About the Author
Jason Reynolds is a New York Times bestselling author, a Newbery Award Honoree, a Printz Award Honoree, National Book Award Honoree, a Kirkus Award winner, a two-time Walter Dean Myers Award winner, an NAACP Image Award Winner, and the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors. The American Booksellers Association’s 2017 and 2018 spokesperson for Indies First, his many books include When I Was the Greatest, Boy in the Black Suit, All American Boys (cowritten with Brendan Kiely), As Brave as You, For Every One, the Track series (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu), and Long Way Down, which received both a Newbery Honor and a Printz Honor. He lives in Washington, DC. You can find his ramblings at JasonWritesBooks.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
MY NAME: Lightning
The Lu. Lucky Lu. Or as I call myself, Lookie Lu. Or as my mom calls me, Lu the Lightning Bolt, because lightning so special it don’t never happen the same way or at the same place twice. That’s what she says. And I like the nickname, but I don’t believe that. Don’t believe lightning won’t hit the same tree, or the same house, or the same person more than once. I think Mom might’ve missed on that one. I swear, sometimes she just be talking to be talking. Plus, how would she even know that? I mean, she know a lot of stuff about stuff because she’s a mother and mothers gotta know stuff, but the people who went to school for that kind of thing, like weather people and meteorologists (who should be studying meteors and not weather), they don’t even be knowing (because they should be studying meteors and not weather). Talking about it’s a 50 percent chance it might rain. A little. A lot. Today. Or maybe tomorrow. I mean, come on. And I’m supposed to just believe lightning don’t never strike the same place twice? Ever? Right.
You know who really made me know my mother was wrong? Ghost. One time he told me about this guy—name start with a R—who holds the world record for getting struck by lightning, not once, not twice, not three times, not FOUR times, not FIVE TIMES, NOT SIX TIMES, but . . . SEVEN TIMES! If I was Ray or Ron or whatever his name is (or was, because he gotta be dead), I would’ve stayed in the house after the second one. I mean, what was he thinking? Knowing him (I don’t really know him, but I know people like him so that’s basically the same thing), he was probably listening to a meteorologist. Or my mother, who by the way, when she says the thing about lightning striking, don’t even be talking about real lightning. Like electric bolts in the sky? Nah. She just be talking about electric . . . moments . . . in life. And I, clearly, was the most electric-est moment in hers. One in seventeen thousand. Albino. Born with no melanin, which means born with no brown. And honestly, I wasn’t supposed to be born at all, because my mom wasn’t supposed to be able to have kids. So a two-time special once-in-a-lifetime thing.
It was Sunday dinner, which is the same as Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday dinner except Mom always tries something new with the food. And this Sunday my dad, who normally works late, was there at the table with my mom to drop the new news on me.
“We’re having another baby.” They almost sang it out, like a song hook or something. Like they one-two-three’d it and everything.
“You for real?” That’s all I could really get out—let out—but inside my head was going, Yo you serious like really for real real talk no jokes stop playing it ain’t funny if you playing wait what nah can’t be you really really r e a l l y for real?, stretching my neck trying to see my mother’s stomach, even though she was sitting down. Dad was tucking his gold chains in his shirt—he always did that whenever he was eating—then popped me on the arm with the back of his hand. And when I looked at him, wondering what he did that for, he just shook his head real fast like he knew something I ain’t know. Like he knew something I ain’t want to find out. “Sorry,” I yelped. “It’s just . . . I can’t even tell!”
I pinched and pulled a piece of meat from the turkey wing on my plate, a recipe my mom said she got from Patty’s aunt. Tasted pretty good too, even though it seemed weird to just be eating turkey wings without the rest of the turkey. That’s what chicken wings are for.
“We’re very for real.” Mom smiled. “We’re just about at three months, and they’re saying on December sixth you gon’ have a little brother or sister.” I swear her face was glowing like there were lightbulbs in her cheeks. “That’s why I’ve been more tired than usual, and why I’m sometimes late picking you up at practice. Been a little sick during the day.”
“Yeah, nothing serious. Normal pregnancy stuff. But that part should be almost over.” She crossed her fingers. “Oh, and . . . well . . . thank you for not being able to tell by looking at me. Trust me, I’ll be poking out soon enough. Y’know, it took a while for you to make your presence known too.”
“And the boy ain’t stopped since,” my dad threw in.
“Ain’t that the truth.” Mom pressed her shirt against her stomach just enough to show a bump no bigger than the kind you get after a Thanksgiving meal. Only difference is it wasn’t Thanksgiving, even though . . . turkey. “Anyway, we’re telling you now because tomorrow we have a doctor’s appointment.”
“I mean . . . well, we thought about it, but it’s your championship week, you know?” She set her fork down. Folded her arms on the table. “You wanna go? Or would you rather go to practice?”
Tricky. I definitely wanted to go to the doctor to see what was going on with the baby, but not if they did what I thought they were going to do there.
“Depends. They going to do that thing with the . . .” I balled up my fist and slowly moved it over my stomach to demonstrate how they pull out that machine-thing that turns the baby into a blob of virtual reality with the heartbeat and all that. “And then the baby’ll show up on the screen looking like old footage of the moon landing?” A blob of virtual reality or old-school TV, when TV was basically just radio with a screen.
Dad choked on his drink.
“A sonogram.” My mother put a name to my brilliant description. “And when have you ever seen footage of the moon landing?”
“Ghost showed me.” Well, really Ghost asked Patty to pull it up on her phone because he was trying to convince us that it never happened. He heard these dudes at the bus stop saying it was all fake. Patty said she got a friend whose dad is a rocket scientist (I ain’t even know that was a real job!) and that she could prove the moon landing was real. And Sunny, well, he said he already knew it was real—the moon landing (and the moonwalk)—because he had been up there. To the moon. That’s what he said. Too bad his discus ain’t never go to the moon. Sunny couldn’t get that thing to go far enough to land any place other than last place. A few weeks ago, at the first meet he ever threw at, he stepped over the line on the first two tries. Me, Patty, and Ghost started cheering for him. Like, just trying to make sure he ain’t feel bad because he was looking pretty rough out there. Even his pops joined in with the encouragement. And then everybody started clapping and screaming Go Sunny, and Come on, Sunny, and You can do it, and all that kind of stuff. Even some people from the other teams. Sunny dropped back in his throwing position and started winding up. His face looked more intense than I’d ever seen it. Like a stone. He wound and wound and wound, then whipped into a spin, and right when he flung the discus, he let out a sound like . . . I don’t even know. Like a . . . wail. Like a whale. It was wild. And the discus went maybe . . . ten feet? Maybe. I mean, the thing went nowhere. But he got it off without a foul. And was cheesing from ear to ear. We all were. He threw his hands up in the air, broke out in some kind of weird dance move and everything. Last place. But there were only three people competing, so good thing for him, last place was still . . . third place.
“So, yeah. They gon’ sonogram the baby?” I went on.
“Yep, to make sure everything is beating and growing.” My mother wiggled her fingers in the air, and even though I couldn’t see her feet, I knew she was wiggling her toes, too.
“And you gon’ find out if it’s a boy?”
“Or . . . a girl,” she corrected me.
“Right. Or a girl.”
Mom looked at Dad. Then back at me. Nodded, smiling. That was a yes.
“Well, then I’m going to practice.”
“Why?” My mother looked shocked, like I said I was going to the moon or something.
“So that y’all can come home and surprise me!”
I love surprises. Always have. My folks used to give me surprise birthday parties every year when I was younger, and even though I was never really surprised—because they did it every year—I was still happy they did it, until I asked them to just start surprising me with sneakers for my birthday, so then I could surprise the world. My father be surprising my mom all the time with flowers and husband-wife stuff, and my mother surprises us with stuff like turkey wings. I mean, for real for real, this pregnancy was a surprise. Maybe the biggest one ever! Like BOOM! LU, YOU HAVING A LITTLE BROTHER! Or . . . sister. SURPRISE!
“O . . . kay.” My father caught eyes with my mother, and again, like they rehearsed it, they both shrugged. “Well, obviously neither of us will be able to get you from practice, and we figured you’d want to be there, so we’ve already made arrangements for, um”—he cleared his throat—“for Coach to bring you home.”
I nodded, nibbling on the knobby end of the turkey bone.
“But it’s exciting news, right?” My mother’s smile looked like it could split the whole bottom half of her face.
“Yeah.” I wiped grease from my mouth with the back of my hand. “But . . . it’s a little . . . I don’t know. It’s . . . I just thought—”
“I know.” My dad cut me off, put his fingertips on top of my mother’s fingertips. “We did too.”
What I was about to say was that I thought Mom couldn’t have no more kids. That’s what she always said. That’s what they always said. That’s what they said the doctors always said. According to them, I was a miracle. I wasn’t supposed to even be born. So another baby was almost impossible. A miracle with some extra miracle-ness sprinkled on it.
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