Where People Like Us Live

Where People Like Us Live

by Patricia Cumbie

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061957543
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/16/2009
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 176
File size: 226 KB
Age Range: 13 Years

About the Author

Patricia Cumbie's writing has been published in many literary journals, and she was nominated for inclusion in the Best New American Voices anthology. She is the recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board grant and was a finalist for the Rona Jaffe Award. Where People Like Us Live is her first novel. She lives in Minnesota.

Read an Excerpt

Where People Like Us Live

Chapter One

She knocks on our door, but before anyone can answer it, she lets herself in. Our screen door opens, and a set of matching red toenails and fingernails appears as she moves her body through the door. She stands there expecting to be greeted like some kind of royalty.

Her eyes flash when she looks at me, as if I'd said something about her to someone and she had come over to knock me out.

I hope she isn't looking at anything in our living room. Our couch slumps in the middle, nothing matches, and the floors are a deep and dull brown from years of grime. Daddy made the end tables from wood he salvaged. Ma loves them and worries about their getting scratched every time we move.

I have on flip-flops and try not to act clumsy when I stand up even though the tips of my toes feel numb when I walk toward her. I don't know why, but right then and there I want her to like me.

Ma gives her a once-over before she says, "What's your name, young lady?" Young lady. That's Ma. Ma is normally nice, but if she doesn't take to you, you are dead, or nearly.

The girl looks at me as if to say, "Call off the dogs." She seems light-years older than I am, and I wonder if she's going to be a junior or senior and end up befriending Rita instead of me. "I'm Angie," she says. "Angie Bonar." Two beats later she adds, "Your house smells like lemons, ma'am."

Ma had been dusting with Lemon Pledge, a product made in this town.

"Well, pleased to meet you, Angie. I'm Mrs. Gilbert, and this is Libby. Libby Gilbert." Ma's tone is cold. I tell the girl we should go outside. I hold thescreen door open for her.

When we get outside, Angie tells me we need to vamos. She is taking me to the tracks.

"You've been here a week already." So she's been watching me. There is a pinched look to her that makes her face seem triangular and sharp. Her hair, long and light brown, is held back with a barrette at the top. Close up, Angie smells like soap and something salty. I tell her I'm not allowed. As soon as I say it, I want to take it back. I'll be going to high school this fall. I should be breaking the rules.

She says, "Nobody's allowed—so what?"

I don't look behind me or say anything to Ma. I slap my flip-flops down the crumbling sidewalk toward who knows what. As we walk the four blocks to the railroad tracks, I shrug off my mother's attitude. Isn't this what Daddy says moving is about? Opportunities. A chance to meet different people.

I ask Angie about how things work around here. She says Rubberville isn't a real place on the map; it's what people refer to when they mean our part of town; it's the nickname of a factory that was once here. There are boundaries in Rubberville: the tracks, the factories, the corner grocer, and the block near the sewer pipe shortcut. Lake Michigan is close, but not close enough. Angie's been living here as long as she can remember.

"As far back as the Phoenicians," she says.

"Who are they?"

"None of your business." Angie leaves it at that.

We pass the corner store, and Angie says a perfect pervert runs it; I need to be on the lookout when I go in. I look down when she says the word "pervert."

There's always someone in every neighborhood with loads of faith that it should be better, someone who puts out the reindeer or lucky elf statues, potted plants, and shiny pinwheels on sticks. That person in Rubberville is Mr. Ramirez, our neighbor, the one with the Foxy Lady van.

The day we moved in, Ma and Daddy argued about asking him to move it. The van has a beautiful Spanish lady's face painted on it. Sparkly letters in a script that looks puffy, like they were written with shaving cream, say "Foxy Lady." When I looked at it that first day, I got a sensation in my throat. Something about that face.

At the tracks I see thorny wild roses, bushes, rocks. Angie says the gravel is for throwing. Good for perfecting your aim. I pick up a little rock and watch it drop. Angie shows me the exact spot under the tracks where there's a sewer pipe big enough to walk through. That's the shortcut to take to school in the fall. She points into the distance at a brick building that looks almost like a castle. That is the parts factory.

"What grade are you anyway?" Angie asks.

I don't want to tell Angie I'm only going into ninth, that I'm not quite fifteen, but I tell her the truth. When she says, "Oh, yeah? Me too," I suddenly feel so much better, even though it's really hard to believe we're the same age.

Angie tells me that when people go to the bathroom on the train, it falls right out onto the tracks, number two and everything. I tell Angie there ought to be some law against that. She agrees. But in the meantime watch where you step. Keep your shoes on and you won't get lockjaw.

As we head down the embankment toward the sewer, she explains about her family. She's got an older brother, Frankie, a mother, and a stepdad. Kevin. I saw Kevin a week ago, the day we moved in. That day Angie was standing out in her front yard across the street from us. As she watched my family move in, Kevin walked up next to her and put his arm around her shoulder. He wore a leather vest without a shirt on and a pair of faded jeans. He had a headful of brown curly hair. He was barefoot. He squinted across the street at me to see what she was looking at. She looked up at him, just for a second, like she wanted to punch him in the stomach, like his touch on her shoulder was adding another five degrees to her temperature. That look stopped me from going over to her to say hello. Stopped me cold.

Where People Like Us Live. Copyright © by Patricia Cumbie. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Where People Like Us Live 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
MrsHillReads on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This book has a creepy (as in uncomfortable, not scarey) factor that will be appealing to teenage girl readers. Like Libby, everyone wants to belong...to have a good friend--what price do you pay to keep a friend?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
What would you do if you saw something that you shouldn't have?

If you tell, then you might lose your best friend, but if you don't tell, then your best friend could be in deep trouble.

This is the problem facing Libby. Her family has moved to Rubberville, a bleak factory town in Wisconsin. This is normal for Libby, since her family moves all the time. Libby is hoping that her father will find what he is looking for and will stay and put down roots.

The first week in Rubberville, Libby meets Angie. They become fast friends, except for the big secret that Angie is hiding.

I think that this book was very well-written and it made me think about the time my daughter had to tell about some scary things that her best friend was doing to herself. She had a hard time deciding what to do, but in the end did the right thing and helped her friend. Her friend was mad at the time, but within a couple of weeks they were best friends again.

Friendship requires responsibility and sometimes it can be very hard and complicated. I would especially recommend this book to book clubs, because after it is read I believe it should be discussed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago