I do things different. It helps to remind yourself of that when you're attending your own funeral.
So there I stood, on something akin to a big, bald behind. Mighty appropriate circumstances, considering what came next.
I was in the Meadow in the Sky on top of Thunderhead Mountain. Thunderhead gets its name because it's so high up, thunderstorms crack and boom and dump rain below you. There aren't any trees up there, so the mountaintop is nothing but a big, swishy meadow. Folks around here call it a "bald," and it looks enough like a hairless head. But all those mountains together, they look more to me like they're baring their rumps to the heavens above. So I figure all this talk about a national park is nothing but a bunch of hoo-ha. Who'd travel across the country to see this?
Truth be told, I cotton to the balds, myself. Those balds, they're a bit of a mystery. Nobody knows for sure why trees don't grow on them. It's not that the mountains are too tall, or that the weather is too cold. I suppose those balds just don't want to be like every other mountain.
Yeah, I guess I'll miss old Thunderhead most of all once we finally join Pop in Knoxville. Knoxville. I glow like a lightning bug every time I think about all that big-city living. Just nineteen more days.
Knoxville's thirty miles away as the crow flies, but boy, are those some bumpy miles by land. There's but one road out of Cades Cove, and it's snowed in three months of the year. Cades Cove is like an island, a speck of a town surrounded by wave after wave of mountains. (Course, I've never seen the ocean. I hear it's salty. Me, I prefer sweets.) Those mountains circling our tiny town serve to keep out all that's new. Others in the Cove are just fine with the old, but me, I like new.
Don't get me wrong--for the most part, I love this here Cove. But I'm not cut from the same chunk of wood as the folks who've whittled away their lives here. I reckon I'm a chain saw in a stack of axes. See, Autumn Winifred Oliver does things different. Least that's what our neighbors are fond of saying. Course, they don't use that exact word, "different." They're more apt to say "rascally" or "rampageous" or "up to no good."
Another storm stirred below. My dusty blond hair whipped across my face, stinging it like a sunburn. I smelled the drops in the air. The pine trees way below bent practically in half in all the frenzy. It'd make a right nice drawing if I were inclined to sit and sketch. But, wind aside, the weather up on Thunderhead was clear as glass. When it's clear, it feels like you can reach right up and touch the sun, and that's what I was aiming to do. So I'm surprised I heard the bells at all.
Church bells ringing on any day other than the Sabbath is a sound that prickles your neck hairs. On those days, ringing bells tally up the age of the Cove's latest dearly departed. Most times, just counting the number of tolls tells you who's passed. So I listened hard and counted: ding, dong, ding, dong, ding, dong, ding, dong, ding, dong, ding.
Eleven tolls total. Wait . . . eleven? That ain't right! I did some quick figuring: me, Donnie Dunlap, and Twig Ogle hit the mark. But Donnie'd been in the Sugarlands all summer helping his uncle, and Twig and her family were on their fancy vacation to Gatlinburg that week. So time being, I was the only one in the whole dang Cove who was eleven! But the bells stopped ringing right at that number, no joshing.
So that's pretty much how I found out I'd died.From the Trade Paperback edition.
Excerpted from Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb. Copyright © 2010 by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.