American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

'How beautiful, your shoes—so unusual,' the woman says, touching Lydia lightly on the arm. 'Where did you buy them?'

Lydia looks down at her feet instead of turning to engage with the woman. 'Oh, I don't remember,' she says. 'They're so old.' And then she stabs the ten button repeatedly with her finger, which doesn't speed up the elevator but does have the intended effect of silencing any further attempts at conversation. The woman gets off on the sixth floor, and after she does so, Mami hits numbers fourteen, eighteen, and nineteen as well. They get off at ten and walk three flights down to the seventh floor.


'So we sit here,' Soledad continues. 'We watch. We wait for the train. And when we see one we like, we cross the road, we gauge the speed, we make the decision to board, and then we drop.'

'Like going off a diving board?' Luca asks, thinking of the water park at El Rollo.

'Not exactly,' Soledad says. 'First you lower your backpack, because it makes you top-heavy, wobbly. So you toss that first. And then you squat down really low. You don't dangle, because if you do that your feet will get going with the train and then your top half won't catch up. You get stretched like a slingshot. So you roll your body up small and hop on like a frog. Low and tight. And just make sure your fingers grab something right away.'

Luca's heart is hammering in his chest just thinking about it. He reminds himself to breathe. Then he looks at Mami, taking it in, considering their likelihood of survival.


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