by David Lubar
"So, New York or Chicago?"
"I don't know," Greg said. "I think you're crazy going to either place. You can't
"Sure I can," I said. "All my dad cares about is that stupid woman he married. I
can't believe she's going to have a baby. I'm out of here. The only question is --
New York or Chicago?"
"Ask Spooky Sheila," Greg said.
"No way. She creeps me out." I glanced at the back of the room toward Sheila
Delphini's desk. She was playing with her hair, braiding and unbraiding several
strands, and paying no attention to the teacher. Not that I was paying any attention,
either. Why take notes when you aren't planning to stick around?
"But she'll tell you what will happen," Greg said. "I've heard she's got some kind
of way to see the future."
I'd heard the same rumors. Kids had whispered stories about Sheila for years. I
wasn't sure whether I wanted to believe any of that stuff. But it couldn't hurt to
see what she thought about my problem. When the bell rang at the end of the
period, I walked over to her desk.
"I've got a question," I said.
She raised her eyes up toward me without lifting he head. Her irises were so light
blue, they almost seemed clear. A chill ran through my body and along my arms.
"You're going to split," she said.
"How'd you know?"
She didn't answer. Maybe she'd heard me talking to Greg. I'd have to be more
careful. If my dad found out, he'd murder me.
"Should I go to New York or Chicago?"
She reached out and grabbed my hand. Then she closed her eyes. She took a long,
slow breath. I waited. She breathed. Behind me, I heard people shuffle in for the
next class. Just as I was about to pull my hand away, her body jerked like she'd
been slashed across the back with a whip. Her fingers dug into my palm. She
opened her eyes, but didn't say anything.
She released my hand. "The future can hurt."
"I don't care. Tell me."
"New York if she has a boy. Chicago if she has a girl."
It took me a moment to realize what she was talking about. "My dad's wife?" I
couldn't bring myself to call her my stepmother.
Sheila nodded. A single tear trickled from her left eye. She was starting to creep
"But I don't want to wait . . ."
She shrugged. I fled. Something about her made my stomach feel like I'd
swallowed razor blades dipped in acid.
I caught up with Greg in the hall and told him what she'd said. "Crazy, huh?" I
"Maybe. But have you gotten any better advice?"
"Then wait. See what pops out."
I wasn't going to wait. I had to get out of there. But I needed to make sure I didn't
get caught. My chance came sooner than I'd expected. Saturday, late in the
afternoon, Dad's wife went into labor. She was three weeks early. It was my
perfect opportunity to split. They probably wouldn't even notice I was gone until
tomorrow. The moment they left for the hospital, I crammed clothes into a duffel
bag and headed for Sawtooth Ridge. Lots of trains went through there. I could hop
one for New York or Chicago. I just needed to know which way to go.
I pulled out my cell phone and called Greg. "I need a huge favor. Go to the
hospital -- okay? Wait at the place where they put the new babies. You know
where I mean?"
"Yeah. I know. Are you really doing this?"
"I am. So help me out, okay?"
"All right. I'll call when I have news."
I hung up and went over to the tracks. The ridge was on a steep grade, so the trains
slowed down a lot as they came through. I'd read books where people hopped
trains. It didn't sound hard, as long as you were careful. I wasn't worried about
getting hurt. Sheila said I'd go to New York or Chicago, so obviously I was going
to survive the trip.
It was getting dark. There were no lights anywhere near the ridge. I didn't like the
idea of hopping a train when I couldn't see what was going on. I called Greg
again, but there was no answer. It figured I couldn't count on him.
"Forget the stupid prediction," I said. I decided I'd take the next train that came
About ten minutes later, an eastbound train came crawling up the ridge. "New
York," I said. That would be fine. I waited until the engine and the first couple
cars passed, then started jogging along. I had to be careful -- the tracks were close
I saw a boxcar with a sliding door. I grabbed the handle and pulled myself toward
As I was dangling from the outside of the boxcar, my phone rang. It was stupid to
try to answer it, but habits are hard to break. When phones ring, we grab them. I
fumbled with one hand, got my phone out of my pocket, and flipped it open.
"Twins," Greg said.
"A boy and a girl."
The words entered my brain, and sat there like a foreign phrase. They didn't seem
to tell me what I needed to know. Before I could say anything to Greg, the train
rocked as it entered a sharp curve at the bottom of the ridge. The phone slipped
from my fingers. I leaned over to try to catch it, and lost my balance. As I started
to fall, I panicked and hooked an arm through the boxcar door handle. My duffel
bag, which I'd looped over my neck, swung out from my other shoulder.
The phone clattered to the ground. I didn't care. Something else had my attention.
Ahead, far too close, I saw a westbound train headed right for me. I tried to swing
the duffel bag out of the way, but I couldn't get any leverage.
As the other train reached me, I heard Sheila's words.
"New York if she has a boy. Chicago if she has a girl."
She'd had both. I felt a jolting pain when the duffel bag got snagged by the
passing train. I tried to yank my arm free, but it was wedged in the door handle.
Sheila was right. I was going to New York and Chicago. As pain beyond anything
I'd ever known exploded through my body, I remembered her first words.
"You're going to split."