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  Time Trapped - Excerpt

January 4, 1968, 4:16 A.M.
Boston, Massachusetts

Fists are pummeling me.

But the part of my brain that’s on duty tells me that I have nothing to worry about, that these small fists aren’t likely to inflict any lasting damage. Still, the annoyance factor is enough to make me roll over.

“Get up, Caleb!”

The voice said my name. But that doesn’t mean I have to listen, does it? Not when I have more important things to do, like sleep.

I snuggle deeper into the blankets. As an extra precaution, I bury my head under a pillow.

But it’s no use. My attacker is relentless. He throws off my blankets and grabs at my arms.

“C’mon. You’ve got to make me breakfast. I don’t want to be late for school. It’s show-and-tell today, and I’m gonna bring the toy soldier you got me for my birthday.”

Something doesn’t compute. I manage to open one eye and fumble around on the night table for my wristwatch.
Through the haze of sleep, I can see that Mickey’s big hand is near the three, which doesn’t overly concern me. But his little hand makes me groan: it’s on the four.

“Zach, it’s way too early. Go back to sleep.”

“I can’t. I’m too ’cited.”

“Fine. But let me sleep,” I say.

“But I don’t wanna be late.”

“Trust me. You won’t be.” I turn onto my side and try to get back to sleep.

But it’s no use. By four thirty, Zach has me up, dressed and eating Cheerios with him.

By the time we all leave the house, I’m ready for a nap. Not Zach, though. He’s all fired up, bouncing down the steps as if he has springs for legs.

Which makes me wonder why I’m not even the smallest bit excited. After all, it’s my first day of regular school. The school I went to before this one, the one for special kids, was okay, but after a while, I found it was too easy. Maybe it was because the accident didn’t affect my ability to do schoolwork as much as Diane and Jim thought it would.

The accident. I still don’t know what happened on that day in July. I don’t even know for sure that I was in an accident. That’s just what everyone says. What I do know is that along with not remembering the accident, I don’t remember anything that happened before it. And none of the therapies and other stuff they tried with me at that other school made it any better.

Acute amnesia. That’s what the doctors call it. But I call it having all my life’s memories flushed down the toilet. Every once in a while, though, from someplace deep inside my brain, a piece of a forgotten memory surfaces just long enough to torture me.

Right now, the memory flashes are coming in fast and furious: a snake wrapped around an hourglass, a twirling umbrella, a pie tin spinning through the air.

I pull out the memory notebook that Dr. Winton gave me and jot them all down. He said that writing about the flashes might help me remember. But so far that hasn’t happened. If anything, it’s made me even more confused.
We arrive at Zach’s school first. He runs to catch up with one of his friends in the yard.

Diane smiles and says, “You go ahead, Caleb. I’ll wait until he goes in.”

“Why don’t I wait here too?” I say. “I can keep you company.”

But there’s no fooling Diane. She can spot a procrastinator at twenty paces. She narrows her eyes at me and says,

“Get going, mister.”

I walk as slowly as I can. But it’s no use. Seven minutes later, I’m standing in front of the wide stone steps at the entrance to Jefferson Junior High School.

A bell sounds, and I get pulled along with a wave of students through the front door.

I can sense the excitement of the other kids, but I don’t feel part of it. It’s almost like I’m watching everything from inside my own little bubble. This amnesia thing wouldn’t be so bad if at least I knew what caused it—preferably something respectable like hitting my head while rescuing a drowning boy or diving off of a cliff in Mexico. But all I know is what Jim and Diane told me—that one night I showed up at their doorstep with their son, Zach, and when I woke up the next morning, I had no idea who I was.

The only reason they kept me is that I was the one who found Zach after he was kidnapped. That and the fact that Zach swore up and down that it was me who saved him from the kidnappers.

This place smells like lemons. I climb the well-worn stairs to the third floor, find room 301 and make my way to the back of the class. The seats fill up quickly.

Mr. Tepper, the world history teacher, doesn’t waste any time. Even before the last student is seated, he’s already stroking his mustache, telling us all about the hunting patterns of prehistoric man.

I suppose some people might find it interesting, but not me. Instead I keep busy counting the little squares on his red and green bowtie, which is tougher than it sounds, because Mr. Tepper moves around a lot while he talks.

I’m up to twenty-three little squares when I see her. Two rows over.

Long auburn hair. Gorgeous emerald eyes. Wearing a pleated navy skirt and ruby red sweater. Amazingly, she turns her head and looks at me. I mean right at me. For a moment, I can’t turn away. My eyes are locked on hers. Her lips are curving up slightly in a smile.

The weird thing is she’s looking at me as though she knows me. But I honestly can’t say I know her.

I look away. My cheeks are burning. Real smooth, Caleb. I try to keep my eyes straight ahead, but it’s impossible. Every few seconds, I find myself snatching glances at her.
For the next half hour, Mr. Tepper drones on and on about ancient man, but I tune him out. Who cares about what Cro-Magnon man ate for breakfast forty-five thousand years ago?

Finally, after what seems like forever, the bell rings. I take my time gathering up my stuff, all the while watching her out of the corner of my eye. When she leaves the classroom without a single look my way, I feel a tinge of disappointment.

Maybe I imagined it all. Maybe she was looking at a boy next to me and I only thought she was smiling at me. I look over my shoulder, and sure enough, a guy with curly blond hair and a Jefferson basketball shirt rises from his seat. Nice, Caleb. You totally embarrassed yourself. She’s probably having a good laugh with her friends right now, telling them how the dorky-looking guy with the mousy brown hair was giving her goo-goo eyes.

I sigh, stand up and leave the classroom.

The hall is noisy with kids shouting and lockers clanging. I walk over to mine, fish out my combination and start turning the dial.

I’m halfway through when a voice says, “Hi. It looks like we’re neighbors.”

I turn and almost faint. It’s her!

I should say something. Something really witty that will blow her socks off. But when I open my mouth, all that comes out is a squeaky “hi.”

She smiles.

We both fumble around in our lockers for a minute. I desperately want to say something else, but my tongue seems to have gone into hiding.

“I guess they like to put the lockers for the new kids together,” she says, brushing a lone strand of hair away from her eyes.

“Are you new too?” I say. I can’t believe I just said that. The girl tells you she’s new and then you ask her if she is. Brilliant.

“Yeah. I’m here on an exchange. The family I’m staying with lives on Somerset.”

I’m rewarded with a flash of those amazing green eyes. But then panic sets in. It’s my turn to talk, and I’ve got absolutely no idea what to say. If I don’t say anything, she’ll think I’m boring and walk away. Or if I say something lame, she’ll think I’m a total idiot.

I make a move to grab my math binder from my locker. Three notebooks and my memory book go flying off the top shelf and land on the floor between us.

I bend down to pick everything up, but she’s already got my memory book in her hands. 6

“What subject is this?” she asks.

“No subject. It’s just a book where I write stuff down,” I say.

“What kind of stuff ?”

Something about the way she says it makes me want to tell her.

“Things that come into my head,” I say. “And questions that I don’t know the answers to.”

“Can I take a look?”

“Sure. But it probably won’t make any sense to you.”

Great. I insulted her intelligence. Now she’s going to hand the book back to me and say “see you around,” and it will be true—we will see each other during the next two years of junior high—but she won’t talk to me because I have now blown everything with one stupid remark and for the rest of my miserable existence on this planet, I’ll think of what could have been if only I had said something else to the girl with the amazing emerald—

But incredibly, she’s not handing me the book back. She’s opening it.

“ ‘Turtle jaws ripping my flesh’?” She looks up at me, eyebrows arched.

“Yeah, I know. You want to hear something even crazier? When I wrote that, I swear I had the taste of a black jelly bean in my mouth . . . and I wasn’t eating anything.”

“I hate the black ones,” she says.

“Me too.”

“Did you do this sketch?” she asks.

I look over her shoulder. She smells like mangos. The memory book is open to the page where I made a drawing of the warrior girl.

I nod.

“She’s pretty. Is she anyone you know?”

“Maybe. I’m not sure,” I say. 7

She looks up, smiles and hands me the book back. As she does, our fingers touch and I feel a warm shiver.

“Thanks for showing me,” she says. “Listen, I’ve got to get going, or I’ll be late for French.”

That’s it. I scared her off. What an idiot I am, showing her my memory book. Now she thinks I’m a total nutcase. I open my mouth to say something, but my throat closes up.

“Maybe I’ll . . . see you around,” I finally manage.

“Yeah. That would be nice,” she says.

Nice! She said it would be nice to see me again. Does that mean she also thinks that I’m nice? It must. I mean, a person wouldn’t say that it would be nice to see another person again if she didn’t think that other person was nice . . . would she?

I watch her turn and begin to walk away.

“Hey,” I call after her. “I’m . . . Caleb.”

“I know.” She laughs over her shoulder.

She knows? How does she know?

“Wait! What’s your name?” I call after her.

She’s going to disappear into the crowd. The beautiful girl with no name. And I’ll be left wondering . . . Or worse, she’ll say her name and I won’t hear it. Because the noise level in the hall is increasing and a hundred inane conversations are going on around me and despite strict orders from my brain, my ears are picking up random words like belch and freight train, and pumpkin, and I’m afraid that when she finally says her name, I’m going to hear mustard instead and then what will I do—

“It’s Abbie!” she calls out.

Abbie. I’ve got it. Abbie. Abbie. Abbie. Three times should do it. Just in case, I whip open my memory book to jot it down. A scrap of paper flutters out. 8

I pick it up and gaze at the big loopy letters. She gave me a note! I can’t believe it. I unfold the paper.

Meet me in the park at 4:00 P.M. We need to talk in private.

We do? A beautiful girl needs to talk to me. And not only does she want to talk to me, but in private too. My dreams are coming true. This is incredible. It can take years to get a note like this from a girl, and I’ve done it in just over thirty minutes. A school record. Heck, maybe even a state record. My picture is going to be in Sports Illustrated. Right next to the girl who shot three holes in one during her sophomore year.

I look up to see if I can spot her. But Abbie is gone.

  click to enlarge

Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons
ISBN: 9780399254864



        Cover artwork used with permission.
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content & artwork © Richard Ungar | website by Hoffworks