Lies We Tell Ourselves: Shortlisted for the 2016 Carnegie Medal
Жанр: Детская литература
Год издания: 2018 год
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We’ll never make it. We were stupid to think this could ever work.
I wonder if they knew that. The police. The judge. Mrs. Mullins. Daddy. Mama. Did they think we’d even get this far? Did they think this was enough?
Maybe next year. Maybe the year after that. Someday, they’ll let us through, but not today.
Please, God, let this be over.
Someone shrieks behind me. I glance back.
Yvonne is clutching her neck. I can’t tell if she’s bleeding.
“Yvonne!” Ruth tries to turn back, but I hold her arm. We can worry about Yvonne later.
“Nigger!” The white girl at my shoulder is so close I can feel her hot breath on my face. “Coon digger! Stinking nigger!”
“Oh!” Ruth stumbles. I reach to catch her before she falls, but she finds her footing quickly. She’s wiping something off her face.
The boy who spat on her is grinning. I want to hit him, hard, shove him back into the group of boys behind him. See how he likes it when he’s not the one with the power.
Instead I keep walking, propelling my sister forward. We’re inching closer to the doors.
We’re not so far now. Maybe we can get inside. Inside, it will be better.
“You know you ain’t going in there, nigger!” the girl screeches in my ear. “You turn around and go home if you know what’s good for you! We don’t want no niggers in our school!”
Ennis and Chuck are on the steps, almost at the front entrance. The doors are propped open. Behind them more white students are yelling and jostling. Two boys in letterman’s sweaters have their fists raised.
We just have to get past them. Inside the school, the teachers will keep everyone under control. The people who are shouting will start acting like regular people again. The entire school can’t be made up of monsters.
Chuck and Ennis have stopped to wait for the others to catch up. Ruth and I are right behind them, so we stop, too.
Now that we’re not moving, the crowd around us gets even thicker. The shouts get louder. The girl who’s been following me has been joined by two of her friends.
“Who’s that other nigger girl, huh?” she yells. “Is that your baby sister? Your tar baby sister?”
The girls screech in laughter. Ruth looks straight ahead, but her chin isn’t quite as high anymore.
I want to take Daddy’s pocketknife and slice the white girl’s tongue in two.
“Keep the niggers out!” A group of boys chants in the doorway. “Stop the niggers! Don’t let the niggers in!”
But they have to let us in. This is Virginia, not Mississippi. They’ll let us in, and they’ll see that having us here doesn’t make any difference. Then things will settle down.
That’s what Daddy said. And Mama. And Mrs. Mullins, and Mr. Stern, and everyone else at the NAACP. It’ll be hard at first, but then things will go back to normal. We’ll just be going to school. A better school, with solid windows and real lab equipment and a choir that travels all over the state.
Everything will be easier when we get inside that big brick building.
I turn toward the police. They’ll make sure we get inside. That’s their job, isn’t it? To enforce the court ruling?
But the police are so far away, and the crowd is so thick. I can’t see them anymore.
We’re together now, all ten of us, surrounded by hundreds of white people who are shouting louder than ever. Chuck and Ennis press forward, and the rest of us follow. We’re so tightly packed I can smell the detergent Ennis’s mother used on his pressed white shirt. It’s the same kind my mother uses. I try to imagine I’m back at home on laundry day, helping Mama hang sheets on the line. My little brother playing by the porch steps. Ruth turning cartwheels in the yard while Mama calls for her to go inside and finish her homework.
“It’s gonna be open season on coons when y’all get inside,” a boy shouts behind me. “Just you wait.”
Ennis pushes past the boys blocking the doors. Ruth and I stumble after him.
It’s done. We did it. We’re in the school.
But the white people are still staring at us. Shouting at us.
They’re all around me. And they still look hungry.
Someone shoves into my right side. From behind, someone else’s elbow juts into my lower back. Another tall boy with blond hair is right in front of me. All I can see is the thick white wool of his letterman’s sweater.
Someone pushes into me from behind. My face is crushed against the blond boy’s sweater, but he doesn’t move. I can’t breathe.
“Hey!” I hear Ennis shout, but he sounds far away. I don’t know where Ruth is. My chest feels too tight.
Someone is ramming me hard from the left, but I can’t move. There are too many white people. There’s nowhere to go.
I can’t do this. I can’t stay here. I can’t breathe.
A tight grip closes around my right arm above the elbow, cutting off my circulation. Fingers dig into my flesh. They’re going to drag me out of here.
I’ve just made it through, and already it’s all going to be over. But I don’t care, because all I want is to breathe again.
The hand on my arm tugs harder, pulling me through the thick knot of people. This is it. They’re going to take me away. I don’t know what they’ll do to me, and I don’t care, because I just want to breathe. I just want this to be over.
That’s when the screaming starts.
Lie #2 (#)
MY ARM FEELS as if it’s being wrenched from its socket as I stumble through the crush of white people. The pain rockets through me, and my eyes flood with tears.
The grip on my arm lets go. I clutch at my chest as the breath floods back into my lungs.
Then I remember where I am. I turn to run.
“Sarah!” It’s Chuck. It’s only Chuck.
Ruth is next to him, staring at me with her forehead creased. The rest of the group is gathered behind them.
“Sarah, you all right?” Chuck says.
I nod. I can breathe again, at least. But we’re not safe yet.
The shouts are louder here than they were outside. They echo off the walls and high ceilings of the school vestibule, pressing in on us from all sides. More shouts come from deep inside the building. All around us, white people press in, shoving at our backs and glaring at our faces. The building looks huge from the outside, but the vestibule feels tiny with all these people packed so tightly into it, every one of them turned toward us.
Where are the teachers? The principal?
“Where do we go?” Ruth asks. I don’t know what to tell her.
“Mrs. Mullins gave me the list,” Ennis says. “Seniors go to the auditorium, juniors, the atrium, sophomores, the gym, freshmen—”
“The cafeteria,” Paulie cuts in.
“No way.” I’m not letting go of Ruth. Not again.
She pulls out of my grip anyway. She’s holding her head up again. Back to her old self.
“What are you going to do, babysit me all day?” she asks me.
“I’ll walk the freshmen over,” Chuck says. He nods toward Yvonne, who’s still rubbing her neck. There’s a red mark near her collarbone, but no blood. “I’ll watch out for them.”
I’m not sure about that. I don’t want my sister out of my sight.
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