Chapter no 2

The Lovely Bones

I had earned my status as protecting misfit kids in the cafeteria. When someone taunted Give Saunders for walking like a girl, I would deliver swift vengeance with my foot to the taunter’s less-protected parts. When the boys teased Phoebe Hart for her sizable breasts, I would give a speech on why boob jokes weren’t funny. I had to forget that I too had made lists in the margins of my notebook when Phoebe walked by: Winnebagos, Hoo-has, Johnny Yellows. At the end of my reveries, I sat in the back of the car as my father drove. I was beyond reproach. I would overtake high school in a matter of days, not years, or, inexplicably, earn an Oscar for Best Actress during my junior year. These were my dreams on Earth.

When I first entered heaven I thought everyone saw what I saw. That in everyone’s heaven there were soccer goalposts in the distance and lumbering women throwing shot put and javelin. That all the buildings were like suburban northeast high schools built in the 1960s. Large, squat buildings spread out on dismally landscaped sandy lots, with overhangs and open spaces to make them feel modern. My favorite part was how the colored blocks were turquoise and orange, just like the blocks in Fairfax High. Sometimes, on Earth, I had made my father drive me by Fairfax High so I could imagine myself there.

Following the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades of middle school, high school would have been a fresh start. When I got to Fairfax High I would insist on being called Suzanne. I would wear my hair feathered or up in a bun. I would have a body that the boys wanted and the girls envied, but I’d be so nice on top of it all that they would feel too guilty to do anything but worship me. I liked to think of myself-having reached a sort of queenly

After a few days in heaven, I realized that the javelin-throwers and the shot-putters and the boys who played basketball on the cracked blacktop were all in their own version of heaven. Theirs just fit with mine-didn’t duplicate it precisely, but had a lot of the same things going on inside.

I met Holly, who became my roommate, on the third day. She was sitting on the swing set. (I didn’t question that a high school had swing sets: that’s what made it heaven. And no flat-benched swings-only bucket seats made out of hard black rubber that cradled you and that you could bounce in a bit before swinging.) Holly sat reading a book in a weird alphabet that I associated with the pork-fried rice my father brought home from Hop Fat Kitchen, a place Buckley loved the name of, loved so much he yelled “Hop Fat!” at the top of his lungs. Now I know Vietnamese, and I know that Vietnamese is not what Herman Jade, who owned Hop Fat, was, and that Herman Jade was not Herman Jade’s real name but one he adopted when he came to the U.S. from China. Holly taught me all this.

“Hi,” I said. “My name is Susie.”

Later she would tell me she picked her name from a movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But that day it rolled right off her tongue.

“I’m Holly,” she said. Because she wanted no trace of an accent in her heaven, she had none.

I stared at her black hair. It was shiny like the promises in magazines. “How long have you been here?” I asked.

“Three days.” “Me too.”

I sat down on the swing next to her and twisted my body around and around to tie up the chains. Then I let go and spun until I stopped.

“Do you like it here?” she asked. “No.”

“Me either.” So it began.

We had been given, in our heavens, our simplest dreams. There were no teachers in the school. We never had to go inside except for art class for me and jazz band for Holly. The boys did not pinch our backsides or tell us we smelled; our textbooks were Seventeen and Glamour and Vogue.

And our heavens expanded as our relationship grew. We wanted many of the same things.

Franny, my intake counselor, became our guide. Franny was old enough to be our mother-mid-forties-and it took Holly and me a while to figure out that this had been something we wanted: our mothers.

In Franny’s heaven, she served and was rewarded by results and gratitude. On Earth she had been a social worker for the homeless and destitute. She worked out of a church named Saint Mary’s that served meals to women and children only, and she did everything there from manning the phones to swatting the roaches-karate-chop style. She was shot in the face by a man looking for his wife. Franny walked over to Holly and me on the fifth day. She handed us two Dixie Cups of lime Kool-Aid and we drank. “I’m here to help,” she said.

I looked into her small blue eyes surrounded by laugh lines and told her the truth. “We’re bored.”

Holly was busy trying to reach her tongue out far enough to see if it had turned green.

“What do you want?” Franny asked. “I don’t know,” I said.

“All you have to do is desire it, and if you desire it enough and understand why-really know-it will come.”

It seemed so simple and it was. That’s how Holly and I got our duplex.

I hated our split-level on Earth. I hated my parents’ furniture, and how our house looked out onto another house and another house and another-an echo

of sameness riding up over the hill. Our duplex looked out onto a park, and in the distance, just close enough to know we weren’t alone, but not too close, we could see the lights of other houses.

Eventually I began to desire more. What I found strange was how much I desired to know what I had not known on Earth. I wanted to be allowed to grow up.

“People grow up by living,” I said to Franny. “I want to live.” “That’s out,” she said.

“Can we at least watch the living?” asked Holly. “You already do,” she said,

“I think she means whole lives,” I said, “from beginning to end, to see how they did it. To know the secrets. Then we can pretend better.”

“You won’t experience it,” Franny clarified.

“Thank you, Brain Central,” I said, but our heavens began to grow.

There was the high school still, all the Fairfax architecture, but now there were roads leading out.

“Walk the paths,” Franny said, “and you’ll find what you need.” So that’s when Holly and I set out. Our heaven had an ice cream shop where, when you asked for peppermint stick ice cream, no one ever said, “It’s seasonal”; it had a newspaper where our pictures appeared a lot and made us look important; it had real men in it and beautiful women too, because Holly and I were devoted to fashion magazines. Sometimes Holly seemed like she wasn’t paying attention, and other times she was gone when I went looking for her. That was when she went to a part of heaven we didn’t share. I missed her then, but it was an odd sort of missing because by then I knew the meaning of forever.

I could not have what I wanted most: Mr. Harvey dead and me living. Heaven wasn’t perfect. But I came to believe that if I watched closely, and

desired, I might change the lives of those I loved on Earth. My father was the one who took the phone call on December ninth. It was the beginning of the end. He gave the police my blood type, had to describe the lightness of my skin. They asked him if I had any identifying features. He began to describe my face in detail, getting lost in it. Detective Fenerman let him go on, the next news too horrible to interrupt with. But then he said it: “Mr.

Salmon, we have found only a body part.”

My father stood in the kitchen and a sickening shiver overtook him. How could he tell that to Abigail?

“So you can’t be certain that she’s dead?” he asked. “Nothing is ever certain,” Len Fenerman said.

That was the line my father said to my mother: “Nothing is ever certain.”

For three nights he hadn’t known how to touch my mother or what to say. Before, they had never found themselves broken together. Usually, it was one needing the other but not both needing each other, and so there had been a way, by touching, to borrow from the stronger one’s strength. And they had never understood, as they did now, what the word horror meant.

“Nothing is ever certain,” my mother said, clinging to it as he had hoped she might.

My mother had been the one who knew the meaning of each charm on my bracelet-where we had gotten it and why I liked it. She made a meticulous list of what I’d carried and worn. If found miles away and in isolation along a road, these clues might lead a policeman there to link it to my death.

In my mind I had wavered between the bittersweet joy of seeing my mother name all the things I carried and loved and her futile hope that these things mattered. That a stranger who found a cartoon character eraser or a rock star button would report it to the police.

After Len’s phone call, my father reached out his hand and the two of them sat in the bed together, staring straight in front of them. My mother numbly

clinging to this list of things, my father feeling as if he were entering a dark tunnel. At some point, it began to rain. I could feel them both thinking the same thing then, but neither of them said it. That I was out there somewhere, in the rain. That they hoped I was safe. That I was dry somewhere, and warm.

Neither of them knew who fell asleep first; their bones aching with exhaustion, they drifted off and woke guiltily at the same time. The rain, which had changed several times as the temperature dropped, was now hail, and the sound of it, of small stones of ice hitting the roof above them, woke them together.

They did not speak. They looked at each other in the small light cast from the lamp left on across the room. My mother began to cry, and my father held her, wiped her tears with the pad of his thumbs as they crested her cheekbones, and kissed her very gently on the eyes. I looked away from them then, as they touched. I moved my eyes into the cornfield, seeing if there was anything that in the morning the police might find. The hail bent the stalks and drove all the animals into their holes. Not so deep beneath the earth were the warrens of the wild rabbits T loved, the bunnies that ate the vegetables and flowers in the neighborhood nearby and that sometimes, unwittingly, brought poison home to their dens. Then, inside the earth and so far away from the man or woman who had laced a garden with toxic bait, an entire family of rabbits would curl into themselves and die. On the morning of the tenth, my father poured the Scotch down the kitchen sink.

Lindsey asked him why.

“I’m afraid I might drink it,” he said.

“What was the phone call?” my sister asked. “What phone call?”

“I heard you say that thing you always say about Susie’s smile. About stars exploding.”

“Did I say that?”

“You got kind of goofy. It was a cop, wasn’t it?” “No lies?”

“No lies,” Lindsey agreed.

“They found a body part. It might be Susie’s,” It was a hard sock in the stomach. “What?” “Nothing is ever certain,” my father tried.

Lindsey sat down at the kitchen table. “I’m going to be sick,” she said, “Honey?”

“Dad, I want you to tell me what it was. Which body part, and then I’m going to need to throw up.”

My father got down a large metal mixing bowl. He brought it to the table and placed it near Lindsey before sitting down.

“Okay,” she said. “Tell me.”

“It was an elbow. The Gilberts’ dog found it.” He held her hand and then she threw up, as she had promised, into the shiny silver bowl. Later that morning the weather cleared, and not too far from my house the police roped off the cornfield and began their search. The rain, sleet, snow, and hail melting and mixing had left the ground sodden; still, there was an obvious area where the earth had been freshly manipulated. They began there and dug.

In places, the lab later found, there was a dense concentration of my blood mixed with the dirt, but at the time, the police grew more and more frustrated, plying the cold wet ground and looking for girl.

Along the border of the soccer field, a few of my neighbors kept a respectful distance from the police tape, wondering at the men dressed in heavy blue parkas wielding shovels and rakes like medical tools.

My father and mother remained at home. Lindsey stayed in her room. Buckley was nearby at his friend Nate’s house, where he spent a lot of time these days. They had told him I was on an extended sleepover at Clarissa’s.

I knew where my body was but I could not tell them. I watched and waited to see what they would see. And then, like a thunderbolt, late in the afternoon, a policeman held up his earth-caked fist and shouted.

“Over here!” he said, and the other officers ran to surround him.

The neighbors had gone home except for Mrs. Stead. After conferring around the discovering policeman, Detective Fenerman broke their dark huddle and approached her.

“Mrs. Stead?” he said over the tape that separated them. “Yes.”

“You have a child in the school?” “Yes.”

“Could you come with me, please?”

A young officer led Mrs. Stead under the police tape and over the bumpy, churned-up cornfield to where the rest of the men stood.

“Mrs. Stead,” Len Fenerman said, “does this look familiar?” He held up a paperback copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. “Do they read this at the school?”

“Yes,” she said, her face draining of color as she said the small word. “Do you mind if I ask you …” he began.

“Ninth grade,” she said, looking into Len Fenerman’s slate blue eyes. “Susie’s grade.” She was a therapist and relied on her ability to hear bad news and discuss rationally the difficult details of her patients’ lives, but she found herself leaning into the young policeman who had led her over. I

could feel her wishing that she had gone home when the other neighbors had left, wishing that she was in the living room with her husband, or out in the backyard with her son.

“Who teaches the class?”

“Mrs. Dewitt,” Mrs. Stead said. “The kids find it a real relief after Othello.”


“Yes,” she said, her knowledge of the school suddenly very important right now-all the policemen listening. “Mrs. Dewitt likes to modulate her reading list, and she does a big push right before Christmas with Shakespeare. Then she passes out Harper Lee as a reward. If Susie was carrying around To Kill a Mockingbird it means she must have turned in her paper on Othello already.”

All of this checked out.

The police made calls. I watched the circle widen. Mrs. Dewitt had my paper. Eventually, she sent it back to my parents, unmarked, through the mail. “Thought you would want to have this,” Mrs. Dewitt had written on a note attached to it. “I’m so very very sorry.” Lindsey inherited the paper because it was too painful for my mother to read. “The Ostracized: One Man Alone,” I had called it. Lindsey had suggested “The Ostracized,” and I made up the other half. My sister punched three holes down the side of it and fastened each carefully handwritten page into an empty notebook. She put it in her closet under her Barbie case and the box that held her perfect-condition Raggedy Ann and Andy that I’d envied.

Detective Fenerman called my parents. They had found a schoolbook, they believed, that might have been given to me that last day.

“But it could be anyone’s,” my father said to my mother as they began another restless vigil. “Or she could have dropped it along the way.”

Evidence was mounting, but they refused to believe.

Two days later, on December twelfth, the police found my notes from Mr. Botte’s class. Animals had carried off the notebook from its original burial site-the dirt did not match the surrounding samples, but the graph paper, with its scribbled theories that I could never understand but still dutifully recorded, had been found when a cat knocked down a crow’s nest. Shreds of the paper were laced among the leaves and twigs. The police unbraided the graph paper, along with strips of another kind of paper, thinner and brittle, that had no lines.

The girl who lived in the house where the tree stood recognized some of the handwriting. It was not my writing, but the writing of the boy who had a crush on me: Ray Singh. On his mother’s special rice paper Ray had written me a love note, which I never read. He had tucked it into my notebook during our Wednesday lab. His hand was distinct. When the officers came they had to piece together the scraps of my biology notebook and of Ray Singh s love note.

“Ray is not feeling well,” his mother said when a detective called his house and asked to speak to him. But they found out what they needed from her. Ray nodded to her as she repeated the policeman’s questions to her son. Yes, he had written Susie Salmon a love note. Yes, he had put it in her notebook after Mr. Botte had asked her to collect the pop quiz. Yes, he had called himself the Moor. Ray Singh became the first suspect.

“That sweet boy?” my mother said to my father.

“Ray Singh is nice,” my sister said in a monotone at dinner that night. I watched my family and knew they knew. It was not Ray Singh.

The police descended on his house, leaning heavily on him, insinuating things. They were fueled by the guilt they read into Ray’s dark skin, by the rage they felt at his manner, and by his beautiful yet too exotic and unavailable mother. But Ray had an alibi. A whole host of nations could be called to testify on his behalf. His father, who taught postcolonial history at Penn, had urged his son to represent the teenage experience at a lecture he gave at the International House on the day I died.

At first Ray’s absence from school had been seen as evidence of his guilt, but once the police were presented with a list of forty-five attendees who had seen Ray speak at “Suburbia: The American Experience,” they had to concede his innocence. The police stood outside the Singh house and snapped small twigs from the hedges. It would have been so easy, so magical, their answer literally falling out of the sky from a tree. But rumors spread and, in school, what little headway Ray had made socially was reversed. He began to go home immediately after school.

All this made me crazy. Watching but not being able to steer the police toward the green house so close to my parents, where Mr. Harvey sat carving finials for a gothic dollhouse he was building. He watched the news and scanned the papers, but he wore his own innocence like a comfortable old coat. There had been a riot inside him and now there was calm. I tried to take solace in Holiday, our dog. I missed him in a way I hadn’t yet let myself miss my mother and father, my sister and brother. That way of missing would mean that I had accepted that I would never be with them again; it might sound silly but I didn’t believe it, would not believe it.

Holiday stayed with Lindsey at night, stood by my father each time he answered the door to a new unknown. Gladly partook of any clandestine eating on the part of my mother. Let Buckley pull his tail and ears inside the house of locked doors. There was too much blood in the earth.

On December fifteenth, among the knocks on the door that signaled to my family that they must numb themselves further before opening their house to strangers-the kind but awkward neighbors, the bumbling but cruel reporters – came the one that made my father finally believe.

It was Len Fenerman, who had been so kind to him, and a uniform.

They came inside, by now familiar enough with the house to know that my mother preferred them to come in and say what they had to say in the living room so that my sister and brother would not overhear.

“We’ve found a personal item that we believe to be Susie’s,” Len said. Len was careful. I could see him calculating his words. He made sure to specify so that my parents would be relieved of their first thought-that the police had found my body, that I was, for certain, dead.

“What?” my mother said impatiently. She crossed her arms and braced for another inconsequential detail in which others invested meaning. She was a wall. Notebooks and novels were nothing to her, Her daughter might survive without an arm. A lot of blood was a lot of blood. It was not a body. Jack had said it and she believed: Nothing is ever certain.

But when they held up the evidence bag with my hat inside, something broke in her. The fine wall of leaden crystal that had protected her heart-somehow numbed her into disbelief-shattered.

“The pompom,” Lindsey said. She had crept into the living room from the kitchen. No one had seen her come in but me.

My mother made a sound and reached out her hand. The sound was a metallic squeak, a human-as-machine breaking down, uttering last sounds before the whole engine locks.

“We’ve tested the fibers,” Len said, “It appears whoever accosted Susie used this during the crime.”

“What?” my father asked. He was powerless. He was being told something he could not comprehend.

“As a way to keep her quiet.” “What?”

“It is covered with her saliva,” the uniformed officer, who had been silent until now, volunteered. “He gagged her with it.”

My mother grabbed it out of Len Fenerman’s hands, and the bells she had sewn into the pompom sounded as she landed on her knees. She bent over the hat she had made me.

I saw Lindsey stiffen at the door. Our parents were unrecognizable to her; everything was unrecognizable.

My father led the well-meaning Len Fenerman and the uniformed officer to the front door.

“Mr. Salmon,” Len Fenerman said, “with the amount of blood we’ve found, and the violence I’m afraid it implies, as well as other material evidence we’ve discussed, we must work with the assumption that your daughter has been killed.”

Lindsey overheard what she already knew, had known since five days before, when my father told her about my elbow. My mother began to wail.

“We’ll be working with this as a murder investigation from this point out,” Fenerman said.

“But there is no body,” my father tried.

“All evidence points to your daughter’s death. I’m very sorry.”

The uniformed officer had been staring to the right of my father’s pleading eyes. I wondered if that was something they’d taught him in school. But Len Fenerman met my father’s gaze.

“I’ll call to check in on you later today,” he said.

By the time my father turned back to the living room, he was too devastated to reach out to my mother sitting on the carpet or my sister’s hardened form nearby. He could not let them see him. He mounted the stairs, thinking of Holiday on the rug in the study. He had last seen him there. Into the deep ruff of fur surrounding the dog’s neck, my father would let himself cry. That afternoon the three of them crept forward in silence, as if the sound of footsteps might confirm the news. Nate’s mother knocked on the door to return Buckley. No one answered. She stepped away, knowing something had changed inside the house, which looked exactly like the ones on either side of it. She made herself my brother’s co-conspirator, telling him they would go out for ice cream and ruin his appetite.

At four, my mother and father ended up standing in the same room downstairs. They had come in from opposite doorways. I worried that my sister, left alone, would do something rash. She sat in her room on the old couch my parents had given up on and worked on hardening herself. Take deep breaths and hold them. Try to stay still for longer and longer periods of

time. Make yourself small and like a stone. Curl the edges of yourself up and fold them under where no one can see.

My mother looked at my father: “Mother,” she said, and he nodded his head. He made the phone call to my only living grandparent, my mother’s mother, Grandma Lynn.

My mother told her it was her choice whether she wanted to return to school before Christmas – there was only one week left – but Lindsey chose to go,

On Monday, in homeroom, everyone stared at her as she approached the front of the classroom.

“The principal would like to see you, dear,” Mrs. Dewitt confided in a hush.

My sister did not look at Mrs. Dewitt when she was speaking. She was perfecting the art of talking to someone while looking through them. That was my first clue that something would have to give. Mrs. Dewitt was also the English teacher, but more importantly she was married to Mr. Dewitt, who coached boys’ soccer and had encouraged Lindsey to try out for his team. My sister liked the Dewitts, but that morning she began looking into the eyes of only those people she could fight against.

As she gathered her things, she heard whispers everywhere. She was certain that right before she left the room Danny Clarke had whispered something to Sylvia Henley. Someone had dropped something near the back of the classroom. They did this, she believed, so that on their way to pick it up and back again, they could say a word or two to their neighbor about the dead girl’s sister.

Lindsey walked through the hallways and in and out of the rows of lockers

– dodging anyone who might be near. I wished I could walk with her, mimic the principal and the way he always started out a meeting in the auditorium: “Your principal is your pal with principles! ” I would whine in her ear, cracking her up.

But while she was blessed with empty halls, when she reached the main office she was cursed with the drippy looks of consoling secretaries. No matter. She had prepared herself at home in her bedroom. She was armed to the teeth for any onslaught of sympathy.

“Lindsey,” Principal Caden said, “I received a call from the police this morning. I’m sorry to hear of your loss.”

She looked right at him. It was not so much a look as a laser. “What exactly is my loss?”

Mr. Caden felt he needed to address issues of children’s crises directly. He walked out from behind his desk and ushered Lindsey onto what was commonly referred to by the students as The Sofa. Eventually he would replace The Sofa with two chairs, when politics swept through the school district and told him, “It is not good to have a sofa here-chairs are better.

Sofas send the wrong message.”

Mr. Caden sat on The Sofa and so did my sister. I like to think she was a little thrilled, in that moment, no matter how upset, to be on The Sofa itself. I like to think I hadn’t robbed her of everything.

“We’re here to help in any way we can” Mr. Caden said. He was doing his best.

“I’m fine,” she said.

“Would you like to talk about it?”

“What?” Lindsey asked. She was being what my father called “petulant,” as in, “Susie, don’t speak to me in that petulant tone.”

“Your loss,” he said. He reached out to touch my sister’s knee. His hand was like a brand burning into her.

“I wasn’t aware I had lost anything,” she said, and in a Herculean effort she made the motions of patting her shirt and checking her pockets.

Mr. Caden didn’t know what to say. He had had Vicki Kurtz fall apart in his arms the year before. It had been difficult, yes, but now, in hindsight, Vicki Kurtz and her dead mother seemed an artfully handled crisis. He had led Vicki Kurtz to the couch-no, no, Vicki had just gone right over and sat down on it-he had said, “I’m sorry for your loss,” and Vicki Kurtz had burst like an overinflated balloon. He held her in his arms as she sobbed, and sobbed, and that night he brought his suit to the dry cleaner’s.

But Lindsey Salmon was another thing altogether. She was gifted, one of the twenty students from his school who had been selected for the statewide Gifted Symposium. The only trouble in her file was a slight altercation early in the year when a teacher reprimanded her for bringing obscene literature-Fear of Flying-into the classroom.

“Make her laugh,” I wanted to say to him. “Bring her to a Marx Brothers movie, sit on a fart cushion, show her the boxers you have on with the little devils eating hot dogs on them!” All I could do was talk, but no one on Earth could hear me. The school district made everyone take tests and then decided who was gifted and who was not. I liked to suggest to Lindsey that I was much more pissed off by her hair than by my dumbo status. We had both been born with masses of blond hair, but mine quickly fell out and was replaced with a grudging growth of mousy brown. Lindsey’s stayed and acquired a sort of mythical place. She was the only true blonde in our family.

But once called gifted, it had spurred her on to live up to the name. She locked herself in her bedroom and read big books. When I read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, she read Camus’s Resistance, Rebellion, and Death. She might not have gotten most of it, but she carried it around, and that made people-including teachers-begin to leave her alone.

“What I’m saying, Lindsey, is that we all miss Susie,” Mr. Caden said. She did not respond.

“She was very bright,” he tried. She stared blankly back at him.

“It’s on your shoulders now.” He had no idea what he was saying, but he thought the silence might mean he was getting somewhere. “You’re the only

Salmon girl now.” Nothing.

“You know who came in to see me this morning?” Mr. Caden had held back his big finish, the one he was sure would work. “Mr. Dewitt. He’s considering coaching a girls’ team,” Mr. Caden said. “The idea is all centered around you. He’s watched how good you are, as competitive as his boys, and he thinks other girls would come out if you led the charge. What do you say?”

Inside, my sister’s heart closed like a fist. “I’d say it would be pretty hard to play soccer on the soccer field when it’s approximately twenty feet from where my sister was supposedly murdered. ”

Score! Mr. Caden’s mouth opened and he stared at her. “Anything else?” Lindsey asked.

“No, I …” Mr. Caden reached out his hand again, There was a thread still -a desire to understand. “I want you to know how sorry we are,” he said.

“I’m late for first period,” she said.

In that moment she reminded me of a character in the Westerns my father loved, the ones we watched together on late-night TV. There was always a man who, after he shot his gun, raised the pistol to his lips and blew air across the opening.

Lindsey got up and took the walk out of Principal Caden’s office slow. The walks away were her only rest time. Secretaries were on the other side of the door, teachers were at the front of the class, students in every desk, our parents at home, police coming by. She would not break. I watched her, felt the lines she repeated over and over again in her head. Fine. All of it is fine. I was dead, but that was something that happened all the time – people died. As she left the outer office that day, she appeared to be looking into the eyes of the secretaries, but she was focusing on their misapplied lipstick or two-piece paisley crepe de chine instead.

At home that night she lay on the floor of her room and braced her feet under her bureau. She did ten sets of sit-ups. Then she got into push-up position. Not the girl’s kind. Mr. Dewitt had told her about the kind he had done in the Marines, head-up, or one-handed, clapping between. After she did ten push-ups, she went to her shelf and chose the two heaviest books-her dictionary and a world almanac. She did biceps curls until her arms ached. She focused only on her breathing. The in. The out. I sat in the gazebo in the main square of my heaven (our neighbors, the O’Dwyers, had had a gazebo; I had grown up jealous for one), and watched my sister rage.

Hours before I died, my mother hung on the refrigerator a picture that Buckley had drawn. In the drawing a thick blue line separated the air and ground. In the days that followed I watched my family walk back and forth past that drawing and I became convinced that that thick blue line was a real place-an Inbetween, where heaven’s horizon met Earth’s. I wanted to go there into the cornflower blue of Crayola, the royal, the turquoise, the sky.

On their haunches they sat wailing. Other doors opened then, and women stepped out from where they lived alone or with roommates. I would step outside, Holly would go into an endless encore, the sun going down, and we would dance with the dogs-all of us together. We chased them, they chased us. We circled tail to tail. We wore spotted gowns, flowered gowns, striped gowns, plain. When the moon was high the music would stop. The dancing stopped. We froze.

Mrs. Bethel Utemeyer, the oldest resident of my heaven, would bring out her violin. Holly trod lightly on her horn. They would do a duet. One woman old and silent, one woman not past girl yet. Back and forth, a crazy schizoid solace they’d create.

All the dancers would slowly go inside. The song reverberated until Holly, for a final time, passed the tune over, and Mrs. Utemeyer, quiet, upright, historical, finished with a jig. The house asleep by then; this was my Evensong. Often I found myself desiring simple things and I would get them. Riches in furry packages. Dogs.

Every day in my heaven tiny dogs and big dogs, dogs of every kind, ran through the park outside my room. When I opened the door I saw them fat

and happy, skinny and hairy, lean and hairless even. Pitbulls rolled on their backs, the nipples of the females distended and dark, begging for their pups to come and suckle them, happy in the sun. Bassets tripped over their ears, ambling forward, nudging the rumps of dachshunds, the ankles of greyhounds, and the heads of the Pekingese. And when Holly took her tenor sax, set herself up outside the door that looked onto the park, and played the blues, the hounds all ran to form her chorus.

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