Just Let Me Say right off the bat, it was a bike accident.
It was about as "accidental" as you can get, too.
Like Mick wasn't riding crazy. Or dodging in and out of traffic. And both of his hands were on the handlebars and all like that.
His tire just hit a rock. And he skidded into the back of a passing truck. And that was that. There wasn't a scratch on him. It was a head injury. Period.
So this isn't the kind of book where you meet the main character and you get to like him real well and then he dies at the end. I hate those kind of books. And besides, I can't think of anything worse than using my brother's accident as the tear-jerking climax to some tragic story.
I don't want to make you cry.
I just want to tell you about Mick.
But I thought you should know right up front that he's not here anymore.
I just thought that would be fair.
I’m only ten months older than he was.
I was "planned."
Mick was a surprise.
He loved it, too. Being a surprise, I mean. He was always teasing my parents about it. Telling them that even before he existed
, he could outsmart two chemistry majors with birth control pills.
"Just imagine the amazing stunts I'll pull when I'm a sneaky, rebellious teenager
," he'd say. Then he'd rub his hands together and throw his head way back and do that kind of creepy laugh that mad scientists do in the movies. You know, like "Muuwhaaaahahahahaha ..." and he'd hunch over and limp out of the room like Igor or somebody.
Mick was excellent at imitating voices, by the way. We have a tape of him yelling "I'm melting! I'm melting!" that sounds just like the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz
. Exactly, I mean.
But even without playing the tape, I can still remember how he sounded. I've heard that sometimes when people you love die, you forget their voices. But I haven't forgotten Mick's. Not yet, anyway.
I have a weird kind of memory, I think. Like I've never once been able to remember my parents' anniversary in time to buy them a card. But I can still remember the exact conversation I had with Santa Claus when I was in kindergarten.
He said, "Ho ho ho."
I said, "Your breath smells."
And he said, "Get down."
It wasn't much of a chat, but the point is, it happened eight years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday. That's why it doesn't surprise me that I can remember everything about the fight Mick and I had four weeks ago. On the morning of the accident.
It started out like most any other school day at our house. My father was running around wearing his usual morning outfit-a shirt and tie, boxer shorts, and black socks. It's pretty humiliating being related to a man in a get-up like that. But Pop never puts on his pants till right before he leaves for the office. He doesn't like to "ruin the crease" before he has to, he says. I'm serious.
My mother had already left for work, wearing her usual pair of jeans. But don't think the jeans mean she's more laid back than Pop. All they mean is that she works at a research lab doing experiments with viruses, and she doesn't like to spill germs on her good clothes.
Both of my parents are totally different from Mick and me. They're real methodical and organized, and everything they do is always technically planned out. Like my mom never makes hamburgers for dinner without weighing out precise quarter-pound servings on her kitchen scale. And Pop's idea of a daring adventure is to wash his socks without pinning them to their mates.
Also, I've got name tags sewn into my underwear and I've never been to camp-which is downright disturbing, when you think about it.
On top of all that, my parents hate family conflict worse than any parents I've ever seen. Like my brother and I could hardly even raise our voices at each other before we'd be hustled off to our rooms to think about how we could "resolve our differences in a more civilized and resourceful manner."
Copyright © 1996 by Barbara Park. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.