Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Author:Sara Pennypacker
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 2015-12-02T16:00:00+00:00

“That’s enough.”

The words, along with Vola’s hand on Peter’s shoulder, were a welcome relief. His foot throbbed, his shoulders ached, and his armpits were so chafed that they were bleeding. Two days of Boot Camp Vola—the secret name he’d christened the torture sessions in which he crutched uphill, dragged himself over stony ground on his elbows, and pitched mountains of hay balanced on one foot—had worn him out. He swung around to face the cabin, suddenly not even sure he could make it that far.

But above the roof of the cabin, the hills were veiled with rain clouds. Night was coming. He thought of Pax, wet and cold. “I could keep going.”

“No. You’ll undo the good if you push too fast.”

Peter nodded and took a step toward the cabin.

But Vola shook her head. “Not yet.” She pointed to the barn. “The third condition.”

The barn seemed impossibly far away. Peter looked back at the cabin. He wanted to fall into that hammock. He planted his crutch tips in a deliberate show. “What is it?”

“Nothing much. You’re going to work some puppets for me. Marionettes. That sound too hard?”

“Marionettes? I don’t get it.”

“You know what they are?”

“Sure.” He pictured the only ones he’d seen up close: Punch and Judy characters with long chins and sharp noses, at a street fair when he’d been a little kid. Dead eyed and skeletony as starving rats. The puppeteer had jerked them across the stage in twitchy rushes that had left him with nightmares for weeks. “What about them?”

Vola eyed him for a moment before answering. “Another true piece of myself I recovered: I remembered that I’d made some marionettes for my little nieces when I was a teenager. I remembered how much I loved carving the wood.”

She pulled two scarves from her overalls and handed them over with a sigh. “Wrap those handgrips. You’re still hanging off the crutches. Take the weight on your palms, child. Spread it to your arms, even when you’re just standing there.”

Vola’s unexpected kindnesses undid Peter. One minute she’d be barking at him for a dozen pull-ups, or shooting her fingers at his face, warning him not to get too close. It was comfortable that way. Like home. But the next minute she’d rub her salve into his aching shoulders, or sand the splinters off his crutches, or drop her chores to fix him a mug of hot chocolate, and he’d realize how much care she was putting into making him strong and mobile, and he felt guilty.

He felt guilty now, winding the soft cloth around the handgrips, so he told her what he figured she wanted to hear. “Your nieces must have been really happy to get such great presents.” But he doubted it. Those nieces of hers had probably stuffed those rat-skeletony, dead-eyed puppets right into the trash the first night they’d gotten them. No bad dreams.

Vola shrugged, but Peter could tell she was secretly pleased by his words, and his guilt eased. He arranged his weight on his sore palms and followed her to the barn.


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