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"Does heroin give you pimples?" Tucker asked.
"All junk does. Junkies love sweets," Dinky said authoritatively. "I never met a junkie who didn't verge on bulbous acne."
"How can you eat and talk about bulbous acne?" Tucker said.
"I'm not finicky," Dinky answered.
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M. E. Kerr is a winner of the American Library Association's Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement and the ALAN award from the National Council of Teachers of English. Ms. Kerr lives in East Hampton on New York's Long Island.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"Don't tell people we've moved to Brooklyn," Tucker Woolf's father always told him. "Tell them we've moved to Brooklyn Heights."
"Why? Brooklyn Heights is Brooklyn."
"Believe me, Tucker, you'll make a better impression."
Which was very important to Tucker's father--making a good impression. That fact was one of the reasons Tucker felt sorry for his father now. It was hard to make a good impression when you'd just been fired.
No sooner had they moved from Gramercy Park in Manhattan to Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights, than Tucker's father lost his job. At the same time, he developed an allergy to cats. That meant Tucker had to give away Nader.
Nader was a nine-month-old calico cat Tucker had found under a Chevrolet the first night they moved into their new Heights town house. Tucker had named the cat Ralph Nader, who had done his own time under Chevrolets. But when Tucker discovered he was a she, he had shortened her name to Nader.
Nader had lived for three months with the Woolfs, until Tucker's father began wheezing and sneezing at the sight of her.
In Brooklyn Heights when you wanted to find something or get rid of something, you put a sign up on a tree.
Tucker's sign read:
Do you feel unwanted, in the way, and the cause of everyone's misery? Are you talked about behind your back and plotted against? Then you know how I feel. I am a calico kitten putting myself up for adoption. I have already been spayed by Dr. Wasserman of Hicks street, and I am in good condition physically. Mentally I am on a downer, though, until I relocate. If you know how a loser feels and want to help, call MAIN 4-8415.
The only one who called was Dinky Hocker of Remsen Street. She came waddling down to Joralemon and took Nader away in a plaid carrying case, telling Tucker to visit the cat whenever he felt like it.
At first Tucker went there often. But after a while he stopped going, because of what was happening to Nader. Dinky, who was fourteen, a year younger than Tucker, ate all the time. She fed Nader all the time, too. Dinky was five foot four and weighed around 165. Now Nader was toddling around like something that had had too much air pumped into it. Her eyes were glazed over with too many memories of too much mackerel, steak, raw egg, hamburger, milk, and tuna fish.
Nader knew how to retrieve empty, wadded-up cigarette packages. But on Tucker's last visit to her, she had refused even to get up on her feet at the sound of the cellophane crinkling. She had cocked one eye, looked at Tucker forlornly, and sunk back into a calorie-drugged sleep.
Although Tucker stopped visiting Nader, he didn't stop thinking about her. He had never owned a pet, and to have found this one huddled under a car, flea-ridden and runny-eyed, made him feel all the more responsible toward her.
"Somehow," Tucker's mother had commented, "you identify with that cat, and I don't see why. You've never been a stray. You've always been
loved. Is there anything you've ever really wanted that you couldn't have?"
"I guess not."
"Then why all the concern over this animal? She has a perfectly good home now."
"I just don't think a cat should weigh about two tons, that's all!"
"Hey, Tucker," his father said. "What did the two-ton canary say as he prowled down the dark alley late at night?"
"I dont know," Tucker said. "What did the two-ton canary say?" But he knew. It was such an old joke.
Tucker's father said, "Here Kitty, Kitty. Here Kitty, Kitty."
Tucker's mother laughed unusually hard at the joke. She had been overdoing everything where Tucker's father was concerned, ever since he'd lost his job. She pretended it took great effort to stop laughing. Then she told Tucker, "You're probably right to just put that cat out of your mind. Don't go over to the Hockers' anymore. I thought Dinky would be a nice new friend for you, but don't go if it gets you worrying about the cat!"
Tucker attended private school in Manhattan. Afternoons, when he got back to Brooklyn, he often went directly to the Heights branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. It was easier to study there. Tucker's father and uncle spent their afternoons at the town house dreaming up some new scheme that was supposed to make them both millionaires in five years. They hadn't said yet what the scheme was. Their discussions were noisy and argumentative. Around four thirty, they always began "the official cocktail hour," which made them noisier and lasted until Tucker's mother returned from her temporary job.
Tucker was an authority on libraries. He went to them as often as drunks did to dry out and read up on their symptoms in the medical books; and as often as crazies did to talk to themselves in comers and warm themselves by radiators.
As a small boy, Tucker had been allowed to watch only fourteen hours of television a week. He could watch whatever he chose to watch, and if he wanted to spend one day watching television for fourteen hours straight, he could do that. But he could never watch more than fourteen hours a week.
He had become a reader and a sketcher. In the libraries of New York he found he could do both easier than anywhere else.
As a reader, he was what his mother called a "dilettante." A dabbler. He often didn't finish books and magazines he started. If he checked six books out of the library to take home to read, he never got around to reading any of them.
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Book Description HarperTeen, 2007. Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110061139890
Book Description HarperTeen. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0061139890 New Condition. Seller Inventory # NEW99.0031471
Book Description HarperTeen, 2007. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0061139890