Authors: Holly Schindler
DIAL BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS
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Copyright Â© 2014 by Holly Schindler
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Schindler, Holly, date.
The junction of Sunshine and LuckyÂ .Â .y Holly Schindler.
Summary: Auggie and her grandfather use found objects to transform theÂ
appearance of their home and, in the process, changeÂ .Â .hole town's perceptionsÂ
of beauty and art.
Â [1. Folk artâFiction. 2. DwellingsâFiction.Â
3. NeighborhoodâFiction. 4. GrandfathersâFiction.] I. Title.Â
PZ7.S34634Ju 2014 [Fic]âdc23 2013009134
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume
any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
For all the artists who have ever been told their work wasn
Old Glory shimmies like she's dancing the jitterbug. That's what Grampa Gus calls his pickup truck, anyway, the one he's always driven, with
painted right across the doors. She (that's the other thing we've always called the truck,
, because Old Glory's a regular part of the family) jiggles so much, she tickles my stomach.
The cab's completely packedâmy best friend Lexie's here with me, along with my neighbor Irma Jean. We're in a giant tangle on the passengers' side of the bench seat, our arms and legs weaving in and out of each other as we try to leave Gus enough space to drive.
Our voices sound like a whole playground as we squeal and squirm. Excitement leaks out that wayâin shrieks, like air slipping out of a balloonâthe day before you get sent to a brand-new school.
“You all are making more racket than a bunch of skeletons break dancing on a tin roof,” Gus teases. But the low tones of his laughter tell me that he doesn't mind at all. I love Gus's belly laughâit's so hearty, if it were a meal, it'd be chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy, and pumpkin pie for dessert. So I let a few funny-sounding squeals out on purpose, because I want another serving.
Old Glory inches toward the gates of McGunn's Iron and Metal, a junkyard that Gus knows so well, he could walk through it blindfolded and never once bump his shin on anything. The junkyard stretches on for about fifteen miles. McGunn's takes everything: wrecked cars and old appliances and air conditioners and water heaters. An old plane even calls McGunn's home now, and the wings stand like a giant sloping island in the distance.
A junkyard might sound like an ugly old trash heap, but I've always loved the way the rust at McGunn's makes a pretty orange stripe against the blue sky, right where the earth and the heavens stand back-to-back, making the horizon line.
Gus waves at Mick McGunn, the owner, who has crazy black hair growing all over his arms and out his ears and across his face. It sticks out from under his red ball cap. It pours out from the top of his T-shirt. I wonder, like I do every single time I see him, if it gets tangled in the buttons on his shirts, caught around his watch.
“Got yourselves a real beauty queen there,” Mick says as he points to the El Camino attached to the winch on the back of Old Glory.
Mick's right about the El Camino. It's a shell of what it used to be, missing its hood, and its engine, and all its doors. Even its seats and steering wheel are gone now.
But that makes it the perfect car for Gus, who's a trash hauler. Not a garbage collector, like the men who drive giant trash trucks through neighborhoods and pick up weekly bags of sour kitchen leftovers and old waded-up homework assignments. Gus is the guy to call for big jobs. The guy who picks up your broken-down freezers or your junked cars. He'll take your old grills or your rusted patio furniture or even clean out the contents of your grandparents' shed, when they decide they're packing up their house and moving in with you and your parents. He does all of that for a fee, and then brings it to McGunn's, where he trades his hauls for even more scrap money.
It's amazing, I think, his ability to take something broken and worthless and turn it into a fold of green bills in his pocket. Everywhere Gus goes in our town of Willow Grove, people are slapping him on the shoulders, smiling, and thanking him for coming out and hauling off their eyesore of a lawn mower, or asking him to come by again and pick up the swing set their kids have outgrown.
There's something beautiful that happens to people when they get the burden of useless stuff lifted off of them. Their shoulders straighten, and they take fuller breaths, and they smile like they're marathon runners who have gotten their second wind. And that, in my mind, is another special power that belongs to Gus.
We all tumble out of the cab, and Gus steers Old Glory toward a yellow piece of machineryâit almost looks like a bread box built for a giant.
“Here you go,” Mick tells us, patting the top of a freezer. “Front-row seats.”
Irma Jean is the first to launch herself onto the freezer, flashing a smile as big as her noseâand Irma Jean's nose is enormous.
She's wearing her favorite summer dress, the one with the giant orange flowers and the stretchy top with tiny straps that tie into bows on top of her shoulders. One of Irma Jean's best.
“You're not going to believe what I made for tomorrow,” she tells me again, smoothing her sundress down the backs of her legs. “I haven't shown anybody yet. Not even Mom.”
“Must be nice to be trusted with the sewing machine,” I say as Lexie climbs up on top of the freezer beside us. Irma Jean makes her own clothes out of the hand-me-downs she inherits from her older brothers and sisters. She's so good at it that her mother splurges every now and then on new materialâmostly when Walmart has a clearance, less than a buck a yard.
“Your dress will have a hard time looking as good as my new hairdo,” Lexie jokes. She can come up with more fancy hairstyles for her long red hair than anyone I've ever seen. Today, a French braid trails straight and thick and strong down the back of her headâlike the spine of a bookâthen spills into a curly ponytail. I wish I could do something fancy with my hair. All Gus and I can ever think to do with the wiry, kinky mess is to tie it into a hundred tiny braids.
As Lexie pats her hair, we giggle. The notes of our giggles are like the notes of a piano chord that have to be played all at once to sound right.
“You all looking forward to the first day of fifth grade?” Mick asks the three of us.
“More than ever,” I admit. The idea of it being so close makes my stomach do a little somersault.
“No first-day jitters, Auggie?” Mick presses.
“I've got first-day jitters, all right,” I tell him. “But not from nerves. From excitement.”
All summer, everyone's been saying “Dickerson,” the name of my new school, the same way that they say, “Ooooh. Double chocolate truffle cake.” Like it's something they all wish they could sink their teeth into. And a special school is the perfect place for a girl like me to finally find her special-something. Thinking about it makes a smile break out inside me.
The way I figure it, there are two kinds of people in this worldâpeople who shine like the chrome on Old Glory, and people who are more like the rusted metal in McGunn's. My entire life, I've been surrounded by people who shine, who have a special-something. And starting tomorrow, I'm going to find mine.
Gus buys us all sodas from Mick's vending machine, like people buy popcorn at the movies, to have something to snack on while the entertainment unfolds. Irma Jean and Lexie both start guzzling their sodas and swinging their legs from the freezer's edge.
I'm still standing, quietly sipping my soda, as Mick uses a bulldozer with a claw to grab the El Camino through the windows, feed it into the enormous yellow car crusher.
The masher lowers, squeezing the car. At first, the car looks like it's trying to fight back. But it's no match for Mick's crushing machine. The windshield pops, making tiny glass pieces fly like drops of water from a stomped-in puddle.
Lexie and Irma Jean cheer as if they've just watched a movie villain get his comeuppance. The old El Camino keeps shrinking as the roof is pushed down to the floorboards. Irma Jean and Lexie hoot, clapping. They love these shows.
I have to admit, it really is pretty amazing, watching something as big as a car get turned into a patch of metal that stands about as tall as a concrete block. But today, I can hardly even concentrate on the show. I'm too busy imagining what it will be like to start a new school and discover my shine.