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Excerpt, Dark Time

Ten-year-old Keira Wilkes awakens one Saturday morning to find party preparations in progress across the street. It's a birthday celebration for a girl named Sylvy, an event to which Keira has not been invited. But when a school friend arrives and yells to Keira across the street Keira to come anyway, Keira hesitates only briefly despite her mother’s warnings. Once there she and Sylvy conspire to avoid waiting in line to bounce on the inflatable dinosaur Sylvy’s father has rented.

From Dark Time:


“Up those stairs,” Sylvy says, “is the dinosaur. There’s a slanted door that goes outside. If we push it open a little bit and squeeze through, we won’t have to wait in line. I’ll go first.”

“But your father….”

“It’s my birthday and Daddy says I can do whatever I want. I told him to get the dinosaur so it’s really mine.”

“To keep?”

“No, stupid.”

Even without the condescension in Sylvy’s voice, Keira knows her question made no sense. Still, just for that moment Keira envisions it: an amusement park right across the street. She and Sylvy, and Hayley too if she’s not too young—every day, all summer once school got out. Maybe not Laura, but so what? Still, the question was stupid and she’s embarrassed to have asked it; besides, Sylvy is already pushing open the door and Keira sees a widening band of light under it, like the sky in the evening when the sun has set and a thin strip of daytime remains and she knows it’s time to go into the house. 

Then something bangs on the metal door and Sylvy laughs.

“Someone jumped on it,” she says.

“What if you open it and someone jumps on it then?”

“Then they’ll crack their head open,” she says, laughing even harder.

Keira sees it differently...sees the door landing on Sylvy and cracking her head open. Maybe she should warn her, but then what? Have herself be called stupid again? Besides, they’re this close….

So she chooses instead to watch her new friend open the door by inches until there is almost enough room to squeeze through. At that instant the girl turns around and Keira can see her face. Sylvy isn’t scared at all. She is laughing and her mouth shows the randomness of her teeth and the spaces where there will be more. There’s a look of triumph and accomplishment, maybe the same look Keira has when one of her playhouse dramas has turned out well, when all the characters have behaved and the ending has left everyone feeling satisfied. So it’s okay after all to crash a party and make a new friend. She won’t even be punished.

And then just like that there is no light and no smile and no sound except a door smashing shut and the softer sound of something striking the cold concrete floor at her feet. 

For a moment Keira says nothing. Waiting. Sylvy will have to push that door open again. Just a delay. In a minute or two they’ll be on the dinosaur. 

“Get up,” Keira says. “Come on.”

Sylvy doesn’t answer.

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