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by Michael Cadnum

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504019811
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 09/29/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 197
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

About the Author

Michael Cadnum is the author of 35 books for adults and young adults. His work—which includes thrillers, suspense novels, historical fiction, and books about myths and legends—has been nominated for the National Book Award (The Book of the Lion), the Edgar Award (Calling Home and Breaking the Fall), and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (In a Dark Wood). A former National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellow, he is also the author of award-winning poetry. Seize the Storm (2012) is his most recent novel.
 
Michael Cadnum lives in Albany, California, with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Heat


By Michael Cadnum

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1998 Michael Cadnum
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-1981-1


CHAPTER 1

Someone was saying my name.

I opened one eye and couldn't focus. Light — I could see light. And shapes — human figures. I opened the other eye and blinked, a big effort, like opening and shutting a very heavy garage door.

"She's still not breathing."

It was Miss P's voice. Her words made perfect sense now — someone couldn't breathe. Sunlight slanted through a huge, empty place, an abandoned arena with rows of empty seats. My head shifted to one side. High above the loftiest row of seats a green EXIT caught my gaze and held it. People kept getting in the way, tense onlookers, staring in my direction.

I wanted to tell everyone that I was all right. If I wasn't breathing why wasn't I gasping and thrashing — flopping, like a fish? Why was I blinking my eyes peacefully if there was such an emergency?

Why wasn't I afraid?

Okay, I couldn't breathe. I was lying in a lukewarm puddle, pool water, the smell of chlorine all around. I would say something to make them all feel better in a moment, I promised myself. I would lift my hand, crook my knees.

Miss P turned my head and her fingers worked into my mouth, following the instructions she had taught us but which we had never had to use. Check for obstructions. She took a deep breath. The pleasant warm flavor on my lips was the wild-cherry-flavored lip balm Miss P used, a nervous habit wherever she went, using up tubes of the stuff. I made a gagging sound.

I struggled to sit up, but hands forced me back. I took a ragged gulp of air. A loud, breathy howl, in and out. Air was shrieking in and out of me, and I couldn't get enough.

I coughed hard, and I inhaled again, an ugly noise. "Good, Bonnie, you're doing fine," said Miss P.

I let myself relax back down again to the concrete surface. I was doing fine. I felt uneasily pleased at the compliment, even though I knew. I knew this was a kind of lie, the sort of thing you say when someone isn't doing so well.

Jesus, what happened? A metal door wrenched open and footsteps approached, slap slap slap, fast, to where I was lying, my hands outstretched. The concrete was hard under my elbows, and the swimming pool sloshed in the distance, the filter valves gurgling. I drew breath and exhaled, just to show I could keep this up.

"Bonnie, everything's going to be all right," said another familiar voice, panting, bending over me. "I called 911," Denise added in a different tone, addressing the onlookers. Then, as though I couldn't hear, "I thought she was dead."

Denise looked odd, as people do when you see them sideways or upside down, her eyebrows underneath her eyes, her tight bathing cap giving her forehead a long wrinkle, one of the reasons I hate wearing one.

Miss Petrossian's eyes peered down into me. I felt naked. A swimsuit isn't much more than a second skin, no extra padding, nothing. I opened my mouth to speak and my body jerked, a shocking spasm, like when you drift asleep and wake with a start. I felt my head roll to one side, independent of my will, a large, bony jack-o'-lantern. Warm fluid spilled from my lips.

"That's good!" said Miss Petrossian.

This was probably the first time I had ever been praised for throwing up. My embarrassment sharpened, but I couldn't help thinking, Hey, it was easy.

"Don't move," Miss Petrossian was saying. I struggled, but Miss P held me down again. "Don't," she insisted. I struggled, knocking her arms away with my hands. I sat upright. I was one of those dolls you can snap into different positions, but always dummylike, fake.

"You had an accident," Miss P was saying, her hands on my shoulders so I couldn't climb to my feet. My swimsuit was clammy on me now, a ridge digging into my spine where the straps crisscrossed.

Accident — I associated the word with cars, fender-benders, bad traffic. And with toilet training. I remembered my mother hating it when a friend's toddler had an "accident" in the car. I gave Denise a look, asking her without talking. "You hit your head," she said.

I must have over-rotated entering the water. I did a reverse two-and-a-half somersault, and screwed up on the rip, the entry. The judges would have scored me 4.0 or 4.5 at best, a really bad score, despite a respectable difficulty factor.

No judges today, though. This was training, rep after rep.

I do it every day.

The near silence was wonderful but spooky, the soft slopping sound a pool makes when it breaks over the edge of the pool, guttering in the filter valves. "You were practicing your tucks," Miss P said. "You hit your head on the platform."

I tried to play it through my own mental video, how I was on maybe my twentieth dive of the day, leaping, stretching out. I couldn't remember it.

Fractured skull, I thought. A hematoma in my brain, far from the centers of speech and memory, but close to where the nerves from the spine secrete themselves in the skull.

My swimsuit was icy, everyone standing too close. I hate constriction and never wear goggles, even for laps, preferring bloodshot eyes to the sensation of a strap around my head.

I wanted to call out for everyone to back off, give me some room. It was only Denise and Miss P and a few others, the spring-board divers, and a few wannabes, people in gym shorts. Just a few tanned loiterers and the guy with the video camera, one of Miss P's assistants.

I worked the puzzle logically. This wasn't the quarter finals — there weren't enough people here. This wasn't the invitationals. We must have been practicing, a routine weekday afternoon. I reassured myself that I might throw up again — it was something I knew I could do.

When men in Day-Glo yellow raincoats and black rubber boots swung through the metal door I didn't associate them with me. There must be a blaze somewhere, I thought, being patient with Miss P, giving her a grateful smile. She pressed a rolled-up towel against the back of my head hurting something back there, a gash.

A woman in a yellow plastic vest stenciled OFD swung a suitcase down beside me. She unfastened a strap. She got a red tank out of the canvas bag, the white-lettered 0 Pack sagging inward, the taste of rubber filling my mouth, and an empty, neutral wind, not at all refreshing or pleasant. I shook my head, but she pressed in with the rubber mask. I had seen athletes on TV sucking oxygen like it was pure, crisp mountain air, and here it was just so much neutral gas. I can quit diving. I don't have to do it anymore.

I put the thought out of my head. Miss P was giving the paramedics a rundown, pointing up at the ten-meter platform. And I could see the emergency crew gawk up at the platform, thirty-three feet up, stainless steel rails gleaming, and then look down at me. I felt a little pride mixed in with my self-consciousness. I could see in their eyes that they wouldn't like to take flight off a diving platform taller than a third-story balcony.

I put my fingers to my forehead. I was a mess, blood all over my front, only you couldn't see it against the black nylon-and-Lycra-blend swimsuit. I was going to have some awful injury, a big shaved place on my head, and bruising. Or worse. My face would be blue and swollen when my dad got back from his honeymoon in Maui. His new wife, a person I had never actually met, would look at me and feel that she had to be especially kind, and stifle her shock — she had not heard that I was disfigured.

CHAPTER 2

"I can walk," I protested. They cinched me tight into the stretcher with three gray straps that squeezed me into sections.

"We're going to roll you along outside," said the O Pack woman, and that's just what they did, and if anything made me feel queasy it was rolling so fast, watching the odd light the Olympic-size pool gives to the place, muted glitter on the walls.

Sunlight, and the freshness of outdoors, juniper leaves and wet grass, a sprinkler chattering far away. "They're just worried about lawsuits," said Miss P, running to keep up. "If you get up and fall and — hurt yourself." If you fall and crack your head again, she nearly said.

She was aware that I knew all about legal proceedings, my dad being a lawyer who sued companies for constructing buildings that fell apart. But I could hear the lie in her voice, pretending I wasn't really badly hurt. We both knew that you don't let a concussed individual get up and walk around. They were rushing things as it was, transporting me in a stretcher — you were supposed to use cold compresses and let the victim lie still.

The Lloyd-Fairhill Academy campus was summer-quiet, a few seagulls settling on the eaves of the computer lab. One of the janitors, good-looking, with dark glasses and a mustache, watched me go by. My hair was sticky with blood, and the stuff was drying on my face — I could feel it like an avocado-and-yucca-butter facial clay left on too long. They jostled me up the stairs to the main street and huffed along, not in very good shape for a crew that was supposed to keep people from dying.

"This isn't necessary," I said, feeling a little sorry for them — they should watch their fat intake and ease off on the Twinkies.

I felt the antiseptic pad under my head growing sodden, and the words came out weak.


When an ambulance screams past you on the street you think: How exciting, or frightening, or reassuring it must be to occupy such a vehicle, traffic jerking this way and that, getting out of the way. You imagine the ride having an emotional rush, chilling or heartwarming.

But it's disorienting. You lie on your back and the electronic weep weep of the siren sounds like a warning that has nothing to do with you or your future. I lay there strapped in, trying to figure out where we were by the shifting shadows on the ceiling, down Lincoln Avenue, up past the doughnut shop on Fruitvale, guessing. I only knew for sure when I felt the long whine of the engine as it accelerated up the on ramp onto 580.


You start a dive by making yourself as tall as possible, giving your body the optimum centrifugal force, and then you want to curl as tight as you can, spinning. I could not remember it. I could not remember the fall, toppling out of sync, my body not a projectile any more, not graceful, no magic in it at all, tumbling. I must have fallen in sideways, and Miss P must have hauled me off the bottom of the pool.


A gentle hand wiped the dried soup off my face. "Let's sit you up," said the doctor after shining a light into my eyes, the inside of my eyeballs illuminated, caverns of black and red veins. The cushioned table was covered with white, crinkly paper that crumpled even more every time I shifted.

The doctor used a pair of scissors. I keep my hair short, pulled back and fastened with a bolo band. He worked the band out of my hair, and I heard the whisper of the refuse-bin door as he disposed of the crusty thong. The scissors made a bright, loud snip snip, right up against the bone of my skull. I let him attend the back of my head with the sort of bowed head and stubborn patience I associate with a dog at an animal hospital, hating every moment but surrendering to the unfathomable wisdom of his masters.

I was wearing a ridiculous hospital gown, with the back gaping, a towel over my shoulders. "This is very nice," said the doctor, exactly the way a teacher compliments a student in freehand drawing. "Scalp wounds are so often not as bad as they look."

He was older than I expected, tufts of white hair at his temples, not one of the new interns who practice how to be doctors, probing livers for .38 slugs.

"I'm not bad at sewing up heads," he said with a smile almost as good as my dad's, warm, kind, twinkly. He produced a small electric razor from the pocket of his white coat. He caught the look in my eyes and said, "I need to trim just a wee bit more." He sprinkled a few stiff curls he had already snipped into my hand, to reassure me.

My dad's new wife would take one look at me and figure I had ringworm. I had seen Cindy at a distance, getting out of her car, waiting for an elevator, a briefcase under each arm bulging with paperwork. She was pretty, in a quick, bright-eyed way. I didn't want to disappoint my father and show up with mange, and when I competed in Sacramento I'd have to wear a bathing cap so the judges wouldn't nudge each other and whisper, "What's the matter with her head?"

He flicked on the little gray razor and the buzzing resonated throughout my body.

"It's only blood, though," I said, trying to sound confident.

"Don't worry, Bonnie. There isn't any cranial fluid leaking out." He said cranial fluid with a little extra emphasis, one of those older guys who talk to teenage girls like they are objects of amusement.

My mother didn't drive nearly as well as she thought she did, and I dreaded the thought of her careening down from upper Broadway. I asked when I could go home, but he wasn't listening, finished with clearing a patch around my cut. A small clearing, a meadow no bigger than two fingers wide, as I discovered when I felt up across my head, gingerly, carefully. He plucked my fingers away with a little laugh of impatience.

The trash bin in the corner was labeled BIO-HAZARD, red letters. An icy spray misted the back of my head, and then I felt creepy little tugs, minute tightening pinches as he sutured my scalp.

"I'm training for the Cal Expo Invitational," I said. "Next week." The actual water-sports season runs late winter through spring, but there were plenty of exhibitions to keep us busy.

"Next week," he echoed, only half listening.

I couldn't tell him that the academy had the only swimming/diving team in Alameda County invited to the competition. I couldn't tell him that I had begun to have fantasies, Goodwill Games, Olympic trials. My seventeenth birthday was in three weeks, and when she was my age my mother had held a state record for the women's hundred-meter freestyle.

"My wife and I love watching gymnastics," he said.

"I'm a diver," I said, trying not to sound annoyed. One thing I always make clear is how I disdain gymnastics, how little skill and courage it takes to prance the parallel bars compared with the elegance and mental clarity of the dive. Still, it didn't seem right to get smart with a man sewing up my head.

"Of course you are, a diver," he said, a man humoring a precocious child. "We'll have a neurologist do a workup a little later on," he said. "I have two sons," he said, stepping back to examine me from distance with the look a sculptor gives clay. "I always wished I'd had a daughter," he added. It is almost embarrassing the way adults confide in me. I wonder why, and Rowan tells me I have that look, someone they can talk to.

"There might be some discomfort," he said.

When I practice medicine, I will say pain when that's what I mean.

"I'll see you get medication," he said, and I did feel a stab of compassion for him, a kind man, spending his nights watching Olympic highlights on video. As the daughterless doctor made his way outside, he whisked aside a curtain, a magician who was gradually getting a feel for his act.

My mother blinked against the sight of me perched there on the examination table, but then got her strength together and hurried to my side. But her hug stopped halfway; she didn't want to risk crushing the delicate eggshell of my head. She took one of my arms instead, squeezing it hard.

She said it would be all right, and her voice was tight with emotion. "Who's minding the shop?" I said, using a paper tissue on my eyes.

People love working for Mom, and she has a crew of efficient, self-effacing plant lovers. Mom's exotic flowers end up in Architectural Digest, on Mr. Mel Gibson's coffee table. Mom was wearing a green coat much like the one the doctor had been wearing, except that it looked good on her, tucked in at the waist. A yellow, custom-stitched Green Heaven decorated her breast pocket.

"They want to keep you overnight," she said.

Paralysis, I thought. I heard myself say that there was nothing wrong with me.

"A nice private room," she said.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Heat by Michael Cadnum. Copyright © 1998 Michael Cadnum. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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.

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Heat 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book!!! It was very well written and descriptive. There is also a great moral about overcoming your fears (even the scariest ones!!) and standing up for what you believe in. I really enjoyed this book and I recommend that everyone read it!!! :'