Sometimes things are dead, but still move.I mean the leaves, of course. The leaves of autumn.They crawled across the basketball court, scuttling sideways with the wind, tripping and pouncing. It was late fall. Almost everything was dead or hiding. The frogs were dead, the fish were dead, the bugs were dead, and the birds had escaped to Boca Raton.The sky was not dead, however. It was blue and active. Clouds rolled across it. Trees in vacant lots scratched at it. And in the middle of all the creeping leaves and the nude, shivering branches of dead trees, Lily Gefelty and her mother sat in a car, waiting for Lily’s friends to arrive so the kids could play basketball. “Lily and her mother were having a difficult conversation.” “We need to talk,” said Mrs. Gefelty “Okay,” said Lily. “But everyone else is going to be here in a minute.” “That’s fine. But we need to have a, you know, heart-to-heart.” “About what?” “About books.” A book discussion doesn’t sound like it should be a difficult conversation, but it was for the Gefeltys. This was because Lily had actually been in several books recently. For instance, this one.Lily had gone through most of her life without appearing in any books at all. Most of us never do. Though some of her friends had appeared in books, Lily had always liked the fact that she had stayed behind the scenes, because she was a pretty shy person and she didn’t think her life was very interesting. Then she began to show up in this series, Pals in Peril. People from the publishing company would call and get details of her adventures, then they would write them up and publish them. It was a little strange for her at first, but she got used to it.Her mother was still getting used to it.Mrs. Gefelty sat there in the driver’s seat, looking anxious. She tapped on the steering wheel and looked into the rearview mirror at the backseat. It was filled with library books. Mrs. Gefelty stared at them as if they were poisonous snakes that might strike at any time. “Lily,” she said, “have you read the books you’re assigned for school?” Lily looked at her mother, shocked. She always did all her homework. “Mom!” she said. “Of course!” “Have you noticed anything about books written for people your age?” Her mother clearly was waiting for a particular answer.Lily shrugged. “It’s a bad idea to have a horse?” she guessed. “It is a bad idea,” said her mother, “to have a mother.” She pressed her forehead with the heel of her hand and sighed. “In every single book your English teacher assigns you, the mother dies or disappears.” She reached back and began shuffling through the stack of books that slid on the backseat cushions.
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