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Orchards

Written by Holly ThompsonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Holly Thompson


· Delacorte Books for Young Readers
· eBook · February 22, 2011 · $9.99 · 978-0-375-89834-1 (0-375-89834-4)
Also available as a trade paperback.

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Chapter One

Because of You

One week after
you stuffed a coil of rope
into your backpack
and walked uphill into
Osgoods' orchard
where blooms were still closed fists

my father looked up
summer airfares
to Tokyo

why?
I protested
it wasn't my fault
I didn't do anything!

exactly!
my mother hissed
and made the call
to her older sister
my aunt
in Shizuoka

nothing would change
their minds

all my mother
would say
as I followed her
through garden beds
transplanting cubes of seedlings
she'd grown under lights
in hothouses

all she'd say
row after row
in tight-lipped
talk-down
do-as-I-say
Japanese
was
you can reflect
in the presence of your ancestors


not that I'm alone
in being sent away-- 
Lisa's off to summer school
Becca to Bible camp
Mona to cousins in Quebec
Emily to help in her uncle's store
Erin to math camp
Abby to some adventure program
Noelle to her father's
Gina to her mother's
Namita to New Jersey . . .
all twenty-nine
eighth-grade girls
scattered, as Gina said,
like beads
from a necklace
snapped

but we weren't a necklace
strung in a circle
we were more
an atom:
electrons
arranged in shells
around Lisa,
Becca and Mona
first shell solid,
the rest of us
in orbitals farther out
less bound
less stable
and you--
in the least stable
most vulnerable
outermost shell

you sometimes
hovered near
sometimes drifted off
some days were hurled far
from Lisa
our nucleus
whose biting wit made us
laugh
           spin
                     revolve
around her
always close to her
indifferent to orbits
like yours
farther out than
ours

after you were
found in the grove
of Macs and Cortlands
that were still tight fists
of not-yet-bloom
and the note was found
on your dresser
by your mother
who brought it to the principal
who shared it with police
who called for an investigation
and pulled in counselors
from all over the district

word got around

and people in town
began to stare
and talk
and text
about our uncaring
generation

still
I don't think I
personally
did anything to drive you
to perfect slipknots
or learn to tie a noose . . .
with what?
I wonder
shoelaces?
backpack cords?
drawstrings in your gym shorts
as you waited for your turn
at the softball bat?

because of you, Ruth,
I'm exiled
to my maternal grandmother, Baachan,
to the ancestors at the altar
and to Uncle, Aunt and cousins
I haven't seen in three years--
not since our last trip back
for Jiichan's funeral
when Baachan
told my sister Emi
she was just right
but told me
I was fat
should eat
less
fill myself eighty percent
no more
each meal

but then I was small
then I didn't have hips
then was before this bottom
inherited from my father's
Russian Jewish mother

my mother was
youngest
of four children born
to my grandparents
mikan orange farmers
in a Shizuoka village of sixty households
where eldest son
inherits all

but there were
no sons
in her generation
so my aunt
eldest daughter
took in a husband who
took on the Mano name
took over the Mano holdings
became sole heir
head of household
my uncle

into my suitcase
my mother has stuffed
gifts--
socks
dish towels
framed photos of Emi and me
last year's raspberry jam
pancake mix
maple syrup--
and ten books for me to finish
by September

books she didn't pick
I know
because she only reads novels
in Japanese
and these ten are
in English--
books chosen by a librarian
or teacher
or other mother
with themes of
         responsibility
         self-discovery
         coming-of-age
         reaching out
I GET IT
I want to shout

she also changed dollars
into yen
and divided bills
into three envelopes
labeled in Japanese--
one for spending
one for transportation and school fees
one with gift money for Buddhist ceremonies
to honor her father--my Jiichan,
this third summer
since the year
of his passing

the nonstop flight to Narita
is thirteen hours
but
door to door
my home in New York
to theirs in Shizuoka
is a full twenty-four

on the plane there is
time . . .
for movies
books
journal entries
meals
magazines
movies
sleep
meals
magazines
sleep
boredom
apprehension

I have never been to
Japan alone
never traveled anywhere alone
except sleepovers
and overnight camp
for a week in Vermont

on the plane
flight attendants chat with me
unaccompanied minor
praise my language abilities
assume it's a
happy occasion
my returning
to the village of my mother's childhood
for the summer

but they don't know
what I know, Ruth--
that it's all
because of you


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpted from Orchards by Holly ThompsonCopyright © 2011 by Holly Thompson. 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.