Lullabies for Little Criminals, p.32Heather O'Neill
WE WERE THE ONLY TWO PEOPLE who got off at the bus stop just north of Val des Loups. There wasn’t even a bus station there, just a sign on the side of the road, and behind that a dump of some sort. My bag was knocking against my side as I stepped off the bus. The ground was cold and made the noise of broken glass as I stepped on it. I was feeling vulnerable as hell out here in the open.
The wind on that side of the highway made the sound of a million newspapers flapping around. It made me feel as if I was at the ocean. I picked up stones like I was waiting for the school bus. There were circular marks left on the ground where the stones had been lying untouched for a long time. They were like the marks on your skin after you’ve picked a scab off, all healed and clean and perfectly smooth.
We walked over to the gate and looked at the pile of debris behind a chain-link fence. There were thousands of crows there that day. We stood there for a while looking at all those crows. Jules took a beer out of his schoolbag and slowly drank it. He finished his beer and threw the can in the air and they barely noticed. He said that if you were able to look at the crows really closely, you would see that their eyes were stolen baubles, like buttons or marbles.
To get real eyes, they had to steal them from children. Older people’s eyes were too set in their ways of looking and would be no good for a crow. That’s why people don’t let their children out after dark. The crow who stole the eyes of a real child was king. With a piece of plastic they could just see what was in front of them, but with a child’s eyes, they could see the whole world.
Jules and I stood on the side of the road just waiting and not saying anything. There weren’t street names or address numbers to tell you where you were and where you had to go like there were in the city. We were waiting for some sort of sign that we were in the right place. Then a van came rattling down the road. We looked at it not knowing if we should wave yet. It was a big navy blue van that looked like it could fit a dozen people comfortably in the back. It was the opposite of Lester’s Trans Am, which you had to bend yourself into all sorts of angles to fit into. As it got closer, I noticed that it had an advertisement for stoves on the side of it.
The van pulled up noisily in front of us, practically parking on our toes. A woman climbed out of the driver seat and slammed the door behind her hard, and the noise of it startled us both. She came running around the front of the van toward us, looking so comfortable in her skin it made us seem all the more awkward. We were like figurines that had been broken, and although they’d been glued together with crazy glue, you still had to be very careful while playing with them.
She brushed a curl of dark brown hair out of her face and stopped a second to smile at us. She leaned in toward Jules to hug him. He shifted his arms around, not knowing exactly how to wrap them around her, as if it was the first time he’d ever hugged anyone. He was grinning with his lips pressed together to hide his missing tooth.
Then Janine stepped over to me and squeezed me hard. I could feel my heart beating when she hugged me against her, but now it felt fine. Then she held me in front of her, taking a good look at me. Her big blue eyes looked just like Jules’s, and I guess mine too. Her green winter jacket smelled like rain.
I would like to thank Paul Tough, Sam Stoloff, Amy Baker, Miriam Toews, and Sarah Fulford. I would especially like to thank Courtney Hodell for brilliance and support, and Jonathan Goldstein for love and squalor.
Also, the Canada Council for its financial support.
About the Author
HEATHER O’NEILL is a contributor to This American Life, and her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine. She lives in Montreal, Canada.
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Cover design by Robin Billardello
Cover painting by Derek Erdman
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
LULLABIES FOR LITTLE CRIMINALS. Copyright © 2006 by Heather O’Neill. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.
EPub Edition © MAY 2008 ISBN: 9780061856907
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Heather O'Neill, Lullabies for Little Criminals
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