If you started to squeeze your brakes right in the middle of heading down Maple Hill, just as you were passing old Mr. Normore's mailbox, you could coast into the bike rack in front of Lippy's Market without making a single tire squeak. That was the fastest way to go, and the most fun too, with the wind whistling past your ears and your stomach getting fluttery and floaty, till you thought maybe you were riding quicker than a rocket.
I didn't do that anymore, though. Now I hopped off my bike at the top of the hill and walked it. It took five times as long but it was lots safer.
I got to the store at 7:58—that's what it said on the clock inside. The door was still locked, and Mr. Lippowitz and his son, Tommy, were flattening cardboard boxes in the corner. Mr. L. saw me peeking through the window and held up two fingers, so I sat down on the front step and waited, trying to soak up the whole two minutes by taking off all my biking gear real slow. I slid off my elbow pads—left one first, then the right—and stacked them on the step next to me in a pile. Next came the kneepads, which I tugged off over my sneakers, and last of all I unsnapped my bike helmet. I thought about taking off the ace bandages around my ankles, too, but then I decided it would take too long to put them back on when I was ready to bike home, and there was no way I was biking without them. They were important for protecting against sprains.
I took so long with my bike gear, I swear Mr. L. could've opened the store twice by the time I was done, but the door was still closed. I stood up and leaned back on my heels and then forward to the tippy-tips of my toes, just for something to do while I was waiting, and I scanned the bulletin board out front to see if there was anything new.
Same as usual, there were papers pinned up all over—advertisements and lost-and-founds, flyers about art lessons and people selling furniture and high school kids looking for babysitting jobs. In the top right corner there was a green one that said YARD SALE SATURDAY—106 KNICKERBOCKER LANE, and I knew that had to be the Harpers next door, because my house was 108. Some of the flyers were brand-new, and some were so old they were brown around the edges from too much sun. My dad once said that if you ever wanted to know what people were up to in Cedar Haven, California, the easiest way was to go down to Lippy's, because then you could learn about everyone all at once.
By the time Mr. L. unlocked the door, it was 8:09, but I didn't tell him that. "Well, if it isn't my best customer!" he said with a grin. "How are you doing today, Annie?"
"Pretty good," I told him. "I checked our house for black widow spiders, and there aren't any."
"Well." His nostrils flared at that. "Good to know."
There was a crash from the back room—not an emergency-sounding shatter like plates breaking, but more like a good long rattle.
"Tommy!" Mr. L. hollered over his shoulder. "What was that?"
Tommy didn't answer.
"Sounded like a whole carton of Good & Plentys to me," I said.
He laughed. "I better go check, huh?"
While Mr. L. checked on Tommy, I wandered around. I knew exactly what I was looking for, but I liked exploring. Lippy's was one of my favorite places to be. Sometimes on Sundays, after Rebecca's family got back from church, we rode our bikes down to get lunch from the warmer. Rebecca got either fried chicken or spiced potato wedges, and I always got beef taquitos. It was four for two dollars, but if Mr. L. was at the register I got a fifth one for free.
I saw right away that Mr. L. had finally stocked up the toy aisle for summer—water balloons and Super Soakers, snorkel masks and plastic sunglasses. He should've gotten that stuff out three weeks ago, because it was already the first day of July and I was sweating worse than a pig in a roller derby. But I guess better late than never, that's what my mom always said. There was a pair of brown-and-pink polka-dotted flip-flops that were just my size, and I wanted them real bad, but there were more important things I needed to spend my money on.
After I finished my wandering, I went to the front, where Mr. L. was reading the newspaper behind the counter.
"Was it Good & Plentys?" I asked him. "Is that what crashed?"
He shook his head. "Junior Mints. You find something worth buying today, Annie?" "Yup." I slapped my purchase on the counter.
Mr. L. looked at the box and then looked back at me. His face was squinty. "Didn't you just buy a box of Band-Aids yesterday?" he asked.
"It was Thursday," I told him, "and I'm out already."
I saw him looking at my arms. I had two Band-Aids on the right one, where Rebecca's hamster had scratched me with its nails, and five on the left one, covering up spots that were either mosquito bites or poison oak, I wasn't sure yet.
He sighed deep. He was looking at me with his eyes big and sad, and a crease between the eyebrows. It was the same look almost everyone had for me now, Miss Kimball at school, my parents' friends, even Rebecca sometimes when she thought I couldn't see her. Everybody on the planet practically had been looking at me the same way since February—sad and worrying, with a bit of pity mixed in at the edges. I guess that was the way people looked at you after your brother died.
I slipped three dollars across the counter toward him. "I get seventeen cents change," I said.
Mr. L. just nodded and rang me up.
Excerpted from Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff Copyright © 2009 by Lisa Graff. Excerpted by permission.
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