Excerpt from My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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My Heart Underwater

by Laurel Fantauzzo

My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo X
My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo
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  • Published:
    Oct 2020, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
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Print Excerpt

She rolls her eyes, but I can see she's happy about my invitation to play. We haven't played sungka in months, since I started junior year. My dad always tells her to let me win, but she always repeats: "She has to earn her win."

I sit cross-legged at the coffee table. She sits on her knees. We clink the shells into the indentations of the wooden board and play Rock-Paper-Scissors to decide who goes first. She does, scooping the shells and dropping them, one by one, across the board.

She tsks me when I gather seven shells into my hand. "You never have a strategy," she says.

"You're just trying to distract me," I say. Really, I don't care if I lose. I'm soothed by the feel of the old wood board, the tapping sound of the cowrie shells. My mom's shells start to run out soon; she's winning just like she predicted.

We finish my cold fries and our burgers. We share my Neapolitan milkshake.

The landline rings. I let it ring. If it's Kuya Jun, he can leave a message or just call Pa.

The ringing stops.

Then it rings again. My mom scolds me to get it. I pick it up; a dial tone.

When I sit back down at the coffee table, my mom's cell phone rings in her purse. She looks out the window, the reverie and strategy of our sungka game breaking. "So dark na," she says to herself.

She digs into her purse and misses that call too. The landline rings again. "Naku," my mom mutters, exasperated, and answers.

"Yes, this is she," she says, using the official voice she uses when she talks to the principal, or to her managers.

I look at the sungka board, trying to calculate as fast as my mom does, even though I know it's impossible.

She hangs up, exasperated.

"That client," she mutters.

Then my dad opens the door, limping and grinning. But there's pain in his grin; it keeps flashing from grin to wince. His left foot hits one of the cardboard boxes, and he gasps. We rush to greet him.

"It's okay, it's okay," he says. He sits in a chair, panting. "Just swollen, not broken. I can still move the joint, look, oh."

My mom tugs his left pant leg up. His ankle is shiny and swollen.

"Just a sprain," he says. "No break. Ice and then I'm okay."

"The client keeps calling to complain you're too slow," my mom mutters, "and here, now, you can't walk. You drove home like this?"

We act as Papa's crutches, helping him over to the couch. My mom takes out the frozen peas and carrots she uses for fried rice, and sets the bag on his ankle. "Aray!" Papa cries, then relaxes. "Grabe. I step off the sidewalk only. Mali."

"Just rest," my mom says.

I look through a stack of DVDs. I pick out one my aunt brought back from her last trip to Manila, a pirated version of Gagamboy. Filipino Spider-Man. The cheap insect costumes and the self-deprecating jokes always make my dad giggle.

He falls asleep on the couch during the scene when a cockroach lands on a lady character's face. My mom removes the thawed, mushy peas and carrots from his ankle, drapes a blanket over him, and turns off the movie.

I go back upstairs, tear the pages from my notebook, and toss them in the trash.

Excerpted from My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo. Copyright © 2020 by Laurel Fantauzzo. Excerpted by permission of Quill Tree Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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