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Below is the first page from a middle grade novel submitted by Pamela & Joel Tuck. Thank you, Pam and Joel, for participating in First Fridays!
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Stepping Out of Place
Pamela & Joel Tuck
Not much spooked me. At least not until I opened the little black harmonica case. Grandpa’s old Hohner sent chills slithering up my spine. Must’ve been the lining of the case. It looked coffin-like. Yeah, that must’ve been what gave me the creeps. That harmonica reminded me too much of Grandpa—lying peacefully.
Mama gave me Grandpa’s harmonica a month ago. Couldn’t stand the sight of it, so I just shoved it into my sock drawer. Don’t know what possessed me to pull it out now, but I wished I had kept it closed.
Grandpa made low melodies sneak out of that Hohner as smooth as a baby’s lullaby. Then he’d surprise us with wavy, high-pitched notes that told our feet to pat. He always played from his heart. When his heart stopped, I wondered if the magic of that harmonica had stopped too.
I ran my fingers lightly across the burgundy velvet lining, building up my courage to touch it. I slowly curved them over the harmonica, then—
The screen door banged shut. “Oh, Lord, have mercy,” Mama wailed from the kitchen, “Lord help us.”
My heart dropped to my stomach, just like it did when Grandpa died. I snapped the case shut—afraid to move.
“Mitchell! Mitchell!” Mama’s voice was urgent.
I jammed the case back into my sock drawer and took off down the hall. The sight of my older brother, Ray, froze me in my tracks. He sat slumped in a chair. If it wasn’t for his two friends supporting him, he would’ve hit the floor for sure. His eyes looked like half-opened clam shells with blood drying in the creases. He’d come home busted up before, but this time he was really hurt. Hurt bad.
“Hurry, child, fetch me some water,” Mama said.
Felt like the old, knotty-pine floor had put shackles on my feet. Somehow I broke free and raced out back where Mama kept a galvanized basin by the pump. I swung the handle up and down hard—like punches to whoever had laid hands on Ray. I’d never seen him look like that. I filled the basin quickly and rushed inside.
“Your Papa and his civil rights mind is gonna get all of us killed,” Mama whispered, as she dropped a white rag into the basin.