TITLE: The Center of Gravity
GENRE: young adult
Tuesday, and the smell of beef nuggets was perverse and pervasive. As usual, I headed to a socially inconsequential table at the perimeter of the cafeteria, where I unloaded the free weights known as Understanding Physics and Latin Grammar for the College-Bound. A familiar paint-streaked toolbox was already there, saving a place for its owner, one Mercedes Moreno. Mercedes always got the hot lunch, less for its nourishing properties than for its artistic potential.
If I'd known that this particular Tuesday afternoon would eventually find me watching Mom be hauled off to the slammer, I might have done lunch period differently. I might not have spent three crucial minutes with Mercedes’s toolbox and two no less crucial minutes with Mercedes and her beef nuggets. I might have sneaked my phone out of my backpack during Latin and seen Mom's missed call earlier than I did. As it was, though, I ate half of my cheese sandwich before ducking below the cloud of cafeteria noise to call Mom’s cell phone.
Mom was at Macy's. In the back.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen to me, Mitchell,” Mom said. “There's a police officer here, talking to the store manager. They only let me make one call, and I thought of you first, of course. But maybe I should have called Dr. Adler’s office? I don’t know. How much longer are you at school?”
“I have a School Beautification Committee meeting at three-thirty,” I said. “But I can skip it.”