|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Claire Bloom, CBE, is an English film and stage actress, known for leading roles in plays such as Streetcar Named Desire, A Doll’s House, and Long Day’s Journey into Night, along with nearly sixty films and countless television roles, during a career spanning over six decades. She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2013 Queen’s birthday honors for services to drama.
Hometown:Greensboro, North Carolina
Date of Birth:August 24, 1951
Place of Birth:Richland, Washington
Education:B.A. in theater, Brigham Young University, 1975; M.A. in English, University of Utah, 1981
Read an Excerpt
Ezekiel Blast liked to walk to school alone. Not that he liked anything about going to school. But since he had to go there, and the transportation choices were (1) crowded schoolbus, (2) Dad driving him, and (3) his feet, he chose walking. And since nobody came near him, walking meant walking alone, and he was fine with that.
So he was not thrilled when the short grade-school girl started shadowing him. Apparently one of the routes he took passed near her house, and because (apparently) nobody loved her, she had to walk that last mile on her short legs, taking two steps for every step of his.
She didn't call out for him to wait up. She didn't try to catch up — or if she did, she failed. But each day in that second week of Ezekiel's freshman year at Downy Soft High School, she was waiting on the corner of Blynken and Nod till he passed her. Then she fell in step behind him, each time starting out just a little closer.
This last mile was the part of the daily commute where Ezekiel had no choice of route — between the high-fenced railroad tracks and the Haw Haw River, you could only walk or drive on Winkle Road. This meant that all the walking dead from east of the school had to pass along the road at roughly the same time, and they began to bunch up and greet each other and talk and all those other things that brain-sucking high school students do.
Except Ezekiel. At least twenty yards ahead of him and twenty yards behind him, there was nobody. If it looked to the kids ahead of him like he might be catching up, they'd cross the street. And since they usually made it a point to glare at him as they did it, he could not "chalk it up to coincidence, you narcissistic bonehead," as Dad suggested when this all began back in fifth grade.
"They've all forgotten, so let it go," Dad said. Dad declared with utter certitude so many false things that Ezekiel had stopped trying to point out that since Dad had never seen how they treated Ezekiel, perhaps Ezekiel was the world's foremost expert on Ezekiel Bliss's continuing pariah status, and Dad might temper his conclusions in light of the data he received from the world's foremost expert. As Dad always said, "An expert is just an idiot who used to be pert."
On Monday of week three of the eighth circle of hell, Short Grade-School Girl stepped out just before he reached her lurking spot and fell into step beside him.
That lasted about four seconds, because Ezekiel picked up his pace and she was immediately left behind.
And about ten seconds later, here she was again, only now she was jogging. "I'm actually a pretty good long-distance runner," she said. "And there's almost nothing in my backpack because I do all my homework in the library at school before I walk home. So unless you run, which will make you sweaty and stinky, I can keep up this pace the whole way there."
"Thanks for the warning," said Ezekiel.
He realized at once that this was a mistake. By answering her, he had turned this into a conversation. Why couldn't she have been silent like the rest of the walking dead?
"I have one question," she said.
"The answer is, buzz off," said Ezekiel.
"Are you really a thief?"
He lengthened his stride until he was loping. Again he left her behind. And again, only a few seconds later, she was beside him, flat-out running. "Everybody says you're a thief and that's why they won't have anything to do with you. Is it true?"
"Yes," he said.
"That was a lie," she said.
"It's true that everybody says I'm a thief and that's why they won't have anything to do with me."
"But are they right? Are you a thief?"
Ezekiel abruptly stopped loping and settled down to a normal walking pace. Short Grade-School Girl slowed down, too, and was soon beside him again. She was the first kid who had actually asked him, to his face, and so she had earned an answer. "I never stole anything in my life," said Ezekiel.
"OK, that's the truth," she said. "And it's kind of what I figured, because if everybody says something it's almost always wrong."
"You must have real trouble with gravity."
"Everybody talks about gravity, but nobody knows what it is or how it works, so it's just an empty word."
"I don't talk about gravity," said Ezekiel.
"Because you don't talk to anybody about anything," said Short Grade-School Girl. "I hope you didn't mind my asking you about that."
Ezekiel didn't answer.
"OK, you do mind. You think I was incredibly rude to just blurt it out."
Ezekiel shook his head. He hated it when people assumed they knew what he was thinking. Especially when they got it completely wrong.
"Yeah, OK, I think I was incredibly rude to blurt it out, too. But tell me this, Mister Manners, how else was I going to find out the truth, except by asking the world's foremost expert on whether Ezekiel Bliss is a thief or not?"
World's foremost expert. The very words Ezekiel had used the last time he bothered having an argument with his father. Was he happy that he and Short Grade-School Girl talked alike? That would take some thought. Though he was unlikely to be able to have any thoughts until she stopped talking.
"Wouldn't you rather have me ask you," she said, "than listen to what the idiots are saying?"
"Why do you care whether I'm a thief or not?"
"Because I don't own much, but if I lose any of it, I can't afford to replace it. So if I'm going to walk to school with you, I had to know if I was in danger of you stealing from me."
"Don't walk to school with me."
"You don't own the road."
"I like to walk alone."
"You've already explained that to everybody else and that's why they clear the road for you."
"The walking dead can cross the street to avoid me or not. Since they don't exist, I don't care what they do."
"The walking dead," said Short Grade-School Girl. "I like that. Much better to call them 'the walking dead' than 'idiots.'" "Are you stupid or what?" asked Ezekiel.
"Hard choice, but I'll take 'what,'" she answered.
"You know that I'm the school leper. Why would you walk with me?"
"I'm not walking with you. I'm walking inside your shunning bubble." "Yet you seem to be here talking to me whether I like it or not."
"I'm just relieved to know you speak English," she said.
"Why do you want to share my exile?" he asked.
"Oh come on," she answered. "Are you blind?"
"So you ask questions, but you don't answer them."
"Look at me, Ezekiel Bliss. Who do you think is the biggest target for bullies at Downy High School?"
Ezekiel thought about that. "You'd think they'd be ashamed to pick on somebody your size."
"They're proud to think of new short jokes and new names to call me. And no, I'm not going to list them. Plus, tripping me is great fun because when I hit the ground I make such a tiny little sprawl. And shoving me into the lockers is something even the chess geeks are strong enough to do."
Ezekiel thought for another moment and then slowed down his pace. "All right, you can walk with me."
She also slowed down. "Thank you," she said.
"Am I going too slow now?" he asked.
"No, this is a comfortable speed."
"How about this," said Ezekiel. "You walk inside my 'shunning bubble' and I walk slowly enough that you don't have to run or jog to keep up. But you don't say anything."
"Ever?" she asked.
"You got it."
"Yesterday," said Ezekiel.
"If I had a time machine I wouldn't need you."
Ezekiel said nothing.
"Ezekiel Bliss, why do you think you have a right to control me?"
"I don't," said Ezekiel. "But I have a right to tell you what I wish you would do."
"I'm not your fairy godmother, Ezekiel Bliss."
"If you're going to talk to me — since you have no respect for my deepest, most heartfelt wishes — then please have the decency never to call me by that name."
"What, then? Zeke? Zek? Kiel? Ease? Easy?"
"Ezekiel is fine. But not Bliss."
She was silent for a moment. Ezekiel knew that it was too good to last. "So you have a happy last name, but you don't like it," she said.
"My true last name," said Ezekiel, "is 'Blast.'"
"Ezekiel Blast, I'm glad to know you," she said. "Do you want to know my name?"
"What good would that do me?"
"None," she said. "But I'd rather you think of me by a name than as 'the short girl,' which is what you've been thinking of me as."
"I've been thinking of you as Short Grade-School Girl."
"I'm in tenth grade," she said.
"Give me a break," said Ezekiel. "I would have noticed you in middle school."
"You must have overlooked me," she said, but with a snotty tone that told him it was a joke.
"You transferred in?"
"My mom's job got her assigned here. Managing the Downy branch of Haw River Bank."
"It has branches?"
"Branch. There's the main bank in Haw River, and there's the Downy branch."
"So your mother is, like, a big deal."
"A big deal in the least significant bank in America," said Short Grade-School Girl.
"All right, tell me your name," said Ezekiel.
"Look me up."
"They don't sort the school records by height," said Ezekiel.
"I'm Betty Sorenson, and stop right now, before you make any jokes that involve mispronouncing my name as 'Bitty' or 'Itty-bitty' or 'Biddy' or 'Beddy' or 'Buddy' or 'Bidet.'"
"Wasn't going to use any of those, but thanks for the list."
"Like I told my mom, naming me Betty instead of Elizabeth was the second worst trick she ever played on me."
Ezekiel almost asked what the worst trick was but realized that it probably had something to do with her genes.
"Thanks for letting me walk with you, Ezekiel Blast. I promise I'll say only half the things I think of."
"My guess is that that will still result in a continuous monologue from the corner of Blynken and Nod till we get to the school."
"I'll stop to breathe now and then."
"Not as often and not as long, now that I'm not making you run."
"Very kind of you," she said. "Your scorn is preferable to the public shaming I would be subjected to every day on the school bus."
"You're really in tenth grade?"
"I don't lie."
"Are you old enough for tenth grade?"
"I'm smart enough for college but my mother decided not to push my luck. She needs a few more promotions before she can afford to send me to college."
"Community college is free, isn't it?"
"More than twelve hundred dollars a semester, plus it's too far for me to walk, and even if I were old enough to drive and rich enough to buy a car, I can't reach the pedals or see over the dashboard, so my mom would have to hire, or be, my chauffeur."
"So what's your deal?" asked Ezekiel. "You're incredibly short, but you don't have any of the disproportions that usually go with dwarfism."
She stopped cold.
Ezekiel paused for a moment, then kept on walking.
He thought she had given up on the whole project, but then he heard the pitter patter of little feet.
"You're a jerk," she said.
"Wow, it's worth running really fast in hot weather to tell me something I already know."
"I'm a proportionate dwarf, if it matters so much to you. I don't have achondroplasia, I have growth hormone deficiency and a metabolic disorder so I'll never be a giant but I also will never be fat and if I ever buy a bra bigger than triple-A cup I'll have to stuff it with kleenex."
"You don't know that," said Ezekiel.
"I know what kind of luck I have," she said.
"How old are you?"
"I'm almost fourteen."
"That's old enough to know that if you can ask me a rude question because I'm the world's foremost expert on the topic, I can ask you any damn thing I want about subjects on which you're the world's foremost expert."
"There are dozens of experts who know way more about dwarfism than I do. I met them all one at a time when they examined me."
"And you know more about your body than any of them ever will," said Ezekiel. "You want me to call you Betty?"
"Beth," she said. "If Betty can be a nickname for Elizabeth, then Beth can be a nickname for Betty."
"Beth Sorenson, I'm the thief you chose to walk to school with. And you're the proportionate dwarf that I choose to walk to school with."
She seemed to digest that for a few moments.
"So we're friends?"
Ezekiel shook his head. "Nothing's ever good enough for you, is it." "All right, I won't try to eat lunch with you," she said. "Or help you with your homework."
"Really tenth grade," said Ezekiel, shaking his head. Beth set her face and kept walking in silence.
"So you're some kind of genius," said Ezekiel.
"I'm very good at the subjects they teach in school. Including P.E., which consists of running from one end of the football field to the other. I usually finish first because I actually care about running."
"Meaning that you have nobody to talk with along the way," said Ezekiel.
"I say what I mean," she said icily.
Silence for a dozen more steps.
"That's right, nobody talks to me, and the really nasty girls say things that would make me cry if I were a real live girl instead of a wooden puppet."
"I'm glad you're sticking with your policy of telling the truth."
"And you hate it that nobody will talk to you except the pathetic short thirteen-year-old tenth-grade girl."
"No, I hate it that the pathetic short thirteen-year-old tenth-grade girl won't stop talking."
A longer silence than before.
"Those were your words, not mine," said Ezekiel.
"If we're going to be friends," said Ezekiel, "you have to deal with the things I say, just like I have to deal with the things you say."
"I liked you better as a thief," she said.
"Yeah, I get it," he answered. "But you're the one who decided to travel inside my shunning bubble."
Beth brushed her sleeve across her eyes. "What name do you use on Facebook?" she asked.
Ezekiel looked askance at her.
"OK, right, not on Facebook. Or Twitter or Snapchat or —"
"Not on anything," said Ezekiel.
"No computer access?"
"Of course I have computer access. How else am I going to plagiarize my papers for school?"
"Are you poor, or is your dad working class, or what?"
"My dad's a butcher at the Food Lion here in Downy."
"And your mom?" she asked.
"Dead," said Ezekiel.
"Cancer?" asked Beth.
"Bad driving," said Ezekiel. "Not hers. Guy who hit her got six months in jail. I was four."
"Were you in the car?"
"She wasn't in a car," said Ezekiel. "What about your dad?"
"He's probably alive. Somewhere. Couldn't deal with how tall I wasn't at the age of eight. Or else he found somebody he liked better than Mom. If I ever see him again, I'll ask."
"Now we have shared our deepest pain," said Ezekiel. "Can we please shut up now? For the last fifty yards before we enter Downy Soft High School?"
Beth gave him a chuckle. Which he appreciated because this was the first time he had ever told anybody his private name for the school. Or, for that matter, his true last name. Or what happened to his mother. Or what his dad did for a living. Or anything.
He mostly hated that now he was going to have company — chatty company — every day on the way to school.
But he was also partly looking forward to tomorrow. Because he hadn't realized until this morning how many words he had stored up inside, waiting for somebody to say them to.
Also, because she was talking to him, he hadn't obsessed over all the lost objects he passed today. Seventy-four that had been there every day since the start of school, most of them girls' scrunchies, which apparently fell off their heads at an alarming rate. And three new lost items: a single toddler-size shoe, a hand towel, and a Hot Wheels Batmobile. Without Beth's chatter — and his own decision to respond and even ask questions of his own — he would have spent the walk thinking about how the shoe belonged to a child in a really poor family, who would have a hard time replacing it, and where he could possibly take it so that they would have a chance of getting it back. And imagining how a hand towel might fly out the window of a car, or get ripped off a backyard clothesline by the wind, or get used to pick up a dying pet from the street. And thinking of a child looking and looking for his coolest Hot Wheels, all through the house, all through the yard, never knowing that somehow it ended up in the gutter on Winkle Street a quarter mile from the shared campus of Downy High, Downy Middle, and Howard Coble Elementary.
Of course, he had still thought about all those things, between the bits of chat. But because of his conversation with Beth, he wasn't anxious about them. This was starting out to be a pretty good day.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Lost and Found"
Copyright © 2019 Orson Scott Card.
Excerpted by permission of Blackstone Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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