Tin box on a tar patch
Maybe Mommers and I shouldn't have been surprised; Dwight had told us it was a trailer even before we'd packed our bags. But I had pictured one of those parks—like up on Route 50. I thought trailers were always in trailer parks. I expected a little grass patch out front, daisy-shaped pinwheels stuck into the ground, one of those white shorty fences and a garden gnome.
Dwight crossed traffic and pulled the truck up over the curb. When he stopped, Mommers' head bumped against the window. "What are we doing here?" she asked. I watched Dwight's face for the answer. Dwight is my stepfather. Well, he's really my ex-stepfather since he and Mommers split for good. That was two years ago. (It's best to know right from the beginning that my family is hard to follow—like a road that keeps taking twists and turns.) But Dwight had always told me, there'll be no "ex" between you and me, Addie, girl, and I believed him.
"I said, what are we doing here?" Mommers repeated.
"This is the place," Dwight mumbled.
Mommers sat up. She opened her eyes wide and looked out the front windshield. Then she screamed. "Dwight! You've got to be kidding me! This is the city!"
Dwight leaned away from her—protecting his ear—and in that quiet way he's got about him, he told Mommers, "Come on, Denise. Let's not go over it again. You know this is all I've got left. You can move in here, or go to Jack's place." He slid out of the truck.
Mommers swung her door open so hard it came back at her. She kicked it and it whined on the hinge. "I can't live with Jack!"
She was talking about my grandfather on my father's side. I call him Grandio. That's his grandpa name, which my father taught me to say a long time ago. That's about all my father had time to teach me; he died when I was barely three. I've always kind of felt as if my father gave me Grandio—or tried to anyway—that he left him to me so I'd have as much family as possible. Thing is, he kind of left Grandio to Mommers, too. I've never seen two people who wanted less to do with each other.
"I hate Jack!" Mommers hollered at Dwight. "And I hate you!"
"I know," said Dwight, as if he had accepted that a long time ago.
I unfolded myself from the back of the cab, where I'd been squashed in the little jump seat, and slipped down to the ground. Dwight lifted our bags out of the back of his truck and handed Mommers a key.
"Go in and have a look. We can work on it some if you want," he said. "And the computer is in for you and Addie." He tried to say all this with a hopeful note in his throat—Dwight always did that.
But Mommers threw the key down hard as she could. It hit the ground with a tiny ringing sound like a little chime. "I suppose you want me to overflow with gratitude!" she yelled. "I get a cruddy tin box for a house and a dinosaur for a computer! Lucky me! What about the duplex, Dwight? You could have given me that!"
"The duplex is gone to pay for the house, Denise." Dwight kept his lips in a line. Mommers kicked at her own overstuffed suitcase. Then she said all kinds of other things I won't mention, but boy, did I hear some language.
Dwight walked away from her. That might have seemed mean to anyone who happened to be watching that day, but I didn't really blame him. He had my little sisters to think of—half sisters, that is. They're Dwight's kids. I'm not. (Like I said, my family is full of twists and turns.) He leaned down and gave me a shaky hug. I squeezed him back and swallowed hard. He whispered into my shoulder. "I'm sorry, Addie, girl." Then he looked at me eye to eye and said, "I'll be around—you know that."
I nodded. "And you'll bring Brynna and Katie, right?"
"Of course. As often as I can."
"Then it'll be all right," I said, and I faked a big old smile.
Dwight got back into his truck and raised a hand to wave good-bye. He turned his wheels away from us and with a screech and a lurch, he was outta there.
I stood next to Mommers, both of us looking at the trailer. The thing was dingy and faded. But I could tell that it'd once been the color of sunshine. It was plunked down on a few stacks of cinder blocks at the corner of Freeman's Bridge Road and Nott Street in the city of Schenectady—in the state of New York. It was a busy corner—medium busy, I'd say. The only patch out front was the tarry blacktop bubbling up in the heat of the late summer afternoon. No pinwheels. No garden gnome.
"Can you believe this, Addison?" Mommers said. She stared at the trailer door. "That reprobate."
"Reprobate?" I said. "There's one for my vocabulary book."
"Yeah, Addie. And for the definition, you just write Dwight!"
She fell into a heap and started to cry. I stooped beside Mommers. I gave her shoulder a pat, tried to get her to look at me, but she wouldn't. Then the little flash of silver caught my eye. I reached down and picked up the key.
Excerpted from Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor Copyright © 2008 by Leslie Connor. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.