Saint Anything Page 54

“Where did he get all the radios?’

“Yard sales,” she replied, plumping her pillow. “Thrift stores. The same places my mom gets all the stuff she collects. Get dragged along enough and you’ll find something you’re into. It’s inevitable. With Mac, it’s Frankenstuff.”

“Frankenwhat?”

“That’s my word for it,” she explained. “He calls it improving on design. Like you can take anything and make it work better. You just have to figure out what it needs and add it on. See that clock?”

I looked where she was pointing, on the bedside table by my elbow. There sat a clock radio that, at first glance, I’d assumed was totally normal. Now that I looked more closely, though, I saw it had been retrofitted with a large circular lens that pointed straight upward, as well as a small keypad attached to the back. “Yeah,” I said slowly.

“It was great, except it always reset itself, and he wanted to have it reflect the time on the ceiling. He had another one that did that, but never brightly enough to see. So he combined them, added a custom time-setting apparatus—”

“A what?”

“His words,” she explained. “Anyway, that’s the final result. Time always right and bright as hell overhead. I told you—he’s a freak.”

I looked back at the clock, taking in the careful, neat attachment of the keypad, how the projection lens looked like it belonged there. “He’s good at it, though.”

“I know. He should totally be an engineer or build airplanes or something,” she replied. “Too bad he has a pizza future instead.”

I blinked, surprised. “What do you mean?”

“Seaside.” She adjusted the blanket, pulling it a bit to the right. “As far as my dad’s concerned, Mac will take it over, just like Dad did from my grandpa. Don’t need college to toss dough.”

“So he won’t go?”

“Doubt it.” She looked over at the desk again, all those broken pieces. “It stinks, right? That’s why I’m always telling him I should take over the business. I’m the logical choice, you know? Rosie will hopefully have her skating thing, and I’ll be thrilled when school is over. But Mac’s different. He’s always been the smart one.”

I thought of Mac, always with a textbook beside him at lunch, or while he—yes—tossed dough at Seaside. It seemed crazy to me that someone curious and driven enough to vastly improve on basic alarm clock design wouldn’t have a chance to go to college and learn how to do it on a bigger, better scale. From the start, I’d known the Chathams were different from my family. But the proof just kept coming.

Outside in the living room, it was quiet: most of the guests had left. Layla’s mom had gone to her room even earlier, about the same time Rosie and her Mariposa friends disappeared. Now I could only hear one person playing a banjo, the sound distant and plaintive.

“So, speaking of brothers . . . I read that article you sent,” she said suddenly. “About that kid. I showed it to Mac, too.”

I looked down at my hands, then said, “I was worried, sending it to you.”

“You were?”

I nodded. “I thought you guys might judge.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.” I shrugged. “Everyone else did.”

“Sydney.” She said this in a way that made it clear I should look at her, so I did. “We’re not like everyone else. Haven’t you figured that out yet?”

I smiled. “I’m getting an idea.”

“If it were me,” she said, shifting on the sleeping bag, “I’d want to talk to that kid. Apologize.”

“I do,” I said, surprised she’d nailed it so quickly. “But it feels selfish. Like what good could it possibly do for him? My ‘I’m sorry’ won’t bring back his legs.”

“If it were a movie,” Layla mulled, looking up at the ceiling, “you guys would become best friends, bond over some shared hobby, like, say, competitive eating, and you’d help him learn to walk again. Cue the happy ending.”

I just looked at her. “Competitive eating?”

“I only just started thinking about this movie!” she said, and I laughed. “Cut me some slack.”

We sat there for a second, the banjo outside still playing. I said, “It’s not a movie, though. And there is no happy ending. Just . . . an ending, I guess.”

Layla tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. “I hate when that happens,” she said softly. “Don’t you?”

Before I could answer, there was a light rapping noise on the door, and then Mac stuck his head in. “Mom’s calling for you,” he told Layla.

She immediately got to her feet. “Everything okay?”

Instead of answering, he opened the door wide and she slipped through, quickly turning down the hallway. In the living room, I could see Mr. Chatham was standing now, holding his banjo by the neck. His face was flushed, and when he saw me, I could tell for a second he had no idea who I was.

“You want some water?” Mac asked him, and he started, pulling his gaze from me.

“I can get it,” Mr. Chatham told him. He put the banjo down slowly, then took a step back from the couch. Mac glanced at me, then eased the door shut.

It felt like I sat there a long time by myself. But that alarm clock beside me only marked two full minutes before Layla returned. “Just the woozies. Nothing to worry about.”

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