PITY ISN'T AN OPTION is her debut novel.
|The photo that set the mood for the scene|
There’s a small wad of ugly, gray fuzz with googly eyes glued to the top of it, perched at an odd angle atop my mailbox. Which means Jonas is waiting for me nearby, so I look up the hill, past Gran’s house. Something’s moving off behind her back fence, heading up the path. The sun is nearly down, but I have a few minutes.
Instead of finding Jonas behind the fence, however, I find a second fuzzball man. This one’s wearing a little paper hat made out of a clip from our local newspaper, the Wanless Wanderer. The hat is in the shape of flags you see sometimes on toothpicks, cut from some sort of recent picture because it looks as though he has two eyes sitting on the top of his head. It’s a little bigger than what I can remember as an average-sized cherry. A perfect size for the big ball of lint, if I do say so myself. I try to remember how much heavier a cherry is as I nestle Mr. Fuzzy carefully in my palm and walk up the Norton’s driveway. My mouth puckers. This food imagining needs to stop, I think, as my stomach growls. And right before I knock, a psssstt! sounds loudly somewhere off to my right.
Jonas is at the mountain line, hiding behind a tree where the hills begin, next to his parents’ ancient, now used as a storage unit for who-knows-what, falling-apart camper. He’s curving a finger in the air, motioning at me; tiny little birds fly in and out of the tree as I rush over.
“Shhh.” He puts a finger to his lips, and waves me even closer. I’m almost taken aback by how flushed his face his, how his dark hair is all over the place as though he took a shower and let it dry without using a comb or his fingers to tame it. Wood. Something deep and woodsy enters my nostrils. Sap, maybe? I look him up and down. Was he messing around in the Sequoias or something? “They’re having another meeting at Neal’s right now.” He whispers. “It’s been going on for like, forever.” He pokes a few waves away from his eyes with a finger, then grabs my sleeve and pulls me around to the other side of the camper.
“Do you think… It’s my dad?” I start. For some reason, I can’t bring myself to say anything else.
“Oh, he’s there, all right.” Jonas nods. “And pretty much every other man still in town.”
“Do you know what’s going on?”
“No, not exactly,” He motions me closer. We’re only inches away from each other now, and I feel a chill shoot down my spine as he whispers, “But it must be something big. Not a single one of them talked to each other the whole walk over there. Something’s going down.”
“Maybe they heard you following them, and didn’t want you to know what was happening.”
“Nah.” He shrugs, pulling away a little. “I stayed over there where the creek forks, behind Neal’s old Lodgepole. Nobody saw me. Just person after person kept walking by… in absolute silence.” He glances behind me, toward the house. “It was kind of eerie.”
“Do you think,” I dare to let myself wonder, “Maybe they’ve heard about the missing people?”
Jonas scratches his head. From where I’m standing, I can see through his eyelashes. “Honestly? No. I think whatever they’re all getting together for—in the daylight, in front of everyone—is something way bigger.”
“And the weird thing is, your dad was the last one to get there—he came alone about an hour later.”
Suddenly, I don’t want to know about it any more. I don’t want to think about my dad, don’t want to know anything else about the mysterious meeting. I want to be in my kitchen, cooking, caught up in the moment of movement that’s become like second nature, doing anything that does not require thinking. Just finding out there was another meeting and my dad arrived later makes me want to step into the house, lock the door, and never come out again. I can’t handle all of these questions, the not knowing what’s happening any more. It’s driving me crazy.
I’m about to tell Jonas he’s going to give me an ulcer the way he reports things back to me all the time like this, full of holes, with nothing but enough words to stress me out and not enough to know what on earth is going on, when I hear the Norton’s back door close. And that reminds me.
“Saw your brother a little bit ago, by the way. He’s such a jerk. Oh, and he told me to tell you that, quote, you have it coming.”
Jonas takes the googly-eyed guy still sitting in my hand and gently pets the top of its head with the tip of his finger. “Jerk? Micah’s an ass. You know I don’t care if you call it like it is. I didn’t realize he was taking off when I left to see what was happening, and when he caught me heading up the hill, he laid on the horn for forever. Thought it was hilarious, I guess. I hid behind a tree for like ten minutes, waiting for him to park it and run into the house to tell Mom where I was.”
“Nope. Just laughed and hit the horn again real long and hard as he drove off, trying to get her attention.”
I want to ask why Beck or Elise would allow Micah to use the car when gas is so astronomical, so hard to come by, but then I remember that Beck drives a company car and think that maybe Micah was helping Elise set up her booth. Then I remember that Elise hardly ever does Sunday markets, and Micah was playing basketball as usual. And that Micah and basketball and being helpful at markets go together as well as oil and water—the two simply don’t mix.
A droplet of water hits the middle of my forehead, bringing me back to our conversation. “Why would he try to get her attention? Because you were outside? They’re still being that strict?” Then I remember. “Oh. You did your count again.”
“Yeah, I did, actually, yesterday. But no one’s told me what it is yet. Who knows, Hattie.” Jonas sighs. “For some reason, Micah has been showing signs of some serious issues.”
“Says the guy who makes paper hats for wads of fuzz and sticks them all over the place.”
“Well,” Jonas chuckles. “At least I’m not hurting anybody when I’m using glue-on googly eyes. I don’t know—it’s like—I don’t know.” He stops, and the smile disappears. “He’s just not the same person lately.”
Like my dad, I almost say, but I know that’s not what he means. There are a few similarities—personality changes, obsessions over odd things, but nothing else. I guess basketball isn’t that odd, though. Especially when being recognized by the state as an important player can sometimes get you out of being drafted. And Jonas used to be just as obsessed, so that’s obviously not a problem.
“Here.” Jonas sets Mr. Fuzzy on my shoulder. “I should probably get back into the house before my dad comes back. Mom still hasn’t gotten over me being out there with you in the rain. I think she’s convinced herself I’m going to come down with something again.”
“But that’s not possible, is it?” I’ve actually worried about that many times, myself. Another drop falls on my face, on my nose this time, and I wipe it off. “I mean, it’s not something that can just show up again, right? That didn’t happen to your dad?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think it’ll happen to me, but you know how it is. If she starts getting all upset and gets Dad on her side, I’ll be banished from leaving the house for the rest of my life. I want to be able to compete in Hatchet Racket. Plus, I need to eavesdrop if anyone stops to talk here after the meeting again. Can’t very well do that if I’m over here, hiding with the trees and”—he glances at a bird that just flew away—“Golden-crowned kinglets.”
“Okay well—” Thunder crashes above us, and I look at the sky. “You’d better hurry. It looks like it’s going to come down something fierce here in a minute.” I turn to leave, but turn back around. “If you hear anything about the thing, let me know tomorrow. Don’t come by tonight, though. I’m pretty sure my parents are staying home.”
“Will do. Take care of Mr. Fuzzle for me.”
“Kay.” I smile. “And let me know your count, okay? When you find out.”
Jonas nods, gives a little salute, and slips off toward his backyard.
Meet The Author
Jessica resides with her husband of sixteen years, three awesome daughters, and a plethora of pets in Central California, where fog, frost, triple-digit heat and various items of produce arrive bountifully, depending on the season. (We won't even go there about all of the cows.) She has an affinity for both coffee and owls, and loves to connect with other readers and writers whenever possible.
Jessica writes YA and adult fiction, shares reviews of her favorite books on Afterglow Book Reviews, and spreads writing and author love for independently published authors at Indie Ignites.
PITY ISN'T AN OPTION is her debut novel.
A huge thank you goes out to Jessica Brooks for sponsoring this giveaway! We are glad to have you at Say It With Books today! :)
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