Authors: Walter Dean Myers
145th Street: Short Stories
Darnell Rock Reporting
(with John Ballard)
Me, Mop, and the Moondance Kid
The Outside Shot
What They Found
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2014 by Walter Dean Myers
Jacket art copyright © 2014 by Ian Keltie
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Crown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.
Crown and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.
Visit us on the Web!
Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools, visit us at
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Myers, Walter Dean.
On a clear day / Walter Dean Myers.—First edition.
Summary: In 2035, Dahlia Grillo, a sixteen-year-old math whiz, joins with six other American teens traveling to England to meet with groups from around the world in hopes of stopping C8, the companies that control nearly everything for their own benefit.
ISBN 978-0-385-38753-8 (trade) — ISBN 978-0-385-38754-5 (lib. bdg.) — ISBN 978-0-385-38755-2 (ebook) [1. Social action—Fiction. 2. Interpersonal relations—Fiction. 3. England—Fiction. 4. Science fiction.] I. Title.
Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.
he just stopped singing.” Ernesto, María’s husband, was a thin, yellowish man with a wisp of a mustache. He wiped at his face as we sat in the back of his old Ford. “That’s what she liked to do best,” he went on, talking to himself as much as to the rest of us, “singing and sometimes dancing even when there wasn’t any music.”
María Esteban was only thirty-eight when she died. When she stopped singing. She was my cousin and had taken care of me after my mother died. Once we had been close. She had let me do her hair sometimes and laughed when I messed it up. Then we had grown apart, or maybe had both begun to withdraw into ourselves, the way poor people seemed to do more and more. I remembered her
singing as we walked down Fox Street to our little house. I didn’t remember her stopping her songs.
The pickup truck and the three cars that made up the small funeral procession moved slowly down Mosholu Parkway toward Van Cortlandt Park.
“She always used to sing. I should have known,” Ernesto said, more to himself than to anyone else. “I should have known.”
It was getting harder to tell when people were going to die. There weren’t many warning signs. Sometimes a slight cough into a handkerchief, perhaps a distant look in the eyes, but mostly it was just a turning inward. They had simply given up on life. They had forgotten their songs. When I saw someone giving up, I wondered if, one day, I would give up too.
The casket was in the back of the pickup truck. It looked like metal, but I knew it was corrugated cardboard. Around it were a few sad flowers, pictures cut out from religious calendars and framed, and candles. Yes, and signs printed out in Magic Marker that read “Rest in Peace,” or “We Love You, María.”
Old people said that Van Cortlandt Park had been a happy place once. There had been picnics and children playing and families everywhere. I couldn’t imagine it. Now it was just a dreary place, a place where we went to dispose of the dead.
Our little convoy stopped and two men—I thought they were probably from St. Athanasius, María’s church—took the casket from the truck and placed it on the concrete
platform in front of the old band shell. Even before the priest got there, the two men had begun to pour water into the openings at the foot and the head of the casket. Biocremation took only twenty minutes if everything went right. Oxygen-infused potassium hydroxide lined the casket, the water was poured in, and in seconds, the body would begin to decompose. We wanted to honor María Esteban, but no one wanted to be away from our neighborhood for too long. It wasn’t safe.
I had read historical accounts of bodies cremated by burning. It would have been better, I thought. We could have seen the flames rising to the heavens. We could have pretended the body was going to someplace called Heaven.
A priest was praying in Spanish for María’s soul while another man—short, square, baggy pants—held a shotgun as he nervously looked around for any
, roaming gangs who might be in the area.
Then the priest’s prayer was over, and the dead woman’s neighbors were getting into their cars. The city would send their crews to clean up the final remains of my cousin. I watched as tiny birds made black silhouettes against the steel-gray sky.
“Dahlia, it’s time to go.” Alfredo, the owner of the bodega on my corner, spoke softly.
“I’m not going back,” I said impulsively.
“You don’t have any other place to go,” Alfredo answered. He smelled of garlic and tobacco. He put his hand on my shoulder, and I turned away. “Try not to stay out too late. In any case, we’ll wait up for you.”
As the cars rolled away, I saw the mourners’ faces against the glass windows. I knew they would understand how I felt. They would think about me and María as they drove the six miles back to our own little section of
. And I knew they would save my place.
María had been a cousin and a friend. She knew how to touch me, and when to put her arm around my waist and smile at me even when her own life was not going well. More than that. More than that, she knew how not to dig too deep for the truth when the truth wasn’t worth a damn, which was most of the time.
Years ago I read Fanon’s book
The Wretched of the Earth
. Good shit, mostly. We, me, María, everybody in the Bronx, we were the wretched of the earth, wandering through our lives like sheep in a storm, struggling to make sense of what was not sensible. I was feeling sorry for myself.
Good. I liked feeling sorry for myself.
I began to walk without any thought to where I was going. Through my tears, the late-summer light broke up into shards of color that made everything seem unreal. It was almost beautiful. Almost as if that was the way to look at life in 2035.
I felt sorry for María, and for myself. For a wild moment I imagined I was in my own corrugated casket, engulfed in flames. Then I stopped and got mad at myself for going there. I got mad at María, too. She needed to be stronger. She knew that.
I was cold and pulled my sweater tighter across my chest. Looking around, I began to feel fear. Back in my
own community, I was frustrated and lonely. Away from those crumbling tenements, I was open to attack. What would I do if I encountered a group of
wandering through the park? Or Sturmers?
The Sturmers, as they called themselves, were mercenaries who sold out to the highest bidder. They dressed and acted like Nazi storm troopers and even used a variant of
like the German term, for some of their troops. They managed to hate everything and everybody, but they were cruel enough to negotiate through the screwed-up world that the C-8 companies had created.
I turned and headed out of the park, the way the cars from the funeral had gone. I walked quickly. I was cold. It began to rain.
It was dark when I reached Fox Street. The streets were shiny from the rain, and the neon lights reflecting off the black pavement were almost festive. The guards at the gate waved me through. I knew I didn’t have anything at home to eat except wild rice, but all I needed was tea. I walked up the two flights in semidarkness, opened my door, went in quickly, and locked the door behind me.
Hello, yellow walls. Hello, green curtains flapping against the window. Hello, roaches.
I touched my computer screen, navigated to a puzzle, memorized it quickly, and then put the water on for tea. Chai and ginger. It would chase away the cold.
And then I was crying again, and being mad at myself for crying, and glad for the relief it brought me. There was nothing else to do and be sane. I lay across the narrow bed
and closed my eyes, waiting for the sound of the kettle to comfort me.
I was so friggin’ down. My narrow bed seemed even smaller than usual, and there was no position that felt comfortable. The streets outside were quiet except for an occasional truck that rumbled past. I started counting again. I hated the counting, but I did it almost every night. One bed, one dresser, one built-in closet, one chair, one lamp, a table where my computer sat, winking at me, one basin, one sink, one small microwave oven. In the tiny bathroom there was another sink, a john, a medicine cabinet where I kept my toothbrush, baking soda, soap, and flash drives.
Think of something else. I closed my eyes and imagined that I was in the back of the pickup truck. It was slowing, and soon they were lifting me onto the concrete slab where I would be disintegrated. I was glad to have it over with, to move to some other plane. I was glad, but in the stillness of my room, I was crying.
One bed, one dresser, one built-in closet, one chair, one lamp, a table where my computer sat, one basin, one sink, one small microwave oven. In the tiny bathroom there was another sink, a john, a medicine cabinet where I kept my toothbrush, baking soda, soap, and flash …
The window was open slightly, and the coolness of the night air felt delicious as it made the tiny hairs on my ankles stand up. Delicious because it was a feeling. It told me that I was still alive. Barely.
My name is Dahlia Grillo. I am sixteen. There was a time when I looked forward to being seventeen. My mother had me at seventeen, and I thought I would go past that age and become something great, even though I didn’t know what something great could be. Perhaps a math teacher. I liked to imagine myself teaching little kids geometry and watching them discover things about triangles and the relationships between angles. When I was thirteen, and fourteen, and just getting comfortable with my period, I knew I had to be serious about life. But being serious about your life meant getting real with your dreams. Some of my friends wanted to be singers, or actresses, and I didn’t say much about that but I knew it wasn’t going anywhere.