Chapter One: Heaven
In Heaven there are 1,637 steps from my house to the Western Union. You have to walk by a playground and four stores - two clothing, one food, and one hardware coffee shop. After you pass those stores, you cross one street and hop over a deadly looking grate. (I once heard about a man who got struck by lightning while standing on one.) Ten steps past the grate is Ma's Superette.
(If you can't find it at Ma's...she even sells live bait on the side.)
Ma's Superette is open 23 1/2 hours a day. Ma closes it from 4:10 A.M. to 4:40 A.M. every morning. She uses the half hour to pray. At least that's what she says she uses it for. When I said differently one day Pops said I was skeptical and not spiritual at all.
That made me mad 'cause hadn't I put all my allowance in the Salvation Army kettle last winter? Sometimes Pops just doesn't get it. He even said a while ago that because I was just fourteen I didn't understand about life, but I wasn't about to hear that. Sometimes he gets so mad at me, he just shakes his head and mumbles that I'm just like Uncle Jack. Then he tosses the thought away I guess and smiles at me, every time.
Anyway, Ma's was the place you could get nachos and nail polish, Levi's when you needed them, and flip-flops for the summer. I'd already gone through two pair and it's only the middle of June.
Heaven might sound pretty boring to most people, but before I really understood about all my years at the Western Union, it was fine for a girl like me.
I don't get sent to Ma's for bread and milk like most kids, but to wire money. I've been doing it ever since I've been allowed to leave the yard by myself. It's something I thought most kids did. It's something I found out a little further down the road that made me different from every other kid in Heaven.
Copyright © 1998 by Angela Johnson
Excerpted from Heaven by Angela Johnson Copyright © 2000 by Angela Johnson. Excerpted by permission.
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