Made you up, p.1

Made You Up, page 1

 

Made You Up



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Made You Up


  UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

  HarperCollins Publishers

  ..................................................................

  Advance Reader’s e-proof

  courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

  This is an advance reader’s e-proof made from digital files of the uncorrected proofs. Readers are reminded that changes may be made prior to publication, including to the type, design, layout, or content, that are not reflected in this e-proof, and that this e-pub may not reflect the final edition. Any material to be quoted or excerpted in a review should be checked against the final published edition. Dates, prices, and manufacturing details are subject to change or cancellation without notice.

  UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

  HarperCollins Publishers

  ..................................................................

  UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

  HarperCollins Publishers

  ..................................................................

  Dedication

  DEDICATION TO COME

  * * *

  You really are not helpful at all.

  It is decidedly so

  I’m glad we’re on the same page.

  * * *

  Contents

  Cover

  Disclaimer

  Title

  Dedication

  Prologue: The Freeing of the Lobsters

  Part One: The Tank

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Part Two: The Lobsters

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-one

  Chapter Twenty-two

  Chapter Twenty-three

  Chapter Twenty-four

  Chapter Twenty-five

  Chapter Twenty-six

  Chapter Twenty-seven

  Chapter Twenty-eight

  Chapter Twenty-nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-one

  Chapter Thirty-two

  Chapter Thirty-three

  Chapter Thirty-four

  Part Three: Rubber Bands

  Chapter Thirty-five

  Chapter Thirty-six

  Chapter Thirty-seven

  Chapter Thirty-eight

  Chapter Thirty-nine

  Chapter Forty

  Chapter Forty-one

  Chapter Forty-two

  Chapter Forty-three

  Chapter Forty-four

  Chapter Forty-five

  Chapter Forty-six

  Chapter Forty-seven

  Chapter Forty-eight

  Chapter Forty-nine

  Chapter Fifty

  Chapter Fifty-one

  Chapter Fifty-two

  Chapter Fifty-three

  Chapter Fifty-four

  Chapter Fifty-five

  Chapter Fifty-six

  Chapter Fifty-seven

  Chapter Fifty-eight

  Chapter Fifty-nine

  Chapter Sixty

  Chapter Sixty-one

  Chapter Sixty-two

  Chapter Sixty-three

  Epilogue: The Freeing of the Lobsters

  About the Author

  Credits

  Copyright

  About the Publisher

  UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

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  Prologue: The Freeing of the Lobsters

  If I was good at the grocery store, I got a Yoo-hoo. If I was really good, I got to see the lobsters.

  Today, I was really good.

  My mother left me at the lobster tank in the middle of the main aisle while she went to get Dad’s pork chops from the deli counter. Lobsters fascinated me. Everything from their name to their claws to their magnificent red had me hooked.

  My hair was that red, the kind of red that looks okay on everything but people, because a person’s hair is not supposed to be red. Orange, yes. Auburn, sure.

  But not lobster red.

  I took my pigtails, pressed them against the glass, and stared the nearest lobster straight in the eye.

  Dad said my hair was lobster red. My mother said it was Communist red. I didn’t know what a Communist was, but it didn’t sound good. Even pressing my hair flat against the glass, I couldn’t tell if my dad was right. Part of me didn’t want either of them to be right.

  “Let me out,” said the lobster.

  He always said that. I rubbed my hair against the glass like the tank was a genie’s lamp and the action would stir up some magic. Maybe, somehow, I could get those lobsters out. They looked so sad, all huddled on top of one another, antennae twitching, claws rubber-banded together.

  “Are you buying one?”

  I saw Blue Eyes’s reflection in the glass of the lobster tank before he spoke. Big blue eyes. Blueberry blue. No, that was too dark. Ocean blue. Too green. Blue like all the blue crayons I had, all melted into one.

  The straw I’d jammed down the neck of my Yoo-hoo bottle dangled from my lips.

  “Are you buying one?” he said again. I shook my head. He pushed his glasses up his nose, back into place on his golden-freckled cheeks. The dirty collar of his shirt slipped down to reveal a freckled shoulder. The stench of fish and pond scum clung to him.

  “Did you know fossils of the clawed lobster date back to the Cretaceous?” he asked. I shook my head—I would have to ask Dad what a “Cretaceous” was—and took a long, slurping drink of Yoo-hoo.

  He was staring at me and not the lobster. “Animalia Arthropoda Malacostraca Decapoda Nephropidae,” he said.

  He tripped up a little on the last word, but it didn’t matter since I hadn’t understood anything that had come out of his mouth.

  “I like scientific classification,” he said.

  “I don’t know what that means,” I said.

  He pushed his glasses up again. “Plantae Sapindales Rutaceae Citrus.”

  “I don’t know what that means, either.”

  “You smell like lemons.”

  I felt a flurry of delirious joy because he’d said, “You smell like lemons” instead of “Your hair is red.”

  I knew my hair was red. Everyone could see my hair was red. I did not, however, know that I smelled like fruit.

  “You smell like fish,” I told him.

  He wilted, his freckled cheeks burning. “I know.”

  I looked around for my mother. She was still standing in line at the deli counter and didn’t seem to have any plans to collect me soon. I grabbed his hand. He jumped and stared at the connection like something both magical and dangerous had happened.

  “Do you wanna be friends?” I asked. He looked up and reset his glasses once again.

  “Okay.”

  “Yoo-hoo?” I offered the drink.

  “What’s a Yoo-hoo?”

  I pushed the drink a little closer to his face, in case he hadn’t seen it. He took the bottle and inspected the straw.

  “Mom said I shouldn’t drink after someone else. It’s unsanitary.”

  “But it’s chocolate,” I replied.

  He looked uncertainly at the Yoo-hoo bottle before taking a wimpy sort of sip and shoving the bottle back my way. He
didn’t move for a second, didn’t speak, but, eventually, he leaned over for another drink.

  As it turned out, Blue Eyes knew a lot more than the scientific classifications of plants and animals. He knew everything. He knew the prices of everything in the store. He knew how much it would cost to buy all the lobsters in the lobster tank ($101.68, sales tax not included). He knew the names of presidents and what order they served in. He knew the Roman emperors, which impressed me even more. He knew that the circumference of the Earth was forty thousand kilometers, and that only the male cardinal was bright red.

  But he really knew words.

  Blue Eyes had a word for everything.

  Words like dactylion and brontide and petrichor. Words whose meanings slipped from my grasp like water.

  I didn’t understand most of what he said, but I didn’t mind. He was the first friend I’d ever had. The first real friend.

  Also, I really liked holding his hand.

  “Why do you smell like fish?” I asked him. We walked slowly as we talked, making long circles in the main aisle.

  “I was in a pond,” he said.

  “Why?”

  “I got thrown in.”

  “Why?”

  He shrugged and reached down to scratch at his legs, which were covered in Band-Aids.

  “Why are you hurt?” I asked.

  “Animalia Annelida Hirudinea.”

  The words left his mouth like a curse. His cheeks flared red as he scratched more fervently. His eyes had gone all watery. We stopped at the tank.

  One of the store employees came out from behind the seafood counter and, ignoring us, opened a hatch on top of the lobster tank. With one gloved hand, he reached in and pulled out Mr. Lobster. He closed the hatch and carried the lobster off.

  And I got an idea.

  “Come here.” I pulled Blue Eyes to the back of the tank. He wiped his eyes. I stared at him until he stared back. “Will you help me get the lobsters out?”

  He sniffed. Then he nodded.

  I set my Yoo-hoo bottle on the floor and held my arms up. “Can you lift me?”

  He wrapped his arms around my waist and lifted me. My head shot above the top of the lobster tank, my shoulders level with the hatch. I was a chubby kid and Blue Eyes probably should’ve snapped in half, but he only wobbled a bit, grunting.

  “Just hold still,” I told him.

  The hatch had a handle near the edge. I grabbed it and pulled it open, shivering at the chilly blast of air that whooshed out.

  “What are you doing?” Blue Eyes asked, his voice muffled by his strain and my shirt.

  “Be quiet!” I said, looking around. No one had noticed us yet.

  The lobsters were piled up just below the hatch. I plunged my hand in. Shock raced up my spine from the cold. My fingers closed around the nearest lobster.

  I expected it to thrash its claws and curl and uncurl its tail. But it didn’t. I felt like I was holding a heavy shell. I pulled it out of the water.

  “Thank you,” the lobster said.

  “You’re welcome,” I replied. I dropped it on the ground.

  Blue Eyes stumbled, but didn’t lose his grip on me. The lobster sat there for a moment, then started crawling along the tile.

  I reached in for another. And another. And another. And pretty soon the entire tank of lobsters was crawling across the tile floor of the Meijer supermarket. I didn’t know where they were going, but they seemed to have a pretty good idea. Blue Eyes dropped me with a huff and we both landed in a puddle of cold water. He stared at me, his glasses clinging to the tip of his nose.

  “Do you do this all the time?” he asked.

  “No,” I said. “Just today.”

  He smiled.

  Then the yelling started. Hands grabbed my arms and jerked me to my feet. My mother was shouting at me, pulling me away from the tank. I looked past her. The lobsters were already gone. Freezing water dripped from my arm.

  Blue Eyes still stood in the puddle. He picked up my abandoned Yoo-hoo bottle and waved good-bye. I tried to get my mother to stop, to go back so I could ask him his name.

  She just walked faster.

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  Part One: The Tank

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  Chapter One

  Sometimes I think people take reality for granted.

  I mean like how you can tell the difference between a dream and real life. When you’re in the dream you may not know it, but as soon as you wake up, you know that your dream was a dream and whatever happened in it, good or bad, wasn’t real. Unless we’re in the Matrix, this world is real, and what you do in it is real, and that’s pretty much all you ever need to know.

  People take that for granted.

  For two years after that fateful day in the supermarket, I thought I’d really set the lobsters free. I thought they’d crawled away and found the sea and lived happily ever after. When I turned ten, my mother found out that I thought that I was some kind of lobster savior.

  She also found out all lobsters looked bright red to me.

  First she told me that I hadn’t set any lobsters free. I’d gotten my arm into the tank before she’d appeared to pull me away, embarrassed. Then she explained that lobsters only turn bright red after they are boiled. I didn’t believe her, because to me they had never been any other color. She never mentioned Blue Eyes, and I didn’t need to ask. My first-ever friend was a hallucination: a sparkling entry on my new resume as a crazy person.

  Then my mother had taken me to see a child therapist, and I’d gotten my first real introduction to the word insane.

  Schizophrenia isn’t supposed to manifest until a person’s late teens, at the earliest, but I’d gotten a shot of it at just seven years old. I was diagnosed at thirteen. Paranoid got tacked on about a year later, after I verbally attacked a librarian for trying to hand me propaganda pamphlets for an underground communist force operating out of the basement of the public library. (She’d always been a very suspect type of librarian—I refuse to believe donning rubber gloves to handle books is a normal and accepted practice, and I don’t care what anyone says.)

  My medication helped sometimes. I knew it was working when the world wasn’t as colorful and interesting as it normally was. Like when I could tell the lobsters in the tank were not bright red. Or when I realized that checking my food for tracers was ridiculous (but did it anyway because it calmed the prickle of paranoia on the back of my neck). I also knew it was working when I couldn’t remember things clearly, felt like I hadn’t slept in days, and tried to put my shoes on backward.

  Half the time, the doctors weren’t even sure what the medicine would do. “Well, it should lessen the paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations, but we’ll have to wait and see. Oh, and you’ll probably feel tired sometimes. Drink a lot of fluids, too—you can get dehydrated easily. Also, it could cause a lot of fluctuation in your weight. Really, it’s up in the air.”

  The doctors were oodles of help, but I developed my own system for figuring out what was real and what wasn’t. I took pictures. Over time, the real remained in the photo while the hallucinations faded away. I discovered what sorts of things my mind liked to make up. Like billboards whose occupants wore gas masks and reminded passersby that poison gas from Hitler’s Nazi Germany was still a very real threat.

  I didn’t have the luxury of taking reality for granted. And I wouldn’t say I hated people who did, because that’s just about everyone. I didn’t hate them. They didn’t live in my world.

  But that never stopped me from wishing I lived in theirs.

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  HarperCollins Publishers

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  Chapter Two

  The night before my first day of senior year at East Shoal High School, I sat behind the counter at Finnegan’s diner, my eyes scanning the dark windows for signs of suspicious movement. Normally the paranoia wasn’t so bad. I blamed it on the first-day thing. Getting chased out of the last school was one thing—starting at a new one was something completely different. I’d spent all summer at Finnegan’s trying not to think about it.

  “You know, if Finnegan was here, he’d call you crazy and tell you to get back to work.”

  I spun around. Tucker leaned against the door to the kitchen, hands jammed in the pockets of his apron, grinning at me. I would’ve snapped at him if he weren’t my only informant about East Shoal—and my only friend. Gangly, bespectacled, hair black as an oil slick and always perfectly combed forward, Tucker was a busboy, waiter, and cashier here at Finnegan’s, not to mention the smartest person I’d ever met.

  He didn’t know about me. So his saying that Finnegan would call me crazy was pure coincidence. Finnegan knew, of course; his sister was my latest therapist, the one who’d gotten me this job. But none of the other employees—like Gus, our mute, chain-smoking cook—had any idea, and I planned on keeping it that way.

  “Har har,” I replied, trying to act cool. Beat down the crazy, said the little voice in the back of my head. Don’t let it out, you idiot.

  The only reason I’d taken the job here was because I needed to appear normal. And maybe a little bit because my mother forced me to take it.

  “Any other questions?” Tucker asked, walking over to lean against the counter next to me. “Or is the crusade over?”

  “You mean the inquisition. And yes, it is.” I kept my gaze from wandering back to the windows. “I’ve been in high school for three years already—East Shoal can’t be that much different than Hillpark.”

  Tucker snorted. “East Shoal is different than everywhere. But I guess you’ll find out tomorrow.”

  Tucker was the only person who seemed to think East Shoal wasn’t the perfect place to be. My mother thought a new school was a great idea. My therapist insisted I’d do better there. Dad said it’d be okay, but he sounded like my mother had threatened him, and if he’d been here and not somewhere in Africa he would’ve told me what he really thought.

 
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