Don't you understand that I was once fifteen years old? That I looked at my mother the same way you're looking at me? That I see the hatred in your eyes and the despair and the love and all of it?"
"I'm eleven," said Sport. "I'll be twelve next month."
Charlotte Vane had turned away. Her long, thin body leaned toward the window, her forehead touched the drape for one brief second, and then she turned back again.
"You've got a goddamned literal mind. You listen to me, little boy, because you've got one or two things you better get into your head right now. I'm not a dreamer like your father. I like money. I like money very much."
Sport sat looking up at his mother, his face blank. He shifted one leg uneasily.
"And don't wiggle. If there's anything I hate more than little boys, it's wiggling little boys."
Sport had a dark feeling, like being an unfriendly spider. I want to get out of this room, he thought, I want to get out and go back home and make my father pick up his socks.
"Your grandfather, Simon Vane, the old wretch, is down there in that sitting room dying right this minute. Your grandfather liked money a lot. Your grandfather made thirty million dollars. Made it. Do you understand that? He made it himself. He got up in the morning and he went downtown and he made it."
Sport thought of the thin, small body downstairs, of the hands you could see through, the gaunt, tiny head, the clouded, unseeing eyes, eyes that used to light up, and the mouth that used to say, "Ah! Here's my boy! Here's my real son," whenever Sport walked into the room.
"He didn't sit around all day in front of a stupid toy, tap-tapping, tap-tapping, that damned tapping, you couldn't get away from it. He didn't dream . . . dream about writing a book. Where did a book ever get anybody?"
Sport opened his mouth and then closed it. He had wanted to say, "But he published the book. Dad published the book and it was good. He gets royalties. I know just how much." But there wasn't any use. What were those royalty checks next to thirty million dollars? The figure loomed in Sport's mind. He saw himself writing it in his ledger, the one where he kept track of the household spending for himself and his father. He saw it written in red ink. Imagine owing thirty million dollars.
"I know what's in your dirty little boy's brain," said Charlotte loudly. Sport jumped. "I know you want to get away from me. I know you wish to God I'd go back to wherever I came from and never come back. You want to crawl back to that dirty hole of an apartment your father lives in, where he can't even buy you a pair of shoes, much less enough to eat." Charlotte turned and screamed, "He's no good. He's a rotten, no-good bum, your father!"
Sport held his breath. He felt somehow that this was the dead end of his mother's rage. She couldn't go any further. There was no further to go. He waited, watching her gasp, start, and then stop herself from continuing and turn away.
With her back turned to him, she said quietly, "Get out. Get out of this house."
Sport got up quickly. He went out the door and closed it quietly behind him. Once in the dark hall, all his breath came out in a long whoosh. He stood a minute listening, looking into the gloom of the big old house, then ran as fast as he could down the steps.
Excerpted from Sport by Louise Fitzhugh. Copyright © 2002 by Louise Fitzhugh. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, 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.