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Overview

On the morning of September 11, 2001, sixteen-year-old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down from the window of Stuyvesant High School. Moments later, terrified and fleeing home to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge, he stumbles across a girl perched in the shadows, covered in ash, and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, an NYC detective likely on his way to the disaster, Kyle makes the split-second decision to bring the girl home. What follows is their story, told in alternating points of view, as Kyle tries to unravel the mystery of the girl so he can return her to her family. But what if the girl has forgotten everything, even her own name? And what if the more Kyle gets to know her, the less he wants her to go home? This book tells a stunning story of friendship and first love and of carrying on with our day-to-day living in the midst of world-changing tragedy and unforgettable pain—it tells a story of hope.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781690561248
Publisher: Dreamscape Media
Publication date: 01/21/2020
Edition description: Unabridged
Sales rank: 1,219,597
Product dimensions: 6.04(w) x 5.04(h) x 1.13(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Gae Polisner is a lawyer by trade but a writer by calling. When she isn't lawyering or writing, she can be found in her pool or in the open waters, where she hopes that one day her wetsuit will turn her into a superhero. She currently resides with her husband, two sons, and a suspiciously-fictional looking dog named Charlie on Long Island in New York.

Nick Mondelli is an accomplished actor, poet, and audiobook narrator from Ohio. He has narrated a wide range of titles, including My Antonia by Willa Cather, The Way It Hurts by Patty Blount, and Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner, which AudioFile Magazine called a sensitive, expressive performance. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California, where he works out of his in-house studio.

Jordan Killam is a freelance advertising copywriter and journalist who only recently discovered a passion for narrating audiobooks. She frequently contributes to the Toledo City Paper and provides advertising copy for various outlets. She gets her kicks by facilitating a neighborhood wine club, appearing in community theater, shopping for vintage clothes and furniture, binging podcasts, and spending time on Kelley's Island in Lake Erie.

Read an Excerpt

The Memory of Things


By Gae Polisner

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2016 Gae Polisner
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-09553-4



CHAPTER 1

Tuesday Morning, 9.11.01

BIRD

I move with the crowd, away from downtown Manhattan.

We travel swiftly but don't run, panicked but steady, a molten lava flow of bodies across the bridge.

A crash of thunder erupts — another explosion? — and the flow startles and quickens. Someone near me starts to cry, a choked, gasping sound, soon muted by a new wail of sirens rising at my back.

I stop and turn, stare frozen. People rush past me: faces twisted with shock and fear, mouths held open in O's, others only eyes where their noses and mouths have been covered with knotted sleeves against the toxic, burning reek.

I search for Kristen or Kelly, or Mr. Bell, but I lost them all as soon as we got to the bridge.

I don't see anyone I know from school.

I don't see anyone I know.

I press my sleeve to my nose — Don't think, Kyle, just move! — but feel stuck gaping at the place where the city has vanished beyond the thick brown wall of smoke.

Two planes have hit, one building is down, and my dad is in there somewhere.

"Jesus, kid, keep going!" Some guy trips over me and looks back apologetically.

It's only a movie. I'm dreaming.

None of this is real.

"Come on, man! We should get off the bridge!" Another concerned shove and I'm in motion again, stumbling toward Brooklyn.

My eyes to the ground, I watch my sneakers move forward, one in front of the other, my brain blocked against the sea of smoke, the confetti of steel and glass and paper I watched rain down minutes ago from a fifth-floor window at Stuyvesant.

A fighter jet streaks over us, cutting through the noise in my head.

Walk. Breathe. Don't think about Dad.

When I've almost reached the giant stone pillars that mark the Brooklyn side of the bridge from Manhattan, I finally look up again.

Brooklyn looks clear ahead.

All I need to do is get home.

I push forward, step after step, grasping at song lyrics in my head. I start with the lyrics for "I Will Follow" from Boy, one of my all-time favorites, then "Promenade" from The Unforgettable Fire — I really have to fish for that one, so it keeps my mind focused, which helps calm me down.

I walk through the guitar chords, wishing I still played, trying to remember the fingering until I get lost in that and fall back in step with the flow. I barely register the wings — thick with feathers — of the enormous bird as I pass. It's hunched, curled up into itself, in the shadows of the pillar.

An eagle? A hawk?

No. It was way, way bigger than that.

I glance back as I walk, but I can't see it from here, over the heads of the crowd.

But I know I saw it, crouched near the edge of the bridge.

I walk several more steps, then stop. What if it's hurt?

It will only take a few seconds. I feel like I need to go back.

I turn and rush toward the pillar as the crowd sweeps forward around me. Someone yells, "Are you nuts, kid?" but my brain keeps seeing the wings.

What if I'm losing it?

What if I only imagined it was there?

I call out, "There was something by the — !" but it's pointless. They can't hear me above all the people and the noise.

I slip through the crowd to my left. A woman catches my sleeve and says, "What are you doing, boy? Don't go back that way!"

I yank free. Something tells me I have to make sure.

A few more feet, and I see it — the bird — pressed against the railing.

Its wings are enormous! I didn't imagine it, then.

As I run toward it, it stands and spreads them wide, leans out, about to take flight.

Blink.
Look down.
Water glistens through steel shadows
(... noise and glass and
black smoke ...)
I can float there
(bodies and blood ...)
I have wings that will let me
drift
down
(... the putrid smell of burning skin).
Tilt my face to the sun,
to the mist,
and blue sky.
Clear water below.
Spread my wings to
fly.


"Are you okay?"

I grab at the wing, but I can't get a good hold. White feathers pull free, stick to my fingers, release into the air. My arm shakes uncontrollably as I reach out again.

"Stop!" I yell. "Don't!"

The bird is not a bird, but a girl.

Wait to fall,
but don't.
Am tethered here.
Turn.
A boy shouts,
eyes full of terror.
He grabs hold of me
(an explosion,
a ball of fire rising to the sky ...
flames
everywhere).
Pull away from his grip, but he won't
let go.


She twists toward me, confused, and twists away again.

What is she doing?

The wings are the costume kind my sister might wear for a dance recital or school play, but more elaborate.

I find her sleeve, her arm, dig my fingers in, hold tighter.

My heart pounds so hard it hurts.

Lips move, but no words come.
Twist away, tired
(so very tired from
the weight of things).
The boy yells again,
mouth opens,
and closes.
Can't hear him.
(clouds, a glint of
metal,
another blast ...)
Nothing but ringing in my ears.


"It's okay," I whisper, but my fingers dig harder as she tries to pull away. I'm bigger than she is, but I'm afraid I won't be able to hold on. Louder, I say, "Please, it's okay! Let me help you!"

She whips around, eyes wide and blank and scared.

"You can't stay here," I say more softly. She shakes her head but stops struggling, crumples down.

"No," she says, "please." Then something explodes, shaking the bridge.

A bomb? Another building?

"You have to come with me!" I yell. "Now!"

Her eyes search mine, and she lets me pull her up.

I hold on to her sleeve and make her run.

He pulls me along,
says words I can't hear.
Look back to where the clear water sparkles!
(black scribbles
blinding heat,
white light.
Fire and
glass spilling
down.)


"What's your name? Are you hurt?" We've reached the safer, wood-plank part of the bridge. Over land now. Away from the water.

She doesn't fight me anymore, but won't look at me, either.

Here in the bright sunlight, I can study her. Beneath the wings, she wears normal street clothes. Khaki cargo pants, black combat boots, a blue sweatshirt. Her short dark hair is chopped jaggedly, her eyes ringed in heavy black liner. It's hard to tell though, since every inch of her is covered in thick white dust and ash.

Bits of metal glint in her hair.

"Come on," I say, trying to stop shaking and sound calm. "I won't hurt you, I promise. My father is a cop." She walks with me, reluctantly, so slight and fragile under the wings, I could carry her if I needed to.

But I don't. She stays with me. We walk together, toward Brooklyn.

There's no other choice. There's no going back to Manhattan.

Ahead of us, the bridge has almost emptied. At the steps near Cadman Plaza, we head down.

I hold her arm and lead her.

What am I supposed to do?

He walks.
I follow.
He keeps asking things I can't hear
(can't think, can't breathe,
... can't find you ...)
Nod,
follow,
walk.
His words disappear.


We move away from the bridge, the stream of sirens — fire engines, police cars, ambulances — all fading into the distance.

I take a deep breath, then another, my thoughts spiraling everywhere.

Two planes have been flown into buildings like bombs. What if there are more? What makes us think it's over?

And what about Dad? He's Joint Terrorist Task Force, the first guys sent in during a crisis.

He'll be okay, right?

It's his job. He has to be okay.

I try to distract myself by asking the girl questions, but she doesn't answer and, in the silence, my brain spirals uncontrollably again.

Mom and Kerri! They were supposed to come home today! Fly the fuck home from California.

What if they are in a plane? They could be in the air right now!

What time were their flights? Christ! Why can't I remember what time?

There's another boom, and I yank us to the ground. A second fighter jet streaks by overhead.

When it's gone from earshot, I find my cell phone, thinking I'll try to reach Mom, then almost laugh, realizing.

"I was going to call my mother," I say, my voice shaking, "but she doesn't have a cell phone."

The girl nods, and her eyes shift to mine for a second, then move past me and stare off at nothing. I don't know if she's listening, but I ramble on nervously anyway. "She says she hates cell phones, and that she's going to be the last holdout on Earth. And my sister is too young to have her own."

The girl doesn't respond.

Jesus, maybe I should have just left her there.

I pull her up and start walking again, obsessed with reaching my mother, wracking my brain for the name of the place where they have been staying all summer. The Something Something Garden Apartments in LA.

I should know it. It's been up on the fridge for weeks. Scrawled in my mother's handwriting.

I check the time on my phone. 10:40 A.M. here, which means it's three hours earlier there. What are the chances their flight would leave that early?

They're probably still sleeping.

They probably don't even know.

I jam my phone back in my pocket, wondering if I should try Dad instead. But I know better. He will be down there. In there.

A hard lump swells in my throat.

I'm sure he'll call me when he can.

Strange streets,
strange signs:
Cranberry,
Orange,
Pineapple.
(A brick terrazzo with fruit trees in
blue glazed pots ...)
A loud bang, and
we're down on the ground.
The boy says something to me:
"... call my mom ...
she hates them ..."
When he pulls me up,
we walk faster.


* * *

Manny, my favorite doorman, has his eyes glued to the television when I enter. He must have the news on. I'm relieved to be home, and relieved he's distracted.

You can't see the television from here; it's a small portable one that sits below the counter of the desk. But I know it's there because, normally, he feeds Yankees scores to me when I come in.

"You okay, Mr. Donohue?" he asks, not looking up completely. I want to stop and ask questions about what's going on, but I nod curtly instead and usher the girl past and toward the elevators. I don't want to explain her. I have no clue how.

She stays close, so I act like she's some school friend despite how crazy she looks. Despite her hair, and the ash, and the wings.

"Yeah, I think so, thanks."

I push the up button.

"Shame," Manny murmurs behind me. "You never think this happen in our country."


* * *

In the elevator, I press eleven and tap the close door button repeatedly. The bird girl keeps her eyes averted.

When the doors finally shut, I fumble with my phone, eyeing her cautiously. Now that we're in close quarters, I feel awkward and at a loss for words. "I should try my dad," I say. "He's probably down there ..." The words catch in my throat.

On my phone, the message light is flashing. Maybe it's him telling me everything will be okay.

"Just so you know, my mom is away, but my uncle is upstairs. He's a mess, though," I add, figuring I should warn her.

Then again, maybe it's my uncle who needs warning.

The elevator lurches up. I try to stay calm as I play the message, my father's solid voice filling my ears.

"Kyle, listen ..."

That's it. The message cuts off. I can't tell what time it's from. I play it again, but it's the same thing: those two words, and he's gone.

I try not to lose it, not to cry. Maybe I don't have reception in here.

Or, maybe he doesn't have reception where he is.

Or, maybe ... fuck.

I snap my phone closed as the elevator doors open, and step out onto our floor with the girl.

The hallway is quiet,
beige,
smells of something faint,
but familiar:
Coffee.
New carpet.
Scrambled eggs.
A light fixture flickers overhead.
(a hospital corridor ...
a buzzing florescent ...)
The boy stops and faces me at the third door.
11C.
"This is us."
Sound, returning.
"I'm Kyle, by the way," he says.


My hands shake so badly it makes it hard to get my key in the lock. When I finally do, I stand with the door half open, because now there's another message flashing on my phone.

How did I miss the call?

I press the phone to my ear, holding a finger up for the girl to give me a second. Dad's voice is urgent, but steady.

"Kyle, I hope you can hear me ... It's chaos down here ..." Whatever he says next is drowned out by the rise and fall of sirens, then, " ... no way to keep calling ... hard to get through. I just wanted to ... I'll call you back, son. I have to go in ..."

There's a bang. Things crashing. More sirens. Sounds muffled as Dad loses his grip on the phone. Terrified, I try not to flinch, to cry. Cold washes over me as I pray for his voice to return. Even when it breaks through again, I can't stop shivering.

"... I'm going to assume all is okay with you ... that you're home or safe, and that they've evacuated your school." He sounds clearer now, unbroken, as if he's moved to somewhere he can talk.

"And, Kyle, I haven't reached your mother yet ... Let her know, and call me when you get home. Or wherever it is they send you. Listen to me, Kyle. Don't call first. Get somewhere safe, then call. Jesus Christ ...!" Another crash, and someone yells in the background. The frantic sound of sirens picks up again. Dad's voice returns, but it's hard to hear. "Okay, I've got to go. Call me when you get where you're going. Leave a message if you have to. And wait there till I get home. Nothing stupid, you hear me, son? Safe and smart. And please call."

He hangs up. There are no more messages.

I know I need to calm down.

I look at the girl. Her eyes dart away.

Nothing to do but go inside.

The boy — Kyle —
turns to me,
eyes searching.
(... search for you ... white noise ...)
I look away.
(bodies,
fall ...)
Don't ask me.
I don't even know why I'm here.


I step inside, relieved to be home, but it's weird to have this girl here with me.

I don't know what I should do with her.

The apartment is quiet. I need to check on Uncle Matt, reach Dad, locate Mom, check the news.

But first, the girl. She needs to get washed up. She can't stay in our apartment covered in all that ash.

"Come." I lead her down the hall to the bathroom, pointing out Kerri's room on the way. "You can shower, then use my sister's room to change when you're done. To rest. Whatever you want," I say. "And leave your stuff on the washer." I hand her a fresh towel. "I'll find you something to wear while I clean those."

She nods, and I start to close the door, spotting my father's straight razor on the sink. With Uncle Matt staying here and sharing Dad's bathroom so much, Dad uses ours more and more.

What if she really was going to jump? To kill herself?

I can't just leave those there.

I grab two washcloths from the cabinet, use one to swipe the razor from the edge, leaving the other one there for her to use.

I close the door.

The lock clicks behind me.

If she was going to kill herself, what was I thinking bringing her here?

I bury the razor in a wastebasket in the hall, and carry the wings — freaking wings, are you kidding me? — out to the small terrace off my parents' bedroom, and shake them off as best I can while staring south at the sky.

From here, it is clear and blue — a normal day, but for the acrid burnt smell that has already made its way across the river.

It chokes me, making my eyes tear up. I need to focus and keep moving.

But now that I'm home, I feel stuck in slow motion.

I head back inside, closing and locking the terrace door. Everything feels off. Everything seems foreign and wrong.

We've been attacked, right? So, does this mean we're at war?

In Kerri's room, I pick up speed, hanging the wings over the back of the desk chair, trying to find the girl something to wear. But everything my sister owns is pink and sparkly, like it's been puked from the closets of Disney.

I run to my room instead, find a pair of pajama pants from a few years ago, plaid with a drawstring so she can tighten them. I dig out my prized U2 PopMart Tour T-shirt Uncle Matt got me for my fifteenth birthday, also too small on me now, and lay those out on top of my sister's bed.

There. Good enough.

It's not like she's staying.

It's not like she'll need them for long.


OPEN WINDOW

Turn on the shower,
wait for the water to get hot.
In this room:
Sink,
washcloth,
medicine cabinet,
washing machine,
dryer.
Magazine basket,
pink robe.
None of it feels like mine.
Breathe,
stare in the
steamed-up mirror.
Wipe the glass with my hand,
but nothing
comes clear.


I race to the kitchen and grab the scrap of paper from the fridge.

In Mom's handwriting: Chase Knolls Garden Apartments. Suite 4B.

I should have remembered Chase Knolls.

I dial the number but get a busy signal; redial, same thing. It's the fast kind of busy like the number is broken.

The circuits must be jammed. Everyone is trying to reach someone.

I slip the paper back under the magnet and dial my dad instead. He said to, and I really need to hear his voice, but that call doesn't go through, either.

I dial Chase Knolls again, frantic, and stand against the counter listening to the endless beeping in my ear.

Eyes closed,
the warm water soothes.
(The smell of vanilla,
sweet and familiar ...)
Suds slip down
my skin
(... tubes, blood ...
shattering glass ...)
but nothing can rinse it all
away.


I hear Kerri's door close down the hall.

Maybe this is all some really crazy weird dream, the kind you wake yourself from and laugh because you dreamed it was a dream within the dream.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner. Copyright © 2016 Gae Polisner. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Dedication,
Epigraphs,
I,
Tuesday Morning, 9.11.01,
II,
Tuesday, Late Afternoon Into Evening, 9.11.01,
Late Tuesday Night Into Early Wednesday Morning, 9.12.01,
III,
Wednesday Morning, 9.12.01,
IV,
Wednesday, Late Afternoon into Evening, 9.12.01,
Thursday Morning, 9.13.01,
V,
Early Friday, 9.14.01,
VI,
Friday Evening, 9.14.01,
VII,
VIII,
Author's Note,
Acknowledgments,
Also by Gae Polisner,
About the Author,
Copyright,

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