Cover image for Lost & found
Lost & found
Davis, Brooke.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Dutton, [2015]
Physical Description:
310 pages ; 22 cm
Follows a shared encounter between an abandoned 7-year-old, a widowed shut-in and a nursing home escapee, who embark on a road trip across Western Australia to find the child's mother.
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Central Library FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library
Audubon Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Clearfield Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Crane Branch Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
East Aurora Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Eggertsville-Snyder Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Hamburg Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Kenmore Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Orchard Park Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Julia Boyer Reinstein Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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An irresistible debut novel about the wisdom of the very young, the mischief of the very old, and the magic that happens when no one else is looking

Millie Bird, seven years old and ever hopeful, always wears red gumboots to match her curly hair. Her struggling mother, grieving the death of Millie's father, leaves her in the big ladies' underwear department of a local store and never returns.

Agatha Pantha, eighty-two, has not left her house--or spoken to another human being--since she was widowed seven years ago. She fills the silence by yelling at passersby, watching loud static on TV, and maintaining a strict daily schedule.

Karl the Touch Typist, eighty-seven, once used his fingers to type out love notes on his wife's skin. Now that she's gone, he types his words out into the air as he speaks. Karl's been committed to a nursing home, but in a moment of clarity and joy, he escapes. Now he's on the lam.

Brought together at a fateful moment, the three embark upon a road trip across Western Australia to find Millie's mother. Along the way, Karl wants to find out how to be a man again; Agatha just wants everything to go back to how it was.

Together they will discover that old age is not the same as death, that the young can be wise, and that letting yourself feel sad once in a while just might be the key to a happy life.

Author Notes

Brooke Davis was born in Bellbrae, Victoria, Australia. She holds a Bachelors of Communication (Honours), Professional Writing and Media Production from the University of Canberra and a PhD in Creative Writing from Curtin University of Technology. Her debut novel Lost and Found was awarded the ABIA General Fiction Book of the Year, the Matt Richell Award for New Writer, and the 2016 WA Premier's Book Award for WA Emerging Writers.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Soon after seven-year-old Millie Bird's dad dies of cancer, her mother abandons her in a department store. Karl the Touch Typist, so called because he loves the act of typing and types on every surface he can find, has escaped from a nursing home and taken refuge in the same store where Millie has been left. Agatha Pantha, who lives across the street from Millie, has not left her house since her husband's death seven years before. Millie's plight brings out a protective impulse in the two octogenarians, and the three of them, along with a department store mannequin named Manny, embark on a journey across the Australian Bush to find Millie's mother, Millie posting signs that read IN HERE MUM along the way. A big hit in Australia, this novel was written as a PhD thesis on grief. Though the whimsy grows tiresome, Davis shows particular skill in getting inside the mind of a seven-year-old. Her dotty characters and themes of displacement and marginalization call to mind the works of fellow Aussie Elizabeth Jolley, minus Jolley's sharp edge.--Quinn, Mary Ellen Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

This novel by Australian travel writer and first-time novelist Davis attempts to use whimsy as a delivery mechanism for a meditation on loss and loneliness among the very young and very old. Seven-year-old Millie Bird is obsessed with death, inscribing her encounters with dead things in a "Book of Dead Things." Entry twenty-eight is "MY DAD." As a result of losing her husband and Millie's father, it's not long before Millie's unstable mother drops her at a Perth department store by the "Ginormous Women's Underwear" section and never returns. Millie spends a couple of nights hiding out in the store, seemingly undetected by anyone except a mannequin she treats as a companion and an old man she approaches in the store's café who identifies himself as "Karl the Touch Typist." Karl is battling his own grief after the loss of his wife. Finally caught by store security, Millie, with Karl's help, escapes authorities and makes her way home, where an elderly neighbor, Agatha Pantha, an unpleasant shut-in following her husband's death, somehow decides it would be better to accompany Millie to find her mother in Melbourne than to call the police. Karl catches up with them and the unlikely trio travels across Australia. Ultimately, this journey toward understanding and accepting death is too predictable, offering little aside from the quirks of its characters. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Seven-year-old Millie lost her father to cancer and is abandoned by her grieving mother in a department store. By chance Millie meets two other damaged and suffering souls: 87-year-old Karl the Touch Typist and 82-year-old Agatha Pantha, both of whom are coping very badly with the deaths of their long-term spouses. The story is told from their different viewpoints, as they feel compelled to leave their small town in western Australia and take a quirky trip across the desert. Unconventional characters and slapstick action are combined with heartbreaking moments in this fresh take on the shared humanity of loss and the possibility of redemption, making this title a moving and unforgettable read. VERDICT Australian author Davis's debut animates characters with distinctive and fallible voices; Millie is wise beyond her years, while Agatha is limited by her obsession with aging. For all readers who have ever faced grief and felt that everyone else knows what they are doing and how to handle it. Mourning, grief, and the mystery of death will boost this book's appeal, particularly to teens, and will generate lots of discussion points for book clubs. [See Prepub Alert, 7/21/14.]-Jan Marry, Williamsburg Regional Lib., VA (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof*** Copyright © 2015 Brooke Davis millie bird Millie's dog, Rambo, was her Very First Dead Thing. She found him by the side of the road on a morning when the sky seemed to be falling, fog circling his broken shape like a ghost. His jaw and eyes were wide open, as if mid-bark. His left hind leg pointed in a direction it normally didn't. The fog lifted around them, the clouds gathered in the sky, and she wondered if he was turning into rain. It was only when she dragged Rambo up to the house in her schoolbag that her mother thought to tell her how the world worked. He's gone to a better place , her mother shouted at her while vacuuming the lounge room. A better place? What? Yes, heaven, love, haven't you heard of it? Don't they teach you anything in that bloody school? Lift your legs! It's doggy heaven, where there's eternal dog biscuits and they can poop wherever they please. Okay, legs down. I said, legs down! And they poop, I don't know, dog biscuits, so all they do is poop and eat dog biscuits, and run around and eat the other dogs' poop. Which are actually dog biscuits. Millie took a moment . Why would they waste time here, then? What? Well, they, um, have to earn it. They have to stay here until they get voted over to a better place. Like doggy Survivor. So, is Rambo on another planet? Well, yes. Sort of. I mean--you really haven't heard of heaven? How God sits up in the clouds and Satan's all underground and everything? Can I get to Rambo's new planet? Her mother switched off the vacuum cleaner and looked squarely at Millie. Only if you have a spaceship. Do you have a spaceship? Millie looked at her feet. No. Well, you can't get to Rambo's new planet then. Days later, Millie discovered that Rambo was most definitely not on a new planet and was, in fact, in their backyard, buried halfheartedly under the Sunday Times. Millie carefully lifted the newspaper and saw Rambo but not-Rambo; a Rambo shrunken and eaten and wasting away. She snuck out every night from then on, to be with him while his body went from something into nothing. The old man crossing the road had been her Second Dead Thing. After the car hit him, she watched him fly through the air and thought she saw him smile. His hat landed on top of the yield sign and his walking stick danced around the lamppost. And then it had been his body, cracking against the curb. She pushed her way through all the legs and exclamation marks to kneel beside his face. She looked deeply into his eyes. He looked back at her like he was only a drawing. She ran her fingers over his wrinkles and wondered what he'd used each one for. She was then lifted away from him and told to cover her eyes, because she was just a child . And as she wandered home the long way, she thought it might be time to ask her dad about people heaven. You see, Squirt, there's heaven, and then there's hell. Hell is where they send all the bad people, like criminals and con artists and parking inspectors. And heaven is where they send all the good people, like you and me and that nice blonde from MasterChef. What happens when you get there? In heaven, you hang out with God and Jimi Hendrix, and you get to eat doughnuts whenever you want. In hell, you have to, uh . . . do the Macarena. Forever. To that "Grease Megamix." Where do you go if you're good and bad? What? I don't know. IKEA? Will you help me make a spaceship? Hang on, Squirt. Can we finish this next ad break? She soon noticed that everything was dying around her. Bugs and oranges and Christmas trees and houses and mailboxes and train rides and markers and candles and old people and young people and people in between. She wasn't to know that after she had recorded twenty-seven assorted creatures in her Book Of Dead Things--Spider, The Bird, Grandma, next door's cat Gertrude, among others--her dad would be a Dead Thing too. That she'd write it next to the number twenty-eight in letters so big they took up two pages: MY DAD. That, for a while, it was hard to know what to do other than stare at the letters until she couldn't remember what they meant. That she would do this, by flashlight, sitting in the hallway outside her parents' bedroom, listening to her mum pretending she was asleep. the first day of waiting When playing connect the dots, Millie was always Dot One, her mum Dot Two, and her dad Dot Three. The line came from deep inside Dot One's belly, wrapped itself around Dot Two and Dot Three--usually watching the telly-- and back again, to make a triangle. Millie would run around the house, her red hair bouncing about her head, the triangle between them spiraling around the furniture. When her mum said, Would you stop that, Millicent ?, the triangle roared into an enormous dinosaur. When her dad said, Come sit beside me, Squirt , the triangle curled into a big, beating heart. Ba-boom. Ba-boom , she whispered, skipping awkwardly to its rhythm. She nestled in between Dots Two and Three on the couch. Dot Three grabbed Dot One's hand and winked. The flashing pictures from the telly lit up his face in the dark. Ba-boom. Ba-boom. Ba-boom .--- On The First Day Of Waiting, Millie stands exactly where her mum points to. Right near the Ginormous Women's Underwear and across from the mannequin wearing the Hawaiian shirt. I'll be right back , her mum says, and Millie believes her. Dot Two wears her gold shoes, the ones that make her footsteps like explosions. She walks toward the perfumes-- Kaboom !--past the menswear-- Kablammo !--and out of sight: Kapow ! The line between Dot One and Dot Two tugs and pulls, and Millie watches it getting thinner and thinner, until it is just a tiny scratch on the air. Ba-boom. Ba-boom. Ba-boom. Millie will carry this around with her from now on, this picture of her mum getting smaller and smaller and smaller. It will reappear behind her eyes at different times throughout the course of her life. When movie characters say, I'll be right back . When, in her forties, she looks at her hands and doesn't recognize them as her own. When she has a stupid question and can't think of anyone in the world to ask. When she cries. When she laughs. When she hopes for something. Every time she watches the sun disappear into the water she will feel a little panicked and not know why. The automatic doors of shopping centers will always make her anxious. When a boy touches her properly for the first time, she will imagine him shrinking into the horizon, far, far, far out of her reach. But she doesn't know any of this yet. What she does know, right now, is that her legs ache from standing. She takes off her backpack and crawls underneath the Ginormous Women's Underwear clothing rack. Her mum said there are women who can't see their privates because they eat entire buckets of chicken. Maybe these undies are for them. Millie has never seen chicken come in a bucket. But I hope to , she says out loud, touching the undies softly. One day. It's nice in there, under the giant undies. They hang low around her head, so close to her face that she breathes on them. She unzips her backpack and pulls out one of the frozen juice boxes her mum has packed for her. She sucks at it through the straw. In the cracks between the undies, she watches feet going for walks. Some going somewhere, others going nowhere, some dancing, others skipping, shuffling, squeaking. Tiny feet, big feet, in-between feet. Sneakers, high heels, sandals. Red shoes, black shoes, green shoes. But no gold shoes. No explosion footsteps. A pair of bright-blue gumboots plods past. She looks down at hers . I know you're jealous , she says to them . But we need to stay here . Mum said . She cranes her neck to watch the gumboots jump down the aisle and off into the toy section. Well , she says. She pulls out her Book Of Dead Things from her backpack, rips out a sheet of paper, writes on it To Mum, I'll Be Right Back , folds it in half, and props it up on the ground exactly where her mum had pointed to. She takes her gumboots for a walk. Up and down the escalators, walking at first, then jumping, hopping, and waving like the queen. She sits at the top and watches the steps swallow themselves. What happens if the stairs don't flatten themselves in time? she asks her gumboots. She imagines the stairs spilling out over the escalator and into the aisles. She tries to connect eyes with every single person who walks past her, and each time she does, the air jumps in front of her like the old movies her mum watches. She plays hide-and-seek with a boy who doesn't know he's playing. When Millie informs him that he is found , he responds by asking her why her hair is like that , and makes spirals with his index finger. They're ballerinas, she says. They jump off my head at night and do shows for me. Pff, he says, and smashes a Barbie headlong into a Transformer, making a spitty blowing-up sound with his mouth at the same time. They do not. Millie sits on the floor of the women's change room. I know where you can get some undies , she says to one woman who's turning around and around in front of a mirror like she's trying to drill herself into the ground. Sorry, who are you? the woman says. Millie shrugs. Two ladies talk behind the door of one of the cubicles. Millie can see their feet in the gap between the door and the floor. Bare feet and sparkly UGG boots. Don't take this the wrong way , the UGG boots seem to say. But do you really think coral is your color? The toes on the bare feet curl under themselves. I thought this was pink , they seem to say back. Millie waits with the waiting men, who wait in chairs outside the change rooms, waiting for women, peering from behind purses and shopping bags like frightened animals. The walls nearby are covered with huge pictures of girls laughing and hugging each other in their underwear. The waiting men sneak glances at them. It occurs to Millie that the giant undies could be for these giant girls. She sits on a chair next to a bald man biting his fingernails. Have you ever seen chicken come in a bucket ? she asks. He rests his hand on his knee and looks at her out of the corner of his eye. I'm just waiting for my wife, kid , he says. She stands under the hand dryers in the restroom, because she likes the feeling of the wind whooshing through her hair, as though she's leaning her head out of a car window on the highway, or like she's Superman, circling the Earth. How does the hand dryer know to start as soon as you stick your hands out? It is amazing, this, but the women in the restroom don't notice, and just stare, panicked, into the mirror, trying to work out what's wrong with them before anyone else does. Sitting behind the plants on the edge of the department store café, she watches steam rising from coffee mugs. The man who looks like Santa and the lady with the very, very red cheeks lean over their coffees toward each other. They don't say anything but the steam from their coffee kisses and dances around their faces and above their heads. Another man eats while not looking at his wife and has coffee steam that makes the most beautiful shapes in the air. Millie has never seen shapes like this. Are there any more shapes left to make up? The woman with the shouty kids has a coffee that breathes in and out, letting out long, tired sighs. There's a man in the corner with a tree-bark face. He's wearing red suspenders and a purple suit, holding on to his coffee cup with both hands, as if he's stopping it from flying away. A fly lands on the plant in front of her. What if everything could fly? she whispers to her gumboots, watching the fly bounce from leaf to leaf. Your dinner could fly into your mouth and the sky could be covered with trees and the streets might switch places, though some people would get seasick and planes wouldn't be that special anymore. The tree-bark-face man blows on his coffee so hard that the liquid spills over the edge and the steam splits in half. Some shoots forward and some upward. He stares deep into the cup for a few minutes, then blows on it again. He stands up. He has to plant both of his hands on the table and push himself up with everything he has. He walks straight past her, and Millie tries to connect eyes with him but he doesn't look up. The fly follows him, buzzing around his body. He reaches out a hand and slaps it against his thigh. The fly falls to the ground. Millie crawls on her hands and knees toward the fly and scoops it into her palm. She holds it up to her face, squeezes her palm shut, and stands to watch the back of the tree-bark-face man as he shuffles away from the café and out the main entrance. Millie finds her backpack underneath the Ginormous Women's Underwear. She takes out her Just In Case glass jar, puts it between her knees, unscrews the lid, and lowers the fly into the jar. She screws the lid back on and pulls out her Book Of Dead Things, as well as her markers. Number 29 , she writes. Fly in department store . She can see DAD backward in big letters through the paper. She taps the marker on her gumboots. Picks up the jar and holds it to her face. In the crack between the undies the mannequin looks down at her from across the aisle. His shirt is bright blue and has yellow palm trees on it. His eyes seem huge through the glass, like they're centimeters from her face. She moves a pair of underwear so she can see only his knees. Millie grips the jar while she watches for gold shoes all afternoon. And when afternoon becomes night, and the last door is clicked shut, and everything goes black--the air, the sound, the earth--it feels like the whole world is closing. She presses her face against the window, cups her hands around her eyes, and watches people walk back to their cars with other people, with husbands and wives and girlfriends and boyfriends and children and grandmothers and daughters and fathers and mothers. And they all drive off, every single one of them, until the parking lot is so empty it makes her eyes hurt. She crawls back under the Ginormous Women's Underwear and takes a sandwich out of her backpack. As she eats it, she watches the mannequin through the gap in the undies. He watches back. Hello , she whispers. The only other sound, a humming from the lights in the display cabinets. the second day of waiting Millie once thought that no matter where you fell asleep, you would always wake up in your own bed. She fell asleep at the table, on the neighbor's floor, on a ride at the show, and when she woke she was under her own covers, looking up at the ceiling of her own bedroom. But one night she woke when she was being carried from the car into the house. She looked at her dad through half-closed eyes. It's been you all this time, she whispered into his shoulder.---On The Second Day Of Waiting, Millie wakes to the sound of high heels clacking toward her. She has spread herself out during the night, and her feet poke from underneath the clothing rack. She pulls her knees into her chest, hugs them, holds her breath, and watches the high heels clack past. Click- clack, click-clack, click-clack. They're black and shiny, and red-painted toes stick out at the ends like ladybugs trying to crawl in. Why would her mum leave her under the undies all night? Millie holds on to her stomach and peers through the gap in the undies. She knows why her mum might leave her there but she doesn't want to think about it, so she doesn't. The mannequin is still looking at her. She waves at him. It's a careful wave, her fingers folding down one after the other until she holds them all in a fist. She's not sure if she wants to be his friend yet. She pulls on her gumboots, crawls out from under the undies, and looks up at the sign she stuck on the rack last night. In Here Mum. She tears it down, folds it up, and slides it into her back- pack. The man with the tree-bark face walks toward her. He shuffles down the aisle, straight past, and toward the café. Millie follows, and watches him from behind the potted plants. He sits down like it hurts, and stares at his coffee. Millie walks over to him and puts her hand on his. Have you seen chicken come in a bucket? she asks. The man looks at her hand and then up at her. Yes , he replies, pulling his hand away from hers and tapping his fingers on the table. Well? Millie says, sitting down in the chair opposite him. What's it like? Exactly how it sounds , he says. Millie bites her bottom lip. Do you know many people who are dead ? she asks. Everyone , he says, looking into his coffee. Everyone ? Yes. Do you ? he asks, still tapping his fingers on the table. Yes. Twenty-nine Dead Things , she says. That's a lot. Yep. He leans forward in his chair. How old are you ? he asks. Millie crosses her arms. How old are you ? I asked first. Let's say it at the same time. Eighty-seven. Seven. He sits back in his chair. Seven ? Millie nods. And a half. Almost eight, really. You're young. You're old. The dimples on his cheeks are waking up. Your boots match my suspenders, he says, tapping his fingers on his suspenders. Your suspenders match my boots. Millie looks at his hands. Why do you tap your fingers when you talk? I'm not tapping , he says, tapping. I'm typing. Typing what? Everything I say. Everything you say? Everything I say. What about what I say? I don't do that. Are you gonna eat that? she says, pointing to a muffin. He pushes the plate toward her. Millie shoves the muffin into her mouth. Why won't you drink your coffee ? she says, mouth full, pushing his coffee toward him. I don't want it . He pushes it back. Millie wraps her hands around it and leans over it, feeling the steam rising beneath her chin. Why did you get it? It's nice to have somewhere to put my hands . Millie smiles. Oh . She pulls her feet up onto the chair and rests her chin on her knees. Spread out on the table is a long line of small plastic squares, each one about the size of her fingertip. What are those ? He shrugs. You don't know? He shrugs again. Millie leans over the table. They're computer keys , she says. Like the ones on the keyboards from school . She folds her arms. But they're not on a keyboard. Yes , he says. So you do know , she says. They're all dashes. From different keyboards . He leans forward in his chair. Do you know what a dash is? Maybe. You put them between two words to make one word. Like what? Like . . . He thinks for a moment. Happy-sad? Millie says. Not really. Hungry-sleepy? No , he says. Like, action-packed. Or blue-eyed. But not happy-sad. No. Or hungry-sleepy? No. Why have you got so many? There's lots of them lined up against each other in a long, straight line. I collect them. Why? Got to collect something . Millie thinks about her Book Of Dead Things. I collect Dead Things , she says. He nods. She holds his gaze as she nudges an index finger forward, moving one of the keys out of line. It hangs above the rest of them on an angle like it's mid-backflip. Tree-Bark-Face doesn't move. They go between numbers, too , she says. Not just words . She flicks another key and it skids along the table, stopping at the edge. He sucks in a breath and watches as it teeters and then falls into his lap. Don't do that , he says, picking it up and putting it back in line. Where did you get them all from? Borrowed them. From who? Millie spots a screwdriver sticking out of his jacket pocket. He puts a hand over the screwdriver, shielding it from Millie's gaze. No one ever suspects an old person, he says, smiling a half smile. We're kind of invisible. What's your name? Karl the Touch Typist. What's yours? Just Millie. Where's your mum, Just Millie? She's coming. She has gold shoes. It is when she says gold shoes that Millie feels Dot Two pulling and she holds her stomach. She shifts in her seat and puts the fly's glass jar on the table. You made a Dead Thing yesterday . Karl picks up the glass jar and studies it. I did ? he says, tapping the glass. Millie nods. I'm giving her a funeral . --- The first funeral Millie ever held was for a spider her dad squished with his shoe. Her mum had jumped from one foot to the other and said , If you don't squash that spider, Harry, I'll squash you. Her dad stood up from his chair, wrenched off his shoe, and slammed it against the wall. One. Two. Three. Four. The spider slid down the wall and landed on the floor. Her dad picked it up by a leg, threw it out the front door, sat down, and continued watching television. He winked at Millie from across the room. Millie couldn't bring herself to wink back. She watched her dad watch three whole shows before she said anything. Can we give the spider a funeral? she said as the credits rolled. Like we did for Nan. Funerals are for people, Mills, he said, flicking through the channels. And maybe dogs. What about horses? Horses, too , he said as a cricketer tried to sell him some vitamins. Cats? Yes. Snakes? No. Why? Because. On the screen a car wound its way along a beautiful mountainside. The whole family smiled at each other. They all had shiny teeth. Trees? No. Why? Because. Centipedes? Planets? Fridges? Millie! he said. People. Maybe big animals. That's it. Why? You' d be having funerals all day, every day. And we can't do that. Why? There's other stuff to do , he said as a man on the screen looked her in the eye and yelled at her about mobile phones. That night, she packed a backpack with everything she needed, grabbed her flashlight from under the bed, and snuck out the front door. She found the spider on the grass near the driveway and picked it up with both hands. It looked different now, smaller and lighter and dried up by the sun. The night breeze circled around her hands and made the spider tickle her palms. A huge whoosh of wind lifted the spider right out of her hands. Millie ran after it, watching it high above her head. It flew through the air against the stars, over her front yard, out into the street, across the road, down the street, and into an empty lot. The moonlight illuminated its edges. The whole night seemed to be covered with moonlit spiders far, far away, pinned to the black sky. Then, just as quickly as it began, the wind stopped, and the spider dropped to the ground like a falling star. A tree rose out of the center of the empty lot. It was the biggest tree she had ever seen, much bigger than even her dad. She put the spider into her backpack and climbed to the very top. The moon felt so close she could almost spin it around in circles. She straddled the branch, leaned her back into the trunk and, from her backpack, pulled out the spider, an old Vegemite jar, a ball of string, a tealight candle, matches, and a piece of cardboard. Millie gave the spider one last look before placing him in the Vegemite jar on top of some tissues. She lit the tealight candle and put it in there with him, then wrapped a piece of string around the top of the jar, tied a knot at one end, and threaded the other end through the hole in the cardboard sign. She tied the string around the branch of the tree. The jar hung from the branch like a lantern, swinging a little as the tree moved. The small cardboard sign said Spider ?-2011 in her best writing. Millie ran her fingers over the line in between the question mark and Spider's death-year. Back and forth, back and forth. It was strange, she thought, that this line--this long, straight line--was all there was to show of his whole life. karl the touch typist here's what karl knows about funerals Karl had never talked to Evie about her funeral. Why would he? It was too hard to get the words out. They were like a weight in his mouth. He just wanted her to live while he was living and that's all he knew. So his son organized it for him, while Karl was busy remembering how to get up, brush his teeth, part his hair, chew. The funeral itself had been long, slow, repetitive. Before the service began, he was hugged, endlessly, by people he barely knew. He made sure their cheeks didn't touch. It didn't feel right to rest his palms on the back of someone who wasn't his wife. Karl sat in the front pew, eyeing the coffin, scarcely breathing. It felt strange to breathe when she couldn't. Flowers exploded from the coffin lid. He willed the coffin to open, Evie to jump out: Surprise ! She would have to high-jump the flowers. If this is a practical joke , he whispered, I won't be mad. He remembers standing during one of the eulogies. It was by the only friend from Evie's old work still alive. They kept dying, all their friends, as though they were on a battlefield: dropping dead in supermarkets, on bowling greens; fading out in nursing homes and hospitals. But this woman was still alive, standing at the lectern like God's gift, and Karl thought, I wish you were dead. He walked toward the coffin. Evie , he whispered, circling it and running his fingers along the edges. People were murmuring around him, but they sounded miles away. He pushed his face into the pine lid. Closed his eyes. Breathed in. Evie , he whispered again, his lips against the pine. He had to know. He grabbed at the lid. And flung the coffin open. She was dead in there, that was for sure, stone-faced in a way he had never seen, but he couldn't take his hands away from the edge of her coffin. Not when the priest tugged at his elbow; not when a gust of wind blew in through the doorway; not when the coffin lid slammed shut with such drama and force that it squashed his fingers. He didn't feel the pain because there was pain everywhere already. And he wanted to type it but they wouldn't let him because they were holding his hands to stop the blood so he just yelled it, he yelled it as loud as he could. I AM HERE, EVIE. I WILL ALWAYS BE HERE. millie bird The tops of some of your fingers are missing , Millie says, grabbing Karl's hand as they walk out of the café. Yes, he replies, tapping on her hand. They are . His mouth makes that line that adults make when they are most absolutely not going to talk about this one thing right now, and maybe not ever. So she keeps her questions inside herself and puts them in the part that remembers things for later. She rubs the stubs of his fingers as she holds his hand. Did he bite his nails so much that he bit his fingers right off? Did a family of mice eat them in his sleep? Or did someone chop them off because he didn't do what he was told? Millie's mum threatened her with that once, Millie remembers, when she was tapping her fingers on her dinner plate during Dancing with the Stars. I'll rip those things right off, her mum said, without turning around to face her. Don't try me . And Millie didn't try her--she hadn't meant to try her--and sat on her fingers so they wouldn't try anyone without her knowing. Millie leads Karl to the Ginormous Women's Underwear, shakes off his hand, and crawls underneath. She slides the undies down the rack so Karl can see in. What are you up to down there, Just Millie ? he says. I told you , she says, unscrewing the lid of the glass jar. Millie unzips her backpack and pulls out her Funeral Pencil Case. She removes a tealight candle and some matches and places them on the floor. She stares at them. After a moment, she holds them up to Karl. Could you? Please ? He glances around him. Should we be lighting fires? Yes , she says. Karl seems to consider this answer, then nods. Millie watches the wick catch fire and holds her stomach. She clenches her teeth and tries not to remember The Night Before The First Day Of Waiting. She tries to put it in the part of her head that never remembers anything. She hands Karl the jar. In there, please , she says. Karl carefully lowers the candle into the jar and hands it back to Millie. She ties the jar to the rack, and the fly dangles behind a row of flesh-colored undies. You need to say something , she says to Karl. Me ? Karl says, pointing to himself. Yes, you , Millie says, pointing at him pointing to himself. You did it. You made a Dead Thing. Aren't you sorry? Her head detaches itself and she's watching her dad squish the spider with his shoe. Was he sorry? Of course , Karl says, putting his hands on his hips. Of course , he repeats. But , he says, taking a big breath, it's a fly . Yes . Millie nods. You're right. It is a fly. Karl looks down at Millie. Millie looks up at Karl. Karl sighs. What should I say? What would you like someone to say at your funeral? Karl stares at his feet. I doubt anyone will say anything. Well, Millie says, crossing her arms, you need to say something. Why do you know so much about these things? Why don't you? she says. a fact about the world millie knows for sure Everyone knows everything about being born, and no one knows anything about being dead. This has always surprised Millie. There are books at school with pictures of mums with see-through stomachs, and she has always wanted to lift up the shirt of a pregnant lady, just to see if it really is true that your stomach goes see-through when you are pregnant. This makes sense, she thinks, to give the baby a chance to get used to the world before it is in it, like a glass-bottomed boat; otherwise, what a shock! How scary the world would be if you didn't know it was coming. Millie has also seen the books with the cartoon people who love each other so much that the man gives the lady a fish and the fish gets inside the lady and lays eggs, and those eggs turn into a human baby. She knows the baby comes out from the place you pee, but she has not seen pictures of this. After Millie goes swimming in the ocean, she always watches her pee carefully for babies. Just. In. Case. Adults want her to know these things, otherwise they wouldn't have given her these books. But no one has ever, ever given her a book about Dead Things. What is the big secret? --- Okay , Karl says. The Fly, loved by many, forgotten by none. He clears his throat . God save our gracious queen, he sings, so softly that Millie can barely hear him. Louder , Millie says, and he does: Long live our noble queen, God save the queen . Millie watches the feet walk past through the gap in the undies as he sings. Some of them speed up as they get closer, some of them slow down. One pair of shoes stops completely. Send her victorious --he's really belting it out now, and his dimples are waking up again-- happy and glorious, long to reign over us . Karl raises his arms with a flourish, his fingers typing in the air. God save the queen . He takes a bow. The shoes--wide, black, clumpy--are still there in the aisle, and one foot is tapping. Millie brings her knees to her chest. Are you quite done, sir ? a woman's voice says. Karl looks in the general direction of the shoes. His eyes widen. Yes, thank you, sir. I mean, ma'am. Arms grab at Karl, push him down the aisle, and the woman says, Let's go, and Karl says, I'm terribly sorry, I really didn't mean to say that. I'm not intimating that you in any way resemble a man! Millie leans her body into the pole in the center of the rack. Karl says, You're very ladylike, honestly . And then, Excuse me , over and over again until she can't hear him anymore. A lady nearby says, What's all the hoopla about ? Millie mouths, Hoopla , as she packs up her Funeral Equipment. She pulls her backpack in close and makes her body as small as it can be, like the babies do when they're stuck in their mums' tummies. She presses her face against the metal pole. It's cold on her cheek. The fly's jar swings in some imaginary breeze, the candlelight making trails that disappear and reappear. She runs her fingers through the air, and it feels like nothing, but it's keeping everyone alive. How can that feel like nothing? Through the gap in the undies, the mannequin's still looking at her, and she looks back. She likes the way he is always looking at her. It makes her feel like he won't let the clumpy shoes take Millie away too. Millie sits in this position until it's night in the department store again. Her feet sweat in her gumboots. Her knees stick together. The light in the jar is still burning, but only just, and the flickering shadows make the undies look like they're joining together at the edges, becoming one super-enormous-ginormous- pair-of-women's-undies, and The Super Pair Of Undies circles around her head, getting closer and closer, and Millie is sure it is going to wrap itself around her and suffocate her, and then the light in the jar goes out, and Millie is breathing in too much air, and her cheeks are wet with tears. She buries her face in her knees and squeezes her eyes shut. She hears footsteps and thinks, Gold shoes, gold shoes, gold shoes , and her breath is so quivery, like the old people who breathe loudly just to let you know they still can, but it isn't her mum at all, because the footsteps are sliding along the floor, and Mum doesn't walk like that. The footsteps move toward her, and there's a flashlight shining everywhere, and now the flashlight is on the fly's jar, and the footsteps are so close to her, and the flashlight is still on the jar, and the footsteps have stopped altogether, and the flashlight is like a spotlight on the fly, like an alien spaceship trying to pull it up with a space beam, and Millie has to hold her quivery breath so that the alien beam doesn't get her as well. But then there's something in the corner of her eye, a sparkle of something beyond the undies, and the mannequin looks at her, and his eyes seem wider for some reason, and there's something in her stomach, something pulling, and it feels like Dot Three, but that can't be right, and then the mannequin falls forward somehow, and the sliding feet yell, Ow! , and the flashlight clatters to the ground, and the mannequin is on the ground too, and he is still looking at her, and the flashlight lights him up, like he's onstage, and Millie feels a smile on her face just appear there, and she touches it with her fingers. She wants to touch the mannequin's face too, because he's smiling at her in the flashlight. another fact about the world millie knows for sure It's important to have your mum. Mums bring you jackets and turn on your electric blanket before you get into bed and always know what you want better than you do. And they sometimes let you sit on their lap and play with the rings on their fingers while Deal or No Deal is on. Millie's mum is a wind through the house. She is always washing overalls or ironing undies or wiping lamps or talking on the phone or sweeping the driveway or putting sheets on things. Her hair is always sweaty and kind of crooked, her voice is like a violin, like she is trying to lift something really heavy all the time. Millie is always getting in her way no matter how much she tries not to, so she has learned to sit against the walls and in corners, to stay outside, hide in bushes and up trees. Sometimes, before she Goes Out, Millie's mum disappears into the bathroom for not very long at all. Millie listens at the door, and it sounds like a factory in there with all the clanging and spraying and squirting. Her mum always reappears with colored-in skin and magazine hair. A sweet smell follows her like a smell-shadow. One day when her mum went next door to talk to the neighbors, Millie kneeled on the bathroom floor and opened the cupboard under the sink. There were things that squeezed and things that poured. They were all so patient in there. She lined them up in a row on the cold tiles, from smallest to biggest. She looked at this audience of cosmetics for a long time. Ahem , she said to them. She picked up a lipstick and painted her earlobes and sprayed perfume into the air over and over again, just to watch the mist of it, and brushed mascara on her cheeks, and rubbed blush on her fingernails. Her mum suddenly appeared in the doorway, and Millie tried to sit against the wall, out of her mum's way, but she grabbed Millie under the armpits, plonked her on the bench, and wiped her face clean with a cloth. She brushed her hair straight, put lipstick on her lips, something on her eyelashes and something on her cheeks. Her mum was so close to her, and her voice was smiling when she swiveled Millie around to look at herself in the mirror. See? And Millie did see, she saw that she could be a different person if she wanted. New and Improved. --- Now, on her Second Night Of Waiting, Millie decides to make herself New and Improved. She wants her mum to walk up to her and say, Excuse me, madam, but I'm looking for a small child. Have you seen her? And Millie will take off her hat and wipe her lipstick on the back of her hand and say, Mum! It's me! Millie Bird ! And her mum will laugh and scoop her up and carry her out to the car, and Millie will wave good-bye to the department store. Bye, café; bye, giant undies; bye, potted plants; bye, Karl; bye, mannequin , and her mum will drive her back home and Millie will get to sit on the kitchen counter while they cut up vegetables for dinner. So she finds the nicest dress she can--it's yellow and feels like a cloud should--and puts it on over the top of her clothes. She goes to the wall of makeup, where small, black plastic cases hang from metal hooks like they're bait. She picks the ones that are within reach, and carefully applies lipstick, eye shadow, and blush the way her mum showed her. She has to stand on a pile of books to see in the mirror, but she does it without once falling over. See ? she says to the mannequin. She finds a floppy red hat. Puts on green nail polish. Looks at the shoes, and knows her gumboots will probably give her identity away, but she's not taking them off, not ever. She duct-tapes four Matchbox cars to the bottom of each gumboot and skates around the shop. She skates past the racks of bras, so many of them hanging there. Lined up like soldiers waiting to be called into action. Millie's head detaches itself and sees her mum after the shower, her hair dripping and limp around her head, steam rising off her skin. Her boobs hang off her body like water balloons, and they try to hit each other when she walks from the shower to the wardrobe. She catches Millie watching her as she slides the bra loops over her shoulders. You'll have them one day , her mum says. Millie does not want them. Not ever. She found some magazines once in her dad's bedside table. The boobs jutted out of the women's bodies as if you could unscrew the back like a brooch. They looked unpredictable. Demanding. And then there was The Naked Woman Who Wasn't Her Mum who hid in their bathroom one afternoon. You didn't see me, kid , she said. Millie's eyes were drawn to her nipples like they were magnets. And Millie thought, Yes, I did. She skates to the games section and, one by one, pulls board games off the shelf and lines them up in front of the mannequin. There's Twister and Monopoly and Guess Who? and Mouse Trap and checkers and backgammon and Battleship and Operation and Scrabble and Hungry Hungry Hippos and Connect Four. She doesn't really know how to play any of them, so she just rolls the dice once for the mannequin and once for her, and moves all the pieces around, and the battleships are trying to sink Park Lane, the Guess Who? people are an audience for Mouse Trap, and the hippos are eating the checkers. After you hit the man with the flashlight on the head, I followed him , she says to the mannequin, putting a bra cup over her mouth and tying the loops behind her head. For hygiene, she explains, a bit muffled now, thinking of the hospital shows her mum watches. He went in there , she says, pointing to an office toward the back of the store. She puts Scrabble letters into the Operation man. He got a pack of peas for his head . She delicately removes the letter M from the Operation man's stomach. And he fell asleep. He left the key in the door. She holds up the key and grins. I locked it. Pats the mannequin on the head . I owe you, she whispers into his ear. For dinner, Millie invites the Guess Who? people, the mannequin, a hobby horse--the Guess Who? people might be less self-conscious if there is someone else there with just a face-- and a toy dog who looks exactly like Rambo. She seats them at the biggest dining table in the furniture section. It is at least double the size of their dining table at home and doesn't have any coffee-mug rings or candle wax or Millie's name written on one of the legs. The napkins and place mats and plates and bowls are all white and the same as each other. She hoists the mannequin onto the chair at the head of the table and sits Rambo on a placemat. The Guess Who? people and the hobby horse stare at her from across the table. She likes how they look at her as if they expect her to do something. Okay , she says, and skates away, returning with an armful of streamers. She throws them across the table and wraps them around the chairs and ties bows around the forks. She sets a place for her mum next to the mannequin. Just. In. Case. She pulls up a chair for herself between the mannequin and Rambo, pats down her dress, and adjusts her hat. She feels the mannequin's eyes on her. What ? she says. She's just caught up . She clears her throat. Dear God, she says, her hands in prayer, squinting at the mannequin through half-closed eyes. Tonight we will be serving Fanta soup for entrée, snakes and dinosaurs for main, a side salad of mint leaves, and banana sundae for dessert. I hope this is okay with you . She fills her glass with grape juice. But first, some toast . She stands and clinks glasses with all her guests. She does it again, because there's music to it, she does it faster and faster, and skates around the table, clink-clink-clink-clink-clink , and then skates around the other way, clink-clink-clink-clink-clink . She sits on top of the table instead of in her chair, because she's The Boss, and they all eat, and talk about how the dog from next door keeps making big poops on their lawn and how Mrs. Pucker always gets fancy makeup in the mail but it doesn't help her and how Ablett must be very sorry that he switched clubs because his new team plays like a bunch of girls. And the whole time, the mannequin watches her, without blinking, without saying a thing. another fact about the world millie knows for sure She doesn't know where her dad's body is. When they visited her dad in the cemetery he was in a tiny box in the wall. Dad's too big for that, she said. It's a magic box, Millie's mum replied. What kind of magic? Just magic. Okay? Can I see inside it? The magic won't work if you do that. Like Santa? Yes. Exactly like Santa. She gave a box of raisins to Perry Lake, one of the big kids at school who knew everything about everything. What happens to dead bodies after they die ? He shoved a fistful of raisins into his mouth and chewed. Depends , he said. On what? On how many boxes of these you got . The next day, Millie upended her schoolbag at his feet. A pile of raisin boxes poured out. He opened one and emptied the contents into his mouth . They go hard. Hard? Yeah. And cold. Cold? Yeah. Like plastic? He shrugged. Maybe. Do they shrink? Shrink? Yeah. He threw a raisin up in the air and caught it in his mouth. Dead bodies do not shrink. --- Millie's smothering a heaped bowl of banana lollies with chocolate topping when the thought occurs to her. She puts a hand on the mannequin's. Don't take this the wrong way, she says, his hand cold and hard underneath hers. But . She leans into his face. His eyes look back at her like he is only a drawing. Are you a Dead Thing? the third day of waiting Millie sits in the office in the back of the department store. It looks different in the daylight. There is a desk with pens and paper and paper clips positioned neatly side by side, and an in tray and an out tray that don't have anything in or out of them. Millie picks up a paper clip and a pen, and puts one in the in tray and one in the out tray. The yellow dress she wore last night is folded in the center of the desk. There's a big television screen attached to the side wall. She flicks at the Matchbox-car wheels on the bottom of her gumboots. She opens her Book Of Dead Things, laying it flat on the table and smoothing down the pages. She stares at the picture she drew of her dad's magic box. The dash pulses at her. Like it has a heartbeat. She knows about dashes now. That you can carry lots of them around in your pocket . Harry Bird , the picture says. 1968-2012. Loved . She says the word out loud. Loved . --- By who ? Millie had said to her mum. They were standing hand in hand, looking at her dad's magic box like it was a painting. You , her mum replied. And you? Her mum cleared her throat. Of course . Millie watched her twist her wedding ring around and around her finger. She had started wearing it again that week. And everyone else? Yes, Millie. Why doesn't the sign say that then? Millie! She shook Millie's hand loose, kneeled on the ground, and put her head in her hands. Millie didn't move. Mum? Because nothing's free, Millie , her mum said. Not even this shit. Her mum didn't look at her as she stood and walked off toward the car. Come on , she said. Millie took one last look at her dad's magic box before following. When The Ladies From Tennis dropped by their house that night, one of them hugged Millie and said, His body is gone, but his soul is still with us. Is that what's in the magic box ? Millie asked. It's in you , the lady said, placing a flat palm on Millie's chest. Millie looked down at the lady's hand. How did it get there? It's always been there. What? Proper girls don't say, "What." What? Proper girls say, "Pardon me." Pardon me? Good girl. The Lady From Tennis stood to hug Millie's mother. Pardon me ? Millie said again, but the women didn't hear her. The next day Millie went to the milk bar. While the girl who worked there giggled with a boy who didn't work there, she filled up her schoolbag with raisins and walked out. What's a soul ? she said to Perry Lake, after showing him the raisins. It's like a heart, but it's in your stomach , he replied. What's it look like? Like a really big raisin . He eyed her schoolbag. She zipped up her bag and held it behind her back. What happens to it when you die? Falls out. It falls out? Yeah, like a placebo. What's a placebo? They fall out of women. After they have a baby or whatever. What do they do with it? They put it in the freezer and eat it. Your soul? No, the placebo. They keep your soul. Where? Some other freezer. Where's that? The school bell rang in the distance. Kids ran past them, yelling and laughing in packs. Somewhere , Perry said, rolling his eyes. I don't know. I don't know EVERYTHING. Could I have it without knowing? Perry put out a hand. It was long and thin and bony. Just gimme the raisins, he said. --- The door to the office bursts open. Millie feels the draft from the movement of the door, and it sucks at her clothes like a vacuum. Millie sits up straight in the chair, snaps her book shut and slides it behind her back. A lady stands in the doorway, mid-conversation with someone out of sight. What about dinner at mine tonight? the lady says quietly. No, Helen. It's a man's voice. No? I'm making Mexican? I'm busy. Tomorrow? Busy. You'll just get back to me, then. Helen, I'm busy for the rest of my life. Okay then, Stan, she says brightly, louder now. I'll bring over that bruise-dispersing cream for you. We can rub that thing right out. Millie sees the back of the man as he walks off. You're not touching my face, Helen , he says. Righto, then , she says to his retreating back. You just let me know, won't you, Stan? She turns to face Millie. Helen's small for a grown-up, but wide, as if all her height has gone outward. The buttons cling to her blouse, like people hanging from a cliff. Millie looks down at the lady's shoes. Small, black, clumpy. Well ! the lady says, as if she can't believe how exciting the word is to say. She plonks herself into the chair on the other side of the desk. Her cheeks are pink and round. Haven't you got yourself into a pickle ? She picks up a remote from the desk and points it at the wall. The television comes alive. Millie appears on the screen. It's hard to make out and it's in black and white with no sound, but it's definitely Millie. TV Millie is outside of this office. She walks up to the window, peers through it. Pokes her tongue out. Grabs the keys out of the door handle, and walks away. Helen presses Pause on the remote. Real-Life Millie looks at TV Millie. It's so strange to look at herself doing something she's already done, and that she can't undo. Real-Life Millie looks defiantly at Helen. Helen raises both eyebrows. Real-Life Millie raises both eyebrows back. what millie did last night Millie knew the way home but believed her mum was making sure Millie knew how to Do What She Was Told, that she knew how to be Good. So, after a talk with the mannequin at dinner, Millie decided to make things easier for her mum to find her. Using paints from the hardware section, she painted IN HERE MUM as tall as she could on the glass of the automatic doors. Backward, of course, so her mum could read it from the outside. She arranged the Connect Four pieces so they formed a right-turning arrow and placed the stand near the entrance. All the mannequins lining the aisles had their arms positioned so they were pointing in the direction Millie's mum should follow. Some of them held signs. Hi Mum ! one said. Keep going ! said another. Stop here for a snack ! said the next mannequin, and Millie placed one of her Roll-Ups in its upturned hand. The Guess Who? people were arranged in an arrow, the houses from Monopoly indicated a left turn, the Twister spinner gestured forward. The nine mannequins closest to the undies each held a letter on a piece of paper to spell IN HERE MUM. The mannequin with the Hawaiian shirt held the final M. She hooked some bras together and strung them from the mannequin's hand across the aisle, tying them to the top of the Ginormous Women's Underwear rack like a finish line. Millie decorated the trail with Christmas lights she found in a bargain bin, and then--letting her red boots poke out just a little bit--lay under the giant undies to wait. But when the shoes came they weren't gold. --- Are you with that man? Helen is saying. The singing one ? She opens the desk drawer and begins lining up its contents in a neat row on the desk. A Toblerone wrapper. He seemed lovely. An empty juice box. But is he a little bit . Fly's glass jar. A little bit . Two hands full of lolly wrappers. She sprinkles them all over the desk, dropping them from high above her head as if she's showing Millie how rain works. Soft? In the head? No? Of course not. I'm sorry. A Roll-Up. But is he. Slow? A bit? She leans across the desk and whispers, Retarded? She clasps a hand over her mouth. Oh. Of course not. I'm sorry. I can't believe I just said that. I didn't want to remove him from the shop, it's just that. Stan has very high standards for this place. Helen runs her fingers thoughtfully over the Roll-Up. She leans toward the doorway. He's very particular , she says loudly. She sits back in her chair. Does that man, the singing one. Does he. Have a dungeon or anything? She disappears under the desk, emerges with a pile of board games and places them on the desk in a teetering pile. Connect Four, Battleship, Twister, Monopoly. She rests an elbow on the top of the pile. Whips and things? Chains? He doesn't chain anyone up, does he? We're friends since yesterday, Millie says. He's just an old man , she continues . You can be an old, lonely man, hanging around girl-children, and be completely normal. Right? She ducks under the desk again and comes to stand, holding Millie's backpack in one hand and an open bucket of paint in the other. Ta-da ! The paint slops over the side and drips onto the floor. It's society, you know ? Helen pauses, puts the backpack and paint on the table, moves the pile of board games aside, and sits on the desk. Is all this , she wiggles her index finger at Millie's face, for him? The makeup? Millie wipes a hand across her lips. There's a smudge of bright red on the top of her hand, like war paint. I'm hungry , she says. Oh, darling, I'm sorry. I had cookies. But Stan , she says loudly out the doorway again, Stan ate them. He'll eat my cookies. When it suits him. She waits, her ear cocked toward the door. tan appears in the doorway and Helen jumps. Millie sucks in a breath. It's the security guard from last night. He has a black eye. He's on his mobile phone but he stares at Millie, unblinking, pushing the pads of his fingers into the swelling on his cheekbone. Well, I' d finished The Cosby Show on DVD and wanted to get something else, didn't I, he says to the phone . Didn't know I was gonna get attacked . He's still staring at Millie. Helen let me out this morning . Millie's whole body feels like it's clenching. Listen, Ma, can you hang on a tick? He puts his hand over the mouthpiece. You better get her something to eat, Helen , Stan says. Before they come. Helen jumps off the desk. Of course , she says, and opens another drawer. She's flushed red in the face. Mentos? They're surprisingly satiating. Before who comes? Millie says. I'm on a diet , Helen says. The Atkins one? Is it Atkins? Or Paleo? You get to smell all the food you want. It's fantastic. She looks sideways at Stan. Not that I need to . She rips the packet of Mentos, pops two in her mouth and two on the desk for Millie. Millie picks them up and chews them greedily. Go on a diet, I mean. I'm not one of those women who worries about those sorts of things. It's more about treating myself like I deserve. It's very empowering. Stan rolls his eyes. Helen , he says. Just get her something proper, okay? They'll be here soon. They got a ways to travel so she needs to be fed . He gives Millie a last look, turns, and leaves. Huh ? Millie hears him say into the phone as he walks away. No, it was a little kid. I'm not suing her, Ma. Mum! I'm not. Well, they left her here, didn't they? They can't have much. He's lovely, isn't he? Stan? She looks out the door and spits the Mentos into a tissue. Who's coming ? Millie says. She is sick in the stomach. Mum will be here , she adds. She's just. Lost. Oh, darling , Helen says, throwing the tissue into the rubbish bin by her feet and wiping her hands on her pants . I'm sure she is. My dad died. But my mum will be here. Oh, darling . She walks around to Millie's side of the desk and kneels on the ground in front of her. She grabs one of Millie's hands and holds it with both of hers. How did he pass? Oh, don't answer that. Helen talks like she is surprised by the words that come out of her own mouth, as if someone else is saying them. Don't. If you don't want. But if you want. How? Was it? That he passed? Was he into. Gambling? A little bit? Did he get mixed up in something? Mixed up? Drugs ? Helen whispers. They gave him drugs at the hospital. Was it. A mental hospital? What's that? Forget I said anything. He had cancer. Oh, sweetheart. I had cancer once. Well, I thought I did. Terrible time. Terrible. Turns out it was just a very big boil. My mum will be here. Right on my neck. Right here. Terrible time. What? Of course. Sweetheart. Of course she will. A phone rings in Helen's pocket. Helen jumps to her feet and answers it. Yes. Yes. She's right here. Of course, yes . She hangs up. Oh, darling. They're coming for you. Who? Child Services. They're so fantastic with abandoned children. Abandoned? They'll give you another mum and dad for a little while. Until they find yours . Through the doorway, Helen watches Stan laugh with a young female staff member. But Mum said to wait here. I know, darling. I know. But . She sighs and walks to the door, putting her hand on the doorframe and watching Stan. Some people don't always say what they mean . Millie grips her Book Of Dead Things tightly behind her back. Helen whips around to face Millie. Her body wobbles under her shirt. The button people claw desperately at the cliff edge. Oh, don't worry, darling. They'll love you. You're adorable. Now, darling, just wait right here. Yes? Promise? Yes? She pauses and they stare at each other. I'll bring back juice. And cookies. Yes? Without waiting for an answer, she walks out the door. Millie watches Helen walk away and out of sight. She wants to throw up. A kid walks by the open office door with his mum and screams, But I wanted the blue one! Millie wants to scream in his face, But I want my mum! Millie rips off the Matchbox cars from the bottom of her gumboots and climbs down from the chair. She grabs her bag and puts the toy cars inside. She takes a quick look out the door. No Helen. No Stan. She takes a deep breath and runs as fast as she can in the direction of the café. Her bag slides up and down her back. Down the aisle with the brooms and cloths and mops in bright colors. Past the photo lab, people flicking through photos on bright screens. Past the CDs and phones and electrical gadgets. Millie hides behind a cardboard cutout of a famous singer when she sees Stan coming. He flicks through the DVDs and mumbles to himself. Got it, got it, don't want it, got it, he says. His phone rings. Yeah? Yeah, yeah, I'll be there . He walks right past her and doesn't see her. At the café, Karl is in his usual spot. Millie hides behind her usual potted plant. She spies Helen at the counter. Ba-boom. Ba-boom. Ba-boom . Just a small bit of cake, please , Helen's saying to the girl behind the counter. The carrot cake, please. Yes, just two pieces, please. Yes, please, that one. Great, thank you, just the three pieces, that'll be fine. Karl , Millie whispers. Karl sits up and turns toward the potted plant. Um , he says. Yes ? It's Millie. She pokes her head around the fern leaves. Just Millie? Where have you been? From the cover of the potted plant, Millie gives him a rundown of events since she last saw him. First the mannequin saved my life. Then I stole a key. Then the security guard was locked in. Then we had dinner. Rambo was there. And the hobby horse. And the Guess Who? people. And the mannequin. I'll introduce you later. And then I asked the mannequin if he was a Dead Thing. And then I tried to help Mum. And then Helen offered me juice and cookies, but I didn't get either. And then my new mum and dad were coming. And then I escaped. And then I found you. Are you going to eat that? Karl hands her his muffin. That's all? That's all , she says, her mouth full. Escaped from who? Her . Millie points and ducks as Helen, no more than twenty meters away from them, talks to a customer. They're not for me, Helen says. I'm on a diet. The North Beach one? Kate Moss uses it. You can hold all the food you like. Karl looks the other way as Helen walks past them and back toward the office. An escape, you say? He stands. Okay . Okay ? Millie says. We're getting you out of here. Right now , he says loudly. The girl looks up at him from behind the coffee machine. Shh , Millie whispers. Karl sits. Yes. Sorry about that . He waves at the girl. But we should go. Yes, he says, and stands again. They make their way to the giant undies, sticking to the aisles in between the main ones. The mannequin in the Hawaiian shirt looks down at her. Millie can't look away. Grab him , Millie says. What? Proper men say, "Pardon me." Pardon me? We're taking him. Him? Yes. Why? He saved my life. Karl looks at Millie, then at the mannequin, then back at Millie. I will do that, he says, too loudly again. Any friend of yours is a friend of mine. Shh, Millie says. Oh, yes. Right . Karl picks up the mannequin and holds him so they're dancing cheek to cheek. Ready? Millie says. Ready , Karl answers. They snake their way past the appliances, the cookware, the coloring books, the towels. A woman tries to spray perfume on Karl as he walks by. He giggles. The entrance is meters in front of them--it shines blindingly in the middle of everything. They're running and causing a scene but no one seems to notice and they're going to make it. We're invisible , says Millie. Yes , says Karl. They look at each other and smile. They're actually going to make it. But then Millie sees the Guess Who? people looking up at them, and it's too late to say anything, and Karl's foot catches on their faces, and he falls headfirst into the bargain bin full of Christmas lights in the middle of the aisle. Millie falls at the same time, hitting her head on the side of the bin. Karl drops the mannequin on top of her, and a leg comes loose and skids across the floor. Then the three words she doesn't want to hear. There she is. Helen and Stan and a man and a woman wearing fancy uncomfortable clothes coming toward them. Her New Mum. Her New Dad. C'mon, Karl, Millie says, standing, rubbing her head and pulling at his arm. But he's managed to get himself all twisted up in the Christmas lights, and his thrashing about is only making matters worse. Grab him , Stan, says Helen, running toward them behind the security guard. I think he's. I mean. I don't want to jump to any conclusions. But. Everybody. Based on what I've seen. He's probably. Most definitely. I think. Karl's arms and legs are still flailing all over the place when Stan catches up with them. He helps Karl out of the bin and holds on to his arm. Okay, you dirty old bastard . Stan says. Show's over. Oh, Stan, Helen says, running up to them, breathless. You did it. She puts a hand on his upper arm and her eyes widen. You're so strong . Karl doesn't look at Millie but says, Go, Millie, go. I'll find you , out the side of his mouth, and the Guess Who? people look at her like they expect her to do something, so Millie grabs the mannequin's leg and she does something; she weaves through the forest of people, around and under and through. GoMilliego , she sings as she runs as fast as she can out the door and through the parking lot. As she's running, she looks back, and it's still there, painted in big letters that slide over each other as the doors open and close: IN HERE MUM. --- Millie walks up the pathway to her house, places the mannequin's leg on the step, and tries to open the door. It's locked. She grabs the spare key from under the mat, unlocks the door, checks the street for the police car that's been looking for her, and then walks in. It's cold and dark. She's tired from running all the way from the department store. From the doorway, she says, Mum ? Millie walks into the kitchen. Mum ? The word echoes off the walls. Dishes are piled high in the sink and there's something in the rubbish that stinks. She walks into the lounge room. Mum ? The couch is huge in its emptiness, and the television is a big black hole in the center of their lounge room. Why has she never noticed how big and black it is, how it looks like you could press a button and it would suck up your whole house? Her dad's beer cozy is on the coffee table. Millie holds it up to the light streaming through the window. Dust particles dance around it in the sunlight. She rubs the material with her fingertips. It's black, with a yellow map of Australia on one side and a very big-boobed woman in a bikini on the other. Millie slides it onto her forearm and rubs it against her cheek. She walks into her mum and dad's room. Her mum's side of the bed is all rumpled up. She lies under the covers for a bit, pulling them over her head. It's cold and dark in there, too. She reaches her hand across to her dad's side, then peels back the covers, stands, and presses the palm of her hand on the wardrobe door, like she's trying to make a handprint on it. She closes her eyes and slides the door across. When she opens her eyes, there is nothing there but wire coat hangers. Like the shoulders of skeletons. She sits on the bed and drags her fingers through the air and it feels like nothing and she wants to say, Sorry, Mum, I am so sorry, Mum, I am sorry for doing the things I did. a fact about the world millie knows for sure Sorry is sometimes the only thing left to say. What should you say when someone dies ? she whispered to her dad as her mum watched Deal or No Deal . The sister of a girl at school had died and her teacher had told Millie to make a card. Mills, baby , her dad whispered back. He hoisted her up onto his lap. No one's going to die. She furrowed her brow. Everyone's going to die. Well , he said, and stopped. He put his hands under her armpits and twisted her around to face him. Well. Yes. But no one you know. Everyone I know. But not anytime soon. How do you know? I just know. What on Earth are you two talking about ? her mum said as the ads blared out of the television. Mum , Millie said, looking at the back of her mum's head. What do you say to your friends when people they love die? Her mum turned around and flashed her dad A Look. She grabbed Millie by both hands and leaned into her face. You don't need to know any of this stuff, Millie , she said. You're just a child. A little girl. You should be, I don't know, playing dollies. Offices. Shops. Millie shrugged. Her mum sat back in her chair and eyed her. Who was it? Bec's sister. From school. Deal or No Deal came back on the telly. Send them a card , her mum said, turning back toward the television. Say something nice on it. Like what? Like . . . deal! Are you kidding me? Take the money! Millie's dad put his hand on Millie's head. It felt so gigantic on there. Say, I'm sorry for your loss. It's not my fault. Of course not. He put his arms around her and pushed her head into his chest. Just be kind, he said. That's all. Later, when Millie's dad was dead, her mum sat in front of the telly, all day every day, and Millie put her hand on her mum's arm and said, I'm sorry for your loss. And her mum hugged her, so tight Millie could hardly breathe, and said, I'm sorry for your loss too, Millie. --- And now, as she looks out the window from her mum and dad's bedroom, scanning the street for the police car, she locks eyes with the old lady across the road. She, too, is looking out the window from her house. She, too, Millie can tell, has lost someone. Millie doesn't know how she can tell, but she just can. I'm sorry for your loss, Millie mouths at her, slowly and deliberately, her forehead on the glass of the window. The old lady stares at her. And then pulls the curtains shut. Excerpted from Lost and Found by Brooke Davis All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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