“It’s a whodunit, it’s
a carny novel, it’s a story about growing up and growing old, and about those
who don’t get to do either because death comes for them before their time. Even
the most hard-boiled readers will find themselves moved. When I finished it, I
sent a note saying, ‘Goddamn it, Steve, you made me cry.’ ”
JOYLAND isn't open for business just yet, folks—but keep
watching this space and something's bound to turn up...
How five crows managed to lift a twenty-pound baby boy into
the air was beyond Prue, but that was certainly the least of her worries. In
fact, if she were to list her worries right then and there as she sat
spellbound on the park bench and watched her little brother, Mac, carried aloft
in the talons of these five black crows, puzzling out just how this feat was
being done would likely come in dead last. First on the list: Her baby brother,
her responsibility, was being abducted by birds. A close second: What did they
plan on doing with him?
And it had been such a nice day.
True, it had been a little gray when Prue woke up that
morning, but what September day in Portland wasn’t? She had drawn up the blinds
in her bedroom and had paused for a moment, taking in the sight of the tree
branches outside her window, framed as they were by a sky of dusty white-gray.
It was Saturday, and the smell of coffee and breakfast was drifting up from
downstairs. Her parents would be in their normal Saturday positions: Dad with
his nose in the paper, occasionally hefting a lukewarm mug of coffee to his
lips; Mom peering through tortoiseshell bifocals at the woolly mass of a
knitting project of unknown determination. Her brother, all of one year old,
would be sitting in his high chair, exploring the farthest frontiers of
unintelligible babble: Doose! Doose! Sure enough, her vision was proven correct
when she came downstairs to the nook off the kitchen. Her father mumbled a
greeting, her mother’s eyes smiled from above her glasses, and her brother
shrieked, “Pooo!” Prue made herself a bowl of granola. “I’ve got bacon on,
darling,” said her mother, returning her attention to the amoeba of yarn in her
hands (was it a sweater? A tea cozy? A noose?).
“Mother,” Prue had said, now pouring rice milk over her
cereal, “I told you. I’m a vegetarian. Ergo: no bacon.” She had read that word,
ergo, in a novel she’d been reading. That was the first time she had used it.
She wasn’t sure if she’d used it right, but it felt good. She sat down at the
kitchen table and winked at Mac. Her father briefly peered over the top of his
paper to give her a smile.
“What’s on the docket today?” said her father. “Remember,
you’re watching Mac.”
“Mmmm, I dunno,” Prue responded. “Figured we’d hang around
somewhere. Rough up some old ladies. Maybe stick up a hardware store. Pawn the
loot. Beats going to a crafts fair.”
Her father snorted.
“Don’t forget to drop off the library books. They’re in the
basket by the front door,” said her mother, her knitting needles clacking. “We
should be back for dinner, but you know how long these things can run.”
“Gotcha,” said Prue.
Mac shouted, “Pooooo!” wildly brandished a spoon, and
“And we think your brother might have a cold,” said her
father. “So make sure he’s bundled up, whatever you do.”
(The crows lifted her brother higher into the
overcast sky, and suddenly Prue enumerated another worry: But he might have a