Crenshaw

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate Read Free Book Online

Book: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate Read Free Book Online
Authors: Katherine Applegate
told a policeman, he wanted to know our address so if they found the money they could give it back.
    We are between addresses is what my mom told him.
    â€œAh,” said the policeman. He nodded like he’d figured out a hard math problem.
    My parents and the policeman talked for a while. He gave them the address of two homeless shelters where people can sleep at night. The dads go to one place and the moms and kids go to another, he explained.
    â€œNo way,” said my dad. “Not happening.”
    Robin said, “We are car camping.”
    The policeman looked at Aretha, who was licking his shiny black shoe.
    He said that no animals were allowed at either shelter.
    I asked if that included puppies.
    â€œSadly,” he said.
    I told him my teacher Mr. Vandermeer had pet rats.
    â€œRats are especially not allowed,” said the policeman.
    There are good rats and bad rats, I told him. I said white rats like the ones my teacher had, Harry and Hermione, were very clean animals. But wild rats could make you sick.
    Then I told the policeman how Mr. Vandermeer was teaching his rats to play basketball with a teeny ball for a science experiment. Rats are amazingly intelligent.
    â€œBasketball,” the policeman repeated. He looked at my parents like maybe they should be worried about me. Then he gave my mom a little white card with phone numbers on it.
    â€œSocial services, shelters, food pantry, free clinic,” he said. “Check back with us about the theft. Meantime, hang in there, folks.”
    We were almost to the car when I heard the policeman call, “Hey, Ratman!”
    I turned around. He waved me back. When I got there he said, “How’s their jump shot? The rats, I mean?”
    â€œNot so good,” I said. “But they’re kind of learning. They get treats when they do something right. It’s called ‘posi—’” I couldn’t remember. It was two long words.
    â€œPositive reinforcement?”
    â€œYep!”
    â€œYeah, I could use some of that myself,” said the policeman.
    He reached into his pocket and pulled out a crumpled twenty-dollar bill. “Give this to your dad,” he said. “But wait until you’re in the car.”
    I asked how come I had to wait.
    â€œBecause otherwise he’ll give it right back to me,” the policeman said.
    â€œHow do you know?” I asked.
    â€œI know,” he said.
    When I was inside the car, I gave the money to my dad. He looked like he was going to throw it out the window.
    I thought maybe he was going to yell at me, but he didn’t. He just tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. Tap. Tap. Tap.
    Finally he shoved the bill in his jeans pocket.
    â€œLooks like dinner’s on me,” he said softly.

 
    24
    The next day, we dropped my mom at her part-time waitress job. Before she got out of the car, she looked at my dad and said, “We have to apply for assistance, Tom.”
    â€œWe’ll be back on our feet before they deal with all the paperwork,” he said.
    â€œStill.”
    â€œPlus we probably make too much money to qualify for help.”
    â€œStill.”
    They looked at each other for a few long seconds. Finally my dad nodded.
    We went to an office called Social Services to find out about help. My dad filled out lots of forms while Robin and I sat on hard orange chairs. Then we went to three hardware stores, where my dad put in applications for work. My dad grumbled about all the gas we used up. To cheer him up, I said maybe we could feed the car water instead. He laughed a little then.
    â€œNot having enough work is tough work,” my dad told my mom when she joined us in the car after her shift. He took a deep breath and blew it out hard, like he was facing a birthday cake with too many candles.
    â€œDad?” I said. “I’m kind of hungry.”
    â€œMe too, buddy,” he said. “Me too.”
    â€œAlmost

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