Sample text for The trouble begins / Linda Himelblau.

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A New Home

A bunch of people I don’t know pat me on the head, which I hate, and tell me what a lucky boy I am and how happy I must be. I don’t feel lucky and I’m not happy. I am shaking even though the sun is shining but when they pull a scratchy blanket over me I push it off because I am suddenly as hot as a lizard lying in the sun. I wish I was a lizard. I could lie down on the ground and not move for hours and sleep and sleep and not talk and I would run if anyone tried to pat me on the head.

My mother is in a hurry to go. “I need to get home before dark,” she tells the people. “We must hurry. Good-bye. Good-bye.” I wonder what bad thing will happen in the dark. A few minutes ago I saw my mother for the first time since I was a little baby so I stare and stare at her but she just looks like a regular woman to me. Maybe it is because my eyes are blurry and want to close and my ears are ringing so all the talking is blurred too. In the crowd of people that shouted at us in the airport she was the one who leaned down to me and whispered, “I am your mother, Du,” so I could barely hear her. She stared at me too until a man who said he is my uncle pushed me toward the car. The American air outside smelled like gasoline. Five lines of cars crept by, starting and stopping, and the car they put me into blocked one of the rows. Car horns honked.

I see how carefully the woman who is my mother helps my grandma into the backseat next to me. We came together on the plane and my mother has not seen my grandma for all those years either. My grandma is sick but she has been sick for a long time. I am sick from riding on the airplane while days and nights went by outside the little window. Being in America will make my grandma better, everyone says. When she was sick I took care of her. I don’t tell them I’m sick in case she needs me to take care of her here.

“Hurry,” pleads my mother to the girl who says she is my sister. Thuy or Lin? I don’t know which one and no one tells me. She is hugging everyone and saying good-bye too many times. I don’t know her either. When she gets in the front seat next to my mother I know she talks too loud. She shouts back at my grandma about food she cooked for her and a room she fixed for her but all my grandma wants to do is sleep. Me too. My loud sister can’t see this.

The faces of the uncles and aunts and cousins come close to the window. “Good-bye, good-bye,” they yell through the glass. I make sure my grandma is okay. I fold up my jacket to make a pillow for her. Her eyes are closed. As the car jerks away my stomach feels funny and I hear a high pinging noise in my ears that won’t stop. I want to see America but when I look out the window my head sways and my stomach is tight like it’s tied in a knot. I close my eyes.

“Fasten your seat belt,” orders my loud sister. I keep my eyes closed. “You better do what I say, Du!” she says. “You don’t know how dangerous it is not to fasten your seat belt.” Days ago, on the way to the airport in the Philippines, my grandma and I rode in the back of a rattly truck crowded with people and bags and boxes. The bumpy road made us fly off our seats. I got in fast to get a good place for my grandma near the front but then I had to hang on sitting on the edge of the tailgate. Nobody had a seat belt. I don’t do anything.

“Please, Du,” says the woman who is my mother. “I am not used to driving a car and especially driving on the freeway. Please fasten Grandmother’s too.” The seat belts are like on the airplane. I dig behind the seat to find them and fasten my grandma’s carefully so I don’t wake her up. I don’t fasten mine. I’m not scared.

My mother leans forward as she drives. I can see that the knuckles of her hands are white where she holds on to the steering wheel like we would fly away if she let go. She jerks the car one way and then another. My sister grabs a little handle above the door with one hand. Her knuckles are white too. She talks in a shrill excited voice. “Get in the right lane. Put on your turn signal. We have to get on here. We have to go south. Look out, look out.” Other cars swerve fast around us. One of the drivers honks. My blurry eyes close. I think that I will learn how to drive. I will drive fast and swerve around all the slow people. I will drive my mother wherever she wants to go.

From the Hardcover edition.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Vietnamese Americans -- Fiction.
Immigrants -- Fiction.
Family -- Fiction.
Vietnam -- Emigration and immigration -- Fiction.
Schools -- Fiction.