Sample text for Lucy the giant / Sherri L. Smith.

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Counter CHAPTER 1

January 15 Sitka, Alaska

"You don't belong here."

The door to the bar bangs shut behind me. A burst of cold air and snow follows me inside. It's good to be inside again, even if it is for the wrong reasons. I stand in the doorway until my eyes adjust to the low light.

"Murph, get that kid out of here." The jukebox is blasting, but I can still hear the jeers.

"Everybody knows Lucy's underage," someone calls out.

"Can't tell it for looking, though," someone else laughs. From the doorway, I can't tell who it is. But everyone in Sitka knows me. I'm Joe Otsego's girl, Lucy the Giant.

I scan the tables. My dad isn't in here.

Ignoring their catcalls, I push up to the bar.

"Hey, Murph." I nod to the bartender. He's in the middle of drawing a draft. I look around again and catch my reflection in the mirror behind the bar. Between the bottles my face looks more gray than its usual brown. You look tired, Lucy girl, I tell myself. One day you should just leave him here to rot.

Murph looks up from the tap, neon lights shining off his bald head. "He's in back."

"Thanks." I squeeze past the barstools, work boots, and peanut shells to the stockroom, the "back." Rows of metal shelves filled with boxes of liquor, beer kegs, you name it. Enough booze to fuel the town for the next century. Or at least to make it through the week.

He's where he always is, passed out facedown on the cement floor, his secondhand army jacket thrown over him like a blanket. Usually Murph only calls me when Dad has one of his rages on, when the booze that usually just makes him slow and stupid hits a trigger somewhere and he goes up like a bonfire. All you can do then is stay out of his way and clean up the mess when it's over. And call me to bring him home. As for me, I know enough not to show up until then.

I shove his arms into the jacket sleeves and drag him up into a fireman's hold. "Come on, you've got to help me a little bit," I grunt, tossing his arm around my shoulders, lifting up under his armpits. This way it'll look like we're staggering out together. Not like I'm carrying him, which I am.

He never even opens his eyes. The toes of his boots drag, leaving little trails in the sawdust on the barroom floor. No one says a word on our way out.

"Thanks, Murph," I mumble, and head out the door.

I can't see the truck, so I don't know if he parked it here or hitched a ride with one of his buddies. It doesn't matter. I just started driver's ed in the fall and don't quite trust myself behind the wheel. Especially now that it's starting to rain. The early-January snow will melt and turn to ice before long.

Bending down, I drop one of his arms and grab his leg. Another grunt and he's slung across my back like a deer.

"Home again, home again," I puff. Jiggedy-jig.

Lucky for me my dad's a small man, or I'd never get him home at all.

I kick the door open with my toes. We never keep it locked. There's nothing to steal, and nobody who'd try anyway.

I stumble through the mudroom and the kitchen and dump my dad on the living room sofa. He groans, rolls over, and goes back to sleep.

"All right then. You're welcome." I go back to the mudroom, take off my boots and coat, and go upstairs to my room.

It's five o'clock in the morning and the house is silent. I think if I can just lie here and be quiet it will stay this way, perfect, forever. Instead, I shift to get comfortable. My hand thwacks against the wall. I bump my head on the angled ceiling and curse under my breath, knocking into a few more things before I'm safely up.

I stopped marking the inches on my doorjamb when I passed six feet. I haven't grown much since then, but enough to make getting out of bed almost impossible. My room is so small I can't even really stretch my legs in it.

I grab my backpack, a change of clothes, and a coat and slip down from the attic into the kitchen.

I could have a bigger room if I wanted--one that fits me, more or less. But that would mean being closer to wherever my dad is. And that could make any room seem small. It doesn't help to be my size when someone wants to ignore you. So I try to stay low and stay out of his way. Even if that means sticking to my attic with its doll-sized bed and peaked window, and pretending that one day I'll have a place of my own, just right for me.

In the mudroom I swap my pj's for my street clothes, pack a towel, grab my boots, and head out the door. The Laundromat will be open in an hour. It's one of the few left in Sitka with a public shower. With all the seasonal workers and college kids "roughing it" around here, someone decided years ago it was a good idea to have at least one on the way into town from the ferry docks. Since Laundromats have hot running water, they were the natural choice. I come here because public showers are bigger than the one we have at home. I don't bang my head on the faucet or my elbows on the walls. And I don't run the risk of waking up my dad.

Sitka's just waking up. I head down the slope from our house in search of breakfast. Like most towns in southeastern Alaska, Sitka is built like a cat on a bathtub ledge, with its back squeezed up against the mountains like it's afraid of getting its feet wet. It's the kind of town where everyone knows your family and your business, even if they don't always know you by name. Unless, of course, you stand out in a crowd. Like me.

From the Paperback edition.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Runaways Fiction, Family problems Fiction, Fishing boats Fiction, Coming of age Fiction, Alaska Fiction