Care Factor Zero

Care Factor Zero

by Margaret Clark
Nobody gets close enough to earn her trust.  Larceny makes sure of that.  Yet deep down, she's afraid of the voices that bring with them a wild consuming rage, a killing rage that drove her to the streets in the first place.  She's afraid of being betrayed by the only person she's been able to trust—herself.Larceny Leyton is a wild


Nobody gets close enough to earn her trust.  Larceny makes sure of that.  Yet deep down, she's afraid of the voices that bring with them a wild consuming rage, a killing rage that drove her to the streets in the first place.  She's afraid of being betrayed by the only person she's been able to trust—herself.Larceny Leyton is a wild child—-tough, smart, willful, and proud. Like so many others, she wears her attitude like armor.

"Trust" isn't a word in Larceny's dictionary. It means opening up and taking the risk that you'll be hurt. Truth and dare.

Nobody gets close enough to earn her trust. Larceny makes sure of that. Yet deep down, she's afraid of the voices that bring with them a wild consuming rage, a killing rage that drove her to the streets in the first place. She's afraid of being betrayed by the only person she's been able to trust—-herself.

Author Biography: MARGARET CLARK has many books to her credit in her native Australia. Care Factor Zero was inspired by her work in an alcohol and drug center. Ms. Clark lives in Australia.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Stilted dialogue and disconnected plotting lessen the impact of Australian writer Clark's novel about a teenage runaway. Larceny Leyton hears voices that tell her to hurt people, and she attacks a man during one of these episodes. Thinking she's killed him, she flees for Melbourne, where she encounters a variety of people she's willing to use for a hot meal or a shower. Finally, near the end of the novel, Larceny forms a bond with a saintly social worker named Kaz, who ignites in the protagonist the will to start putting her life together. Unfortunately, most of the dialogue feels cliched ("Where are you from?" asks Bex, another homeless teen; "Everywhere and nowhere," answers Larceny), though Clark develops some intriguing characters, such as Lynx, a mixed-raced orphan adopted by a rich white family, who feels alienated from his true identity and takes to the streets. Readers may be bothered by the sudden disappearance of Larceny's voices, and the plot takes such strange turns (e.g., a scene in which Larceny has tea with an eccentric man who tells her that he is Jesus Christ) that the twists detract from the main thrust of the novel. Graphic descriptions and the sophisticated subject matter make this best suited for teenagers. Ages 9-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|

Product Details

HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.02(w) x 6.98(h) x 0.55(d)
Age Range:
9 - 11 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The baby cried, a Pitiful, plaintive Sound in the small flat.

"What's wrong with the kid now?" groaned Danny, his head splitting and his tongue feeling like he'd chewed the neighbor's cat.

"I dunno. Probably hungry."

Tess snuggled farther into the pillow, pulling the covers over her head. Danny opened a bleary eye and looked at her, or rather at the red tufts of spiky hair sticking out like a scrubbing brush.

I'm sleepin' with a scrubber, he thought fleetingly, then felt a pang of guilt, because he and Tess were an item. They had Larceny, their beautiful baby, who was now bawling her eyes out. He poked Tess hard in the ribs.

"Fix her up."

"You. It's your kid, too."

"Do it!"

He gave her a harder jab, then suddenly pushed her violently in the back as she curled away from him. The baby yelled louder as Tess swore and landed on the floor with a thump.

"Pig! I don't feel well."

"Just feed the kid, will ya?"

Tess staggered over to the carry cot and lifted Larceny out.

"God, she stinks."

Roughly she took the screaming baby through to the kitchen table, pushing a load of empty take-out boxes, beer bottles, and overflowing ashtrays out of the way as she dumped the baby down.

"Where's her diapers, Danny?"

"I dunno. In the corner."

"The packet's empty. There's none left."

"Okay, so there's none left. Use a towel or somethin'. Only feed her first, will ya?"

Holding the baby like a sack of spuds under one arm, Tess staggered across the kitchen, opened the fridge, found a half-empty bottle of formula, and shoved it into Larceny's mouth. There wassilence as the hungry baby sucked greedily at the cold milk. Danny propped himself on an elbow and focused on the pair.

"Aren't you s'posed to warm that milk?"

"Yeah, well, she's drinking it, isn't she?"

The baby finished in record time. Tess thumped her on the back vigorously, nodded with satisfaction when there was a loud burp, put the baby back on the table, and took off the soiled diaper,

"Yuck. She's all red."

"Put on some powder, then, fix her up and come back to bed." Danny's voice had deepened with desire as he watched Tess moving round dressed only in a rather grubby T-shirt that just covered her bum.

"Don't get ideas," she said, putting the baby, now swaddled in a towel, back into the carry basket. "I'm not in the mood. I've got a pain in my guts and in my head."

"You've always got a pain in your guts. Or a headache. Or you're too tired."

"I wasn't too tired last night."

"Yeah? I was too wasted to remember. Come on, over here."

"No. I'm going in to Emergency. I feel bad, Danny. You'll have to mind the kid." Her green eyes had clouded over, and she was lost again in her own miserable world.

Danny fell back against the pillows and sighed. Tess was always moaning about some part of her anatomy. She was still wearing a dirty bandage around her wrist because she was sure she'd sprained it when she fell down a flight of steps coming out of JoJo's, and she was sure she had some terminal disease, AIDS, leprosy, you name it.

At first when she'd got pregnant it had been a big mess. Her old man had raised the roof, said she'd behaved like a slut, belted her, and chucked her out. They couldn't go to her mother because she was living somewhere in Sydney and didn't want to know Tess anyway. Or so Tess said. They couldn't go to his old man's because he liked little kids too much, which was why Danny had done a runner five years ago. So they'd rocked on into Social Security and spun some shit.

Welfare had found them this flat, the kid had popped out, and everything had been great. For a while. Donations of the carry cot, pram, baby clothes, food, and furniture had rolled in from the Salvos. The flat looked great. People in the street would stop and admire Larceny in her pale pink clothes or bright trendy gear.

"What's her name?" everyone would ask.



"Felonious taking away of another's personal goods with intent to convert them into one's own use." Danny and Tess would recite with a grin. They'd both heard the phrase often enough in Juvenile court. It had a nice ring to it. Larceny. Original. They were both sure that there wasn't another kid in the country called Larceny.

At first Tess had been rapt to have the kid to care for: She said it made her feel important. But lately she'd been moaning about feeling bad, her head always ached, her guts ached, the place was a dump because she never cleaned it, the baby kept bawling, and life was one big bummer. Last night they'd taken Larceny in her carry cot to a party and both got drunk out of their brains. They'd smoked a lot of dope, too. It always seemed to make Tess morbid. Danny could vaguely remember his maniac mate Tarri driving them home.

He blinked and looked round the flat. Clothes were piled in the corners, shoes were scattered everywhere, and the three cats which Tess had adopted and kept feeding scraps were asleep on the clothes. It had looked great when they'd first moved in, with the two fat armchairs and a sofa, a small TV, the double bed with its bright floral cover in their bedroom, and the kitchen with their teak laminate table, black-vinyl-covered chairs with the tubular legs, fridge, and stove. Playing house, that's what they'd been doing, but it hadn't lasted long. Carting a baby all over the place was boring, and the time they'd left it home the neighbors had called the cops because Larceny had bawled and bawled, and the cops had called Welfare, and Welfare had said, "One more chance."

"No appropriate role models," Danny had heard the social worker say to the cop. "What can you expect?"

"What's all this crap about role models?" he'd said to Tess later on, when they were watching TV "We've got the kid, we're looking after her, she's guzzling milk by the quart and growing like a weed, what do they want?"

"I dunno."

Tess had stared at the TV screen with a fixed expression on her face. She always seemed to do a runner into her own brain whenever things got too hard. And lately she'd been getting worse�

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