Tuesday, April 29, 2008

the dead & the gone - booktalk

the dead & the gone
by Susan Beth Pfeffer

The day that life as he knew it ended, Alex Morales didn’t have a clue. As far as he could tell, life went on just as it always did. He worked at the pizza shop, he worried about getting in to college, and his sisters were a pain. Yeah, he heard the sirens and saw the police cars and ambulances flash by, but in New York City, those were nothing new, even if it did seem as though there were more of them than usual. It wasn’t until he got home and the power went out that Alex vaguely remembered hearing something about an asteroid that was going to hit the moon. But nobody had been very excited about it. It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. But it was. It changed things forever. That day, it was just Alex and Bri and Julie at home. His dad was in Puerto Rico for a funeral. His brother Carlos was with the Marines out in California. His mother had been called in to work at the hospital. He had no idea it would be weeks or months, if ever, before he’d ever see any of them again.

At first, things didn’t seem so bad. Mami had food in the house, and his uncle let him take more from his bodega. The blackouts weren’t a big deal. New Yorkers knew how to manage when the electricity went out for a few hours. But day after day went by with no word from Papi. Mami never came home, and the hospital couldn’t tell them where she was working or why she hadn’t called. As much as he hated the idea, Alex was in charge. Then the food began to run out. They couldn’t even get the news on the radio. The electricity went out for days at a time, and when it did come on, it was just for a couple of hours at best. There was no heat, not even outside, since ash from volcanoes blotted out the sun, pushing the temperature below freezing.

Things are getting desperate. When times get desperate, desperate people do desperate things. Things they never in their wildest dreams imagined they could do or would do. When everyone he loves and needs is dead or gone, when the world is falling apart, how is a seventeen-year-old supposed to take care of himself, let alone his sisters, one a religion-obsessed fifteen-year-old and the other a twelve-year-old spoiled brat? The answer is simple, but terribly, soul-destroyingly hard: he does what he has to do.

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