The Color of Absence: 12 Stories about Loss and Hopeby James Howe
"In adolescence we feel our losses as if for the first time, with a greater depth of pain and drama than we are aware of having experienced ever before," says James Howe in his introduction to this stunning collection of short stories in which some of today's most celebrated authors of fiction for young adults explore the many faces of loss - the common/i>
"In adolescence we feel our losses as if for the first time, with a greater depth of pain and drama than we are aware of having experienced ever before," says James Howe in his introduction to this stunning collection of short stories in which some of today's most celebrated authors of fiction for young adults explore the many faces of loss - the common thread they share and the hope that is born through change.
You're Not a Winner Unless Your Picture's in the Paper Avi
Red Seven C.b. Christiansen
Enchanted Night James Howe
Atomic Blue Pieces Angela Johnson
Summer of Love Annette Curtis Klause
The Tin Butterfly Norma Fox Mazer
Season's End Walter Dean Myers
Shoofly Pie Naomi Shihab Nye
The Fire Pond Michael J. rosen
What Are You Good At? Roderick Townley
Chair Virginia Euwer Wolff
The Rialto Jacqueline Woodson and Chris Lynch
- Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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- Edition description:
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.70(d)
- Age Range:
- 12 Years
Read an Excerpt
The Color of Absence12 Stories about Loss and Hope
By James Howe
Simon PulseCopyright © 2003 James Howe
All right reserved.
Annette Curtis Klause
It was the summer of 1967, the Summer of Love, the newspapers called it, and I wandered the streets of San Francisco with the most plentiful source of food around me since the day I'd died. Runaways from all over the country were lured here by the dream of freely offered sex, plentiful drugs, and rock 'n' roll on every corner; and layered over the gray, workaday city was a multicolored party that seemed to exist in a parallel world. I walked that world.
I was almost a happy man, if a three-hundred-year-old vampire could ever be called happy. This is what I call fast food, I thought. These children knew no fear. Strangers were their friends. All they needed was love. They slept in doorways, in the parks, and in "liberated houses" that held dozens. How easy it was to slip in next to a girl drunk on cheap wine and take my own wine from her rich, young veins. It was fortunate that the drugs they imbibed had no effect on me, else I'd have been staggering around half-blind all the time. But my unnatural body screened all chemicals out that didn't nurture it, and in these good times I pissed a red stream of waste maybe twice a week.
Love, love, love. How meaningless it was to me. My own loved ones were centuries dead, and I, forever trapped in-between, frozen in the form of a youth not yet twenty. What did I care of love? The ones I'd loved had always abandoned me or betrayed me. I wouldn't be what I am except for one I loved. Yet, in this city of love, I could go anywhere -- join in parties, hang out at those spontaneous park festivals called be-ins, wander nighttime concerts -- and all welcomed me. If I didn't tell my name, no one pressed me; if I lied, no one cared. I had friends everywhere, and still no one knew who I was. "Who's that pale dude?" I'd hear a boy say as I watched my menu sway to the music, the colored lights dancing on their faces. "What's the name of that cute blond?" a girl would whisper to her friend, winding her fingers in the layers of beads around her neck as if they were in my hair. But they never found out, not even when I sweet-talked one of those yearning girls out under the stars and lulled her into a sparkling silver trance of ecstasy, my fangs firmly planted in her neck. I was gentle with them, let there be no mistake in that, and I tried very hard to leave a drop of life in their veins so they would see the dawn, but I could not make friends with those I hunted -- the thought repelled me. I didn't take the pills they gave me, and I turned down the weed they offered in hand-rolled, smoldering cigarettes. "I prefer to drink," I'd explain if I had to.
But I loved the music. Wild and free, tunes went on and on, meandering out to the moon and beyond. I danced to the throbbing music by myself, arms waving, eyes closed, and pretended to be moved by life. I floated through the laughter, music, and excitement of the night in a dark bubble of my own making, and it was cold inside, very cold, but the less that was known of me, the safer I was. In my stolen bell-bottom jeans and flowered shirts, I looked just like them but I never would be, and I doubted that their precious, shallow love would save me if they knew.
In the day, I had to have my sleep, and in an alley behind a row of shabby Victorian houses, I'd found my den -- an abandoned garage with crumbled gingerbread trim. Perhaps it was a stable once. I covered the windows with old blankets I stole from revelers in the park, and stuffed the chinks in the wood with newspaper to keep out the damaging light. Under the floorboards beneath my bed I kept a suitcase with all that was valuable to me: a meager portion of my native soil, without which I could not sleep, and a painted portrait of those I once held dear. I curled above that suitcase every day, in a deep, sodden coma, too full of rich human blood to bother with the rats that shared my home.
It was there, one misty morning, groggy with the need to sleep off excess, that I found the cat.
It must have squeezed under the ill-fitting doors looking for shelter from the damp night air. Woken by my return, it crouched on my pile of blankets in a dusty corner behind a stack of old tires and stared warily at me.
"Lucky for you I've had my dinner, tabby," I said. "Now off with you."
It should have been scared, animals ran from me, but instead it hissed.
Somehow, the absurdity made me laugh.
My laughter made it crouch lower, and its ears flattened. It edged away, and I saw how skinny it was and weak. For a second I remembered crawling in the forest newly made, starving, and too stunned to know that blood was now my food. Just then, one of the occasional rats chose to make an ill-advised dash across the floor.
I don't know why I did it, curiosity perhaps, but I snatched the squealing rat up. I tore the creature open with my teeth and tossed it near the cat. The cat flinched but didn't run.
"Well, there you are, puss," I said. "Food with your lodging. What are you waiting for?"
Slowly it crept from the shadows and finally sniffed the corpse. I could see then it was female. It didn't take her long to recognize a meal, and she wolfed the rat meat down so fast, I feared she would vomit.
"Steady on," I warned. "I don't care to share my den with cat puke."
When she'd finished I flung the remnants under the door and stuffed the crack with an old coat. Ignoring the cat, I sank to my bed and took my crimson sleep.
The cat shot out the door the next evening as soon as it was opened, not surprising, as she had managed to spend the entire night without soiling the floor. I didn't expect to see her again.
I was wrong.
"Summer of Love" copyright © 2001 by Annette Curtis Klause
Excerpted from The Color of Absence by James Howe Copyright © 2003 by James Howe.
Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
James Howe is the author of more than ninety books for young readers, including the modern classic Bunnicula and its highly popular sequels. In 2001, Howe published The Misfits, the story of four outcast seventh-graders who try to end name-calling in their school. The Misfits is now widely read and studied in middle schools throughout the country, and was the inspiration for the national movement known as No Name-Calling Week (NoNameCallingWeek.org), an event observed by thousands of middle and elementary schools annually. There are three companion novels to The Misfits: Totally Joe (2005), Addie on the Inside (2011), and Also Known as Elvis (2014). Howe’s many other books for children from preschool through teens frequently deal with the acceptance of difference and being true to oneself. Visit him online at JamesHowe.com.
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