Missing May

Missing May by Cynthia Rylant Read Free Book Online

Book: Missing May by Cynthia Rylant Read Free Book Online
Authors: Cynthia Rylant
Tags: Ages 9 and up, Newbery Medal
the weather and the new bridge being built down the road. Mr.
    Underwood said he had been a machinist in his day, holding up a hand with two fingers missing to prove it. I was afraid Ob might try to top this and start pulling down his pants to show where he'd been shot in the navy in World War II. Japanese shrapnel had got him in the thigh. But he kept his head about him, and his pants around him, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
    Mrs. Underwood brought us all some ginger-bread cake and the best coffee I ever tasted. She tried to get me to drink a glass of milk, couldn't get over a girl my age loving coffee so much. But Cletus told her that coffee had made me tough, and besides that all writer needed something to see them through those long novels, and better it was coffee than Jim Beam whiskey.
    Mrs. Underwood's eyes crinkled in amusement as she refilled my cup.
    While we sat eating, I looked around the house as much as I could. It was neat as a pin. Simple pieces of furniture, plain lamps, and only a few things on the walls. One of these was a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Underwood holding a small baby between them. It made me think about the difference between Cletus and me. About the way he could trust things to be all right. The way I worried about losing everything.
    Those two people in that picture had been holding Cletus between them, frail as they were, ever since Cletus took his first breath. And Cletus just never expected them to let him fall.
    During our visit, Cletus didn't pull out his old suitcase, didn't entertain us with his usual stories of exaggeration and gossip. He sat listening and looking and smiling, and I wondered what he thought of us all.
    Maybe he really was wise in a different way. Maybe drowning was the best thing that ever happened to him.
    I just wished May had turned around and come back from heaven the way he did.
    Ob and I left the Underwood house full of warm cake and coffee. And something else. We couldn't say what. But the rest of the day had a nice quietness about it, and we laughed together about Ob's fear of telling the Underwoods the real truth ("Not everybody is as free minded as us, Summer," he said), and we began to gather up our things to take to Putnam County.

    "Is that all you're taking?" I looked at the grocery bag in Cletus's left hand and the famous suitcase in his right.
    "Well, I would've packed my Cadillac, but I couldn't fit it in the bag," he said.
    "You two stop that jawing and get on in the car," Ob said cheerfully as he slammed the trunk. "We got us an appointment in the next world."
    Ob and I climbed in the front seat of the Valiant (I wasn't about to let Cletus take my front seat) and Cletus settled himself into the back, where right off he started unloading some magazines from his suitcase.
    I turned around to glance over the titles and gave him a weird enough look that he had to say something.
    "This old fellow up in Creasy's Hollow ... he gave me these. They've been sitting in his out house for a good ten years or more."
    Just as I was about to puke, Ob spoke up.
    "Best reading I ever done was in my daddy's old Johnny house. And I don't mean dirty stuff, neither. He kept him some books on auto mechanics, fishing, Civil War--you name it. I used to love to get the diarrhea."
    And with that our trip to Putnam County was launched.
    You would have thought with two big talkers Like Cletus and Ob in the car, we'd have been a noisy bunch all the way down the road.
    But as soon as we got out of Deep Water and onto the main highway, a quiet spell settled over the three of us, and the only sound was the rattle of something loose in Ob's radio. There was a feeling in that car, and it was almost sadness, but it wasn't. It was sweeter than sadness. I knew Ob's silence was connected to May. Probably he was praying to her all the way to Putnam County, praying to her to come back to him and tell him what to do now without her. For all his pep, I knew Ob was scared.

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