the umbrella novel

[first paragraph]
Where I grew up, summer began with the first week of May and ended with the first week of October, a hundred and fifty days of picnics and swimming and beestings. The sun came down, the grass came up, and between them, the wind fit sideways like a baseball player sliding into home. On wet days, we watched the wind carrying the rain on its back, but for most of the summer we only felt it, taking the edge off of the sunshine, spreading the smell of the apple trees that clustered behind our house, and tugging at the edges of the bright yellow umbrella over our heads as we ate dinner outdoors. My dad always said the umbrella was trying to go home, but we were old enough by then to know it was just another story, and old enough that when the war started, my brother Patrick was one of the first to go.

[last paragraph]
I left my umbrella to dry on the front porch and went up to Patrick's room. He wasn't there. He would never be there. The simple reality of it hurt more than having the bullet in my arm or watching dirt fall by shovelfuls into an empty grave. I wondered how long it would still be "his" room, when it would change from Patrick's room to Patrick's old room, and when we would stop saying his name altogether. I wondered whose the room would become when my parents left for the last time.

He was gone. And I, I was finally home.

The chinup bar was still there. I gripped it with both hands and hung on tight, lifting myself slowly. Someday, this war would end, and I would fly again. But not yet.


  1. This is really wonderful. Especially the last paragraph.

  2. this is beautiful, Claire. *wants more*

  3. Thanks, guys. :) For declamation (Josh: read "public speaking") we had to write the first and then the last paragraph of the novel we've always wanted to write. There is more -- a lot more, and it makes all the details fit.

  4. I love the first paragraph. The beginning is so vivid. Beautiful job, Claire.