Hey everyone! I hope all of you have entered by Jumpstart the World giveaway! Today I'm going to be showcasing an excerpt from Jumpstart the World, Catherine Ryan Hyde's newest novel. The summary is in the post below, in case you're interested. Just a little background on the excerpt, just in case you're wondering: Elle has moved into her own apartment at the request of her mom, whose boyfriend didn't want her in the house. She has a cat named Toto and in the excerpt, the cat has become sick, and Frank, her next-door neighbor, is going with her to the animal hospital. Hope you enjoy!
"We walked fast to the subway together, and Frank held the carrier. I felt like I should, because he was my cat. But he was heavy, and it’s hard to walk fast lugging an extra fifteen pounds. I could barely keep up with Frank as it was.
The street was crowded with people, walking in both directions, and now and then someone wouldn’t yield, and I got separated from Frank and Toto, and had to run a few steps to catch up. Half the people who passed us were chatting on their cell phones, and their cigarette smoke blew back and caught me in the face, and I waved it away.
I felt relieved when we trotted down the steps into the subway. I like the subway. I’m not sure why.
Right away I could feel it get cooler. It’s always cooler down in that tunnel, and a little bit moist, like a cave.
I used to like to stand right by the edge of the platform and look down the hole, waiting to see the lights of the train. Back in the old days, when hardly anybody got pushed onto the tracks.
Without a word to each other, without any discussion of how we do these things, Frank and I took a spot with our backs up against the cool wall. I could feel the edge of an ad frame against my back. I could feel the wood of the bench we’d chosen not to sit on. It was right up against my left leg.
I thought about Frank’s friends from the party, then pushed the images out of my head again. But I kept having that constant feeling like there was something I was purposely not thinking about.
When the train came, the lightness of the inside of it seemed comforting somehow.
We sat on the hard plastic seat, the cat carrier between us on the floor. I was wondering why we weren’t talking.
Then I realized it was me.
I clam up when I’m upset. But realizing that didn’t exactly fix it.
I just sat there, stony, watching the lights flick off and then on again. Listening to the clatter of the metal wheels on the tracks. Feeling the rocking that is pure subway, that just doesn’t feel like any other transportation in the world.
Then I said, “I should’ve known he was sick. What was I thinking? Letting him sit in there for days. I never even looked around for him.”
“He’s a different kind of cat,” Frank said. “You expected that kind of remote behavior from him. If he ever came around on his own, I’m sure you would have missed him when he stopped.”
I wondered if that meant Frank thought it was Toto’s fault. I didn’t figure it could be. It was never the cat’s fault. That would be like blaming a three-year-old. I was the grownup in charge. The buck had to stop with me.
“Are you saying it was Toto’s fault?”
“I’m saying there’s no point blaming anyone in this case.”
We sat quiet a while longer, feeling the distinctive rocking. Comforting.
Then Frank said, “Nobody else would have taken that cat out of the pound, Elle. You know that. That cat would already be dead if it wasn’t for you. You’re taking the best care of him you can, and he doesn’t make it easy. Can you let yourself off the hook for this?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Sure. I guess.”
But I was halfway lying. Telling Frank what he wanted to hear. Maybe I could let myself off the hook. Eventually. But not just like that.
Another very long silence. But this one was more strained and painful. At least for me.
“What’s top surgery?” I asked.
I heard him pull in a deep breath. It was probably only a second or two before he answered. But it was the longest second or two in the history of civilization.“It’s a phase of gender reassignment surgery.” A heavy, dead weight in my stomach. A little nauseating. “It’s a double mastectomy, but then also with some cosmetic surgery to give the chest more of a male shape and appearance.”
“I guess it’s none of my business,” I said.The words sounded like they were coming from someone else. My lips felt numb. Also my brain.
“Well, you’re my friend,” he said.
Which I took to mean I could ask more questions. If I wanted to. But there was only one more question I could think to ask.
I didn’t want to."