Miss Russell's breath. It was hot and smelled like coffee. The closet was dark except for a little light that was coming in through the crack of the door that Miss Russell was holding shut from inside. There was no door handle on the inside, only a loose metal piece, and she pulled it in with her thumb and pointer finger.

"Be completely still, Zach," she whispered. "Don't move."

I didn't. Even though I was sitting on my left foot and it was giving me pins and needles and it hurt a lot.

Miss Russell's coffee breath touched my cheek when she talked, and it bothered me a little. Her fingers were shaking on the metal piece. She had to talk to Evangeline and David and Emma a lot behind me in the closet, because they were crying and were not being completely still.

"I'm here with you guys," Miss Russell said. "I'm protecting you. Shhhhhhh, please be quiet." We kept hearing the POP sounds outside. And screaming.

POP POP POP

It sounded a lot like the sounds from the Star Wars game I sometimes play on the Xbox.

POP POP POP

Always three pops and then quiet again. Quiet or screaming. Miss Russell did little jumps when the POP sounds came and her whispering got faster. "Don't make a sound!" Evangeline made hiccupping sounds.

POP Hick POP Hick POP Hick

I think someone peed in their underwear, because it smelled like that in the closet. Like Miss Russell's breath and pee, and like the jackets that were still wet from when it rained at recess. "Not too much to play outside," Mrs. Colaris said. "What, are we made of sugar?" The rain didn't bother us. We played soccer and cops and bad guys, and our hair and jackets got wet. I tried to turn and put my hand up and touch the jackets to see if they were still very wet.

"Don't move," Miss Russell whispered to me. She switched hands to hold the door closed, and her bracelets made jingling sounds. Miss Russell always wears a lot of bracelets on her right arm. Some have little things called charms hanging off them that remind her of special things, and when she goes on vacation she always gets a new charm to remember it. When we started first grade, she showed us all her charms and told us where she got them from. Her new one that she got on the summer break was a boat. It's like a tiny version of the boat she went on to go really close to a huge waterfall called Niagara Falls, and that's in Canada.

My left foot really started to hurt a lot, and I tried to pull it out only a little so Miss Russell wouldn't notice.

We just came in from recess and put our jackets in the closet, then math books out, when the POP sounds started. At first we didn't hear them loud—they were like all the way down the hallway in the front where Charlie's desk is. When parents come to pick you up before dismissal or at the nurse's office, they always stop at Charlie's desk and write down their name and show their driver's license and get a tag that says visitor on a red string, and they have to wear it around their neck.

Charlie is the security guy at McKinley, and he's been here for thirty years. When I was in kindergarten, last year, we had a big party in the auditorium to celebrate his thirty years. Even a lot of parents came because he was the security guy already when they were kids and went to McKinley, like Mommy. Charlie said he didn't need a party. "I already know everyone loves me," he said, and laughed his funny laugh. But he got a party anyway, and I thought he looked happy about it. He put up all the artwork we made for him for the party around his desk and took the rest home to hang it up. My picture for him was right in the middle at the front of his desk because I'm a really good artist.

Excerpted from Only Child by Rhiannon Navin. Copyright © 2018 by Rhiannon Nevin. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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